it’s so easy

dawn in the mountains - you are blessed
it's so easy

it’s so easy to lose it 
without noticing, your attention 
driven to inattention by jobs and bills 
parents and children

the heat slowly rising
-- just another frog in the pan
then suddenly -- you’re old 

you notice the stars
have grown dim, the days
seem shorter, damp and cold
and all of your poems 

now speak of loss

until one morning 
you wake before dawn to the sound 
of birds singing in the darkness 
and after all this time 

right there it is

you almost don’t recognize it 
yet from a deeper place 
you do what you once might have done 

and rise 

to walk barefoot over the wet grass
to feel the cool breeze on your still-warm skin
to lift your weary eyes to the first soft colors 
    of dawn

and you know, once again 
what you certainly always have known 

that here 
   rises the luminous face of the ecstatic child

that here rises joy 

that here, after so very long 
    rises once again 
    the all-redeeming grace of wonder
    
and for one more glorious, completely ordinary day

you are blessed

Bedfellows – A Perspective on the Passage of Time

Bedfellows – A Perspective on the Passage of Time. A short post while battling pneumonia. How the sources of warmth evolve with time.

Change- Staying Warm
sleeping in

change


under the weather lately
I’ve been sleeping in the guest room
and letting my old black dog
sleep on the bed all night

his muzzle is going gray
and he seems to appreciate
the softness on his old bones

in the mornings, when I slip out of bed
he cracks open one eye 
to see if I’m going to chase him off

there was a time in my life
when I’d leave a beautiful, five-foot-tall 
brunette asleep in my bed

both are warm

both hog the bed



Here’s another look at life with an older dog – https://oldbonesnewsnow.com/2021/03/07/wordless-love-the-sweet-experience-of-loving-an-old-dog/

And look here for more on growing a tiny bit older – https://poets.org/text/poems-about-aging

this splendid day – a simple prayer

this joyful day- a simple prayer

may he be held
Fisher, Taylor and Sawyer; photo – Patrick Fink
a simple prayer


his feet cracked, red
and worn

from the long and lonely walk
into this life

his mother’s hand
a sister’s touch

may he be warm
may he be safe


may he be held

Fisher Chambers Fink, born March 20, 2022; 9lbs 5 oz.

Welcome grandson…

And on a similar note, from Czeslaw Milosz, Forget:

” a grandson and a great grandson are born…you stand at the threshold mute”

https://www.nybooks.com/articles/2001/12/20/forget/

To revisit the recent series of Lineage Poems:

First Lineage Poemhttps://oldbonesnewsnow.com/2022/01/09/a-joyful-noise-root-music-of-the-heartland/

And the Final Lineage Poem: https://oldbonesnewsnow.com/2022/03/20/a-joyful-circle-the-final-lineage-poem/

A Joyful Circle – the Final Lineage Poem

A Joyful Circle – the Final Lineage Poem. And so we come full circle in this series of Lineage Poems. Like medieval astronomers who took the earth to be the center of all things, so does our ego create the illusion that this individual life is the central point of reference in the infinite sweep of time and generations. Past, future, and at the fulcrum, this single life. And I suppose it couldn’t be any other way, however flawed this cosmology of self.

As I write this, I’ve been down for two weeks struggling to recover from pneumonia. It’s honestly been a frightening time. In an earlier post, I mentioned that my only brother died a short time ago, of lung disease as it happens (https://oldbonesnewsnow.com/2022/03/19/sunrise-and-sunset-the-wheel-of-life/.) So losing the ability to breathe triggered both fearful memories and simple animal fear. Just today, it finally feels like my breathing is softening, and the air is beginning to flow.

And also just today, our next grandchild has begun the long, messy, painful, risky and extraordinary process of pushing into this world.

A joyful circle. I wouldn’t have missed a minute of it

And I pray that I will have many, many, more to experience

Little boy, I weep with joy at the prospect of meeting you!

