We must return wild, guided by wind and moon to find our way. The journey made simple When we find the way out of the wilderness of cities. Then Into the forest Along the shore Up the mountain Through the meadow We travel. Our sight, then, like a wolf’s, Made clear by Scent and touch More than eyes alone . Our body, like a river Bend and stretch Run fast or slow Over rocks, below branches. Going home.
to the Owner of the Mercedes Floating Down the Street in Miami
Listen, you there...step back from the edge of the precipice you’ve come upon with no warning (in your mind). Here now, at your winter home in Florida, you stand on the crumbling asphalt watch your Mercedes float by as if it was your yacht .Nearby, as if in a dream, you hear someone saying words like aquifer, global warming, unsustainableBut you don’t understand any language not spoken in banks. You shout your mantraFix it! Fix it! You shiver in the heat under the roof you constructed over the planet. Listen This is how you got here:You looked at me through blinders and called me a tree. Then you named me:Live Oak. I became a fact you could dismiss or use as it suited 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. Like now. Before you were too busy. You dug mines, drained swamps, smothered the soil with cement slashed the forests and fields forced water where it did not want to flow. Now you are surprised. You order the seawalls to be rebuilt higher again and again,yet the waves roar at them and they succumb over and over.For comfort, you grab at your pockets for your rosary of coins. On the news you see Coyotes leap over the walls of your mansion Panthers roam the yard 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 know these woods and marshes they have mapped the paths in their veins feel the contours of the land in their hearts see through the dark know exactly what needs knowing upon the air. You reach into your vault of millions for your talisman of dollars and find a time bomb lodged in one corner. When this bomb is triggered by the last floods and the final fires even you will become brethren to the lowest insect, the stalk of grass. For the first time, you hear the alarms.Your senses open like a deer listening for the hunter’s next step. Listen, here was your next mistake You mowed when it was time to sow. Demolished what it was time to save. You understood how to ravage but not how to prune. Now is the time to listen. Listen to what speaks quietlyi n both of us: Live… live… live... The Great Extinction Even if you aren’t a believer your feet have faith in the earth your lungs are believers in the air your thirst trusts in water. We are held, nourished with no effort of our own. What other love gives so freely? This is holiness crucified by those who once again know not what they do.
We watch as, with age, dog muzzles turn white, eyes cloud with cataracts (but do not lose their patient glow). fatty lumps appear under their skin (as a matter of course, not disease). Because dogs do not get botox and are not bitter that their hips are arthritic, their once shiny hair has turned dull and dry, their running days over, Because their acceptance Put into words “Now this…now that…” softens time, calms the heart, I, wrinkled and graying, am inspired.
TABLE OF CONTENTS #1 Since You Are Me After Listening to Tiokasin Ghosthorse…4 Long Gone Chicago, For Fred Hampton…5 (First appeared in The Rookery, 2021 For Greta…7 For Jacob… 8 The Courage We Need…9 Who Will Explain?…10 (First appeared in NYC Festival of Human Right Art Journal, 2019) Bullied, a History…11 Resurrection….12 (First appeared in Snapdragon Journal of Health, 2019) Definitions….13 Solitude….15 #2. We Drink Moonlight Buddha’s Rhetoric…17 Picasso and Einstein Walk into a Bar…18 Circumnavigation…19 (First appeared in Sky Island Journal, 2018) Tea Ceremony…21 The Dream of Driving….22 (First appeared in Spirit First, 2020 winner of second place prize) Why We Go to The Beach….23 Surrender…. 24 Composition…25 Unfold Yourself…26 #3 To Begin Anew is All She Knows Chihuly Glass #1….28 Chihuly Glass #2….29 Boyd Hill….30 Pushaw Lake…32 Lagoon.