Monday, November 19, 2018


doubting the self

my student writes of doubt, of despair,
all hidden behind his tight smile,
my student write of living past her own doubts
by letting her love reach out to embrace another,

there is a sweet gentleness,
a belief in the wholeness, 
in the wonder of the other,
that many of us can give,
and give joyously, continuously,
yet it is woefully hard to give
that unconditional love to ourselves,

we need the friend, the partner,
so that the foundation of who we are
finds a footing that can endure
the buffeting, the buffeting, the buffeting,
that self-doubt throws and throws at us.

by Henry H. Walker
November 16, ‘18

hope calls

is the play the thing, or not?

our Upper School hoped to put on a play, 
The Foreigner,
that takes Southern culture to task,
and ridicules the parts of us
that hate the other,
that center self in those like us,

our national culture 
increasingly gives room for hate,
room to deny the other as us, too,

student and staff alike
have been both drawn to and repelled by the play
which forces us to hurt, to think,
to consider how zero-sum our choices can be,

we seek truth,
and we can be lost,
we find truth,
and we open ourselves to grow,

my heart and my hope reach out
to the high school students of the play
who give of their souls
to understand, to move forward,
to see the future, and the past, and the now,
and work their best to be their best,
to call for hope to save us from the least of these within.

by Henry H. Walker
November 16, ‘18

We of the South

we of the South
know loss,
we know tragedy,
for some of our ancestors
bought their family’s future
by enslaving humans into property,
for some of our ancestors
were stolen from their homes
to serve as things, as tools, for others’ dreams,

we of the South
lost a war to continue a Devil’s bargain,
we of the South
won a war so that we could reach to be free,

who we are in the South has incredible diversity about us:
our food, our music, our sports, our childrearing, our relationships,

there can be a wonder in opening to the other,
of expanding who we can be,
there can also be a disaster of losing ourselves,
of burning the Cross rather than living the Sermon on the Mount.

by Henry H. Walker
November 16, ‘18

Friday, November 9, 2018

Ginkgo and the Election

The Ginkgo

it’s early November
and our ginkgo tree is a-flame,
as if a golden-yellow joy suffuses it,
it greets a new day as if it alone knows
how to release the brightness that sleeps within,
even when gray fog holds and frames it
it welcomes the day as if it is a torch

to remind us how much beauty there is within
that silently aches to be released,

on Election Day this year, I feel the hope within,
the better selves that ache to be released,

the maple near the ginkgo seems 
to have forgotten the glory it often flares,
its leaves give up, 
slip quickly to brown, 
then to the ground,

a nearby oak also forgets 
how to do other than to give up,

the election results both hearten and disappoint me,
hope flares bright where the greater of who we are releases itself,
doubt darkens too often where the lesser of who we are
forgets to celebrate that of color that makes us better,
the spirit that feels right and whole.

by Henry H. Walker
November 7, ‘18

Sunday, November 4, 2018


Multi-Tasking or Multi Tasks?

I often think of multi-tasking
as a lazy man’s load,
an attempt to save energy
by getting to two or three things at the same time,
and having trouble with carrying it all,
none of the things worthy of full concentration,
and thus multi-tasking can lead to diminished result,
to shortchanging not only the other but also the one,

yet, multiple tasks increasingly call to me,
I want to give 100% to each,
100% during the time
I focus on a student,
100% during the time 
I focus on a class,
or on my spouse,
or on a person before me for a photo,
or on the idea before me for a poem, 
or on a calling for a project:
these days stewardship calls me and I find a way that can
*monitor electricity usage and photovoltaic power generation at CFS,
*remember, honor, remember those we’ve lost to today,
*remember those still with us in videos
that tell stories of how each has helped us
be, and become, who we are as a school,

I want my life to matter,
and what matters most is to help connection happen,
the tiniest parts reaching to remember the whole,
then we can imagine that autonomy can be illusion,
that our community can be a larger and larger whole.

by Henry H. Walker
November 2, ‘18

Saturday, November 3, 2018

bowling and aging

the kid within, the old impinges

I haven’t bowled for years.
really bowled? not for decades,
my head knows what to do,
but my body won’t move
with the flexibility it used to exhibit,
that loose devil-may-care abandon
my middle school students exhibit, 
most of them don’t live a secret of bowling,
at least my “secret,” 
that economy of movement,
of repetition, of precision,
but they are fluid,
my first two frames are spares,
many frames aren’t that good,
no strikes,
my movements careful, halting, staccato,
my left hand on my left knee
as I release the ball,
the bowling ball often goes close to where I aimed it,
but increasingly I’m off, just a bit,
that the alley makes larger and larger
as the pins come nearer,

