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Sunday, August 19, 2012

An End and a Beginning

Bees dance when they have something to say. They came to my yard one day to show me how they speak. In this photo, a bee dances in the center of a crowd of listeners. Guided by some sort of spirit, a hive nearby knew it was time to split the community, and the queen took half her servants in search of a new home. They rested for a few hours in one of my rose bushes, and they showed me how the scouts direct the swarm to a suitable new hive, an amazing display of sustainable choices and a great mystery in the natural order of life.

In contrast, we humans tend to be rigid in our beliefs, convinced that our brains know the way of things. We often don't question our knowledge and indoctrinations, mistaking our judgments and opinions for a Universal Truth.

For the past six months I've been on an expedition, like the bees. There have been upheavals and discoveries, sadness and epiphanies. I wondered if my stories here had reached their appointed end. Today, like the bees that paused at my house this past spring, I'm going to dance my story.

What in God’s Name?

You can call God Max if you want to,
says the woman who mentors me
in matters spiritual and guttural
between phone calls to her oncologist
and shopping trips for still more hats
for yet another season of baldness.

I don’t mind being juggled between
the specialists and their repercussions,
a sunny yellow ball shining among
the dry-blood spheres of toxic doctors
and the baby blues of her infant head.
I have her here now, and laughing,
certain she won’t die today, not before
she finishes the job I handed her:
Find a God for me, the newly godless.

On the Fourth of July, she told me
God might dwell in fireworks,
a pyrotechnic atom all crackling red
and shimmering gold. Before that,
she said he dallied in the roses
for my clippers to unleash him,
and before that, she said he bided
at my mother’s, humming in the
sprinkler lines I mended, mourning.

I seek wherever she sends me because
I fired the irascible Judge with a clipboard
the day I found my mother up to her elbows
stirring turds in her toilet with a conviction
only the demented can muster. As I begged
the God of my mother to release his
faithful servant from her shitty life,
the scales fell from my eyes: Suddenly
I knew that old Curmudgeon suffered
psychological disorders, eons untreated,
and I forsook him on the spot. But I
was groomed since birth for God,
the fear of blasphemy embedded deep
in my reptilian brain. To be godless is
to be legless, sightless, hopeless, damned.

As my mentor fights for life, she leads me
through her curious garden, pungent with
the scents of anarchy and heresy, assigning
my tasks: Glean that field of God particles,
rake the fallen leaves under Tolstoy’s vine,
take cuttings from the tree of Martin Luther.
Here she has planted every rotten thing
that ever came to her, and made it bloom:
the young and dead, the broken, unjust,
the bitter losses and the insidious cancer
that tries to claim her every few years.

Here each stone and growing shoot
holds meaning, a miniature magnificence
that speaks of something so immense,
it can’t be grasped. But I reach anyway,
oh puny hand, for some divine, redemptive
purpose in my mother stirring turds
and all the other shocking shit of life.

You can call him Max, my mentor says:
Think about that. So I consider this
ludicrous thought: calling my new God
the name I circled in red ink in a baby book
so long ago, chosen for a son I never had.
Would I be free at last, I ask, of the tyrant
who ordains impossible standards knowing
I will fail, my eternal, horrid, raging father?
Hello, Max, I say, reaching out my hand,
and something brushes against my palm:
a weightless kiss of wings, or lips.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Freedom from Injustice

Emancipation from the bondage of the soil is no freedom for the tree.
Rabindranath Tagore

I’ve been busy shining light in my own soul for the past few weeks, seeing for the first time in two years some hard truths about myself. I know without a doubt now there’s a Higher Power who’s personally interested in my spiritual growth, because the sequence of events these last weeks has inexorably brought me to a gigantic, life-shifting Aha! moment of emancipation, forgiveness, and peace.

My inner darkness began two years ago this month when the FBI burst into my mother’s care facility one morning, arrested the owners for trafficking in slavery, booted out the residents, and destroyed my demented mom’s life. She lost her fragile grip on reality and was dead four months later. I got a major resentment and wrote about it here in April of 2010.

