Nino

nino.pngHad Nino not come along

I would not have known that a dog’s mouth is also its only hand,

Nor that, to a dog, the roots of grass taste sweet.

I would not have known the best treat is cheese

Nor that the crows like it too and so can be our friends as well.

I also would not have known what a peregrine falcon looks like,

How shy a bird it is, and how it likes to sit alone on the tops of empty trees,

Nor how those crows, in numbers, are not scared to chase it from its perch.

Without Nino, I would not have known that dogs make people speak,

Share passing thoughts because of them, sometimes almost haikus as their dogs twist leads.

Like the woman in make-up who explained to me, that all living breathing things have a language,

Except for humans.

I agreed with her that we had lost ours, it was true.

Nino doesn’t like it if we walk too close to where the zoo borders the Downs,

And stands stiff when the lions roar between eight and nice o’clock.

Did you know their roars really can travel miles on the dry winds of Bristol or Botswana?

Were it not for Nino, I would not have made a purpose of this sloping grassy place

And more often than in the bathroom mirror, see my actual face.

I would not have made a special friend of a tree alone on an elevation

About the same age or stage as me, itself again after so much dreaming.

This tree seems so uncomplicated in its approach to living, it could be a peace-maker for politicians.

Once Nino showed me a bench dedicated to a poet from Catalonia who worked at the university,

And readied himself for his early death from cancer by walking here, among the English birds and trees.

It is said he felt nature growing closer to him as he made his homeward journey.

Thanks to Nino,

I have found an empty grove of oaks on an incline by the side,

Where I sometimes say out loud my thoughts as I slide over their shiny leaves that don’t degrade.

These small discoveries are the shiny accumulations of my days, while Nino plays,

And make me feel I might have found a home.

Stairs

If you want to find her, if you miss her, cross the room when the house is dark and quiet, to that chair she used to call hers.  Sit down there and you will feel a little of her warmth still there, deep in the cushions.  Very little, but still there, and hers.

Now go to the foot of the stairs and wait there, as she used to, and grip tight and look upwards, as she used to.

Kneel down now and place your fingers on the stairs in front, and you’ll detect the slightest of impressions still in the pile.  And if you look hard enough you’ll see the outline of her shoes.

And if you lightly brush your fingers on the rough brown fibres, and hold them up to the light on the landing when you get there, you’ll notice a few specks which will actually be little bits of her soles, not from other shoes but hers.

And if you look your very hardest at the banister that held her hand, you’ll notice again the very faintest of imprints of her fingers in the wood. And if you rest your cheek there, on those imprints, you will quite literally be touching just a little of her fingers, the little that’s still there, and they will be touching you.

Climb up slowly now to the landing, as she used to, and take a breath, as she used to, shuffle to the next flight, and you’ll catch a trace of her perfume still there, just a little of it, that she put on herself.

And at the very top, look up at the Christ set in the wall, as she used to, and look with everything you have, with all your strength, as she used to.

In that smoothed face, cut-in eyes and scarlet-painted heart, she’ll be waiting for you.

Landing

It is interesting to watch how birds land in trees and I’ve been paying more attention to how they do it recently.  Wings outstretched and still, the pigeon glides to within a few feet above the branch and then suddenly feathers splay to slow right down and then a sequence of very quick abbreviated wing strokes to lower itself down on to the flexing branch, perhaps one or two more strokes right afterwards for final balancing, a quick lift of the tail feathers, and then stillness.  It is the same method every time. Flight has ended and that change from flying to standing takes just a couple of careful, practised seconds.

Have I landed yet or am I still flying?  Have a found a place to settle?  Would it be this unsupported place, this unendorsed experience known only to me?

Aging (explained)

Revisiting the earlier poem “Aging” I thought I’d try to write a little more about this idea; the idea that there is a different kind of aging, a kind of psychological wearing-down and fatigue that comes through spending our time in the shoes of our thinking, traipsing thousands of thought-miles, living thousands of thought-lives, in search of a deeper reservoir of meaning which we insist must exist behind the uncommunicative immediate presentation of things.  I suppose this might have been what Krishnamurti was referring to in his idea of “psychological time” and the fragmentary nature/fragmenting effect of thought  and thinking.

When contrasted with the ticking of the clock and circling of its hands, thought-time seems to be of a different order offering a different life, apparently without beginning nor end yet malleable to our purpose and direction, infinite in its ability to self-propagate and grow.  In this lies thought’s attractiveness as a plane upon which to live and a route for escape and safety.

