by Jonathan Vold

Sunday, January 31

Song To M

To the tune of Pictures of You, by The Cure

M, you are a name, You are a quiet invitation,
Briefest braille for the blind Start of a simple conversation, Title on the cover page Without any explanation, For now, for the moment Such a pleasant presentation,
And I want to remember you: I want to remember you From the first scene of your story Full of unexpected chapters, Uncharted adventures, Untold ever afters, From the first note of the measure Of music I don’t know But want to hear more of, La canto da capo, You’re a language that’s new to me From the beginning, A song to repeat For its gradual meaning, And somewhere in the melody I just want to learn you And find in you more than A tune that I turn to.

I want to remember you: I want to remember you. From the first word, I want to memorize you, Learn every line of you, Look into your eyes And discover you. M, You are a name so far, But I’ve only started To see who you are And I want to see more, I want to speak you and sing you And know you by heart, You and everything in you. Somewhere in this fantasy We’ll sing our songs together And hope that the harmony Plays on forever, And if you’ll indulge me
I promise you this, I’ll keep every secret And hold every kiss Between us, and even if Things never change And we remain strangers  I’ll always remember your name.
I want to remember you. I want to see that you’re more than name. I want to remember you. I want to know you, 
know that you're more than a name.

Just say the word, and I’ll stay here as long As you can keep on singing And there is a song Between us, and even if Things start to change And we become strangers You’ll always be more than a name.

Saturday, January 30


...This next piece is inspired by brother Josh’s persistent call for submissions of S2L2A&A: songs to listen to again and again.  Josh would have everyone in the family compile and circulate annual CD-length lists of our favorite songs, and what a beautiful way of showing and sharing a part of what makes us tick, of celebrating our variety and expanding the awareness of our collective souls. Josh also encourages us, by making this an annual project, to keep adding to our life-list of favorite songs and to think year-round of what might go on our next year’s list.  So, one song at a time, I came up with the following twelve...

I am calling this collection “Co-opted,” as it is centered around several of my own poems that I have set to other people’s music.  Consider these co-opted works my P2SA&A:  poems to sing again and again.

Friday, January 29


This is my dream, my satisfaction:
the only truth I can control,
the only way I can survive
the lonely nights, the distant silence:

I dream my song into the darkness:
forever listening, waiting,

forever calling, wondering;
I live by sending and receiving.


This is my song, my record keeping:
the only way I can hold you.

I send my song into the darkness
and quietly wait for your reply

And in the pause I feel the distance
as lonely as the midnight trees

But with my song I break the silence
and I can feel you close to me.

Thursday, January 28

Moleskin 1.4: As I Write This...

As I write this I am sitting on the edge of a river.  I have found myself here many times, perched pretentiously where the Fisher King wept, where Siddhartha attained peace, where many before me have waited and drawn pictures in the sand.  There is a river in every big city, it seems, and streams across every page of history, throughout the world and even into the realms of mythology and legend.  I like a big river, an important river that connects with all others, a river with a famous name and a powerful flow.  Give me Mark Twain's river, but let me find it as Huck did, a few miles out of town; let me sit along its rich banks with nothing but time, away from instructions and factories, unconcerned with obligations and inheritances.  Let this be my Stillwater, full of life and purpose, with destiny beneath its gentle surface, and tomorrow I may weep and seek and wait along these banks, but for today, let me know this river's simple serenity.

Wednesday, January 27

Pitch, Part 2

—Is that your story? Kind of depressing. And you can’t just end it like that.

—Settle down. That’s not my ending. It’s not even my story.



—So will you bring your readers to any conclusion?

—No. No one ever does, really.

—Now that’s arguable. Platitudinous even.

—Of course it is. Everything is.


—So that’s your story.

—I told you, call it what you will.

—But it is a story you know. Whether you pretend it’s something else or not.

—That’s your conclusion. But it sounds like you changed your position.

—Sure. You’ve got everything in it that you said you wouldn’t have.

—What are you saying?

—There’s theme, there’s conflict of characters, style, even a plot of sorts...

—All incidental, I tell you.

—...and you’ve got lots of thought.

—All incidental.

—What do you mean, incidental? It’s there, isn’t it? And you said it wouldn’t be.

—But there’s no one here.

—Sure there is. Me and you. And an audience, maybe.

