Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Calf-Path

by Sam Walter Foss (1858-1911)

One day, through the primeval wood,
A calf walked home, as good calves should;
But made a trail all bent askew,
A crooked trail as all calves do.

Since then two hundred years have fled,
And, I infer, the calf is dead.
But still he left behind his trail,
And thereby hangs my moral tale.

The trail was taken up next day
By a lone dog that passed that way;
And then a wise bell-wether sheep
Pursued the trail o'er vale and steep
And drew the flock behind him, too,
As good bell-wethers always do.

And from that day, o'er hill and glade,
Through those old woods a path was made;
And many men wound in and out,
And dodged, and turned and bent about
And uttered words of righteous wrath
Because 'twas such a crooked path.
But still they followed--do not laugh--
The first migrations of that calf,
And through this winding woodway stalked,
Because he wobbled when he walked.

This forest path became a lane,
That bent, and turned, and turned again'
This crooked lane became a road,
Where many a poor horse with his load
Toiled on beneath the burning sun,
And traveled some three miles in one.
And thus a century and a half
They trod the footsteps of that calf.

The years passed on in swiftness fleet,
The road became a village street;
And this, before men were aware,
A city's crowded thrououghfare;
And soon the central street was this
Of a renowned metropolis;
And men two centuries and a half
Trod in the footsteps of that calf.

Each day a hundred thousand rout
Followed that zigzag calf about;
And o'er his crooked journey went
The traffic of a continent.
A hundred thousand men were led
By one calf near three centuries dead.
They followed still his crooked way,
And lost one hundred years a day;
For thus such reverence is lent
To well-established precedent.

A moral lesson this might teach,
Were I ordained and called to preach:
For men are prone to go it blind
Along the calf-paths of the mind,
And work away from sun to sun
To do what other men have done.

They follow in the beaten track
And out and in, and forth and back,
And still their devious course pursue,
To keep the path that others do.

But how the wise old wood-gods laugh
Who saw the first primeval calf!
Ah! many things this tale might teach--
But I am not ordained to preach.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Liberally given Love

Liberally Given Love
(for all the dogs we've loved...)

Under dappled shelter of city trees,
the man sits comfortably on the same park bench.
Every day he sits and appreciatively sips espresso,
reads the Times and casually throws a ball
for the Retriever who waits at his feet.

The Dog has been waiting for this ball
and jumps up with a grin to fetch it back,
knowing that her man will want it,
will need the ball again.

There is an eternal sweetness to this pas de deux
of man and dog.  It is an old choreography
born in the remote distance of a long ago pact.

This dog has known for a thousand years
that it is the man’s heart that is thrown,
and knowing it will be wanted again
she jumps up to retrieve it with a grin.

Good girl. .  .
                         rhonda palmer

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

One Heart

One Heart

Look at the birds.  
Even flying is born out of nothing.

The first sky is inside you, friend,
open at either end of the day.

The work of wings was always freedom,
fastening one heart to every falling thing.

-Li-Young Lee--  Book of My Nights

Monday, June 20, 2011


Be generous in prosperity, and thankful in adversity.
Be worthy of the trust of thy neighbor,
and look upon him with a bright and friendly face.
Be a treasure to the poor,
an admonisher to the rich,
an answerer of the cry of the needy,
a preserver of the sanctity of thy pledge.
Be fair in thy judgment, and guarded in thy speech.

Be unjust to no man, and show all meekness to all men.
Be as a lamp unto them that walk in darkness,
a joy to the sorrowful,
a sea for the thirsty,
a haven for the distressed,
an upholder and defender of the victim of oppression.
Let integrity and uprightness distinguish all thine acts.
Be a home for the stranger,
a balm to the suffering,
a tower of strength for the fugitive.
Be eyes to the blind,
and a guiding light unto the feet of the erring.
Be an ornament to the countenance of truth,
a crown to the brow of fidelity,
a pillar of the temple of righteousness,
a breath of life to the body of mankind,
an ensign of the hosts of justice,
a luminary above the horizon of virtue,
a dew to the soil of the human heart,
an ark on the ocean of knowledge,
a sun in the heaven of bounty,
a gem on the diadem of wisdom,
a shining light in the firmament of thy generation,
a fruit upon the tree of humility.

(I'm thinking about all the news from around the world: slavery, racism, abuse, war, hunger, greed.... you name it, it's out there.  We can't replace the world's spark plugs and just make it all better.  We can't throw money or even food at it.  We have to change ourselves: only the hardest thing to do.)

Sunday, June 19, 2011



Creation calls for smoke and mirrors—
stars ashine, stars blown apart, stars reborn as poetry.
I think the ghosts of old poems come back to haunt me.
They undo my lashings, and release me from this spar.

