It’s good to say
It’s good to hold off some, too
Hold off as long as you can
25 May 2015
LOOKING AT A MAP
TO SEE WHERE I’VE BEEN,
To see where my wife
has taken me. She is the navigator
using the new technology. Sitting
on the blue railing at the school
waiting for grandchildren
to come running out to meet me,
the man who moved into my old house
walks up, taking me away
from the blue line and the arrow
that says, You are here. He has taken
out the heritage roses, throwing them
with yard waste. He wants
to tell me of the community garden
he’s putting in. You must have a navigator
whether the starship is headed
for Sacramento or the Sierra Nevadas.
Your job is to follow her.
You go where she tells you to go.
I look up at the man telling me
about the lettuce and tomatoes,
smiling, affording me
this opportunity to praise his efforts.
The ones nearest the gate,
were Damasks, musky,
pungent—he might have seen
their bronzed hips, a second fruit,
really, in this rendering—Romans
covered the marriage bed
with their blossoms.
We live in different times.
It’s true, I miss the old maps
sitting between us, pulling over
at roadside, looking together.
Those maps, too, are gone.
May I follow her even against my will.
But here come the kids.
22 May 2015
NOT ALWAYS SO
After a morning in the garden
do nothing slower
20 May 2015
WAITING FOR THE SCHOOL BUS
AT THE MUSEUM
Back from the other side
with my brother, I’m in the park
where I spent all those years.
I’m writing in my notebook,
reading this book, gradually,
and somewhat against my will,
being pulled into this poem.
Waiting for Katie.
Being Katie’s grandpa.
Listening to Leonard Cohen’s
Souvenirs From the Grand Tour all morning.
Making copies for friends, trying to adjust
to being here, again—being here,
just that. Altered space, indeed.
This park. I grew up here, too,
running all those miles in circles.
Karen’s at Vonnie’s.
Chuck wakes in Overlake Hospital
and sends me a Helen Keller quote
on purpose. He gets these every morning,
sends them to me. My brother,
a spiritual guide. Almost fell asleep
at the wheel, but for the big honk
of the 18-wheeler on alert
for the likes of me. Chuck’s walking
and I’m asleep at the wheel.
Twice I fall asleep during the game.
Like it’s me waking from anesthesia.
I guess I am. I guess I am.
And now the museum.
Waiting for the bus.
After two days of rain in the desert,
the Yakima trees, yard, flowers
and bonsai look good. I feared
for that ginkgo left on the deck.
But oh the rocks, all that rain
falling on them from that great distance
had me in in serpentine river swoon.
Walking like this for eight months.
Nothing but walking. Useless
but for putting our feet,
one at a time in front of us,
except for Chuck, his one foot.
The walk is our practice.
We don’t even need the knees,
Sonny Terrie and Browni McGee.
You walk for me and I’ll see for you.
May Chuck get one more day away.
May we find home in all that we see
in front of our slow-moving feet.
I guess for me, moving to a basalt rock,
it has to be brought home every time.
Home. Making home. Home-making
as they used to say in school
showing us how to boil water.
“Nothing has been apart from its existence in God,”
Belden Lane writes in Backpacking with the Saints.
“Everything in creation is hungry for relationship.”
“I saw how foolish I had been.”
Why not start everyday right here?
Reading that is dangerous.
Religious and mystical.
Earthy and prophetic.
Reading that is dangerous.
Sitting on a basalt rock.
Moved from the mountains,
placed here at the museum.
Reading the backpacking book
as the white-haired woman
walks up the steps
( I have white hair myself),
asking me if I’m waiting
for the tour, and why not
wait inside where it’s comfortable,
just as I’m reading this sentence,
“Challenging books lose their bite
when they’re read at home in comfortable chairs.
“Why don’t you come in and get warm? she adds.
I say to her, “I want to wave to the kids.”
I say to the basalt rock, ”For holding me,
for giving yourself up for our recent past,
for allowing yourself to be visible
as something other than what you are,
for being here—here’s the bus.”
For listening, Great and quiet one, for your gravitas.
Children’s underground is a bit much and we’re all
a bit outgrown from repeated visits, but yes,
“What do you have in canned goods?” I ask Kate,
adding that the grandkids would like
some of those hoarhound candy sticks.
Things pick up on the tour of historical Yakima.
Making apple boxes was an industry at each orchard.
Our guide stands between us and the famed apple box labels.
I take a picture of Kate standing beside the basque wagon,
remembering the night Karen and I slept in the one
restored by the Wyoming poet. Colors on those labels,
our guide tells us, tells of the quality of the fruit.
