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Poems and Reflections
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Down, Down in the Tao
Echoes of Earlville
Gifts That Stay
Haiku (Empty Church)
Lullaby - Sheet Music
Oaks Near Town
Questions for Making a Decision
The Scrooge Before Christmas
Thoughtlets for a Quiet Mood
The Time I Was Late
Welcoming Patrick Keith Harris
The Wheel of Yes
Round and round|
the wheel of yes
(with a thank you at every turn)
Every no becomes
a speck of dust
clinging only to surfaces
and frightened by
the blessed tremendousness
of bountiful shadows
out of the unknown.
The wheel of yes brings babies
out of grandness onto planets,
sounds out of souls
into other souls,
joy out of gloom,
inspiration out of worry.
Who is turning
the wheel of yes?
Who is loving
amidst the dooms of fear?
Who is giving
more than there ever was?
Where have you been now, oh Patrick me boy,|
Before your grand entrance that brought so much joy?
Were you out in the starlight quite happy and free?
Had you any idea who your parents would be?
Were the comets your friends, Patrick Harris me boy?
Did you reach toward the moon thinking "What a nice toy?"
Wherever you've been, Patrick, welcome to Earth--
It's a fairly nice place once you get past the birth.
You will have the best care you could ask for, me lad,
From Mika and Brian (you know, Mom and Dad),
Who will give you a bed, healthy food, and much love
In a home where you'll heighten the blessings thereof.
Three things Grandma Linda and I wish for you:
May the heaven within you guide all that you do;
May the bumps on your path make you fearless and strong;
And may life for you, Patrick, be happy and long.
Grandpa Alan Harris, poet
Grandma Linda Harris, editor
How fortune made us meet|
we cannot say,
but soon two pairs of feet
will walk the way.
We mirror each to each
the lessons needed
to learn what love may teach
if only heeded.
We give as best we can,
this wedding day,
a woman and a man
as gifts that stay.
Y'know, I'm into these lilac scents|
And the birds that chirp and sing
Before the dawn in trees near the fence--
It's a totally awesome thing.
My vibes become, like, optimum
When the May air stirs my pad--
I'm clueless where that rush comes from
But it's totally, totally rad.
I groove with the falling of way cool rain,
And I dig (oh, wow!) the space
Of, like, thunderstorms (they fry my brain)
With subwoofer-quality bass.
Since the Dude laid down this happenin' season,
I'm thinkin' He must have meant it,
And if May should croak for any reason,
We'd have to, like, reinvent it.
Chicago traffic this morning|
roars and beeps
like a cheap video game.
Freakishly, at Wells and Adams,
a speeding bicyclist's paper sack
spills his stash of shiny bagels
all over Wells Street.
Two dozen bagels kiss the street
at crazy angles,
then goofily twirl on empty centers
until gravity calms them down
in front of some cars at the light.
The bicyclist jerks his vehicle
over to the curb while hissing
inaudible words of concern.
Wells Street, now set like
a sudden breakfast table,
displays to the public
a tasty temptation
with not one taker.
Idling cars restrained
before the strewn bagels
by a red light
now turning green
begin to roll bagelward.
As if witnessing
a friend's execution,
the bicyclist clutches
his empty sack and
glares with grim indignity
at the squashings.
Came on a thread,|
a warm beam,
from a sun
we all share.
Bless the thread
that brought us you,
and you that brought
the beam to share.
or daffodil buds
blooming for April.
Like a stirring of air
through an open
window, you freshen
the whole house.
Empty church: alone|
I sit in sermonless awe
as steeple doves coo.
When Mom sings me a melody|
And with a kiss turns down the light,
I drift off free and lazily
To join the mysteries of the night.
Across the sky soft clouds go by,
In each a face I've known by day.
They sing and sigh a lullaby
Which soothes, delights, and fades away.
In waves unknown I rock alone
As if my bed were a little boat
That sails a zone of undertone
And keeps me safe as I dream and float.
Now the clouds begin to wane and thin,
The last one showing my mother's face.
She strokes my chin and brings me in
From far adrift to her warm embrace.
A Grand Unnameable|
from endless here,
else could speak we not
on a deep bird
two night skies,
Listening are we, with
our universe held to one ear,
to keeps-playing scuffles
between Isn't and Is, boisterous
in their muffled playroom.
To dance is the rule
in our This-That school
excepting that sleep
too is a rule
and quite more deep.
End of the world?
Peace after that?
Perhaps--but from within
the Night of All Nights
some eventually tickled
divine sleeper may
dreamingly laugh aloud,
stirring breathing into the mist--
and back soon will be we,
guns, and daily newspapers.
Call this if you wish
"The Little Laugh Theory"
although nameable is the Is
no more than is the Isn't,
down, down in the Tao.
Body and bed go soft.|
Final thinking fades to formless vapor.
Mattering gives way to "all is well."
Breathing forgets breathing.
Shapeless shadows welcome a friendly falling.
Wishes murmur up through moving images.
