Sunday, April 30, 2017

creating the piedmont place to be

Heather, a builder of community

I am in awe of Heather Lagarde:
first of just what a good sweet person she is, 
a devoted wife, mother, sister, daughter, friend,
with a smile that lights up the darknesses in our hearts,

even more impressive, though is 
Heather, the builder of community:
a sleepy little milltown on the Haw River, Saxapahaw,
transformed into the piedmont place to be
for musicians, artists, farmers, and those who appreciate them,
the Haw River Ballroom, hard by the enticing river,
calling person after person, group after group,
to coalesce into community,
whether for a party, a concert, or a conference,
so that people have jobs,
musicians a venue,
our sense of self a potential center,

once a year health care professionals and scientists
come together for SwitchPoint,
sponsored by the international Intrahealth,
for whom Heather also works,
networking ideas and connections,
and re-energizing to push the rock back up the hill
and hoping this time it stays,
while also realizing ever step forward is a victory,

Heather helps us all to step upward
and sense a connection with others on the same journey,

a builder of community—that is Heather.

by Henry H. Walker

April 29, ‘17
image courtesy of Heather's Twitter,
permission to use image given by Heather

my neighbor is a primal force

Welton Clayton

I love to know a person, well enough,
so that I realize that their sense of self is grounded,
is real, is honest and forthright—
that is Welton—
he is a primal force,

an unapologetic wielder of a sure take on the world,
just get him started on somebody
whose life doesn’t follow the rules he knows well,

for Welton, fools are not to be suffered gladly,
yet, at the heart, he cares deeply for others,
for years he has grown a huge garden,
at least as much for others as for himself,
his heart as big as his body,
both of which he has thrown at the world,
in his longtime job at the Pepsi plant,
on the tractor in his gardening, 
with a chainsaw so as to heat his house,

he finds a joy in life, in his children, in his grandchildren,
in food, a good chaw, a cigar,

I visit New England and imagine a glacier,
slowly but inexorably moving across the land:
that is Welton and his will,
wherever he passes is changed
by the quiet force of his life.

by Henry H. Walker
April 18, ’17

Friday, April 28, 2017

from holding tank to page

coalescing and the poem

I hold thoughts and experiences within me,
in some kind of holding tank 
I don’t quite perceive most of the time,
then I notice a coalescing collection 
that leaps out at me,
my creative impulse molds the collection
into a form that pleases the word artist within me,

I create a collection of words
to hold the fragments 
that want to be a whole,

and somehow it is.

by Henry H. Walker
April 23, ’17

Thursday, April 27, 2017

the way down, and the way up

High Spring in the Smokies

here in High Spring
trees leaf with a green
so toward the yellow
that they look full of sun,

as if to mimic snow,
cherry blossoms flurry down,
so do dogwood petals and silver bells,
plus the outside wrappings for the tulip poplar flower,
they all, and more, drift down through the air,

not that long ago, the winds of early spring
carried spiraling tulip poplar seeds 
onto the same ground,

much of nature fights to assert—
resisting gravity to thrust toward the sky to hold,

may we learn the grace of the way down
to complement the will of the way up.

by Henry H. Walker
April 20, ’17

helping us, or mastering us?

our devices and dependency

our devices help us into dependency,
we surrender using our own minds to parse the situation
and posit potential answers,
we defer to the device, the tool, the Internet,

the weather?
an anonymous app assures us it knows what will happen,
a GPS device knows where we are and where everything else is,
like a parent who holds our hand while we cross the street,
it shepherds us on our way,
even our walking?
our progress measured to a tenth of a mile,
even our steps, pulse, health monitored and told to us,

why should we use mind and senses to stumble toward answers
when we can question Google or Siri
and shortcut process directly to what we want to know?

just as we prospered with our parents in charge,
so do we prosper with our devices increasingly in charge of us,

yet I fear our culture needs to be more adolescent now
and figure to find a way to our independence,
to find our way forward,
so that then we can come back to the devices
and use them as wonderful tools
that more supplement than supplant
the decision-maker within us,
the one who can bring “why” and “where” to the journey,
the tools know well the “what” of it all,

the question is:
who is the master?

by Henry H. Walker

April 24, ’17

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

take the parts and make the whole

cutting time to double

Mother always said
“Having kids help you cook cuts your time to double.”