I feel so lucky with all I can still do,
wherever my mind and my heart
can find the right opportunity to express themselves,
I can be still fine:
there for my students,
there for my wife,
there for my poetry, 
there for my photography,

bowling today reminds me that the operator within can still feel young
until the body without realizes we’re not in Kansas any more.

by Henry H. Walker
November 2, ‘18

Saturday, October 27, 2018

the tree, the forest, Gaia

Nature’s Holy Book

I love to find myself ignorant,
for then I discover a hole,
and I can fill it with answers to questions 
that have just come to me,
I love to learn,
particularly in areas where I didn’t even realize
I had holes in my understanding,

today I’m wondering
if it might be even better
to embrace my ignorance
and approach some mysteries with a resigned awe,

nature is so far beyond me
that I cannot even really see the trees,
let alone the forest,
Gaia a connected whole we need,
but her holy book cannot yet be translated in full,
just a few lines, enough to shock into awe
anyone who wakes up enough to notice,

how I awoke into awareness,
into consciousness of self and other,
is a mystery like understanding a tree,
each exists,
each is amazing,
and I only glimpse what in creation is going on,

Mary Oliver spoke of valuing mystery,
my wife shared her words,
and I first responded with the scientist within me,
the one who knows there is an answer
and craves to find it,
the person of faith within, elders me,
elders me to seek and appreciate God as the unfathomable,
the best answer to the deepest questions
is the awe the universe deserves.

by Henry H. Walker
October 26, ‘18

Monday, October 22, 2018

the incipient thrusts at its binders

why still teaching?

why am I still teaching?
why does the weight of the burdens
my students feel thrust upon them
not break my spirit when my empathy leaps me to them?
what gives me the energy to be there day after day, for them?
even when impulse and contrariness thwart movement forward?

I really don’t know the answer,
yet I can imagine what might be going on,

somehow I have a gift, 
the gift of seeing the student as whole, intentional,
I see the incipient thrusting at its binders
hoping to break free of diminishment
and finding the power 
that should be its birthright,

our school is structured well enough
that empowerment gains are often within the kids’ grasp,
enough that they are actually able to grasp them,
and thus their victories empower me, too, 
to stay longer as teacher.

by Henry H. Walker
October 19, ‘18

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

immersing in the Source

a disciple of mountains

being in the mountains is first, for me, for me,
a place to shuck off worries and duties and others,
and find myself home,
where I am more the adopted than the birthright child,
the Prodigal Son who loses his way
and finds it again, back where he began,

I also love to be in mountains with kids,
to be guide to their remembering who they are
before their parents,
before their peers,
before the reflections of ourselves 
we call human culture,

I need to immerse in these streams,
in these woods, along these trails, up on these peaks,
so that I can remember the paths,
so that I can then be able to share them,

every immersion is a return to the Source,
I like to serve as guide,
I even more like to serve as disciple.

by Henry H. Walker
October 12, ‘18

to be part of nature

Forest and Sky

the storm we named Michael
comes through here with four inches of rain,
and, as it moves away,
winds roar behind it,
sheeting bands of rain into gray-outs,
and whipping the trees out the south window
like some pom-poms in a frenzy of team enthusiasm,
the power goes out, for somewhere between us and its source,
the lines come down and the system needs a break,

thuds upon the roof,
flurries of jettisoned leaves and cones and bits of branch
give up the air to clutter the ground,
one crash after the power had gone out
turns out to be two big oak branches
who rip our power lines from our house,

as the world around me is drenched and then tested in the wind,
I read along in The Overstory by Richard Powers,
he writes of the story of Patricia Wetherford
as she opens herself to the nonhuman world which is our mother,
as she opens herself to asking questions of nature,
and then to actually hear the answers,
even more extraordinary, 
she then shares the answers with people
who do not want to hear,
who do not want to knows truths
that makes us a part of the whole,
where we are not full in and of ourselves,
certainly not master, despite what Genesis proclaims,

here in the East, forest is triumphant between us and sky,
I wonder about humans and the sky:
the Greeks named the male primal God as Uranus, the heavens,
how much do we clear the trees 
to release ourselves up into the heavens
so that we are dominated?
I suggest that we need the primal female Gaia,
who, with the forest, holds us in her arms,
arms that touch the sky and become one 
with its power, through its power,
we should never choose either sky or woods,
rather, we should live the truth of both.

