Poem, Emeritus

A poem has achieved
  emeritus status,
when it’s yellowed and rumpled
  with crease lines and sweat stains,
a corner missing, torn loose,
  too many times re-pinned
    to the corkboard and
taken down
  to be read, again.
Stared at in comprehension
  and incomprehension.

See down near the bottom
  the ink fades and runs
in a now dry lakebed
  of evaporated tears.
Underlined,
  in multiple hands and hues.

This poem has retired
  and been recalled,
been re-assigned and inherited.
  And now emeritus, it no longer works
every day, but serves as advisor,
  on call.

—Jeffrey Taylor

Smiling

Evening thunder
rumbles through my chest. Smiling,
hearing the rain fall.

—Korin Anita Swann

Squat

The kitchen is the heart of the home and the fridge is the quietly thrumming heart of the kitchen.
 
We are not a family who displays portraits of ourselves in each room, smiling in uncomfortable sweaters with animals and for a split second, being still. We know what we look like.
 
But on the door of our fridge is a small collection of photographs of my two sons, during mostly their childhood. Each photo is a small tableau of a part of their lives and mine.
 
One has them at a beach in Hawaii, early teens, with the classic shot of older brother buried in the sand, just his head showing, and younger brother laughing wildly with his foot on his brother's head.
 
Another has them in a desperado pose, with real guns, staring dangerously at the camera but wearing bright yellow ear plugs.
 
Then there is one of them, when they were small children, in a pirogue that I used to own. It's taken from behind, over their shoulders, showing the requisite bright orange PFDs, their dripping paddles lifted, about to help propel us past the old Seaholm Power Plant on Lady Bird Lake.
 
My favorite, of course, has me in it with them. My hair is dark red, and my face is young and confident. The boys are five and six years old, and I have one on each hip in a strong, fatherly grip. We are at the Rio Grande Gorge above Taos, New Mexico, and the land falls away behind us with blue mountains in the distance. Seconds after my wife took the photo, a huge wind came swirling up the gorge and I had to squat and hold them close so we wouldn't be blown over the edge to the river below.
 
And that's what I taught my sons—walk close to the edge because the view is invigorating, but always be ready to squat!

—Robert Porter

The Summer Tree


In the dog days of summer, this tree watched two brothers;
Little boys running, wrestling and laying down in the cool shade.
They gazed at the shadow of the leaves on their tanned skin.

In the dog days of summer, this tree watched two brothers;
Teenage boys sneaking, scheming and sharing a stolen cigarette.
Their backs up against the trunk, dreaming in the moonlight.

In the dog days of summer, this tree watched two brothers;
Young men building, learning, and meeting only at vacation times.
Shaking hands under the tree before they went back to their lives.

In the dog days of summer, this tree watched two brothers;
Men in their prime, reaching, searching and talking of money.
Words too loud to hear the breeze float through the leaves above their heads.

In the dog days of summer, this tree watched two brothers;
Come to the full circle of middle age, having won and lost.
Hands with age spots patted the rough strong bark.
Wrinkled eyes looked up at the green leaves blazing gold in the sunshine.

“This tree has seen a lot of life.”

“Yes it has, yes it has.”

“It’s a good tree.”

“Yes it is, yes it is.”

—G. Elizabeth Law

It's all good...


Come here,
    my baby Paul,
        come here,
have some warm cookies,
    with cold chocolate milk.

It is alright,
    It’s alright.
It’s fine if you are upset.
            it’s perfectly good.

Come here,
    be warm.

Come here,
    let me comfort you.
        have some warm cookies and milk.
It’s all good.
    there is nothing wrong.

Don’t worry about vegetables,
    or anything else.

Just these nice warm chocolate chip cookies,
    As many as you want.
        just relax.

enjoy.

Come here,
    my little Paul,
        there is nothing to be afraid of.

It’s all good.
    Just come here,
        sit with me,
have some warm cookies,
                as much milk as you are thirsty for.

Relax,
    take a nap if you want to.

It’s all good...

