Of Hearts and Stones

Small stones cobbled the backyard
of the San Gabriel Mountains foothill home
where I grew up, dappled by the light
of pergola and wisteria overhead, flanking
cascading waterfalls and the fishpond
my father built outside my parents’
bedroom window;

Yet it was giant granite boulders larger
than fishing shacks which grounded me
to the woods and waters of eastern Maine,
region of choice for a street-weary soul,
igneous wonders cleaved from glaciers
that covered most of New England
if not all, long before human memory;

Planting anything in that rocky terrain took
fortitude and persistence, pickaxe and shovel
and plenty of insect repellent, for winter
spread ice and snow into drifts and created
crystalline topsoil, while early springtime’s
mud prevented solid progress; thus it was bug-
riddled May before the earth was clear
and pliable enough for groundbreaking;

Still, steadfastness and a rototiller tamed
the garden enough to hoe up, row by row,
a large area in which to raise vegetables
as grocery stores provided little truly fresh,
and farmers markets had not yet caught on
in a time before they widened the highway
and a half-hour commute into town transformed
our lakeside village into a bedroom community;

Every year out of thirty-four, that same plot
heaved up rocks and boulders of every size,
thus before cultivating and yielding those
delectable edibles, one really had to harvest
rocks and more rocks, while piles lined
perimeters to be carried closer to the house
to ring flower gardens or delimit pathways,
or to place on an animal’s grave to prevent
hungry intruders from dislodging rotting
remains;

Nothing and everything changes, routines
may remain, yet nature demonstrates
with each passing season the modicum
of knowledge humans might grasp about
the ground under our feet, so busy are we
jumping into metal boxes and flying
at breakneck speed to obtain life’s
necessities, while stones, ever patient,
mark the ages with a persistence
and perseverance all their own.

Pololu pohaku
Pololu Valley pohaku
Pololu beach rocks
Goose Pond, ME granite shoreline – C Johnson
Goose Pond forest boulder – C Johnson (photo with Vernon Emeliano)
Goose Pond fairy boulder – C Johnson

Fusion

My ego is not an animal
that needs feeding; the place
you can touch is my heart,
but please go gently
with due respect;

You need only possess
a genuine concern for the
inner person, fragile being
not unlike yourself,
fellow traveler through
this short burst in eternity;

You may keep your agendas,
image or projections; I am
overly weary of users
and artifice, have no need
for hungry ghosts
whose desires appear
bottomless;

I do not wish to increase
the volume of some larger
than life figure you wish
to impose on a world already
overfull with blowhards,
attention-seekers,
spotlight needers;

The circle is small
and can get smaller
without my determining
it so. There is work
to be done in loving.

If you deny your own
quaking heart, perhaps
this deserves attention.
There are many desirous
of the simplest gestures
of kindness;

Find these ones, seek
them everywhere you go.
Then perhaps we will have
much to mull over
when next we meet.

backyard
morning visitor
carrot juice

 

~ all photos © Bela Johnson

The Needle and the Damage Done

Songs possess the power to take me
back in time, drop the needle
onto spinning vinyl, crackle and pop
of a generation;

Subjective as memory can be,
the body does not lie and it is this
visceral recall a tune nudges into being,
cruising in that little red Rambler,
elbows out roll-down windows,
heads pumping time to the radio,
cigarettes dangling from youthful lips,
ringed fingers and doll-shiny hair,
metallic twist of lighter extracted and held
lightly to the end, igniting thin paper rolled
around pungent acrid tobacco drawn
into perfect lungs, damage furthest
from our minds in what is
often termed reckless youth;

How feckless we were, body and soul,
squeezing life for all it could offer
and still ravenous for more, Ripple wine
behind reeking dumpster on the eve
of the new year, heedless of anything
close to symbolic, damn the consequences,
steamrolling ahead into Hendrix and Joplin,
her choices supplanting my own
tender folk poets;

Oblivious as her one-armed stepfather
slunk up next to my prostrate form, asleep
on her cream-colored bedroom carpet,
desperate grapple at his own aborted
youth stitched into the present
before war tore heart and limb asunder,
my repulsion far from the feverish response
of his fantasies;

Now her mother, nicotine-stained Cheshire
cat grin slowly spreading, silly man’s minor
mishap, attempt at smoothing over life-
altering insult, guiding him and his tented
pajamas back to marital bed if not bliss;

No apologies on the bacon and egg morning,
coffee and cigarettes, overflowing amber
glass ashtrays obliterating any trace
of semen smell, small miracle as olfactory
far outstrips deep-rooted traces that vaporize
like smoke into the ethers of rolling time.

THOSE THINGS WE CARRY

Most of the things we carry did not come
through a portal straight into our hands.
Most of the things we carry
were collected then forgotten like stones
on a dusty shelf somewhere in the recesses
of our home and mind.

Still these burdens are there, churning around
inside like corpuscles winking signals
across the blank screen of a vacant movie theatre.
Maybe one day we venture in, hungry
for entertainment and we are not choosy.
Maybe we are triggered by another person.

In either case, the projector whirrs to life,
seeming at first to offer inchoate, fragmented clips
that make no sense. Then slowly images form,
both benign and shocking, as we realize the subject
of this movie is uncomfortably close to the bone.
This movie reflects those things we carry.

The great thing about previews is we can walk
away from the shock and awe
while we contemplate meaning, relevance.
The great thing about our own movie trailer
is the ability to edit, eliminating preconceptions
and memorized dialogue while updating the content
and tone of the production until, at long last, we procure
for ourselves a different conclusion.

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D’Alliance

Have you ever thought to yourself,
if only this person would see my heart,
if blame and fear were set aside,
we might forge truer bonds?

It is always surprising when another
remains unwilling to own their part,
especially when friends drop
like dominoes, again and again.

Surely it is not always the other’s fault?

When a well-trod higher road proves insufficient,
an exasperated distance gains last resort.
Humans have feelings, after all.

While it is difficult to stop blaming oneself
for actions beyond understanding,
it might be equally onerous for another
to stop offloading personal responsibility
onto others.

Life is the great teacher,
may we learn well.
Open to learning, one must realize
humility has many recalcitrant students.
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GLIMMER

There are a hundred matters
one cannot un-do.

Frost’s forked path in the midst,
and I took the road less traveled.
What has it brought me, in the end?
What redemption, if not recognizing
the fullness of existence to the marrow
permeating all life?

Spirits lie shriveled and broken,
arise again during phoenix time,
and the roots that form,
a foundational goal toward which I aspire,
perceive how hearts ache in their absence.

 

fork-road

BOUNCE

What kind of honesty obfuscates anger

where allies become enemies in a heartbeat,

decimating one another with a smile?

 

How to winnow facts from confusion,

being truthful as well as kind,

increasing both wisdom and discernment?

Best to model intention and proceed from there.

If we’re not careful,

others become what we want them to be,

rather than the best of which they are capable.

 

Skin is thin.

People believe what they hear

and just as often hear what they believe.

We live in a hall of mirrors,

echoing one another’s sentiments.

 

Choose wisely, my friend,

for what is cast out will doubtless rebound,

the proverbial India rubber ball

resounding off the walls of a closeted awareness.

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