(This morning, 27 March 2008, I wrote in my journal what I saw through the front window. I looked at it and thought of how I'd never written a haiku before. Feel free to help me get it right, wiki-wise.)
Snow on the cold wind
through bright waves of rising sun.
Skittering glass flakes.
[The following was retired to the Poetry Archive 27 March 2008.]
(In 1970 I published a little book of poetry and peddled it around to stay alive. It was a simpler time--I went to a printer and said, "Hey, print this for me and I'll pay you as I sell it!" He said, "Sure." I haven't cracked it open in many years, but I just did and found this. It's here mostly for the sound. I'm going to submit it to capitalization--in those days I wanted my poems to look like the liner notes on Bob Dylan albums.)
The winds are up,
the awful breath of distant skies,
In the vast, where there was heat
and haze, it blows to raze
the columns of complacent afternoon;
the ashes swirl away, ascending seas.
And way up there the sun
excites new waves of air
deep-rolling in the trees,
and random traces
lick and sweep eroding ground.
The sound is broken on our faces, while
blind wheatshafts lie
and softly cry the birth of chaos.
Bare-heel deep in earth,
stand near against the storm--
I'll be your staff, as wailing spirals
through your hair bear chaff
on sailing terrors in the wind.
[The following was retired to the Poetry Archive 4 January 2008.]
(I wrote this for my wife on Valentine's Day 2006.)
We will pluck rubies from low-hanging branches.
We will weep rainbows when hard frost is gone.
We will draw honey from throats of gold trumpets.
We will ride strong horses into the dawn.
I will find diamonds deep in the mountain.
I will deliver the fire-feathered ring.
I will forge stones and the fierce sun will kiss them.
I will thrum wood and the angels will sing.
You will take hold of the mantle of morning.
You will ignite every dream we may know.
You will weave light into wings for our children.
You will drape sorrow with succor, like snow.
[The following was retired to the Poetry Archive 14 February 2006.]
(I wrote this for my wife's 2005 birthday.)
They reach out like soft hands
to gather trembling wounded wills
within her shade of love.
Like strong hands they grasp the solid rod of hope.
Like ropes of flame those fingers ring my heart.
They probe the pain I fail to feel
and sing the path to healing
on the harp of peace,
appealing to the child,
the man, the family,
"I can see you,
yet I love you still."
-15 July 2005
[The following was retired to the Poetry Archive 18 August 2005.]
(I wrote this for my wife's 2004 birthday.)
Find a word for her?
They come in rushes, bundled:
sudden, sudden, sudden!
Is this a surprise?
What about the staid and steady?
arrival and healing,
like a rapid angel.
But she stays!
[The following was retired to the Poetry Archive 26 July 2003.]
(I wrote this in about 1984.)
A BROTHER DIES
A brother dies, is called from here.
The chair he kept is hollow now.
No more his reasons, round and clear,
but echoes we will follow now.
A brother dies, a candle dims.
The light has left his whitened hair.
We think of years once bright with him,
and wonder at the darkened air.
A brother dies, a darkness wise
and deep descends upon us here,
so we may better see his rising
star, more bright, more fair, more clear.
[The following was retired to the Poetry Archive 16 April 2003.]
(I wrote this in the spring of 1987, inspired by Psalm 139 and a haunting Celtic tune, the name of which I don't know.)
WITH MY PROUD SHIPS TOSSED
With my proud ships tossed and broken,
with fear in my sails,
I would rage against high ocean,
black tides and with'ring gales.
But the waves forget their passion
when Jesus walks the sea,
breathing peace through all creation,
speaking sweet love to me.
When the night clouds in their dark flight
veil the white moon in gauze,
and the barest breath of starlight
fails where the deep sky was,
and the dark draws tight around me,
all hopeless I would hide.
But the night shines bright about me,
and Christ by my side.
[The following was retired to Poetry Archive 18 February 2003.]
(I wrote this for my wife, Laurie, as a Valentine's Day gift in 1995.)
IF WIND WINGS FLAME
If wind wings flame from giants robed in light,
and angels powder peace along their flight
If spirit clings to clouds that veil the sun,
you must be angel, wind, or cloud fire-spun.
If you are merely wife, and not these things,
why do I feel with you bright warmth of wings?
