Thursday, March 29, 2012

one dream displaces another

a harder truth

5 perfect eggs lie cushioned in a pine-needled nest,
the pure blue of their shells
matching the feathers of the father,

the oaks, too, reach for tomorrow
with innumerable grains of pollen
matured and sent forth,
just as their leaves begin to emerge,

large bees bumble to the blueberry blossoms,

each hickory sapling opens its buds
as if a magician who reveals a perfect surprise,

a cherry tree erupts in white blossom
as if to dare the frost,
while nearby cousins take their time
to risk it and flower,

in the garden the asparagus stirs in its bed
stands up and slowly stretches its arms wide,

green onion, buttercrunch lettuce, & sugar snap pea
race with the weeds to be first to demand my attention,

12 young tomatoes, started inside from seed 6 weeks ago,
find their way into the ground in the morning,

the day feels of hope,
of reach after reach toward the future,
toward being remembered,

in my hope, my optimism,
I look again into the bluebird house
to reassure myself with those 5 perfect eggs,
and they aren’t there,
and I don’t know why:
the idyllic march from mating, to nesting, to laying, to little ones,
to the beauty of adult after adult flashing through the air--all aborted,

I’d snake-proofed the bluebird house because last year
a black snake met its needs by denying the bluebirds theirs,
I searched for signs to tell me what happened,

it seems another bird’s dreams of being remembered
led them to destroy the bluebirds’ dreams,

the kid in me, and the parent of the kid,
doesn’t want to hear this lesson:
each of us, who will be here tomorrow,
lives by denying that tomorrow to what we eat today,

one bird displaces another,

maybe that’s why so many of us love sports so much,
for there the joy of the one is built upon the loss of the many,
and sports reminds us of a truth humans can try to forget,
a truth the bluebird parents live today.

by Henry H. Walker
March 27, ’12

the importance of the other to us

we can build together

the life flight helicopter rises above the hospital
as I head into the great building where countless lives intersect,
each of us drawn there by our own needs--
whether to do the work,
whether to get the work done,
or whether just to visit and support,
there are so many ways in which bodies can glitch
and fill themselves with dysfunction and pain:
so many jobs to do, from the incision to the trash,
from the fixing of what is broken
to the care of the self
who rides the steed of the wounded body,

I celebrate the talents of the doctor and the nurse,
the technician and the orderly,
he who moves the beds
and she who cooks and delivers the meals,

as a species we are at our best
when we find how to organize ourselves
so that the gifts and needs of each individual
are celebrated and provided for within a collective,
like a family writ large,

a hospital can be such,
and so can government,
when we, at our best, move beyond greed as the end,
and find the other with whom we can build together.

by Henry H. Walker
March 25, ’12

Sunday, March 11, 2012

dawn breaks upon the faces

A Day of Science

today, clouds hide the sun,
yet I still watch dawn break upon the face of student after student,

first, through the wit and showmanship of our opening guide,

who pulls us to learn about the solar system
and empowers us to get it right,

then as I go around the middle school through door after door,
I find scientist after scientist
who each work to reveal the magic of the science each knows,
and scientist after scientist comes alive within student after student,
who question, experiment, who work to learn the tricks of the trade:
the words, the concepts, the power of the tool to reveal,
if the mind is ready to see the light within,

there’s power in the microscope,

the potato cannon,

the rocket,

a cardboard roller-coaster,

truth in the roll of the die, in an l.e.d. light,
in cryptography,

in DNA

and on the tundra,

in the bird

and in the baboon,

in the wiring of the brain

and how to protect ourselves from writing that might catch fire,

we imagine the life of animals in the wild and in a zoo,
and how to preserve the best of us and of them in our practice,

half the students offer postered experiments on the wall
to test the truth of what each imagined might be true,

students then build towers of pasta and structures of newspaper,

and struggle and laugh in the challenges,

as the day ends,we celebrate those who have reached the furthest,
and we joy in how many dawns we’ve seen, even on a cloudy day.

by Henry H. Walker
March 9, ’12

Saturday, March 10, 2012


the artist reveals

storms come in, like a lion,
and I adjust my plans,
hunker down one day
and give up a plan to hike hard and high
on the way back home,
the old growth forest there still calls to me
but I don’t want to risk high winds, rain, & lightning,

so instead I let the storms pass
and hike fast and sure up a long valley,
mostly for the aerobics, yet I hope for flowers,

and, instead of appreciating the canvas ready for spring,
the artist surprises me with stroke after stroke of flower:
blood root pop forth, perfect white buds,

erect and ready to open soon,
a few, bedraggled now, opened before the storms,

hepatica everywhere on some slopes,
all bow as if in deference,

I find the first geranium,

the first delicate Dutchman’s breeches,

a few phacelia, lacy and perfect,

and easier to appreciate before they overwhelm us
with their upcoming extravagance,

what I see is perfect for now
and contains within it multitudes of possibility to come,
like the students I teach, amazing now,
but, watch out, world,
for how many more ways
the artist will find to reveal herself.

by Henry H. Walker
March 3, ’12

Wednesday, March 7, 2012


she who must be . . .

