Sunday, January 19, 2020

which little voice within?

what do we hear?

what little voice within
do we hear?
do we follow?

in an adult sureness of the cast within them,
we ask middle schoolers
about their conscience,
the impulse inside to do right,
the one that counsels us
to choose the better path,
to get off the wrong one,
we envisage a simple design
with two paths before us:
the self-centered one, the baser,
the nobler one, the purer,
then kid after kid denies our naiveté,
because for them the little voice within
shouts to doubt self, to fear the moment,

that voice undermines every brick
placed to reach higher, surer,
replaces every “I can” with “I can’t”,
distorts every self-image into caricature,
every rightness into wrongness,
every fullness into emptiness,

to distance ourselves from such a loud voice
we need quiet and stillness, and support,
so that we can hear and follow another little voice within,
one who gets us to raise our hand, 
to venture something new,
to see the other and reach out a hand,
to be unselfconscious like a flower,
and to just be beautiful.

by Henry H. Walker
January 17, ‘20

Sunday, January 12, 2020

the sense of wonder

the tune, over the dark

I am a teacher,
rather, I am more an educator,

I love to learn,
I love to fan the flame of question, of inquiry,
the flame of the drive to know how the world works,
to fan that flame both in the other and in myself,

I have loved to quest for the wild whale,

to listen to the stories geology tells with rock,

to the stories the forest lives both above and below,

to feel the close bond with the wolf and the bear,

to remember the strong bond with the flower,

I love to know how much we crave wonder:
the most spiritual and needed of the senses,
the way our individuality feels and realizes
the glory just outside that makes us feel better,
that makes us be better,

we then can know our place,

that it is less than being the center of the universe,
that it is more than our partiality,
and is of the same tune life, 
and then consciousness,
sings into the dark.

by Henry H. Walker
January 10, ‘20


the future beckons

evolution has relied on chance, and on deep time,
to match species with environment,

willy-nilly we now pave paradise,
we can’t wait for chance to help us stumble forward,
we don’t have the time to allow millennia of trial and error
to help us find the way,
our errors threaten to doom us to a path 
where ego trumps rationality,
where lethargy and selfishness trump our better angels,

I seek to hear and follow the wisdom of the selfish gene
who wants to endure, to last into a beckoning future,
I want the best for my grandchildren’s grandchildren,

we understand our genes, more than ever before,
and we are tempted to change our plants to better serve us,
maybe to change ourselves to better be us,

I am surer that we should help our culture evolve,
to transcend the tribal, to fit ourselves back into a world
where the whale, the wolf, the tree are part of the family,
where we know “won’t” as much as “will,”

where the will we write with our lives
designates “sustainability” as the birthright that can endure.

by Henry H. Walker
January 10, ‘20

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

feels empty

defined by family

the house feels empty,
and I feel partial,
as if part of me has been cut off,

our sons, and their wives, 
are vital to who I am,
and they are no longer here,
gone back to the immediacy 
of their own workaday worlds,
of their own everyday worlds,
our grandchildren, also, 
gone back to the immediacy of home,
of friends, of where on earth 
they stake the flag of their moments,

yet, just as in math, or language, or the spatial, or the heart,
there is an abstract reality below and behind the concrete present,

we are a family, bonded and knowing much of who we are
because we connect so surely to each other,

I cannot ever appreciate my wife enough,
for in the house, empty of children and grandchildren,
I still hold a treasure, and she holds me,

I feel a miracle of love where each of us
knows and appreciates the other,
which in turn allows us to appreciate
the worth of our own selves.

