an essay disguised as journal, more prose than poem,
but you decide. and are thus forewarned.
sunlight this morning was nearly tumbling. nearly startling.
waves splashing on shoreline rocks. wild. like that.
as a child I recall how there, close up beside those rocks,
the waves would crash and climb, climb up closer to me.
how that frightened me into wanting feather wings.
some words now frighten me. no, not words, it’s the
thoughts beneath. the more I look, thoughts and feelings
begin being the same. look for brightness. resolved.
yet, new life within every change. made new again.
one rule: wear clean socks. or no socks at all.
nothing and everything, that’s how this story begins.
is nothing just what we don’t yet have the sense to know?
there is more nothing than the stuff we recognize. nothing
is what stuff moves through. redressing our relationships.
no nothing, no movement otherwise.
be the sailor who knows the sea within which we float.
is it float, or is it swim? I don’t know.
and it’s more than language at fault.
the only way we have to describe nothing is by what it is not.
even that name itself, we say “no thing”, thus described using
our own “some thing” way of sensing anything. what it isn’t.
nothing might be anything possible that isn’t
now, isn’t here. possible.
randomly, in either hand. is reason a mask?
so who first? who to trust? you know. chicken or egg?
thus feeling or thought? which is parent? which is child?
yet why need there be a first?
is our universe not big enough to be simultaneous?
where does passion linger for you?
I love the pen, my fingers doing scrimshaw ink on paper.
I love the labor to keep scribbles on the page, inside their
lines, not taking flight into a greater arc of wilding hand.
I love the crossings out, the new words added in. the lines
and arrows directing language about the page.
I love the listening, where it begins.
and you? where does your compass lean?
describe your living map. use hands. draw.
lately I’ve told myself I’m thinking too much about death.
about not being here any more. but no. wrong.
I’m thinking about living.
better eyes, better ears, better feet. better heart.
an obsession? possibly. but isn’t that a right devotion
are we afraid of being nothing? am I?
we are matter. we always will be. maybe energy, but
that’s matter too. Einstein says. still something, you see.
yet who we are does include nothing, the not-matter me,
laid out between each molecule, each atom. more space
than matter itself we are.
we are relationship.
existence is only because nothing and matter are married.
neither is, without the other.
there is beauty in this bonding of palms. no confusion here.
an autumn tree, first snow on mountain tops.
someone you recognize walks by. smile.
a difference of only timely scale.
so, what does this all mean to me?
see the threads cast about. a fish in water. then two.
when we touch it feels like Spring to me.
Says the Scarecrow, alright, if I only had a brain!
Numbers especially seldom draw much attention from me.
Thus this correction to the prior poem, nothing much.
The year was 2001, not 2011. Big enough difference!
Also, since already there, I’ve added one more line,
fifth from the last. An orphan who wanted home.
Apologies for the changes. neil
when nothing comes, it’s an inhalation. drink.
nothing is the sea within which we are afloat.
says the autumn trees,
back to bones. again. and the way we started,
a simple spinal chord.
hidden inside is how I feel. word by word.
spaces are as much the music as are the notes.
no space, no music.
everything I see is a thread. connecting.
some come from me, some from you.
which ones are you?
when I first flew again after the 2001 collisions,
I recall, seated by the window, as I always am,
looking out, the silver rivers, brown hills,
dark grown lifting mountains.
every curve. every lift.
all this perfect beauty.
I recall the thought,
if You want my life right now, I have no complaint.
no fear. no doubt. only beauty.
can I contain that thought? right here? right now?
I’ll have to let you know.
can I see that in your face? just this near.
here’s one exercise. practice, you know.
to all you encounter, a simple pure acknowledgement,
repeat. without end.
which is more vocal this morning? rain or wind?
for all the words I write, then lift my eyes above the page,
the world I see is
more simply so.
oh. look. there’s the shadow of you.
how does that also satisfy? it does.
how much of you am I?
why ever turn my eyes away? I do.
a boat on the water alone.
eager autumn blows.
this water washed world blankets us.
as night turns, faces a single white sky.
some days you are all my eyes can see.
when the sun comes through a break in clouds
it feels like laughter.
that… that man, he lived his life with two angels
at the foot of his bed. always. he was light.
came the day, came the disease, time soon to go.
he lived dying the way he always lived his life. full.
then nearer, one day he says,
I want to live. I don’t want to leave this place. any of it.
another day and he remembered himself.
another day, he changed. away.
odd? what I most remember was that brief desire
of holding on. out of character? to my ears he was
the most full person he always was.
nothing held apart. nothing.
it’s been a fallow season for both snails and spiders here.
green bones, white flower.
on the landing outside our upper deck door. the last gardenia
bloom is open today. no more after this.
this morning the world is changing. I am changing too.
the world and me, siblings at the skin. sensitive to touch.
your touch most of all.
it, is the word for everything. our bodies. our thirst.
is, is the word for beingness itself. Being is. I am.
said another way, it is.
