The Road Waits

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The road waits,
but I’m not ready.
I pause, cradled by soft leather
In this silent room,
listening to morning’s
soft breath stirring
the glimmering summer leaves,
as the perched bird
gazes through my open window
into my wondering eyes
and waits.
But this is a good morning to wait.
Look how the extravagant grass waves,
and truant weeds luxuriate along the fence,
while in the small central garden
red flowers gather like
warm, slumbering children
under the wide,
spreading vine!
But still the road waits.
I’ve seen
the glistening pavements
slide under my rolling wheels,
the river to my right,
green Ohio rising
into northern forests,
and misty Kentucky
calling to me
across the wide,
glittering waters.
The road goes on,
and I cannot
wait.

(16 March 2011)

America

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Deep thunder shakes this warm July evening
and lightning flashes over the waterfront
filling the clear, starry sky with acrid clouds and glimmering rain
falling to the water as children gaze
in shock and awe,
waiting for the next big one to explode.

False bombardment as celebration:

such fits my nation, founded in genocide and slavery,
this nation baptized in the blood and tears
of Navaho and Cherokee and all the tribes of the American holocaust
a nation that devoured one quarter of its sons
in four short, blood-soaked years; my nation,
a nation of efficient bigots and hungry hypocrites,
giving the world Gettysburg and the Trail of Tears
as models for problem-solving;
a nation unlike any other, not able to live up to its promises
because no other nation dares make such promises.

The bright violence of rockets’ red glare lights our sky
like the bold Declaration ignited the world, and thunder
rocked mighty kings from complacent belief in their divine rights,
rocked the people of Europe, thirsting for their own rights
and land and a chance to pursue a little happiness;
yes, rocked even distant Asia, deep in its ancient dream
foolish men joyfully following the distant thunder
to seek the fabled Golden Mountain.

The promise was made and broken and made yet again,
and the anger of betrayal torched the cities of the sixties,
and singed our hearts
and in the redeeming pain of change
made them a little less impure.
Yes, we are imperfect,
but we know our sins
and pay for them over and over again,

and to remind ourselves of the debt yet unsatisfied,
every summer we celebrate in the only way fitting for such a nation;
In the starry sky fiercely glowing with liberty
and in the transcendent thunder
of the Promise.

(4 July 2011)

They Are Strangers Here

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Seagulls circle high,
In the heavy October sky

wide, white wings
nudging the dull air

riding gyres
past the waving crest
of our highest redwood.

They are strangers here.

They’ll find no shallows to fish
no mussels to lift
above the concrete wharf,
drop and crush
and delicately dissect
still living white flesh.

They must be lost.

Here they’ll find no flying sail
no schooner driving into
wintery winds. They’ll have
no rising bow here
to amend their errant way.

And yet, for now, they’ll stay,

Graces of light
In the gray gloom
of this cold autumn
afternoon.

(27 Oct. 2010)

In the morning, early

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In the morning, early
before the sun has cleared
our neighbor’s roof,
we move through
our morning chores:

You water your gardens
and I feed my birds.

The rose, the morning glory,
creeping higher
up the blue trellis, reaching
for the brightening sky;
in the window-box
the vinca flaming red,

as sparrow and finch tumble
from the cherry tree

swarming in noisy congregation,
fussing and quarreling, shoving
for more seed –

rejoicing!

Storm at the Wheelwright Museum

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Up the narrow, foothill road
we hear thunder and see tall clouds
churning the hot desert sky,
as lightning in gleaming metal spears
thrust from slate-grey nimbus
into the bleeding body of earth.

But our road is still dry,
the rain falling
in tall curtains
between sharp shafts
of bright sunlight.

So we drive higher
to the museum at the top,
to see the soul
of a murdered nation.

We park on the gravel
when, at last, the sky breaks,
and running for the door, laughing
in the unexpected warmth of pounding rain,
we fly into the hogan,
safe from the storm,
and still breathless,
we walk through dim galleries,
gazing at Navajo carpets,
their patterns whispering tales of
life and love and loss.

Urgent hale beats the roof,
drums, like wild hearts, urging war,
and thunder responds
with volley of angry cannon,
when sudden darkness
swallows us
power shifting
to the avenging storm,

and, bat-blind, we drift,
touching walls
reaching for any door,
because all art is utterly useless now,
all beauty unknowable
in this uterine cave

where all we can hope
is to find our way out
and be born again
into the sodden world.

(13 May 2011)

Graduation Dance

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The gym was dim.

Red and white balloons
glittered in the dusk
while flashing lights writhed
on the dark floor
like enchanted water-snakes
gliding through scented fog.

This was a celebration dance!

Eighth grade done at last,
they stepped, hesitant, into the roiling
teen-age sea,their synchronous, bobbing heads
attuned to the be-bop rhythms of the city (not their city),
and the lusty calls of the hood (not their hood).

Smooth gym walls echoed the dj’s mechanical angst
endless, relentless beats, the racing heart of the machine,
artificial sighs, nano-seconds long and gigabytes wide.

The boys, spinning on heads and leaping from hands and
flailing legs, showed an athleticism
never seen in PE,
while the girls huddled in their own dark corner
and planned their move;

their fashion walk,
legs strutting ahead
of swaying hips,
heels clicking the hard, dark floor,
as they stalked right up to the foul line

where boys were spinning and leaping
through throbbing lights
to the tribal, primal beat.

So the girls turned,
hips flung in defiance,
and sashayed back to the wall,
staring hard at the gaping boys
over their swaying shoulders.

(29 May 2009)