[The following was retired to Poetry Archive 3 January 2003.]
There was joy in the hope of His coming,
the promise of reunion with Infinite Love and Light.
But then we passed through veils and into shadows,
fell through the gate of blood and bone
into a lone and weary waste.
Stars smoked out by the traffic of laughter and war--
song smothered under by the din of industry and greed.
Alive alone to some forgotten need, we bend stiff tender knees.
We listen for His horses' hooves thundering in the canyons,
banners snapping in the sun,
the angel host with bolts of flame and flashing steel.
But neither in the fire nor the whirlwind do we hear His voice.
No, mingled with the lowing and bleating and cooing and clucking
and crickets and sighs of leaning stars
we hear the cries of infant hunger,
a baby king, just moments old.
[The following was retired to Poetry Archive 18 November 2002.]
(Again, a hymn. I have no memory of writing this, but I imagine it must have been before 1985, hoping it might be part of the Latter-day Saint hymnbook that was published in that year.)
JESUS, ROBE US
Jesus, robe us with thy grace.
Replace our sin-spun pride
with holy cloth of covenant --
adornment of the bride.
And gold and whitened folds of light
upon on our shoulders rest,
and on the shoulders of all souls
who nakedness confess.
When we poor children meet in Thee,
and rags of sin remove,
adorn our trembling limbs with grace
and mercy, beauty, love.
[The following was retired to Poetry Archive 24 September 2002.]
(This was written maybe twenty years ago as a hymn about tithing, but you don't even have to know what tithing is for these simple verses to be true.)
IN FAITH, WE GIVE
In faith, we give to the Lord.
In love, He gives to His own.
The gift of the faithful blooms in His hand
from the seed so humbly sown.
In faith, we give to the Lord.
In love, He gathers our seed.
The gift of the faithful springs in His field,
filling all His kingdom's need.
In faith, we give to the Lord.
In love, He feeds all His fold.
The gift of the faithful, given away,
He returns -- all heart can hold.
[The following was retired to the Poetry Archive 12 May 2002.]
(I've chosen this one for now because it's around Mother's Day, and this has my mother in it.)
WHEN THE WORLD BEGAN
I remember a little of when the world began,
when skies were deep in Southern California.
There were sheep next door and no apartments.
(I had seen a manger with my own eyes.)
Leaves and puddles, not a curb and gutter yet,
to mar the diamond of our street.
A car might come, and big kids move out of center field
until it passed. Fences hung with berries. Birds ate plums.
In the iron angle of Peck Road and the tracks
lived Mexicans like tigers and dreams, like smoke.
Dad took me to the foundry
at home I watched Mom in the tub.
There was a rodeo once, in the beginning of the world,
and cardboard cowboys stapled on my new stiff jeans.
Bees attended the dripping of the faucet out back
and I thought about God and Jesus, distant as Mars
and real as the smell of new Keds.
This was before the first bike, first high schoolbus.
This is in the time of the first mythic dog,
mother of gentleness, centre of truth, runner of laps of joy,
laying buff holiness on our knees to be stroked.
We were not alone when the world began.
There was a man each evening washed his driveway
We came out of doors for sirens.
You could see the mountains, count the pines on top.
And people still burned weeds in the City of Angels.
(16 May 1987)
[The following was retired to the Poetry Archive 1 April 2002.]
(The snow is receding in Utah, but before it goes, let me give you this Easter piece. I don't remember when I wrote it.)
WHERE WE LIVE, THE SNOW FALLS
Where we live, the snow falls,
all through the silent night,
in hushing curtains, veiling
all the ugliness in sight.
And when the darkness shallows
and the sun begins his flight,
all shapes in all creation
are bright echoes of his light.
When Jesus came, the snow fell
(or so the carols say),
although in springtime Bethlehem
a blossom burst that day,
and cast its color on the hill
a few brief miles away,
where Jesus would, like snowfall,
clothe us white, and cleanse our clay.
[The following were retired to the Poetry Archive 15 February 2002.]
(I found myself suddenly single somewhere in middle-age. Here are four poems I wrote for a lady I very much loved in that time. They are some words of beginning, some words of ending, some words of benediction, and some words of looking back.)
