Like a River, Like a Wolf


We must return
wild,
guided by wind and moon
to find our way.

The journey made simple
When we find the way out of
the wilderness of cities.

Then
Into the forest
Along the shore
Up the mountain
Through the meadow
We travel.

Our sight, then, like a wolf’s,
Made clear by
Scent and touch 
More than eyes alone .

Our body, like a river
Bend and stretch
Run fast or slow
Over rocks, below branches.
Going home.






Advice From A Live Oak

to the Owner of the Mercedes Floating Down the Street in Miami 
Listen, you there...step back from the edge of the precipice you’ve come upon with no warning (in your mind).
Here now, at your winter home in Florida, 
you stand on the crumbling asphalt
watch your Mercedes float by as if it was your yacht
.Nearby, as if in a dream, you hear someone saying words like 
aquifer, global warming, unsustainableBut you don’t understand any language not spoken in banks. 
You shout your mantraFix it! Fix it!
You shiver in the heat under the roof you constructed over the planet. 

Listen
This is how you got here:You looked at me through blinders and called me a tree. 
Then you named me:Live Oak.
I became a fact you could dismiss or use as it suited
When you cut me and my sap ran you did not recall the stickiness of your own blood. 
 So, I knew that our reunion would have to wait 
until we had no choice. 
Like now.

Before you were too busy.
You dug mines, drained swamps, 
smothered the soil with cement 
slashed the forests and fields 
forced water where it did not want to flow. 
Now you are surprised.
You order the seawalls to be rebuilt higher 
again and again,yet the waves roar at them and they succumb 
over and over.For comfort, you grab at your pockets for your rosary of coins. 

On  the news you see Coyotes leap over the walls of your mansion
Panthers roam the yard
Black bears rummage through your trash 
swim at their leisure in your Olympic-sized pools.
 your homes are hidden behind steel gates 
but the animals know these woods and marshes 
they have mapped the paths in their veins
feel the contours of the land in their hearts
 see through the dark
 know exactly what needs knowing upon the air. 

You reach into your vault of millions for your talisman of dollars 
and find a time bomb lodged in one corner. 
When this bomb is triggered by the last floods and the final fires 
even you 
will become brethren to the lowest insect, the stalk of grass. 

For the first time, you hear the alarms.Your senses open like a deer listening for the hunter’s next step. 
Listen, here was your next mistake
 You mowed when it was time to sow. 
Demolished what it was time to save. 
You understood how to ravage but not how to prune. 

Now is the time to listen.
 Listen 
to what speaks quietlyi n both of us: 
Live… live… live...







The Great Extinction

Even if you aren’t a believer
your feet have faith
in the earth
your lungs are believers 
in the air 
your thirst trusts
in water.

We are held,
nourished 
with no effort of our own.

What other love gives so freely?
This is holiness
crucified
by those who once again
know not
what they do.






In Dog Years

We watch as,
with age,
dog muzzles turn white,

eyes cloud with cataracts
(but do not lose their patient glow).

fatty lumps appear under their skin
(as a matter of course, not disease).

Because dogs do not get botox
and are not bitter that

their hips are arthritic,
their once shiny hair
has turned dull and dry,
their running days over,

Because their acceptance
Put into words
                “Now this…now that…”
softens time,
calms the heart,
I, wrinkled and graying, 
am inspired.

To Begin Anew: Tender Work








TABLE OF CONTENTS




#1 Since You Are Me
After Listening to Tiokasin Ghosthorse…4
Long Gone Chicago, For Fred Hampton…5  (First appeared in The Rookery, 2021
For Greta…7
For Jacob… 8
The Courage We Need…9
Who Will Explain?…10    (First appeared in NYC Festival of Human Right Art Journal, 2019) 
Bullied, a History…11
Resurrection….12           (First appeared in Snapdragon Journal of Health, 2019)
Definitions….13
Solitude….15
#2. We Drink Moonlight
Buddha’s Rhetoric…17
 Picasso and Einstein Walk into a Bar…18
Circumnavigation…19                    (First appeared in Sky Island Journal, 2018)
Tea Ceremony…21
The Dream of Driving….22     (First appeared in Spirit First, 2020 winner of second place prize)
Why We Go to The Beach….23
Surrender…. 24
Composition…25
Unfold Yourself…26
#3 To Begin Anew is All She Knows
Chihuly Glass #1….28
Chihuly Glass #2….29
Boyd Hill….30
Pushaw Lake…32
Lagoon.…33
#4 Tender Work
Motherhood…39
Tinney Creek #1… 35 (First appeared in Plum Tavern Journal, 2019)
Tinney Creek # 2….36
Weedon Island #1 Morning…40
Weedon Island #2 Shelter…41
What the Dog Says…42
A Field in Maine…..44
Nest…45          (First appeared in Salt Creek Journal, 2018)
Ibis and Dragonfly..48
Advice from a Live Oak…49    (First appeared in Odet, 2020)
The Great Extinction…51
Qarrtsiluni….52
I Am….53
Constellation…54
GPS Dirge…55















 1.
Since You are Me


















After Listening to Tiokasin Ghosthorse


Name yourself the Lakota way
see how
streams reflecting sunlight
run in your veins,
stars shine
on your brow.

Go to the forest the Lakota way.
hear roots
whisper wordless
under the the soft-handed canopy
holding you
as you sleep.

Know this boulder the Lakota way
and you will understand 
something solid
Is not
but glows and glitters
with light
like your bones 
like boulders,
that by constant motion joined,
speak your name.





















Long Gone Chicago
for my Childhood Schoolmate Fred Hampton
Hometown music
sets the groove
the sway
joy drum
saxophone shout
in this Florida coffee shop
where I sit writing.

