Earthrise, December 1968, Image by Apollo 8

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Diminutive of Grace

Tianjin, Beijing, and Hubei Provence, China 
December 6, 2012; October 1, 2014
For Xiang Wén Yàn (Gracie) and her father, Xiang Heng-Zhu – Grace and Peace

It can come anywhere,
which is why I travel,
why I make myself
stranger, bumbling

about the far ends,
seeking the epicenter
where subterranean  
grace probes thin places

and could even emerge
from the traffic of Tianjin
which, of course, it does
though we could not

know her just yet, caught
in the converging weave
of bikes and buses, trucks
and cars, each urgent

to shoot through now
to the next knot, and the next
in the wan afternoon light
of a jet-lagged Sunday.

Travel teaches hard truth –
Great Walls can be blocked
by blizzards, blogspot by
censors, blue sky by smog,

and old men mired in ideology
can meet in museums
by the mausoleum of Mao
to choose among themselves.
But Tao blows which way
it will and grace still flows
through whom it will.
Through tiny frames

born to mouse,
or to dragon, farm girls
from Hubei who pack fire
into forty kilos, carrying

a father’s dream through
far cities, sustained
by songs of the Silver River
dividing celestial lovers

on dark nights far from
pavement. By small dogs
and bright days following
father through fields

feeding on stories, lessons
fit for weary souls – When
days grow hard, remember
well the ones who hunger,

mountain children far
from school. And dear
Wén Yàn, do not forget
to feed your buffalo.

I can still hear her song
soft in my ear, subtle
tones dancing gracefully
around my comprehension.
And I can still feel
her coarse silk warmth
resting on my right shoulder
in a tight bus barreling

through what time
we shared, what spirit
that smiles across culture
and binds the wounds of Babel.

This is why I travel, why
I cross the terminus
into tomorrow, to talk
in darkened halls the idiom

of equations, sharing
PowerPoints and polite
smiles, software suffused
with life-blood, coded bits

of mind, bequeathed.
But Gracie, did I never 
lecture on the math 
of absolute? A fraction

of the infinite
is infinite itself;
the diminutive 
of Grace is grace.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Dueling Harmonics of Unending Fall

Athens, Georgia
October 2, 2012

Amped by anger
      by billionaires
righteous fools feed
      on grievance
      spit out blame
ill-tempered tools
      the same
self righteous tribes
minions escalate.
      by honor
social loops resonate
      to unholy
in a world wired close
      and wound
      tight, trolling
the soundtrack of
arias echo the   
of a once shining city
      set proudly
      on a hill
above the fertile

Prophetic words come as cold wind
      to early fall –

            Your noble ideals
wielded without compassion
      are no more than noisy
                  gong and clanging

Up from rubble wasteland plains
    past the crest of weathered heights
        a rock is rolled to ruined walls
            founded once on noble
                dreams and human flaws
                    repaired with vows
                        and painted

                         The rock rolls back
            to rubble plains.
                   Squaring shoulders
                          once again
            our Sisyphus descends

Yet somehow through the centuries
      Saint Paul’s savior


There are autumn afternoons
that would grace eternity, when
echoes of ageless minds penetrate 
prepackaged lives, and strife 
recedes to hush 

         when out of stillness          
             peace descends     
          on dry leaf flurries    
       and tittering cascades    
             of celestial love      
      as a thousand starlings   
           speak in tongues          
               of tiny angels             
           timeless blessings       
               to life joyfully             

When blessed by birds
      and righteous
      a holy
harmonic takes hold
      of hearts
      by Love
to wield the tools
      of peaceful
      arts –
endless autumn days
      endless fall
      of night
committing all to ágape
      through toil
      and play –  
      raising up
large rocks to height
      hard words
      to harmony
      come what
might – through rise
      and fall
      and Paul
would claim delight
      set shoulder
      with Sisyphus
with Love, foregoing
      achieving due
of life nobly worn.

"Leaves and light" by David Noah, Winterville, Georgia

Sunday, September 9, 2012

A Sunday Afternoon Island Dream

Isle La Motte, Vermont
July 29, 2012

Down at the Fisk farm,
four Vermont yankees
play the blues

to polite applause
beside the art barn
where the well

behaved sip unsweet
tea and lemonade
to wash down

deeply chocolate pie
on lawn chairs pulled
to patchy shade

as laid back bikers glide
slow roads that wind past
fields and cider

stands, which operate on
honor code, how goodness
goes in honest

lands, where in the deep late
afternoon a humble man
in holey jeans

strides up the road
with violin and soon
the early evening

still is gently filled
with Air on a G String  
as maestro plays

Bach on the beach
with more passion
than skill, much

like most marriages,
which get by on
grace and guts

to kinder days
like Isle La Motte
its summertime

ice cider joy
distilled from bitter
winter nights.

"Peace" - photograph by
David Noah, Winterville, Georgia

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Ladies of the Lake

Isle La Motte, Vermont
July 29, 2012; modified February 3, 2015

At Maya House
on Isle La Motte
two brides embrace

as loved ones watch
well-chosen words when
spoken under open sky

rise up in light
to join the song
of hermit thrush

in blissful flush
of summertime.
Soon siblings, strangers

sit as one, share
pasta, toasts and provolone
as Texas, Georgia, Quebecois

mingle with Missouri
tribes, their vegan plates
set side by side

with sausage balls
and biting flies, a wedding
feast for all alike.

