Sunday, November 27, 2016

in the room, we come and go

not Michelangelo this time

in the room
words and feelings fly back and forth between us
about the election, about politics,
about the fragility of hope
within a climate where hate seems ascendant,

I leave and sit down by the creek,
all covered in tan and brown leaves,

the water as low as I’ve ever seen it,
for the worst drought in my lifetime
sits upon these mountains,
if humans aren’t messing up the climate,
God surely is made at us for something,

Fall is late this year,
the mountains slopes surprised me with brilliant color,
though we’re only one week from December,

something is wrong in the body politic,
something is wrong in the weather patterns,

nevertheless, what I need now is to sit here
where the world makes the most sense to me,
where rock and forest endure and deal,
despite what we humans unleash in our thoughtlessness.

by Henry H. Walker

November 23, ’16

Saturday, November 26, 2016

after having it so long

the Cherokee and the mountains

in Thirteen Moons, Charles Frazier opens us 
to the story of the Cherokee
in their great effort to endure and adapt
to the Anglo culture flooding their world,

most Native Americans I know of
seemed to drown fast in that contact,
yet the Cherokee hoped to be the fittest and survive,
the will that made them ferocious,
and devastatingly fearful to other tribes,
turned into remaking their culture by modeling the enemy:
speaking English, developing a syllabary and newspapers,
accepting Christianity, settling even more into farming,
even having slaves and helping Andy Jackson defeat the Creeks,
winning in the Supreme Court,
and their reward? 
the Trail of Tears,

a Cherokee leader, Yonaguska, 
after reading The Gospel of St. Matthew, reportedly commented:
“It is a good book.  
It is strange that the white people are no better 
after having had this book for so long.”  

the Cherokee loved these mountains and traces of their touch still remain:
trails, names, pieces of flint and quartz where they made tools and weapons,
they fit the land as a hand fits the glove,

when I settle into the natural rhythms,
I seek to hear them, to feel them, to remember them,
the land doesn’t, the forest doesn’t, the bears don’t,
up in the Park, those who came after the Cherokee
are slowly being forgotten, too,
why should I hope to endure any more?
yet I do. 

by Henry H. Walker

November 24, ’16

Friday, November 25, 2016

how much do we share?

two roads diverge

one side loses an election,
and the losers fear that they will be ignored:
their jobs, their values, the world they know,
all sacrificed to a future they don’t want,

later, the other side loses an election,
and the losers fear they will be ignored,
yet the “they”, it seems to me, is a large tribe,
including those Jesus called to us to consider “blessed”:
the poor, the weak, the different,
the reviled Samaritan better than the self-righteous Pharisee,
the house of God welcoming with many rooms,

two roads diverge,
and I choose the one
upon which I can enlarge my sense of self
to be as one with others at the heart we share,
not just with the neighbor,
not just with those who look like me,

to share at the heart better than to share just at the skin.

by Henry H. Walker

November 25, ’16

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

rightness in nature vs wrongness in our actions

nature, and our neuroses

while the human world is in tumult—
politics and elections, work and school,
within the maelstrom of human interaction,
the natural world is both sympathetic, reflective,
and also comfortingly impervious to our neuroses,

our state knows the climate is changing in realities on the ground:
flooding rains in the Coastal Plain, 
drought and fires in the mountains,
and still the state, in terms of Raleigh leadership, 
denies any truth is revealed,
for that would be inconvenient,
nevertheless,  the leaves do transform into color and return to the earth,
today the winds released waves of them toward the ground,
the woods as if sleeted 
by troops of resigned leaves and hopeful poplar seeds,
each seed a descending helicopter, full of hope,
within an actuarial fatalism that life has to deal with,

seasons turn, and we ignore the rightness within nature,
and the wrongness within our own actions, at our own peril.

by Henry H. Walker

November 19, ‘16

Tuesday, November 22, 2016


the ballot box, and truth

truth is not determined by opinion, by votes,

yet the implementation of truth in the world
needs the buy-in of enough voters
to elect those who can make abstract truth into concrete reality,
or obscure, deny that truth with dysfunctional nonsense.

by Henry H. Walker

November 19, ‘16

Monday, November 21, 2016

to Quake

a power that can shake us

great power hides in our souls,
perhaps that of God within us
knows we can’t handle such power
and encourages us to pile blankets of trivia upon it,

emotions can trick us past the defenses,
and for brief eternal moments we can touch that power,

grief can shake us,
a sunrise, a redwood, a wolf can overcome us,
a lover, a baby, anything so right
we cannot deny long moments of wonder,