—No, there’s no audience. Not now. The audience hasn’t come by yet. They will, later, but not now.

—And I suppose we’re two bum characters on the edge of the sidewalk.

—No. There are no characters.

—What are we?

—We’re the writer of course.

—But we’re fighting. There’s conflict, so we must be characters.

—No, we’re just the writer. We’re just words.

Tuesday, January 26


Only after completing the first draft of my first book of poems and giving the book a title did I discover that "Thirty Birds" was a legendary bird-king from 12th century Persia.

The story was told 800 years ago in a 4500 line poem called Bird Parliament by Farid ud-Din Attar. Briefly, all the birds go on a quest to find their king. The journey is difficult, and only thirty birds make it up the final mountain, where they find their king, Simorgh, or "Thirty Birds," is nothing but a reflection of themselves....

Monday, January 25



Lowly sparrow, you in your stubble field
Are God’s example and encouragement
To stand behind a thinly-feathered shield
With nothing more as an accouterment
Than simple faith in what tomorrow brings:
All things are set before you, every seed
And sunray comes delivered without strings;
God will provide you everything you need
But gives you more, the time and voice to sing!
Sing boldly, bird, across the stubble field,
Show us your color and your gilded wing,
Your air of confidence, that all may yield
And pause, to catch the truth within the fable
Of fearlessness and food at every table.


The sparrow chirps, “But who am I to be
The center of attention?  I believe
Your story: God is good, even to me,
And daily God provides, and I receive
Abundantly beyond what I deserve,
But that’s the point.  You call on me to sing
For all I’m worth; you’re telling me to serve
In song as if my voice made everything
Acceptable, but take a look at me:
My feathers are the shades of sand and dirt,
My wings are short and my ability
To fly will never take me far from earth,
And now you’re asking me to join the choir
Of angels, as if song could take me higher?”


Yes, little sparrow, by your very word
You are acceptable; indeed, you were before
The first note of your song was ever heard,
But you will please your maker even more
If you will sing.  Sing loud for all you’re worth,
But louder still for all that you’ve been given:
From seed and stubble of your mother earth,
To air and sunshine sent to you from heaven,
For every camouflage and coloring
Designed to keep you safely unrevealed,
For all the intricacies of your wing
Designed to let you navigate the field.
O sparrow, sparrow, know that you are gifted
And by your song the whole world is uplifted.

Sunday, January 24

Preaching To The Choir

Good morning.

I’ve got a song for you today.   It’s a little song that doesn’t have any music, just words, but it’s something I’d like to share with you if I may.

I’m a little nervous though.   It isn’t easy to stand up and sing, or talk, or share things, and I’m really not much of a singer, but here I am, learning as I go...

I’d like to believe it gets easier.  Believe, that’s all I’ve got to begin with.  It’s all any of us has: we believe that God takes care of us, then we believe a little more, that maybe, just maybe, God smiles on us when we sing.  We of little faith: We are the sparrows.

I remember the songs we used to sing when they brought the offering plates up.  Praise God from whom all blessings flow. We give thee but thine own.  It’s as easy as that.  God smiles on us, and that gives us a reason to smile.  All of us: We are the face of God.

I’ve noticed your smiles, too.  Some of you put beautiful music to the words: thank you for what you do.  Some of you are on the sidelines: you are the teachers and coaches and parents, and your music is just as beautiful in the ways you cheer on and encourage.  Some of you do not have loud voices, but you share beautiful songs, too, in the way you use your hands and your talents, or in the time and the care you give.  And then some of you are at your best when you’re singing in the pews.  I’ve noticed that it gets even easier to sing when we hear everyone around us.  We all have songs to share: We are the choir.

My song today is a poem. It’s about a sparrow who gets in God’s face about joining the choir.  And God puts him in his place.

Saturday, January 23

Gnostos, Agnostos

The crow doth sing as sweetly as the lark,
When neither are attended...
— Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice

Eclipsing black, as if in punishment,
With a heaviness he tarries through the winter,
Eating scraps by the altar, praying unrelentingly
Loud to God in case there’s something in it.

