Moonglow

I see you, Sister Moon, as you skitter across metal
rooftops, bathing the landscape in your pale
silvery frost, calling me up and out of fretful
sleeplessness, leaving me now to wonder
on which coast I lie, memories of chill mornings,
stoking wood fires, perpetually icy floors,
never warm save for the evening bath steaming
in the early black of night before a tumble
into cool wool blankets, waiting for him to generate
enough heat so muscles could relax enough
to drift into star-spiked dreams;

No choice but to follow as you beckon, teasing
loose the borders of sleep’s inception, drifted wisps
of thought creeping in, vines of phrases twining
into form, spinning wakefulness out of slumber,
then once arisen, watching skies darken implausibly
into pitchy night, once again;

Sleep is respite, not much dissuades me from its
sound embrace, only the occasional ghost tapping
at the windows of my mind, plucking cobwebs
from corners heretofore ignored, prodding questions,
where, what, when and the damnable why,
as if final answers are ever going to be forthcoming
in the pique of midnight hours;

Watch and wait, learn to live in moments, lay aside
expectations, decisions can wait until sunrise,
discover grace under pressure, reside under this
perpetual cloak of uncertainty; life guarantees
nothing, that much I know, and if nothing else,
always remember peace is personal.

Moonset in early morning light through lace curtains ~ © Bela Johnson

Journey

In self created confinement I dwell, waves
of consciousness crashing onto undisclosed
shorelines, thundering hooves of phantom horses
approaching through the sands of time;

Some might shudder at these contemplative
spaces, interstices of time before necessary
activities seep in to deplete inner resources,
yet how else to manage my own reserves?

It has ever been thus, on this shore
or that, in woods, blended into desert sage,
on this island paradise many yearn for,
and I wonder at life, at the marking of time,
random wandering through dreamscapes
of beauty, illusion teased into being;

Some call it journey, for how else to wrap
and ponder this packaged tour, fractal
in eternity, a never-ending celebration
of sense and sight and touch, carnality
and wits, the wonderment and awe;

And what is temptation if not diversion,
exorcising the terror of un-being, a race
to the finish, dip in the gold-leafed glory
of being alive, alight with threaded hues,
fabric of existence, cover for sorrow
at the temporality we share, and how
to eke out more, squeeze meaning
from the mundane; debts and obligations,
distractions and decisions, the weight
of knowing it will all be plowed asunder
and always too soon, too soon;

I sit with it daily, the quaking subsided,
ride it out in strong limbs while pedaling,
walk in companionship with creation, eyes
wide-open in wonder, capturing with my lens
what might otherwise be missed.

All photos ©2018 Bela Johnson

Clear Vision

I saw her today, glimpsed her like a new creature
shining and bright, free of the heavy cloak of denotation,
bronze I have cast her in despite myself, all these years
of believing she could in any way be known;

Inside my own skin I remain a mystery, unfolding
like the lotus flower, each new leaf and bud tender
and unfurling, tainted only through these selfsame
definitions, assumptions; we all do this in the dance
of discovery, alone or in tandem;

And I really wonder at the fabric of existence, itself,
a morphing, unified body with attributes thought to be
self and self, unique only insofar as they escape demarcation,
for once named, limitations are imposed and wrapped,
neat little packages, box steps imposed on modern dance,
monotones seeping into a technicolor palette;

What if we could begin again and again, mindful
of past assumptions, apprehend the self and others, eyes
unshuttered, clearly seeing and without bias what lies
before or within us, without guile?


photo ©Bela Johnson

Poetic Angst

There is an economy in words, blunted
kindergarten shears in the hands
of an earnest student, shaping patterns
already memorized in forest and field;

A poet’s dilemma as nature herself
spreads and grows, chaos becoming her
in forest and glade, streams crashing,
gushing through boulder-encrusted banks
as gnarled roots of trees wrap stones
in a thirsty quest to survive what is
to come, waning light and the crunch
of frost-encrusted gravel underfoot.

All photos taken in Washington State (©Bela Johnson)

 

Day’s End

It’s three o’clock and the day
has brought a bad haircut, heavy
feeling in the air;

The hair will grow
back, the day will not; there is
no repeating what is done,
only trailing memories;

There is no walk upon the beach,
the sun burns boldly now, my skin
as fragile as a dove’s wing in a gale,
and though my feet yearn to wander,
it’s dappled shade I seek;

Looking out, the rain patters veins
of heart-shaped leaves, seeking
outlet in perpetually drenched soil,
the year having seen its share
of extremes;

Days roll forward into time
stretching out, downward
dog-pose kissing expanses of sand
the tide has soaked then abandoned,
shell-bones scattered amidst
neckless strands of kelp.

Photos taken on my recent trip to Whidbey Island, WA. All photos ©Bela Johnson

The Reckoning

Aloha Ka Makani O Kohala!
The observant will note this small
hand-painted sign upon entering
the sacred lands of North Kohala,
known generally and simply
as Kohala;

Faded in the relentless sunlight
of that desert region, scrubs
of kiawe punctuate shoreline
un-beleaguered by development
thus far, iron gates buttressed
by lava rock piers encroaching
ever northward, flanked by irrigated
micro landscapes tended to entice
the wealthy to these hallowed shores;

Meanwhile the sign, all but forgotten
with time and tide, ignored by those
fixated on expansive Maui views,
cheap land compared to sister islands,
yet oblivious to Hawaiian words,
why bother translating? Until,
structures set in place, the winds
begin to kick, first the red dirt,
then the butts of those inhabitants
deceived into believing they were safe
somehow from the`āina herself,
turning bitterness into hedgerows,
more walls, spreading outward,
ever outward, fortresses of folly
in a land well known for her mana;

The war against nature escalates,
bankrolls drained into more and richer
landscapes, all foreign to these shores,
and the cost of water begins tapping
reserves of sanity, yet what else to do
but visit rarely, mini-mansions swept
empty by the makani, inhabited more
by a staff of maintenance workers
than the residents themselves,
and perhaps this is as it should be,
even unto their scripture, the last will
be first and the first will be last;

Money can buy things, little else,
and in the end, the`āina and her elements
will prevail; and as the little grass shack
leaps to mind and the simple life
of subsistence increasingly makes sense,
we continue downsizing, simplifying,
reducing our own tiny imprint
on this glorious windswept land.

There is a saying here, mauka to makai, meaning mountain to ocean. It is almost like meaning the whole of the place. For Hawai’i nei was originally allocated into ahupua’a, units of division that provided mountains for hunting, fields for planting, and ocean for fishing. These photos demonstrate how different mauka, or mountain regions, are from makai, the ocean landscape. In Hawai’i, elevation is everything. As always, all photos ©Bela Johnson. Aloha.

Little Dove

Anxiety for me is not a teeth-chattering,
nerve-rattling affair, rather the tendency
of an untended mind to flutter toward
the familiar always a heartbeat away
from cool, grounded sanity;

When you return at day’s end, I step
into your world for a moment of comic
relief, little blue dove riding thermals
of your mastered stride, little girl trailing
behind daddy and his toolbox, eager
to discover how things work;

Feeling the weight of chisels soothes
ruffled feathers, caressing copper, steel,
the oiled wooden handles which,
in your perfect patient hands, creates
both the smooth carved boxes holding
treasures as well as the home
in which we live, life-sized canvas
for my own design.

collaborative design: Chris and Bela Johnson with artist Deb Thompson
cremation urn made from reclaimed island hardwood – C.Johnson
designed and created by Chris and Bela Johnson
designed and built by Chris Johnson