Of the Spirit and things numinous

Sometimes a poem (usually from the Writer's Almanac) will bring forth a poem from me...
Herein, my poems are in italics, while those of other relating to mine are not.

Light. Light.

I get tear up easy, mostly about
trials and courage and 'grace under pressure'..
Drives my wife nuts
(she's a psychiatric nurse and doesn't want,
I suppose,
to see instability in her near and dear).
I can't sing some songs,
I just break up.
Life's just so damn fragile and it hurts.

My mother was busted early on.
I was a year old when she had polio;
she spent the rest of her life nearly
immobilized in her body.
She never complained,
her spirit was indominatible
Courage.
I saw it every day.

So like I said, I tear up easy.

Yesterday, on the way to work,
Keillor on the radio memorialized the
freeing of Buchenwald.
Fred Friendly was a sergeant there on that day
and Murrow came to report on it...
Wonder if they met then.
Wonder if, years later, it was part
of what made them stand up to
Joe McCarthy.

So there I was rounding the bend,
tearing up, as damnably always....
Wondering if I am going to always be so.
Not exactly weak, but perhaps seeing
the world's grief too much, when

There, by the side of the road,
a boy and girl, waiting for the bus,
not more then 5 or 6,
clowning and goofing.
The boy is jumping up and down
on top of a big rock,
with a grin a mile wide...
at nothing in particular,
while the girl runs around in circles
of her own fun.

Thank God.
It is a particular sin to let past grief and
known evils to darken
the joy that is and can be.

Light. Light.  I must see that
and hold it in my heart, not fix on the darkness.
To value the courage and
fasten not on the agony.
See the triumph.



Kwan-Yin

"who hears the cries of the world"
says the woman
as she carefully unpacks
the last of her family treasures

She's giving them to the Chinese Museum.
They were all that her family saved,
along with their lives,
when Chinatown collapsed
in the great San Francisco quake.
Her mother was 7 then.

So here they are.
Portraits of the family ancestors
and a carved wooden shrine:
within, a little white statue of the goddess
Kwan-Yin,
who hears the cries of the world.

She, the goddess
or bodhisattva
of mercy.
At the last, the one
the world cries out to.

Tall, robed, willowy.
With a serene but compassionate face.
She holds forth an unopened
lotus blossom and stalk

Perhaps,
along with the assault
of the world's grief,
she also hears
the cries of passion,
the schoolyard screams of manic glee,
the craftsman's quiet satisfaction
as he shapes his master work,
the eternal Yea!

The unopened blossom,
the cries of the world,
within.



We, the Argonauts


as we get older, we can increasingly see ourselves as the people our parents were...or wonder to see them as young kids in the earliest photographs.

Homage to Tennyson:
Push off and setting well in order smite the sounding furrow,
for our purpose is to sail beyond the sunset and the baths of all the western stars

We are all
intrepid voyagers,
seekers of the
golden fleece.

If you hang a sheepskin fleece
in the running water
downstream of
gold deposits,
it catches
the gold
until the fleece
shines
weighty
with gold

So we hang
our fleece
in the running watter
of our life...
and hope
for a rich
and gold-laden life

The juice,
the unseen
pelt of life.

Live a life
honestly,
with least possible fear,
and
that pelt will grow
and glisten
as the other pelt
thins and greys


Poem: 
by Deborah Cummins from Counting the Waves.   

Another Life   

My mother, 18, the summer before she married,      
lounges belly-down in the sun,  
books and grass all around, her head on her hands      
propped at a jaunty angle.   
She smiles in a way I've never seen      
at something beyond the camera.      
This photograph I come back to again and again      
invites me to re-write her life.  
    
I keep resisting, certain   
 I'd have no part in it, her first born      
though not exactly. A boy first,      
two months premature, my brother    
who lived three days, was buried in a coffin      
 my father carried. "The size of a shoe box,"      
 he said, the one time he spoke of it.   
 And my mother, too, offered only once   
 that she was pregnant and so they married.   
 
 Drawn to this saw-edged snapshot,   
 I'm almost convinced to put her in art school. 

Single, she'd have a job in the city,
 wouldn't marry. There'd be no children      
 if that would make her this happy.      
 But I'm not that unselfish, or stupid.      
 And what then, too, of my beloved sister,      
 her son I adore?
 
 So let me just move her honeymoon      
 from the Wisconsin Dells to the Caribbean.      
 Let the occasional vacation in a Saugatuck cabin      
 be exactly what she wanted. The house      
 she so loved she won't have to sell.   
>  
 Winters, there's enough money to pay the bills.      
 There are no cigarettes, no stroke, no paralysis.
 Her right hand lifts a spoon from a bowl    
 as easily as if it were a sable-hair brush      
 to an empty canvas.      
 And the grass that summer day      
 on the cusp of another life      
 is thick, newly mown, fragrant.