He knows who to harass and who to flatter,
He’s learned to ride the sheep and avoid the fox
And he shows he’s smart enough to get the water
But cursed to never quench his thirst with rocks.
He casts his lot with murderers, pretending
To portend with all the ravens and jackdaws;
Like every soul, it seems he’s doomed to die,
Unsaved from an inevitable ending
And unable to impress the passersby
Who miss the meaning of his revenant caws.

Friday, January 22

Pitch, Part 1

(from a college notebook)

—I don’t want no characters. I’m not going to have any.

—What do you mean? You’ve got to have characters.

—No I don’t. I don’t want any. I want to be alone.

—What are you going to do then? You can’t just sit there.

—Yes I can. Why can’t I?

—You’ve got to have a plot. You need action.

—No. Who’s writing this thing anyway?

—What about a title?

—What about it?

—Nothing. Forget it.

—Exactly. I’m not going to have a setting either. And no diction and no conflict and no theme.

—What about an audience? You’re not going to have an audience either.

—Yes. Yes I will.

—No, no you’re not. You know, with no plot you never could call this, this whatever it is, a story. And now if you say there’s no theme, then you can’t really call it anything.

—I don’t want to call it anything. You’re the one trying to call it something.

—Okay, never mind. But the point is, who’s going to care? Who’s going to give a shit? If it won’t have any substance why should anyone bother.

—I don’t want substance. I especially don’t want the shit.

—Right. But you want an audience. You just said that you even expect one.

—That’s right. But let me tell you something. Maybe this will make you see. Last Tuesday I was taking a walk through the park. It was noon and I saw this old bum curled up on the edge of the sidewalk, eyes closed, not doing anything. And I stared at him for a little while. He didn’t move. Flies landed on him and he didn’t brush them away. He might have been dead.

—Maybe he was.

—I don’t know. But I stood there and stared at him for I don’t know how long and he never did move. He was positioned in such a way that I couldn’t tell whether he was breathing or not. I think he was alive though. I’m pretty sure he had some sort of soul.

—But what’s the point?

—Maybe there is none.

—So what are you trying to say?

—I’m not trying to say anything. I’m just saying it, there was a bum in the park and I happened to notice him and I think he had a soul.

—And for that you think you’ll have an audience.

—Hey look. Someone will notice this some day and maybe even several people will stop and stare and eventually someone will tell somebody else, like I just told you. They’ll even come up with the standard speculations: he looks dead, but I think he’s alive. He’s just a bum, but what was he yesterday and what will he be tomorrow? Who knows? Who cares? Maybe it’s a mental illness, or maybe it’s a statement of choice ...or maybe he really is dead. He’s motionless, but he’s got a soul. People will wonder, I promise. Wait and see.

Thursday, January 21

Moleskin 1.3: Acknowledgments

My story is your story, too: you, to whom I turn, are in these pages, every one of you.  Sister Anne, who prompted me this past summer with a passing what if.  Brother Dan, who has inspired and reinspired the ink to flow.  Brother Josh, who shows beyond scribbling down how good it is to live. Son Andrew and daughter Kirsten, my flesh and blood, my dreams and hopes, wonderfully determined to be more than a reflection.  Mother Marilyn, and father Joe too, whose own faces I sometimes see in the mirror, and there you are in my smile.  And more of you: family, friends, associates, neighbors, fellow congregants.  Ghosts from the past, strangers I have yet to know, and many more whose names I'll never learn: thank you all the same, for being the faces I see before me and within me, the very mirrors to my soul.

Wednesday, January 20

Carrying It Forward

Inauguration Day, 2009


Paine wrote it,
Washington read it,
Obama retold it
in the depth of winter:
“Let it be retold...”
and “Let it be said
by our children’s children...”

...that when we faced
our coldest cold,
our hardest hardship,
when it seemed nothing
but hope and virtue
could survive,
city and country
came forth to meet
their common danger
together, braved
the icy currents
and coming storms
and safely delivered
that great gift
of hope and virtue
to their future
And now we mark
the day again
and remember when
we carried forth
God’s grace upon us
and wouldn’t let
our journey end.


