Tender Work


Work with what you are

If you are a fawn
at dusk
you will
stand still as wood
in a field of tall green grass
at the edge of a forest
your dark eyes wide open
watching sparrows
flit and fly home
through the twilight.

If you are a fawn
your soft brown ears
upright will catch sounds
of wind through the pines.

If you are a field mouse
you will
scurry, slipping between
wildflowers
fawn hooves.

If you are a human
you will
see the fawn, the pines, the wildflowers
feel you breath as wind,
how your heart beats as
bird mouse, fawn
then and only then

your tender work
is done.

Buddha’s Rhetoric


words cannot be found
on the table, on a shelf
spoken they disappear
as exhaled breath
and yet
word becomes flesh
it has been said
and so it must follow
word becomes giraffes
and beer bottles

bombs
guns

Mozart
wind chimes
and muddy boots

the word, invisible
birthed
floating behind the eyes
snapping synapses
in the folds on the brain
pulled and pushed
released
as sound
heard but not seen
to become a warrior or peacemaker
solid with its formless chosen meaning
word become solid

as ash, as air.

Because I am in you, and you are in me.~~Thich Nhat Hanh

This morning
ten ducklings scurried next to their mother
on the grass bank of Tinney Creek.

It’s the time of year for births at the creek
and on the wheel of birth’s
death for all but a few of the ducklings.

Helpless I watched
hoping the crow’s kill was quick
hoping the duckling felt only soft grass and sky

Being human this seems a loss to us
until we arrive at the meal.

This evening in a restaurant a person will order duck
for their dinner.
Talons or forks
the same but

One is choiceless, the other chooses.

For feathers or skin
made of ducks and ducklings
we ought bow in gratitude

or regret.

Tinney Creek

Tinney Creek, St. Petersburg, Florida

Tinney Creek runs past
under
and despite
the TJ Max
CVS, Target.

It travels back and forth
from Tampa Bay
rises and falls daily with the tide
feeds Egrets, families of Muscovy ducks and Mallards
who seek tiny prawns, mud crabs, bugs.

Feathery Java fern
rounded Moneywort
grow in it’s rich mud,
abundant
as if this was still The Garden.

Between snaking highways,
Dollar Stores
gas stations
condo buildings
Taco Bells
the creeks and their residents
carry on
as if this was still The Garden.

Down the busy street a ways
atop a pole advertising Beer and Low-Cost Cigarettes,
an osprey has built a roomy nest,
designed in the contemporary open sky plan.

A lone Roseate Spoonbill sometimes visits Tinney Creek
always in company with her Egret.
I watch as
Spoonbill lifts it’s comical Dr. Seuss face
twitches its white and rosy feathers
lowers its wide paddle-like beak into brackish water
sweep, sweep 
side to side
poke, poke.

The ducks, Ibis, Egret, crows and I claim
this creek and the remaining
Royal Palms, oak trees, iridescent sunsets
as ours.

“I used to see many Roseate Spoonbills here once,”
a neighbor tells me.
My heart aches 
as regularly
as it beats
these days
at these all too familiar words:

There were many here
once. 

At night, arriving home,
my headlights sweep over the banks of the creek 
lighting up a line of ducks, like fat-buddhas
heads curled into their downy breasts
asleep despite ambulance sirens,
the roar of traffic.

At dawn they will wake 
waddle like drunks
raise their chicks,
the Osprey will hunt,
the Spoonbill and Egret will visit
I will marvel at how they float and splash
and the creek
feeds us all
as if this is still the Garden.

Dogs Are Almost Perfect, But…

kunzang_profile

Dogs, like people, can be difficult to love sometimes. Every dog family has its dysfunction. It’s not nearly as bad as it can be in families that are all human, but, it can still be a trial.

I love all the dogs I dog-sit, but they are not without their quirks. One has a bark that, inside, is painful to the ears and I worry a little about damage to my hearing. There are too many FedEx trucks in the world! And why don’t mail delivery people just toss the mail from their vehicles as they pass the house. Why in the world do they need to storm the house like invading armies, the dog wonders.

