Tag Archives: daughters

Touching the Heart Mind

I finished work early today,
walked out of the office
I built in my barn
into a cool afternoon.

I took the clippers from the
upstairs linen closet and
cut my hair with the shortest blade.

There were still a few errands to run
before I came to sit here in our kitchen,
distracted by house sounds and
typing out a home-leaving poem
for sesshin,

where I’ll sit with the sangha,
alone together
under autumn skies.

Cloud Formations

Three poems —
one about the love
in a small bag of pistachios —
and two works of prose
sit unwritten in my notebook;

the spaces aren’t big enough.

Yet, finally,
as the sun rises,
I call my daughter
out to the front steps
where we sit and talk about
yesterday’s and the morning’s
cloud formations
and what they may tell us
about the weather to come.

She watches her own breath
in the cool morning air,
describes the difference between
cirrus and altocumulus,
and asks me my favorite.

How the Children have Grown

He means well and offers connection
when he remarks how the children have grown,
that it won’t be too long before they aren’t around.

My daughter blinks her eyes
while my son mouths to me that
it isn’t true.

My own sense of the truth of his words
doesn’t make them welcome in the moment
of which they are now an indelible part.

She’s Rearranged Her Room

She’s rearranged her room
and proudly invites her father
to admire the work.

It makes up most of her world
on this summer afternoon —
careful placement of
well-worn friends,
books for reading
in the pillowed corner,
a place she has reserved for
hide-and-seek
just behind the bed.

If you lie right there
you can reach the fan, she tells him.

Turn it on, she says —
it smells just like the outside.

Her father looks out the window
as he turns the switch,
the ancient glass curving the view
across the lawn.

It really does, he replies,
tasting in that breath,
just for a moment at
the back of his throat,
the back of his memory,

his own childhood
rearranged room,
just-so and steady.

Ten

Her ears glowed bright red
when she returned home,
newly pierced earrings
gracing either side of her
bright eyes and shy smile.

I wished that we had taken her picture
in the morning,
but we hadn’t planned
for this to be the day —
just gone ahead when she asked,
following through on a months’ old promise.

As I watched her through the kitchen window
my wife told me about how
brave she had been.
We reminisced about that cold winter
when we had walked her back and forth
between her bedroom and ours,
soothing her newborn tears.

She came inside to tell me
she had seen the first snow drops,
or at least their green shoots
peeking through the icy leftovers
of the latest storm.

That’s where I’m going to build my fairy house,
she told me.

She ducked back outside
and leaned against the post on the porch,
filling an old seashell with greenery,
her legs outstretched
in the pale sun and
whispering quietly to herself,
perhaps about the moment,
or maybe about
all of her ten years.

(A found companion piece to Almost Eight)

Shiny Rocks

I’ve gained nothing
from the practice,
instead losing some
of what I used to have.

What I looked for isn’t here.

Still fearful,
bitter at separation —

but, too,
softened against the day
and quicker to tears.

My daughter’s pockets
are filled with shiny rocks,
just like mine.
 

A Small Book of Poems without a Shelf

Clutter has built up
around the edges of the room.

Facing the altar,
I can not see it,
but the gravity
of its accumulation
pulls me backward
toward the west window.

It isn’t much –
an iron, a board,
and hangers from the morning;
my daughter’s cloth cuttings
spilling from a box she has
decorated in tissue paper;
a small book of poems
without a shelf;

remnants awaiting
places to fit
just so.
 

The Lure of Accomplishment

My teacher often says that Zen is not a self-improvement project. And it isn’t. But it has changed me. I have noticed that I spend a lot less time planning my career, thinking about my degree, or fretting about how much money I’ll end up with. For that matter, I’ve pretty much let go of any idea of enlightenment beyond what I already have. Yet it seems that I still get caught up in trying to accomplish things – they’re just much smaller.

My mother stopped by on Sunday to spend some time with the kids. She and my daughter sat animated at the kitchen table, chairs pushed close together. They were piecing together a plastic cup, sponge, string, and some googly eyes, making a toy my daughter first made when she was she was five or six years old. If you wet the sponge, squeeze it tightly around and slide it down the string just so, it sounds an awful lot like a gobbling wild turkey.

(I am completely enamored of my daughter’s love for this sort of thing. She’s almost 10. I sometimes catch myself realizing that I expect her to be older by now, and that I’m so happy she’s not. But that’s mostly another story.)

This was just the sort of moment that I complain about not having the chance to witness or be present to. The possibility of being with my family, absorbed in something together, absorbed each others’ company. Except that I didn’t join them. I stood right there, leaning up against the butcher block counter, thinking about getting the lawn mowed one last time before winter, about getting the family budget balanced, about the need to roll out insulation in the attic and fix the broken glass in the window up there.

So much to accomplish.

There is real suffering in the desire for the moment to be something other than what it is, for it to be simpler. And there is a sense of impossibility in these moments, too.¬†Graciously accepting what a moment has to offer could mean dropping away my own concerns and being fully present with my wife or child. But it also must mean accepting the part if me that feels the conflict, that part that is pulled away by a nagging mind wanting to do and to accomplish. In the world of emptiness, one isn’t better than the other. In the world of form, of fatherhood, of the kind of impermanence that means childhood years are short, I sure know which one I prefer.

For all of the regret that I might muster on my drive to work or in the quiet hours after bedtime, though, that moment in the kitchen has already passed.¬†Zen practice is very reliable in that all that it asks me to do is to sit down. Perhaps there is no answer to the lure of accomplishment, either, but to sit down – or stand up, or run around – and play when someone comes asking. The small change may come. Or it may not. But I’ll be there.