Seward proposed it,
Lincoln pronounced it,
Obama proclaimed it
with the resonance
of fighting words:

...stretching out
from battlefields
and patriot graves,
the mystic chords
of memory played
from Concord to
and Normandy
to now: This time,
our time, has come
to choose our
better history,
to summon the
better angels
of our nature,
to remember
who we are, how
far we’ve come.
This is our moment.
This is our time
to be renewed
and reconciled.
This is our
day to take
and seize our duties


John Locke asserted it,
Jefferson declared it,
Obama offered it
as old and true:
“We hold these truths...:

and carry them forward;
Paul said this too:
we set aside
the things of youth
and see at last
what must abide:
our faith, our hope,
our charity,
and equally,
our rights to life
and liberty
and free pursuit
of happiness:
These things are old.
These things are true.
And now we return
and rejoice in the truth,
that precious gift,
that noble idea,
the God-given promise
that all are equal
all are free, and
all deserve a
chance to pursue
the fullest measure.


Carry it forward,
Thomas, George,
that we may bear
the winter winds
and see the spring.
Carry it forward,
William, Abe,
that we may hear
and learn to sing
the battle hymns
that came before us.
Carry it forward,
Thomas, John,
the glorious burden,
price and promise
of our birthright.
Carry on, Barack,
that we may know
the greater purpose
of our present
season. Carry
on, that we
may take
with what we’re given,
the old and true,
the truth renewed,

...your story, too:
now carry it
and call on us
to serve with you.

Tuesday, January 19

Writing For The Symposia: Part 2

This too I write for the symposia,
inspired by blue winged teal
gliding on a river surface
and becoming one with the water.

I do give credit to those a' ya
who do not show their busy feet
or the power of the carrying current,
who offer poems without words
like faith without argument.

We would be symposians,
but you are the better Siddhartas
showing us the river for what it is.

Monday, January 18

Reflective Study Of Howard Nemerov's Blue Swallows

Across the millstream below the bridge
    from where I work and where we cross
Seven blue swallows divide the air
    into big patterns all their own
In shapes invisible and evanescent,
    as if to thwart the witnessing:
  Kaleidoscopic beyond the mind’s
    imaginative stagnancies
Or memory’s power to keep them there
    but there they are.

“History is where tensions were,”
    giving stages to society, and
“Form is the diagram of forces,”
    seeing patterns in biology:
Thus, helplessly, there on the bridge,
    between birth and forgetfulness
While gazing down upon those birds—
    having the time and taking it
How strange, to be above the birds!—
    to end up here, so out of place!
Thus helplessly the mind in its brain
    wanting to make some sense of it
Weaves up relation’s spindrift web
    trying to trace the winds of waves
Seeing the swallows’ tails as nibs
    in nature, begging imitation,
Dipped in invisible ink, writing . . .
    an ever-changing rhyme.

Poor mind, what would you have them write?
    Poor poet, sticking out your chest,
Some cabalistic history
    of old traditions being reclaimed
Whose authorship you might ascribe
    to fit your backward preference
To God? to Nature? Ah, poor ghost,
    leading the living to their unrest,
You’ve capitalized your Self enough
    and overscored the trinity.
That villainous William of Occam
    trimming off inelegance
Cut out the feet from under that dream
    in search of more simplicity
Some seven centuries ago
    out of the dust of time.

It’s taken that long for the mind
    collectively, immortally
To waken, yawn and stretch, to see
    beyond its unreality
With opened eyes emptied of speech
    and turned to continuity,
The real world where the spelling mind
    in a state of higher consciousness
Imposes with its grammar book
    of meaning being read into
Unreal relations on the blue
    brushstrokes over stream and sky,
Swallows. Perhaps when you will have
    time to gaze awhile,

Fully awakened, I shall show you
    what you have not seen before,
A new thing: even the water
    sharing colors with the sky
Flowing away beneath those birds
    dancing above the moving stream
Will fail to reflect their flying forms,
    can't capture what they seem to be
And the eyes that see become as stones
    bewildered in the river bed
Whence never tears shall fall gain
    nor add life to the stream.

O swallows, swallows, poems are not
    O sister, brothers, water is not
The point. Finding again the world,
    the point.  Watching it flow, that
That is the point, where loveliness
    is the point, and celebrating
Adorns intelligible things
    truth at every shore...
Because the mind’s eye lit the sun.
    to become the fire.

Sunday, January 17

Dear Symposians

I have another poem to share, and this time with some spindrift analysis.  The poem is another one by someone else: The Blue Swallows, by Howard Nemerov. The analysis is a parsing of the poem’s abundant allegories.

