Tuesday, July 26, 2016

a message from the "real world"

Plato and Me

I keep running into Plato,
into his idea that there’s a reality
that is more true, more real,
than what we can perceive in our everyday world,
he had us in a cave with reality
but shadows from the outside,

that’s how I can feel about
the way the world reveals itself to me,

I feel clumsy, my hands in gloves,
the tools with which I seek to manipulate the world
only approximate to what I hope for,

whereas, behind, below, underneath, outside,
there’s a reality I guess at knowing,

one example: I teach, 
I support the learner,
and years pass,
and I just cannot clearly see outside
to where the students are in the real world,

today I got a message from out there,
a message that helps me feel 
that the efforts in the cave
can actually touch true the person,
and help them move toward the light in the world without.

by Henry H. Walker
July 24, ‘16

Monday, July 25, 2016

with passion, devotion, and awe

Ah, Joan. . .

Joan on Northern California coast,  Gualala,  2015

Ah, Joan,
how hard it is
with mere words
to capture my love for you,
no container can hold it,
no survey define it,
no miner plumb its depths,
no climber scale its heights,

to see you through my eyes. . .
to express how you make me feel. . .

I feel better about how well
I’ve been able to hold with words
the soaring beauty of a sunrise,
the supple perfection of a rose,
the quiet laughter of a cascading mountain creek.

You, my love,
deep and sure,
grounded in the solid truth of the earth herself,
high and risky,
soaring thoughts guided by a giving heart,
within and knowing,
weaving together the fragile threads of the moment.

Joan at Arch Rock, Mt. LeConte, Smokies, December '15

Joan at Bag End, New Zealand, February '16

Joan, Jedediah Smith State Park, redwoods, Crescent City, CA

You, my love, carry your beauty
from the depths of your soul,
through the grace of your countenance,
to the fairness of your face.

God never made a better Joan
than a Joan Dickinson,
and, if she did,
it was a Joan Walker.
You honor the world with your presence.

With passion and devotion and awe,
I love you.

by Henry H. Walker
sometimes in the 1980’s, edited July, ‘16

Sunday, July 24, 2016

the sky elders us and our frailty

Home’s Little Acre

our acre of home
is open to the sky enough
for sun to slip down
and power garden and blueberry bushes,
even a chestnut tree!

mid day, Chinese chestnut burr

trees block and hoard the sun
till mid-morning and then from late afternoon on,
the night sky, at best, a fourth of what could be seen up there,

mid morning

mid morning, garden, note humidity on cool lens

mid morning, house

mid day, garden

mid day, solar panels

mid day, solar panels

late afternoon, garden, note humidity on cool lens

late afternoon, garden, Native American pumpkins

my psyche is like my acre,
enough reveals to power insight and rightness
with a lot blocked by protective denial,

I wonder about how much religion
came to those in deserts and on mountain tops
where the glory of the sky can overwhelm
the solidity of the earth,
and elder us with the frailty of our moments.

by Henry H. Walker
July 22, ‘16

Saturday, July 23, 2016

I think I can. . .

how to get even better

I know myself well enough
to know that I do better
if “I think I can. . .”
if I get enough support, encouragement, applause
for how well I’m already doing,
that support empowers me to do even better,

I hear of others who need the goad of failure
so that then they can redouble their efforts
and break through the wall into success,

I teach very much by 
identifying, acknowledging, supporting
the strength of the student’s foundation,
the rightness of their steps forward,
I support the actor and her/his ability
to engage and persevere into success,

I know no other way in my heart.

by Henry H. Walker
July 22, ‘16

Saturday, July 16, 2016

the earth calling us back

dissolution and me

in a war movie
the protagonist often charges forward
and has to deal with comrades to right and left
felled by the reality around them,
the calling back to the earth
that war can magnify into a command,

as I survive into my late sixties,
I increasingly get to deal
with comrades who drop away from any charge forward,
cancer the most common sniper,
but dissolution has many forms,
a bullet from dementia or a heart attack
just as sure to make me feel I’m on point,

a few years ago my grandchildren 
collectively had four grandfathers,
one is now lost to cancer,
two more are far into the fight with that scourge,

those near my age increasingly 
find a commonality through surgery and loss,

I fear how exposed I feel,
how open to dissolution noticing me.

