On the Road Again

The fierce and awesome dragon tail of Hurricane Harvey shook out
five inches of rain over Kentucky yesterday.
After three weeks of being laid up with sciatica,
I don my Tilley hat, my rain gear and grab my staff
as I head out the door
to walk to the end of the road and back home again.

The sassafras, beech, and oak leaves are glazed and dripping;
sprays of humble jewel weed and partridge pea
commingle at the feet of the stern, upright ironweed.
I’m amazed how much has changed along this road in my absence!

And how much has ripened in my heart as I learned, slowly
and fitfully, to walk the path of the lame goat.
I saw how much my ego craved the comfort zone,
and how much my soul thrived amidst the hurt and the disease.
So much compassion welled up for the lame
and the halt, so often left behind by the young gods.
And how grateful I am to, simply, take a single step without pain.

Further down the road, the verdant sea of soybean
on either side of me,
was glimmering with tawny patches
of ripened leaves that swirled like galaxies of gold.
Clouds of vapor sat like derby hats
on the knob tops. The wind was wet and cold and fresh,
and my soul soared like a hawk to be back on my beloved road again.

My Father’s Cane

I had to pull my father’s dusty old cane out of the closet this week.
I’ve had shooting pain in my left leg,
and I haven’t walked my beloved road for days.
That “damn cane” that my father cussed out so often,
has helped this lame goat
hobble around all week. Right now, I’m reeling a bit
from some body issues: a 3mm kidney stone that hospitalized me,
a gall bladder full of stones, a tooth that broke
while eating pasta which wasn’t even al dente,
and now the leg. In the Middle Ages they used to say, Momento Mori:
Remember Death.
This saying is not meant to be morbid, but rather
it’s intended to remind us of the shortness and impermanence
of this current incarnation, so that we can wake up
to live, and love, every moment —
no matter how painful or how blissful. The Tibetans call it:
“Living in the Mirror of Death.”
Carlos Castenada’s Don Juan always insisted that
without the awareness of death, everything was ordinary and trivial.
To realize that you have little time,
and no time for crap — what a wonderful gift!
So instead of an hour on the road, I shamble down to the fire pit
and sit there for a while just bathing in the kosmos
and the silence. Just tasting the blessing as the clouds
sail by in a lapis sky, high above the big green wall of sycamore, beech,
oak, bald cypress and weeping willow, that
line the dry creek bed down below. And I just smile,
feeling more alive than ever, grateful to be gripping my father’s cane.

The Long Road Leads to Love

Reflecting on the violence in Charlottesville, VA

We are all Dante, waking up in the middle of our lives
only to find ourselves in a dark wood,
the true way completely lost.
We are all Amelia Earhart, flying blind into the vast Pacific,
looking for our tiny, tropical island
where we can all rest and refuel.
We are all William Butler Yeats, walking through hilly lands
and hollow lands, searching for
that glimmering girl with apple blossom in her hair.

We are all on the long road that inevitably leads to Love.

And we all have to descend through the nine circles of Hell;
we all have to climb
the Seven Storey Mountain of Purgatory;
and in the end, we all have to walk through a wall of fire
to get to Love. It took Dante one thousand lines
of Italian metric verse to get there! But he got there.
And the good news is: all narcissists, all fascists and Neo-Nazis,
all politically correct social activists,
all the just and the unjust, all of us, will eventually get there.
But the shockingly difficult news is this: that all of us will have to
face, embrace and transcend
all the fear, hatred, violence and misunderstanding
that’s tangled up in our own minds, before we can get to
the Love that moves the Sun
and all the other stars.

And, by the way, there’s no road to Love — Love is the road.

13 August 2017

 

A Sky Too Small

The shadow limps on ahead of me,
sun warming my back,
as I walk up to the high point
in the middle of the open field;
she’s asleep in bed, dreaming
of shedding all her ragged clothes
as she walks back into the garden.
The soybean is just about calf-high,
and there’s a dead tree in the front yard
of the abandoned white house
at the end of the road. A young couple
has been spending weekends there,
cleaning it up, hauling out black bags
of trash. Last weekend they began
painting it a bright Tibetan blue,
the color of the endless sky —
a sky too small to hold all the love
we’ve found in our oft-broken hearts.
I’m glad those kids haven’t chainsawed
that old tree yet. Maybe they’ll wait.
Maybe, it’ll bloom again next spring.

With the Grain

     I don’t want to fade into the pastel sunset
            in Vero Beach with Barry Manilow
            playing softly in the background.

I don’t want to look like Dick Clark, Ronald Reagan
            or even Liz Taylor.

I don’t want to walk my two miles every day
            at the mall with all the usual suspects
            in the Golden Age Club.

I don’t want to circle the wagons and get all
            my ducks and IRA’s in a row to defend me
            against the ravages of uncertainty.

I don’t want to spend my whole life erecting
            a Star Wars Defensive Shield to protect me
            from death.
No, I want to let my whole body age and weather
            like an old tobacco barn — showing the blistering
            summer heat of loving, and the gray winters
            of grief in every board.

I want to load my pen, paper and poems
            into a rucksack and spend the day
            tramping the open roads.

I want to fan my tiny spark of existence into a blazing
            campfire under the blind night sky.

I want never to rage against the dying of the light,
            but instead, become a dancer in the darkness.

I want to live every day with my arms outstretched
            and nailed to the grain of experience, dying
            each morning into the innocence of dawn.