SWEETNESS IS SHARP
Sweetness is sharp,
slicing as feathers slice the air,
as flame fair splits the clouds
sharp as fingers melting
ice cocoons 'round me, as sharp
as moons rise warm
from pink-rock rims of pine
and pierce the soft blue sky
penetrates this fallow heart
like shards of rain,
shafts of sun,
blades from bursting seeds,
as sharp as your love.
SUDDEN AS A BELL
Sudden as a bell you are gone.
suck and swallow my sleep.
As deep as breath
you were inside me,
thin as death the line
between our liveswe were the same.
Is absence easier?
When every gentle thing,
all fair light, sweet smell,
kindness knells your name?
To make it somehow easier
will these be rung out too?
Wrung out the rag of my senses,
tears on stones
PSALM FOR A LADY
May the Lord bless you and keep you,
and the glances of His love
strike down the wicked
in the very shadow of your gates.
May His morning sun
kiss every hair of your head,
and through each numbered thread
pass peace into your mind.
May your fair feet, winged, fly
from kindness through new kindness,
dancing rose-field dances,
blessing as the busy
golden ankles of the bees
fly, swift galleons of grace,
sweet seas of milk and morningdew
fly, fire-fledged talons,
from the white-flamed branch
through cyclones of Spirit
and grasp the glowing dust of stars,
then walk our shadowed earth
in hush and meekness, splashing light.
And may your hands, in evening
touch the faces of your children,
knowing that the Father of all children
mother of mere millions.
I THINK THE PATH
I think the path I walked awhile with you
was toward the place where children's dreams come true.
My own dream was that maybe my poor hand
would sing in yours, and bring you to that land
where all your songs and mine begin to blend
and all your longings find a holy end
and light enfolds you like a faithful friend
and, like a child, you wake at home again.
[The following was retired to the Poetry Archive 26 December 2001.]
(This is actually a lyric, albeit a kind of poetic lyric. I'll take the risk of publishing it on the "Poetry" page. Much of the magic of Christmas glows in the notion that something so enormous came to us in a very small and humble package on that night so long ago.)
WHAT IF LOVE BECAME AN APPLE?
What if love became an apple, sweeter than all else?
What if peace became the secret every summer whisper tells?
What if light became a river, ringing down the canyon wild?
What if hope became a person?
What if God became a child?
What if laughter were a liquid you could drink from a glass,
and every tear of empathy a diamond that would last?
What if joy became a blossom folded safely in your hand
and it shone between your fingers?
What if God became a man?
What if every song that angels sang became a falling leaf,
and every dream a snowfall, and every prayer belief?
What if faith became an angel who spoke your name and smiled,
and she smelled of hay and starlight?
What if God became a child?
[The following were retired to the Poetry Archive 20 November 2001.]
(The following two poems are related. The young man in the first is my great-grandfather, Edward Payne. The baby boy in the second is his son.)
THE CONVERSION OF A YOUNG MAN IN ENGLAND: 1854
He came upon the meeting in the grove
among the leaning
green and golden oaks.
Without a cloudless vision of the why,
he came, and waited
in a thinning dawn --
and others like himself, he reckoned, came
and listened, taut,
beside him in the oaks,
while dawn began to thin like parting fog
among the leaves
and in the way of sky.
Along the warming ground the sound arose
of waiting, like
arousing bees -- young wind
sang on the warm as lark calls, thinned and drawn.
The panes of sky
went soft, and then the sun
fell dappled on the words the elder said
among the leaning
green and golden oaks.
THE BURIAL OF THOMAS PAYNE
One wagon lags behind the train...
soft in the desert is spoken
"Thank youfor the kindness"
grateful swells her injured heart.
such an awesome big thing, this
kind struggle, as the silent shovels
carve a place, a resting place, a lonely
place for lifeless little Thomas.
we dressed him up in a red dress and we sewed
him up in just a poor pale sheet
(who would have thought, those times
of hope, to make the terrible provision? pausing
then to buy the rope and lash
an empty unnamed infant's coffin
on the wagon-side...no zion-visioned man)
so now, beyond the comfort
of the phantom yeast-bread slice he cried for
never cut from the loaf
enfolded in the shaft
beneath a wagon's severed end-gate
"oh thank you" solemn brothers
...and the platefuls of Mormon-trail life
true on the boards