John Call's Poems


By John D. Call

waters fall
leaves fall
in the fall
I fall
in love with
fall –

“Fall,” Copyright © 2017 by John D. Call

Approaching Fall
(for my wife, whose favorite season is fall)
By John D. Call

Approach fall with great calm and care,
for here she is fragile and skittish
and prone to back away into deep November
if we seem too anxious for her arrival.

Instead, pretend not to notice
the fresh, cool mornings and evenings –
the first need of a jacket,
or the grass slowing its growing,
or that smell of burning firewood
coming from neighbors’ chimneys.

Each day move a little closer,
and perhaps offer her a fallen leaf,
or a twig from last spring’s nest or flower bed,
or a piece of straw or pumpkin bread.
Let her know you are versed in autumn things;
like attracts like, it is said.

And when you have moved quite near,
Whisper softly in her ear,
“Come stay a while with me;
let each to the other be true.
And if perchance you cannot stay,
then let me go away with you.”

"Approaching Fall," Copyright © 2010 by John D. Call

Walking in the Light
By John D. Call

walking in the light
between two darknesses
and in the light
the stalking shadow —

“walking in the light…” Copyright © 2017 by John D. Call

Editor's Note:  This poem was written in response to the image above and to Poetic Prompt # 32

A Dream Received
By John D. Call

In a deep and familiar wood,
Light and darkness adjacent stood.
The light lent the darkness no glow or spark,
Rather by contrast only deepened the dark.
And I from the latter into the brightness gazed,
Not in fear yet perplexed and amazed.
Though a strange eeriness saturated this night,
There seemed no question of wrong or right,
Nor any judgment of bad or good;
Only light and darkness that adjacent stood.

“A Dream Received,” Copyright© 2000 by John D. Call

Editor's Note:  This poem was written in response to the image above and to Poetic Prompt # 32

Letting Go
By John D. Call

I turned onto the street
where my childhood home still stands
among the ghosts of long dead neighbors.

“Strangely familiar,” I say,
within a sudden rush
of memories.

It’s like a dream,
when you know what you’re looking at
even though it’s not at all the same –
my home most of all.

The two live oak trees in the front
that once framed the steps and porch
now almost totally obscure them.
The house seems to hunker down behind them,
as if somehow ashamed of the differences
that fifty years has made.

The nearby houses
that once oriented me in space and time
in my neighborhood – (the Meyers lived down the street
and the Ross’s next door, etc.)
now seem somehow reconfigured
and somewhat smaller that they used to be.

Then with a great sweep of sadness
I hear my voice say,
“This is not my home!”
It was as if I was returning
something borrowed from the universe –
a place – a time,
and, yes, for a while, years ago,
a home –

The Rocky Mountaineer Journey
(mountain train trip)

By John D. Call

Like an immense serpent
the Rocky Mountaineer winds its way
over, around, and through the great Canadian Rockies,
from Vancouver, British Columbia to Jasper, Alberta.

From the blue distances to the near at hand
its windows look out
upon the beauty of the land –
climbing high across the passes
and near to the great snow masses
that will, in their time, melt away
swelling the streams below.

No two trips are alike,
for with as little as a passing cloud’s shadow
the face of a great mountain is changed,
so also the patterns of sunshine and shadows
across the expanse of a glacier
or through the pine and aspen
or upon rocks in a stream.

Finally we gain the snow line.
Here in glaciers and gullies and packs
there is constant snow present.
We cross over the Great Divide
where melting snow flows to the sea
in three directions – a kind of holy trinity
and nature’s metaphor for change and transformation.

And the inhabitants of these mountains –
the bears, the elk, the mule deer, the moose, the bighorn sheep,
and the marmot –
does it not touch a resonant chord within us
to see our kin in the high thin air –
wild and free?

And the Rocky Mountaineer
winds its way over, around, and through
the great Canadian Rockies,
from Vancouver, British Columbia
to Jasper, Alberta.

(for my grandchildren)

Image: Call's sculpture that inspired poem, "Cookies"

It was Mrs. Cow who discovered the basket of cookies
sitting high upon the barn shelf.
But try as she may, there was just no way
to reach them all by herself.

She saw Mr. Pig passing by
and immediately devised a plan.
She said to him, "Mr. Pig, would you help me, please;
please help me if you can!"

So Mr. Pig climbed upon Mrs. Cow's back,
but try as they may, there was just no way;
it was still the height they lacked.

Then came Miss Rabbit hopping down the trail.
Mrs. Cow and Mr. Pig told her the sad cookie tale.
So Miss Rabbit stood on Mr. Pig's back, who stood upon Mrs. Cow,
and they stretched and stretched for all they were worth,
but they were no closer now!

But Mrs. Cow had a plan that included one more man,
and she knew just where to find him.
Mr. Rooster was about due for his "Cock-a-doodle-do,"
so she quietly snuck up behind him.

She scared him so bad, he went temporarily mad
and with a smile went to the top of the pile
where he suddenly went sane
and with a great strain,
he stretched with all he had.

Well, Mr. Rooster reached the basket;
'twas really quite a cinch.
But they all ran away,
for the basket, they say,
had a most powerful stench!

Now Mrs. Cow and Mr. Pig
and Miss Rabbit and Mr. Rooster
all have moved to the city dump,
because, they say, to this very day,
they still smell a lot like a skunk!

