A poem by Ernest Lowe from the start of a new decade, century, and millenium (some say)
This poem emerged between January and June of 2000. I have waited to share it for no good reason. As I read through it now, almost four months after 9/11, it helps me recover my sense of balance in a world where anti-terrorism and terrorism each mirror the fierce error of the other. I hope its exploration also speaks to you, my friends as it balances the real world of my place with the virtual world I also live in .
January 14, 2000
I do not know the beginning
that point of plasma so compact
the whole universe burst forth from it.
Yet I am the beginning.
I am Crab Nebula, that small ending
Chinese astronomers witnessed in 1054.
I am the Pleiades, the Seven Sisters.
I am black holes unnamed.
I am quasars and mesons.
I am the seeds waiting to sprout
in the soil of my mind.
Dawn Redwood, Metasequoia glyptostroboides,
we knew it from the fossil record
forerunner and ancestor
mother tree to Luna, General Sherman,
the Landmark Trees
those greedy bastards cut down
on these Hills in the 1860s.
Dawn Redwood, we thought it was extinct
In 1948 a botanist found it still living
in a canyon in China.
The tribal people who preserved it told him
This tree is sacred.
We divine truth from its cones.
Our Dawn Redwood grows in a box beneath
waiting to reach its roots into the alluvium.
I do not know the beginning
only rumors of it from a computerized voice box
only hints and foreshadows from my neural networks.
Yet I search, wandering these hills
that rose from the Pacific
striding through the rain blowing in from the Pacific
witnessing new seeds,
green sprouting from the orange clay,
new beginnings in my ancient mind.
January 29, 2000
Look here, I store words
as though they are beans
or loaves of bread,
words on the shelves,
bins and boxes of words,
spinning megabytes of words.
They hint at the beginning.
They rumor the ooze of life from the sea.
Yet they stop in total wonder
upon beholding the complexity of living process
in a cubic foot of soil.
I shuffle through piles of words to find
this yellow clipping
are reporting today
that they have found
locked in the blackened rock
of an old and immense meteor scar
pockets of preserved gas
from a distant star
that died long before
our sun was born.
I do not know the beginning
no more than I know the power
of the tendrils
reaching up from Black Oak seedlings
sprouting into the air.
But first, I know, their roots drove down,
grasping for a firm hold
to withstand the winds
that will batter their spreading branches.
February 29, 2000
Those spatial paintings Hubbel
across the net from light years
beyond my small minds grasp
does their painful beauty
begin to suggest
the edges of my large mind?
Or is it the eucocyte within the cell
flowing through my heart,
is that, in fact,
the greater dimension?
Perhaps that beginning I do not know
is a still point of consciousness,
not unfolding evolving expanding
but simply a moment,
the only one there will ever be.
Yesterday I transplanted Shooting Stars,
a whole flat full.
Theyll have to grow five years before theyll bloom.
I gathered the seeds last Spring
from the generation Id planted five years before.
I know small beginnings,
the wonder of green sproutings,
the vigil year by year,
tucking the plants into a dry space
each summer so they can rest.
But I do not know the beginning.
I know the singed sleeves of my robe,
caught fire one morning
as I made green tea.
March 2, 2000
Seismologists say, half a mile from here
Highway 13 runs along the Hayward fault.
The odds are high for that wrinkle
to be the next big one.
Caltrans has planted Redbud and Toyon
beside the freeway.
Our earthquake supplies are scattered and out of date.
Most of the East Bay hospitals lay along the fault line.
Of the several forms of energy
the only one I can name tonight
is the potential,
that dynamic movement latent
in the caress of tectonic plates.
when one can breath gas
from a star that blew out
before our sun first shone
in the tiny echo of the beginning,
the beginning I do not know,
that point of plasma,
the first step of Shivas dance
this time around.
March 7, 2000
This is my favorite time of the year
at Full Belly.
Id give up the sweetest peach for
these cool, clear, beautiful days,
alive with sound and color.
