To my Mother
This time, I thought, was not as other times.
The morning sun was silently enthroned.
The air was resonant. A breeze, so fine
that nothing seemed to move – and I, a stone
that disappeared. The water breaks, the stone
descends – and so the thought matured within,
describing what the present deems unknown,
a human way to be the living’s kin.
A human way to live among our peers –
the wolf and lamb, the leopard and the goat,
the cow and bear – their children playing near
the wastelands we have made; for now, remote
the horror seen, for we have changed, and time
has brought another time, where each must shine.
No matter – now the wind has filled the trees
this autumn day is more like summer. A fire
in the mountains near, the smell of leaves
so recently cast to the ground – enquire
if you will, these are the evidence
of things we do not hope for, small reminders
of a world to be. A consequence
is present like a seed, for now we’re blind,
but soon it sprouts and grows. The die is cast.
Our death has its inevitability.
But death of innocents? The first are last
to recognize their culpability.
The last, wherever they may be, are first
to feel the consequences we have birthed.
The moon has taken root. It flourishes
in starry fields. The soil is dark and deep,
a boundless emptiness that nourishes.
It crosses sunless skies while humans sleep,
so unlike other flowers – open petals
drifting in a silent wind. What roots
are these that have no place, that sink unsettled
in infinity? The light dilutes,
the crested wave has broken on the shore,
the emptiness again is all. The flower
fades, its place remembers it no more.
The moon has taken root. A secret power
flourishes in starry fields – unspoiled,
their emptiness, and dark and deep, their soil.
A world transcendent follows us. The birds
who note the hints of dawn to it attuned
become. They sense its silence, like a word
unformed upon a tongue. But we, too soon
are what we are. The distant hills are lit,
the shadows make their slow retreat towards
their origin, a singing bird is sitting
in the sun. I try to find the word
that links beginning and the end, the span
of loveliness between – the sunlight swaying
in the breeze, unanchored to this land,
so gently touching everything. The day
is here. And we, imprisoned, now are free
to speak the word of our identity.
No sail and yet they span the autumn sky,
sun drenched and radiant, propelled by distant
fire. So fragile that they often die
and disappear in watery graves indifferent
to despair. I watch sometimes that instant
when, immersed, existence fades – to be
is not to be – and nothing is resistant
anymore to change. Across the sea
the pilgrimage of things continues without
end, each vessel made of those that were
before. And in the wind they form and live,
no certainty to which they can defer,
except the blue in which they are, and were,
and will be when oblivion occurs.
Another day, so ordinary, and yet
it is the ground in which all beauty flowers.
We live in time, for only statues let
transforming sky pass over without power,
and time takes residence within. The risen
wheat, the trees, the mountains veiled in cloud,
the shadow pattern made by leaves – each is
a thing of time. But this – is this allowed?
Extinctions like a cloud, the biosphere
impoverished like an orphaned child, the wheat
and corn, the mountain springs, the atmosphere
no longer as they were. Instead the heat
is everywhere and generations still
to be to this are held, against their will.
What kind of world has capital unveiled?
The one where summer blooms in spring, and winter
fails like barley shriveled in the field.
The earth was once at peace with us. A splinter,
our experience of pain. But now
a sickness grows that threatens every limb.
A thirst for more has gripped the soul, allowing
no relief; humanity, a thing,
and nature, a resource. The consequence:
A DNA encoded deep within.
A way to be that withers being, offense
against life’s patterns of renewal. A sin
that causes pain to heaven and the earth –
so we again await Messiah’s birth.
Are words the thing they speak about? The cup
that holds the wine? Are they the guardians?
The flags that signify? The anchors up
when ships set sail? The calm meridian
between the hemispheres? The word made flesh
is what religion holds. The texture of
divinity, a cup that overflows.
To find the truth of things – the great because,
retreating as horizons swallow sky –
a noble task. With ingenuity
a sheet of paper may be coaxed to fly,
a likeness sketched with cool veracity.
Skillful lips can imitate a bird,
a miracle – to hold it in a word.
Above the restless sea, a soaring bird –
a metaphor, a small eternity,
the architecture of internals worlds –
our spirit and our soul’s captivity.
In sickness and in health – the solemn vow
that, joining two as one, has marked out time,
in melding joy and sorrow makes a crown.
So God the Holy Spirit makes us shine,
who brooded once above the formless deep
until the light had come. Our spirit soars
above desire. Awake within our sleep
we watch our dreams. We hear our voices call,
but somehow know all will be well, that dawn
will come with golden dew upon the lawn.
What’s yours is mine is only half the vow.
Five hundred years and still it is the same.
The wealth of other’s hands we count as ours,
injustices long past endure unchanged.
The earth that drinks the rain responds with joy,
its fields are clothed in flowers, its trees in song,
each leaf transpires, for nothing is destroyed.
A blessing we receive does not belong
to us alone. What’s mine is yours, the vow
concludes. The ways of nature and of love
are twin. But we, how miserable is our
response, when what we have is mostly plunder?
Am I my brother’s keeper, queried Cain.
The answer in the heavens still remains.
