Beyond the Storm

Rough waters, stormy skies, I saw her leave the gale,
Sails white against a copper sunset sky.
Alone in comical dress against the storm, I followed for a time;
She flagged, but did not come about,
Leaving just that glimpse, feeling oddly much, knowing nought.
So vast a sea, such encounters ought not repeat, yet I did not forget
For half a thousand days and oft, when storm clouds
Roiled in approaching skies, I would see her sails in the distance.
Following after, I might escape the storm,
But following from so far kept her always safely out of reach.
Then on a day becalmed, I drifted without care into a harbor
Her sails unexpected, bright, no wind in sight,
We sat at anchor drifting here and there, closer, farther
With the tide; I hailed her at last.
The breeze returned and, with unaccustomed finality, she sailed.
Then came the storm, so I understood why she had come
But why, then, had she left?

Ron Risley – 2014-03-24

Desert Heart

HIKING GOLDEN BROWN HILLS, sun dazzling, dry breeze hot
I kneel before a great flat stone and, struck from behind
I am surprised to find my heart on that stone, rhythmically
Pulsing, wet, alive, dislocated, ugly

It should be sterile, that heart, but it gathers chaff
And grains of sand, wind blown, and tiny pebbles from
The rock on which it beats. Its sticky wetness defies
The dehydrating air, the desiccating sun, the drying dirt

I pick it up, hurl it toward a sea that lies beyond
The horizon. Borne aloft, it is a miracle that it plashes
Out beyond the turbid, crashing waves and half sinks
Half floats in the moist milieu, shedding sand and sticks

Beating still, wet still, living still

Ron – 16 Aug 2008

Second Night Spaces

Our second night together
In not too many years
Our love, so long enduring,
So chaste and pure unless you count
The thousand or so lascivious thoughts
Coursing through my mind:
O! to wake up more entangled 
Than entranced!  But a treasure
Such as ours is not so lightly
Changed, and what pure bliss
To wake to coffee, to walk, to dream,
To reminisce of all those times
When we stumbled, fell,
Gave our hearts for breaking,
Tortured our minds with questing,
Laughed with sorrow, cried with joy,
And we were here, each other,
For each other, loving each other, 
Offering our arms in hugs
That say it’s okay that we
Don’t always understand.
You, so tolerant of my mistakes,
Must see in me something like
The wisdom, beauty, courage that I see
In you for each of one thousand five hundred
Days and two nights.
Can I -- dare I try? -- to fill a part of
The “If I’m so wonderful...” empty
Spaces over which you give lament?
Dare I say what you might not believe,
That you are still -- have always been -- 
My picture of not quite perfection?
There still aren’t words, even in
This “Precise, Extra-Fine” pen to
Say what I have tried to know
For fourteen hundred ninety eight
Of fifteen hundred nights.
In my dreams, I finally work it out
On a porch, in an old rocker,
By your side in the twilight --
But by then I have no empty space,
And it need not be said.

Ron – 08 Jul 1993


with my neighbors’ long since bare
I cling to turnéd leaves
rust and brown, sere and crisp,
yet not surrendered to the ground
where others’ have lain, been raked,
gone to their reward in compost heaps
or street drain clogs

passers by, then even I,
wonder if spring will come again for me
my neighbors now are green yet
I am clothed in last year’s umber

then far behind the pack, the withered brown
are pushed from their twigs by scarlet
feathers; scarlet turns the palest,
brightest green, then deepens and
I wake again

