Tag Archives: presence

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.

Lazy Ovals

I’ve scolded my son for riding
the old green bike
(the one with training wheels that used to be his)
when he runs to get it before his little brother can,
riding it gleefully away from him.

Today, though, his brother wasn’t home;
so he pedaled slowly
around the driveway, pulled gently
at the duct-taped edge of the handle
as he rode.
I heard him talking softly to himself and
humming as he made lazy ovals
in the bright sunshine.

He kept going
until his sister called to him from the porch,
asked him what he was doing.

I heard the first words of the story
he began to make up,
then turned away so I wouldn’t
hear the end.

Streaked and Spotted

The kitchen window is streaked and spotted
on the outside from months-gone
summer rains.

The air has since turned frigid;
small birds flit & dance on the barren bush
just beyond the sill.

Inside, I stand resting
in the sun that streams through
just above the old porcelain sink.

The dishes are finished
and last wisps of steam rise;
the children are occupied with holiday gifts

as I forget for a moment
everything isn’t all right.

Another notebook fragment from December finally coalesces.

Keep Me Company

Winter’s early cold has gathered
steam against the windows,
softening the lights’ reflection.

Standing in the doorway,
I strain above the hum of the dryer
to hear my son
as he narrates his play by whisper
in the old claw foot bathtub.

I should be helping him,
but he hasn’t noticed me there,
and the teacup is warm in my hands.

Finally he stills and calls to me — Dad?
I thought you were going to keep me company?

Of course I am.
Of course I am.

At the Small Table

When I catalogue my regrets
at the end of the day,
I won’t include the moments we spent sitting
at the small table in the living room.

The old-fashioned fire whistle,
remnant of summoning volunteers
across the town,
punctured our long silence —

you picked up your head only briefly
from the sea-blue magic marker
before returning to your work,
tongue pressed in concentration
against your cheek.

We laughed gently about
a pair of dogs we could see
through the window
and across the street
jostling in the slanted afternoon sun.

You asked me not to leave —
yet there was never any chance;
my movement only a reach to the floor
for the morning’s leftover mug and a
sip of luke-warm coffee.

Tanka #9

rough stones and moss
made slick by humid air
gather fallen leaves —
unsure footsteps and silence
grace summer’s indecision

I have typically posted tanka accompanied, and inspired, by an photograph. The image here is in my mind only, placed there on a late summer, quiet afternoon walk through the woods, unaccompanied by my camera or technology of any sort. I was disappointed at first not to be able to capture the moment…yet the words can do it justice, and the feat is unattainable in any event.

Pride, Love, and Putting the Bucket Down

I was never more proud of my son than I was that day, just a few weeks ago. Thank goodness that has worn away, so I can keep loving him for who he is.

My wife and I have been working on a landscaping project at the house, converting a thousand-square foot area from grass to perennials and herbs. Grass never grew well in this south-facing area, and I am excited about having even more fresh flowers to cut in future years. As a part of the project, I decided to replace a section of fence with a dry stone wall and to install a border of paving stones between the driveway and this new garden.

A couple of weeks back, the day’s work involved digging a trench for the pavers, sixty feet long and about a foot wide. Being next to an old asphalt driveway laid on top of New England clay soil, there wasn’t much easy digging. As I went, I worked to save the small rocks that came out of the ground, since they would make good fill around the base of the stone wall. This meant sifting out the dirt and sorting the stones into different piles. One foot at a time, on a very warm August Saturday.

My son shuffled towards me relatively early in the day. Can I help, Dad?

I thought for a second about what he might be able to do. My initial reaction was that he wouldn’t be able to help. The pick axe is too heavy for him, I thought. The weight of stones themselves, while small, would add up quickly, and they needed to be piled a good fifty feet from where I was working. The wheelbarrow is too big for him to manage.

Sure, I said, still thinking. Go get a bucket, one of the big ones. And put some good shoes on.

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Summer Evening Wandering

Company is coming,
so I wander from room to room
putting things in proper places.

The night air is finally cool
as it drifts through the children’s windows —
I find reasons
to return magazines,
makeshift duct-tape wallets;
to drop off bracelets,
baby food jars filled with water and glitter.

I linger in each room,
the dim and waning light
shadowing small bodies as they sleep,
then turn toward the hallway
and the softness of an old
incandescent bulb
we can’t let go of
shining on the maple floor.

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.