In the face of the tepid
Evening breeze, the barren trees
Have ceased to flinch,
Their weathered branches no longer troubled
By the feeble clawing of a dying season.
Stepping soft on a protruding root
And bed of leaves, the squirrel believes
That spring is here, and proceeds to bury and unbury things:
The sole occupation of his rodent species.
I want to tell him it’s still winter,
And does he not know how cold it is?
But he might tell me the same;
And in any event
He will soon learn the error of his ways,
Or I of mine.
On a small patch of grass in the fiery light
Of the setting sun, my fingers run
Through the tender shoots, on thawing skin
I feel the cautious tendrils of hope
Grow over the doused and frozen fires,
The withered desires of the past half-year.
And in that moment I know I could
Lie there by myself, unfrozen, forever
On that warm patch of yellow grass,
In not-yet-spring, but no-longer-winter.
On the ocean floor lie treacherous seaweeds,
Long and slimy ropes that entangle and strangle.
There are enormous stingrays of the venomous persuasion,
Gigantic octopi with twelve tentacles,
Maybe they’re called dodecopi, Squirting ink at prey and predator alike
Painting all with the same cephalopod brush.
How do I know this? I walked there once.
In pockmarked craters on the moon’s surface
Have cold rocks stood through the ages past.
No water to erode them, no wind to diminish
The jaggedness of their edges, no air to propagate
The sounds of their endless lamentation
And, in any case, no one to hear them;
Each one a mute spectator to the events of the universe,
The whole of human existence just a smidgeon in time.
How do I know this? I saw them once.
A thousand buildings dot the urban landscape,
Each housing a thousand bickering families.
Eight-year-olds shine shoes on the pavement,
Surrounded by pickpockets and startup co-founders,
And watch the sullen office clerks go by
In the shadow of monsters named CAT and JCB.
How do I know this? I lived there once.
In a small log cabin on a mountain slope
Lives a brown-haired woman with shining eyes
That look into the distance and contemplate
The flight of birds and the passage of time and the setting sun
Brings a red-orange glow to her writerly cheekbones.
She sighs and turns around, her mind preoccupied
With the next few lines of the poem she’s writing,
Begun years ago, and still unfinished.
How do I know this? I loved her once.
[This poem was heavily inspired by an illustration (scroll down for it), which I first saw in thisarticle.]
Everybody should be quiet near a little stream and listen.
Blast your iPods at the rapids, take your selfies in the ocean,
Discuss TripAdvisor ratings on some New Year’s eve cruise,
Restrict the screaming and splashing to chlorinated swimming pools.
Snow-fight all you want on your next Arctic expedition,
But when near a little stream, be quiet, and listen.
From the snow-melts of dawn flows this glittering little stream,
Watch the whiteness turn blue and the dancing waters gleam.
The dark night landscape becomes rocks, jagged and brown,
But see the round, grey pebbles in the water flow down;
In the splendor of the morning sun the golden droplets glisten.
What better thing to do than just observe, and listen?
Sit back and watch the consummate photographer: nature,
Who has immaculate exposure and the perfect aperture;
She’s got the warmest warms and the tintiest tints,
Comes with unlimited storage and lightning-fast sync.
No need for a labored hashtag or artificial sepia,
So put away those contraptions and just quietly sit here.
While it’s nice to know you’ve got a portable subwoofer,
I’ve come all the way here for the sound of the water.
Hear the whispers and murmurs in its miniature splashes,
The tinkling laughter that comes and goes in flashes;
There is song and music in the rapid flow aplenty,
So why subject yourself to the latest Top Twenty?
You can stretch out your legs and lean back on the grass,
Feel your thoughts wheel about like the distant fading stars,
Watch them flit around like lively butterflies in a mist,
Gather up and treasure them, as would a lepidopterist;
Let the infectious morning calm invade your restless mind
In the solitude of dawn let your tired soul unwind.
On the edge of the horizon the sun, uncertain, lingers,
Observe the minutes and the seconds slip through your numb fingers
And slow down as clocks pause, in the blue-orange silence;
Sense the dancing waters drub even time into compliance.
You’ve got a front seat for life’s greatest exhibition,
So why not take a deep breath, be quiet and listen?