6 January 2014

Poem: Does A Donkey Know He Is Cold?

Warm, Warm, Warm

Warm, Warm, Warm

Does a donkey know that he is cold?

Does he know new records have been broken,

wind chills are dangerous,

temperatures plummeting,

storms have names,

skin freezes in 15 minutes?

Does he sense the world is changing,

the flies stay longer,

can he read the minds and moods

of frantic humans, always coming,

always going, disappearing to their

secret places behind the wooden planks?

Never staying still for long,

to stand before the sun,

and soak up his warmth.

The donkey has seen a thousand promises broken,

all over his heart,

that say we are filled with love

and mercy,

but impatience and cruelty, too.

Where is the hay?, he wonders,

to fill his belly, the warm water

to warm  his insides,

why is his human here, worried again,

brows wrinkled up, voice soft

with sympathy and concern?

Is there a cookie for me,

in all of this wind and snow?

Don't they know, to be still,

and listen to the birds that sing,

"life, life, life, is far too sacred

to ever end."

To listen to the blood rushing

through their veins,

when it is too cold to

stand on the open ground?

The heart is never cold,

even to its very last beat.

Death is life's reflection in the mirror

just as sacred, the one promise

never broken.

Why do people smell so much of fear,

and worry the most,

about the things they cannot ever change?

Posted in Writing
1 January 2014

Poem: I Can No Longer Walk On These Icy Paths

I Can No Longer Walk On These Icy Winter Paths

I Can No Longer Walk On These Icy Winter Paths

This winter, I will be honest with you,

and tell you that I can no longer walk on the icy winter paths,

one of my favorite things in the world.

My knees confided in me

that the paths were too slick, my ankles

whispered to me gently it was too deep,

my back warned me not to fall again.

I can no longer walk on my icy winter paths,

I am letting you know,

bravery is sometimes what you can't do,

as well as what you can.

But I can take a photograph of my wife on the path,

and I can look at it and my heart fills with joy.

She has the most admirable knees,

they are determined and quick,

the winter path is a part of her soul,

as it always was for me, and for my dog.

who loves the winter pasture,

she dances and swims in it,

they so love to walk together.

It is after all, a gift sometimes,

to be young, a sorrow to be getting older.

My wife sits up in the deer stands sometimes,

my dog waiting below for her to come down,

as working dogs do.

They criss-cross on their secret paths,

which they know so well.

When I faced the truth about my icy winter paths,

on which I walked so far, for so long,

in the wondrous beauty and peace of the winter words,

I went out to the winter woods alone, I explained myself to the paths,

not personal, I said, I would rather be here than on Facebook.

I cried a bit, it took me a long time to see it,

but how lucky, I thought, that my wife

and dog will find such  happiness and peace on these paths,

in the winter woods, they walk together there almost every day,

drinking up the quiet joy,

and I am just as happy for them,

as I was for me,

well almost, I walk down to the gate

that leads to the woods,

and I wave goodbye,

and fuss over them,

and remind them to be careful,

which they don't really need to be,

the woods are not dangerous but

enchanting and healing.

Do they know my heart is breaking,

just a bit, as they stride off, never looking back?

It seems just like yesterday,

that I could walk on my paths,

and they still care about me, whispering through

the pines and icy streams,

"we will see you in the Spring,

we will be here, and so will you."

And I will, pride goeth before a fall,

and I know pride and falls,

so well.

The paths are so much bigger than me,

and my brave and loyal ankles and knees.

I am so excited about Spring.

I am not old, I am beginning to be old,

I am grateful for the gift of acceptance,

I can close my eyes and hear

the crunch of my boots on the snow,

the water trickling softly through the streams,

the sound of my heart beating as I climb

uphill, the beautiful and timeless

silence of the winter forest.

I can walk on these icy paths,

every day, on the path of my imagination.


Posted in Writing
25 December 2013

“Inner Rings,” Part Two: Morality, Acceptance And Satisfaction

Inner Rings, Part Two

Inner Rings, Part Two

Part two in a series: Acceptance And the "Inner Rings."

The theologian and author gave a powerful sermon in 1940 about the human struggle to get inside the many "Inner Rings" of society, politicians, neighborhood and family. Lewis points out these groups go by many names and configurations – elites, clubs, societies, organizations, they exist at work, in schools, in the arts and literature. The insidious nature of the "inner rings" play on our hearts and desires he says, but his point is to warn against the futility of giving our lives to pursuing acceptance into such exclusive and elite circles, and he cautions it is often much worse to be accepted than not.

First, Lewis warns that a desire to be accepted into these rings – we all know them – is that such a desire often causes us to do things that are against our values and ideals in order to find acceptance within them. I learn this on a personal level every time I go near a literary organization or gather – for much of my life I have wanted to get inside this ring, increasingly I realize that they are not the place for me or for my values. I cannot do what I would have to do to be accepted there, and if I did, I would be selling my soul. I could never have attempted my new book tour within such a circle, could never had done it the way I did. On a literary panel, a writer told young aspiring writers the best thing they could to do make it in the new world of publishing was read poetry for 10 minutes a night. I am no enemy of poetry, but it broke my heart to hear this useless given to a bunch of young would-be writers heading into a world that has changed almost beyond recognition. I left the conference understanding it was not where I belonged.

