Saturday, February 27, 2016

stalagtites, glow worms, and us

glow worms in the cave

deep in a limestone cave
where a river flows into it,
from outside where rain forest fecundity 
drapes itself over the lush green world,

glow worms speckle the cathedral roof of the cave,
as if each is a star in the heavens,
constellations here that only exist
formless in our minds for a few minutes,

we move beneath them in a boat,
no photography permitted, no talking requested,
behind me in the boat, two visitors can’t contain themselves,
and whisper, my ears reach for the drip, 
drop of water behind their scurrying whispers,
the drops more eloquent than anything they could be saying,
water takes a hundred years to add a cubic centimeter to a stalagtite,
how humbling to get it
that our words can have even less impact. 

by Henry H. Walker
February 27, ’16

reality can be created, and staged

The Shire

Tolkien imagined a race of small, sturdy salt-of-the-earth folk,
like the best of England before modernity leveled the forests
and fenced private the public land,
these simple “hobbit” folk lived within the souls of English boys
called to fight the Nazis, and win,
these hobbits called to fight the “Eye”, and win,
though with great cost to both,

Peter Jackson knew the world Tolkien’s words saw,
and found it in pastoral, rural North Island New Zealand:
rich rounded farmland, readily released into Hobbiton,
with even a great oak tree right there,
near Bilbo’s age at the party, 111,
add Frodo’s age of 33, then 144 years, 144 guests, 1 gross,

we visit the film set,
and it’s as if Peter Jackson carries us to J.R.R. Tolkien,
and together we imagine what never was
but really what truly is when that which is fantasy
captures more of the real than the mundane
within which so much of us lives. 

by Henry H. Walker
February 27, ’16

changes of hemisphere

we cross the Equator

as our plane nears crossing over the Equator,
I ask the flight attendant if there will be an announcement,
she replies “no,” that too many will be literally asleep,
I fear “figuratively” also works to describe it all,

she checks with the captain 
and lets me know when it happens,
and I am moved, 

the Earth is a whole
yet the Equator marks a boundary real as the moving Sun,
winter transmutes into Summer across the invisible line,
storms circle opposite to the counter-clockwise of the Northern Hemisphere,
here in New Zealand the roundabouts circle left not right, 
and the cars drive left to the left on the road,

I really want to see the Southern Cross,
for now, though, the city Auckland eclipses the stars.

by Henry H. Walker
February 26, ’16

appreciating and broadening


does travel broaden the mind?
maybe . . .

now in my late sixties, for the first time
I’m physically traveling significantly outside the country,
for many years, however, I’ve inwardly travelled the world
to imagine and learn what I could of place and people,
and the gestalt of how culture 
nurtures differences and sameness of self,
of cuisine, language, sports, the arts,
of climate and geography and diversity,
I have long been intrigued by the commonality of basic questions
and the extraordinary range of answers to those questions:
each answer a step toward crossing the void
that can seem to surround us,
each step like a hypothesis to explain the riddle of existence,
whether the hypothesis is right or wrong doesn’t really matter
for each gets us closer to truth,
my morning meditations are from a wealth of traditions,
and I compare them with my own experiences and ponderings
and judge what in each works well to cross the void,

not traveling, and traveling, can each numb us,
and we can retreat into the familiar, like a McDonaldsizing of cuisine,
there can also be a tyranny of the individual self, walled off from the other,
whether at home or in a distant land, still walled from the other,

it’s easy to narrow the mind,
but, oh my, it’s wonderful to broaden it,
and I work to use this travel as magic
to help me understand more paths across the void,

I’m in the Southern Hemisphere now!
Wow. . .

by Henry H. Walker
February 24, ’16

Friday, February 26, 2016

sunrise, sunset--a full day

we rise and set with the sun on Maui

this day morning has broken
with us atop Haleakala, 
a massive dormant volcano
rising 10,000 feet above the sea-level on Maui,
hundreds of us find our way to the view,

and patience takes its time finding us—
conversation, flashlights, and camera electronics
overcome quiet meditation and prayer,

subtlety and receptivity rarely are our strong suits,

above where the sun will come up
Venus is a beacon, and below it Mercury,
I watch them long enough that I see them rise higher,
and then my perception shifts,
and I feel the earth turning into the sun,
slowly, inexorably rotating—I say so,
and my neighbor worries that now
he feels he’ll fear falling off,
the recently full moon to our west keeps an eye on us,
and ghostly shadows what all’s here,
the crater around us dry and brown as Mars,

all 4 rocky inner planets meet somehow here,

I bike down the volcano
 and feel its self and size pull me fast down its slopes,
the wind whistling by and through me,

sunset finds us under the palms at the beach,
and the self-same sun drops in glory
 through the clouds and into the Pacific,
calling us to turn to the west and south, 
and to New Zealand.

