The Poet at Sunrise

The poet emerges at sunrise:
alone, as always, and without plan;
when else can he perceive the way
the lark’s sudden departure sends
a crown of halos rippling toward the bank?
His words cast common objects
in an unfamiliar light,
finding sacredness in the profane
and humor even in darkness.
“Yes,” we say,
“it is just like that, isn’t it?
We humans are a funny lot,
and much the same.”

Daylight belongs to the merchants,
the farmers, the tradesmen:
practical men with calloused hands,
theirs is not a life of glamour, but
they keep the world humming along
in good time and good taste
(that is, until the politicians –
who rush forward in late afternoon –
insist to show them all a better way);
busy, busy, is the day –
too busy for an unhurried thought
or unsuspected flash of genius,
too bright its rays.

The philosopher emerges at twilight
to remind the world what it has lost.
“Now we long for the return
of what we once despised…”
His warning is spoken too late, but
he writes the epitaph of the epoch,
understanding in hindsight
what was happening all along.
“We thought ourselves too clever,
building castles out of sand…
Ah! Alack! And what remains?”

The artist appears in the moonlight,
untroubled by the fall of empires;
somehow he knows humanity will survive
this latest apocalypse.
The passing era has left at his disposal
more than enough fragments:
shards of marble and of clay
to be sifted through and studied
till he can fashion a new way:
“Bold! Revolutionary! Daring!” they exclaim,
as skepticism fades to praise.

The poet emerges at sunrise…

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Clocks

As morning light declares the sun’s slow climb —
how now, my dear, will we mark the time?
An hour in your arms alone can be
an eternity that passes, too quickly…

No watch, however cleverly composed, can show
the weight I feel as I watch you go;
nor hourglass, with sinking sands insist
that I depart, or you resist…

Don’t circle me with clocks! their lulling lies —
and I will read my future in your eyes;
don’t speak of evening, or of afternoon;
these pained promises never come too soon…

Just stay with me, and claim our meeting’s powers
to overthrow the tyranny of hours.

A Tree in Winter

Winter has come to this place
and I to it am bound, finding not
one last brilliant leaf believing
it would never grace the ground.
Traversing a cold so still, the only sound
our trampling, in clumsy sacrilege,
shriveled foliage that just weeks ago
filtered autumn light
like glass stained by the master’s hand,
now crunching to dust under our boots.

The chorus of insects has departed, and
the maiden retreated to her bed –
shedding her evening finery
like so much heavy luxury,
dropping the jewels from her head.
This tree in summertime contains
a universe of life: each layer a ring,
and yet today all that remains
is scaffolding.

But old roots run deep, and soon
the sun in its course will linger once again
upon these barren branches
to coax the buds of spring.
Nature’s choir will arise
to call the maiden from her dreams,
and out of the dust of planets
new life will emerge to build
another universe of green.

Today – A Poem

Today

When I was a child I saw the world
through eyes that shone with every color –
of turquoise, emerald, crimson, gold,
and each rich shade of sister and brother.
But when this vision grew too bright,
I made myself a private night.
Dark shades I wore to block the day –
Today I decided to put them away.

When I was a child I heard the world
as songs the swallows sing each other,
of wisdom sought and stories told,
the private joys of passing strangers.
But when the voices of the street
brought forth demands I could not meet,
I wrapped my ears with heavy cloth –
Today I decided to cast them off.

When I was a child my hands were free
To skim the grasses as I ran –
and laughter sprang up naturally
without concern for price or plan.
But when my fate I could not know,
then did my doubts begin to grow.
No longer to carry ’round and ’round –
Today I decided to put them down.

Today I held my child’s hand
And in it found a new command:
Ears to listen, eyes to see
Hands empty, heart free.

The Parable of the Wall

There was a wall of wood and stone
that all could touch but none could own.
It rose up like a fortress made
to guard the village in the glade
and show the hungry their way home.

How old was it? No one knew;
but in its shade the stories grew:
tales of danger and disguise,
songs of heroes brave and wise,
forgotten fables learned anew.

Along the wall the children chased
each other round in fun and haste,
then paused to pick the berries red
that grew among its leafy bed,
‘fore back along the path they raced.

Old men went to the wall to pray
and thank the Lord for one more day:
to rest their bones in gentle shade,
and call to children when they strayed,
recalling days when they did play.

What hand did build it tall, and when?
That of God, or those of men?
And what lay past its skyward heights:
a paradise of strange delights?
None could answer, now as then.

A voice began to call for change,
the ancient ways to rearrange:
‘The other side we need to see
to grasp our divine destiny,
for only then can we be free.’

‘No longer shall we run and hide,
No old man’s laws or rules abide!
Let’s raise our hammers, tear it down—
so we can run for miles ‘round!
Our hope lies on the other side.’

The old warned of traditions tossed,
but they were frail; their words were lost.
The healthy could not break their swing—
too busy with the harvesting
to contemplate the unknown cost.

So hammers swung and stones rained down
until they hit the dusty ground.
The sun shone through where once had stood
a wall of blood and stone and wood,
but paradise was nowhere found.

Instead the people gasped in fright;
their eyes beheld a grisly sight:
a barren land where nothing grew,
but monsters leapt and demons flew,
as daytime blended into night.

The guilty perished in the jaws
of brutal beasts, but in their claws
the children young, and old men too
were gathered up as off they flew
with not a warning or just cause.

Then fathers wept and mothers cried,
too late to stop their town’s demise.
They patched the hole but not before
a hundred died and many more
were taken to the other side.

So listen close and listen fast;
respect the lessons of the past:
not every wall is to confine,
not every law a needless line,
but some to help true freedom last.