Quakers have long known that power:
when it manifested in them, they could quake,
physically and psychically,
and as a friend on a journey,
a quest through dark woods,
each could call to us 
of what they could see of the way revealed,

all of us need to access that power,
but it can be hard,
and it can hurt beyond 
what we think we can endure.

by Henry H. Walker

November 19, ‘16

Saturday, November 19, 2016

hate and fear Trumpeted

I still wobble

as a teenager I won 
the Tennessee State Oratorical Contest for the Optimist Club,
and I still believe in possibility and hope,
like that old toy, Weebles,
I “wobble, and don’t fall down,”

that said, I still wobble from the last election:
I want to believe that people voted for something positive,
yet I can’t get past the hate and fear Trumpeted,
the lonely desperation that drove good people
to find self-worth through put-downs of the other,
when a person is drowning,
they can grab someone next to them,
and push them down to gain a few precious breaths of air,

how could we have neglected those hurting?
those so desperate, as to allow a demagogue
to use their frustrations, to get their votes,
now to forget their needs,
and to slip into the same Republican orthodoxy
that enshrines the wealthy as the best among us,
and gives us abortion and guns
as the issues to define us,

too many are dismissed in that orthodoxy,
and many of those dismissed still vote
for the very keepers of the dungeon,
a dungeon they could escape if they were not hoodwinked
by wealthy jailers who laugh at them all the way to the bank.

by Henry H. Walker

November 18, ‘16

Monday, November 14, 2016

feel others' sorrows as your own

too many hurt

racism, sexism, misogyny,
fear of the other,
a retreat into the tribal,
a retreat to those like us, near us,
for we have a need to feel of worth
and those like us reassure us,
and those not like us 
help us to know who we are
because we’re not like them,

many of us are reeling now from those dark currents,

I know and love enough people of color,
enough Muslims, enough gay and lesbians, enough women,
that they are part of my tribe,
and I can hurt as they hurt,
Gandhi believed that 
“the real lovers of God 
feel others’ sorrows as their own,”

I also grew up in a “fly-over” state, Tennessee, 
with working class folks, for whom college was not a given,
who lived for football and NASCAR,
Dolly and Dollywood surely worth time and the price of a ticket,
for each speaks true to who they are,
the streets of Gatlinburg a comfort, not an affront,
these are folks who I think often work harder than any on Wall Street
and receive compensation for their work
insulting in how little society values their sweat,
the pain within body and soul that their work can demand,
and they can feel the ridicule and contempt that elites have for them,
the lack of concern that monied interests have for them,
those who manipulate government and trade as a way to fill their own pockets,

look at any map of red and blue states from the last election,
the great expanse of America between the two coasts is red,
as is every part of America that is rural and small town,
the coasts are mostly blue,
I heard a comment that many who live in New York and Boston
travel to Paris but rarely to the Heartland,
they can love the people as a group but not as individuals,

I know the economy of Gatlinburg, TN, and so did Karl Marx,
those who work, and work hard,
are paid barely enough to get by, if that,
while the few live in luxury and own the land, the economy,
I once told a Presidential candidate, to his face,
that he should live on minimum wage for a month:
no food, no entertainment, no health care, no gas for the car
that minimum wage won’t pay for,
and I got nowhere with him,

I love New York based shows
but I increasingly hear the ridicule within their humor,
how can we dismiss the tribalism those flown-over can feel and act upon,
and not realize that they have been dismissed 
and easily can slip into dismissing when they have the power?

my sense of self must grow even larger
to feel the wisdom in the gut
that so many expressed in their votes 
against the system they feel rigged,
yet I still can’t get past the pain
so many, so easily visited upon the other in voting for Trump,
and thus for the many flaws he flagrantly expressed.

by Henry H. Walker

November 12, ‘16

Friday, November 11, 2016

longterm communal good?

