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Tom Spencer Aug 2019
white wings
gleaming in the sun

a flashing pendulum
swinging steadily

back and forth
across the field

a cloud of egrets
stalks the tumult

churning from
the tractor’s wake

Tom Spencer © 2019
Tom Spencer Jul 2018
a fish surfaces
in the creek

the moon's reflection

silver echoes
embrace the shore

and then

I fall silent
laughter settles

friends ask
what I saw

Tom Spencer © 2018
Tom Spencer Dec 2018
a flurry of gold leaves
sails past

whirling into
and then out of

the sunlight streaming
between the buildings

everyone is in a hurry
eyes fixed on phones

headsets on
no one talking

only wind sound
and the dry scrape

and tumble of autumn
skittering down the curb

Tom Spencer © 2018
Tom Spencer Jul 2019
thinning clouds
drift eastward

fading light clings
to the trailing mist

in the sudden calm
beads of water

slip from the leaves
and are welcomed

by the thirsting earth
hibiscus flowers droop

ferns shimmer
distant thunder sounds

from the top of a tree
a mockingbird

celebrates this brief respite
from the summer heat

a neighbor steps out
and joins me for a moment

we fall silent
and drink our fill

Tom Spencer © 2019
Tom Spencer Nov 2018
morning rain
spatters the porch

the alley cats
have eaten their fill

and linger
as they rub cheeks

one another

a swirling eddy
of contentment

they drift
closer to my side

but warily
still half wild

in a few minutes
they will slip away

like rain
on a summer day

Tom Spencer © 2018
Tom Spencer Oct 2018
day after gloomy day
black and gray clouds

smudge and smear the sky
rain followed by mist

and then more rain
the streams are choked

with mud and debris
autumn grasses bow down

in sodden ranks
water drips from trees and eaves

just a few weeks ago
the earth was cracking

confused by the change
redbuds are blooming

and amid the tangle
of mottled leaves and

slick black branches  
plum blossoms are opening

I lean in trying to detect
the lush fragrance

but the sky opens up again
and I splash back through the garden

my clothes are soaked through
spring will have to wait

Tom Spencer © 2018
Tom Spencer Dec 2018
drifting back to

senses sharpen

an owl
sounds the darkness

and then nearby

three muted hoots

from a hidden perch

where wide eyes

for quivering

in the shadows

ears wired
for wings

Tom Spencer © 2018
Tom Spencer Jun 2019
because I looked
I saw the hummingbird return

to the same bare branch
on-top of the sunlit tree

and noted its zealous
round trips to the feeder

on the porch
and because I listened

to the katydids calling
only half understanding

their urgency
but certain of it

this otherwise quiet evening
signifying nothing in particular

reminds me of everything
in particular

Tom Spencer © 2019
Tom Spencer May 2019
infinitely vast

soft spring sky
calmer than a waveless sea

swallows arc
with scythe-like wings

distant flecks

the beyond

Tom Spencer © 2019
Tom Spencer Aug 2018
black bee
head first in a

hibiscus flower
waxy pollen beads

dabbled down
its gleaming back

foraging done
it shimmies out

to spy the next

darting and hovering
as it chooses its mark

close enough
to feel its pulsing whir

breeze the hair
on my arm

I hover too

and unfurled
before turning to dart

through this
shimmering world

Tom Spencer © 2018
Tom Spencer Mar 2018
I guess they've adapted
to our debris

the wedge of geese
flying north

over south bound traffic
the hawks perched

on top of
parking lot poles

and the great blue heron
paddling air

with enormous wings
shadowing hissing lawns

and lifeless pools
but what about us

hands clenched
on wheels

weary eyes scanning
mirrors and windshields

wingless and waiting
for red to turn green

Tom Spencer © 2018
Tom Spencer Aug 2018
dry creek bed
a silvery flow
slips between
sun baked stones -
canyon wren song