…33 #4 Tender Work Motherhood…39 Tinney Creek #1… 35 (First appeared in Plum Tavern Journal, 2019) Tinney Creek # 2….36 Weedon Island #1 Morning…40 Weedon Island #2 Shelter…41 What the Dog Says…42 A Field in Maine…..44 Nest…45 (First appeared in Salt Creek Journal, 2018) Ibis and Dragonfly..48 Advice from a Live Oak…49 (First appeared in Odet, 2020) The Great Extinction…51 Qarrtsiluni….52 I Am….53 Constellation…54 GPS Dirge…55 1. Since You are Me After Listening to Tiokasin Ghosthorse Name yourself the Lakota way see how streams reflecting sunlight run in your veins, stars shine on your brow. Go to the forest the Lakota way. hear roots whisper wordless under the the soft-handed canopy holding you as you sleep. Know this boulder the Lakota way and you will understand something solid Is not but glows and glitters with light like your bones like boulders, that by constant motion joined, speak your name. Long Gone Chicago for my Childhood Schoolmate Fred Hampton Hometown music sets the groove the sway joy drum saxophone shout in this Florida coffee shop where I sit writing. Seventies Chicago rhythm and blues play today as long ago I took the elevated train past projects in a gray line mountainous over the expressway the “El” clatters, shakes the tenement windows, screeches to a stop. From the eleventh floor, a five-year-old watches, this rushing world, wonder-eyed, wish-filled as the refrain “Stand by me…” floats out from his window this summer day of Chicago-heat-cemented hot air blown about by a single fan, “Darling, darling, stand stand by me…” the roar of the train deafens deafens love songs. I feel faith in his heart, not mine, but unshakeable. He watches his brother waiting sitting on the stoop at noon job denied one more time. On a Monday in my car, Marvin Gaye sings “Makes me wanna holler, throw up both my hands…” the news interrupts Fred age 21 shot dead shot dead while sound asleep. I feel faith between the notes, not mine, but from a distance, as I drive to the South Side weeping for my job at the welfare, warfare office. 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 to hold back time. Looking back, back scrolling through memories eyes lose sight of what is ahead. I am old now but live with wonder at my place in: the purple center of red tulips, the sacred geometry of nautilus shells, all Fibonacci forms, endless as then am I on the full rounding 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. For Jacob I am lying in a hospital bed. Shot seven times in my back. My children watched. I am paralyzed now but the people in red hats have been taught, to blame me now for my shattered back. On the same streets, they protest. two lie dead shot by a boy who fears he’s not a man and killing makes him so. The long rifle his power, at last. How long has this been going on? The Vikings stole people, as slave holders do, for hundreds of years. The point being, fellow humans, our cruelty is nothing new this heredity of hate grows a stunted family tree all thorns and brittle branches. So what do you make of this? How do we continue to buy groceries swim in the pool drink coffee on the patio and pretend you are not me? Pretend again Imagine the justice you would seek rage that would burn revenge you could take yet won’t somehow because you are a man. Imagine the love you deserve since you are me. 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 see clearly through lies thick as 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 to bend, bow and continue. Who Will Explain? The brown-eyed children in the cages huddle under silver blankets that sparkle like Christmas tinsel. The children sleep on the cold cement floor do not understand the wire cages, their loneliness after the long, hot walk through the desert. Do they wonder, as children do, what they did wrong? Who will explain to them this land where people sleep on silk sheets stride, careless, across marble floors after cool rides in shiny new trucks through the desert, drunk on their comforts. Who can explain why these people never wonder what they did wrong? First appeared in the Festival of Human Right Art Journal, NYC, 2019 Bullied: A History She held the dog in her lap, soft-eyed, golden pit bull-spaniel mix. Of course, you know dogs, so you understand she was held also. He looked at them incredulous “This dog has never known cruelty,” he said, recalling how cruelty had rocked his crib. She understands, recalls the fear, the screams. He and she, strangers to safety, uncertain of its terrain, familiar only with threat, surprised to come upon this sacrosanct moment. Later He returned as bully. She returned as victim. Resurrection Nobody was ever drunk on Easter So it was one holiday not dread. My parents, instead of hiding their drinking in the garage took us to the woods to collect moss as the bed for Easter eggs we later would wrap in leaves, coffee grounds, strips of colored cloth, bound in burlap, tied with string, boiled, then unwrapped, earth-colored spheres like stones, like brown-gray shades of bark, streaks of orange, blue, red like the sun over the green-blue river, a cardinal’s feather. ln the woods, we lifted damp moss with care soft, muddy caked with