Your Smile
(for my wife on our forty-fourth anniversary)
By John D. Call

Was it the conspiring of the universe
or simply a room with a view
that caused your smile to linger there
and first drew me to you?

Is it in looking through the eyes of love
and finding my life fulfilled,
that even after forty-four years
I see the same smile still?

And now your smile seems so much a part
of all you say and do;
it ever and always wins my heart,
and I fall in love again with you!

"Your Smile," Copyright © 2013 by John D. Call
Posted February 1, 2017

Somehow Today
(For my wife)

Somehow today dearer to me,
You go about your way as always.
There is no explaining the depth of your smile,
How your eyes shine at me
Through the necessary distance between us.

Nor can I save for a day of loneliness
The easy way you part the air in your moving,
Not with determined purpose,
But as Rodin's "Apollo" stands of its own,
Shining in its space –

"Somehow Today," Copyright© 1999 by John D. Call
Posted February 1, 2017


In Memory of Pamela Michelle
(Based on images in her poem, "The Limo")

Image: Pamela Michelle

The limo is waiting.
Now you have arrived.
Now freed from fear,
you step inside.
Love, the Driver,
shall abide.
Just close your eyes
and ride –

"In Memory of Paamela Michelle," Copyright © 2016 by By John D. Call
Posted December 26, 2016

By John D. Call

How does the meaning of space change
when we cross over a threshold?

The bride is carried over
the threshold of her new home.

The condemned prisoner
steps from the long hall
into the execution chamber.
It is the final five minutes
of his life.

The graduate crosses the stage
and receives his diploma.

The husband signs the divorce papers
and moves into his own apartment.

Thresholds are where endings
and beginnings
become one.

Thresholds are times and places
where, for better or worse,
life pivots,
and something changes -
and things are never the same.

Some thresholds are so small
that we hardly notice them at all,
like the siphoning away
of neurotransmitters from brain cells
in Parkinson's disease.

Some are so huge
that everyone on earth knows about it
at the same time -
"That's one small step for man,
one giant leap for mankind!"

"Thresholds," Copyright © 2016 by John D. Call
Posted November 10, 2016


A Far Walk
By John D. Call

I cannot tell you how far I walked;
I only know it was far and more,
much farther than before!
For this time I walked beyond the clattering traffic -
the sounds of horns, engines winding out after red lights,
and brakes squealing!

I walked beyond the lights of town
and the halo of light that hovers high above the ground
and can be seen for miles.
I walked beyond the bark of dogs and screams of fear
rising up from the violent streets,
beyond the frowns, smiles, and tears
of those I chanced to meet.
I walked beyond the thoughts and dreams
of all the people I had left behind,
and my own as well - a clearing of the mind.
I walked beyond even the sound of my own heart beating
and the sound of my very breath.
All these things by which I had known myself,
I walked beyond.

And I can tell you this, that as I walked on
I was a truer self, a freer self,
nearer the essence of my being, my core!
but I cannot tell you how far it was I walked,
only know it was farther, much farther, than before.

Author's Note: Inspired in part by Robert Frost's poem, "Acquainted with the Night"

"A Far Walk," Copyright © 2010 by John D. Call
Posted October 21, 2016

Editor's Note: This poem was written in response to Poetic Prompt # 23

A Gift of Praise
By John D. Call

Music rises
into the heights of the cathedral.
Then, descending, each note finds its goal
upon the altar
and is offered
as a gift of praise —

"A Gift of Praise," Copyright© 2016 by John D. Call
Posted June 16, 2016

Editor's Note: This poem is in response to poetic prompt # 20.

(a stream of consciousness poem)
By John D. Call

the wind is near blowing the words
off the page
have you ever been told
not to be so bold
or settle down
or act our age
and you had no idea
what that meant

i have somewhere within
every age i've ever been
they wait off stage for their cue
but they haven't the heart
to read their part
in fact they haven't a clue

oh, yes,
from birth to death
and in between
act after act and scene after scene
mystery and romance
life is live performance

but beware the script
that has your wings clipped
by the end of the first act
you've come so far to become a star
now you're at the bus station all packed

you may watch all these things
from deep in the wings
and the play will go on long after you're gone
and your telephone never rings

and when the curtains fall
on the third curtain call
you've gotten all you'll get
still you buy the morning news
just to read the reviews
and the sun is beginning to set

"(a stream of consciousness poem)," Copyright © 2016 by John D. Call
Posted May 20, 2016

Editor's Note: This poem and the information below was presented as a Poetic Prompt / Challenge.

Author's Note on Poem: A stream of consciousness poem (SOC) begins with a single awareness at a point in time. For instance, I begin this SOC poem with the line, "the wind is near blowing the words/off the page." I chose to use no caps or punctuation marks as a matter of stylistic taste.

After the first line, go with what presents itself next. In other words, stay in the present with the present image, and instead of going to the next image/thought, etc., let it come to you. Have fun (or not).

By John D. Call

He sets his face toward Jerusalem.
Jerusalem had set its face toward him long before.
In the chaos of splitting atoms and flaming worlds,
Jerusalem had set its face toward him.
The voices of the children of Israel
now claw in his throat,
"We would return to Egypt."
Still, he sets his face toward Jerusalem.

