Kabul, Afghanistan. 🇦🇫
I took all the photos. I intend to post more photos on this site, in addition to contributing new poetry. For Muslims, today is a day of celebration: Eid al-Fitr. Eid Mubarak.
Though even love between a man and wife
Can die, still love as a quality lives.
Love surpasses all close understanding.
It outlasts the rare, few sands that time gives,
For love revives anew every moment.
As often as it’s snuffed, it’s lit again.
It cannot be decisively put out.
Love is eternal and has always been.
It is passed through countless generations,
Between all diverse aspects of mankind,
Between folk and beast and tree and bright star—
In all ages and lands, there is love, we find.
Years past, the tented field was one of war
With cloudbursts of bombs and grave, martial light.
Though those times ever, unwelcome, appear
They are not now here, and the field is bright
Beneath a northern sky flashing colors
Of electric shades in the weird gloaming.
For these tents lie beneath a grand aurora
Whose lights, like sailors, are ever roaming.
And what lights! Like nebulas brought near us,
They make a great glow of serpentine greens,
Blushing pinks, coronary golds, purples
Whose hues before appeared only in dreams.
Such wild and brawling hues that fly by dusk
Make, like dread skies of war, mankind feel slight—
But whereas war’s thunderheads bring horror,
Nature’s aurora brings awe and delight.
While merrily drunk on proud vintages,
While the dark new moon lies cloaked behind clouds,
While clean, industrious folk sleep and dream,
And the idle markets await their crowds,
Together we forget the coming dawn,
Who daily disrespects our mortal race
With her honest rays and revealing beams
That shine such hard light on each aging face.
Instead we clothe ourselves in nudity—
In the habit as that which we were born—
And sport in an echo of our lost youths
From which ease, increasingly, we are torn,
And, hiding ourselves upon each other,
Make as though night shall ever cloud the streets
Whose welcome blindness will never censure
Our maturing souls or our tumbled sheets.
When spring comes, the huddled bees clamber forth
From their cold, vulnerable colonies,
To feel the parting nip of late winter,
Savor the freshness of the vernal breeze,
And stretch their wings after the snowy cloister.
It is a time for scouts to find new hives,
A time for wild, swarming reproduction,
For rearing young bees to replace old lives.
A long-dead tree, standing in a vale’s hollow
With a deep cavity in its gnarled trunk—
A tree surrounded by rich broadleaf forest
That’s populated by boar, elk, and skunk—
Makes a worthy home for the nesting bee
Whose queen’s needs she must mindfully mark,
Whose summer combs will ooze melliferous,
And whose life is forfeit to the hive’s arc.
To make her claim, the bee must make her dance:
A robust and energetic gyration
That tells of her proud stake in the wooded chamber
And coaxes others to its location.
With zealous effort she wins the vote
Of the hive’s fascinated queen and drones,
Then, in glory, she leads a swarm of thousands,
Through pale glens to her queen’s modest throne.
There the settling bees establish their hive.
There is much to do, and no time to wait.
Waxy, hexagonal combs must be built
For the larvae and honey they’ll create.
A resinous mix of saliva and wax
(Used as a sealant and called “propolis”)
Is applied to the cracks and crevices
Of the bees’ growing metropolis.
And of course, the virgin must be mated,
For she shall be the mother of all bees:
Those to be born in the coming days,
And who’ll be the life of the colony.
Like in a dream, the queen’s mated in flight
(Best on warm, sunny days with a blue sky)
By drones who won’t gather pollen, or nurse,
Or build, or anything—save mate, and die.
From these singular males, in but one flight,
The newly mated queen keeps in her belly
Fertile stores to last the rest of her life,
Which consists of eating royal jelly
And the vital task of reproduction:
Egg-laying, fertilizing, sex control,
For it’s the queen that manages the lists
Of sexes that the working hive enrolls.
Summer comes and goes. The female workers
Build, gather, nurse, clean, and make sweet honey.
The male drones laze far from the busy hive
On days that are hot, languid, and sunny.
The world revolves. Trees start to lose leaves.
Autumn’s chill winds come with a rustling sigh.
In fall, the gluttonous, idle male drones
Are expelled from the hive and left to die.
The hive’ll be a buzzing sphere of females
When, once more, winter comes with ice and snow,
And at that sphere’s center the queen shall rest:
Heated by trembling bees in her hollow.
In fallow days the bees live on their stores
On honey that to their cells they did bring,
As they shiver throughout the cold winter
And keenly await the coming of spring.
