Wednesday, May 15, 2019

let us turn round right

to see with 40/40 vision

What a concept!

to imagine life as a spiral
with soon-to-be 40 turnings,
each turn another year,
each self within you different,
yet also somehow the same,
the view changes,
but the eyes open into a continuity
who has a stubborn sureness of identity,
one who knows and judges
according to its sense of past, 
of present, of its possible futures,

we are made up of an assemblage of developmental selves
who increasingly can see from higher, broader, deeper perspectives,
yet also can forget how sure and deep our earlier selves got it
more than our newer versions might remember,
an 11 year old’s points about love
so sharp they cut true to my 71 year old values,

I hear touches of those revelations of truth
in the recounting of interview after interview,
somehow the multitudes within
combine into who we are, each 
needs to be remembered,
needs to be treasured,
needs to be heard so that we turn round right,
and act with gratitude and love for our moments
and for the self that lives them.

by Henry H. Walker
May 14, ‘19

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Arts Eve at CFS

art, triumphant

art is when we rise out of the mundane,
when we add dimensions to the plane
upon which we feel ourselves to live,
it is art when we add
the personal
the creative
who can come within us
as if a muse and 
then can act upon the world,

art can let us see possibility,
the way a next moment can transcend the last moment,
the way imagination can spring full-blown from our head
as if Athena becomes real, and helps us become real,

then a story births itself,
a photograph, a painting, a performance,
I have heard of a sculptor 
who can actually hear the call
of the shape within the stone,
that’s how I see the photos
inherent within the possibilities
of the view before me,
a photo can call to me
and I can precipitate it within my lens,

art is the calling that pulls us out of the mundane
to live a time where the fantastic
begs to be born into story,
where the gifts of voice, 
and instrument, 
of the body kinesthetic,
will not be hidden,

tonight is Arts Eve, within which 
the dancers, singers, musicians, painters,
the artists, the shapers,
claim a night to shine, 
and they do,


by Henry H. Walker
May 9, ‘19

Sunday, May 5, 2019

the power of their words

13, going on wise

I have a class of seventh graders
who regularly overwhelm me
with the quality of their writing,
with the quality of the self within them
that will not be denied the floor upon which to speak,
it is the first of the ninth month of our being together,
and I challenge them to write an essay,
an essay on the meaning of life,
the purpose that we should follow
with the steps of our choosing,
the essay follows in-depth readings of stories
within which the authors develop possible answers,
the strengths and the pitfalls of choices,

the quality of the examined life each of my students lives
and puts into words proves to the doubter within me
the rightness of the believer within me,
the one who sees each student
as daring to be whole
when dissolution calls so strongly to them,

one student doubted: 
“I’m only 13.  What do I really know?”

I responded that I see them as “13 going on wise,”
and feared that they see themselves as “13 going on stupid,”
another student wrote that she knew
that each of them hated themselves,
while still finding wisdom and eloquence in her points and words,

their essays, dropped onto the scale of insight,
prove the amazing power that a young adult can feel and express,
if but given the opportunity and support to speak the truth
that the mountains they are climbing allow them to see.

by Henry H. Walker
May 3, ‘19

Thursday, May 2, 2019

they come into their power

Into the Woods

on stage young people can reveal
how well they’re coming into their power,

tonight was of virtuoso performance:
actors using the vehicle of the musical,
the ideas, the acting, the singing, the movement,
the scenery and costuming and staging,
to present a wholeness within themselves
that crescendoes into a larger wholeness
as story and relationship captivate the audience,
and we swell toward rightness,

we are social beings who are also individual and unique,
on stage we can be true to the difference as to who we are
yet also to the commonality of who we can be,
when we partner with others in cast and crew, 
and then audience,
to rebuild toward a whole
that is who we are at the deepest and most real,

“Into the Woods” tonight was audacious and thrilling in its success,

as actors scurried to care for costume and self after the show,
I heard the director announce:
“no notes from tonight,”

that they had done so well
that he had no directions on what to fix,

how wonderful when revelation speaks clearly.

by Henry H. Walker
May 2, ‘19

Monday, April 29, 2019

students, and teaching, living

life as unscripted movie

every person’s life is an unscripted movie,
with the star challenged to find action and word
to get through each scene
before the next scene challenges anew,

as a teacher I am gifted
with a front row seat for some of the scenes,
I clearly see the actor
and revel in the quality of self revealed
in intent, in word, in action,
I can applaud with my own word and care
the quality before me,

then the movie shifts location, 
to be filmed away from me,
I often know little of how it turns out,
maybe an occasional review by someone who has seen later scenes,
sometimes the actor flashing back to a visit,
and my appreciation of the quality of the self living its story
reprises for a bit,

today I visited for a time with a former student
who will not be denied in her quest
to create a career with the songs her soul writes
and her voice and hands release to the world,
the meaning and music of her words
ethereal and grounded at the same time,

one song written to a mother fighting cancer
before and after the birth of her child,
Caitlin was asked for help,
and she writes a song,
and she performs a song,
and she shares a song,
mother and child make it through their scenes so far,

how wonderful that my former student knows her power
and uses it to help others
make it through their scenes,

the movie rolls on,
and we all can hope 
that the script we write with our lives
will be worth the screen time we use up.

by Henry H. Walker
April 27, ‘19

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

a brilliant mind, a committed heart

Jamie Hysjulien

I sat in on a senior seminar one time,
a brief period of asking questions of the student
who was venturing a take on truth,
based on what they’d been studying
and what the student ventured as thesis,