Seventies Chicago rhythm and blues play today
as long ago
I took the elevated train past projects in a gray line
mountainous 
over the expressway
the “El” clatters,
shakes the tenement windows,
screeches to a stop.

From the eleventh floor, a five-year-old watches, 
this rushing world,
wonder-eyed, wish-filled
as the refrain
 “Stand by me…”  
floats out from his window
this summer day 
of Chicago-heat-cemented
hot air blown about by a single fan,
“Darling, darling, stand
stand by me…”

the roar of the train deafens 
deafens love songs.
I feel 
faith in his heart,
not mine, but
unshakeable.

He watches
 his brother waiting
sitting on the stoop
at noon
      job denied
one more time.

On a Monday in my car, Marvin Gaye sings
“Makes me wanna holler, 
throw up both my hands…” 

the news interrupts

Fred
age 21 
shot
dead 
shot dead
while sound asleep.

I feel faith between the notes, 
not mine, but
from a distance,  
as I drive 
to the South Side weeping
for my job at the welfare,
warfare office.














For Greta

But you, too young to say
impossible,
You make it possible again and again…
~~lyrics from the song Rise Up by Roy Zimmerman, after the Parkland shootings

Only the old believe in death
fooled by their changing bodies,
unchanging minds
stiffened 
to hold back time.
Looking back, 
back
scrolling 
through memories 
eyes lose sight
of what is ahead.

I am old now 
but live

with wonder at my place in:
      the purple center of red tulips,
      the sacred geometry of nautilus shells,
      all Fibonacci forms,
      endless as then am I 
on the full rounding
of the moving earth
rolling and
returning
rolling 
and returning.

I stand 
aged
on the edge
of uncertainty,
discovery,
arms open
mind open
to every possibility.

For Jacob

I am lying in a hospital bed.
Shot seven times in my back.
My children watched.
I am paralyzed now
but the people in red hats
have been taught,
to blame me 
now for my shattered back.
On the same streets, they protest.
two lie dead
shot by a boy
who fears he’s not a man
and killing makes him so.
The long rifle his power, at last.

How long has this been going on?
The Vikings stole people,  
as slave holders do,
for hundreds of years.
The point being,
fellow humans,
our cruelty
is nothing new
this heredity of hate
grows a stunted family tree
all thorns and brittle branches. 

So what do you make of this?
How do we continue 
to buy groceries
swim in the pool
drink coffee on the patio
and pretend you are not me?
Pretend again
Imagine
the justice you would seek
rage that would burn 
revenge you could take
yet won’t 
somehow 
because you are a man.
Imagine the love you deserve
since you are me.


What kind of courage do we need?…We must accept reality in all its immensity…the only kind of courage that is required of us: the courage to meet the strangest, most awesome and most inexplicable of phenomena.~~Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

The Courage We Need

Is to stand 
alone
on the dance floor.

The courage we need is
to stay steady
see clearly
through lies
thick as blankets
as the sleepers
pretend wakefulness.

The courage we need is
to refuse
the safety 
of the trance.

The  courage we need is
to love with a broken heart,
shed fears like leaves
to bend, bow
and continue.
















Who Will Explain?

The brown-eyed children
in the cages
huddle under silver blankets
that sparkle like Christmas tinsel.

The children sleep on the cold cement floor
do not understand
the wire cages,
their loneliness
after the long, hot walk
through the desert.
Do they wonder,
     as children do,
what they did wrong?

Who will explain
to them
this land
where people sleep
on silk sheets
stride, careless, across marble floors
after cool rides 
in shiny new trucks
through the desert,
drunk on their comforts.

Who can explain
why these people
never wonder
what they did wrong?



First appeared in the Festival of Human Right Art Journal, NYC, 2019






Bullied: A History

She held the dog in her lap,
soft-eyed, golden pit bull-spaniel mix.

Of course, you know dogs,
so you understand 
she was held also.

He looked at them 
incredulous
“This dog has never known cruelty,” he said, 
recalling how cruelty 
had rocked his crib.

She understands,
recalls the fear,
the screams.

He and she,
strangers to safety,
uncertain of its terrain,
familiar only with threat,
surprised to come upon
this sacrosanct moment.

Later
He returned as bully.
She returned as victim.











Resurrection 

Nobody was ever drunk on Easter
So it was one holiday
not dread.
My parents, instead of hiding their drinking in the garage
took us to the woods 
to collect moss
as the bed 
for Easter eggs
we later would wrap in leaves,
coffee grounds, strips of colored cloth,
bound in burlap, tied with string,
boiled, then unwrapped, 
earth-colored spheres
like stones, like brown-gray shades of bark,
streaks of orange, blue, red
like the sun over 
the green-blue river, 
a cardinal’s feather.

ln the woods,
we lifted damp moss
with care
soft, muddy
caked with moldy 
dead leaves
that mulch life,
carry a fertile scent
of sweet loam
the promise, 
of a resurrection 
understood
by my drinking, dying parents
resurrection guaranteed 
by the fallen tree 
the detritus of fur from creatures 
all turning, sinking into soil
sprouting a cacophony of mushrooms
then tender violets, 
at last,
 a bud on a branch.			(First appeared in Snapdragon Health Journal, 2020)


Definitions:

Aeon (symbol all-encompassing insight)

The Greeks have four words for love:

1. storge, 
family,
that mirrors for us
if we are lucky,
    
 2. philautra, 
self-acceptance

So with this in our hearts,
clear-eyed, warm-hearted
we discover

3. philea,
friendship
a love that comforts like good soup.

4. The deeper nourishment
of course, is found in 
agape,
The beloved community.

Those of  us,
planted in rocky soil 
growth stunted, frozen
reach for fire, 
thinking it is the sun.

Our word for love is
need
the name for our illusions
a fog that hides the shoreline.