by Henry H. Walker
February 23, ’16

to feel keenly

I can feel raw

oftentimes I feel raw,
as if I am open to the power
that is a moment:
a mountain, an ocean, 
a single solitary flower,
a single solitary doubt,

and I feel scared, inadequate,
too light in buffeting winds,

other times I feel dull,
as if asleep, as if blithely accepting,
moments become common that should be sacred,

I want to feel keenly,
I want to not hurt too much,
and there’s the rub. 

by Henry H. Walker
February 22, ’16

Thursday, February 25, 2016



the sun sets toward the horizon
behind dancing palm trees,
clouds and sky conspire with it
to draw us into appreciating its show,

and suddenly, below the sunset,
a whale blows, and breaches,
blows, and breaches,
blows, and breaches,
each leap into the air
applauded by those of us on shore,

whale and fish, like us, drawn here,
not because of the depth of the ocean
but because of the contrast of depths and heights,
a 10,000 foot dormant volcano
standing on roots deep into the ocean,
here where the thermal mass of so much water
tempers, conditions, releases,

it is in the holding of those extremes together
that niches appear within which life flourishes,
whether the flowers and trees
which can cascade plant beauty upon us,
to the ocean where diversity and bounty run amok,
and cascade sea bounty upon us,

we find ourselves here, daunted, humbled,
blessed with an excess of glory. 

by Henry H. Walker
February 21, ’16

how good to gentle the touch

the whale and us

humpback whales feed and frolic,
and tend the young,
just off the coast,
where Maui, Molokai, and Lana’i
make a triangle as if to hold them,
there’s power and stability when 3 connect,

I feel an immensity in the humpback’s body and spirit,
those cousins who left the land for the ocean,
with huge brains we cannot yet know
and great songs we can record yet not grasp,

we above the ocean
and they within it,
as if each of our worlds
 is the inverse of the other’s,

we joy when they leap into the air for brief moments,
for then their world can at least touch ours,

there’s so much tragedy in our history together,
they to us, for a time, but a source
 of meat, lamp oil, and a fixative for perfume,
greatness reduced to thing, 
their songs could travel across oceans
until our propellers on our ships fouled their music,

how much better it is now
when our eyes touch their breaching,
and we learn to love their freedom
with a touch that doesn’t hurt. 

by Henry H. Walker
February 22, ’16

Off to Maui!

off on adventure!

at home in piedmont North Carolina
the sun sets and pulls my eyes and thoughts to the west,
the fulling moon to the east
diffident, and following the sun,

we fly out in the dark,
the moon behind us as if in pursuit,
yesterday’s sun before us,
today’s sun behind us, chasing the moon,

meanwhile clouds fog the view from the ground and the plane,

we switch planes in Texas and aim at Maui,
the day in Texas winter-gray, trees bare and waiting,

our first class seats and choices luxurious,
the 767 with 30 of us in first class,
a slew of others back of us,

I drink a mimosa, enjoy a choice of entire,
seats that can recline to the horizontal,
Hawaii calls us: beaches and flowers,
amidst intense volcanic landscape,

for hours we fly over dry plains and mountains,
until we cross a boundary,
and we’re over the great Pacific:
an expanse of water unfathomable in its immensity,
its deep blue dappled with lines and dots of clouds,
immensity beneath but more plane than contrast,
till we first see Hawaii!

inside we fiddled with food and drink and videos and naps,
cocooned and dreaming.

by Henry H. Walker
February 21, ’16

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

peepers and the ice

climate change, and hope

early this winter climate change
dealt with excess energy in the system
by keeping the East warm,
spring peepers tricked into waking up in early January,
then that energy unleashes a powerful sleet storm
that sends them back under in late January,

and now on Groundhog Day they’re out again,
their hopeful trill calling spring to come forth,

instead cold Canadian air slumbers them again,
the buds and limbs cautious, not yet opening,
daffodils and crocus peek up above the earth,
and suddenly the crocus erupt into color
to change the mood that gray works on land and psyche,
then they pause in a new cold,

I order tomato seeds
and ready their planting inside, 
heat and humidity coax them into reaching from the potting soil,

seed catalogues titillate me with promise,
and I imagine what the growing season might release,

days lengthen and still the cold asserts itself,
mid-February, ice comes down upon the world

and frustrates some of our plans,
I take a picture of bud after bud,
encased in frozen rain,

flower and fruit a dream,
a dream into which we can awake in but weeks,
if the weather will just let us.

