Friday, August 28, 2020

Giant

He strides upon the earth

As if its every speck were his

To hold, to specify a worth,

And build what his desire is.

Each step eats up a mile.

He wades across the ocean wide

And delves beneath the mountains, while

His passing makes all creatures hide

And hope for other days.

There was a time when he was small,

When greater herds could safely graze,

Before he stood so proud and tall.

With every footprint, forests fall.

Swung arms propel warm gusts of air

And whip up hurricanes for all

The mangroves on the coast. The glare

Of sun upon his eye

Reflects, refocuses, and burns

The valleys into deserts dry.

Transformed, the silent world turns

And wonders if his mind can learn

What consequences wait and rise

To make land boil and liquid churn

Before life’s vanished cries.

 

 

One interesting aspect of poetry - good poetry, at least - is that it can have multiple meanings, being full of metaphors that suggest different things. I don't necessarily consider what I write to be in a category on par with really good poetry, perhaps in part because I often have a single meaning in mind. In this one, for example, my thoughts were focused on the environmental degradation caused by humanity, and wondering whether we will learn and be able to change. But maybe there are other meanings that could be found, as well. That's another fun thing about poetry - sometimes a reader can identify ideas that the author may not have considered or intended.


Friday, August 21, 2020

Words of Life

Pens write on pages torn

From Gideon Bibles in hotel drawers.

Printed type is covered; born

Are freer curves, like fertile spores

That blow across the nighttime air.

Ancient prose and poems past

Provide foundations, concrete cast

For architectures bold and bare.

Fragmentary thoughts are drawn

In words and sketches on each leaf

Until, as with a fresh-cut lawn,

The scent of life refines belief.

Human struggles, failings, flaws

Collect within the flowing ink

And mirror what the prophets think

Of ancient kings and lands and laws.

Past and present join as one

To share the promise and the pain

When every plan has come undone

And unintended scars remain.

Offer up what words will come

From liturgy and light

Of present days, whatever’s right,

And God will build a greater sum.

Somewhere, by a desk lamp, bright

With blessings born of darkest night,

One finds afresh the perfect grace

That grants imperfect faith a place.

 

 

I'm reading a book called The Cloister Walk, written by Kathleen Norris - a poet who has spent long periods of time living in a Benedictine monastic community. In one section, she talks about the Psalms, which are read and recited frequently in that setting. She speaks to the way the Psalms convey the full human experience. The words sometimes convey anger and a desire for vengeance, and personally I've struggled with these and other parts of the Bible with similar themes. However, she sees them as revealing some of the flaws of humanity, and they continue to mirror our own struggles today, even though they were written thousands of years in the past. Perhaps they offer insight into humanity's imperfect prayers and expressions of faith. Whether we recite ancient wisdom, speak our own spontaneous musings, or use some combination of the two, perhaps our imperfect and incomplete words reach God, where they are made whole - more profound, more perfect, beyond words.


Saturday, August 15, 2020

To Touch the Sky

What does it mean to touch the sky?

That bright blue ceiling strikes the eye,

But nothing’s really there.

It’s just the atmospheric air,

Which gently thins and dissipates

As I ascend through cloudy gates

And glimpse a solar flare.

Nothing solid – wall or snare –

Will stop my elevating climb

(Neglecting gravity, this time).

The nighttime sky is where

I see the true extent laid bare.

Infinities of dark amass

Above my head. There depths surpass

My sight beneath the glare

Of glassy stars. But don’t despair

Or lose your dreams of touching sky.

Forever reaching, striving, try

Each time, again, with care,

To struggle further forward, where

New realms will dare your eye.

 

 

A few days ago, I thought of the ways we sometimes talk about the sky - as if it's a solid thing that separates the Earth from space. We speak of "touching the sky," but as we reach further and further up, the air just gets thinner and thinner. There's no solid thing to touch. And yet there's value in reaching, in striving to reach higher and higher. At least in my view, life seems to be similar. We always search for greater understanding, higher callings, new discoveries, and better days. While we do not reach perfection, the quest to be better, to be greater than what we are, or to more fully understand our own place in the universe, remains valuable.


