Thursday, December 15, 2011

Jessica's Blessing

Mirador, Costa Rica
March 10, 2010; December 15, 2011

In the din of exuberance
children of Mirador
the open assembly hall,
submerging senses,
drowning thought
in waves of chaos washing by,
composed of shouts
and soccer balls
giggling swirls of almond girls,
rice krispie squares and lemonade,
the dreams they share of lives
unfurled beyond
the world of Mirador.

But can we ever comprehend
the calculus of blessings?
How karma comes so well
disguised. How butterflies
somewhere will sway,
the wind will shift another way,
and through the swirling
stardust currents, God speaks
Child to empire’s fringe.
How echoes anchor minds
that wander, crack the armor,
fill the arms that ache to cradle,
fill the lives that ache for more.
And how the winds of Mirador
bestow in trust a brown-eyed boy
to bind my soul a blessed hour
adrift on complicated tides
unbidden thoughts impressed
inside from child or God
I cannot say –

Are you among the modern 
magi, those who wander 
far-off byways, seeking holy 
child once more, to bless 
with gifts and walk away, 
to one day join the jeering 
bands in casting lots for what 
remains when charity gets 
out of hand and cries ‘shalom’
then works for change?

At the open church door, threshold
to the gleaming muddy world beyond,
a red-dress girl but five feet tall
lays down her youth, reclaims her child
and lifts the face of timid grace
to offer what she holds inside
her blessing, a beatitude —
Be happy, spoken word for me
from God or girl I cannot say.
Madonna child of fourteen years,
squares her back and turns away,
with watchful baby over shoulder
skips past puddles, rounds the corner,
treading lightly on the pathway
down her mud and gravel days.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Second Soul of November

"Resistance" by David Noah,
Winterville, Georgia

Athens, Georgia
November 18, 2011

       Call me Aquarius
unlike Ishmael
set to sea
by soul’s November
damp and drizzle
cold November
grim about the mouth
chased into the arms of Ahab
        ever striving,
        ever driving
raging to the fading light
in endless existential angst
aspiring to redeeming greatness
spurning fear and hope alike
embracing Übermensch inside

        which elevates
        contentious ways
        defines the dark
        in dismal days
        descends again
        the well of cold
        which holds the dread  
        November soul

well goodness gracious that
November, bless its existential
heart, so Sturm und Drang, so
not my drama. Mine the mellow
Southern season mixing mild
with bracing days, when
woodlands open up and welcome
winter’s heart of tan and brown.  
There’s peace in piercing shafts
of sunlight slowly warming forest
floor where solemn anoles fade
in silence, green to tan in golden
sun, a grace in shy suburban does
when flushed from front yard
flower gardens, gracile statues
snapped to life and soaring lightly
merge with early evening shadows
cast by rising Hunter’s Moon.

November’s second soul is sweetness
wrapped in dwindling light and life,
a treasure passed unrecognized
by those who set themselves
to sea

        and haunted
        ever onward
        driven, seeking
        never finding
        ever scanning
        endless oceans
        over here, ya
        piece a’ me?

Though some still think to call
it glory – deeply woven hero
story – manning up is in our guts,
in coded genes we cannot break,
but fallen human spirit grows
new harmonies will soon take hold
November’s grace will seep inside
and ground the mind of greatness

        So never mind
        the date precisely
        when my fate shall
        breach beside me,
        when the white whale
        comes for me, I’ll draw
        upon that second soul
        to harness what I have
        in store to bless the beast
        that looms before me,
        bless the beast that lurks
        inside, to look with love
        on ice cold eyes, to look
        my last on open skies,
        to fill my lungs with light
      and dive.

Tryptophanic Sugar Buzz Blues

Athens, Georgia
November 30, 2011

I don’t bake turkey
      Thanksgiving Day.
Don’ bake no turkey
      Thanksgiving Day.
But sis-in-law cooks Butterball
an’ ain’t no shame to give a call
when all I hafta do is pray.

The feast is spread,
      it’s laid before me.
A mighty spread
      awaits before me.
just who to thank, you make the call –
the cook gave labor, bird gave all,
the voice inside cries bless the fowl.

I said a prayer,
        and then I toasted.
Cried out that prayer,
        then blessed and toasted
Fifteen pounds of turkey roasted
brown and juicy, packed with stuffin’
made from crumbed corn bread muffin
whipped potatoes mounded creamy
drippin’ pools of giblet gravy,
bowls of butter beans with ham
hot casseroles of squash and yams 
Ready now, we’re set, we’re willin’
Lordy mercy make us able:
eat our fill and leave the table.

