Of Time and Life Passing

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 others that sparked mine are not.

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Homage to Whitman for the introduction to:

Crossing Brooklyn Ferry

Flood-tide below me! I see you face to face!
Clouds of the west--sun there half an hour high--I see you also face to face.

Crowds of men and women attired in the usual costumes, how curious you are to me!
On the ferry-boats the hundreds and hundreds that cross, returning
home, are more curious to me than you suppose,
And you that shall cross from shore to shore years hence are more
to me, and more in my meditations, than you might suppose.

2
The impalpable sustenance of me from all things at all hours of the day,
The simple, compact, well-join'd scheme, myself disintegrated, every
one disintegrated yet part of the scheme,
The similitudes of the past and those of the future,
The glories strung like beads on my smallest sights and hearings, on
the walk in the street and the passage over the river,
The current rushing so swiftly and swimming with me far away,
The others that are to follow me, the ties between me and them,
The certainty of others, the life, love, sight, hearing of others.

Others will enter the gates of the ferry and cross from shore to shore,
Others will watch the run of the flood-tide,
Others will see the shipping of Manhattan north and west, and the
heights of Brooklyn to the south and east,
Others will see the islands large and small;
Fifty years hence, others will see them as they cross, the sun half an hour high,
A hundred years hence, or ever so many hundred years hence, others will see them,
Will enjoy the sunset, the pouring-in of the flood-tide, the falling-back to the sea of the ebb-tide.

3
It avails not, time nor place--distance avails not,
I am with you, you men and women of a generation, or ever so many generations hence,
Just as you feel when you look on the river and sky, so I felt,
Just as any of you is one of a living crowd, I was one of a crowd,
Just as you are refresh'd by the gladness of the river and the bright flow, I was refresh'd,
Just as you stand and lean on the rail, yet hurry with the swift current, I stood yet was hurried,
Just as you look on the numberless masts of ships and the thick-stemm'd pipes of steamboats, I look'd.

I too many and many a time cross'd the river of old,
Watched the Twelfth-month sea-gulls, saw them high in the air
floating with motionless wings, oscillating their bodies,
Saw how the glistening yellow lit up parts of their bodies and left the rest in strong shadow,
Saw the slow-wheeling circles and the gradual edging toward the south,
Saw the reflection of the summer sky in the water,
Had my eyes dazzled by the shimmering track of beams,
Look'd at the fine centrifugal spokes of light round the shape of my head in the sunlit water,
Look'd on the haze on the hills southward and south-westward,
Look'd on the vapor as it flew in fleeces tinged with violet,

and on.....

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... now to my work ...

The Poem-O-Scope General Store

A poem is a sort of time machine
...you do not travel time, no...
you step outside of it.
All moments now
in the glass of your poem-o-scope.

The child you see as infant, ten year-old and
the imagined teenager voyaging into the deeps,
heedless of your words, knowledge and advice.
There be dragons! passes as an unheard whisper.

...and then there is you and I,
and the whole Greek chorus,
alone at the last
or the sticking point...
alone
and in a crowd of our fellows...
flying into sky.

Hello (I *see* you) and goodbye...
the life in between passes so quickly
and stocks the shelves
of our hearts and minds
so fully.

Dip your wings in salute.



Poem:  by Alicia Suskin Astriker, from No Heaven. University of Pittsburgh Press.

What You Cannot Remember, What You Cannot Know
    -for Abigail

When you were two you used to say
I can do it all by myself, then when you were three
You had tantrums, essentially
Because you wanted to go back and be a baby like before,
And also to be a grownup.
It was perplexing,
It was a mini-rehearsal
For adolescence, which lurks inside your body
Now that you are almost nine,
Like a duplicate baby, an angel
Or alien, we don't know which,
Forceful and intelligent and weird,
Playing with the controls.
Fetal eyes blinking, non-negotiable demands
Like Coke bubbles overflowing a glass,
It strengthens and grows.
When you read it stares through your eyes,
It vibrates when you practice piano,
The cotton dresses hang in your closet
Like conspirators, wavering in its breeze.
We watch you turn inward, your hair
Falls over your face like a veil that hides whatever
You would rather others don't know,
You lean your head listening
For its keen highstrung melancholy voice.
Here comes the gypsy caravan,
Ding-a-ling, the icecream man,
Plenty of glee and woe up the road.
We would do anything for you,
Sweetie, but we can do nothing—
You have to do it all by yourself.

Poem: by Donald Hall, from Old and New Poems. Houghton-Mifflin.

