tanka

tanka--
small songs I sing
to join
my voice to other voices
hidden in the grass

Monday, May 1, 2017

Many Happy Returns


I wonder what the baker’s assistant thought as she squeezed blue icing onto our sheet cake, spelling out the words ‘Happy 5,974th Birthday, Mother Earth!’  My friends and I had just learned about Archbishop James Ussher, the 17th-Century Primate of All Ireland who calculated the age of the Earth based in part on the Biblical ‘begats’ from Adam to Solomon. He concluded that the Earth was created at about 6:00 p.m. on October 22 in the year 4004 B.C. Giddy with our own youth, we reserved the shelter in our college arboretum for that chilly autumnal evening and celebrated the birthday of the Earth.

revelry
rouses the barred owl
to flight—
across spangles of moonlight
a silent shadow passes

That was 1970. Fast-forward forty years. No longer young, no longer giddy, I learn that those forty years have seen the disappearance of just over half the world’s wildlife.  Fish. Amphibians. Reptiles. Birds. Mammals.  Populations cut in half in just forty years, the prime years of my own eye-blink lifetime on a planet that has been wheeling about the sun for 4.5 billion years. Where life has been evolving for 3.8 billion years. Where vertebrates— fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, mammals—have been flowing through their myriad, ever-changing panoply of forms for over 500 million years.

dinosaur feathers
shimmering in amber . . .
shards of light
in the slow kaleidoscope
                       of deep time

Five hundred million years arising . . . and half gone within my own brief lifespan?

giddy again
I cannot catch my breath--
as time whirls
on gargoyle wings
I join the danse macabre





Sunday, February 12, 2017

Credo


closing behind me
the blue door of a dream
I hear the words
don’t forget the absolute
yet love the leaves & branches


shadows
and shafts of silver light
in the pine wood
the owl glides through both
with unruffled wings


stripped
of the last bright leaf
of ego
my bones sing harmony 
with the winter wind


~red lights 13:1, Jan. 2017




Wednesday, February 8, 2017

The Forge



I had a ring once, made from a horseshoe nail.  Made for me by an Irish blacksmith, a wiry little man with a musical brogue, sinewy forearms, and a leather apron. He’d cradle a hoof on his knees and trim away the horny overgrowth with giant nippers, tossing aside the parings for the dogs to gnaw. Then he’d choose a cold shoe and slap it on, sizing it up with an expert eye.

The acrid smell of coal smoke . . . I can hear the whoosh of the bellows, see the flames blaze up as he waits for the iron shoe to glow red-hot. He holds it edgewise on the anvil with long-handled tongs and beats it into the perfect shape for this particular hoof, bouncing his hammer in a ringing diminuendo after each blow: BANG BUTabutabuta, BANG BUTabuta . . . He plunges the hot shoe into a bucket of water and fits it, still sizzling, onto the hoof, nailing it in place with just a couple of blows for each of the nails he holds handy between his lips. He clinches the nail points and shifts his shoulder to the mare’s flank.  I study my battered store-bought sneakers and inhale the heaven scent of hay.


tapping
the last syllables
into place . . .
the rhythm of hoofbeats,
the lift of white wings


~Haibun Today June 2015








Friday, January 27, 2017

labyrinth



sweeping
the labyrinth
with a broken broom
I gather at the center
a thousand winged seeds

~Skylark 3:2, winter 2015



Friday, January 20, 2017

Digging In


Inauguration Day 2017

sleepless
at midnight I reread
the poet’s words:
what rough beast
slouches toward Bethlehem . . .*


one by one
the doors slam shut—
I tunnel
into the night sky
a wormhole to hope


clasping hands
with women black
and brown
like silent moles
we turn the Earth