Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Moths - March 31, 2010

There's a kind of white moth, I don't know

what kind, that glimmers

by mid-May

in the forest...

If you notice anything,

it leads you to notice

more and more...

I was always running around, looking

at this and that.

If I stopped

the pain

was unbearable.

If I stopped and thought, maybe

the world

can't be saved,

the pain was unbearable.

Finally, I had noticed enough.

All around me in the forest

the white moths floated.

How long do they live, fluttering

in and out of the shadows?

You aren't much, I said

one day to my reflection

in a green pond,

and grinned.

The wings of the moths catch the sunlight.

and burn

so brightly...

Mary is watching the moths, and who is noticing us? Who looks at us as so short lived, burning so brightly, and nurtured in the sweet abundance of the world out of which we metamorphosed? I could answer this that we humans notice one another, but is there not a greater Watcher? Life itself? And of course I ask, are we not life itself? The mirror held up to the sun?

If I don't notice my reflection in the pond, the pain can be unanswerable for I want to run around saving everything. When I slow down, and over the long years this has come somewhat naturally, I notice more and more that there perhaps isn't anything to save, only to notice. No action needed other than a grin, a smile.

In the movie, The Thin Red Line, the hero sees a baby parrot bombed out of a tree and says:

"Why is it that one man looks at a dying bird and sees unanswerable pain. Another man looks at the same birds and feels the glory, feels a smile shining through."

Where do you see your reflection in the world around you and what is your response to seeing yourself in the world? What do you notice today that you might not have noticed years before?

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Acid - March 30, 2010

In Jakarta,

among the venders

of flowers and soft drinks,

I saw a child

with a hideous mouth,


and I knew the wound was made

for a way to stay alive...

once in a while you can creep out of you own life

and become someone else...

I will never see him

again, I suppose.

but what of this rag,

this shadow

flung like a boy's body

into the walls

of my mind, bleeding

their sour taste-

insult and anger,

the great movers?

I wonder how insult and anger have moved Mary. She comes to no resolution of what to do with the sour taste of reality, and instead asks us. How are we moved by the poverty of this world, of our own heart? Where do we fling wounds upon ourselves and others so that we can stay alive in the only way we know how? Is there another way, or did we evolve so that senseless tragedy would grow the web of cultures and genes beyond mere existence? I seem to be so full of questions this morning, matching the mood of Mary and her poem. Can love and joy not also be great movers?

What motivates you through our days? Is it more anger than joy? Both?

Landscape - March 29, 2010

Isn't it plain the sheets of moss, except that

they have no tongues, could lecture

all day if they wanted about

spiritual patience? Isn't it clear

the black oaks along the path are standing

as though they were the most fragile of flowers?

...if the doors of my heart

ever close, I am as good as dead.

Every morning, so far, I'm alive. And now

the crows break off from the rest of the darkness

and burst up into the sky-as though

all night they had thought of what they would like

their lives to be, and imagined

their strong, thick wings.

The sun is not yet up. There is time still in the darkness to imagine who I already am: frail, small, patient, strong, tall. My heart opens to what I am and so this too opens the way for what I would like my life to be. This morning, so far, I'm alive, touching the earth as moss and reaching for the sky as oak and crow. May I every time I see the laurel oak strung with Spanish Moss and alive with black ruckus, imagine who I am, even if it is the boy in Jakarta that Mary tells us about tomorrow.

Who do you imagine yourself to be? Who are you already?

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Two Kinds of Deliverance – March 28, 2010

Last night the geese came back. Every year the geese, returning,

Do this, I don’t

Know how.

The curtains opened and there was

An old man in a headdress of feathers,

Leather leggings and a vest made

From the kin of some animal. He danced

In a kind of surly rapture…

I don’t know

Lots of things but I know this: next year

When spring

Flows over the starting point I’ll think I’m going to

Drown in the shimmering miles of it and then

One or two birds will fly me over

The threshold.