moldy dead leaves that mulch life, carry a fertile scent of sweet loam the promise, of a resurrection understood by my drinking, dying parents resurrection guaranteed by the fallen tree the detritus of fur from creatures all turning, sinking into soil sprouting a cacophony of mushrooms then tender violets, at last, a bud on a branch. (First appeared in Snapdragon Health Journal, 2020) Definitions: Aeon (symbol all-encompassing insight) The Greeks have four words for love: 1. storge, family, that mirrors for us if we are lucky, 2. philautra, self-acceptance So with this in our hearts, clear-eyed, warm-hearted we discover 3. philea, friendship a love that comforts like good soup. 4. The deeper nourishment of course, is found in agape, The beloved community. Those of us, planted in rocky soil growth stunted, frozen reach for fire, thinking it is the sun. Our word for love is need the name for our illusions a fog that hides the shoreline. We navigate by blinding lies instead of stars. Tossed about, dizzied, bruised by storms we call passion, nearly drowned. We think we will be saved by grasping, clinging tighter still to the punctured.hull. Aeon knows love through Body, Spirit and Soul appears as the Star Goddess her companion, Hadith, a winged ball of fire, omniscience, their child is Horus, clear insight. Aeon rises above the waves, to tell us it is almost too late for seasick sailors, lost and weary, appears as an eagle cries out philea, agape philea, agape agape …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 very opposite of love. Some hide under crowd-cover run from themselves submerge in another. Yet, solitude might be cherished even more than a lover. What else nourishes your poems like rain on roses, grows your songs, flows your art? What else returns you to yourself, honors your silence, makes space for your tears, nests you in its bosom? What else leaves room for your questions is the dawn for your answers reminds you of the warp and weave connecting the universe? What invites you to meditation, guides you to your spirit, leads you to prayer? 2. We Drink Moonlight Buddha’s Rhetoric words disappear as exhaled breath and yet become flesh concrete hardwoods steel. Also, giraffes and beer bottles bombs guns Mozart wind chimes and muddy boots. words begun as snapping synapses birthed behind the eyes released sounds spinning into the world naked until armored with our meanings carried across mountains they start wars. built as beliefs by our ancestors are substantial as smoke. Picasso, Einstein and Buddha Walk into a Bar… Picasso takes a swig of whiskey and proclaims “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 and shine. Einstein smiles and drinks his beer. Picasso says, they want me to draw the mouth on the face they say, where it belongs. They don’t want the eyes on the forehead, tell me to look at statues to understand the body. “As if we aren’t particles,” Picasso says “As if our cells are static,” Einstein sighs. “As if we are solid,” Buddha adds. At this their laughter grows uproarious. The customers look askance, shake their heads, concerned. They tell each other those three sound crazy, and look, one of them is wearing a sheet and no shoes! The other hasn’t combed his hair for days! The three are thrown out of the bar onto the street so arm-in-arm they stroll into the night sparkling. 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? (First appeared in Sky Island Journal, 2018) Tea Ceremony Every day is a good day when thoughts do not remain. ~~Zen saying Clouds, like memories, are weightless yet gathered, Grow heavy over the light of even a bright full moon. Clouds, Like the fog of old fears tumble and build one upon the other, dark, thick. Clouds, like steam that rises from Thich Nhat Hanh’s teacup float out the window, to return as rainthat quench the thirst of tea leaves. Thay teaches this:clouds appear in teacups,we drink moonlight, and can see clearly through fog. The Dream of Driving Inhaling I notice thoughts tailgate each other in my mind relentlessly. A car backfires a mindfulness bell of sorts to remind me I can take an exit pull out of traffic exhale but thoughts roar to life again overtake me like gangsters in Cadillacswho hold me hostage push me into yesterday drag me into tomorrow convince me they are realuntil a deep breath, like the foot on the pedal, guides me to the rest stop where I watch just watch thoughts like cars pass before my eyes and I know again how these flickering moments of quick bright peaceare real more real than the dream of driving. (First appeared in Spirit First, winner of second place 2020) Why We Go to the Beach With plans laid