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Checkered Opus

Poems from 2008-2016
by Alan Harris

We age in years, but we mature in moments.

Table of Contents


Cloud-layered sunset
   intimate yellow-orange
      a finch flies over


This air is thin
but You are in it,
in my lungs
in my blood
in my being
in my house.

In this picture
on the wall
of a red tulip
You are cupped
within the flower
within the picture
within the frame
within my eyes
behind my eyes.

You read through my reading,
feel through my feeling,
flow through my flowing,
beat through the beating
of my heart which You own.

In the silence
I hear nothing
but You
if I but listen.
Nothing needs to be heard,
and the You in nothing
especially needs to be heard.

You in me
and I in You
are sufficient
for the now.

Musical Mentor

A Haiku Cycle
Burrus was his name—
   Charles, my young band director
      for high school music.

Inspired and fearless,
   his musical soul was pure
      and he taught me well.

Schubert’s "Unfinished"
   was my first portal to bliss
      in sonic heaven.

Mr. Burrus shared
   and inspired from his knowledge
      and musical heart.

He loaned me one day
   a distillation of sounds:
      record collection.

At home in my room
   with Tchaikovsky's "Pathetique"
      I deepened my soul.

Startling my young ears
   was Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring"—
      new fire was kindled.

Six years my senior,
   Chuck, my musical guru,
      had opened new doors.

He was criticized
   by Board of Education
      for novel efforts.

Music was his love—
   teaching it was his dharma—
      wagon hitched to star.

Recently we met
   after fifty years gone by—
      met again in joy.

Music's been the root
   of continuing flowers
      in my spirit's life.

"Gratitude" falls short—
   no mentor better than Chuck
      for my youthful muse.


Reading an ancient
   manuscript I come across
      an ancient eyelash.

Haiku Recursion

5-7-5 form
   can say anything at all
      with title or not.

Out of the Black Smoke

(First two lines
paraphrased from
The Voice of the Silence
by H. P. Blavatsky)
Out of the black smoke
winged flames arise.
The furnace of living
refines as it destroys.

Black smoke
billows up just now
for a coming purity.
The Refiner observes
our age-long process
of combustive growth,
and patiently awaits.

Black smoke
of doubt and trial,
error and despair,
dissolves by degrees
into a clarity
and a loving
within any and all
who persevere.

Let our hearts flame up
out of the black smoke,
arise beyond pain
until pure enough to
fly to the rim of bliss
and cross into it.


The wise man advised his son:
Get much knowledge and use it wisely.

This knowledge-loving son advised his son:
Life is short.  Get as much pleasure as you can.

This pleasure-loving son advised his son:
Make as much money as you can.

This money-loving son advised his son:
Conquer with power, and rule over others.

This conquering son had a terrible defeat,
had no son, and gave no advice.


Tried to buy the Sun
   paying installments each day
      until it owned me.


What could be so dark
   as lying awake at night
      dreading the next day?


  no avail

years of

  all deeds

  all joys

  all toys

  all pains



on ahead,
beyond this
strict way,
  light seen

  now out
  and into

An Instrument of Heaven

You've played the organ and piano
at this corner church
for more than 700 Sundays,
and the Wednesday choir rehearsals
that went with them
along with Saturdays
of practice and preparation.
You've prayed with your fingers
as our pastors have prayed with sermons.

The organ is a noble instrument
that brings to human ears
the music of the spheres,
and you yourself have been
a willing instrument
of the Unseen Hand
that moves our world
toward beauty, peace, and truth.

The organ only makes the sound.
Your hands and feet only play the keys.
Your eyes only read the notes.
But God has told you in your heart of hearts
to bring His voice to human ears,
and you have said, "I will."
He has made abundant use of your
obedient mind and body to channel
a bit of heaven into a troubled world.

You now step down
and turn your keyboard over
to other willing hands,
but you'll return to play again.
Since God has played you for this long
as His obedient instrument,
He will never let you rust away unused.
He will set your hands to other tasks.

The sounds of your Sunday music
remain only briefly
within the sanctuary walls,
but they will echo down through the years
within the hearts of those of us
whom they have nourished.

To Linda, with love,
From Alan

(Written in 1991, discovered
and posted in 2014)


   stairway to inner summits:

Writer's Block Zen

Mind is empty now,
   free of passing sentiments—
      no wind in the trees.

Walking the Life

Activity is a magic
that clears cobwebs
from the mind and
unclogs the heart.

To sit and sit
or even stand and sit
is not to walk the life.

Walking the life is
mixing with others
who are walking 
their lives too,
trying to try
and failing to fail.


As one ages,
so do others
in the family
of humanity
who need help

How say no
to those who
can't or won't
help themselves?

If I were they,
would I not
reach out for
a helper's hand?

It is too hard
to be too hard
when the heart
is called upon
to be softer.


A departed one
   still sounds the same years later
      in the inner ear.


I saw a spider
   on my wall and left it there—
      gone now, but still is.

Who Indeed?

When winter cracks open
and spreads infusions
of early spring air
through our kitchen
window screen,
we thrill at our gift.

New warmth assures us
of renewal and refreshment,
like the settling of
an old argument.

A robin, the first we've seen,
is poking in the brownish grass,
and through the window
we hear our aging neighbor's
Harley clear its throat
then murmur slowly past.

Who transforms winter into
spring?  Who melts the patches
of remaining ice in puddles
and brings buds to the bushes?