The Old Pilot

He discovers himself on an old airfield.
He thinks he was there before,
but rain has washed out the lettering of a sign.
A single biplane, all struts and wires,
stands in the long grass and wildflowers.
He pulls himself into the narrow cockpit
although his muscles are stiff
and sits like an egg in a nest of canvas.
He sees that the machine gun has rusted.
The glass over the instruments
has broken, and the red arrows are gone
from his gas gauge and his altimeter.
When he looks up, his propeller is turning,
although no one was there to snap it.
He lets out the throttle. The engine catches
and the propeller spins into the wind.
He bumps over holes in the grass,
and he remembers to pull back on the stick.
He rises from the land in a high bounce
which gets higher, and suddenly he is flying again.
He feels the old fear, and rising over the fields
the old gratitude. In the distance, circling
in a beam of late sun like birds migrating,
there are the wings of a thousand biplanes.


Dance.

so many things in life are like loving
you cannot count the cost,
you cannot keep one foot in a safe place.

you must step into the void and embrace your love.
there is nothing else.
no safety save in risk.

Dance.
sing your duet.



Blood and bone

Life is a stream of living,
blood and bone, it is education
the lesson plan, the syllabus, the teachers...
all are unknown at the time,
and even, many years later,
you never really know
The tests come, breath by breath.
They, too, are unperceived.
The reward of life is wisdom in your soul or,
if you're flunking the tests,
a gathering darkness.
No one make a perfect 800
and again:
you never really know.

So time, the stream of life, is a raging
(and destructive) rapids, other times
it seems to dry up to nothing at all.
But know this:
you are just part of a progress,
not the center of the world,
not the culmination of everything.

You play your part...and things go on.

There is no moment,
there is no real mortal achievement
that lasts the centuries
(anymore than Einstein is E=mc2)
There is just the flow and the learning.
Which astounds you,
confounds you,
humbles you
if you have the wit to hear

May God give me the grace to see it,
to open to it, to be grateful for it.


Poem: by Robyn Sarah from /Questions About The Stars/. Brick Books.

*On Closing the Apartment of my Grandparents of Blessed Memory*

And then I stood for the last time in that room.
The key was in my hand. I held my ground,
and listened to the quiet that was like a sound,
and saw how the long sun of winter afternoon
fell slantwise on the floorboards, making bloom
the grain in the blond wood. (All that they owned
was once contained here.) At the window moaned
a splinter of wind. I would be going soon.

I would be going soon; but first I stood,
hearing the years turn in that emptied place
whose fullness echoed. Whose familiar smell,
of a tranquil life, lived simply, clung like a mood
or a long-loved melody there. A lingering grace.
Then I locked up, and rang the janitor's bell.



We are Otters

Our parents
before us
dwell in the calm
and thunderous
surf.

On golden sands
in gasps and cries
we are created
and born

We cry and play
on those sands,
then venture and splash,
greeting the lap of
waves in the shallows

We grow and venture
deeper

Then we too
ride the foam,
shoot the slopes
and tubes of the
breaking waves,
the tumult, the calm
storm and idyll

and meet
on the shore
as our parents
before us
in the dance
of creation
and bear our young

We age
and move beyond the break
venturing their crash
less and less

until we
as our parents
before us
sleep
on the breast
of the deep


A Death in the Family


Sue lost her horse last night

You go to the barns
and what you see
is a lot of women
a few men
and of course
the horses

Women bond deeply
with their horses.
They are close friends,
playmates
even confidantes

Two species made their
peace with man:
dogs and horses
They survive in
partnership with us.
Though the economic
need
to man has dwindled,
the emotional bonds
remain.

Horses are such people
with character.

Sweet William
was honest.
His only vice
was an occasional
rambunctiousness
and being head-shy.

He wanted to work
to be ridden,
to go with his rider.

A young Thoroughbred-
draft cross from Canada,
he came early to my wife
who didn't want a big horse
but fell for his sweetness,
his kindness,
his willingness.
"He's SO big"

My wife is mad
for dressage,
that breath-taking
elegance of dancing
on a horse.

She has never had
an easy talent with it
rather
dogged stars in her eyes

With William,
she had a willing
partner
who would wait for
with her,
bear her fears,
and hesitance....
and joy in the meld
when grace visited.

She
or rather they
(for riding is a partnership)
were coming along...
"on the bit"
almost all time now.

One of the most successful
modes
of therapy
and a simple one
is
patterning.

Mental and emotional
work:
you do something good
over and over again
and the goodness
seeps into your bones.

So it was with
William.
We're all a bit (or a lot)
nuts.
Sue would work it out
with William
3-4 times a week
or more.

Sometimes
when there wasn't enough time
or the funk was too strong
or the deficits of increasing age
were aching too much,
she would just go
and "clean him up"
Talk to William
her big
sensitive,
patient
friend.
Who would mostly wonder
why they weren't going out
today
but OK.

He would talk with me
too, the rare times I
went to the barn.
Head shy, nose shy
but always quietly
looking, smelling
inquiring.

What non horse people
don't appreciate
is how utterly fragile
these huge muscular
gallumphing
creatures are,
what a chancy
proposition.

In books and in movies,
they appear like
bicycles.
Unless needed in the plot,
they are
always ready to go.

Horse people laugh at that,
knowing there is an endless
list of ways
horses go lame
get sick
"go off".

