Friday, July 27, 2012

of stone and water

write in stone, live in water

every waterfall draws us

 as two great truths reveal themselves there:
the need for solidity, as rock holds and holds,
the need for fluidity, as water moves at the heart of life,

I love how much history stone can hold:
memories of sea and of fire, of cataclysm and transformation,
of the human eye who shaped point and wall,
of those who wrote in stone a bit
while most of human lives flows away to be forgotten,

yesterday a storm thundered over us and then up mountain,
and the creek roared with its new charge,

whenever our batteries are running low
water in fall or sea quickens our blood

as we remember the charge to flow with grace and power,

we can write in stone
but we live in water.

by Henry Walker
July 22, ’12

Thursday, July 26, 2012

pass the baton

life, a great race

life is a relay race
in which we can get the baton
long before we feel ready to run,

I sit here and think of my father
and of how much he would love to hold my grandchildren,

in his arms and in his heart,
to play with them, to throw them up in the air,
to see in them what I’ve heard he saw in me,
a “just wait till you see Little Henry,” I’ve heard tell he’d say,

our part in the race can finish earlier than seems right,

nevertheless, the race goes on,

and each runner checks within, reaches deep,
and pulls out an effort to give the best,

my father was amazing,
and who I am only hopes to do as well as he
with what is possible for me,

I am undone by every moment with my grandchildren,
I am even more undone when I imagine my father with them,

the baton is precious, may the race continue on,
and, as we run forward, may we remember and honor all those
who came before us in the great run.

by Henry Walker
July 25, ’12

potential promises

tomorrow hopes for greatness

with each child tomorrow hopes for greatness,
like a gambler who throws the dice
and hopes that chance will smile,
we come together, and a child wends its way
from conception through gestation, to birth,
and then through the gauntlet of growing-up,
through the potential chaos that impinges on a child developing,
as if to dare her, to dare him
to beat the odds
and achieve the greatness the potential within promises can be,

I see greatness within my children and my grandchildren,
and within each student I dare to teach,

I celebrate every time greatness
finds a way to move itself through the gauntlet
toward the tomorrow that always hopes
for the best that can free itself to be.

by Henry Walker
July 22, ’12

land and tree a part of us

Cataloochee Symbiosis

deep in a secluded valley in the Smokies
lived a man who knew the land and the trees as part of him,

the trail to his homeplace
slips up the hollows
and along the flat ridges
as if each were made for the other,

 I imagine his making of the sled road
as being as much a work of art and love
as a work of muscle and sweat,

along the trail he invited old growth hemlock, poplar, and pine
to stay, any place where corn fields didn’t demand they leave,
the body and the soul balanced in their need to be fed,

and now, after the dream of a farm here has faded away,
many great trees still stand,
 they have endured and can speak to us

of when the Cherokee slipped through this valley on hunts,
of the time before people had the power within their hands
to break the spirit of the land so that we can ride it
and feel it was then ours,

not much old growth is left
and it’s hard to get to where it hides,
particularly here in the East
where our numbers can overwhelm what’s left,

this old valley is secluded enough
for elk to be reintroduced here
and some old growth to remain,
it’s not secluded enough for a contagion from overseas to miss it,
such as when, generations ago, the chestnuts were blighted,
and now an insect, an adelgid, swarms in to devastate the great hemlocks,
who still pillar like great columns, now ghosted with shrouds of lichen,

I hope we humans can learn to do better than the adelgid does now, here,

symbiosis should be our goal,
like in our gut,
where count less bacteria live within us,
and we are one together,

that’s how Robert Palmer seemed to live with land and tree,
may we learn how to harmonize, too.

by Henry Walker
July 23, ’12

Friday, July 20, 2012

the root of all . . .