I first planned on sending this just to Dan, as I thought he might be more in to my urge to deconstruct, but then I remembered that I had once shared a few lines of this with you, Anne, and then I discovered some Stillwater symbolism in the poem, and then I realized how much this poem reminds me of the birds of Windmill Creaks (the swallows at the millstream, and a midstream tie to of one of my most Windmill Creakish poems (“What would you write, Ruben...”).   With all of that, I knew I had to post this on the Water-blog.

For those interested in the allegories, my first fascination was how this poem brought together so many subjects of which I know next to nothing (D’Arcy Thompson’s force diagrams, Jung’s archetypal Self, Occam’s Razor, the Kaballah, the Vedas, Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, Plotinus’s Enneads, even a Hamlet allegory).  How ironic it was that the poem would pique my interests in these subjects before ultimately directing me to find the world again and see things without the “spelling mind”!

I purposefully found the allegories on my own efforts, with the help of Google and Wikipedia but without reading anyone else’s analysis of the poem.  Occam’s razor was easy enough, because I had actually heard of that before, and the author of the second quoted passage was quickly revealed (Thompson), but it took me a while to learn that the first quote is a less common translation from Marx’s manifesto.  I wasn’t keen on embarking further into communism, let alone delving into an introduction to cabalistic history or Jung’s capitalized Self. But the kaleidoscope of allegories kept appearing.  From Hamlet, “ Alas, poor ghost.” From the Vedas, Brhadaranyaka Upanishad (I.3.28): “From the unreal lead me to the Real.”  From Plotinus: “Never did eye see the sun unless it had first become sun-like.”  Or more expositively, from Plato’s Republic: “Any one who has common sense will remember that the bewilderments of the eyes are of two kinds, and arise from two causes, either from coming out of the light or from going into the light, which is true of the mind's eye, quite as much as of the bodily eye.”

What led to all of this?  Wanting to pick a poem, other than one of my own, to memorize. I’ve always liked this poem but never fully understood it, and I thought a quick study would help me commit it to mindfulness.  And it has.  I’ve done it! Memorized it, I mean; I think I’m only about halfway to understanding it.

And why, again, this interest in memory work?  In getting back to those walking hours in the mornings and afternoons (birding interests having been set aside by full time parenting duties, then being more directly replaced by having a dog to pull me along), I have found it invigorating to exercise more than the legs.

But why do I bring this to the Stillwater Symposia?  I suppose Nemerov would say that I am missing the point with this poem, and yet in our own way, with this blogsite, we, brothers and sister, are finding the world again.   But there’s more.  I’ve got a paraphrase, just for you symposians.  And in my efforts to understand this poem, I don’t think the poet would mind if I brought God back into it (as long as he was not too Selfish, or political, or scientific, or cabalistic, or presupposed)....

Saturday, January 16

What Would You Write?

O sister, brothers, water is not
The point.  Watching it flow, that
Is the point, and celebrating
Truth at every shore...

Friday, January 15

Writing For The Symposia: Part 1

This I write for the symposia
inspired by stillwater dreams
and turtle songs and prayer requests
and trappist breweries.

I raise my glass to those a’ ya
who have known the wilder seas
but are still led to restfulness
along God’s peaceful streams,

and as the quiet river flows
with more movement than the
    surface shows,
let these odd words be for those a’ ya
who celebrate such things
but would convive to bring to life
your erstwhile hidden dreams.

Thursday, January 14

Moleskin 1.2: A Proper Introduction

The big chapters are daunting: love, faith, health, pride, humility, so let me start with tamer subjects: diversions, distractions, digressions.  You can skip this section if you want, but this is what defines me: old fashioned poetry, watching birds in their natural state, listening to human music; joys of discovery, paddling down a slow river, taking time for an arthouse movie; aerobic meditation, finding rhythm in routine, sometimes changing the pace. Noticing the rule of threes. The big chapters, love and God and healing, the ups and the downs, will be more important I suppose, or as important as a story for posterity should be.  But this is me, and this is my proper introduction.  Chapter Two, then: I am alive.  Maybe, whimsically, this will be the whole story.

Wednesday, January 13

Thirty Birds : A Foreword

I do not know which to prefer, the birds of photography or the birds of poetry, flight in a frame or songs on a page.

