Dulcimer Poetry
Winter Solstice inscribed-Click to see full size

Dwain composes a little verse to dedicate each dulcimer he makes, and inscribes it inside the soundhole. It's pretty hard to read, but at least Dwain knows it is there. It has to be small enough to read through the soundhole, which is about an inch in diameter. You can sometimes just make it out if you hold the dulcimer up so the light shines into the soundhole just right.

That has been quite an influence for brevity in his poetry. Here are a few of the best from the last few years. (The numbers are instrument serial numbers)

1030 (Frog Eye)

The frog croaks
Out of nowhere,
Its green eye
A hole in the world.


1033 (Summer)

Summer passions wax and wane
Like planets moving in the tides of dream
Under the golden moon.


1034 (First Love)

First love
Then joy
And then silence.
Then music.


1043 (Autumn)

Tatterdemalion on the sky,
Wild clouds frisk me
With fiery shadows
New endings, old beginnings
Autumn's sweet bitters.


1050 (Rose in Winter)

The bush scrapes winter's song against my window,
Whispering of roses where now lies snow.


1052 (The Pussywillow)

In the bitterly pure snow outside my window,
Old pussywillow, sure of what I only hope,
Quietly greens her buds.


1067 (Summer Buzz)

July's long heats buzz like cicadas,
Moon and Jupiter reign brightly
In the watermelon dusk.


1069 (Last Day of Autumn)

For a moment autumn's last light
Paints the bottom rafters and beams of the sky
An improbable magenta.


1071 (The Muse of Music)

The muse Euterpe sails on silks
Above the Spiral Sea
And, reaching long across the wind,
She bends an arrow to her bow,
Prepared at last to shoot the moon.


1091 (Gypsy Crows)

Those gypsy crows
Hide in their cloaks
Infamous documents
Detailing their derision
Of our affairs and errands.
Congregating at dusk
They make the trees ring
With laughter!


1092 (Me)

Against the snow fence last summer's leaves,
Wrappers from the corner deli, the snow of every today
The habit of being myself.


1093 (Under the Only Moon)

In the dusk Raku and I
Explore the delights of wind-bitter snow
Under the only moon.


1094 (Winter Solstice)

Solstice moon photographs
Upon the ground littered
With shards of ice
And frozen leaves
Dancing black bones
Spooks of ourselves,
Raku and me.


1097 (Joy)

Where the mind
Is silent a moment
It may suddenly soar
Off its usual nest
Into joy.


1104 (January's Jewels)

Snug in my shop,
Gazing out between the lapels
Of January's coat,
It is easy to admire
The jewelry's pure beauty.


1105 (Hallowe'en)

We moon-bathed in the park
Bundled against October's old night
And practiced howling with dogs.


1106 (Night Song)

Sometimes the winter wind
Regales the pine tops with its somber hymns,
And the tree trunks rub their own woody song,
Fluting and bassooning at one another
Up the hillside behind our house,
Like whales serenading
In the snowy gray ocean of night.


1107 (April)

Chilly April eve,
Its moonlight crazed by the bare trees,
Is pregnant with the peeping of frogs
Which scrubs the night clear.


1108 (River)

My teacher gave me a raft
To cross the river.
At first I was confused
How to use the raft
But now I am not so sure.


1109 (Late August)

The moon lumbering
In the tree tops
Is finally dispelling
The evening's tinnitus,
An insectile hangover
From the day's moth dance
With the sun.


1112 (Dusky)

Just later than colors I walked
Where all brilliance had escaped
To the sky. To us had been left
To seek in hues of shadow,
Yip of dog, distant glimmer
Of some lamp.


1115 (An Encounter)

There it was,
Newly opened under the roots
Of a wind-felled tree
Still unburnished
By sun and dew,
Like a vision, like a dream
Like a cave's maw.


1117 (The Brook)

The ravelling clarity
At the brook's surface
Only quickens my curiosity
Concerning what lies among
The stones and trash
In its bottom.
Should I just dive in?
Or send the dogs?


