Saturday, June 24, 2017

Spirit dressed


Spirit dressed in bright new clothes,
light the breath, scent the rose,

comes to rest on graceful boughs,
blessed in all she dreams and knows,

spirit dressed sings yes, then goes,
blithesome guest a breeze that blows,

timeless quest of peace that flows,
free to those confessed of love.



Friday, June 23, 2017

Veils and veins


The dragonflies are more colorful and inquisitive this year.

They seem to know me, and have something they want to say.

Veils and veins. Ready your wings. The angels are here.



Canvas 940



Canvas 940

June 23, 2017




Sunday, June 18, 2017

And as a father


And as a father, how do I see myself? I see myself as someone understood and forgiven by his children, who are bright flowers in a strange and beautiful world. I am their child now, and they are the guiding ones. They are windows, rainbows, and I am a passing cloud. There’s a game in the street. Every kid in the neighborhood’s involved. I look up from my notes. I ponder my hands. How could anything as common and ordinary seem so profound? I go out, only to find myself in a dusty valley long ago, walking beside a man who seems to know why I am there, and why he is there, and why his orderly vineyard rows are there, and why the sky is above them. He carries a shovel on his shoulder. It’s hard to match his pace. I fall behind. Or is it ahead? Or is it simply grace?



Saturday, June 17, 2017

My father wrote


In one letter home to my mother during World War II, my father wrote, “All I want to do when I get home is put a fence around the place and raise grapes and kids.” And that’s just what they did. Without the fence, of course. As if there’s ever been such a silly thing that could keep fear out, or keep love in.



For bugs and birds and words and lovers


The way some plants hold the rain until they need it,

or for others who may be passing by,

for bugs and birds and words and lovers,

pools and jewels for all they’ve suffered,

tender, the grass, tender, the skin, tender, the sky,

free at last from foolish thoughts of sin,

fearless in each perfection that makes faces of their hands,

O, where do I begin, if not this precious way to end?



Canvas 930



Canvas 930

June 17, 2017




Friday, June 16, 2017

And the answer is


Rain, enough to thrill the garden, but not to silence the scent of the grass seed fields. The delicate maples, red and green. The same towhee, in the same tree, sure each sentence must end differently. Flicker with an earth-brown beak, probing, searching, finding, swallowing. Little boy with a wet new bike, testing its frame against the curb, feeling the vibration in his bones. Funny how some words end up alone. And how a sneeze heard through the rain is bound to the grass seed smell, and a stop sign nailed to a rotting post. Abandoned railroad tracks, where the iron ghosts come back, and want to know, Whooooooo are you? And the answer is, the grass seed fields, the grass seed fields, the grass seed fields.



Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Canvas 928



Canvas 928

June 14, 2017




In my darkest hours amid my blackest fires


If you feel your difficulties are undeserved,
practice gratitude and think of others.

If you feel unworthy of your good fortune,
practice gratitude and think of others.

If you fear what is to come,
practice gratitude and think of others.

If you are disappointed or angry,
practice gratitude and think of others.

If you hate politicians,
practice gratitude and think of others.

If you hate yourself,
practice gratitude and think of others.

If you love yourself,
practice gratitude and think of others.

If you are numb, or broken, or spiritually distraught,
accept my gratitude and think of me,
in my darkest hours amid my blackest fires,
upon my knees, with tongue and lips too dry to say
what all most need to hear:

Practice gratitude and think of others,
until you see there is no you or me,
only one vast and subtle grace-filled mirror,
and all that is, is blessed, and all is blessed to be.



Canvas 927



Canvas 927

June 14, 2017




Monday, June 12, 2017

Canvas 924



Canvas 924

June 12, 2017




From the highest branch, a mourning dove


From the highest branch at dawn, a mourning dove,
one note short in his song — one note louder, one note longer,

one note more persuasive and poignant, one note
more present in each infinitely patient absence,

until I became the note itself — and although I had begun
by passing through the neighborhood like anyone,

I was now a sacred bell being carried up a mountainside
into the sweet gray mist.

And oh, the pilgrims’ gentle, careworn hands!
Have they ever felt like this?

Like mine do now, by this caress?
And yours, that find me in my nothingness?



Sunday, June 11, 2017

Canvas 923



Canvas 923

June 11, 2017




Slowly


Your leaves and her hair.

Her limbs, your grassy slope to the stream.

Your roots. Her sudden rain.

Her sunlit path. Your green.

And every thing unseen, slowly.

Is this what meaning means?