Enlivening winter’s landscapes
Whose snow and icy mists shroud grey tombs,
Leave tables bare, and stop rushing rivers,
Comes spring with fresh designs drawn with age-old plume.
Spring’s first sketches seem earth-toned and modest:
Skeleton drawings of green and brown twigs
Among the lowing cattle’s bogged pastures
On whose fenceposts yet hang a holly sprig.
And as early spring’s watery dawns break
Over slushy ponds fringed with leafless trees—
The long-held icicles melt drop-by drop,
The soggy soils sprout mushroom colonies,
And the craftsman with claw hammer and nails,
Ruddy cheeks, long straight white beard, and clear eyes,
Sets from his home to build a grape arbor:
A springtime gift for his beloved wife—
As the sun shines on these longed-for changes
(And others: plum trees with their nascent bloom,
A promise of new fruit, elk waiting to calve
The wondrous life that grows within their wombs),
Spring avails herself of her soft pastels.
Where wild ducks lay their creamy speckled eggs
Amongst the tall reeds of moist, muddy marshes,
Spring overpaints winter’s neutral-hued dregs,
And where banks were lately glazed with thin ice—
And morning mist rose from the lake’s surface
As bewitched smoke rises from a mirror—
Spring washes the scene with lilac crocus,
Canary yellows, and magnolia pinks.
With different hues on each hair of her brush
Spring lightens and colors sky, land, and beast,
Rendering the cold, fallow land warm and lush.
Born in a cosmic, ancient time unknown—
Neither with a beginning nor with end,
Roving the globe with no destination,
Scaled from gales to zephyrs—exists the wind.
Never truly stilled. Wind wafts through tall grass,
Strokes a woodpecker’s pileated back,
Eddies, whirls like an Istanbul dervish,
Then rushes to autumn’s gold tamarack.
Along a purling stream it courses.
Unconquerable, the wind keeps her head,
Dashing over the solemn pine forest,
Toward the boreal Arctic’s stone swept shore.
Then out! Out over the cold raging sea,
Of black waves, fractured pack ice, and white spume—
Out amid lightning’s ribbonlike white wires,
Where auroras blaze in electric bloom.
On capricious currents come chance and change.
Historic, progressive, shaping wild rain—
On wind ride voyagers, eagles, and hopes:
Hopes to be fulfilled, hopes that are in vain.
The dusk was very orange tonight
A trick of the clouds and the light
And as that same light slowly failed
The gaudy orange sky quickly paled
And turned into a starry sphere
Like a face with comets ear to ear
And an eyelike moon, clear and low.
Seeing that, folk wonder, rightly, where the days go.
What is it that makes people be happy?
Is it firelight, candles, or something sappy?
Perhaps mountains, nature, or autumnal light?
Or a day seeing children flying a kite?
Some poor folk are happy, some rich ones too.
Some people stay cheerful while others stay blue.
Scientists say it’s genetics and place,
A mix of the two in our human race.
It’s a complex formula, their studies show,
To end with an answer that we already know:
That happiness comes from without and within
And sharing it is as easy as giving a grin.
There’s deceitful beauty where trees grow twisty
In a somber forest that’s shadowed and misty
Where light shines through in arrowlike shafts
And leaves stir faintly from gentle drafts.
There in a clearing stands a crystal bell jar
With a red rose inside that glows like a star.
For centuries not a single petal has fallen—
Neither in snowy seasons nor times of spring’s pollen.
Young trees around it have grown old and died,
Yet the rose has not wilted, faded, or dried.
Deathless, perpetual, unfading, enduring:
Without change, the rose has no chance of maturing.
Again, again, and again the sun rises and sets
On this place without memory that never forgets.
It is baffling how in a town so slow
How very quickly the years do go.
Sometimes after a frightful storm
We must burn our bridges to keep warm.
Here we work like a mill
Striding every day uphill.
Our hands are callused, our backs half-broke,
We chuckle at hope, that indecent joke;
We grin at love as it slips away,
Laugh at life and the hard day
Because the words to the song of gladness
Go like this: C’est la vie and to hell with sadness!
A good poem, like a good riddle,
May take a long time to unwind,
And in that time we find its pleasure.
The old nautilus shell—spiraling,
Whorled, and iridescent—shows at once
Its bright chambers to light
And hides its cavities in shadow.
Turn the thing, and find its great eye
Watching like a riddle, or a poem,
To see whether its strange bearing can be found.
