Friday, June 30, 2006

 

Nellie's last bay



For everything that lives is holy, life delights in life.
-- William Blake

How refreshing, the whinny of a packhorse unloaded of everything!
-- Zen saying


This is a sad time at our house. Nellie, the beagle who lived with us, died last night. She came to us when she was about eight weeks old; she was eight and a half years old when she died--much too soon. On Wednesday, the vet prescribed medication to treat an allergy and its subsequent infection. Thursday night about ten she died, probably not from complications of an allergy.

Nellie was the sweetest friend anyone could hope to have. When she walked --staggered-- through the back door about ten minutes before she died, she wagged her tail at us, just as she always did when she came into our vicinity

She had started the day with a single bay when she first went outside. I have no idea what she smelled/saw/heard. She did not bay or bark again; that one was the last. That's about all I can write about her just now, but eight years ago, I wrote a poem about her first bay. It's not much as poems go, but it is all I have of her now.

Nellie’s First Bay

Her first puppy bay turned us.
We gawked -- three dogs, Judith and I --
unused to such a sound from our small one.
Nellie, herself startled, froze,
submitted to a full body exam from the pack.
Would they allow this new creature to join them?
Would she prove worthy of their trust?
Would they accept association with a beagle?
They had to decide.
The corgi smelled her butt,
the border collie her mouth,
Ani, the pack leading mixed breed, ever wary,
hung back, but peered into her soul.
Only then did she approach to lick Nellie's face.
Accepted, Nellie joined in the game of chase.


Peace.


Wednesday, June 28, 2006

 

Good in the Garden

These are good spiders; they eat grasshoppers, among other things. And they are spectacular.



Winter approaches.
You will die soon, orb weaver.
The curtain will fall on
The high drama of your
Gold and black lightning,
Striker of intruders into your web.
Behind the scenes, your legacy,
Hanging in your carefully woven silk purse,
Awaits the warming winds of summer.
Your body will be consumed by others,
Others whose children may nourish your children.
The circle remains closed.



Here in Tahlequah, we are making real progress. We not only have a WalMart and a Lowe's, but also we now have a Chili's and there are rumors that we'll get a Starbuck's, although those rumors appear to be false. We have an active pro-health group here, balanced by our major problems with obesity and diabetes, along with a high incidence of smoking. Our two best book stores just closed--seems no one reads anymore, just surf the internet. Some trouble maker suggested the other day that something must be amiss in a community that will not support a bookstore and gets happily excited over Chili's and Starbuck's.

What do you think?

In spite of all, however, we are fortunate to have a more than respectable number of accomplished and recognized artists and writers here.


remind me again
of my place in the world...
my old cat purrs


We shape clay into a pot,
but it is the emptiness inside
that holds whatever we want.
--Tao te Ching


Picture a massless particle.
--A koan of modern physics.


You say my poems are poetry?
They are not.
Yet if you understand they are not--
Then you see the poetry of them.
--Ryokan


Read Arthur C. Clarke's Rendezvous with Rama.

Peace.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

 

ramblings

This I wrote 3 or 4 years ago. It's more an essay than a poem, but I don't care what you call it.


On being awakened by his mother who asked if he had good dreams, my grandson,George, [aged 3] replied, “Yes, but my life chased them away.” The phrase has haunted me ever since I heard it.

My Life Chased Them Away

“I had a dream...,” then I awoke
my life chased it away.

I saw a place where peace held sway
my life chased it away.

I knew a world where love ruled all
my life chased it away.

I felt respect for all humankind
my life chased it away.

I lived in a home where neighbor helped neighbor
my life chased it away.

I saw Christians love atheists
I saw Muslims love Hindus
I saw pagans love Jews
I saw me love you
my life chased them all away.


Sadly, it's all true: We let the concerns of our lives interfere with genuine living. That is, we tend to lose sight of ourselves, and others.


