Skip to content

Michael Sowder – Ⅰ

December, Hiking with Aidan, Eight-Months-Old  




I stop at fir line, five feet of snow,

north skies clearing to hyacinth, cloud-

shrouded sun to the south.  Two ravens pass

over.  In snow prisms and juniper berries,

our border collie coils in his black coat

staring up at me with acorn eyes.

My son sleeps in his backpack wrapped

in quilted down.  I set him down

by a snow-capped rock, his feet hanging

just above the white, his breath

moving like a trout in slow current

under ice.  Chatter of chickadees.

In snowshoes I sip green tea and a dragon

of steam unfurls from my cup,

open Su Tung Po, and pray Aidan won’t wake and cry.

Just five minutes to stand and read.  

Monks sit in zazen silence in a ruined cliff-hung

monastery, candles flickering, smoke

of incense, meditation bells.

A dawn wind stirring.

There is practice, ascesis

in this fathering, learning to attend

to, fist-clenched panics, moon-mouthed

emergencies.  And here at the beginning

of this twenty-five-year sesshin,

the Buddha in the blanket has koans

to break your heart


A snow-flecked wind unfurls from the canyon.

I hoist the backpack and sleeping boy

and we are heading home.