Of course, I would really prefer a walk in the woods, across the prairie or along the shore to see the herons, thrushes, sparrows and gulls in their proper places. I would give you the birds themselves if I could, and if I could be sure they wouldn't fly away.

But I will give you what I can: my own thumbnail pictures and sets of sonnets, mixed in with fair use snippets of classic poetry by Yeats, Neruda, Oliver, Baudelaire and more than thirty other familiar poets. Like the birds, I would give you the whole of these other poets if I could, that you might walk into their woods and along their shores.

It will be enough, though, if I can inspire you to see and listen for yourselves.

Tuesday, January 12

Ben, by the way (A Guest Poem For The Menagerie)

To Dan, on his birthday

Ben, by the way, when
 one of our parakeets
died last week, was the first to say

when freer days were
 over, and the summer,
alas, had ended coolly,

when I didn’t have
 time for such a poem
as this on the Lost Menagerie,

as we lowered
 the birdcage from our Russian
rafters, Ben was the one to pray.

He prayed, especially
 when I dug the lifeless
bird into the autumn earth,

not quite a
 see-you-later prayer, more
than an hasta-manana blessing,

days before the
 pet store’s replica would
join its brothers in the chapel cage

Ben prayed with
 a grateful appreciation,
saying “thank you for your worth.”

And now the other
 parakeet, placed beside
those who would live another day

and lifted with them
 to hang from the rafters rising
over one who had died

is placid, quiet
 as a gravedigger, or
confused, with no words to offer,

and it was for this
 parakeet, too, by the way,
that Ben was the first to pray.

Monday, January 11

Rubin's Robin

What would you write, Rubin, of this odd bird
That sticks out its fat chest and bounces through grass
Dancing with butterflies, pulling at worms,
Covering ground with a chirp and a hop?

What gives you pause, Rubin, and what have you heard
That we didn’t notice and started to pass,
Ever commuting through everyday terms,
Running through seasons with no time to stop?
What did you see, Rubin, that we didn’t see
Or set to the side long ago and moved on
To whatever matters have caused us to be
Blind to the beauty of birds on the lawn?
How does it feel, Rubin, discovering spring
in the middle of August and finding a song
in your own back yard and suddenly starting
to look at those things that were there all along?

How sad,  to think  we laughed,
To think  we laughed  and thought,
We laughed,  thought  you absurd
To stand and cheer an ordinary bird.

Sunday, January 10

What Rubin Saw

In an older generation
of still life souls, one
paused mid-conversation
on a summertime patio
and saw (or almost didn’t,
if not for the breeze
and an offhand chance
for the mind to wander)
more than ever before,
more than anyone else
took time to consider
the peripheral scene,
a remarkable moment
of cause to give notice
to that which in the
greencut grass was
never even there as far as
conversations go (so
far as he had ever known),
and in that pause,
for all that it was,
found poetry, perhaps,
or a minute, at least,
of something more
than prose...

Saturday, January 9

Looking Forward

To my children

Forward is the chance to see my
daughter and my son grow older.

Forward is the order of the seasons:
winter, spring and summer.

Forward wakes before the dawn, and
forward makes its way back home.

Forward sees the setting sun
and looks beyond.


Dawn gently breaks,
    not as a sudden thing:
the sun
    of a day’s ontogeny
         does not surprise,
nor does it sound
    a loud awakening

or slap
    the first breath out of me
or shine
    hard light accusingly
         into my naked eyes.
Dawn is the dark’s
    slow unraveling,
         the day’s revealing rise.

Time dawns on me:
I am inclined
    to set alarms at night
and run
    cold showers when I wake.
         I want to face the day
before it faces me.
    I need light
to put
    my clothes on properly,
but usually long
    before the break
         of dawn I’m on my way,
letting dawn
    distinguish those who work
         from those with time
              to play.

I am determined to beat the day,
though dawn,
    and in dawn’s easy pace,
is when
    and how I ought to rise,
         letting nature have its say
instead of doing
    it my own way, chasing
    to the next horizon,
courting ghosts
    of healthy, wealthy, wise
         to my dying day;
despite the dawn,
    I keep on facing
         life the other way.