Later in the failing light
beyond a summer sunset
far away from most places

rising over cold waters
a stone’s throw
from rocky shores –

The ladies of the lake are one.

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Hawk is Hunting

Athens, Georgia
July 23, 2012

A shadow glides the gentle land 
beyond the blacktop, bordered 
by ditches and daisies 
down packed dirt driveways 
past tin-roof farm homes,
two room churches, fenced-in 
cows and free-range mice –
now soaring over grace and lies
the hawk is hunting summer skies.

A raptor circles arid plains
its pilot half a world away
a mug of Starbucks in one hand
while focused on his wary prey
a fighter striding toward his fate
as protocols somewhere are met
a mouse is clicked, new smoke plumes rise
in distant fields a young man dies –
the hawk is hunting summer skies.

Ghostly circuits take to clouds
to conjure up a techno-shroud
that reinforces human pride
as algorithms churn inside
spinning truths submerged in lies
and soaring dreams descend to doubts 
just who the raptor, who the mouse
when cell phones stalk unwary lives –
the hawk is hunting summer skies.

At twilight hawks return to nest
but techno-servants never rest
they serve their masters faithfully
from Faust to Frankenstein they grow
ignore for now the final toll
relax, embrace your YouTube soul
let comfort salve the silent fright
as spirit reapers take to flight
and hunt the haunted summer night.
"Bird and building" by David Noah, Winterville, GA

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Journey to Embarkation

Daejeon, South Korea
September 21, 2010; revised May, 2014

Midnight rains have stopped for now
and veils of mist envelop trees. Soft
textures of darkness hover beyond
        the pale reach of streetlight
that bathes the last bus stop
                out of Daejeon.

Late night truths come veiled in signs.
A white dog emerges from shadow,
makes his mark then passes on
        and leaves me emptied
on the path of pilgrims now
                at peace with night.

Though dawn lies distant, far beyond
my closed horizons bright midmorning
showers light, I must have faith  
        for here I am, wayfaring
stranger, watching forms
                in drifts of fog.

Too soon the rains will return
and the lullaby tap of wipers
will sooth intermittent sleep
        through the last
empty hours of night
                in a far country,

And my bus will plow steady
to causeway’s end
beyond the mudflats
        where sea and sky
merge, gray and indistinct
                at Incheon.

My brothers, we are bodies
becoming spirit, forever drifting 
mid-transit. We are always
        awaiting embarkation.
We have always already

Thursday, June 7, 2012

In the Aftermath of an Engineering Binge

Athens, Georgia
June 6, 2012

My muse flipped me off last week
after too many midnights, head caught
in code, tweaking time step solvers
on an engineering binge.

She said you left that years ago
for herons, shoals, and metered lines
and who but one like you might find
your mind entranced in strings of code?

I said it’s just a short-time thing
      an algorithm coding fling
      my simulation fantasy
to make a number cruncher sing.

Just fine she said, half out the door
      composing raunchy metaphor
it’s art, I argued, and what’s more
my colleagues all swear, and you know’em

my programs resemble a poem:
      they tend to abort
      a syllable sort
ambiguous functions the norm.

As I said, my muse
      flipped me off last week.
Took up with a wild-eyed type,
      my evil twin Sal

who drives a souped-up symbol –
      nineteen sixty seven
      or eight mustang
which has nothing on my hybrid

when it comes to efficiency.
She was last seen riding shotgun
      top down, streaming
      raucous lines, the kind

she knows I never use. To choose
      the wild, a touch
      obtuse and bad
career move for a muse

‘cause "Reptile Brain" just cannot write.
      So I propose
      a compromise
pour tu, cher muse, inverse haiku:

     Wake up soon and savor dawn
                    engineer by day             
            after sunset, yield to art.

So ready now to channel
      phrases, randy words  
      stoked in the queue
long overdue, when can we start?

Photography by David Noah, Winterville, Georgia

Thursday, May 3, 2012

A Springtime Promise

Lines composed after the onset of an intermittent arrhythmia
Athens, Georgia
May 2012; modified April 4, 2014

There are springtime Saturday mornings 
bursting with birdsong and breeze 
so sweet no set of sun salutations, 
no Psalm of praise could say 
such love, when life breathes light 
and you run for hours on joy alone.
Do not forget these days 

For there will be fortnights 
            with fail 
when worlds assault your 
spirit with chainsaws 
        at eight 
on days that follow 
frantic weeks of sleep 
fears converge on fitful 
nights, when cynicism drains 
        your life 
            your heart 
grows dim beneath bright 
skies which mock your 
with lies that love 
persists and life abides 
      for flesh 
          is grass 
that withers, dries 
when summer brings 
        its scorching 
and blows untethered 
hope to shreds. Do not 
            the spring

For there will be seasons 
when you find yourself dark
through too many 
tomorrows so lost 
            is just 
a set of syllables in 
some forgotten tongue 
        when paths 
            wind inward, 
spiral aimless, down 
through tangles, torn 
            worn out 
dreams, forsaken, trapped 
in mental mazes, soul 
        cries out 
the ages, curses life, 
denies it twice, that 
born to die. Do not forget 
the darkest times

For there will be springtime Saturdays 
when you find your heart 
strangely calm 
when the sacred surrounds you with signs
for it's written on the lattice of a late season frost 
and whispered in the midnight storm 
that peace, perhaps, will find you yet 
perhaps, for you, a pulse and breath 
for you, the tilt and turn of earth 
for you, a patch of morning sun.