by Jonathan Vold

Monday, February 29

In A Plane Over The Alps, March 2015

...And I was only going here to there,
thinking my fate was somewhere far beyond
the scenery of 40,000 feet
below me. 30,000... 20... 10....

So steadily we dropped without a care
until we heard the pilot pounding on
the cockpit door, and from our side,
replete with irony: "God damn it, let me in!"

which set us all to screaming through the air
into the mountains, somewhere in between
the day dreams of our German destiny
and memories of standing on the ground

in Spain, purchasing tickets, unaware
of where an hour later we would be.

Sunday, February 28


The river is moving.  
The blackbird must be flying.
         — Wallace Stevens


Winged creatures crash the corridors of spring
And call in kin from everywhere to sing
A thousand songs, all with the same refrain:
“This is our season, and we shall remain.”
At first their sound is harsh and yet in time
They bring an easy rhythm and a rhyme
To every willing ear, a melody
That fills the vernal air with “Certainty!”

And all the birds that follow share the sound
And make their own to mark their breeding ground,
Assuring anyone who comes around:
“This is our world, make note of it, and let
The record clearly show, let it be said
That every spring begins with black and red.”


“— Let there be no doubt!  This is our place
and time.  We have no vagaries to chase,
no hills to climb, no valleys to endure,
no days to dream, no nights to wonder.  Here
we stand, as sure as night begins the day
and sunlight melts the snow, and here we stay;
as sure as winter ends with spring, we take
the dormant fields and sing the world awake.

Tomorrow is for such wanderers and fools
who set out from their churches and their schools
in search of something more, but in their souls
they struggle over what they want to see
and what the future holds for them.  But we
remain, reminding them of Certainty!”

Saturday, February 27

She Folds My Clothes


She folds my clothes,
the tailored rags
once piled in the dirt and
smell of days,
        which is to say
        she picks them up
        and separates them, cleans
        them, load by load,

these that I call
my own, not of
my soul, but nearly so:
my second skin,
        my shield from sin,
        my covering
        and saving from
        all elements and eyes,

weekly redeemed
by this routine
of flattening and
giving shape to what
        was without form
        and would remain,
        if not for this,
        a wrinkled pile of rags,

if not for one
who takes the task
of caring for me, more
than I deserve
        who tells me so,
        but knows that talk
        is cheap and love’s a chore.
        She folds my clothes.

She folds my clothes.
I give her all
my threadbare socks and
dirty underwear,
        which is to say
        I leave them on
        the floor of lower standards,
        and forget

they are my own,
my stains, my sweat
and toil, my respons-
        and I should be
        ashamed of der-
        ilictions, but I play
        the fool instead,

weekly relieved
of turning life
around, restoring order
to a world
        that needs reform,
        and even in
        the time it takes to write
        this silly poem,

she is the one
who does it all,
and I’m the one who
doesn’t tell her so;
        my love is cheap,
        and finding words
        is work.  And while I write,
        she folds my clothes.

Friday, February 26

To You

I wrote a poem
and left your name out
and there it hangs
a gilded frame
without a face
a pretty background
without a story.

I spent some time
thinking of rhythm
and balance
and measured out
its perfect place
upon my wall
and there it hangs.

You are the frame
you are the measure
and every time
I read my poem
I see your face
and let it hold me
a little longer

But you remain
an unspoken name
lost in a story
made of dreams
your lovely face
a figment of
a wishful song.

Thursday, February 25

Every Rhythm

One from itself is none, the self defying gravity...

Every rhythm in my living soul,
Ever since I first became aware
Of rhythm resonating in the air
Around me, beats the passions that I feel
For you, and I am moved beyond control.

Everything I sing the wind will carry,
Every rhythm resonates to where
You are, and I begin to feel your soul
In harmony with mine, as from the start,

As all that is about to happen has
Forever been: two lovers meet in time
And find they share a purpose, find their hearts
In synchronicity and find their rhyme,
As poetry precedes the poem, as....

  There was a song before this song
  Was sung. There was a rhyme
  Before these words were ever heard.
  There was a place and time
  Before we found our here and now,
  And there was poetry
  Before we wrote our poem down.

Wednesday, February 24


  Y yo transmitir√© ...los ecos estrellados de la ola...

  “Across resounding fields of poetry
  I call your name. Across resounding fields
  I will declare the love I have for you.
  I will pronounce this love to all the world
  And I will hear your name return to me.”

  “Across resounding fields of poetry
  I will pronounce this love to all the world.
  I will declare the love I have for you.
  I call your name across resounding fields
  And I will hear your name return to me.”

