Sunday, December 29, 2013

the way out becomes the way in


how ironic that just as our modern technology
connects us all with tools that span the earth,
and with which we can access centuries of data,
and with which we can reach others across the globe
with the touch of a few buttons or keys,

that just then the tribal calls us even more
to define ourselves as narrower and narrower,
like to like in blood, friendships, opinions,

it’s cultural atomization, 
the breaking down into the smallest possible units,

just when communities have the most potential to become larger,
we fall back from the march forward and become smaller,

we went into space and then decided
to be more Narcissus than Magellan.

by Henry H. Walker
December 26, ’13

Saturday, December 28, 2013

a stairstep of becoming

our grandchildren, our joy

there should always be wonder
in the coming into the power of the self
that every child deserves to be able to release,

with our grandchildren it’s almost a stairstep of the stages of becoming,

our older granddaughter is eight going on adolescent,
as the consumes books, remembers everything,
notices and celebrates process after process,
all the while coming into the power of her will,

our five year old granddaughter can devastate us and herself
with the joy she can find in a moment,
and the sorrow that can envelope her the next,
heart and head hold each moment close to her,
and her will hates to be thwarted, too,

our youngest grandchild, one year old Max,
is as perfect a new child 
as one could hope for,
solid in body and self,
intense in eye and consideration,
beautiful in countenance 
and how his spirit animates 
face and head to express that self,
loving pattern in vocalization, 
and in the drumming of hands and feet,

his will wants to take on the world,
and he’s most successful now in pulling us all to him
to be whoever he might find most pleasing.

by Henry H. Walker
December 25, ’13

Friday, December 27, 2013

shifting perspective

first to third person narration

we live life in the first person
and events can subsume us
in the acting, into just being,

it’s when the narrator of our life
shifts to third person
that the larger context of it all
impinges on our consciousness,

in the first person 
I can feel myself intensely,
yet I need to step out,
to make the empathic leaps
into larger and larger contexts,
they can then overwhelm me with realization
that both centers me
and helps me realize the circles within circles
of which I am part,
and which also truly define who I am.

by Henry H. Walker
December 23, ’13

fire of feeling and the water of just being

from fire and water

this fall I have felt like a crucible
flamed by the fire of feeling
and, from the forging, 
new poems have appeared
as if etched in fire on the page,

water is often my philosopher’s stone,
as it falls and pools around me
experience, thoughts, and feelings 
can transform into poetry,

and sometimes I just need 
to sink into the moment
and just let it be. 

by Henry H. Walker
December 21, ’13

Monday, December 16, 2013

hurt and joy are brother and sister

a raw wound

this morning I feel that thought and word
cannot possibly express the loss
that hovers just behind routine and conversation,
the absence is and will be a raw wound,
never to be gotten over,
but one with which we will have to live,
angry scream after scream barely approaches the power
of the blows upon the psyche,

I can still laugh,
still get things done,
excuse myself from the sorrow for awhile,

and still I will again close the circle
and come face-to-face with a truth I’d love to deny,

I know of people who seem able to compartmentalize:
to wall off areas they don’t want to touch,
I fear for them, for darkness, walled-off,
finds a way to slip into the other rooms
to short-circuit the power that can make us who we can be,

hurt and joy are brother and sister,
and who we are needs both
to rise to our fullness.

by Henry H. Walker
December 15, ’13

Friday, December 13, 2013

trees are illusionists

a green dream

here in the east, a green dream 
wraps itself around us most of the year,
trees are illusionists who reach high and stretch wide
and build on the misdirections of the other trees--

all of whom want to keep us 
from seeing the clear shape of the land
and the sheer sure revelation 
of sun and moon’s dance with us,

yet I love their offer 
of the embrace and the sweetness of a flower,
the companionship of a great old beech,
and the eldering of a great old poplar,

there are stories of faerie,
of parallel life-forms who live beyond calendar and clock
and with whom we can lose ourselves for a time, 
or a timeless,

I love to live in the dream,
and I also miss the clarity
with which earth and sky can shock me awake.

