Friday’s Poem: Sing, Darkness, Bring the Fall

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In the old neighborhood while autumn crept into

the fading simmer of summer, I awaited chirps.

Crickets were soon found among houses

that carried history in their seams, and

behind tree giants that rose above all.

A walk into saturated dark, which can

flash glimpses of life behind beaming windows,

was a puzzle of hide and seek sounds.

I traced their repeat to unseen stages as

evening became a chorale thick with

a divine sense of composition,

that tranquil pulsing like stars.

I stood, eyes closed to capture

a thrill of insect song offered in unison,

their interweaving of meters and tones.

Year after year I followed their chirrups,

seeking the most distant, jaywalking

toward sentinel bushes lining lawns,

cocking my ear in alleys with underbrush.

Holding my breath.


They have come again as leaves are crumpling,

berry-reddening and tarnishing to brassy hues.

But here on the small mountain it is a different event,

the gathering and listening easy–not better or worse.

Now I need go nowhere, just slip out my balcony door.

Steep land below cradles them in ivy,

pine needles, grasses, wind sheared branches.

They begin at once, for we who have

long waited and those who have not.

With invisible constancy, crickets never forget,

do not disappoint.

And later, in the dense, torn nights in my bed,

their universal call and response carries on,

as if an angelic force behind the scenes

holds fast to everything, each voice kept true.

And keeps me in place, rooted in calm.

I feel that humming in heart and bones;

it removes the world from my rest,

and me from my troubles.


Below is my reading of the poem, if you wish to hear it shared aloud.

Friday’s Passing Fancy/Poem: Summer’s Lightning

Image by sippakorn yamkasikorn from Pixabay

Lightning strikes divide and conquer,

dictator flames gnaw wood, grass, creature.

Heat rises about our feet,

settles in damp halos at neck, head.

By glimmered river, that freedom path,

no one sees or smells smoke. Daylight is happy,

bodies a flourish of good will,

awash in liberties that cling to youth.

Their boats flash hard like diamonds,

bounce and blast with music, laughter.

Can such a water burn, I wonder

and leave, watch a slow fade of horizon

alert for orange distant skies.

I wish to fly into mountains,

call out to all trees that shriek.

Somewhere people are fleeing,

their lives stuffed into small bags,

hands reaching and worn with worry,

voices strangled with grief and ghost snake of smoke.

Once home, my balcony cools. With that, less fear.

I lean toward colossal Doug firs to quell the ache.

Then the crickets start, nature at the podium,

and each one well attuned.

They sing as if nothing better can happen,

this blazing weather on the cusp of a promise of rain.

I must hurry into cool mist and shroud the trees

with it, carry crickets on my shoulders

into billow of sea wind, into wombs of caves,

into crisp and wet of autumn.

Find a baptism of relief, a renewal sprinkled

on this withering, crackled groove of the world,

and in my August heart.

Friday’s Pick/Poem: Cricket Wisdom

The group commences to sing.

Sun hides, air thins with cooling,

lean shadows go grey to black-violet.

Stage is set; I am the audience.

Their stridulation uncaps peace,

an elixir of sudden happiness,

and they are busy romancing.

How hard is the work of seeking mates,

the mute females invisible to me yet ready?

Love is not the point or the promise

not the favor or reward.

Songs rise and pause, stake out the night

with aggressive beauty, concoct a spell

I do not care to break.

Will the females not dare speak, are they

breathless with knowledge and mystery?

Heat lingers just beyond my skin,

music weaves among thickets,

stars beam with power and water stills.

Stolen songs carry my body, soul;

eyelids close for a flash of dream.

Love has meant so little, so much.

How simple to sing for coupling and

fear no–hold no–other expectations.

The crickets pulse with late summer, feel

my footsteps as I seek them out–

for good fortune yes, that, too–

and they fall silent as my ears shyly

wait for the next song to bring me

more gifts of this luxuriant night.

A remembrance of things.

A wholeness of life being lived.

A Summer’s Eve Concert

courtesy of Creative Commons

I had planned diverse undertakings for the summer but, as often occurs, my plans were shaken up like so much dice, tossed and rearranged. The new design has been a bit of a revelation.

The time has been partially shaped by bloomings of floral beauty; lulling, salty seashores; and dry, pungent forest pathways. And writing about what fascinates or puzzles, whatever tracks me down during night dreaming or micro-trances that come and go during wakefulness. You know, when that word, phrase or character rises up from subterranean recesses of mind and holds the writer enrapt by a teasing bliss. I’d always rather be outdoors writing or researching but there have been remarkable heat and drought this year. It can make one shudder.

Defining life by such redundant heat in the usually temperate Pacific Northwest is a valid, at moments scary, thing. It is not a diaphanous heat that turns all languid; it scorches all and encourages vast wildfires. It hurts pale uncovered flesh. To defend myself I have at the ready copious pitcher-fulls of herbal iced tea, at least SPF15 for ventures out, and an air conditioning unit for relief as needed. I write and sip, read and sip, scrub things and sip, at times feeling half-drunk on a chilled homemade brew of sweet peppermint and decaf black teas.

But there have been unexpected events regarding family stirring up responses like grief over my sister’s passing, deep concern for an adult child, a blood-slowing weariness. Health impediments have further challenged. I feel compelled to hole up inside following early morning moseys. A darned big toe got tendonitis–who would have thought?–and halted hiking. And dental woes have lately set my head reeling.