      And it’s –
      First big helpin’, belly bulgin’
            Twenty pounds of pieces scattered
            all across the turkey platter.
      Second helpin’, belly bloatin’
            Thirty pounds of tryptophene
            still lyin’ round about the scene.  
      Final scrapin’, belly breakin’
            Forty pounds of scraps remainin’
            call the dogs, my stomach’s achin’.
      My oh my, this grown man cry
            ‘cause here come’ sweet potato pie
            an’ pumpkin, pecan, apple crumb,
            in whip’ cream bliss just let me lie.

Tonight I’ll toss
      in bed and dream.
Oh Lord I’ll turn
      and squirm and scream:
The Lady of the Gravy lake
is bakin’ spells I cannot shake  
while mired within my sugar swampland
turkey zombies slowly stalkin’
candied yams approach gyratin’
devil’d eggs incarnate Satan
wafting ghastly sulphur haze
and through the stuporifous daze
mad bargain shoppers pepper spray
their fevered way into the scene.

This ain’t no ordinary thing,
Thanksgiving night I got again
the sugar crusted, diet busted
sweet tea sweatin’, midnight frettin’,
stomach churnin’, belly turnin’
blood congealin’, colon squealin’
bowel blastin’, pyroclastic
nostril flarin’, zombie scarin’
Tryptophanic sugar buzz

(Now don’t be lettin’ this happen
to you!)

Sunday, October 23, 2011

To the End of Haight

Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, California
October 2, 2011; revised June 15, 2014

It would be wrong, of course, 
to hike up Haight in too new 
tie dye, made in Haiti, hauled 
to Georgia, bought off 'Hippies' 
costume rack, my own creation 
(purple bled with golden high-
lights) gone to rags too long 

I caught the Summer of Love 
by grace of A.M. rockin' radio 
while sweating construction 
to finance my physics, and fantasized 
Love-Ins were all I could muster 
that innocent summer in North 

Now here in Haight I haunt the places 
free range hippies propagated 
seeking *Authenticity* or failing 
that, a clever tee to take back 
home with burning words declaring 
what it is we were, just what we 
wanted life to hold, what never was 
but still might be, in understated 

From off the other side of Haight 
persistent as the backed-up traffic 
bold, phlegmatic yogi laughs  
though not in mirth, but merely 
practice. Blocks from fervor 
gentry groom their comely rows 
of reclaimed homes, each worth 
more than all the flowers worn by 
hippies in the Haight back in the 

With knowing smiles and narrowed 
eyes, we've moved beyond the naïve 
wise who fought for justice with those 
flowers, summoned peace by sharing 
song. Go gentle, people, after all 
it’s every generation’s fate to re-enact 
the Fall. Last call before we’re ushered 

At the end of Haight the 'Golden Arches' 
sits across from Whole Food Market 
hard by parkland, pulsing, pulsing 
tribal drums beat about the edge of awareness 
from somewhere deep within the great long golden park 
that stretches out to the end of America  
where sea fog gathers cleansing chill 
close underground raw forces build 
and the late day breeze drifts so gently 
about my face, I cannot say which way 
it blows. 

Monday, October 10, 2011

Afternoon Joe

Athens, Georgia
October 10, 2011; revised December 13, 2013

You smile into a steaming cup 
in search of grounds and gracious lines 
to share with he in painter’s cap
who holds up signs by traffic stops 
where hand-drawn letters spell the barter, 
"work for food," but what he offers
one more try for wary drivers – 
multiply the fish and loaves
within the gap from red to green. 
But eyes averted never see 
the narrow Galilean path 
that stretches off another way
beyond the light that guides the flow 
from bank to drugs to Chick-fil-A 
and on to homes to huddle nights 
encased in husks of wood and cheer, 
which fortify a life’s veneer
in hoarded warmth