All of them tend to scratch my arms because it seems I do not notice that it is time for someone to get an ear scratch. My skin is thin and  the blood blisters on my arms are not so attractive!  Usually a long sleeve sweater helps, but not always.

Another dog has terrible separation anxiety, maybe because his parents travel a lot and leave him or maybe he was born with that trait. Either way it can be heartbreaking to leave him even to go to the store for a little while. The panic in his eyes is painful to see. It’s worse when he freaks out and jumps like a whirling dervish—he is a big, strong boy and his nails on my back hurt.

Sometimes I can’t tell what my pups want. This must be what it is like with an infant who cries no matter how the parent tries to soothe them.

I take out the leash and say “Out?” He lies down and looks at me. Okay, not out. “

“Chew thing?” Another blank look; it’s not that he doesn’t like chew things, he seems to be saying, but not this chew thing. He looks at me like I should know this by now. And actually I do, so why do I keep trying with that chew thing. Some of us never learn.

“Cookie?” That always get a positive reaction and all is right with the world. For about an hour. Then it’s time for ball tossing. This guy is very smart and has me trained. He looks up at the drawer in the bureau where the balls are kept and gives a slight bark. I get the ball. He is a talented ball player. I especially admire how when I throw the ball and he hits it back to me with his nose.

So I am trained by my dogs to be patient, to pay attention, to go out, to sit, and that’s just the truth!

To Practice Seeing: a Chapbook

To Practice Seeing

poems by Anda Peterson

Acknowledgments:

Nest appeared in Salt Creek Journal, a publication by the University of South Florida, St. Petersburg, April 2018

Circumnavigation appeared in Sky Island Journal, June 2018

Table of Contents

Mermaid Visits Congress…..pg 2

Echocardiogram…..pg 4

Pushaw Lake, Maine, Late August…..pg 6

Lagoon…..pg 7

Requiem for a Dharma Bum Jack Kerouac, read on the occasion at the anniversary of his death at the Flamingo Bar, St. Petersburg, Florida…..pg 9

Nest…. pg 12

Tea Ceremony…. pg 15

Einstein, Buddha and Picasso Walk into a Bar…. pg 16

Chihuly Glass #1…. .pg 19

Chihuly Glass #2…..pg 21

Advice from a Live Oak…..pg 22

Boyd Hill Symphony….. pg 25

Circumnavigation…..pg 27

Tinney Creek, St. Petersburg…..pg 30

Tinney Creek 2…..pg 31

A Good Personality or the Play’s the Thing (with apologies to the Bard)……pg 33

Inhale…..pg 35

For Pema Chodron, Bob, and Margaret…..pg36

Surrender……pg3

From The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Andersen:

“Is there anything I can do to win an immortal soul?”

“No,” said the old woman, “unless a man were to love you so much that you were more to him than his father or mother; and if all his thoughts and all his love were fixed upon you…then his soul would glide into your body and you would obtain a share in the future happiness of mankind. He would give a soul to you and retain his own as well; but this can never happen. Your fish’s tail, which amongst us is considered so beautiful, is thought on earth to be quite ugly; they do not know any better, and they think it necessary to have two stout props, which they call legs, in order to be handsome.”

Mermaid’s Visit to Congress

It hurts to walk on land.

Once we dreamt

how glorious it would be

above the ocean

in the land of their power

Once we sang

to guide men home

from their foolhardy voyages

the battles they waged against

the tides, the swells

of mountainous waves.

We all sang our warnings,

Whale sang and dolphin sang.

Now we know.

Each step is a shock,

like walking on shards of glass.

We hear

the cries of those

who walked this way before us,

who forgot how it was

to glide freely

under sunlit water shimmering overhead

among playful fish.

How we wore seaweed dresses

as we danced in the deep

rising like arrows through the water

with dolphins and whales.

We sacrificed our mermaid tails

our shining fish scales

the fields of water flowers

our coral castles

for promises

made of mist.

Echocardiogram

What is the sound of water?