This night the moon of Shavuot begins
a ripening, an echo of the grain.
The ocean sparkles, dolphins glide within.
The world contains a flourishing unnamed,
a spark that activates the seed, a stream
that sweeps towards completion. No one knows
where it begins. An image in a dream –
what is its origin? How did it grow?
What happened in a former time that sets
such things in motion? Look, the moon that drifts
tonight through acres black with stars. Regret
alone will sprout when unacknowledged gifts
lie fallow. Pentecost is in the air,
a fire of life, triumphant everywhere.
Unchangeable, its ceaseless change. The earth
has many faces, one by one revealed.
The autumn fades, the planet’s stately curve
has chilled the air, the birds scratch out a meal.
I know each thing has been before, each moment,
without end. Beginnings all begin
again – the dew at dawn, the sun enthroned
in crystal air, ten thousand different wings,
the endless flow of personality.
Each is unique, the I, the you, the all.
Great glacier of frozen time – have pity,
we are frail. And even your unconquered walls
break off into the sea. A ringing bell
needs but one strike to sound that all is well.
What God created this, a world so grand –
a star filled sky, a biosphere, a jewel
encrusted earth – an act of mighty hands?
Unseen – the ceaseless bringer of renewal.
A sparrow falls, he knows – life’s measure, dust
to dust – while all around in singing trees
its kin continues. Life on earth he must
preserve. A flower needs a passing bee
that it may live eternally. No face
but every face that’s seen, from bird to wasp
to child – all bear the features of his race,
the spark of his divinity, who lost
all things, and measured dust for dust. Outweighed –
the world and everything that he has made.
In life there is a permanence, a steady
gaze that reassures. The constancy
of rising suns, the time and place made ready
for a soul to bloom. A grace that’s easy
to ignore, and yet, the residence
that we adorn. A life of rootlessness
destroys a human being. Their sustenance
depends on those familiar things that bless
fragmented time. Like clouds, whose forms
imagination tries to grasp, so much
is void and chance. Our sky is marked by storms.
A bird extends its wings, its feathers touch
the turbulence and settle in the air –
a permanence, sustaining in despair.
The wind blows where it wills, we know its sound,
its origins and destinies remain
profound. It sweeps across the barren ground
of certainty, a presence without name,
unsettling us, and kindling flames. Resemblance
to our breath is not an accident,
so briefly ours, its frailty is a semblance
of another. Grace is evident,
reminding us each moment of its power.
The sun retreats, the evening breeze awakens –
before its breath, a field of bending flowers.
Its peacefulness belies. Our hearts mistake
the silences within for this shalom,
a spring that is the source of every song.
The solitary work of clouds, no one
to help them balancing on air, nor speak
for them in the great task they have begun –
expressing radiance to us, obliquely
granting earth a glimpse of glory. Fair
exchange? A bank above the sunlit hills
is satisfied – the land beneath it shares
the golden rays, the birds all take their fill,
their wings ablaze. As daylight wanes the clouds
are gleaming like the moon, a pearl blue sky
accompanies, and then it’s done – a shroud
encompasses the world. In stars that fly
in other realms I see their Sabbath come,
completion now, in hosts of sparkling suns.
A lifetime, balanced on the edge of time,
the sunlit plain that never ends, aware
there is a compass, set within, assigned
to navigate its way. An apple, near
the other fruit portrayed – so vibrant is
its being, so self contained, that we forget
the stem extending from its core. A wisdom
not our own, has fashioned it, directing
life from fruit to seed, and linking all
with all. What of the dark eternity,
the world beyond the table laid? The fallen
fruit have disappeared. A mystery,
this verdant scene, a painting with no frame,
its compass true that points to what remains.
A Quarter Moon
A quarter moon tonight, in winter sky.
They see it shine above Jerusalem –
it’s early summer, rabbis spend the night
in study, meditating: Treasure given
once, a sign, divine identity.
The spirit soars above its nest of words.
A festival is like a verdant tree,
its roots are nourished, multitudes of birds
are resting in its branches, singing, feasting
on its fruit. If time is like a river,
ceaseless, restless, uncontained, the blessing
now is time constrained. At dawn I shiver
in the winter air, the moon has set.
Infinity is sealed in Hebrew letters.
Ideal – all that which is but is not now,
the architecture of another world,
perfection that our thoughts conceal, the flower
that the seed entails. A precious pearl,
torn form a living being, is testimony
of suffering. In this dark universe
the end exceeds what gives it birth. The key
that’s fitted for the lock, within the earth
remains as ore encased in rock. The soul
contains a flame, not kindled by our hands.
The power of the ocean’s steady roll
that turns the cliffs before it into sand,
who would not fear? A spark more ancient here,
illuminating all till all is clear.
As Sisyphus would roll the heavy stone
towards the mountain brow, we, captives of
our age, serve out its will. Outcasts, our home
forgotten, nothing fills our dreams, we love
illusions, skillful to deny despair.
Our planet, pillaged, feeds the greed of men
behind closed doors. The commons of the air
is seized and privatized, enclosures rend
the rain from peasant’s lands. The ancient marks
of purity, that sanctified the poles,
are sacrificed, collateral to our lusts,
the future comes on railroads laid for coal.