Dewdrop opens into endless ocean.
Time unknown . . .
Innerly free . . .
Floating . . .
Drifting . . .
Peace . . .
80-megaton alarm clock explodes.
We deeply offer our thanks|
to the Deepest of Thankables
and our abiding love
to the Most Abiding of Lovables
as we gather here
in grace under grandness
humbly to eat of the earth
so that ripplings of renewal
may nurture and empower our
sweetly imperative lives.
May the sustenance we now
receive within ourselves
enable us to give out
more than we possess
as our lungs and souls
breathe more than is air
on our chosen journey
into more than we know.
We honor the One within us
while dwelling within the One.
Black and green|
stand these aged oaks,
seasoned wisdom in wood.
preaches the chapel bell
from a spire in town
to the congregated trees
which, distanced from doctrine,
stand firmly unnoticing
with their branches spread wider
and trunks planted deeper
and roots drinking more serenely
of a living water holier
than even believing can ever
believe belief capable of believing.
Clanging soon ends
to the forest its
I have floated like a maple leaf|
to the sky below an autumn pond,
to an inner place of rich relief
from gusty winds now slipped beyond.
I sense eternal love from high
(or is it deep?) inside my being,
and find this view before my eye
requires a lighter, wider seeing.
Odd now, the fear those final sighs
would turn out all my lights within,
when light now brings these newer eyes
envisionings of friends and kin.
Since here I live within a force
that moves me anywhere I ask it,
let no one feel the least remorse
upon the closing of my casket.
No one knows our origin, or
No one knows who knows our origin, or
People know people who know our origin and I'm not one of them.
Even so, perhaps the mystery of our origin has a solution that is in plain view.
When someone first revealed to me
that I lived in Earlville, Illinois,
I had no inkling there was ever
any other place to live.
Show me another town where trains
would wail from creek to crossover,
glissando-ing like slide trombones.
I remember winter nights in bed when long steam-engine whistle toots would bring about deep slumbering--reliable as lullabies. Soon progress dared to usher in the brassy, strident dissonance of diesel horns, "long-long-short-long," which set the window panes a-buzz.
Percussion also spread through town from near the Farmer's Elevator--during harvest rush, staccato pops from John Deeres lined up near the scales sent complex polyrhythms further east than the Legion Hall.
Earlville was small, so most knew most--for everybody's good, it seemed. Few homes were listed, bought, or sold without a buzz of estimates proceeding through the telephones. Transgression stories relayed at the noisy downtown coffee shop made patrons want just one more cup--and filled the owner's till enough to pay the waitress and the cook.
In Earlville, peaceful though it was, occasional embarrassments were held quite close to home and hearth. Shrewd townsfolk having secrets knew the power that perfect silence has, so that even at the coffee shop no mortal ever was the wiser.
I wonder whether Earlville now is still the way it used to be. Are the same things happening today except to different residents? Do trains still pound those west-end switches, filling town with jazzy rhythms? Do policemen cruise the streets at night and watch for tavern stragglers who think booze helps their driving skills?
The Leader prints the deaths of friends I used to work and joke beside, their laughter now a memory. Obituaries fail to tell the grief and joy these townsfolk knew. If Roman Catholic, they find eternal rest on holy ground off Union Street just east of town. For Protestants and "faith unknown" the Precinct is the plot of choice, out by the blacktop south of town. I'll join my townsmen there someday when hidden forces that I trust decide it's time I go back home.
Although I can't be sure I'll hear those trains at night from where I rest, the living folks will surely hear them on and off between their dreams. As each nocturnal freight train bawls through town, then fades out west or east, light-sleeping heirs to Earlville's past will pull their covers up a bit, turn over, and go back to sleep.
December snow covered the ground, and many sidewalks were not
yet shoveled. And I was late--I was going to be late for school.
The earth might implode like a broken light bulb or explode like
a cherry bomb, but I still had to be on time to school. I had
never been late.
My report card for my first year of exposure to institutional learning was monotonously filled with A's in the rows for the subjects and 0's in the rows for days absent and 0's in the rows for times tardy and checks in all the rows for good deportment. My parents never said much about these great accomplishments, but I knew they were secretly proud of me by the way they never scolded me about school. They always got a sort of funny smile on their faces when I would bring home my report card, the kind of smile that is pretty flat and a little turned down at the ends. Then they would say, "Well, that's pretty good. Do you like Miss Larson?" And I would say "Yah." Then they would sign the report card and put it back into its brown envelope and give it back to me saying, "Now don't lose it." And that was like telling me not to lose my right foot.
Grandpa Green had told me when I started to school that he would give me a nickel for every A I got on my report card. So every six weeks I would write him a letter telling him about all the A's I got. An A in reading, an A in arithmetic, an A in spelling, an A in writing, an A in whatever other subjects I was taking, or were taking me. Nine A's, I told him one time at his house. He said, "Let's see, how much do I owe you then?" "I don't know." "Well, a nickel is 5 cents, isn't it?" "Yah." "Well, then, how much is 9 times 5?" "I don't know." "That comes to 45 cents, doesn't it?" "I guess." Then he would dole out the 45 cents or whatever the amount happened to be for that six weeks and like a good thrifty boy I would put it in my little silver metal bank that locked up with a key and I didn't have the key.
