Text | Poetry

Can't Step Twice…

“Can’t step twice into the same river, Professor Herakleitos said.” Robert Bringhurst

even the salmon, struggling upstream
find in their first bed a new tumble of stones
strange tangle of leaf and silt           glitter of gravel
always the language of water alive           always on the move
its carving glyphs and signs in walls
that will never fully contain

so we come to foreign places
find wreckage of what once was home

What the body remembers is not enough

Bruised bodies wait           hovering over deep pools

feeling for clear currents
the rush and muscled surge to rise beneath our ragged flesh
so tired now           nothing left but surrender

Breathe through your open wound
be blessed by the source you swim in
retrieve the nourishing steam

taste your own dying

and leap

let the wonder the moving river
carry you on

No One Who Falls…

“No one who falls can rise without help from the ground” Robert Bringhurst

Green fold of the forest
silent temple of trees          pliant cedar

alder   pine and paper birch roots           touching
the dead           all the fallen laid to rest

in leaf mould           loam and humus black
centuries underfoot

the loss

held in twining hands
this stitched weave whispering          refuge

ground of being
what is cut and severed           still will rise

every breath of the woods confirms
like a sigh in my own bones calling

every wood you have been lost in

and how the ground always rises to meet you

The Heart Is A White…

“The heart is a white mountain” Robert Bringhust

before you a journey

begun before you were born
existing           waiting            flowing toward you

drawing your whole body upslope
because it is there


the closer you arrive
to its immensity

a lifetime of walking           growing quiet             seeking the trackless

simply to feel
not separate

from this spine
of rock

to touch

heart soaring
its hermitage of stone


I am listening
With the night falling I am emptying myself into silence
into the tide of darkness I am listening to gratitude
I am saying thank you
I am stopping to remember the slow downbeat of wings
as the great blue heron sailed above the cottonwood trees
I am saying thank you
as the frogs suffocate in the stench of polluted ponds
as CNN broadcasts the news of the dead
I am saying thank you standing by the river
that feeds the distant sea and me
I am bowing my head in gratitude to the indigo hearts of iris
and the man whose deep heart entrusted them to me
I am saying thank you within the noise of beatings
and the cries of the destitute and the lonely
I am giving thanks for bread and the ruby wine
for blood, and poetry of word and nature
the rhythmic arrangement of leaves and language
I go on giving thanks in the knowledge of hatred, cruelty
and the sorrow of what is lost
I give thanks for the kiss given that afternoon my heart was sad and you noticed
I am giving thanks for breath and giving thanks for death
in whose hands the forests are falling faster than the minutes of my life
I go on saying thank you thank you thank you for the transitory and the true
Thank you for the bittersweet beauty of days
dark though it is I thank you
thank you for the light that always comes.

after W.S. Merwin

The Sea Has No End

“The sea has no end, in spite of its edges.” Robert Bringhurst

Saltsour smell of the sea
kelp, fog and wet mists scour shoreline and skin

touching distant stirrings
of another salty cradle
opening me to this world of tides

Why do we never tire
of the cupped shell to the ear

speaking of the sea        blood tide

everything passing through
spiraling gyre of plastic
light and stones
silences and ancestors        bouquets of bone
and roses
her footfalls

floating seed
weave of earth and air and water
washing my feet

waves without end

within           without

Stretch Out Your Hand

I want to make you weep for the beauty of a line
I want your heart to break open with the ache of space
I want you to feel the absolute present entering through your skin
your breath, your eyes full of tears.
The way light suddenly streams forth and eternity reaches out its arms from the sky, the blue heaven and all its clouds.
I want you to know love.
I want you to know the secret
of your own life.
I want you to know the meaning and the mystery
and all the shining splendor of your existence.
But I need you.
I need you to abandon yourself to the mad purity of the living present.
I need you to open your heart.
I need you to stretch out your hand in the dark.

I Want To Say To You

I want to say to you

Let go of everything

Be like a ripe plum

thin-skinned and full

to fall

I want to say
you need to lose a world

to know

nothing is ever lost

Like the wind
the heart holds everything

here, in the gift of your own life
in every mourning
rises the black winged bird of your liberation

there is death
in the heart of every birth

be fearless

dance lightly as petals

returning to the earth

Most of all
I want you to know
you were always more beautiful

than you thought

I want to say to you
You are beloved
You are beloved of the earth

What I Thought About When I Thought About Drawing

I wanted to practice drawing blind
I wanted to step outside, to cross the tent’s threshold

like the young cartographer Twombly
surrender to night murmurs
draw in the dark           simply to undo

but wild pigs were roaming           and I was afraid

So I lay instead inside the yurt’s cave
looking up and out through the portal
of the tent’s glass ceiling and there
in the silent sphere of the night           I saw you

half a hemisphere away across this wide

and glittering sea           your luminous being

drawn close           not separate from me
and I realized under the dome of our Southern sky

we are           drawing blind           undoing

unlearning the blackened pages
only the eye of the heart to guide us
to map our deep life           wordless           new

and untamed constellation

we are sparks           wild stars sharp as flint

striking light together
we are returning to each other
our first vastness

of this I am certain

and I am not afraid

After O’Hara

Why I am not...

I am not a poet
I am a painter
Why? I think I would rather be
a poet, but I am not                      Well
as soon as I saw the yellow
lemons hanging plump as moons
shining out from their orbit of stilled
leaves all glossy with sun
I thought of Antonio Lopez Garcia
and his quince               the courtyard                     and
the Spanish sun             I was remembering how absorbed I was

in that slow-moving film
slow as paint drying               I remember how Antonio

knocked two nails into the ground             took his stance

centered himself on the tree
with plumb bob and horizontal line

how he laid down white marks                crosses

carefully drawn on fruit and leaves

so he would know his path

Painter after painter             ruin after ruin

age after age the painter’s gaze
faithfully receives the world                 surrenders
to the tree growing within                    to the ripening beauty

imperishable presence of                    lemons

quince or O’Hara’s SARDINES            to the things

we vivid see that drop us into              stillness

though the leaf curls                   the fruit darkens

and the flesh rots