Dandelions

The old growth gives way to young

In a space where there was a burn.

Clearings are no accident.

By natural law, species push ahead, overcome, find new spaces to flourish, travel on wind or beast; take hold again, fall apart, crumble well.

The way is clear and, as quickly as all that, obscured.

So seize your wings, find your trail.

You are never lost completely: only once in a while unsure of your direction.

NOW! TODAY!

Go back again to the place where the burn has left a scar.

Fly with me to the river, swim with me to the shore, climb cliffs, send up a signal, tendrils and vines. There will be room for us all to send our roots out across that meadow.

There is a home for every bloom and blossom;

Every dandelion connected to every other by this web underground.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Immortal Jellyfish

There is a species of jellyfish whose cells get younger every day

A real-live, genuine-article Benjamin Button.

As far as anyone can tell, this means it lives forever.

Yes, that’s what they say.

Scientists, I mean. Not just anyone.

I wonder if there’s a species of sea turtle that likes to eat

really juicy and fresh jellyfish

Maybe those turtles don’t even know it yet

but one day, when these particular jellyfish

are good and young and finally ripe

 

*CHOMP*

 

They say the jellyfish may be immortal and I’m telling you

someday they are going to be tender young things indeed.

It sounds marvelous. One might even say… heavenly.

Alive, on the Road Not Taken

My dad posted Robert Frost’s poem The Road Not Taken this week on Facebook, in honor of the poem’s 100th anniversary.

I did not realize this poem was so old; as with many things that occur before our own time this poem was lumped in with “old stuff” in my brain and is kind of like my parents in that sense. Of course I know they lived through the Vietnam War but not WWII. I’ve seen my kids do this lumping thing with movies, “hey, was that movie made when you were a kid, dad?” (Um, no, Casablanca is a little older than I am.) All they know is it predates their own birth. So we all do this. There are only “before” and “in my days”. Before, there was Casablanca, Frost, Shakespeare, Lincoln and the Magna Carta. “In my days” includes things like Hank Aaron passing Babe Ruth less than two months after I arrived, Nixon resigning less than six months into my stay on this blue and green orb, then, not soon enough, Vietnam evacuations. I don’t remember it, I just know it was in my days. Something I lived through, albeit unaware. Let’s call that a grey area, perhaps, I was young and it was my time but all grey until Reagan was shot. Then I begin to remember. After that it’s not old stuff, it’s really my stuff.

But my father loves this poem (I did not realize how much until now) and in fact he enjoys a fair number of poems. He even committed some French poetry to memory. Je mis mon kepi dans la cage et je suis sortie avec l’ouiseau sur la tete… I remember him reciting it, it’s so funny, you see, because he does all the voices, the birdie and the commander, too.

I’m reflecting on the difference that it made, this path my father took. A way leads to a way and you never end up going back to try the other. Frost says it with a sigh, but I wonder, could it be a sigh of contentment? Sure, the poem seems to speak of potential lost, but, many choices, ways and ways down the Way, is one so disappointed?

Dad chose Mom, then, with Mom, to go to Africa when I was in a vulnerable stage, then to move to an out of the way town in Iowa. He chose to become a nurse and care for people who were dying, many of them living with great regrets and bitterness, but he loved them. He chose to live in a town, not a city, in a forest outside the small town. He chose to love his neighbors. Sometimes they didn’t appreciate him, or his best friends. Some of his friends, people he chose, were losers. He did not fall into bad company; he chose them as friends, another way among many ways, to love them. He chose to burn wood to warm his cottage like some kindly pauper in a fairy tale. He sharpened his chainsaw and hauled timber with a two-wheeled hand cart. The more ways that he chose along his Way, the deeper he went into the jungles and along the ponds and beside still waters and tucked in among the trees in an orange cap and knee-patched jeans and steel-toed boots. The more he chose these things, the less he aspired to anything some would call “bigger”. His father lived in Texas, where bigger is better. He chose smaller, instead. He acquired love like a real estate mogul acquires land, with ease and without a second thought, and with interest compounding. He spends his money now to visit his grandchildren. Compounding love is all.

Or did he choose? Was the poem itself ever really about choice in the first place?  Maybe  we’re all reading it wrong. [the link above takes you to an interesting article on that question.] Oh well. This has become more about my father and less about Frost now, so we leave Frost at this crossroad to debate the meaning of his poem posthumously with living academics, and move on. If it’s true that Frost thought we really didn’t get to choose, and it was all the same, well, he never met my Dad.

When ways have led to other Ways, and we find we can’t go back and be someone we never were meant to be anyhow, (or when we find that the choices were intertwined with destiny) why would the sigh be anything other than one of peace, of having come so far only to find that, way back when, sometime after Casablanca and before the internet, we made a choice and it was good and had much laughter and a good wife and friends who we never would have met, if we hadn’t chosen to meet them, and so we kept choosing them every day, drifting back into history with the great poems, eventually to be lumped into “before”, but not quite yet, and even when those friends we knew die and we miss them so, we know they never would have been what they are to us without us having taken the Way we took.

