Why Am I Telling You This?

Greetings, all. This is just to say…(William Carlos Williams pun intended) that I now have a poetry PODCAST available on Spotify and Apple Podcasts. It’s called…

Why Am I Telling You This? (Not to be confused with the Bill Clinton podcast of the same name.)

If you enjoy reading some of what I post here, you might want to give it a listen.

Nature is not a place to visit. It is home.” – Gary Snyder

Post Mortem

Could have been most anything really – there

       are innumerable ways for things to get dicey. Is

the red line of tetanus tiptoeing toward your heart? Maybe

      a golf ball is sailing your way. Could be a bone hiding

in your hurried lunch, something electrical

       near the shower, stitches unraveling  

while driving in the fast lane,

       a tumor swelling in the inner

sanctum of the skull, unexpected crossfire, something

       in the tap-water, a nervous thief,

and that’s it for the

       life you took so seriously, the external   

conditions. As if an identity could be assigned to water –

       something so changeable, it demands we learn to be powerless together.

Geese Flying Over

It’s the middle of January,

what are you doing here?

I ask this of both myself and the geese

as I rise to the shallows of dreaming

and break the surface.

Oh, right, they’re Canadian.

This is south for them,

and my own reasons are not so simple.

It is a lonesome sound, their squawking,

though not one of them travels alone.

Their voices make a chorus

of notes both crowded and sparse.

Orchestrated, yet in disarray.

I cannot decide if it is classical

or experimental.

I cannot determine

if it is four clarinets and two oboes,  

or several windows

being polished by the hands

of six window washers.

One might conclude

they are having a heated argument –

I’ve heard a similar noise

in one of those news clips

of a political debate.

Or maybe one of them told a good joke

just before flying over my neighborhood,

and now they’re sharing a laugh.

This too happens in politics,

though it’s never shown on the news.

Either way, they have moved on

and I sink back down into hibernation,

for the moment nothing more

than a deep-sea creature

that has strayed too close to the surface.

Valentine ~ A Love Letter to V

You’ve lived here for time out of mind, between u and w,

given of yourself, yet been grievously overlooked

toward the back of the line, fifth-to-last, always

in twenty-second place.

Without you, no love, no forgiveness, no reverie.

No vertigo, velvet, voodoo. Verses, violins, viticulture.

No need for vaccinations, because –

no viruses or variants.

You give us adventure, the dove with the olive branch,

improvement, vulnerability, revolution.

You are not to be trifled with, not to be confused with u,

who lacks vitality and never makes a good point.

You bring vision to the houses of vocabulary.

You rev your engine, defy gravity, savor.

Y craves revenge, yearns to vandalize you,

but x always stands in the way.

Y helps you make very – but what a vacant word.

You’re versatile enough to thrive without

y’s vertical stem, needless of a leg to stand on.

You forgive your place in the family of letters, admit

you’d be a vagrant without them: a mark on the page,

a crocodile’s mouth revolved one-quarter turn,

an upside-down A with something missing; Roman numeral;

algebraic symbol turned sideways; raven in flight,

its wings poised for a down-beat; inverted volcano.

But on a team? The MVP, heavyweight division boxer

with a vicious hook, alphabetical underdog who brings

the crowd to its feet, shouting Bravo! over and over. 

Peace I Leave With You

May you ever walk in kindness,

be it a walk of haste or of leisure –

peace I leave with you.

If you find gold in the stream

may you throw it back –

peace I leave with you.

May your hands be generous,

your words be ever gentle –

peace I leave with you.

May you make your heart a home,

and so never be homeless –

peace I leave with you.

May you make peace with yourself,

and so always know peace.

Peace I leave with you.

This Winter Morning

Reluctance to leave

the envelope of bed, reluctance.

But the whirring and humming,

revving of the mind

(faithful engine, reliable horse)

harasses the body into obedience,

and for good reason.

There is wood to cut, snow to shovel,

ice to melt, water to boil,

pots to be washed, plans to be drawn,

ragged roads to salt and plow.

There are the needs of children,

the old, the sick, the animals we keep,

the ceaseless demands of the things of man,

waiting, all waiting for the poet

to pocket his notebook,

waiting out the idling of dreamers,

the sinning of saints.

But then there is this winter morning,

the spell of first light

cast upon the architecture

of the world-house –  

white, silver-gray, speckled russet, evergreen.

The buoyant glow of all the lamps

in the windows of all the houses,

the owl in the tree who thinks I don’t see him. 

And with the deliberate symmetry

of this snow falling, so neatly, so tenderly,

how can I do anything but stand and stare?

How can I do anything

except surrender everything,

put down my sack

of worldly accomplishments,

turning my face to the sky, grateful

to have known such a morning.

Plants and Animals

If I were a plant, I might arrive at silence and stillness a little more gracefully.  I might meditate with greater success.

If I were a plant, I think you would find that – impossible as it seems – I am both an annual and a perennial.  Both evergreen and deciduous, succulent and garden flower, creeping fig and marigold.

A plant thinks, “where is the light and heat, there is the light and heat, here are my roots, if water comes I shall drink what I can.”

An animal thinks, “my belly is empty, my belly is full, this is my place, this is not my place, these are my children, I have no children.”

A human thinks, “through many gateways I have passed, to come into this place at last.”

~ from How To Carry Soup (Homebound Publications, 2020)

Fellow Travelers

There is more than one world.  Turn your attention now,

away from the one that is always trying to sell you something,

for time is short and you have work to do.

Befriend yourself, settle into a homecoming,

apprentice yourself to the dear friend of your own curiosity,

to a sense of belonging, a familiarity not dependent

on external circumstance, not interested

in outward manifestation.

Flash a smile and a sparkling eye

at every stranger you meet upon the road,

and your heart’s voice shall become so clear

resisting the call to drink from it will become an impossibility,

easing your thirst with refreshment from your own well,

with plenty to spare for all fellow travelers.

Work all the morning alongside your comrades

from every country, prophets from every land.

Walk all the afternoon among hills that rise and fall.

Rest all the evening, recite the same verse three times

for health and good fortune.

Wake the next morning, take a vow

of kindness, begin again.

Tread Lightly

You’ve been searching a long time now.  Somewhere along the way,

you pause.  You begin to notice the intricacies of every texture,

the textures of every intricacy.

All the magic you overlooked becomes discernible.  How could you have missed it?

It is at once ordinary and extraordinary, astonishing and unremarkable,

poetic and prosaic.

Seeing this, you give up chasing after dragonflies

that vanish the moment you find them.

You give up the search, the quest, the chase, the pursuit.

Relief.  At the riverbank you allow yourself to rest.

Not Rip Van Winkle’s sleep of oblivion, but a deep rest in awareness.

Eventually you rise, stretch lavishly, yawn imperially.

Making your way along the path, you tread more lightly than ever,

beholding – no, absorbing – the wonder of life on earth,

as translated through human senses.

You separate the sounds, hearing each one in singularity

before listening to the unified whole of all the sounds combined.

You taste the watercress, the blackberry, the squash blossom, the herbs. 

And then you continue to make your way down this forest path

alongside the flowing river, treading as lightly as possible

until you discover the space between pleasant and unpleasant,

harmonious and discordant, thrill and disappointment.

Now you have moved beyond.  Beyond what?

Beyond the realm of opposites, the arena of duality.

Naturally there will be a return journey – you’re only human, after all.

But for now, you keep going, as joyfully as possible,

in a freedom born of simple astonishment,

with a recognition of the holy presence in all things,

at peace in the acceptance that any day now, up around

any bend, you might meet death upon the road.   

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