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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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.
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.