As for the pain of others, of course it tried to be

Abstract, but then

There flares up out of a vanished wilderness, like fire,

Still blistering: the wrinkled face

Of an old Chippewa

Smiling, hating us,

Dancing for his life.

Two kinds of salvation – birds returning to spring and the surly dance in the pain of a vanished wilderness. Where is the deliverance in this? Perhaps that it is the presence of life, the story that must be told, that cannot be stopped from being sung, told, and danced. It is your/my story of pain and it is the flight overhead of the sun's arc towards darkness. Would you tell me your despair and I will tell you mine? Then perhaps the false smile will slip away, as will the hate.

Where in your life do you tell the story of our vanished wilderness and peoples?

Sunrise – March 27, 2010

You can

Die for it –

An idea,

Or the world. People

Have done so, brilliantly,


Their small bodies be bound

To the stake,


An unforgettable

Fury of light…

I thought

How the sun


For everyone just

So joyfully

As it rises

Under the lashes

Of my own eyes, and I thought

I am so many!

What is my name?

What is the name

Of the deep breath I would take

Over and over

For all of us? Call it

Whatever you want, it is

Happiness, it is another one

Of the ways to enter fire.

By being present to this moment, this breath, we give ourselves over to a better thing. We can die for the sake of an idea, be martyrs for a cause, but what if there is no cause? Or perhaps only the sun. Or only all of us together on this blue boat home? William Blake writes:

They who bind to themselves a joy

Do the winged life destroy

But they who kiss the joy as it flies

Live in eternity’s sunrise.

With this next moment, your next breath, will you give yourself over to our shared cause, in this pause, we kiss the joy together.

Friday, March 26, 2010

The Turtle - March 26, 2010

breaks from the blue-black

skin of the water...

to dig with her ungainly feet

a nest...

and you think

of her patience, her fortitude,

her determination to complete

what she was born to do-

and then you realize a greater thing-

she doesn't consider

what she was born to do.

She's only filled

with an old blind wish.

It isn't even hers but came to her

in the rain or the soft wind,

which is a gate through which her life keeps walking.

she can't see

herself apart from the rest of the world

or the world from what she must do

every spring.

Crawling up the high hill,

luminous under the sand that has packed against her skin.

she doesn't dream

she knows

she is a part of the pond she lives in,

the tall trees are her children,

the birds that swim above her

are tied to her by an unbreakable string.

This is the first poem where clearly the title is also part of the poem as it starts off the first stanza. So too we humans are not separate from pond, tree, and bird, but are part of the poem of life, and always part of the action. It is only our lovely brain that is lured into the false thinking of disconnection and breakable bonds. Yet even this false thinking is life coming to us through our lost hominid lines. Our mulling and mucking around in the mud of our daily lives is the turtle crawling through the mud to lay her eggs. Each thought of ours goes into the earth , commanded to give birth to whatever comes next. The trees are no less our siblings because we have a brain. Why should we be fearful and sing like the Scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz, "If I only didn't have a brain." Instead our brain is always telling us, "there's no place like home."

Thursday, March 25, 2010

One or Two Things - March 25, 2010

Don't bother me.

I've just

been born.

The butterfly's loping flight

carries it through the country of the leaves...

for long delicious moments it is perfect

lazy, riding motionless in the breeze on the soft stalk

of some ordinary flower.

The god of dirt

came up to me many times and said

so many wise and delectable things, I lay

on the grass listening

to his dog voice,

crow voice,

frog voice: now,

he said, and now.

and never once mentioned forever,

which has nevertheless always been,

like a sharp iron hoof,

at the center of my mind.

One or two things are all you need

to travel over the blue pond...

some deep

memory of pleasure, some cutting

knowledge of pain.

But to lift the hoof!

For that you need an idea.

For years and years I struggled

just to love my life. And then

the butterfly

rose, weightless, in the wind.

"don't love your life

too much," it said,

and vanished into the world.