And yet. And yet when my inner reserves have threatened to simmer away to empty, refreshment is not far from reach. I know from experience how to find relief like a water diviner, replenishing the well. First there is daily prayer for healing and guidance and gratitude notations. There are kind friends and stalwart family with whom to share it all. Of course, imagination’s array of doorways open onto rich respite with a jazz riff or a symphony, a tale to be read or heard, little renderings of texture/color/form, a twirl that morphs into a dance across the floor. Where there is life, there is curiosity and its counterpart, amazement.

But nature, first and last, gives far more than receives from me. I do not own a garden plot. I mostly enjoy urban patches of land and flora and fauna if not out in Oregon’s storybook countryside. I seek and find each with appreciation. I cannot tell you how much happiness emerges from a scattering of wildflowers or mossy stones heaped at the base of a giant plane tree. The bees loving the lavender plants make me smile despite a fear of stinging things. Dew in early hours kisses a spider’s web, a poppy petal, secret squash planted on a corner. What saves us is often not what we think but a blue poppy might be it. I am a ready attendee, a witness who is loyal to nature’s programs. Little or much of it can right my world.

One evening after we finished watching a fascinating television program about Cuban cars and my spouse headed to bed, I remained restless. I piddled about until a vague but distinctive sound surfaced from a dull rumble of diminishing traffic. I pulled aside a filmy curtain. Held my breath. Listened.

“Come here!” I called to M. down a hallway.

“Why? Tired…” came the response.

“They’re back!”

“What?” He shuffled out to the living room.

I beckoned so he sidled up and followed suit, placing his ear against the screen window.

“Ah, yes.”

“Let’s go outside.”

“I’m already half undressed.”

“Aw, come on. I’ll go alone, anyway, you know.”

He put on his Keens and shorts and out we went in search of the crickets.

Beneath the towering American sweetgum tree we tried to locate the source of familiar sound. We stood before several bushes but the chirping seemed to ping-pong about the area.

“I haven’t heard them right here before, have you?”

He shook his head. We looked up. It seemed to emanate from the sweetgum branches. Was that possible? A cricket in the tree, on some branch? I had never heard a tree cricket, or had I? The chirping was fairly loud yet there seemed to be only a singleton. A frisson of energy swept up my back. As a raucous group walked by I stifled the urge to call out, “Quiet! Cricket concert in session!” I could have said mating song; that may have stopped them.

But there were more; I could hear them chorusing from around a corner. The hunt was on.

We tracked several loud ones communicating something important–perhaps: stay away from my girl–under bushes half a block down, a place we hadn’t found them before. Again, people tramped by without comment but I suspected they wondered why are those old folks squatting before the bushes?

I was puzzled. “They moved? Let’s go to the main meeting place they gather yearly and see if they came back.”

I was hopeful, even believed they would be there under large corner thickets of greenery where they congregated. It had been ten years that a large cricket community cohabited there. But as I crept up to the site, all was still. We patiently waited a few minutes, as movement can silence them. Disappointment came. Why would they move? Did someone exterminate them? Did they find better real estate? The silence seemed boundless other than a car coasting by and another couple who may have been asking what we were doing standing stock-still beneath an apartment’s dark window. More likely they were chatting about their own affairs. Maybe they had never heard the crickets sing at this corner, though it seemed impossible to have missed.

I felt displeased. M., also stumped, indicated however that it was time to return home. Yes, but first I had to find where the corner group had moved.

“How do we determine an old group? Don’t you know crickets come and go? They’re insects.”

A voice of reason when I am on such a search is one to be ignored. I followed the faint aural indicators that floated upon the darkness. Soft cool air rested on my skin. How I loved walking in the darkness, its pleasures so unlike daylight’s. Amber lights glowing in windows. Hushed voices of those on porches. A plaintive infant call for gentling arms. A random cat racing across our path, starting a skirmish with another in secret places. Life seemed clothed in a finer subtlety, punctuated with fresh flair. I heeded the allure of more crickets but I would have followed much, walked deeper into the night as I had many times before.

And then we came to a grand structure, one of many historic homes in our neighborhood. We couldn’t quite make out if the crickets had taken to bushes or trees as their singing was voluminous, rich in tone, urgent and wondrous.

“They moved,” I whispered. He knew better than to argue. I stood enraptured by the lulling cadence, repetitive chirupping that filled the night. I tried to imagine the up to three hundred “teeth” on wings that are rubbed to create sound, their tiny bodies an instrument. The courting and calling songs always seem to me songs of splendid accord. More crickets to come! But I hear as humans hear, with equal parts delight and ignorance. I was only an audience member.

I stood with eyes closed. It was hard to leave. I wanted to lie down beside them–wherever they were!–and have them sing me to sleep. A random nostalgia for campgrounds rose up, harkening back to my twenties when it was a common event. It all had to do with comfort and tranquility, a simplicity to life that can be misplaced while straightening out life’s knotty problems. I get tired of being so earnest in my efforts; why do I feel so much must and can be solved? Why not heed nature’s lessons, letting instinct guide more? Better to accept my small part in the grand scheme knowing it is counted, but not more than all others. I can relax since I am not the only one on the job. God and the crickets are fully engaged and the world turns as usual.

By the time we got home, I had an impulse to sleep on the back balcony in hopes of hearing more. It was not to be; I have too little space to accommodate potted plants and me. But the evening concert had restored me to a better state, where all is in right balance if I rediscover it, take it within and let it do its magic.

Weary? Impatient or disgruntled? Go out and seek evening’s offerings, have a good listen to the crickets. If you don’t have any nestling close by in shrubbery or trees, listen to a recording. You will hear a voice of the universe in their tireless singing. Small, sacred beings living a short time of the earth, like you.