  “My love, you are the reason I can sing
  At all; you are the song within my heart;
  You are the beat by which I am alive
  and every rhythm in my living soul.”

  "My love, you are the reason I can sing;
  You are the beat by which I am alive
  At all; you are the song within my heart
  And every rhythm in my living soul...”

  “My love, you are the reason I can sing...”
  “Across resounding fields of poetry...”
  “...At all; you are the song within my heart,...”
  “...The love I will pronounce to all the world;..”
  “...You are the beat by which I am alive,...”
  “...I call your name across resounding fields,...”
  “...That I would hear your name return to me...”
  “...With every rhythm in my living soul.”

Tuesday, February 23

Cadences Of One

One added to one more is two, a plain duality...

The cadence of one who dreams of breaking free,
Stringing her notes together to complete
The measures of her heart’s determined beat
Of human bonding, singing that she may be
Heard by another heart’s humanity,
Echoes across the lonely marching field.

The cadence of one with passions unrevealed,
Finding the mystic chords of memory
Deep in his soldier’s soul so long concealed
And camouflaged, singing that he may be
More than one sounding off and keeping time,
Echoes across the lonely marching field,

Each lonely heartbeat, looking for its rhyme
Across resounding fields of poetry....

Monday, February 22

Rules Of Individuality

One unexpressed, no more, no less 
than one, will always be itself...

Rules of individuality:

 1. One marches to the rhythm of one’s heart.
 2. One strikes out on one’s own without regard
     for anything another has to say.
 3. One finds one’s way. In time one will get by
     without the other, and in time the hurt
     will turn to numbness even as the heart
     grows cold and indifferent. Inevitably
 4. One beats a drum that’s distant and devoid
     of poetry, and then eventually
     the beating stops. Another heart is broken.

These are the rules that keep the self-employed
Indentured to themselves, sounding the token
Cadence of one who dreams of breaking free.

Sunday, February 21

Enchanted By The Music

There was a song before this song was sung...

This long traditioned bond, this poetry
Precedes us like the crown precedes the king
Who nods to everyone and everything
Before him. Higher than all royalty,
Positioned at the birth of history,
Before humanity began to sing
Of country and of social structuring,
God’s angels sang to us the poetry
Of lovers. Thus creation was for us
Created, as we’ve been, will ever be
Enchanted by the music of our making,
And thus we ever shall, indeed we must,
Sustain our beating hearts beyond the breaking
Rules of individuality.

Saturday, February 20

Of Love

Once one is one and only one:
the perfect unity...

Of love, of mine for you and yours for me,
Of late I haven’t had too much to say
But I’ve been thinking lately, night and day,
Of how we fell in love; of the unity
Of falling; of the feeling constantly
Of love’s simplicity, once one is one;
Of our conviction, one we had begun;
And of our hope for continuity.
We found the lesson of a braided cord
And tied the hasta milip to our vows;
We bought the most expensive diamondry 
That we and all our credit could afford,
And with a single mind did we espouse
This long traditioned bond, this poetry.

Friday, February 19

Poetry Precedes The Poem

There was a song before this song
was sung. There was a rhyme
Before these words were ever heard.
There was a place and time
Before we found our here and now,
And there was poetry
Before we wrote our poem down.

Poetry precedes the poem, as
Creation beats within a mother’s heart
Before her child is born, as from the start
What is or is about to happen has
Forever been. Behold the poem of
A rising sun or of the world that turns
Towards its fire. Behold the fire that burns
In lovers long before they fall in love.
Behold the love. Behold the long before
And look for more. Look for the energy
Of dreamers who once flickered in the dark
Like pilots to the dawn. Keep looking for
The spirit pre-igniting every spark
Of love, of mine for you and yours for me.

Thursday, February 18

Moleskin 1.7: Groundwork

So now I have the groundwork, the riverbank work, for the first several chapters of my story: I was born, I am alive. I have an audience who shares my moment and a studio that gives me peace. And I have an opening prayer to accept what I've been given. After this may come those chapters on love and faith and health and pride and humility ---maybe, if I am drawn to write that far and if there is still ink in my pen. And if, of course, I am whimsically stirred to remember those big daunting subjects when the time comes and the blank pages are before me. Or maybe, on that whim, I will simply set the pen down then and there, and let the opening chapters speak for themselves, being the heart and soul of what I remember. Let it be, one way or the other. But let me begin.

Wednesday, February 17


based on passages from Walled Gardens


Once one is one and only one:
the perfect unity;
one less than this is emptiness.

