Thursday, July 2, 2015

Moon Jelly, Sonnet #249

The moons of Earth and Jupiter
Move in space pierced by meteor,
Comet, radiation, asteroid.
All dead things exist in a void
Full of other dead things that fly
Day by day at infinity.
One cannot love the moon jelly.
They're as empty as the word "why."
Instead, we fill them with ideas,
Those bits of us we understand,
That drift along in conscious seas,
Never once in sight of land.
They vanish and then reappear,
Vestiges of another sphere.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Forest Witches (Klee), Sonnet #248

Walking in off the trout stream in total darkness,
I feel them crowding in, dodging my flashlight beam.
That I returned all I caught to the water seems
Propitiatory, cools the blood of the succubus.
I remember Wendy, the neighborhood biter
(Until after biting me her mother bit her).
My first remembered dream, she and her chimpanzees
Trapped me beneath our house, and force-fed me cheeses.
Then the little witch in pointy hat and black cape
Ran screaming up a tree chased by her largest ape.
The flashlight fails and I see nothing, moon or stars.
Even the water is between me and my car.
One of them whispers, "The river is deadly deep.
Don't be a fool. We'll stay right here. Lie down and sleep."

Monday, June 15, 2015

The Black Tree, Sonnet #247

I saw the black tree from a gravel road.
I could not help stopping to stare.
I saw clearly, believed it was not there.
It hid, a mystery, all code.
Were its branches burned, kindled by lightning,
Or blighted by some insect borer,
Choked of light by foliage tightening,
Or stripped bare by some unknown horror?
I opened the window hoping to hear
Loud birdsong, joyous, unconcerned.
The silence fumed like gases slowly burned.
How could a dead tree evoke fear?
I took this photo, quickly drove away.
I will climb down from it someday.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Sundial (Escher), Sonnet #246

The motionless gnomon slowly persists,
Pointing the hour in pinching the sun's rays,
While hands of a clock clench their tiny fists,
And sheets of squared paper reckon the days.
A clock can't tick in space, though comets pass,
Light doesn't exist until it falls upon
A planet, your eyes, or a cloud of gas.
Thus, a love is engendered by the sun.
Ruth, our days number some 15,000,
And more than 400,000 the hours.
Let's not waste a moment counting the sand.
What's left us is unknowable, but ours.
I will stand still, watch you encircle me --
No shadows, just the light of your beauty.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

A Roller, Two Peregrine Falcons and a Long-Eared Owl with her Young (Francis Barlow), Sonnet #245

The peregrines' talons have eased up on their branch.
They're freely balanced, committed, ready to launch.
The plump roller, caught in its amatory dive,
Could be dragged to earth, ripped up while still half alive.
One eyes a clutch of three barred owlets; yes, kindred,
And guarded by their mother, but dozing, well-fed.
An owl must eat a mouse every day without fail
(As I must). The eagle wolfs fish, coughs up the scales.
A mouse pees, as it goes, to leave a trail back home.
A kestrel reads the yellow line like a poem,
Knowing at the beginning or end he will find
The answer to the deepest question of his kind.
The peregrine abandons the owlets to rise
And at 200 miles an hour crashes what flies.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Bodhidharma (Hakuin), Sonnet #244

For Lucien Stryk

His eyes tell us he grasps nothing he sees.
Nothing like shock, wonder, or puzzlement
(His purpose, to see only by degrees),
His response is a dog's to a new scent.
The more he's enlightened, the more dour,
Saddened by the presumption of a flower,
Disillusioned by the barred owl's power --
Endless patience where the field mice cower.
As he stared into a cave for nine years,
Did he presume to think he saw it all,
What is, what isn't, on a granite wall,
That makes a mockery of monks and seers?
Here he's a presence more paper than ink,
All marrow, nothing more, no sense, no think.

Lucien Stryk was one of my writing teachers
at Northern Illinois University. A fine teacher
and poet, he was very influential in
bringing Zen poetry to the United States 
through his translations and interviews. He
was a good friend and mentor.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Inner Courtyard, Strandgade 30 (Vilhelm Hammershoi), Sonnet #243

I assume these windows look on others,
But not the one I'm looking through at them.
The pupil, an irradiated gem,
Reflects upon each pane and its brothers.
A hundred years old, once a glazier's pride,
The lights have been etched by wind, dust, and rain,
By the hard scrubbing at faint time's stain,
And the gaze of hundreds who've long since died.
One window, open, catches the late sun.
As if in lonely rebellion, it flares,
Illuminating a room: no one's there.
Nothing moves. There is nothing to be done.
I close the window with a single thought.
What we see through is never what we've sought.