What kind of courage do we need? We must accept reality in all its immensity…the only kind of courage that is required of us: the courage to meet the strangest, most awesome and most inexplicable of phenomena.~~Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

The Courage We Need is

to stand alone
on the dance floor.

The courage we need is
to stay steady

as we feel the foundation cracking

to see clearly
through lies
thick as heavy blankets
as the sleepers
pretend wakefulness.

The courage we need is
to refuse
the safety
of the trance.

The courage we need is
to love with a broken heart,
shed fears like leaves,
bend, bow
and continue.

Resurrection

Nobody was ever drunk on Easter

The morning too early and bright

unusual

not dread.

My parents, instead of hiding 

their drinking in the garage,

  as we kids played, 
  yet certain of the carnage to come,

took us to the woods on Easter

to teach us about resurrection

they could not imagine for themselves,

and

to gather moss

to become the bed 

for our Easter eggs.

At home we wrapped the eggs

in leaves, old coffee grounds

used for their brown color,

leaves from the forest

for patterns,

strips of colored cloth as dye

all bound in burlap, tied with string,

boiled, then unwrapped, 

eggs as earth-colored spheres

like gray stones, like brown shades of bark,

streaks of orange, blue, red

like a dawning sun,

the river in the forest,

a cardinal’s feather.

Before the coloring of the eggs,

in the woods,

we lifted muddy damp moss

with care

from the forest floor 

covered with the moldy dead leaves

that mulch life,

and strangely,

carry a fertile scent

of sweet loam

floating in the air, the promise, 

a resurrection guaranteed only

by a fallen tree 

on its trunk sprouting a cacophony of mushrooms,

the detritus of a tuft of fur

all turning, sinking into soil

then tender violets rise beneath the tree trunk,

later a bud on a branch of a sapling.

For Greta

“But you, too young to say
impossible,
You make it possible again and again…”
~~lyrics from the song Rise Up by Roy Zimmerman, after the Parkland shootings

Only the old believe in death
fooled by their changing bodies,
unchanging minds
stiffened
struggling to hold back time.
Looking back so much

eyes lose sight
of what is ahead.

I am old now
but live

with wonder at my place in:
the circular centers of flowers,
sacred geometry of shells,
endless Fibonacci forms
full roundness
of the moving earth
rolling and
returning
rolling and returning.

I stand
aged
on the edge
of uncertainty,
discovery,
arms open
mind open
to every
possibility.

“Let everything happen to you. Beauty and terror. Just keep going. No feeling is final.”

~~~ Rainer Maria Rilke

The middle of the night
he returns
to leave you again
as he did long ago.

Let it happen
let it happen again.
Rilke is right
you know

against reason.

But first you fight
fate, karma
and bad luck
all the
invisible
opponents

you turn your face into the pillow
from blows
the subconscious lands

at last,
like a boxer on the bloody floor,
you resort
to prayer
whispered
into the pillow.

sleep returns only
upon surrender
as illusions depart,
and childhood longings,
do the same.

It is morning.

ten billion years

The night
gathers our wishes
sent wistful
to shine as billions of hopes
in the black sky,
forming paths of light
from our longings.

What set stars ablaze
set us afire as well,
born, as we were,
in nebula nurseries.

Mother/father stars
draw upward our gaze,
we children
of planets grown full and massive,
dying yet deathless gaseous energy
we were released, transformed.
We have long forgotten
the super nova of numberless explosions,
how we floated on helium
to earth,
settling as electrified dust sparking, fiery
illuminating hope.

Bullied: A History

I held the dog in my lap
the golden pit bull-spaniel mix.
Of course, you know dogs,
so I was held also.

I had gentled the dog
the dog had gentled me.

He looked at us
“This dog has never known cruelty,”
he said, shocked
to see a myth come to life,
a dream become reality.

He and I,
strangers to safety,
were like Martians just arrived
to a new planet,
uncertain of its terrain,
familiar only with threat.

Later
He returned to bully
and I returned as victim.

qarrtsiluni ~~Inuit for “sitting together in the dark”

While the blue northern ice
melts into the sea
We sit in the dark together alongside Polar bear.
on the tundra’s newly blackened soil.

The Inuit have seventy-four words for sea ice.
We name what we see
to navigate
and so
we are collecting new words
for tears
and ignorance.

Sitting still
we gather
in the dark
seeking new ways
to navigate these rising waters.
The old word we cannot lose
is most treasured,
we must keep saying to each other:
together.

Chicago, for Fred Hampton and Larvell Henderson, my Irving School Classmates


Today my hometown music
sets the groove
for the dance
soul sway
joy drum
beats
saxophone 
shouts
in this coffee shop.


I remember
Chicago rhythm
and blues
how the projects
loom over expressways
the “El” clatters
shakes the rattling windows 
of a tenement
screeching to a scheduled stop
from the eleventh floor, a five-year-old watches 
big-eyed
as below cars speed
downtown
the refrain “Stand by me…”  
fills the air from somewhere near
before the deafening roar of the train
passes the boy
I feel the
faith
not mine but
unshakeable
his brother waiting
sitting on the stoop
at noon
      job denied
one more time.

In third grade Fred and Larvell were my friends.
When I was ten
Larvell's mother was shot.
When I was twenty,
Fred was shot in his bed.

In my car, Marvin Gaye sings
“Makes me Wanna Holler, Throw up Both My Hands…” 
on the radio.
I feel faith between the notes, love
not mine, but
from a distance, mine too  
as I drive to the South Side
singing, weeping
with Marvin
to my job at the welfare
warfare office.


















































































Solitude

“…love life in a form that is not your own and be indulgent toward those who are growing old, who are afraid of the aloneness that you trust…. and don’t expect any understanding; but believe in a love that is being stored up for you like an inheritance…”

“Make your ego porous. Will is of little importance, complaining is nothing, fame is nothing. Openness, patience, receptivity, solitude is everything.”

― Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

Solitude

Some say
aloneness
and its quietude
is a nightmare of isolation,
the opposite of love,
that an empty room
is not filled by their own body
only by others.
Some hide under crowd-cover
or run from themselves to another.

Solitude might be cherished
even more than a lover.

What else but solitude
nourishes your poems like rain on wildflowers,
grows your songs, flows your art?

What else
opens to the vista beyond your confines,
returns you to yourself,
honors your silence,
makes space for your tears,
and a place to rest.

What else
leaves room for your questions
is the dawn for your answers
reminds you of the warp and weave
connecting the universe,
the unconditional oneness.

What invites you to meditation,
brings you to your spirit,
leads you to prayer?

Earth, Isn’t This What You Want: a poem by Rainer Maria Rilke

Earth, isn’t this what you want? To arise in us, invisible?

Is it not your dream, to enter us so wholly

there’s nothing left outside us to see?

What, if not transformation

is your deepest purpose? Earth, my love,

I want it too.. Believe me,

no more of your springtimes are needed

to win me over—even one flower

is more than enough. Before I was named

I belonged to you. I see no other law

but yours, and know I can trust

the death you will bring.

See, I live. On what?

Childhood and future are equally present.

Sheer abundance of being

floods my heart.

from the Ninth Duino Elegy