Human ears hear
the chittering of squirrels
and the here I am coos
of the mated mourning doves,
the breeze playing
in redwood boughs,
and ponderous birds of paradise,
each tree as distinct
in the fingers of the wind
as instruments in an orchestra.
But could I ever learn to hear
the spit spat spurt
of asparagus cells eating sunlight
or slow my vision to catch
those green spears soaring to the sky?
Ordain my senses
that I may eavesdrop
on the love song
of the vine to the rosebuds
and the petals’ pleasure-soaked sighs
as they unfurl their delicate curves.
May I too sing You
ten thousand ways
in the ebb and flow
Title from Rilke’s Book of Hours, 1,45
Hidden in the earth
a seed waits, drinking darkness.
Conceived on a summer day
when the sun suckled the earth,
fruit of wanton flowers frolicking
with passionate, hungry bees,
a seed in the womb of winter
might feel lost and forgotten.
the earth is not a grave;
it is your swaddling clothes.
Trust in the darkness,
trust in your quiescent potential
that holds all in its nothingness.
Spring will come,
and the light of lengthening days
will coax the glory of God
from the seedpod
and beckon you to itself.
When dawn approaches with the usual palette
on this January morning,
sky flaunts willful, windborne clouds,
resistant to all
but shades of gray.
At my window I return to coffee and notebook,
like the fisherman
intent on what hides in the sea.
his and mine and the fishes,
even the rhythm of unborn poems.
But while fish and poems swim
in secret places,
the fisherman and I are caught.
For a minute
sky accepts the brush of dawn.
The hint of color snags
me in my bed,
the fisherman on the beach.
We both look up.
For a minute between slate and silver,
all is washed the palest pink,
and this sky is just what we need.
Title from “Revelation” by Jenny George
Apples ripened and acorns fell early,
confusing madcap squirrels.
Girls wore sundresses in November,
and the pedicurist polished
toes to peep out of sandals.
Where were the umbrellas and wool sweaters?
Our customary summer drought
lingered past its welcome;
even the rosemary and echevaria thirsted.
But beyond our fevered planet’s ripped cocoon,
the stars still proceed in their stately course.
We may defy gravity,
but the law itself remains unbroken.
Our earth continues to orbit the sun
at the same tilt,
and the days grow shorter.
At dawn on the winter solstice
sunlight will pour down the ancient stone passage
just as it did five thousand years ago.
Oh, praise the light that is beyond our reach!
For the pace of the sun
and the gentle way
light returns to us each day.
For my eyes that see
shades of white and blue,
notice when specters become
guava tree and bamboo.
Now leaves that were black in the night
turn olive, sage, and seaweed green,
and for a moment
light tickles the cloud’s belly pink.
For the cup of silence
that holds this witness
to what never fails
but might be missed –
Praise the fog that bathes the earth,
balm for blistered land,
drink for redwoods,
relief for all who labor.
From a distance you look like eiderdown.
Close up you are but wisp and gauze,
yet you sweeten each breath
a sun-wearied creature draws.
All we have is the heartbeat
played on the drum of this day.
We are the hands on the skin,
and this hollow space
that swells with the rising sun,
pregnant with possibility.
Here resonates the call
to work and play and —
thrumming within each beat —
the sun’s farewell,
the night into which we naked return.
(Title from a poem by Antal, an 8th-century poet and the only woman among the Twelve Alvars of South Indian Vishnu worship)