Sunday, November 25, 2018

all that is outside

of such, the Kingdom

with my students I study the Anasazi,
those native people of a thousand years ago
who flourished in the dry canyons
of what we call New Mexico,
and into parts of Arizona, Colorado, and Utah,
the Anasazi built to honor the heavens,
to have structures of stone, petroglyphs, building, and road
mirror the changes in the heavens
as Sun and Moon dance their recurring patterns with the Earth,

Joseph Campbell, an expert in such peoples’ lives,
cautioned that we people of the West,
of technology, of industry, of machines, of the right angle,
cannot even hope to understand how the universe
reveals itself to those who live within nature,
who know sky and animal and plant
as at last equally important as humans,
I hear of children who can hear the sounds of their language
if they grow up with them,
but that sounds they do not hear, early, 
are beyond their perception,

I go further in my wonderings:
how much do plants, do trees know?
a tree and we share a quarter of our genes,
how much consciousness is in the life 
of the greatest tree, of the most ephemeral flower,
of our fungal cousins whose web predates our Web
and who live below and beyond us,
holding and acting upon truths we, at best, barely grasp?

and then I imagine the things of our world,
those nonliving realities to which we are wedded:
the rocks, the streams,
the geology within which the biology exists,

God, when we work to see God,
often is portrayed as like us,
God, to me, is as much of the nonliving as the living,
for of such is the Kingdom of Heaven, and of Earth.

by Henry H. Walker
November 23, ‘18

Saturday, November 24, 2018

a hike, again, up Bullhead (the bison bull)


for two years, the trail up Bullhead has been closed,

two years ago, Thanksgiving, we hiked to Alum Cave Bluffs,
and looked across the valley of Walker Prong
to where the Chimneys smoldered with smoke,
only a minor interesting annoyance to us,
for the Smokies get enough rain to be able, usually, to laugh at fire,

a week later, the woods burned when blowtorch winds
spread devastating fire across tinder-dry woods and ridges,
the fire so intense on parts of the mountain
the lichen and moss burned away to reveal
the blue-gray smooth sandstone beneath,

heath forests with low pines and other trees
burned back so that the still-healthy roots
have now erupted the bush bases into new growth,

just down the trail, or up the trail,
the fire did not touch the woods,

the Park Service has chainsawed countless blowdowns over the trail
to reclaim it for hiking,
they took the opportunity earth move, particularly along the high ridge,
and ready the trail for the longterm,
they made and deepened countless
water-diversion trenches along the whole path,

whenever the trail finds a drier ridge,
views open up into the spectacular,

the fire having cleared the foreground,
grasses in some places found again how to be luxuriant,

as did the tiny teaberry plants, making perfect red berries 
with the extravagance of newly-available sunlight,

this hike one of our favorites,
and we are thankful to our bodies and to our wills
that we again can haul ourselves, body and soul,
along this incredible trail and to the stone table,
right where the Cherokee envisioned a primal story
of adventure, of discovery, and wonder,
a mythic underpinning of the joy this adventure calls out in us.

by Henry H. Walker
November 23, ‘18

empty places at the table

Thanksgiving ‘18

the sun peeks over the slopes to the southeast,
and spotlights the last burnished-gold oak leaves,
then shafts through the baring woods onto the dropping creek,

for a time, a light fog swirls up from the tumbling water
and reveals the shafts as only roiling mist can,
between the shafts 
a sharp black shadow cuts through to the water,
a tree sculpts away the light and makes it more real,
it is as if a finger points to the end of the beam’s journey,

each moment outside this morning feels of power,
inside my heart, though, 
I come back to the empty places at today’s meal
where loved ones, gone now, would have sat,
each loss a hole that will not be filled,
though my tears try.

by Henry H. Walker
November 22, ‘18

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