Friday, September 18, 2020

almost Autumnal Equinox

 mid-September in the Piedmont

the air-conditioner just cut off,

and a bird asserts whatever its agenda is,

most of the natural world is quiet in sound now,

though loud in feeling summer ending

and fall impinging,

daylight lessens,

more birds argue their points:

territory? mating?

just wanting to be noticed?

in the garden okra asserts its usual exuberance,

pumpkins start to swell and ripen,

tomatoes hold on,

though only the yellow cherry 

seem to have their heart in it,

the tomatillos shout their presence,

the basil still gives but it’s tired,

the Kentucky Wonder pole beans are nearly ready

to release the string beans

that define their species at its best,

the buttercrunch lettuce germinates,

a second planting since the first evaporated

into but a few surviving seedlings,

in the yard black-eyes susans are glorious

in the beauty of their will,

I worry about the mountain laurel

who flared more and better than ever before,

and now has a yellow to its green where it flowered,

the year seems tired, or maybe I’m just projecting,

the next day cooler air braces me to wake up.

by Henry H. Walker

September 14, ‘20

Friday, September 11, 2020

dimensions call me

 pictures are windows

I fill the walls in our house

with pictures I have taken

when a place has felt special to me,

each a grounding in a memory

that flares a light

into dark corridors of where I was,

of who I was, intensely, at one time,

and who I still am if I but remember,

if I but realize that each step along the way

can open a window,

a window that lets my soul plummet through it,

and I am awake to the moment,

to another piece of who I am,

easily we can let present moments

hold us in the two dimensions

of the surface upon which we live,

as if we are but fragments caught in a river,

I want to add both depth and height: 

the churning levels within us,

the heights to which we aspire,

I want to add back the past

where I constructed much of who I am,

I want to reach toward the future

within which I hope to become even more

who I can be at my best,

the pictures on my walls and within my heart

remind me to give myself fully to life,

the universe gifts us many chances

to make the most out of who we can be.

by Henry H. Walker

September 10, ‘20

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Paul Brown, and the grandchildren

 A Celebration of Paul Brown’s Life

a person can be with us,

and then, suddenly, they’re not,

we ache to remember them truly, fully,

we ache to have them still with us,

we ache for the goodbyes not said,

for the wisdom we won’t hear anew, again,

for the times spent together

that have helped make us who we are

and could make who we are even better

if they were still with us,

I miss the light of those we have lost

for how they helped us and themselves 

deal with the darknesses within,

today about sixty of us gathered in a Durham park

to remember and celebrate Paul Brown,

a dear man who well used the light of his life 

with those who were hurting,

particularly those hurting through no fault of their own,

his job and calling to minister in hospital and outreach facility

to those hurting and dealing with the bad hands they were dealt,

their psychological struggles so like a broken bone,

not defining who they are, rather describing what they have to deal with,

Paul’s love of family shouted in our time together today:

his devotion to parent, to grandparent,

to his two children whose broken hearts

released a love that shone fiercely on his life,

and revealed a father devoted to whomever

his son and daughter found the way to be,

and, most clear to me today, to his four grandchildren

who know and live his unconditional love for them,

and whose broken hearts released poetry and tears,

and a resurgent joy as they can still feel Paul’s love for them

surrounding them like a bright sun,

they still know his love

and live their lives to be the wonders that Paul saw,

Paul’s child quoted him, 

at a time when they were complaining

of “having to do” something:

“All you have to do is die.  Everything else is a choice.”

unfortunately, Paul’s number was called,

and he had to die,

how wondrous are all the right choices 

he made while alive.

by Henry H. Walker

August 22, ‘20

Monday, August 17, 2020

The Loss of Fili


I remember Fili’s quiet intense eyes,

I remember his willingness to take a risk,

despite the caution he felt toward the world,

the shyness that held him back

from letting us know too much,

I remember his soft smile,

the loving patience he worked to give the world

and to those of us he cared about,

but who he hesitated to let in too far as to who he was,

I remember his diligence and persistence 

in mastering English as a second language,

I remember how he persevered so well in learning 

that college called him and he accepted,

when he was an eighth grader,

readying himself for high school,

I worked with him as he worked

to tell his story on the computer, 

with illustrating pictures,

of how he got to be here,

of his roots in VeraCruz, Mexico,

of his roots in the vitality of family to him,

I was impressed with his gentle soul,

with the strength of self he lived,

with the goodness of his heart,

with the wondrous possibilities that could be before him,

then his story abruptly, tragically, 

came to an end in the moments we know,

his soul, though beyond us now,

must soar as he returns to God.

by Henry H. Walker

July 24, ‘20

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

set, and subset


August and Albright Nature Grove

as summer starts to wind down

and the flatter lands call me back to work,

I like to have an adventure

up here in these Smoky Mountains,

a goodbye to the teacher called mountains

to whom I regularly apprentice myself,

today is 7 miles of climbing up and down a valley:

first on a gravel road

where those settling these lower reaches of the slopes

coaxed plants to give them corn, sweet potatoes, apples,

where chestnut trees showered sweet nuts upon them,

and allowed their wood to be shaped into house and barn,

a wood ready to be worked and resistant to rotting away,

that world of the settler is gone,

and the cove hardwood forest aches to return,

for 90 years the trees, without help from us,

have been reaching back to the sky,

and slowly, steadily recreating the world that thrived here

since the Great Ice retreated some ten millennia ago,

for reasons all too rare in these Southern Appalachians

a section of this upper valley was spared the “clear cut,”

and enough old growth trees were allowed to remain

so that we, in our visit,

can see a ghost of what was,

when the forest, without humans,

created a world where the wolf knew it was home,

where the bison and the elk,

of countless other species, of fauna and flora

lived and thrived together in a harmony

we humans cannot even achieve just with our own kind,

we humans have had the vision

to set aside some spaces

from the destructive scouring

of reducing what is not “us,”

to what “we” want,

our challenge is to realize

that “we” includes the wolves, the trees,

and all the species that are part of the family of life,

we cannot live if we do not act upon the reality

that there is a set called life,

and that we are at best a subset of it,

which knows its place, and uses it well.

by Henry H. Walker
August 8, ‘20