Leonard Neufeldt


A long whistle echoes
change in the air,
argues nearness
from the valley’s far side,
an oncoming
making adjustments
to find you

the already, the moment’s
burst, car after car
counting spaces,
rushing them away
as though the world
has got to be emptied
like evening,
the absence naked
as the mountains

and the V-shape lifting
from out the dead tree,
its glide alone
into the dark

and you almost ready
for the suddenness,
for the beauty of desolation,
the day’s end
exactly this


North of the Assiniboine

The wheat fields’ roll
and roll of dark afterlife
explaining the gold

the air whiter, a change
cottoned like a gathering
from sleep, and inside the wind
where you stopped
ribbons of first snow, small seizures
busy with the silence
of following each other
across the gravel road
like the fluttering in you alive
to what is on the other side

Because you lay your map aside
and wait for the fibrillose tempo
to ease, the fields
grow larger, a sudden
getting-clear-of, a triangle
of blue all the way to the horizon,
to a lone spruce black against
the margin’s emptiness,
your eagerness to . . .

Say them, words of winter,
like a stammering of first love,
the syllables finding themselves —
so simple

Leonard Neufeldt

We humans find our being and identity principally through two kinds of relationships, each of these a kind of nearness. The first is relationships with fellow human beings, especially those inhabiting our particular living world. The second is relationships with what is usually referred to as nature, whose shadowed voices are also our family. It is this family of nature that I have been exploring in a lengthy new series of poems titled More-Than-Human Nearness, a wording that I have borrowed from David Abram. My two poems appearing in Leaping Clear deal with this latter family relationship, one of joy, mystery, danger, deference, and inspiration.

What does all this have to do with meditation? Let me focus on the word “deference” in the previous paragraph. The philosopher Emmanuel Lévinás defined prayer as “infinite deference.” For me meditation is a conscious deference to humans but also to my natural world. With respect to the latter, meditation takes more than one form. We have a home surrounded by gardens, and at eighty years of age I am still the sole gardener. Almost every day of the year I can be found in the gardens, often on my knees, in solitary and rich communion with my botanical family. But I also hike as often as possible, and my quiet walks take me down narrow corridors through high conifers, ferns, mosses, and lichens. Not infrequently I return to my office to write while humming melodies of classical works and sacred music as I wait for the next word, line, or stanza. (This deference to music probably has much to do with the fact that my father was a choral director and I have been much involved with music for much of my life.) For me, then, meditation is the kind of deference I have described, a consanguinity that solicits my deep respect, calm attention, and homage.

Leonard Neufeldt hails from the mountain-valley hamlet of Yarrow, British Columbia, which in his boyhood was a community of immigrants, the majority of them refugees from the Soviet Union. His grandparents and father, under arrest and scheduled for transport to the Gulag, escaped from Stalin’s security forces and fled to Canada via Spain, Cuba, Mexico, and northbound American railroads. Neufeldt received his education in Canada and the U.S. He and his wife have resided in the U.S. and abroad (Europe and Turkey), a minor part of this time working for an arm of the State Department. Home is in Gig Harbor, WA.