Ron – 10 May 2008

from seed to fruit

WHEN YOU PLANT a tree, it is with the expectation that it will grow
But O! so long from seed to fruit: the tender shoot
That first sees sun by foot or paw, careless beak, hungry snail,
Days of drought, late spring frost, is vulnerable to the slightest
Whim of chance. Next season, if luck and nurture fare it well,
Taller and just this much stronger it reaches again to heaven.
Speck by speck, ring by ring, imperceptible except we slow so
Much to watch, it grows. Ring, love blossoms. Ring, a friend
Meets god. Ring, a child is born. Ring, half-a-thousand meals shared.
Ring, holidays and holy days. Ring, a tragedy, its burden shared.
Ring, children grow and learn and change and it is hard and it is
Good and they echo in time-lapse another ring, other friends and
Loves and tragedies. Ring, nights up in conversations long and
Hard and hopeless and hopeful and painful and beautiful. Ring,
A picnic. Ring, the seashore. Ring, new job. Ring, new service.
Ring, recognition and rewards. Ring, loneliness. Ring, illness.
Ring, growth. Ring. Ring. Ring. Ring. Ring, and still it is but
A sapling. Stronger, sure, but without luck extraordinary and
Careful nurture, threatened by the flashy flowers and verdant
Grass which sprout and drink deeply of the soil’s mead, shoot
Up and blossom in a season then are gone. Threatened, still,
By storm, by drought, by gardeners’ whips and boys’ pocket knives,
Landscapers’ whims and fire and pest and climate and economy...
Yet, given luck and nurture, luck and nurture, luck and nurture:
Ring, the planters grow old. Ring, the children grow up. Ring and
Ring and ring and ring and ring and the children’s children climb;
Blessed shade and sturdy roots and food and air they breathe
Replenished by the tree in middle age. Now sturdy, tall, it may
Within its boughs provide the shelter it once required but only
With luck (ring!) vigilance (ring!) priority (ring!) nurture (ring!)
And time and time and time and time and time.

Ron – 02 Apr 2008

I Have Time

I HAVE TIME to sleep a few hours each night,
Time to play two-year-old and five-year-old games,
Time to earn a living, attend church, support my communities;
Time for cooking, eating, dishes,
And time to admire pages, white as newest snow.

A little time to read from ink-stained sheets,
More time to answer the beeps, clicks, whistles
Of devices at my belt, my fingertips, in my kitchen.
Time for laundry (process, not event),
Time to plant and feed and water and mow
But not to sully pages, still white as newest snow

Pickups, dropoffs, diapers, playgrounds, movies;
Depression, voices, chemicals, and tests;
Movies, castles, wizards, bunnies, Peeps;
The minister of magic seven days a week.
Still friends await correspondence
And I stare longingly at pages white as newest snow

Tidying, sweeping, vacuuming, mopping,
Backyards, museums, zoos, lakes;
Banks, bills, timesheets, licenses;
Distant family tech support;
Groceries, clothing, presents, treats --
Time for these and so much more
And journal pages white as newest snow

Ron – 11 Jun 2007

Fleeting Now

It is not my place; it was his. I honor memory. Pretzels that distracted while pizza cooled are gone, churros now. The rest remains: lines where I held him ’til arms gave out, then put down to run on mischief-making legs; straw dispenser attacked with single-minded furor, scoring many before I bade him stop; soda fountain where I juggled food and lifted with still-weary arms, napkins and bills of change blowing away. Or left at table with pizza, pretzel, and sundae while I ran for sodas and crucial napkins, fearing ill would befall in the seconds out of sight. Next door they sell tires; he crawled through the donut holes, got stuck where I could not reach without rolling half a dozen from the rack, our hands black and smelling of vulcanized rubber. Memories. Reality stolen by time. The air is chill, the flavors not so rich. Why have I come. I regret the straw-scolding. I remember to cherish the fleeting now.

Ron – 16 Feb 2006

port wine

like a glass of port wine
born with a kiss of sun
and a spray of slightly salty breeze
plucked away, crushed,
strengthened in a musty stew
filtered, clarified, and casked
eight thousand days to grow
in depth, complexity in quiet
while the world rages round about
only then to land a place, perhaps,
at the end of a first time movieandadinner
date, first sip, evocative
sweet and sad and speaking of promise...
but no second sip to come
the journey of life, of two decades
culminating in a sudden expected twist
into a different urn with no way of
knowing if the ancient drops can
find their destiny again

Ron – 03 Oct 2005

a paean to loneliness

where it really happens. craving distraction. 
wishing for a word, a touch. so desperate that 
even a television voice would be welcome. but 
this, this is where it happens. tidying, 
cleaning, attending to old obligations delays 
the inevitable -- dark despair and glimpses of 
beauty will crawl out from where they have taken 
refuge in a busy life, a lathe of solitude curling 
and gouging away things important, 
things unnecessary, leaving a remnant

RonRisley – 19 Aug 2005