Turkey, deer, buffalo

Though this sounds dreamlike — or delusional — this really happened. I did chase a flock of turkeys and end up too close to a giant buffalo with his feet folded under him in a woods in the Wichita National Wildlife Refuge in southwestern Oklahoma. And he did indeed begin to rise to his feet before I withdrew to safety. Eerie, unreal, but nonetheless true.

 

As turkey crossed trail

I took off after him and

found the other 12.

 

Chased them through the woods

and nearly spooked the three deer

between me and the

 

monster buffalo

with his legs folded under

his massive body.

 

Testing boundaries,

I approached as close as I dared

until he rustled.

 

At just 30 feet,

eyes staring from his shaggy

giant, horned, brown head.

 

I was close enough,

part of me concentrating

on the nearby trees

 

I had kept in mind

to shelter my swift retreat

If he rose to feet.

 

Mobile library — 1970

We were in VISTA when it really was a domestic Peace Corps. We taught in the schools, developed marketing for a native crafts store, and in the summer I drove a makeshift bookmobile, carrying books in cardboard boxes out to kids in the Ozark foothills, offering summer reading to kids in virtually bookless homes.

 

A pick-up filled

with bright, shiny new

double-paned windows

 

drives slowly, looking

for a windowless house,

reminding me of

 

inherent windows

on the sunlit world of words

carried in a truck.

 

Boxes in a van,

sliding side to side down road

not ever surfaced

 

with even gravel,

rutted by the spring rains there

in Ozark foothills.

 

Board-bound windowpanes;

paper pages inside cloth,

promising riches

 

to those kids who’d look

through, expanding vision from

these surrounding hills,

 

whose chief industry

consisted of growing and

processing chickens.

 

But inside boxes

shifting with the rutted roads

lay windows and keys,

 

new paths opening

to a brighter future than

Northwest Arkansas

 

could possibly give

those who were confined by these

low, rolling mountains.

 

 

Confluence of colors, Japanese Gardens

The annual Japanese Festival at Fort Worth’s Japanese Gardens brought me to a line of sight that included birds of green and fish in scales of gold, white and red, and across the very large, flowing koi pond, Buddhist monks clothed in flowing golden robes, their reflections rippling off the backs of the koi. Memorable.

 

Green-backed heron chicks

dancing down the branches of

a low, long-leafed pine

 

stretched over waters

where giant koi, gold and white

swim in sparkling light.

 

The water reflects

brilliant orange Buddhist monks’ robes.

Gold on gold on gold.

 

 

 

 

 

Baby steps

At the wedding reception of one of the sons of two of our closest friends, I had the privilege of holding the first grandchild of another of our closest friends, waltzing him around the reception hall, showing him the sights of the room, giving his mom a break, and, in the process, having the time of my life.

 

I hold a baby,

give my friends’ daughter a break

as I cruise the hall,

 

showing him people,

decorated wedding cake,

another baby.

 

Keeping tears at bay

by varying sights and sounds,

treating his young eyes

 

to this wedding feast

of men, women, and children

celebrating life.

 

Young Caleb and I,

performing this dance of love,

moving, mingling

 

with Christ’s body here

in varied and wondrous forms,

love making water wine.

 

 

Summer evening , Jamestown

 

On one of our family’s trips to Colonial Williamsburg, we toured the reconstructed Jamestown in the afternoon and in the evening, made our way across a field to this grand, but not all that prominent monument that offered thanks and recognition to the French for their help in our War for Independence. It was an impressive monument, and the evening, aglow with fireflies and browsing deer, made the whole scene idyllically unreal.

 

The monument to the French,

their help and participation

in the Revolution,

stands on a hill near Jamestown.

 

We wander from the monument

to the edge of field and forest nearby

where blinking lights of fireflies

flash amidst browsing deer,

lending an otherworldly air

to this warm summer evening

here on the heights above

the James River,

not too far from where Pocahontas

saved the life of

one John Smith.

 

 

Rolling, rolling…

The outstanding memory of the night was watching the mandolin player’s fingers moving across the strings so fast my eyes could not keep up. Five feet away from me they were a blur of movement. And the bass player, swigging on his beer all evening, laughing, leaning back while picking and playing chords, like Yoyo Ma. So in the moment, he made you regret every career choice that did not lead to you becoming a session musician in Nashville.

 

Rolling backwards down

the two carpeted steps.

BB King’s, Nashville.

 

I was the floor show

for the two tables of us,

bowing as I rose,

 

uninjured and glad

I’d not hit back of my head

with its plastic door

 

where surgeons went in

to re-arrange gray matter,

take out a tumor

 

and fix the plumbing.

All’s well that ends well, they say.

I wasn’t injured.

 

None the worse for wear,

we then went on for bluegrass

at a little club.

 

Two of us closed place,

walked back to hotel in light rain

as lightning rolled through

 

thunderclouds above;

cloud to cloud flashes of light.

Memorable night.

 

 

Viking pocket change?

I picked up this nickel-sized Roman coin in a gift store in Galveston. The store had a small book of old and rare coins in cardboard and plastic sleeves, and this little ancient gem cost me only about $13, as I recall. Quite worn, but it was, after all, around 1,700 years old. And then I lost it.

 

Carried this coin

with Emperor Constantine

in my back pocket

 

(really my wallet)

for the past 10 years or so

as a reminder

 

that church/state issues

have been around a long time.

But now it’s slipped loose,

 

lost itself somewhere,

and I can’t help but wonder

what someone will think

 

when they discover

this Roman emperor’s face

staring back at them

 

from the 300s,

from ancient Rome’s coinage

found here in Cowtown.

 

What explanation

will they conjure to explain

a bit of Rome here

 

in the modern West

where Mediterranean

refers to furniture,

 

and Italian food’s

the common reference point

for things out of Rome.

 

 

 

 

 

New Jersey Nets vs. Miami Heat; Swan Lake vs. The Nutcracker Suite

Some sports and arts fail to capture my heart, but still they can offer wonder, wonder at what impossible movements and flexibility the human body is capable of.

 

I watch basketball

the same way I watch ballet:

infrequently and

 

focused on movement,

amazed the human body

can move with such grace,

 

fascinated by

twists, turns, leaps, and pirouettes

— flexibility.

 

I find it thrilling

that these bodies, much like mine

bounce off the boards, fly.

 

 

Suspended, animated, above it all

It was a grand adventure with no down side. I found an open twin track leading to the top of the levee along the Mississippi inside New Orlean’s limits and rode along, watching freighters and ante-bellum mansions fly by below on either side of me. Just me and the river passing through commerce and history. It was grand.

 

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.

 

 

On sea glass time

The McFadden National Wildlife Refuge had been opened up for the hunting season and guys in camouflage gear kept popping up out of reeds beside ponds. I was wearing a bright yellow windbreaker and probably looked like law enforcement to them, at least that’s how they seemed to respond to me. Despite the sporadic shotgun fire at rising ducks, I didn’t feel much fear, given the range of most shotgun pellets and my bright rainproof gear.

 

Up to my wheel hubs

in the loose Texas beach sand,

I’d done my birding

 

just after first light,

content to take my ease now

till I could get help.

 

I walked the shoreline

finding first shells, then beach glass

formed from old bottles.

 

Bits of blue and green,

white and lilac, washed up here,

scoured to frosted,

 

all sharp angles gone,

rounded edges all around,

like the elderly

 

softened by times’ wear,

like a worn pair of blue jeans,

comfortable now,

 

ready for the slide,

the fade to disappearance,

chips of glass and bone,

threads without color.