Saturday, December 23, 2017

Christmas Baking

Lake Burton, Georgia 
December 24, 2009

I drift awake in a strange chair 
alone in an unfamiliar room 
bathed in late-day light. 

My running pundit mutters, confused 
as phantom insights flash and fade 
from the realm of unrecovered dreams.

Silhouettes of small birds 
streak by the high window 
that frames a tiny swath of sky. 

As scattered moments slowly cohere, 
I sense again the vague regret –
another slice of life gone by. 

But fire warms the gray stone hearth 
and glad voices drift from the kitchen 
in busy rhythms of conversation. 

The day regroups. 
The season peaks. 
The sun resumes its cycle. 

Through stale corridors, 
sharp currents of cinnamon and savory
carry hints of transcendence come – Christmas is baking. 

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Inner Sunset, Morning Rain

Japanese Tea Garden, San Francisco, California
March, 2016

My little girl leads me through her grown up world 
of townhouses, trolleys, bodegas, cafes, and corner 
stores. The smell of coffee cuts the soggy breeze. 

Elsewhere the world churns. Fierce preachers poke 
ancient wounds and politicians scratch the scabs. 
Privilege feasts as Lazarus lies by padlocked gates. 

Here, wizened men once interred in wartime camps 
mingle with young mothers in yoga tights wielding 
late-model strollers down the kinder sidewalks.

The streets of Inner Sunset are baptized in morning 
rain. A small shop bears the sign - Make loaves not 
war. We are far from the breaking madness, beyond 

the contagion of hate. The implosion is put on hold. 
In the face of chaos Mohammed went to the mountain 
and Buddha withdrew. Even Jesus retreated. We enter 

the garden and drift through a feather mist where sweet 
plumes scent the heavy air. The city recedes. We trace 
slow paths through flora that once graced Eden. White 

blossoms litter the soft moss carpet beneath a baby cedar 
grove. Gray rocks anchor grass islands in a raked sand 
sea. We step to the trickle of cobblestone creeks and glide 

past Koi ponds.  A bronze Buddha, old as our country, 
casts a placid spell on those who pause. The prophets 
all returned. Mohammed spoke the Koran, Siddhartha 

woke the Sangha, and Jesus preached the Kingdom. 
We turn home together, bearing the grace of soft rain 
in a parched land. Peace awaits in the folds of time. 

Thursday, November 2, 2017

End Times, Again

Athens, Georgia
November 30, 2016

Light drains from another year.
The hymn of insects dwindles. Days
diminish. Cycles reset. End times

come again. Today, the passion-vine
bears yellowed fruit and withered
leaves, which late-season caterpillars

scour in vain. Soon, the chrysalis
succumbs to cold. Bumblebee colonies
collapse. Inseminated queens abandon

their hives. Orphaned workers wander
brown fields in search of nectar. Perhaps
an aster persists somewhere. But home

field has gone to seed. Beside the dry
depression that nursed the new spring
salamanders, Lurid sedges flaunt battle

spikes. Wild rye wields tan spears. Dark
pods hang from Senna. The tips of thistles
launch parachutes into November wind.

Ironweed bristles, grasses bend. Blue
stems wave soft tufts like tattered prayer
flags. Today, the hope of new life lies

buried in root and seed bank, tucked
in mud and sleeping queens. But to us
now, the season of culling is come.

Lurid sedge, photo by Don Hunter

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Morning After My Fifty Year Reunion

South of Fayetteville, NC
October 8, 2017

A soft rain bathes the dry pines of Carolina
as I drive down a Southern road
into another autumn.

Farewell old loves. 
You spoke your truths, and I
shared mine. The world bleeds for something new. 

Cloudless Sulphurs flutter over brown fields,
across winding back roads, onto
goldenrod shoulders.

Goodbye, perhaps 
forever. It is, after all, autumn; 
for some, their last now fades to sepia.

The sun will still sparkle from roadside puddles
and woodland sunflowers will shine
like a fresh van Gogh.

Friends, you rode 
the fiery horse to far-off wars, 
or wandered wild roads without a weapon. 

Today, a living mist soothes the trees.
Stubble covers sandy fields.
Soy fades to pale.

Would you tame 
the feral soul at last? Friends, 
we have striven. Soon, with grace, we yield.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

After the Storm

Athens, Georgia
September 12, 2017

The air is fragrant with leaves and limbs,
snapped by last night’s storm. Fresh green
corpses litter the road with tips of trees.
These would glisten silver in sun. There is
none — shall we light a candle and sing?

The unripe mast is harvested too soon.
Green acorns cling to the crotches of white
oak leaves. Small nodules bead the broken
stems beneath the leaves of a Southern
Red. Let them return their tannins to earth.

In the forest, root balls of red clay rise
into new clearings: another Northern Red
Oak down, upended by weight and wind.
Small saplings of green ash begin their sprint
to light. The pungent air is ripe with rot.

Blue-green needles of a loblolly stand
mingle with conelettes of short leaf pine.
They spike the nose with an acrid clean.
Green gum balls litter dirt with a latent
grace. Still air is sweet, but laced with death.

Beyond the gently rolling Georgia hills,
her new growth woods rising over red clay,
her ragged fields recovering from cotton,
the forgotten graves of warriors and slaves —
our world is a shattered, fragrant place.

We live in the wake of weaponized storms.

Beyond our sacred borders I see bodies
littering beaches, and the tortured eyes
of a lost child wracked by what we un-
leashed. The air will not wash clean. Will
we just light a scented candle, and sing?

Friday, August 25, 2017

Heart Scars

Gwinnett Medical Center, 
Lawrenceville, Georgia
August 14, 2017

The surgeon said I have a raw heart,
that where he worked his high-tech
wire would heal and bear no scars.

But all he had were images,
renderings of my left atrium
processed by silicon circuits,
color coded for conductivity,
rogue circuits splotched red
across my pulmonary veins.

They fairly danced with life,
made my heart skip stutter-
step beats. That was before.

Now the big veins stand inert,
gun-metal gray, dull as lead
pipes, bare limbs of an ancient
oak shattered by a blue bolt,
frozen and fossilized — this
the price for too much life.

I walk through new life
with a hole in my heart.
I bear invisible tattoos.

Can a body hit sixty-eight
without a rough mark
clawed across the vitals?
Could a soul survive so long
in the land of incarnation
without the grace of scars?

Technology is miracle. Hospitals
crawl with angels. Doctors patch
bodies for a few more rounds.

But raw hearts ride currents
no machine can measure. Sinking,
I am buoyed by a thousand ‘thoughts
and prayers.’ Flailing, I am borne
again to source or abyss. Surely
I will drown in a sea of grace.