Sunday, March 18, 2018

What to do, what to do...

I hear you say we can use grief --
convert it into energy --
and yes, I've seen it done and know it's true,
and yet the prospect chills me, stills me,
drops me into stasis as I stare into the emptiness
and can't imagine it will ever fill.
That is the challenge, isn't it --
it's not that now is suddenly empty,
it's the prospect of all the empty nows to come
that overwhelms us:
this person, this activity, this place, is gone, and nevermore.
The raven sings his mournful song,
depositing its worm into your ear, relentless dirge of loss,
and still we wake again to face another day
and still the pain we'd hoped might vanish in the night
lingers on, its angry elves
pounding their tiny hammers in our brains and in our veins
in a relentless harsh cacophony there's no way to ignore.

And truth be told--
no day will ever go by now
without that sense of loss,
though it may dim,
and we are carved, formed, modified,
by the shapes our lives will take as they adjust
and then reform around the hole that's left behind.
So shall we bend and slump,
contort ourselves, or lift our grief above our heads
and carry it as a prize or gift
that raises all our efforts to new heights?

The choice is ours, and every day's
a chance to make it yet again,
to lower or to lift; to bend or even break,
or rise again to carry what we've learned
into the light.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Something motherly in me

First light,
and spring is on the rise --
I know it must be,
because I'm hearing birds again,
their chirping so aggressive,
so insistent I can't miss it.
Must be their mating calls,
which means the wreath on our front door
will soon begin to rattle --
like the van's-a-rockin' don't-come'knockin,'
busy with the building of the nest inside its arc,
above the bow, and though I know
we could take the damn thing down
and so avoid the mess they make,
there's something motherly in me
that rejoices in the return of last year's babies.
Now they're grown and making babies of their own,
and that ongoing tradition reassures me.

Tiny gray birds mean so little in the face of all that's crumbling --
the government, the bridges, so symbolic
of the losses of connection we're all facing --
and still the gray birds come
and build their nest inside my wreath again, and chirp --
telling me the world will still continue when I'm gone.

Friday, March 16, 2018

A bridge to compassion

What do we do with the dark we feel?
What do we do with the cold
that scutters through old bones
and keeps us shivering?
Where do we put the guilt that comes
with knowing how small our own trials are,
and yet we still complain?

Put pen to paper, brush to canvas:
scrawl the anger, splash frustration,
hurl the ink and paint out into the world,
away from the soul they score with their sharp edges,
digging troughs that funnel into depression;
pour them out, the self pity and the fury;
let the words and pictures aspirate
the poison of our disappointment,
leach the venom from our veins
so we can greet the other with grace and courtesy,
not carrying the disfiguring load of resentment,
that keeps us from forgiving, from seeing
that those who wage their ceaseless wars,
who block our efforts to serve, save, and relieve,
are people, too, beset by their own
fears and wounds and frustrations.

Perhaps if we can find new ways
to creatively express concerns
without attacking others,
our art might form a bridge to more compassion. 

Wednesday, March 14, 2018


What is it that explodes us,
makes us bigger, richer, kinder persons,
capable of giving more than just a cursory attention?
What takes us from immersion in our thoughts and pleasures
out into the heart of someone else's need or cry;
that moment when compassion rules,
and now becomes a stirring in the veins,
an echo of another's pain or blessing,
a moment when connection is a truth we cannot help but feel,
known beyond all knowing,
true beyond whatever we might see or touch;
the wing of the green moth
that flutters out of reach but draws us closer to the flame.

Scorched, we burn in sympathetic waves,
approach and then pull back,
aware and then shut down again
and buried in our own erected walls until
another unexpected tender moment pierces,
struggles through the gap already carved,
an invitation to step through again
and feel the power of shared breath with all humanity,
shared roots with all that grows and dies and then is born again,
with all who struggle and are lost, then found again,
with all the stars that fell to make us up
or twinkle nightly invitations in the sky
to be more than we had thought of being;
to be, O great, O powerful,

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

When worries rise

When things go dark -- just one or two:
the shipment that arrives too late or damaged,
the mouse that fails to track on your computer,
the favorite food altered, or no longer stocked
at your local grocery store,
the friend who takes offense where none was meant...
I start to wonder: will this be one of those years?
Remembering the Bad Year in my childhood,
when the furnace blew, the dryer died,
and Dad was in an accident,
and then he lost his job,
the bad news tumbling in like jenga blocks
when the kingpin is removed --
And so I grow more vigilant,
and notice things that wouldn't normally worry me --
the paintings that never seem to gel,
the days when no poem comes onto the page,
the requests for aid that always seem
to fall outside my comfort zone,
the criticisms, and the difficult conversations
that we can no longer avoid,
and then anxiety kicks in, quivering in the veins --
really, is this gonna be that year?
These tasks are easy, so far,
but are they harbingers of harder trials to come?
And so we realize again how vulnerable we are..

Open the windows,
listen for the birds of spring;
let their song reassure you.
All is well, all is still well,
you are still living on the path,
and summer waits around the bend
with its bright promise;
hope is on the mend.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Awaiting spring

Having only seen her naked
and dripping with red berries,
I am waiting for my dogwood
to burst into song-- or maybe flames?
I'm not quite sure what to expect,
and not completely positive
that she survived her winter in my yard,
and so I wander out,
tiptoeing through the tall wet grass
to where she stands, majestic
in the center of my lawn,
and examine the tips of her lithe brown fingers --
are those buds? I ask the ferns
who gather at her roots in green obeisance,
but they are silent.

I will simply have to wait,
and hope she will surprise me
with great blossoms of delight.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Differing perspectives

We who have lived and moved and had our being
in several different states
(I don't just mean, like, Illinois, Texas, or Minnesota,
but also sickness and in health, in joy and degradation)
are blessed to understand change can be good:
a chance to reinvent yourself,
to find new opportunities,
and so we cavalierly (or so it seems
to those who haven't known this freedom)
offer change -- a gift -- to those who might not
have discovered yet that safety's an illusion;
that it doesn't always mean sticking with what you know
and watching it degrade (because it always does;
that seems to be the way life works);
that safety is discovering
the resources within yourself to tackle something new,
to dream, or to imagine some new life;
to find new talents or take on unexpected burdens,
and in doing so discover some new strength
you hadn't realized you had.

But if you never leave, or risk,
of course our willingness to share,
to shift, to trust, to try new things,
to experiment, will only seem
another threat -- just one of many attempts
to take away the life you know,
and so, inevitably we find ourselves at odds,
and drifting more and more apart until
some tragedy helps us again to see our common ground.