We navigate by blinding lies
instead of stars.

Tossed about, dizzied, bruised
by storms we call passion,
nearly drowned.
We think we will be saved 
by grasping,
clinging
tighter still
to the punctured.hull.

Aeon knows love through
Body, Spirit and Soul 
appears as the Star Goddess 
       her companion,
 Hadith, a winged ball of fire,
 omniscience,
       their child is Horus,
      clear insight.

Aeon rises above the waves,
to tell us
it is almost too late for
seasick sailors, lost and weary,
appears as an eagle
 cries out
philea, 
agape
philea, 
agape
agape










…love life in a form that is not your own and be indulgent toward those who are growing old, who are afraid of the aloneness that you trust.... and don't expect any understanding; but believe in a love that is being stored up for you like an inheritance…Make your ego porous. Will is of little importance, complaining is nothing, fame is nothing. Openness, patience, receptivity, solitude is everything. ― Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet
Solitude

Some say
aloneness
and its quietude
is a nightmare of isolation,
the very opposite of love.

Some hide under crowd-cover 
run from themselves 
submerge in another.

Yet, solitude might be cherished
even more than a lover.

What else nourishes your poems 
like rain on roses,
grows your songs, flows your art?
What else 
returns you to yourself,
honors your silence,
makes space for your tears,
nests you in its bosom?
What else 
leaves room for your questions
is the dawn for your answers
reminds you of the warp and weave
connecting the universe?
What invites you to meditation,
guides you to your spirit,
leads you to prayer?







2. 
We Drink Moonlight























Buddha’s Rhetoric

words 
disappear
as exhaled breath
and yet
become flesh
concrete
hardwoods 
steel.
Also, giraffes
and beer bottles
bombs
guns
Mozart
wind chimes
and muddy boots.

words
begun as snapping synapses
birthed behind the eyes
released 
sounds spinning into the world
naked 
until  
armored with our meanings
carried across mountains
they start wars.
built as beliefs by our ancestors
 
are substantial
 as smoke.









Picasso, Einstein and Buddha Walk into a Bar…

Picasso takes a swig of whiskey and proclaims
“There is blue in the horse!”
Einstein agrees.
Buddha nods.
Yes, blue is in the horse.
If you look beyond muscle and haunch,
Buddha says, 
sipping his tea,
you will see
atoms that sparkle  and shine.
Einstein smiles
and drinks his beer.
Picasso says,
they want me to draw the mouth on the face
 they say, where it belongs. 
They don’t want the eyes on the forehead,
tell me to look at statues
to understand the body.
“As if we aren’t particles,” Picasso says
“As if our cells are static,” Einstein sighs.
“As if we are solid,” Buddha adds.
At this their laughter grows uproarious.
The customers look askance, shake their heads, concerned.
They tell each other those three sound crazy,
 and look,
one of them is wearing a sheet and no shoes!
The other hasn’t combed his hair for days!
The three are thrown out of the bar
onto the street
so arm-in-arm
they stroll into the night 
sparkling.


Circumnavigation

Really there is no edge
from which to fall.

We are like ancient sailors
still
trembling at the horizon.

Everything is a circle 
your eye, the earth.

The path is not straight
as you come round
and return
   as we do 
   as we all do
to where we started
which may look like
A mandala
constructed
of your recollections
in hues of every color
collected 
in circular order
the stories
we spent our lives
repeating
looking for
the conclusion
but finding instead

A Sufi dancing in a circle of light
 round of white 
skirt
Whirling 
Spinning
Precisely

Like a planet
and the sun
illuminated circumferences
all circadian rings of light
that cross over
over
and around
 the globe.
like the 
deep round sound of the 
drum, or the  
singing bowl struck awake
its overtone 
resonating
resounding 
like the echo 
floating in a canyon
gliding up and down
the rocky basin 
returning to its origin.

 Tell me  then 
     what you fear.

Tell me,
   where is the beginning
   of this moment
or the  end
of the ocean?

(First appeared in Sky Island Journal, 2018)










Tea Ceremony
Every day is a good day when thoughts do not remain.
~~Zen saying 

Clouds,
like memories,
are weightless
yet gathered, 
Grow heavy over the light
of even a bright full moon.
Clouds, 
Like the fog of old fears
tumble and build 
one upon the other,
dark, thick.

Clouds,
like steam
that rises from Thich Nhat Hanh’s teacup 
float out the window,
to return as rainthat quench the thirst of tea leaves. 
Thay teaches this:clouds appear in teacups,we drink moonlight,
and can see clearly
through fog.















The Dream of Driving

Inhaling I notice 
 thoughts
 tailgate each other in my mind
relentlessly.
A car backfires
a mindfulness bell of sorts
to remind me
I can take an exit
pull out of traffic
exhale
but thoughts roar to life again 
overtake me like gangsters in Cadillacswho hold me hostage
push me into yesterday 
drag me into tomorrow
convince me
they are realuntil a deep breath, 
like the foot on the pedal, 
guides me to the rest stop
where I watch 
just watch 
thoughts like cars
 pass before my eyes 
and I know again 
how these flickering moments
of  quick bright peaceare real 
more real
than the dream of driving.

				(First appeared in Spirit First, winner of second place 2020)








Why We Go to the Beach

With plans laid out like railroad tracks,
linear as certainty, as cynicism,
rusted by habitual distrust,
I navigate by thought alone,
obdurate with my belief
in diaphanous assumptions.

Then,  though seldom, 
I stop
                            go to the beach, let’s say,
                                     nowhere significant, you know,
not the important places
with the important people.

at water’s edge,
feet caressed by wavelets startle me into my body, 
mind quieted,
senses alert
resistance washed away by 
 waves rising, 
Then falling
Gentle as autumn leaves.
Surprised,   
I float
buoyed, 
like the minnows darting past.
Sharing their trust,
I am carried
To uncertainty,
A type of sanity,
to poetry.