No, I mean, really…

Who can know more than this:

a rhythm

a beat, a pulse

that rises and falls

after the downbeat of thunder

when rain sounds

like fingers snapping

foot tapping

on the roof

until the swell of a deluge

builds to a crescendo

and ends gentle

with the slow brushing beat of a snare drum.

The musician searches for a cadence

plays the tempo

set by water

the full orchestra of a hard monsoon

or jazz bounce of raindrops,

single notes struck on a piano.

I heard the sound of water

during an echocardiogram.

then I knew

the gurgling beat of my heart

keeps time

with the whole great ocean

Pushaw Lake, Maine

It is late August

The bee flutters about a dandelion

gains its footing and does its work.

A man stands steady in a boat fishing

on the quiet lake.

The hammock, under two maples,

sways in the breeze.

I write these pictures

to capture the last days of summer.

This is a fool’s errand of course

Like trying to anchor the clouds.

But I persist

because I am in love with this moment

like a monk bent over his sand mandala

adding pinpricks of color in a corner of the whole.

He practices impermanence

the one lasting certainty.

The long-lived log

the swing of the ax

solidity split.

So I set these images

one word at a time

bent over the page

with reverence for:

The swimmer in the lake

who does a slow crawl through the evergreen water

the tall pines above her watching.

The black ant who climbs over the boulder.

A loon who rises with a haunting call

and geese

who talk a blue streak in passing.

For now, just now

I walk under the light of the moon

down the path to the fire pit

a full moon

will soon empty itself

become a sliver, a crescent

new.

Lagoon, Martha’s Vineyard

Here on an empty stretch of saltwater lagoon this gray morning

my bare feet scoured by gold-brown sand
I walk mindful of the footprints of dogs and sharp shells, rocks, mud.

I come to meditate

which is simply just to stop

to practice seeing.

Damp translucent and neon-green strips of seaweed

stretch along the shoreline.
The lagoon lies still

under the smoky-pale sky

its calm speaks of a welcome respite from visitors

as if its heartbeat is steady again
so I feel an intruder
I will be quiet, walk slowly
take a seat on a weathered green bench.

It is high tide
a few days after a new moon
(said to inspire new beginnings).

A swan appears on the silver water,
looks my way.
A mate nowhere to be seen.
I whisper an invitation.
I hope she will come to me
teach me about her solitude
but, no, she is only here
to remind me to be graceful and careful

to glide

serenely alone .

She bends her long neck like a ballerina

darts her beak into the water to catch a minnow.

She will navigate this lagoon
following the movement of the tides

the moon and starlight.

To begin anew

is all she knows.

Requiem for a Dharma Bum Jack Kerouac

Read on the occasion at the Anniversary of his Death

Flamingo Bar (where he drank his last) St. Petersburg, Florida

Buddha Jack

sitting at the bar

buying drinks

for your demons

though you knew yourself

also as a jewel in Indra’s net

caught in illusion

yet clear minded

your contradictions

poems spilled on the barroom floor.

You hungry ghost

you beautiful man/boy, Jack

trapped between dharma-love and whiskey-death

on the road

to ruin

on the road

no arrival the right one.

America broke your heart

when it showed

it’s slave owning, lynching

money-loving-self.

In such a land

you were misunderstood

they loved your uncontrollable thirst

thought you dropped out

so cool man

lauded you for coolness

so cool man

jazz played the longings

you expressed for them

you seduced them

dark-eyed handsome man

they wanted to talk poetic in smokey bars with you

but go home sober

while you fell down the stairs pissing

shaking with the D.T’s

vomit and blood gushing from your mouth.

Far out. Far out

they applauded your shining, cascading words

like jazz

spilling out

breaking grammar

and rules

You were misunderstood

They thought you said nothing matters but sex

Like it was so far out

how far out you went

spirit searching

in a soulless America with your lost boys

high on themselves and you.

Jack, your Buddha brother

went to the edges too

as seekers often do.