All love,

Jeff

Grandson, Son, Husband, Father, Father-in-law, Grandfather, Ancestor

backcountry touring in Canada February 2020

Two closing poems to bring this home, the first from several years ago

old man

in the wild untended fields of my heart
sits an old man. the day is late but warm 
and the low-angled light spreads like butter 
over the tall grass. his beard is white

gone beyond gray, and his hair, long and thin 
shifts with the wind. he wears a multicolored vest 
stitched with threads of silver
and his boney white feet 
sit bare upon the land

his hands, held still on his long legs, bear the scars 
of a lifetime of choices -- he sits beyond judgment 
beyond expectation -- he’s been waiting 
for a very, very long time 

he breathes as I breathe

his blue eyes are clouded now 
from having witnessed a life 
while in the distance the witches’ voices 

rise in round to the beating sound of his heart
he has always known this song
 has always known all 
of the songs 

we are each of us sorcerers 
all singers of one single 

deathless song

with Sara atop Kilimanjaro, October 2020

And a final word written very recently

only that

they say it’s our habits, habitual tendencies
that are reincarnated, like a wind
blowing through a window left open

in a newly constructed house. and this
makes sense to me – I haven’t suffered enough trauma
in this one life to be as confused as I seem to be

so I must have swept these old wounds
into the womb with me, an intangible blanket
of familiar mistakes to keep this newborn warm 

 now, as I stare down this narrowing hall
I pray to whatever powers there be
to allow me to direct more precisely
the next go-round

when the last breezes blow
and this basket of bones finally fails
may only one thing pass into the next life--

may I carry forward only 
the tender warmth of my fingers 

as they touch the cheeks
of those I have loved most in this world

that

and only that



May these words be of benefit to all sentient beings
grandpa Jeff with his best girl Sawyer

To explore more poetry with buddhist themes, click here:https://www.shambhala.com/buddhist-poetry-a-reader-guide/

Sunrise and Sunset – the Wheel of Life

Sunrise and Sunset – the Wheel of Life. The 9th Lineage Poem. So we near the end of this cycle of Lineage Poems. We began with the roots of ancestors gone long before I was born, but embedded in my every cell; visited and said goodbye to both my father and my mother; welcomed the addition of a new line through marriage; and celebrated the advent of a new generation in the birth of my beloved granddaughter. Now, we turn to the inherent cyclical nature embedded in the fabric of the generations.

Last year I buried my only brother Joseph, and shortly thereafter learned that our son and daughter in law are expecting a second child any day now, a boy this time.

A death and a birth, a brother and a grandson

brother Joe with my father, circa 1942
chance

I haven’t met him yet
just been told he’s in transit
waiting, biding his time

in the warm, purple
amniotic dark. our oldest son 
told us that his son is expected 

in the spring. I clearly remember 
the morning my wife’s water broke 
rushing to the hospital, becoming 

a father for the first time 
I called my older brother 
eager to share the news

but he was unimpressed

just last month I spoke
at his funeral, his ashes in a box
at the front of the room

and there it is, one leaving
just as another is beginning
and in between, such drama

and beauty, love and pain
and none of it endures - none of us
endures

I wonder if I’ll still be here
when the son of my son
snaps open his eyes

and screams 
at the shock of squeezing
into this hard cold world

I hope so, though I know 
 in truth there’s no way  
to protect him

nonetheless
I’d dearly love the chance

to die trying
my father, 1915

For more poems about brothers, click here: https://www.momjunction.com/articles/brother-poems_00697143/

And if you’d like to revisit the first in this cycle of Lineage Poems, click here:https://oldbonesnewsnow.com/2022/01/09/a-joyful-noise-root-music-of-the-heartland/

A Joyous Day – Gift of a New Life (8th Lineage Poem)

A Joyous Day – Gift of a New Life (8th Lineage Poem) Nearly three years ago, this lineage began a new phase with the birth of our granddaughter Sawyer. Honestly, I never expected to care much about grandchildren.

I was wrong!

Born on the cusp of covid, she’s always had a bit of “stranger danger” and, of course, this extended to me – kind of still does. Yet we have our own profoundly goofy relationship founded on funny faces, silly noises and mutual surveillance.

She is brilliant, exceptionally verbal and, of course, beautiful. Her blue eyes are stunning, and her crooked grin is simply beguiling.

(I feel very strongly that it’s not my job to post pictures of her on the internet, but below are two that I feel do preserve her privacy.)