yet she also said it with a smile
and with a sureness to offer the chance again and again
to any child who could be enticed into the mysteries
we now have the Cooking Channel for,

I find a hunger to cook in my middle school students,
a desire to take the parts and make the whole,
to imagine something they like
and find the way to get to it,

I find the way to often “cut my time to double,”
that’s why I’m a teacher still
for I see the drive to wholeness within the young person,
and, for now, I still have the patience
to nurture that drive despite all the conflicting dissolutions
that also arise within the burgeoning self.

by Henry H. Walker
April 27, ’17

Friday, April 14, 2017

language and us

The Word

In the Beginning there was the Word,
In the End we can lose the Word,
and we can be lost inside our consciousness,

as I watch my grandchildren 
come into themselves
and learn to use language,
I am struck with how language uses them, also,
how the inchoate thought finds definition
by the choices language imposes,

no longer do I see the infant
as having the thought 
and then finding the words to express it,
rather I see the infant as driven 
by impulse and the need to understand
and then the language 
orders the thoughts and feelings into coherence,
words not just the tool the wielder chooses 
to use to express what’s already there,
but the word somehow a partner in shaping thought and feeling,

I understand that J.R.R. Tolkien
first imagined the Elvin language into existence,
and out of that imagining Middle Earth, 
The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and the Silmarillion,
were imagined, were created into existence,

how powerful the Word:
much of who we are is shaped by our language.

by Henry H. Walker

April 14, ‘17

Thursday, April 13, 2017

the Burn and the Tree

the Big Poplar and the burn

the Great Fire burned its way 
across the land, the city, and our surety,
chainsaws and bulldozers, and countless truck beds
have cleared away much of the chaos
along trails and homesites,
though blackened foundations of cinder block and concrete,
just as skeletons, hint at the life they once held,
we can be like the places the fire skipped over,
and forget for a time the tragedy of the fiery drama,

the optimist in me is delighted 
in the flowers that erupt from the land,
sometimes even from the blackened land,

today, though, I am shocked high up a wet hollow,

full of flowers and luxuriant green,
with blackened ridge to either side,
there we approach the Big Poplar:
a massive tree hard against a rocky cliff,
its entire pillar of bark, on the downhill side, is black,
around its base all the leaf and litter burned away:
kindling which ignited the outer dry bark,

the bark still gray and normal on the uphill side,

we look up, and, fortunately, hints of burgeoning green
appear to be leafing out high above,
as if the blackened bark was armor,
dented but still working,

this great tree has endured longer than the country,
and, like the country, I hope for it to endure,
despite the troubles that can beset it.

by Henry H. Walker
April 8, '17

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

enter the exuberant show!

when April with its. . .

when April fitfully finds herself in the mountains,
light and warmth tussle with the cold
killing frost just a few degrees of separation away
from tender leaf and budding flower,
the sweet rain the new growth needs
so close to the snow
that would have none of April’s greening,

it’s then we love to come to the Smokies,
to return to favorite places,
particularly where cove hardwood forest
has had the time and resource
to prepare a celebration of life returning
for its half a year of exuberant show,

enter the heralds: the fringed phacelia and trillium
that overwhelm with their luxurious fecundity,
this year the blood root witnessed spring close to the equinox,
today ginger, geranium, iris, and showy orchis
own their parts of the stage,
supported by squirrel corn, bishop’s cap, 
violets, rue and wood anemone,

the streams are full and clear,
dropping hard and sure into a frothing white,
so like the snow and the early flowers,

summer is inherent in the day,
a day which also remembers how close winter can be.

by Henry H. Walker
April 7, ’17

Monday, April 10, 2017

spring erupts!

a season after the Great Fire

the scientist in me is intrigued. . .

wow!, excuse me, a hawk just flew to a high perch above me,
looked around, and flew off. . .

back to musing: I am intrigued by the Great Fire
that roared over this world back in November,