out like railroad tracks, linear as certainty, as cynicism, rusted by habitual distrust, I navigate by thought alone, obdurate with my belief in diaphanous assumptions. Then, though seldom, I stop go to the beach, let’s say, nowhere significant, you know, not the important places with the important people. at water’s edge, feet caressed by wavelets startle me into my body, mind quieted, senses alert resistance washed away by waves rising, Then falling Gentle as autumn leaves. Surprised, I float buoyed, like the minnows darting past. Sharing their trust, I am carried To uncertainty, A type of sanity, to poetry. Surrender is like grinding out the last cigarette under your boot heel this time for good this time for good. Leaving the key on the table. Shutting the door that door. Quietly Tightly. Surrender is a fist opening the grip loosening from the conviction of how it should have been. Tear-washed eyes are clear now mindful of the wider horizon. An angel or a buddha put its arm around your shoulders and you felt held and you are sure it was it was real. Composition It begins with a rhythm a beat, a pulse 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 with the slow brushstroke of a snare drum. The musician searches for a cadence and the tempo set by water. Unfold Yourself The mind is a small town where the news is old and the air stale with endlessly certainty. It’s where you live safe from possibilities undisturbed by questions constricted by your memories. In this narrow, airless place if you part a dusty curtain, lift the window, vistas open where solutions, like surprises like wildflowers spring up in spaciousness. Breathe. Stretch. Step out the door Unfold yourself like a picnic blanket on the grass. 3 To Begin Anew is all She Knows Chihuly Glass #1 A Chihully glass shell is formed, as are we all, from a sacred geometry etched precisely by water and fire. These secret equations might be understood by calculating eons blazing suns, salt water tossed rocks ground to sand turned solid and translucent curled and bent to correct angles surfaces divided into harmonious parts fragile as glass smooth as bone or 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. 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 Perserve, St. Petersburg, Florida This land feasts on fire and flood where lightening strikes scrub pines flare like torches. Crackling pine needles play a fiery staccato. Snakes, squirrels, mice (who’ve learned from their elders) burrow in tunnels built by 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 the certain 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. 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 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 sandI 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 shore line.The lagoon lies still under the smoky-pale sky its calm speaks of a welcome respite from visitors as if its heartbeat is steady againso I feel an intruderI will be quiet, walk slowlytake a seat on a weathered green bench. It is high tidea few days after a new moon(said to inspire new beginnings). A swan appears on the silver water,looks my way.The life-long mate nowhere to be seen. I whisper an invitation.I hope she will come to meteach me about her solitudebut, no, she is hereto 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 lagoonfollowing the movement of the tides the moon and starlight. To begin anew is all she knows. Tinney Creek #1 Tinney Creek runs past under and despite the TJ Max CVS, Target . I live next to Tinny 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, a 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 hawk has built a nest atop a pole advertising Beer and Low-Cost Cigarettes. The ducks, Ibis, Egret, crows and I claim the creek as haven. (First appeared in Plum Tavern Journal, 2019) 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 The Spoonbill lifts it’s Dr. Seuss face to me, then twitching its white and rosey feathers lowers its wide baseball-hat- 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, as the usual resident Muscovy ducks rest 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 peaceful despite ambulance sirens the roar of car engines. At dawn they will wake to waddle like drunks and raise their chicks though hawk will hunt them. The creek still alive and fertile feeds them all weathers the encroachments of condos and commerce And so My heart resumes its song. 4. Tender Work Motherhood A tree birthed me. I climbed into its arms Protected from Heat and harm. Hidden by leafy tendrils Birds and I sheltered While she nourished earth Swept the air clean. With age The skin on my