Handing the Gift


Today’s prompt is to write a love/anti-love poem. I ended the day today sort of exhausted, partly because of the incredible resistance I am getting from some students in my Creative Writing class.

I see it in your eyes when you ask the question
(the loathing, the defiant refusal to accept)
“Why do we have to study poetry?”
And in this moment I do not know how,
after all these years of this work,
to hand you this gift
that I love so deeply,
which you so staunchly refuse.

It’s about your own power,
I want to tell you,
about your power to say
exactly what you want to say,
to take that roiling mass of uncertainty
that slides out from behind the tough mask
you put on for me,
to take all that and give it words,
to sort it, to speak your truth,
to know the beauty and the strength
of your own words, to find your way
into yourself.

Now. Close your eyes and open your hands.


Gratitude List:
1. My contemplative friend Handsome Joe, how he cocks his beak to look at me as I pass. Paddling in his pool in the creek, or strolling through the green grasses of his estate.
2. The red sprouts of peonies lifting their heads by the shop.
3. The first fern fiddleheads unfurling.
4. They say that every cloud has a silver lining, but it’s their azure and indigo underbellies that capture me.
5. The challenges and delights of belonging to a community.

May we walk in Beauty!

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Case Clothed

The prompt for today was to write a “Case ______” poem. I immediately thought of Case Closed, but that felt really cliched, almost what the prompt was fishing for. Then Jon made some comment on my outfit for the day, something about my sartorial responsibility, and suddenly I was off and running. My closet isn’t quite as dire as this makes it sound, perhaps, but. . .well. . .perhaps it is.

Case Clothed

It’s a clear case of sartorial irresponsibility,
a cache of clothes exploded to infinity.
My closet’s filled with clothes that don’t suit me.
Textures and colors that please the eye,
but little that fits my current sensibility,
which is perhaps my own inability
to see the consequences of my own materiality,
to truly understand the concept of simplicity.
It’s time to chase my self-indulgence with austerity,
And close the case on this insanity.


Gratitude List:
1. Soft fur, soft feathers, soft blankets
2. Wildness
3. Wind
4. Poetry
5. Perspective

May we walk in Beauty!

Learning to Read the Language of the World

Gratitude List:
1. Keeping up with the work. I’m starting out better this semester. Better focus. Better organization.
2. The color orange. Saffron. Tangerine. Burnt Umber.
3. Student poetry. Really. I don’t know that I was trying particularly hard to impart the craft of the poem this semester, but some of these poems in the unit project are really quite amazing.
4. Reflection and reflection
5. Re-membering

May we walk in Beauty!


This is something I wrote in 2015, when Joss was 5 years old:

Today when we had walked to the top of the hill, we stopped to examine that big patch of ice that formed when water pooled just above the eastern corner of the fields beside the little grassy airstrip at the top of the ridge. It formed a nice ice-puddle which Joss immediately dubbed his very own skating rink. I got to increase the step-count on my pedometer by walking around and around and around the puddle, holding on to his hand as he skidded and slipped over the icy surface. It was a classic Christopher Robin moment, a small boy happily involved in the imaginative possibilities of the moment.

At one point, he lay down on the ice, and said, “Oh! It’s beautiful! There’s writing here!”

The ice had crystallized in a hieroglyphic pattern across the surface.

“Can you read it?” I asked him.

“No. It’s in cursive.”

But there’s not a shred of doubt in your mind, Small One, that the writing is there to be read, if only one can crack that cursive code. I know the feeling. I had experienced it myself only moments before, watching a flock of Canada geese honking their way toward the River in front of a Michelangelo sunset sky, the shifting patterns of Vs undulating across the clouds. I had the same feeling as we were watching the robins moving through the fields, the dark brown of their backs seeming to make the very earth bubble and boil like a live thing. I get that feeling when I see bird tracks in the snow like cuneiform writing on the most transitory of tablets. And it’s the same feeling I get when I see a branch or twig that has been burrowed by small insects who leave behind their trails in the wood, like a complex system of writing just waiting for me to figure it out.

Perhaps it’s just that age-old human trick of trying to make sense and meaning out of the seemingly random patterns of a chaotic natural world. Or perhaps it’s an intrinsic awareness that we all have, that even if the random patterns about us do not make alphabetical sense, there’s an underlying order or patterning to everything around us, a purposefulness.

Maybe the point is not so much the attempt to decipher the coded purpose in the pattern, but to notice it and wonder at it where and when we see it, to lie down right there on the ice and say, “Oh, it’s beautiful! There’s writing here!”

