Sunday, September 29, 2019

are we a melting pot? or . . . ?

A Metaphor for the U.S.A.

traditionally, we are a melting pot,
where all differences dissolve into a collective whole,
with individuality of group lost,
subsumed into the larger,

maybe, a tossed salad, with each group
keeping its differences but together making a unity,
though mouth and stomach make it into a melting pot,

maybe a stew, with each group retaining some uniqueness,
but at the edges slipping into the whole,

maybe a choral group, where the individual voice shines
within a larger shining of the wholeness of the piece,

in our private school, we trumpet the value of diversity and inclusivity,
still we require that members of the community
accept our unifying philosophy which chooses some truths as not relative:
love over hate, 
peaceful problem-solving, not violence,
empowerment over disenfranchisement
the rights of non-traditional genders
over the rigid denying of a fundamentalist belief system,

how much are we as a country a confederacy
of separate but equal subdivisions,
with no common purpose, no common set of values,
a hundred flowers blooming?

it seems that now we are stuck
in a schizoid country with two different realities,
between which we have to choose,
as if we are not really part of the same whole,

we need to find common ground, and build upon it,
whatever the metaphor that best describes who we want to be.

by Henry H. Walker
September 29, ‘19

Friday, September 27, 2019

on a cusp

middle school, and anxiousness

what a gift it is
to witness and cheer on
the middle schooler awakening
into the power of mind and heart,

the middle schooler, though,
has settling down on them
more than their fair share of anxiousness,
a fear that each is an imposter,
just faking it
while others must be real,
thus school can be a source of tests
that cannot be passed,

how sad it can be to wake up into fear,
to turn a corner and be hugged by anxiety,

no wonder that silliness and avoidance call to them,
just as with many of us, each can be on a cusp,
and the mature side of the choice is heavy.

by Henry H. Walker
September 26, ‘19

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Day and Night, Half and Half

Fall Equinox ‘19

a curve of Moon rides high above me in the pre-dawn,
one satellite slips to the east,
near it another slips to the north,
the air is cool but more appetizer than promise,
as the 80s will ride the afternoon,

in the garden yellow tomatoes endure,

as do the Kentucky Wonder pole beans,

Native pumpkins, like peachy tan Easter eggs,
hide among their ever-diminishing leafy vines,

most of the basil has given up the ghost,

but the okra still offers tender pods each day,

Summer has been long, hot, and dry,
the tropics keep spawning storm after storm,
fed by the too-hot salt water beneath them,
and, for now, the capricious airs above us
hold them at bay, and mid-ocean,

the climate is changing, and not for the better,
the Equinox should be a time of balance,
with day and night, half and half,
that is still true,
this year, though, 
half the people demand we deal with our problems
and half the people deny there are problems,
despite rising oceans and epic storms,

winter reaches toward us but can’t yet get here,
just as common sense can touch us but not rule many,
the dogwood leaves seem to feel winter coming,

and start shifting away from green,
our red maple is even more prescient and forgets color
as it prematurely drops its leaves,

I have the half-chocolate, half-vanilla cookies at the ready,
but even I, who created the Sol Pole,
almost forgot to celebrate the Equinox at celestial noon,

I am reminded of it all by the artist on our staff,
and we chant:
“Equi, Equi, Equinox,
Day and night, half and half,”
then eat our cookies,
and quickly return to routine,

how like where we are as a culture:
momentous realities cascade upon us,
and the moments of our individuality
eclipse the collective truth
that we cannot quite deal with,

one of my students writes of an upcoming birthday party,
which draws her more than an “existential crisis,”

the celestial universe, the dance of Earth and Sun,
insists there is balance,
while our human world 
denies any truth that isn’t comfortable.

by Henry H. Walker
September 23, ‘19

Saturday, September 21, 2019

the great city of New York

a country mouse in the city

I am excited to be in New York,
me, a child of nature,
who most feels at home
where the buffalo roam, or did,
me, like Davy Crockett,
who found the smoke of a neighbor’s fire
telling him to go further away
from the contagion of people,
me, who loves to be alone on a mountain top,
alone exploring a stream, a flower,
the enigmatic schedules of a bear,

