Call of the Whippoorwill

Call of the Whippoorwill

Dedicated to my mother

Copyright © 2017 by Michael Stone

All rights reserved

No part of this book may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system without permission in writing.

Inquiries should be addressed to:

Mike Stone

email: mike.stone.email@gmail.com

Contents

Promises

Raanana, December 9, 2017

In this small sliver of a country

Where we call our hills mountains

Our history future

And our dreams reality,

The sun creeps slowly up the eastern hills

At dawn and sets the sleeping skies alight.

When winter forgets to rain long days

The sun’s fires are too far to warm our hands

But the light is so heavy you can barely carry it

Against your chest, let alone your eyelids.

The rain, when it does finally come,

Becomes a celebration of snails

Silver-tracking the sidewalks

As though they were all that were here

But soon they are a celebration of birds and cats

Leaving only broken spiral shells.

At night dreams fly around like bats

Felt but never seen,

And promises are sometimes touched

Like two lovers

Like a finger against one’s lips.

As Your Face Guides Me Home

Raanana, December 15, 2017

If I were as rich and handsome as God

I’d make you a constellation

In the starry sky and

Instead of stars, it’d be made of universes.

Everyone would look up and say

Your name and how lovely it is

And they’d look to you to guide them

Home to their loved ones

Wherever they were

As your face guides me home through the night.

You’d be a Goddess too,

I’d never be jealous,

But we wouldn’t sit all day on our thrones

Listening to everything’s prayers.

We’d go for walks in the woods

Meandering like the creek the follows us

Like a faithful dog. We’d have

Lao Tzu or Bodhisattva in our bellies

Warm with laughter.

We’d spend the rest of our time

Just imagining what we couldn’t create

But would be nice if it were

Like everything else does.

Haiku

Raanana, December 16, 2017

When I think of the

Seasons of our galaxy,

We live as mayflies.

A Grudging Gratitude

Raanana, December 20, 2017

When I was a young kid

I don’t remember being grateful for much

If anything at all.

It’s just that everything is given to you

Or you’re given nothing whatsoever

But you don’t know the cost of it

Or whom to thank.

Besides, when you are young

You’re going to live forever

And there’s lots of time to tell

Others what you think

If you thought about it at all.

Now, in the weakening light

Of the autumn dusk,

After the pruning of future possibilities,

I sit on a bench near a useless sundial

Daisy’s massive head and front legs folded

In my lap and me stroking her velvet skull

And flicking away the occasional fly

In a kind of meditation on how many white hairs

Have replaced the black and brown hairs on her jowls,

And that is a gratitude of sorts, I suppose.

Then I got to thinking about the other things

For which I’m grateful, like yesterday,

Sitting on the floor next to my little granddaughter

Watching animals sing songs in children’s voices,

Our backs against the sofa, her leaning against me

The smell of her hair, soft and warm,

And the other evening my wife and I watched a movie,

I don’t remember which, but afterward,

After they’d scrolled through the credits,

They showed a distant mountain with a large moon behind it

And at the top of the mountain, a coyote baying.

For some unknown reason, my wife and I both decided

The coyote was a dog and, whenever they’d show this,

I’d see my wife’s eyes well up with tears

And I’d reach for her hand and ask

Who else but me, in the whole wide world,

Would know what you’re thinking

And think it too?

For these things, I am grateful to have lived long enough

To finally feel them. They may not be much of a pinnacle,

But they are the pinnacle of my existence.

Zen and the Art of Dying

Raanana, December 23, 2017

Death, after a full life, is not so fearsome.

It’s like a kind of meditation,

A relaxation from the tensions of living and dying,

A clarity that sees illusions, but also through them,

A detachment from pain and desire

In which the subject and object disappear together

And all that is left is invisible and silent.

Death is not a thing that stalks you,

That finds you where you hide,

It’s not a thing you can hold in your hand,

Thumbs up or thumbs down,

But the end of a life that never was forever,

That proffers bitter-sweet meaning

To those who accept it

On its threshold.

To see oursels as ithers see us!

Raanana, December 26, 2017

This is your trusted reporter

coming to you from a little planet

whirling around a midsize star

in the withered arm of a distant galaxy.

I’m sitting here on a wooden bench

witness to the strangest forms

you’d hope to see, not based on

discernable intelligent design,

integrated circuits or metallic mechanism.

Some have hard exoskeletons and some

are sacks of bones and soft organelles

with two holes, one ingesting all manner of things

and the other gushing excrement.

Not far from where I’m sitting is

a rather tall thin sack of bones sitting on a bench

while another sack of bones lies on the ground beside him.

Near him, a smaller sack of bones walks around

pecking here and there, then jumping in the air

and coming down somewhere else to walk and peck.

I sit on a bench near the sundial resting a little

with my beloved Daisy lying at my feet

before we move on.

I chance to see a small grey bird walking near us,

pecking here and there,

most probably for small bugs and occasional worms,

but Daisy seems mostly uninterested.

There’s a gentleman on another bench

who seems to talk to himself in a tongue I’ve never heard.

For some reason unknown to me, I wondered whether

Robby the Bard of Ayrshire was right after all

about the gift of seeing ourselves as others see us.

I’m not so sure I’d even like to see myself

as I see me.

You Have the Power

Raanana, December 29, 2017

A group of young men stood by

A young woman struggling to rise

From the ground, clutching buttonless blouse,

Dress torn from bruised body.

