Poetry by John Clarke

The Four Seasons

from Second Journey

Winter Balances

Sometimes, reflecting on those we think
we've lost, and what's been done or not
with the promised peace that baby brought,
we've brought low and shivered at the solstice.

Then we see the sun glint off the snow,
recall winter's the time for coyote tales.
Still bouncing off the trickster moon,
that seasoned toddler, hope, kicks in
to keep us just warm enough to go on.
Wherever we are, unseen prisms
break the light into a kind of bread.
Colors host us, help each grateful step.

Al Camus found invincible summer deep
in winter -- within himself, the sea, earth.
Now in arctic night a newborn polar bear
-- barely inches long --
floats in the mother's great fur cradle,
a seed under the snow.
A stream beneath your temples
flows as the stars dream across
this vast December night.

Together now, we sound earth's
pulse ever deeper. As dark,
then light, lengthens ... still.
Invisible snow settles, drifts, cups
intangible skin, planet's crust.
No melting ... still.

Fallen sun and heart pump warmth
into the world, our hands,
as we drop asleep.
No ceasing ... still.

Spring is Sprung

Inner light germinates outer darkness.
Spring springs forward inside and out.
Little buddies wake old giants up from winter torpor.
Hibernation blossoms into waking flora dreams.

April's cruel beauty runs roughshod over 
whatever resists dying to live again.
Battered, we learn the hard way how, in and out,
light still may run the budding show.
However old we be, tiny friends refresh crusty soles
with tender shoots' moist touch.

Slowly we learn to stand empty-handed,
like the old one begging at the scholar's door.
There a prayer to Green Tara --
Botticelli Madonna, Bodhisattva, Kuan Yin,
Gaia, Mary, Sophia -- Generosity of Very Being -- she
who may be compared to the air we breathe --
evokes her kind, gratuitous disrobing,
grants us her gold-sprayed, leafy
green cloak as shelter and new life.

Beauty herself shares her present glow --
revives marrow of old bones in hope.

Summer -- Silence

Winter would seem to have a lock on silence --
the snow quieting the fields across the countryside,
muffling even big city sounds and rounding off rough edges.

But silence is big enough to hold all seasons, 
and has a special place for summer --
ocean, waterfall, and subway tunnel, yes,

and not only on top of whatever barns remain
on prairies or in mountain valleys --

but deep in the city, up on the tar beach rooftops
of Manhattan,
Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx --
maybe even Staten Island.

Where a kid goes to hear the stars,
their voices need no words,

as if he or she were Rexroth or Snyder in the Sierras.

Where far below, the patriot parade or riot or wired world of nonstop ambient sound for one or all is piped in everywhere.

Yet these can't touch ... what?
...deep soul calling.

without a word
to each one and all together always.

Palpable presence just behind your ear, beside

your left shoulder. You can't make out a face --- you

just know someone is with you, where you must be.

Fall Guise

Autumn, unlike wisdom, they say,
comes if you wait or if you don't.
"Death? ..... That would be beauty's mother ....." the insurance executive claimed.

Fall? -- Oh felix culpa!
Happy, happy fault!
Fall-it! Hair's width away from service ace. Edenic coin rendered freely --
call it in the air as it turns.

Autumn's dying slant of light lends such color to the old brick walls, the young cheeks -- those sunburnt hands we used to hold.

As days dwindle down ... oh precious, precious few, oh few ...
Leaving us strewn upon sidewalks, gutters of spent desire, hope mulches itself still.

Our aging -- subtler than clockwork -- sputters, sprouts, and blossoms
from mere greeny splendor into luminous luscious orange yell-
ow purpled brown reds! -- all seamed and stroked by auras green beyond green.

Trees chuckle to see us --

we fallen mirrors who can't see our own autumnal radiance now.

Though perhaps that's a mercy to spare us the shock
when such beauty becomes winter's iced seeds awaiting some all-changing spring

into love's dark never-to-be-seen. Again. Oh, again.

Copyright by John Clarke – posted with permission of the poet