Ancient Paths

A Poem by John Lee

previously published in The Dragon’s Letters

 

Geese know the ancient path

their parents laid out for them

in the sky.

When horses are born

the first thing they do is walk,

even if their legs are like water.

Animals seem to know what to do

when it’s time.

 

I remember the first time

a woman said, “Let me hold you.”

This was a path I could not remember.

I turned and twisted my body like a

colt leaving the birth canal.

Finally I fell into the deep grass of her arms.

I lay on my left arm

till it went sound asleep.

Unlike the newborn, I didn’t care if I ever

stood on my own two feet again.

Ophelia

A POEM BY JOHN LEE

A baby’s pink and shy blue hydrangea
sit like colorful lions guarding
her steps that were made out of
field stones.

The porch was, as we say here
in the South, wop-sided to
begin with, as much of life down
here is.

The whole house sat on these
same kind of stones just high
enough for old dogs and children
to crawl under to play and sleep.

The woman who lived there,
I am pretty sure her name was
an old Shakespearean one—Ophelia
I remember you now in your bonnet.

I remember your kindness to my
frail grandmother. Unlike hers, your
back was built by long hours
chopping and picking the cotton at ten
pennies for a pound.

I have no idea why you came
and visited me this morning
during my writing time but you
have been remembered and you are always
welcome to join me again.

A Thunderstorm in Mentone – a Poem for my Father

The wind is different tonight.

The leaves on the trees move easily.

Summer rain cleans the horses

grazing the wet grass in the pasture

across the road.

I saw lightning for the first time

in months. It looked like a ragged

tuning fork, and I felt the thunder

roll through my body.

Today, in a house a hundred miles

away I saw my father for the first

time in ten years.

He sat beside me with his bare shoulder

against mine as we looked at a map.

Years ago I would have wanted more to

happen and felt a disappointment,

but this meeting moved easily.

A part of me – the part that always wanted more

felt cleaned. The lightning comes

down in straight lines and then

separates into its tines. A tuning

fork is like that too.

We talked about mileage; then

he showed me the peas he’d grown in his

garden.

This is the most affection I am going

to get, I thought.

Today, this amount of affection was finally enough.

Asking the Important Questions – Part II: by John Lee

In celebration of my 65th birthday in October, I’m going to post a couple of poems – given that I still want to be a poet when I grow up. Also in October, to celebrate getting Social Security Retirement, I’m going to be more social than usual for a dyed-in-the-wool introvert.

I will be giving a public reading entitled WHERE THE LIGHT ENTERS: SPIRITUAL POETRY FROM EASTERN AND WESTERN TRADITIONS — with a few of my own poems on Sunday, Oct. 9 at 2 p.m. at the Moon Lake Community Library, located at 5866 E River Road in Mentone, Ala. 35984 (256-634-4113). I hope you all will come from the East and West Coasts, or at least the same county, to hear it.

I hope the library attendees, and my readers here, will like the poems.

I will go back to my more helpful posts next time.

Following, you will find “Asking the Important Questions” – Part II.

Thanks for your support.

SUMMER’S END

The sumac announces the truth

with its first flush of red.

In the evening the Canadian geese

say it loud and clear.

canadian-geese-2

The cicada’s mournful singing

announces summer’s end.

Nature tells itself when it is

time to let go.

Lovers should have such clear

changing colors and sounds.

Cold husbands and wives would

know when to head South.

We’d fly in formation right into

the warm wind of the future.

Asking the Important Questions – Part I: by John Lee

In celebration of my 65th birthday in October, I’m going to post a couple of poems – given that I still want to be a poet when I grow up. Also in October, to celebrate getting Social Security Retirement, I’m going to be more social than usual for a dyed-in-the-wool introvert.

I will be giving a public reading entitled WHERE THE LIGHT ENTERS: SPIRITUAL POETRY FROM EASTERN AND WESTERN TRADITIONS — with a few of my own poems on Sunday, Oct. 9 at 2 p.m. (Central Time) at the Moon Lake Community Library, located at 5866 E River Road in Mentone, Ala. 35984 (256-634-4113). I hope you all will come from the East and West Coasts, or at least the same county, to hear it.

I also hope the library attendees, and my readers here, will like the poems.

Following, you will find “Asking the Important Questions” – Part I.

I’ll go back to my more helpful posts next time.

Thanks for your support.

 

ASKING THE IMPORTANT QUESTIONS

I asked the mountains

So what do I do now?

“Sit down, be silent and

Wait like I have for a thousand years.”

I looked to the sled dog at my feet. cropped-blog-header-template1908x26002.png

“And you? Anything to contribute?”

“Learn to pull something

Ten times your own weight.”

I stared at the chess board,

“Sometimes the king is the first to go.”

And the novels on my shelf,

“Love has no clean-cut beginning, middle, or end.”

So I turned to the poet who said,

“Once you have loved someone

You will always love them and

All you can do is say, ‘amen.’”

 

Unbecoming: From Despair to Love-Part 4

“…I don’t mind you saying I’ll die soon, even in the sound of the word soon I hear the word, you which begins every sentence of joy…Ah, you’re a thief the judge said, ‘let’s see your hands. I showed him my callous hand in court. My sentence is a thousand years of joy.”

Robert Bly

Hope is the big brother to happiness who can bully the joy right out of us. Hope is the religious hole that was dug for many of us even before birth. “I hope it is a boy.” “I hope it is a girl.” We all hope whatever the gender that the baby is healthy. Then on heartbreak occasion that the baby is not healthy, still born, where does the hope go? I fell into the hope well, as did my former wife with each successive miscarriage—four to be exact. Way before that I hoped my dad would stop drinking a million years ago now. I hoped I’d marry Phyllis Bacon. I hoped and hoped and splashed around until I almost drowned in the world’s darkest wishing well.

Hope is a well-set bear trap that we set for others almost daily. The poet Rumi says, “I shoot an arrow to the left, it lands right. I go after a deer and get chased by a wart hog. I did a pit to trap others. I should be suspicious of what I want.” We provide even the people we love with just enough false hope or encouragement on towards the impossible outcome. Hope like happiness is a turtle trying to catch and pass the hare of our desires. Hope is always in pursuit of something being some other way than the way it is.

The Indian poet Kabir said it this way:

“I talk to my inner lover and say, ‘why such a rush…the truth is you turned away yourself and decided to go into the dark alone and now you are tangled up in others and forgotten what you once knew and that is why everything you do has some weird failure in it.”

homeless-850086_1920So we hope instead of have faith and wonder why love is so elusive in our lives and why “love” fails so often. One out of two marriages will end in divorce. Again the culprit is the searching, the scanning the crowds, looking for the lover out there hoping they are looking for us. Rumi say, “The minute I heard my first love story I went looking for you, not knowing how blind that was. Lovers don’t finally meet somewhere; they’ve been in each other all along.”

Hope is what keeps me from grieving what I once had hoping it will come back. Hope puts what we never had in a small box, wrapped and placed on the mantle above my fireplace. But it is this very grief work that “sorrow sweeps clean the house so joy may move in,” says the Persian poet.

Now put your hope in the wish for your prince to come and if he or she does then you’ll be happy. But when the mailman brings you the certified letter from the Prince saying “he is unavoidably detained and will not make it this lifetime” you’re right back in dark woods of despair. Burn the letter and the envelope it came in and let Faith turn all our heavy lead hearts through the alchemical fire into the pure gold of love.