Monday, October 31, 2011

blaze against the darkness


community is a fragile, powerful living thing:

fragile in its birth
as single cells reach to be multi-cellular,
to find and sing how the tones of one’s life
can harmonize and speak with the other,
and a larger, more complex organism exists,
each reach toward the other can be tentative,
almost blind in its questing, driven though,
driven to find meaning, to make meaning, to be meaning,

my wife and I pull enough out of our introversion
to answer the call of the young
to help them learn to like themselves
and to find how to realize the power within
that craves the skills to express itself,

we also, for decades, have pulled off pigpickings
through which we invite colleague, and friend, and acquaintance,
to join us for communal food, and drink, and music, and visiting,
most we invite do not find the way to us and the pigpicking,
for a lot can come between the possible and the actual,

last night, as I enjoyed community birthing itself,
I loved the sense of creation
as the disparate become connected,
around the blazing fire,
under the defining lights within the sheltering oak,
mesmerized by the music flowing from
the musicians’ creation and performance of their own songs,
all of this blazes against how the light can die,
a circle of good folks who become even better
by connecting with the other,

tears well up in me as I appreciate the connections made,
partly through our help,

the power of any community, once created,
is a fire that holds back all the surrounding, encroaching darkness.

by Henry H. Walker
October 30, ’11

with my life

more than zero sum

in the midst of my adolescent angst
my father dies, suddenly, abruptly,
no space to remember to savor the present
before the future, the absence,
crashes into my world,

I learn then that I should savor every moment
that I have the “now,” the other with me,
every beat of the heart
that is at the center of what is right,
of who I can be when I am with who is true
to the best of who we can be,

even a bone within can betray a person
and reorder where you’ll be inside, outside,
how you see yourself, be yourself,
how house and plans must then need to be reconfigured,

I know that doors close, paths forward can disappear,
even when one is young
and the future should be wide-open and bright,

I do not know how much of time and paths is left before me,

I do know that there’s a grand effort within what is
to build block upon block
to reach toward structure and meaning,

and that much within is also contrary
and works to knock the blocks awry,

with my life I seek addition rather than subtraction,
and hope that my life will have a sum somewhere above zero.

by Henry H. Walker
October 22, ’11

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

a double challenge

the way in, and the way out

every middle schooler has a double challenge:

first, to be unique and to appreciate all that makes one special,

and second to be connected to others
and to appreciate the sameness at the heart of all of us,

what gives us shape can make us uncomfortable,
the skin that surrounds us,
the essence that is within us,
can feel like the first draft of a work,
as we feel each flaw as a mistake
that draws the myopic eye,
whereas there’s that of creation in that draft
and we should honor how far it goes toward what can be true,
that first step out from possibility into the actual
is always worthy of awe,

who we are at our heart does not want to stay alone,
and every step we make that is of a true connection
pulls us toward the other to make a whole
larger than the sum of the parts,

the young work their souls hard in this daunting challenge,
all of us should honor the way in to ourselves
and the way out to others
with the substance of our lives.

by Henry H. Walker
October 8, ’11


if handle, then poem

“Let me get a handle. . .”

Once I get a handle
I can pull the poem out of the jumbled accumulations
that my psyche has built up of the world and me in it,
a handle that coalesces into a collection
that can cohere, and sometimes be a poem.

by Henry H. Walker
October 8, ’11

bears, bears, bears

a tonic for us

in the valley of LeConte Creek
bears continue to be bears
despite roads & trails & houses,
despite the bear jams of cars
with gawking cameras out windows and sunroofs,
despite those of us on foot,
despite all the mouths that drop
and from which the finest of human nature
does not always express itself,

today we see four bears who climb after grapes and acorns

and amble along through the woods hunting for what to gather
to turn into fat through which to get to spring,

they notice us when we’re too abrupt in noise or action,
mostly they filter us out as if we’re annoying younger siblings,

we, at our best, seek to understand the bear
and to marvel at its world,
they, at their best, seek to know nothing about us,
for we can be as poison to them
while they can be as tonic for us.

by Henry H. Walker
October 7, ’11

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

a social curriculum at six years old

resisting meanness of spirit

“Ewwh! what is that thing?” as she looks at the hardboiled egg,
“I can’t look at that,” says another,

“Would you like it if I said ‘Ewwh that stuff in your lunch is disgusting?'
How would you feel?”

They say they wouldn’t like it,
Still a boy keeps holding his nose and saying “That’s disgusting!”

“If you keep saying that, I’m going to tell the teacher.”

And so he stopped.

Our six year-old granddaughter finishes her lunch
and that night asks for another egg with the next day’s lunch.
The next day she sits with other, better friends,
enjoys the egg, and the company. . .

How wonderful for her, and for the bullying peers
that meanness of spirit finds no reward.

Would that all young people would stand up for self
and that all who would give into lesser instincts
would learn how to deny the voice
that makes them smaller while giving the illusion of the larger.

by Henry H. Walker
October 1, ’11

the way up

up the winding staircase

the growth up for a child
is not just incremental steps up a straight staircase,
each step upward small and equal,
each gain discrete and quantitative,
rather, landings appear after some number of steps,
places from which the view changes
and from which stairways differ somewhat on the way up,
a qualitative change, from time to time,
as the stairway spirals around again and again,

our six year-old granddaughter has just reached a new stage,
a new vantage point,
and she seems even more solid and grounded in who she is,
when her parents describe her I hear a new deference in them
to her sureness of self,
an increased awareness that what she chooses is right for her,
there’s an interest in how she will go when given a fork
and less need to guide the choice,

her three year-old sister is at an earlier landing,
just as impressive in where she is and how far she can go
yet earlier in that lifelong process of climbing into self and sureness,
her imagination whirls her off into elaborate play,
her head makes sense of counting and people,
her heart chooses joy and others more and more often,

the students I teach are in middle school
and the landings are higher
and increasingly beset by buffeting winds,

I hope all of us, wherever we are on the stairways,
remember the six year old within us
who learns every day that the going can get tough
and how to accept the frustration
and how to accept and reveal the burgeoning self
who will find a way if a way can be found,

I watch the six year-old untangle plastic lines and metal balls in a science toy,
she moves through near tears and finds the way to make it work again.
Later she tells me how after a challenge her brain feels better.

by Henry H. Walker
September 30, ’11