Colic is dreaded.

Horse are ruminants
which means they are
four legs and a body
housing a chain of stomachs
and guts
that turn grass into
rippling muscle
like Swartenegger never had.

So colic:
not like some fussy
cranky baby,
but
somewhere in
that convolution of gut,
something
or some things
are twisted
or impacted
or God knows what
and there's precious little
to be done about it.

So Monday afternoon
William was distressed,
in pain, restless
and not pooping
which are all bad, bad
signs of colic

Sue did all the immediate
things and nothing brought
any relief.

Her pal, her friend
her confidante.

The vet came.
He opened up
that convolution
that was twisted
and impacted
with blood supply
cut off.
It was hopeless.

Sweet William
the flower of the family
sixteen, nearly seventeen hands
of kindness
interest,
patience,
love:
willing William
was taken deeper into
anesthesia

and away from us.

A Death in the family
our friend
my wife's other partner
A gift we had
for a while.



A friend passes

My condolences.

I have been
in spritiual work
for some 35 years.

And earlier
I was set upon the path
by my mother
who had polio
(when I was a year old)
and nearly totally paralyzed.

What was left was
spirit,
an indomitable will to live,
to find some joy,
and a fierce
(and utterly requited)
love for my father
and her children.

What matters,
I knew early,
is spirit and joy.
Hold fast to that.

Later I entered into
kundalini yoga
and my teacher
said about those
gone beyond:

Try not to grieve
but to rejoice in your love
and for the time
you had together.
Your loved one
is on another journey;
Give your love
and joy in your time together
in your thoughts;
send them on their
way with light and love.

Hard to do, but the greatest
final gift.

My condolences.
A fine man,
gone beyond.
Hail the goer.



The Cavalcade

We all march:
crawling, walking, dancing
finally staggering
in this circus parade
down the Main Street
of existence.

Ahead and behind
is mist

We appear,
newly borne,
at the head of the parade.

Always
we advance
a little more slowly than
the parade moves.

So,
as we age,
our cohort falls
rearward,
from vanguard,
into van.

Grown-up
we dance,
we work,
we achieve and fail,
we juggle,
we mate,
we partner,
and our young
appear at the
head out of the mist.

Always,
fulfilling our lives,
we fall rear-wards.

Now the circus wagons,
the elephants,
the jugglers,
the brass bands,
the calliope
that we danced around,
are
falling away
before us...

How was it
they seemed
so compelling?

Now
eternity whispers
at our backs.

Fingers of fog
reach
to embrace

the stragglers



Life and Death

Life and Death define
each other

One without
the other
has
no meaning

Anymore than
light without dark,
good without evil

So I have made
my peace
with mortality

Just one thing.

The loss of wisdom
is
tragic,
insufferable.

It can only exist
in
avatars.

When they perish,
gone is
the wisdom,
the craft,
the moves.

That made
art,
that made the
impossible possible,
that knew,
that saw.

That spoke
and the listener
comprehended.

That is the
true curse
of mortality.

We must all
pass,
inescapably,
or our lives
would
never rise
never fall,
never have an end
and hardly a
beginning.

Yes.

But the loss of
the magic
the wisdom
the skillful means....

The stage is swept bare:
actor,
setting
and nearly all else

save haunting memory

and a shot glass from the
silent fountain....
in those who were there
when it played
in the plaza
of a life and time.


All These Tools


All those tools

They are evidence.

With them,

I have

wired houses,
plumbed them,
put in wells,
dug trenches,
made rich soil,
vegetable gardens,
rose beds,
canoed rivers,
fixed cars and trucks
hauled them
out of ditches
off hillsides
built saunas
hot tubs
cabinets
furniture

Mostly
they stand idle now.

I push code at work
and have limited time or energy
for the worlds
of things I'd like
shape and do.

But the tools
are evidence,
talismans
of capability,
of knowledge,
of real honest work.

As sweat proves the effort,
their dings,
scratches
frayed cords
grayed housings
shows
they have been used.

And I have used them
respectfully.

My father
the surgeon
knew that tools were the
great enablers,
the wands of the
magicians
that make and do
/real/ things
actions beyond
words,
actions
that
shelter
and protect
and last.

My father
passed that
soul-deep comprehension
to me.

Tools and I
created,
did

In age, one must let go.

My wife has moved to the Southwest.
Her joints hurt
so badly sometimes that
she sleeps badly
and the drugs have side-effects.

She feels much better in the summer
better yet in the dry, warm Southwest.

But to move,
I would have to give up my tools.
Which are,
in some part,
half of me.

My spiritual path
has always dinned into me:
It is all about
surrender.

Must I give them up?

The dance
of making,
of fixing,
of creating
is tied to a
partner
:
a host of quietly
waiting,
experienced
tools,
acquired at cost,
over many years
many jobs.

To leave behind
the armory of tools..
is to be a warrior-Creator,
in the stuff of the world

no longer.