Her hair? Your leaves?

And all of it so tenderly?



Friday, June 9, 2017

The verbena will


The verbena will. It’s to the edge already now.
And that’s what I know about waterfalls.



A dance of light and a shiver through


A dance of light. Each leaf has something it must whisper to the other leaves and in saying be made whole. A shiver through a gray-green dress. The solemn sense you soon will fall. And what the moon might know as she dreams her dream of clouds.



Thursday, June 8, 2017

Ask me how or why


Ask me how or why, I simply do not know.

There is no purpose, only setting out.

No work as precious notion.

Or play that means escape.

Prayer, perhaps?

In the sense that love’s an ocean.

And everything is yes.

That the pieces I imagine, are one grand whole.

And each and every fragment, for ever more is all.

That my very absence, is the presence I will know.

And humbly confess, even as I must love death.

To grow.



So many strawberries


So many strawberries this spring, more fruit than leaves.

And so sweet. Fragrant space. Peace.

Berry necklaces. Berry crowns. Berry grace.

Each a call to rest here in the silence of this place.

And we shall love one another without measure.

The shadow and the bloom. The light-green runner.

Distance naught but the urge to meet.

To seek the lips, and kiss the juice upon the face.



Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Canvas 920



Canvas 920

June 7, 2017




Copper in your palm


Air so heavy with pollen and perfume, you wear it home.

Comb it into the bathroom sink. Some settles on the lacy fern.

A towhee face to face, not moving from her cypress perch.

Spinning song. Her eyes upon you. Spinning wide. Spinning round.

Like the neighbor’s old lawn sprinkler with three arms.

The one that would walk if it could.

And put its copper in your empty palm. Spinning long.

To the widow on the corner. In her faded floral reds and blues.

Corduroy. Long sleeves. Tea stains. Powder clouds.

Cutting back a rose gone wild. Says she must take it out.

Its old stump still can tear a glove or two.

A lone cactus in desert dusk.

You look up. Just in time to climb aboard a chicken bus.

And meet someone kind enough to take you home.

To feed you and spend the night.

In the morning the little ones laugh at you.

Weightless angels, bringing light.



Tuesday, June 6, 2017

A few nasturtiums


A few nasturtiums where nothing else will grow.

Fir needles. Who can count them all.

And the tales they tell of galaxies in dew and dust.

A calligrapher’s turn of the rake.

One lone sow bug crosses a cool stone step.

Almost as if you have been dreaming.

Of your absence.

Or have just remembered your uncle who died in the war.

You have his pipe. Have lit it more than once.

A smoky lantern in the dark.

Spirits become shadows. Shadows spirits.

Where the irises have bloomed. Their stiffened arms.

Loved ones lovers all around. Passing through.

Your blood and bones. To seek the precipice.

You are on. And find a cloud.



Monday, June 5, 2017

The time of year


The time of year when dust and pollen settle on the books.

Grass seed fields. Cottonwood fluff.

Old men and women, barefoot dolls wearing rice hats.

Scratching with their hoes, reeds through which sweet music flows.

Their hearts like temple bells.

And then you come upon a ground-nest with its broken shells.

Pale blue. Each a child inside of you.

The neighbors look up and smile as you wobble by on your bicycle.

Little do they know you are stitching them a quilt.

That when it’s done, they will be old too.

Just as they are now.

Your grief is that anyone in the world at all.

Might still not understand that they are the river and the soil.

That the rice they steam and serve is themselves.

A grief so light it makes you laugh.

As the one beside you writes your epitaph.

Of nameless wind and scattered ash.

And still they hoe. For love is what they grow.



May I know nothing in a way


May I know nothing in a way that shows my love.

Lips, hair, eyes. Grassy fields. Too much sky to hold.

Running in a photograph, man to child.

How it feels in your palm, looking up at you.

Just as you become a poem.

Not made of words alone.

But of the grand space in between.

Where we live and breathe.

And feel no grief upon the final note.



Saturday, June 3, 2017

Just as her song arrives


Just as her song arrives, the bird is flown.

Hope gives way to light.

Battered men dance upon their crutches.

Wise ones lose their sight.

They converse with stones.

Use their fingers and their bones.

Become the verse of butterflies.

Not as if. Or as when. Perhaps. But then.

It begins again. And the never is.

Is the is the is, you call unknown.

Oh, her fingertips, where once were feathers!

Oh, the way the wind is blown!

And leaves not one thing standing!

Save love, and the melody she’s granting!



