Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Memorial Day in Durham, NC

Jamais plus la guerre!

“Jamais plus la guerre!”

this call for “no more war”
rises within me as I stand
at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial here in Durham,
I bring some flowers to mark Memorial Day,
and I lose myself in prayer for a bit,

as I stand before the brick with my brother’s name,
I think of the young men sacrificed in that war,
sacrificed to a wrong vision of the world,

my brother Clarence was drafted,
and, after Tet, quickly processed to get bodies in the field,
he hated that war and saw no sense in it,
around Saigon he saw the French phrase
“Jamais plus la guerre” written everywhere,
he wrote me and asked me to march against the war, for him,

having grown up as a Baby Boomer,
World War II has shouted at me
of the morality of resisting Hitler and Imperial Japan,
though, even then, necessity seems more real than glory,

I hear in “Jamais plus la guerre”
the imperative to save our young people
from such horrors if such ways can open,
too often leaders act as if they’re playing a game,
a game for which the sacrificed pawns pay the price.

by Henry H. Walker
May 28, ‘18

a gift to us

the kingdom of bears

“look on the other side of that large meadow,
there’s a black dot. . . it’s moving!”

and so we saw our first mama bear and her two yearlings,
distant, but real,
ambassadors from a world that we don’t control,
a hint of a kingdom we don’t rule 
but that we are a part of,

then soon along the road,
another mama bear and her two yearlings
stop the car before us so they can cross the road,

our cameras clicking and whirring,
the three bears have salad time in the field before us,

my students respectful, excited, safe,
as I work to capture their images in the foreground
with the foraging bears in the background,

two more bears show themselves a bit
as they slip through a grassy field,

we are lucky today,

may we feel as appreciative
as the bears’ gift to us deserves.

by Henry H. Walker
May 23, ‘18

Sunday, May 27, 2018

work and play on the slopes of Mt. Guyot

Ramsay Cascades

the wearing intensity of the hike
shrinks my world and centers it on the next step,
on the sweat drip dropping off my forehead,
on the doubts that want to swallow me,

I only briefly notice the foam flowers who jewel the woods,
the rich green tunnels through which I labor up, and up,
the stream that laughs at me as it calmly dances down the mountain,

when I reach my destination, Ramsay Cascades,
my world opens up again into wonder,

a great gray bedrock monolith of sandstone
holds against the gravity well enough
to allow the Prong to play and cavort,
to leap and splash as it celebrates in white the air within,
Thunderhead Sandstone never looks more smoothly buff
than it does here,

no trail goes further up this valley than to the Cascades,
so the next two miles of valley are pristine
until the Appalachian Trail allows the illusion of human control,

our very presence in the wild can change what we love.

by Henry H. Walker
May 22, ‘18

Saturday, May 26, 2018

the burden of memory

Time Rides

time rides these mountains,
wearing them down,
burdening them with memory,

at the Cherokee Museum, time was also heavy,
story after story revealing
the Cherokee coming into their power,
then story after story
of the Cherokee burdened with a new world
that had no room for them,

their people, like the mountains,
burdened with how time has ridden upon them.

by Henry H. Walker
May 19, ‘18

cusps and imagination

the mud and the stars

I am blessed, and cursed,
with a driving need to imagine
what futures might lie in front 
of the cusp of this moment,

with my students I feel like a gardener
who can see the flower in the seedling,
I see the best within them
and imagine how wonderfully it might reveal itself,

I can also feel their hurt
and imagine the pain and effort a moment can hold,

I see a few huge tulip poplar trees

and my imagination reaches to hold a past
with the woods filled with a world of such giants,
and I also imagine the horror that turned them into lumber
and their home into a foulness of destruction,

I see the stars and the mud within every moment,

one of my students just opens himself enough to Earth
that he hugs a big beech trunk in front of me,

I thank the stars for my imagination right now.

by Henry H. Walker
May 24, ‘18

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Rachel's Bat Mitzvah

Rachel’s Bat Mitzvah

thousands of years of tradition and wisdom
meet one individual life coalescing toward adulthood:

the profound weight of ritual, of the Word, of the chant,
slip onto her as if made just for her,

the incredible lightness of her wholesome spirit
imbues her as she accepts and embraces who she is,
in the combining of the gifts of the past, the present, the future,
with her sense of self,
who she is stands there and owns the audience,
stands there and asserts the profundity of her take on it all,
we are undone with the purity of the power she knows and speaks,

the mantle she is assuming is venerable and well-worn,
and still new with how her heart and head
make sense of it all,

Rachel has always been who she is,
now is the time for her, and us,
to celebrate the power that dawns with her today.

