Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Harmonics of Fall

Athens, Georgia
December 29, 2014

When social loops resonate 
to unholy harmonics in a world 
wired close and wound tight; 

when the soundtrack of triumph 
sweeps your people, and sweet 
ideals are wielded as weapons; 

when the grievance is just 
too great to ignore and your mind 
is gripped in anger: go. 

Go into the autumn afternoon 
where out of stillness, peace 
descends as dry leaf flurries; 

where a thousand starlings speak in tongues 
of tiny angels timeless blessings 
to life, joyfully borne; 

where echoes of ageless minds 
penetrate prepackaged lives, 
and strife recedes to hush. 

When impelled by honor to act 
on a cause, engage as you must 
but withhold your own soul, 

for you are so much more
than your role. In the middle of winter
remember, remember:

you have felt the autumn breeze 
and sensed the inner harmony. 
You have been blessed by birds.

"Leaves and Light,"
photograph by David Noah, Winterville, Georgia

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Waiting for Dawn and the Sunday Times

Athens, Georgia
November 23, 2014

My kitchen is so cold I crack 
the oven inches open, set 
the knob to rod-glows-red,
and hug my hot water bottle. 

Predawn drips darkness 
as I watch the eternal sunrise 
sweep across the Atlantic 
on my world daylight app.

Silhouettes emerge outside 
when the great arc of light 
with an apex above Iceland 
kisses the shores of Georgia. 

It is midday in Spain 
and sunset in Sri Lanka,
afternoon in Abu Dhabi,
midnight in Sydney.

China lies in darkness 
while Auckland inhabits 
tomorrow. We share 
the same moment, I muse 

while watching out for all 
the news that’s fit to print 
to hit my driveway double 
wrapped against the drizzle.

I scroll the social media 
past the cats and dinner pics, 
by the snark and sentiment, 
around the pronouncements 

and dodgy links, to plunge 
through a blog on Buddhism 
tagged with a holy aspiration: 
“Have light, will travel.” 

How nice, if only, I mutter, 
startled by the gray-brown 
world, bathed in soft dawn 
as if from within. I check 

my app and sure enough, 
it’s right on time. Light 
comes as new days must, 
to all who sit and wait.

Friday, November 14, 2014

The Ache at the Edge of Autumn

Athens, Georgia
An Autumn Road in the Botanical Garden,
photograph by Don Hunter
November 15, 2014; revised August 22, 2015

Heaven drifts in on an autumn day 
when dry leaves filter long moments 
and the very air is your lover 

when boundaries collapse and being extends 
until all is kindness, dappled 
in afternoon light.

You inhabit a living songscape
and hear the choir of the wood cricket 
humming an ode to existence itself.

A fresh wind renews the sky. 
The river course restores its water. 
A romp of otters slips upstream. 

The whole of life has brought you here — 
time, fulfilled in a moment of joy. 
Consummation always comes 

and afternoon forever fades. 
There is an ache at the edge of an autumn day
when time trends toward waning 

and earth spins ever away.
There is an ache an octave above pain 
a register beyond joy 

built in the core of creation 
forged in the fire of the long-ago making 
when the great winding down began. 

There is an ache impressed on the cosmic tapestry 
through the ever expanding void. 
I am is its cry, ever fading.

There's an urge to return that is etched on us all 
but home is a haven gracing the past.
Do you feel the ache inside your soul? 

It burns but does not consume.
Heaven is somewhere adjacent to here. 
Eternity dances the edges of fall. 

Map of Cosmic Background Radiation

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The View from Grandma's Kitchen

Athens, Georgia
October 22, 2014

Day after faithful day 
Grandmother Gilmore rose before dawn 
in a tiny log home, carved into Carolina woods.
Grandpa sleeps 

as she tiptoes to 
her snug kitchen, warm as a womb 
standing by the iron-stained sink 
looking out 

on a weathered well-house 
hard by the side yard oak 
hemmed in by hickory 
flanked by the forest 

in darkness beyond. 
Night softens, coffee perks and oats congeal 
as she stirs and hums her Gospel songs - 
Maxwell House 

Quaker Oats 
and Precious Lord would see her through. 
Did she dream of their life in the city again? 
She lived high on the hog 

for a Hickerson girl 
till God laughed and times turned - 
the good life got away again.
With Peace in the Valley 

the black night recedes 
through shadows and gray 
to one more day much like the last. 
The mama cat 

would be hungry again 
so she scrapes a plate of table scraps 
to place beside the back porch step 
with a dish of milk 

for the kittens to lap.
She butters another pan biscuit 
for the faraway grandchild hovering 
by the kitchen table 

carried aloft 
on comic book dreams. She pours his juice 
in a jelly jar as he bides his time 
to warmth of day 

to find his own way 
through the woods and the fields 
through the toils and the snares 
till he no longer hears 

her own voice in his mind.
But memory bears her blessed assurance 
from over the Jordan in Beulah Land
So I rise in the darkness 

a half century on, still humming 
her early morning song, still dreaming 
my way through the vastness beyond 
but perking and stirring a day like the last. 