—Paul Shreeman

The Old Woman Potter

Kim Mosley
Note: The AZC Zen Writing Group used our friend Silas's story for our prompt. Silas, living in Kenya, is the newest member of our group.

==========

Today on my way from school, i met a strong old woman with donkey carrying many pots.i ask her where she was taking the pot and she replied that she was going to sell them in the market tomorow. i ask her again how she made the donkey to kneel down and puts on the pots because donkey sometimes turn wild to people.she replied that donkey needs training inorder to cary any load.

I also ask her how she made pot and it was very interesting to hear how the make the pots. The old woman told me that they walk far along river Nyalbari to dig and pick soil for making pots. reaching home with soil she remove any sticks or grass which can harm their hand. she ensure that the soil is fine.she puts the soil on any polythene and mix it with water to make ready for kneeding.

She wrap it with this polythene for sometimes or may be later for use.

She start making the pot with this soil.after completing kneeding the pot she left it for one or two weeks to dry up.

As they dry up, she looks dry grass which she wil use to cure it to make them strong.
After one to two weeks she will put grass inside this pots and lit fire.

She told me that they add grass gradualy untill inside the pot becomes red in colour.at this point she leaves them to cool hence she finish making the pot.

I finaly told her that i have agood friend of mine from america making and teaching how to make pots. She was very much hapy with me and told me to say hi to Linda.

She request me to visit him and see how she is making pots.
—Silas

==========   

In my middle twenties I moved to Colorado and lived in a teepee on land that belonged to some friends. It was a beautiful place with different vistas to be seen by merely turning one way then another.

We tried to emulate the Indians by taking advantage of the native plants, hunting, fishing and storing food. I'll admit that I wasn't very good at these things but I tried and would encourage those around me that possessed these skills.

I tried once to hand work a piece of cowhide to make a vest for winter. It still had the hair on it when I started and still had the hair on it when I gave up and went looking for the cow so I could return it and apologize.

Over time I really came to respect how much effort went into merely surviving before electricity and mechanization gave us our comfort level of today.

I did learn some basic skills however, like observing nature, fire building and how to be resourceful with basic tools.

Sometimes we would help the old timers that were still left with their farm work and learn from them about tracking, weather shifts and the habits of elk, deer and cattle. Their stories would unknowingly show how how damned tough these people had been in their youth and how little it took to make a life.

Whenever the conversation turned to how I and my friends were living in teepees, school buses and drafty wood heated cabins their response, to a man, would be "Why would you want to do that?"

I guess we did it to find a part of ourselves that valued history over progress and knowledge over comfort.
—Robert Porter

========== 

I made pots from natural clay in a workshop at Esalen. We dug up the clay, just like Silas talked about in his post from Kenya. We set our clay to dry for future classes, however, and used clay earlier classes had dug. I spent most of my time making a small bowl with a bent-over edge. I wanted to do it as carefully as I could so I could use it as an incense burner on my altar. I smoothed the outside with an agate. We fired our pots in a pit (or it may have been a half-pit dug into a slope). We burnt oak down to coals, then put the pots on the coals, and covered it over with layers of cow patty. 
The bowl came out a rusty clay color mottled with black. I use it on my altar and burn incense in it every day.

After I made that slow, careful pot, I did several quickly and with abandon. One was a bowl I wrapped around a wave-smoothed rock. The rock and bowl stayed as one unit for a long time—in fact, the rock could not be removed—until I broke the pot by accident.
In another pot-making session we sat in the surf on loose pebbles. We were actually halfway in the water, with water coming up over our legs. I worked quickly to make the head of a god. He had snake-like hair with shells and twigs and seaweed in it. I pressed shells and ribbed kelp into the wet clay to leave their imprint, but I also put real seaweed and sticks in the hair. They would burn up when it was fired, but I thought maybe I could replace them later in the spaces that were left behind.
I was concerned that the head might fall apart when fired because I was patching together many small bits of clay as I worked and there was no way to smooth them together. I felt inspired, that flow of easy energy.