Siddhartha the sensual and bejeweled

then Siddhartha the starving monk

traveled every road

until he stopped

got off the bar stool

went to the forest

weary and done

like you are now

woken from the dream of being

and that is far out

so far out, man

so cool

so cool

Nest

To practice seeing

I choose an empty nest

fallen to the sidewalk

built into a Tillandsia,

the “air plant” that hangs from the branches of trees

round, bowl-like

A perfect scaffolding.

The plants tentacles intertwine

Round and round each other

The cardinal needs only scoop out the center.

For this, dear architect, did you use your clawing feet?

Your beak?

Both?

The cleverness of your construction should not surprise me

but I am human.

I have so many questions.

The answers are mapped in the mind

of a small, smooth feathered head which

pictured the design

remembered

shapes, sizes, textures

arranged each element

composed it all

into a unified utility.

How long, how difficult was the construction?

Thin, sliver twigs needed to be bent,

Bits of grape vine collected

Then inserted into the Tillandsia,

Threaded through the curls of grape vines

The stitching secures dry, flaky particles of Live Oak seedpods.

This builder knows how to balance beauty with practicality.

I attempt

to practice the same day by day.

What was next indicated in your plans?

Perhaps, you decided

To lift dry, gray Spanish moss

Lacy string by lacy string

carried in your beak, flitting back and forth

on labored wings

Nest to branch

branch  to nest

you knew that

moss matted down, then mixed with dirt

makes a sturdy stucco

Was this an ancient knowledge inherited from

Your dinosaur DNA?

To the stucco, lodged as if glued is

A one-by-one inch square of plastic netting from a bag of fruit.

Architect, this raises more questions.

How was the perfect size of plastic netting located, then chosen?

Was this serendipity?

Or was it a memory of a bright white, crisscrossed thing you spied from the air?

This plastic web has little function.

Did it thrill or amuse you?

Who can say it didn’t?

And why did you place this swatch of netting

On only one side of your nest?

Was this a statement?

A signature?

Who can say it wasn’t.?

Or was it for fun?

Do you like fun like I like fun?

Who can say you don’t?

Woven between the Spanish moss, Tillandsia fibers and the fragile twigs

are three strips of cotton from an old cloth bandage.

Was this only for comfort?

Do you like the softness against your face?

Like I like softness?

Who can say you don’t?

Six strips of silver tinsel from an old Christmas tree

are inserted at the top of the nest.

Are you making a case for beauty?

Is this a sign of aesthetics in a life otherwise dominated by survival?

Like mine?

Who can say it isn’t?

The tinsel is fragile, not material for construction

but sparkles,

sparkles!

in the sun.

Do you and I both delight in things that shine?

Who dares to say you don’t?

Like any clever architect

You balance beauty with practicality.

I attempt the same

day by day.

I never knew all this about you

Your jokes, your artistry

Until you stopped my mind one day

and opened my eyes

when I found your home.

Tea Ceremony

The steam from Thich Nhat Hanh’s teacup

rises
as a cloud

returns to earth

as rain
to quench the thirst

of tea leaves.

Thay teaches
how clouds appear in teacups
and how

to drink

moonlit rain.

Picasso, Einstein and Buddha Walk into a Bar…

Picasso takes a swig of whiskey and says

there is blue in the horse

Einstein agrees.

Buddha nods.

Yes, blue is in the horse.

If you look beyond muscle and haunch,

Buddha says, sipping his tea,

you will see

atoms that sparkle like a million small diamonds.

Einstein smiles

and drinks his beer.

Picasso says,

they want me to make sense

draw the mouth on the face

they say, where it belongs

they don’t want the eyes on the forehead

they tell me to look at statues

to understand the body.

Einstein and Buddha laugh.

“That’s a good one!” Einstein says

“As if we aren’t particles,” Picasso says

“As if our cells are static.”

“As if we are solid bodies,” Buddha adds.

At this their laughter grows uproarious

the customers look askance.

Einstein says,

“Did you hear the one about the two monks who pointed at a gingko tree and a cyrpess?

One of them said to the other:

‘They call those just trees! and the two monks fall on the ground laughing.’”

