Friday, May 29, 2015

like at the end of a marathon

at the end of the year

school consumes me at the end of the year
as classes wind down 
over 80 reports on kids need to be written,
then I climax my effort,
taking 20 kids into the wild of the mountains:
making the effort for an 11 mile hike,
writing, sharing, living,

and then I have a break before the final week,
it’s like I’ve run a marathon,
and then I stop, dead,

in the night all the clutter of my psyche
rises up to remind me
that there’s spring cleaning to do in my interior:
difficult losses and changes and doubts to process
now that I have time to notice them
and no longer so much frenetic activity to repress them,

I feel that I am of worth
when I connect, when I do,
and when I’m past the frenzy
of being there for my students,
for my family,
really for anyone,
I feel lost, adrift, bereft,
now it’s time to deal 
with the rest of the lists
I’ve ignored in the primacy 
of the moments these last months.

by Henry H. Walker
May 24, ‘15

Thursday, May 28, 2015

the "now" of water

water’s magic

we sit in silence by the creek,
each of us wrapped-up in our own journeys,

I see myself as a boy playing 
with sand and dams and dropping water,

I see myself as a father
working to make the creek kid friendly,

I see my children and now grandchildren
caught up in water’s magic,
I see my son find a hatchet in the pool
that was used to work shingles by pioneers,

and yet, despite the history,
it’s the glorious “now”
that once again mesmerizes and traps us in its spell.

by Henry H. Walker
May 21, ‘15

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

comparing, and feeling lesser

impressed by others

I ask: 
“Who feels that others write even better than you?”
“Who heard others’ poems and thought they were better than yours?”

Who felt:
“I wish I could write like that!”

and nearly all of us raised our hands,

everybody else cannot be better than everyone,
though others can impress you 
with insight, wording, 
a capturing of an elusive thought, feeling,
that each of us has sought to hold in words,

virtuosity is not a jealous god
but one who can visit and be with us all.

by Henry H. Walker
May 18, ‘15

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

we need a world that's left alone

we’re drawn to the bear

the three year-old mother bear
just ambles along in the grasses,
it’s just a quiet late morning for her,

for us, it’s different,
after 30 minutes of inching along
the bear-jammed road,
the kids pour out of our vans
with lightness in heart and step,
with excited eyes and snapping cameras,

we make the world for our comfort,
and yet still crave the world
that’s left alone and wild.

by Henry H. Walker
May 20, ‘15

Monday, May 25, 2015

Mt. Cammerer, and the Void

the draw of circles, and Pringles
He points at Mt. Cammerer Fire Tower

a low stone fire tower
on top of precipitous Mt. Cammerer,
its round enclosed space draws us
as if it’s a nest to hold us,
we humans do like to circle,
particularly with each other,
glory is just outside the circle
as clouds and view fight each other,

inside Pringles, Oreos, and banter
pull our attention away from a glory
that can disturb our tranquillity,

some kids absent themselves from the group
and sit on a rock, letting the outside envelope them,
while each composes a letter to the future within that envelope,

soon we leave
and we wonder about the balance of effort and cost.

by Henry H. Walker
May 19, ‘15

Sunday, May 24, 2015

is nature for us?

water for power

a muted whirring from giant turbines spinning,
miles of tunnels empty their passengers,
all of whom race toward the sea,
their power gives us electricity to use to power our houses,
all of this built in a frenzy in the 1920s
to turn bauxite to aluminum,

to the left the river is so tamed by the dam upstream
that it’s listless while all its stored energy
flows long and hard down the tunnels
to froth white and green
below the concrete and brick wall of the power plant,

nature can be savored for itself
or used for us,
and how can we find balance?

by Henry H. Walker
May 24, ‘15

Sunday, May 17, 2015

the apple that is I

the tree of my father

I feel I am an apple,
and I can only imagine
how true to the tree of my father I am,

like any son I want to model myself rightly,
and the father is the touchstone,
either as a model to follow
or the model not to follow,

I have long sought to be real with words and touch, to my sons,
and I feel the absence in my memory of my father like that,
for we were at odds in my early teens,
and just then he died,

just when I was sure in my ignorance of him,
I hear of  “Mr. Walker’s Club,”
a group of junior high boys
we would now call “at risk,”
and that he proactively gathered together
to fight their dissolution 
into the lowest common denominator,

and then, this year, 
at the wake of my 100 year old uncle,
one of my father’s former students
told of Daddy’s greeting each student
at the door of the junior high school every morning,
and he would hug them,
over 50 years later she still feels 
the unconditional love in that hug,

when I connect well with my middle school students,
it feels right, even though I know I didn’t invent this wheel,

and I love the idea that, if I do well as a teacher,
I am an apple that the tree of my father would own.