The men had blank looks on their sated faces.

A common enough story of evil’s banality,

There are too many others, to be sure.

A poet stood before them and said,

You have the power.

Power thinks it is stronger than beauty

So it can have it for itself,

But it cannot.

Beauty only gives itself to beauty

And to love.

Power can only protect beauty

Or destroy it.

He offered his hand to the woman and said,

You have the beauty.

Beauty is fragile but fragility

Conquered ten thousand ships

And many more hearts,

Because love makes us all fragile.

If this were a poem, it would end with the last line,

But evil bows the heads of its minions

And justifies its acts so it can

Hide in plain sight.

The men beat the poet to death

And hung his thin corpse from a nearby tree.

This is life, not poetry.

Our Genesis

Raanana, January 4, 2018

To each of us God grants a world and time

That when we waken in the morning

We are Adam and we are Eve in Eden

Knowing nothing, but naming everything,

The animals, the trees and plants, the sky-born stars

And each other.

While we live, we live forever,

When we love, there only is the other,

For that is how we live and love.

We create the God who has created us

And He is jealous, smelling our compulsion to create,

Striking us down like bolts of lightning

When we would create ourselves.

When we kill, we are Cain and we are Abel,

We hide from ourselves, though we cannot and

We are dead and we are doomed to

Walk this earth forsaken by us

Forever.

Yes, and what about our freedom?

God granted us our freedom, but

The demons hid it in the constellations

For us to lose our sanity searching for it

In the desert night.

The Spirit and the Body

Raanana, January 6, 2018

The spirit and the body live symbiotically,

Though neither needs the other,

They both enrich each other.

The body imagines the spirit

Upon which the spirit incorporates the body

With its traits of goodness and beauty

And they grow by consuming each other,

Though neither is lessened in doing so.

The spirit sees all things, but not the individual,

The body sees only the particular and not the allthing.

The spirit can see forever, but knows not the time of day,

The body knows this moment, but not what was or what will.

Together, they are God and the universe.

Because of them, there are acts of God

And the day-to-day happenings of the world.

Sabbath Morning

Raanana, January 6, 2018

Sabbath morning

Rainwashed and sundazzled

A day as fresh as any you’ll ever find.

Walking Daisy in the promised land,

America still sleeps snugly under night.

Here you’re just as likely to meet God as anyone else

Along the tree-arched paths

(Just be careful not to look Him in the eyes).

The cats in the courtyard form a minion

For their murmured prayers in the silent warmth

And I ask no one in particular

Who needs all the synagogues,

Churches and cathedrals?

A Visitor

Raanana, January 10, 2018

A multiplication table,

Two times two is four,

She could read a multiplication table

And you’d swear it was poetry

But when she’d read you her own poem

It’d sound like her skin was torn from her soul,

Like she’d invented meaning in your mind.

She was a visitor,

She didn’t come from here.

City of Peace

Raanana, January 12, 2018

On days like these with a high-noon sun

Shining on a little courtyard,

The bougainvillea silent for lack of breeze,

I wonder whether David, the shepherd king,

Considered the possibility I’d be sitting here

Sipping from a cup of coffee, daydreaming

Of his pasture not so far from me

And lambs long gone, their progeny roaming

The barren hills of Ein Gedi

And his dreams of a city of peace

For all who hold its rocky paths holy.

What would he have thought of all the blood spilt

In its name by those who would own it?

The Witness

Raanana, January 14, 2018

What did you witness today?

Was it exceptional or was it like every other day?

What was it about the day you found exceptional?

Would you have preferred it last forever or

Would you have preferred it never were?

Was it lovely beyond words or

Was the pain more than you could take?

Did you want to die?

Was there a tree involved?

What kind of tree? Tall or scraggly? Straight or bent?

Did heavy succulent fruit hang from it or

A man who had no use for life anymore?

Was it day or night?

Were there clouds in the sky?

Did it rain? Were the drops lugubrious?

Were there men and women walking slowly in the street?

Was it a dirge or threnody?

Were there many animals too?

Were they ferocious or

Were they lapdogs?

What about the birds? Did they sing or were they eagles?

Was there a single flower or a field full of flowers?

What kind of flower?

What kind of flower?

Five Experiments in Synaesthesia

Raanana, January 15, 2018

1.

Silence.

Silence looks clear.

Silence feels lonely.

Silence tastes watery.

Silence smells fresh.

2.

Warmth.

Warmth looks mauve.

Warmth sounds like a bow drawn across cello strings.

Warmth tastes like spice wine.

Warmth smells like your mother’s perfume.

3.

Naked.

Naked sounds true.

Naked feels both vulnerable and voluptuous.

Naked tastes bitter-sweet.

Naked smells like ginkgo trees during Autumn.

4.

An orange.

An orange looks like it’s about to burst.

An orange sounds shrill like a shakuhachi.

An orange feels precise and pointillistic.

An orange smells like a childhood memory.

5.

Her hair.

Her hair looks thick and flowing.

Her hair sounds like a fugue.

Her hair feels cool between the fingers.

Her hair tastes like almond walnut baklava.

Hush My Heart

Raanana, January 16, 2018

Hush my heart, be still

God knows how you stay whole

From swelling when those you love are near,

Your eyes see goodness or beauty,

Or ears hear truth,

And ebb when not.

The Muse will come one day

But she will leave the next,

Be wise and hush.

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