 





Surrender 
is like 
grinding out the last cigarette under your boot heel
this time for good
this time for good.

Leaving the key on the table.
Shutting the door
that door. 
 Quietly
 Tightly. 

Surrender is a fist opening
the grip loosening
from the conviction
of how it should have been.

Tear-washed eyes
are clear now 
mindful
of the wider horizon. 

An angel or  a buddha 
put its arm around your shoulders
and you felt held
and you are 
sure 
it was          it was
real.













Composition

It begins with
a rhythm 
a beat,
 a pulse 
rises and falls
after the downbeat 
of thunder
when rain sounds 
like fingers snapping
foot tapping
on the roof
until the swell of a deluge
builds to a crescendo
and ends 
with the slow brushstroke of a snare drum. 
The musician searches for a cadence
 and the tempo 
set by water.























Unfold Yourself

The mind is a small town
where the news is old
and the air stale 
with endlessly certainty.

It’s where you live
safe
from possibilities
undisturbed
by questions
constricted
by your memories.

In this narrow, airless place
if you part a dusty curtain,
lift the window,
vistas open
where solutions,
like surprises like wildflowers
spring up in spaciousness.

Breathe. 
Stretch. 
Step out the door
Unfold yourself
like a picnic blanket on the grass.













 






3
To Begin Anew is all She Knows















Chihuly Glass #1
 
A Chihully glass shell is formed,
as are we all,
from a sacred geometry
etched precisely
by water and fire. 

These secret equations
might be understood
by calculating eons
blazing suns,
salt water tossed rocks			
ground to sand
turned solid and translucent 
curled and bent 
to correct angles
surfaces divided
into harmonious parts
fragile as glass

smooth as bone
or a seashell
or your spine.




					





Chihuly Glass #2
This is the mystery 
of energy 
enough to ignite
colored shards of glass  
into a fountain 
of blue and red 
yellow and orange  
into a fused stillness. 
The same mystery 
waits   
in the candle wick,
the match
the dry kindling.

















Against this cosmic background the lifespan of a particular plant or animal appears, not as drama complete in itself, but only as a brief interlude in a panorama of endless change. 
~~Rachael Carson
Boyd Hill Nature Perserve, St. Petersburg, Florida
This land feasts on fire and flood
where lightening strikes
scrub pines flare like torches.
Crackling pine needles
play a fiery staccato.

Snakes, squirrels, mice 
(who’ve learned from their elders)
 burrow in tunnels
built by gopher tortoise.
The truce between predator and prey will hold 
below the conflagration 
as mouse and snake listen together
to the racing current of flames overhead.
They wait for the certain drenching deluge
to cool the charred tree trunks.

Grasses turned to ash
(a rich burnt compost) 
will nourish sandy soil
needle thin stalks will push up through dank mud 
towards the steamy sun. 
Soon thickly green
vines wind around vines.
Branches cross one another, reach
in every direction.

After fire and rain
Mockingbirds, thrush, kingfishers, hawks
call out emphatic declarations 
while under darkened canopies of oaks
frogs and turtles sleep.

Upon the humid air floats
A symphony of scents 
honeysuckle, magnolia, fiddlewood,  
rise in sweet crescendos 
In the thorny brush
a rustling
as mouse jumps
from the grasp of snake
white clouds, backlit by the sun
grow into mountains
portend the next fire
 the next flood
and gopher tortoise casts a wary, wise eye skyward.






























Pushaw Lake, Maine

It is late August.
The bee flutters about a dandelion
gains its footing and does its work.
A man stands steady in a boat fishing
on the quiet lake.
The hammock, under two maples,
sways in the breeze.

I write these pictures
to capture the last days of summer.
This is a fool’s errand of course
Like trying to anchor the clouds.

But I persist 
because I am in love with this moment
like a monk bent over his sand mandala
adding pinpricks of of color in a corner of the whole.
He practices impermanence
the one lasting certainty.

The long-lived log
the swing of the ax 
solidity split.

So I set these images
one word at a time 
bent over the page
with reverence for:

The swimmer in the lake
who does a slow crawl through the evergreen water
the tall pines above her watching.
The black ant who climbs over the boulder.
A loon who rises with a haunting  call
and geese 
who talk a blue streak in passing.

For now, just now
I walk under the light of the moon
down the path to the fire pit
a full moon 
will soon empty itself
 become a sliver, a crescent 
new.




























 Lagoon, Martha’s Vineyard 

Here on an empty stretch of saltwater lagoon this gray morning 
 my bare feet scoured by gold-brown sandI walk mindful of the footprints of dogs and sharp shells, rocks, mud. 
I come to meditate 
which is simply just to stop
to practice seeing.

Damp translucent and neon-green strips of seaweed 
stretch along the shore line.The lagoon lies still
 under the smoky-pale sky
 its calm speaks of a welcome respite from visitors
 as if its heartbeat is steady againso I feel an intruderI will be quiet, walk slowlytake a seat on a weathered green bench.
It is high tidea few days after a new moon(said to inspire new beginnings). 
A swan appears on the silver water,looks my way.The life-long mate nowhere to be seen.
I whisper an invitation.I hope she will come to meteach me about her solitudebut, no, she is hereto be graceful and careful,
to glide serenely alone .
She bends her long neck like a ballerina 
darts her beak into the water to catch a minnow.
She will navigate this lagoonfollowing the movement of the tides
 the moon and starlight. 
To begin anew 
is all she knows.