Tom Spencer © 2018
Tom Spencer Mar 2019
thick clouds of mist
shroud the trees

heard then seen
cedar wax wings

pierce the gloom
their eager

shrill chatter
hungering for spring

Tom Spencer © 2019
Tom Spencer Mar 2019
this morning
small flocks of
cedar wax wings
dashed into
and out of the fog
black flecks
in a misty orb

this afternoon
yellow bellies
twisting through
a cloudless sky
they seemed
like schools
of glittering fish
streaming after prey

Tom Spencer © 2019
Tom Spencer Jan 2019
deep into winter
the last viburnum leaf

tumbles unbound
and nestles

amongst its scattered

the sleeping prophets
of soil and spring

each a paling dream
gently yielding

to the ceaseless
rhythm of abundance

Tom Spencer © 2019
Tom Spencer Sep 2018
contrail slash
glows above the clouds
one moment kite string thin
next blurred by the wind

Tom Spencer © 2018
Tom Spencer Feb 2018
black dirt
turned belly up
steam ironed
flat to the horizon
furrows filled
with cotton drifts

Tom Spencer © 2018
Tom Spencer Feb 2019
soaked with dew
one thousand dandelion puffs
glitter in the slanting light
from a distance - crystal blooms
close by - a yard full of weeds
and yet... oh Issa
and yet...

Tom Spencer © 2019
by Issa:
this world of dew
is only the world of dew -
and yet... oh and yet...
Tom Spencer Jun 2017
A shadow stumbles
through the chaos -
though nothing stands
between the moon,
the shattered icons
and blasted houses.

Conjured from
the exhaust of
ceaseless agitation,
the specter enshrouds
both the entranced
and the exalted.

This billowing
aberration -
the embodiment
of fears brewed
from loathing -
has no substance

or perception.
A ravenous void,
it slouches and bends
towards the
gilded Calvary
of conviction's end.

Tom Spencer © 2017
(with apologies to W. B Yeats)
Tom Spencer Aug 2018
moon faced
door mat cat

velvet tent ears
and stripes

faintly glowing
in the kitchen light

eyes track
my routine

paws tucked-under
quiet, waiting

Tom Spencer © 2018
Tom Spencer Nov 2018
waking from a dream
of combing through
forgotten files
with neatly labeled folders

under “warblers”
I found a cellophane
envelope enfolding
a black and white bird

I opened the envelope
and the bird awoke
fluffing its feathers
in a cloud of dust

I offered
an outstretched
palm of seeds
which the bird ignored

hopping onto my finger
it glanced out the window
and sang -
forget the seeds

forget my name
open the window
- which I did
and it flew away

Tom Spencer © 2018
Tom Spencer Mar 2019
spring morning,
still dark -
mockingbird song
eager for dawn

Tom Spencer © 2019
Tom Spencer Nov 2018
caught in a web
of bare branches
- a flock of empty nests

Tom Spencer © 2018
Tom Spencer Jul 2018
standing behind
a wall of reflections

gazing into a canyon
of steel and glass

from the opposite wall

a curtain sways
and a silhouette turns

from the glinting
and the figure

in the polished glare

Tom Spencer © 2018
Tom Spencer Feb 2018
fading light dissolves
into a lowering cloud of snow
  a distant bell sounds the trees
ice bound branches toll

Tom Spencer © 2018
Tom Spencer May 2019
a door closes
and I hear him

shuffling down the hallway
his wife of sixty-six years

my mother
asleep, almost invisible

beneath the blankets
as fragile as a baby bird

he stops to wind
the grandfather clock

smiles and nods
“I smell that coffee”

ninety years-old
and still "up-and-at-em”

pills to ration
a newspaper to fetch

dishes to put away

back in their room

she remembers

standing by his side
she turns to meet his eyes

Tom Spencer © 2019
Tom Spencer Aug 2019
first car down the road
on a summer morning

scissortails and mockingbirds
scatter from the powerlines

rabbits bound ahead
and then dodge into the grasses

luxuriant and wild
grape vines

cloak the barbed wire
and smother the hackberries

cumulus clouds
still tinted pink and gold

rise lazily above
the freshly mown fields

with their stubble
and neatly rolled bales of hay

tires hum
leaves rustle in my wake

the heat has already
begun to pool

in shimmering illusions
that dissolve

on the blacktop ahead

Tom Spencer © 2019
Tom Spencer Jul 2015
I had not been born yet.
Still, I can see you at your labor -
alone, scouring the meadows
for the stones -
lifting their gray shoulders
from the moist earth -
pulling them from the
green grasp of briars,
goldenrod, and
Queen Anne’s Lace.