by Henry H. Walker
December 6, ’13

organizing meaning into reality

the dance

early on, as we feel potential meaning swirling within us,
we learn that sounds can be trained to be words,
and an order within the meaning learn to be itself,

with music a whole other order finds how to be,
and the swirl within reveals understanding
as rhythm and melody organize together
at our depths and reach to our heights,

today, though, I feel the power of dance
to allow vision, technique, and work
to take and organize the swirling meaning within us
to places for which I have no words but only appreciation,

within me I hold the virtuosity and power 
of vision and presentation,
of movement, light and darkness, and music--
all of which combine together to compel the audience into meaning
for which words are but inarticulate sound,

the dance itself organizes meaning into reality.

by Henry H. Walker
December 12, ’13

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

to be with Claudia was to feel right


what a gentle good soul:
the twinkle in her eyes,
the easy smile on her lips,
the steel in her sense of self,
the softness in her care for others,
the sureness in her love 
for her children and for her partner,

would that everyone could live life like Claudia,
of both determined will for her self
and determined will for others,
could anyone take better care of a parent
than she did with her mother,
or of children as she did with Alexis and Jessica,
or of a partner as she did with Kathy, the love of her life?

how fitting that she taught organizational behavior and management,
though the way she was treated at NCCU
illustrated that bureaucracy’s need of her courses,
her students loved her,
her children loved her,
her partner loved her,
just to learn to know her was to know to love her,

she knew how to organize money and things
and always had a workable plan to make sure
contingencies were prepared for:
she probably never paid a dime of interest,
she also pursued art and music with a passion,
nothing more real than the brilliant rightness
of the music she helped play, 
a professional oboe player for six months,
a Pennsylvania choir a means for Kathy to find her,
at 60 learning and then playing the violin,
for years with the Durham Symphony,

still, when Jessica gave up the violin and chose dance instead,
Claudia fully supported her 
and lived adventure after adventure with her,

Kathy and she “got” each other,
and what a treat it was for any of us to “get” her,

to be with Claudia was to feel right,
the universe and us aligned,
blocks building together rather than falling apart,

we can escape the fullness of who we can be
by being either too tough or too soft,
Claudia found how to live the assertion of will
and also the responsiveness of love.

to be with Claudia was to feel right.

by Henry H. Walker
December 7, ’13

Monday, December 9, 2013

a wrenching loss


a chasm opens deep and wide,
and the wonderful person I treasured
is now on the other side,
I cannot quite believe that 
this vibrant funny man is not here any more
to share the air,
to share a joke,
to share a story, a moment,
that our path together came to a fork
and now we’re on opposite sides of the chasm,

my brain and my heart work to deal with it,
but the despair of the new reality 
repulses my attention,
and my thoughts skitter off and away
into any distracting harbor they can find,
for the storm of loss can buffet me beyond bearing,
when I hold to moments with the new truth,
tears shake me and I feel the despair just below,

we remember Jonathan as a beautiful newborn
at the hospital in Greensboro,
as an energetic rambunctious child who leaped into things,
as a tender sweet child through teenager
playing improvised games of football in the backyard at Glasgow
and being my partner in being outrageous in knock rummy card games,

he grew up well and found a partner who meant the world to him,

depth upon depth to the self he’d let us see,
and far more depth upon depth to the self he wouldn’t let us see,

time with Jonathan made me smile with delight,
as who he was was of the light,
and the world will be darker without that brightness,

may we learn from him 
to flare our own brightness
as fully as we can.

with love,
from Henry H. Walker
December 8, ’13

Monday, December 2, 2013

rightness and loss bound perfectly together

Thanksgiving ’13

I feel the absence of those we’ve lost to this moment:

of parent and brother, and friend who have died,
of family whose own journeys take them 
somewhere else other than here for now,
those today at the Thanksgiving table
find joy in each other and the food,
and still within me flash after-images of earlier Thanksgivings,
and I remember, and I wish I knew even more of the forbearers,