Tinney Creek #1

Tinney Creek runs past 
under 
and despite
the TJ Max
CVS, Target .
I live next to Tinny Creek,
across from a mall
along with the ducks, egrets, and crows
and the occasional hawk.
Tinney Creek 
travels back and forth
from Tampa Bay
rises and falls with the tide
feeds Egrets, a families of Muscovy ducks and Mallards
seeking tiny prawns, mud crabs, bugs. 
In the muddy bank grow
feathery Java fern
rounded Moneywort 
verdant, abundant 
as if this was still The Garden.
despite
the insults of a styrofoam cup,
a plastic bag.

Here between snaking highways, 
Dollar Stores
gas stations
condo buildings
Taco Bells
hawk has built a nest atop a pole
advertising Beer and Low-Cost Cigarettes.
The ducks, Ibis, Egret, crows and I
 claim the creek as haven.

					(First appeared in Plum Tavern Journal, 2019)

Tinney Creek #2
Low tide at Tinney Creek brings
a rare pink-and-white-feathered surprise.
The Roseate Spoonbill 
sweeps its ladle-like beak
through the shallow water 
ignoring the styrofoam cup floating past 
Urban detritus
The Spoonbill lifts it’s Dr. Seuss face
to me, then
twitching its white and rosey feathers
lowers its wide baseball-hat- bill into the water
sweep, sweep 
side to side
poke, poke 
with open paddle mouth
for shrimps and insects.

The Spoonbill is  a  “gregarious bird” according to the website
“who spends time with other large wading birds,”
It arrived with an egret
now at its side,
as the usual resident
Muscovy ducks  
rest like plump buddhas on the grass.

“I used to see many Roseate Spoonbills here once,”
a neighbor says.
My heart aches 
as regularly 
as it beats
these days
at the all too familiar words.
There were many
once. 

And yet
The Roseate Spoonbill came 
to Tinney Creek.

And at night, arriving home,
my headlights sweep over the creek 
lighting up a sweet stretch of sleeping ducks
peaceful despite ambulance sirens
the roar of car engines.

At dawn they will wake 
to waddle like drunks 
and raise their chicks
though hawk will hunt them.
The creek still alive and fertile
feeds them all
weathers the encroachments
of condos and commerce
And so
My heart resumes its song.

































4.


Tender Work


























Motherhood

A tree birthed me.
I climbed into its arms
Protected from
Heat and harm.
Hidden by leafy tendrils
Birds and I sheltered
While she nourished earth
Swept the air clean.

With age
The skin on my limbs
Resembles tree bark 
Years etched,
Storms weathered.

I recall childhood
Her green canopy.
In autumn
Her fiery, falling leaves
My joy.






















Weedon Island #1 Morning


Here
in the shade, beneath a tin roof
on Weedon Island
at a green wooden picnic table
we sit and write towards sanity,
feeling the soft feathers of a breeze.
Above, the blue sky is cloudless this morning.

Away from all things hectic,
thoughts quieted,
we are held by a hammock of silence 
but for rhythmic bird call
Woot woot, pause, woot woot, pause.

Among the live oaks
Palmettos
Scrub pines
undergrowth thick and untamed
fertile mulch
fine housing for turtle, snake and mouse,

Here 
Is reality:
Tin roof 
bird
tree 
sky 
silence.













Weedon Island #2 Shelter


My sandals slap
Along the wood path,
damp from last night’s rain.

The peaked tin roof 
that covers the picnic tables
must have drummed loudly last night.

Snake and tortoise might have woken by
the stormy orchestra
its kettledrum percussion of thunder
cooling into the notes like a timpani.

Do the creatures fear the storms
as do we
sheltered
by cash, cars, and houses?

But fear knows it is not welcome
where there is peace,
not cash, car, house.





















What the Dog Says

Words, 
as a dog I hear many
and have learned
people use words
 like leashes 
like masks
like shields 
and sometimes clubs.

I have no words, but 
all meanings are clear for me.

His tension smells like hot tar.
Her laugh sounds like a fire alarm.
It is because I watch
silently
that I see
like infants and others 
who still feel the earth as their bodies.

Only people grown away from creation  
ignore senses
remain unaware
of each other.
With words they name things 
what they are not
(words are best for lying).

They do not recognize 
the  scent of fear in themselves or another.
I know 
fear smells like car exhaust.
I know 
love smells like sweet sweat.

Fear and love. 
What else is there to know?

I need no further schooling.
I am aware
how before he speaks,
his shoulders rise and stiffen
her eyes dart for a place to land.
 
I understand,
lower my head to the floor and sigh.
They sit across from each other
at what they call a table.
I know it is the ocean dividing them.

At last I bark,
beseeching them
explaining
how painful,
how lasting, is the wound
from the powerful bite of words.






























A Field in Maine

Work with what you are.

If you are a fawn
at dusk
you will stand still as wood
in a field of tall green grass
at the edge of a forest
your dark eyes wide open 
watching sparrows flit and fly home 
through lavender twilight.

If you are a fawn, 
your soft brown ears upright will catch sounds
of wind through the pines,
like brooms sweeping the sky.

If you are a field mouse
you will scurry, slipping between
a crowd of periwinkle-blue lupines 
and fawn hooves.

If you are a human
you will see 
fawn, pines, wildflowers, mouse
know your breath as wind through the pines,
and your heart as it
beats in fawn and mouse,

then and only then
your tender work
is done.









Nest

To practice seeing,  I choose an empty nest
fallen to the sidewalk
built into a Tillandsia, 
the “air plant” that hangs from the branches of trees
round, bowl-like
A perfect scaffolding.
The plants tentacles intertwine
Round and round each other
The cardinal needs only scoop out the center.
For this, dear architect, did you use your clawing feet?
Your beak?
Both?
The cleverness of your construction should not surprise me
but I am human.