But dawn keeps on
and on
    that day of final rest,
if I
    should wake before I die
         I pray the rising sun
will shake
    me from my sleepiness
and let
    me see the morning sky
wash over me
    once more before
         my daily dawns are done,
    my final east to west
         and the pull of a setting sun.


Forward is the chance to see my
daughter and my son grow older.

Forward is the order of the seasons:
winter, spring and summer.

Forward wakes before the dawn, and
forward makes its way back home.

Forward sees the setting sun
and looks beyond.

Friday, January 8

And I Shall Broadcast, Saying Nothing, The Starry Echoes Of The Wave...

Y yo transmitir√© sin decir nada 
los ecos estrellados de la ola...
       - Pablo Neruda, from Deber del Poeta

Social creatures of the neighborhood gather,
   one by one, to sit and watch the waves roll in.
There will be another time to jump into the water,
   to splash, to play,
       to catch fish and work the waves.
There will be a time, too, for leaving this place,
   riding the winds and
       finding inland treasures.
But for now, and here, they are content
   to gather, to pause,
       to gaze and ponder.
They take their place on the sand,
   a few yards away from the water’s edge,
       a few feet one from another,
And quietly converse without words:

There will be a time, soon enough,
   to engage in raucous
       playground laughter,
And there will be a time as well
   to broadcast complaints
       and call neighborhoods together,

But for now, and here, they are satisfied
   to stop, to compose,
       to start to consider.
They take their place under the sun,
   pulling up one leg
       in restful balance,
This is their moment of peace;
   this is their poem to remember.

And there will be a time for recitations,
   as there will be places without peace,
But it is enough,
   here and now,
       to sit and watch the waves roll in.

Thursday, January 7

Moleskin Memoir 1.1: A Preface

This is a memoir, if it's not too late ...for a backward documentary, a journal reconstructed on whims and maybes making up for years of forgetting to take notes: whims for what and how much I choose to remember, maybes for all that cannot be said with certainty, which is, respectively, nothing (whims) and everything (maybes). Certainly there is purpose in whims and maybes, the never chosen and ever qualified. But it's not for me to say. There will be, anyway, an attempt at order and veracity, as there is, after all, a desire to be read and remembered. So, Chapter One: I was born. And in the end, I will simply stop writing. Which is what we all progress towards. Inkless we are born, and inkless we shall be in our final moment, but what stories there are to be told, what whims and maybes to be written inbetween! So let me begin.

Wednesday, January 6


from Walled Gardens

We tried reasoning our way to Him: it did not work...
Reason took us as far as the door; 
but it was his presence that let us in.
                                 - Sanai, tr. David Pendlebury

Reason started writing.
Self became the paper.
Matter took form and
Form took shape.

Love, be encouraged;
Trembling, be reserved.
Reason, be instructed,
Self, become aware:

As long as you are here
Your portion is your tomb,
Your home is distraction
And you live in deceit,

But set your eyes on the willow,
Let your soul see paradise;
Let your lips pronounce the letters
And perceive their deeper meaning
With your soul.

While your pleasure is desire
And desire is your treasure
You remain a little child:
Carry on, play away,

But you return with nothing
From the ocean but foam
And empty possessions
Scattered all around you
Like oyster shells

Marking your obsession
But missing the essence
Of the treasures left behind
At the bottom of the ocean.

Return to that place:
Beyond the mud, within the shells
Lies the purity of pearls,
But you must go to the depths
Of your soul.

Let this arrow be an arrow,
The reason I am writing.

The letters are written
And the work is framed,
But these words have no meaning;
They remain on the page

Until the reader starts reading
Past impurities, beyond
The mud and the shell
And the self’s own veil,

Past the blur of good and evil
To the truth in every scripture:
Open up your Quran
Crack the spine of your Bible,

But you’ll never grow fat
On the shepherd’s call.
The holiest of words
Is itself no panacea
For the soul.

Tuesday, January 5

Beginning, Continued

In the beginning was the Word... - John 1:1

See, and listen, this is my premise:
There is a light that gives
Its light to everyone,
A light coming into our world of darkness,
And light changes everything,
And everything changes with this:

God, Word, light, shining upon us.
Living in our world, walking with us,
Lighting our paths,
Then stepping into our flesh
And setting fire to our souls,
Shining Immanuel!

And anyone who recognizes receives,
And anyone who receives the light believes
That God is with us and we are living
In God’s world: IN God’s world.

