The Light Is So Unexpectedly Bright




The light is so unexpectedly bright
For this season of the year
The joy that rises when we hear
Those first light notes
of spring sparrow
Comes early now
while stiff, hard cold
still lingers
In the night.

What if winter never comes again
Will we remember
the crystal of the snow
The way it makes a show
Of whiteness
Of such purity
That delights us by what it conceals
And what it reveals
Of light and delight
Of cold faces
Of races
On sleds down hills
Crunching with the cold

What if winter stays always with us
And we must burn wood all the year
Will we fear what we hear
In the night
Will we shiver when we know that the fuss
Of the baby
In the cold cannot be told
To our soul
from despair.
Will we care?
Will our lives
still be dear?

Yes. Whatever comes
We are who we are.
We are part of all this.
We are the same as we were
Through the ice and the heat.
Through the wars and the droughts
Through the bitter and the sweet
What we will do
We will do.
But the earth will not be through.



In The Soft Darkness




Memories of beauties past

Are buried deep

Down twisting tunnels

In some dripping limestone caves

Where they seep

Through still clear waters


Till, from the darkness

Coy, as if in playful hiding

A hidden edge will glitter


As if asking to be found

Friendships forged and then forgotten

Fields of light on golden trees,

Floating seeds like snow of cotton

A dance, a whirl,

An eye that shoots

a flame of love

through all those flying winds of time

To burn again a pathway

Through my rhyme.

We lie together in the dark

While thoughts rise up

like feeding fish

In  warm waves

left from making love

that lap along our shores

When all things flow with ease

In the softness of the night.

These bits of beauty reappear

Attached by threads

of tenderness

Pulled up to taste the water

By some softness of the light.

Yet memories of sad mistakes wait

In easy reach

savage tigers ever

at the edges of  our sight

Any moment they will growl

and snarl with terror

and with might.

As we walk along

our well-lit paths

they lash out and they bite

Their horrid teeth

Can leave us maimed and raw and scraped

Writhing on the ground.

And then from there

Pursue us even

in the moonless desert

Of the night

My body

Which has carried children

In some hidden place

Where the warmth that grew within my heart

Swelled them into form

And that first child now has carried two

In the womb that came from womb.

This body made of meat and bones and air

Is still tall and straight and warm

My heart still pumps blood in steady beats

And sends cells in steady swarm

Through legs that still will move below

As far as I will dare to go.

When I was young and held

That first child

in my womb

There was a concert in a room

In the city where I lived

A city full of gleaming white

and government

And twice as much of black.

In a great hall with people packed in tight

Women drummed on big clay drums

They’d brought back 

from someplace on that continent

from which we all have come.

They brought deep inside themselves

Alll that they had learned

From th women of a tribe

who  kept the knowing of those times

that are older than the old

Who knew the emanations

That unfold

From vibrations in the stillness of each cell

From that space that lies within.

Here, lying in this room

I still feel the echoes of those drums

In my now long- empty womb.

I may not climb steep mountains

Or run the miles

that once have passed beneath my feet

I may be too far away to hug my daughter’s daughters tight

Yet my hands still pull the weeds from earth that does not wish

To let them go.

My feet can push a shovel deep enough

To plant a tree

I carry logs and could split them if I would

I ride a bike for miles, perhaps in pouring rain.

If needed, I could sleep in tents out on the ground.

I do not care so much if there are pains

As long as I can sleep and dream.

My grandmother was not of my blood

But of my heart

When I see her first, deep in grottos

Of my mind

Her soft form

Draped in shapeless floral cloth,

Yellowed apron tied high above the waist

She waits up high

at the top of some steep stairs

Whose wooden boards

I still can feel beneath my feet

and whose air was made

Of wafts of smoke from burning slag.

I climb to her,

my parents climb behind

She gathers me in folds of flowers

Smelling not of summer fields

But of the meat of cooking stew.