The almond trees are blooming puffs of soft pink.
The hills are an unearthly emerald green.
Birds of all kinds are calling out their territories
and the bobcats are sneaking through the brush,
showing their tufted ears.
In your box today, savoy cabbage, broccoli, carrots, celery, red daikon, red Russian kale, fennel, rutabegas, oranges, salad mix.
Wool batting, $12 a pound.
-- The Full Belly Beet
Ill not order my vegetables on the web.
Ill buy my books at Moes and Walden Pond,
their spines relaxed by other readers turning of the pages.
Almost every day I walk the loop with Rosie and Martha,
pausing to chat with neighbors,
watching the Trillium, Toyon, and lilies
cycle through their seasons.
Its hard to believe there really was
that big bang,
though in every second there is an ending.
A few days ago I heard that Ed ,
a colleague and aggressive competitor,
was beginning a third round of cancers.
I pray for him with Tibetan mantras
though between Om and Hum
my mind returns to a random affront,
a moment out of harmony
with the beginning and the end.
For retirement and meditation I have strolled out to the top of a high hill. The sky is clear as crystal, and the sun is shining with a California radiance, unknown in other lands. Looking eastward I see a dense forest of huge redwood timber; doubtless the veritable cedars of Lebanon. . . . Southward the whole valley, for fifty miles, is filled with fog.
from the journal of Reverend William
Taylor, a Methodist minister who split Redwood shingles hills near here
for his San Francisco home October 11, 1849
March 8, 20000
I was born 66 years ago in a redneck
caught on a bend of the L.A. River.
Tonight I listen to recordings of that year.
Django and Stephan in Paris,
Earl Hines Grand Terrace Band in Chicago.
I smile, hearing the sounds of my beginning
across this small moment of time.
Smoke rings, Rosetta, I Saw Stars. . .
Mother s milk spurts across the Universe
from a nipple I never tasted.
The Father is so good and so fond
of the heathen
that when he saw those Indians,
poor, friendly, and gentle,
as they show themselves to us,
they no doubt looked like angels.
Father Pedro Font explains Father Crespis
of seeing natives with white skins
along the east shore of the San Francisco Bay
March 14, 2000
We watched this year and century begin
over and over
in idealized video feeds,
no hint of the real bombs
falling off camera,
just the fantasy bombs
bursting in air.
Celebration, hour by hour
around our suddenly tiny world.
On Robbins Island Mandela lit a candle
in the cell that could never imprison his mind,
handed it to Mbeki
who passed it on to a child.
Abdullah Ibrahim begins the Wedding,
that plaintive ballad of the souls love for God,
first conceived, perhaps, in the Afrikaners breakup of Sophiatown.
Sandile and I were born in Sophiatown,
which was known as Kofiifi. It was a place of peace and joy on the western
outskirts of Johannesburg, where people of all races lived together until
the apartheid crack-down in the 50s. People used to mingle together everywhere
to make music. Then came the forced removals . . .
Reuben Khemese, Cellist, Soweto String Quartet
Mike Beea sat in solitary,
guarded by masked men who spoke no words,
who taunted him with a clipping
his wife and child executed in Alexandra
by the terrorists of Apartheid.
He said, I knew if I became like them,
filled with hatred,
I would lose the freedom I am fighting for.
I do not know the beginning
but I hear rumors
that it was a moment of love and freedom,
a moment that lives still
in Mikes heart,
in the light of Mandelas candle
in Reubens memories of music in Sophiatown.
March 18, 2000
A restless day
with rumors and imprecise instructions.
I transplanted cow parsnips
out of the the path of the tiger mowers.
no eternal now.
Speaking into the void of voice mail.
No one calls back.
Wondering, what are those seedlings
sprouting from unknown birds
But for a moment
and felt the suns warmth.