However, thought ages us.  It tempts us away from the obvious.  It distracts us and relentlessly reminds us of the terror of meaning, so that we may spend no time at all in the fresh simplicity of the every-day.  And it is the every-day that is actually what we have most in common with.  The repetitive yet timeless occurrences like the changing light from dawn to dusk, the sounds of birdsong, the shapes of clouds, the sheen of rain on a road at night.  These things seem to speak to our own sense of self that doesn’t age, our own inner alertness to life no matter the age of our bodies.

For while there will inevitably be an endlessly changing content of our thoughts over the years as we grow older and re-position ourselves in relation to life, a bare tree in winter is a bare tree in winter, a bird just coming down to land in a branch is a bird just coming down to land in a branch.   A new moon in blue-violet sky is a new moon in blue-violet sky.  These things don’t age, life doesn’t age…and so, in an important way, neither do we.

Aging

Dwell less on your heart, its pains and beats,

Your chest and breaths remaining.

Less on the minutes and turning years,

Cut lines down your face unsmiling.

More on the loss of moments to thoughts,

How you seek but never find.

How you age with every departure you make,

One million rotations of your mind.

Until the day you say you’re old

And turn away ashamed.

From all the twinkling evening stars

And bird songs that don’t change.

 

 

Human Song

What would the world be like if we, like birds,

Preferred to sing, not utter words?

Played instead of typed on keys

Spoke not sentences but melodies.

Banged a drum or blew a horn

So in rage, swords not be drawn.

Bereft of music all language fails

But on string or wind somehow prevails.

Our muted sorrows in phrase concealed

Now in concert to all revealed.

No more vying for supremacy

Discordant voices back to harmony.

Haunted

In the early days, after moving into No.44 with his wife and young son, he’d wondered if the place was possibly haunted. He’d heard from the previous owner that one of her parents had died in the property (she’d originally bought it for them as an easier place to live in for their ending years). He sometimes felt watched and sometimes thought that things had been adjusted.

Crouching down picking up leaves in the front garden, he’d often feel as though there was something standing just behind the front windows, hidden behind the passing clouds, perhaps the old husband checking up on how well he was tending his beloved little garden. Other times, back from work, he could have sworn the big wooden shutters in the bedrooms, though; now pulled closed, had been left open by him since the morning rush for school and work. Perhaps the old wife pulling them across as she used to do, to keep out that full moon which could be so big and bright.

More strangely, though, was how in recent times, he’d begun to feel as though he was a ghost too…as though it was he, not another, who was haunting No.44. Perhaps he’d been the ghost all along, looking out over the front garden, hidden from view by those dark, high windows. He was beginning to be unclear about whether or not he was really still here. His memory seemed to be tiring, losing its elastic strength to bring him and others back, letting them drift so far, far away, so the threads stretched thinner and weaker.

Sometimes, he’d wake with a start in the daytime. Where’d he been? Where was everyone? How’d he grown so old, so quickly? It wasn’t an easy transition, becoming a ghost. That, after all, was what was happening. Yet as he overcame the initial resistance and adjusted to being less clear on his limits, it started to feel more natural, more like when he was a child, when there was no room except for everything. What did it matter, he thought. He was still himself, wasn’t he, just like always…just a trimmed down, lighter version, let’s say. He could still keep an eye on things, just as well. Make sure the property was maintained and those large windows were kept clean and clear.

The Only Possibility is Completeness

Don’t immediately take your life, being here as an excuse to start telling a story of personal incompleteness.  There is no need to subordinate this Situation into a story of partial living or to water down being into becoming.

That story is impossible.  It is in fact impossible that you are a known centre in a movement towards completeness.  It is an utterly impossible story that has never made sense, and certainly has never been proposed by life itself.

Thought comes back and back with the feeling and storyline of progress, decline, optimism, pessimism, and that familiar feeling of glancing experience and urging time.  But thought’s story began long ago.  It has no single home and no single master and it’ll continue long after you’re gone.  Time is simply how we refer to life spent from within a story. The thought-less, time-less world is always here, however, as if left alone, unnoticed, private.

The truth is that the only story there is, is this empty centre, a vantage point over and conjoined with everything.  The story is no story at all, but an unchanging inseparability with everything, with completeness.

So being here, is only an immediate view and a being of everything with no story at the core, no deferment, no creation of time, no distracting tale of an incomplete “liver” trying to be as complete as the life it finds itself within.