I have so many questions.
The answers are mapped in the mind
 of a small, smooth feathered head which
 pictured the design
remembered 
 shapes, sizes, textures 
 arranged each element
composed it all
 into a unified utility.

How long, how difficult was the construction?
Thin, sliver twigs needed to be bent, 
Bits of grape vine collected
Then inserted into the Tillandsia,
Threaded through the  curls of grape vines
The stitching secures dry, flaky particles of Live Oak seedpods.

This builder knows how to balance beauty with practicality.
I attempt 
to practice the same day by day.

What was next indicated in your plans? 
Perhaps, you decided
To lift dry, gray Spanish moss
Lacy string by lacy string
carried in your beak, flitting back and forth
on labored wings
Nest to branch
 branch  to nest
you knew that
moss matted down, then mixed with dirt
makes a sturdy stucco
Was this an ancient knowledge inherited from
Your dinosaur DNA?

To the stucco, lodged as if glued is
A one-by-one inch square of plastic netting from a bag of fruit.
Architect, this raises more questions. 
How was the perfect size of plastic netting located, then chosen? 
Was this serendipity? 
Or was it a memory of a bright white, crisscrossed thing you spied from the air?
This plastic web has little function.
Did it thrill or amuse you?
Who can say it didn’t?

And why did you place this swatch of netting
On only one side of your nest?
Was this a statement?
A signature?
Who can say it wasn’t.?
Or was it for fun?
Do you like fun like I like fun?
Who can say you don’t?
Woven between the Spanish moss, Tillandsia fibers and the fragile twigs
 are three strips of cotton from an old cloth bandage. 
Was this only for comfort?
Do you like the softness against your face?
 Like I like softness? 
Who can say you don’t?
Six strips of silver tinsel from an old Christmas tree 
are inserted at the top of the nest. 
Are you making a case for beauty?
 Is this a sign of aesthetics in a life otherwise dominated by survival? 
Like mine?
Who can say it isn’t?
The tinsel is fragile, not  material for construction
but sparkles,
sparkles!
in the sun.
Do you and I both delight in things that shine? 
Who dares to say you don’t?
Like any clever architect
You balance beauty with practicality.
I attempt the same
 day by day.
I never knew all this about you
Your jokes, your artistry
Until you stopped my mind one day
 and opened my eyes 
when I found your home.


					(First appeared in Salt Creek Journal, 2017)



























Ibis and Dragonfly

My wings
span my world
known by me
as the places
where dragonflies
dive in and out
of lily pads
and tall grasses,
statling turtles
from their sunny sleep.

The dragonfly and I
turn with the earth.
We sense each transformation
dawn to dusk
hot to cold
caterpillar to butterfly.

Life and death
dragonfly and I, know
is contraction and expansion, 
the latent liberty
in our winged bodies.

The dragonfly, they say,
is a totem creature
of transformation
as am I.
Look! 
how my wide opaque white wing
changes to mauve in the dimming light of dusk.









The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing which stands in the way…As a man is, so he sees. ~~William Blake



Advice From a Live Oak in Florida to the Owner of the Mercedes Floating Down the Street in Miami 
Listenyou there...step back from the edge of the precipice you’ve come uponwith no warningin your mind.Here now, at your winter home in Florida, 
you stand on the crumbling asphalt
watch your Mercedes float by as if it was your yacht.Nearby, as if in a dream, you hear someone saying words like 
aquifer, global warming, unsustainableBut you don’t understand any language not spoken in banks. 
You shout your mantraFix it! Fix it!You shiver in the heat under the roof you constructed over the planet. 

ListenThis is how you got here:You looked at me through blinders and called me a tree. Then you named me:Live Oak.I became a fact you could dismiss or use as it suitedWhen you cut me and my sap ranyou did not recall the stickiness of your own blood. 
 So, I knew that our reunion would have to wait 
until we had no choice. Like now.

Before you were too busy.
You dug mines, drained swamps, 
smothered the soil with cement 
slashed the forests and fieldsforced water where it did not want to flow. 
Now you are surprised.You order the seawalls to be rebuilt higher 
again and again,yet the waves roar at them and they succumb 
over and over.For comfort, you grab at your pockets for your rosary of coins. 

On  the news you seeCoyotes leap over the walls of your mansion
Panthers roam the yardBlack bears rummage through your trash 
swim at their leisure in your Olympic-sized pools.
 ou have homes hidden behind steel gates 
but the animals know these woods and marshes 
they have mapped the paths in their veinsfeel the contours of the land in their heartssee through the darkand know exactly what needs knowing upon the air. 

You reach into your vault of millions for your talisman of dollars 
and find a time bomb lodged in one corner. 
When this bomb is triggered by the last floods and the final fires 
even you 
will become brethren to the lowest insect, the stalk of grass. 

For the first time, you hear the alarms.Your senses open like a deer listening for the hunter’s next step. 
Listen, here was your next mistakeYou mowed when it was time to sow. 
Demolished what it was time to save. 
You understood how to ravage but not how to prune. 

Now is the time to listen.
 Listen 
to what speaks quietlyin both of us: 
Live… live… live...







The Great Extinction

Even if you aren’t a believer
your feet have faith
in the earth
your lungs are believers 
in the air 
your thirst trusts
in water.

We are held,
nourished 
with no effort of our own.

What other love gives so freely?
This is holiness
crucified
by those who once again
know not
what they do.

















qarrtsiluni

~~Inuit for “sitting together in the dark”


While the blue northern ice
melts into the sea
We sit in the dark together alongside Polar bear.
on the tundra’s newly blackened soil.

The Inuit have seventy-four words for sea ice.
We name what we see
to navigate
and so
we are collecting new words 
for tears
and ignorance.


We gather 
in the dark
seeking new ways
to set the course over these rising waters.

