Tuesday, August 16, 2011

ready to bubble up

summer leaves me vulnerable

summer leaves me vulnerable,
I feel guilty that I haven’t been working,
guilty that I’m still around
when my parents and brother, and so many others,
have passed away,
their absence makes my presence seem wrong,
undeserved, a debt that can soon come due,

I find it easy to discover something in my body not exactly right,
and it becomes scary, like a bill collector too long not paid,

this week I’ve noticed brief golden flashes at the periphery of my left eye,
I dismiss it, then I obsess about it,
so I decide on an eye-doctor visit next week when I’m to be back in town,
and suddenly get the word it might be bad
and to get me to an eye-doctor today, while still here in Tennessee,
so I do,
and the problem is on the hopeful side of possibility,
I’m relieved that I can go home and just be aware,
I sigh away my fears
and bring back in my emergency bag I had in the car
in case I had to go to the hospital,
and, right as rain, the next day I find something else to worry about,

I’m relaxed enough to feel strongly
and to realize all my feelings ready to bubble up:
I cry easily,
I laugh easily,
and life as loss and endings shakes me with its truth.

by Henry H. Walker,
August 13, ’11

cardinal flower as?

school impinges?

usually by now, late in the summer,
school starts to horn in to my thoughts and lists,
visions of classes and kids will dance in my head,
and I find myself not fully present in present and past,
and the future plans my present, more and more fully,

I found the first blooming cardinal flower today,
the bittersweet tolling of a bell to tell me it’s time to go,
I felt myself lost in the perfection of its beauty,
more than with it as the usual slap
to wake me up from the dream of summer,

I will be fully present for my kids and colleagues soon,
for now the mountains call and I still sit at their feet and listen.

by Henry H. Walker,
August 9, ’11

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Wayland Inn

I work to remember

we write upon the surface of the earth
with hope translated into actions:
we clear, we build, we order the green,

and the earth forgets us as soon as it can,

today I searched out and explored the Wayland Inn, in Boyd’s Creek,

near Sevierville, TN, close to the French Broad River,
and home to Native Americans and the earliest of settlers,
built 50 years after the Declaration of Independence,
home of my great-grandmother
and where she returned to give birth to my grandmother,

much of the roof and lumber still good enough to hold,
but every window is smashed and glass is strewn upon every floor,

an old enamel tub remains downstairs, on its side, disconsolate,

great holes where windows opened the view still pull the eye out,

just inside the doorway, where there is no door,

the steps of the grand stairway still remember
the care and vision that went into them,
the entrance into the main road, designed to entice travelers
off their horses, out of their wagons,
and to stay awhile, is still open and inviting,
the slats below the railing and most of the embellishments on the stairway,
what passes for barbarians here have sacked the place,
mud daubers and paper wasps call it home now,

great vines of poison oak assault the front porch
where proprietors and guests must have sat
to watch the passings and anticipate whoever would come,

a quarter century ago I visited here
and the grounds were clear,
the springhouse still standing,
the inn itself a home for a man who welcomed us,

now the springhouse has rotted and been removed,
the inn itself is close to ruin,
and nobody keeps the grounds from a riot of weed,

I work to imagine it all occupied and vibrant,
my great-grandmother, a kid growing up here,
and then a young woman becoming a mother again here,

a distantly-removed grandfather, with a will of steel,
creating home and business, and even starting a Lutheran church,
so he wouldn’t have to be buried in a Baptist cemetery,

I work to find a way to a cemetery across the road,
and maybe nearby to where an academy existed just after the Civil War,
where another side of my family found itself for awhile,
now it’s overgrown woods and subdivisions of ticky-tacky:
expensive houses that the earth can easily forget in a few lifetimes.

by Henry Walker
August 8, ’11

Sunday, August 7, 2011

summer is of endings


within the moment I begin to feel
tomorrows start to shake the sureness of today,
the comfortable rightness of our children and grandchildren with us
and the whirling realities that will soon spin them away,
undo me,

after my grandchildren fly off and away
I sit by the creek where they played,
and a spirit is gone, an animation no longer here,
to give each rock, each moment, a meaning
that tells a story that pulls me into it
as if I am a child just before bed,
captivated by what I am read,
and yet there are still stories here:
remembered, imagined, distant,
as if in a rear-view mirror while I speed forward,

summer, to me, is of endings,
goodbyes follow goodbyes,
I am still in a story
in which other characters leave
one after the other,
each goodbye a loss, a sadness,
a cleansing so that I can be ready
for new chapter after chapter to begin anew.

by Henry Walker
August 6, ’11

so much us, so much not us


I love the black bear,
I know in my bones,
like the Cherokee knew,
that bears are our cousins,
wilder versions of us
who, in their seamless weavings
into forest, stream, and mountain,
remind us that we, too, are of the earth,
and not above it or beyond it,

I am intrigued by how much
the world reveals itself to them
in smell, sound, and intuition,
and how little through the eyes,
whereas we humans see best by seeing,

we can love the bear
for it is so much us
and so much not us,
when our paths cross
feet stop, cars stop,

and cameras race to hold the moment,
and, if a cub is involved,
we see a child,
and we know how much the mother cares,

if only we humans could care
about every child born to life,
and still realize the rightness
all the many times potential cannot
yet find a time to be.

