One Road

Once you have traveled in the four directions and along the main thoroughfare, and spent a great deal of time on the back roads, putting one foot in front of the other until you reach a measure of satisfaction, then you might find a clearer vision of what you’ve been searching for, of why you set out in the first place so long ago.

From this high place you can look beyond. You can look far and wide, and see how your own road is intertwined with all the others. It is not separate, yet it is yours and yours alone. The One Road, the sequence of your choices, the order of footsteps that led to this.

At last, at last. One road, at last.

Genesis

Good morning swollen and veiled moon, trees whose blossoms are about to erupt. Good morning sun, disc of fire piercing the place where stars froze and crackled in monumental quiet only moments before.

Good morning to the owl’s hushed song sliding outward from a deep pocket among the boughs, to the banshee-wailing of belts beneath the hood just after the key is turned.

Good morning to beets and barley, to salt and hot liquid, to nuts and apricots, to the mottled memory of cloves, cardamom, dark chocolate and red wine.

Good morning to the engine of life on earth, its whir and hum, its clatter and bang at counterpoint with a stillness too vast to contemplate, to certain death and the inexorable quality of passing time, to the eternity of now, the inhale of a day pinned between all that came before and all awaiting their uncertain turn, the exhale of night in its thrilling position as a frame for things that hardly seem possible in the day.

Good morning to the flat concrete jewel of glistening pavement, to the staircase with fingers sliding along its banister, to city apartments and country homes, to dresses and neckties, rickety old elevators, one-night affairs and decades of longing.

Good morning to those who never leave us, to those who never stay, to those who never come to us when we want them, then come unbidden in some secret hour with vanity and thirst, desire and hunger, tired hands, worn-out knees, blurry vision.

Good morning to rain, smoke, wooden tables, the cosmic weight of ourselves that we drag with us everywhere, inflammation, air pressure, fish and mango in a bowl, burning torches, the smell of the sea, meteor showers.

Good morning to our bodies drawn close together, to you tough as mountain-bones, to me with my carved face, to Spanish moss along an orange clay road, to shoe-boxes of old photographs, to hope and surrendered dreams, to love pursued or left alone, fulfilled or unrequited, to the lullaby of a train going any direction you want it to.

Witness

Again, I rose early and walked in shale gorges both smooth and jagged, by the wild water and evergreens.  I moved through the day like an athlete though my feet are broken, my throat so sick of onions.

Again, I sense the presence of a bear, and wonder if that is your animal spirit – vast, warm, strong.  Steam rises from a bowl of soup, the wind sways the treetops, and I long for company.

Again, I long to burn, a flare in a dark wet cavern.  I long to illuminate, pluck at the beaded web, reach for a single strand of – not transcendence – something earthly, simple.  Fill my rib cage ordinarily, break my back over the knee of witnessing the world.

 

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.

 

Cooperation

The waterfall,

with all its power

and noise,

took none of the majesty

from the small stones

downstream.

And the stones,

in turn,

borrowed no wisdom

from the waterfall.

The two only

respected each other.

 

A Great Many Sparrows

You know there are a great many sparrows in a tree when your view of the tree itself has been almost completely obscured by the birds.

There are three ways to see these birds as they leave the tree in the morning, a single entity swirling up and away, as if together they made a rippling embroidered cloak worn by the night as it turns on its heels and marches away.

The first way is to be hardly aware of them at all, wrapped up in whatever it is you’re doing, or give them a sideways glance.

The second way is to see them, finding your attention momentarily captured by a spark of wonderment before your attention shifts away.

The third way is to be transformed by this thing you are witnessing, pulled by your transfixed gaze from your own body for a moment, a part of you taking to the air in the same way the birds do, following them with your close attention until the last black speck has vanished altogether.