“Good one!” the three agree.

The customers shake their heads, concerned.

Since they sound so crazy

and one of them is wearing a sheet and no shoes

another hasn’t combed his hair for days

the three are thrown out of the bar

onto the street

accompanied by a gingko tree and a cypress

all arm-in-arm

they stroll into the night

sparkling.

Chihuly Glass #1

A Chihuly glass shell

is formed,

as are we all,

by a sacred geometry

etched precisely

by water and fire.

These secret equations

that set the exact beat

of our hearts

might be understood

by calculating

the blazing suns

of eons

saltwater tossed rocks

ground to sand

turned hard and translucent by time

curled and bent

to correct angles

surfaces divided

into harmonious parts

fragile as glass

smooth as the bone

of a seashell

or your spine.

Chihuly Glass #2

This is the mystery

of energy enough to ignite

colored shards of glass

into a fountain

of blue and red

yellow and orange

into a fused stillness.

The same mystery

waits

in the candle wick,

the match

the dry kindling.

The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing which stands in the way…As a man is, so he sees. ~~William Blake

Advice From a Live Oak to the Owner of the Mercedes Floating Down the Street in Miami

Listen,

says the Live Oak,

Yes, you there

in front of your winter home in Florida

watching your Mercedes float

like your yacht

down the avenue

You seem surprised

that concrete crumbles under your feet.

Nearby, as if in a dream,

you hear someone saying words like

limestone, aquifer, rising sea levels

But you do not understand any language not spoken in banks.

You shouted your mantra

Fix it! Fix it!

Let me explain.

This is how you got here:

You looked at me through blinders and called me a tree.

Then you named me:

Live Oak.

You wrote the name down in a book

as if it was truth.

I became a fact

to dismiss or use.

That was your first mistake.

When you cut me and my sap ran

you did not recall

the stickiness of your own blood.

So, I knew that our reunion would have to wait

until we had no choice.

You were too busy

conducting a war against

all that stood in your way.

You dug mines

drained swamps

smothered the soil with cement

slashed the forests and fields

forced water where it did not want to flow.

Your hand shakes now

as you grab at your pockets

for your rosary of coins.

You watch the news:

Coyotes leap over the walls of guarded houses.

Panthers roam the yards.

Alligators traverse your golf club.

Black bears rummage through your trash

swim at their leisure in your Olympic-sized pools.

Your homes are hidden behind steel gates

but the animals still enter

they know these woods and marshes

have mapped the paths in their veins

feel the contours of the land in their hearts.

For the first time, you hear the alarms.

Your senses open like a deer’s listening for the hunter’s next step.

Listen

You mowed when it was time to sow.

Demolished what it was time to save.

You understood only how to ravage

but not how to prune.

Listen

You did not see who shared these places with you.

That was your biggest mistake:

Yet, if you look east, west, south, north, up to the stars, down to the valley

you will see that what they call you is not what you are.

Your name is only a thing on paper

our roots, our veins inseparable.

Listen

to what speaks quietly

in both of us:

Live

live

live

Against this cosmic background, the lifespan of a particular plant or animal appears, not as drama complete in itself, but only as a brief interlude in a panorama of endless change. ~~Rachael Carson

Boyd Hill Nature Preserve, St. Petersburg, Florida

This land feasts on fire and flood

where lightning strikes

scrub pines flare like torches.

Crackling pine needles

play a fiery staccato.

Snakes, squirrels, mice

(who’ve learned from their elders)

burrow together in tunnels

built by the able gopher tortoise.

The truce between predator and prey will hold

below the conflagration

as mouse and snake listen together

to the racing current of flames overhead.

They wait for a drenching deluge

to cool the charred tree trunks.

Grasses turned to ash

(a rich burnt compost)

will nourish sandy soil

needle thin stalks will push up through dank mud

towards the steamy sun.

Soon thickly green

vines wind around vines.

Branches cross one another, reach

in every direction.

After fire and rain

Mockingbirds, thrush, kingfishers, hawks

call out emphatic declarations

while under darkened canopies of oaks

frogs and turtles sleep.

