SO MUCH SNOW THEN
In the early morning poems
of Robert Bly, deer everywhere
in the dense grove of the beloved
Further away, in North Dakota,
my father plugs in the Plymouth
battery running from the house
so the engine won’t freeze
during the night. Even then,
my frozen breath on the window
20 July 2015
My brother is walking again
Grief enters this time
as a better friend
17 July 2015
Poems from notebook
all morning with cold coffee
parking lot under
white birch trees Bob Dylan songs
two still leaves sunburned
Why this popcorn ride!
Water drought mirrors summer walk
as though I’d been gone
16-19 July 2015
Underneath the house of god
is another house, you can smell
the chiles cooking in the kitchen,
the sizzling ones in oil.
These are the olores coming up
from below. Here now, patas de rana,
in gold. Dos caras, two faces,
divine flavors in chile,
entering through the twin nostril gates.
desde humano a un animal
from human to animal
born at midnight
from the ashes
for the old caciques
from human to animal
from human to spirit
respect without fear
men born from ashes
women born from cacao
The invitation to this house
come from the man of god
in the first house, visible
from the street. The man
is not here when we arrive
and he does not know us.
He does not see us arriving.
Neither does he know
those who receive us,
those who live
in the house below, the ancient one
this house, boruca house,
dreaming where we stay,
receiving, in constant reception--
a living house of breath,
one promising the past,
the one that never leaves us,
practioners of resistance.
9 July—16 July, 2015
Casa Concordia, San José—Yakima
THE MASK OF THE HEART
The mask you have been given
is the apprentice mask
of the two worlds—
worn by the man when he
took up the knife
and put it to the wood
to see if he could
the one he wore
during that time
of the testing
9 July—16 July 2015
Oh, they mean everything
to us, the wife of the boruca
We sit at the table
with the red tablecloth
carving the world.
9-16 July 2015
Looking into the mask
with its two sides
its divided self
(itself then hidden)
to go other ways
more than one
more than two
in night walk
ones of the other
ones of others
16 July 2015
Boruca artist Jaime Gonzalez Morales and Jahel Quiroz narrate boruca traditions and mask making with Jim Bodeen at Casa Concordia in San Jose, Costa Rica, while presenting individual masks and art created by Jaime. Storypath/Cuentocamino, July, 2015
LETTER TO BELDEN C. LANE, BACKPACKER WITH THE SAINTS,
AFTER COMING DOWN FROM THE ENCHANTMENTS
Wenatchee’s on fire, and those new homes tucked
against sage turned into flaming bombs and disappeared.
I’m just out of Eight Mile Lake in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness,
Northwest corner of the country, Washington State, Cascade Mountains,
off Icicle Creek Road, home to Yakima on 97 South.
Burned out trees standing, lining the trail
count as saints in my book, but what about those houses?
Your book is an outback trail away from all schools.
A place to further the unlearning.
A beginning space, always a place
to praise, practice breathing. A friend calls,
I’m in a hospital waiting for my brother’s surgery,
he’s seen your book in the library. It’s in my hand
before he wakes up. How things happen.
You’re one of my desert fathers during a month
of recovery as my brother teaches himself
to walk. My gift to him: old cane from Good Will.
“When you’re the only human present, you have
a particular responsibility to take pleasure in the place.”
This prayer from you, blessing and sentence,
serves me before each handful of nuts
on the trail. It’s all trail, we know, now,
but I’m talking four days of enchantments.
I titled a movie on YouTube from your words.
Father Climacus, 40 years under the boulder at Tholas.
Your real work, for me, the personal.
What you say about Mom & Dad. Carrying
the grief story the lifetime it takes
to lighten the pack. Unpacking each
theological construct every time you leave
the parking lot. I know the parking lots too.
For me the ladder of divine ascent
most always hears what comes from below.
But I love those angels moving both ways
on Jacob’s ladder. Not a clinker
in this book. Nothing to make the pack
too hard to carry, and you’re good as guide
on each hike, including your beloved Ozarks.
So many old friends in your book. All new
through your eyes. A divine milieu.
Teillard de Chardin evolved lonelier than ever.
“We live steeped in burning layers.”
Thanks for rescuing that. We hike for so many
of the same ways to be here.
Being the key. Lucky too, for being
able to lift the pack for what it holds.
Earth as an extension of the body of Christ.
Squirrels and field mice plant trees,
bodhisattvas we rally behind. Lectio terrestris.
In the new life we don’t have to be John Muir.
The ice bergs he walked, long gone.
1 July 2015
LETTER TO FENTON JOHNSON
AFTER READING HIS PROSE BACKWARD
FROM HARPER’S TO GEOGRAPHY OF THE HEART
…try looking for lessons in solitude. Going It Alone: The Dignity
and Challenge of Solitude, Harper’s, April, 2015
…this being inside the other, the other inside me. Keeping Faith:
A Skeptic’s Journey Among Christian and Buddhist Monks
Reading is the unsurpassed interactive act, and serious readers
among the least acknowledged and appreciated of revolutionaries.
Geography of the Heart: A Memoir
I haven’t read the fiction. Dear Fenton,
The community that I belong to
builds itself on books, and just that fast,
you’re the mayor, come out of nowhere,
belonging to us all. As you quote
Brother Anthony, Your spiritual practice
is always for all beings, never for yourself.
Thank you, Fenton Johnson, for skepticism.