Friday, June 2, 2017

You can see it all from here


What happens to pain, when the one who felt it is gone?

A shovel, planted firmly, in the ground.

Your thoughts are warm, familiar.

They are exactly where the wind has blown.

In helpless disarray. In uncombed rows.

You set them down. You see them sown. You are alone.

AM radio. Breakfast poem. The old gas stove.

Linoleum. Wash tub. Razor. Mirror.

You can see it all from here, the vineyard and the marigolds.

The sun goes down. Someone in, someone out.

What happens in the dark, is the lightest thing you know.

And then, your last breath . . . and . . . oh!



Thursday, May 25, 2017

A friend in disguise


Our disappointment, our emptiness, our loneliness, our grief, our fear — each is a friend in disguise, with infinite patience and confidence in our ability to understand ourselves and be free. Pain isn’t failure, it’s a perfect remedy. And, like the true friend it is, it always arrives at the right time, when it’s most surely needed. The wealth and beauty of life is never hidden. It is we who are in hiding. But hide as we will, our pain knows where we are. Drugs, alcohol, work, and all of the other time-honored forms of distraction might bring temporary relief. They might even kill us. Or we might kill ourselves. Quickly or slowly, it amounts to the same. But to delve into our pain — to embrace it, to love it, to sit with it and ask it what it’s trying to reveal — is an act of courage, grace, and humanity. It is an act far more powerful than the things we run from and rail against. To put it another way, how can we expect our lives to flower if we aren’t willing to accept everything love has to offer? How can we live to our potential and be a positive force in this world if we aren’t willing to examine, each according to our own lights and experiences, that which makes us uncomfortable or miserable? And so I ask, shall we run to our graves, or go singing? Shall we pronounce judgment on what we think are the shortcomings of others, or rejoice that they too are tormented by these divine messengers and angels?



Canvas 907



Canvas 907

May 25, 2017




Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Three days


Ninety-five, eighty-nine, and sixty-five degrees, along with windswept clouds of yellow pine pollen. When I reached the corner stop sign, a large hairy shirtless man rolled by in his rundown pickup, as casually as if he were crossing the street to get his mail. Three days. What is the name of that tall spiky flower that looks like a hollyhock but has different leaves? I never carry a mobile phone. I don’t have one. I have shovels, rakes, and hoes, and a little claw-shaped cultivator for when a flowerbed wants its back scratched. A pile of sticks. Some cucumber cages. Clippers. Sweet peas. Several worn out brooms. Old jeans. Church bells. The noon whistle. And by have I mean in the lightest possible way. A ghost-having. A floral cloud-spray. A kind of graveside sparrow-singing tree-breathing seed-sprouting now-where-were-we, love? kind of way. All for the nonce, here but once, forever and never kind of way. A work that is play kind of way. And suddenly, your hand is held.



Tuesday, May 23, 2017

One thing we can learn from flowers


One thing we can learn from flowers
is how to meet one another
with an open, welcoming face . . .

Imagine young parents pushing strollers
filled with flowers . . .

Through gardens of children
blooming in the last May showers . . .

And an earth rejoicing in the human race . . .



Friday, May 19, 2017

Be kind to a child


One hardly needs the “weather people” to tell him there’s a patch of warm, dry weather ahead. The sudden eruption of anthills tells the story. The sidewalk cracks are loaded with them, and their groundbreaking trails run off into the neighboring flowerbeds, as the cry goes up to get back to work after the long layoff brought on by over fifty-five inches of rain. Hard hats, jack hammers, ant railroads, “Tie up the boats,” I hear them cry, “we’re going ashore!” Naturally, I step over them. “Thanks, Bill. How are things up the street?” “Well,” I answer, “the neighbor was awfully hard on her son this morning as he was getting ready to peddle off to school. I felt terrible about it. The morning is so beautiful, you know, especially in this early hour. Her voice sounded like a sad trumpet, and the boy, who is about fourteen, was obviously embarrassed for her and ashamed when I happened by. I tried to make myself invisible. It worked for her, but not for him. The scent-laden hush of the atmosphere was lost to her. But let’s hope it’s temporary. And you? How’s the family?” “Hard to keep track of.” And so on. Now. Where were we? Oh, yes. Tomorrow is my birthday. We’ll be away forever or for a few hours, the computer will be off, the spirits will have full run of the house, and I will be even more out of touch than usual. In the meantime, think good thoughts, or, better yet, don’t think at all. Sing. Dig a hole. Be kind to a child. And remember, that child is yourself.