They are ancient and pearly, these things,
Found in the icy depths of profound waters:
Hard without, soft within, cryptic and fascinating—
A verse in a nautilus, a nautilus in verse,
Two marvelous twists in an ocean of poetry.
It was one of those nights
Where we were laying on our backs
Looking up towards the end of the universe
And talking nonsense about stars and life
When I had this unshakeable and illogical feeling
That I was falling in love.
I wondered if I should ask her to marry.
But for heaven’s sake, I barely knew the girl.
We didn’t get along that well.
Well, we didn’t not get along either, but, I mean to say,
What the hell was my heart doing
Trying to get me to marry this girl?
She wasn’t my type; she was too young,
Still figuring things out.
You’ve met the type: college dropout,
Wanderer, finding themselves on the road.
I used to be that way once myself,
But I outgrew it. Most of us do,
And the ones that don’t, well,
They are who were meant to be.
Anyway, the stars were shining and I was
Wondering why I’d even considered
Marrying this girl, as she prattled on—
Something about Kant, and then on to Archimedes,
And then into a bit of astrophysics that,
Even in my state, one skewered through the brain
By Cupid’s arrow, I knew she did not understand—
When I came to realize why I thought of falling in love:
Here she was, beneath the blanket next to me,
Baring her soul to me: a virtual stranger.
There was something admirable about that.
Something profoundly lovable.
I could have asked her to marry me,
And it wouldn’t have been half as mad
As the mysteries of the universe.
I know there are some others
Who still prefer nature’s sweet light
To the glare of the television set
And who like mournful Tom Waits songs
And can imagine what life was like
Centuries before the Industrial Revolution,
When the Natives on the plains
Lived in teepees and the Mayans
Were still constructing pyramids.
Sometimes I see a hummingbird flying
And I remember hearing about
How quickly its swift heart beats
And I see the moon in the daytime
Behind hammerhead clouds that still,
With effort, look like floating castles.
I guess that the world’s just gotten tougher.
The facts squeeze the youth
Right out of you. Genocides, war, pollution,
Disease, global warming, you name it—
Everyone’s got an opinion and wants you to take a side.
Hell, even the people who bury their heads
In the sand and don’t harm a soul
Get outed for not helping.
But it makes it a little better somehow, to listen to old jazz
With the music turned down real low
And a hand-rolled cigarette between your fingers
With a little bit of lamplight and
A half-decent book written by a barely decent man,
And a cold bottle of beer,
To steal a few seconds from the world—
It’s a guilty pleasure, made all the worse by knowing
That outside the world is going up in flames,
And you’re nestled in to the semi-darkness
Enjoying a few moment’s peace.
Drink is a thing most odd.
Although merry-making, it is flawed
For the odd drink
Leads to a merry think
And merry drinking
Leads to flawed thinking
Which means odd drinking.
For sure, drink is a thing most odd!
Though merry-making, it is flawed:
Even rightly put down, bottle and cup,
They’re best not stood straightly, but bottom’s up!
They say that marriage is a worthy thing
And that may very well be!
But sometimes I want to take off this ring
And be on my own and free.
The able word-smithy
Ought to be pithy
And must write well
For his clientele.
He should have felt sadness,
And had spells of madness,
Yet still kept some humor
For his consumer—
Because nothing beats levity
Except, of course, brevity.
An unhappy mind
Makes the day unkind
It ties the thoughts
In strictest knots
And makes the soundest plots
Come to noughts.
To be convinced of the strength of far-off powers—
Of deities and entities and potencies
Is to stick and wallow for wasted hours.
Better to trust one’s own competency,
Or to steady winds and blooming flowers.
Out in the red, white, and orange desert
With dun scrub, the howl of the coyote,
And a falcon’s lost and windswept feather,
Is the green, squat, round cactus: peyote.
To find peyote, you must hunt it,
For it lies hidden and half-buried.
To take peyote, you must cut it:
Shallowly, like a blood bond to marry.
Eat peyote beneath the stars, by fiery sparks,
To the sounds of drums and song,
Wrapped tightly in the cobalt dark,
Balanced upon the venado’s prong.
Drink peyote in herbal or bark tea
With the moon pregnant with yellow light,
While the elf owl shadows moths silently,
And the Mojave rattlesnake waits to bite.
Mix peyote with piloncillo
Boil it with water in a pot on coals
Dream dreams as bright as membrillo
Seek the spirits of the Huichols.