One particular portion of this redwood tract lies just below and to the westward of the highest point of the Oakland Hills . . . In this small area, on my first visit to the locality, which was in 1855, there were about a hundred and fifty stumps of Redwood, the great majority of which were from twelve to twenty feet in diameter . . . A very reasonable and moderate estimate of the stature of these trees when standing would make them three hundred feet high.
William H. Gibbons, M.D. in Erythea, August 1893
March 30, 2000
Steven drew the rose larger
than the mushroom cloud,
my rose colored rose.
Ed wired five thousand to Mike Beea,
seed money for the restoration
of the Jukskei River
where it runs through the shanties and shabeens
La Niña floods cleared the shacks along its banks.
Every spring a new beginning
brings maple catkins
bright white Milkmaids
along the back trail to Huckleberry.
Tommy in Santa Fe,
a new brother,
feels already like a lifelong friend.
We cant talk without breaking up
at the absurdity of opportunity,
this new beginning we dream
can flow through us.
I do not know the beginning,
only the Black Oak seedlings,
the soil beneath my fingernails,
the soft breeze on my face
as I sit beside Coyotes Redwoods.
Before the beginning
of this moment
of this day
of this life
of this universe
before the beginning
from what continuum
did the beginning emerge?
Down the hill through Piedmont
and around Lake Merritt
to the museum.
Grace and I meditated upon crazy quilts.
A century ago four brothers and a sister
embroided one for their Gran
with roosters, their dogs, Bruno, Uno, and Count,
and roses and roses.
In Louisville Penny Sisto quilted the
of the Open Hand Mission,
celebrating the free cuisine of
Nancy Russman who gave up her job
as chef for the affluent.
This is a community kitchen and we feed our community
the hungry, the hurt, the working poor. I just do what I believe in.
Nancy believes in
one hundred and three thousand meals a year.
Is that continuum
from which every beginning comes
simply a spirit and fact of total abundance,
all beginnings enfolded in Her pure love?
Three cars drive up through Thornhill
a Great Horned Owl calls,
a dog barks
a poet scratches in a blank book
with a Redwood embossed on the cover.
A day begins,
the dawn chorus a wash of subtle sound,
a dozen birds singing the light into the sky,
light that shows my Shooting Stars are blooming.
April 3 2000
My mother didnt cry
when the man picked me up
to take me to America.
She wouldnt look me in the eyes,
told me Id go to school,
told me Id learn a trade.
April 5, 2000
In the mirror
on an antique cabinet of treasures
I see myself reflected.
Theres a photo of a saint
my Fathers gray Stetson
with the brim curved like his tilted smile.
Whenever I wear it
passing strangers always say,
My blue tin plate
with a child crawling after
a brown, yellow, and white rabbit,
made in Czechoslovakia sixty-two years ago,
just a few years before the Nazis invaded,
paintings on silk of Krishna
dancing with the circles of gopis
under the full moon.
Is every beginning
a point on a circle or a sphere?
Twenty-seven years ago
I touched that point
through which we cycle:
To begin again
as I have
so many times
to begin again
at this place of clarity
the whole course
of my descent
just as I have
each time before.
To begin again
this circle game
where the more
the less I know,
til I come
to this point again
what I know
April 10, 2000
How is it that we cut ourselves so completely
from our beginning,
from that ever new point
on the circle and sphere of our lives.
How do we dive so completely into our fall
that we sell our children into slavery
clearcut the forests that breathe in what we breathe out,
that breathe out what we breathe in.
My eyes scanned a book at the foot of
The Nature of Evil.
Once Lucifer was an angel,
an angel whose wings reflected the light of God.
Then he forged the conceit that this light was his own
and God cast him out into darkness.
The Christian Fathers, was it at the Council of Trent,
the Fathers cut the eternal circle,
declared the endless will of Lucifer.
And so we believe we are separate from the beginning
from our children,
from the forests and the seas.
We sell our children
and long for the clear light of the beginning.
