The heat of summer’s gone now—
Whatever voice of thunder comes
Trembles in a stirring heart,
Dwells deeper as light grows weaker.
Water of the lake turns colder by the day,
Waits like liquid mercury in early morning mist,
Stone grey ripples on its surface,
Whatever life it harbors hidden until spring.
Flocks of birds are flying south.
Before dawn, I hear them crying as they take flight
Toward some silent quiet space beyond my sight.
I feel cold tears run down my face.
Do I hold on to love of flowers even as the summer dies?
Or do I learn to let go, surrender as falling leaves
To inevitable white death of winter,
Or do as friends now do— flee south along with birds?
As raindrops strike the water’s surface
I sit and watch the lake,
Thousands of circles appear,
Expand, dissolve and disappear—
Almost as thoughts appear within my head,
Hold my attention and then let go.
Now strange clouds mix—
Light of thought, heavy body’s memory
Descend upon the roof of house, trickle down,
Form streams that flow into gutters,
Fall as drops from leaves on trees,
Pool as puddles on the sidewalk.
This is the world. This is Life.
This is glory that I watch.
At my age, more of life is memory
As hands of time advance upon the stage,
Voices of the dead who once breathed,
Rested beside me on the bed or sat at table,
Walked in sunny afternoons upon the trails.
Impossible to hold these memories
Without pleasant happiness passing through,
Dropping into consciousness
Just as do the drops of rain upon the lake.
You do not have to leave your room.
It makes no difference if you get up from bed
Or write at your desk or eat at your table.
It matters not if you wait or silently listen.
If you wish, do not listen—I don’t care if you go for a walk,
Whether bare feet on the beach or city or park.
Lavishly, the world offers itself to you,
Touches your heart in ways both gentle and deep,
Impales itself hidden in thoughts and low vision.
It may roil in waves in your dreams at late night—
Lick your feet in cool rapture or heat;
Cradle your head in daylight or far out of sight….
Sooner or later in body and soul
Divinity at One with the world
Reveals pure Light, unmasked and whole.
Your glimmering of light, no matter how blurred
Will blaze into fire— it has no other choice,
Sooner or later sweeps everything up.
Call it a miracle or call it the world,
Steep slide begins in clean empty air,
Vanquishes darkness with whisper of Light.
In Memory of Helen Gibler Howitt
Wherever I walk
Intricate pattern of shadows
Under my feet or cast upon stone wall
From morning to night
Light seems white as cream,
Heavy and warm from the cow.
As I quiet inner voices
Whispers cross in my head,
Like braids of grandmother’s hair,
Entwined in memories by love.
Quietly I sat at her feet
She read stories out loud
From books with blank pages.
Long, thick auburn hair
Falling lower than waist as she
Loosened her tresses,
Spent what seemed like an hour
Brushing out tangles.
She accomplished her wish
To save my mother from learning
How to wring a chicken’s neck,
Boiling, plucking, dressing the bird—
But God… I miss her fried chicken.
Even after birds have fled into night
Smells nest in my house— chicken gravy,
Mashed potatoes, cornbread and molasses,
Grace always said at the table.
Now she sleeps under stone.
For years I swallowed my tears,
Forgot how to mourn or sing,
Wishbone stuck in my throat.
Finally at sunset, I watch last rays of light
Seeking radiant air in wake of the storm
Whispers of angels hovering,
Hiding in wrinkles of time.
I slept for years in the house that caught fire
Early one morning, down below stairs,
Smoke drifting into every room,
Pungent, acrid in lungs as we woke.
Afterward, they said the cause
Was a short in electrical wiring,
But it took months to find my way
Back into sleep in my bed.
Even now, I still sleep in a cloud—
Witnesses watch from my dreams
As naked, I run down the halls,
Wander outside where wind
Blows hard through my thoughts.
Here there is no greater knowledge.
Here there is no greater love.
High above, full Moon seems an ember
Burning its way through the clouds.
Under one roof of the stars,
Everything seems simple—
Even longing is displaced, lost
Within wonder of night.
Somewhere out in the woods
I hear murmur of voices,
My fingers clutching old family Bible,
Black cracked leather spine
Groans, aches from so many years—
Long obligations of love,
Too many chapters blank,
Empty of words, silent and mute.
Have you found the river inside the river,
Crossed the boundary back and forth,
Waded in cold current flowing, pulling,
Sensing deeper experience of life?
Do you claim the freedom that slowly comes
When you defy what you’ve been told—
Defied what others say is God’s “no”,
Learned how to say “Yes” to the entire whole?
Have you suffered enough loneliness
To marry—found new place to live—
Weaved together new cloth from many threads,
Discovered new world inside old world?
If so, I hope you’ve learned to soar, to swim,
Learned where shimmering riptides lurk,
Absorbed new challenge so immense you wonder;
Unearthed new depth; reclaimed new birth from grief.
Today I sat with a man who wept
Speaking of his wife’s abuse by her father.
My own memories flooded back— blood running down legs
When at age six my father beat me.
I want to be a saint—
Perform at least two miracles,
Kneeling, candles in hands,
Heavy cross around my neck…..
First, praying at my mother’s grave
Hoping to teach her how to love….
Then crawl three feet to my dead father’s place —
Exorcize what anger still lingers.
Perhaps my prayers will scorch
Their bones—but already
Fire of cremation has accomplished
More than a son’s burning dreams.
Are their ghosts now hearing my words?
Do they pass their hours in darkness
Deep underground each night
Finally listening to each other?
Do they mourn what was lost
That sleeps even now in my heart?
If so, let them come back to beg
Forgiveness for my sister’s festering sorrow.
What is not wholly owned
Inevitably is suffered by others.
What words do I say to dispel restless screams,
Heal wounds so to not pass on the pain?