Three weeks ago, the newspaper reported the care home’s owners were sentenced to 18 months in prison and $600,000 restitution to nine workers brought in illegally from a foreign country and treated like slaves. As I read the newspaper report, I suddenly remembered searching for a new home for my mother in the weeks before the FBI raid because the quality of care had deteriorated.

My intuition had told me to move my mother but I didn’t act fast enough. The facility owners and the FBI were beyond my control, but I suddenly saw my part in the fiasco. Recognizing my role in Mom’s meltdown had an immediate effect, releasing me from two years of resentment over the injustice of it all.

That epiphany created a chink in my armor. On its heels came a series of events that brought me face to face with other people whose actions were unjust in the past two years. A little army of people who had hurt me came marching through my life, in circumstances that required me to act helpfully and humanely toward them – something I can’t do when I’m fiercely holding on to resentment about the injuries I suffered.

Because of the chink in my armor, I saw flaws in my own character that were surprisingly similar to those in other people I had judged harshly. I went to my AA sponsor, a woman I’ve met with almost every week for the past year because I wanted her help in learning to live in an unjust world. I told her what I saw in myself. She nodded her head and smiled. She reminded me that we’re all God's children doing the best we can with what we’ve got inside us.

I left her house that night a free woman. My resentments evaporated. I could do the right things now, for the right reasons, with a clean soul.

When I’m willing see my full truth and come clean inside, accepting my part in whatever has injured me, I’m no longer the helpless victim of someone’s wrongdoing. In my experience, all of us lit matches that sent something up in flames. I don’t have to blame anyone anymore. I’m freed from the bondage of resentment through the gift of forgiveness.

I’ve been digesting this as I worked preparing my garden for spring. I’ve pulled out dead stalks, turned the soil, and planted seeds, thinking all the while how wonderful it is to be an imperfect human being. Last night the rain came at last. This morning the ground is soaked, black and beautiful. Fragile first leaves are emerging. Life is good.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Love Is a Miracle

A miracle is in progress out in the yard. Despite freezing nights, despite drought in our part of the country, buds burgeon on plants that winter stripped of every living thing. The life force is stronger than all the adversity this winter has thrown at it.

Another miracle: I'm at home with the man I love on our 20th Valentine's Day. We two, who have six marriages between us, have survived everything those 20 years threw at us, in part because No Matter What we kept the promise we made all those years ago: not to run, not to stuff things down, and not to lie to each other ~ not a very elegant promise, but an effective one for us.

Poetry Jam focuses on miracles this week. The past year has been my time of learning to see the small miracles that happen in everyday life and be grateful for them.

You Could Use a Cheap Miracle

“The quality of my life is so poor –
no money,” you said, counting the obligations that

Loom, while penniless you worry –
tell, instead, the last miracle you saw, and what

It cost you. Did you view it from a window
? or did that small fire flare in your chest when

In the half-dark he reached for you even
in his sleep
? The whimper of thanksgiving

Is as good as a hymn
but easily missed – better than meat

After days without food
when your soul is starving.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Hot and Spicy

Boredom and complacency spell the death of everything, from marriage to political activism. When I saw the prompt for this week’s Poetry Jam, to write a poem about spices, I thought of the restaurant menu I read last week while doing a magazine assignment. How do you liven up your life?

Chili-Dusted Potatoes

Wake us up from our slumber with hot spices
We need something disturbing to crack the shell
of lethargy, and the mouth is such a tender place
all moist and plump and pliable, doughy kisses
and pabulum. Explode

Our placid pigeonholed lives, pull out all
the glottal stops that swallowed dreams
like gulping fish. Wake us with a howitzer
of warring words, divisive tongues
Spur us into life again

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Bad Habits Die Hard

Destructive habits fight for survival like hyenas would fight for the last scrap of tendon from the last tough gazelle on the planet.

I’m a deadline junkie. When the countdown hits those final seconds, I go to work: It’s DO or DIE, dearie, so yes I do it, I pull it off, I slide in right under the wire. Watch me crank, every move a ballet, Hail Mary – nothing but net!

