End of Camping

one night i sat
up trying to count
tent time, evenings in
lean-tos, sleeping bags
on dew covered earth
after backpacking, hiking, driving
away from city streets

to forest trees, mountains
summer storms, coastal sunrises
and there were dozens
maybe two hundred of
these star-filled moon
skies with campfire sparked
memories of younger days

when injured vertebrae were
stronger and slumber more
easily arrived, now nearing
50, i feel the chapter’s
end coming, but a story
written in god’s nature
will always dwell within

The Veltin School For Girls

I’ve been going through my Grandmother Ethel’s scrapbook. My Grandmother attended The Veltin School in New York City. In the coming days I’m going to post some of her artwork and poetry. She lived her life in New York City, Rochester, NY, then Myrtle Beach, SC, for retirement. I was very close to my Grandmother (1907-2000). We were/are both poets and spiritual people. I’ve taught at a school serving girls for several years now, my Grandmother further connects me to that work and the historic mission of those institutions.

More about The Veltin School: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Veltin_School_for_Girls

Harriet Tubman

what is it
to listen to
God, a voice
within that knows
right from wrong
freedom from slavery?

what if we
could all live
fearless in our
love for humanity
for the decency
of all people?

what if the
north star still
shines bright, if
only we be
not blind to
our inner truth?

what if we
are all Moses
wading in water
helping everyone across
to that dry
land of faith?

Presence and the Virus

and in the midst
of this uncertainty, as
time stands still in
houses, on streets where

dogs are walked five
times a day, and
women, men, wear masks
to stop the virus

within all this, i
sit next to my
son’s slumber and feel
only peace and calm

because this is our
moment, and all is
quiet, and the world
only exists right now

When The Fever Stopped

i found myself remembering
all the other feeble days
when time stood still, when
a single room, a single bed
was everything. Between
shivers and coughs, the
twilight space, sickness,
where body and mind journey
in dreams, but go nowhere.

This suffering carries with it
the magic of surrendering
to forces that determine
temperature and strength,
outside of human will and
control. And when this lasts
for night after night, a voice
calls out, don’t fight, don’t fight.
And when we give in
life always begins again.

Seeing Saturn

Friday night with big hairy men
they could be riding Harleys
some wear bandanas as they peer through
large community college telescopes
wide silver cylinders pointed up to dotted dark
between bites of steak and cheese
they ask if I want to see Saturn
she’s clear tonight
they say like sailors looking at the moon
like Saturn sings opera
I sniff the air for beer or pot, but only smell
their sandwiches mixed with May night
they do this every Friday, search the sky
for celestial bodies, for heaven
from earth I join their shabbat
the ring, I see it, planet nestled within
I forget to breathe, then remember
that I too exist

Paraguayan Heaven

Sitting shotgun in a truck, 3 of us squeezed in the front (Cayo, Ernesto, Me), no seat belts, sipping yerba mate. I’m speaking Spanish, asking questions about recycling plastic and filtering water with chlorine. Cayo drives, points his finger up at the windshield, motioning to each vehicle we pass on the two lane Caazapa highway. Yvaga, he says, cielo, heaven. That’s where you will go when you die, his finger silently communicates. Watching this ritual I see the other drivers smiling at us, their fingers also pointing upward, telling us the same thing.

Cayo asks me about California. The Paraguayan campo has no cable TV, no CNN, no movie theaters. He doesn’t question me about celebrities or our president, he asks about the land, trees, animals, what the air smells like, feels like. I tell him about non-native eucalyptus trees, how they suck water out of the earth, take nourishment away from other plants. He understands. The conversation is easy, like the cumulus clouds that float like cotton above us.

Ernesto speaks and at first I think I comprehend, the cadence sounds the same, but then I’m lost in a time before Spanish, before South American roads. I close my eyes for a few seconds, a lightness takes over. I’m hearing a Guarani language not of an evangelizing church or of plundering capitalism, but of a people, a community. A few minutes later we slow down, pick up a hitchhiker, normal in this part of Paraguay. I see the guy sitting in the truck bed, a large heavy sack between his legs. A man on a journey, we both watch the road, I look out the front, he looks out the back.