An Annuciation, for photographers

The Annunciation

I have long known that
what seizes me
is the fall of light....
that it is only in that,
that we can see light,
manifesting itself
in manifesting the world

My (photographic) work
is about these things:
Light.
Space.
(that the light near invisibly inhabits)
and
the numinous
mystery-beauty
of Creation

Light:
the angel of revelation
of annunication:
/Look!/
it cries
as it pulls back
the darkness.

We see but
as a mere
commonplace,
walk blind
through the Gardens.

Poem:  by Michael Blumenthal from Days We Would Rather Know. © Pleasure Boat Studio.
 Light, at Thirty-Two

 It is the first thing God speaks of
 when we meet Him, in the good book
 of Genesis. And now, I think
 I see it all in terms of light:

 How, the other day at dusk
 on Ossabaw Island, the marsh grass
 was the color of the most beautiful hair
 I had ever seen, or how—years ago
 in the early-dawn light of Montrose Park—
 I saw the most ravishing woman
 in the world, only to find, hours later
 over drinks in a dark bar, that it
 wasn't she who was ravishing,
 but the light: how it filtered
 through the leaves of the magnolia
 onto her cheeks, how it turned
 her cotton dress to silk, her walk
 to a tour-jeté.

 And I understood, finally,
 what my friend John meant,
 twenty years ago, when he said: Love
 is keeping the lights on. And I understood
 why Matisse and Bonnard and Gauguin
 and Cézanne all followed the light:
 Because they knew all lovers are equal
 in the dark, that light defines beauty
 the way longing defines desire, that
 everything depends on how light falls
 on a seashell, a mouth ... a broken bottle.

 And now, I'd like to learn
 to follow light wherever it leads me,
 never again to say to a woman, YOU
 are beautiful, but rather to whisper:
 Darling, the way light fell on your hair
 This morning when we woke—God,
 It was beautiful. Because, if the light is right,
 Then the day and the body and the faint pleasures
 Waiting at the window ... they too are right.
 All things lovely there. As the first poet wrote,
 in his first book of poems: Let there be light.

 And there is.


Two poems almost the same...

Fountain

It is the
eye of dream
(not my dream or the dream, just dream),
center in
universe of shadow

Fountain.

Set in a
ripple-less
circular
pool

At the center
the water
swells.
bulges,
pillars upward.

A sine.

In dream
soul force
meets uneasily
with the
mind,
like water
on mercury.

They converse
in fountain.

I imagine that,
in the underworld
in the soul force
there is a
paired
fountain
downward

Where the soulforce
is as much confounded
below as
the mind's dreaming

Have mercy.

May we hear
May we see
May we
ineffably
comprehend
above
and
below

And come
to some
harmony
above
and
below.


Pool at the Center of the World

It is the
eye of dream;
center of a
universe of shadow

No ripples mar its circumference.

At the center
the water
swells.
bulges,
fountaining upward.

A sine.

In dream,
soul plashes
immiscibly
with mind.

Here they converse:
the mind speaks light
to soul;
the soul dark
to mind.

In the underworld
of soul,
there must pair another fountain,
surging downwards,
then falling upward


Where the soulforce
is as much confounded
below as
the mind above,
mediated in dream.

Nowhere else do they converse.

Have mercy!
They are both so fierce,
so blind.

May we hear,
May we see,
Some harmony,
some ineffable comprehension



Being in Worship

The utter integrity
of the green world

No monk,
sitting the seasons,
has its
serene,
clamoring
devotion

The green world
is one,
is the world.

Spring:
The juice
rises,
every twig,
every bud
shakes
itself to fullness,
turns,
bends,

Rooted
in earth,
it
opens
to the light,
drinks
water
and air,
singing,
bowing

Opening.

Midsummer:
The trees tack across
the meadows,
rolling up and
cresting the
green-yellow
billows

Like galleons,
cresting the waves
Mid-Atlantic,
every leafy sail set,
yards braced so.
All trimmed to
shame
the master mariner

Flotillas,
every spar raised,
swaying under
the lash of light,
every sail set.
Drinking sun.
Voyaging
the summer.

Fall:
Did ever a saint
go so graciously
so wondrously arrayed,
so perfectly surrendered
to matyrdom?
Never.