Sigh, old men, but not with regret. Some of your laughter may already be in the grave in the silent mouths of friends gone before, but much of it follows you from points along the path where you made those choices to know and be known; you thought you had moved on, but the forks along your paths are tuned to a resonance that harmonizes with the chuckle in your throat which I can hear and will be able to hear so long as it is my time. You laughed when I said “are you waking up yet, Daddy?” and you still laugh when I amuse you, I can hear it in my ears whenever I have been humorous or clever. I can hear it in my heart when my son does the same. Because whenever I come to those forks myself I can hear you laugh, so, then; I weep with joy. Sigh, old women, your childbearing is done and your gardens can feature flowers instead of food. Instead of preserving for winters to come, you can paint pictures of desert sunrises because the sun keeps coming over that horizon as it travels on its own way. The earth herself makes no choices, she turns and turns, and “by turning, turning, she comes out right.” You have chosen a Way. I have heard the sigh, and no matter how you meant it, I interpreted it as one of peace with each decision, for that is how it appears to me, so therefore, I will follow it. My brother and my sister will follow it. You have shown us what is good: To love justice, to desire mercy and to walk humbly with your God. It’s all lumped in with the “old stuff” and that’s just fine with me in my days.

When the world is in possession of the Way, 

The galloping horses are led to fertilize the fields with their droppings. 

When the world has become Way-less, War horses breed themselves on the suburbs. 

There is no calamity like not knowing what is enough. There is no evil like covetousness. Only he who knows what is enough will always have enough. –Lao Tzu

Hard to do Stuff

Some stuff is hard to do

Like making it rhyme

But some of the stuff that’s hard isn’t always necessary, either,

Like making it rhyme, again.

The harder part is figuring out what to omit,

whether it be words not needed in a poem

or actions useless for living.

Leaving out the right stuff will make it rhyme

even when it doesn’t.

Pity The Fool

Fools have been around since before fire, before writing, before ceremonial burial, before baklava.

Fools were involved, even important, in the invention and discovery of all the ten thousand marvels.

Fools, I tell you, come in all sorts of packages.

They may arrive via the postal service in a plain brown wrapping,

They could be nestled in among their fellows like sardines, smokes,

There is a high probability you’ll find one the next time you surf

across the broad ocean of information, miles of content without surface tension, holding nothing up, just filling a gaping digital void, so that you can’t see the sea floor of your soul. A Foolish illusion.

There is a pretty good chance they will invite you to join them,

to sing for them at their next party. A gig! You wanted a gig, right?

It’s really sad how fools flock like sparrows, warming their feet

on the current that zips through the wires,

chatting you up, inviting you to electrocute yourself.

As though you were a bird-brain too, and could just flit away.

Despicable? Yes. We all know that.

Harmless? Yes. Perhaps. No. I mean yes. I mean, no; yes, harmful.

There appears to be some confusion about that.

Let me just say that I pity the fool who comes to me

and invites me to have my hands bound with black tape

to be thrown into a trunk

to be taken down to that river

to be slung in without ceremony.

“I will break your face, fool.”

What the fool doesn’t realize

(and this is what makes the fool a fool)

is that

I might even come along, but

Could the tape be silver instead of black?

Could the gag be made of phyllo, marzipan and honey,

so the river bottom would taste sweet?

No, it sounds fishy. Come on, fools.

Do I not at least deserve some ceremony?

 

Happy April 1st.

 

Soup in Spring

I ate three bowls of soup tonight

The best ham and beans and broth I have ever tasted

it reminds me of how I wooed my wife, one autumn,

With poems about the comfort of mom’s

Winnie- Ther- Pooh tomato soup recipe

and that in turn led me to ponder:

What is soup? It’s not food and it’s not drink

it’s Something in between I think

So in the spring and in the fall

I like soup the best of all

It’s in between the great extremes

It’s not just food, it’s made of dreams.

 

So I read it to her, and she says “hmm, kind of cliche. It’s an everyday poem.”

Then she kisses me.

Cliches can work, sometimes.

 

 

The Way

When you begin to follow the Way, you think that It will be tubular, like a wave to surf or like a water slide at an amusement park, the excitement mounts as you swim out, or as you climb the stairs, and you anticipate that with a whoosh, stomach dropping, you’ll arrive at the end of the run, just letting It do Its Thing. It should not be difficult, should It?

But the Way is not tubular, dude, it’s just a round hole in a plain plane, with eternal depth

(Whatever that means, “eternal”)

I am a square peg

Try as I may, it’s never quite a fit

I’m either too small, I slip and fumble about within the Way, grasping nothing,

Traction-less, spinning free and free-falling, not even believing I can fill the space enough to touch the circumference at my own four corners, or,

(more often) I’m too large, over-sure, arrogant,

unable to wedge myself into It at all.

The Way’s diameter never changes. I am the one who is inconsistent.

I am the one in need of endless calibration.

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