The deadline crunch is a way of life, a drug-free adrenaline rush. I write for a living. For 35 years, that copy due-date has ruled my brain. Since my car was rear-ended last November, I’ve been suffering a solid week of misery month after month. All that 11th-hour work, glued to the computer in a deadline frenzy, just kills my injured neck. It turns around and murders ME, and then I have to go prone for two straight days to let my neck recover.

My physical therapist and my AA sponsor have been noodling me to change my way of life. I say, yeah, yeah, I need to do things differently, and then habit takes over, and I’m doing the same old thing, getting the same old results, month after month.

Habits hate change. They’re living creatures who will fight for survival. They live in your brain. They pull strings there, sometimes subtly sabotaging your thoughts (“That can wait till tomorrow…”), and sometimes screaming outright (“NoNoNoNoNO! You can’t do that!”). They’ll try every trick in the book to preserve themselves.

Excessive Misery Is A Good Teacher. That’s scrawled in big orange letters in one of my AA books (Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, to be exact, at the end of Step Six, where we address the character flaws that made our lives so adventurous, so thrilling, so disastrous). A short paragraph is highlighted in pink: “in no case does He render us white as snow and keep us that way without our cooperation [blue-ink underline there]. This is something we are supposed to be willing to work toward ourselves.”

Excessive Misery Is A Good Teacher. Sick and tired of being miserable, huh? Maybe…do something different? Change, perhaps? Commit, say, to slaughter a bad habit, even if it bites, scratches and goes down fighting? Whose brain is it, anyway? Who’s in charge here?

So I acted like I was in charge. I knuckled down this past week, made a real effort to be smarter about meeting my writing deadline. Started earlier. Worked shorter hours at the computer. Stayed off the computer entirely if I wasn’t working on a story. Took those breaks everyone was advising I take.

Got the work done a day early! Holy crap! Didn’t have to go to bed for two days! Didn’t get the adrenaline rush, either. Ho-hum. Life threatens to get boring. [That’s a whisper from a dying bad habit…those suckers die hard.] Ah. Maybe I’ll take up bungee-jumping…

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Throw in the Towel

My future as an inventor has sunk. I’ve dismantled the brilliant experiment in the last post and tossed the address of the Patent people.

I don’t know beans about thermodynamics. I’m just an English major who can spell it (a long crush on Einstein). What I know about mechanics, I learned in “Humanities 471: Human Values in Engineering.” My final project was sci-fi story (got an A!).

My father was a mechanical man. He designed complex heating and air-conditioning installations, using two tools: the tape measure that lived on his belt, and crude shapes he scribbled on napkins, paper plates, bits torn from little spiral tablets. He nearly failed high school, then spent his life inventing mechanical solutions.

He didn’t teach me those things, and he enjoyed my ignorance. When I was 17, I cracked the head of my 1960 Studebaker Lark convertible by letting the radiator run dry. He handed me the keys to an old VW Bug and sternly told me to be sure I kept its radiator full. Then he fell out of his chair, cackling, when he heard I’d asked a gas-station attendant to check the Bug’s water. That’s how I learned about air-cooled engines. Thanks, Dad.

So here I sit, hopes dashed in my venture into the use of convection-heated shelter for a wild cat. The cat loves the food but scorns the toaster bed. “I have not failed,” Thomas Edison once said. “I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.”

I’m going to put out food for the cat and stick to inventing sentences and poems.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Wildcat Experiment Continues

(Today's update below)

(Tuesday, 1/24/12) I keep my hands off feral cats unless they’re nursing kittens who appear to be abandoned. I’m a sucker for those, having adopted five ourselves over the years and placed a few others elsewhere.

But my heart’s gone out to a long-haired cat who adopted our front shrubbery last year. It doesn’t behave like a feral tom. It behaves like a frightened abandoned pet. I kept hands-off for months, but the temps have dropped to low twenties/high teens, and the cat has made a tiny nest in the nook of the fireplace wall this past month. It’s right outside my sunroom. The first rains came last weekend.

