Forest Home

I have chosen to come here to this place, bleak
and dry and windblown after the harshness of winter;
the land has been in isolation too, as it perpetually will
uncomplainingly, year following year, why do we humans
resist it so? The is-ness of life is a thing we have to remind
ourselves of, lest we forget all is in divine order;

The elk are out most mornings, grazing and moving further
toward the denser Ponderosa forest, following seasonal
dictates of their species; boundary fences notwithstanding,
they leap and bound over all but the highest barrier
and I rejoice that I have spotted, just this morning,
the places they bed down at night and traverse the terrain
we are now privileged to steward for what time it is ours;

What are our collective impulses and dreams? Have we
lost all sense of feet planted on earth, pulse of the planet
drawing us this way and that, moving in herds or alone
as befits the calling (and we are summoned, no mistake),
yet I arrived here in the midst of a global pandemic edgy,
unsure we had done the right thing, planning a move
from our lush Hawaiian landscape to this high desert
that once captivated with pungent scents of sage
and juniper, pine and cedar, magical carpet of cones
and needles and quartz scattered as if nature intended
nothing so much as delight;

Without courage we are lost, without faith we lack
a compass, without taking chances, we miss
opportunities that await the global citizen for whom
this collective in-breath provides pause to reflect
on the quality of choices made daily in a life
meant simply for us to breathe deeply
and enjoy the journey.

 

Dreaming Awake

I had to look twice, glancing
out the kitchen window as the flutter
of a mynah bird’s jet black wings
jogged my vision into memory,
the giant frond of a Queen Emma lily
flung carelessly by a kicking wind,
bent not broken into a shape resembling 
the appendage of a giant blue heron,
yet how could that be, here in Hawaii?

From one shore to the next,
one continent of time sliding
into present tense, images juxtapose
into a full fantasy life, fronds and wings,
shadows of pterodactyls still roaming
the earth, nothing ever really vanishes
as some aboriginal tribes would vouch,
though we can claim obliteration;

Reach back and forward into the now
of memory, let the mind slip and slither,
producing its own version of what
is perceived, and it might astound you
or not; yet how can one explain the impulse
to wander out to affirm, grounding self
in solidarity, or is all but illusion?

Sand Crabs

The ocean pulls up, pulls away, hisses,
leaving tiny air holes in the sand;
I am fourteen, in love with creation,
full of life and dreaming possibilities;

Still on the beach I lie, slim belly
pressed down against earth’s beating heart,
looking not at the tossing sea, the foam
and sand sucking out with the tides;

I am watching instead the minutae
as it dances before my bright brimming eyes
trained on a world underfoot, place familiar
and yet not, Alice’s drink-me bottle
clutched in my imagination;

Out of tiny cavities pop the crabs,
size of my thumbnail, eyes swiveling
on longish stems, scuttling sideways
to a clear and shining surface;

What they are about I will never know,
for in the blink of a moment, back they dart
to the safety of the known and commence,
tiny clawfuls at a time, to toss up overhead
the sand encroaching upon their inner sanctum;

Then once again the sea washes ashore,
sweeping hand over flat hand,
smoothing sand free of footprints
while the crabs, for all I know,
seek retreat in the epicenter
of the earth.

all photos ©2020 Bela Johnson

Of Death and Magic

Cracking through his crusty skin,
the butterflies await therein;
In trembling light, antennae perched
in front, ahead, and primed to lurch;

The quavered sense that life’s amiss
somehow obscures the hours of bliss;
the chores and drudge originate,
perspective laid upon his plate;

It stretches out, then snaps again
around a fix-ed clutch of ken,
persona-non-so gratified as truth
confirmed with startled eyes;

The darkness plunges overhead,
a trembling, aching fear and dread;
As sensate options push and shove,
pure mercy fills him with its love;

The spell is cast, illusion broken,
he lives no more like pawn or token,
and from a trusting, willing mind
white magic steals in from behind.

Butterfly House, Botanical Gardens, Albuquerque, NM ~ 2019 Bela Johnson

Whisper

Before the brief but long breath of lifetimes
was profound silence, and if sounds were apprehended,
they were but whispers compared to the chaos most
have come to accept as the new normal;

Before memory, arrived humans and wild creatures
and whooshing winds, lapping briny waters caressing
pristine sands strewn with strands of brightly frilled
emerald kelp, thundering waves lashing rocks
and promontories, scooping away scuttling crabs
and tiny bright fishes marooned in sun-warmed tidepools;

Our hearing has become dulled and a rushing sound
lingers when din is relinquished to wilderness, eyes
maladjusted to nighttime perceptions, fearing darkness
despite the thrill of a million stars blazing overhead,
hoot of a horned owl or the scream of panther, howl
of coyote or swooshing bats in flight;
all the world is calling our body back into unity
with itself, we, the lone wallflowers standing against
the school gymnasium wall, forgetting the dance
all have been summoned to, worried and frightened
and oddly secure in our fragile and fraying cloak
of invisible self abnegation.

Bela Johnson photo: taken from the top of Hurricane Ridge, Olympic Peninsula, WA, 2019

Etheric

ETHERIC

Activate, move! Directions barely registered
in that middle place between worlds;
life in the ethers more familiar, more desirable
than this constant adjusting; bold when she
should choose circumspection; equally
withdrawn when action seems desirable,
imperative even, in the face of those who wait,
feigning patience as though expecting something,
anything, while she remains frozen inside,
tears rolling down pale cheeks, filling roles
chosen by others so that she might survive
the duration of some unknown tenure;

When finally it arrives, that inner direction spills
in surges, haltingly familiar as once-bluster,
then streaming forth clear as spring water,
filling chasms in the incomplete puzzle
form she inhabits, firming up pathways once
simply perceived, interstitial patterns, linked codes
scattered randomly in pitch dark possibilities;

Some say a path is chosen, while others claim
destiny guides, yet in the end (which is likewise
a beginning), one is motivated by forces
only barely understood much less named;
so a deity arises to fill that void, our human need
to attribute, a magic mirror to ask and receive,
and all is well and right; sense is restored, proper
place and timing imbued with meaning,
while mystery, in all its splendor, endures.

Sanctuary

Shower trees quiver blossoms
of shell pink or flaxen yellow
with ivory struck through, sucking
up abundant rainwater, tips a brand
new green in these late spring days;
shooting ever upward, obscuring,
as originally planned, any traces
of power lines stretched between
poles fashioned from dead relations
coated in creosote, convenient
for humans more dependent,
though little they might remember,
on the lilting shade provided
in the increase of summer heat,
stretched sideways now into spring
and fall, escalating;

I planted them all in the half-acre
lawn claimed as home, knowing
how they would reduce exposure
to relentless subtropical sunlight,
dappled respite for fragrant cattleya
and glossy-leafed anthuriums,
while wing-weary fliers seek shelter
and water untinged with roadside
poisons meant to choke back
jungle vegetation that simply
cannot be contained, conditions
being prime for proliferation.

All photos ©2019, Bela Johnson