I work hard to do well
and I have been advantaged
with abilities, a nurturing family,
and open doors before me,

still, there is nothing
as to who I can be
and anything that I do
that can somehow lead
to my deserving partnership with Joan,

who, in her softspoken ways,
shouts of how wonderful a person can be.

by Henry Walker
March 2, ’12

[Joan will have surgery March 21 to replace her right hip. She's looking forward to the expected relief.]

. . . can realize it knows. . .

like a monk

I retreat to the mountains,
and I expect to lose myself in what they reveal,

instead, tendrils of my piedmont life
can reach from there to here,
and I must name them and deal with them,

like a monk freed from the burden
of the mundane immediacy of chores,
I find myself able to sort, to consider, to write,
so that I can know what that within me
can realize it knows.

by Henry Walker
March 2, ’12

open to revelation

the open woods

now that I’m up here in the Smokies
I’ve walked the bounds
and appreciated how well
folks have been good stewards of cabin and yard,

I’ve seen the surface,
sauna-ed and dipped in the creek,
and napped on the porch,

it’s too early for spring flowers
and winter has left the forest as a clean canvas
to which spring will soon add color and delicacy
to complement the greens, browns and grey
that call to my eye now,

often, when I’m up here, what’s on the canvas
is what I need to notice,
and tomorrow that might be so,
today, the bare trees and ground,
and the lightly chuckling streams,
feel open to revelation that might come soon.

by Henry Walker
February 29, ’12

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

my own truth?

the way out and the way in

it feels good today to stroll, then hard hike up the valley,
shaking loose the lethargy in my muscles and psyche,
the forest before me washed by last night’s storms,
drop after drop still on the branches like tiny ornaments
who every once in a while rainbow the sun,
who wakes up both himself and us
with a clarity yesterday’s grey just didn’t have,

only a few flowers, small yellow violets and clumps of grass,
have ventured out, plus the red of early maple,
I see signs of the show readying itself
in tiny budding yellow trillium and mats of tiny trout lily leaves,
bears at a memory and a hope,
I hear wild turkeys and see none,

the walled spring I love to visit,
the only one of its kind I know of,
has dropped rock after rock into itself from above,
as if a century of holding is enough,

the great beech above the cabin
that I’ve know all my life, like a grandparent,
drops even more branches that it can’t sustain,
the rot at the base about halfway around the trunk,

in these poems I often look for a moral at this point,
a distillation of experience now as a way to let me pause
and work to understand just how what I am
mirrors the world or finds himself going against the grain,
or maybe who I know now knows himself as a subset of the human,
with no grounding in the rhythm methods of the world,

even though I only sort of notice,
I write these words while letting the rain-fed creek
rush its truth below me,
while I struggle to understand my own truth.

by Henry Walker
March 1, ’12

Monday, March 5, 2012

presence, instead of absence

teaching, a subset of educating

I teach, but only as a subset of what is more important,
which is to know the learner
and to find the ways to empower that learner
in what each needs to do for the learning,

every day at school I am in awe of my middle school students,
who glimpse what they can be at their best
and lurch, as best they can, toward the wholeness that pulls at them,

as I thought of one student today,
I felt the worry of the absences that might be in her skills,
and thus in her,
and, instead of absences, I felt the presence in her
of a wholeness that yearned to be true,

for me, the secret in education is not
how to best market the transmission of knowledge,
the secret is to ally with the best in a person
and be a right hand to help the child, the master,
to move forward by helping clear the way.

by Henry Walker
February 29, ’12

out of the mud

to endure

I find it amazing
that everyone isn’t made crazy
by what life throws at us,
the setbacks to our own dreams,
the empathic pummeling we can feel
when disease & disaster visit those close to us,
the arms of doubt that pull at our optimism
and make us wonder if the mud
is where any just fate would have us be,

I’ve spent a lot of my life
with my ear cocked for the call
that will tell me the results are in, and they’re bad,

no wonder the reserve of the English appeals to us,
the challenge to “buck up” and persevere,

I’ve learned to be less judgmental of my forbearers
who clamped down on their reactions and persevered,
so the Depression and War should not rule the day alone,

I think of Faulkner and how “to endure” was a vital skill
of the downtrodden in the South,

I want to hold as much as I can
of that which seeks to pull us down,
while I also hold to life’s prime imperative
that calls us out of the mud into the light.

by Henry Walker
February 29, ’12