standing still

standing still on our long weathered deck
beside chicken roasting on the grill
they appear within the cathedral
of an Osage orange first chickadees
then goldfinch, woodpecker, sparrow
flitting in turn to the feeder 8 feet away
and overhead a fleet of nightjar
like fighter jet versions of swallows
with long razor thin wings they feed
only at the crepuscular hour when the veil
is thinning between darkness and light

the Osage are Native Americans
who once dominated all of Missouri,
Kansas, Arkansas and Oklahoma

now, here, only their trees are left
hardy twisty drought resistant
once the ubiquitous defense
along every few hundred acres of crops
against another dust bowl

now those are down too for more yield
a few are left in old neighborhoods
like ours carved from a working farm
it sits near a filled-in spring
delighted to have abundance it thrives
and provides good lives for those
who nest among it or like me
rest in its stillness at sunset
content to be with what comes and goes

©John Greenleaf-Maple – text and photo 20180719

the killing

love so fills my vulnerable human heart
that it is mercilessly killing me

relentlessly and quite painfully
but in spite of being shattered apart

still it is this i most long for
sweet annihilation of the programming

i’ve been running for years regarding
self my many fears and lack of worth

a routine that imprisoned what is now free
at last to speak a singular truth

centered in my heart in timelessness
the living light of divinity blazes forth

from that love the universe revolves
within that knowing everything dwells

in no manner can it cease to exist
and its nature will never be solved

by any thought or any mind yet
it is the heart of all intelligence

a wordless and altogether different kind
softly peacefully approached only in silence

©John Greenleaf-Maple – text and art 20180717

Talulah

i might have let the day
slip away without having gazed
up into the twilight sky
were it not for a brown and white
mixed collie trimmed in black
named Talulah

i might have kept drawing things
instead of witnessing them
but when she knows
we could be in bliss
she really insists
in that soft mournful sigh
akin to when Timmy
has fallen in the well
and Lassie is lamenting this
until finally i cannot resist

she is always right, of course

everything becomes glorious
at the crepuscular hour the trees
have a towering stagelit presence

leaves ripple in broad swaths of synchrony
we feel the freshened waves of night air
swoop around us and down the heated streets

i might have forgotten to look up
toward the furthest edge of sky
where infinity begins
were it not for a dog
who knows our connectedness

i might have gone on thinking
while all around the wispy air
swirls in golden hues
and all the earth
seas skies rivers
plains mountains and forests
hurtle together peacefully onward

©John Greenleaf-Maple – text and photo

cycles

there is an air of tropical festivity
at the Starbucks today

sitting on the patio
our trikes parked nearby big banks
of cumulus clouds a faint breeze

wanders among the black steel chairs
redolent of spring growth and blossoms

one gray haired long distance cyclist
who just did 71 miles rolls in
is joined by another then 2 more

they all cycled somewhere out past
Wellsville and back full of gratitude
for ideal riding conditions

Cal – we soon will learn his name is Cal –
mentions his right shoulder
acts up occasionally, just throbs
when he rides past a hundred

they are all so obviously happy
to have completed the loop together
blessed with strong bodies
resting in the good chemical stew
from hard exercise they are
full of ride memories &
good-natured jokes about life
and one another anyone near

cannot help but smile toward them;
their chuckles are infectious

i enjoy my coffee in the confluence
of sweet air and their light banter,
smile and begin writing this poem

later it is just Cal, who we meet
near the door and Jennifer
a young friend of his they just recognized
she’d come out to look at our trikes

she’s smiling too, clearly a fan of fitness
just headed home from the gym

she also writes poetry it turns out
according to Cal which coincidentally
i said to him i was writing
just now about you and your friends
would you like to hear
what i have so far?
i share and he then says
it was so strange but he also
had recently written about his group

poetry was not something he’d done before
but it just struck him all at once
that he was suddenly all alone
they didn’t even say goodbye just
got up as one and all disappeared

his writing was light hearted
like the whole group seemed to be
but soon we got off into spirituality

he recognized at the same time
he had expressed something vulnerable
and Jennifer joined in and although
her beliefs were more traditional
than ours we all acknowledged
the importance of openness

our willingness to listen
especially in total silence
not for the flow of our thoughts
but rather the voice of divinity

the strange thing is, i have this intention
that we will meet one another
and so easily share what is alive
and true in the depth of our being
but i so often hang back
and miss this moment of grace

then suddenly we were smiling
hugging and saying goodbye
rode off our separate ways
finished writing our poem and yet

we had all silently agreed
to carry more light forward
than we had within us
when we first arrived

two or more
gathered briefly here
just now
in the
paradisiacal
coffee scented air

