No Art

     This was written after I completed a five mile hike and then picked up 
     a volume of Elizabeth Bishop's poetry to enjoy once again on a sunny
     afternoon.  My answer to Bishop's poem, One Art.

 In this thing called losing,
 Bishop said we become masters
 And that losing isn’t a disaster.
  
 No, Not a disaster.
 Losing socks and such stuff.
 I’ve lost earrings, bracelets,
 Expensive ones too, didn’t care
 Beyond maybe a minute or two.
  
 And no pain beyond a stab of nostalgia
 Did I have upon saying goodbye 
 To three houses and two cities.
  
 And yes, it was no disaster
 To bury my mother, 
 A father who really wasn’t,
 The man who really was,
 First one brother, then the other,
 Then lastly, a wife.
 With each, my body and soul
 Savaged by a hurricane, catastrophic, yes.
 But no, no disaster.
  
 Except perhaps, yes, I’ll admit, 
 A tiny bit of soul eroded 
 From the waves of each hurricane
 Breaking over me as I buried each.
 And nothing, nothing did I master.
  
 Except, maybe this—
 I did not look for them
 Since they were gone,
 Emptied of this earth.
  
 Now, there is you and
 I look for you
 In everything I do--
 Every sunset
 Every sunrise
 Every in between time.
  
 I look for you in strangers,
 In cars I pass along the street.
 I look for you at festivals,
 In films I see.
 I look for you in places,
 In the sky of Ruidoso,
 In bars,
 In restaurants,
 In the eyes of strangers, 
 I look for you.
  
 I look for you in all this.
 And in this thing
 Called losing, 
 In which I am well-schooled,
 As are we all, 
 I have tried to make an art,
 To make an art of all this loss.
  
 Yes, this may be no real disaster,
 But Bishop lied.
 There is no art in losing,
 No art at all,
 That I can find to master.
   

The Passing of Summer

 The wind and rain stopped by last night,
 Had a few minor temper tantrums outside
 As I stood watching from the door.
 They slapped the trees limbs around a bit
 And kicked at bits of loose trash in the street.
 Nothing more violent than that.
  
 No pushing down trees.
 No pummeling hail.
 Rather calm for a storm.
 Yet it killed the heat of summer,
 Murdering it without a hint of passion
 And ushering in a cold windy day 
 To begin the fall to winter.
  
 At dawn,
 I stand here,
 Warming myself 
 With this cup of coffee,
 Mourning a summer
 That passed without passion.
   

Heart and Soul

 Tell me a truth 
 of burning flames.
  
 Better yet,
 Chant me all the truth
 Of a holy rosary.
  
 Or would you whisper a truth
 Of a head on a silver platter.
  
 Perhaps, you’d like to
 Express the truth
 Of a dance through the city.
  
 Or act out the truth
 In the washing of your hands.
  
 Could you do all that,
 Plus destroy a temple or two,
 And it be the truth 
 Of your heart?
  
 I know you say it would
 But no bushes burn,
 No seas part,
 No lepers heal, 
 No dead rise
 When you know nothing
 Of your own heart and soul. 

Red Heart Cedar

This red heart cedar stump,
With its dark crevasses
And holes where bugs had homes,
Was sanded smooth.
A urethane finish added for shine
And protection.
The rings are visible still,
Rings that count the years
Until the tree fell in a storm,
Twisted from the earth
By tornadic winds.

Thus, I found it
In the yard.
Took the chain saw to the tree,
Cut it into chunks,
Along with the others that fell
That day while the dog and I
Sought shelter from the storm.

Now I sand and chisel away.
Routing out some hearts concave,
Bowls to be used for filling
At some future date,
Now standing empty.
Sanding some hearts level,
Tables to be used for holding things,
Yet these are empty too.

All this red heart cedar,
Once stood filled with life,
Now stands empty.

With My Eyes

Behind you,
the window blinds closed.
A faint early morning light
Surrounding you
as you slip from bed,
clutching a silky robe.
Your cloak of confidence
worn to shreds by the shyness
of your fingers flexing
round the collar of the robe
before you slip it
over you—
my breath
stolen
away
to look at you then–

Then I knew–
Byron had it wrong
with all his talk of night.
As did Botticelli
with his giant shell.
As I watched you
slip from bed
in the early morning light,
a word occurred,
just a word, a simple thought,
ran through my head,
I’ll not say it
for you’ll not believe it.

Since I can not give you
my eyes
with which to see,
and with your own
you see only flaws
and imperfections of time
magnified, as do we all, I know.
Yet add the all, the total,
the in and out of you
together,
you
standing there,
golden,
your fingers clutching
the collar of a silky robe–
my breath
stolen.

Had Byron or Botticelli seen,
perhaps then,
with their high art
and immeasurable talents,
it would have been captured,
as so many artists have tried
and failed to do.
Then you would see
Yourself with my eyes
that see—
in this soft, golden light of early morning,
a being of some ancient religion
who decided to take flesh
and walk the earth.

In a lifetime,
my words never capturing,
my talent far too small,
too paltry, too pedestrian
to ever encompass
all—
everything I see
in
everything I feel
for
the everything
you are

Shadows

In the shadows of the mountains

Where beasts have fled,

Leaving behind cloven hoof prints

In the inky muck of the forest floor

Beside the pristine waters of a rushing stream

Near the fading timberline here,

The scent of decaying pine bark and musk

On a faint icy breeze

Weaves all into the forest primordial.

Nothing human can be found

In a fear filled chest.