by Henry Walker
August 6, ’11

Saturday, August 6, 2011

our granddaughters

older sister as translator

when my 6 year old and 3 year old granddaughters
come to mind,
I find it hard to really think,
since they come first to my heart
and I feel so strongly,
they center my world
and they ground me with the power in their selves,

each has a sureness in the knowing of what to want,
a confidence that there is a path moment to moment,
upon which each should walk,

the older can adjust more easily to thwarting pressures
for her foundation is older and surer
and also allows her access to higher levels
where the abstract of others and herself,
of other realities and her realities,
can meet and parley,

the younger, when thwarted, feels foundations threatened
as if her choice denied shakes the universe,
and she despairs over what to an adult can seem minor,
we have forgotten what it is to be three,
in her primal concreteness she cannot on her own
yet rise above and beyond the moment,

the 6 year old can remember being 3,
and she can touch the higher levels, too,
so when no one else
can console and distract her sister from despair,
she can,

she is a translator, with feet in both worlds,
who can bridge the gulf between,

at best an educator is such a translator,
what the world needs now are bridges
for truth has many parents and places
who need to find each other.

by Henry Walker
August 4, ’11

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

the importance of no

the vitality of death to life

within us there is a powerful, wonderful impetus to have children
and to help them grow,
we are called to treasure each new attempt at perfection
by us in league with the universe,

what is also true is that we rise even higher
when we notice and value that same drive in the other:
the other person, whether human or not,
the primate, the mammal, any animal, even any plant,
who with the substance of their existence
seeks to endure and to rise into the sun,

what is much harder to get is the truth
of how many seeds are released
compared to the very few that survive to seed anew,
of how many eggs are released
compared to the very few fish that thrive,
of how many sperm and how many eggs that are potential to be
who cannot be expressed in a world without enough space to afford them,

I celebrate the impulse to parent
and the impulse to parent well,

I also celebrate the wisdom to know when to say
“no more” for me,

I teach and joy in other people’s children,

I celebrate life wherever
flowers grow,
bears wander,
and eagles soar,
and I know how many deaths each life means.

by Henry Walker
July 28, ’11

out of nothingness

reaching toward order

deep, deep within reality
order permeates the very substance of creation,
all that came to be,
all that has changed,
and all that will change,

out of nothingness came all that we can come to know,

and, within it all, there is a driving impetus in the universe
toward structure, toward meaning,

some of us reach to know that impetus toward order,
and away from its lack,
and feel it to be that of God,
we like to feel something akin to us
but written much larger than we can really fathom,

others avoid such personalizing
and choose machine over person as the model,
evolution the product of randomness upon randomness
that somehow self-organizes,
for structure beats non-structure
as the fittest finds a way the less fit can’t,

consider within literature and cinema
the times when we imagine the machine to develop self-awareness,
the mechanistic becomes personal,

I choose to imbue what I see reaching toward order
to be that of God, with whom I want to be part of the best
wanting to manifest sure.

by Henry Walker
July 28, ’11

a stumble

I am a camera trying to focus . . .

I come back again and again
to the allure of the moment
and to the opposing allure:
to pull out and away,
to plan, to remember,
and also to shake off the numbing of the moment
that familiarity breeds,
I want to come back again and again to the now
and to be fully present,
to “get” the moment is to know both it
and the context of time and space
within which the present manifests,

and all moves on,

the senses give us now,
the mind gives us before and after,
the heart gives us what matters, and why,

like a camera trying to focus,
I struggle to see where I should give myself,

we pay a price when we stumble with the body,
we pay a price when we stumble with the soul.

by Henry Walker
July 24, ’11

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

to touch glory

LeConte Sunrise 7-31-11

dusk slips into night,
as if a light switch is flicked and slowly, slowly dims,
foggy wisps and sheets of grey cloud
slip over us and between us and even the nearest ridge,
and the light slowly, slowly dims,

in those earliest hours before night breaks into day
high dappled clouds drift away overhead
and haloed stars begin to open themselves up to us,
electric lights in the valley below mark out the flatness and the roads,
and I feel myself on a perch of the mountain
where I stand and walk and consider,

as the night rolls on and the day just starts to roll over it,
I look into the west where black still suffuses the grey
and only the roughest rounded shapes reveal themselves,
distance there merges ridge and sky into a blur of sameness,
I look into the east where the lightest of blue and red
slips out between streaks of cloud,

now the fog hangs low in the valley
and streams to fill the hollows
as if to forget the lowlands
and be a sea upon which we, the mountains, are islands,
and great ones at that,

rose announces the coming of the sun,
then softens into cream just before the sun crests the clouds,
and, when it does, moment after moment of grandeur
centers upon and around the sun and its rise,
a centering that holds all we can see

we poor humans cannot hold it at all,
so, when we try, only tears reach close to the power,
with pictures and words I seek to not forget this time
when veils part enough to let us touch glory.

by Henry Walker
July 31, ’11