ON JOY, OR LACK THEREOF

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Perfect Expression of Form
Perfect Expression of Form

1.

Joy is a state of being,

Not of having.

In the moment that it comes,

There is supreme wellbeing–

Instant and independent of one’s physical state.

And then, too quickly, it departs,

Leaving only the memory

Of having been,

And the longing to know it again.

2.

Too long have I maintained

An even temper, a stoic response

To misfortune, loss, or pain.

Too long since I have laughed aloud,

But merely showed the tired nod

Of mirthless affirmation.

I am not unhappy;

I do not lack for what I need.

Most of what I wished for has been mine.

The heart beats, the lungs breathe,

The body moves at my command.

Yet, incessantly the mind reflects

Upon its ultimate destination.

3.

What has made it worth the years?

Why did I wake and work and sleep?

Why did I eat and grow and learn,

And why did I birth my babes?

Only a few jewels worth the cost:

Discovery–a problem solved.

Beauty of perfect execution

And perfect expression of form.

Falling in love. Need I say more?

A first taste of something delicious.

A cat or dog who loves you,

As much as you love it.

Getting warm when you are cold.

And joy–out of nowhere, for no reason,

Often just when it’s needed:

The sense of one’s True Home.

KLM 082813

“Sail on, O Ship of State”

Reading an old Harvard Classics book of selected works of the English poets, I came across a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, entitled “The Building of the Ship.” Like the others in this book, it contained a passage or a phrase that most of us have heard all our lives, but never knew its origin. This excerpt seems especially meaningful in these currently challenging times:

“Build me straight, O worthy Master,

Staunch and strong, a goodly vessel,

That shall laugh at all disaster,

And with wave and whirlwind wrestle!…”

“…Thou, too, sail on, O Ship of State!

 Sail on, O Union, strong and great!

Humanity with all its fears,

With all the hopes of future years

Is hanging  breathless on thy fate!

We know what Master laid the keel,

What Workmen wrought thy ribs of steel,

Who made each mast, and sail, and rope,

What anvils rang, what hammers beat,

In what a forge and what a heat

Were shaped the anchors of thy hope!

Fear not each sudden sound and shock,

‘Tis of the wave and not the rock;

‘Tis but the flapping of the sail,

And not a rent made by the gale!

In spite of rock and tempest’s roar,

In spite of false lights on the shore,

Sail on, nor fear to breast the sea!

Our hearts, our hopes, are all with thee,

Our hearts, our hopes, our prayers, our tears,

Our faith triumphant o’er our fears

Are all with thee,–are all with thee.”

–HW Longfellow

I MAY BE OLD (But I’m Still Here!)

O, there’s grey hair on my head,

I barely make it out of bed,

But I greet the day with cheer;

I may be old, but I’m still here!

 

Well, I do my exercise,

And to a diet I am wed,

But I’m not losing any weight!

And I feel I’ve been misled.

 

So, I’ll put butter on my bread,

And I’ll eat ice cream before bed,

And I won’t walk, ‘cause I can steer;

And so I’m old, but I’m still here!

 

My old friend called me up and said,

“Let’s go paint the town bright red!”

But when I’m showered, dressed, and fed,

I’d rather take a nap, instead!

 

O, there’s grey hair on my head,

And my body feels like lead.

Some parts of me are missing

And my mem’ry’s just a shred.

 

Yes, my years on earth are numbered,

And I know my youth has fled,

But it’s no time for fear—-

I’m old, but I‘m still here!

 

But when I face a challenge,

And my heart is filled with dread,

I may ask where God has gone,

As I lie there in my bed.

 

But if I turn my thoughts off,

God’s voice is calm and clear,

“My child, I go before you,

And I’m old—-

But I’m still here!!!”

NATURE POEMS

These are the last of my older poems that I am going to share:

Dawn Meditation

In these early moments

of the day before me spread,

as the life-giving sun burns its way

through the shrouds of night, silently rending them,

its brilliant warmth

speaks to my heart a poem of hope.

I awake with a singing soul,

victorious.

And though the song be lost

in the blatant discord

of everyday strife,

these moments now are mine

to walk in my Father’s house.

–KLM1963

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Spring

Spring,like love,

is more cherished

with age.

Each year I greet the harbingers,

marvel at the blind courage

of Nature newly reborn,

delight in the incredibly sweet scent

of orange blossoms,

and each year

it is the more poignant

for having been known before.

A vitality

straining at Winter’s lethargy,

the tide of Spring

is the strongest force in nature,

but deceptively gentle,

like a woman in love.

–KLM1968?



Autumn

Azure paints the Autumn sky;

Crisp and cool, a sudden breeze

Whisks away bright, tattered garments

Outworn by the Summer day.

Like unclothed arms, each withered branch

Waves bony hands at Winter’s tease.

The torrid siren dressed in green,

Weary of sport, has gone her way

To sleep.