I’ve born witness now to the birth and growth of two sons and a granddaughter, and I still have no idea where these exceptional creatures come from, how their intelligence takes root and blooms.

This is the great mystery and the gift of lineage.

I am forever in love

Sawyer in Sara’s hand, a few hours old

mumuration

her small voice rising 
in the dark above the crib
a morning murmuration beginning
spinning, rising, a flock 
of freshly hatched words 
translucent and damp

where did she come from? 
this spontaneous consciousness 
this ascending double helix 
of intelligence - pulsing, spiraling 
wave upon brilliant wave 
of innate wisdom, elaborating
her sweet song, a spark 

radiating across the endless space
of possibility, coming now
to crack open the darkness like a star 
like the first soft light

of this brand new day

Equally astounding is how quickly a child engages, learns to stand, to walk and to step into a tomorrow of her own.

Sawyer and mom Taylor above Ouray Colorado
hers


after a lifetime 
of insisting on my own importance

here I stand, in the shadows 
watching her

watching her

the clouds roll in
and evening pools in the valley

she takes one step forward
and then another, venturing 

to the very edge of the world 
this world that is now hers 

and hers alone


Here’s a link to more poems about the special creatures that are grandchildren:https://allpoetry.com/poems/about/grandchildren

And here’s a link to the seventh of the Lineage Poems – https://oldbonesnewsnow.com/2022/03/08/shadow-people-when-the-lineage-merges-and-generations-fade/

And a final closing note- young Sawyer’s little brother is due to arrive any day now.

Can’t wait to meet him.

Shadow People – When the Lineage Merges and Generations Fade

Shadow People – When the Lineage Merges and Generations Fade. It’s rather easy to look back, to be the receiver and say that “she contributed this, he offered that.” And then children emerge, and very soon you can sense it all begin to flow away, of everything beginning to pass.

When small, there’s a sense of “mine” in one’s children — “my son, my daughter.” But this is a terrible illusion.

In fact, we are theirs.

As Persian Poet Khalil Gibran said in his remarkable poem, “On Children,

“…their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.” https://poets.org/poem/children-1

But a downstream lineage requires an injection – a partner, a husband, a wife to be inserted into this stream so it can flow onward. And right there begins the obsolescence. Suddenly it’s apparent that you no longer matter quite so much, even it takes time for this to sink in,

that you’re rapidly becoming little more than an old story

someone your child might recall years from now

and, if you’ve been very fortunate,

smile.

And while this is natural, it does bring with it the opportunity to love in a completely different way. This is not the love born of biology, nor is it a love shaped from an accumulated lifetime of shared experiences.

This is a love born of learning, of tolerating (in both directions, of course,) of getting to know, of bumping against each other, of embracing, of creating new shared experiences, and ultimately, heaven willing, of standing together to support the launch of the next generation.

Lineage. True Lineage.

And Gratitude.

the downstream begins

shadow people


they begin as shadow people
two-dimensional, replaceable
appearing only for a moment 
then fading, leaving only a name 
a story to be laughed about 
over dinner 

translucent satellites
in temporary orbit around this child
you’ve birthed and fed, the one
you’ve poured your life into, saw fall 
and stand again, then mature into the rich 

three-dimensional life you see before you 
who one day brings home another 
and suddenly you sense 
that this just might be 

“the one” 

the one that takes root in the rich soil 
of your son, the one he now turns to 
before you, the one who clearly holds all 
of his new secrets, the one who’s ear hears 
all of his dreams

and though you try to be happy for him 
and for “them” 

you can already feel yourself 
beginning to thin, to lighten, to lift 
ever so slightly above the floor 

where they now stand together 

can feel yourself darkening 
and spreading up the long wall 
as the sun drops low in the sky 
stretching the day’s last shadows 

which even now are beginning to fade 
as day inevitably progresses 

into night


In case you missed it, here’s a link to the Sixth Lineage Poem – This Father’s Imperfect Love: https://oldbonesnewsnow.com/2022/03/01/this-fathers-imperfect-love-sixth-lineage-poem/

This Father’s Imperfect Love – Sixth Lineage Poem

This Father’s Imperfect Love – Sixth Lineage Poem. Writing an honest poem is a profoundly private act. Making the decision to share that poem publicly is anything but. This is especially true if one is writing “about” a friend or family member who’s still alive to read it (bearing in mind that all we can ever write about is our experience of another person– it’s all we have.)