Which drifts also through that rusty screen

Nailed years before

on that front door

Whose peeling wooden frame

waits for my small hand

To reach the wooden knob

and pull so hard

That eagerness will propel me

Almost backwards in this game

to tumble, laughing

in those warm and flowered skirts.

And then through into that one big room

Where all is shared in this rough home,

the oval table covered with a cloth

A monster of an iron stove

that burned the dirty coal

From the mines beneath the town

And a wooden rocking chair

Where I could sit in that big soft lap

And hear the strange words travel back and forth

Across some enormous space

from mother to grown son, my father,

in some language with a music

so nearly understood.

While lunch bubbled softly in big pots

On the stove that clicked with heat.

And soon, she will take me by my hand

And lead me up more stairs

to  two small bedrooms on the floor above.

In the first, her dresses trapped on wire,

hang along a wall.

No closet here, just fabric drawn across.

And a high wide bed with stool to climb

and plop myself on feather beds

where she and I will sleep.

And there, on the pillow to the left

I’m sure to find the fabric horse with mane and tail of yarn

Always of a different cloth. Eye bright with yellow thread.

She will neigh to me. And as I have done before,

I’ll grab this new fine mare

and hold her close.

Already, in my mind, she has become

A member of the small herd

That waits for her back home.

There was only once

I ever saw my father cry

It was the day she died,

When I saw him, in the small dim kitchen

Of our familiar home,

lean suddenly back

As if too weak to stand

And brace against

The cold white metal fridge

He sobbed.

The tears flowed and he could not

Even think to cover up his face

with hands I knew so well.

Yet, he could not but show

His face so raw, so open,

That I dared hardly look.

They traveled to see her buried

Leaving me behind

But I got my natter in

With my daring scheme

Of climbing through a basement window

WIth a willing friend

And making such a mess

The two of us, just eight,

Dared each other to such brave acts of gluttony

in that quiet kitchen, out of bounds.

Called to dinner,

We left dishes smeared with chocolate cake,

And ice cream melting on the ground.

So it was when they returned,

TIred out and worn

with all that drinking

Of vodka toasts, the tears, the tales

The uncles and the aunts

that take and take

They could not just sit in peace at last

But must feel instead the anger blast

The disappointment surge

And I the shame

Of that mistake.

Where am I in all this shifting imagery

of human minds

Grandmothers of all kinds

We move about as if on some huge and

Checkered board where chess is being played

The queen that travels every way

Through space

And also time.

Grandmother now, I lie awake

Floating on these tides of love

Wending my way along the paths

My spirit chose to take

While the tigers, for these moments,

Slumber tamely as the dove

And the rhythm of my lover’s breath

Lifts me in its wake.



This morning in being still
For maybe a moment or two
Everything was achieved

All that wanting
All that noise
Bothering my body
Constantly crowding this mind
all day long
and maybe
Into the night
And in the silence
I accomplished
the whole of my life’s work.

When my mother was settling down
Into her last sleep
She murmured,
“I have accomplished”
And in floating away on the tide
Into the vast ocean of stillness
She found that that was that
And smiled.

What I find in the silence
Is that all this activity
All these mistakes
All this awkwardness and floundering
Is magnificent.

I swim in it.
I give way to what I am and
what is becoming of all that
in this moment
As in the waters of hot sulfurous springs
we find again the flowing emptiness,
the joy of finding we are nothing
All the noise we have drawn in
to make our way
wherever we have come to
is gone.

As when, in those days
and days without endings
between the worlds,
we floated in stillness
Beginning only now and then
To sense somehow
through the beating rhythm
Of everything we knew
to feel the vibrations
that would eventually
capture our soul.

I Sleep for You

I sleep for you, my beloved,
My darling one,
I sleep for you when you do not sleep
When your love for another keeps you awake
Hanging on the sound of her breath.

I take a remedy for the pain in my head
That took up residence
During a night of sobbing
For your pain.
It penetrates the membranes of separation
To ease the searing in your head
You have no choice but to endure.

