Friday, December 27, 2019

Divine Malaise

Finger tips know their own way 
and don’t keep it to themselves.

Don’t let the mind tell you it carries
most of the weight.


The plane turns south from Denver, 
late afternoon throwing light through cabin windows. 

Open prairie farmland, lightly dusted white, 
turns to rolling hills and deep creviced canyons. 

Sporadic stretches of forest, crosshatched roadways
and the sudden encroachment of housing tracts, 

the far-reaching outskirts of Colorado Springs, 
then the flaps-down drag of descent 

and arrival—old knots of kinship 
ready to be retied.


Out the backside of the house, we look south
over neighboring rooftops, to the Front Range,
lightly dusted slopes and ridge lines
fronting the higher, whiter, further out.

The home is quiet, a comfort. Sleep comes
as long and deep as winter’s nights. The brisk air
of morning suburban streets pleases.

Catching up is so relaxed, the range so wide, 
it’s hard to tell if anything need be caught at all.

The top right corner of the micro-wave
needs an extra push. We leave night-lights glowing, 
just in case—things being said 
that can only be said here.


Making history, with Ted

The two of us, 
who were so many years ago moved so 
by this man’s words, the two of us sit and watch 
the turn table spin, silently listening 

to the needle-lifted tones of Kerouac 
reading his own. 

We, alone and only in the world this day, 
at this hour, with Jack…

Pretty much presumptuous, we observe; 
but likely true.

Same hearts as back then, set to beating a’new.


Our last night together, plans in place,
dinner waiting on the stove, Latin music
and a fire.

Direction affirmed without the aid of a pointing finger,
we find our way by listening—where the music
takes us, has taken us, trusting opening 
a different knowing.


The ancients bid farewell at river crossings, 
roughened bridges; but for us 

the early morning drive on darkened highways
holds the stories our love like a glove. 

Whatever’s not said, can’t be. 
A hug, a kiss, a wave.

The right seat at the airport yields clear views.
Snow streaked Pike’s Peak, clouds clinging about,
roused from the dark by high country light.

What can real prayer be, if not 
the gladdened edges of a heavy heart, 
and willing devotion to whatever unfolds of that.


the last few years have been uneasy
for me, and I don’t know, but now looking back 

an urging, a call, signals without ready answers 

no surface changes, yet swells, traces, as if  
of currents not fully followed, for fear, or something 

something resistant to definition, to calculation 
or design—no not those, something

once absent hesitation, something 

an edge, to be sure, a point perhaps, but of space, 
of time 

that shows itself and there reveals 
the all unseeable beyond 

an unsayable momentum and pull,
immediate but gentle beckoning

as the breeze that turns the leaf 
there touched by sun, caught by the eye
just passing by

on the path that called the foot that 

then took the step 


An ode to one-offs

I don’t know,

I see now
not one thing
of one-offs
so desired,

except for
the music
in their count,

muttered crisp
to ears cupped
round their sound,

there picked up
with a smile.


Almost like over night, so many of the trees
along the streets have shorn their leaves entirely, 
as if winter, finally come for sure, leaves too little room 
for free-fluttering to ride in a sky constricted so with cold
it brittles all it touches. Lucky for us, the many and varied 
and deeper resiliencies that run in the blood of seasons.


I spread round the fruit trees today
with composted manure. Winter rains take it from here, 
to soil and roots into spring buds carrying seeds into blossom- 
yielding fruit, come summer.

Been here twenty years, the trees a bit less—my part each year,
less and even less—learned and learning how best 
to just stay out the way.

What a joy.


I saw on the desk calendar, predictions
of a fulsome moon sometime soon—but the rains
refuse to listen to such stories.


“Keeping company with moon and blossoms,
I spend my remaining life.

So clear—rains, clouds, and spirit.
I am awake, as are all things in the world.”


Monday, December 9, 2019

Light and its imaginings...


                                  —Albert Saijo

The young maple at the corner of the drive
where the old Chinese lady lives
offers vivid orange and gold. Midway up 
the terraced garden, long stretches 
of deeply colored greens, and upper most, 
a row of fruit trees, holding full 
to their leaves their color,
under the wide and empty chill 
of a morning in fall.



Numbers and letters fall to turning pages
like so many leaves, 

flutter a silent filling to scattered corners 
to cushion the earth

with multicolored stories 
of life in the sky, let go.


The fog today blankets the valley
full with only itself. Cold accompanies, 
transparent, affirmed by skin and bones,
by lungs braced by the unforgiving gift
of perspective regained: center-less
is the way it is—inclusive, whole, 
to be sure; no thing rejected, all things
a part of. And center-less.