At dusk last night I saw it curled up there, and I swear I saw it shivering. The sight plagued me. Early this morning while nesting in my warm bed, I dreamed up a toaster bed for this cat. It involves heavy-duty aluminum foil over a wire hut and under its nest of leaves (carefully saved and replaced while wearing gloves), supplemented with hanks of Spanish moss under and over for insulation. I put out food as well to make this hut enticing. I think it might be too tall to reflect any heat, but better than nothing perhaps? We’ll see if the cat welcomes my interference. I let you know.

Day One: Cat Checks Bed, Says Yes to the Food, No to the Bed

Night Two: Food’s gone again. Cat slept under my car, even though I made my husband burn the last of our wood in the fireplace. This morning I’m getting sneaky. Put two morsels in food bowl but a whole handful on two leaves inside the hut. More firewood’s on order. Mark the Walking Man has offered construction advice in his comment. I shall refine the bed per his suggestions, since I don't know shit, really, about the reflective properties of inward-facing aluminum foil.

Third Day: (Investigator's notebook)

Someone was here during the night: evidence
leaf out of place
contents of offering plate, gone
footprints on moss carpet (maybe)

Nothing proves
who: any hungry nightcrawler
might have fallen joyfully upon the altar

Possible suspects: recently noted
gray squirrel w/ high-plumed tail, sniffing fence
tomcat, B&W cruising northbound
27 cedar waxwings casing the place
skunk on road (dead)

Poetry Jam requests poems of the senses this week, so I’ve adopted the feral cat’s view of this ridiculous experiment. Find more sensual stuff here.

Wild Cat Haiku

Whoever you are
What have you done to my nest?
It smells like a trap

I see what you made
That foreign thing is a mouth
I don’t enter mouths

Food magnet draws me
Crackling danger sounds inside
Ears laid low, I flee

Catastrophic mess!
Suspicious hair stands on end
I watch, quiver, wait

Then attack the food
Place stinks but how dear the meal
It tastes like more, please

Saturday, January 21, 2012


My life has been stripped of a few things in recent days. See all the red berries on the cotoneaster in my header photo up there? The migrating flocks of cedar waxwings, who made their first appearance here on December 16, have stripped them for sustenance on their winter voyage to Mexico. I rejoice in the fact that my little piece of paradise helped fuel their epic flight from the northern climes to their hiatus in the south.

Then I received a splendid tool last week from my physical therapist, who has made it his mission to strip my neck of the agony that plagues me. He gave me a TENS unit, designed to combat pain with electrical stimulation of the nerve pathways that conduct messages of misery to my brain. I attach electrodes to my neck and direct the palm-sized unit to zap the neural fibers in the musculature with a level of intensity that I control. It works! I crank that baby up to the echelon of warfare and rejoice as it slams shut the gateways to pain.

It is empowering to live in the solution rather than mucking about in the problem. I’m so jazzed that I’ve dived into the brown lifeless stuff in the garden. Hacking away at the evidence of death is a joy too, because visions of crispy brown crap drags at my sense of hope. Tearing it away fuels little jolts of delight as I uncover tiny shoots of the hardy harbingers of spring. Hyacinths and tulips push through the hard, droughty soil in their enduring drive to bloom.

Next comes the Zen of pruning frost-ravaged roses. I have 13 of those, looking like shit in the front yard, yelling “Life has ceased!” every single day since the hard frost hit. I hollered back at five of them yesterday with a litany of “Prepare for spring!” I was a rose-pruning ninja, not a Zen master, because I only had an hour and was impatient to dive into solutions again. Having made the crucial beginning, I will go more slowly today and savor the art.

It’s lovely to be stripped of things that then fuel flight.

Hope, personified in the eye of growth on a winter rosebush.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Something’s Amuck in Paradise

My first brilliant thought this morning: Something’s amuck in paradise. No coffee. No newspaper. And the phone rings, bearing wild anxiety from a woman I sponsor.

