Monday, November 21, 2016

Leaf, river, sky


 to passing traffic
               along the Hudson River Park

tell me
and I’ll listen
for tales of ways
I’ve not lived 

tell me now,
and I’ll speak it back
in breath and blood
before it’s been
too long.                           


Indian Summer

The leaves, since Sunday, the leaves in the tree
across the street, yellowing green to gold

and the river, the river too, minute to minute,
its face rippling light.



Through the tunnel under the river, 
the bus moves south through Jersey woods, 
where fall befalls hills turned lonely with color, 

where rains loose their hold, skies turn whole 
and memories 

speak to things never forgotten
to a child’s eyes.




Promises only a river can make
fill night air here, drip wind-blown banks
and those who walk the Delaware.

Staggered tangles and leaf-shorn branches
cry out the silent rift, as singular leafs 
turn to trace the falling season.


And at once outside, and morning,
brisk, low-coming sun

lays brush to the bellies
of a wedge of ducks

made gold 

in the first  blue 
of day. 


The gathering…

in the subtle retention of place and role, 
the older cousin of the oldest friend,
even into our seventies, serves 
and nurtures the flame:

blessed are the memory keepers


after fifty years plus, the handshake
of the once serious, once young man
is stiff; but familiar features and tone
fracture timid distance, and time as well,
the parting gathering of arms
telling the longer story


warm smiles, quiet good-byes,
none of us making promises 
of again


Crescent City Witness

There, above the fluid swirls of the Mississippi,
the bottom-crescent moon and a solitary star 

watch day break 
over accrued river darkness,
over its great, un-rushed turn,

till sky at last suggests 
the reach into blue.


There’s certain momentum that comes
of time spent over an open page
filling with word forms, 

with weight and tone, 
with meaning, unfolding there like so many 
scattered scratches left behind on the playground, 

the business of play complete, the children 
turning their attention elsewhere, 

original motivations not so different
from our own.


A Seasonal Story

November First came at that first click,
along with Very Dark, who lingered steady,

even as Seven AM arrived, like some secret
signal to Winter, who I swear I saw there, 

right then, but distant, raise its head 
like from a pillow—Very Dark held still,
waited—Winter slowly laying back, mumbling 

something I couldn’t make out.

It was too far off, and raining.

Very Dark then left. 


At first light, the deep-throated engine
of the young neighbor’s car, clears itself
back to life, then settles again, this time 

in well-tuned, low-humming readiness, 
just as I do when waiting the next word 
from the grandchild’s smiling lips,

watching that irrepressible light, that spark, 
there in his eyes, that calls out
that same dance and pulse 

to mine, calls back the why behind the what 
that enables us both to see the wonder 

to be seen there.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

September into October

Among redwoods…

Sound waves the air, 

not so much as to wrinkle a leaf, 
but enough to bring secrets 

birds sing.


Morning’s shadow assignments 
change minute to minute, till noon, 
when the sun’s shift changes.


Leaning into the west, Orion looks down
across a raised shoulder

at the moon
lying there in the east

on its back
under a rounded 

shadow-belly—you can tell 
they’d like to speak,

but neither do.


A lazy morning with extra coffee, fun talk
and the inevitable irritations of digital life.

We keep record of most everything 
these days, mostly to ensure no fault

of our own—give me the pen, a pencil even, 
to find a poem, home to the irresolvable, 

place where healing hears tell of itself.


I was going to tell you 
about that small house on the corner 
just past the school, across from the park 
where the slope begins to sweep upward
into the hills, that has two large magnolia trees 
each side the front walk, converging limbs  

that looking from the street, frame 
a red brick stoop and a white door that 
made me think of New England, and later, 

now alone among redwoods, the song 
of children’s voices reminds me of autumn
and how it was back then.


Ancient redwoods, ancient friends,
hold scar-burns to black

for hundreds of years—memories,
different from a grudge.


Distant horizons, open grasslands, 
remind me how redwoods 
hold sky so high, 

even shadows tire 
while waiting for light 
to arrive


Tell me something sweet, 
pine tree, tell me: butterscotch.