I loved the head but never got to see if it fell apart or what it looked like or to have it as an object. We were expected at my mother's in Texas, and the firing was delayed just long enough that my daughter and I had to leave for the airport without the objects from the last firing. As it was, I never drove as fast and recklessly as I did to the airport to the San Jose airport. When we got there we tossed our keys to the rental car people and ran through the airport. We just made it before they closed the door on the airplane.
In a way, it's best that I didn't see the completed head. It will remain in my mind as it was when it was being made—glistening clay, the seaweed and shell tangled in the tendrils of the hair, all of it coming out of my hands and the water boiling up into my lap—the god making itself. 
—Sarah Webb

==========

When I was a kid in Oregon, I used to run a burro rink. Kids would come, usually with their parents, and they'd give me 25¢ to put them on a burro and let the burro trod around in a circle eight times. The littlest kids I'd strap on, and sometimes either I or a parent would walk around with the kid, especially if they started to cry. The best part of the job is that girls would come and talk with me. In those days this was a poor little town and there weren't any planned activities for kids. I earned $2 a day and managed to save most of it. It was a great job until the state of Oregon intervened and enforced rules about how old we'd have to be to work and what we should be paid.

We were told that burros were a mix of a donkey and a mule, or something like that. I see from Wikipedia that a burro is just a small donkey. In those days, it was difficult to validate all the things we were told. There was a small library in the town, and perhaps they had some old donated encyclopedia. But I never though of looking up all the stuff people would tell me to check out what they said.

For years I believed that water goes down a drain in one direction, and south of the equater it goes down in the opposite direction. I taught this to my students for over thirty years when they were rocking trays in the darkroom. “Notice how the water swirls in the tray. If you were south of the equader it would....” Lo and behold someone recently told me that was a stupid wife's tale. Like the origin of burros, the truth is not what one cowboy tells you.
—Kim Mosley

I Turned Out to Be Me


I could have been anything. I knew I wouldn't be tall, but I thought I could be a pro basketball player because the Globetrotters had players like Too Tall (5'2").  And during the baseball season I thought I could turn pro and become as good as any of my baseball heroes like Minnie Moñoso. I would just need to learn to hit the ball and a few other minor things. In fact, I could steal bases with vengeance. Which was useful since I often walked because I was so short that pitchers couldn't find my strike zone.

And then there was art. I had delusions of grandeur there too. No goal was too high—even the Sistine Chapel. Somehow I didn't have too many goals for my kids. My son had enough of his own (are kids having goals a guy thing?), while my daughter didn't seem to share so many of our ambitions. (Nevertheless, both kids have accomplished a lot.)

In our Zen Writing class, we read a poem about the poet’s hurt shoulder and how it impacted her rowing. I am reminded of all the things I can't do for one reason or another. Coming to terms with one limitations seem to be synomonous with getting old, or maybe I should say, getting older.  Of course, one of the biggies is that I'm beginning to realize that I can't live forever. But beyond that, there are many things I can't or won't do because I either can't or I realize the consequences.

I used to believe I could fix anything in a house. My father-in-law could do that and he'd instruct me step-by-step. And then he'd grunt when I'd do something wrong. Now that he's not in Austin, I've hired some people to do stuff and discovered that their skill set is way beyond mine.

I sometime think I know a little about computers, but when I think of the knowledge ofvarious friendly geeks whom I know, I don't stand chance in their world. But I putter along and manage to keep things working.

I turned out to be me, I suppose. Yes, I turned out to be me. It was probably my last resort. It was what I'd become if nothing else worked out.
Some people have extraordinary talents. They can do anything. Fortunately or unfortunately, I can just be me. I wish I would have known that many years ago. Then I might not have spent so much energy trying to be someone else.

—Kim Mosley


Life Guidance

(the prompt for the evening was ʻButterflyʼ by Robert Graves)

How DID you get from there to here?
By guess, yes, by guess is best.

By should you could
By right you might

There is no map
Itʼs not a snap

A sharp turn may burn
As I could only slowly learn

Flying crooked covers ground
By good fortune, earth is round

Every story is unique
Read aloud, but do not peek

Chapter chapter, line by line
flying straight, flying blind

How DO you get from here to there?