I sing to you the songs I sang
When you dozed in the crook of my arm.
The Broadway tunes,
The song about a blackbird singing in the night
Knowing it will ease the flow
From day to dark.

I breathe in light and breathe out strength
Straight Into your lungs, into that body you drag
From one act of love to another
All day long, one day after another
With no rest.
I breathe for you.
Long, greedy breaths
Filled with life.

I walk through the forest,
Seeking beauty for you
Filling your nose with drafts of moist earth,
Filling your aching spaces
With he music of the pure blue sky
The vibrating gold of an autumn leaf
As it flutters down.
I drawn it in, deep, so deep,
and fill you with it all.

It is you who are seeing it, you who are smelling it
You who hear the slight call of a bird
Fluttering into winter
As the wind moves all the leaves
Of burnished umber
In a dance that enchants your every fiber.

It is you, my beloved, whose cells multiplied
Here inside this body.
Now as then, I breathe for you,
I cover your feet in the middle of the night
Without thought
When I am cold
As my mother did for me
As you do for the bodies that emerged
From the chemistry of cells
Deep within the earth of you.

My blood nourishes you
As the sunlight coming through my window
Here in another faroff land
Penetrates our eyes.
Laughing, breathless with joy
I hear my heart crack
And break from all moorings
As when a rock cliff splits
WIth the unending force
of wind and water.

And again I break away
From all I know of me
Flooded with these hot tears
Of molten love.


For Beauties Lost



I cried today
For beauties lost, small moments passed
Sifting through as if an hourglass
Each grain shining as the force of time
Pulls along without a sign
That it too will fall from view
To be caught in well-springs deep within
Where it will glitter briefly
When light slants through, bright and true
And pulls tears of joy and loss
From a heart full since broken
More than twice

My daughter stands by some device
In front of rows of chairs and wooden stage
Violin to chin, making music sing
At some young age,
Such sweetness danced behind my eyes
That tears welled up and I wept
For such a moment deeply kept
Somewhere hidden within a cell
Where only dreams are said to dwell.

And then the moment when,
Having watched and run and breathed
With such abandon on the grass
The ball at last with one swift pass
Arrived just where he’d known it should
My blond young son had kicked it straight
With a slight lithe leap, it flew so neat
And so direct to find
The middle of that net.
Bouncing back, we clapped so hard and cheered
My heart so filled with beauty it was seared
Forever, soaked with love within my mind.

And now, in this moment where I sit
I hear the liquid strains of violin
Coming from a box within
this box that seems to move me right along
Driving past woods themselves alive with song
Blossoms drip from apple trees
Where savage flowers in random beauty grow
Below, so many forms I’ll never know

The liquid that has touched my cheeks
Is that which makes all essence flow
Amidst this green that spring makes grow
I drown in some sweet sorrow
We’ll call love.

My Sorrow Speaking

Travesties unseemly

Small and unremarked as may be

Separating  skin from skin,

The longing lover from beloved

and from love itself.

Tearing at us, clawing.


We are awed and appalled

At the stupefying ignorance of it all.

Of that lying, of that dying

Of the spirit, of the soul


Suspended; not above and not below

And for certain, not within.

Somewhere we are shuddering,

Cowering in our crib.

The world in spin, we cannot move

To stop what is.


Holding fast at last

To some beauty we have seen,

For some brief and shining time.

What we have known to be real,

not some remote ideal.

Searching in the darkness in our chest

for something more

We can see it, shimmering and fine

Faint as if a star at rest

Surviving still that searing fire

Burning at its core.


Insistent,  clinging still around us 

scandalous, yet well outside

Those tender, seemly confines

Of morality and sensibility

Of comparison, of rejection or ejection.

Sordid beyond what we know of degradation

Of what we  learned of abnegation

Of refusal; inadmissible.


All has flown 

To a place so distant

from what we call our home.

The familiar, the known simplicities

The scents, the sounds

that echo in our soul.


Stop! We cry again. Just stop!

But it has not the will to shudder

And be done.