by Henry H. Walker
February 15, ‘16

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

becoming conscious

development and us

we come out of the great ocean,
slowly awakening from the womb,
only becoming conscious when we learn from touch,
particularly the touch of a parent,
we connect with another, 
we ground ourselves in relationship,

later we learn that others have a sound
unique to them, a name,
and suddenly all the gestalt around us
differentiates into things, things with names:
sounds, words that give us a handle
with which our tongues, like the opposable thumb,
can grasp that outside us,
manipulate it,
make sense of it all,

shapes on the page morph into words,
words morph into stories,
and we learn the stories within which we are characters,
later, we learn to write,
to string shapes into meaning,
and we no longer are just immersed in that primordial ocean,
we climb above, we stand apart,
we mirror what we have heard, read, thought,
then the mirror transforms into a creator of new meaning,
and reflects back into the self
until we create meaning as new as we can make real.

thanks to
Proust and the Squid by Maryanne Wolf
for much of the thoughts above.

by Henry H. Walker
February 12, ‘16

which the ruler?

we evolve with our tools

I am intrigued 
by who the master and who the servant,
the technology of reading and writing 
seems to have empowered us
but we lost much of the dialectic of verbal discourse
and the training of memory,
the technology of the Internet 
seems to have empowered us
but also it’s reshaping us,

which of us the ruler? and which the follower?

our minds contend with our tools.

thanks to
Proust and the Squid by Maryanne Wolf
for much of the thoughts above.

by Henry H. Walker
February 12, ‘16

Monday, February 8, 2016

a mechanism for folks to shine

how wonderful to be seen, and to do

everyone needs to be seen,
and, even more important,
everyone needs to find a way
for what one can do
to be done, and appreciated,
to make a difference,

for me, nothing works better than a play,
as a mechanism for many hands
to make a work that is one:
actor, director, choreographer,
costumer, make-up artist, set artists, audience,
from each can come what the ability allows,

how wonderful it is 
when many hands create,
and are seen,
and are appreciated.

by Henry H. Walker
February 6, ‘16

to wake into the fantastic!

Alice in Wonderland

the play comes together
again, with a sense of the miraculous,
order precipitates out of seeming chaos,
a thought thinks itself,
like a poem or story organizes the words to be,

that which was an amalgamation of individuals
coalesces into a unity of a whole
far greater than the sum of its parts,
and each individual also thus greater in the whole 
than when each is just being a part,

Lewis Carroll imagined a world and a story
and made it real with his pen, 
and, just as important, with sharing it,
our actors and our directors find the way
to release the wild joy of Wonderland onto our stage
despite glitch after glitch that hesitate the birthing,  
that challenge any ability to persevere within us,
and, to the credit of all, we persevere, and succeed,

our costumers imbue the power of Wonderland
in their own visions and efforts,
fabrics, feathers, papier-mâché, whatever, 

are magic spelled, as is the work of each makeup artist,  

all together with the cast they capture enough magic
to pull actor and audience into the rabbit hole

and transform us all into wonder,
we are undone and made again anew,
as if each of us joins Lewis Carroll
in his vision of the fantastic,

a fantastic which helps us wake ourselves
into the wonder that is every person, every moment,
after the show each actor seems mortal again,
yet I hope each remembers in their soul
how to transcend the ordinary 
and reveal the brilliance that can shine within, 
then without,

by Henry H. Walker
February, ‘16

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

words pull thoughts into being

the inchoate within, finds form

I wonder if everybody is always trying to figure things out,

I mostly notice what I’ve been working on figuring
when a hint comes to me of a poem I might essay forth,
just like it did with this one,

I start to write
and then ideas cascade upon the page,
ideas I didn’t quite notice I’d been having,

ideas that had not quite come to fruition 
till I wrote them,
the words upon the page
almost pull the thoughts into being in my mind,

writing like language itself
a partner with which the inchoate within us
can find, know, and express itself.

by Henry H. Walker
January 31, ‘16

Monday, February 1, 2016

will? grace? luck?

the rightness which calls to us

fate. . . ?
will . . . ?
whose will?
one’s own?

as my thoughts spiral in the vortex
that assaults us every day,
I keep being drawn to the enigma of grace,
that sense of beneficent power 
with which we can hope to align ourselves,
more like a divine suggestion,
subject to the random and the glitch,
than a great determiner,

there is so much random in the world
that it makes no sense to imagine
that we can earn and deserve outcomes,
I work hard to do the right thing,
and thus increase my probabilities
to avoid the dissolution that bad choices reach toward:
I exercise and my aerobic conditioning helps me,
yet being out in the sun has given me skin cancer,
so far, annoying and quite manageable,
aerobics, however, can’t stop a drunken driver smashing me,

the only way I can understand my wife loving me 
is luck, I found her, and she me,
I found a job, a house, a career, that work for me, and for us,
just as I found parents and a place in the mountains,
both before I was born,

so my only answer for such goodness
is a potential rightness in the universe,
that, if we’re lucky,
with which we can align ourselves,
a grace of God that luck can help us find.

by Henry H. Walker
January 29, ‘16