He is in the belly of the great fish,
and there is darkness and he sleeps.
In his dream he transforms stones into bread.
He leaps from the temple.
He receives the clamoring crowd's

He is again in his father's workshop.
The scent of sawdust and sweet woods fill his mind.
He holds again the rough wood in his hands
and imagines himself someday
the equal craftsman of his father.
His mother calls him to table,
and a voice outside himself answers,
"This is my body."

The wood slips from his hands
and falling slowly it echoes as it hits the floor.
His grasp fails for the numbing pain.
He looks out through blurring eyes.

How has it all come to this -
this meeting of two faces of destiny
meekness and power,
compassion and law?
So much there is, it seems, that hangs in the balance.
Is this the end, or is it only the beginning?
Or both?

Then the voice he had heard before
in the hours of restless dreams and confusion –
"Now it is finished – now it can begin!"
And something departed;
and something remained –

"Crucifixion," Copyright© 1991 by John D. Call
(Revised February, 2016)

Posted February 17, 2016

Walking Barefoot
By John D. Call

The joy of shedding shoes and socks
With the coming of the Vernal Equinox;
As smells of spring swirl and enmesh
With clean, talcum powdered flesh.

At the age of four outside my back door,
Fresh from my afternoon bath,
I walk along the sidewalk path
With the timid step of tender feet
Pressed against the warm concrete.
A time I have from then held dear –
The first barefoot of the year.

"Walking Barefoot," Copyright © 1989 by John D. Call
Posted February 17, 2016

By John D. Call

In the sunlight
the water along the shore is calm.
In the distance it shines and slowly moves
like a gently pulsing thread
that for a while stitches together sand and sea.
Soon the ebb tide will break its tenuous hold
leaving the beach naked with shells,
while pieces of shining thread will join the deepening gold
of the setting sun.

And seeing all this from afar,
I wonder at the smallness of my life
knit together with so fragile a thread.
And I wonder when these threads are at last broken,
what I will leave scattered across the sand
in trust and in token
of who I was and who I am.
Still, for now, in the sunlight
the water along the shore is calm
and the shining thread unbroken.

Copyright 2007 by John D. Call
Posted February 17, 2016

(Upon my decision to remove
my mother from life support)

By John D. Call

'Twas mine

to loose from you
that last fragile twine,

for you, long before,
that I might be,

clipped the cord
and set me free –

"Symmetry," Copyright© 2012 by John D. Call
Posted February 17, 2016

By John D. Call

Struggling to remain with the dead
Where inert will asks nothing except silence –
The soul's solitude clinging to stony darkness.

Flashes of dawn now dancing about his eyes,
While threads of light lace the deep eternal night,
Which until now filled the tomb
With death's sweet forgetfulness.

Now dawn is slowly seeping between the cold slabs of indifference
Toward which his waking mind moves with the terror of longing.
And from somewhere the impulse of a thought –
One more door through which to pass!

"Lazarus," Copyright © 1998 by John D. Call
Posted February 17, 2016

a bag of bones
By John D. Call

his muscles feel
like gelatin
I think I see
his skeleton
looking out at me
oh Lord have mercy
on all of us
who share this
awful beautiful trust
of a bag of bones
and a sack of dust
for we all begin the same
without sin or name
without credit or blame
at first and last
both the same
a huddled mass

but in between
we stretch and grow
and gradually
come to know
we are not alone
in our flesh and bone
there is something more
we cannot see
we cannot own
and it's been said
by one wiser than me
we are a blend
of dust and divinity

yes, his muscles
feel like gelatin
and I think I can see
his skeleton
he's now near death
and his final breath
his eyes beginning to dim
but we are a part
of a larger work of art
and this is not
the last of him . . .

Copyright 2010 by John D. Call
Posted February 17, 2016

By John D. Call

I try to catch the flakes in flight,
Reflected against the silver street light –

I capture only a few this way,
And those I do but for an instant stay,
Then soon, too soon, they melt away –

Snowflakes are to love, but not to touch,
Like other things we love too much,
Like other things when held too near
Melt away and disappear –

"Snowflakes," Copyright© 1988 by John D. Call
Posted January 8, 2016

Editor's Note: This was a Image: featured poem in January and February, 2016

Dawn Is Born at Midnight*
By John D. Call

Dawn is born at midnight,
When out of the deepest black,
The sun from its western exile
Begins its journey back –

Dawn is born at midnight,
For just beyond our sight,
At the threshold of greatest darkness
Gathers the morning light –

Dawn is born at midnight,
When into despair's dark place,
From the Soul's eastern horizon
Echoes promise of light's first trace –

Dawn is born at midnight,
Just before the fearful heart takes flight,
For breaking through the eclipse of hope
Dawns the silent Inner Light –

Dawn is born at midnight,
The Covenant to fulfill—
That One who births Eternal Light
Creates within us still –

*A phrase used by Carl Jung, a Swiss psychiatrist

"Dawn Is Born at Midnight," Copyright © 1988 by John D. Call
Posted January 8, 2016

By John D. Call

Lifting high up in the air,
Rocked in the arms of the breeze;
How I envy you up there,
Lording it over the trees –

Your dancing tail streaming behind,
Balancing you in flight,
While down below a little boy
Is holding the string firm and tight –

But what would happen if the boy let go,
Or if the string should break?
The friendly breeze becomes the foe,
Downing the kite in its wake –

It comes to me now, this paradox,
Like the kite, our freedom is found;
We catch the breeze, rising high and free,
Only when our anchor is sound –

"Kite," Copyright© 1988 by John D. Call
Posted January 8, 2016

Fall Wood
By John D. Call

The wood is filled with fall today,
Reddish-brown leaves giving way
To the crisp and chilling autumn breeze
That rushes its way through the trees.