The smell of the earth
must have filled you with
your own childhood memories -
of plowing fields
and cold mornings
trudging across barn yards
mud thick on your boots -
promising yourself
that someday you would leave
and never return.

I can hear the pick axe -
the sharp strikes
against the stones,
and the dull thud
when the earth
swallowed the blade -
and the deep exhalations
when the stones tumbled into
the old wheelbarrow – new then -
that now leans rusting
against my garden shed.

Some of the stones were so large -
far too large for one man –
how did you move them?
I look at the old photographs
and you seem so young –
so much younger
than I am today - and so thin –
staring off-frame beyond the camera.
What were you looking for
in those fields?

I can see you sorting the stones,
stacking them -
building and unbuilding
and rebuilding the walls
and  terraces
until the walls were true
and the terraces level
and planted with dogwood,
birches, soft grass for bare feet,
and bordered with roses.

Did you know
that you were building my castle?
That the highest terrace
would be my tower and keep?
I remember calling out to my
knights, my legionnaires,
and tribesmen –
rallying them in defense
of the citadel –  ready for
the coming siege.

I also remember looking out
across that verdant kingdom
for the last time -
no longer a king or a boy –
and miles away, across the river
to the west, I imagined
the new home that awaited us.
I couldn’t know
how far away it would be
or what it meant to leave.

This morning,
as I looked out across
the garden that I have built,
I felt the weightlessness of time
and its gravity
settling me into place.
For a brief moment I had
the sensation that I was standing
on the shoulders of
gathered stones.

(for my father, Guy Spencer.)
Tom Spencer © 2015
Tom Spencer Feb 2018
***** mist
hiss of tires
wiper blades reveal
a jet black grackle
landing lightly
on the overpass rail

Tom Spencer © 2018
Tom Spencer Nov 2018
turning a corner
my headlights catch
a great horned owl
sailing through the darkness
wings outstretched
gliding on a cold north wind
a phantom conjured
by unyielding hunger
set aloft and still verging
from shadow to shadow
hours later
in the warmth of my room

Tom Spencer © 2018
Tom Spencer Jul 2015
on an island
of shade in the mid-day sun
- a stranded cow

Tom Spencer © 2017
Tom Spencer Feb 2019
a bright morning
after a week of cold rain

roses bloom along
the highway overpass

no, it is just the blankets
of the homeless

hung out in the sun
to dry

Tom Spencer © 2019
Tom Spencer Dec 2018
cold morning light
streams through
the concrete cathedral
beneath the highway

the clouded breath
of a homeless man
glows and curls
in the golden air

cars accelerate
and the wisp is swept
into dim
and hardened shadows

Tom Spencer © 2018
Tom Spencer Mar 2019
the sky is clearing
from east to west
by the dawn
silver clouds
stream by
for a moment
the whole city glows
for a moment
even the grackles
fall silent

Tom Spencer © 2019
Tom Spencer Aug 2018
hearing the
plaintive notes

I scan the

but no flash
of yellow

or acrobatic

hidden singer
wistful song

lesser goldfinch

who dared give you
that name

Tom Spencer © 2018
Tom Spencer Jun 2018
I wake in the darkness

the rain has stopped
no sound of dripping leaves

I think about your words
when we parted

you are worried
that now that I have

learned how to love
I might look for another

the heat is oppressive
I get up and turn on a fan

here I am alone
anxious longing wondering

if you are awake
and listening for rain

Tom Spencer © 2018
Tom Spencer Mar 2018
at the breakfast table
with my father

the brittle bruised skin
of his arms

branded ninety years
by the sun

worn hands folded
as he watches the news

nearly deaf
to the engineered fumes

turning - his flickering
eyes fasten on mine

who does he see

the fevered child
in a burning bed

the graying mirror
the daydreaming kid

returning the gaze
of a closedmouth man

who works and worked
and still pulls his weight

who holds me still
in his awkward

Tom Spencer Feb 2018
meditation retreat -
breaking silence to talk
to a deaf dog

chasing dragonflies-
the little boy stops to check
his empty hand

loosening the rusted gate
in the grackle's throat -
rare winter sun

a passing bus
fills my window with
its emptiness

pear blossoms scattered
on the pavement -
white petals drifting
on an oily stream


