Tuesday, December 18, 2012

12/15/12, a poem

Been thinking of you, all of you, and of the distance
that may be between us as the old year closes,
the new looms so close, thinking of the strange ways we
now pass our thoughts, the slow scratch and fold that served
so well for so long, almost completely supplanted
by these soft and immediate clickings.

Soft too is the color of the green here this time
of year. A break in the rains let me to the hills,
as I haven’t been for awhile, new grasses
pushing to the surface, looking to cover the slopes
in silent, steady waves, from bottom to top.

Coyote bush, a coastal, hill country shrub, common
from here into the Sierra, blossoms in December
and January, small, frost-white petals, bursting
to seeds spread across the dampened earth in minute
snow flakes. Red Christmas berries bunch in native toyon,
young hummingbird sage sprouts along the trail, soap plant
on it. And the blue-grey leaves of new sage, fragrant
and tender to touch.

I say their names out loud, these few I know. The season’s
so short, this seems important. The streams, silent in summer,
sing too; their tongues knowing all there is to know of this place,
their Bodhisattva voices carry every name,
forgetting not even one.

Higher in the hills, I begin to recall the carnage.
It might be the middle-east, could be the invisible
Philippines or some unknown African country,
but it’s Connecticut this time, teachers and children,
targets so common these days, almost anywhere
we might name.

With a President as thoughtful as our own,
I am saddened when he touts our military might
as a towering accomplishment, and more so
as he stands today, helpless in the face of our children
killing our children. As real as outside threats may be,
it’s a cancer on the inside that torments us—all of our might
cannot make this right.

Something different need be done.

The News will chew and bite, encourage us
to swallow, as they diligently search more feed.
But what matter the motive, when the method
is readily given; what matter the method
when the solution is imbedded
in society’s psyche
as viable.

Broken bodies litter non-combat zones across the globe,
school yards just one. How many names, how many the lives
as brief as interludes, snapped shut—we are not different
in this, and any indifference marks complicity. This
is not the heritage I wish to protect—it is this
that needs breaking.

Whether ensconced in constitutions or lodged, abstract,
in folk-laws, this cancer will have its way with us
and within the lives of those we influence, unless
we learn to call it what it is, aloud: ours, it is ours.

But sickness rides the same currents that healing does,
and in time all resistance can be recognized
as temporary. With this, and only with this,
comes the light that allows for creative change.

Just as winter is one word, but not a single experience,
our work needs to be in the deeper recesses
of the violence in our own hearts. There, and in sharing
as open and authentic as the working of streams,
we will find the way to the seeds
of violence’s opposites

and the beginnings
of a different way to be.

I am indebted to poet Sam Hamill, and his “Awakening in Buenos Aires,” which closes with the following:

“….to have come so far
to find again what I believe:
how things—slowly,
but inevitably—can change,
and how our hearts
and this world can, at last, be made.”

Friday, December 14, 2012

More from October

October poems-2012

Beyond the window,

evening chill settles,
outside darkness
reflects the lighted room,

and the moon, 

reaching for fullness, lingers
high above the roof top,
as unseen as tomorrow’s faces,

yet to be known
and yet as readily recognizable
as our own.


Su Tung Po lived on East Slope,
looking west, just as I do.  

He took his name from that slope,
but I’ll stick with my own, Gummo,

and imagine that he too
sat among the many weeds

setting summer suns pull
from hills like these,

imagine that he too, in his time,
sat like this, looking west..

Su Tung Po is one of the Chinese ancients. His name means: Su of East Slope. “Gummo” is the name I took as a follower of Buddha’s way—it means “weeds,” a most common form of life. The wife and I have made our home on the east slope of the small valley that holds Brisbane, California.


The first of the newly hung bird feeders
gets some attention, but the second hangs lonely,
unattended, hummingbirds busy elsewhere
around the yard. Perhaps when winter comes,
unattractive offerings, such as this one,
may show different colors for those then
passing by.


Buddhist Temple of Marin

The flowers from the altar
now rest in a vase
on the kitchen counter,

of gathered beauty
spread of itself, 

friendship in worship
deepened over tea
and togetherness,

the way made concrete
on considered words,
petals transcending time and place.


Winter rains arrive
without equivocation,

arrive with little room left
for even a lifted eyebrow,

arrive in the steadied flow
of movement of time

as certainty—winter rains.


And so there are others, recognized now,
who’ve walked this way,
and breaths come less the lonely
because of it.


With the great eucalyptus down,
a constant presence
all these years,

now gone,

the curved shock of night sky opens,
the horizon’s comfortable-usual
giving way to wonder.


I woke groggy
and aching
this morning,

peered into the fog
that revealed


Elizabeth Street

Elizabeth Street in San Francisco
is one-way, runs parallel
to 24th, that somewhat upscale stretch,
there between Delores and The Castro.

It’s quiet here, sitting in the car,
under trees, looking down-slope,
with housed hills in the distance,
a block and a-half up from morning traffic.

Balding men in slacks
and short-sleeved shirts
enjoy the sunny sidewalks;
all seem to carry folded newspapers.

The most straight-forward
of explanations, if at all necessary
in the wider scope of things,
is that this is where, right here

is where life is right now,
as I wait for the store to open at ten,
right here now, where as best I can,
I watch, and listen, and try of its taste.


Freedom happens
when others
are allowed theirs.