Sending their leaves spiraling down,
Sprinkling a carpet over the ground
That greets my step with a crackling sound,
The only intrusion into the quiet around.

Without leaves the trees reveal
Their naked shape stark and real
With thousands of fingers reaching high,
Silhouetted against the sky.

Beneath their trees the fallen leaves lay
To enrich the earth with their decay,
Ensuring on some future day
Budding new leaves will give display.

The fall wood is a pensive place,
Reflecting on nature's intrinsic grace –
Learning to trust her wisdom's plan
Of letting go to be born again.

"Fall Wood," Copyright © 1985 by John D. Call
Posted January 8, 2016

Two Short Poems (response to Poetic Prompt # 13)

  1. (a two word, two syllable senryu John wrote for the caption of a photograph of his wife holding a koala bear)


  2. (a two word haiku with four syllables John wrote last spring during the storm season)


Lift Up Poetry's Candle High
(Last poem for Poetry in Progress, which is disbanding)

By John D. Call

For my partners in rhyme

Lift up poetry's candle high one more poem before goodbye,
one more poem at the muses' behest,
one more poem with the power to bless.

Lift up poetry's candle higher
that others by its flame may kindle new fire,
and then with vulnerability and might,
shine like the stars from their own inner light.

We come here to bid one another farewell;
what tomorrow holds no one can tell.

Let us then lift up poetry's candle high,
for we are bearers of its light,
and, like the phoenix, we shall rise up by and by,
upon the wings of words we shall rise,
the flame burning bright
within our eyes!

"Lift Up Poetry's Candle High," Copyright c 2015 by John D. Call

Editor's Note: This poem was the last poem read at the final dinner/gathering of the Poetry in Progress group, September 14, 2014

Song of the Poet
(Today I Am a Tree)
By John D. Call

The poet Rainer Rilke believed that poets
must enter into the essence of the images in their poems
in order to become "at one" with them and thus able to
write from the "inside-out."

Today I am a tree.
Perhaps tomorrow a ripple on a pond,
or even a wave far out at sea,
or the shifting sand on beaches
swirling in the wind.

Once I was an egg salad
and sometimes a ray of sun
filtering through the trees a
nd spotting the grass below.

My name is
The Ten Thousand Things.
Call out to me,
and all things
turn to listen.

Today I am a tree,
so come,
climb in my branches,
eat of my fruit.

Today I am a tree.
If you are cold,
take me from my roots
and put me to the fire.

Then I shall be flame
and heat and cinders,
and then the phoenix
rising from the ashes to live again!

Today I am a tree.
But come tomorrow,
who can know what I will be?

Whatever I am,
let me be it to the full.

And when at last I speak in verse,
let all things speak through me,
but for today,

I am a tree.

"Song of the Poet," Copyright © 2013 by John D. Call

Editor's Note: This poem was the read at the final dinner/gathering of the Poetry in Progress group, September 14, 2014. John Call is a cherished poet to all who came to know and love him and his poetry over the 5 years of Poetry in Progress. It was fitting that he read the two poems above at our final gathering. In some ways John was a kind of spiritual father to us without ever getting such a title. This is the editor's opinion but one that I think would be shared by many in our group. - Glenn Currier - September 16, 2015

Poetry in Progress: A Fourth Anniversary Poem
By John D. Call
PDF document of this poem

We are walking through yet another door;
this one inscribed, "number four."
Through these early years we have shrunk and grown,
and many seeds have been sown,
including a book of poems of our own.

Other seeds will ripen into poems,
their subjects and styles rich and diverse.
Some will become essays, sharp and terse.
And some readers and listeners,
who thought poetry perverse,
will encounter it as blessing
instead of curse.

Up ahead I see many doors
without ceilings, without floors,
for these are doors of opportunity -
some would call it destiny,
and I would not disagree.

For here we are ever in journey
at the muse's behest.
Let this, then, be our legacy and our bequest -
to "build community and culture through poetry."

And when we have written the final poem
and for years with devils and angels have striven,
poetry will still be the bread of life
and love still its leaven.

"Poetry in Progress: A Fourth Anniversary Poem," Copyright © 2014 by John D. Call
Posted January 8, 2015

A Walk in a Snowy Wood
By John D. Call

I chanced to walk in a snowy wood.
I buttoned my coat
and pulled up my hood.

The snow was falling as I began to walk.
The tall creaking pines seemed to talk,
though 'twas but the whispering winter winds,
down from the north to visit old friends.

My boots were heavy, my feet quite warm.
But my face, where the snowflakes danced and swarmed,
was getting numb as I leaned into
the breath of a gathering storm.

The trees were bending, long gone their fruits;
they tugged and pulled at their straining roots.
And the supple ones that did give with the wind
will be here next year to amaze us again.