by Henry H. Walker
July 9, ‘16

Friday, July 15, 2016

the mercurial mood

my mood and whims

long ago, I was high up a hollow in the mountains,
my spirit as bright as the sun knifing through the trees,
clouds moved in, the day and my mood darkened,
I wrote of being subject to “the whim of drifting clouds,”
my mood is often like that:
a basic default position of bright optimism,
easily shifted into darkening worry,
it’s as if there’s a balance within me
that needs only the slightest shift of weight
to teeter me one way or the other,

I wonder if others are as mercurial as I,
and, if so, if they deny such emotionality
with the grey inertia of denial.

by Henry H. Walker
July 11, ‘16

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

the splinter is out!

Joan and Her Left Hip

Joan 4 years ago, after right hip surgery

tomorrow, the better half of who we are as a couple, goes under the knife,
so that modern technology can replace the joint in her left hip,
both the ball and the socket,
those parts of her that over 6 decades of use have worn out,

no matter how strong her will,
her hip has increasingly thwarted her aerobic walking these last months,
she toughed it out on a once-in-a-lifetime late winter adventure 
in gorgeous Hawaii and devastatingly amazing New Zealand,

the hip increasingly has decided it had little left
and has become more enemy than ally in walking,
Joan’s speed slower and slower,
only in water could aerobics get any work out these last weeks,

neither of us sleep well the night before the surgery,
yet each of us are bright and ready Tuesday morning,
at the hospital, everyone nice and solicitous,
all ready to help a new hip come to be:
it’s all like removing a great splinter,
once out, just a flesh wound to heal,

the surgery goes fast, uneventfully,
the surgeon all matter-of-fact about it all afterwards,
the recovery room a longer process
as the pain blockers need to wear off
so that she can again wiggle her toes,

then into her room where nurses and physical therapy folks
swarm around her, making sure to know and do what she needs,

mid-afternoon, she sits up, stands up, and shuffles to the side a bit,
the p.t. folks pleased with how well she does,

her eyes are clearing from the chronic pain and befuddling pain killers,
her spirit again reasserting a brightness
that the disabled hip did its best to dull.

by Henry H. Walker
July 11-12, ‘16

Monday, July 11, 2016

Dr. John's first daughter!


a young city doctor married a country beauty,

it’s deep into the Great Depression, with money tight,
at that time, for them, a package of Nabs
a potential luxury on the honeymoon,
each family history blessed with ancestors who knew themselves
and made the most out of the hands they were dealt,

a first child, a daughter, was born into joy and hope in 1939,
each developmental turning appreciated, sure, 
and photographed for almost two years,

then the world shattered at Pearl Harbor,
her father the next day signed up for the Army,
all in his generation felt the call,
and war always needs doctors,

in those next early years,
when decisions and control are vitally important to the child,
Martha’s world was out of her control:
army bases in Arkansas and Texas,

hard times and sacrifice,
a sister born in Texas,

then her father off to the South Pacific 
for the last long months of the War,
immersed in the horror of what travesties 
could be inflicted on young American men,
Daddy gone when she most needed him,
Mama, sister, and her back to the roots in Glasgow, Kentucky,
the welcoming arms of family while the War tore at surety,

a close cadre of first cousins all about the same age,
each cousin still a part of her,
each a piece of who she is,
then the War over, the family reunited,
her father knitting himself back together,
the family knitting itself back together,
the medical practice resuming,

there is a brilliance to Martha’s mind,
a passion to her will,
a drive to honor her father with her accomplishments,
 a drive to be herself despite society’s denials
of what a woman can be,
pushing herself to do her best,
to earn her Ph.D. in physics,
like her father, but another kind of doctor,

a drive to be herself in politics
despite conventional wisdom
and despite differences with her father,

like an original explorer, 
she made the first paths
so her younger sisters could follow boldness,
a book shared, a way to help the younger
find a truer course,

a calling to be a teacher,
to help student after student find the way forward,
on the West Coast, then on the coast of Maine,
called by the ocean, loving the perch of land next to Mother Sea,

a love of and gift for the piano,
knowing the language God speaks with math
and echoes in music,
treasuring the family piano as what she most wanted for herself,

blessed with a passion for family, and roots,
and also blessed with a sureness to follow leadings
that still call to her
to think, to assert, to be herself,
despite how hard it all can be,

these last years Martha has revealed and expressed the artist in her,
the painter, another way she truly lives as Dr. John’s first daughter,
art, too, called to him.