©John Greenleaf-Maple – text and art 20180516

The Dharma of Dogs

If we had the lifespan of a dog,
would we be more grateful?
Chester, our older mixed collie,
can no longer hear, and tires
quickly now on neighborhood walks.

It’s more of a series of slow steps
between spots to sniff and signposts to mark
but he so loves his familiar role
in the canine social order of things.

On warm afternoons lying in the lawn
peering into the air with clouded eyes
he is so content to rest his weary body
and breathe deeply of all that passes by.

I am reminded that there is a scent to sunlight
and everything that grows from it
how his coat smells when he enters the house
and his enjoyment of being scratched.

He has a lot of small tumors, benign but itchy,
and loves a rubdown, use fingernails please.
He never pushes or wants anything more
than to be with his pack, hanging out.

And of course to be loved when convenient.
He moves about slowly but with purpose,
placing himself on my route strategically
so that, coming out of the bathroom,

should I need his unconditional love
and heartfelt appreciation for my being,
he is there for me, one of the pack.
While he still has this day to live
there is no greater joy than just to belong.

He paws his big round bed into a nest,
circles twice, and settles with an umph,
expels a deeply happy somewhat sleepy sigh.

Would we more easily find peace within
if every day was 7 times more filled
with complete awareness of just this?

Would we learn to adore those whose path
becomes known and entwined with ours?

Would we trustingly rest without worry
as our senses settled into haze and silence?

Would we then learn that this moment is it?

©John Greenleaf-Maple – text and art 20180512

the healing grace of women

it has always been a woman
i dared trust enough
to be truly comforted

at times with soothing words
a mother’s hug of encouragement
and warm delicious nourishing food

or with others in beautiful nakedness
enlivened by silky touch & tender kisses
loving murmurs nibbling at the ears
& quickening breath & sweet embrace
entangled in her limbs blood fizzing
we merge into light & are blissfully one

the land also heals in this way, through
supple curved hills and sinuous rivers

sometimes in dreams i meet her essence
the scent of fresh earth and forest
reaches me before she fully appears

glimmering moonlit perspiration
beads up & perfumes her glowing skin

her hair flows out into everything
she is enticing, elusively there
inviting me into the tall trees
silver leaves wound through her tresses

she traces my skin and pulls me
to the mossy cedar scented ground
further entwined in darkness
and sultry fecundity we go down
and disappear into deep caves
tinged with bioluminescence
lost completely and now at peace
in the place where all life is rooted

in waking she remains with me
& though the presence is subtle
she walks assuredly in my steps
and i see through her awareness
the growing possiblity that we
might never have been apart
the whole universe is expressing
what she whispered in the dark

that we all belong to her
when we surrender to living love

we are all being born by her
in every unfettered moment
we allow ourselves to fully be

©John Greenleaf-Maple – text and art 20180511

reflected

the soft sheen
of a new day
glides along our
silky wooden floor
whispers and beckons us
to become one with it

to burst outdoors
and spill among the trees
weave among bright new leaves
to abandon all sense
of obligation or worry
forget ourselves completely
fly high above the earth
that we might be tumbled
in glorious shades of sky

to carry invitations infused in us today
in unity with light wordlessly convey
simply trust what draws the sacred eye
as we walk about and allow the world
a peripheral glimmer will dance
an almost imperceptible shimmer
will glance along our steps and flow
ahead to lead us toward it effortlessly
forward into the flowering middle way

©John Greenleaf-Maple – text and art