Women Who Are Tied to the Moon (1 of 2)


I usually write a poem a day in November. Today, during a Study Hall when I couldn’t concentrate on grading, I pulled up a couple Rilke poems about autumn and tried my hand at translation. I had forgotten how extremely satisfying it is to translate poems from German. This gives me three poems to post today, so in the interest of blog brevity, I will create a second post tonight in order to post the poems.

“It doesn’t matter who you are or what you look like, so long as somebody loves you.” –Roald Dahl, The Witches
*
“For women who are tied to the moon, love alone is not enough. We insist each day wrap its’ knuckles through our heart strings and pull. The lows, the joy, the poetry. We dance at the edge of a cliff. You have fallen off. So it goes. You will climb up again.” –Anais Nin
*
“The creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn.”
–Ralph Waldo Emerson
*
“On such a day each road is planned
To lead to some enchanted land;
Each turning meets expectancy.
The signs I read on every hand.
I know by autumn’s wizardry
On such a day the world can be
Only a great glad dream for me–
Only a great glad dream for me!”
–Eleanor Myers Jewett, “An Autumn Day”
*
“Change is not merely necessary to life, it is life.”
–Alvin Toffler
*
“In the morning I went out to pick dandelions and was drawn to the Echinacea patch where I found a honeybee clinging to one of the pink flowers. She seemed in distress, confused and weak. She kept falling off the flower and then catching herself in midair and flying dizzily back. She kept trying to get back to work, to collect her pollen and nectar to take home to the hive to make honey but she was getting weaker and weaker and then she fell into my hand. I knew she would never make it back to her hive. For the next half hour she rested in my palm, her life slowly ebbing away as a thunderstorm started to brew. I sat on the earth waiting for death with her. The lightening flashed over the mountains, a family of turkeys slowly walked the ridge, a wild dog keyed into what was happening circled past us. The trees appeared startlingly vivid and conscious as the wind blew up and the thunder cracked and then her death was finished. She was gone forever. But in her going she taught me to take every moment as my last flower, do what I could and make something sweet of it.” –Layne Redmond
*
Let me seek, then, the gift of silence, and poverty, and solitude, where everything I touch is turned into prayer: where the sky is my prayer, the birds are my prayer, the wind in the trees is my prayer, for God is all in all.
–Thomas Merton
*
“Beware; for I am fearless, and therefore powerful.”
–Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, author of Frankenstein
*
“Learn to tell the story of the red leaves against water.
Read the alphabet of walnut branches newly bared for winter.
Become literate in the language of cricket and of wren,
of the footsteps of skunk and the changeability of weather.

Interpret the text of the wind in the hollow.
Scan the documents of cloud and constellation.
Enter the tale of rose hip and nettle and sassafras.
Study Wisdom and she will find you.”
–Beth Weaver-Kreider
*
Audre Lorde
“For women, then, poetry is not a luxury. It is a vital necessity of our existence. It forms the quality of the light within which we predicate our hopes and dreams toward survival and change, first made into language, then into idea, then into more tangible action.

Poetry is the way we help give name to the nameless so it can be thought. The farthest external horizons of our hopes and fears are cobbled by our poems, carved from the rock experiences of our daily lives.

As they become known and accepted to ourselves, our feelings, and the honest exploration of them, become sanctuaries and fortresses and spawning grounds for the most radical and daring of ideas, the house of difference so necessary to change and the conceptualization of any meaningful action. Right now, I could name at least ten ideas I would have once found intolerable or incomprehensible and frightening, except as they came after dreams and poems. This is not idle fantasy, but the true meaning of “it feels right to me.” We can train ourselves to respect our feelings, and to discipline (transpose) them into a language that matches those feelings so they can be shared. And where that language does not yet exist, it is our poetry which helps to fashion it. Poetry is not only dream or vision, it is the skeleton architecture of our lives.”
*
November
by Clyde Watson

November comes
And November goes,
With the last red berries
And the first white snows.

With night coming early,
And dawn coming late,
And ice in the bucket
And frost by the gate.

The fires burn
And the kettles sing,
And earth sinks to rest
Until next spring.
*
“Wake at dawn with a winged heart and give thanks for another day of loving.” –Khalil Gibran


Gratitude List:
1. Poetry
2. Poets
3. How dreams seep into waking
4. How waking seeps into dreams
5. Form and freedom

May we walk in Beauty!

Blessed Be Your Longing

“Why are you so determined to keep your wild silently inside you? Let it breathe. Give it a voice. Let it roll out of you on the wide open waves. Set it free”
―Jeanette LeBlanc
*
“Lots of people talk to animals…Not very many listen though…that’s the problem.” ―Benjamin Hoff, The Tao of Pooh
*
“When war is our only industry, the only crop is blood.” ―Will Giles
*
Plant
So that your own heart
Will grow.

