Saturday, September 21, 2019

Sundown in the Desert

The final sliver of a sunken ruddy sun
Contracts to leave a single point beyond the distant sand.
Refracted rays through atmospheric channels run
Then fade to purple darkness glazed above the rocky land.
The press of heat is quieted. Its throbbing hum is done,
And coldness quickly overtakes the sparsely covered ground.
The temperature precipitously drops –
A pebble fallen from a rugged cliff without a sound.
I stand upon the barren mountaintops
With hopes to hear angelic voices sing,
Or is that sheer, suggestive silence just the wind
Whistling past my eardrums as they ring?
Does God reside where life dare not?
Do strangers in this unrelenting land
Arrive in peace at their intended spot,
Or are they lost and led astray to stand
Amid the dangers and mirages of the desert sand?
Yet something moves beneath the stars,
And something sinks its roots into the soil.
Life persists, as if in fragile, sacred jars,
To face the fearsome landscape and its harsh anointing oil,
And so will I – persisting through the night
To search for you until the sun will bathe my soul in light.

This poem doesn't really come from recent physical experience, though I did spend two very brief stints in Arizona (Tucson and Tempe) earlier this year, and I enjoyed seeing the desert landscape beyond each city. Rather, I think at least some of the poem's inspiration comes from a book I read several years ago by Belden C. Lane called The Solace of Fierce Landscapes: Exploring Desert and Mountain Spirituality. Apparently, that book is still working its way through my mind.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Beside the Sunset Bay

Calling softly, seagulls fly
Above my head to touch the sky.
Water in the bay recedes,
And all the children wonder why
Time uncovers waiting weeds
As low tide pulls the waves away.
Salted sea foam breezes play
Across the sand the sunshine feeds,
While the water’s bluish gray
Complexion satisfies the needs
Present on a distant shore
Where other children’s visions soar
To spot the seagulls in the sky.
Still, this roaming troubadour
Will see the cycle, wet and dry,
Wishing to reflect upon
The storied patterns come and gone.
Where does every moment stray
When tides propel it past the dawn?
Perhaps it floats away
To rest beside the sunset bay.

Last week, I was at a conference in northwestern Washington. It was at a hotel sitting right beside a bay, and across the water was a town in Canada. The sunsets over the bay were very beautiful, but I found the morning low tide to be especially interesting. The bay was somewhat separated from the open ocean by islands; I assume that's why the water level dropped so much during low tide. It uncovered a big slope of sand, and the aquatic plants that had been far below the surface of the water were now out in the open air. That's where the ideas in this poem began.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

In Sun and Rain

The steady rhythm of the sound
When water droplets touch the grassy ground
Wakes pale and parched organic blades,
Rejuvenating what were scorched and drowned
By fiery sunlight shooting through the glades.
The brittle brown begins to fade away,
Uncovering the greener shades
More flexible and less inclined to fray.

Too many sunny days
Can lead to life that’s easier to break
When just a little pressure paints the haze
And makes a minor tremor seem a devastating quake.

Too many rainy days
Can overwhelm the structures of support
And drown a life in sorrow, while the blaze
Of sunlight is so brief it seems a stingy, fickle sort.

Together, lives are balancing this mix of joy and pain
To weather what the unknown days will bring in sun and rain.

This poem began with a fairly simple idea about rain falling after a drought to rejuvenate the grass. It turned into a brief meditation on the idea that life is about managing the joy and sadness that we experience, finding a good balance through support for one another.

Saturday, September 7, 2019

April in Her Eyes

I sometimes wonder where
Her little boy has gone
Who used to sit atop a wooden chair
Outside her house upon a well-mown lawn.
But in my heart I know
What sadness lingers there,
And trembling in the first December snow
Is grass that’s overgrown in disrepair.
I sometimes glimpse her pacing
On garden paths when clouds are low.
It seems as if she’s searching, chasing
Petals fallen months ago.
To drift beyond her hidden pains,
She lifts her gaze to breaking skies,
But always with the gentle rains
Of April in her eyes.

I recently finished reading Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra, and this poem is based on a fairly minor phrase from that play. The phrase wasn't particularly crucial to the plot, and this poem as a whole doesn't really relate to the play. I just liked the phrase and wanted to use it as a starting point for something new.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

The Dark and Quiet Places

There’s a light outside my window
That shines throughout the night,
And periodic sirens blare
Beneath the moon’s nocturnal flight.
It’s sometimes hard to find a share
Of moments fit to channel rhymes.
Although it’s true that anywhere
Can conjure up poetic chimes,
For me, the dark and quiet places
Seem most attuned to revelation.
The world’s interstitial spaces
Are where I find my inspiration
When all the parts that make up me
Align to strive in harmony
And search for what my role could be
In fashioning the restless night’s
Uncertain destiny.

In my previous apartment, there was a light outside the bedroom window, and I was pretty close to a hospital and a fire station. The light and noise were never really that disturbing, but they made me think about how our environment might help or hurt our efforts to find a more thoughtful or meditative mindset.

Friday, August 30, 2019

First Movement

A silence hovers in the air,
But expectation’s also waiting there.
The music strives to be awoken.
Creation takes a breath before the start,
But all remains unspoken
Until the player peers into her heart
And pulls upon the string
Connecting past all space and time
To draw from sound’s eternal spring.
Vibrations blossom, spread, and climb
To touch each sympathetic soul and ring
Exactly as they should.
The first notes open out to bring
Awareness of the coming greater good.

While I was visiting my family this past month, I had the opportunity to play my cello at a couple different places. Music might be the way in which I connect most purely with the sacredness I believe is at the foundation of everything. Especially when I'm playing a piece of music, I often feel as if the melodies and harmonies already exist in some sort of timeless ether, and my role is to channel it, bringing it into the physical world, where it can radiate outward and touch the ears and hearts of others.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

A Sacred Peace

What comes to me
In majesty
Is something every eye can see.
Surrounding and containing me
Are pieces of a greater whole.
Connected lives each fill a role
And speak to my expectant soul
Without a word. They set me free,
Imagining what hidden things might be
Existing underneath the macroscopic plane.
It’s not that there’s no loss or strain.
In conflict, competition, pain,
And death, so much of life is found,
But with it all, a greater hope is bound,
For somehow, stable ecosystems form,
Resilient to withstand each storm
That sweeps across the rooted, textured ground.
And here, as each new year goes round,
Death turns to resurrection,
And life’s eternal, grand direction
From young to old folds back upon itself to mold
A newer generation to behold
The future – to, perhaps, explore
The sacred peace their lives restore,
Which comes to me
And shares its harmony –
More beautiful than crystal chandeliers –
With bird songs ringing hymn-like in my ears.

As I begin to share poetry on this blog, this composition feels like a good starting point. It delves into some of the key themes that surface in much of what I write: my love of nature and my wonder in discovering the connections that link all of life together. It originated while I was circling a pond during one of my visits to the arboretum at the University of Illinois. Some of the phrases you just read began to grow in my head, so I sat down on my favorite bench, started writing, and didn't stop until the poem was done.