Secondly Lewis argues that the desire for outsiders to be admitted to such inner circles represents a desire that can never be satisfied. What happens once accepted? We quickly find that the people we thought could provide us with identity, value, worth, acceptance do not have the power to do that – and after each "ring," there is another right behind it waiting for us to want in. If you want to join a musical society because you like music, he writes, there is a real possibility of satisfaction. If you want to be in the know, be inside, be accepted, your pleasure will be short-lived. The circle cannot have from within the charm it had from the outside, by the very act of admitting you the ring has lost its magic.

I see acceptance in the animals I live with. I see it in Mickey, who accepts the boundaries of his life. I see it in my hospice work, where people know they are at the edge of life and only want to move out of life in dignity and comfort. What freedom they feel when they accept where they are.

I just finished reading a book by Mark Leibovich about Washington, it's called  "Two Parties And A Funeral – Plus Plenty of Valet Parking – in America's Gilded Capital."  The book is packaged in a sort of flip and smart-ass way, trying to be less serious than it is, but the story Leibovich – a reporter for the New York Times – tells is very serious, it is discouraging and dispiriting, it describes Washington as a hive of "inner rings," media people connected to political people connected to lobbyists, contractors, think tanks, producers,  elected officials, publicists, party-givers and influence peddlers. Everyone in Washington is either in an "inner ring" or trying to get in, everybody seems rich and busy, nobody seems honest, happy or grounded in the idea of service. Leibovich paints a portrait of a gilded capital today, corrupt and disconnected from the people it serves, there was nothing cute or funny about it.

I thought of the "inner rings" when I read the book, Leibovich even mentions C.S. Lewis's sermon in one chapter. I was a reporter for the Washington Post for a few years, I remember feeling panicked at the prospect of staying there, I knew the city would suck me up and spit me out, I fled, or perhaps was driven out, I have never regretted it. Almost every journalist I ever knew went the other way, wanted badly to be there.

Lewis's essays and life itself has led me to consider the meaning of acceptance in my life. I have a friend whose 97-year-old mother, who has been ailing and in pain for years, is dying. "I can't accept it," she says "I love my mother so much, she has always been there for me, I just am not willing to let her go." How sad, I thought, doesn't she know that we will all die, that we are not God, that a life fully lived is a sacred thing, and that death deserves to be respected, just as life does? What did she think would happen, that her mother would stay alive forever because she loves her so? I wondered what her mother would say.

I am learning acceptance more. I am a good writer, I will never be a great writer, I will never make it into that circle. I will never have a lot of money and the freedom to do whatever I want wherever I want to do it. I understand that death is closer than it is far away for me, I  want to live well and die well, and accept the sanctity of human existence – life and death, forever joined. I will not buy into the notion that I can live a meaningful life forever, or that technology can or should keep me alive beyond my time.

In exchange for learning acceptance, I have kept myself intact. This does not mean I am better than anyone else, it means I am who I am. For better or worse, I am learning to be me, to accept me, to be honest about me. I see the deal clearly that Lewis writes about – the inner ring versus the soul. Speaking for myself, I can only have one or the other.

I'm good with my choice.

Posted in Family Farm, Writing
24 November 2013

Poem: Do Not Speak Ill Of Time. Love Every Minute Of It.

Loving Time

Loving Time: Tess And Red

In the woods, I heard an old farmer

complaining about time,

there is not enough time, he said,

to do my chores and fix my fences,

clear away my rocks and till the fields,

I heard an artist complain,

she said "there is not enough time to

paint my paintings,"

I heard a mother complain about her three children,

there is not enough time, she said,

to cook and clean for them all.

I know a writer who speaks poorly of time,

there is not enough, he says,

to finish his books and take my walks.

This frightened me,

I couldn't say why,

I texted my angel, and I asked her,

why do people  complain so much about time?,

and she said, dear boy, what a wonderful question,

wretched humans complain about everything,

their heads are on backwards, they are not thinking straight,

their fathers and mothers taught them nothing,

their lives are wasting.

Time is precious, she said, and deserves to be loved,

it is, next to love, the most precious thing we have,

it is never still, never sleeps, never stops.

Tell the farmer he is lucky to have every

second of his life, his chores mean nothing next to his time left

in the world,

inform the artist that every minute she paints is precious,

and finite, and will fly past her like a worker bee rushing to aid the queen,

and scold the writer, he must love every minute he gets to work on his life,

in the world, and take the mother in hand and tell her those minutes with

her children are more precious that the most beautiful diamonds, and

will not last nearly as long.

Tell these shallow souls that they will one day learn the value of time,

it's wonder and preciousness, everyone one of them will bow to it, and

so will everything they love.

Love time, said my angel,

texting me  Iphone images of love and work and

passing clouds and seasons, I could picture her wings beating,

raising huge clouds of dust and feathers,

time is the most precious gift,

unheralded and ignored, do not dare ever speak ill of it, she said,

or you will be shamed,

and time will wash you away like a grain of sand in a tidal wave,

you are that small and it is that big.

Luv u, she wrote, spk 2 U soon, dear man. Humans r so ungrtful.



Posted in General, Writing
23 November 2013

Poem: If I Had Wings

If I Had Wings

If I Had Wings

If I had wings,

and I was brave,

I'd fly on the highway,

to the one I love.

If I had wings,

And I was strong,

I'd stand by her side,

where I belong.

The woman I love

is strong and proud.

If I had wings,

I'd sweep her away,

and into the clouds.

If I had wings,

and I was fast,

I'd ride on the wind,

till the sun had passed.

When I have wings,

I'll head for the sky,

you can look up,

and say goodbye.







Posted in Writing