Friday’s Passing Fancy/Poem: New Talk, Old Talk (for Craig)

We friends learning each other carry stories–

being told them, telling them ourselves–

and speaking for myself moving

like a thief to steal this or that one

from pockets of thin air–

and we trade one chapter for another

in the corner coffee spot: talk reveals things,

talk connects.

But I am in between the moments

as treetops gather and release

sweet bits of sun, gold gleanings of time.

Gratitude spills from our lips

while in me an ache drifts by, a pale feather.

Loss bleeds, though I say only that

a sorrowful message came early today.

Strange how one thing begins, another leaves off;

breathlessness coexists with breathing;

victory is won for some as others flail in darkness.

That one may have left the earth without

one’s hand in another’s–this thought stabs me–

and that hope is held close until there is nothing

brave enough to prop it up against emptiness,

so is abandoned:

this is not what I speak about.

That knowledge slips through a safety net

of words that holds fast the fragrant coffee shop

and moors me–and others–to the ordinary world.

But later on, when on my walk unspooling in the hills,

there are pines that offer themselves

as protection against wind’s wounding

and my legs and heart propel me to the crest,

November cold ripening, roughing my skin.

And as I pause in a swath of sunshine there

comes a whistle through a maze of branches

that holds, a moment, then releases your name.

But I hear it, feel it as I stand alone by the road,

and it’s like a passing train on a high ridge

Friday’s Passing Fancy/Poem: Death of a Spiritual Warrior

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(In Memoriam, for Vincent)

Old Ghost Man is gone,
he’s changed his name again,
left wisdom’s better parts
to seekers, strays and nomads,
those who embrace the good path
and those who care little
how life is dreaming come awake.

He drummed it up, offered a glance
of ironic cheer, a madcap holiness
brewed from trouble, trickster spirits,
eagle feathers, cries of wildness
human or not from streets that kill
when there ought to be redemption.

Take my salvation, it’s for real free
he said,
always enough to go around.
Yes, even you white woman,

you make stones turn again,
you know what I mean, aye?

The stones named:
men, women burned down to ashes,
shattered with grief, souls stitched
with bitter roots, scoured by drugs.
But welcomed with dance and story,
given respect, they just wore down hate.
Then they rooted out places my hardness
had cracked, my tenderness hid. We traded
thundering silences, lightning’s song,
tears for small joys.

Old Ghost Man, he nodded my way,
raised his hand in greeting when some
turned backs, were stubborn doubters.
See, just walk strong and soft,
he whispered, or chanted my name
without fear, cynn-theea-a-a, 
like a swirl of painterly desert winds,
a slow ride on river’s serpent back.

Ghost Man is gone, gone, gone
he’s changed his name again
is heard in echoes, love circling ’round
he’s slipped out, moved to a better house.
Old friend, I see you now beyond
that rain shadow mountain,
untethered,
laughing and winking,
aloft.

Deep, Even Deeper This Pause

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It is hard to say when words will again flow without hesitancy, like odds and ends in a sudden stream I can snatch with delight. For my beloved sister  has left the land of the sentient, has entered another vista, far, far more incorruptible than this. I know such things, but it is as if she has gone missing and I do not know where she might have wandered, how to just be with her while being here. Not yet. How can one say, this is the measure of a life and it is shortened without our full compliance? The mind hears but the heart does not. It draws into quietude so resounding that nothing echoes. It is just human sorrow but it swallows me whole without a glance. This gaping ache pounds upon the center of me where the best parts have waxed and waned, where the wellspring that offers nourishment of love gives forth without end. I have no real questions. I know the present time has an answer and that answer is life, more life, here or there, this moment or another one, they are all a mysterious, elegant movement of the dance of being, our souls expanding to overlay others while still… we are asked to let go, each one. We are like fine lace shadows upon this landscape of changing light. We are the breath of the sky, the shifting wind offering power. I watch the branches of a tree shimmy and wave and want to take refuge there. Let me reach to heaven, too. Yes, yes, this life beyond life speaks to me. We live within that slender space between life and death. And endure the taking of so much. But this one earthly loss that cannot, will not be avoided: it undoes me today, it undoes me, leaves me flattened against a void where only God’s voice is known, where God alone hears all I cannot now speak without this thunder of weeping.