"If a man wishes to be sure of the road he treads on, he must close his eyes and walk in the dark."
-- St. John of the Cross

A monk asked Master Haryo, " What is the way?" Haryo said, "An open-eyed man falling into the well."
-- Zen koan

"Go--not knowing where.
Bring--not knowing what.
The path is long, the way unknown."
-- Russian fairy tale


How 'bout a story? This one's short.

Reality


The experts—those out of town PhD’s with laptop computers—tell us that our sleeping and dreaming lives are essential preparation for our waking lives. What they don’t tell us is the obverse: our working lives are essential preparation for our sleeping and dreaming lives.

I admit there might have been a time when I believed the “experts;” if so, that time is long past. Why have I lost faith? The short answer is simple and is found in a line of an old song from Mexico: La vida no vale nada, “life is not worth a damn.”

What? You don’t understand what I mean? Alright, here’s the long answer.

I enjoyed life—I mean really enjoyed life—back when I was a kid, when everything was new, when my friends cared about me, my parents loved me, back when I had dreams, new dreams, exciting dreams, and life was filled with promise. It was a good time back then.

By the time I was grown, physically that is, a few changes had occurred, but life remained essentially good: some of my friends no longer were around, replaced by others who were not so close or accepting; my father was dead and my mother off somewhere with her blue-haired cronies; dreams I still had, but fewer new ones and those more “realistic,” less exciting. After a few years of military service, the trend was even more apparent—I had become a mature, responsible adult.

What a joy!

What a joy?

No. What a letdown. But at least, I told myself, as I became better “established” in my profession, in my community, things would begin to fall into place. All those preceding years were merely preparation for the actualization of my “real” life. I told myself that. Of course, I now realize what a liar I was.

But the lie may not be immediately apparent. I’m established now, and things have fallen into place. Monday mornings I take the Ervay Street bus to work, nine hours later I return home, also by bus, this time the Lakewood bus, after shuffling papers all day, taking two fifteen minute breaks and one forty five minute lunch. That’s it; Monday’s routine is cloned daily through Friday, except on Thursday when we have a staff meeting at one o’clock to discuss how we can shuffle more paper, faster. I get two weeks off for a vacation that I cannot afford to take, so I watch television soap operas, talk shows, reality shows (reality?) and quiz shows. Ten days sick leave, the use of which would cost me my job if my primary physician would not document it.

Saturdays, I wash clothes, shop for groceries, on rare occasions buy socks or underwear. Right after payday, I take in a Saturday matinee at the Rita Theater down the street. Month before last, I got a 20¢ an hour raise so I splurged and bought a package of Milk Duds to go with my usual popcorn and Dr. Pepper. I don’t usually get the Milk Duds because I’m kind of saving my money in hopes of meeting a young lady who might consider going out with me, dancing or dinner perhaps. Who knows what could come of something like that? So I hope to be prepared if it happens.

Sundays, I sleep in late, rarely go out at all. Some years ago I attended a Methodist church just down the street, but I stopped going. There was nothing wrong with the church, but one of my friends at work is Jewish and I didn’t want to offend him by mentioning Christianity. A man, a customer actually, who comes to the office frequently is a Muslim, and he often stops to pass the time with me while he waits to see the boss. I don’t want to risk offending him either. My apartment manager is a Catholic, and the lady who runs the green grocer stand is Pentecostal. I decided my life would be simpler if I just stayed away from religion. Politics too, since my boss is a Republican and my Jewish friend is a Democrat. And I just found out that the druggist belongs to the Green Party, whatever that is. So I’ve learned to keep a low profile—seems like the safest way.

Or at least that was how I was thinking until a couple of months ago. One Saturday, it was the week before a payday, I went for a stroll in the park a couple of blocks over from my place. I had stopped to rest on a bench alongside the path. The sun was warm, the breeze was doing what the poets call ‘wafting spring’s freshness;’ I dozed. I was awakened when I heard a lady on the bench backed up to mine ask her little boy, who also must just then have awaken from a nap, if he had had good dreams. He replied, “Yes. But my life chased them away.”

