A Chance Encounter
( Selected for inclusion in the WA 129+ collection by WA Poet laureate and Gonzaga University) Chapbook A#3 WA 129+ poetry
“A trouble shared is a trouble Halved” Dorothy L. Sayers
A chance encounter
splits open the day.
Intent on my quiet musings,
interrupted by a friend’s pain,
I catch his eye and we smile.
I invite him to sit awhile.
Grief is pulsing through his veins
purple and throbbing.
He had worked forty years
to enjoy this time with her.
“She puts her glasses in the freezer,
and her dinner in the closet.
She pours her coffee on her cereal
and cannot find the bathroom.
So many decisions to be made
instead of traveling the world.”
Weighed down, a fit man,
beaten to his knees.
Terrified and confused—
not up to the task,
I listen and watch the pain
subside as he hears
the sound of his own voice
telling the truth about himself.
He laughs at something he once said
and rises to leave.
He came stumbling in the dark
looking for God, and found only me.
I hug his neck and feel some
burden pass between us.
The First TED Talk
It clocked in at 19min ,30sec
Just within the allotted time.
They say he used all the right
hand gestures—stretching his arms
out vertically—inviting and warm,
then horizontally, as if beckoning
to an unseen energy.
But not too much hand use,
as to distract from the message.
His speech, measured carefully with varied tones,
carried his words forward with a delightful cadence.
His diction and syntax appropriate for
the occasion, perfectly understood by
foreigners, laborers, and officials alike.
His eye contact was superb, neither staring—
which we all know makes one uncomfortable,
nor fixed upon prepared notes.
Looking intently over the crowd,
he constantly adjusted his vision
to make each listener feel
he spoke directly to them.
His talk was well organized,
with beginning, middle, and conclusion.
Organized themes made retention easy
and left the listener wanting more—
eight simple principles for a happy life.
Some say there were more than three-thousand
souls spread out upon this Middle East knoll.
He would be praised for years to come
for speaking with such authority.
“Attention is the beginning of Devotion” – Mary Oliver
Once more I watch
the plumb tree
outside my window
just as it does every spring
from a ghost of gnarled
into stages of moving shapes
One solitary blossom spreads
its violet wings and waits
for thousands more to follow,
some barely more than a tiny ball
at the end of a branch–
others stretch out into cylinders,
purple and ready to unfold.
Many more pink buds
wait their turn for glory.
All this- this shimmering montage
before my eyes
gifting this spot of earth
with a story that tells
of a universe unending
needing only a witness.
Sitting silent at the table
surrounded with strangers I once knew
trying to recognize high school friends
behind faces drawn tight and wrinkled
by weather and cigarettes and care,
some puffed and mottled with spots.
Curly red hair once floated
across foreheads, now fallen, the roots
dislodged follicles onto the floor
swept up, discarded.
Voices changed- higher
in men, lower in women…
Ah, but the eyes
give them away
if I cared to look,
look, and look again.
Yes – there they were.
Life and care had worn the body, yet
the eyes were left alone
and assure me
we remain friends.
The piano player plays softly upon the keys
Of the baby grand tucked away
In the shadowy corner of the pub.
No one is listening, no one marvels.
Each key tapped hammers a wire down below
Which in turn vibrates according to its properties?
Disturbing the molecules blanketing its surface.
We translate this disturbance in our inner ear as sound.
I was told this by a chemical engineer.
In that precise moment the magic of music was stolen from me.
Before that, it was God, and then – romance
and clouds and waterfalls and flowers opening at daybreak
and closing in at night, like all of us do.
What is there left to not know, to wonder about,
To rejoice in its mystery? Even death is explained away
As a simple returning and disappearing – leaving behind
A marble stone that no one will see but strangers.
Will someone please tell me if there is a single mystery
Left To frolic in that I can tell my grandchildren
Before it is spoiled for them too?
Will all the magic of this world be explained away
Until Wine no longer from water comes?
The last mystery cannot be destroyed because
It cannot be expressed. The mysteries that can only be felt
When one awakens and believes a surprise awaits.