limbs Resembles tree bark Years etched, Storms weathered. I recall childhood Her green canopy. In autumn Her fiery, falling leaves My joy. Weedon Island #1 Morning Here in the shade, beneath a tin roof on Weedon Island at a green wooden picnic table we sit and write towards sanity, feeling the soft feathers of a breeze. Above, the blue sky is cloudless this morning. Away from all things hectic, thoughts quieted, we are held by a hammock of silence but for rhythmic bird call Woot woot, pause, woot woot, pause. Among the live oaks Palmettos Scrub pines undergrowth thick and untamed fertile mulch fine housing for turtle, snake and mouse, Here Is reality: Tin roof bird tree sky silence. Weedon Island #2 Shelter My sandals slap Along the wood path, damp from last night’s rain. The peaked tin roof that covers the picnic tables must have drummed loudly last night. Snake and tortoise might have woken by the stormy orchestra its kettledrum percussion of thunder cooling into the notes like a timpani. Do the creatures fear the storms as do we sheltered by cash, cars, and houses? But fear knows it is not welcome where there is peace, not cash, car, house. What the Dog Says Words, as a dog I hear many and have learned people use words like leashes like masks like shields and sometimes clubs. I have no words, but all meanings are clear for me. His tension smells like hot tar. Her laugh sounds like a fire alarm. It is because I watch silently that I see like infants and others who still feel the earth as their bodies. Only people grown away from creation ignore senses remain unaware of each other. With words they name things what they are not (words are best for lying). They do not recognize the scent of fear in themselves or another. I know fear smells like car exhaust. I know love smells like sweet sweat. Fear and love. What else is there to know? I need no further schooling. I am aware how before he speaks, his shoulders rise and stiffen her eyes dart for a place to land. I understand, lower my head to the floor and sigh. They sit across from each other at what they call a table. I know it is the ocean dividing them. At last I bark, beseeching them explaining how painful, how lasting, is the wound from the powerful bite of words. A Field in Maine 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 lavender twilight. If you are a fawn, your soft brown ears upright will catch sounds of wind through the pines, like brooms sweeping the sky. If you are a field mouse you will scurry, slipping between a crowd of periwinkle-blue lupines and fawn hooves. If you are a human you will see fawn, pines, wildflowers, mouse know your breath as wind through the pines, and your heart as it beats in fawn and mouse, then and only then your tender work is done. 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. (First appeared in Salt Creek Journal, 2017) Ibis and Dragonfly My wings span my world known by me as the places where dragonflies dive in and out of lily pads and tall grasses, statling turtles from their sunny sleep. The dragonfly and I turn with the earth. We sense each transformation dawn to dusk hot to cold caterpillar to butterfly. Life and death dragonfly and I, know is contraction and expansion, the latent liberty in our winged bodies. The dragonfly, they say, is a totem creature of transformation as am I. Look! how my wide opaque white wing changes to mauve in the dimming light of dusk. 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 in Florida to the Owner of the Mercedes Floating Down the Street in Miami Listenyou there...step back from the edge of the precipice you’ve come uponwith no warningin your mind.Here now, at your winter home in Florida, you stand on the crumbling asphalt watch your Mercedes float by as if it was your yacht.Nearby, as if in a dream, you hear someone saying words like aquifer, global warming, unsustainableBut you don’t understand any language not spoken in banks. You shout your mantraFix it! Fix it!You shiver in the heat under the roof you constructed over the planet. ListenThis is how you got here:You looked at me through blinders and called me a tree. Then you named me:Live Oak.I became a fact you could dismiss or use as it suitedWhen you cut me and my sap ranyou did not recall the stickiness of your own blood. So, I knew that our reunion would have to wait until we had no choice. Like now. Before you were too busy. You dug mines, drained swamps, smothered the soil with cement slashed the forests and fieldsforced water where it did not want to flow. Now you are surprised.You order the seawalls to be rebuilt higher again and again,yet the waves roar at them and they succumb