Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Swing low

The clerk at the hardware store has been there for years, and is well past retirement age, closer to eighty than seventy, slight and white of hair, and one of the friendliest, most helpful people you’ll meet — the quintessential old-time small town greeter and finder of whatever you need. He knows where it is, what it is, and what it is for, and will take you there to be sure it is exactly what you want. And if it isn’t, he shows you the next best thing, which is even better. And you leave the store feeling good. You are six years old, or ten, and you’re walking beside your father, after listening to the clerk and him having the very same conversation you will be having fifty or sixty years from now. Then it fades, and by that it remains, dolcissimo, the sweetest of sounds.

Sunday, May 20, 2018


I was born Sunday, May 20, at two-thirty in the afternoon. And I was born again this morning well before dawn, a little after three, which is earlier even than my regular habit. And one of the very first things that came to mind was the image of an old Muscat vineyard, a composite of all of the old Muscat vineyards I have known and seen from the road. I am in one now. I am a vine myself. Shaggy bark. A lizard on one arm, a sparrow on another, a horned toad where my truth meets the ground. And by Muscat standards, I am still quite young. By human standards, too. And who knows? Tomorrow I might be a redwood. Or a stone. And you?

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Light on the road to Devon

There is light on the road to Devon.

This, love, is our work.

North is west. East is south.

A blossom falls to earth.

There is light on the road to Devon.

And light is the word for birth.

Light, on the road to Devon.

Sweet shadows. Dark.

Note: By way of an explanation, this poem, like any and every other thing, is an answer of a sort. Devon could be Heaven. North could be south. East, west. Dark, mirth. But love is always love. Of this you can be sure.

Friday, May 18, 2018

A porch so large, a field so small

The irises are in bloom — the powdered faces, the simple and small, the elegant ladies, the bearded old men, the fragile royal court, the hearty proud masses, the fable, the conquest, the blue haiku.

Bird-track calligraphers. Scent-wise hounds. Time to put away your grandmother’s quilt.

A porch so large it could be a field. A field so small it could be you, and the distance it reveals. For you contain multitudes, and are born to wander in this strange truth.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Long time passing

Said the man, I am storyteller, story, and listener all in one.

As am I, a voice replied. It was his own, and it was not his own.

There is a field of flowers there now.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Peppers and letters

At the hardware store, one of the local chapters of the FFA is selling vegetable plants to raise money. This morning we bought two beautiful jalapeño plants in four-inch pots. Our garden is already planted. There was really no room for more plants, so I planted them in a small space where there is almost room. It’s the same thing I do with books, and why I had no problem at all finding a place to put these new arrivals:

The heart of creation

Ants, hills. Bees, hives. Termites, mounds. Birds, nests. Beavers, dams. Humans, cities. The list goes on and on. Is one more perfect or more beautiful than another? I think not. Neither do I think humans are flawed. Humans are what they are, just as whales are what they are, and trees and rocks and stars. If nature is not flawed entirely, then it is perfect in its glory and variety just as it is, is it not? And if we decide or choose to believe otherwise, and to later abandon those decisions and beliefs, that is all part of what makes us human. Things change. We change. That is the heart of creation — to make and be remade. Someday we might even dispense with worldwide theft, poverty, and war. The thought exists. The dream. In the meantime, we have love. We have art.

Bentley and Bobo

A cool, calm, cloudy morning. The record high temperature for yesterday’s date was ninety-five degrees, in 2006. A real cucumber-cooker. The record low was thirty-three, in 1932. Perfect for milk bottles on the front step.

My father could tell you without hesitation how many weeks old the kittens or puppies were. I always forgot. Six weeks could have been six years.

Once, back around 1970, we had two cats that liked to watch us prune in the vineyard. They would perch on top of the redwood grape stakes like silent gray owls.

A couple of years later, my brother and I found a small stray untrimmed poodle. We brought it to the house and fed it for a few days until its health and confidence were restored. Then a man who lived on the same road a mile east of us took it home to live with his family. My brother called the dog Bentley. I don’t remember the man’s name.

I do remember the birthdays and telephone numbers of many of my childhood friends and schoolmates. One friend had a dusty old boxer named Bobo, a word that has meant, still means, or has come to mean a lot of things in a lot of different languages.

The moment after a man takes his last breath, there is a forever of divine notice. Will there be another? Will there be a shudder, a sigh, one last word?

I am like an old plow. I know the way. I am willing to go. No need to pull. Easy to turn at the end of the row. Gleaming now, polished by the soil.

Monday, May 14, 2018


Having finished the Virginia Woolf biography, as noted earlier today, it would probably have made sense to dive into The Mrs. Dalloway Reader. Instead, I started the first volume of four of Hours in a Library, a collection of essays about books and writers by Leslie Stephen, Virginia Woolf’s father. That also makes sense. The first essay is called “De Foe’s Novels.” So far, so good.

None of this, of course, is as important as what happened after lunch. I was starting out on a short walk when I met the neighbors next door, who were only too pleased to introduce me to their sleeping twelve-day-old daughter, Stella, who is six pounds two ounces of perfection. Her tiny fingers and bare toes — I nearly wept when I saw them, so beautiful they are. And her face — if she were a doll, she would inspire little girls and little boys to play house the world over. Her brother, too, was thrilled — couldn’t resist tickling those toes. “She sleeps all the time,” he wanted me to know. And of course I did know, and do.