Tuesday, July 23, 2019

After the escape, what then?


The groves spread thin at the top,
double-trunk oaks turn 
to open grasses and scrub, 
the trail draws the canyon’s upper arc 
to the other side, and the road there
takes you, either way.


So still outside
the open window,

pale pink petals
in tangled green,

glowing shadows,
the sifting fall of sunlight 

and in here, the page 
rustling whispers to the pen.


The second seriously warm day
carries early sounds of hammer-strike, 
the thin clack of framing perhaps, not heavy,
but rapid rhythms and stuttered breaks
of production, of satisfaction certain, 
of work at play on the air.


After days of burdensome heat,
cloud cover dampens the weight
of today’s sun, makes promises
we hope it can keep. 

A crow seconds helpful thoughts. 
Morning’s air carries the motion.


What makes a song
is whatever the music
heard—the tinkle of glass,
Ginsberg said, says a poem
as lovely as love does—so listen
and be glad you have.


The Pacific floats random splotches
of white, rolls altered shades of grey,

holds slow breaking waves
and thinly strewn shadows,

all of this making way 
as we make ours.



We dock in light rain, grey skies
over forest covered hills. A free shuttle
idles just across from public restrooms, 
a coffee shop on the far side of Water Street.
The town, five blocks long, scatters 
early traffic, but mostly just waits



I’ve seen before
snow covered peaks, 
canyon hanging clouds
and deep harbor blues.
But Skagway is so much
its own, I’m almost afraid
to ask how long its light 
has been.


poem as poet—poet as poem

the heart-mind, feeling-thought, 
seat of intentions’ resonant center,
presenting through words


Open ocean reminds us
sight goes just so far
and maybe just far enough.


It occurs to me
while walking this morning
that while I often don’t know
what the next step is to be
in this life, these feet do.


Lights across the valley
sneak through cracks
in the blinds, remind me
of the looming hillsides
hiding now as darkness,
their ruse given away
by the unhindered innocence
of sparkle—I turn my eyes
to the night skies.


The building guard grimaces
a tight-lipped “second floor” response 
to our restroom request, later managing 
half-smiled eye-contact, in return 
to our departing waves.


Morning sunlight finally finds the window
letting to the carpet, spreads about 
my bare feet as readily as patio shadows
drink illumination, open petals glistening
crescents on ripple dappled leaves—
quiet workings, so close, so intimate, 
so easily missed, unless not.


The poem, then, is something happening
in and of language itself

that catches our attention just because
it does—the poet’s role, to touch

by listening, so as to share the continuity
of consciousness there—self-expression

but one part of the whole heard,
attentive readiness the preferred posture.

A poem then, if we open to the occurrence,
shapes us as we might think to shape it.


Laney College, Oakland

At the edge of the community garden, 
the lift and catch of airborne water, the estuary 
plays in breezes enwrapped in the constant run 
of freeway songs, sifting nearby trees and slow
collecting aromas of sun-baked hay.

The campus feels of these things as does a home 
the voices that roam unhurried there—murmured stories 
of student commutes, bird calls and leaves, passing traffic, 
children’s laughter, the staccato cries of lingering geese.



The blinds

The blinds in the room where I write are raised to cover the upper quarter 
of the window, but are never fully closed. I peer through angled slats and 
the underside of the wooden trellis just outside, enabled to sit hidden, doubly, 
from whatever eyes perched on the neighbor’s balcony, yet still exposed 
to filtered sunlight and the full press of happenings in the front yard.

The window opens from either side with horizontal pushes that create vertical
rectangular openings. Breezes in spring and summer come in strong gusts, trees 
and bushes jump and wave and bob and whoosh. But for the blinds, only the far ends, 
exposed to narrowed passing streams, quiver. Like aspen leaves seen in the distance, 
resonance un-sounding, echoes lost. Yet, voiceless transmissions received. 

The mute and resilient interior looking out over silence. 

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Breezes know their own...

Breezes feel their way with blossomed branches 
and bamboo leaves alike, gentled ripples

of morning after-light, soft-breath arrival
in the wake of a storm-spent night.


And the words, collected lettered sounds
relating; heard, envisioned, rhythmical waves, 
suggestions of meanings, always just there, 
just beyond; the collectively held, holding 
the collective—we. 

Even when alone, we.


After dinner, gulls glistened over the bay,
low sliding flashes on differing shades 
of blue—later, at home, in the back,
the darkening crisp of ridge line 
in night coming sky.

Startled by perception so bereft 
of periphery, I reach for the pillow, 
fold my legs, and hope 
to not chase it away.


After days of heavy rains, 
I can’t tell if it’s the moon
that’s naked, morning’s sky
or finally my mind.


A plan emerges, of sorts, 
settling occurs and suddenly
the coffee tastes better.


Though larger this morning, the moon
goes before day break behind the ridge,
a close horizon that determines much
of the feel of our days here—

I can’t say it dominates, neither does it 
hover; it’s more a presence-ing, 
an attending, a quality—

like how real personality offers, 
just by being.