sunday morning, empty streets -
the clicking of unseen heels
against damp pavement

blind man

old blind man on the
street - a pretty little girl
tosses you a glance

only the wind

only the wind flows
through this dry creek bed-
it was your glance
that set me adrift


echoing against
the walls of the cave -
the silence of our embrace

one by one these words
fall - paper stars burning in
the fire of your arms

cow creek

silhouette of pine
against the moonlit sky -
from this motionless cloud
the voice of an owl

winter sun

stretching out to fill
a sliver of sun
as it arcs across the floor
the cat watches me
through narrowing eyes.

cold front clouds

cold front clouds
blown taut across the sky -
blue grey skin
stretched thin
over the exposed ribs
of the season

empty branches black with rain -
but the stream is filled with gold

Tom Spencer © 2018
Tom Spencer Apr 2019
dangling from the

crescent moon
and morning star

luminous jewels

above a blinking
stream of brake lights

into the dawn

Tom Spencer © 2019
Tom Spencer Mar 2019
before the stars
first flared

the ephemeral

the rising into
and slipping

out of being
is all that has ever been

an effervescent verging
pulsing on the cusp

between what was
and what will be

that place where we

what is briefly
and beautifully real

but now
we have learned

how to package
even this

and conforming

existence itself
into a virtual

and vacuous

a transaction
based on distraction

fleeting glances
gauged for profit

worth something
to someone

a stalker browsing

for sleep-walkers
with available eyes

Tom Spencer © 2019
Tom Spencer Mar 2018
On a thin ribbon of light
unfurled from unseen heaven
direct to her parted robe
and disquieted ear

comes an angel’s voice,
the dove’s winged companion,
with words foretold in the book
now slipping to the floor.

What hunger fires
our flickering imaginations,
that require Grace come
wrapped in velvet purses-

with proof of the child’s
purity dripping from tables
and prophet encrusted walls?
I think they had it all wrong-

Fra Angelico, Veronese, van Ecyk,
and even Martini with his
gilded apprehension.
I prefer a scene without

unblemished lilies-
no fine linens, puffing cherubs,
or embroidered pillows on display.
I picture her instead

at her daily labor- pulling
on a ***** rope at the village well.
With calloused hands, she
draws her trembling reflection

skyward, when, announced
by the slightest breeze,
a stranger appears.
Before their eyes meet,

a bird’s flight distracts her-
water splashes from the bucket
washing the dust from her feet
and soaking the tattered hem

of her robe. His silent glance
holds her only for a moment.
In the distance, a voice
calls out, “Daughter!”

She turns, sets off,
bowing to her burden.
A cloud’s shadow
melts in the heat of the road.

Tom Spencer © 2018
Tom Spencer Sep 2019
leaden night
heavy, humid

clinging to a weeping
window pane

the spring peeper
greets its kin

with metallic

and ballooning

Tom Spencer © 2019
Tom Spencer Jul 2015
The trail rose up
through the sand
and sage covered hills
following the sinews of a land
scoured by fire and flood.
Even the most severe carving
here was nothing
compared to the city below-
its concrete grid
glaring over my shoulder-
sprawled out,
******* on its dingy
comforter of smog-
******* up
the dust of the desert
around it.

The trail led me up.
Up past twisted
juniper bones,
past pale green yuccas
fine white filagree
from their dagger blades,
past sandstone boulders
swirled like confections,
past ancient cooking pits
nested with ash,
and ghost-like hands
outlined on stone-
to a white cliff face
beneath the cloudless sky.