Jean Hickerson Gilmore and her daughter, Ruth

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Weeds Have Names

Athens, Georgia
September 24, 2014; revised October 6, 2015

With thanks to the Nature Ramblers, led by Dale Hoyt and Hugh Nourse, with Don Hunter, photographer. Some of Don's images from September 18 are reproduced below. No botanicals were harmed in the production of this poem.

Weeds have names we never know:
the world is filled with hidden souls.

I walk down moist paths
in the abundance of summer

through dew drops and deer ticks
to hang on new words, happy

as a puppy with a playtoy. A boy
exploring the borders of Eden

would sense the names assigned
by Adam, though science prefers

the precision of Latin –
verbesina alternifolia

is an asteraceae of order
asterales, featuring a flower

in the form of capitula, surrounded
by involucral bracts. Weeds

have names we’ll never know,
but wingstem sticks to unschooled minds

and dog fennel channels bliss,
the smell of boyhood forts in fields.

Glory is goldenrod and crownbeard 
when old fields glow yellow  

against blue-purple tips of towering ironweed
and lavender balls of tall thistle.

Peace comes to the cusp of fall
on white waves of frostweed

and ivory boneset, in pokeweed
and patches of rabbit tobacco.

By the margins of forest, beautyberry
thrive and grape ferns unfurl

their new sensitive fronds. The world
bursts with hidden soul,

and my back yard goes ragged.
Elephant foot in exuberance 

grows ungainly shoots
branching through odd angles

to tiny flowers, which lend
the lawn a purple hue. Weeds

have names we cannot know
expressed in scent and pollen.

Bumblebees consume their sweetness.
Fritillaries share their body.

They toil and spin their secret
lives, they reproduce, and soon

they die. We barely sense a hidden
soul, clothed in rude glory

exceeding kingly robe and throne.
They make on life a modest claim,

but each one bears its own true name
known to God and them alone.

Frostweed (by Don Hunter)

Boneset (by Don Hunter)

Boneset and Camphor (by Don Hunter)

Thistle Flower (by Don Hunter)

Golden Aster (by Don Hunter)

Elephant's Foot (by Don Hunter)

(by Bob Ambrose)

Friday, August 29, 2014

Watching After August Rains

Athens, Georgia
August 28, 2014

Come the season of crow and cicada
in the stasis of late summer
when old dogs and aging men
laze about their porches, waiting

perhaps to watch a raucous squad
maneuver through the understory
working the wide angles
ever closer, closing in

to stage a raid on take home tins
containing bits of doggie kibble
left from last night’s feeding.
Let them have it all, I whisper

staring down long moments
on a languid frame of fur and bones
to spot a shallow tell-tale breath.
Sleep, not death, not yet not yet.

Good ‘ole Bowser, last of litter
just another Georgia black dog
brought in from the woods.
Seen fifteen summers, asks so little –

tummy rubs and idle scritches,
snuffle walks around the back,
some kitchen scraps atop his kibble.
Let black birds have what he won’t eat.

We grow complacent waiting, waiting.
Far away the world lurches,
the young return to learning,
the busy go their scripted way.

You who strive and chase the wind
bursting with certain conviction,
would you pause and sit a while
to watch an August day with me?

For I have seen sixty five summers
that once seemed centuries
in a lifetime of forever
but from the distance of back decks

the days may drag
but years by God
are short. They lead
to spent seasons

tired dogs, and yearnings
which have no name
borne on a fresh westerly
clearing out the August rain.

Good ole' Bowser

Friday, August 15, 2014

Cloud Play in White on Blue

Bald Head Island, North Carolina
July 23, 2014; revised August 15, 2014

A worthy vocation, this:

to wake up and watch
white cumulus
expand into cerulean;

to hear the whisper
of palm fronds
rasp secrets of the sea breeze;

to look out and see
white ibis
scour the shade of cedar trees;

to let go and glide
the summer mind
and sense the impassive watcher smile;

to trace the fate
of clouds in skies
and grasp the end of mortal lives –

we all resolve in blue.

"Watson Mill Skyscape," by David Noah,
Winterville, Georgia

Friday, July 25, 2014

Summer Lakeside Grace

In dreams of yesterday - from boyhood in Jacksonville, Florida
Athens, Georgia
July 24, 2014

There were high summer Sundays
so blessed, instead of church
we’d head for Starke.