Canvas 905



Canvas 905

May 19, 2017




Thursday, May 18, 2017

In bloom


Iris, my love, if you’re willing to pretend,
the powder on your skin will be the way that I begin
the afterlife! Oh, foolish boy, if the fragrance
that I am persuades you to this end,
I bid you stay, and for today,
I will be your wife!

P.S. I find each color arrives with a different scent: one, of an almost soft-edible rubber; another, of a dear old piano teacher; a third is something innocently erotic, as if naked angels were attending one’s bath. What need have souls for clothes, and newborn babes for sighs? Ask the iris. Ask her with your nose. That is where the sweet-sky grows, and where her color goes at night. As for this silly poem, forgive a boy who’s not that bright!



My crooked mile


This world I see, feel, taste, touch, imagine, dream — is my consciousness. And so my early-morning walk, with its chimney smoke, irises, and crows, is my own private mirror. A quick glance, and I see what I think I see. But a deeper gaze reveals eternity, and thus the futility of all thoughts mercenary, by which to the loser goes the spoils. To hate someone is to hate myself. When I choose who and what I love, my choice is inevitably a selfish, petty one. I can divide, oh yes. But who is conquered?



Canvas 904



Canvas 904

May 18, 2017




Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Canvas 902



Canvas 902

May 16, 2017




Irises and dreams


The tomato plants are growing like weeds in the rain. This morning I walked in a dense, heavy mist. The robins were out. Some starlings. A towhee. Silence emanated from coy-hidden crows. Crow silence. Black-ink silence. The atmosphere, it seemed, was deep into the process of paper-making. A calligrapher’s dream. A mark here, a mark there, and thus a new language is born, and is off to test its new wings. Redwoods make fine brushes, don’t you think? And irises? And dreams?



Canvas 901



Canvas 901

May 16, 2017




Monday, May 15, 2017

Here


I have no grand purpose or plan. If I wake up in the morning, I give thanks that I can still see and feel and ache and eat and walk and work and imagine I am here — here, without needing to know what or where this is, or if any of it, including myself, really exists at all — here as a butterfly is here, created by the need of color and pollen and breeze and dream — here as a god, here as a child, here as a lost soul and here as one found, here as the mist, here as a signpost, here as a deep musical well, here as a gravestone and epitaph, here as a boy, a girl, and their clumsy first kiss, here as the next breath and here as the last . . . and isn’t it a lovely, wonderful thing, the miracle of my blessèd ignorance and helpless imagination in this grand meeting place, this urge to communicate, to whisper whatever comes to mind into the nearest and most kindly attentive ear? And who is it, really, that answers? You? Or have I imagined you as well? Are you but my own selfish echo? And when I answer you — what then? How beautiful it is not to know! How fortunate it is! However you care to define love, whatever it means to you, whatever you sense or dream or know about this divine moment of our meeting, I want you to know I am grateful for it in every fiber and cell. And if you are not grateful, I am grateful on your behalf. I am grateful even if you don’t really care, and I have been but a moment’s distraction. I don’t mind that at all. Does a butterfly worry about such things? A star? A snail? Why should I?



Canvas 900



Canvas 900

May 15, 2017




Canvas 899



Canvas 899

May 15, 2017




Sunday, May 14, 2017

A gift is a gift


The youngest of three sons, I moved away from home under entirely normal, peaceful circumstances when I was eighteen. Many years later, when my mother was on her downhill slide, she said that for quite some time, she couldn’t go into my room without crying. I was home every weekend, but I never knew. On one hand, it’s possible that something that had happened once or twice became momentarily exaggerated in her mind. On the other, blinded by my own ego and good health, it’s possible I was dense enough not to see it. Even then, we had already been friends for years, going back to my earliest memories of us being together. These memories are woven through “The Painting of You,” and many have been recorded elsewhere. Now that I think about it, there are hints, even, in “A Listening Thing.” At any rate, the friendship continued even after she wasn’t always sure who I was, when she thought I was my father, for instance, or thought I was her sister, or simply a steadily reliable abstract visitor and caretaker she called “Bill.” Who’s to know? A gift is a gift, and such we were to both.



Like the Sunday-one-day


And you, her son, like the Sunday-one-day you were born,
the valley dressed in May as one for the planting of sweet William,
now ragged more than some, yet madly, gladly, still in bloom.