We sense a coming comfort
with as much faith as a baby
anticipating a maternal hug.

Spring will soon hold us
magnificently captive
in its luxurious cradle
from which we will
crave no escape.

In our side yard outdoors
two neighbor boys play catch
with a baseball which winter
had stowed away in the shed,
being now thrown with gusto.
Whap! Whap! goes the ball into
leather gloves which soften
the impact of youthful zeal.

Who guides this ball
from hand to glove?
Who prompts exclamations
like "Good throw!" or "My fault!"
oscillating between throwers?

Who cares for us all enough
on this pivotally warm day
to bring us sweeter breaths
after winter's bitter winds?

Who, indeed?
Yes, Who?


There can come a moment
when stillness reigns,
when the actor in the mind
is curtained away from view,
when reading is unneeded
though the book be open.

Images stream in and out
with no conscious guidance
or disturbance, each
morphing into the next.

With animation suspended,
whole libraries may be
now serenely renounced,
classrooms unattended,
conversations unengaged,
writing saved for a later muse.

Is this interlude a taste
of the long and quiet phase
that humans call heaven?
An after-state wherein we
reap the ecstasy we sowed
while living the virtues?

For now the mind
is permitted its silence,
and the heart and soul
their benign repose.


Room lamps are all on—
   how become this bright within?
      Not a slight question.

Universal Questions

If the sun could speak,
   it might inquire, "Who am I?
      Where am I going?"

Water lily

A Flower for Manly P. Hall

Unschooled in universities
yet flowing forth with ancient lore,
he offers glimpses of the One
to help all seekers see within.

He weaves his ample writings
with silver threads and gold
combined with rainbow shades
of steady faith and truth.

His lectures brim with eloquence
without the notes most speakers need.
His seasoned wisdom can be grasped
by any who have ears to hear.

On finding such a mind
as broad and pure as sky
a grateful soul is moved
to offer up this flower.

Her Grace Returns

When one's Muse returns
from a multi-year absence
in undisclosed locales,
the avenues in the mind
host a parade of images.

The inner church bells ring,
confetti flutters down
from open windows,
mothers hug the children,
fathers hug the mothers,
and it is just a dandy time.

Her Grace rides elegantly
in the back of a convertible,
waving, throwing candy
to eager running children
and kisses to everyone else
on both sides of the mind.

After the parade is over
she enters one's abode
and seats her welcome self
within the heart of the soul.


Downpour on the roof
   makes wet roaring in Tucson—
      now the desert smiles.


Knock—but look around—
   you are already inside—
      no need for the door.

Path through forest


Found in May 2012 when cleaning
out my old wallet from 1986
Scanned original

Each path leads to another path
And that one to a third,
And on and on path leads to path
Until the way seems blurred.

The beauty of this path lies in
Its trodden permanence--
It beckons us to wear it thin
While traveling whence to hence.

This path winds gently left and right
As if ignoring straight--
Perhaps its founder had no sight
Or trod it very late.

Or did he follow waves of sound
That most folks fail to hear,
Which led him up and down and round
As far-off goals came near?

How paths begin we'll never know
(The woods will never say),
But all who have a place to go
Are thankful for The Way.

Poetic License

Bearer is guaranteed
the freedom
to write anything at all
or nothing at all,
in any form or no form,
in any color,
at any angle,
on any subject
or no subject,
using words
real or coined.

Bearer must endure
all consequences
of said writing,
for this is how it is.


Tinnitus, like God,
   is always in there to hear
      during quiet times.

Old Hair

Some say
I am old
but at least
my shadow's
hair is still

Sudden Entrance

Down below the library's
lowest level
we came to an entrance
brilliant white and ellipsoid.

My companion looked in
and called "Anyone in here?"

We began to enter but then
my companion put up his arm
to stop me.

We listened for a moment.

My companion whispered to me,
"He wants to come back
as flower drops."

Whereupon I awakened.

Material and Soul

Those captivated by materialism
are walking and driving and flying about
blind to the soul, to the essence. Why?

Things that can't be seen aren't there,
they aver. The very substance of us
and the Universal Divinity--denied.

Self trumps Soul in their being,
but all Self sees is Self and Matter
and billions of threatening Others
to impress or compete with or kill.

Soul, being One with Unity, is missed.
Bombs explode. Snideness burgeons.
People bounce and hit and hurt
like a pinball in its machine.

Awaken, humans.


If you have
a body,
you'll be fine.

If you are
your body,
trouble ahead.


Jazz is
in a box.

Atlantis on My Mind

The existence of Atlantis,
like that of God,
is debated by the wise
and the foolish.

I could think that evil
was powerful enough,
when really horrid,
to pull down a continent,
with God's able help.

Kings are human enough
to go completely sour,
and priests corrupt the boys
to Papal tones of "tut-tut."

Evil isn't overlooked, but
is tucked away in cosmic
folds for later outworking
as with a storage battery.

Atlantis had a big problem,
and we here have our deeds
of various darkness and light,
unable to weigh the whole.

We have and will have help.

Table of Contents

Atlantis on My Mind
A Flower for Manly P. Hall
Haiku Recursion
Her Grace Returns
An Instrument of Heaven
Material and Soul
Musical Mentor
needle's eye
Old Hair
Out of the Black Smoke
Poetic License
Sudden Entrance
Universal Questions
Walking the Life
Who Indeed?
Writer's Block Zen

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