From a lone stump
a pinyon jay squawked
drawing my eyes down.
A sentinel
to its comrades-
who rose up
from the draw to my left
and sailed in twos and threes
sinking down into
the draw on my right.
Right before me,
around me, behind me,
first two- then six,
then tens of metallic blue
wings beating heavily against
the unfamiliar desert air.

They had come down.
Down from the scrubby
forests of pine.
Down from snow
covered slopes.
they searched the green
fingers of the washes-
the winter forcing them
down across the trail
that was drawing me up.
They passed close by,
wing beats feathered my ears,
first up, then down-
the sentinel
keeping an eye .

Listening, suddenly hearing
my breath beat
against the wind-
I stood motionless, perched
beyond starting
and destination-
blue wings lifting
the hunger within.

Tom Spencer © 2017
Tom Spencer Oct 2018
pulling back the covers
dimming the lights

an owl calls
from the holly tree

just outside
of my window

the garden below
has grown beyond my control

weeds sprout vines tangle
in the summer squirrels gnaw

on the green holly berries
littering the courtyard

with half-eaten haws
in the spring mockingbirds

gorge on the bright red fruit
their florid songs

light sky life sun leaf air

closing my eyes
I think back through the decades

to when I planted the tree
it was a time of hope

a time when we dared dream
of a world without

mortal enemies
when you could imagine

shaded islands of calm
hidden coves immune to rancor

now look at us
heads down lost hurtling

under a trance

we have turned on one other
distracted by those

who grab wealth and power
under the cover of night

confused by the constant
trumpeting and alarms

blind to what we share
we retreat

into the darkness
of our fears

Tom Spencer © 2018
Tom Spencer Sep 2018
long hidden
now seen

ten thousand
rain lilies

summer's end

Tom Spencer © 2018
Tom Spencer Jan 2018
distant hills
in a sea of grass

slip from stone
grasping nothing

winter evening -
crows glide in and gather
on the roof tops

diesel grit
blackens the fog -
a passing train

sipping dew -
a moth flutters down
the dripping eave


waking up -
a bird calls
- a gecko responds

no wind, no waves -
an empty boat is swamped
by the sunset

(after Dogen)

Tom Spencer © 2018
Tom Spencer Sep 2018
cloud mountains
rise above the plains

a veil of gray
sweeps the horizon

wind brings
the scent of rain

cars rush past
heading for the city

breathe in deeply
just plowed soil

just mowed field

distant thunder
insect rattle

grass rustling
cars roaring

we live in troubled times
blind unbound

deaf to calm

time's relentless
propulsion and hissing

churning pressing
my family is waiting

I turn back to my car
both sated and shaken

reminded to breathe
to see to be filled

even for a moment
to be grateful

that grass and field
soil and wind

and gauzy far-off rain
will defy our clamor

and complaint
and will remain

Tom Spencer © 2018
Tom Spencer Sep 2018
temple garden
pebble waves break
against islands of
moss and stone
pink cherry petals
drift on the tide

Tom Spencer © 2018
Tom Spencer Jul 2018
a serpentine plume
of saharan dust

unveiled by radar
an ocean spanning

of opaque

talcum haze
seeping into and onto

cracks metal glass
amid caustic

and listless

for cicada drill

and aircondtioned din
to mute

Tom Spencer © 2018
At present Austin (my home) is choking on dust from the Sahara. World wide grime.
Tom Spencer Jul 2015
Crumpled on a ***** door mat,
left by the cats -
the owl is just a loose bag
of feathers now - empty talons curled,
and one fierce eye turned
over its shoulder.

"What soft flesh enticed you to the ground?"

Lifting the mat, I remember
waking at night to the trilling call – a silvery vein
wrapped in the dark energy of hunger.

“All things die and too soon...” I say aloud,
my own eye sinking into that inky well. The
vacant perch leaning over my shoulder.

"What is to become of my flesh, my soul?"

"It's the waking that counts," I think, "and the meeting."
For a moment I wake again - grateful for the living.

Tom Spencer © 2017
with gratitude for Mary Oliver
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