–KLM1954

More Poetry: “Arecibo”

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ARECIBO

When this radio telescope was built at Arecibo, Puerto Rico, it was the largest and most sensitive of its kind. It still is. Operated by Cornell University, it was built to scan the heavens degree by degree for any radio signal with a pattern too deliberate to be random noise, and to transmit its own message in reply. One such pattern was thought to be prime numbers, the same in any language. Visit this public site: http://naic.edu/public/the_telescope.htm for more information.

(Note 12/22/10: Link may no longer be working.)

This poem is about a morning when it begins to happen.



Arecibo
  
1.
 

 

Mankind’s ear (x10³º), cocked to the universe,

Listening, hoping, with awesome mechanical patience.

Man’s voice (x10²º): coded light shoots silent and straight

From its throbbing dynamic throat.

A conversation in silence, begun and begun again.

2.

A 3-cornered hat for waving

At anyone who might be watching

Our parade.

3.

Someone drops a pebble down a bottomless shaft

And strains to hear a splash, a clink,

Any sign of contact—-any at all.

He listens for a very long time.

4.

One imagines

A great arachnoid robot spinning this strange web

For capturing an exotic meal

Of extraterrestrial fireflies.

Having spun, she waits,

One exquisitely sensitive phalange poised at the rim

Awaiting the tremor that betrays

An ensnared feast.

5.

And one day as we nod over coffee, or dream

Of sailing on a summer morning,

The quiet revolution begins;

“1 …2…3…5…7…11…”

Faintly, insistently,

Yet boldly underlined,

Comes the autograph

Of a distant mind:

“1…2…3…5…7…11…13…17…19…23…29…31…”

MORE POEMS OF THE SPACE AGE II

Men and women may eventually establish a base on Earth’s moon, Luna, where they can live and work for months (or even years.) They will have to build an airtight dome and have some way to maintain an oxygen-nitrogen atmosphere. Outside the dome, they will have to wear EVA suits with air tanks, and probably use vehicles with tracks on some of the wheels to climb the uneven terrain. Life will depend on the air dome, literally. Its failure will mean death, within minutes if a suit or tank is not near; within hours even if they are. (A second or emergency dome will be necessary for survival in such a case until a rescue mission can arrive.)

This poem is my attempt to imagine being a member of such a team, living and working on Luna.

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AldrinMoonwlk

The View from the Moon

There shines Earth. It’s full tonight.

And I am full of grief for her, my home.

Earth at Springtime, the swelling of life from life:

From generation to generation the struggle

To be–to know–to achieve–to master–to be gods.

We came to the moon on an Olympian thunderbolt,

Pressure-sealed in a can of air and recycling machines.

We built the air dome sealed in plastic bags,

With our lives strapped to our backs.

Tonight as my half-track crawls back to the dome,

My brain benumbed in the alien sterility all around me,

I behold the black sky in which the rainbow cannot arch,

In which no thunderstorm crackling with the spark of creation

Can fill the vacuum of life unlived, reality unrealized,

And the pain descends like a shroud over my being.

Here in this world of stark relief,

There is no perhaps, no median, no mercy.

There is life or death, death or life:

Life is the air dome, death is its failure.

The awful absoluteness takes and takes of me,

Until I seem merely an hypothesis.

Perhaps, after all, man is not fitted

For challenging the stars,

Whose cold points of light grip their unseen worlds

In the uncaring eternity of space.

But then I close my eyes and see a remembered Earth,

Where my mind reached out to touch the galaxies.

Some of us have taken that giant step

On the path to the stars.

Yes, we are real, the vanguard of men and women

Who expand humanity’s concept of reality.

We shall go on because we must.

And more will follow.

I open my eyes, behold the full, shining sphere of Earth,

And I straighten my back, sucking deeply from my air tank.

I have won my fight with pain.

–KLM1982

MORE POEMS OF THE SPACE AGE

 

 Far-fetched? Perhaps….

Martian 

The Missionary

A man climbed into a rocket ship

And left the earth on an eight-month trip.

On the planet Mars he then did land

With a Holy Bible in his hand.

He said to the Martians in their holes,

“I’m called by God to save your souls.

Jesus died for you and me,

So we can live eternally.

“The Lord who made your world will come.

And take you to your heavenly home.

The Devil He will lock in Hell,

Where unbelievers all will dwell.

“Come, kneel down and confess your sin!

God’s Word will show you what you’ve been.

His love will fill your souls with peace,

His blessings on you will not cease!”

A Martian came and touched his sleeve.

He said, “Messiah, we believe!

Our Holy Scriptures told of Thee.

O, blest to see Thy face are we!”

The missionary sent a prayer on high,

He rent the thin air with his cry,

“Halleluja! Praise God, they hear!”

Then the Martians all did disappear.

But soon a multitude returned,

And a frightful truth the preacher learned:

“We’re all who survive in the caverns deep,

Your one hundred forty-four thousand sheep.

“Take us, Lord, to Paradise,

Where we may live beneath blue skies

In the Land where milk and honey run:

The third planet from the sun!”

–KLM1981