Monday, January 24, 2011

Old Riverside Oak

Athens, Georgia
April 3, 2010

It was early March then,
a year and eternity past,
we brought Dad home.
From his old blue chair
he peered through new
windows, not his own
as snow blankets froze
our Southern woodland
into hard white silence
and gray flows flooded
the shallow river shoals
with an icy hush.

Do you remember
that dark night’s cold
when bitter winds descended
from bleak polar plains,
showering limbs and ice
over frozen foundations
of our beleaguered home?
Powerless, huddled
in a house leaking warmth
we covered this fragile,
this gentle-souled man
with blankets and love.

Strong against the night,
but in strength unavailing
over softening banks,
the old riverside oak
surrendered itself to swirling gray
and lodged in downstream shallows.

A year now it’s been, a year
of great loss, a year nurturing
       growth, and senescence
and the canopy fills again
closing gaps with lacy green
       softening the void
now filled with light, but
still, the void.

Springtime truth emerges
       from emptiness
with whispers of hope.
Mortal life, though dust
is forever redeemed           
for we function within
       a greater whole
which cannot quite be
resolved in the fun-house
       of our dim perception.

So we see now in part
but miss the unity beyond
that surrounds the void
       in a cosmic embrace
apprehended, if at all
in a place beyond words
expressed in the silence
that speaks to the heart.

The old oak, which served the sky
still provides structure.
On trunk and limb
where hawk pairs nested
mud turtles bask
gleaming in bright sun
       over fresh spring flow.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A Farewell to Summer

A memory of Ocean Isle Beach, N.C., August 3, 2002
Athens, Georgia
January 13, 2011

One on each side, my brothers
hoist the folding beach chair
and carry with care
this now frail woman
        across the access
to the edge of the sea
to soak her toes in a tidal caress
to feel the roar and the silence
        to take that one last look
at the wide spaces she wandered
with childhood dreams
her own, her children’s
        her children’s children’s
in those magical margins
where she honed her vocation
spinning lifelines of happiness
to secure young souls
        within her spell
of sunny summer wonder.

Beach grasses bend
in the prevailing wind
as they anchor loose sands
to foundations of impermanence
that shift imperceptibly
        through human lives
and even endless summers
must yield their time
to make way for new beginnings.

The wind blows which way it will
we do not know where
or why, and so let go only
        because we must
and claim that bitter prize - 
our due share of reluctant wisdom.
Her short hair tangles today
in a warm ocean breeze
that mixes sand and salt
and the sweet smell of sunblock.
        She sheds no tears
but sets her countenance
to the infinite horizon
with weary resolve
to honor what was, what
        must be again
and to go her way into autumn
with the grace of summer
clutching lightly to the backs
of tiny boys grown tall
in the sunshine of her life.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Heron World

Athens, Georgia
July 20, 2010; revised January 7, 2015
See also Heron in the Wood

Late afternoon envelops stillness
        in patches of shade, and sunlight, and sky
                        radiating moist heat,
                that leaves a sheen
        of salty wet on glistened skin.

And as the river valley glows,
        the shimmering green 
                        surrounds a solitary

perched in gray-white dignity,
        a sleekness suspended
                        from supple neck
                to thin stick leg

inhabiting a heaven
        of sparkling mud
                        and slow waters
                that mingle in quiet eternity.

What visions haunt the river bird soul
        taking rest at day’s end?
                        In peaceful interlude
                does focus remain true
        to ripple and darting shadow,
        to splash and sustenance below?

Does awareness expand
        beyond shoals and shallows
                        through dappled forest borders
                to the wondering spirit bound
        by skin and brain above?

The heron unfolds
        into neck and wing
                        flashing blue-silver rhythm
                in ponderous flight.

His harsh cry highlights  
        primordial grace 
                        disappearing into downstream shadow
                as eternity dissolves
                        and light breezes hint
                                soft darkness to come.

Summer Cicadas

Athens, Georgia
July 4, 2010

When morning chill subsides
       soft air will vibrate
              to waves of cicada
       in rhythmic insistence
suffusing summer woodland
      with the languid ebb and flow
              that floats the soul
       outside of time

Where a cabin still lies
       beneath evening’s shadow
              and four children drift
       on currents of love
through open screen wonder
       as adult voices fade
              into swells of cicada
       from a forest departed

and a family dispersed.
       But listening closely
              in the intervals of silence
       from across the gulf
the voices persist
       in quiet conversation
              yet present, still
       to a child long grown.