With death closing in, the man on the screen
asks aloud of himself, what he’s done
with his life, and all the others, all aging,
on and beyond the screen, pause.


And so the hills felt different, indeed
presented differently for me, and maybe too
for the way I’d come, just wanting to be there. 
And arrived as I did in the beginning of day, 
before the brightness, in the earlier layers of light, 
in the quiet of grasses, dull and fallen leaves, 
reddened berries, the smells, aromas—all so clean 
a simplicity, whole and complete, open to accept
every step, no question where I’d been, any direction 
I’d care to go—a clear and palpable blessing 
of coming to know earth as ever my home.


First light
east facing houses
on the hills
from outside
the quick brushed kiss
of sun’s rose-gold rays
in the veil of mists
that hinders too
the fullest of moons
from sharing
the brightest of its time
in this new-come light
of the soft coming
of this new day
it slowly leaves behind.


The moon drops its light
from overhead, 

spreads patio stones lit 
like the face of a mountain lake.

Orion takes the horizon in the west,
I the double yellow lines down the street
some hundreds of feet 

before any sign
of life.

Morning so quiet, it seems un-breathed,
that whatever the next utterance, 

it will tap the whole 
of the waiting resonance.


Late November

The light
in mornings
between the houses
lays silent, sullen almost,
as like the tan colored grasses
of fall’s advance, lying flat
down against the face of the earth,
mixed here and there with darker tones
of fallen needles, lifeless scatterings 
‘round bared, swollen mounds,
packed hard and risen, as it were, 
to better survey sporadic stretches 
of still living grasses, many of which
will last, perhaps into, even through
the strange winter season here
and the promise of rains, which can 
and may green surrounding hillsides
well into a spring not even thought of yet,
except of course by those rains.

The ways of a place, once understood, 
ought to be followed more closely than predicted.

But who we are, what we do, 
for good or not, is usually both.


The canyons

The spring to the eastern side of the large oak
where the hermits have lived, still stains the earth there,
a pleasing find, more easily seen through the leafless trees
and withered scrub. The stream beds too, hold the puddles 
and trickles of successive waves of fog.

Bear berries own the hillsides, white tufts
pepper the wide spread coyote brush throughout 
and buds hint at the limb tips of the bays 
upper most in the canyon, where it begins to close in
with a last reach for the ridge.

One of the ancients has fallen here.

The stories the mountain holds are there for the asking,
page after page of unfolding continuance, step after step
a revelation of the universe at work, even if 
none are inclined to inquire.


Harold Stewart

There’ve been so many things these days
I’ve forgotten—those I can’t name among them—
but over and again I’m amazed at how often 
so accurate a glimmer appears for me,
of a phrase, one piece of a phrase, 
it’s place on the page as opened,
to the left or the right, and how that in itself
helps pull the right book from the shelf
and the intensity that is there re-touched

and in turn can lead to another turn, 
to a forgotten fellow poet, as now, waiting 
so close by, to again touch me.


The sleepless first hours in bed last night
slipped into long, low-range dream-sleep

that lifted with first light,
unusually cold and unexpectedly vital,

that took me into deserted streets in time to see 
low-angled rays of sunlight

reach to meet the gold-turned leaves
at the tops of the trees with its own.

The dream held a voice that held a place with me 
as I walked in that most perfect time.

It was strong, gruff, blunt with its words,
not mean-spirited, but no-nonsense.

The words, I could never clearly make out. 
But the voice, the voice said 
the time was now.


Even the coldest night holds true certain lines
that loosened contours of breath ride 
like so many lighted passages. 

Fear of death is the self’s resistance
to misperceived limits and misbegotten ideas
of peace as place certain.

The doubt that rebuffs the natural, 
unhindered flow of trust 
is of similar root

and the spark and glow from the rub 
of those tensions

is the stuff of human liberation.


“We love everything…—we dig it all.”

                                                  —Jack Kerouac

Saturday, November 16, 2019

On the road, October poems

Petals signal 
the report held
by nectar
until hummingbird comes
to take it all down.


The latest jolt along the nearby fault 
shakes many of the photos and paintings
to crooked, lines faulted to disarray, breath holding, 
tentatively waiting for a second, a tremor at least, 
though neither come to grant that odd relief—
in the moment held, we draw together, wide-eyed, 
then part with a sigh, 

the collective stretch to straighten again 
that which we still believe 
we have control of.


