A young mother on a motor scooter stopped at a traffic
light, her little son perched on the ledge between her
legs; she in a gleaming helmet, he in a replica of it,
smaller, but the same color and just as shiny. His visor
is swung shut, hers is open.
As I pull up beside them on my bike, the mother
is leaning over to embrace the child, whispering
something in his ear, and I'm shaken, truly shaken, by
the wish, the need, to have those slim strong arms
contain me in their sanctuary of affection.
Though they call this regression, though that
implies a going back to some other state and this has
never left me, this fundamental pang of being too soon
torn from a bliss that promises more bliss, no matter
that the scooter's fenders are dented, nor that as it
idles it pops, clears its throat, growls.
--by C. K. Williams
The Call This
A young mother on a motor scooter stopped at a traffic
It could happen any time, tornado,
earthquake, Armageddon. It could happen.
Or sunshine, love, salvation.
It could, you know. That's why we wake
and look out -- no guarantees
in this life.
But some bonuses, like morning,
like right now, like noon,
~ William Stafford ~
A Cedary Fragrance
I wash my face with cold water—
Not for discipline,
nor the icy, awakening slap,
but to practice
to make the unwanted wanted.
A journey continues until it stops
A journey that stops is no longer a journey
A journey loses thing on its way
A journey passes through things, thing pass through it
When a journey is over, it loses itself to a place
When a journey remembers, it begins a journal
Which is a new journey about an old journey
A journey over time is different from a journey into time
An actual journey is into the future
A reflective journey is into the past
A journey always begins in a place called Here
Pack your bags and imagine your journey
Unpack your bags and imagine your journey is done
If you're afraid of a journey, don't buy shoes
~ Mark Strand ~
Some of what we love
we stumble upon—
a purse of gold thrown on the road.
a poem, a friend, a great song.
discloses itself to us—
a well among green hazels,
a nut thicket—
when we are worn out searching
for something quite different.
comes to us, carried
as a bright cup of water,
as new bread
~ Moya Cannon ~
No Going Back
No, no, there is no going back.
Less and less you are
that possibility you were.
More and more you have become
those lives and deaths
that have belonged to you.
You have become a sort of grave
containing much that was
and is no more in time, beloved
then, now, and always.
And so you have become a sort of tree
standing over the grave.
Now more than ever you can be
generous toward each day
that comes, young, to disappear
forever, and yet remain
unaging in the mind.
Every day you have less reason
not to give yourself away.
~ Wendell Berry ~
it has taken me
all of sixty years
that water is the finest drink,
and bread the most delicious food,
and that art is worthless
unless it plants
a measure of splendor in people's hearts.
~ Taha Muhammad Ali ~
Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you,
If you leave it you may come back again, saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
Where you are. You must let it find you.
~ David Wagoner ~
Something inside me
constantly bleeds toward god.
That’s why I keep writing,
Slipping messages under the door.
Things to Think
Think in ways you’ve never thought before
If the phone rings, think of it as carrying a message
Larger than anything you’ve ever heard,
Vaster than a hundred lines of Yeats.
Think that someone may bring a bear to your door,
Maybe wounded and deranged; or think that a moose
Has risen out of the lake, and he’s carrying on his antlers
A child of your own whom you’ve never seen.
When someone knocks on the door, think that he’s about
To give you something large: tell you you’re forgiven,
Or that it’s not necessary to work all the time, or that it’s
Been decided that if you lie down no one will die.
in equal amounts.
will not build the temple.
will destroy its walls.
~ Maya Angelou ~
Chiho brushed for me
three Chinese characters.
She sent them to me in the mail.
I have her calligraphy framed on the wall
in my room above my little homemade
altar where I sit every day.
The characters from top to bottom say:
Shu, which means keep or obey,
as in obey the teacher.
The second one is ha, which means
break, rebel, try things out, other than
what the teacher said.
The third one is ri, which means
depart on your own path,
go your own way.
Call and Answer
Tell me why it is we don’t lift our voices these days
And cry over what is happening. Have you noticed
The plans are made for Iraq and the ice cap is melting?
I say to myself:
“Go on, cry. What’s the sense
Of being an adult and having no voice? Cry out!
See who will answer! This is Call and Answer!”
We will have to call especially loud to reach
Our angels, who are hard of hearing; they are hiding
In the jugs of silence filled during our wars.
Have we agreed to so many wars that we can’t
Escape from silence? If we don’t lift our voices, we allow
Others (who are ourselves) to rob the house.
How come we’ve listened to the great criers-Neruda,
Akhmatova, Thoreau, Frederick Douglass-and now
We’re silent as sparrows in the little bushes?
Some masters say our life lasts only seven days.
Where are we in the week? Is it Thursday yet?
Hurry, cry now! Soon Sunday night will come.