I ache to remember the best of those who have gone before,
the struggles, the will, the doubts, the hopes:
how they found answers to all the great questions
that must be dealt with just to endure,
life is a game with only hints of directions,
we’re alone, and maybe we find another,
and maybe the other is who we need,
and, if we’re even luckier, that who we are is who the other needs,

we have a child and we must intuit how to parent,
driven by love and guided by the heart’s and the intellect’s best guesses,
we have to act and find the paths that are best
with only hints as to how and where to go in trackless woods,

and when we’re home at Thanksgiving,
we can feel rightness and loss bound up perfectly together.

by Henry H. Walker
November 28, ’13
Images courtesy of Google Images

Sunday, December 1, 2013

I want to BE there

the mountain’s moods

I need to feel fresh
every time I go outside in the Smokies
so that however the forest feels
I can wear that mood, too,

so that I can hear whatever leaf of story
floats down the creek,

so that I can know the quickly fleeting and the slowly changing,

so that I can know the constancy of being an instrument
upon which the mountain plays,

I was last here in high summer
when I sought to escape the heavy humid heat
and the forest was full of frenzy to make, to do,

now winter is upon us--
trees bare but for a light snow lining them
and a fire draws me in rather than pushes me away,

I missed the fall up here
as instead I fell and broke a bone
and I missed the golden moods between green and bare,

familiarity isn’t all that can dull me:
rather I must leave all the needs of my lowland life
which callous how I can feel with nerves already used elsewhere.    

by Henry H. Walker
November 28, ’13

Monday, November 18, 2013

a grandson, grounded in himself

Max, almost 11 months old

Max is grounded in himself,
there is a solidity about him
that you can feel when you hold him,
that you can see when he enters a room
and new people are there,
he anchors himself in his parent’s arms
and looks steadily at each of us,
with both caution and intensity to his gaze:
extraordinarily alert, observant,

and when we are soft and subtle and fit into his world,
he readily smiles at our “peek-a-boo”s
and is ready to meet us at least halfway--
a sweet-tempered nature to him that easily smiles, easily laughs,
and, when he’s frustrated and crying,
he seems almost apologetic for being so
and ready to move on with a distraction,
with a reordering of his attitude,

we echo the sounds he makes, 
so he notices,
thinks about it,
and repeats the noise or makes a new one,

after awhile we can offer our arms
and he can choose to be picked-up,
and, when he allows it, both of us feel right for a time,

on the floor with him, we’re in his world,
he will softly touch his grandmother’s hand,
and look up to her,
all in a way that tells her
he feels they are connected,

a solidity to his legs replaces 
the artful curved thinness of his first months
when each limb could fold up and tuck into his body,
his legs have differentiated from his arms
and serve as tools to hold and propel him upright and adventuring,
while with his arms he touches and manipulates the objects of his world,

parallel to the development of his legs is a solidity to his personality
as options are exercised and a sureness of self reaches from him,
we watch him explore, test limits, exercise hand and sound
and use his mouth of explore what he can around him,

he finds a pattern of movement and action around the room,
and repeats, and varies it,

this day he finds a corner 
near the door and a “babyproofed” console,
edges himself back into it,
and cackles with glee as he looks out at us,
he ventures forth and quickly returns, 
very pleased with himself,

how wonderful it must be to be so fully in a moment
and to find that moment so joyous.

by Henry H. Walker
November 15-16, ’13

Thursday, November 14, 2013

our screen consciousness

the ephemeral world of the screen

there must be consequences to how we use our mind,
to how and where we focus our attention:

nature and the physical universe draw me
so that I can know the womb out of which we are born,

meditation draws me so that I can ground myself
and be less like the flitting eyes of a paranoid bird,

I wonder what our screens do to us?
those two dimensional worlds which serve as portal
to others, to knowledge, to the realness of the virtual,

our commitment to hardware and software, only temporary,
for our relationships with a computer, a phone, a platform
are abruptly subject to change,
to an itch that certainly can’t make it 7 years,
maybe 7 months before we hope for the new,

I do not even want to wait a few seconds on the computer
for windows to open,

what does it do to us to be so yoked
to the ephemeral world of the screen?

by Henry H. Walker
November 9, ’13
images courtesy of Google Images

a gift that calls me

to see a person. . .