—To Rome

Passing date-lines in the dark of night 
speak of little more than discomfort, fatigue,

until the barest hint of blueing in the blackness
and a soft spread of ribboned pink 

that lifts the slowly lightening sky
to reveal a vast range of clouds

beneath which Europe sleeps.


A poet speaks of knowing the self
as the galaxy might know it, before
notions of birth, before definitions 
crimp being’s random edges. 

First thoughts of this, of course
take wing; but truth be known, 
these feet find comfort most surely
on the ground,

which at any rate might well be
where the galaxy sees us too, 
along with the ants, the roaches
and other beings gravity burdens.


Life lessons, learned over local wines,
both red and white: dust is a fool’s worry,
settling only on those who are still.



The coastline runs generally north-south,
a “W” opening eastward toward Italy’s boot, 
away from an unseen Etna. From here though, 
two small volcanos, unmistakably so, and,  
two rather suspicious mounds. 

And although, from time to time, 
the unseen Etna spews smoked reports,
locals feign disinterest.



Upon arrival, Etna, of course, a shapely shadow
of grey darkness parting broken clouds and plumes.
But, after all, just a distant passing freeway visage. 

The strongest roadside impression is a tangled mass
of exposed lava. Sicily: lava. Well yes, but, 

the deeper migration is the push and call, the shift
and the rise of plates: continents, meet here, 
mark here: 

on the crests looking out, looking down, 
the Ionian Sea, the upward claw, some eight-hundred feet 
of unrelenting green

and on the waters’ surge, the stories,
of shattered dreams, of landed voice, of scattered
but continuous song.


Native to Italy, the Stone Pine forms canopies,
bent and forked branches umbrella 
in bunches of bi-needled fascicles 
and cones, 

the one aside our patio hosting climbing vines 
and dangling tendrils—silent chimes that bounce 
on the rush of the sea’s breezes, puzzle the ears, 
please the eyes.


The center of Sicily is hills and rock, mounds
and bluffs; promontories dominate rolls of green,
scattered stretches of dirt-bound brush and lazy valleys:
citrus, olives, almonds; stone fencing and homes; 
cattle and sheep.

A joyous drive from Catania in the east, 
to the Valley of Temples, on the southern shore,
where notions of hours, stories of miles, fall silent. 

Centuries of remnants of myriads of dreams 
of multiple peoples, kept in the watch of unchanging 
hills. The reaching limbs of ancient trees still listening. 
The barely whispered wishes of lichen covered stone.


Buddha’s name finds my lips
on the pre-dawn streets of Matera.
Pigeons flutter up from the stones.

It’s not so much being Buddhist,
I’m thinking, as living deliberate the breath
that burns from beneath the soles of the feet.


On the way to Lecce

a plateau we’re told, 
crossing from Alberobello, over the boot
to the instep, half to toe, half to heel.

Cultivated fields, straight walls, 
never-depleted stones.

Here the vines, there the trees,
grapes, olives, muscled trunks,
doubled and twisted and ridged
with years. 

Promised cherries, not seen,
neither yet the sea. 

But that dark grey bird, again, 
white under-wing and tail, again,
just there, over the fields, 
that bird again.



The moon is less generous at this hour.
Shadows cast about from street lamps, greetings 
exchange in lowered tones, all in deference 
to some unspoken order of things,


Legs stretched out
in a way that eases a sore knee,
pen raised above a blank page,
under a mind with nothing more to say
than just that, the effort to reach beyond
such un-telling moments
simply falling right into them.

Unable to gain traction enough 
to figure into play some imagined future,
I’ve the sneaky suspicion
I’m experiencing now. 


The courtyard in Sorrento

Where do haiku hide
and why does the pen tip point,
asking the flowers
on the trellis on the wall,
the vines, the petals, the leaves?



Our relation to the entirety of the world
around us: immediacy, intimacy, such that
it simply is—immanent, taken for granted, taken as.
Life-death, sure. Ideas. But more so, 
the moments’ movements across the page.
The answer living gives of itself at work 
among the beings and things that make it
what it is.



And then, outside, a bird. 

Above the thrum of air-conditioning,
over the workmen’s determined thumps,
amid scattered voices and scooter noise,

a bird whistles—not chirping, but whistling
in the cavernous, cobblestone-floored canyon
of the inner courtyard of multi-residence buildings.

In old Napoli, a single bird whistles, and we all 
raise our heads 

to hear more.


The empty bowl still holds the chill of cold milk,
now gone. Fingers wrap 

beneath and along smoothed curvature, 

the raised bead at the base, thumb crooking 
the upper rim, 

lingering satisfaction unwilling 

to let go.