Drop the Skin Face

I listen to the earth,
to the sound of the animal
that paws from within,
scratching at the door
for release into light.
How long it’s taken,
the miles of dream track
and forgetful busyness
while the scent of morning
had invited him out
for the pleasure of dirt.
I drop the skin face
and let the wolf loose,
his soft fur bristling
to roam and run free
in the winter wet forest
of sunlit desire.

 

 

 

photograph by Marc-Olivier Jodoin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reading of “Drop the Skin Face” with music by Robbie Robertson and Little Wolf


 


An Old Tree Falls

For Robert Bly

 

He had gotten old
last time I saw him,
hair thinned white
and walked with a cane
though he still
had fire in his belly.
He’d lit that fire for many,
bringing wildness
and passion
to the frozen inmates
of boredom.
We won’t find
another like him
until we drop
into the dark pool
of reflection
and recover the face
lying trapped
in deep water.

 

 

 

photograph by Manyu Varma

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reading of “An Old Tree Falls” with music composed by Turlough O’Caralan

 

 


 


Janitor in the House of Soul

I’m a janitor in the house of soul,
working each night with broom and mop,
pushing my old cart with dust rags and cleaners
through the dream time.
The body sleeps while I toil
vacuuming the worn books and tall shelves
filled with intricate records of relationship.
In winter months there are lots of visitors,
inquiring about family stories,
reading the how to books of salvation.
I’m not the librarian, only the janitor,
dusting the long tables and many chairs
for those who do the winter work.
You can spot the studious researchers
with bent shoulders and bowed heads
turning the yellowed pages of ancient tomes,
lips silently moving as they repeat their incantations.
I keep to myself, one hand on the cart
and one on the beads I carry and thumb,
hailing Mary and hallowed be the Father
while I mop the tears and scrawl a few notes
of those I’ve loved and forgiven
before the lights go out in morning.

 

 

 

photograph by Edward Leon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reading of “Janitor in the House of Soul” with music by the Memphis Sanctified Singers


 


Soul Kitchen

Down I go once more
into the soul kitchen
where the winter soup
is slowly cooking.
All the heartache
and worn out beliefs
of the living and long gone
simmer over a low flame
in the iron cauldron,
releasing the inedible
up the spirit flume,
melding the useful
by an ancient recipe
into what will feed
through solstice dark.

 

 

photograph by Louis MacKenzie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reading of “Soul Kitchen” with music by Huun-Huur-Tu.


 


Guided in the Dark

The ocean roared
with strong winds,
sheets of rain
and white capped waves.
I awoke in the night,
gusts shaking the cabin,
rattling my sleep, and now
in dim morning light,
I drop further
into winter’s cave,
wrapped in wool
and warm by the fire.
The ocean will have its way
for months to come,
driving storms
through the inland sea,
washing the dry islands
with streams of rain,
scouring the forests,
upending the beaches.
The time to go within
like burrowing otter
and dreaming bear,
to let the winter gods
guide us in the dark
that we might remember
and prepare our spirits
with the promise of new birth.

 

 

 

photograph by Louis MacKenzie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reading of “Guided in the Dark” with music by The Watersons


 


Walking Hand in Hand

Between the storms
thick clouds break
to reveal patches of blue
and light to the east.
The sound of the wind
diminishes to near quiet
leaving an absence to the ear,
a sense of what is coming.
We confirm with our eyes
yet it is the invisible wind
that moves the sea,
the ubiquitous spirit
that supports all living.
From the depth of darkness
and morning light,
in the rushing wind
and touch of the eternal
there is the power
to bridge despair.
The sea will part
despite our trailing enemies
and threats of impending doom.
We may lean on the staff of faith,
footsteps guided by an inner compass
centered in Zion and certain of Eden
as we walk hand in hand through the night.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reading of “Walking Hand in Hand” with music by Steve Earle.


 


Campground of His Ancient Home

Digging through the underbrush
he cut his way through thorns
to the clean swath of river.
Guarded by boulders
and shear stone walls
the blue green water
flowed protected and fast.
He laid down on the gravel beach
and drank from the river,
his thirst of many miles
defeating all ceremony.
In the far distance
he heard Grandfather’s
hi yoka hey calling to him
and the sound of Grandmother’s rattle.
He had come so far to meet them again,
to sit in their cornmeal circle
and know the truth of his battered spirit.
A cool wind blew down the canyon
refreshing his washed face,
causing him to look up
to the distance he had yet to go.
All doubt was gone
for he could hear them calling
and picking up his worn pack
he set off, gamboling the boulders,
ready to strike through any barrier
for the campground of his ancient home.

 

 

 

photograph by Louis MacKenzie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reading of “Campground of His Ancient Home” with music by Little Wolf


 


Hooked to Bedrock

Gray seas reflect the cloud filled skies
as autumn light begins to fade
along the northwest coast.
Winter cold is settling in;
winds increase into light gales
with only gull and crow
flying above the shore.
I draw in with the forest,
letting my soul find warmth
by the inner fire
as winter opens its story
without remorse or prejudice.
Shingles have blown from the roof,
a few windows crack
yet the four corners are strong,
the house unmoved.
Put your faith on the shifting tide
or far off horizon on summer days
but within the arms of winter
better to find your footing on stone,
hooked to bedrock like the old juniper,
shriven and worn by many years
while holding the grace of life
for the thankful earth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reading of “Hooked to Bedrock” with music by St. Petersburg Chamber Choir


 


Storing Honey

Quiet and still
the island rests,
summer’s movement
on land and sea
abated by the cool air
and shortened days.
Breathing in moisture,
exhaling in rhythm
with the trees,
I slow my desire
for motion and sound.
Layered like clouds
and deep as the mountain,
the one life will find me
at peace with the giants
beneath the earth,
storing honey in my soul
from the waning light
as the land turns down
into autumn.

 

 

 

photograph by Willard Walch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reading of “Storing Honey” with music by Ry Cooder and Ali Farka Toure


 


Time of Descent

Darkened clouds cover the valley,
welcome rains arriving
with the turn of season.
Gently comes the fall
as vibrant green fades
into russet and gold,
a quiet time, not a death,
a time of shedding leaves
and descent into root.
Even the old growth must yield,
allowing life force the way back
to the benevolent earth
where wisdom lies deep and still.
When we let go we fall
into arms of belonging,
embracing root and darkness
and the germs of new life
that await our resting souls.

 

 

 


photograph courtesy of Thomas Kast

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reading of “Time of Descent” with music by Jay Ungar