Repenting, I turned back,
for the sky with darkness was turning black,
and though all on the ground was glowing white,
beyond that glow there was no light;
there was no recourse; there was no flight!
And then that paralyzing fear and dread,
from my numbed feet to my jumbled head.

And the panic overcame common sense;
the tiny wood became immense!

And I became a snowflake –
falling – falling,
about to lose who I am
in the trackless snow.

Then I heard it – a voice,
a woman's voice,
my mother's voice,
calling me in from the darkening cold of the back yard
into the warm house and dinner.

But I was tired and sleepy,
and I went into my room,
where I soon drifted off to sleep
with a flood of memories I could not keep.

Just beyond, the trees were sighing.
I dreamed that it was snowing;
I dreamed that I was dying –

In Thanksgiving and in Memory of Albert Willis
(for all who grieve his passing)
By John Call

You died too soon, my brother poet –
so many poems within you yet to unfold
and be shared with a needy world
straining to hear a word of hope.

And when your poems were lifted high
upon the wings of song,
they became as great soaring birds,
which, with their keen sight,
could see clearly the folly of physical boundaries below
and spiritual boundaries within.

But you died too soon, my friend –
so much left to heal within ourselves and our world.
But your smile will be a healing memory,
for it was an outward witness
to a deep inner joy.

Yes, you died too soon, my brother –
so much life left to live!
Yet in your poetry will be your presence,
in your smile, your joy,
and in your song, a celebration of living
and the sacredness of life.

And we will add to your prayers
prayers of our own,
that soon all manner of war and injustice
will cease,
and that all flesh and bone
may lie down to rest "in a land of peace." *

* From Albert Willis's poem "Lay Me Down in a Land of Peace"

Click here for pdf version of the above poem by John D. Call

"In Thanksgiving and in Memory of Albert Willis," Copyright © 2014 by John D. Call

A Transformation Poem
By John D. Call

The great snow packs and patches
in the high mountains in springtime
begin to let go their frozen masses
and resistance to gravity,
and welcoming the sun,
they begin their journey downward.

They fall in glorious flashes and splashes
as if pouring out from the rocks themselves.
From a distance the falls make no sound
nor do they hurry, seeming to move in slow motion.

Soon joining streams and rivers
with no memory or regret,
they leave their names behind –
so wet with themselves,
as the snow was once one
with its coldness
of which it now can only dream –
so fully river, so fully stream.

Like the snow, I must melt
in transformation's heat.
I, too, must make the downward journey
beneath the many selves I think myself to be,
'til I, too, become a nameless part
of a nameless river
that in time carries all things
into a nameless sea –
I, too, in each moment,
must give myself
to what I am becoming –
a great sea – a river – a stream –
a patch of snow –

"A Transformation Poem," Copyright © 2014 by John D. Call
Posted June 20, 2014

I Have Waited Long for You, O God"
(Psalm 39:7, "Whither shall I go from thy spirit?
Or whither shall I flee from thy presence?")

By John D. Call

I have waited long for you, O God,
at times when you were already there.
I have overlooked you in the evening
in the shadows of blades of grass,
and in the dregs at the bottom
of my coffee cup.

You are the eggs at rest in the palm
of a spring nest,
and the scent of a flower
rising up, filling the air with beauty.
Yes, I have waited long for you, O God,
and all the while
you were waiting for me –

In All Things We Live by Hope
(Remembering the people of Japan, 1945
and the people of the United States, September 11, 2001)

By John D. Call

In all things
we live by hope –
a tree grows up in
a flower in
in New York City
shafts of light
rise up from
an empty darkness,
and drifting out over
the abyss,
a song.

Old Man Making Notes
By John D. Call

From my window I see him –
back bent over with the years,
his old brown felt fedora sits atop his head
as if without the consultation of a mirror.

He is looking at the palm of his hand
wherein rests a small flip notebook.
In the other he has a pen,
which he, from time to time,
brings to the notebook
with seeming import and enthusiasm,
then gazes again out into the crisp fall air.

He moves not far from where he started
and then makes another note.
Is he a poet
capturing lines that dart among
the slowly slanting shadows of this fall day?
Is he an inspector making notes for needed repairs?

And yet he seems something more –
something to do with our souls.
And though this seems quite a stretch,
even for this poet,
still I find myself hoping that
my name is on his list,
for I too am in need of repair,
I too need a poem.

And as shadows begin weaving together
their tapestry of darkness,
he seems to be fading with the light –
subtle as a feather.
I look again
And he is gone –

"Old Man Making Notes," Copyright© 2013 by John D. Call

As I Grow Old
(psalm of a monk)
By John D. Call

As I grow old,
let me grow more certain
of my uncertainties,
and rejoice in the free fall
of mystery.

And let me not be drawn
into the orbit of another,
but like Rilke find my own center,
my own "ancient tower"
around which to live my life
"in growing orbits,"
embracing all things,

until, with Whitman, I can declare,
"I am large, I contain multitudes,"
and with the multitudes
I am one.


"As I Grow Old," Copyright© 2013 by John D. Call

Poetry in Progress — Third Birthday Poem
By John D. Call

Now we can finally walk and talk!
Each step takes us into a new world.
Each word a new image, a new vessel
in which to gather and contain our experiences
while building bridges of meaning between them.

Finally there emerges a piece of art,
a tapestry of which words are the
warp and woof;
we call it a poem!

