Monday, May 24, 2021


Kelley Jean White  --- three poems


There was thunder, and a mountain shattered, falling—


There was a single tree still standing in this city,

one tree beside a noisy street. (‘noise’ does not begin

to speak for all that sound.) And now that I have come back

even this last tree has fallen, unnoticed, with a silent swish

of still green leaves. Oddly, it struck no building, just

cobblestones and tar, trolley tracks, the cracked sidewalk

beneath its trunk and branches No lightning struck, no wind

sent it sprawling. It seems its roots simply released,

its little soil outgrown. It was my only tree here, and I

have left northern white mountains, racing rivers, torrents

of snow melt carving glacial caverns out of granite.

I had thought to see it, this one tree bloom into autumn, shade

into snow. Now there is nothing to see. But dirty glass and

crumbling buildings. Scars.

These are my woods

head past pumpkin plants

cross the brook onto the thick mat

of leaves and sticks and over

fallen trees. So many fallen trees.

There is the owl tree on the left,

empty of owls these past two years

below and above vernal pools

filled before dawn by last night’s rains

light slants through woods ahead

silence, broken for a moment

by what might have been a deer

not glimpsed, sensed; turn, look back

see the brilliant white birch trunks

let them draw your eye to peace




Tonglen practice, also known as “taking and sending,” reverses our usual logic of avoiding suffering and seeking pleasure. In tonglen practice, we visualize taking in the pain of others with every in-breath and sending out whatever will benefit them on the out-breath.

How many years have we counted

each other’s breath? Tonight I have

barefoot tiptoed from bed to desk

from your curled back to a stone cold

floor. When I return you may wake

and roam the ticking quiet house.

But how many hours have we shared

with breath matched, dreams matched,

snores, sighs, stretches. Even the cats

stay attuned. Curved into the spaces

between us. The space made behind

our fitted knees, our pillowed necks.

Their purrs, their tiny sneezes. Their

paws. So I breathe in your pain as

my pain. Breathe out my hope for you,

breathe in your hope as mine. The cats?

Their dreams are soft and timeless.

Yours and mine? Carry a little fear.




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