Beetle, snake, apples. We walk single
file under willows, the dappled light
casting shadows. First the beetle, on its back,
and one side missing a few hairlike legs.
I flip it with the fine point of a pen revealing
its pale shell with elegant black stripes.
What to read in the moist spot it leaves
scuttling into the weeds? Immediately,
a slip of snake whips quickly into hedge,
slender tail a question mark, disappears.
Three small apples in a row far
from orchard. Four of us stepping
lightly on the concrete walk, stepping
lightly into the mystery of being
here together in this moment,
where everything is contained.
It is out of love for itself that Consciousness bodies itself forth as a universe.
Christopher Wallis, Tantra Illuminated
Last night, in town, a shed exploded and burnt a house to the ground.
Everything was lost except the cat and the owners and their faith
that things come around right as long as we’re alive and unharmed.
Today, I’m outside in the ninety-seven degree heat limbing the pines
that cluster on the south side of our land, the break between the ditch,
which burned last time, and the driveway, the last fuel-free space
before our barn. These trees bear scorch marks from the last fire
to climb our hill. They look like reptiles and smell like my deepest
memories of nature with their citrusy sap. Wielding my lopper
and pine saw—used at Christmas, and now, in fire season--
I slip among them murmuring words of love. They are good at surrender.
Bark, and green or dry wood yield easily and the limbs drop around me
like so many petals showered from the Mother’s hand above. In this way,
we become one. My hand on the smooth bark of their branches, and my hand
sawing away what will burn, harm, kill, their scent in my sweat like a lover.
Over the usual dry silence,
the million soft footsteps
of rain, exotic on this desert
summer Sunday. Awakening,
my mind reached out to cup
the din in the cistern of memory,
penetrated by recognition.
I unfurled from sleep,
from the deep fear of fire,
to the smokey grey sky
of cloud. Trees offset in limpid green,
their leaves bowed by the press
of wetness. The earth patters
beneath falling water, volume
increasing in sound and ground.
The generous eave built for snow,
where winter’s ice melts into spears,
this morning drips with summer’s
grateful tears. Runoff returns to river.
Reprieve from burn.
The boy cellist bows his neck
over the neck of his cello, his cut-velvet
hair catching July light
as he plays and sings Henrici Noel’s
Lamentatio. His teenaged voice
hovers over the chords while fingers
pound the stings and his bow arm
vibrates the shiny blue of his shirt.
Such a paradox this combination
of youth and grief; it plucks at my heart
like pizzicato, pulling out
all the love and loss of sixty years.
The cello is a serious business,
conjuring sounds from the lowest bass
to the highest range of the soprano.
All the young faces in their folding chairs
moving arms and bodies like a dance,
an ancient ritual, where sound
speaks in the words we’ve lost,
all the words we’ve not yet found.
Nothing is last, nothing first.
Everything is a wheel. Here
and here and here with no room
for there. Even infinity is a loop
twisting back on itself. While dark,
also light. Up, also down. Try to mark
what ends from what starts, walk
on this spinning ball east to west
or north to south and the place you began
is also moving, like the horizon
out of reach. Stand still and ride
through the night sky that holds
the morning light. Morning,
the crescent moon hangs
like a comma in the sentence
of your life. Follow it.
Thanksgiving's not always the easiest holiday; there's a lot of history to consider, both personal and universal. Here's a short poem that reflects some of that.
Wind is erasing the hills this morning,
blurring their lines with a white mist
of lifted snow, the northern sky
an imperturbable blue. The turmoil
of air is not its business. I kneel
before Quan Yin, her four arms
hold a lotus, the braided loop of infinity,
and two hands touch in the sign of prayer.
I contemplate the suffering in this world
and ask for relief. It blows like the wind
lifting snow. It sweeps around the earth
like a silk veil, this exhale. In and out,
breath and wind, darkness and light,
living and dying. It goes on with us
and without. These bones settle on the cushion,
in the body, compressing like the rings of trees,
rooted in the neutral, ever changing earth.
Outside, the snow collapses
on itself, water finding water
that way it has of shifting shape
and staying the same. The river
roars its full-throated runoff,
wicking away what falls.
The arc of light slants higher
across our hills, days longer
by seconds. Still, it’s winter.
In this quiet expanse of white
lit life, we fall into our own
slant of time. Bones resting
on bones that spark in bright
arcs of pain. You paint. I write.
Fire pops in the grate its long held
breath of rain. Water moving
to start again.
Like us, trees are never alone.