What world exists beyond the mountain brow?
A better one – where gods of slavery bow.
Who notices the rain delayed, suspended
on a leaf? A moment’s elongation,
time at rest? A space to think depends
on opportunities as these. A brief negation
opening our minds. As Mary wept
before the open tomb – the only one
abiding – ignorance within was swept
away. The evening and morning come
as pillars of the day – two angels, seated
at the head and foot of where his body
had been laid, were sentinels of cheated
time. For now, to questions asked of God,
the emptiness replies. Reality
is seen through patient, waiting, weeping eyes.
On poles, or nesting in the canopy,
in chains, with arms encased in steel, the living
serve the living, the free guarding the free.
With chains of love and idealism giving
is not hard. They hear the distant thunder –
earth at war. Not armies battling armies
without pity as before. The wonder
is the sound of earthly cries. Alarmed
that ecocide should be the crime of modern
times, they hasten to the barricades.
Resisting steel with hearts and hands while sodden
in a storm or sweltering without shade –
the cost for those who care enough. They give
what should be given – lives – for life’s reprieve.
Why do you stare as if these things were strange?
An earth created by the ones it made,
great cities where the silence was, the ranging
bison, wolf and deer in memory laid,
the windswept times that come each year denuded
of their trees. The seasons drift. Migrating
birds arrive before their food, excluded
now from their ancestral homes. Negating
ways so ancient and sublime indeed
is strange. Your eyes observe the heart within.
I meditate on this strange thing – a creed
that speaks of God appearing to his kin,
and wicked men that marred his face and nailed
his limbs to wood, while they, our king, had hailed.
Another way to be – our pressing question
and our quest. The fabric of the world
is torn. When ninety companies can wrest
the blessings from the atmosphere, a bold
appraisal should be made. When bonded labour
of the poor exists in slums the size
of cities, great injustice cries for answers
to be found. The world is in a crisis,
multitudes despair. What empathy
remains within a culture that deceives,
corrupted, narcissistic in its dreams?
Though seeing may awakens us to grief,
our poverty is greater by the day –
before it burns, we should be making hay.
Our silences grow underground, among
the roots that seek for water. Winter trees
are clothed in blue, their emptiness begun.
The moon has taken vows of poverty.
As yet, no frost upon the ground, the white
is high above that sparkles in the darkness.
No place to hide, the wind embraces light,
and without stealth moves through the open grasses.
The treasure hidden in the field awaits
discovery. A precious pearl among
the common shines. Although the time is late,
a stranger walks beside. The setting sun
is on the hill, the travellers turn within,
in broken bread – a vision of the King.
Maybe it will be tomorrow not
today. A movement that will sweep it all
away, and in its place create the sort
of world that should be, though its strength is small.
He planted it in stories long ago.
The leaven that expands within the dough,
the tiny mustard seed’s surprising growth,
the workers paid according to their worth –
the flourishing of human being when tables
turn and structures of society
are shaken by the truth. We are not able
to respond. Another destiny
appears that we might have the ears to hear –
in hearts that turn, and kingdoms that come near.
No words, I think, have power to explain
a mind and heart awakening to love.
How much we felt the world was ours to gain,
and feared the height of sky that was above.
When seasons change all nature knows the way
it should respond. A tree will flower or change
the colour of its leaves. A fox may stay
in hollows with its young, and seldom range
beyond their watching eyes. But we, who loose
the one we love, reject the wind of time –
the season of despair we did not chose –
and like a runner racing for the line,
immovable in heart, and nimble in
our mind, pursue the image seared within.
The Holy One
The Holy One of Israel is not as
a man that he should lie. The words that he
has spoken long ago endure. Like grass
that flourishes and fades the life that we
are given is short. Our love that sweetly rises
in the spring is beautiful to the
great Father of us all. In time the wise
appear among us here, who see the gentle
reasons for our pain. And sharing it,
they help us through the valleys that remain.
Beyond this world the angels all submit
to he whose kingdom will forever reign.
My soul will always bless my Savior King
who teaches us to love in everything.
A poem is not solitary. The seed
of thought engages with the words upon
the page. Each has a lineage of freedom –
of singing thoughts and language that has shone.
When words awaken to their holy task
they hold the sun and stars. The river that
is time flows past the waiting trees, so art
abides in fellowship with all. A bat’s
ability to know when it is night,
to hear the echoes of its voice to judge
where it can fly – I think this is the light
that shines in poet’s eyes. Though we may smudge
the clarity we hope would fill a page,
we’re grateful for the one who will engage.
I understand the languages of silence
and of song. Of silence – clouds that drift
across the face of sky. No man’s an island –
all that’s still and voiceless is a gift,
a friend to walk with us through passing time.
Of song – the sea that sings at night though open
doors. Our body’s resonance – the chime
of recognition in our bones. The spoken,
too, can never be ignored. Each word
lifts being towards the light, and like a chain
of flowers, sentences adorn the world.
Like clouds they drift across the page, no claim
to immortality, a resonance,
though, can be felt, a gift of life’s abundance.