Winter Tree

Standard

The winter tree
does not move.

Its wide trunk
plunges into graven earth,
unseen roots, grasping hands
feel deeply the living soil,
hold firm anchorage
against the coming storm,

but rising wood, thin
though strong enough
to paint slender lines,
trails into purer air,
gives shelter
to Christmas birds.

They hunch on stems, quietly
waiting to sing open
the dawn.

(12/23/2011)

Changes

Standard

Bird song rises
in pure, liquid waves

as golden leaves
arc, twisting
to the ground.

Heavy gold
must fall.

October heat
will give way
to winter rain.

Yet inevitably life flows
like the breeze
rising from the broad sea
to the high Sierra;

grey clouds rise
and heavy snow falls.

All living waters
give praise.

She sits in the old, red chair

Standard

She sits in the old, red chair
feet up, the red crush of the ottoman
giving rest to tired ankles.

At ninety-nine, her face is lined
and thin, cheekbones jut beneath
piercing young eyes, as hands,
thin, pale skin barely concealing
vein and bone, lie in repose in her lap

as we talk, remembering all the days
and find her mind a crystal stream
vibrant, alive with a life of love

filled with places past
and people gone.

Deep in Grey

Standard

Deep in grey
we wait
as black night drops
suddenly
and completely.

At the end of our day,
hope is measured
one careful procedure
at a time.

Night is not kind in winter.

Too early It comes,
and stays too long,

brings fear,
red eyes and stinging tears.

lit by red numbers
night measures our lives
one pulse at a time,
in dim blue bars
gleaming in the distant ceiling.

Clasping hands
In the fading day’s light
we wait
for one more

morning.

(28 Oct 2010)

Three Poems for My Father

Standard

i

When I last saw you
Your hands were clenched
With a rage foreign to your voice
And you were rushing inward
Away from the moon, beyond the glowing
night
Of my grief.

Yet on my way home
I saw the moon rise.

Where have you gone, then, If not
to that land behind the moon?

ii
In the emptiness above the earth
In the terrific clashing of jet with atmosphere

I heard your new voice
I saw your new hands

Tearing at the cold, hurtling steel,
Casting off silk shroud

For dark soil
And even darker rivers.

iii
If stars loom too large
Is not my window too small?

(11/24/1980)

The Homecoming

Standard

When you were in Vietnam
we got your letters, two or three at once
and then the whole house buzzed like a nest
of honey drunk bees as we poured over
your every word.

We kids imagined you, strong, tough,
blazing with righteous American fury
cutting down those dirty commies,

but Mom and Dad
read each letter more slowly
glancing at each other
with darker looks.

Then one day we got the recording you made,
tiny plastic reels, shiny brown tape wound
in fragile loops; your voice!
just like you were in the room, speaking
re-assuring, everyday chat about R&R
and shopping in Bangkok. Finally,
the tape nearly spent, you said that
you were coming home soon.

And one bright July morning
you came home! Your hat was rakishly tilted,
a Lucky cigarette carelessly drooping
from the corner of your grinning mouth,
all paratrooper swagger, gold braid running
through your buttoned shoulder loops,
colored ribbons and medals all over your chest.

As you walked through the door
I stood aside, awestruck, shy.
You sat like a visitor in your own home
and we opened the packages you brought for us,
Christmas in July, as one by one we held
our Asian wonders, and watched
as Mom held your hand and
Dad searched your eyes.

But you were tired, so upstairs in my room
you took a midday nap, and when Mom told me
to wake you up for supper, I nudged your shoulder
and you bolted,
breathless,
down the steps,
into the quiet street
and stood at tense attention,
(the neighbors all gawking),
as you waved your M-16
made of air
and memory,

and waited
for the morters
to fall
and kill us all.

Then the light returned to your eyes.
Slowly you walked back to the house
and gently took me by my shoulders
and told me to never,
never
touch you when you were asleep,

and I never asked you why.

(11/11/2010)