Upon the humid air floats

A symphony of scents

honeysuckle, magnolia, fiddlewood,

rise in sweet crescendos

In the thorny brush

a rustling

as mouse jumps

from the grasp of snake

white clouds, backlit by the sun

grow into mountains

portend the next fire

the next flood

and gopher tortoise casts a wary, wise eye skyward.

Circumnavigation

Really there is no edge

from which to fall.

We are like ancient sailors

still

trembling at the horizon.

Everything is a circle

your eye, the earth

the path is not straight

as you come round

and return

as we do

as we all do

to where we started

which may look like

A mandala

constructed

of your recollections

in hues of every color

collected

in circular order

the stories

we spent our lives

repeating

looking for

the conclusion

but finding instead

A Sufi dancing in a circle of light

round of white

skirt

Whirling

Spinning

Precisely

Like a planet

and the sun

illuminated circumferences

all circadian rings of light

that cross over

over

And around

the globe.

Like the

deep round sound of the

drum, or the

singing bowl struck awake

its overtone

resonating

Resounding

Like the echo

floating in a canyon

gliding up and down

the rocky basin

returning to its origin.

Tell me then

what you fear.

Tell me,

where is the beginning

of this moment

or the end

of the ocean?

Tinney Creek

Tinney Creek runs past

under

and despite

the TJ Max

CVS, Target .

I live next to Tinney Creek,

across from a mall

along with the ducks, egrets, and crows

and the occasional hawk.

Tinney Creek

travels back and forth

from Tampa Bay

rises and falls with the tide

feeds Egrets,  families of Muscovy ducks and Mallards

seeking tiny prawns, mud crabs, bugs.

In the muddy bank grow

feathery Java fern

rounded Moneywort

verdant, abundant

as if this was still The Garden.

despite

the insults of a styrofoam cup,

a plastic bag.

Here

between snaking highways,

Dollar Stores

gas stations

condo buildings

Taco Bells

Here

hawk has built a nest atop a pole

advertising Beer and Low-Cost Cigarettes.

The ducks, Ibis, Egret, crows and I claim the remaining

palms, oak trees, creek, iridescent sunsets

as our home

Tinney Creek #2

Low tide at Tinney Creek brings

a rare pink-and-white-feathered surprise.

The Roseate Spoonbill

sweeps its ladle-like beak

through the shallow water

ignoring the styrofoam cup floating past

Urban detritus

comes and goes with the tides.

The Spoonbill lifts it’s comical Dr. Seuss face

to me for a moment then

twitching its white and rosey feathers

lowers its wide bill into the water

sweep, sweep

side to side

poke, poke

with open paddle mouth

for shrimps and insects.

The Spoonbill is  a  “gregarious bird” according to the website

“who spends time with other large wading birds,”

It arrived with an egret

now at its side

and likely enjoys the company

of the Muscovy ducks

resting like plump buddhas on the grass.

“I used to see many Roseate Spoonbills here once,”

a neighbor says.

My heart aches

as regularly

as it beats

these days

at the all too familiar words.

There were many

once.

And yet

The Roseate Spoonbill came

to Tinney Creek.

And at night, arriving home,

my headlights sweep over the creek

lighting up a sweet stretch of sleeping ducks

despite ambulance sirens

the roar of car engines.

At dawn they will wake

to waddle like drunks

and raise their chicks

though hawk will seek them.

The creek still feeds them all

And so

My heart resumes its song.

