Penned Williamsburg sheep trim the grass nearby

My family loves Colonial Williamsburg. We’ve been there too many times to count. Florida, DC, Williamsburg; these three have all rated multiple trips.

But I digress. On this day, we had made the workshops, open-air Colonial dancing opportunities, and walked the grounds into the summer dusk. And down a lane were shaggy-haired sheep in an outdoor pen. A bench nearby gave me a spot on which to recline while Susan and Amy visited with the sheep. It was from that vantage point I saw the bird…

Jeff

 

Above me a bird

has settled in for the night,

perched in the branches.

 

I lay back and watch,

until the bird shape blends in,

becomes a round leaf,

 

a leaf with feathers,

living, breathing greenery

that flies when I start.

 

 

Felt bite; heard roar

Though this one was written a few years back, this spring has been similar, the thermometer numbers charting a roller coaster path as we alternate between 70s and 80s and near freezing temperatures.

And in the common wisdom of our area, passed down from my wife’s grandmother Agnes, we’ve still got the chance of an “Easter freeze” with about 20 more days of Lent ahead of us. Lambs and lions continue to tumble about, struggling to see which will prevail as we head toward April…

Jeff

 

Spring’s become confused.

Layers of pollen dust my car

underneath the ice.

 

Fallen daffodils,

already full bloomed yellow,

give testimony

 

to record cold, ice,

sandwiched between 70

degree interludes.

 

March’s fierce Lion

entered, romped and ripped and roared.

We await the Lamb.

 

Author! Author!

Doesn’t get much shorter than this, but notice how it demonstrates the way poetry can use only a few words — in this case 63, title included — to tell the reader a great deal. It’s a little hymn of praise to the Creator who gave us emotions to be able to have life to the fullest extent, and his example to make it worthwhile.

It’s Lent, so the alleluias here are reported in commentary and not in actual voiced praise, passing, I would think, any armed liturgist’s, most stringent tests of such things.

Jeff

 

Author! Author!

Author of laughter,

Creator of belly laugh

and wry good humor.

 

Salter of the Earth

with tears that purify us,

cleanse our emotions.

 

Giver of the gift

of ultimate commitment,

giving us your life.

 

You alone are God,

worthy of our highest praise,

the gift of our lives.

 

May Alleluias

flow from our lives evermore

— hearts and acts and all.

 

 

Suspended, animated, above it all

 

I drove the levees

along the Mississippi

high above river.

 

No signs or chains

blocked me from one-lane levee track,

but I felt guilty

 

as I whizzed along

past antebellum mansions

along river road.

 

That Old Man River,

just rollin’ on along.

Must have done six miles

 

wondering the whole time

if I’d be stopped by police,

but fascinated

 

by sea bound traffic,

by freighters and oil tankers

and white-columned homes.

 

High above river

floating on a Buick’s tires,

commerce, history

 

flying by below

like an O’Henry story

sans surprise ending.

 

 

 

Yield of sandy fields

Different beaches yield different kinds of shells, and in the case of Santa Barbara’s beach, they even produce elliptical balls of differently colored sandstones. This is a collection of remembrances of different beaches in different parts of the country: Nag’s Head is on North Carolina’s Outer Banks; Santa Barbara, of course, is just north of Los Angeles; Captiva’s beaches are at the end of the Island duo of Sanibel and Captiva Islands, off the Gulf Coast of South Florida; the sea glass mentioned next, I collected from the beach opposite a National Wildlife Refuge halfway between Galveston and Beaumont; the final mention is pre-historic sand dollars found in washed out areas below the spillway of Benbrook Lake near Fort Worth and in limestone fields in West Fort Worth. The prehistoric versions were much thicker than modern varieties, and their shells sometimes retain the thick brown coloring of their shells that they had before the calcification process that made them part of the limestone of North Texas. The sea leaves shells — and glass and sandstone too — smoothing each of them by its constant rolling actions. A remnant of its roaring remains, not aural, but written into the roundness of the pieces left behind, whether from last night, a decade ago, or millions of years ago. As I say at the end, the sea is ever fruitful.

Jeff

 

Beaches yield strange things,

sea-blasted beds of shell bits

smoothed by steep Nag’s Head.

 

Black and tan and brown

surf-rounded chunks of sandstone:

Santa Barbara.