One finds one cannot be
without the other; none’s the lover
who can love alone,

but when two lovers come together
and become their own
identity they start to see

the journey they’ve begun,
their heart and mind as one combined:
once one is one is one.


One unexpressed, no more, no less
than one, will always be
itself, the integer of

existing to exist. One who
insists without a sound

on keeping his position is
a shadow on the ground,
no more, no less than emptiness,

a countenance unknown,
a spirit unsuspected:
one unmoving, one alone.


One added to one more is two,
a plain duality

and nothing less than two, unless
each looks for unity receptively. Two cannot see
as one as long as one

turns from the other; none’s the lover
who can love alone,

and lonely thus, there is no us
to see for “me” and “you”;

But if there’s “us,” there’s one. We must
adjust our point of view

Or be as lonely marchers, one
plus one forever two....


One from itself
is none, the self
defying gravity

to find the place
that has no place,
a new reality

of nothingness.
It comes to this:
leave everything behind,

the ground you stand,
the world you wander,
every gravity

that spins you ‘round
and weighs you down;
believe that there can be

somewhere a love
that is enough,
a love that will allow

one to be none,
two to be one:
the perfect lovers' vow.


Tuesday, February 16

Braided Cord

We learned the lesson of the braided cord,
two strands strong, three unbreakable
according to scripture, the old testimonial
inspiration woven into our lives
     with romantic embellishment
     spun from a preacher’s words.

We kept an invitation from our wedding day
in a frame, hung it on our bedroom wall
as a daily reminder of the ongoing occasion,
which we enhanced with an inimitable piece
of that stranded cord not easily broken
     and lovingly spun: we invited, we wed,
     but it was you who framed, reminded, enhanced.

                                             We needed this cue
in our feeble youth, and in the sharpness of age
we need it still, something more to celebrate
than fading photographs and anniversaries
     and this is true: my need is yours,
     your need is ours, what time will never fade.

The snapshots are in boxes, the memories
are gathering dust, but the braided truth remains.

Monday, February 15

Long Ago

Long ago

when it felt like
the day was young
every morning

the sun would rise
on a world of
and I would wake up
smiling and you
would be there beside me

with an arm to keep
me there a little

Sunday, February 14

Motion Pictures

Some movies leave you feeling sad
worked up or happy, but they leave you there
retwisting scenes, revisiting the air
and sorting out the ugly good and bad.
They try to linger in your soul.
The best films take a hold and don’t let go:
they dare to move beyond the picture show,
they grip you past the credit roll
and draw you on the empty screen
the winner relishing the victory,
the tragic hero bearing the defeat,
the voyager letting where you’ve been
and what you’ve seen ultimately
define you far beyond your theater seat.

You will remember this.    

                                  Some shows
are only popcorn, local strangers all
faced in the same direction, a big wall
reflecting light-and-shadowed rows
of patronage, a flattening screen
that turns all living colors into grey.
The worst ones don’t have anything to say
but good flicks scream in every scene:
They sing and laugh and make you think
and turn you unexpectedly
into a kindred soul.  As light projects
on screen, as sound tracks into sync,
as motion makes its own reality,
you find your spirit in the cineplex.

Saturday, February 13

On A Park Bench

On a park bench on a city streetside,
Backwards to traffic, facing a storefront
On an overcast afternoon, between
The sun and rain, breezeless, pleasantly warm,
In this time of waiting, they take a chance
To stop and sit and simply talk awhile.
Pedestrians buzz by in ones and twos,
All to themselves, not really noticing
The soft spectacle of husband and wife
Or wife and husband, wed to each other,
Talking of children, thoughts of the future,
Where they are going and what’s for dinner.
Home is a dozen miles away.  Life is
Routine.   Love is here and time, for now, is kind.

Friday, February 12

At The Bus Stop

At the bus stop, as the city flies by,
A local pair, a man and a woman,
In love without words, married I suppose,
Sit quietly, simply biding their time,
She with modest make-up and a wool-blend coat,
He with a two-tone polyester suit,
Each with the same haircut, close to the scalp,
Neither one concerned with the day ahead,
And every morning, never fail, they’re here,

As am I, but I’m just a passerby,
Rushing to my world an hour away
While they hold the moment: this is their pond;
I don’t really know them, barely see them,
But something tells me I would miss them
If ever they were gone.

Thursday, February 11

Moleskin 1.6: The Prayer Continues...

