Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Back, Then Down \ Junk Store Treasure

Alan: Sitting still, centering... one of those times when everything comes into focus.

Back, Then Down

Sent back to wait for her in the woods,
he became alone as happens too seldom.
The others disappeared, even their voices.
He caught his breath sitting at the trailhead,
and as the sweat dried his senses moved outward again
from his own running.

Why had they arranged themselves so,
this place, these objects?
these lichens, mosses, stumps and trunks of trees,
moist and sharp smells,
sounds of the sky changing around them?
As if they so welcomed him, in assemblage,
that he could set roots here, or they in him.

After a time,
he went down.  At camp
he found her boots, laced from the rocker,
pulling from shadow toward the pooled sun
the way bare feet arch over water

Nancy:  Save, salvage, re-use – my sickle, made of a ground down scythe blade and a branch with a nice curve, the trivet an old stove lid, the eel spear a clam fork broken and re-shaped... so many mended, re-worked and re-purposed tools.

Junk Store Treasure

Shards of your life,
almost as strange to us
as burins
rough shaped flints.

I like the tools best.
Iron.  Pitted.
Shaped for tasks we have forgotten.
Handles all organic curves
as if you saw them growing –
said –
“See how my thumb will lie on here.”

The rest a clutter:
you sought comfort,
as much as we.

Found beauty in your tasks,
your tools.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Reversing Falls \ Yesterday One Of My Constituents Ate My Pillow

Alan: A mandala, a sacrifice, an emptying-out world: what I see from our place by the bay.

Reversing Falls

Tonight, the sun sets and a full moon rises
over this circle of bay and sky,
a charmed see-sawing of light and shade,
warming and chilling the settled air
of February’s soft, false spring.
Beyond stone fields and spiky woods,
the chuckle of ducks, the hoo of courting owls,
three miles over water and islands as the crow flies,
thirty by road, at the audible edge of the world,
the Reversing Falls grind their teeth on the ebbing tide.

                  In my dream this is Jambudvipa, Rose-apple Island,
                  where all is ancient, empty, ready,
                  proceeding as it should.

The land remains unbroken.  It swallows plowshares, spits out people.
The sea takes on all comers, has never lost yet.
The ghosts of farms hide in the stones.
The fisher-folk call in the fog with the voices of gulls.
To the east, a ridge.  Beyond,
memory of a house or two, a town.
A sense of truck bodies, power lines, water tanks,
poised like spears.
I turn and shout, they vanish.

                  You dream they are shooting
                  the house cats and you are crying.
                  You dream the bears have gone north
                  and you release the hummingbirds over all the world.

A plane makes passes, casual, low over the cabin.
Who could own such a thing in this land of make-ends-meet?
In the cities we are deep-water ports, refineries and dams,
a naval base, a nuclear powerplant,
the edge of so many targets,
the part that gets hit by mistake.

                  “Where are the cats, the bears and owls all going?
                  Why can we not talk to the animals?”
                  This is the Kali-yuga, where all is swallowed
                  and made nil.
                  They are going to Reversing Falls.
                  They are dropping through the bottom of the world.

The moon is high.
Let us prepare a shrine,
cloudy with baby’s-breath, chrysanthemum,
alive as galaxies with light.
We chant and sit while an ocean of love
claims us and all horizons vanish.

                  I dream this is Sukhavati, the Pure Land,
                  that the land is flowering, the tide has changed
                  and the bears have come back singing
                  and with gifts.

Nancy:  A summer in a tent by a pond, where my neighbors croaked their “knee-deep” all night long, some comfort-seeking visitor took advantage of me.

Yesterday One Of My Constituents Ate My Pillow
                                  “You mean there’s a Senator for all this?” – said by a visitor to the Sierras.

It seemed a hard cut,
after all, hadn’t I
(it didn’t matter that I was never elected
but came self-appointed, and after all
didn’t Gary Snyder sanction it, and he
a Published Poet?)
hadn’t I spent my energies in their cause?
Miles of poems, probably –
and not one touching on bureaucrats,
modern science, technology,
or even (well, hardly ever) affairs of the heart.
No.  I spoke for the voiceless ones,
always affirming that they had souls
and deserved our respect.
Life is precarious.  I hoped that even a poet
(lower case, never assuming to be a Spokesperson)
might make unexpected gifts.