Love
So God will think,
“Ahhhhh,
I got kin in that body!
I should start inviting that soul over
For coffee and
Rolls.”

Sing
Because this is a food
Our starving world
Needs.

Laugh
Because that is the purest
Sound.
—Hafiz
*
“My journey has taught me that I must learn religion as the mystics learned it, through the inward quest that Jungian psychology has helped me with so much. Banding together in institutions, whether religious, academic or professional, helps some feel secure and able to look down on the unenlightened. But I’ve clearly learned that the inward quest must become one’s own before it’s any good at all.”
—Bud Harris, Ph.D.
*
“In many shamanic societies, if you came to a medicine person complaining of being disheartened, dispirited, or depressed, they would ask one of four questions: “When did you stop dancing? When did you stop singing? When did you stop being enchanted by stories? When did you stop being comforted by the sweet territory of silence?” —Gabrielle Roth
*
“Blessed be your longing. Your endless ache. Your sharp crystal shatter. Your sea glass heart.” ―Jeannette LeBlanc


Gratitude List:
1. Monarchs drifting down the wind.
2. Murmurations. On the way home today, I saw, suddenly, in the windy sky ahead of me, two great black shapes like lungs in the air. It was a flock of starlings on a group maneuver. A second later, they banked and separated, and flickered out of apparent existence. When I drew underneath them, I could see a long and ragged flock flying north to south across the road. Only in their communal aerial acrobatics were they visible from a distance.
3. Driving beneath golden walnut leaves twirling earthward.
4. Singing together, and speaking poetry, and telling stories.
5. All the thousand names for God.

May we walk in Beauty!

To Have Enough

“The story of any one of us is in some measure the story of us all.” –Frederick Buechner
*
“Those who are willing to break a conspiracy of silence are guaranteed to meet with the disapproval of others. Having a dissenting voice naturally exiles you from the group, but this rejection is a validation of the bravery having such a standpoint requires. It’s also a marvelous training in originality and acts as an agent of attrition. It teaches you who and what is in alignment with your integrity, strengthening those affinities within and without. It’s important during such times of change to practice self-love, comforting the brave & terrified rebel within who doesn’t want to be alone and grieves those losses none the less.” –Dreamwork with Toko-pa
*
“To make a living is not to make a killing. It’s to have enough.” –Wendell Berry
*
“None of us are getting out of here alive, so please stop treating yourself like an afterthought. Eat the delicious food. Walk in the sunshine. Jump in the ocean. Say the truth you’re carrying in your heart like hidden treasure. Be silly. Be kind. Be weird. There’s no time for anything else.” –Nanea Hoffman
*
“God is love, without asterisks.”  –Father Stratis
*
“Poetry is a life-cherishing force, for poems are not words, after all, but fires for the coal, ropes let down to the lost, something as necessary as bread for the hungry.” –Mary Oliver
*
Written on seeing a photo of that circle bridge in Germany: “Always she went through her days with a feeling of being a half, an arc. The bridge of her spirit went out from herself to the world, most certainly, yet somehow all seemed partial, unfinished. There came a bright golden October morning when she looked outward to see the way her own story was reflected everywhere. In the flight of wren from stalk of goldenrod to quivering branch of sycamore. In the calling back and forth of the owls in the bamboo wood. In the branching willow withes reaching to touch the surface of the pond. And suddenly the circle was complete.” –Beth Weaver-Kreider
*
“Poetry begins as a lump in the throat . . . a homesickness, a lovesickness.” –Robert Frost
*
“Poetry seduces you and entices you into being a searcher for the Mystery yourself. It creates the heart leap, the gasp of breath, inspiring you to go further and deeper; you want to fill in the blanks for yourself.” –Richard Rohr
*
“To see a world in a grain of sand, and heaven in a wild flower.”
–William Blake


Gratitude List:
1. Golden mornings
2. How the light shines through
3. October
4. The table is Wide
5. Open hearts and arms

May we walk in Beauty!