over and over.For comfort, you grab at your pockets for your rosary of coins. On the news you seeCoyotes leap over the walls of your mansion Panthers roam the yardBlack bears rummage through your trash swim at their leisure in your Olympic-sized pools. ou have homes hidden behind steel gates but the animals know these woods and marshes they have mapped the paths in their veinsfeel the contours of the land in their heartssee through the darkand know exactly what needs knowing upon the air. You reach into your vault of millions for your talisman of dollars and find a time bomb lodged in one corner. When this bomb is triggered by the last floods and the final fires even you will become brethren to the lowest insect, the stalk of grass. For the first time, you hear the alarms.Your senses open like a deer listening for the hunter’s next step. Listen, here was your next mistakeYou mowed when it was time to sow. Demolished what it was time to save. You understood how to ravage but not how to prune. Now is the time to listen. Listen to what speaks quietlyin both of us: Live… live… live... The Great Extinction Even if you aren’t a believer your feet have faith in the earth your lungs are believers in the air your thirst trusts in water. We are held, nourished with no effort of our own. What other love gives so freely? This is holiness crucified by those who once again know not what they do. 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. We gather in the dark seeking new ways to set the course over these rising waters. The word we cannot lose is most treasured, we must repeat to each other as warning, as warming together as we gather in the dark together Why are there trees I never walk under but large and melodious thoughts descend upon me? ― Walt Whitman I Am My hair is marsh grass arms tree limbs stretching, muscular in youth lowering, frail in old age. My heartbeat is a frog’s eyes, a bird’s lungs, a fish’s skin, a seal’s in youth rough wood bark in old age. My veins line a leaf blood, a river inside the leaf breath, is a breeze, a gale the soles of my feet, a bear’s. My bones are rocks, elongated minerals, calcifications. They will be the heaviness of my ashes you will feel in your palm as you scatter me to seed new life. GPS Dirge We have forgotten what butterfly and bird, dolphin and sea turtle know. The young bird and butterfly imprint on the sun and stars, oriented to the direction, pulled by an electromagnetic embrace, certain of their journey home. Above us bird and and butterfly understand the messages carried by the wind, comprehend the news of temperature on their wings, and how the scent of of forest, fields and mountains build a map to follow. Below us dolphin feels Sound waves, the magnetic magic in the ocean too brings sight, a fine echolocation its guide. Sea Turtle moves on a electromagnetic wave as well, pulses slow and sure. Oh, human too quickly losing balance, devoid of our senses, toppling the poles north and south. Constellations We send wishes to the stars our hopes dot the black sky, forming paths of light from our longings. What set stars ablaze set us afire as well, born, as we were, they say, in nebula nurseries. Mother/father stars draw upward our gaze, though we have forgotten how we floated on helium to earth, as electrified dust released from the super nova of numberless explosions children of of planets grown full and massive, dying yet deathless energy transformed, gaseous. Hope is illuminated by mystery a fusion that fuels the living universe known and unknown seen and unseen.
When you find yourself standing on the edge of a cliff be still just be be a lighthouse watchful steady as you search for safety and Illuminate the stormy, starless darkness as waves crash to loosen your rocky foundation just be and you will see through fog what could be saved, what could not and how what remains precious and real remains after the wreckage. When you find yourself standing in the middle of the highway be still just be be a boulder your power peaceful settled and solid certain of your place on the land energy contained silent and sustained as traffic roars past relentless, ruthless pounding down on asphalt like thunder headlights striking you like lightning bolts, be still just be so you can let go of what passes, always passes, so you understand what lasts always lasts.
# 39 Dolphins are not Manatees and I Am Not a Princess
Dolphins and dogs, like my Yogi-boy, do not need to be loved for their youth, beauty and good behavior to be happy. This is why I like being around them–their energy may not always be buddha-peaceful, but it always is buddha-present and buddha-accepting.
