birdsong

we recently lost a friend to cancer, a death that prompted a number of close-to-the-bone poems for me. some so close that I don’t feel like I can share them without causing pain to her family. perhaps this, about a dinner we shared with her husband along the way, might touch on it without going too far…

 

raptor

 

he should get out some, she said, but how?

out of what? into what? knowing as we do

 

that her disease

is consuming their lives together.

 

that she’s at home slowly dying

while we sit here, sharing a meal.

 

we spend the evening speaking of birds

of the intelligence of crows.

 

of how she would watch the eagles

over the lake hunting the ducks.

 

of how she always sided with the ducks

though they rarely survived the attack.

 

of how birdsong at morning

differs profoundly from the songs of evening.

 

of how darkness seems to swoop down

and swallow the final notes.

 

of how in the deepest dark of night

countless birds are said to pass overhead

 

through the highest of heavens,

following the ancient ways north, and then south

 

and then north again. of how this migration

of souls passes completely unseen.

 

of how, in the end, there is so very much

that each of us must ultimately take on faith.

 

 

© 2018 jafink/oldbones.newsnow.com

 

 

message

message

for jessica, who showed us all that gentle does not mean weak…

 

Message

we got your message in the morning

that she’d died the night before

on the other side of the world. tears

 

mixed with iceland’s rain. so cold

so very far away. Every one of us

is so very far away

 

© 2017 jafink/oldbones.newsnow.com/jfinkimages.com

 

love and death

 

 

books-3

I spent the afternoon

reading poems before the fire, alternating

between Rexroth on love and Harrison

on death – one after the other, first love

and then death, and then love

and then again death – but then

I began to cheat (as I sometimes do)

going from love to love when I’d had

too much death, or death and death again

when love had become too much. love

and death, diastole and systole. I wonder

if I just keep reading until the poetry

exhausts itself, will this all end with death?

or will death’s cold hand yield in the end

to the exquisite supplications of love?

 

 

© 2016 jafink/oldbones.newsnow.com

chilidish things

 I was walking in a bookstore when the phrase, “we always believed that she could fly” came into my mind, loudly.  That night, a poem arose.  The details are from my mother’s memorial….

 

tombstone, child's grave

detail of weathered tombstone, barnett, VT

 

 

chilidish things 

 

we stood in a circle about the grave

some read poems and some

 

chose silence. the funeral director

placed her ashes into the hole

 

while redwing blackbirds sang

in the fields. we always assumed

 

that she could fly, but then we

were only children, eager to cling

 

to childish things

 

 

 

©jafink/oldbones.newsnow.com

My Father

My father, Allen Medford Fink, died of lung cancer in 1986 at age 72. He was not an easy man. As I explained once to an adult nephew, he was our father, so we wanted to be close to him, but it could be a dangerous place to stand. He taught us to be strong. But as I grow older myself, I can see that if my brother and I are, in our own ways, more gentle, well, he must certainly have given us the seeds of this gentleness as well.

 My father was 42 years old when I was born, so he was dead by the time my sons Patrick and Nathan were born. But his presence remains. In the Buddhist cosmology, the “three times” of past, present and future and not as solid as we ordinarily take them to be. Perhaps this is how I know that if he were to meet my sons today, I am certain he would be amazed. I am certain that he would be most pleased.

My father with me, the baby, and my big brother Joe on the lawn of our small house in Detroit in 1958.

My father with me, the baby, and my big brother Joe on the lawn of our small house in Detroit in 1958.

Written April 2015 in the Wasatch Mountains of Utah —

rains

the wind

is beginning to howl

a late season snow coming in.

by morning, everything

will be blown back

into white.

 

I remember my father

staring out the kitchen window,

massive and simmering,

considering the evening sky.

 

he left the farm just before the war-

came North, but never lost the habit

of weather,

 

of watching the clouds

for signs of impending danger

of flashing from sun into thunder

with no warning.

 

we’re grateful for the snow-

it’s been dry here for too long.

 

redemption can come

through the blessings of rain

of a rain that falls hard all day

of a rain that might protect us

 

from the lightning

from rage without warning

from the flames

t

hat can race up from the valley

and sweep us all away

incinerating everything

 

 

 

©jafink/oldbones.newsnow.com

Memory

green eyes old bones

 

 

 

 

Memory

 

didn’t we kiss for the first time

yesterday, on this too brief passage

through the invisible gardens

of time? the dogwoods

 

by the old dutch church drop all

of their flowers at once, blanketing

 

the ancient graves with white

for a single day each year. memory

 

is all the immortality we’re offered.

this, at least, we must promise one another –

me, I vow never to forget your eyes,

and you, you my love

must always remember my hands.

 

 

©jafink/oldbones.newsnow.com

stones

stones-2

I’m old enough now to see

how I’ve lived my life in dogs,

each a sun-warmed stone

in this stream of loneliness.

by these have I kept my feet dry,

have I so far made it across.

I look into the brown eyes

of my young black dog,

and can’t help but do the math.

My heart breaks in the knowing

of that distant day when he tells me —

it is time. When do we begin

to die? not at birth, surely,

there’s such a rush to life

for so long, but it slows somewhere,

somehow deep inside of itself

it starts to slow, until one day

as we sit together talking,

this slowing shows itself

in our faces, in our eyes, in our first

clear diminishing, and then we know,

yes we know. We’ve had a week now

of cold nights and windy mornings

the clouds dropping down, scraping

the tops of the aspens, stripping them

of leaves. Snow will come soon

to these mountains, but for today,

I still have this chair by the stream,

still the sounds of the stream over stones,

still a black dog warming his bones

in the late day sun. for today,

this is sufficient. for today this

is wealth enough for a life.

 

 

©jafink/oldbones.newsnow.com

Poems From Retreat – Shambhala Mountain Center July 2014, Part I

Poems sometimes surface while on retreat. Most simply rise and then fade away, but a few linger long enough to be written down. Here the first of several from a recent retreat in Colorado

golden heads

mountain center

Part I

grasses, tall

ready to seed. sage

intermingled

 

the incongruity

of six bright

blue flowers

 

across the path,

yellow columbines–

aliens everywhere

 

Part II

vetali, vetali

life, life!

 

so little water here, so

precious

 

grow spines

so as not to be eaten

 

then explode three

impossible

yellow flowers

 

for each of us

its either bloom

or die

 

© oldbonesnewsnow/J.A. Fink

 

 

cactus head