I do not know. . .
I cannot understand. . .

I can ride a power
over which I have only a touch of control,
and somehow, 
through a gift of vision that can sometimes scare me,
mists can clear
and I can see a person, close to the truth of self,
and I can sometimes find words 
that roughly build toward what I see,

I seem to get a person best
when persona and self are in harmony,
and that beautiful person behind the eyes
allows himself, herself to be seen.

by Henry H. Walker
November 11, ’13

Sunday, November 10, 2013

a pendant reaches across the millennia

a touch of the shaping

as I cross to our outbuilding to put something in?
take something out? I can’t remember,
my eye catches a hint of form,
the form echoes a piece of wood 
that swivels around a nail,
a common trick to hold a door closed, 
or release it to open,

I pick it up with mild interest,
I like to appreciate the natural world and its patterns
and to appreciate finding what shapes don’t fit in,
I feel human touch in a path, the placing of rocks,
bits of metal, glass, ceramic on the land,
any fragments of earlier stories
that, like the memories of the Library at Alexandria,
remind us that today was preceded by yesterdays,
each full of purpose and effort
that draw us but which we can touch 
no more than to hold a ghost,

in my hand an artifact reveals itself, 
a gray flat-backed shaped piece of soapstone,
in the basic form of a native spearpoint,
blunted off at the end,
a perfectly formed round hole right in the middle,
a carved indented neck so that leather string can hold it
as it could lie against the bosom to adorn, to protect, to remember?

I imagine the long, long years this pendant
rests atop sandy topsoil above piedmont clay,
here on this hill that first found a modern house half a century ago,
here where I’ve found spearpoints that reach toward
the first times humans found and appreciated
how the world could hold them here for a time,

I ache to know the man or woman who stood here with this pendant
and I ache to know what it meant for him, for her,

a local expert at the state university writes that they have never seen its like
in all the painstakingly recovered, preserved, 
and catalogued artifacts from the last 10,000 or so years,
my best guess is that around 8000 years ago 
the pendant was made, worn, and lost,

I honor the maker,
the craftsman, the artist,
and I seek for him,
I think he still lives in how he was able 
to take his vision and write in stone what mattered to his soul,
and who now speaks to me through the pendant that still is,
and that lies in my hand, in my heart, and in my soul.

by Henry H. Walker
November 3, ’13

Friday, November 8, 2013

a clarity, and a purity


some lives have a clarity about them:
a purity of the sound they strike
with every beat of their heart,
with every choice of their words,
with the touch of every action they venture forth,

Barty was as pure an example of goodness
as any of us could ever hope to be,

he was blessed with a powerful intellect
and an even more powerful heart,

who he was drew out the best in any around him,
and the wholeness of his union with Suetta
rang clear and loud for all to hear,
and drew amazing children from out of the ether
to even more fully complete who he knew himself to be,

in his last years the clarity of sound and mind
felt the damper of Alzheimer’s,
as the tools of understanding and connection
from him,

yet inside he was still the same wonder,

how extraordinary that his last breaths were with his family
and the music of the songs they sang together,
the lullaby he sang for his children returned to him,
and he softly passed.

by Henry H. Walker
November 8, ’13

Sunday, November 3, 2013

my superego

the price to be paid?

at the heart of my psyche
I fear the bill coming due,
I sense the price that must be paid
for everything that goes right,
the belly weight that must come after the dessert,
the work that must come after the play,
the comeuppance that must come after too much going right,

I wonder if when death comes a-knockin’
I will ask, “What took you so long?”

by Henry H. Walker
October 13, ’13

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

the fire sparks high and holds us

We quest

something deep within us seeks connection:

we can seek a lasting relationship with another,
particularly when in that joining
we become more who we feel ourselves to be,

music draws us
as somehow in the alchemy of instrument and voice
the rightness of the meaning 
inherent in the moment
reaches into our core
and the best of us 
is touched and rejuvenated,

food draws us, like music and friends,
to share a meal that can celebrate connection,
as we savor sustenance, the senses, and the ones around us,

we invite friends to an evening
of good food, great music, and awesome potential
for finding  others with whom we can build relationship,

when the band shares their genius,
and the fire sparks high and hold us in circles around it,
I feel the rightness that should always accompany us
on the quest we call this life.