Yogi stands on the seawall, alert to a shapes and movements. The energy that comes zooming by strong and fast. The dolphin rises from the water, slaps his tail, churns the water in a feeding frenzy. Yogi barks so hard and loud, his body trembles along his leash. I want him to be quiet so I can watch the dolphins fish, but Yogi has his own agenda–response to the dramatic energy with his own dramatic energy in the moment. No expectation of this moment, no demand that it be any other way than it is. His clamor does not mean he wants the dolphin to be a Yogi-dog– like him. He is simply taking part in a great exchange of energy in this moment. The next moment may be a quiet lying-down-in- the-grass moment.
My ego, on the other hand, sometimes wants Yogi to be a different dog–placid and quiet, so he doesn’t disturb the dolphins and the dolphin watchers. Ego has expectations of the dolphins too–they should not be aggressive as they hunt for food; they should please us, look up at us with gentle eyes and eat only seaweed, like manatees. But dolphins are not manatees and, though Yogi’s big snout resembles a manatee’s enough so we call him a Sharpei-manatee mix, he is neither peaceful manatee nor calm Labrador. I also know that Yogi is not a cuddling dog, that he expresses affection on his own independent cat-like terms. I can love Yogi with small love, secretly wishing he was a “better” dog, a lap dog who eagerly curls up with me, or I can love Yogi with Big Love that accepts his own way of loving me.
Yogi and my friends teach me about Big Love, as opposed to small love. I’ve written here before about my definitions of those–Big Love is unconditional and usually experienced with friends or kind strangers, and extended to all. Small love has a longer definition because it has so many requirements: small love is extended (with conditions) to one other and one’s children. Small love has conditions: be a Poodle, even if you are really a Rat Terrier; do what I want you to do and be the dog/dolphin/man/manatee or woman I believe will be perfect for me.
One of the attachments that I hope my Buddhist practice will free me of is the need for the approval. My addiction to this type of “love” has been almost as destructive as any drug. I’ve felt as if I would not be able to live without it, and when I was forced to do so, the withdrawal was torture: I am not enough. I think that many people are fellow addicts, and they are abide, unhappily, in denial. It may be they knew better than I how to get their supply of small love; at least I am loved for my looks, they might think. The dealer of the small love drug demands a payment of physical beauty or financial success; if that is missing, subservience to and care-taking of the dealer will suffice. The dealer will then marry you so your supply is promised.
On one of our morning walks Yogi obsessed about getting a dog-treat from John, my friend Barbara’s partner. Yogi strained at the leash repeatedly and lunged up at John’s pockets for a cookie. Frustrated with his lack of response to my commands I finally said, half-joking, “Don’t be a crazy dog! Be normal!” Barbara, his dog-godmother said, ” But Yogi thinks ‘This is normal’–for me, Yogi.” She loves him with Big Love, and extends the same to me and to John.
Big Love doesn’t care if I sometimes am not wise or happy, or that my hair is graying, or that I’m not always cheerful and helpful, selfless and all-nurturing–a princess. The men I’ve known and dated all cared about those things. A great deal. So did I. We all rejected me when I did not fit the bill. I have been so attached to that small love that it became an addiction and it sure cost a lot—more than I could pay.
Yesterday I got to look into a dolphin’s round, dark curious eyes–he or she let me–while sliding by sideways along the wall looking up at me.
The other day, Nancy called to see if my bronchitis was better.
Barbara brought me soup.
John (a semi-retired doctor) listened to my lungs with his stethoscope and wrote me a prescription for a better anti-biotic than the one that wasn’t working, to save me an extra trip to the doctor.
Barbara told me I should never feel I am alone because she and John consider me family.
My friend Joy wrote to say she loves my blogs and is inspired to join a Mindfulness group because of them.
Last week in the grocery store check out line, I unloaded the groceries for the older woman who sat in wheel chair with her cart full of items; her smile of gratitude was more beautiful than the fake smiles of models and movie stars on the magazine rack next to us.