by Henry H. Walker
December 30, ‘19

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

to know where we are

spatial sense

where are we?
and where is everything else?
we rely on the senses for they reveal the other to us,
and thus place us in the world:
the smell, the touch, the sound, the sight,
ways that the outside world reaches back to us,
and we know some of where we are,
the more we can know where everything else is,
the more surely we can see into the larger sets
that can reveal more of who we are
by how we fit in, or don’t,

where on the mountain am I?
and, thus, where is everything else?
topography, geography, whisper definitions of place,
and I reach to feel myself in context,
most days, in my early morning meditations,
I concentrate on a Native American prayer,
for Earth to teach me,
for each cardinal point to help me learn 
what the North, the East, the South, the West,
can teach me about how the universe offers insights
into who we are, and how we should be:
how to be braced by the North,
lightened by the East, and starting over,
comforted and held by the warmth the South sends,
eldered and reassured by the West,
and the potential glory in endings,

all of this is a spatial sense,
an intelligence that helps me make sense out of all that I am,
and all that seeks to help me be even more,

I would add the temporal, too,
the sense of where I am within past and future,
for who I am extends back to how I got to the now,
and who I am extends forward to where?
our tomorrows will reveal or deny 
the hope that calls to us,

only if we are grounded by knowing where we are,
can we know how to venture true into where we ought to go.

by Henry H. Walker
December 29, ‘19

Monday, December 30, 2019

Mr. Rogers and us

the neighborhood

Won’t you be my neighbor?

a soul so full of care
that connection just spills out of it,
as if it realizes it cannot stay inside itself,
that the neighborhood has to grow
for any neighbor to feel right—
not alone, not lost, just right,

my tears flow freely throughout the movie,
how Fred Rogers lived his life
echoes how I want to live my life,
believing in the other, as in myself,
believing in myself, as in the other,

my school, C.F.S., wants it to be 
“a beautiful day in the neighborhood,”
with each soul upwelling and positive.

Mr. Rogers sings to us
of the better angels within
who want to come out.

by Henry H. Walker
December 30, ‘19

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Big Poplar, Gone

The Big Poplar, As Corpse

the year declines, and January approaches,
I resist the couch and pull myself up a steep hollow
where valley transforms into slope,
and great trees found a way
to outlast the farms that reached toward them,
I particularly love a large buckeye
that would take two of us to encircle it with our arms,

there at the half-angle base of a rock cliff,
a tulip poplar endured for hundreds of years,
not cut down when all the other nearby great poplars
were felled for houses and lumber,
or just to make way for corn,
its top had been blown out long ago,
and my theory holds that 
its value for wood was thus diminished,
I’d prefer a story of a conscious choice
to preserve a remnant of the Great Woods,

for half a century I’ve visited the Big Poplar,
bringing kids and friends to marvel at it,
to gaze with wonder at its bulk and majesty,
to listen for consciousness within the gestalt of its wholeness,

I’d skip a year between bringing groups for a visit,
for our feet broke stems, tore away moss, increased erosion,
the land needs time to heal from such scrapes,

the Big Poplar, like many of us older folks,
was proud and hanging-in, though a bit tenuously,
three years ago the Great Fire roared over these mountains,
nearby ridges and woods were too dry to resist wind-driven flame,
large trees down the ravine were protected some from the wind 
by being low, and from the fire by being wetter,

the Fire, though, raced up the bark of the Big Poplar,
a good 40 feet into the air, touching the crown,
the year after the Great Fire,
the tree stumbled through a growing season
but could not make it through a second,

the Big Poplar died,

the next year the absence of its crown
allowed a riot of pokeweed at its base,
seeds that might have lain dormant for centuries
sprouted and cluttered the understory,

today, a bit after the third anniversary of the Great Fire,

I visit the corpse of this great tree,
the bark mostly sloughed-off,
and the tree a pillar of white,
still tall and imposing,

now gaunt and haunting me
with the memories of its great presence,
up from the base some bark holds on,
and around the base platters of bark are scattered,
each with only a little curve to it,
for like the Earth, the tree had a circle so big,
that it looked almost flat,

on the trunk where the bark has fallen away,
traceries of weblike root whisper of the fungus
looking for ways to turn death back into life,

sadness settles over me—
amidst the loss in this cold winter,
I remember high summer, and audacity.

by Henry H. Walker
December 26, ‘19