Skip Renker

Tu Fu's Heaven

On a nearly windless day,
              dried-up seed pods lift
                           and dive this way

and that, movements
              anything but random
                           in a universe of laws,

physics for redbud and cardinal,
             carpenter ant and diseased poplar,
                           X-ray machines 

and ventilators, the hollowed
             cheeks and raspy breath
                        of my dying friend.

Watching gull and falcon, Tu Fu said
             “Heaven’s laws include
                        the human, and our sorrow.”

My silent friend’s gaze
                takes in the long ceiling crack
                            and tubes trailing from his body. 

His head recently lost
               all its hair.  Sorrow
                         bows to kiss him there.


Quick Love

                                       —after William Blake

A finch near the bird feeder, but I’m falling
away again, thoughts gone wild, proliferating,
associating, interpreting, interfering

with just plain looking.  The bird’s head
swivels far to right and left, then the leap                    
from railing to feeder, the quick beak,

the seed-crack, the dart downward
into ferns and leafed-out saplings,
my thinking part of all this, natural

as bird-leap, seed-crack, breeze,
but jumpy, fast, complicated, assessing
itself by such words, and desire

comes in to play—I want to be kissed,
lightly, by flying joy, don’t want to fall
but rise with that bird, here, there


An Argument from Modulation

Just because the supple evergreens
Across the river move in beautiful unison
With the wind—lean, bend, return—
And just because the twilight
Clouds form and reform, turn
A paler shade of white, turn again
Toward pink, toward orange,
Doesn’t mean that we too will be borne

Upward at last by the invisible wind,
That we will slow imperceptibly
From color to color, shape to shape,
Until we finally arrive in a heaven
Of completion.  No, I don’t think so. 
Beauty always moves, and beautiful
Modulation is the only permanence. 


Two Geese

Barged into the silence of an autumn
Morning, their primordial honking
Echoing off the trees that line both sides
Of the river, landed with a double
Splash, flapped, swam circles, nearly crashed
Into one another, but now they float
Downstream, regal, serene, silent, long necks
Undulating a little, heads tilted, not

Human but not inhuman either,
Seeming to watch leaves move in the wind,
A few, yellow and red, drifting down to the surface,
Flowing away, and to listen, listen
For something in, beneath, and above
The world, something clear and steady and true.


Skip Renker

I'm now 73 and have meditated regularly since my twenties. I'm "a daily," a term used for people like my late mother, who rarely missed weekday Mass. Her insightful faithfulness had a strong influence on my future practices. After years of relatively disciplined exploration of the Vedanta and Buddhist traditions, especially Vipassana, I teach meditation courses at our local college and elsewhere in our mid-Michigan community. I try to be receptive to whatever this divinity-pervaded life is offering, including hints, ideas, and words for writing.

Skip Renker head shot ed.jpg