I love being here in New York, 
where canyons are made by human construction, 
buildings which rise straight and presumptive,
where people are everywhere,
each different as a snow flake,
each also me if I let my self soar
into imagining how very alike we are
in our dreams and in our fears,
how each difference in us is like a spice
that helps me awaken a sense within me
that loves to savor how incredible the world is
that we humans can envision and create,

New York City shouts of the hope
our species needs to endure, and prosper.

by Henry H. Walker
September 13, ‘19

Wednesday, September 18, 2019


children and will

how can we as parents
survive the reality of the independence of will
of the children who come from us,
who are of us,
yet who are also themselves,

I heard a story once of a radical leader
who looked outside and saw his people marching in purpose,
and who then declared:
“Those are my people. 
I must see where they are going, 
so that I might lead them.”

as a parent, 
I love,
I hope,
and I have to let go of control,
for I don’t really have it anyway,

I have to trust my children
and let them go where they will,
hoping I have helped them
know themselves,
know reality,
and know well enough how to choose,
and then how to deal with the consequences.

by Henry H. Walker
September 13, ‘19

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Aaron Sorkin and the characters' voice

To Kill a Mockingbird, 2019

Calpurnia declares that the “good people” of Maycomb, Alabama,
entered the court as monsters and left it was murderers,
Atticus says he knows these people,
Calpurnia declares that she knows them better,
Calpurnia challenges Atticus’s defense of Mrs. Dubose:
a woman full of hate-filled prejudice
who is fighting morphine addiction,
Atticus excuses her hate and 
Calpurnia declares that addiction does not excuse her venom,

Harper Lee’s gripping story still works to pull us in,
into a “coming-of-age” tale
where decency and empathy and love
run into the stultifying inertia
of convention, of avoidance, of the tribal,
where the hope that fuels an optimism in the young
can run out of gas when adults look away, and don’t act,

Harper Lee created the characters and the story,
and Aaron Sorkin honors them with even more of their own voice.

by Henry H. Walker
September 14, ‘19

Monday, September 16, 2019

it slams into our consciousness

Hamilton: The Gestalt

the story of the past is no transparent, linear
recitation of how things came to be 
back then and into the now,
timelines and narration can give us the illusion
that how things came to be
is all rational and accessible
to a consensus of agreement,
rather, reality can lurch from the improbable through the fantastic, 
and only touch upon the predictable,
we can look backwards and trick ourselves 
into thinking that we can know the cause of the effect,

Hamilton is devastatingly powerful
in its telling of people, events, relationships,
Hamilton slams into our consciousness 
with the surety of scripted choreography,
driving orchestration and song,
with its spectacular staging, 
as levels and lighting and costume
frame the virtuosity of score and performance,
of the living, and dying, reality before us,
personalities and conflicts reduced and expanded
to what can fit on stage,
to what can be told without nuanced subtlety,
the visceral leap into this world so gripping
that theaters fill as countless of us make a path to their doors,

what is important in Hamilton is the power of the presentation,
as personalities harmonize and conflict with each other,
as the human world wrenches with ideas:
flesh-and-blood in the throes of the abstract,
the abstract intermingled with the physicality of self and ego,
as those of color embody those of the past,
even those who could not see past their own blinders,
the actors of color are fully there and real to truth,
what a tribute to New York, and America,
as where one can define one’s self anew,
just as actor and medium here define Hamilton’s story anew,

I cannot quite know that the gestalt of this musical masterpiece
elucidates or obscures individual pieces of the truth of the time,
I do quite know that the gestalt of this musical masterpiece
opens doors into the past and present
that takes our breath away
and opens us into the power of its truth.

by Henry H. Walker
September 16, ‘19

Thursday, September 12, 2019

middle school, and moving forward

To My Advisees

I believe in the best in you
that wants to come out,
that seeks every moment
to choose the positive over the negative,
the building up over the knocking down,
the taking the risk 
so that you might get to the reward,