Canvas 898



Canvas 898

May 14, 2017




Saturday, May 13, 2017

I love the thought


I love the thought that she might say, “You can come home any day, and help me get the clothes up on the line.” And oh, that valley sun, not five paces from her door, as if her home or clothes were needed anymore. And I love the thought that I might say, “We still have your thimbles and your cookie jar, and plant sweet alyssum by the walk.”



The interview


Asked what he thought was the greatest tragedy he had witnessed during his long life, the old man answered, “That tragedy was myself, every time I saw something as being ordinary.” Then he laughed. And his laughter was his childhood, taking flight in my mirror.



Canvas 897



Canvas 897

May 13, 2017




Thursday, May 11, 2017

P.S. Life is strange


As one who readily and willingly acknowledges his limitations, I offer the following observations with love and good intentions: It seems to me that the current political turmoil, which is angering, upsetting, and frightening millions of people, is the best thing that could be happening. All one has to do in order to be thankful for it, is to see to what degree the sorry side of our nature is being revealed. The assault on the environment and disregard of our common humanity in favor of profit in the short term, reminds us of the need to find and dig out the roots of the same arrogance and ignorance in ourselves. And it must be there, or this ugliness would not manifest itself on such a large scale. Evil men in power are the brazen puppets of our hidden desires, who dance on the stage for an hour, until the stage becomes a scaffold. And then we cheer when they are hung, and this satisfies us, and in that satisfaction, the deadly cycle is renewed. I’ve said many times before, in many ways, that the monster in us is not to be hated, and not even vanquished, but recognized and understood. When it is understood, when light is allowed to shine on that part of us, we see that what we were scared of in the dark, is only a helpless bully in the light. No longer enabled by our fear, the bully becomes a human being subject to the same eternal needs and laws. Now, that said, the present troubles are also showing the vast amount of good we possess — good that we had forgotten, and that perhaps we were even unaware of. It is like a beautiful fairy tale, in which are awakened countless brave, loving heroes of our better nature — heroes who march peacefully side by side; heroes who have learned once again to look directly into the eyes of the people they meet and speak kindly to them; heroes who, in their natural capacity, whatever it may be, work and contribute to the common good; heroes who know love is the single most powerful force in the world. To me, this last is what we have all not quite learned yet from history, and this is why our tragic past is always present. What we are seeing isn’t new. But the opportunity is. And the best opportunity is always the one before us, because we are here now, and might be gone in the very next moment. This life is a beautiful riddle each person must address himself. And the fact that millions can’t, or won’t, or are presently unable, does not make them bad. It means they are frightened. It means they aren’t ready. And yet their need remains the same. And that need is for love. And so the question for the individual remains: Will you withhold that love? Because if you do, you withhold it from yourself.


(P.S. Life is strange. Just as I wrote, “And that need is for love,” there came a heavy cloudburst. The gutters are overflowing. The water in the street is bubbling and flowing like a river.)

Petal falls, leaf grows


I know you are about to smile.

And what can that mean, but joy for the world?

Petal falls, leaf grows. Am I not a child?

Are you not the very light that shines

Upon the word?



Monday, May 8, 2017

Soon again soon


There is moss on the hard ground between the east end of the house and the iris bed. There is moss between the irises themselves. And there is moss in the remaining narrow stretch between the irises and the neighbor’s house. There are some weeds, too. The neighbor sprayed the weeds on his side, and so now they are dead white tufts. I don’t use spray. When the ground is dry enough, I simply scrape the weeds away with a hoe. And in the process I sweat out my own poisons. The result: a weed-free iris garden, a less-sullied environment, and better health. This is my approach. And the moss dries out in the sun and fades away, and I dry out in the sun and I fade away, and the sun is the same sun that yields at night what it brings to the day. There is my childhood in there somewhere, and the neighbor kids down the road, out running between the vineyard rows, hiding behind woodpiles, throwing clods, all in a kind of endless summer — a horned toad, jack rabbit, pheasant-in-flight, buzzard-on-a-fence-post world of delight — and soon again soon, the irises will bloom. And everything is right, once you see it.



Canvas 894



Canvas 894

May 8, 2017




Sunday, May 7, 2017

George used to


George used to cut my hair. This was, as they say, years ago, much earlier in the dream. I woke up this morning at four thinking of him, remembering those warm summer mornings waiting outside the shop before it opened, that I might be his first haircut of the day. Quiet, he was. Quiet he remains. And quiet I shall be, in memory of farm mornings and previous lives. And if I were a tailor, I would hide all the seams. And you would be the thread, love.



Canvas 893



Canvas 893

May 7, 2017