Looking over my work, it’s clear that some of my poems may never see the light of day. I sort of have a Hippocratic oath about my poems – “first, do no harm.” And I guess there’s the rub – continue to slice close to the bone without causing embarrassment or harm to another.

For example, looking back at the Fifth Lineage Poem (https://oldbonesnewsnow.com/2022/02/14/the-gift-of-an-exquisite-love-the-fifth-lineage-poem-valentines-day/) I know there are several other pieces I might have chosen that to me are very powerful, but that speak to aspects of our relationship that are too personal, too fraught to lob onto social media — sharing the intimacy of personal experience without invading the intimacy of another in the process.

dos hombres, Patrick and Nathan

So, here I turn and begin to look at the Lineage that descends from us rather than comes down to us. When our boys were born, I was so buried in career that there was no room for anything creative. It was only when I finally cried uncle and turned in my travel bag that a lifetime of suppressed creativity began to stir.

Consequently, I don’t have any contemporaneous work that touches on the joy, the mystery and the profound confusion that comes with newborns and the brilliance of little boys.

Instead, here are two pieces I wrote as the guys entered late adolescence, as they began to have a life that was increasingly invisible to their parents, as they left our family home for the world

I can’t protect them, but did I prepare them?

In a profound sense, it’s no longer my affair

fathering

as you pass the salt 
I notice how your mouth 
always tips on the edge of a smile, 
but I’m distracted by the thought 
of screeching tires

and as we talk, your curly hair 
bobs up and down (you know 
I'd like you to cut it – but not really) 
what I really want 

is for you to somehow find a way 
to protect yourself. and while desert 
is being served, I’m preoccupied 

with sheets being pulled over faces 
on a dark road I don’t recognize.

so, I can barely clear away the plates
while maintaining this pleasant conversation
in complete dread, as I am

of a decision you might one day make 
the one I won’t understand

the one I will never, ever understand


They learn to stand as children, then turn to you as men, and then they go.

And there it is.

not so little boys anymore, Nathan and Patrick

for a son


I’ve been waking in the night 
grinding my teeth – some feelings 

are so close to the bone, so fragile 
they can’t support a whole stack of words
 
like my denial that you will be leaving 
in the morning 

like my fear that I 
failed to teach you to fly

For a view of Patrick’s recent passions, here’s a link to his blog, Mountain Lessons- check it out! http://mountainlessons.com/

The Gift of An Exquisite Love – the Fifth Lineage Poem

The Gift of an Exquisite Love – the Fifth Lineage Poem, on Valentines day no less! We were eighteen years old, in our freshman year of college in a small town in Michigan. I’d borrowed the money from my girlfriend (a long story) to take her out to an old-school, no-alcohol coffee house called “the Troubador” in Kalamazoo Michigan.

The room was full of cigarette smoke, and we were with three other couples, all there to hear a band who’s name I’ve long forgotten. Between sets, we all ordered coffees and the talk was fast and loud. She was seated directly across the large round table from me. Thinking of nothing much at all, I happened to look up and straight into her impossibly large green eyes.

And I was done for. I fell in love in that instant, and have never stopped loving her.

The Gift of an Exquisite Love

A love that I’ve never relinquished. A love that has sustained me now for over forty years.

These poems were written a very long time ago

Each one came as a completed poem

Each was a gift

The Gift of an Exquisite Love

the gift of an exquisite love
those impossible green eyes
I felt myself break


I felt myself break

and drift back
and back, and down

to settle here
forever

on the deep green floor
of your eyes


And the second, once that gifted love had begun to breathe.

the soft, soft sleep of dawn


I awoke this morning
to the brush your lash
on my neck

like a light
on the still darkened stage
of our bodies held tight 

and heavy and warm
in the soft, soft sleep
of dawn


my Love, my Sara

Link to the first Lineage Poem (the ground):https://oldbonesnewsnow.com/2022/01/09/a-joyful-noise-root-music-of-the-heartland/