I also know that self-doubt and difficulty
can knock you off the path for a while,

my goal as your advisor
is to help you stay on the path,
to celebrate your victories,
to help you live with faith and courage,
to help you come into the power
that should be your birthright,

I believe in you.
Let’s move forward!

by Henry H. Walker
September 12, ‘19

Sunday, September 8, 2019

better with his presence


Kevin’s wife speaks of the proverb
of the six blind men and the elephant,
each knows a real part, but the whole is elusive,
so is Kevin, who left his life too early,

Kevin was big: in body, in spirit,
in effect on all of us who knew him at all,

as we sit in a circle in memory
of this New Zealander, of this American,
friends and family rise and rise and rise,
to tell stories, jokes, to tell of his impact on them,
I sit near his granddaughter, happy in her car seat,
then in the arms of her mother, her grandmother,
in the joyous fullness of her moments
she echoes the same vibrancy that was in Kevin,
Kevin, the man, is within the circle before us,
though his body had to quit,
while he threw himself into his work,
each speaks of his still living within us,
of no one able to fill his shoes,
but we are charged to fill our own shoes
as well as he filled his,

each speaker brings forth truth,
and the collective wisdom aches to hold the wholeness,
the reality, the wonder, of who Kevin was, and is,

how beautiful that together we get as close as we do
to the reality of the light he released to the world,
how tragic that we only can hold the ephemeral,
for the flesh-and-blood can be no longer be here
to build, to connect, to hoist a few,
to make us all better with his presence.

by Henry H. Walker
September 7, ‘19

progress, and regression

the reptile brain

each of our lives has a beginning and an end
with growth, change, and improvement coming in between,

it seems easy and right to see the passage of time
as empowering, progressing,
and the next generation taking the torch further,
into a brighter future,

reality keeps slapping me to get it 
that we can slip back just as much as step forward,
that our lesser selves are at least as successful
as our better selves,
that hate can be easier than love,
that the tribal can overwhelm the communal,

I never would have imagined that we would get to the Moon
and not reach soon for Mars,
that we would love our rockets more for GPS and video
than for exploration of the universe,

that we would know science, and then deny it,
emotionally hijacked by our inner Narcissus
and our reptile brain that follows fear
and denies our frontal lobes
that know the dangers into which we stumble.

by Henry H. Walker
September 6, ‘19

the future devastated by a self-indulgent present

the strawberry as canary

what have we lost
with strawberries available all year?
this extraordinary gift of the plant kingdom to us
can be found in our grocery stores every day of the year,
always good to very good,
and the excellence of an in-season, fresh-picked berry
fades in our experience, dims in our memory,

with fossil fuels transporting our foods all over the world,
it takes but a small proportion of our resources
to have fruits and vegetables fresh to our tables,
let alone seafood and meats,
think ubiquitous lamb from the other side of the world,
recently shrimp from Argentina and Southeast Asia,

Spring was hard a hundred years ago,
particularly where one had to rely on one’s own farm, and neighbor’s,
the first leaves a tonic for a depleted immune system,
a hunger deep in the stomach
as salted meat, dried vegetables, and canned produce ran out,
wild animals too skinny to be of much help to the hunter,

we no longer live with at the beck and call of seasonal cycles,
at least in terms of nature and its bounty,
I wonder if the easy arrogance of humanity’s Narcissism
might doom us so that we do not understand
that there are rules we ignore at our own peril:
the finite resources available that can be rapidly consumed 
by an explosion of population,
the consequences to the future of burning in the present,
the immediacy of gratification dwarfing what we can know 
of harder paths that should be what we follow,

for me, strawberry season used to be short, and exhilarating,
we have found a way for our desires to not be denied,
and I fear there will be a devastation in the future
if we preoccupy ourselves with a self-indulgent present.

by Henry H. Walker
September 2, ‘19