It's a gift, this cloudless November morning
warm enough for you to walk without a jacket
along your favorite path. The rhythmic shushing
of your feet through fallen leaves should be
enough to quiet the mind, so it surprises you
when you catch yourself telling off your boss
for a decade of accumulated injustices,
all the things you've never said circling inside you.
It's the rising wind that pulls you out of it,
and you look up to see a cloud of leaves
swirling in sunlight, flickering against the blue
and rising above the treetops, as if the whole day
were sighing, Let it go, let it go,
for this moment at least, let it all go.
Lord: it is time. The huge summer has gone by.
Now overlap the sundials with your shadows,
and on the meadows let the wind go free.
Command the fruits to swell on tree and vine;
grant them a few more warm transparent days,
urge them on to fulfillment then, and press
the final sweetness into the heavy wine.
Whoever has no house now, will never have one.
Whoever is alone will stay alone,
will sit, read, write letters through the evening,
and wander the boulevards, up and down,
restlessly, while the dry leaves are blowing.
--Ranier Maria Rilke, trans. By Stephen Mitchell
Books litter the bed,
leaves the lawn. It
lightly rains. Fall has
come: unpatterned, in
the shedding leaves.
The maple trees ripen. Apples
come home crisp in bags.
This pear tastes good.
It rains lightly on the
random leaf patterns.
The nimbus is spread
above our island. Rain
lightly patters on un-
shed leaves. The books
of fall litter the bed.
--James Schuyler (1923-1991)
A leaf, one of the last, parts from a maple branch:
it is spinning in the transparent air of October, falls
on a heap of others, stops, fades. No one
admired its entrancing struggle with the wind,
followed its flight, no one will distinguish it now
as it lies among other leaves, no one saw
what I did. I am
the only one.
--by Bronislaw Maj
In the Moon of Falling Leaves
I was born in the Moon of Falling Leaves,
that time when summer’s harvest
falls from every maple tree,
painting the forest trails
golden as sunlight
and crimson as Great Bear’s blood.
Each October brings back the scent
of fires burning on the hills,
the first etchings of frost
on my bedroom windows,
the departing wings
of a thousand geese
cutting the clear cold sky.
There is no time closer to my heart,
than this season of changes
when the balance tips between
darkness and light,
when the last flowers
nod in our garden,
when so many things
are about to end,
so many about to begin.
--by Joseph Bruchac
The summer ends, and it is time
To face another way. Our themes
Reversed, we harvest the last row
To store against the cold, undo
The garden that will be undone.
We grieve under the weakened sun
To see all earth’s green fountains dried,
And fallen all the works of light.
You do not speak, and I regret
This downfall of the good we sought
As though the fault were mine. I bring
The plow to turn the shattering
Leaves and bent stems into the dark,
From which they may return. At work,
I see you leaving our bright land,
The last cut flowers in your hand.
In this dark I rest,
unready for the light which dawns
day after day,
eager to be shared.
Black silk, shelter me.
more of the night before I open
eyes and heart
to illumination. I must still
grow in the dark like a root
not ready, not ready at all.
(In Memoriam M.K.H. (1911-1984)
When all the others were away at Mass
I was all hers as we peeled potatoes.
They broke the silence, let fall one by one
Like solder weeping off the soldering iron:
Cold comforts set between us, things to share
Gleaming in a bucket of clean water.
And again let fall. Little pleasant splashes
From each other’s work would bring us to our senses.
So while the parish priest at her bedside
Went hammer and tongs at the prayers of the dying
And some were responding and some were crying
I remember her head bent towards my head,
Her breath in mine, our fluent dipping knives—
Never closer the whole rest of our lives.
The Traveling Onion
When I think how far
the onion has traveled
just to enter my stew today,
I could kneel and praise
all small forgotten miracles,
crackly paper peeling on the drainboard,
pearly layers in smooth agreement,
the way knife enters onion
and onion falls apart
on the chopping block,
a history revealed.
And I would never scold the onion
for causing tears.
It is right that tears fall
for something small and forgotten.
How at meal, we sit to eat,
commenting on texture of meat
or herbal aroma
but never on the translucence of onion,
now limp, now divided,
or its traditionally honorable career:
For the sake of others,
--Naomi Shihab Nye
Zimmer no longer wishes to write
About the dimming of his lights,
Recounting all his small terrors.
Instead he tells of brilliance,
Walking home from first grade
In springtime, light descending
To hold itself and dazzle him
In an outburst of dandelions.
It was then he learned that
He would always love yellow,
Its warm dust on his knuckles,
The memory of gathering pieces
To carry home in his lunch pail
As a love gift for his mother.
All colors come from the sun. And it does not have
Any particular color, for it contains them all.
And the whole Earth is like a poem
While the sun above represents the artist.
Whoever wants to paint the variegated world
Let him never look straight up at the sun
Or he will lose the memory of things he has seen.
Only burning tears will stay in his eyes.
Let him kneel down, lower his face to the grass,
And look at light reflected by the ground.
There he will find everything we have lost:
The stars and the roses, the dusks and the dawns.