Link to the second Lineage Poem (father dying):https://oldbonesnewsnow.com/2022/01/16/on-the-way-to-heaven-2nd-lineage-poem-over-ohio/

Link to the third Lineage Poem (burying my father): https://oldbonesnewsnow.com/2022/01/24/a-father-returns-home-welcomed-by-the-land/

Link to the fourth Lineage Poem (missing a mother):https://oldbonesnewsnow.com/2022/02/01/a-mothers-love-a-sons-regrets-fourth-of-the-lineage-poems/

And a closing link to the incredible Pablo Neruda, Love Sonnet XI:https://hellopoetry.com/poem/9927/love-sonnet-xi/

A Mother’s Love, a Son’s Regrets – Fourth of the Lineage Poems

A Mother’s Love, A Son’s Regret. Looking back, it’s clear that I’ve written more about my father than I ever did about my mother. Fathers and sons I suppose. But she was also the quieter, smaller one of the two. I always had the sense that she chose to hold herself close, always to defer.

September 11, 2001

We drove her from Florida to Chicago on September 11, 2001. The world had suddenly erupted in fire and all flights had been cancelled. We convinced Hertz to give us a van and we drove for three days across a silent, empty America. Her dementia was pretty bad by that point, and she repeated over and over and over, “Where am I going?” “Why do I need to go?” I didn’t have a good answer then, and I guess I don’t now.

A Mother’s Love, a Son’s Regrets

Margaret Ruth lived in a nursing home in Chicago from 2001 until her death in 2004 from simple old age. I’ve posted before (link immediately below) about my sadness that I failed to attend properly the end of her life, allowing her to die alone in the night when it was pretty clear that it was her time.

Here’s a link to “That I Would do Betterhttps://oldbonesnewsnow.com/2020/05/10/that-i-would-do-better-poetry-poem-mother-regrets-mothersday/

Margaret Ruth, age four on the far right, 1921

I own that regret. But there’s also the regret of perhaps never having really known her. So here are two pieces that speak to missing the life of one who loved and raised me. Perhaps I could only see this as I creep into my older years myself. First, the mystery of seeing off one who once had been the entire world.

When the World is Lost Forever

childish things


we stood in a circle around the grave
some read poems while some 
chose silence. the funeral director

placed her ashes in the ground
while the redwing blackbirds sang 
among the corn. we'd always assumed

that she could fly, but then we
were only children, and eager to cling
to childish things


A Mother’s Love, a Son’s Regrets

And second, upon seeing her in the nursing home, a shadow of who she’d once been and wondering if (or perhaps knowing) we’d missed something essential over all those years.

margaret ruth

old woman, what have you done with her?
she was here when I last looked. now 
there's only you, a remnant, your mind 
approaching the capacity of experience 
cycling back upon itself, the tape skipping, catching 
rewinding as we speak. your face has been chiseled, 
deep lines cut into spotted flesh surrounding pools 
of sadness in your eyes. 
                                        
I can see into the depths 
of that water -- here rest the old ones 
in images black and brown, a diminishing succession 
of farmers’ wives standing resolute at the arms 
of sitting dead husbands. here are young brides 
with radical curls, high collars and narrow waists 
holding round-faced war-babies smiling at the camera. 
here is a mother reading soft words to soft children 
in light fading into dreams—ah Margaret Ruth 
we were for each other 
and we never really knew


The author at age one with his Mother Margaret Ruth, 1958

Here’s the link to first Lineage Poem – A Joyful Noise https://oldbonesnewsnow.com/2022/01/09/a-joyful-noise-root-music-of-the-heartland/

Here’s the link to the second Lineage Poem – One the Way to Heaven, Over Ohio https://oldbonesnewsnow.com/2022/01/16/on-the-way-to-heaven-2nd-lineage-poem-over-ohio/

Here’s the link to the third Lineage Poem – Welcomed by the Land, Redwing Blackbirds https://oldbonesnewsnow.com/2022/01/24/a-father-returns-home-welcomed-by-the-land/

For more poems speaking to mothers and motherhood, click here: https://www.poetry.com/psearch/mothers

All Poems, Text and Images are © 2022 jafink/oldbonesnewsnow.com