Mr. Coffee steams like mad to produce a thimbleful of lukewarm coffee. A hike into the colder-than-crap outdoors produces no newspaper. Both are essentials to awaken my bleary brain and allow me to produce speech. So I’m pretty pathetic when my frantic friend calls about her new medical insurance bill.

I tell my friend to hit her knees, then unearth the old percolator from the garage’s camping gear and crack open my morning meditation book, which discusses faith overcoming all adverse conditions.

That’s when my husband enters, bearing a hot latte and the newly arrived newspaper.

My Higher Power’s sense of humor is busy on a chaotic Wednesday morning.

The phone rings again: A service technician wants to postpone today’s scheduled maintenance so he can fix the heaters of those who are without heat on this 21-degree morning. Again I’m reminded that things could always be worse. I could be flat-broke like the woman I sponsor. I could be both broke and frozen too like others whose heaters aren’t working. I could be headed for chemotherapy this afternoon, like my own AA sponsor, or for radiation, like a man my hubby sponsors.

I shouldn’t ever take my first brilliant thoughts seriously. I can be as sour as I want to, or as joyful, because I’m free to start my day over again any time I like. By returning to a position of gratitude, by remembering to be thankful for what I have, I can make my home a better place in which to greet the world.

Today I have no legitimate complaints, as a man used to say in the early AA meetings I sat through 22 years ago. My humorous Higher Power converts even trivial adverse conditions into teaching moments about the value of faith. There’s nothing at all amuck in paradise today.

Scenes of Winter

The catfight wind yowls
churning the shrubbery
scrabbling over fences
staggers even the stoutest trees.

The stalk of a budded lily
arrow dipped in blood
aimed at heaven
quivers in its invisible bow.

The moon’s white opal
glows on blue velvet
rainswept with diamonds
swallowed by clouds.

Inside your love
is a woolly blanket
abrasively delicious
on a bitter night.

What reasons do you have to be grateful today?
Over at Poetry Jam people are pondering the power of home.

Monday, January 16, 2012

War Horse

If you know how to soldier on, applause for you today! For no reason whatsoever I dedicate this day to the noble art of perseverance.

Those who persist when the going gets tough rank among the elite in my book. It’s hard work, being noble. Endurance takes grit and grace because pain hurts and fear is frightening. It’s easier to give up than to soldier on.

I had to meet my magazine deadlines last week with what felt like a red-hot spear buried in my neck, and that’s what started a preoccupation with fortitude. I have a bad habit of doing all my assignments in one long 11th-hour session, fine when you’re young and strong but my cervical vertebrae are disintegrating now, and I sustained a whiplash injury seven weeks ago when a Suburban plowed into my car at a crosswalk.

As I worked at the computer last week, someone heated the fireplace poker to red-hot and then plunged it into my neck. There it burned relentlessly until I sent off my last story (on time) and went prone for two days. Then we went to see Steven Spielberg’s War Horse this weekend.

I had to clap my hands over my mouth to stifle the exclamations that wanted to burst out. War Horse contains moments that myths are made of, and a lot of sheer nobility. From the first battle charge an hour into the film, men and horses mine the depths of sacrificial bravery in one concussive nightmare after another in that terrible war.

Modern life also offers ample opportunities to prove we’re capable of courage. If you’re persevering through difficulty today, I salute you.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Laugh in the Face of Everything

Farm couple shares a laugh in 1940

Got no crop last year
Lived off the fat of the land
Ma says I taste good

On that new kwi-zine
Ma feasted. I fasted. Look:
Now I need new pants

Crop came in this year
We’re living high on the hog
Food’s good. Love’s better.

This old photograph reminds me that laughter's one of strongest medicines on earth. While 1940 wasn't a banner year in history, the farming couple from Connecticut still enjoys a joke, maybe made by the husband as he hoists his pants.

A sense of humor helps maintain my equilibrium as the world churns around me. I suffer from a tendency for catastrophic thinking, but there’s an antidote: a dose of hilarity. Mentors showed me I can improve my perspective whenever I want to, no matter what’s on deck, by celebrating life’s absurdities. I'm thankful for the power of laughter.