Washington’s Zero-Sum Game

somehow, somewhere,
we lost common destination,
it used to be, I think,
that we would agree on where we needed to go,
and we could disagree on which path was best to get there:

global climate change as a real problem, 
and the solution to it?
maybe government regulation,
maybe incentives to enlist private companies in the solution,
the argument over the tool, not the result needed,

even then, though, 
we could disagree as to whether there is a problem:
whether government needs to regulate the environment,
to regulate minimum wages, maximum compensation, 
use taxes to fine-tune the common good,
or whether to just trust a mythical “invisible hand”
within unbridled private desires,

anyone who knows bureaucracy can fear government,
anyone who knows greed can fear its touch on the soul,
the super-ego needs the id for its power,
and the id needs the super-ego to temper its excesses,

our national government has become dysfunctional,
and I blame the zero-sum game 
of mistaking short-term partisan victory
for longterm communal good.

by Henry H. Walker

November 9, ‘16

the greatest generation, on the home front

learning the right lesson

Santayana warned us to remember history, or else repeat it,
what has long concerned me
is how easy it can be to remember the wrong lesson,

in The Black Swan, the author, Nassim Taleb, cautions of a common trap:
take an event and then look at events preceding it,
in the choice of which events to notice
a clear path emerges to the event:
World War II must have been inevitable
and obvious to those at the time,
Taleb persuasively argues the opposite,
that events constantly bombard us from out of the blue,
like an untracked meteor suddenly appearing:
9-11, the Internet, Donald Trump,

my wife’s mother, Mildred Holman Dickinson, cautioned us to remember
that during World War II, they didn’t know how it would turn out,
months could pass with no word from a loved one at the front,

I work to imagine the fortitude, the courage,
Mildred and her peers had to find and live
just to get through each day,
and through each day to hold to hope 
and to the best within them,

as my soul has been wracked with fear of the great unknown
that the other half of the country has just inflicted on my half of the country,
I work to hold true to hope, and love,
and to believing that the better angels can, and will,
save us from the chasm and help us to find a way forward,

I think it’s time to remember the history lesson
Mildred and her peers lived with the affirmation of their lives, 
facing their fears and still letting hope rule them.

by Henry H. Walker

November 10, ‘16

what are the new rules?

something deep must need fixing

this last election flummoxed me,
somehow the other side from me,
like a too indulgent parent,
never seemed bothered by actions and words
that would have doomed a candidate I would support:
Michael Dukakis wore a helmet in a tank,
and lost the potential Presidency,
John Kerry acknowledged that he was for something,
and then against it,
and lost the potential Presidency,
Edmund Muskie cried, once,
Vermont Governor Howard Dean screamed, once,
Al Gore took too much credit for his real work as to the Internet,
and they all lost the potential Presidency,
Donald Trump said and did countless things,
far worse in my value system,
and wins the Presidency,

how dysfunctional our government, economy, and culture must be
for our country to suspend disbelief
and vote for hope in a person
for whom I can not yet figure any path he can find
to lead us to a better future,
the way the other half of the country
seems so sure will be our way forward,
something deep surely must be broken,
for so many to confound conventional wisdom.

by Henry H. Walker

November 10 ‘16

Friday, November 4, 2016

vote for greatness through love

refind greatness through love

we each have a superpower,
and it is love,

deep down each of us is alone,
a fragment, a piece,
bereft until it rejoins a whole,

in a friend we can discover a worth about us through that friendship,
in a partner we can discover an even deeper worth about us,

and, if we open ourselves to anyone who is out of kilter,
we can help them find a new balance,
as we tap into a transformative power
that doesn’t come from a radioactive spider or gamma rays,
it comes from releasing a bit of that of God within us,

we love,
we act on that love,
and the world can transform:
piece by piece,
fragment by fragment,
as wholeness refinds itself anew,

I vote for those who believe in love
and believe that we can transform ourselves,
that we can refind greatness through love.

by Henry H. Walker

November 3, ‘16

doubt in the night

hate descends on “us”

last night the weight of the future
broke open my sleep
and troubled my sureness,
in the midnight hour I felt the Force disturbed,
the future for our grandchildren looked shaky,
I feared for how hate
descends upon the collective “us”
and could elect a chameleon,
one who really cares only for himself,
yet one whom many hope can keep them afloat
in the troubled waters that beat upon their sureness:

“hold on to him and we can push ourselves higher!
then we can deny the change
that takes away our jobs, 
our sureness of superiority,
the comfort that only we should win
and surely the other must lose,
for God is on our side!”

how much better our species would be
even for our species,
if we got the truth that we are but one wager
the universe makes,
and, if we fail, life will have to find another way.

by Henry H. Walker

November 2, ‘16