Thursday, March 2, 2017


Above Buckeye Canyon…

the last of the clouds lift from my eyes
to let the sky fall
to me
in it.

Cumulus gone, hawks circle
dreams flashing white
glints of red

my own raised head, circling
sky like a dream, like
they say, like
in a dream

blue sky




Tell me of your true teachers, 
called so more for time spent  
than words said.


I’m glad to accept the offer—I sense 
the attempt to not hinder with obligation 
decision willingly made—all of us, together, 
a collective of singularities, singular integrities 
in a world supporting all, each their own worth 
in their own time, integral, essential and whole 
expressions of the whole. 

No thought of ought—the way it is 
to begin with—free.                              


Earthling, have you noticed how pines
hold morning’s retreating darkness longest,

how crows prefer the tops of pines
and long telephone lines,

how the moon, even in the midst 
of its long winter work, 

makes time illumine every face it faces ?


Everything that comes our way 
makes a difference we bring back
into the world that brought it our way 
in the first place, a cumulative project, 
always underway, always now, 
nothing lost, everything 
always spoken for. 

Looking from here, I can’t remember
anymore, what it was I ever thought 
was needed. 


For a moment this morning,
I lost the moon behind dusting clouds—

there, then gone, then there again. And
I wonder, for the moon, is the opposite true, 

if for it, we are ever lost?


Unfinished promises
fall like trackless snow

fallen light on early streets
smoothed luminous clean

and quietly waiting someone 
who knows 

it’s time.                                   


I do my best, even from my wife, 
to hide the extent of my idleness. 

But  since you’ve asked…

that poet William Stafford called a poem
a group of words that catches your attention
just so—anyone, either side a particular bunch
of words, can make valid determination—no
restrictions apply—no anti here, no handles there
to help you see what you think you hear—traceless,
yet real, like breathing—Ryokan, before Stafford, 
refused to speak of his poems as poetry; he simply 
wrote his mind—and Han Shan before him, 
brushed his ink on stones and boulders, 

left poems where found, to fend for themselves, 
then wandered around for more.

All these years, all this fuss, over nothing.

See what I mean? 


Yet another morning after…

Bodhisattvas sometimes appear
who help us reaffirm our center.

Although this is not always pleasant,
neither is compassion

always what we’d thought it would be.



Rain-ponchos swirl around legs
swept with shadows, silhouette trees 
drink moistened pavement 

and pools of silent street-lamp light 
wait for morning. Where is “here” for you, 
the poet’s essay asks and means, 

your “watershed”words you know 
you should know, that shed your shoulders 
like rivulets of another’s language, 

words that say, nonetheless, that something 
that needs to be said.


In this world today, one effective counter 
to successive preemptive attacks of chaos 
might well be equally scatter-shot: 

multiple random acts, unrelenting flows 
of individual gestures, of kindness,

from all of us, to everyone, everywhere—
“love beyond flags” of any stripe or color.                     


Lost in thought, rain drops
wrinkle awake shuddering bamboo,

dripping winter blossoms
waver the breeze

and the last of evening’s light
lingers at the window

whispering secrets
of spring—-


The almond tree 
in the front along the street,
pushes buds
in every direction,
always bursts to blossom 
first—this year, today, 
in a break in the rain.


One of my teachers once said,
once you get it, don’t keep talking
about it—that’s not it.

The boat bumps the opposite shore
to signal time to get off—a wave
of thanks is sufficient.

Looking back too long doesn’t help
adjustment here—early suggestions
of loneliness are intimations 

of independence: keep walking.


Saturday morning’s moon rests full
above the west horizon, almost gold
against an ink blue sky gone blank,

the last of the stars’ sparkled promises  
forgotten, the palm of the bowl on the altar
holding prayers like incense

offered to a circling world, to the mystery
of the reach and the burn of air.


Surprised by the arrival
of sunlight, clouds hovering the ridge 
blush, then reach for the pale blue veil
of this, the world’s newest day.


Aromatic yellow flowers adorn the altar, 
augment rain-drenched skies, petals 
sounding sunlight’s presence. 



