Every Bush Is Burning

Slivers of light break through
Blankets of clouds
Illuminating October hills.
The canopy of leaves grows thin
While every bush is burning.

When I glimpse into the mirror
I see everything except my face.
Nothing is as it was yesterday.
Nothing is as it seems to be.
Everything is quickening as
Outdoors every bush is burning.

Long ago, I gave up trying to clarify
Circumstances that surround, unfold.
The lake seems covered with slate.
Smoke drifts from fireplaces far
Down the road, around the bend.
Every bush is burning
As I take off my shoes.

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The Threshold

Before I go to bed
the darkness of the night
turns a gentle shade of gray,
announcing dawn an hour away.

I dip into the sheets
just as the wren’s first trembling
bursts forth in song
from trees across the road.

I am at a threshold,
between wakefulness and sleep,
darkness and the dawn,
the stillness and the song.

This is the time
when dew forms on grass
but does not fall,
lingering for the sun.

The waters of the lake are still,
its luminescence hidden in fog
that hugs the  waterline
and shrouds the world in silence.

This is the time
when the spirit of reproach
yields to the spirit of blessing
and the dead are given voice to speak.

This is the time
of silent necessary prayer,
when prostrate before the face of God,
even angels begin to weep.

The Darkness Grows

It is that time of year
When the sun retreats—
Darkness grows, envelops,
Spreads its winter claws
And without humility,
Coldly strikes the heart,
Exposes it to the open air,
Steps back, and patiently
Waits for the tissue to freeze
Solid in the fading light.

It is a time of no growth,
Or so it seems.
Whatever life survives
Withdraws further into darkness,
Buries into the soil,
Closes eyes in a hidden cave,
Almost stops breathing
And waits for spring.

I No Longer Offer Blessings

High in the mountains,
In a hidden place where most travelers
Never enter, content as they are to stay
Within the temperate valleys, passing
The long day’s loves in admired,
Mirrored sweetness of the self…
But high in the extremes of cold,
Sits an old hermit,
Tucked away like fragile china, distant
From any zoning laws that govern
Building of houses, septic systems,
Signage that announces watches,
Highways, churches, schools of any kind.

He observes the antique ways of greed,
Intolerance, hatred, and the abundance of
Nightcrawlers that enter every yearning
Pore, illusions of power, the crowds that honor
Marble statues slowly crumbling to dust.
Far below, thunder rolls along the valleys, birds
Converse on branches, as tedium creeps
Like kudzu into the veins of the heart.
Only rarely does some son or daughter
Wander through the timothy,
Beyond the hillside meadows where
Cows graze in afternoon or wolves howl at full moon.
Most turn back when strength gives out,
Imagine landscaped streets in dreams at night.
They almost never make it all the way to where I live.

I breathe the silence of the moon, the low
Pale light, the secrecy of shadow when rain
Falls across the face of land, beneath
An empty sea of stars, miles past the last bridge,
Past the last road where wheels rut in mud,
Compelling Earth to fold upon its knees in lust.
I bathe in naked twilight of the stars, open to the elements
Curving westward, dancing sonnets
In a place without slightest path or street.
No longer do I expect pardon; no longer
Do I weed a garden; no longer do I hear the cry of
War nor bless society in white dress.
Returning from a walk, I drink new wine, the bleeding
Heart, meditate upon the core in scrupulous detail,
Hear the singularity of music drifting, sifting, swelling.
I am lost, and at peace, my hair grown long.
My beard falls upon the plate of bread, communing,
Watching, waiting, devoted to the coming,
Ending of the beginning of a broken Eden.

Any prayer that rises, any chant or litany lies
Confounded, swallowed in the silent mystery
Of the one true word, never spoken.
In sleep, my pillow is a stone of impenetrable
Sorrow that swims beneath the surface of
Stormy sea, a porpoise breaking water, dreams
Gliding into waves, caves, far past distant drumming of
Driven creatures owned, used, pierced for gain.
No one dares go near me, even I quiver
When brightness falls from air, metabolizes on
Mornings blind with joy, the loud flight of birds
Flying overhead against white clouds.  Each day
I push death away, the glittering scales of gold,
The bitterness of an executioner’s sight, aware…
Simply aware, and tremble at the glory.

Snow Dies and Turns to Tears

It is morning and the light illuminates
Bitter cold within my bones, snow
Falling across my face.  Wind blows
Away illusions of summer flowers
Now resting beside the path.

Individual snowflakes die
As they touch my open hand,
Perhaps filled with joy or
Unbearable pain
As they enter the stream, river,
Ocean of mystery that is death,
Life beyond the stop sign
At the end of the road.

When the clouds disperse,
Will they have cleansed themselves,
Wiped away all pain?
Will clarity return or is clarity
Like the summer flowers I see:
Illusion, desire, hope, prayer?

For now, I learn how snow
Is crucified, turned to tears
Upon my cheek, becomes
Water dying into air,
Beginning an excursion
Into a garden I cannot see.

Winter Solstice

Less light today
Than any other day—literally.
Darkness of the war,
Poverty, sickness in the world
And darkness in our hearts brings despair—
It is the only sane response.

But I cannot leave this winter solstice day
Without saying “Death and darkness
Are not the only music made today.
There are other waltzes to be danced.”
I do not spend my day on a melancholy couch.

I sit where the light falls upon my face.
I watch the remaining geese fly across the lake,
Almost sure I can hear them cry from the longing
To be gone from this dark day.
Have they noticed the trees are bare
Of leaves longing for light?

Tomorrow they may be gone
Without ever thinking to say good-bye.
I can sympathize.  But I have no plans
To leave without a care for others
Sitting on the edges of their chairs,
Waiting as one does this time of year.

When my hour of darkness comes
I want to leave like Strauss’ younger brother,
Taking a fall from the podium
While conducting a symphony,
His life ending with the audience on its feet,
Silent in the face of sudden death,
The huddle over the body,
The lowered curtain of his eyes.

When I take my fall, open my eyes.
You won’t find sorrow or despair.
You’ll see a look of encore in my eyes,
You’ll sense a swinging in my arms
As I dance along the shadows
Toward a greater light.
No better way to say
Good-bye to a glorious fall.

My Daughter’s Horse

For Emily

In the dark of night, my daughter’s horse
Rose from the dust of the dead,
In the twilight of two full moons
Came to me and ever so slowly,
Bowed his head to the Earth.

The wind enveloped him,
Blew his mane wildly
And his ear twitched when I touched it
As though he heard words
That I could not hear.

He nuzzled my left hand
As I whispered into his ear,
“Where is my child?”