April 19, 2000
Most days my time in the garden
and my time asleep
are my only breaks
from plugged in life online.
No mouse, no modem, no keyboard,
no CDs, no web, no headset,
A wild currant cutting from the Sierras
I transplant delphinium seedlings
from the stream on the mountain above Swensons.
I clear ivy from the corner by the Bay Laurel.
With mud on my shoes
I return to the e-world
to help my friends grow a village on the high desert,
to mourn for the loss in Manila
of Frankie and Ghettes baby.
April 21, 2000
Another Frank came across the Bay
to capture my image and voice
and spare me a trip to Anchorage.
He recognized Monk on my lapel.
I heard him at Carnegie Hall in 75!
a thousand years ago
captured moments images gestures
like bubbles of air in amber
the diamonds of water
as the courtiers coach
drove through a puddle.
April 29, 2000
Synergy spirals down
into tight space
less and less room
no where to stand
losing our grip on this lever
we dreamed might move the world.
Am I so foolish
that I imagine this dream
can be realized
without clumsy stumbling
without running head first
into dead end alleys
beginning over and over
never hearing the sonata
fully composed in my mind
as Mozart heard it
discovering the meaning of life
in this will
to pick myself up
and begin again
May 3, 2000
On a dusty shelf
I find my Moms telephone book.
There a yellow appointment slip
for the Radiotherapy Section,
Lawrence Berkeley Lab,
Building 55, Room 106,
5/25/82 3:00 PM.
Joseph R. Castro M.D. guided
her course of treatment
of a cancer he couldnt cure.
Maybe they can learn something from me,
yet she still vowed to be well again.
I download news of a flat universe
images from a telescope in a balloon.
Astronomers tell us
they may be vibes still moving out
from the beginning I do not know.
Id tucked her obituary
between the telephone numbers.
Esther May Lowe
born in the valley
covered now by Lake Success,
she belonged to a family
whose roots in the area
begin in 1856
when Grandfather Origen A. Wilcox
homesteaded on the Tule River.
She was a wonderful cattle woman,
involved very personally.
She gave each cow a name.
recalled son Ernest.
She was a gardener too.
I am the beginning.
I am the Manzanita
from Mount San Bruno
I planted in the terrace
by our mail box today
hoping it is not too late.
May 18, 2000
I send you a message of hope
and what do I get from you
but fear and trembling.
The sun is shining again
the air warm
after deep gray days and drizzle.
The floods have subsided
there at your end of the world
though thugs break up schools in Zim
where teacher dream of democracy.
Tonight a president in a tv show
who seems more real somehow
than anyone weve elected
the skinheads fired upon him and his family
in the shows season finale.
Will the show be renewed next season?
Kevin, please get this straight!
the horn of hope
may curve through dark passages.
Our lives may be no more than the compost
that nourishes the seedlings
of the world we dream,
the world we do not know how to begin creating.
I do not know the beginning
yet I am that beginning.
I am an unknown grass
arcing across the path
with subtle grass flowers blooming.
June 9, 2000
I am the beginning
the birth of all gods
but I do not know the beginning.
The gods and heroes
float down the Jukskei River
with me setting the sails,
smelling the woodruff
growing along the rivers littered banks.
June 12, 2000
in a circle above my Mothers antique clock
woven of Japanese linen
springs forth from the fires,
circles the skies of my mind
starts its dive
into the fire of the beginning.
My Mothers clock
makes no sound
its hands locked at 11:04.
The only sound I hear
is the high pitched chirping
within my inner ear.
In 1980 I found a mystics book
that said that sound
is the sound of the beginning.
I gave the book to Alma
living on a cliff above Puget Sound.
Once again I must say
I am the beginning.
I am that Phoenix
circling the skies of my mind
yet I do not know the beginning.
This poem spirals
like a Turkey Buzzard
or a Red-tailed Hawk
in the sky above this canyon.
How do I find its ending
when the Phoenix springs forth
in every second of my life.