See what the photo inspires in others over at the Poetry Jam.

Photo credit:
Public Domain Photograph from the Farm Security Administration – Office of War Information Photograph Collection in the Library of Congress; Jack Delano, photographer.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Sun Lovers

In winter I think of the sun because it’s fickle. Fickle things annoy me. I need that sun, need its vitamin D and its hopefulness. When it’s shining, I’m thankful. Even if it is the color of watered down nonfat milk, it’s got power.

Happiness is a sparkling strand of spider’s silk
diamonds of dewdrops
in the rising sun

Happiness is finding in the rose’s thorny mass
a pair of praying hands
open to receive the winter sun

Happiness is waking beside a new beloved
surprised your body delivered the verdict
your heart hoped for
A new sun smiles

Telling a tale in exactly 55 words is the G-Man's Flash Friday challenge. Check it out here.
Color is what poets are jamming about this week at Poetry Jam. Find crayons here.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Peckers of the World Unite!

The colony of acorn woodpeckers that lives in the three oaks next to my house is worth telling about. Since we're next-door neighbors and the birds live their lives in the open, I've learned some of their habits by observation. What I've seen has driven me to bird books, for which I thank my grandfather and my mother, and possibly their grandfathers too, because I've read that reading is a learned behavior.

Both my mother and my Granddad carried nature-identification books into the forests and deserts we visited, and I remember the pair of them, sometimes with my aunt or uncles, poring over the guide books at picnic tables, laboriously trying to identify--by studying the minute features of it--some particular tree or bird or flower. They could spend what seemed like hours doing this. And some of the family still can't visit nature, or even our back yards sometimes, without hauling out the reference books and binoculars.

The acorn woodpecker excited the last nature discussions I remember having with Mom and family members. We're fortunate here in the oak woodlands to have these birds; their range is small, and from what my books tell me, they seem unique among woodpeckers. Both males and females wear a red cap and a black and white tuxedo, and they're exceedingly busy in the fall with their acorn harvest.

One of my three oaks is what's called a granary tree: This one large oak is where they store their harvest, in holes peppered all up and down the length of the tree's trunk and arcing out into its branches. It looks like this:

The woodpeckers in my oaks are great stewards of their resources.
The wonderful thing, the unique thing, about these woodpeckers is their community. They live as a colony in these three trees. Everyone harvests, everyone works hard poking acorns into well-worn holes, everyone helps. They share in the work, and they share in the bounty. We wondered if they harvest grubs that might grow in the stored acorns, but the books say they dine all year on acorns themselves (with insects as a side dish), stored meticulously in the granary tree, in holes that are reused and carefully selected for each individual acorn.

Lunch menu: Would you like it roasted, or perhaps in a wrap?
They even cooperate in raising their young, from sharing the duties of incubating the eggs to sharing the endless chore of feeding the young and, finally, training them to fly. The young belong to everyone.

I have seen this colony of woodpeckers work together also to fend off an onslaught of starlings that appeared one day earlier this year. The woodpeckers unified to protect their interest in the three oaks. Even though the numbers of starlings and woodpeckers seemed about even, after several hours of strategic swooping and chattering, the woodpeckers convinced the starlings to set up house elsewhere.

Together they protect their habitat. They are a sustainable community, taking care of their land and resources, reusing the same holes year after year. They diversify by consuming crops from different varieties of oaks, and they maintain emergency supplies, living on nature's bounty of insects when that "crop" is available.

They share in the rearing of their offspring, cooperating in raising up a new brood of responsible woodpeckers and sending them off to find new communities elsewhere, thus keeping their population stable and not overtaxing their resources.

It appears to me that the acorn woodpeckers illustrate the life of a good community. I hope my community's leaders make decisions that use our resources well and protect our habitat. I hope the spirit of cooperation flourishes in the state, national, and global level, that we and our leaders all work hard to be good stewards and share the bounty of our efforts with those less fortunate than we are.

The best I can do to make that happen is to bring such a spirit with me into this one day, today, and be alert with the people who come across my path this day, then keep on doing that, one day at a time.