I didn’t know that I say, taking photos of orchardists,
our valley’s first Euro-American poets
naming the apples: Yakima Savage Brand, Pacific Chief,
Heap-Good , Eskimo Brand, Eatmor, Pom-Pom,
“Whay-me-le-poome,” and Don’t Worry Apples.
I stop, too, at the Hop Pickers Camp for my son,
reading to myself, “YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.”
My son has taught me so much about the hops.
“A good crew could produce as many as 26 bales a day.”
The early Oldsmobile gets my attention,
remembering my mother getting one
with her driver’s license at 60, and Olds 88,
with the bumper sticker about being a North Dakota driver.
The woman in red takes the kids right by the printing presses
and the First Amendment on her way to the fire engine.
They’re both in red, and here I ask her,
“Are you going to take the kids to the printing press?”
“Would you like to?” she asks,
and knowing I’m not the featured poet,
I say I would like that very much.
The 10x15 platen press from the Yakima Herald,
mirrors the Chandler-Price I picked up
from Selah, which, after being rescued,
became Blue Begonia Press, inked
only for the poem and its cotton witness.
On time limit, I talk only
about the Bible and the poem.
Beginning with letters, and letters pressed
into paper, I use the words
impress and impression, asking the kids
to spread their fingers and pressing them
into their hearts, asking them to repeat
these words: love, amor, heart, Corazon,
aprender, learn, and then, rapidly, repeating,
Tenemos, Queremos, Podemos,
each time making impressions on our hearts.
We have to, we want to, we can.
Kids loving the Spanish.
I don’t say what it is we do all this for.
And I’m no longer what I was.
It’s lunch time and we’re all third graders
in line for cones. Three lines,
strawberry, chocolate and vanilla.
I’m saying grace in the notebook.
Make me useless in all things, Lord.
This, my daily prayer,
and I’m such a slow learner.
Make me useless, Lord.
Coming from my background,
this is hard for me.
We grew up believing
work was our only way out.
There’s the famous story people still tell
about Mr. William Stafford, the poet.
How he’d read some poems and a fellow
comes up to him afterwards, asking him
if he could see one of those poems.
Mr. Stafford handed him a poem
that he took and read, and handing it back,
said right back to him, “I could
have written that,” and Mr. Stafford
replying with that great courtesy
he was famous for, “But you didn’t.”
Being useless is kind of like that,
but not. You think it would be easier.
It leaves you saying no all the time.
Saying no to everything, even charity,
if you can believe that. Saying no
to things you’d think you’d be good for.
Things others think you’d be good for.
But no, To be useless you must be
present to it, present all the time.
Eating these ice cream cones now.
Just this. Sitting on these planter boxes
where roses are just busting out,
roses working hard to blossom,
me licking my cone, writing in the notebook,
kids coming up to me,
asking what I’m doing.
Two truths working here.
One truer than the other.
If I give the big one,
I get myself in trouble
with this poem, lose the thread.
I say instead, “Writing this poem,”
and that’s an answer
kids can live because
they saw me doing it
in the museum.
Wouldn’t they like, someday,
to hear the larger truth?
Katie and I, we spend the whole day together.
Looking at things in this museum.
We’ve been here before.
She remembered coming in the wagon
when she was two. She and her cousin
used to give me the time of it, getting them home.
I used my phone in the museum
to take pictures of us in the reflections
of the glass. It made it look like
I was paying attention, too.
Bowing before different rules,
the useless ones,
waving the children back on the bus.
And then to this day.
So much of it still here.
Not even close to being over.
All this music.
MORE THAN ONCE,
I have been taken
from the room
of the known
and the recognized.
Taken, in all instances,
during moments of fierce
it has been on account
of the eschaton
having been activated
without my knowing.
Being taken like this
from poets and Christians,
different times, circumstances,
most alarming, isolating,
left altered and disturbed.
Men talking of the Mulla Nasrudin,
and the subtleties. There
were these three men
in an airplane…This, too,
was not the worst. No
matter how bad it gets
My mother’s presence
at the end telling me so.
What have you lost, Mulla?
Did you drop
No. At home.
Why in heaven’s name
look here? Because
there’s more light.
from delighted men.
Can I borrow your clothesline?
Not now. I’m drying flour
on the line.
to dry flour on a line?
Not so difficult, when
you don’t want to lend it.
Taken like that
and greed, along
with accompanied lust for it all.
The eschaton is fact
visible over time, beyond cover-up.
This alone sustains me.
I was a dead man.
I did not die.
10 May 2015