by Henry H. Walker
October 27, ’13

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Howard Gardner and his insights

different strokes for different folks

we share air and space within the world,
yet how the world expresses itself to us
can be in a language that often isn’t even of words,
and, if in words, the structures vary enough to thwart sureness,

I live for words, and, as in this poem,
they are the tools I hope to use to discover and reveal meaning,

I am also drawn to math and its awful clarity,
the structure of relationships that seems abstract
and can feel as if it’s how God underpins everything
with the skeletal framework before and below
the soft sureness of what we see,

and how does an artist, a musician, an athlete perceive the world?
imagine subtleties of color and shape, of nuance and rightness,
of beat and melody, of rightness and discordance,
of movement as one lives life as action:
all such languages reveal what cannot be open fully 
to any without the right key,

add to all that how brain chemistry, upbringing, and choices

can sort the world’s possibilities
and orient us in how depressed or hopeful 
our take on the moment can be,

our soul strives to know the world, 
yet how and what it knows
shapes what the world is to us
and who we know ourselves to be within that shaping.

by Henry H. Walker
October 18, ’13
images courtesy of Google Images

Saturday, October 12, 2013

the tablet of the self

tabula rasa

I am in wonder
as each person
learns to write upon the tablet of the self,

at how, by middle school,
much of structure is already there:
formatted, ready to move forward
with more and more elaborate
exposés of thought and feeling,
of responsiveness and will,

my wife teaches 6 and 7 year olds
who have more of a blank slate before them
than do my students,
as in any journey, those first steps presage success, or not,
and a young person who starts the journey well
can more easily handle the challenge of the age
when I companion in the journey
than those with glitches in hardware and software,

I feel awe when I imagine the effort of each step before
that has helped the students in front of me
ready themselves to write true upon each tablet of the self.

by Henry H. Walker
October 2, ’13


to notice, and appreciate

I write--
sometimes with finger and pen and paper,
and more often with the way I act upon the world,
with the words I use to notice another,
to appreciate another,
to feel for how this moment came to be for them
and for the hope that suffuses them
with how the next moments might be,

I live for connections,

I feel the loneliness 
that can seem to be wrapped around
the way we move through the world,
as if we’re in a trackless wood,
and no one sees us,
and, no matter how hard we run,
we fear the way we go,

at my heart I want to be there for the other,
so that each can be even more sure
that the path each writes upon the world
is noticed and worth the effort
each moment demands.

by Henry H. Walker
October 11, ’13

Saturday, October 5, 2013

a 99th birthday!

My Special Uncle Bus

to give oneself completely to the moment
to the other, to one’s self--

that is Uncle Bus:

a natural force
that sees the world clear
and shapes it sure
to a vision of what it can be,
and his solutions feel so right
he is sure of the truth,
like he is sure of the unconditional love 
he gives so freely,

so genial, a twinkle to his eye,
a loving to connect with others
and to build himself part on
who he knows,  and touches,

the individuality, memory, and beauty of wood
revealed on his lathes as treasures
from their own essence and his vision:
“to everything turn, turn. . .”
and a time for their “purpose under heaven,”
he the instrument for their revelation,
him as agent for memory,

his beloved Margaret, she who completed him,
and they found each other in a bond
that even the Second World War 
could not deny for long,
from Tokyo Bay in the fall of 1945
Glenn found the way home
and Margaret and he wed soon after his return,
their love so like a whole
that can not be apart
until flesh itself can hold no longer,

and from their union three wonderful children
who with the strength of their gifts
and the power of their love
make a difference in all they touch,
ripples of the wholeness
Glenn and Margaret lived with every breath,