Poetry is the Lifeblood of Rebellion

“The most radical thing any of us can do at this time is to be fully present to what is happening in the world.” -Joanna Macy
*
“All I’m saying is,
Refuse to act like nothing is happening.” —Natasha Alvarez
*
“If you hear the dogs, keep going. If you see the torches in the woods, keep going. If there’s shouting after you, keep going. Don’t ever stop. Keep going. If you want a taste of freedom, keep going.” –Harriet Tubman
*
“Honesty is grounded in humility and indeed in humiliation, and in admitting exactly where we are powerless. Honesty is not found in revealing the truth, but in understanding how deeply afraid of it we are.” –David Whyte
*
“Poetry is the lifeblood of rebellion, revolution, and the raising of consciousness.” –Alice Walker
*
“Autumn is a second spring, when every leaf is a flower.” –Albert Camus
*
RESPONSIBILITY
by Grace Paley
It is the responsibility of society to let the poet be a poet
It is the responsibility of the poet to be a woman
It is the responsibility of the poet to stand on street corners
giving out poems and beautifully written leaflets
also leaflets they can hardly bear to look at
because of the screaming rhetoric
It is the responsibility of the poet to be lazy
to hang out and
prophesy
It is the responsibility of the poet to not pay war taxes
It is the responsibility of the poet to go in and out of ivory
towers and two-room apartments on Avenue C
and buckwheat fields and army camps
It is the responsibility of the male poet to be a woman
It is the responsibility of the female poet to be a woman
It is the poet’s responsibility to speak truth to power as the
Quakers say
It is the poet’s responsibility to learn the truth from the
powerless
It is the responsibility of the poet to say many times: there is no
freedom without justice and this means economic
justice and love justice
It is the responsibility of the poet to sing this in all the original
and traditional tunes of singing and telling poems
It is the responsibility of the poet to listen to gossip and pass it
on in the way storytellers decant the story of life
There is no freedom without fear and bravery
there is no
freedom unless
earth and air and water continue and children
also continue
It is the responsibility of the poet to be a woman
to keep an eye on
this world and cry out like Cassandra, but be
listened to this time


Gratitude List:
1. Dinner with the dormies
2. My colleagues
3. Being listened to, being heard
4. This little air conditioner in the window
5. The way mist gathers in the hollow

May we walk in Beauty!

Be Softer With You

“Be softer with you.
You are a breathing thing.
A memory to someone.
A home to a life.”  ―Nayyirah Waheed
*
Late Fragment

And did you get what
you wanted from this life, even so?
I did.
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself
beloved on the earth.  ―Raymond Carver
*
Powerful words from Rob Brezsny:
“The real secret of magic is that the world is made of words,” said Terence McKenna in “Alien Dreamtime,” “and that if you know the words that the world is made of, you can make of it whatever you wish.”

Here’s my version of that hypothesis: What world you end up living in depends at least in part on your use of language.

Do you want to move and breathe amidst infertile chaos where nothing makes sense and no one really loves anyone? Then speak with unconscious carelessness, expressing yourself lazily. Constantly materialize and entertain angry thoughts in the privacy of your own imagination, beaming silent curses out into eternity.

Or would you prefer to live in a realm that’s rich with fluid epiphanies and intriguing coincidences and mysterious harmonies? Then be discerning and inventive in how you speak, primed to name the unexpected codes that are always being born right in front of your eyes. Turn your imagination into an ebullient laboratory where the somethings you create out of nothings are tinctured with the secret light you see in your dreams of invisible fire.
*
“The power of love is stronger than the power to destroy.”  ―Vandana Shiva
*
“And then–
and then your eyes will open
as if waking from a dream
or waking into a dream
and the dew-drenched grasses
will sparkle before you
like gold in the morning
and you will know.

You will know what it is
you have come for.” ―Beth Weaver-Kreider
*
“Writing is one of the most ancient forms of prayer. To write is to believe communication is possible, that other people are good, that you can awaken their generosity and their desire to do better.”  ―Fatema Mernissi
*
“We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.” ―Robin Williams as Mr. John Keating in Dead Poets Society
*
“Well, I don’t only think that the biosphere is in trouble, I know it is. I just have to look around in the environment, in which I live.
In my own part of the part of the world, I keep telling people, let us not cut trees irresponsibly. Let us not destroy especially the forested mountains. Because if you destroy the forests on these mountains, the rivers will stop flowing and the rains will become irregular and the crops will fail and you will die of hunger and starvation. Now the problem is, people don’t make those linkages.”
—Wangari Maathai
*
“You’re only given a little spark of madness. You mustn’t lose it.”
—Robin Williams


Gratitude List:
1. Holy Ground: The Earth we walk on, our callings, our destinies
2. Sacred Flame: The burning bush, the kindling of compassion, energy, the spark of life
3. Hallowed Water: Cleansing, purifying, nurturing life (May the waters all run free!)
4. Sublime Air: The breath of life, inspiration, drawing us out, pushing us onward
5. The Indwelling spirit: Vivifying, transforming

May we walk in Beauty!