                                   but those like Joe
spend hours in the public square
and nurse their warmth from cardboard
cups – a Big Joe buys an afternoon
of comfort on a well-used couch
amidst assorted Macs and pads
and textbooks cracked by pert coeds
in gym shorts, flip-flops, painted toes
and funky guys in baggy clothes,
by nursing interns sporting scrubs
and midlife strivers buttoned up,
a young instructor talking math
by Chinese couples lugging packs
a working mother, child in tow –
they come and go and barely note
an old man whiling time alone
and gentle souls at rest, like Joe

who on a warm midafternoon
could tell you how to weather cold 
on cruel nights that numb the soul, 
when howling Arctic winter lows 
pile snow on sagging canvas homes, 
the weak won’t make the morning call 
in trembling walls of flesh and fabric;
battered down, resigned to die, 
the voice of God 

       commands we rise
       and manufacture right
       on ice, from slush
       a snowman shrine to life
       submerging fear
       in warmth of play
       through bitter night
       to brittle day

                                  and yes I too
I mean to say have felt my heart so
strangely warmed behind my silent
public smile my words are snowmen
guarding night and creeping numbness
in my life,  but first retreat to resupply
the cardboard warmth to ease
the ties of mid-day neighbors, even
Joe who, unobtrusive, slipped away
somewhere along the ancient path
to find a home beneath the sky. 

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Autonomy, a Prayer

A meditation on the week after a prostatectomy.
Athens, Georgia
September 7, 2011; revised May 13, 2015

To be free from tubes and holding tight, with taut skin stretching staple-free, my belly humming blissfully beneath a bandaged five-part scar; to sneeze and laugh and like the twinge; to feel akin to fountain boy still en pissant in Brussels square; my body, unattached and free – 

              my freedom brings autonomy.

To step outside to open sky and feel the sun inspiring sweat; to swerve and crunch September leaves and smell the summer stored inside; to stand in shade air-cooled by breeze; to harbor strength to stride with ease to where I will; where will is strong –   

to will belongs autonomy.  

To pay due heed is prayer indeed, or prayer enough for one set free from climate-cooled sterility, from pumps, procedures, hardened tools, precision cuts that take out lumps and treasures of vitality in trade for time and open space to fill with what, that choice is mine – 

my choice defines autonomy.

To walk away from death each day, each step a prayer and prayer’s reply; each dawning light, a night behind, a morning more to hear the score of tiny tongues in praise of life; those chittering skittering prayers told by insects, birds and hurried souls too busy for reflective ways – 

through deepened thought, autonomy.

To claim the time to redefine my way within the sacred web, receiving life more graciously and giving back with equal ease, enraptured in the dance of grace, transforming old conflicted ways; a daily task, to drop what chains me to the past and reattach with what will last – 

in life of love, autonomy.

Photography by David Noah, Winterville, Georgia: 
"Birds and Wires"

Sunday, August 21, 2011

To Our Children Leaving Home

Photograph by David Noah,
Winterville, Georgia
Photograph by David Noah,
Winterville, Georgia

Bob Ambrose 
and Susan Richardson
Athens, Georgia
August 21, 2011
Reflections on a vision given to Susan
of Kelsey going to college; and on memories.

It is always so,
they go forth
bearing our biology
passed on from dawn
of life’s first day.
But so much more
they bear our dreams
on loan since Eve
awoke to wonder,
pondered, suffered,
lost her Abel.
Ever to the left
behind who love
enough to let
them go, may God
grant visions, offer

        Of fair spring skies and foals in fields
        enclosed by fences, sturdy gates
        restraining safe the bounding colt
        and bright-eyed filly. Safe, but kept
        confined too long, they’ll never be
        what God designed, and so to grow
        and tame proud hearts, we lead them out
        to wider fields across the hill where
        far-off fences, unmanned gates give room
        to run consumed by joy, constrained
        till strong. The same our young.

But God steals hearts
and leaves gates open,
gates unguarded
but by love, a love
impressed inside
the growing, love
that’s fit for wider
fields, a love more
fierce than wildest
demon, love beyond
our gentle vision.

        Within our gates are wide green pastures,
        lush enough to feed a soul, sustaining
        life a while, forever. Open gates, though,
        promise more: they hold back magic,
        mysteries, wild valleys, distant shores
        and shadows, room to roam beyond our
        vision, we who love them desperately.

They will go
through gates in time.
They will pass
beyond protection.
They will wander
far lands guarded
but by love.
And they will find
new fields to favor,
pastures they can call
their own.

        So stay a while, forever with us, safe
        in fences, you who go. You leave behind
        you ones more fragile than you’ll ever come
        to know. But go with God and bear great dreams
        beyond the gate if that must be. If that
        is now your destiny, we will await
        your coming home.