It must have the floor

For all there is to say, and more.


Mind unwound, we find we too have sinned.

So we will stand and cry aloud

And find forgiveness 

In the swirling

of the wind.





The Waxing Moon

There is a time when gold of moon

becomes so rich in hue and light

there is nothing that could

in any way 

surpass this beauty.


And, as it glides so imperceptibly 

toward the darkness of the mountain 


the sorrow of the moment 

becomes so hard to bear;

such sadness that this beauty 

will so soon vanish 

and  will never again 

be this.


And then the morning light begins

to touch the tops 

of those same dark hills 

And turns the bare trees of winter 

to such a deep and burnished gold

the skies themselves

tremble ‘round their edge with awe

as they in turn become suffused

with a brilliant and vibrating blue 

as never before 

was seen.


Oh, what to do! Oh, what to do!

Can any moment become 

an infinity in itself?

Can time be stopped 

and nothing else 

be added to this instant

But expand forever only

and  be deepened ?






The wind in the autumn trees fills the air

With an ease that settles deep

Into the waiting land

Filling it with  the beauty it will store 

Through the times of chill and darkness

Just as it settles like grains of golden light

Into the widest spaces

Deep within me 

Where the expanse of earth 

And stars and wind and sunlight

All reside.


Here, in a last wave of beauty

Before bare winter

Brings its black and browns 

To linger soft against the  green of firs,

A golden tapestry unfolds across the hills

As full of light in pouring rain and flowing mists 

As when the sun breaks through in evening

Just before the dark.


Take it as a sign 

that we are here in light and darkness, both

Reflecting light through every pore

Storing light, as do the leaves.

Releasing light

In that approaching night.


This Girl

She is so tall now
Hair flowing down
in such luxurious waves
over her shoulders.

I cannot feel which rib
She would touch
If I were now to I pull her to me
And kiss her head.

She has cried and felt shame
struggling with a class
She sees only on a screen
Like the children’s programs
she has watched
In that same rectangle
For all the days
She can remember.

She has tried to understand
what is being required 
somewhere in a location
remote from any connection
to her heart.

Life was hard enough
to navigate at six.
Now this.

In captured moments of sheer grace
In the midst of lives
squeezed tight
by our designated protectors
she has taught me
how to draw pictures
of dresses and walking hearts
And flowers.

We, yearning to touch each other,
Peering over the edge
of what separates us
by thousands of miles
Hoping to see the whole of the life
That is trapped there
In the small flat picture
There before us
Made real by our imagination.

Yearning to smell the skin, the fragrance of the cooking
To turn and catch some glimpse
of what is seen by that other
that we take on faith

Trying not to say how much the pain of separation
Is crushing that space
within our chests
Knowing at each moment
we cannot hold each other
Cannot turn to see the life
In which the other swims.

She has taught her little sister
almost all she knows
They have played for hours in their tiny home.
She has driven her mother to cry
from exhaustion
and confusion
and fear.

They have hugged
and consoled each other
More times than could be counted.
We all are still alive
and growing.
Many now are not.

Hearts have been torn to shreds
In some infinity of variations
Over the eons of our existence.
How will all this pain
now transform us
As its waves wash all around us
In this ocean
of  existence.

The tide is crushing some here
And leaving some there
Safe to ride the next
Inexorable force
And try their luck.

What will heal and teach us
and which wounds
Will leave us
now too weak to stand
and pass our love
One to another.
And hold each other
And let real wisdom

Malik, Al Mulk

The universe is present in a footstep

on the soft leaf cover 

of the ground.


And with the next still muffled step, 

endlessness nestles quietly

in some secret expanse 

in that space 

I call my heart,

spreading with no bounds

in the darkness there.

In that exquisite hush.


A darkness that when truly sensed

Is yet the most intense of light.

Light before it becomes light

Light without source


Light that is filled with only light.

Where all the stars and planets whirl

In their silent 

and majestic flight.


There, in just that moment

of the certain placement of a foot 

on the yielding forest floor.