Field Row’s End

I am thrilled to have this poem appear in the current issue of The Cape Rock literary journal from Southeast Missouri University.

 

Field Row’s End

Ox turns at field row’s end –

onions, tomatoes, zucchini and dill.

 

The luminous strands of March

get up, get ready, to work, to begin.

 

Get up, get ready, to work, to follow

the arc of the world, the slope of the light.

 

Dirt beneath thumbnail,

knees imprint the soil.

 

Clods of mud smear rubber boots

and we, the workers,

 

anchored to weather

with its moods, whims, dictations.

 

We, the workers,

fastened to the ox and the engine of his breath,

 

fastened to the fields,

splashing around in our patience,

 

working until it is no longer work,

but who we are and what we do.

 

Tuning in to the stillness of evening,

we have become the work itself.

 

We are the field, the ox.

We are the onions, the mud, and content to be so.

 

Watching attentively, listening closely,

we view ourselves as if through a microscope,

 

our metronome held in the bone-basket of our ribs,

its momentum not yet interrupted.

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No Rush

You don’t have to rush.  You don’t have to be in such a hurry all the time.  You don’t have to feel pulled in a hundred different directions.  It’s only the energy of the society around you, and has nothing to do with the conversation your life makes with the world.

When you give up the habit of rushing and the need to be in control, it creates space in you for peace.

Notice how any system has rules and limitations, and must operate within its own boundaries in order to control effectively.  Notice how weak – or how strong – any single aspect of a system becomes when approached in a non-systematic way, or when it is removed from the system to which it belongs, revealing just how limiting a system can be.

Fear, desire, and the need to be in control are like obstructions in a river, blocking the full potential of the water’s flow.  You can always be less rigid and more fluid, less like stone and more like water.

To live less systematically – and let go of the rush – is to allow the space and flexibility for peace to flow more abundantly into your life.

 

“May I be the tiniest nail

in the house of the universe.

Tiny, but useful.”

Mary Oliver

 

Real Time

What have we been, in the very ground of our being?  What might we become?  These questions are of past and future.  In trying to answer them, we will not find peace.

Carry the wind of the present in your heart and you will never thirst.  You will participate in eternity.  You will experience Real Time, not clock time, not practical time, not linear time.

We carry bow and arrow but not much power.

Let us have no use for it.

There is no room left to breathe when we make too much of things, when we are swept into drama.  The drama takes up all the space.

The simple things, small things, have the most power to bring us peace.  There is space around them.  They are not so small after all.

The Tourist

Why do I wake while morning is still night?

I grope along endless caverns, it seems, descending many fathoms deep into memories of the past, and dreams of the future, my hand outstretched, a flickering candle in the curl of my fingers.

Journeys that – in the present light of day – I struggle to recall.  And I am a tourist there, though I carry no passport and leave no footprints.

People whisper, muttering: “Oh, he looks tired.  Something wrong with him?”

Yet I just smile because I know my pockets were sewn with fortune-thread.  And I know I am the ragged onward-goer, the ever-forward marcher.

 

 

Omphalos

My fires are so thirsty,

the hunger drinks itself.

Transcendent wheel turning,

at once groaning and soundless.

I speak the language of rounded stones,

spoken at the navel of the world.

 

At times I cannot even reach you.

At times I scoop you up

to ride across the world in the cups of my hands,

my skin peeling back

as if it were the bark of a eucalyptus tree.

 

To really explain, I’ve got to go back

to where the rain stopped suddenly

and everything went quiet

and the sky turned bright orange.

I’ve got to go back and I can’t take you with me,

but I will return and tell you what I find there.

 

All my life,

I simply do what I was made to do.

That is why I am a contented man.

Cat and Kettle

Kettle on, I began my chores while the water heated.  I don’t mind winter’s darkness being punctual, but arriving too early is plain inconsiderate.

Before long, my cracked fingers smelled of orange peel and smoke from the wood-fire I built, with kindling so fine and fair it swelled my hands to cut it.  My tea, too, was smoked – black tea once carried with great difficulty across Mongolia, Siberia.

Still in my work clothing, I stood looking out through glass and viscous gloom, as the cat relieved himself.  He inspected his production before covering it with snow, and bounded back to the door, rabbit-like.

I retreated to the lamp-lit heart of the arthritic house to get out of my boots, praise the luxury of soap and hot water, and begin cooking.

 

Vision Quest

Once, everything you knew – wanted to know, even –seemed so important. All the things you were sure you understood, and wished to better understand.

But then the long night of your life came.

Deep in among the folds of that night, you cried out for your life to be different, but it was only ever up to you.

A thousand pairs of eyes watched you from a distance.  They only knew there was nothing they could do to protect you, and that their final breath would come as surely as yours, and that they were hungry.

Songs of moonflowers, rain-shadows, animal powers – even the song of the wind we must unlearn.

You’ve walked a path upon the earth – now to it, return.