Wildfire in Paradise

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Yellow glares
the burnt sky of
Paradise, drifts
towards the sea.
 
On acrid breezes
ashes fall —
promises consumed
and scattered,
 
as the sun —
its dark,
bloody husk,
exposed at last —
hangs, ruined.
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Preparation Day

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The light is fading early today.

Rain turns the whole world to night.

I drive through watery streets,
headlights
stretch to bright tapers,
red lamps
softly trailing
blood beneath my wheels.

Death’s details
fill my busy day.

First, the uncut granite,
sorted and sized,
words neatly arranged,
ready to inscribe
the bare facts of your life,

and then on to the small, white house,
with its big front window and spring garden
hidden behind the black iron gate;

this is where your party will be.

Our guests will arrive soon,
and I must order flowers, great
purple blooms
to dim this too bright room.

Now we’re nearly finished,

but first I must see
to your final ground,
small patch
of turned earth,

and then tomorrow you can finally rest.

Attend us gently
as we weep
and slowly walk away.

(10 Dec. 2010)

Contact

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I search the narrow rooms of memory
through steep, childhood hallways
under high ceilings, past dim, flowered lamps,
when, trembling, I hear echoes calling me
in deep tones of summer thunder
to our willow tree out back
just as the blinding lightning
contacts
and shatters the still-living wood.

Afraid,

but compelled by my father’s gentle voice,
I retreat
to another room
in my mind.

In the kitchen, at the top of the long, painted staircase,
I hear small, shrill squeaks and low, electric hums
coming from your ham radio set,
and walking down, I see you,
hunched in the red glow
of your magic box, calling softly
into your silver microphone,
“W8PNW calling CQ, calling CQ, calling CQ”

O lonely angler, you cast gossamer lines into the eternal, black sea
looking for a catch, any response, any acknowledgement,
but I’m with you! Standing by your shoulders,
I hear the distant human voice respond
“K8QJZ to W8PNW, receiving you loud and clear!”

I feel your joy of connection
as, quickly you fill out your special postcard,
(American Bald Eagles triumphantly unfurling your call letters)
to mail to your Newfoundland friend.

This, too, is contact.

Another soul found, identified, and filed
in your list of ham-buddies, and I grin with you
as you sign off
and resume your patient search.

(7/14/2010)

Cry Aloud

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Conflagration Clear Lake

Photo Steven Federle: Conflagration at Clear Lake, 2018

 

A voice said, “Cry aloud!”
and I said, “But what shall I cry?”

Shall I sing to the people
a song of spring,
hills aflame with green,
dry grass igniting
with joy?

In darker days,
when the high meadow fell fallow
and flowers of the valley
dried to dust,
I thought you’d turned
away, took your giving hands
to other lands.

Despairing, I wept,
stung by tears
from angry Hell,
and doubted
your love.

Oh, forgive me, pity your child
and make your enduring rain fall

on the riotous grass,
on the bold crocus
and passionate
rose.

Pacifica Path 2014

Photo Brian Federle: On the Pacifica Path, 2014

Lazarus Waiting

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Mendocino Sundial 2016

Photo Brian Federle: Mendocino Sundial 2016

 

falling sun, life swarming
in the liquid light
as I gaze west, through trees,
over houses, over slatted-fence,
towards the waiting, unseen sea.

a foraging bird drops to my mown lawn
(taking note of my still form)
and pecks out her meal…and flies away.

My apple-tree bends towards heaven
new leaves unfolding;
surely it will be leaf-full by Easter!

so I’ll wait for the world to turn
yet another slight degree, for the lines
of golden light to lengthen towards me
and then end in gentle night.

September 11

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“At the center of our being is a point of nothingness which is untouched by sin and by illusion, a point of pure truth, a point or spark which belongs entirely to God, which is never at our disposal, from which God disposes of our lives, which is inaccessible to the fantasies of our own mind or the brutalities of our own will.”  Thomas Merton

Rushing from shower to sink, I heard the TV
blare its usual chatter of news and advertising
as we made our hurried preparations
for another busy day,
when I saw it:
dark smoke rising into the blue New York sky.

And I stopped, all schedules forgotten, transfixed
by high flames scorching glass and steel.

Calmly, the newsman speculated
about airliners and tragic accidents,
when the passive camera caught it, the black spot
flying straight and sure as a bullet, piercing
the second tower in a shower of orange flame and shattered glass.

This was no accident,then, this morning violence, and I wondered
how many people were already at work when,
pinned by burning jet fuel and melting steel, their busy day
suddenly ceased in searing red pain and numb darkness?

I wanted to go on with my own day,
to hide in the comfort of my routine,
but I could not turn away when I saw jumpers
drop to merciful deaths;

I saw a suited businessman,
pale in white dust, slowly plodding
through a deluge of drifting memos,
clutching his briefcase like a life preserver;

I heard the shrill, muffled
sirens of ambulance and fire-trucks,
lost in the dirty fog of terror.

And I knew in that moment
that we all are New Yorkers,

we all are falling into our dark, quiet center
where, sinless and without fear,
we encounter God, Yahweh, Allah,

The Eternal,

as our shattered bodies rise
through flames of anger
into the pure, cool, forgiving
September air.

(9/11/2011)

Compassion

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Photo: Tree in Desert by Brian Federle

“What is my new desert? The name of it is compassion. There is not wilderness so terrible, so beautiful, so arid, and so fruitful as the wilderness of compassion.” Thomas Merton

I’ll wander with you
in our pain.

Though dry days
and star-drenchd nights
we’ll search the sharp rocks
for pools of cool tears.

Forty days and
forty nights shall we journey
through the wilderness,

to the green oasis
where we’ll flourish — audacious
lilies in hidden springs —

and there
we’ll possess
every good thing.

(13 Oct 2012/ revised 7/31/2018)