indulgence should be fleeting   

a disquiet lurks just below
the forced gaiety of indulgence,
a premonition of a bill that will come due,
and a doubt about the wherewithal of paying it,

modern America worships at the altar of consumption,
the more conspicuous the better
so the neighbor can know you’re one-up, or more, over them,

the accumulation of goods, of money,
the seeming root of what success is,
as everyone seems to nod at each other in agreement
about the pursuit of money as what life’s about,
and woe be unto anyone who realizes
what the root of all evil is and says it,
the material transcendent,

we forget the value we get when we deny ourselves
and tithe to church or state, to another who needs us,
yet we easily pour our wealth out for a lottery
in hopes to strike it rich,

even for the few who overcome the astronomical odds against one,
what is gained is ill-gotten and can be
but sand for the foundation of happiness,

I deny myself food so that I can then have cake
and the cake is never as good when I have it
as I thought it’d be when I didn’t have it,

for years I didn’t have the money
and deep hungers rooted in me,
when I spend money now, though,
guilt reminds me that indulgence has its place,
but that it should be fleeting.

by Henry H. Walker
July 17, ’12

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

whatever can reveal itself

search image

who we are can shape what we find,
what we expect can open or close us to what we see,

if we feel ourselves to be a hammer,
the world can be to us as nails,

I take who I am and extrapolate to others,
and sometimes that gives me a key to a lock
that the self before me can hide behind,

I hurt deep within
and that hurt opens me to the hurt
that might drive another,

I have learned to see the shape of artifice
within the more flowing shapes of the natural,
and I hope to be able to recognize the essence of the natural
within the human world
so that I can know when we are true to what has real roots,

my son has a search image for four leaf clovers

and I do not, I look at clover
and whatever I see seems to revert to three

because that’s what I expect, I guess,

what I seek in my searches throughout my life is revelation,
not just what I hope to find
but what the universe tells me is what I can find,
maybe what I need to find,

who I am strives to be who can best appreciate
whatever the world allows to be revealed.

by Henry Walker
July 11, ’12

clover images from Google Images

Monday, July 16, 2012

3 great gifts

as a stranger in a strange land

three great gifts hold me like a parent:

the Smoky Mountains, where I feel myself as right
as a hand in a glove,
where who I am becomes larger,
deeper, wider, truer
when I connect with trail and stream,
peak and flower and bear,
and I know myself as a child of the Earth,

my heart leaps into another
and I see them,
and I touch the strain of the greatness within them
which struggles with the smallness of the boxes
that strive to hold them within,
and I know myself as father and grandfather,

 as brother and cousin and uncle,
and teacher,
and, like with the Earth,
I feel rightness in who the world has allowed me to be,

and partner:
to find another with whom my loneliness goes away
and I become better,

not only because her love validates me,
but also because her love makes me better
by helping me resist the boxes that makes me lesser,
and with my partner I am a wholeness,

without such gifts
I might get lost in myself
and be as a stranger in a strange land,
 empathy has that of the divine about it,
for only when we understand can we care,
and only when we care can we find ourselves at home.

by Henry Walker
July 8, ’12

Sunday, July 15, 2012

slip across the land

art & utility blend

some trails are true to what land and stream
tell us is the best way forward
with the least bulldozing of our wants upon the land,

there’s an elegance when a way slips across the Earth
the way the Earth most easily allows,
as if trail and Earth are partners in a dance,
each adjusting to the other,
we modern humans enjoys the power of imagining
where we want a railroad, a road, a trail,
and making it so,

I love an interstate highway
and having the right vehicle on the right road
to get me to where I want,
to where I need to go,

today, though, I savor a trail
that native peoples followed for thousands of years
to get onto the Smokies main ride
and from that same gap into the valleys below,

the land told the trail where it could go:
when it should climb,
when it should drop,
when it should be in the stream bed for a hundred yards,

the trail fits the land
and the land can still express itself:
the flowers reveal themselves as if in gardens

and each step on the trail can be a delight,
even with the effort of the hike,
and really the effort is what my body and soul need from this day,
the grace of the trail is a bonus,
art blends with utility.
by Henry Walker
July 9, ’12