From that far gloaming
       I have heard my own voice
              but faint and indistinct
       emerging to tenuous life.
Perhaps you will have, too
       before it is lost forever
              in time and tide
       of summer cicada.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Winter Clarity

Athens, Georgia
January 9, 2010

Bright cold blows thin,
piercing the surface
with sterile clarity
in slanting shadow and light.

Through blue intensity,
the late day sun
sustains emptiness
in a world gone stark.

Greenbrier and grapevine
bind pale stands of privet
enclosing the lowland
in frozen abundance.

Hoarding my warmth
I shrink within layers
enfolding in safety
the wilderness within.

Pulling privet, I free
a small green fern
huddled in humus
below bottomland litter.

Beneath brittle forms,
behind the dry tangle
abundance bides
in midwinter’s embrace.

Advent Reflection on Light

Glade Farm House
December 2001; revised December 2013

In the beginning
when God began to create
the world was without form
        and void.
And on the first day
God created light.

When time and space erupt
energy mingles with matter
        darkness with light
and universe takes form.

When fourteen billion years
into dark cold distance
a soft rumble  echoes
         across the void.

On a remote shore
        the blue oasis
bathed in warm light
teems with life
        wondrous forms
striving over eons.

Into the blessed garden
        of God’s continuous creation
emerges mind, and soul.

And the mind wonders:
        What is man
                that Thou are mindful of him?
And the soul fears: all
        is emptiness
                and striving after the wind.

To the mind God reveals:
        in the beginning
        with the searing light of physical creation
        even then was Word

And to the soul, God gives of himself:
        A child
        full of grace and truth

Across the ages
God’s creative and redemptive light shines
        beacon to mind and soul
        and the darkness cannot overcome it

                even to the end of time.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Telemachus Tends his Driveway

Athens, Georgia
November 22, 2010; revised April 30, 2014
Thoughts revisiting Tennyson’s Ulysses and his son Telemachus

The world shimmers
beyond the kaleidoscopic canopy
decorating my driveway
with layers of leaves.

So I set my purpose
•       make a plan
•       grasp the rake
•       execute the task
mindfully, at first
while two tired dogs
watch, curiously
indifferent to achievement,
snouts down the driveway,
waiting for their goddess
to drive home.

And I too wait
as something in my soul
watches with practiced patience
its own wild yearning
to pursue that grey spirit
through archways to unknown worlds
        and yet

I have lived so far
in the common sphere
with Telemachus, tied
to due adoration of gods
both false and true, balancing
dutiful with discerning
over slow, prudent decades:
       of discipline
       of accomplishment
       of exiting gracefully
a life, not unhappy
        while a soul that could soar
kept safely to ground.

Can Telemachus, retired
capture Ulysses’ soul?
Can the good son
        sail lightly
                beyond the sunset
        on a warm autumn breeze
                        and swirl of dry leaves?

My solace is a still vision
of grey Telemachus
        transcending duty
grasping his own salvation
        in the next task,
                and the next
pursued with a passionate

Raking Fall Leaves with Paul and Camus

Athens, Georgia
November 6, 2010 


As angry insistence
and braying triumphalism
echo from the aging
alabaster fa├žade
of a once bright city,
tears of the patriot
and tears of the powerless
tell all who would
hear one true thing:

       Noble ideals wielded
              without compassion
       become as noisy
                     gong and clanging

       The boulder falls, again
              to rubble below;
       squaring his back,
       Sisyphus descends


This fall football Saturday,
the discordant drone
of politicians and leafblowers
falls blessedly silent.

From hushed canopy stillness
       peace descends
with gentle cascade of leaves
and bright celestial chatter
as a thousand starlings speak
in tongues of tiny angels
a sonorous blessing
to life, joyfully


Wielding rake and canvas
on a driveway of leaves
my soul seeks relief
in productive tedium.

The measured rythmic scrape
       and swish on concrete
and dry leaves slowly
       resynchronize heartbeat
with head, sweat with
       soul into single
functional unity once more.

And soon, in slanting sunlight
shadow patterns decorate
clean concrete canvas
set between broad
brown leaf shoulders,
a work that will last


Satisfied, I sip
my hot caramel chai
watching new leaves
       settle so gently
from limitless yellow-brown
canopy above,
and I know in my soul
a second true thing:

       Though tomorrow and tomorrow
              and tomorrows on end
       bring trials and tears
              to a fallen world,
       there will be those
              true patriots who stand
       shoulder with Sisyphus
              and together in toil
       achieve due measure
                     of unsought nobility.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

To My Two Year Old Daughter, a Quarter Century Later

Memorial Park, Athens, Georgia
October 30, 2010

I wandered through Bear Hollow
       with you once again
              bouncing lightly on my shoulder
       sharing fresh Saturday memories
                     under blue crystal sky
                     and golden yellow sun
              in a time gone by.