Orange pumpkins and golden grains ripen
Beneath a horde of black ravens who circle fields
Where a straw scarecrow stands with his pipe in
To frighten the birds from their meals.
The sky is not yet blue; it is rosy this dawn.
A tendril of mist twines around the fruitful hollow:
It is a delicate white wreath, soon gone,
That laces the amber-leafed larches and purling river below.
The air is thin and clear–
A person could see here for miles,
And sound carries to a listening ear:
The rasp of ravens, the sacred, silent whiles.
Day comes; the mist creeps into low, dank holes,
Then vanishes as the sun paints the rose sky blue,
Leaving the moon in the east like a glowing coal
And coloring night’s purples with daylight’s vivid hues.
Flying like a rushing cataract over the still hills,
The ravens light in a dead and leafless oak,
To preen their glossy feathers with their matte bills
And caw and croak and cackle and laugh as if at a marvelous joke.
On the yellow and blue prairie
Where the wind rustles the tall grass
A fire begins to carry,
Taking here and there—growing vast.
The grasslands shimmer with wild heat.
From a distance there is no sound
Just a flat orange line like a sheet
Beneath tombstones of black smoke clouds.
In dead of night, it’s an orange glow:
Like a torch in a sunless cave.
And glittering, spark-filled winds blow
Ash over the charred prairie grave.
As huge, towering clouds roll in,
Thunder cracks above the fires;
Rain pierces the smothering wind;
Lightning appears in cobwebbed wires.
By dawn, the prairie is hell’s floor:
Scorched, steaming, smoking, and stripped,
At once damp and hot at its core—
The underworld beneath a crypt.
In time come hordes of butterflies,
Undulating capes of Monarchs,
Faceless with wings like blinking eyes,
Fluttering past the torrid marks.
And, too, bison and birds return,
Slowly and lightly, hoof and wing,
To that flat dish remade by the burn,
To death, life, known stages of things.
The still water mirrors the sky.
Pink grasses grow along the road.
The full moon floats like a white eye.
A field hand shifts a heavy load.
A brown colt walks with its mother
And the other cows and horses.
Fields look blue for mezcal lovers–
Agave plants are that blue’s source.
Shocks of hay stand in golden fields.
Ducks swim upon shallow ponds.
The railroad ties zipper through miles
Of wheat, then, with distance, are gone.
Stars shine in the prairie night sky.
The night is clear. There are no clouds.
The cratered moon is full and bright.
Bison huddle in warming crowds.
It is late autumn. Crickets sing.
The northern air smells of winter.
Light wraps the pearl moon in a ring.
Through tall grass, wild horses canter.
Old trees creak in the sighing wind
And drop striped acorns to the ground.
The shallow creek runs through a bend.
A great horned owl soars without sound.
We lay out under the bright stars:
Saw the moon lay in her crescent,
Saw the prairie stretch out to Mars.
We felt nostalgic and prescient.
Her heart was as pure as clear ice.
My heart was hungry as a wolf.
Words came at far too dear a price.
Love lay between us like a gulf.
If she leaves here in the morning
All that’s left will be memory
Like an orange fire that’s burning
That leaves an ash that’s hot and grey.
The horses they start to snuffle.
The dog is whining to go home.
If love can come through this shuffle
It’ll last till memory is gone.
Past the plums and bushes of blueberries
Then through the hollow’s fog, thick and heavy,
At dawn when the whippoorwill’s song carries,
I drive the rutted road in my old red Chevy.
I have not slept the night, for I was out upon the trail
Driving cattle on my horse along the dark terrain,
The hours marked by distant whistlings of the locomotive on the rail,
The deepest night made cold and bitter by unrelenting rain.
The heater’s blowing ghostly hot air on my hands,
And the truck is bumping slowly along the road to home.
I take a tired look at the good lands
That wear my heart raw to work and roam.
Bison graze the tall, golden grass.
A sparrowhawk rests on an oak.
A herd of wild horses, paints, pass.
Like the sun, they’ve never been broke.
It is summer. The wind is hot.
The river’s just a silty stream.
By it, a fox settles in for thought,
Then he curls himself up to dream.
At night the fireflies come out.
The flies twinkle like earthly stars.
Owls hoot. Wolves howl. Trees creak in drought.
Planets can be seen: Venus, Mars.
The wind rustles the big bluestem
And shakes the leaves on the willow.
Silver clouds scud. The moon is dim
And lights the plains with its grey glow.