 

Monday, August 10, 2020

Where the Stillness Rests

When every sound is silence

And every vision dark,

When any move is violence

Against the soul’s redeeming arc

Arising from its meditation,

The truth becomes the destination

That graces life with wisdom’s spark.

“What truth?” I hear the stillness ask,

As if it hopes to soon embark

From where it rests to bask

In wisdom far removed from here,

And I feel rise a touch of fear,

For every word is incomplete,

Each spoken thing, at best, a piece

Of some unfathomed whole we meet

Where reason stops and stories cease.

Beyond the sounds our mouths can utter,

Eternal chords, far deeper, flutter

But vanish when we train our ear

And try to capture what they say

Or write them down to make them clear.

The fuller part remains astray

Unless we let the stillness rest

And know the truth’s an endless quest.

 

 

Sometimes, when I start writing a poem, I don't have a very clear idea of what it will be about. This one began like that, with what I thought were some interesting lines about meditation. But I wasn't sure where to go after "the stillness" asks its question. I ended up writing the rest of it in short spurts over the next few months, until finally reaching a point that felt like some sort of conclusion. It eventually arrives at the idea that (perhaps like this poem) our search for wisdom and truth is never truly over.


Wednesday, August 5, 2020

The Night, Awake

The crescent moon, a pale and sleepy eye,

Extends its gaze across the blue-black sky

As stars appear like tears upon a face

That knows not why it condescends to cry

When breezes bring, within its breath, a trace

Of growing life from fertile soil’s grace

Where brown-black grains of graded silts and clays

Define the depths of land’s creative space

As locusts hum above and moonlight strays

In filtered silver beads through wooded ways.

At times like these, when all the senses spy

The oneness of the world’s songs and plays,

You feel your smallness shrink below the sky

Although its dreams of you exceed its eye.



I've written a number of poems about the night, maybe because I'm often awake during that time. Sometimes I feel as if the night itself is awake, and is aware of me (not in a scary way - it's more of a comforting feeling). This poem imagines some of the night's different senses, and the mutual awareness between a small individual and something much larger.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

A Sunset Captured by a Drop of Rain

The orange sphere is racing just ahead

Of dark-gray sheets that sweep across the sky,

Collecting shades of pink and purple-red

Where rays of light impart their sun-made dye.

 

The sphere appears to touch the distant ground

And flatten, as the sheets begin to pour

Their water from above, its muffled sound

Surrounding me upon the grassy floor.

 

One cloud-borne tear falls just before my face,

Descending on the course it’s meant to fly,

And in that moment – that brief, eternal moment –

One droplet holds the sun before my eye.


Sometimes when I go on bike rides in the evening, I see the sunset to the west juxtaposed against clouds that cover the sky overhead. This poem simply imagines a magical moment, when a tiny raindrop falling from the clouds appears to contain the entirety of the sun within itself. We might draw parallels to the depths contained within the human soul, the wonder within a single moment of insightful revelation, or - to borrow the title of a book written by the Dalai Lama - "the universe in a single atom."

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Stagnant

The faucet had been freely flowing

Much like a steady river running,

But then the drain had started slowing,

Surprising all our careless cunning.

 

Eventually, we turned it off

Or, at least, reduced the rate

At which the water filled the trough,

And now we’re left to ask, “Too late?”

 

A tepid pool now lingers, waiting

Until the flow will start again,

While we remain at odds, debating

The right way to restart and when.

 

But as the present seems to stretch

And sit from day to day unaltered,

Perhaps we have the space to etch

A better future where we’ve faltered.

 

When future’s bells return to ringing,

Perhaps the flow will pull us to

Release what vestiges were clinging,

Revealing light still shining through.



I wrote most of this poem several weeks ago, while the pandemic quarantine was at its peak (although I continue to work from home now). It explores many of the same ideas and themes as my poem Spun Askew, which I shared in early May. Still, I think it has some relevant things to say, especially about continuing to be conscious of the societal issues that this pandemic has exposed.