Like a rule: you go where your attention goes.
unless it finds you first.
uncertainty, by another name is openness. means
past is not projected as future sight.
open and close.
heart moves breath, open close open close
he asked me if it was, the small red cover notebook
bundled with other folded sheets between pages, here
beside me on the bench, asked if it was my bible?
No. Something else, my reply.
then a moment more. I wonder, is it?
just first cast poem scratches. is it my bible? is it?
if it is, it also is – undone. doing, always.
in these words there’s no ending here.
open close open close
your best self lives where you don’t yet know. anything.
is there a poem hiding here?
The world is not yet done.
David Bayles & Ted Orland, Art & Fear,
Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking
I brought a memory for you. I brought it here for show and tell.
Middle December it was. About four foot tall, four blocks from home
towards Grandmother’s house. Small farming town. Grandmother
Janet and Great Uncle Louis. Now you know two names. Morning,
it wasn’t cold. A van stops in front, man steps out with a little red
wagon in tow. He knocks at the door. The little red wagon goes
inside into Grandmother’s hand. Me a mere hundred feet away.
Oh Grandmother, is that for me? The question was very ripe.
No, she says, for another young boy down the block. No other
question followed. Dare I ask again? No, I dare not seal my fate.
You already surely know. Just a ruse not to spoil the surprise.
To my falling wish, it worked. For another week or two, it did.
Is it important to remember this? I do. Memory too, says yes.
so what’s the closest place where judgements abound?
myself, of course. ripe and available.
like memories? is attending wrong to do? thus even
fair weather called foul. why christen the vessel wrong?
is there a line betwixt memory and this moment now?
grace says, receive like water does gravity.
Maybe the phrase also is, tell the right truth. Allow the story to be
what it wants to be. How to be fooled when you’re moving in the
direction you’re supposed to be. Understanding is a sort of booby
prize. What you breathe inside is better truth.
Janet had an unspoken rule. When I left her house she’d walk me
down the driveway to the street. Then wave me off down to the
very far end of the block. Another wave till I was gone from sight.
Some gestures last a lifetime.
And now you know two names you didn’t before.
And my wish for you.
That little red wagon, that’s for you.
See me waving.
leaves begin their autumn dress.
eager wind rushes to receive.
only in dreams, summer remains.
is it pen and fingers mapping a paper path?
how it begins. thought becomes body now.
broad blue swaths of ink. like rivers do.
folding in quarters. a pocket next. patience
while words arrive. water on thirsty skin.
listening. then. what does it say?
then doubts. then uncertainty. knowing the
faces inside. some speak. some are fish.
dare speak aloud?
does it quench?
the thing about reality is. it is reliable.
blessing when right words gather close.
the best part of writing a poem is letting go.
now stand near. close your eyes.
I’m doing the same. imagine now,
me imagining you, standing near.
to share a space!
to walk the same floors. and hand to handle,
orange juice on the left, milk on the right. the stairs.
the groceries. the calico cat. some ants. sleeping.
tending our garden. I do the watering. some of it.
blessing is this body of life.
it’s not so much your visceral intent, mattering.
it’s that you align with the intent that already is.
the writing itself, pen to paper on my fingertips,
takes me a step away from my shoes. from you.
think of mother remembering.
soft towels around her arms to keep her from drifting
out of her chair and away. she did. they brought her
home. well, that day, that home was a hospital room.
nothing familiar. memories free to put up a tent.
back in San Francisco. I was just there with friends
this afternoon, she says. she’s back to the boarding
house for her meal tonight. says, I look familiar.
she’s glad seeing me.
I don’t take memory personally.
it’s an ordinary skill taken to heart. I try.
think of this wandering like a ripe apple.
you know. something sweet.
what sharp teeth may appreciate.
there’s the child who labored, figuring it all out.
maybe not so successfully.
there’s the man growing older every day.
he feels the unconditional heft of gravity.
imagine your life. afraid. and release.
imagine telling. all your truth.
imagine knowing. what’s the truth of that truth?
gather me in like driftwood. I am. the same.
put me on the shelf. souvenirs from the beach.
all bleached brown and scattered white.
a few grains of sand speaking in native tongue.
it’s because you’re near that I remember you.
your after-shower, exuberant, untamed hair.
early morning in town. it is all too beautiful to want
leaving. open eyes. past due, observe.
palms on my seated knees. my collar up but chill
breeze behind finds me anyway. some minutes,
minutes yet before sun comes out from a green leaf
I miss your book being in my hands this morning now.
sun is now on the right side of the bench.
I’m on the left. slowly. closer my way.
Oh, I need This, is said behind my right shoulder.
was it really behind? closer to me?
sun creeps astride my paper coffee cup.
now here. now me. except my knees.
despite the warm glance, I shiver once with the
change. the brightness of the moon.
you and you, and you, are in this poem right here.
you veer from thought to ink. don’t need names.
we align by height, near and far.
now to ask, Is the daylight sturdy in these hands?