Sunday, October 25, 2009

see, feel, pass on the light . . .

Our colleague, Jim Henderson, lost his mother last Friday, after a long slipping away. Here is what I wrote to him, of him, in honor of him:

a long greying

today, as the sun sets, it reveals itself
with bright beams who find the slowly turning trees around us,
the world all on the verge of sharpness and contrast,
so unlike the grey wash that has been this drizzly day,

some days slip gently away from us
when shades of grey slip softly into each other
and it only slowly dusks on us
that day has become night,

I have lost a parent in such a long greying
and done my best to tend the fire of herself
so increasingly banked and hidden from me,
I had to hold my memories of midday and afternoon
and throw my love into the obscuring dark
in echo of that earlier gleam,
in search of the coals that I know must still smolder,

so much of the source of my light
that I shine as brightly as I can?
my mother--
who slipped,
and slipped,
and slipped away,
I feel Jim’s pain
and I honor the beams of his light
that he cast after his mother, his father,
and toward so many of us time after time,

may we each see, feel, and pass on the light,
and when our own light fades away
we should feel comfort in imagining the lights of others
who still flare brightly.

by Henry Walker
October 24, ‘09

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

"choose your own adventure"

we gamble, fork after fork

life itself is a “choose your own adventure”,
every step onward with a fork and a choosing,

so much is a throw of the die,
though we like to pretend it’s all rational,
that we’re in charge,
instead of the reality that,
as hard as we work to see,
we are still blind as to what numbers will come up,
where the ball will actually rest,
before it whirls and circles again,

every day we put down the wager of our life,
we choose,
and we choose,
and we choose,
and what actually happens to us
only maybe has any direct connection to what we will.

by Henry Walker
October 19, ‘09


the plane as chrysalis

plane travel does not make one appreciate process,

the transformation in the journey from start to destination?
wonderful in result and wrenching in the process,
confining before expanding,
from the cattle-like herding in the terminal,
through the penned-in confinement of the plane’s cabin,
and the rigid regimentation of disembarking,

such process should help us appreciate the effort
that transforms caterpillar to butterfly,
that almost divine disquiet at the heart
of a new thought, a new creation,

I see a plane fly overhead
and I enjoy imagining the product
passengers will savor at the end,

I don’t want to make an empathic leap
into thinking about being in the cabin itself,
into the effort of the process.

by Henry Walker
October 16, ‘09

Thursday, October 15, 2009

our bear cousins visit

a family reunion, October in the mountains

a week into October
and summer counter-attacks with a legion of warm air,
armed to the full with water from the Gulf,
night finishes in roars of wind which wave the trees
and flash moonlight on forest floor as if a spotlight searches,

the slightest effort and I’m hot
and my sweat just sits there,
rain swallows mountain and valley
and the streams raise their voices in appreciation of the reinforcements,
a great waterfall shouts!

gathering clouds part a bit and the sun lightens the mood,

meanwhile, winter has sent enough scouts
that the weaker leaves are turning yellow,
particularly the rhododendron,
yet I also notice ironwood and poplar finding the gold within them,

still, the forest’s uniform is mostly green,
nut, berry, & seed carry dispatches to future forests,
dispatches that bear, squirrel, chipmunk, and turkey intercept
whenever they can,

as we busy ourselves with food and washing,
a neighborhood friend comes over to report bears in the neighborhood:
I shush my students,
bark quick orders to them to follow, in the quiet,
and we find a mother bear and two beautiful cubs:

big and glossy, sleekly strong,

two brothers so playful they stand and dance and box with each other,
they roll on the ground and nip,
they play at dominance
and snack on berries like teenagers on chips,
mom mostly keeps to herself and eating,

her power ready on the instant to protect her charges
so we hold ourselves respectful,
we follow and watch them for most of an hour,
our cameras snap, snapping in mostly vain attempts
to capture a touch of the wonder of the moment,

each of my middle schoolers with eyes a-blaze, almost quivery,
words wanting to tumble from their mouths,
treated to a late day visit from our cousins
so like us as we see them play
and so unlike us in where and how we spend much of our days--

we humans need such family reunions.

by Henry Walker
October 9, ‘09

Sunday, October 4, 2009

what captures a granddaughter?

word, thought, and self--our grandchildren,
a poem

I can often see the trueness of a person in their eyes,
as the self inside marshals itself
and reaches out to know what’s out there,
to connect to the other,
to laugh,
to be real and revealing for an unguarded moment,
and then shutters and filters interpose,
much of the time who we truly are stays within
and only subsets interface with the observer outside,

I have two granddaughters
who each, I swear, is amazing in mind & heart & personality,
for I think I know that true self inside each of them
despite how difficult the leap of knowing can be,
much of the leap is intuitive, of faith and art,
with the younger words don’t yet accompany the self out,
with the older words pour forth and can be an obscuring blizzard,

the one-year-old expresses herself beautifully in eye and sound,
though it’s hard to know which words in which relationship
can capture one almost pre-verbal,
she who understands that she wants
and probably what she wants,
but has not the specificity of sound to thought we call words
so that she can voice order exactly what she wants and knows,
more and more she seems to understand words from us,
her ears and eyes sort out pattern
and she delights when she understands,
yet so much of who we are is the actor upon the world,
and for now she has sophisticated desires
and limited sounds to express them,
what intrigues me is whether thought is there
and words just translate it,
or how much words shape and define the thoughts,
inherent in Isabel is a wondrous self
whom we will know and she will know herself surer
as language and she share the shaping and revealing,

the four-year-old expresses herself beautifully in language and twinkle,
and more and more of who she will be, she is now--
inquisitive, sweet, imaginative, willful and open,
she acts upon the world with gusto
as she visualizes and implements complicated play scenarios
within which only she knows the rules,
and those of us in her world need to adapt
just as she has had to adapt to much herself,
with her, words are more and more sophisticated,
the precise tool for the specialized need,
the complexity of her development high enough
to give advantage so that the spotlight of her intellect
can look back into the concrete
and know it as actors fulfilling abstract scripts,
and sometimes the sheer volume and subtlety of her words
make it hard to see through the clutter to the self within,

we make ourselves in some combination of revelation,
pattern learned, and the ongoing synthesis of the two by a will,

just as in this poem
in which I felt and intuited a shape that needed to be born,
and, as I worked to get the shape right,
I chose words and structures
that gave specifics to the general,
definition to what needed to be,

I love to know another
and I love it when my granddaughters and we
learn to know the other and ourselves,

and, to parallel that creation,
here is a poem that found its form through words
cast to hold an idea
that only became real
as the process of writing both revealed and created it.

by Henry Walker
October 3, ‘09