But for now it is enough
for our three year old
to put "his" thumb in his mouth,
and dream —

"Poetry in Progress — Third Birthday Poem," Copyright© 2013 by John D. Call

Song of the Poet
(Today I Am a Tree)

By John D. Call

The poet Rainer Rilke believed that the poet
must enter into the essence of the images in his poems
in order to become "at one" with them and thus able to
write from the "inside-out."

Today I am a tree.
Perhaps tomorrow a ripple on a pond,
or even a wave far out at sea,
or the shifting sand below.

Once I was an egg salad
and sometimes a ray of sun
filtering through the trees
and spotting the grass below.

My name is
The Ten Thousand Things.
Call out to me,
and all things
turn to listen.

Today I am a tree,
so come,
climb in my branches,
eat of my fruit.

Today I am a tree.
If you are cold,
take me from my roots
and put me to the fire.
Then I shall be flame
and heat and cinders,
and then the phoenix
rising from the ashes
to live again!

Today I am a tree.
But come tomorrow,
who can know what I will be?

Whatever I am,
let me be it to the full.

And when at last I speak in verse,
let the words be true and terse.
Let the ten thousand things speak through me,
but for this moment,
I am a tree.

How to Build a Fire
By John D. Call

First you need a spark – perhaps steel against flint.
Where the sparks fall, place some kind of tinder –
perhaps charred cloth or tree bark or steel wool.

When a spark hits the tinder and it begins to glow,
gently nurture the glow into a tiny flame
by softly breathing on it.

Slowly add some twigs, then sticks, then branches, then logs.
And let there be spaces between them, that the flame
may stretch and grow.

As the flame grows, the fire breathes for itself.
Feasting on air,
kindling smoke by day
and flickering shadows by night,
it becomes a living being.

And that's how to build a fire.
And that's also how to write a poem.

By John D. Call

I gave you a gift of flower seeds;
you gave me a writing book.
Each of us used our gifts aright
in the time and care we took.

Soon each gift grew beautiful;
'twas soon another giving day.
I gave to you a book of poems;
you gave to me a bouquet.

The Muse Speak through the Ordinary
By John D. Call

I believe the muse
speak most profoundly
through the ordinary,
for it is the ordinary that is
most profound.

Listen to the great mountain,
but notice also the ant hill
teeming with life!

Watch the calm, then violent, sea,
but do not fail to notice
the mud puddle full of stars.

And notice also the drop of water
that dangles in hesitation
at the end of a leaf,
waiting for the slightest quiver
to continue its journey
to the earth.

But do not lift high the ordinary,
for in its lowliness is its power
and its beauty.

Instead, hold all things equal
in their ability to have significance
and bear witness to a life
filled with purpose and meaning.

And poets, if we but do our share,
the ordinary ceases its dumbness everywhere,
and each thing finds its song
and sings it from the heart,
like Neruda in his Ode to Common Things,
like this pair of old blue jeans
from which I'll never part.

Ode to Buttons
By John D. Call

(In 1887 the Alcazar Hotel was built in St. Augustine.
Later it became the home of the Lightner Museum
and its "collection of collections." One entire room
contains a collection of buttons – all shapes and sizes,
all colors, made from many materials.)

How often, I wonder,
did this collector
pick up handfuls of buttons
and let them trickle through
his fingers –
the rich clicking of button against button,
some shiny, some dull –
each unique.

Buttons, what stories you could tell
of binding together and letting go
and setting free!

You are the last bastion
of morality and privacy,
the last checkpoint through which
lust and desire must pass.

You are the necklace;
you are the bracelet.
You are universal and democratic,
adorning the rich and poor,
the brilliant and the simple

You fill the basket
into which the small hands
of children and grandchildren
plunge and emerge overflowing
with treasures
that dazzle the eyes
and delight the heart
of even this old poet.

Wake Up, Poet!
By John D. Call

Wake up, poet; wake up!
Your time in the scheme of things
has come!

Arise, poet, you have slept too often
in the beds of self-reflection
and with the harlots of status quo
and you have heard the siren's temptation
to beauty alone.

Wake up, poet,
and awaken in us
those things we have touched
only in our dreams.

Wake up, poet!
Rise to your calling to praise the ordinary,
that the earth and all its ten thousand things
might again become holy!

Rise up, poet, mirror to ourselves
who we are,
that we may, in this awareness,
transcend ourselves and become new.

Arise, poet, and with your words
give voice to the desires
beneath our desires
and the hopes beyond
our lamentations.

Wake up, then, O poet!
Take up your pen –
let your words shine!

From the deck of a cottage on Wilsons Promontory in Australia
(For Wanda)

By John D. Call

Just beyond the fenced in meadow,
which lies stretching in the sun or moonlight
and plays host to kangaroos
who graze and drink at dawn and dusk,
just beyond the meadow, a strip of forest
stands between it and the Corner Inlet.

Beyond the inlet a range of mountains
hides a view of the Bass Strait,
beyond which lies the Tasman Sea.
And embracing it all, the great sky
stretches beyond through ten thousand horizons!

Here distances open out upon blue distances
and pour themselves ever forward,
leaving in their wake
the uncertain shapes of our dreams.

And you and I together
are becoming a part of these spaces,
filling them with our astonishment.
The beauty of earth
before us is lavishly spread,
and the ten thousand horizons waiting beyond!

