Scarves of raucous geese in migratory rank,
or conferring honeybees disclosing clover meadows
rely on the capacity of inborn sense of place.
Pacific Ocean salmon return to birthing streams,
their flashing silver bodies straining with the effort
to propagate the species
at the place of their emergence
into a water world.
The higher order species consults cartography
where compass roses imprinted on a map
show longitude and latitude and prime meridian,
with sense of place in nature’s world…an orienting loss.
In Japan, a villager
sits on tatami mats
to gaze upon his garden
while sipping tea…
a light and grassy taste.
He contemplates the balance there
of dark green pines and granite rocks
dwarf maples…azaleas…star jasmine.
Along the edge of clay lined ponds
circling koi flash golden.
Strands of moss and pebbled paths
drift his thought to insight.
In China, a musician
on an arched stone bridge
plays his silver flute,
threading lines of melody
into misty evening.
Listeners pause errands,
hush children…cease speaking
to hear its clarity.
In ancient Hansu Museum
visitors circle ’round the statue
of a bronze-green flying horse
astride a swallow’s back.
The swallow seems alarmed
to feel the touch of hoof
upon its shoulder…
the horse gasps with sense
of flight on top of flight.
A ceramist on a wooden stool
beside a potter’s wheel
of soft white clay from Kao-Lin.
His eyes are closed.
Only his hands and mind create
with just his sense of touch
without which is…oblivion.
There is a quality of flash about some people
distinctive as sunlight shimmer glinting on a lake.
A certain penetrating gaze reveals engagement of the mind
of someone facing life with comprehension of its weight.
Their diamond clear self-knowledge,
disillusionment faceted, pain pressured,
reflects inner steadfastness and endurance.
Conflicts and obsessions resonate with purpose
in the passions of their lives.
We know their names and think of them with awe,
aware of what they tell us of ourselves.
Old Hopi lies prostrate
upon a deep-red sandstone mesa,
while under him
the ground remembers noontime heat.
His rib cage barely lifts
with narrow breaths of chanting.
His voice is hushed and reedy. Ki-tana-po, ki-tana-po, ki-tana-po.*
As his words become more halting, raven caws.
He and raven are old friends.
He kneels, and with trembling fingers
sifts two-million-year old sand into a gentle breeze. Ai-na, ki-na-wchi, ki-na-weh
He feels sensations of his body are not balanced.
Vistas of escarpment, of river and of mesa
swirl slightly in his sight.
In his shaman’s pouch is honeycomb
wrapped in a beaded bag.
He lifts it toward the sky as if in offering. Chi-li-li-cha, chi-li-li-cha.
Honey is precious in the homeland of the Hopi.
Its dense fragrance hints of amaranth and clover.
Its syrup glows deep gold in bright sunlight.
Blessed, healing sweetness. Don-ka-va-ki, mas-i-ki-va-ki.
There is presence in the wind now.
It has voice and stealthy movement.
There before him a dust devil
swerves and dances with abandon
then dissolves into oblivion. Kive, kive-na-meh.
Lavender mesas turn magenta and dark sapphire.
Old Hopi is not sensitive to day turned into night.
He dances…swerving, turning…around the flaming of his campfire,
a silhouette upon the face of cliff side petroglyphs. HOPET.
* The ancient Hopi words of this chant have lost their English equivalent.