Glenn an engineer who sees the world
as logical, rational,
with rules to learn and follow,
the sureness of measurement and structure,
the named, the encountered, the understood,
working for T.V.A. and keeping 
our dams and power right,
organizing the garden to produce bounty,
making rolling pins, cabinets, tables, 
Christmas ornaments,
whatever needs doing 
for whoever he knows and loves,
find a need and he has a solution:
how to cut finger rolls, pour apples, open jars, sharpen scalpels,
how things work a passion,

his faith strong and sure
for here is the explanation for the world
and here are the rules by which to live
so that the spirit underlying us all can be revealed and expressed,

the apple pie, the story, 
the family, the church, 
 “the least of these my brethren,”
central to his core,

a life of love and giving
and revealing every gift that God has given him
and the world is that much better 
for how well he lives.
Happy 99th birthday, Uncle Bus!
with love, from nephew Henry Walker

October, 2013

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

metaphor for US?

to be as a curry

from many, one--
as somehow, some way
people from all over the world,
each unique individuals,
add back story of variegated culture and self 
and make a whole,

what metaphor can best hold that process, 
at its best, of merging into unity as a country
of becoming one entity made up from plural selves?

maybe melting-pot, 
a traditional view that we are as metal melted,
and we each become as the other,
our differences swallowed in our similarity?

a friend has argued that tossed salad works for him,
each part fully distinct, and still it’s a whole,

another friend argues for a quilt,
each square distinct yet part of the larger,
a Chinatown within a large city,

I’ve argued for stew,
each part distinguishable
while still giving up its edges for the larger whole,

this week I hear of a chef from India
who presents curry as a mix of many,
in which the textures, the spices, the individual essences
blend into a distinctive whole,
with the unique power of each part
alive and well in a whole that can be magnificent,
balanced, and with a sauce that connects and harmonizes it all,

may we as a country be as a curry.

by Henry H. Walker
September 27, ’13
image courtesy of google images

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

the cusp of leap and fall

my humerus isn’t humorous

my foot catches on a root:
my body pivots
and I have no control
as I slam my shoulder into the bank before me,
a bone in my upper left arm cracks . . .

hours of doctors’ offices and x-rays,
it’s a simple fracture, no need for a cast,
an immobilizing sling to keep my sleep self
from hurting the alignment,

as long as I sit, or lie back, no pain,
when I get up, and move,
soft tissues shift,
and pains radiate down my arm:
at times quivering wrist and hand,
the simplest actions require enough effort
to make me pause before I shift or move,
anticipation of discomforting pain 
makes me pause like Prufrock,
and see if I dare even the simplest motion,

the universe and I are determined
that I will learn to appreciate every moment,
that I will appreciate every cusp
that might lead to dissolution, or not,
that each and every moment that the dice fall in my favor
deserves wonder and appreciation,

the fall is always there beside the leap.

by Henry H. Walker
September 29, ’13

Saturday, September 21, 2013

of mason and wall

pulling forth form

I am drawn to the building site
and to the masons who start to pull up the walls
of cinder block and mortar,
to the “mud” of the binding,
to each block distinct
until aligned and worked into the whole,
an action of creation that calls up to me the potter
who, like God in Genesis, pulls forth clay into substance,
the formless into form,

each mason gifted in the making
and warm in words and connection,

only single digits of days 
and concrete foundations will sprout the walls,
that will delineate rooms within which
teacher and learner will find their own way
to build form and substance,
and to reach toward the sky.

by Henry H. Walker
September 20, ’13

the construction of renovation

subtraction before addition

a cold breeze slips over me,
an insistent bird pipes at my attention,
while other birds are more random
in their whistles and warbles,
my body, too, pulls at my attention
with random aches and pains,
and, like the wind, blows my attention here and there,

the building site has no one working today:
bulldozers and backhoes, jackhammers and saws,
all have worked their will
on the old building and the older land,
cutting away to a flatness,
digging away to straight trenches, at right angles to each other,
concrete poured and waiting for the walls,

piles of cinder block stand at attention
and wait their turn to rise toward the sky,

the walls that will hold our dreams only an abstraction,
creation early on feels of destruction.

by Henry H. Walker
September 17, ’13