with love and appreciation,
by granddaddy Henry H. Walker

May 19, ‘18

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

through the maelstrom of middle school

fighting through the doubts

“I discovered I like being on stage.
I like everybody looking at me!”
and she released herself into a powerful performance on stage,
a venturing forth of the will, an assertion of self,
that same assertion we work on in writing:
craft a strong thesis statement, assert it,
venture an opinion in discussion,
risk to draw, to sing, to learn an instrument,

middle school can feel as a maelstrom,
with swirling winds that deny you a perch, a foundation,
a sureness of where you are,
a sureness of a path forward,
a sureness that you can do it,

we should celebrate every time
a young person fights through the doubts,
we should celebrate each step forward,
when the doubting winds calm enough
that the self learns itself well enough
to step forward, again and again,
and feel the rightness of unleashing
that which is awesome
within the doubting self.

by Henry H. Walker
May 11, ‘18

Monday, May 14, 2018

Making Friends

Arts Eve ‘19

I remember the Weebles,
“they wobble but they don’t fall down,”  
that’s how my spirit works to be,
I keep seeing the positive,
despite the buffeting negativity throws at us,
tonight was of the positive,

tonight was particularly of the arts:
what a middle schooler can create on their own,
with vision, effort, a pencil, paint, papier-maché,

two dimensions, then three,
what middle schoolers together can create

with drama, with idea, dance, video,

the reaching of perception from the known to the unknown,

with music—the instrument alone,

then with other conduits,
from the piano 

to the voice, to the signing,
as movement seeks to convey the words that set to convey the thoughts,

tonight was of what a group of middle schoolers can create as a chorus,

the individual and the group genius released in song,
perfected when voice harmonizes with voice,
the sound just feels right, and beautiful,
three dimensions become four, maybe more,

what particularly gets to me tonight 
is the joy which erupts from their friends
as middle schooler after middle schooler celebrates another’s shining,
cheers, high-fives, a bouncing vivaciousness within the audience,
it saddens me when we lose addition as we fear subtraction,
at the heart of our school we love addition, community,
the sense that we are Friends,
that we are at our best when we come out of ourselves
and find the other who helps us be more complete,
more true to who we are.

by Henry H. Walker
May 10, ‘18

Sunday, May 13, 2018

a good man is gone

Welton Clayton, Loss

away from me, within the institutionalized care
we sort of give to those hurting,
those without the safety nets
privilege slips under many of us,
my friend, my buddy, Welton Clayton,
slept, and slipped away,
without my even quite realizing it,
till I checked my voice mail
and heard just the rawness of the change,
the message from two days before,
the service a day ago,

my friend, my buddy, is now already in the ground,
next to Ida, his wife, in the cemetery of her church,
Welton’s garden is now in weeds,
just like all of us who knew and loved him,
not quite sure of how to be
without the cultivation of his spirit,
all the growths of our individual lives
holding our attention,
I miss Welton’s clarity, the power of his caring,
the sureness of his self,
as he had to deal with ridiculous people,
with a world that often did not know him the way we did,

Welton had common sense,
a trueness of who people are,
Welton had a heart that loved to give:
his time, his help, his vegetables,
a concrete way to say what his words often could not say,
Welton was a good man,
a good friend who loved to do for you,
a man who did not suffer fools gladly,
and to be an African-American man,
even in the twenty-first century,
had the fools closer than he would like,

Welton’s story is fascinating:
a good person who had to deal with a world
that could have trouble seeing him truly.

by Henry H. Walker
May 11, ‘18

Saturday, May 5, 2018

The Cherokee World

a world imbued with spirit

we live in ignorance,

when we deny our ignorance
we are in a desperately cold world
with only the fitful flame of hubris
to seem to warm us,
we are in a dark world
with only our own fitful light
to reveal the surface of ourselves,
how much warmer and brighter it is
when we open ourselves to risking,
to realizing the emptiness
and seeking to fill it as best we can,

today I was given the gift of two classes
with whom to share what I know
of the Cherokee, the Native American,
a subject that fascinates me,
a people whose way of seeing the world,
and our place in it,
I can only touch for a moment
and never quite hold,

I show the students a picture of a mountain
and ask them what they see,
some only see rocks, trees, an abstract shape,
the artist in some see a face, an animal, one a camel,
the Scotch-Irish settlers saw “Chimney Tops,”
a mirror of their cultivated world,
the Cherokee saw the antlers of a great stone deer,
an expression of how spirit imbues the story of their world,

I hoped to help the students imagine a people
who saw the world as animate, alive with resonance,
not a thing for us to toy with,
to discard, to change at our whim,
a world grander than we can hope to know,

we of the West stepped out of a seamless world,
we realized we could bend the world to our will,
and we did,
and we luxuriate in the gifts we’ve found,
I hoped today to open the children of rationality
to grasp at the gifts that spirituality can also share.

by Henry H. Walker
May 3, ‘18