Mary has thrown a koan here. We begin the poem in perfectly normal ways. "Live now in the moment, and let go of the future." "Life is pleasure and pain, nothing more accompanies you on your journey of life." But just when you expect her to leave you with the value of lived experience she says it's an "idea" that will remove the weight of death, and oh yes, by the way, don't love too much. I'm seeing contradictions here - does god live in the dirt or in the flutter of wings? Do we love the flowers, or not? Do we experience or do we think?

In the style of qal wahomer, an ancient Jewish Rabbi's teaching device that Jesus used in his parables, the reader is left confused with the contradictions. In the puzzling out and the tension, there remains only one thing left un opposed with binary comparisons. Usually this is "god" or the "kingdom" or "love." What is it here? Is she speaking of one, or two things? ? I have no idea. And the stampede flutters across my heart.

What is your idea under your truth? And what is your truth under your ideas?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Stanley Kunitz - March 24, 2010

I used to imagine him

coming from the house, like Merlin

strolling with important gestures

through the garden

where everything grow so thickly

where birds sing, little snakes lie

on the boughs, thinking of nothing

but their own good lives...

But now I know more

about the great wheel of growth,

and decay, and rebirth,

and know my vision for a falsehood...

I see him on his knees...

knowing that the hour of fulfillment

is buried in years of patience-

yet willing to labor like that

on the mortal wheel.

On, what good it does the heart

to know it isn't magic!

Like the human child I am

I rush to imitate...

I think of him there

raking and trimming, stirring up

those sheets of fire

between the smothering weights of earth,

the wild and shapeless air.

The mortal wheel gives us meaning that magic would not. If someone could wave a wand and we could be done with death, would we still make gardens? I don' t know about you, but I imagine if we had evolved or will evolve where death and decay will be a rarity, we'll find a way to make meaning. We always do. Perhaps this is where the magic lies, that somehow we co-orginated with other life and that over the long arc of the years, of a species, something wondrous occurs. Thinking of how little I know about this earth as a garden, I wonder who is really the master gardener? Could it not be the little pansy that brings the human to task?

What is your work over the long years? What seems like daily work to you, but to others seems like magic?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A Visitor - March 23, 2010

My father, for example,

who was young once

and blue-eyed,


on the darkest of nights

to the porch and knocks

wildly at the door...

Finally there came the night

when I rose out of my sheets

and stumbled down he hall.

The door fell open

and I know I was saved

and could bear him...

And I greeted him and asked him

into the house,

and lit the lamp,

and looked into his blank eyes

in which at last

I saw what a child must love,

I saw what love might have done

had we loved in time.

A young Mary wakes in the night and goes to stare at her father, perhaps passed out on the sofa. If she feels safe enough or if grace visits her night, she might love her father and know in the center of her being that her love is enough, even if his isn't. In her loving she is saved, and in her saving, perhaps there will come a night when she can open to her fears, to her wounds, to her disappointment, and bear the world upon her worn shoulders, love reborn.

Just yesterday morning at 5:30 a.m. a young man that we took in from Honduras came knocking at our door. He had lived with us for two years, called us ma and pa, and we had managed to bear one another until we asked him to move out due to his issues with drugs and breaking laws and home covenants. I had not seen him for a year, and there he was. We invited him in, poured him a cup of coffee, and was reminded how easy he was to love, even if his actions could not be born. He reminded how in the midst of my disappointment and hurt, how easy it is to love.

Who in your past might come knocking at your door and how will you greet the reminder of what might have happened if love could have found a way?

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Journey - March 22, 2010

The Journey - March 22, 2010

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice—
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
"Mend my life!"
each voice cried.
But you didn't stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do—
determined to save
the only life you could save.

This seems to be Mary's crescendo of my favorite poems. Wild Geese and The Journey are two I use a lot. Then in between was that lovely surprise of Starfish. I hear my own heart in her words - that love will save me. And in saving me, I save the starfish, the geese, the world. Also, the world in being beautiful, love worthy, and tragic, saves me. I have great company in the struggles of life, for their struggle is my own. In solidarity we journey ever home.

How do you save yourself? Are saved?