Poem for a New Spring
By John D. Call

A new spring is slowly winning my heart,
reluctant as I am to leave my warm winter's womb,
to be born out into such uncertainty.

But life is so insistent on life –
bare limbs giving way to green,
buds to flowers, flowers to fruit.

And the bees, these alchemists of the garden,
are transforming nectar
into the sweet gold of honey!

How freely the flowers give of their nectar and pollen
to something far greater than themselves –
greater still than the garden itself.

In all these things I rejoice –
a new spring is slowly winning my heart
and giving it a voice.

"Poem for a New Spring," Copyright© 2013 by John D. Call

Lullaby on the Melbourne Tram
By John D. Call

Riding on the Melbourne tram,
each person creates "his" own separate world,
mostly by avoiding eye contact
that would say, "I recognize you
as a fellow human creature."
The primary tool to accomplish this isolation
is the iPhone –
(it used to be the newspaper
back in the literate days).

Here, crowded against a window, in their little world,
a mother softly sings to her infant son
while holding him to her breast.
She sings softly enough
to contain it within the boundaries
of their private space,
and loud enough that it can be heard
above the din
of sounds in the street
and the rattle of the tram.

Soon enough this bubble of comfort
will not be able to keep the world away.
But as for now, sleep on little one,
and sing on, mother,
for he will take your song
wherever he goes.
And perhaps on some distant day,
with a strange sense of recognition in his heart,
he will sing to his own child
his mother's sweet song.

"Lullaby on the Melbourne Tram," Copyright© 2013 by John D. Call

By John D. Call

What have we to show;
What have we to tell?
Life that moves like a wave in and out of us
Asks only that we face east in the morning
Then west in the evening,
And then slowly sink beneath the horizon,
Carrying our light with us
To brighten some other distant world,
Rising like new fire into its darkness.

"Poem," Copyright © 2012 by John D. Call

A Lesson: Use of Words
By: John D. Call

A novice came to the master asking,
"Sir, what is the place of words in our lives?"

Said the master:
"Occasionally we must resort to the use of words.
Refrain from using many words when a few will do,
or from using any words
when silence would speak more eloquently.
For your words and the images they evoke within another
stand between that person and the essential nature
of that of which you speak.

So then let even your words
be containers in which silence awaits its turn,
or like cups in which silence is served as refreshment
and invitation,
so that when you speak
the other may hear
his own heart.

Now let my words fall back
into the silence from which they arose,
and listen to the whisperings

"A Lesson: Use of Words," Copyright © 2012 by John D. Call

Two Windows
By John D. Call

My writing room has two windows,
from them are different views;
through the window in the wall
the ten thousand things call,
through the one within, the muse.

And both are needed to create a poem;
it must have body and soul -
an outer and an inner view
if the work be strong and whole

"Two Windows," Copyright© 2012 by John D. Call
Posted July 18, 2012

Seagulls of Vancouver
By John D. Call

Looking down from the Vancouver Lookout
I watch the white seagulls flap and glide
through the canyons of skyscrapers
in downtown Vancouver.
Now in sight between bastions of commerce,
now vanishing behind stacked apartments,
or briefly lighting on their rooftop gardens.

They flap and glide without apparent purpose
except for the pure exhilaration, the sheer delight,
the gladsome abandon of things practical,
and the complete surrender to joy!

I am fascinated by them
until it is time to go,
and once again my watch
and things measured by time,
like schedules and logical sequence,
become the arbiters of my life,
the arranger and shaper of life's agenda.

And descending the lookout,
my feet now planted firmly on the ground,
I look up and see only
great white birds of prey, bound to their own DNA
as I am to mine.

And I am certain that for those few moments up there
I was in transcendent time,
free as the gulls,
drifting in the seaside air

"Seagulls of Vancouver," Copyright © 2012 by John D.Call
Posted July 6, 2012

Walking on Ice on the Athabasca Glacier
By John D. Call

At the top of the world or so it seems,
walking on ice as in a dream.

Winds from heaven or from hell,
about the same, hard to tell!

This expanse dwarfs all imagination can bring,
walking on ice as in a dream.

The summit disappears into a cold gray sky
from whence may come mountain spirits in the mind's eye.

And the mind struggles to understand what is seen,
walking on ice as if in a dream.

And if I had my soul's desire, this glacier I'd befriend,
for there's transformation in the ice, and eternity in the wind!

"Walking on Ice on the Athabasca Glacier," Copyright © 2012 by: John D. Call
Posted July 6, 2012

Lake Louise
By John D. Call

You are like a beautiful woman
spreading your skirts of aqua before me.
And in your icy coldness
you are more beautiful still!

Like one who carries
in her bosom a picture of her lover,
so you carry in yours
the reflections of mountains
that gather close about you.

And they are caressed
by the ripples that play at the surface,
aroused by that old matchmaker,
the wind.

But they are best understood
by two lovers who stroll together
the path that embraces you,
and see in each other's eyes
the reflection of themselves.

"Lake Louise," Copyright © 2012 by: John D. Call
Posted July 6, 2012

The Grizzly
By John D. Call

Suddenly, she steps out from a bush
and from thousands of years of evolution,
unchanged, it seems.
She is excitement in our waking,
terror in our dreams.