Thanks too, for writing about your Mom.
We share those mothers, yours
running monks home after hours,
mine choosing baseball over Christianity.
For your questions are a walk through anger.
For your final statements in Keeping Faith:
When I understand that all is holy,
then I will be a monk; and, Each time
any one of us forgoes immediate gratification
for some higher aspiration, we are living…
as a kind of monk. There, I just broke
a pact with myself not to let this letter
become a list of your quotations—
A kind of fancy grocery list
in a William Carlos Williams poem.
I fail again. I’m humbled by your work.
Your list of ideal solitaries
is a study in geography and time.
You grew up in a medieval landscape.
I grew up in rural North Dakota.
A poet friend sends me a poem
inspired by Giorgio Morandi.
A theologian backpacker, Belden Lane,
goes nowhere without the desert Fathers,
both of you writing about Merton.
I found Merton in the fall of 1968
coming back from Vietnam,
that week he ran into bad wiring—
he’s been with me nearly 50 years.
Here you are at Tassajara, in a yurt
with language of suchness.
Every moment a burgeoning forth
is how David Hinton translates
Chinese poets, and suchness
comes up in your book.
You, Fenton Johnson,
sitting mayor on a cushion,
practitioner of great longing,
arrive at my doorstep in a magazine,
itself an act of great imagination,
I thank you for going it alone.
You, Lane, Hinton,
all go into the mothership
carrying me to the summer trailhead.
This is for Larry, also,
the beloved. Thank you for your love.
Karen and I have been together
since the year Merton came into my life.
Your mother drives Brother Louis back
to the monastery in the battered red Ford.
Great achievements shaped by anonymous
hands working over time. It all connects.
April-2 July, 2015
UNFOLDING A POEM BY DAVID HINTON ON THE LAWN
READING JON SOBRINO’S LETTERS TO ELLACURÍA
YAKIMA WHILE BACHELOR
BUTTONS BLOOM SIX MONTHS AFTER RETURNING FROM A MONTH WITH THE MARTYRS OF EL SALVADOR
Because the roses have been fed with compost tea
made from kitchen waste, the surface root system
of Bachelor Buttons has reached into rose beds
creating a field of wild flowers becoming
a desert landscape. The non-gardener decision
to let Bachelor Buttons go and grow, thriving, even if they eclipsed
the beauty of the rose, made by flowers themselves.
Todos los mártires y todas las victimas viven hoy
y nos llaman a la liberación. The martyrs live!
They want us alive, too. The fact of a meal
in one banquet hall. Ellacu—
no intimacy could be greater—
the sound of Sobrino’s voice comes off the page
as the ears of Ellacuría perk up,
and one can see his head turn, the President
of the university, listening to his friend.
But inside the wonder of intimacy and truth of letters,
it is not Jon Sobrino who speaks, but his friend:
Estados Unidos está mucho peor que América Latina.
Porque Estados Unidos tiene una solución,
pero es mala solución…en América Latina
no hay soluciones. Better to have no solutions
than bad ones. Some call El
the Holy Land.
Pilgrims read Sobrino’s letters to Ellacuría
in the rose garden at the university
where students keep stories alive and opening eyes
for visitors—those who would see.
Dios de los pobres, el de Jesús.
Promises get made in the garden
that can’t be kept in the Empire.
No vuelvas, the bishop says in Dosteovsky.
No vuelvas, Sobrino reminds himself,
talking to his friend crucified with the poor,
Ellacuría, still calling for the crucified
to be taken down from the cross. Dosteovsky’s
Bishop tells Jesus his return is unnecessary,
We’ve got it all worked out here don’t come back.
Dressed in the sacred one cannot feel
the uranium and oil that made the tight fabric.
Sobrino gives the world fifteen letters,
but only fifteen. Readers in the rose garden
are left to write their own letters to see what happens.
One walks into a garden enticed by beauty.
Bees find a way to the Bachelor Buttons
themselves in a diaspora they can’t see taking place,
dependent on those who put them at risk.
Nothing is finished by readers carrying
Sobrino’s letters into any garden. Shade grown
coffee from the mountains of
intoxicates while serving as medicine.
Libertad es vencer las ataduras de la historia,
el miedo, el egoísmo. Tied to the story
of the past, the pilgrim sits with coffee
surrounded by wild flowers buzzing.
9 June 2010
EIGHTMILE LAKE HIKE TRAIL
First break, crossing stream.
Hot. Don’t need this shirt.
Bashō says the poem
is only a poem
as it’s being written,
and then it’s gone.
No hurry to this lake.
Here I am beside this movement.
Red thread in water.
Follow it all the way home—
if it’s a shoelace,—
show itself in suchness.
This is the way, walker.
Four decades past
hiking into Goat Rocks
from back side, a lone hiker, 70,
walking stick his solitary companion,
stops me on the trail. One day,
I say to myself, and he carries me.
Heel to toe rest step,
here I am, his age.
Take a drink of water,
follow that string until
you don’t know its name,
a growing root, its own life,
disappearing under water.
Lightly through my fingers,
red threads in stream bed
touching the scouring storyline.
In the act of releasing
the other, I take bandanna
from my neck, immersing it
rippling in moving water.
Placing it over my head,
four corners of wetness
dripping and cooling,
I am given permission
to enter. What is clean
will remain, a reminder,
gift of red thread in moving water.
25-28 June 2015
25-28 June 2015