Isolation

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Isolation

(a partial inventory of things for which I grieve

in this time of pandemic)

 

Hugs and hands and friendly kisses.

A bar of soap in the dish, unremarkable and dry.

Going out to breakfast, pancakes and eggs, bacon

chatting with the waitress while waiting for you.

Driving to a meeting in town, boring, endless,

ordinary. College basketball. Baseball season.

Missing easy shots in tennis and losing my cool,

as if it mattered. Golden mornings passed

in silent meditation, my feet cold

on retreat, loving and being loved,

the soft sound of all of us breathing together,

as if it mattered. Being cold, being hot, wind,

rain, snow and sunburn. Sacred places,

Yosemite, The Grand Canyon, Dolomiti skies.

Cinque Torri at sunset, then again at dawn.

Parisian museums. Parisian meals. Parisian coffee.

Paris.

Venice in the morning. Eating gelato in Rome.

Eating more gelato in Rome.

Aging simply but still feeling young.

Not being classified as vulnerable.

Not being classified.

Not needing to sanitize the keys in order to loan the car

to my son. Seeing my sons. Holding them.

Seeing my infant granddaughter. Holding her

even if it still makes her cry.

The illusion of safety.

The familiar smell of my personal cocoon.

Never having to consider case counts, respirators

or exponential curves.

Believing myself to be harmless to others (or mainly so.)

Belief in a particular future.

The future.

The freedom to ignore a simple cough.

Taking a single breath for granted.

Believing that time is continuous, endless and free.

Ignorance of the gray man stalking the streets

counting breaths.

A committed belief in Death

as an abstraction.

 

© 2020 jafink/oldbonesnewsnow.com

leave the way you came

I’ve come to feel that we’re not truly isolated as long as we’re in the company of trees

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leave the way you came

 

early sun on old snow, the wind

speaking in the high trees — welcome

 

move slowly in stillness — listen

completely.  carry only respect

 

and reverence.  leave

the way you came

 

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© 2020 jafink/oldbonesnewsnow.com

one last chance

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walking empty streets

in a late season snow, alone — where

have we all gone? what in heaven’s name

have we done?

 

this unnatural natural

silence, the distant cry of geese

returning, desperate for a place

to land

 

a single light in a room at the back

goes dark, while the herd comes down

from the mountains, begins to reclaim

its place. fitfully

 

we sleep and dream of morning

breathing our wordless prayers

 

for warmth

for the resurrection of spring

for a second new covenant

for one last chance

 

to do better

 

© 2020 jafink/oldbonesnewsnow.com

 

 

Attending the Breath

 

SLC Sunrise

 

attending the breath

in the first grey light

of this winter morning

 

the sound of the wind

through the glass, this wind

 

that was blowing

before breath arose, this wind

 

that was blowing

before thought arose, this wind

 

that will blow long

after the very last thought

has blown away

 

 

© 2019 jafink/oldbonesnewsnow.com

 

 

laughter and tears

oldbones

 

laughter and tears

 

we were once shiny, undented.

had baby after baby with limitless

perfect futures. we had answers, speed

and never enough time. we

were accelerating. last night

fall came to this mountain,

the face of the grey man

peering through the glass. this morning

we sit beneath a weakening sun

the leaves blowing about our feet

like so many small broken things.

your hand is warm in mine, and just so

am I blessed — so little survives

beyond laughter and tears.

darkness falls.

the trees across the river

draw down their blood in silence,

brace themselves for winter.

 

© 2019 jafink/oldbonesnewsnow.com

 

 

remember

On a recent African trip, we spent time at the Kigali Genocide Memorial in Kigali, Rwanda. A profoundly disturbing place, the Memorial commemorates the Rwandan genocide which was launched some twenty-five years ago. They say that over one million men, women and children died, and that as as many as 250,000 are buried on the site of the Memorial. Bewildered, overcome and overwhelmed, I stepped outside into the garden and sat, eyes closed. I simply tried to feel the energy of the place. Below is the piece that emerged….

 

Remember

 

Remember

the birds fed here

and the dogs — there are always

dogs. the dirt aches, an endless low

moan. someone laughs, but the ache

continues. the shadows here

taste like salt

 

the souls of the children

hide in the trees, watching

they do not laugh, will never

laugh. silent and alone

they wait for rain

 

 

 

note- the image above is a photo of a piece by Daniel Arsham on exhibit in the Moco Museum, Amsterdam in September, 2019.

 

 

© 2019 jafink/oldbonesnewsnow.com

 

 

winter’s end

 

in these mountains, winter tends to linger, teasing us with spring followed by a new layer of snow…

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winter’s end

 

each snow covered branch

is  like a phrase in the erratic final chapter

 

of winter, punctuated

by small dark birds, confused

 

by the storyline of the season.

while overhead, three geese

 

skim the treetops, crying out,

lost in this featureless white world,

 

desperately searching, like so many of us,

for a safe place to land

 

 

© 2019 jafink/oldbonesnewsnow.com

 

 

 

the women tell me

Crab

 

 

the women tell me

there is soon to be a baby.

 

I remember calling my brother

upon the birth of my oldest son.

both of our parents were dead,

and I needed to tell someone — he,

however, seemed unimpressed.

 

I see this son now grown, bearded

and strong, busy planning their lives together,

as if such a thing were possible.

 

I can almost feel the life force drifting

like pollen from our branches to theirs,

calling forth small, green buds, the sap

beginning to rise.

 

the flowering crab in the yard

holds dark, withered fruit fermenting slowly

under a weak winter sun, when a solitary robin,

who should have gone south months ago,

brushes the snow from the branches

and gorges himself on the hard, bitter fruit.

 

eventually, he grows drunk, drops into flight,

and spinning once in midair, flies straight

into the darkened glass of the window,

then drops to the ground like a stone.

 

so many deaths

caused by mistaking reflections

for truth, by confusing images

with the unyielding surfaces of life.

 

the women tell me

there is soon to be a baby.

and we shall welcome her

with indescribable joy. we

will surely be impressed.

 

we will do our best

to hold her safe, to teach her to see.

we will stand with her by the window

and watch the comings and goings of birds.

 

perhaps, she will smile and laugh with the birds.

perhaps, with time, she will come to love

these hollow-boned, fragile,

exquisitely mortal, impossible birds.

 

perhaps, with time,

she might even be the one

who teaches us all how to fly.

 

lift with the legs and throw

blackdog

 

lift with the legs and throw

 

it feels like it’s been snowing forever

shifting sheets of white and grey

covering what I knew of the sun

smudging the margins of day

 

into endless hours of night.

three days in, the city plows

have fallen behind, and all the routes out

are lethal. twice today

 

they’ve come to scrape our road

packing dense piles of dirty snow

into the mouth of the drive.

and twice today I’ve booted up

 

to attack that pile, my old dog

mad for the snow, leaping at the shovel

with every throw — lift with the legs

and throw. lift with the legs and throw.

 

just like my dead father commanded

when he passed the shovel to me.

lift with the legs and throw —

but he somehow forgot to tell me

 

that shoveling never ends

there’s always another storm

another plow in the night

coming to choke to drive.

 

this is men’s work –

dark, cold, heavy and wet.

so back out we go —

lift with the legs and throw

 

the black dog leaping

biting at the snow.

lift with the legs and throw. again.

lift with the legs and throw.

 

what choice do we have

but lean into the darkness

and throw?  study the dog –

swallow the storm

 

leap at the sky –

bite at the snow.

 

 

© 2019 jafink/oldbonesnewsnow.com