 

Buckets full of shells

taken as the red sun rose

on Captiva’s shore.

 

And less natural

sea glass bits of green and blue

polished by the Gulf.

 

But here, inland shore,

eons after tide last ebbed,

round, brown sand dollars.

 

As when life began

the sea is ever fruitful,

even when it dies.

 

 

Dent de Leone (literally, “teeth of lion” from the French)

A few winters ago, taking my midnight walk through the linear park less than a mile from my house, I picked a white dandelion, ready to release its seeds to the winds, and twirled it, watching how the light from passing cars’ headlights passed through the tiny, plant fiber parasols that made up the geodesic dome they formed. It was a fascinating moment of revelation to see how the plant was held together. See if you don’t find this fanciful look at the dandelion a bit fascinating too. And the next time you see one of these spent yellow flowers’ frames, take the time to twirl one yourself. God’s engineering preceded Buckminster Fuller’s by uncountable millennia.

Jeff

 

Dent de Leone (literally, “teeth of lion” from the French)

Wishes forming domes

over the lion’s green teeth

flash past in moonlight.

 

I retrace my steps

surprised by this piece of spring

already full blown

 

in February.

I snatch parasol from teeth,

twirl it before light

 

of distant street lamp,

admire geodesic shape

of interlocked strands.

 

Fifty umbrellas

linked to form translucent ball,

interlocked filaments,

 

ineffectual

in any attempt to shield

from sun or moon beam.

 

I welcome the dark

as I twirl this little globe

of seeds on a stem.

 

I blow, all release,

except for one hanger on.

In it the pattern—

 

tiny, stringy strands —

shows itself in street lamp light,

reveals the secret:

 

procreative flight

is borne on feathery strings,

round, gossamer wing.

 

 

 

Red-winged blackbirds rising from field — two takes

Birding bedding change

A sheet of blackbirds

shaken by an unseen hand

ripples and rises

 

and we run under,

shielded by the flock’s black wings

blocking out the sky.

 

Still laughing we watch

as the sheet slides from the bed

of earth on the hill

 

into horse pasture

just over the barbed wire fence,

covering the ground.

 

Earth Like a Spanish Coquette

Thousands of blackbirds,

diaphanous mantilla

of rushing black wings.

 

A flirting gesture,

Earth flicks the loose-woven cloth

from the hill’s shoulder.

 

We run under it,

we two, laughing, enraptured

by the avian scarf.

 

The shoulder is bared

as the flock drifts and settles

beyond barbed wire fence.

 

 

Sweet dreams, may you rest in God

March 9, 2014

Today, it’s a Malaysian airliner. Thirteen years ago, it was two planes hitting the twin towers, one hitting the Pentagon, and one crashing into a field in Pennsylvania, but the principle is the same.  For all of us it’s a tragedy. For those who have lost a father or son, a mother or daughter, a sister or brother or lover, it’s the very personal human touches that are lost. Theirs is the real tragedy.

At the time of the 9-11 attacks, everyone wrote something in remembrance of the loss. This was my attempt.

Jeff

 

October 11, 2001

Sweet Dreams, May You Rest in God

by Jeff Hensley

 

One month out today,

another day of mourning

— for fallen thousands.

 

Janitors, bosses,

assistants, executives,

—mothers, fathers, wives.

 

Dishwashers, fry cooks,

temps, mid-level managers

—husbands, sons, daughters.

 

And as we all know,

it’s not their work will be missed

—but the good-night kiss.

 

Potter displays the gift

Now that my mom’s gone

I see her for the first time.

It’s all very strange.

 

Isolated parts

form themselves into a whole:

her identity,

 

somehow so scattered

while she lived in her body,

moves into foreground.

 

Her deep compassion,

her firm determination,

her grit, and her love,

 

make sense as parts of

mother, teacher, athlete, friend,

companion, and wife.

 

Towhead, pretty teen,

beau, young wife, and then mother,

middle-aged and old.

 

Then the final stage:

one that mimics infancy:

feeble elderly.

 

And then, back to God

where she sings with the angels,

cycle completed.

 

Now it all makes sense.

It’s as though Master Potter

completed his work,

 

moved the finished pot

from the dust of the work room

out onto display

 

where we who witnessed

her being shaped by his hands

admire her final form.