On the road from Jasper to Lake Louise
before the Athabasca Glacier,
she is large of body, silent of foot,
she ambles in profile
just off the road, alongside
our coach for half a mile.

Her gaping mouth and alert ears
suggest that she is no teddy bear!
She is likely a mother who has set herself
between her nearby cubs and the danger
of the road from which we are watching.

Her beauty and her capacity for savage violence
seem a strange combination – even a contradiction.
But like other shared characteristics,
they are not reserved for us human beings alone.

Then, as suddenly as she came, she turns inward
away from the road into the bushes.
Her dark brown fur is shining in the morning sunlight
as we and she head back to our own worlds –
hers, to care for her young and forage for food
in the snowy mountains,
ours, the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise.

"The Grizzly," Copyright © 2012 by: John D. Call

Three Swans
By John D. Call

In the great lobby of the grand hotel,
before a large framed mirror,
there stand three young women –
attendants to the bride
in a wedding that is about to take place
in the stately ballroom.
They are touching up their hair, checking their makeup,
and spraying perfume on arms and graceful necks.

They are like three swans noticing their reflections in a pool,
each seeing in them their own beauty
and that of the other two – perhaps too aware they are of both,
for they move their bright bodies before the mirror
in pride and in envy, it seems – each convinced
of the answer to the question, "Mirror, mirror on the wall,
who's the fairest of them all?"

Dressed in snug purple dresses,
with a final glance
they glide away to try to outshine the bride
and each other.

Won't someone come and tell them
what they do not yet believe –
that they are indeed

"Three Swans," Copyright © 2012 by: John D. Call
Posted July 6, 2012

A Brief and Imagined History and Future of the Canadian Rockies
(a narrative poem)
By John D. Call

After the gods left the mountains,
banished to the outer edges of human consciousness
by a more sophisticated humankind,
it was in the fullness of those times
that humans and animals came to inhabit together
these great stone monoliths of the Canadian Rockies.

But the humans
took from the mountains their gold and silver and coal
in a greedy frenzy which left scars upon the mountains
and upon the souls of the people,
while the animals lived with humility toward the mountains,
their forests, high cliffs and pools, snows, streams, and flowers –
a kind of natural peace and mutual respect,
which benefited both while harming neither.

Slowly over much time, the humans learned the ways of the
of the mountains – the elk, the moose, the mule deer,
the eagle, the marmot, the black and grizzly bears.
And slowly, as human consciousness expanded,
the gods returned to their old homes in the mountains.

And from then on the humans, the gods, and the animals
lived there together,
each carrying its own responsibilities
to care for the mountains.
And once again these great rugged heights
took on an air of mystery and sacredness.

And once again the great God of creation
who is above all gods,
smiled and muttered,
"It is good!"

"A Brief and Imagined History and Future of the Canadian Rockies," Copyright © 2012 by: John D. Call
Posted July 6, 2012

(for Wanda, who loves them)
By John D. Call

The Buddha
raises up a bouquet of flowers.
This is his sermon.
Only the enlightened ones
know and smile.

Jesus, seeing the lilies of the field,
says that they neither toil nor spin,
yet still they are tended by their creator.

Today we saw the bluebonnets –
like still pools and flowing rivers,
and the air full of their breath!

How I love seeing you working in the garden,
your large hat encircling your head like the sun,
your face shining!

Some sweet day I will see a flower;
something within will fall into place,
and I will smile.

"Flowers," Copyright© 2012 by John D. Call
Posted April 12, 2012

Image: Bluebonnet field

The Bluebonnets
By John D. Call

The greening earth
is now swollen with blue.
Suddenly it arrives to meet us
just at the top of the hill,
just beyond a bend in the road,
just over the fence post.

Ripples and waves
of green and blue
come and go with the breeze
that inhales the perfume,
then passes among us
like a priest with his censer,
leaving us for a moment stunned
and drunk with joy!

"The Bluebonnets, Copyright© 2012 by John D. Call
Posted April 13, 2012

A Response to the Poem "Anatevka" by Ted Shaffer, Jr.
By John D. Call

… and are we not all in journey
from the homeland to a newer world,
from the known to the unknown,
from the safe to the vulnerable?
And are we not driven from home to new lands
by demons and by angels?

They call to us like sirens from rocks and trees
and, yes, from the occasional burning bush.
They tell us that we can no longer remain where we are
for we have outgrown this place,
and it has become toxic to our souls.

This is our own hero's journey,
our own eviction from Eden's garden,
our own forty years in the wilderness,
our own death and our own resurrection.

The call to journey comes from anywhere
and through anything that challenges
our own Weltangschauung,
pricks our emotions, and whets our imagination.

The fearful cling to tradition,
while the courageous, though not without fear,
keep by their doorstep a walking staff,
and listen to each breeze for a voice
that only the heart understands.

"A Response to the Poem "Anatevka" by Ted Shaffer, Jr.," Copyright © 2012 by John D. Call
Posted January 6, 2012

Author's note (optional)
My friend Ted Shaffer, who is also a member of this group, wrote a poem entitled "Anatevka." My poem, as the title indicates, is in response to his, which has also been submitted to the PIP website. The rich imagery of this writing struck me as applicable to the journeys we make in our lives, some of them internal. This response grew organically in my mind out of his poem. Thank you, Ted.

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