A short selection of a few of my poems, starting with one looking at what poems can be for us: windows for us to see out of and others to peek into. True of all fine arts. The selection ends with one about flowers being cut in order to save them from passing. That is also a metaphor for poems.
Poems Our Windows
When making them
we try to look outside
the rooms we live in
peek through curtains
raise the shades
to see a new or needed thing
into the membrane
nature made to
seal safe our earthmost
thoughts from others
peel it back a moment
like a dreamer at the window
dancing eyes wet
A child wrapped in towels
for an evening bath jumps
at the window pointing
past a blue black sky with Sirius
rising to exclaim the
new half moon
What Loon at Night
What is the dream
that from within it
calls the dawn
What is the wailing
from the woods
that breaks the windows
locked in ice
and rips away the bed
to get you up in time to
wrap the children still asleep and run?
I can only participate!
My finger prints on everything.
No way I can remove the stain.
I drive. I buy. I eat.
And when I do,
I whip and rape
People I will never meet.
Every step my body takes
A thousand other bodies break.
A global egg so intricate
My finest moves are all mistake.
Comment: I wrote this as a Thanksgiving before-meal blessing with my family in 2003. Each year it gets even more wickedly true. The coal burning to make the electricity I am using to type this–and you to read it–is choking to death a colony of corral somewhere, a polar bear losing ground.
Mowing on Sunday
Here on my backyard deckdeck
__somewhere on the coastal swath
__cleansed of the old time stories
I hear them break the placid
Yet hear how many
__as in their fathers’ time
Hold back their labors until noon
Have they stood there long
__at the backyard door
__holding the pull cord
Listening for the midday bells
Bells that peel back the pall
That held god’s ghost in town this morning
Bells that let it out like a cloud of bats
__so it might sleep in the distant trees
__and never have to see them
__bent so hard at their moaning machines
Closed for Winter
From a cluster of rounds
A creeking river of wood
The trunk of a winter lilac
Pepper gray like the hair in my hat
Come up its pathward rise
Past the branching
The splitting thins
To face a sudden nest of twigs
A congregation of buds
Prayed to the sun
Enfolding the memory
Holding the future of blossom
When the melt of April in this part of
Mother Earth has come to free us from the
Grip of cold that held us by the fire and
Sent us out to look for wood, then happy
Children press their faces to the glass to
See the sun burn off the last of snow and
Tumble past each other down the stairs and
Out the back door with no shoes on running
To the warming arms of mud or earth, while
Men and women rise from bed still wet with
Dreams and drink their coffee at the window
Opened now to let the newborn breezes
Clean the house of winter. Then a hunger
Will awaken for fresh pilgrimages.
Comment: I play with the opening 12 lines of iambic pentameter in the prologue to Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. “Whan that Aprill, with his shoures soote…Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimages”
Life of an Oak and Maple
An oak and maple live, an aging pair,
beside the garden. The branches brush our
roof, and their rugged trunks hold our hammock.
They mesh leaves like old friends slapping shoulders.
Each year, in October, with no reason
I can see, the maple lets loose her leaves,
like a dress dropped to the floor while thinking.
The oak is fine. The maple looks like death.
The rusty nest of dry oak leaves, like a
colony of sleeping rafter bats, holds
on until a rainwind, down from winter,
strips them off in clumps. Grieving every one.
Then these two stand mute and gray like graveyard
lovers. Sometimes in a sun and breeze they
click their ice coat limbs together. Only
God knows what they’re up to in their rootspace.
GuanYin and Boy
A mother sits
with her boy
on the bus
Snips a bit from
a loaf of raisin bread
placing it in her open palm near his lap.
He takes it
not needing to look
out the window
yet keeps two fingers
arched on the pulse point of her wrist
to hold her there
as she puts
on her open
still as the Buddha’s.
Comment: I saw this on the seats across the aisle from me on the bus from Taipei to the airport October 2016. I hope to capture how still and gracious the mother was, dedicated to the simple need of her son.
The Current Flow of Night Rain
There the rains
And on the roof and on the streets
Rains on wind and wind
Night has squinted out the lights
Clouds the olding moon
Cry the ones who cradle in the rooms
Cribs with mothers bent above
Loving into dreams
Why the lingering of water
In the fall the hurricanes
But now the darkened hushing
Winds on panes
Comment: This is a poem of sound, where meaning is let free to be whatever I or the reader makes or leaves of it. Like what we do (or view) widely in the visual arts.
I cut them from their plant at night
When they had bent
In an April snow
Their newborn heads laden
__to the earth
__to their sleep
__to burn in the ice
Such bursts of optimism
I had to kill to bring indoors