The word we cannot lose
is most treasured,
we must repeat to each other
as warning, as warming
     together
as we gather in the dark
together







Why are there trees I never walk under but large and melodious thoughts descend upon me?
― Walt Whitman


I Am

My hair is marsh grass 
 arms tree limbs
     stretching, muscular in youth
     lowering, frail in old age.
     
My heartbeat is a frog’s
eyes, a bird’s
lungs, a fish’s
skin, a seal’s in youth
rough wood bark in old age.

My veins line a leaf 
blood, a river inside the leaf
breath, is a breeze, a gale
the soles of my feet, a bear’s.

My bones are rocks, elongated minerals, calcifications.
 They will be the heaviness of my ashes
 you will feel in your palm 
as you scatter me 
to seed new life.



















GPS Dirge

We have forgotten
what butterfly and bird,
dolphin and sea turtle know.

The young bird and butterfly imprint
on the sun and stars,
oriented to the direction,
pulled by an electromagnetic embrace,
certain of their journey home.

Above us bird and and butterfly
understand the messages carried by the wind,
comprehend the news of temperature on their wings,
and how the scent of of forest, fields and mountains
build a map to follow.

Below us dolphin feels
Sound waves,
the magnetic magic in the ocean too
brings sight,
a fine echolocation its guide.

Sea Turtle moves on a electromagnetic wave as well,
pulses slow and sure.

Oh, human
too quickly losing balance,
devoid of our senses, 
toppling the poles north and south.












Constellations

 We send wishes to the stars
our hopes 
dot the black sky,
forming paths of light
from our longings.

What set stars ablaze
set us afire as well,
born, as we were,
they say,
in nebula nurseries.

Mother/father stars
draw upward our gaze,
though we have forgotten 
how we floated on helium
to earth, 

as electrified dust 
released from the super nova of 
numberless explosions
children of
of planets grown full and massive,  
dying yet deathless energy
transformed, gaseous.

Hope is illuminated by
mystery 
a fusion 
that fuels
the living universe
known 
and unknown
seen 
and unseen.






 



 

Centered

When you find yourself standing
on the edge of a cliff

be 
still
just be
be
a lighthouse

watchful
steady
as you search
for safety
and Illuminate
the stormy, starless darkness
as waves crash
to loosen your rocky foundation

just be
and you will see
through fog
what could be saved,
what could not
and how what remains
precious and real
remains
after the wreckage.

When you find yourself 
standing in the middle of the highway

be 
still
just be
be
a boulder

your power
peaceful
settled and solid
certain 
of your place
on the land
energy contained
silent and sustained
as traffic roars past
relentless, ruthless
pounding down on asphalt
like thunder
headlights striking you
like lightning bolts,

be still
just be
so you can let go
of what passes, 
always passes,

so you understand
what lasts
always lasts.





Excerpt from Walks with Yogi

# 39 Dolphins are not Manatees and I Am Not a Princess

Dolphins and dogs, like my Yogi-boy, do not need to be loved  for their youth, beauty and good behavior to be happy.  This is why I like being around them–their energy may not always be buddha-peaceful, but it always is buddha-present and buddha-accepting.

Yogi stands on the seawall, alert to a shapes and movements. The energy that comes zooming by strong and fast. The dolphin rises from the water, slaps his tail, churns the water in a feeding frenzy.  Yogi barks so hard and loud,  his body trembles along his leash.   I want him to be quiet so I can watch the dolphins fish, but Yogi has his own agenda–response to the  dramatic energy with his own dramatic energy in the moment.  No expectation of this moment, no demand that it be any other way than it is.  His clamor does not mean he wants the dolphin to be a Yogi-dog– like him.  He is simply taking part in a great exchange of energy in this moment.  The next moment may be a quiet lying-down-in- the-grass moment.pastedGraphic.png

My ego, on the other hand, sometimes wants Yogi to be a different dog–placid and quiet, so he doesn’t disturb the dolphins and the dolphin watchers.  Ego has expectations of the dolphins too–they should not be aggressive as they hunt for food; they should please us,  look up at us with gentle eyes and eat only seaweed, like manatees.  But dolphins are not manatees and, though Yogi’s big snout resembles  a manatee’s enough so we call him a Sharpei-manatee mix, he is neither peaceful manatee nor calm Labrador.   I also know that Yogi is not a cuddling dog, that he expresses affection on his own independent cat-like terms. I can love Yogi with small love, secretly wishing he was a “better” dog, a lap dog who eagerly  curls up with me, or I can  love Yogi with Big Love that accepts his own way of loving me.

Yogi and my friends teach me about Big Love, as opposed to small love.  I’ve written here before about my definitions of those–Big Love is unconditional and usually experienced with friends or kind strangers, and extended to all.  Small love has a longer definition because it has so many requirements:  small love is extended (with conditions) to one other and one’s children. Small love has conditions: be a Poodle, even if you are really a Rat Terrier; do what I want you to do and be the dog/dolphin/man/manatee or woman I believe will be perfect for me.

One of the attachments that I hope my Buddhist practice will free me of is the need for the approval.  My addiction to this type of  “love” has been almost as destructive as any drug.  I’ve felt as if I would not be able to live without it, and when I was forced to do so, the withdrawal was torture: I am not enough. I think that many people are fellow addicts, and they are abide, unhappily, in denial. It may be they knew better than I how to get their supply of small love; at least I am loved for my looks, they might think.  The dealer of the small love drug demands a payment of physical beauty or financial success; if that is missing, subservience to and care-taking of the dealer will suffice. The dealer will then marry you so your supply is promised.