I can sense and see the energy I encounter each moment without judging it as good or bad. And if sometimes I bark or am barked at, I can let go of that energy and not carry it to the next moment. No need to demand that you be a Poodle and I be a Labrador if we are both acting like crazed Chihuahuas . I can do the same for myself and others. I can swim and float in the ocean of Big Love or sink in the swamp of small love.
With mindfulness, I can tell the ocean from the swamp. Without mindfulness, I sink neck-deep into the muck and wonder why I can neither swim or float .
#39: Yogi is not a Labrador. I am not a Princess. All is well.
Clouds, like memories, are weightless yet gathered grow heavy cover the light. And like the fog of old fears tumble and build one upon the other. Clouds, like steam rising from Thich Nhat Hanh’s teacup float out the window, return as rain quench the thirst of tea leaves. Thay teaches this: clouds appear in teacups, wthe fog e drink moonlight, and can see clearly through fog.
Inspired by the Senses: Coltrane, Whitman, and others
Not Just Another Writing Workshop:
Begins January 9
During these trying times, it can help to be inspired by wisdom and humor. If you enjoy pondering thought-provoking ideas with others and writing about those, this is the workshop for you.
After reading inspiring quotes, on the topic of The Five Senses, we will write short pieces on whatever we are inspired to write. Sharing what we write will be optional, but encouraged. Writing guidance will be based on Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg, a proponent of “free-writing” and “writing practice.” Our final session will include experimentation with fiction, led by a USF faculty member.
For those who do not know me: I am a published writer of poetry, essays, memoir and feature writing, and have been teaching various writing courses at the college level for over twenty years.
When: Sundays beginning January 9th to February 13th, 1:00 PM – 2:30 PM
Where: Via Zoom
Donations $20-$50 sliding scale for five sessions
Hear “you’re nobody til someone loves you” Lament of the rejected child. “I’d rather go blind than have you walk away from me” Lament of the neglected child. “can’t live, if living is without you” Lament of the abandoned child. Love songs sung white-knuckled on our knees. Hear Coltrane’s saxophone refrain “a love supreme” “a love supreme” sung big as the sky notes round as the planet call us to the love that makes the grass grow. Love mirrored in each other’s faces to remind us, joined we can wipe our tears with flowers.
NOT JUST A WRITING WORKSHOP: COMING TO OUR SENSES
Excerpted from, a blessing “For One Who is Exhausted” by John O’Donohue
You have traveled too fast over false ground;
Now your soul has come to take you back.
Take refuge in your senses, open up
To all the small miracles you rushed through.
Become inclined to watch the way of rain
When it falls slow and free.
Imitate the habit of twilight,
Taking time to open the well of color
That fostered the brightness of day.
Draw alongside the silence of stone
Until its calmness can claim you.
During these trying times, it can help to be inspired by wisdom, humor and profound observations. If you enjoy pondering thought-provoking ideas with others, this is the workshop for you. Writing will be one of the ways we will share our thoughts.
This is not a workshop that focuses primarily on writing skills and techniques. We will rely on our innate creative thinking which results in our innate creative writing.It’s true! Once we guide the inner critic and perfectionist to their proper places, creativity has room to appear.
Our writing will be whatever we are inspired to write after considering reading quotes on the topic, this one being The Five Senses. Sharing what we write will be optional, but encouraged. I will also offer writing guidance based on Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg, a proponent of “free-writing” and “writing practice.”
For those who do not know me: I am a published writer of poetry, essays, memoir and feature writing, and have been teaching various courses in writing at the college level for the past twenty years. I’ve always found inspiration for my own writing from writers and thinkers, and so am offering these workshops to inspire your own thinking and writing. Critical and Creative Thinking, which I studied at the University of Massachusetts, has always been one of my interests.
When: Sundays beginning January 9th to February 13th, 1:00 PM – 2:30 PM
Where: Via Zoom
Donations $20-$50 sliding scale for five sessions
Please RSVP: firstname.lastname@example.org