A Good Personality or The Play’s the Thing (with apologies to The Bard)

I usually congratulate people when they tell me, “I don’t know who I am anymore.”

~~~Eckhart Tolle

Did Buddha have a good personality?

We would like to think so.

Without it who would he be?

How would he feel without it?

Free?

Perhaps.

Let out of identity prison?

The prison

constructed, cemented

as he was constricted in his crib.

Conflicted adult

arrives on the stage

having learned his lines

face thick with make-up

mask in place.

The audience enthralled

the performance was so real!

So authentic! Like real life!

I really believed he was…they say.

Would Buddha have been a star

of the stage and screen?

No. He’d be a flop.

Most certainly.

Look

He forgot the role

he was assigned

misplaced the script

left his costume at home.

On his way to the theatre

Buddha got lost in the forest

Still trying to wake up

until he finally heard

suffering—his alarm clock

then

his personality shed like his actor’s mask

bare-faced, he knew

If we only trust what our eyes can see

we will believe the play is the only thing

and a mirror is a window.

Inhale

notice

hands on keyboard
shoulder aches

a crowd of thoughts,
elbow each other.

they are like drunks

shouting trash talk

thinking they makes perfect sense.

A car backfires
a mindfulness bell of sorts,
reminds me to breathe

Until ideas, images, words

grab me by my breath, 
hold me hostage 
and I am lost

pushed and pulled

between yesterday, tomorrow.

Then I inhale

reminded

again,
again

after the exhale
in the pause

before the next breath

that flickering moment

that quick bright peace
is real.

For Pema Chodron and Bob and Margaret

Even though Bob and Margaret, lost both of their children

even knowing such tsunamis

are unpredictable

sometimes I still think I stand firm on this

shifting earth

my plans laid out like railroad tracks

viewpoints arranged like books on a shelf

where I can reach them quickly

to prove their validity

(when necessary, of course)

absolutely.

What’s up is up

and down is down

It’s obvious.

I see the clock

I know the time.

I don’t need a weatherman…

Certainties crowd out

my senses

but I don’t mind

I navigate by thought alone.

It’s religious, a sustaining belief

in what I cannot see

what is ephemeral,

my thoughts and assumptions,

In those my faith is absolute.

Then I step out of my bunker

away from the tracks, the bookshelf

I go to the beach, let’s say.

Nowhere important at all

not like the places where my mind is in demand

where I use my thought-training

like a karate master.

I am barefooted

so it begins

first reminded

of my body

as toes grip sand

then, beyond my control

a deep breath rises and falls.

More senses open

seeing and hearing

causing a

slight imbalance

brought on by

the sight and sound

swooping, circling, crying sea gulls

the wide vistas, the vast sky

I stand at water’s edge

dig my feet into the heavy wet sand

anchored, safe again

until the sand slips

beneath my feet

effortlessly carrying what seemed
my dense body

and I sink

an inch
deeper
weightless
no viewpoint to grab

to steady me

pushed off the track

unsettled

pulled by the tides
like a pebble.

Surrender

is like

grinding out the last cigarette under your boot heel

this time for good

this time for good.

Like leaving the key on the table

and shutting the door

that door

quietly

tightly.

Surrender is like a fist opening

the grip loosening

from how it should have been.

Surrendering

is like untying yourself from the chair

to discover you tied it

you can stand upright.

Tear-washed eyes

are willing now clear enough

to see

the wider horizon.

an angel put its arms around your shoulders

and you felt held

and you are certain

it was real.

Surrender then

is a lavender sky at dusk

a sweep of feathery light

illuminating

spaciousness.

Poem for Hard Times

Look for the peacemakers,

a wise man once said.

Look, he said

in the midst of horror

for the kindness

the gentle eyes

Look

how they always

appear to hold your hand

like

Buddhas

or Great Spirits

Look to the soft eyes of a dog

Head on your lap

creating, sharing your stillness.

Turn away from

the dead-eyed

killed by

their fear

leave them pitied

pitied eave them.

Listen to

the songs and singers

never silenced

by the water hoses

or bombs

only sung louder, sweeter

Watch for

the dancers

who bend but never break

who fly free as birds

free at last

Listen to

the storytellers

who sit around the fire

among the ruins

telling tales

of treasures, most sought

and freely shared

at no cost, no cost

to anyone

See the beloved with open arms

opening their doors

stretched beyond their own kin

to embrace us all

like family

They are here, there, everywhere

They are never far

They are

They are.

They have always been.

They will always be

the peacemakers

hope-givers

truth tellers.

Look up

just look up

there and there and there

they are carrying

you and me.