That prayer continues, seeking courage and wisdom, but these too I'll save for the later chapters: perhaps I'll be bolder and smarter with experience and age, somewhere down the river a ways, past 50, 60, 70...  for now, though, it is enough to accept the things I cannot change, to let my fears be taken by the quiet current ---to simply be! Existing, persisting, maintaining, remaining: keeping my place in time, or the space, in any case, that I've been given for the moment. Here I stand. And if, for the moment, I let intellect distract me, to exist somewhere between Kierkegaard and Nietzsche, surely I would falter; likewise, if I let my blood boil within me, like a fanatic or a patriot, I might lose my place, this moment in which I find myself. It is not too deep to pray this prayer though, a singular pray in need of being prayed: Grant me, God, serenity.

Wednesday, February 10

Warming Up

I don’t know when our world began
to melt away
                    but suddenly
we’re closer to each other than

we’ve ever been before.

                                   I see
each day a little
a little clearer
                        knowing that

I’m here with you;
                               I want to see
tomorrow even more.
                                   It matters
to me now.  It matters that

you’re here with me,
                                  that we can feel
the fire of the same sun setting

on a distant shore,
                            that we’ll

have this,
                as days turn into years,
to share,
               as distance disappears.

Tuesday, February 9


The Bird of Time has but a little way
To flutter —and the Bird is on the Wing.
  — Omar Khayyam, tr. Edward Fitzgerald

Sometimes when winds of winter seem to linger
And providence forgets to fill the feeder
I feel the fundamental pangs of hunger
Making me curse the backyard life we lead here.
Our everyday to day existence hinges
On seeds and crumbs that others think to leave us;
I’m tired of living life out on the fringes
And waiting for the seasons to relieve us.
Yet daily I am saved from being bitter
By rays of sunshine breaking through the dinge:
I hear the sweetest music in your twitter
And see the rosy beauty of your tinge.
With you beside me, winter doesn’t matter
And I don't need the fates to make me fatter.

Monday, February 8

Love, Revisited

In the beginning they (happy lovers) decided they (in love) would never fight.  Even romance knows the tinge of reality, though, and soon they (beautiful partnership) revised their love-based rule: they (the perfective pair) would still not allow fighting, but they (in each other’s arms) would be permitted to disagree —in prim fashion, of course: it was decided they (beyond the puppy stages) would be mature about their —dreams —differences and would discuss things rationally, always moving eagerly toward the beautiful ends of kissing, caressing, making up and making it better than before.

They were in love.  And they (a serious couple) eventually decided to be married.  The date was set for seven months in advance.

And they (reality-based) continued to disagree, here and there, but there was always a make-up, and they (pioneers of their own realm) continued to climb.  The way grew steeper, though: “here and there” became “here, here and here and there and there.”  They (trying their hardest) decided to re-revise the rules.

“We’re fighting,” he said.

“Yes, we are, aren’t we?” she agreed.

“But it doesn’t mean we’re in trouble, does it?”

“No,” she said, “but we’d better be careful.” And they (a team) devised a clever set of brand new rules —of which they (man and woman, woman and man) would each try to claim exclusive credit —nevertheless, the rules seemed to be practicable and rational; they (the affianced pair) agreed that this would be a great foundation for their marriage.

The rules were as such: Whenever one or the other of them would disagree about something, they (together) would go into the kitchen; they (she and he) would clear the kitchen table and sit down facing each other with the table —across its shortest dimension —between them.  They (the two sides) would keep all four hands on the table where they (the hands) could be seen by all four eyes.  This table would be bare, except for one initial addition, the centerpiece of their list of rules, and a literal centerpiece, too: an arrangement of roses, over which they (the one-to-one) would have to carry out all their marital discussions and disagreements and fights.  The table was of a size that neither party was far from the other and both of their faces were practically forced to endure the flowers’ scents.

“We will not change this rule,” she exclaimed.

“No, we must not,” he agreed, and together they (the happy lovers) smiled.

And eventually they (living dreamers) were married.  The honeymoon came and went, and they (steadfast partners) remained in love.  Over the years dimensions were revised and definitions changed, but basically they (adherers to a promise) stuck surprisingly close to their rules of the kitchen table.  And long after the honeymoon, they (the desperate diplomats) were buying each other roses two or three times every week.

He sometimes thought that he couldn’t stand the smell any longer, and she sometimes wondered if it made any sense to pay good money for something that died after a few days, but the roses were continually replenished, and they (the hopeless lovers) remained in love.

Sunday, February 7

They, Bearing Roses

Rose: the loveless petals always fall
away like pages of a good book cheaply bound:
no matter how great the story,
the crumbling glue of time ever puts the good book down
one spent page after another, until
nothing remains but the bud—
no matter what the story has to say
the crumbling glue of time ever puts the good book down
one spent page after another, until
nothing remains but a pile of petals
and the memory of a story.  But one day
we will know the plot of each good book by heart.