When it stopped making sense, 
I drifted here and there, 

then left, with memories, 
but without a role, 

doors opening to streets 
leading nowhere 

in particular, just making it up 
while going-along-watching 

whatever’s next, 
watching, not as rule,

but as way without script,
watching for every thing’s potential,

for our next moves…


Sometimes circles close, sometimes 
incense curls the chanting voice 

that calls the wish that carries the pulse 
that sometimes only speaks silence.


The same coloring sky
that left night behind, 

returns day to us—sun,
somewhere unseen,

is called dark.


I walked the mountain this morning,
ankles deep in summer-burnt grass, 
a young jay sweeping flashes 
of brilliant sun-lit blue

that oddly enough pulled my attention 
to the pink pin-cushion and the gold petals 
at the trail’s edge, and to the last 
of the mustard blossoms.

Likely, he was he just showing off, just doing 
what jays do: the best they can to disguise, 
or is it to celebrate, their best gestures 
of their unquenchable inclination 
to unhindered praise and joy 


Delighted bees 
surf summer’s final throws
in piles of tufts and petals
laden with the pollen 
of lavender.


What came first continues to come first
in different words of differing tales

of different turns of waking up—every day 
a new day of learning to live 

the language where 

poems live.

Sunday, September 25, 2016


What more can be said of morning light before sun
arrives, than the quiet leaves hold. 

For anyone in need, definitive presence extended 
in leaf-speak: concrete, undeniable there-ness 

that calls of refuge—because its call is its leafness, 
we too can bring who we are; because 

it demands only itself, we too are blameless; 
because it waits in rest, we too.


Just finished cleaning the house, 
which I do when the wife is out,
sitting with coffee to wait her return,
reading poems, writing one or two,
wondering what I’d accomplished,
hoping nothing—dust’s return is one
of the countable comforts in this life, 
reliable—I’ve no quarrel with it,
nor with the wife.


One of the more important lessons learned
this backpack season, for old guys,
is that the mountain always sets just the right pace
for the bodies in question, tells you right away 
when you’re getting it wrong.


At Kittredge and Shattuck, at the Starbuck’s there,
a single table opens in the front window 
just as I pour the cream, looking out to the tree
remembered from years past, still there at the curb, 
bigger now, but still bent, still looking bedraggled,
like so much else here in Berkeley, older, but
the same, you know, reassuring.


Sounds outside

Ignition to engine, mostly a sure sound 
these days, was not so not so long ago, when
the stretch from call to response was a chasm
of guarded expectation and stuttered promise.

Before turning the key, you’d steady yourself,
on cold mornings, hold your breath.

Back then, when met with silence, people 
seemed to know what to do.


       “life wanting to live in the midst of
             other life wanting to live”
                                 -Albert Schweitzer-

and so, when we lean forward then, when
others pause and turn…


Figs—from the tree
in the back yard,
twisted, plucked and
dripping milk…have you?


Folks I know correct their words
as they go along, so others
can come along too.

Separate the process from where
people breathe, and someone
is always left behind.


ripples warmth
like the meeting eyes
of friends come together
from the distant past,

cuts of the same cloth,
different falls of the light
of the same sun.

Chung Tsu, David Hinton,
Zuiken, to name a few, like Saichi,
Sakaki, like Stafford, like me.


I’ve lost track of whatever point
I thought it was I’d wanted to make

and instead find myself focused more
on following the point life seems to be

making with me, you know, like the one
moving in and out at the end of my nose.


Low clouds, or is it fog, sweeps pink
across deep green crevices of canyon work
that look out to the east, when not looking up.

Translator of ancient eastern thinkers,
David Hinton writes 

that our resistance to anthropomorphism
here in the west, is based in the mistaken belief 
that human consciousness is separate, apart from 
rather than a part of the “tissue” of existence.

That we ascribe personal attributes to the world 
as we live it, is more about intimacy 
than correctness.


The moon is out there somewhere,
nearing full in a mostly empty sky.

It will visit our window later, linger, 
then leave, telling its whole story 

without uttering a single word. 


While breathing the other night, I imagined
a figure kneeling before the open altar of life
spread like a book of ancient poems

that no one people could claim. 

No one language enough, every gesture 
tentative, those passing through sensed 
the pause 

and simply listened.