But I was going to be late for school. It was cold out and the
big hand on the kitchen clock was getting down close to 4 and
I had to be at school by the time it got to 6 and Mom was helping
me put on my jacket and boots and hat with built-in earflaps and
leggings and mittens and I was watching the clock and saying hurry
up and I was finally ready to go but just before I got to the
door Mom asked me if I had a hanky and I said no and she said
wait a minute you've got to take a hanky and she ran upstairs
to get one and I sort of had to go to the bathroom and the big
hand kept on moving and I had never been home this late before
and I stood there holding my lunch pail waiting by the door and
finally she came down and helped me put the hanky in my jeans
pocket underneath my leggings and then she kissed me good-bye
and I ran out the door and kept running down our long street that
ended at Mrs. Richards' house and my boots were heavy and I couldn't
keep running like that so I walked awhile and then I ran some
more and I was running past Charles Johnson's house and I got
to the tracks and looked both ways and ran across them even though
I was never supposed to run across the tracks because I might
fall down and get hit by a zephyr because somebody else had done
that once and I was still trying to run but I could hardly even
walk and on my Mickey Mouse watch that Grandpa Green had bought
me one time at the drug store the hand was down to 5 and I was
only as far as the Ford garage and then I heard the first bell
ringing at school and I never before realized you could hear the
first bell at school from that far away and I started to kind
of cry and I was puffing and running and my boots were too heavy
and I was kicking snow as I ran and walked and ran again and I
started down the last street that led to the school but it was
the longest one and I couldn't run any more but I had to so I
ran some more and the hand was almost down to 6 when I finally
got to the big playground and it was empty and I had never seen
it empty before and I stumbled up the steps and when I was in
the cloakroom tearing off my coat and boots and hat and mittens
and leggings the second bell started ringing and everyone was
supposed to be in his seat facing forward with his hands folded
on his desk and not talking when the second bell rang and I walked
into the room just as the bell stopped ringing saying hopefully
to Miss Larson that I was almost late wasn't I and I collapsed
into my seat and was sick all morning.
Yes, there is a Scrooge. He haunts the hearts of those who wish
that Santa's $10.00 white beard were real--who wish that his "Ho,
ho, ho" meant more than the $6.00 an hour he is paid to utter
it. Scrooge-inhabited people desperately long for a "Ho,
ho, ho" from deep within a genuine person's heart.
We seem to want people, all people, to be genuine, yet most people have personality owies that deflect them away from thoroughly genuine behavior. Christmas would ideally be a time when all of those owies would get better, but through some quirk of human nature, they usually get worse. The showy get showier, the stingy get stingier, the drinking get drunker, the overeating get overweighter, and the busy get busier.
Considering the above, "Christmas" would seem a mockery when we consider that two-thirds of the word is "Christ". Perhaps those of Scroogish persuasion would prefer to spell it "Christmess".
Scroogish people are not the only ones who clamor for change. Certain religious types are annually haranguing each other about the True Meaning of Christmas. These frustrated (and sometimes ultraholy) people don't usually identify at all with Scrooge, but they, too, hate the tinsel, the tawdriness, and (other people's) hypocrisy. They want everyone to concentrate on the Christ child, the angels, the star, and other symbols which provided comfortable myths and icons to live by during their childhood. They tend to cling to these warm, fuzzy concepts the more tightly as they find themselves struggling with the bottomless mysteries of relationships, emotions, illnesses, and the Big Unmentionable. These bewildered adults cry out for something more stable, something safer, something holier, and something that makes sense when life doesn't.
Scroogeness could be defined as a thin layer of rage masking a desperate search for sincerity beneath. The Scrooge in our hearts knows the difference between the Jesus and the junk. Scrooge is the skeptic who dares to call tinsel tinsel, the seemingly cruel man who eschews sentimentality. Scrooge dares to drill down deeper than the reindeer manure, down into his past hurts and heartaches, down to the deepest gnarled roots that tap into his tortured soul. No, he does not like Christmas, nor does he especially like himself, but in digging deeply, he discovers a little child in there who can scarcely breathe. He sees that the "Bah" in "Bah, humbug" has all along been a crying out for breath and life and truth and goodness. Humbug has been smothering this little child for most of its life.
Long live the Scrooge within us, for deep within this Scrooge is the holy child who began life in a stable full of smelly stuff, and in whose innocent heart shimmers a true light which will dissolve the false lights and shams.
The Christ, then, may be said to inhabit Scrooge and you and me. Even though our whole land be filled with tinsel, Scrooge and you and I may discover that tinsel is an improvement over the smelly stuff in the stable. Through this child's eyes we may even see a light which we might call, for lack of a better word, a star.
Above essay is included in the
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