Stone Lion

The face of the stone lion who surveys the back yard has turned white due to weather and time, two things I understand very little of, being neither meteorologist nor physicist.  I only know that he reminds me of a Celtic warrior painted up for a fight, milky streaks spreading through the dark copper of his mane.

A stone lion is the best kind of lion to have, for he requires no meat and will never turn on you.  Being stone, he looks no more tired than he did when he entered my service all those years ago.

I admire his dignified silence, and wish I were more like him, so unaffected by weather and time.  Maybe then the sun I’m sitting in wouldn’t feel like it had to work so hard to beat back the gloom of eventuality.

For the moment, though, I somehow get hold of the slippery fish of acceptance and wrestle it in close, effort in one hand, surrender in the other.

For the moment, he comforts me, ever gazing at the garden before him, neither its conqueror nor its servant, a snail passing before his feet like a tourist visiting a monument.

 

Of Time and Earthly Life

They are the children, and we their old, clutching mortal dreams like whirlwinds.

The rich ruddy mortar of body and soul paves the good sturdy road with its twists and bends.

 

Wheels carve lonesome tracks in the mud on our way to empty the urn.

Whistling past the graveyard, the next generation takes its turn.

 

At times the weight is too much to bear, when stones are all gathered together.

Yet each one alone, though still made of stone, can be shouldered in all kinds of weather.

 

Many Brothers

Connection erases age, weakens constraints, strengthens the bond of brotherhood.

I have crossed many valleys. I have loved many brothers.

Treetops creak and bang the way the screen door did in my own lost boyhood.

A wind has risen.  Dying leaves pray for us all as they descend, knowing how to honor their own wisdom.

A final stretch of weather will come, driving me into the finger-shaped lake, but today is bitter enough to invite stillness.  Today is northern tundra, Canadian coastline.

I puff and snort the way my grandfather once did, hiding an empty wine bottle among indifferent stones.

Backbone

This poem first appeared in Red River Review in 2013.

Backbone

A favorite thing of mine, he said,

is a hot drink in early morning,

taken to cut through phlegm

and shake rust out of the brain,

usually around six o’clock.

 

And then to have a walk, he said,

in the company of my brothers and sisters-

the river, forest, sky and stone,

all that is natural upon the earth.

 

And then to have a swim, he said,

whenever and wherever possible,

to awaken the pores,

refresh the mind,

and again make the brave attempt

to view the world without judgment.

 

And then to have a nap, he said,

to gain the healing daytime rest

that helps prevent diseases of the body,

to dream of sex and other wildness,

to dream of perfect silence.

 

And then to do some work, he said,

a few hours of honest work,

whittling away at whatever the project might be,

all the while grateful

for eyes, ears, lungs, hands and heart.

 

And then to die, he said,

to die a little bit each day

because that is what we owe to life,

what those who came before us had to do.

And though we may not live as they did,

it does not change it.

 

Ladders

It’s hard to be sure

if you’re climbing.

You know,

really going somewhere.

Or are you just milling about

as if you were

at a cocktail party.

Who can say

in what direction

you’re really moving?

Could be sideways,

or some off-the-charts

geometric angle.

Perhaps there are

no directions at all,

it just appears there are.

Or maybe you’re hanging

on for dear life

to the same rung

you grabbed hold of

when you slipped

and almost fell

so long ago.

Let Me Not Wait

Let me tell you now

how much I will miss you.

Let me not spend another moment

alive on this earth with words unspoken.

Let me not wait until you are gone, as I’ve waited with so many now lost, and narrowed my eyes as withered chances blew past my flushed cheeks, lifted by a sudden wind, leaves in a wheelbarrow, carried back to the place where only a moment before, I gathered them.

As if I were trying to perform a task far too large for me,

something to test the bounds

of my mortal endurance.

 

 

These Rising Rivers

My heart moves so fast that it almost has me scrambling after it.  But no, we are connected – it can only run so far before it’s left with no choice but to wait for me, jerked to a halt, a dog reaching the end of its leash.

That said, once I’d seen you off safely and on time, I went back to the bed you slept in, still warm with the aliveness of your body, and I wept and wept.

The whole history of my life stood before me: a spiral, a cathedral, dirt road, river.  A sacred calendar, its entirety known only to me, only thought of as sacred by me.

I can withstand the sun and wind, I thought to myself.  I can withstand the intangible, the horror, the splendor.  But not this rain, these rising rivers – Oh Transcendent Energy, haven’t I seen enough rain?