Friday, December 28, 2018

Not so poem-like

         “Haiku-like haiku are not particularly bad.
          But haiku that don’t seem haiku-like at all—
          nowadays that’s the kind I’m after.”
                                       Santoka  12/8/1938

Writing, it might be said,
is the interior making visuals,
in hopes of lasting.



Santoka’s poem about the bell
at Eiheji, reminds me of remembering you 
when hearing the bell
when there.


Certain liturgies…

The wife and grandson sleep
in the next room. The coffee cup 
is empty. Light comes
to the window, calls the pen 
to love the page.


Unless the determination
of value is your own,
it’s worthless.


What to make of it all
is often dressed down 

as too impractical 
to be addressed

in light of all 
that needs to be done 

in order to be done 
with it all, after all.


You may 
I spoke 
a bit
to stay
a bit
off balance

and I 
find it
to do
than you’
d think.

Is this
or sign
or just
the way
it is?

that Bronk
at an-
y rate, 
the care-
ful one, 
says something

like, who
needs to
make of
a life
when all
at hand
is what
life makes
of it
all al-

Where is
what’s off
in this 

? ?


Fremont CA is flatland, off the bay’s edge,
along the edge of north-south I-880—
walls buffer freeway noise, and more walls 
the noise along its four-lane interior roads.

The only elevation here is the freeway overpass, 
rising slopes of grass, peppered with trees 
full with fall—the slopes bottoming at fences 
bordering a sea of backyards.

If moved to look down through the trees, 
to the leaf-softened stretch along the fencing, 
to look for a sign, a trace, feint leavings 
of passing breaths, one finds none.


Tea leaf residuals
make mornings


I still take notes, but without thinking
I’ll ever consult them—aging 
teaches influence imprints 
its own way. Its time
is my time.


Awe is that rising 
rooted in gratitude.


There’s this impulse, this movement toward
whatever the discernible limits—even in the comfort
of the forest clearing, we dream what’s out there
will come for us with morning.


The room’s silence is often disturbed
by books leaning this way and that,
piled akimbo, papers, scraps, jutting here,
bunched there, so many teasing fingers,
lovers and friends reaching out for me
to reach back.


To Steve B.

You once said poems 
I’d addressed to others
you didn’t read, because, 
well, how could you expect 
to understand? So, this one 
is for you. Hope you do.



Early morning young skunk
starts to cross the road—we stop
and turn, we two, grateful for the light 
that holds us both,
for each other.


Night time rains give way to sharp chills 
above wet streets. Sidewalk lights click off. 
The hardware store guy elbows his way 
through the back entrance. I wade the stream 
of someone’s cooking breakfast.


Trees lean every which way for light enough 
for their needs—we too lean and reach 
for the sense we need 
of what our senses need 
to bring to us.


Hovering blossoms,
a quivering branch,

and that quick-headed


Fortunate for us
writer-poet types,
no one word 
ever gets
the last


Thursday, December 6, 2018

One day...

               “…one day I would like to be a poet.”
                                                             —Rene Daumal

Someone said, in a movie of all places, 
said, even when you’re lonely, you’re lonely
in the world, said it right to me, I mean, too,
even when things are left behind, when you
move on, you’re always right here.


November mornings long for light lost 
to earth’s curve and turn, which, though cold, 
are of the balanced certainty of knowing endings 
merge beginnings befitting wholeness. Least-best, 
first-last, have little currency beyond 
the next flip of the page.


Migration is not an accident…

Lodi sunsets burn salmon-pink 
into fading blue, emboldened marshlands 

waiting the patient, long-winged chatter 
of wintering cranes.

Mornings move with the sounds trains,
dew-damp grape leaves carry prints 
of passing fingers.


Moon bottoms a high sliver to the south 
and east of the bay—a barge, alone
below the mist below the shore 
below the mountain Diablo,  
keeper of shadows.

We are with mountain on this side too: 
presence immeasurable, model, magnet 
pull of possibility, keeper 
of the speech of place.


This shadow speaks of its love of sun,
refuses to relinquish the trail ahead
without first, and last, receiving 
its touch.

To what or to whom have you
given yourself as thoroughly as this
and known it as such, 
and if not,

what might you be missing
all your life?


The hot-pink sun
at seven a.m.
speaks of smoke
from fires
east of here.


“Being is the great explainer.”


Cleaning up the yard for winter,
splintered branches, leaves crusted
to crunch, then dust, 

darkening sky choked with smoke, 
promising nothing more 
than night.


The teacher speaks of the unutterable, 

the untraceable, unintelligible potentials 
she urges us nonetheless to trust, because,

because our words can’t. 


Floorboards, carpets 
and painted ceiling sheetrock 
filter the cough in the apartment below,
a muffled signal of human near-by, 

accrued lessons of listening  
cupped secure, intuitive contexts—
this cough rendered friend, 

then forgotten:

fingers pushing pen, shingled roofing 
and the all-inclusive light of a moon 
at best only half-


Who here hears the crooning
of multitudes of voices ?


Uncertain of the source,
excitement rides expectations,
eyes closed tight.


Lamp light speaks
to the inside window glass,
leaving dark outside alone.


Eager to take it all up,
hands smooth
unwrinkled pages, 
search for the words
hidden there.


The November sun rises further south, 
shoulders golden resonance 
through leafless trees
that hold the best seats

in the house.