Now I have no idea what that kid dreamed about and he couldn’t have been more than three years old, but damn, his words gave me a start, a wake up call that grows louder day by day. I see it now: my life chased away my dreams. Don’t misunderstand, I’m not blaming anyone but myself; I’m not a whiner, you know. I let it happen. But since that day, I have been assiduously rediscovering my dreams. I’m careful; I knew from the start if I dropped my guard, my life, like the kid’s, would chase my dreams away. I’ve done a good job of discovery, and now I’ve reached a crossroads.

You see, over the days and weeks since the kid’s remark, my dreams have returned, have grown even. They’ve grown while my waking life has waned. So much so that I quit my job last week to devote full time to pursuing my dreams. It’s no big deal; my boss would have fired me soon for not getting to work regularly, “sleeping” at my desk at work, leaving work in the middle of the day. They just can’t seem to understand that I’m only trying to bring balance to my life; bring balance by balancing my dozens of years of work when I knew diminishing dreams, with knowing a few years of dreams while work diminishes. They keep telling me to “come back to reality;” that’s because they don’t know about quantum physics, I guess.

I can’t fault them for not knowing about quantum physics; I didn’t either until a few weeks ago when I met this professor on the Ervay Street bus one morning. He told me about quantum physics; how things are not always what they seem to be, that time might not always be the same for everyone everywhere. Well, now, I thought, if time is not always the same and things are not what they seem to be, then why can’t I find some dreams again?

But I didn’t know how to get them back. I took a day off work (they docked my pay) to think about it. My thoughts wandered back many years until, late that evening, I finally remembered bits of a few of my old dreams. That night I dreamed for the first time I could remember since I was in my early twenties. Next morning, I knew exactly what the kid felt when he said his life chased his dreams away; my life, dull dingy drab dreary dribble of days, chased my dreams away. The solution, clearly, was to make radical changes in my daily life. That’s why I quit my job. Since then, I sleep and dream more. So much that, yesterday, I worried a little that I might be sleeping too much, that I might slip into some kind of na-na land from which my mind would never escape because na-na land is not real. But today, I awoke after sleeping more than twenty three hours; and I had dreamed, of course. Oh, yes. I dreamed about flying over the city, seeing a yellow-eyed demon horse in a covered junk yard, following some geese who knew which trees were best for roosting, hearing a multi-hued and banded snake talking to my son from a tiny hole in the ground, and watching myself as I dove into the ocean to see lion fish chasing sea otters perched atop kewpie dolls. Hours and hours I dreamed. But when I woke this morning, I knew it was all real, far more real than the “real life” I had been living before the kid pronounced my song of independence that day in the park.

How did I know the dreams were real? Fair question. I’ll try to answer, but I’m not at all sure I can, because these damned yellow sea slugs tangled in my hair keep distracting me.

The End


That's all for now. Peace.


Saturday, June 24, 2006

 
I plan** to post a mix of poetry and prose, a rant or two, maybe a sermon. We'll see. Please let me know if you would like to pay me for any of it.


Here is a haiku-like thing I recently wrote:

these words are neither
true nor false, simply words --
please ignore them

Seems an appropriate way to begin a writing blog, don't you agree?


Just below is a short excerpt from the opening scene of my new novella, still in manuscript. The tale is historical fiction with a heavy overlay of Irish myth. Anyone know a good agent?

