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.