tanka

tanka--
small songs I sing
to join
my voice to other voices
hidden in the grass

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Fox



Listen
just outside the window
to the fox
whose single harsh bark
and running feet
connect the shuttered
windows of your house
to her own impenetrable burrow
under the root
in the wood
where she lives
her own incomparable life
knowing
how to travel in darkness
wait in silence
and seize
on tiny mysteries
in the grass.

Avocet: A Journal of Nature Poems XIV:3, Spring 2011

Monday, November 21, 2011

Chalice


the cap
of the acorn
empty of seed
the bowl of the hills
where the doe lies down

two hands cupped
for a trickle of water
naked
the face of rain-
hollowed granite

the orioles’ nest
windblown
vessel of  eggs
the rachis of feathers
the hollow of bone

jack-in-the-pulpit
his sermon
the spathe
of the arum
empty of words

chambers
of nautilus
caverns at sea
auricle ventricle
salt pools of the heart

the house of the skull
its cellars of memory
the eye
in its orbit
this chalice of light


Monday, November 14, 2011

Three Songs of the Body Eclectic



1.  Ossicles

Watching the fence swift—how the rough
gray bark of his skin vanishes into the rail
while blue flanks announce his readiness
to make more of his own inestimable kind,

I am gladdened by knowing
that inside the temple of my own ear
lie humming three ancient jawbones
of this small lizard’s kin—

the chain of ossicles, ancient migrants
through the planes and valleys of my skull,
three bones tiny enough to dance
all together on the head of a pin,

and dancing now to the eardrum’s rhythm,
transmitting to my grateful brain this feather of sound—
swift feet scritching on sundrenched cedar,
a message spoken in bone and token of kin.

2.  Limbs

Fish’s fin, hippo’s hoof
and my own hand stroking
the firm gray flesh of flippers
that hide, beneath their streamlined shape,

bone for bone the bones of my open arms—
humerus, ulna, radius, thickened and stout,
finger bones lengthened and cunningly webbed
for fluid flight, spin and sea spume

and the whole curve of Earth enclosed
in the leaping dolphin’s arc, the sea-silvered
song of a mind as different and as kin
to mine as the common curves and linkage of our bones.

3.  Mitochondria
How many of you, I wonder, sluice
down the drain each time I wash my hands—
you old invaders,  now tenderly wrapped

in my own cells’ membranes and powering
my liver, kidney, lungs, the hundred thousand
daily squeezings of my heart? Your nearest kin

are named for Proteus, shape-shifting god of the sea,
slippery prophet. Could he have foreseen, I wonder,
this—panther, cuttlefish, dragonfly, me—

blithe symbiotic satchels of bacteria
at home inside our cells and there empowering
even the cauliflower convolutions of my brain,

and all of us, dear sisters, from the eel-grass to the eel,
made of the same astounding particles of matter—
live dust from ravaged stars—from which flow out

this tenuous thread of thought,
the mad illusion of the separate self,
and the charged, sea-changing pulse of wonder.


Anatomy & Etymology 1:4, November 2011

Monday, November 7, 2011

The Face Painter

So you wake up in the morning
and it’s still raining
and your life is this puddle of gray
concrete and your feet are mired
in it all day long

until you see
waltzing down the street
to his own inner music
this skinny guy with a lopsided
topknot of dreadlocks
and bell-bottoms lettered in yellow paint
Peace Harmony Love Yourself
and he opens his satchel
and takes out a dozen cakes of paint
and a little pointy brush and begins
transforming his own face—
neon pink lines swooping outward
from the corners of his eyes,
a half-moon of silver dots on each cheek,

and somehow
the concrete around your feet
begins melting into a small rainbow—
a modest little rainbow tucked away
in one obscure corner of the cosmos—
but you can dance in its radiance
and suddenly
you want to take off your concrete
mask and paint the insides
of your eyelids with sunlight—
cerulean, lavender, emerald, rose.