On one of our morning walks Yogi obsessed about getting a dog-treat  from John, my friend Barbara’s partner.  Yogi strained at the leash repeatedly and lunged up at John’s pockets for a cookie.  Frustrated with his lack of response to my commands I finally said, half-joking,  “Don’t be a crazy dog!   Be normal!”   Barbara, his dog-godmother  said, ” But Yogi thinks ‘This is normal’–for me, Yogi.”  She loves him with Big Love, and extends the same to me and to John.

Big Love doesn’t care if I sometimes am not wise or happy, or that my hair is graying, or that I’m not always cheerful and helpful, selfless and all-nurturing–a princess.  The men I’ve known and dated all cared about those things.  A great deal.  So did I. We all rejected me when I did not fit the bill.  I have been so attached to that small love that it became an addiction and it sure cost a lot—more than I could pay.

Yesterday I got to  look into a dolphin’s round, dark curious eyes–he or she let me–while sliding by sideways along the wall looking up at me.

The other day, Nancy called to see if my bronchitis was better.

Barbara brought me soup.

John (a semi-retired doctor) listened to my lungs with his stethoscope and wrote me a prescription for a better anti-biotic than the one that wasn’t working,  to save me  an extra trip to the doctor.

Barbara told me I should never feel I am alone because she and John consider me family.

My friend Joy wrote to say she loves my blogs and is inspired to join a Mindfulness group because of them.

Last week in the grocery store check out line, I unloaded the groceries for the older woman who sat in wheel chair with her cart full of items; her smile of gratitude was more beautiful than the fake smiles of models and movie stars on the magazine rack next to us.

I can sense and see the energy I encounter  each moment without judging it as good or bad. And if sometimes I bark or am barked at, I can let go of that energy and not carry it to the next moment.  No need to demand that you be a Poodle and I be a Labrador if we are both acting like crazed Chihuahuas .   I can do the same for myself and others.  I can  swim and  float in the ocean of Big Love or sink in the swamp of small love. 

With mindfulness, I can tell the ocean from the swamp.  Without mindfulness, I sink neck-deep into the muck and wonder why I can neither swim or float .

#39:  Yogi is not a Labrador.   I am not a Princess. All is well.

In Honor of Thich Nhat Hanh

Clouds,
like memories,
are weightless
yet gathered
grow heavy 
cover the light.
And like the fog of old fears
tumble and build 
one upon the other.

Clouds,
like steam
rising from Thich Nhat Hanh’s teacup 
float out the window,
return as rain
quench the thirst of tea leaves. 
Thay teaches this:
clouds appear in teacups,
wthe fog e drink moonlight,
and can see clearly
through fog.

Not Just Another Writing Workshop:

Inspired by the Senses: Coltrane,  Whitman, and others

Not Just Another Writing Workshop:

Begins January 9

During these trying times, it can help to be inspired by wisdom and humor. If you enjoy pondering thought-provoking ideas with others and writing about those, this is the workshop for you. 

After reading inspiring quotes, on the topic of The Five Senses, we will write  short pieces on whatever we are inspired to write. Sharing what we write will be optional, but encouraged. Writing guidance will be based on Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg, a proponent of “free-writing” and “writing practice.” Our final session will include experimentation with fiction, led by a USF faculty member.

For those who do not know me: I am a published writer of poetry, essays, memoir and feature writing, and have been teaching various writing courses at the college level for over twenty years.

When:          Sundays beginning January 9th to February 13th, 1:00 PM – 2:30 PM

Where:        Via Zoom

Donations  $20-$50 sliding scale for five sessions

RSVP:          andapeterson@yahoo.com

Listening to Old Love Songs


Hear
 “you’re nobody til someone loves you”
Lament of the rejected child.
“I’d rather go blind than have you walk away from me”
Lament of the neglected child.
 “can’t live, if living is without you”
Lament of the abandoned child.
Love songs sung
white-knuckled 
on our knees.

Hear
Coltrane’s saxophone
refrain “a love supreme”
“a love supreme” 
sung big as the sky
notes round as the planet
call us 
to the love 
that makes the grass grow.
Love mirrored
in each other’s faces
to remind us, joined
we can wipe our tears with flowers.


NOT JUST A WRITING WORKSHOP: COMING TO OUR SENSES

Excerpted from, a blessing “For One Who is Exhausted” by John O’Donohue

You have traveled too fast over false ground;
Now your soul has come to take you back.

Take refuge in your senses, open up
To all the small miracles you rushed through.

Become inclined to watch the way of rain
When it falls slow and free.

Imitate the habit of twilight,
Taking time to open the well of color
That fostered the brightness of day.

Draw alongside the silence of stone
Until its calmness can claim you.  

Dear People,

During these trying times, it can help to be inspired by wisdom, humor and profound observations. If you enjoy pondering thought-provoking ideas with others, this is the workshop for you. Writing will be one of the ways we will share our thoughts.

This is not a workshop that focuses primarily on writing skills and techniques. We will rely on our innate creative thinking which results in our innate creative writing.It’s true! Once we guide the inner critic and perfectionist to their proper places, creativity has room to appear.

Our writing will be whatever we are inspired to write after considering reading quotes on the topic, this one being The Five Senses. Sharing what we write will be optional, but encouraged. I will also offer writing guidance based on Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg, a proponent of “free-writing” and “writing practice.”

For those who do not know me: I am a published writer of poetry, essays, memoir and feature writing, and have been teaching various courses in writing at the college level for the past twenty years. I’ve always found inspiration for my own writing from writers and thinkers, and so am offering these workshops to inspire your own thinking and writing. Critical and Creative Thinking, which I studied at the University of Massachusetts, has always been one of my interests.

When:          Sundays beginning January 9th to February 13th, 1:00 PM – 2:30 PM

Where:        Via Zoom

Donations  $20-$50 sliding scale for five sessions

Please RSVP:          andapeterson@yahoo.com