It's easy, as one of the "99 percent," to feel overwhelmed, ignored, and powerless. But I fight to believe that my actions, my mindfulness, in the small sphere of my daily life makes a difference one human being at a time, one day at a time. I believe in the ripples in the pond: that my responsible, kind, thoughtful actions with the people I meet are used by the Creator to spread to others, in the same way they were passed on to me. May God bless us, every one, with an awareness of the small, but global, ripple effect of our personal actions in this new year.

Acorn Woodpecker courtesy Wikipedia

Just to prove I don't sit around all the time pondering nature and serious social issues, here is a recent poem inspired by these birds:

Two Woodpeckers Sitting on a Church Steeple

One woodpecker says to the other,
I’ve lost my pecker.
The second woodpecker says to the first,
It’s hanging there right under your nose, dude.
The first woodpecker says,
That’s not my pecker, idiot, that’s my beak.
They look at each other.
The second woodpecker says to the first,
Well, where’s your pecker then?
The first woodpecker says,
If I knew that, my pecker wouldn’t be lost.
They look at each other.
The sun goes down behind the steeple.

Top photo credit: Victory Dance and Family Feast, courtesy ShareTheRoad Productions

Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Beginning and the End

Thus ends the year. Though much has been taken, much abides, to quote Tennyson’s “Ulysses,” and something big begins: My daughter Milo became engaged as autumn turned to winter, to a man we love too. The rainbow photo, taken in the mountains of northern California, is for her, my child who has always loved this symbol of hope.

This final post of 2011 is for love. Love is not blind. With eyes wide open, love sees, bears, believes, forgives, and celebrates. Love does fail, but it can dust its mucky knees and stand again. Its strength is tensile, a bond capable of stretching beyond the reach of human arms.

My daughter said I have never written a poem for her. So I wrote one last night for her and the man she loves, whom we met for the first time at a storage facility where our daughter lived with her best friend in the manager's apartment. With their permission, I share it with you on the last day of a hard year that ends with rejoicing, in love.

My Child’s Freshly Minted FiancĂ©

We did not have to wade
through an ocean of assholes to reach you;
you, unbidden, appeared,
our Knight,
to claim our daughter’s hand, heart, hazel eyes
laughing as we had never seen her eyes laugh
you came.

You, unbidden, appeared,
completely unexpected,
a Knight in a storage yard where junk is gold,
where junk unwanted yet unloosed is locked
behind blank doors
in an undead limbo between lost
and claimed, paid for but
You came

unbidden, unexpected,
from that storage yard into our daughter’s heart,
our Knight
in chain-link fencing, your clear eyes kind
and your mind keen, seeing in our daughter
that great beauty
like a flower in a crack in the asphalt
you freed her.

Milo and Kaleb

Thursday, December 29, 2011

An End To It

Music ended a decades-long writer’s block for me. What I wrote that night five years ago is not a great poem, but it was an ice breaker. I’ve learned that making a beginning is the key to everything. And with the Poetry Jam’s prompt this week being music, and with the year ending, this subject has special meaning for me. I’ll share the song that ended the long silence of poetry for me, “Tu Quieres Volver” by Sarah Brightman.

To get the gist of what happened to me, you might listen to the song first, then read the poem that arose from it. I’ve posted the poem before, so if it sounds familiar, please just enjoy Sarah singing.

Look at It This Way

this is you
this is her
twin threads twining in space
up and up andupandup
sinuous as snakes
the dance of the double helix
making life grow high

this is you
this is her
round notes soaring
high and round as the moon
in a purple sky
full of light a bird in flight
a waltz of wind and feather
mounting waves of air

this is you
this is her
a swelling-rising-rearing-
crashing wave
shatters on the sand
and the sand soothes
calms and suckles
a soft sighing washing smooth
the rough edges and the fury

this is you
this is her
strong arms gripping
across the precipice of loneliness
strong limbs bowing with the wind
strong lines moored in heavy seas
above all holding fast
in the face of all storms