Their music is so sweet.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Everyday optimism

Everyday Optimism

It’s easy for me to think on mud.

Got mud in my eye, mud in my shoe,
mud in every last orifice known to man.
Made of mud, that’s me.

Sit down and cry mud. 
Wanna die mud.
Can’t even try, mud, to get back up.

But over in another town,
or some other side of this mountain of mud
I think a bird is singing.  Maybe it is.

And if it’s singing then maybe this morning
I’ll take my mud face and mud hands
and do some serious crawling in that direction.

Gonna love me some bird song.

                                     r. palmer

Thursday, June 16, 2011

April 4, 1968

Martin Luther King, Jr.

April 4, 1968
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.  Hate cannot drive out hate.  Only love can do that.”       Martin Luther King Jr.

Since that date,
a number of people have urged others
to change, to move mountains,
to grow large eyes in a small world.

These prophetic people
live high above clamor, carnage and strife
yet they claim our pain.
They give instruction on life

and offer words. 
They twitter recycled thoughts into hungry space
and sing old songs
to jolt our fibrillating hearts.

These fading words
are only the event horizon
moving away from a pure center—
a center that knew walking,

waking and evident truth
in a strangely disordered world. 
I feel heaven circle round a Memphis balcony,
waiting for one more angel,

waiting for us to send up one more angel.  
                                          R. Palmer

(In thinking about our many efforts to eradicate racial prejudice in this country, I am struck by the force of this man who did not ever focus on anger or hatred.  He educated an entire country by his willingness to be brought low.  He galvanized a generation by the sincerity and power of his speech.  He organized locally, and his efforts were never wasted.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

your very flesh shall be a great poem....

Walt Whitman

Love the earth and sun and the animals,
despise riches, give alms to everyone that asks,
stand up for the stupid and crazy,
devote your income and labor to others,
hate tyrants, argue not concerning God,
have patience and indulgence toward the people,
take off your hat to nothing known or unknown,
or to any man or number of men,
go freely with powerful uneducated persons,
and with the young, and with the mothers or families,
re-examine all you have been told in school 
or church or in any book,
and dismiss whatever insults your own soul;
and your very flesh shall be a great poem….
                                    Walt Whitman

From the Preface to Leaves of Grass, 1855 edition

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Alice Walker: The Award

The Award

Though not
A contest
The award
& we
                    Alice Walker

from  Absolute Trust in the Goodness of the Earth  p165  Random House 2003

Monday, June 13, 2011

Let's Dance.

My unknowable Beloved created me from water and from clay—
and taught me that love and pain are the top and bottom spin of every particle.

My unknowable Beloved is a great musician. 

The crystal spheres surrounding my heart
ring to the steady back beat of a great bass guitar.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

A True Story

Almost Dead

They brought black balloons into hospice
to celebrate your 50th, and final birthday.
Over the Hill, each balloon said.

You couldn’t tell—

They didn’t think it odd—

The cake was black as well,
and a dark sugar mood
colored the conversation
as they talked over your bed.  

(just when you think you've seen all the weirdness we can come up with as humans, someone does something more weird. )

Monday, June 6, 2011

Life as a rugby ball

I come from a family with lots of anxiety.  We use various types of medication or coping techniques to live in a hard world with our many worries--(prayer and meditation are my way of getting through, in case you wondered.)  Given that this is the life we were given to live, I think we do pretty well at getting from one end of it to the other.

I play a daily sort of rugby.

Everyday body slamming stray thoughts,
tackling ruminations,
forcing the squadron into enemy territory.
I crawl home with missing limbs, broken bones.

It’s a dance.  A climb up Mt. Everest.

A walk in the park. 

Everyday I try to be queen of the mountain. 
Everyday I go to my knees and give up.


Sunday, June 5, 2011

It's a bull market

Of late there have been rumors of happiness flying 
around the country.
These rumors were started, I believe,
by an unconscionably happy man living in rural Nebraska.
We want so much to believe in his good fortune,
happiness apparently being in scarce supply these days.

I do believe that scarcity mentality is bad for the digestion, 
and propose we stop hording our meager stock, instead
spending it all this very day to see if the market won’t improve.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

tightrope walking on an extended metaphor

Tea Party leaves hang from New Age branches,
Republican turtles swim in ponds teeming with Tory fish. 
Maoist ants carry the remnants of an encounter
with Nationalist Front wheat fields,
and small Libertarian puppies growl peevishly
at Basque Separatist Kittens,
who hurtle by on their foggy feet.

Moderate stones lie calmly near Socialist Seas.
(Can we stop this please?)
The New Komeito Party sun begins to set.
(is the metaphor finished yet?)

and I slip into my bed, sleepily grateful that humans
are above such deeply disturbing distinctions.