Unshackled from Seersucker,
kicking off shoes
for swim suits and flip flops

and freedom to breathe,
we packed the family wagon
squirming in the back seat.

While Mom passed out peppermint,
Dad steered us south
to ski the day at Kingsley Lake.

Four brown and freckled
stairstep children carve
the crystal surface to exhaustion

then snorkel the shallows
floating a dreamscape
like airships over fairy towns

with towers of algae and silverside
minnows by forests of lake grass
and plains of fine sand.

Perfect days wane
as we ride home with Ray Charles
crackling on the car radio  

Sing the song, children.
A half century softens
when his chorus confirms

I can’t stop loving you
and I live again in memory
of a lonesome time

sensing the shadow
of an awful obligation –
growing up means going on.

Halfway home we stop once more
by the random roadside stand
to choose a ripe melon

forged of water and sun
much like our happy lives,
for even now I close my eyes

and taste it yet –
the sweetness of late youth,

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

To Probe the Impenetrable

Athens, Georgia
July 13, 2014

“Behind it all is surely an idea so simple, so beautiful, that when we grasp it - in a decade, a century, or a millennium - we will all say to each other, how could it have been otherwise?”  
“In any field, find the strangest thing and explore it.”  
- John Archibald Wheeler

Pierce the veil and plunge 
beneath the scale of seeing. 
Probe impenetrable horizons 
and peer at the echo of origins. 

Corral the ghost that animates 
the spell of elegance that looks 
on all as made of strings, looped 
and coiled on 9-D branes, 

excited to the higher harmonics 
in a manifold landscape of quark 
and gluon, EM waves, and fields 
that warp space…

He has shown thee, O man, just 
what is good and what required. 

                          … Oh do not 
feign a humble pose. We stole 
the fruit, now find the cipher 
and call ourselves clever. If all

arose from empty void and we 
the fragile wisp of naught  
evolved to render the real; if 
awareness dances with truth — 

then let us feast on forbidden 
fruit and live forever, serenaded 
by a spare tune, not quite harsh,
played dolce on the cosmic harp.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

A Prayer of June in Green and Brown

Athens, Georgia
June 18, 2014

To be present at creation
and wander deep time
weightless as the moment itself,
for eternity is an inbreath

of early June evening,
when life hums a low note
and late sun filters softness
through darkening shade;

or the pool of morning,
when buzz-trill and chirp-call
weave the tree tops, waking
whole days; or in the still-breath,

when slant yellow renders
shades of green to veins of gold
and the nervous house wren
pauses on a porch rail

regarding options.
He fans a tiny wing,
darts eyes, twitches
twice, flies. Action

breaks the idle spell, restores
the world to green and brown.
I do not trust a golden throne
guarded by pearl encrusted

gates. Just give me Now
in my outbreath and God
in the garden, trailing
dew beads to a new solstice.

"Primitive Dawn," by David Noah, Winterville, Georgia

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Awaiting Passage into Fall

Athens, Georgia
May 28, 2014
An earlier version of this poem was posted in May 2011.

When a Southern August lays on hands with lush embrace
of steamy weeks
in sticky haze
then come the ghosts of Carboniferous swamps
to cast their ancient spells,
I hear their call:

"Jurassic Landscape" by Karen Carr.
© Karen Carr/Australian Museum
        Devolve, devour
        Gondwana’s store
        return onto
        Pangean shores
        release your old
        reptilian core
        to bask the vast
        unending light
        through countless days
        of mindless sigh
        and dwell here
        past eternity –
        it’s long before the Fall.

Through waning days I run the break of dark
by tidy lawns refreshed
with dew.
Their scent and sparkle stir anew
as memories reconstitute old seasons born so long ago
in stain and sweat
and school boy pride
forged from summer football trials in heat and pads
on high school fields
that to young minds must surely yield triumphant
Friday nights to come
if only
August days would end
at last in break of fall.

Those Southern rites of passage echo yet
in aching muscles
one time strong.
They burn inside my aging body decades on
as by degrees the morning dark
seeps into day
and evening light just melts away
in endless August once again when weeks pile up
and I await
the break of heat that snaps the spell
as age and darkness creep, encroach
and claim their share of fading light
for longer nights of fall.

Yet far too soon I’ll take those final steps
through shadowlands
to peaceful shores
bedeviled by ideals undone
but singing Eden’s call:

        Evolve, create
        new worlds today
        and make of earth
        a paradise
        beyond the snare
        of ancient spell
        that weaves the hell
        of human strife
        into the dreams of Fall.

Creature of primeval slough with singing blood
and scheming mind
in fear and fight, in pride of life
I wait
and cling to hope inside –
may grace embrace the fall.

Earth in late Carboniferous Period
(from Wikipedia, by Dr. Ron Blakely)