Bottom line, I know nothing of poetics,
or of poems for that matter, except 
that I’m here, I write, and sometimes
some groups of words catch my attention
just so.


And despite all that’s said of gentle closured acceptance,
of warmed inner connections, it often comes down to 
you, me, alone, if not gasping, alone and dissatisfied,
unable to discern, unwilling to swallow—yet, and yes,
yet again, all this, nonetheless, this moment’s nourishment.


Light enters freely 
through wide windows,

leaves just enough corner-room
for dark to linger 

long enough to share 
its poems.


canyon songs

—from an outcrop seat
at the edge of town looking down

grasses and scrub waking to the sun 
clouds that part and lift the pale

ancient songs 
from distant lands

and the resonant calls  
of wind-swept walls—

for my teachers


of things that cannot be owned—

of pause, of quiet, of desire, 
of movement, and the continuity of moment 
shared there


so easily lost
as to be dropped mid-breath

yet so readily there
as to be retrieved

in the catch
of a finger’s twitch


Given time, whatever it is
this time, passes too.


Spring zazen—open windows,
passing planes and crows join in—

to think it’s only breath is to miss 
too much of what body-mind 
is saying to the world


Friday, May 17, 2019

Here and there, April into May

Just as currents eddy and pool round ankles
and hoofs, round the lilt of tongue 

on the waiting face 
of morning’s lake, 

the ears that hear these curls
drink in

the awareness of our living.


After-rain chill, sky glittering blue,
and the hills, there, fresh spring green: 
what else, what other, could I want to be ?


My good friend walks with me, 
asks to see me, but the door is jammed
with words that no longer hold meaning.
Having run too far, too often, I think 
it’s time just to sit.


Not so sure what other to call 
this tiredness, but deep in bones 
that need only sleep. Body’s warmth 
thrown over itself, the rest left to dream.


The wind needs room this morning,
pushing limbs and branches, brushing 
through flowers and grass, leaving
nothing untroubled, nothing of itself 
behind, but what we breathe.


Watching the spider
slowly work its way down
and across 

fully extended bamboo blinds, 
stopping to inspect 

each connecting thread
supporting the whole, 

wondering what in the world 
I’ve managed to learn 
in this life.


In the museum, Monet, an old friend 
again met, echos of articulations
of time and space, color and flavor, 
all remembered, all new.


Pissarro doesn’t allow distance
to deter what exists in the depths
of painted scenes, 
but you have to step back
to see that.


Awaiting take-off, snow and ice
stream and blur the plane’s windows.
Chicago’s version of spring, confusing 
expectations of Washington’s blossoms.


Fundamentals: step out, look up—that’s it !



There’s this
subliminal hum
of recognition.

Even if, even when
going along, that hum
signals going further
or getting off.

The warm-glow feel
of going it alone

found center quiet.


For me, the reach for belief often fails, 
not for lack of want, but lack of root.
For me, doing itself is the surface trace 
of source, thought a layered mist. 
It’s not about making, but finding, 
a different patience, witness, 



Warmth and light from the muted sky
fill the east-facing window as readily as 
full-foliage trees reach into spring. A block
from Metro, our lodgings edge cobblestone
walks in Old Town, digital buzz and hum
rolled under the muscled runs of real trains 
nearby—old, they say, but still here. Like me.


The garbage men service the hillside streets
on Friday mornings—we share this space,
dark and light, winter to spring, summer 
into fall, like this: we pass and wave.

This time, as we passed, low-slung overcast
began to lift and part, as if to reveal
sky’s deeper promises…

but we just waved, anyway.


Canyon Buckeyes show the fulsome circle
summer opens to spring, white pirouettes
of dense petals, deep foliage green
and the dance of senses.


I write with a ballpoint pen
that’s nothing you can discern
from where you sit, any more than
I can tell where these words
that lean along thin blue lines
really originate either— 

even if I sit here thinking it’s me
doing or following, it’s actually perfect,
not purposeful, but actually perfect syncopation, 
continuous happening happening here, 
me-here, wholly-in-part-with, world’s unfolding,

pen drawing, moving hand, sitting, thinking
—all nominally me, mine, words even, 
even if but for a time—but really…

An acquaintance once said his wife 
was a Christian, which he said 
he admired and aspired to, 
if but only inconsistently.

If asked, I assent to being a Buddhist,
but more and more experience
discomfort at saying so of myself—

it’s in part the inconsistency,

but the suspicion too, the conviction (?),
of something other going on,

fundamentally illusive, but fundamental, 
more true, really.


—Masanobu Fukuoka

That cagy old farmer once said this about that: 

“It is like clapping your hands and then arguing about
which is making the sound, the left hand or the right. 
In all contentions there is neither right nor wrong, 
neither good nor bad. All conscious distinctions 

arise at the same time and all are mistaken.”