By guess, YES, by guess is best.

—Bill Metz

Summer night, cool water calls


Swimming fast as pulse quickens
Slow down...Calm Down
When fear enters mind.

Trees dance in the wind.
Grackles claim their place
on the wall--a place to rest.

Motion and rest.
Do I hear music far across the lake?
the band plays as nite falls.

Children laugh, a toddler falls;
a pause, then the screams.
The child turns to its mother.

Water wets, earth is solid,
each in its place,
like the front and back foot in walking.

Mercifully the sun sets
and the color of day softens.
Families drift away.
Swimmers stream along as
the water sounds.
Stroke, stroke, in breath & out breath
float—effortless—
no holding on, set free.

—Betty Gross

Snowed In

In my life I have several times
had the privilege to be snowed in.

To rise in the grey morning light
and look out the window to see
branches bent and coated with a
soft white covering of delicate
snow that tells you “be still!”.

I see the old green truck with a
white cake on its hood, its eyes
closed in deep slumber.

Stepping out to get more kindling for
the fire I hear, no, I feel the Intense
hush of the deep white blanket around
the cabin. Nothing is moving. It is a holy
moment.

Mother Nature has gently commanded
that I cease my human thrashings for a
day and surrender. She has said “Be still!
Contemplate. You have wood, you have
water, you have life. It Is enough for now.

You are snowed in.”

—Robert Porter

Inujima Island, Japan

“Listen to the Voices of Yesterday Like the Voices of Ancient Times”
by Yusuke Asai and Yuko Hasegawa (photo by Betty Gross)

Three Poems

Yellow Leaves, Blue Leaves 

Yellow and blue
blend green,
seen in leaves
in grass and vine
until dying time,
and yellow
is left behind.
What leaves
with the blue,
leaving yellow leaves
to wither, fade,
and fall?
That breath of air,
that respiring
returns to sky,
blue again
to rise, raising water.
Water blue
to condense
into its kind,
then gravitate to brown,
to ground and seed,
albino cotyledons
blue tinged, yellow grown
metamorphosing,
seed into leaf,
blue into yellow
yellow into green.


A Flight of Birds 

A flight of birds escapes
to the south under
flannel gray cloud waves,
a turn of nature I observe
in deep green reflections
traversing the automobile hood.
A cloud of feathers
festoons the antique rose,
sown in branches by a circling wind,
not blooms awaiting blossoming,
but pennants for a bird transmigrating.


Indian Spring
(In Houston, Not Where You Live)

spring fooled fall and
slipped among its foliage,
still lush from recent rain
washing winds, clear and cool
from cloudless blue,
rattle paper lantern blooms
bougainvillea blossoms quiver
carnelian on the deck,
magenta at the fence,
delicate pink azaleas
complement a hibiscus
coral corsage,
making old feel new —
too good to be true,
one week from another norther.

—Winston Derden is a former journalist, fiction writer, and poet who resides in Houston, Texas. His poetry appears in New Texas, the Houston Poetry Festival anthology 2010 and 2012, Words and Art, Harbinger Asylum, Pink-Eye Lemonade, Big River Poetry Review, and Illya’s Honey. He read on the 2013 Word Around Town tour and appears as a host and featured reader at Houston-area poetry readings.

Oh Almighty Oak

Oh Almighty Oak
With stately stillness, the branches from your trunk are like outstretched arms with palms facing upward.
This reminds me of that part in the Mass where the priests of my childhood stretched out their arms with palms facing towards heaven saying: 
“Through him, with him, in him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor are yours almighty Father, forever and ever, Amen.”

Oh Almighty Oak
You have been ordained and are anything but ordinary.
You are a high priest with low deep roots, a sacred configuration of branches above and below growing in two directions.
As above so below.

Oh Almighty Oak
The large bowl water fountain near your trunk forms circular patterns as it pulsates--a liquid labyrinth.
The birds baptize themselves and fly up to your branches to sing your praises.
All glory and honor is yours Almighty Oak, forever and ever, Amen.

—R.B. Bojan