The scene is set in the American South in the 1890's. James, the protagonist, came from Ireland in 1860, after his Irish freedom activities forced him to leave Ireland or be hanged.

~~~

The flagstones were cold and rough on his cheek. Why wouldn’t someone help him up, James wondered? He knew people were there; he could hear their voices. They sounded muffled, far away, as if they were afraid to wake him, but he was awake. Couldn’t they see that?

I’ll just roll over and speak to them; that should bring them back to reality. . .

Ah, there’s little Dora, sweet Dora, not so little now, a grown woman. Why is she crying? What’s that she’s saying? Something about she loved me so—what does she mean loved? That’s past tense; can’t she see I’m right here?

He called out, “Dora, Dora! Here I am. Come give Papa a hug.”

Dora paid no attention to James’s plea. He realized it was still dark; perhaps that was the problem. They could not see him. Soon, however, it would be daylight; he could see the brightening of the eastern sky heralding dawn’s arrival.

Where is my darling wife, my Tullia? Oh, now I see her, there she is being helped by the doctor. The doctor? Oh, no. Is she ill? Has she had an accident? Oh, my love. I’ll help you! Why won’t someone help me up so I can help her? Where is that new hired girl, Brenda? She should be here to help Tullia.

And all those people I see milling around, perhaps one of them could help me. Strange, a few of them are neighbors but who are the others? The dark-skinned old ones; they see me, speak to each other in some foreign tongue, then turn away. I have never seen them before; where did they come from?

James heard someone say something about red-brown grains making a kind of tattoo on his skin, and a black, sooty residue on his robe, indicating a shot at very close range. The speaker, who was wearing a badge, said that everyone should retire until the coroner arrived, and that would not likely be before daylight, as he needed good light to do his job. James certainly understood why that would be so. But why did the coroner have work to do here? Coroners only deal with dead people. Who died? Everyone here seemed perfectly healthy, distraught perhaps, but physically well. Everyone, that is, but himself, and if someone would only help him up. . .

Realization broke with the brightening approach of sunrise.

“Oh, no! It’s me they’re here for. I remember being shot, but who shot me? My God, I’m dead! But. . . but how can I know that?”

A long, dark shadow preceded a soft croak—throaty, harsh—of a crow alighting just inches from his face. “Ye know what I’m wantin’ ye to know, Jamie, my lad.”

“A talking crow? Who. . . What are you? How can you hear me when no others can?”

“Oh,” the crow replied, “they could hear ye if they truly wished, but they’re a’feared o’ me, as well they should be. As to who I am—I have no name, I have all names. Some calls me ‘beauty,’ some ‘my lady,’ some say I’m the lady who rides the black swan, some calls me ‘the Morrigan.’ They calls me lots o’ things. The wise ones don’t call me, but they listen when I speak.”

“The Morrigan,” James said, “So I am dead. But why are you here; you come for the battle dead—this was no battle. This was a murder.”

“Hee!” The creature replied, “A murder, aye, for murder is part of every battle. An’ everything about ye is a battle, aren’t ye knowin’ that?

She cocked her head, one molten eye staring and glaring at James, and sang in her croaking voice,


Ye ask me why am I here, young lad?

Why, I’m here to be takin’ ye home.

O’ course, afore we’re leavin’ this place,

we must see how the battle be goin’—

to be knowin’ your fate is to be knowin’ your path,

the path that’ll take ye home.

I see ye don’t understand, young lad,

for ye thought I dwelled ’cross th’ sea.

But I can go anywhere, ye know,

anywhere at all there’s a battle.

For my swan is a powerful bird, it is,

'Tis a black swan and stronger than others.

And there’s eagles to ride and salmons to ride

and the wind is an excellent carriage.

And there’s always a battle to be needin’ my skills,

so there’s always a path to be followin’.

Getting here was no more’n a wish.

“A wish,” James said, “a wish. I wish I understood what is happening. Where must we go to learn how the battle goes? To learn where home might be? Will it be heaven or will it be hell?”

“Nay, nay. Not such a simple thing will it be. Why the things you mortals call heaven and hell ye’ve already made for yourselves right here, ye know. Nay, I’m meanin’ somethin’ deeper, somethin’ from beneath the caul o’ your soul. Somethin’ most never can see, never can feel—nor want to. Have ye strength enough to be seein’ the truth, to be feelin’ the truth?”

“Yes,” James said, “It’s the truth I always hope to find.”

“So ye say and so I’ll show ye. Hee!” she cackled, “Come with me.”

~~~

Now that this blog is set up, I will try to post more or less regularly.

Peace.

** God laughs when man makes plans.

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