Anyone who sees the glory of this,
The grace and truth and fullness
Of God, the one and only Word
In the world, this is our privilege.

No one can see God, but anyone  
Can see what God makes known,

And by seeing, we are privileged
To be born of God, children of God,
Willed and determined by God alone.

I begin with this premise.

So in the beginning it was,
And what a beautiful word,
Capitalized and turned into poetry,
Written by Moses, thank you,
And John, thank you,
And God, thank you that every word
I write down, every word I hear and read
Is so wonderfully preceded.

And the word was with God,
And the word was God.
May the words of my mouth be pleasing,
And they will be, of course,
As long as I remember where they came from,
As long as we return with this respect:
We give thee but thine own.

This is my premise:
God is the word, my word,
The being in the beginning,
The presence of I AM, through which
All other beings began:
Without God there is nothing;
God is always and everything,
Life over emptiness, light over darkness,
The life and light of every being,
The beginning of us all.

As sunlight pours into a darkened room
And changes everything,
So does the light and life of God
Shine into the universe: the darkness cannot win.
In the beginning, God said,
Let there be light,
And there was, and it was good.
God was in the beginning,
Pouring light into the void and giving life
Now and ever after.

Monday, January 4

What The Poet Wrote

In the beginning the Poet wrote
   the tangibles and the intangibles.
But the lines were formless and empty
   and it was too dark to see the Poem’s depth.
So the Poet breathed life into the Poem,
   a breeze across the surface of the deep.
This Poem needs light, the Poet said,
   and there it was, and the Poet could see
        that it was good,

Is now and ever shall be, when
night changes into day.

Poetry precedes religion, said an editor,
and religion dims its energy.
Inevitably.  But renouncing religion
is renouncing that which would see
the life within the poetry.
I’m paraphrasing, of course,
looking for the words to see,
looking beyond complacency
and wanting to believe in more
than an old catastrophe,

And past the old dependency
of day and night and day.

In the beginning, said someone else,
   trying to make more sense of it,
   turning the phrase of an older testament,
was the Poem. And the Poem was with
   the Poet, was the Poet, and the Poet,
   who wrote everything, was the Poem.
And the Poet breathed life into the Poem,
   and in this life was the light for all to see.
But the darkness could not comprehend this light,
   so the Poet sent a man out into the world,
   someone named Religion,
and Religion came as the Poet’s witness
   to speak of the Poem’s light
   with words for all to believe,

But Religion’s words were never
meant to be the Poem itself.

Religion, the editor said, is a bit crude,
encrusting.  And yet it persists,
asserting and assenting to
the force that moves through the verse,
not with vanity but vulnerability
nor with idolatry but humility,
opening eyes to a power
that can never be owned,

And it rejoices at the sunrise,
even as its purpose fades away.

Sunday, January 3

Simple Prayers, Each Beginning The Same

 For the sparrow reluctant to sing
  (an introduction to Melodia):
     Thank you God for all that you give us.
     Thank you God for everyone among us.
     Thank you God for being here with us.

 For the routine discovered
  (an introduction to My Walking Song):
     Thank you God for walking with me.
     Thank you God for talking with me.
     Thank you God for setting the path before me.

 For untangling our lives
  (an introduction to Denouement):
     Thank you God for the fields around us.
     Thank you God for the winds that lift us.
     Thank you God for letting us go.

 For sanity beyond suffering
  (an introduction to A Starry Night):
     Thank you God for the ground and the sky.
     Thank you God for lights familiar.
     Thank you God for places to return to.

 For the sun that rises over us all
  (an introduction to An Open Field):
     Thank you God for language and perspective.
     Thank you God for place and time,
     Thank you God for poetry and possibility.

 For unexpected moments
  (an introduction to The Pecatonica):
     Thank you God for the winding river.
     Thank you God for times together.
     Thank you God for the banks that rise above us.

 For all that we have to learn
  (an introduction to Montrose Harbor):
     Thank you God for small sanctuaries.
     Thank you God for lakefront dawns.
     Thank you God for everywhere our journey leads us.

 For hope beyond the grave
  (an introduction to Mimus Polyglottus):
     Thank you God for chances to smile.
     Thank you God for lives to celebrate.
     Thank you God for songs to keep singing.