by Henry H. Walker
October 11, ‘18

Saturday, October 6, 2018

who we need to be

true to what the students need

as a longterm staff member at CFS,
I get asked about changes to the school,
folks who were here years ago
see physical changes: new buildings,
remodeled buildings,
pavement instead of a gravel drive,
and they wonder at the changes,
is the school they knew somehow irrevocably changed?
I often then speak to the continuity I feel
of the heart of our school with those early decades,

I can worry, too, about what is at the heart
of Carolina Friends School, of who we are,
and how change is not always of getting closer to the roots,
that lethargy and the inexorable inertia of the other, the mainstream,
can tempt us away from the radical call
to stay true to the roots of what the learner most needs,
to be true and reinvent ourselves every moment
to be who the students need us to be,

today, my worries went away, for awhile,
as I saw who we have been, who we are,
who we are becoming, at its best,
I told a fellow teacher that she invented the wheel,
for in her dedication to the kids 
and to the substance of what she teaches,
she spearheaded an Hispanic Festival,

CFS Teacher Kelly Yupanqui

Kelly celebrates her native Peru

Colombian Dancers

a celebration of the Americas,
particularly of our southern neighbors
yet also they who are our neighbors down the street,

CFS student with her grandmother from Mexico

she found a way to enlarge herself and our curriculum
in a way new to CFS, yet also true to the heart of who we were,
and true to who we need to become
to celebrate the ever-enlarging community of who we want to be.

by Henry H. Walker
October 5, ‘18

Thursday, October 4, 2018

going on six, and will

the burden of the will

I feel the heavy weight,
the burden he carries,
he sees how the world needs to be,
for he wants it to be that way,
and only if it’s the way he wants is the world right,

the toys must be just so,
and the “just so” changes every moment
as the creator in him manifests,
his parents must be there for him
just the way he feels they should be,
for what he wants is how it should be,
a video game: joy when it goes well,
indignation when it doesn’t,
a call for a science museum trip,
and today he loses the discussion,
though he revisits his desire time after time for hours,
anger at his father for multi-tasking,
talking to us while playing with him,
a physical expression of his anger close to his surface,

it is hard to understand the world as another sees it,
to realize the world can be seen 
as differently shaped from how you see it,
and then to walk forward
in a constant balancing act
between assertiveness and responsiveness,

the will seeks a way to use us as tool,
the challenge is to find a way
that is the best compromise for all
to gain the most and lose the least,
for will to be the tool and not the master.

by Henry H. Walker
September 29, ‘18

Friday, September 28, 2018

middle school angst

carry the flag?  me?

our middle schoolers can be loved,
capable, skilled in sport and class,
well-liked by friends, positive forces for a world 
that ought to “get them,” appreciate them, support them,
yet something is wrong,
the snake of self-doubt slithers through their sureness:
fear of what might happen,
anxiety when product or friend falters,
feeling the disturbance in the Force
when political leaders don’t lead us toward a future
where climate change is resisted, bills paid, hate rejected,
inequities of income, skin color, orientation, gender,
considered worth the effort to resolve toward a dream of equality,

it must be hard to awake toward adulthood
and then to realize that so many adults in charge
are not yet ready to be worth the respect an elder ought to deserve,

how unfair to the children
to have to grow up too fast,
since so many who run the country have not yet grown up,

I understand the cracks within the self-confidence
that allow self-doubt and worry to worm their way in,
but I also believe that the young can be of “the kingdom of Heaven,”
I feel for them as they have to grow up in a world 
that needs their rightness to release itself, 
that needs them to pick up the flag and carry it forward,
since the earlier bearers have fallen.

by Henry H. Walker
September 26, ‘18

Thursday, September 27, 2018

a progress report on Fall

Fall Equinox 18

the warm humid air of late summer
doesn’t care that the Sun is crossing the Equator,
too much energy is held in the ocean these days,
and then released into the air that sits on us,

I dream of October’s cool nights, bright blue days,
and air dry enough to swallow some of my sweat,
about a third of the maple trees seem tired of waiting
and just drift colorless to the ground,

about a tenth of the leaves of the pink dogwood
are readying themselves,
tempting the eye with harbingers 
of the red glory that will come,

our grapes have finished their best production year in decades,

though the cedar arbor will need a lot of fixing,

tomatoes are almost gone,

 beans finishing,

Native American pumpkin feel the frost coming
and are bountiful below their mass of leaves,

okra still produce though the recent remnants of Hurricane Florence
have winded them part over,

a few gourds are getting themselves ready,

school is in full swing,
and I am touched by how many kids
are breaking through toward their power,
Fall Equinox feels like it should be of balance,
but the world needs to stumble
before skies can clear into clarity.

by Henry H. Walker
September 23, ‘18