1119 (Midwinter Shop)

Napping dogs, a friend working on a peghead,
African music & wood & incense & varnish,
Strongly flavored silences of the studio
Wrapped in whirling snow,
Itself wrapped
In the silence of midwinter and
The frisson of abiding
With the cold.


1120 (Sun)

Autumn's sun sneaks past the cedars
Through the years' accumulated cobwebs,
Finding in my windowpane all the circular scratches,
And lays them like jewels on its breast.

 

1121 (Wolf's Moon)

When the wolf sits
Beneath the bitter moon
Forgo your warmth
Taste for an hour her night.

 

1123 (The Bell)

Reality's bell is made of irony;
Strike it hard if you require that matters be clear,
Caress, if it's music you want.

 

1124 (Night Geese)

Geese are haunting the sky tonight,
Their fingers splayed on the darkness
Like a skater breaking a fall.
Now and then
One cuts the ray of a star
Or cries out to its neighbors
With a somehow wrenching call.

 

1126 (Dukkha)

Creation's joy is written
On the parchment of sorrow.

 

1127 (The Cicadas)

Today the dogs and I hiked the Hojak Trail
Amid cicadas who,
Throughout the broad simple day,
Were tolling some cyclical secret.

 

1128 (Katydids)

Rosining their bows high in the night limbs
Where they can bend the tune true
To their strange round with the moon,
Can you hear without listening?
Kate Katy! Katydidit Katydid!

 

1129 (Washington's Grove)

In Washington's Grove
Snow hangs in fantastic globes and cornices
On the bare boles of the crazy frost-bit trees.
In the blue shadows of the small sun,
Actinic in the wide air,
The mindless cold lies for all to see.

 

1130 (The Snake)

The snake rests in the shade
Of the flowers at the back door.
Three years now it has returned
From its winter lair somewhere
In our cellar, gliding out in
Princeling finery as if
On some majestic conveyance
To bask in the blaze of the sun.
How might one touch
Such a mystery?

1131 (The Meadow)

This morning in the meadow
The sassafras halted me
With its autumnal perfume.

1132 (The Understory)

The understory has let its leaves strew a carpet,
Flooring the forest for a day or two.
One would never guess the black boulders
To be the temple guardians, were their knees
Not caped so regally in gold.

1140 (Katydid)

Early hint of winter in October
In a roadside tree
A katydid scrapes on in the silent dusk.

1144 (Spring Vigil)

I awoke deep in the night and lay attending
To the chorus of frogs
And the dusty perfume of the coming rain.

1145 (Movement)

Known by tugs on nets and lines,
In the depths of sea and lake
Live the others, moving
Beyond shadow.

1148 (Thanksgiving Song)

A robin surprised me,
Thrilling in the woods
On Thanksgiving Day,
Stopping by for chinaberries
On his way to the sun.

1149 (Dog)

Dog pees into the icy air
Wiggling hips and legs
Her yellow name steaming down
Into the snow.

1150 (Centering)

Everything made of parts flies apart,
The center is not the center.
Where no thing is, there center,
Finding peace
Finding joy
Dancing in the emptiness.

1160 (The Squirrel)

The Squirrel jinks
Across the meadow
Solving koan after koan.

1162 (Musicality)

How might the wood make music
Were it not musical?
How the musician,
Where no song lived?

1169 (Autumn)

The wind is sharpening its bite
As I hone my knives.
Cleave the quick and the dead together
Come October.

1172 (Wild Home)

Sifts and sweeps its wide floors
Throughout the broad wood the snow
Limning every rafter, lintel and log
Setting a wildering home.

1173 (The Hand)

The hand, shaping music,
Moves the knife so quickly,
Catching the thoughtless light.

1174 (Katydids)

I lay my head down this August night
Wondering at the canon of the katydids'
Slow methodical code
Among the trees across the way.

1176 (Moon) 

Why does the loon cry in the night,
the finger point out the moon?
Gird not yourself against her tides
pulling at the water of you.

1209-4 (A Leaf) 

A leaf drifts in at the doorway
implying all that is there outside
and all that isn't.