Last night’s storm 
leaves a blanket
of almond snow-flakes
that track into the house
but do not melt.


In the dark of early morning streets,
reviewing the past, the myriad signals 

heeded, those ignored, those understood, 
those not—the puzzle of loneliness 

slowly unfolding the wonders and joy 
of solitude—at every end, a beginning.


For a moment, clouds make room
for sunlight’s reach, then close again
for shadow. 

A break is all it takes for insight.


No one knows I’m sitting here alone.
A solitary moon shines
in the cold spring.”

                               Han Shan

                              trans. Burton Watson

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

San Bruno Mountain

Putting myself in various spots 
  and observing the mind that happens there—
    I want to meet myself.

                         —Haya Akegarasu’s, Wind of Early Summer—

Two poems from San Bruno Mountain

Today in the saddle, a hawk, I think it was
a hawk, took me off-trail, aside the brush,
back and forth above the gorse, 

crossing so low, quiet opened 
across its back a patch so white
became my sole delight.

It took me today, that hawk,
took all of me with it, as surely 
as it took its name.

For a man of my age, whatever that means,
if anything of consequence at all—for a man 
my age, slopes and distant ridges cease 
to be events of contest, become collaboration.

The mountain sets the pace, sets the sights, 
as well as lays the music for the song 
that comes there through us—our role, 
to wake enough to take it in enough 
to see the gift for what it is, and be glad 
that we did: that song.


Hearing Buddha’s Names

I've done the philosophy, studied doctrine, 
chewed soothing words for rightness, onliness, 
only to find, for me at least, 

that every heart-felt vowel, cupped
and cut by any consonant, can well be held
as primal, as pregnant, with meaning 
and fulness resounding simply in saying. 


Days and dates come and go like snow 
that thinks of spring as “not yet,”
and is wrong.


By its very nature, question 
slows us down enough to open room
enough to listen rather than speak,
to learn rather than critique, 
and to share in the joy and release
of certainty displaced 
by surprise.


Begin by peeling away layers accrued 
through no one’s fault, then probe the obvious 
for its footing.


Standing as we do in clearing
morning skies, lingering shadows 
of night’s passing, the tree and me 

exchange glances 

in puddles still holding 
to the street—somewhere, some one
might well have a name for this.


Grace abides in the ordinary, in the daily 
release of daily anguish, perennially.

This unrest of this day, turns the breeze 
and the rush of the next breath of liberation.


Rising in the dark in the rain in the streets,
the rustle and rush of shadowy presence,
sound without voice, the voice of sound
unrestrained by singularity—sky’s chant,
full to brim and over 
            with heaven’s nectar. 


Unthinking, unblinking, water rushes 
any available channel—in humans,
this is thinking—think about it—think
too, if thinking were the whole of it 
for us, how sad we’d be—how fortunate
we are.


Some years ago, after several days 
along high country river banks, alone
with a favored field guide, I learned
of the willow well enough 

to know the family each time we meet
or pass close by—the turn and shape 
of leaves, the way it shapes the place
it’s in, its silhouette—

the kind of knowing
that stretches that word beyond itself
to what some call love.


For this final leg then, opting to put this pen
to work for that peace that comes of connection,
I’ll choose that “enormous journey of everything 
around us.”

                               —after Andrew Schelling


Wind-blown clouds of rain pass by
our bedroom windows, dancing songs
of winter’s promise wrapped in cold.

Wondrous—the folded legs, enfolding
quilts, body-fired memories—these,
the comfort blessings of this having,
simply, home.


Inspiration comes as it comes, 
in whatever way…

the light in the ceiling in the room behind me 
shines back at me through the lowered curtains
of the window in front of me, beyond which 
stars are veiled by rain’s clouds, which in turn 
are veiled by morning darkness, out of which 
a dog which cannot be seen, barks 
but once, 

while all the while the rains, 
and the stars I suppose, remain and continue 
unrestrained reports of the perennial.


The poem
is that part
of the report
that eludes
linguistic capture,

yet still appears 
to reside there, 
more than having 
just passed through.