by Henry H. Walker
May 15, ‘15

Saturday, May 16, 2015

us now from both past and future

from our earlier and our future selves

in the present I can feel tomorrow call to us,

I can sense the future selves within my students,
see the potential of the self coming into its power,
and thus my vision and my belief
can help the form already present
define itself more fully,

and when I see my former middle schoolers
onstage as high schoolers,
I can also see their past selves
as an aura that still suffuses them,

past and future help us to be more truly present
when we embrace and learn from
both our earlier and our future selves.

by Henry H. Walker
May 7, ‘15

Friday, May 15, 2015

Lantern Restaurant, and Andrea

Culinary Intelligence

I don’t really like wish lists for presents,
maybe because I don’t want to anticipate
what the present will be when another unwraps
just who they are,
and I get to glory in each unique surprise:
that’s what teaching is like for me at my best,

Howard Gardiner blessed us with the insight
that intelligence manifests in a multitude of forms,
that brilliance can be in movement, 
in shaping, 
in words, 
and in numbers,
in knowing self, in knowing others, 
in knowing nature or the spirit,

and tonight at supper my wife added “culinary intelligence”
as another way brilliance can express itself:
a finding of foods, a mingling of taste and texture,
a sense of the possibility within food,
in its preparation, in its presentation,

as much art as in a painting or a sculpture,
a connecting to the miracle of life,
and, if we’re lucky,
to the miracle of the other sharing the food with us,

tonight in Chapel Hill at Lantern Restaurant,
Andrea expressed her gift,
and we know again brilliance in the culinary.

by Henry H. Walker
May 14, ‘15

Sunday, May 3, 2015

let's escape the tribal

from many, one

we have our differences,
and part of us loves commonality,
a grouping together with those
most like the part of ourselves
that strikes us as determinant:
maybe our gender, our age,
the way we see the world,
personality traits like ours,
the geography of our birth,
the color of our skin,

we find each other,
and we are a group,
those not in the group are “other”
and it’s easy to deny the other can be part of us,

in our politics and in our associations
we can easily slip into the tribal,
we fragment and deny the whole that we can be,

tonight I attended the world premier of a play
I commissioned to be written
as a way to express and celebrate
the best of who we can be as a Quaker school,

the playwright, director, and middle school actors
got it, expressed it, celebrated it,
as they presented a world with 7 tribes,
each committed to the totem of a different animal:
the fierceness of the tiger,
the preening of the peacock,
the caution of the mouse,
the playfulness of the monkey,
the steadfast dependability of the dog,
the power of the snake, the goat,
the children explore, reach out to the other,
and find companions, friends they didn’t expect,

another group impinges on their world
and they have to deal with it,
so they find how to work together
and, in that work, discover parts of themselves
to develop in synchronicity with what works for the other,

once they’ve come together,
their hearts enlarge enough to welcome
even the ones most distinct from them,
if the other meets the outstretched hand
 with their own outstretched hand,

“me” dissolves into “we” 
and the opposition of the tribal 
morphs into the dynamic cooperative tension
that can hold family and community together.

by Henry H. Walker
May 1, ‘15

Saturday, May 2, 2015

this time in spring

summer aches to release

pollen and petals and catkins

all drop this time in spring,
like pieces from a rocket
no longer needed after they allow the ascent,

the ground is strewn with it all
as if a ticker-tape parade has gone through,

this year’s tree seeds, and last year’s,
both use the wind to twirl and spiral
toward a future that calls to them,

meanwhile the trees release their leaves into fullness,
countless solar collectors
that make their hay while the sun shines,

my cherries and blueberries have set into green pods
and reach toward color and sweetness,

the tomatoes, too, reach to actualize the potential
that summer aches to release.

by Henry H. Walker
April 22, ‘15

Friday, May 1, 2015

embrace the transient, and the enduring

of a snail, a millipede

as we go up the steepening cove
through lush fresh growth,

all luxuriant in its tender green and beautiful flower,

two of my kids, just behind me,
find a snail, then a millipede,

and each carries the treasure with them 
as we climb up to the great poplar tree, our goal,
they talk to the little creatures
and comment on nips, poop,
and how to keep them safe,

how marvelous to find wonder
in the treasure of the very small, the transient,
and then in the very large, the enduring,

all the while the trees drop
silver bells all around us as we climb.

by Henry H. Walker
April 17, ‘15