Jamie revealed himself then:
a brilliant mind, a committed heart,
a devoted teacher who joyed in the student’s
brilliant mind, committed heart, devotion to truth,

as I sit outside now, it’s a perfect day
of deep blue sky, of brilliant late afternoon light
reveling in the revealing of the oak tree above,
just coming fully into its power,
like the student in the senior seminar,

how strange it feels to have the world around me
not reeling from the loss of such a fine man:
a devoted partner, a devoted parent,
a doting grandparent,
a colleague who lifted more than his share 
of students toward the light, 

I imagine kid after kid becoming adult after adult,
each coming more fully into the power within them
that Jamie helped refine and release
into a world that needs brilliant minds and committed hearts,
who know how to become and be,
in no small part because Jamie
saw them, loved them, helped them,

may each honor Jamie with how well each
sees the world, sees themselves within that world,
and finds the ways to make a difference, for the better.

by Henry H. Walker
April 22, ‘19

Thursday, April 18, 2019

birds, birds, birds

frenetic birds amidst the swell of spring

birds awake in early spring,
as if on speed:
before daybreak, they call as if to wake us all up,
two male bluebirds this morning blur in a frenzy on the ground,
some kind of dominance fight
with females flitting nearby,
maybe a challenge as to which couple 
gets the bluebird house for their eggs, and then young,
by dinner time, one male stands atop it,

and only barely tolerates me 25 feet away,

a tufted titmouse can’t figure me out
and comes closer and closer,
as I need to be dealt with,

two mourning doves write quick paths
from tree to tree across my view,
a hummingbird pauses on branches,
and then zings to our sugar water feeder,

our ginkgo and one of our oaks are early in their leafing,

the red maple halfway to full leaf,

as are most of the oaks around us,

last week’s pine pollen invasion
mostly washed away by a near foot of rain,
though our car still has edges stained gold,

in the garden I have trusted that
“the early bird gets the worm,”
so a dozen and a half tomatoes, 
ones I started from seed inside,
are rooting into the fertile soil,
held up by nestling leaves,

red potatoes and sugar snap peas are hard at work,

the buttercrunch lettuce and first basil
have been subdued by torrents of rain,
squash, bush beans, okra, and pumpkin await their time,

sour cherry and blueberry are setting:

the redbud has finished, the dogwood is full,

our grass needs cutting,
the columbine is triumphant:

the plant kingdom is like the early adolescents I teach,
swelling with the pride of becoming,
not yet into the full power that comes
before the long decline.

by Henry H. Walker
April 17, ‘19

Saturday, April 13, 2019

the instruction book?

analytic vs generative

consider a game and its rule book:
how much interest do you have
in the ins and outs of the instructions
until you’ve watched it being played, 
or played it a bit yourself?
there comes a time when the rules are interesting,
but not till the game itself captures you,

as teachers, we can forget early developmental stages,
we can fall in love with the structures
that appear so clear to us now,
and we falsely imagine that taking apart the whole
would help the young create the whole anew,
the ascendancy of the analytic over the generative,

I watch kids and I seek to learn from them,
I sought to help a kid write a poem,
and I inspired myself to write the poem instead,
ever since I have trusted the impulse
to shape thought and feeling into coherence
as the prime directive,
to bring forth a whole
that wants to be born
if we can but release 
ourselves into the shaping,

I watch kids and I seek to learn from them,
for me, a kid should write poems first,
working on idea, on feeling, on memory,
on authenticity,
and then figurative language can be tools
to capture meaning even better, 
not as words and technique to learn first,
for then a poem is made of Legos without a story
to bind them into the magic of meaning,

my grandson knows how to construct things
into a whole with a story,
of such is the challenge of an educator:
to learn by being, and doing,
to be of the whole that only later knows the parts.

by Henry H. Walker
April 12, ‘19

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

from the core of the wildflower

the ephemeral of early spring

a particularly poignant name
to call the wildflowers of early spring,
we seek them where memory and opportunity
whisper they might be,

and there they are:
fringed phacelia, 

like a young snow,
profusely carpet the understory 
of an old cove hardwood forest,

the ground peopled by
white trillium, geranium, trout lily,
anemone, miterwort, spring beauty,
squirrel corn,
Dutchman’s breeches, more,

up the valley ginger rules,
in its understated way,
the maroon cup of its three-pointed flower,

the gold below the green rainbow of its leaf,

all within what Southern Appalachian folks
call a “hollow,” 
an absence and a presence between ridges,
where the earth speaks with life,
instead of resistance to erosion,

the next day we quest after blood-root,
a favorite of ours, who hides herself
behind a brief flowering time,
and a persnickety need to not go 
too high on the mountain,
and there it is!

more bloom than we’ve ever seen together,
just by the road, all congregated as if at a service,
my cameras indulge themselves with glory revealed,

spring wildflowers are ephemeral,
and so are we and all our moments,

we can only hope to bloom with the wonder
that the phacelia and blood-root speak from their core.

by Henry H. Walker
April 5, ‘19

to bend the twig

good parenting

as I sit on a rise
above the tumbling creek,
just at the edge of where
pavement yields to trail,

a young family enters the woods before me,
they choose to follow the old path
down to the creek,
where they spend long minutes
enjoying exploring, throwing rocks into the creek,
the dad rock hops to the other side
and follows his own whims for a bit,
while the mom, baby on back,
enjoys the edge of the stream with her two daughters,
I notice a few rocks splash,
and I hope the magic works for them,
“as the twig is bent, so the limb’s inclined,” 
advises Alexander Pope,

these parents bend their kids 
to appreciate untamed nature,

as they walk away, 
they notice me 150 feet away,
I lightly wave at the dad,
he returns the wave,
then the mom does, too,

I appreciate them, and their parenting,
their kids are lucky.

by Henry H. Walker
April 5, ‘19