You delight today
       in the open possum playscape
              with pale coat female
       and her homely prehensile tail,
                     licking peanut butter from the perch
                     and gently grooming
              her dainty pink nose.
       You watch, intent

       and I hold your tiny hand
              tight against the decades
                     that press, inexorable
              blurring memory,
                            softening vivid presence.

                            Yet my breath still catches
                     when I recall
       a quarter century hence
              your wispy blond curls
                     framing the face of delight itself
                            as you laugh
                     and your spirit shines

                     through other eyes today -
              though differing in hue and homeland,
                            they share the same sparkle.
And I am gray presence, passive
              witness to their wonder
                     which they will carry
                            into unknown worlds
              that you will build together
                     from the hopes and embers
       we leave behind.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

To Bring You Beauty

State Botanical Garden, Athens, Georgia
October 13, 2010; revised May 7, 2020

I would bring you beauty 
if I only knew how.
I would slip into spirit,

dissolve into autumn breeze
which carries the scent 
of crimson sage 

to clouds of yellow butterflies 
in the afternoon light 
of their lives. 

As the press of obligation fades, 
the busy pings, the urgent beeps, 
and rumble of distant machines – 

I hover with a bumblebee 
in the spell of a purple aster. 
I drift in scented air 

on a lilting riff of mockingbird-song, 
the swerve of a skipper, 
a toddler’s giggle 

through the elusive realm
where beauty infuses all being.
I would bring you a portion 

but, reaching, it slips
through re-embodied hands
and recedes like time itself,

its lingering afterglow 
reflected in clouds 
of evening gnats.

Friday, January 7, 2011

A Walk in the Sacred Rainforest

Impressions of a hike up the Pipiwai Trail through Kipahulu Valley
Maui, Hawaii
September 27, 2010; revised November 16, 2015


In sunny clearings
suffused with sweetness,
sour passionfruit, fallen,
offers rich red pulp
        shamelessly to all
who would partake
in its cycle.


Nurtured aloft
young banyan survive
by strangling their host
with aerial roots
grasping for ground.

This is their nature
they can do no else
and participate long
in this world of strife.

But decades are kind
and beginnings fade;
with strength, they mellow,
returning life’s blessing.
This is also their nature.

On Pipiwai Trail
the giant wild banyan
stretches a welcome
to hikers and pilgrims:

Come meditate, or laugh
in a playscape of trunks
on my limbs and roots
sheltered in the unity
of my singular being.


Under the towering bamboo glade
in a thicket of impenetrable profusion
       lies a portal
brooding in cathedral dimness.

Muted shafts rise
        from a pale litter floor
                to their distant green destiny
                        stories above.

        High  shoots
        clack and tap
        an otherworldly composition
        as the structure groans
        in ghostly lament
        of a heavy burden
        perpetually borne.


With pounding mechanical power
                         flying tourists
                              swoop, circle
                         grab their view
                              Kipahulu Valley
                         a magnificent painting
                              silver ribbons
                         snake sheer walls
                              to a canopy carpet
                         far below.
                                   Satiated, the rumble recedes
                                                            and they are gone.


Reality remains behind
where waters spill freely
from the glistening cliff
       soaring over shallow depression
where hikers become pilgrims
       of feathery mist.

A humble rock basin
receives the shower
and overflows in abundance
to supply sacred pools
       far removed.


              Beyond the portal
       Palikea carves deep
       an inaccessible landscape
       hiding channels and coves
in dangerous mystery.


Maui, Hawaii
September 25, 2010; revised December 1, 2013

From the fertile plain at Pukalini
                you ascend the flank of Haleakala
                        through tall stands of shady koa
                               to white pine and pasture
                                       scrub bush and boulder
                                               silversword and cinder
                                                      sky, wind.

Into the silence
of cold light
and piercing shadow
where psyche shrinks
before the stern truth
whispered without words
in dawning thought
and gentle urge:

                                                           You were given a garden
                                                           and precious days, numbered.
                                                           You do not belong here, but
                                                           linger, and count the colors
                                                           of gold in the sunset below
                                                           then descend through darkness
                                                           and while there is yet time
                                                           find your own fertile plain
                                                           to cultivate and sustain
                                                           each precious day
                                                           that still remains
                                                           as servant, helper