Every plant
dons its particular
shining robe
then
weeps
its life
back
o the soil

Winter:
Such witness,
such
stubborn
persistance
in the face
of howling menace
or gripping
shattering
silence.

The green world believes,
knows;
of a spring
and life to come....
now, past
and forever

But above all
Light.

They
breathe
light.

So
perfectly
devout

that
time
and
death
have no meaning
Being
in
Worship



The still silent Voice


The small still voice
speaks in the darkness
of a sleepless night
in dreams

It speaks
in the light of common day
when they everyday blare
is at its loudest

Our own akashic
conscience not even as
loud as a cricket
on the shoulder....
nowhere near as
strong as guilt.

It is with us,
all our successive
incarnation.

It does not hector.
You can barely hear it.
It is like a leaf fluttering
at the edge of your
vision.

You can barely sense it.
It is like some extra sense
barely present.
You cannot query it,
like checking traffic
before stepping into
the street.

If your mind attends...
it is gone
leaving only
an echo or some
spiritual aftertaste.
In moments,
even that is gone.

Ignore it,
build up the walls
of hate, of righteousness
of indolence...
and what little
it spoke
will dwindle away

As will your spirit.

Ignore it at your peril.

Its gift is grace and life.



Life comes without an Operating Manual


nothing about how
you shouldn't do stupid things
with your body.

Instead you get
pain then
and
accelerated decrepitude
later

nothing about how
to get to know
the creature
that enchants you
or on how to make love
in bed
or at the kitchen table
with the bills
or over the phone
when the
world at work
is hammering your shoulders down

It also comes without
a schedule.

You always thought
that old people
were, well,
'just old'.

As if they were hatched
that way.

Life comes on so gradually.

If you have long hair,
one day (out of many)
it will be richly colored
at the end
and grey
at the roots.

One can only hope
that
down in the cellar of your soul
there are Mason jars

of sunlight,

of wild springtime carnality
in the woods,

of your child's first smile,

of day sailing out of
Castine
into Penobscot Bay,
the wind
riffling your hair,
the sound of
seagulls crying

of your heart's
other half
smiling muzzily
at you
in the morning
and hugging
you.

Your life
is your
masterwork.
It is given to us all
to craft
and to learn.

We spend our life
writing and living
our manual

Maybe it's better that way.



Original Sin

Cogito ergo sum
...and we are done for.

Homo whose
besetting sin is his sapiens.

Knowing
and from that...
Righteousness,
inerrancy,
dogma,
prejudice,
bigotry:
all the soul staining knowledge,
if indeed there is
any other kind.

The seven dreary sins
we commit,
but the original sinning
comes to us as our
patrimony..
we,
the thinking animals.

Even the engineers
have their own
particular
righteousness and intolerance:
for poor design
for clueless blundering,
for the failures
to pay attention,
to get it right.

We draw breath
and think
and it is over.

We,
who are given eyes to see
and minds to 'understand',
so rarely see

that perfect knowledge
is compassed only in
God's Mind and Spirit,
not within the walls
of our mind.

that truth and reality
change in the moment,
that one can be "right"
in the ugliest ways
and wrong in ways
that bring grace.

We can spend the
rest of our life
learning:
not knowledge
but
surrender, opening,
listening
not sitting in judgment.

May I do so.

Only by setting down
our tools,
listening for the faint
inner voice,
can we see
the greater glory.



A true gentleman

for D.C.

A culture makes much
of the 'manliness' of
Stallone and Schwarzenegger

Almost lost in the shadows
these days
is the gentleman
of reserve,
of grace.

In my family,
much was made
of courage
the way Hemingway defined it.

Grace under pressure.

In my youth,
there was a neighborhood
godfather
of the best sort.

He had been young
when my father
was a youth.
By the time I came along,
he was white-haired
but still dapper,
still gracious
an elf with sparkling eye,
Mr. Wehle,
who would play a mandolin
and sing old songs in
a high clear voice.

When I was in college,
cancer took him.
My father told me
and sent me off to visit him
in the hospital,
towards the end.

Still gracious,
still wanting to know
if I would like a snack,
how wonderful to see me
and how was I?

Nothing of himself,
his pain, his doom.

A true gentleman.

Seeing you, David,
gracious, solicitous,
engaging, as always.
In spite of your loss
and pain.

A true gentleman
soldiering on.



Teaching...and Learning

It occurred to me today
that teaching
(to those wanting)
(who live in darkened rooms)
is this:

The teacher turns on
the light
and shows those
that can see
almost invisible doors.

So the teacher tries
to teach the trick
of
finding doors,
opening them
and
how to see what's beyond

Another room.

Hint: You will not always
have a teacher