Yet all this, naught but
idle thought about the
sacred course of life
from hopes and fears
of aging hearts. We
open wide the inner
gate, remove the reins
and give a pat, then
leaning back we watch
you take short halting
steps. With somewhat
noble toss of mane,
your stately stride
turns into trot
then frisky canter;
prancing forth, you
lightly trample
tender trails through
meadow grass, and by
the time we turn
away, you’ve
across the

        I latch the inner gate, and my heart 
        catches, recalling how it felt to prance. 
        When you come home, let’s plan to dance. 
        I’ll let you lead. Please take my hand.

"Solitary Horse," by David Noah,
Winterville, Georgia

Sunday, August 7, 2011

On The Fate of Unloved Facts

Photograph by David Noah,
Winterville, Georgia
Athens, Georgia
August 3, 2011; revised July 8, 2015


Words claw
phrases hammer
mangled kludge 

of tangled logic,
cause confused with what comes
next. Opinion 

masters manufacture packaged sets
they call effects
to satisfy firm made-up minds

which mine and sift
their facts to fit false
premises that promise life,

pin narratives to archetypes
while inconvenient, unloved facts
cold chiseled from empirical truth lie

shattered, scattered, swept aside,
rank losers in the fight of memes,
just dirty shards that never fit

on golden statues. Awkward 
facts are rude debris
about the base of carved-thought idols

blessed by masses, washed in clamor. Worship
or be swept away.


Weary, swept away 
I cry: release me 
from insistent tides, 

let shifting currents loose their grip
and beach me on a bed of shards
aside a sunny side-stream bar

my toes to torrents rushing by
while straining treasure from debris – 
the rare insight, the common joy 

alike bear meaning yet to be
discerned, invented, argue
which, but truth transcends

our categoricals, colors 
past our careful lines, it binds 
new bars where downstream dreamers 

contemplate just what will be.  From
ruins of our worshipped ways we’ll
never see those new worlds rising 

on foundations built from idols 
shattered, ground, 

bound to truth 
by stubborn facts
that would not wash away.

Monday, July 25, 2011

An Old Field Encounter

Photograph by David Noah, Winterville, Georgia
Botanical Garden, Athens, Georgia
October 16, 2010; revised July 2011, September 2014

It was just an old field. I have been back
more than once, perplexed
at how very ordinary in the light
of midafternoon, or morning, 
or the light-not-light of gloaming. It’s gone.
Whatever was is not now. It seems
a shame, the untame rush replaced
by shrug and stolen glance
at time, the slow ride home
for reheated leftovers to sustain
my aging. It was fall

     when I went wandering
blazed paths through pungent hush
of hickory, beech and white oak stands 
to forest edge at right-of-way, cut
straight across the curve of hills where
I stood blinking back the light

     by the sun-splashed shores
     of an old field grown wild
     breaking over asphalt slabs
     which once went somewhere
     beyond the post hole fence
     that vainly holds back green
     swells of sumac and thistle
     tangled in turbulence
     sparkling in the silent roar
            of  a thin place
            onto an emerald sea
     in the presence of which
     I would remove my shoes
     wash my soul in sunlight
     and float the timeless warmth
            to a new heaven
                   and a new earth

But that was all and over soon, just slant
of light and insect drone, no still small voice
that could be heard above the buzz
and background trill, so was it somehow up
to me to say out loud what hangs in air?
     All flesh is grass, its beauty as
          the flower of the field
that dies with fall – been said by better
than one who wanted just right then 
no more than now and this sweet earth 
of distant laughter, lovers strolling, 
stoic mother gently holding 
sleek cell phone and squirming child. Right
there beneath the freshening breeze
a shadow passed inside of me:
     You hear your heart
         not that of mine.
I found it best to follow back
the well-worn path that’s cut around.

I did not hear then a voice
there was no other voice but mine –
just jumbled words set in my mind
like taking sun and sending roots, like
softening ground and healing scars,
flowers dying, weed fields thriving. Who
can say where words come from
but now I really want to know
did Moses ever think to go
back to bush to watch for fire
and hear the holy words again?
He did not deign to verify, 
went down to Egypt, back to reeds, 
to sea, to Sinai, but for me:

What I know I know too well, like
what the ways of science tell,
so some fall soon I will return.
I’ll go back armed with leather bound
field guide to flora, open mind to watch 
weeds. Perhaps I’ll learn their proper names –
the way cool starry night fuzzy top vine
must be known to a branch of botany. Perhaps
I'll catch the roar, and this time listen
to the silence inside.