Gone for bedding, no doubt,
lining all those tunnels under the groundcloth
where by night I’ve felt the earth tremble.
Forging Bonds of Empathy, I thought,
squinting a little and trying to ignore the thumping.
Well, there it is.  I wasn’t expecting praise –
as an audience they remained noncommittal (not
that I expected to find Poet or Senator scrawled on the walls) –
but empathy ought to be a two-way street
and even a lower case poet needs a little comfort.

                                        .     .     . 

I heard an owl last night (empty tunnels!)
(where are the dispossessed?); quickly thought, “well,
that’s Nature’s Way.”
(It’s not as though anyone elected me to take sides.)

“Reversing Falls” first appeared in Slow Dancer magazine.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Nagano \ Backroads Beauty

Alan: With the Sochi Olympics underway this week, it’s time to remember the Nagano Winter Olympics of 1998, in which the Zen poet Ryokan, who transcends time and space, played a crucial if unacknowledged part.


The good people of Nagano
have raised the gates.
To rhythmic chants, a thousand villagers
rope skyward eight two-ton pillars,
hewings of the local forest.
Through these paired uprights, from the four directions,
Sumo wrestlers, men-mountains, five-hundred-pounders,
process at a stately waddle, bare
but for loincloths, massive bodies
symbols of cleanliness and strength.
Banish all demons!  Purify the earth!
Grand Champion Akebono
in the middle of the bullseyed drum,
raises his leg, thick as a treetrunk, then
thumps it down, thunderous, to a massed shout!

But what is this?
An uneasy murmur in the crowd.  A strange
disturbance of atmosphere, faltering of ritual
in the face of so much hoopla, so many contrary nations.
A milling about of officials.
A making of smalltalk by sportscasters.
A beaming worldwide of perplexity, dead air.

Finally: agreement.
Ryokan is helped from his seat.
Frail now, at two hundred forty years,
he makes his way, supported by each arm, to the center of the ring,
stands, a tiny robed figure, unmoving –
all grows silent, the wrestlers
pensive on their vast haunches – the minutes flow on –
at last, he lifts his stick
one inch, three, six,
taps it down soundlessly – nods.
The demons are gone.  It is done.

Let the games begin!

Nancy: The house has never seen paint.  The truck sagging into the mud may never run again.  But the geraniums are bright, and there are morning glories on a post by the door.

Backroads Beauty

We ask green things to stand for us
against reality.
Those plants, lined up along the sill,
defy the snow,
and steal the meager winter light,
and grow.
And gardens live in tins
and tires,
to bloom against unpainted walls,
to shut out heat,
and dust;
to fight defeat.
And will they stand for us when we are gone –
a flower in the woods,
a tree,
a shadow on the wall –
become reality?

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Wind Mountain: My Brother's Ashes \ Mother

Alan: When we climbed Mt. Rattlesnake in New Hampshire to scatter Don’s ashes, it seemed we had stepped into the photo by E.A. Curtis that I wrote about in “Over Wind Mountain” (posted March 23, 2011).  And then it was over.

Wind Mountain: My Brother’s Ashes

Across the water (the water
which we all must cross)
rises Wind Mountain
above its shore: a worn, wooded
core.  It is time: water
calm, boat ready.
We will cross and, for the first
and last time, climb the steep
slope.  At the top
we will gather
and look beyond (and back,
we must not forget that);
the wind will rise up
and scatter us like dust,
like pollen (never to be here together,
gathered together in this way
ever again).

Nancy: To see, to reconcile, to come to terms with the face looking out at me from the reflection...


I’m afraid of my mother.
She hangs over my head like slow death,
nothing of my life must be known to her.

Mother –
Let me weep with you for the alien child,
the son I never was, the girl
I could not be, the failures,
lost gloves, discarded dolls –
Let me weep.

You inhabit me.
You lie with me in the arms of my lovers.
You peer at me from shop windows.

I’m so frightened of your gray rigidity.




Let us strip.
Like two mourners,
let us weep for the firstborn child
(she of your dreams, stillborn).
Let us bury her.
Naked by the grave
we are women,
mothers and daughters.
we are sisters.
Give me your hand.