Maybe the piano will always be magical for those
Who know more than they have been taught.
All Is Well
She softly moves alone at night
when the daytime cacophony
has ended and the turtle doves are singing,
when the children are in for the night
and the parents read to them by the Hearth–
She moves through the village streets
among the shadows and the whispers,
touching the adobe walls
of each home she passes,
with each step, she proclaims
a blessing reclaiming
divinity lost through day,
renewing the village
with every thought and breath and touch
I had a bird once
And took a thread.
I tied its leg to a tree
And left it there for dead.
I released the bird from the thread
And the bird joyfully flew away
How many threads are holding me
Until I look, I will never say
A piece of thread seems a little thing
How can it keep one stuck to earth?
Just ask the elephant who will not move
while tied by ropes he could burst.
To hold us down does not take much-
The smallest thing, a thread
Then we find we cannot go
Where our hearts are surely led.
So, strand by strand I free myself
from what I thought were treasures-
free now to soar the skies
finding joy without measure.
Blood -soaked children pulled
from concrete and wire rubble
spoiled my gentle morning.
I must learn to turn off the news
when drinking my mug of
skinny with whipped crème.
Stories I Told
Five children sit cross-legged
on the shag carpet,
leaning heads on their palms
looking into my face
and I feel the weight of it all.
How to I give them hope in this world?
A reason to try and find their place
in a universe too big for me?
Their eyes implore me
to give them the secret.
SO, I do the only thing I can.
I open a book,
and I read them stories;
stories of how a family
shipwrecked and alone
made a home more beautiful
than any could imagine,
and I read of a child lost
in the African jungle, only to be
raised and loved by apes,
to become a message of hope
and tolerance and courage.
And I read to them the story of a simple man
who came from nowhere special
and turned the world upside down
with one message—
The beautiful people come and go
while the plain ones stay.
The Chief officer leaves the deck
while the seaman carries on.
The sun brings life to earth
even when blocked by clouds.
The trees’ roots drive underground
so it’s branches may touch the sky.
in the dark soil earthworms feed the earth
unseen to the world.
The moon at midnight moves the sea
and with it life to its citizens.
At 1000 mph the earth spins unnoticed
bringing night and day
Saints and mystics cloister in prayer
bringing charity into the world.
Waiting for the Bus
The suns first rays make him blink.
The curb is hard and cold.
He waits in the early fall breeze
as the corner bus stop fills up
with students, all waiting
for #154 to take them
to their first day of school.
He is nervous. He is excited.
He tells himself stories of what the day will be like.
He believes everything will be better.
He believes people will be kind, for the most part.
He tells himself the teacher will be
gentle, patient, pretty, funny and will smile a lot.
The teacher will not scold or shout
like his mom did as she shoved him off
to his first day of school.
“He fixes the number of stars-He calls each one by name”. Ps 147:4
We lay back in plastic lounge chairs
in the cold desert hills,
scanning the clear night sky,
waiting for the last piece of day
to drop from the world–
counting the stars as one by one
they burst into view until we
lose count, the sky now speckled and splattered
with shimmering diamonds
as if Jackson Pollard
had flashed his brush at the sky
and declared it was good.
My friends talked and talked
of what they knew about—
how many light years away,
which constellations were which,
sometimes arguing and resorting
to Google to see who was right.
Was it Sagittarius, Orion, Andromeda
Pegasus, Aquarius—and was that a true star
or a lowly planet, or worse, what I call
a shooting star (now just a piece of rock
flying through the sky at 160,000 mph)?
They discussed the astronomical facts
of what was above us as if it
were a problem to solve.
In the quiet night I asked myself
“What do you think it is”?
The answer came from deep within
Orcas Island 2017
The Ferry approaches
to take me
from this tiny dreamscape,
this horseshoe of heaven,
this isle of stillness who
trained my body
in every movement
of every moment
It comes to take me back to that cacophony on the mainland where in the night my body quakes without reason.
Oh, for this