I mourn the blackened hillsides, 
the destroyed homes, the lives lost,
I am saddened by the dead leaves 
on the rhododendron and boxwood near the cabin,

their lifelessness in contrast to the many plants
who find and release the green within
and offer it up to the sun
in homage and partnership,

where young and dying hemlocks dominated the forest,
the ground is still black and sad looking,

for here there were no small plants hiding in the roots,
in the mesic rich world of the nearby cove hardwood forest,
thousands upon thousands of white trillium

erupt back into the burned land and its environs,
the fire here a rendering away of leaf and branch litter,
a scouring of desiccated stump and log,
the contrast of fields of phacelia and nearby devastation, 

I savor the flowers who defy loss to still be themselves:

mayapple, trout lily, miterwort, rue anemone, squirrel corn, 
Dutchman’s breeches, phlox, ginger,
while fire raged above, the ephemerals slept below,
and now they thrive again, maybe better than before,
with more sun and nutrients available to them,

the last days up here have been full of rain and drizzle,
gifts withheld before the Great Fire,
as we wander along the nature trail,
drizzle starts to morph into sleet and a bit of snow,
as if the weather wants to mirror the white of new flowers
with the white of a late season snow,

the living trees seem little bothered by the fire from a season ago,
some black charred upon the lowest of their trunks, 
not even an annoyance,
they are starting to leaf and blossom,
I find it hard to imagine any consciousness within them
that mourns the losses of the lesser below,

I am not ready to mourn 
the rhododendron and the boxwood,
for hope rises in me, 
and I hope it rises from their roots 
into their reaching for the sun again,

the scientist in me is fascinated,
the Buddhist in me feels the losses,
the life in me celebrates every flower that blooms.

by Henry H. Walker
April 6, ’17

Sunday, April 9, 2017

of Walden Pond, the Cherokee, and the natural world

all the elders

many cultures honor the elders
and open themselves to the stories
that further open them to leadings,
leadings which deepen who they are,

I think that’s what Thoreau felt
when he left Concord for a time
for Walden Pond and its woods,
to be as apprentice
to the mastery of the forest,

a few days ago we walked around Walden Pond
to get some good aerobics
and to ground ourselves in that place,

we then fly back to N.C. and drive to the Smokies,
on the way we stop to visit with a Cherokee artist
to buy a flute from him,
admire the masks he’s making out of buckeye,
masks to represent all seven of the clans,
I put in an order for a small set of them,
he describes how he got the design for one piece of the flute
from a picture he found of Cherokee in the 1840s,

the Cherokee intrigue me,
for they have lived close to the land
since the ice allowed the plants 
to come back to the high mountains,

the Cherokee felt the plant and the human kingdoms to be allies,
animals more competitors than allies,
though the bear were cousins,
something I feel also when I interact with black bears,

when I started writing poetry in earnest,
I spent years writing of the seasons,
of mountain top, high cove, rich valley,
of streams, of flowers, of trees,
I worked in hopes that the natural world,
with original energy,
would live upon the page through my words,
never even a mention of the human
until I had worked to learn the basics
of the world before humans,
the original elder upon the earth.

by Henry H. Walker

April 3, ’17

emotionally on point

my hyperactive psyche

my psyche has ADD:
my emotional attention always alert
as if to beware a predator—
something wrong that stalks me,

I do not find it easy
to relax into a mental stupor,
to be like a couch potato,
mesmerized into passivity,

my psyche is often on point,
alert to threats:
a snapped twig might mean a person,
a twinge in my body might mean a fatal glitch,

death always but an absence of a breath away,

in the night my subconscious stays on point,
I resurrect old wounds and hurt again
for what I did, for what I didn’t do,
I’m on point with concern 
for my wife, my children, my grandchildren,
my students, my friends, my country,

just as ADD may have saved the tribe on the savannah,
so I hope my ease into anxiousness
helps me live each moment fully.

by Henry H. Walker
April 6, ’17

Friday, April 7, 2017

New England ground

the glacier tilled

glacial till—
a noun that describes
pulverized rock, sand, and stone
laid down upon the land
by the ice behemoths that gouged and crushed the earth—

before it was a noun,
“till” was what the glaciers did:
great landscapers sculpted and rearranged it all up here,

now the land undulates:
the water table high,
swampy area upon swampy area,
with rising in between, fit for house and road and forest,
the marshy land an edge of land and water,
perfect for wading birds and forcing us 
to leave enough land to its own devices
that other animals find a niche
into which their wildness can fit.

by Henry H. Walker
April 3, ’17