by Henry H. Walker
July 7, ‘16

Monday, July 4, 2016

to step over the mountain

Road Prong

the “Road” is a simple track the Cherokee improved
during the War Between the States,
when their nation allied with the Confederacy
in hopes it would be treated as a sovereign state,
and not a people condemned to being trivialized on a reservation,

for thousands of years native peoples 
stepped over the mountain here,
along this clear magical stream,

following rocky chutes up steepening slopes

so as to skirt cascades,
where great bulwarks of sandstone
danced the water white down the mountain,

sandstone grey like a misty mountain,
except where the rock is age-splotched with lichen
and gentled by the mosses green,

the last great waterfall and pool before the ridge line

draw me into a quick dip and a longer musing,
we call this place “Nimrodel” 
for it reminds us of elf enchantment in a Tolkien world,
I imagine Cherokee drawn here to plunge,
their daily morning homage to the primacy of water and toughness,

this old road is the best way over the central Smokies upthrust,
I feel for the echoing memories of countless explorers, hunters, traders,
who passed through much the same forest I see today,

a major ford to cross the stream, the Park's attempt at a bridge
got swept away in high water two years ago

back in the 1960s bulldozers and asphalt sought this valley,
how wonderful we decided we could not afford the loss.

by Henry H. Walker
June 30, ‘16

Saturday, July 2, 2016

trying to impress the ladies

turkeys a’courtin’

Alice followed a rabbit into Wonderland,

this morning I followed a female turkey and saw a wonder,
I padded in bare feet out of our yard, down the road,

to where 3 male turkeys fanned their tail feathers together, 
all in a determined effort to impress her and her companion,

I followed them closely enough
for the telephoto lens to capture the posturing of the courtship,
an extraordinary expression of who they are,
in their finest presentation,

I left for my own adventure up in the high mountains,
and I didn’t see them again until late afternoon
as they came down to the creek to cross, and drink,

I treasure the photos I took
of the 3 brothers trying to impress their lady friends
so as to become a chosen one.

by Henry H. Walker
June 30, ‘16

3 brothers, and the kid within

the kid in us

in all the fog and avoidance
that swirled around the middle brother
as cancer pulled him faster and faster
away from us and from the moments he held dear,
I had a vision, a clear image of him as a boy,
a boy scared, perplexed, vulnerable,
I then lost my shields against the hard truth coming at him
and that little boy opened the door into my sorrow,

yesterday I visited the oldest brother
and I felt the kid within him
waking up into this world
and desperately working to make sense of it all,
his body frail, his mind laboring to figure it all out,
I imagined the first born son
to the parents who doted on him,
a boy who never quite figured out how to grow up
and subject to the pain of harsh judging peers,

in my therapy sessions the youngest brother
feels the kid within him, too,
afraid, tested, judged by his parents,
doubting himself as to whether father 
judges him as good and right,

the teenager, too, is in me,
the husband, the parent, the grandparent,
the teacher who has shepherded so many
who have worked to let the kid within grow up strong,

now, though, I feel myself as the child,
first coming into conscious action,
and I find it easy to imagine father as judge,
and I fear for his verdict.

by Henry H. Walker
June 30, ‘16

Friday, July 1, 2016

an ephemeral creation

the sky calls the rock

where water moves in streams,
some of us are called to stack rocks upon themselves
to make order, assertion,

a push to hold and reach high,
just where water dutifully follows gravity
and seeks to bring all back to the sea,

these stacks of rocks mirror Buddhists
who create in sand and seem to find rightness
in even the most ephemeral of a creation.

by Henry H. Walker
June 27, ’16