By Rene Navarro and Nadine Sarreal
October 1999-April 2000
Traditional renga was a group activity in which each participant displayed his wit by spontaneously composing a poem in response to the poem that came before; the more interesting the relationship between the two poems the more impressive the poet’s ability. [Wikipedia]
The black bear has upset the garbage bin again:
like a thief it came, like a ghost it went.
Wooden clapper, metal tubes: still and silent
Until the wind blows night song through them.
With the winter wind blowing, the pipes shake like bones
in the dark, as I listen to the footfalls of an invisible beast.
Damp earth soaks up his hot retreat;
All is whispered, but this memory of sound.
Memory is all we keep — of fear and love and pain.
The keepsake echo earth, lake and woods retain.
By the edge of the water, a yellow bird, black beaked,
Perches, waiting, head tilted at the dawn breaking overhead.
Yellow, golden bird: bright harbinger of light:
Your song brings the sun out of the clouds.
The sky seems to ripple in the morning wind
Mirroring the movement on the water of fish below.
It is an ancient trout: yellow, green, red, and blue,
Its sinuous body rainbowing colors in the dawn sun.
He darts beneath a lotus leaf and nibbles on the stem;
Light, dark, light, pass his calm unblinking eyes
Above the waters of the bluegreen mountain lake a blue heron
rising: its flight hardly rippling the surface dappled with light.
Into the thin air, he, swift and soundless, bears a message
To the emperor of the high wind: green growing blue sky.
His wings lift him above the pines and the oaks and maples
In magical ascension: his body dissolving in the autumn sun.
At a certain height, a heron forgets he is bird apart from non-bird;
He stretches his stick legs back and believes he is running.
A most difficult thing but God does that, too, sometimes:
runs instead of flies just to feel how it is to be a mere human.
God, heron, lake fish, unseen beast, black bear in the bin: merging.
I remember this whole piece solitude when all beings come together.
Last night, in the halo of headlights, two deer nibbling the grass.
Today, hunters wearing camouflage are sneaking into the woods.
They smell of metal and fire, woolen caps covering their heads;
Orange feelings leak from their eyes and they laugh at themselves.
I wondered what happened to the deer that nibble at the grass
Or to the mythic bear who kept upending the garbage bin for food?
What do they make of us, two-legged creatures who smell of fear?
The deer now hanging over a mantle, and the bear, a rug on the floor?
I see Isabel walking on the shore of the misted lake, all 28 pounds of her,
Hands clasped behind her, eyes staring at birds shrieking in the distance.
When we see what exists, and we verify with our senses what is
Sometimes our minds slip back and look for what was, what has been lost.
It is a human trait, this journey back and forth, from the future to the past,
from the past to the future and the elusive present: what’s there to salvage?
The matter of proportion and the issue of timing, these weigh most
in action and inaction. When to move and how far?
I look up and there’s a crescent moon in the sky,
I look within and the same moon shines in the dark.
The white of that moon against the darkness within
Presses away my hungers and cools my blood.
A woman who, in silence, quenches the thirst of the heart,
And soothes the anguish of the lonely search for the deep life.
Beneath the darkness a quiet river flows
spinning into the navel of the granite rock.
Eyesight failing, so turn within where the view is a partial mirror
Of the path before you, a squirrel, nervous, and the green green iguana.
Close to the heart of stillness where the senses cannot go,
the pathways disappear and a whole universe pulses with life.
From the smallest and emptiest room of thought can burst
Open strength and courage to last a lifetime of struggle.
Strength and courage, as small as the mustard seed of faith,
that spark fire as they encounter life’s dark granite rock.
A pile of dried leaves stirs in the breath of wind, changes shape
When each leaf settles again, it has lost its beginning place.
What was the face we had in the beginning, before there was an I?
What was the shape of the leaf before it drifted in the autumn wind?
Pin a moment down, wrestle from it its truth and watch,
As you catch your breath, the shapes of fact shift and change.
The chimes are quiet at dusk, the breeze is still like the woods.
It’s the silence of flux, the moment before anything stirs on earth.
Time, not a circle, but a spiral, moving up and around an axis
So that tomorrow, we will meet again.
© Rene Navarro / Nadine Sarreal