Saturday, July 14, 2012

tomorrow calls

a couple of bears

bears I see are solitary for the most part,
except for mothers with cubs
in that first year of seasons,
 yesterday I saw a pair
working the trash by some cans,
finding mouthfuls casually thrown away
along with plastic soda bottles and plates,

the larger, sleeker male attracted to the smaller female,
proposition after proposition rebuffed with a snarl
 and a step away,

after half an hour of eating and flirting,
and her snapping at him,

they couple and stay together for 80 feet,
their genes driving them
until they separate and walk off into the woods,
cross the creek,
and I lose them in the rhododendron beyond,

the female leading,
to me she seemed too young,
her coat threadbare
but tomorrow called to her, too.

by Henry Walker
July 9, ’12

Friday, July 13, 2012

another of the greatest generation

Pete Fox   

Pete Fox was a good guy:
true to who he knew himself to be,
true to his better half
with whom he built a good life,
true to God
with whom and for whom he lived every day,

low country South Carolina helped birth him--
there where heat, humidity, & bounty are abundant:
watermelon, boiled peanuts, rice, shrimp & crab,
and people for whom family and community
give a reason for each beat of the heart,

Pete excelled at a career that took his family
to big city Chicago, then to St. Louis,
then to the hills of East Tennessee,
where work, friends, and golf filled him,
low country South Carolina called Pete and Millie back:
to Edisto, to Ehrhardt, to their roots,

their son Cyril was the light of their life
and they followed their love to Atlanta,
where God called Pete home,
and all who knew him are lesser
without Pete still being there for us.

with love,
from Henry Hiott Walker
July 5, ’12

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

of four and seven

children play
in children’s play
the predictable battles the unpredictable,
order versus nothingness,
control versus fear,
when imagination builds high and true within that great house
enough randomness must also find a home
so that the unexpected expected can delight,

too much order stultifies,
too little order and there is no game,

what seems hardest about being four years old
is certainly not the joy when all seems right
but the depth of sorrow that calls to you
when the world denies the play your will hopes to make,
a seven year old’s boat has more mass than the four’s
and can keep pushing ahead as the seas try to toss it about,
more and more I enjoy talking with the captain
for there’s a lot her charts, days, and musings reveal to her.


by Henry H. Walker
June 28, ’12

Monday, July 2, 2012

the up & down of moving

house to home, and back again

a house becomes a home, as it’s lived-in and loved,

and the, a home becomes a house when it’s time to move,

there’s a totality, a wholeness when a family makes a home
and the shell becomes a fertile egg only when there’s life inside it,
memory after memory come to ghost the things, the rooms,
with echoes of what we did and how we were who we are,
transitions are messy, as is every creation,

in a move, boxes and stuff clutter chore after chore,
each item on a list seems to sprout another list below it,
and another,
and another,
like nested dolls,

it’s all so exciting,
both in the upside with newness and hope,
and the downside with anxiousness and fear,

a new house can grow into a home,
yet, like all transitions, the birth is work.

by Henry H. Walker
June 25, ’12

Sunday, July 1, 2012

the constancy of self

  continuity & change

the self has a constancy,
from its first precipitation out of possibility into actuality,
she within the infant’s open eyes appears
 and it seems to me she’s still there in the elder,

even if Alzheimer’s closes down the access,
the enormous developmental leaps of the first months and years
are more acquisition of tools for the master to use
than changes of essential self,
heralds and retinue are added
but the lord or lady remains much the same,

we look at photo albums, and faces change,
hair grows, and for those of us longer in the worldcolor bleaches away into purer and purer grey,
first bodies lengthen and later they often thicken,
I can see the adult inherent in the child
and I can feel the child resident within the adult,

our granddaughters sharply present themselves,

 devastating in the fullness of their self-possession:
words, numbers, understanding, memory, acuity
enough to overwhelm us,

I still feel constancy within their changes,
continuity of a nobility of a head and heart
that increasingly find how to reveal themselves,

the master constant within whirling seas of change.

by Henry H. Walker
June 25, ’12

another chance to get it right

the driver for the child

a driver lives within us
who loves a child
and sends our hopes and dreams
out into possibility
so that who we are
can find ourselves truest,
when out of the power of our adulthood,
even with the lessening years before us,
we believe in the future enough--
and fate allows our beliefs enough--
that a child can be conceived
and the world can get another chance to get it right,
with possibility born to parents who love to love.


by Henry H. Walker
June 25, ’12