Saturday, February 6

Paris & Valentino

I’ll never trade you in for Paris, Baby
And you will never have the man
Who makes his million Euros
At a Metro sandwich stand
With a fifth grade education,
But I yam what I yam
And you will always be
     the one for me.

We once walked along the river;
I still hold on to the dream
Of lovers on a starry night
Before the stars became
So complicated.  Anyway,
I yam what I yam, etc….

Stand me next to Valentino, Baby,
I will never have the tan
Or the money or the fame
But I’ll keep doing what I can
To make you happy….

Friday, February 5

North Side Story

Compare: the rich fools and the poor losers,
happiness and misery, as if the surface was their story
through and through, as if the smiles upon their faces
ran as deep as the scowl on yours.

And more: you dream big dreams constructed of envy,
green as grass, born in shadows,
from which the mansions in your mind stretch higher,
around which the bitter grass grows greener.
Despair: it is not fair, the way they never finished high
school, how they cheated everyone to get ahead, leaving you
looking through fences, cursing the gods of sides,
of giving and taking.

But what for? Your misery wins you nothing,
your curses even less, the vacuous disapproval
of your neighbors shaking their heads, tut-tutting
and casting down their eyes on your poverty.

Thursday, February 4

Moleskin 1.5: The Serenity Prayer

Serenity: now there's a prayer! A wish and a word: I might as well fly to the top of the world or trudge across vast deserts.  I could just as easily become one with this big river.  "Calm down," says the ferryman.  Yeah, sure, easier said than done.  If peace were as easy as pausing I would stop everything and let this water flow.  To know serenity, santi, salaam, shalom, I should not trouble you, or myself, with these opening chapters or the easier pages of this story.  Let me skip right to the faith and love and healing; let me sit down, close my eyes and surrender.  A wish and a word, to accept the things around me just as they are, to not be afraid of the world I'm in, to find my perch a few miles out of town.  A prayer, even before I confess my faith, before I know what to believe. Here, at the beginning of my story: serenity!

Wednesday, February 3

Love Beyond Reason

from Walled Gardens

While reason is still tracking down the secret,
you end your quest on the open field of love.
       – Sanai, tr. David Pendlebury, The Garden of Reality, 1976

Love is charity, and charity
is giving with nothing to gain.

Love is serenity, courage, wisdom,
the considerations of change.

Love is peace beyond understanding,
a song in the silence, a calm in the storm.

Love walks through the noisy street
and delights in being a part of it.

Love stands in an open field
and listens to the song.

Tuesday, February 2

Starry Night, Revisited

Co-opting the tune and refrain of Widow's Grove, 
by Tom Waits and Kathleen Brennan

The sky above, the earth below;
The city stirs, the river flows.
We walk at night that we may see
The stars and know we’re not alone,

That we may breathe a different air
And stroll along a quiet shore,
Stand silent where the river laps
Up to our feet (wandering where
      we were before).

     I followed you to the river
     That washes out to the sea;
     Between city lights and stars at night,
     That's where I'll be.

The earth is black, the sky is blue;
The river bends a mirrored view
Of the evening glow of lights familiar,
Heaven down and shore to shore.

We meet the night.  We take the time
To be together, you and I,
Across the river, in between
The city and a giant sky.

     I followed you to the river
     That washes out to the sea;
     Between city lights and stars at night,
     That's where I'll be.

We breathe the sky and feel the earth
And find our place beneath the stars,
Your arm in mine and mine in yours.
The world is right and the night is ours.

     I followed you to the river
     That washes out to the sea;
     Between city lights and stars at night,
     That's where I'll be.
     Between city lights and stars at night,
     That's where I'll be.

Monday, February 1

Liner Notes To A Starry Night

Vincent Van Gogh’s most famous Starry Night painting shows a wild sky with swirling, pyrotechnic stars that cast a blue-gray glow on the town below it. It must be late at night, as there are no house lights and no people. This is the Starry, Starry Night of Don McLean’s song Vincent, reflecting how the artist “suffered for [his] sanity.”

It is a powerful moment, but I prefer Van Gogh’s earlier astral painting: Starry Night over the Rhone.  The night is calmer, the stars are more balanced and the city is still awake with its own lights; a river flows across the canvas and there are exactly two people on the riverside, standing together and quietly inviting us to take it all in.

Years ago, when I was one of two people, we bought a copy of this painting for our living room. My other is no longer with me; she is somewhere else, suffering for her own sanity now, and my days with her are forever in the past, but I still like keeping that painting on my wall...