The Only Number I Still Remember

873-8480 you were an awful lot of eights on a rotary phone.  873-8480 I recite you over and over as if you were a chant, a mantra, or a line from the movie Rain Man.

873-8480 I dialed you my whole boyhood to talk to my Grandma Ruth.  I loved talking to my Grandma Ruth.  873-8480 restore my heart, deliver me, heal me, save me.

873-8480 you are the only number I still remember in the new world of forgotten phone numbers.   873-8480 you lived on the truck route corner, the clatter and grind of jake-brakes vibrating the roof of the double-wide trailer home, moving the blades of the Dutch windmill pumphouse half a degree clockwise.  

873-8480 the covered porch where she taught me how to shoot pool, played the old 45’s, had a martini and talked about Paul Newman.  873-8480 the carport with her little yellow Porsche near her garden with the climbing string beans.

873-8480 the carved wood shapes of naked girls set into cupboard doors in the bathroom, made for her by a retired Army man, an ex-boyfriend who lived in an RV, Carl I think his name was.

873-8480 do you remember how she always kept Neapolitan ice cream in the freezer?  It explains her way of being in the world, how she lived: “a little bit of everything, kiddo”.    

873-8480 she called the couch a Davenport.  She read me Dr. Seuss.  She ate liverwurst sandwiches with mustard and sliced raw red onion.  She called Richard Dawson the kissing bandit, wished bankruptcy on Wheel of Fortune contestants when they got greedy, called me on my birthday to tell me she had decided to commit assisted suicide through the Death With Dignity Act.

873-8480 hand me that box of tissue I can’t take it I’m vulnerable my heart might give out.  You’re just a seven-number combination key on a lock-box in my memory bank.

 

 

Stephen Levine’s Definition of Death

“It is the ultimate in natural conservation in which the container is discarded but the contents are recycled.”   – Stephen Levine

Gardening

To be not who I thought I was, but who I became.

Worldly life, keen-edged chisel.  And I, the chiseled,

a garden tended by a master gardener.

How much lovelier now than it was

before the passing of fire and flood, before the pruning.

 

Mother’s Day

C.M. Rivers

With Mother’s Day approaching, I’ve been thinking about my mom even more than usual.  I can’t believe she flew from the world 25 years ago.  To all those who still have their mother: love her, forgive her, tell her how you feel, ask her to tell you something you don’t already know about her life.

This poem first appeared in 2014, in The Wayfarer Journal of Contemplative Literature.  Love you mom.

Knapsack

It’s a shame

I don’t have the patience to garden,

my mother being who she was,

doing what she did with sunflowers

and lemon balm.

And with me being who I am-

a fine cook responsible

for so many glowing embers,

so many bubbling broths.

The memory of her is light enough

to take with me wherever I go,

propelled by the sea breeze,

pushed along by intimate hands,

drawn down muddy roads

slashed with the watercolors

of…

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Many Rhythms

You have known many takers, known many givers, walked many pathways, crossed many rivers.

You have known many husbands, lovers and wives.  You have died many deaths, lived many lives.

You have been a seeker, you have been a finder, you have found the forgotten and remained a reminder.

You have worn many costumes and fanned a few fires.  You’ve tidied the mess and untangled the wires.

You have been the wild, been the idle, swung up in the saddle and borne the bridle.

You are the gardener as well as the flower.  You are eternity and also the hour.

You have written the song, invented the singer.  You are a happiness giver, sadness bringer.

You have climbed the wall, slept on the floor.  All this you have done, and more.

All these things, I too may be.  All these things, I too might see,

though it’s true we come from different places, though we look through eyes on different faces.

Many roads, one destination.  Many rhythms, one vibration.

 

Path of Least Resistance

Water takes the path of least resistance.  A tree, a leaf, a human, all possess a central artery to supply fluid to channels, veins.

We are cells, tissues, bone, blood – but mostly water.  This world is our body and our body the world.  The sky and sea are our minds.  Clouds and waves, our thoughts.

A glimmer of clarity, a fresh clean insight, a burning brightness leaves me feeling as if I looked at the sun.  And by “me”, I mean “you”, I mean all of us.  I mean the place of stillness, the one we keep inside, a source of renewable energy waiting to be accessed, directed.

The world will simply go on being itself in all its change and sameness, and we must eventually go on, away from human reflection, through the gate that only opens from the inside, moving out of the field of linear time into the river of eternity, along the path of least resistance. 

Spiritual beings, living in physical bodies, in a material world.

Whirlwind: How The Heart Is Wiser Than The Mind

There are times when our thoughts sweep us away.  We get caught up in the whirlwind of the mind’s magnetic pull, and something needs to happen to reel us back to the moment we’re actually in and what is happening there.  It could be something small: we have forgotten the bread in the oven, or we’re stopped at a traffic light, being honked at because it has turned from red to green.  It could be something heavy that stops us in our tracks: someone has passed away unexpectedly, or our spouse wants a divorce.

Miniscule or massive, either way we are being brought back, slapped, woken up, snapped out of auto-pilot mode, our train of endless thought barreling down the tracks with no conductor at the wheel.  When we take up a practice that requires discipline and presence such as yoga, meditation, or simply deep-breathing, we start to cultivate our awareness.  Cultivating our awareness leads to the realization of just how much power our thoughts and emotions have over us.

We slowly begin to be less eager to always be doing something, to fill up every waking moment with whatever meets the approval of our mind and its current content.  We start to explore the space in our mind instead of the content of our mind, and in doing this we begin to find peace.  Stepping out of the arena of incessant thought and obsessive emotion is like stepping out of a whirlwind.  Part of us is always still in it, but we can learn to be less swept away by it.

This is how the heart is wiser than the mind.  When we say “I realized I had stopped listening to myself”, we are usually referring to our hearts, not our heads.  When we let the content of our minds become less important, we give ourselves the gift of working towards peace.  Take the time, make the time, take stock of what’s in our hearts, slow down, pause, consider, notice.  Then, too, we can start to be of greater service to others because we are truly taking care of ourselves first.  Without nourishing our own hearts and spirits first, our potential to spread joy and healing to others will likely be limited, interrupted.

What we decide we “know” becomes just another set of shackles within the cage of the ego, if we hold the knowledge rigidly.  The mind would have us follow it, mile after mile, down its many roads: desire, fear, justification, assumption, grudge, addiction.  It wants desperately to hold on, to feel like it knows something, to be right about things, to endlessly nurse its wounds, to rave about all the sources of its pain and hurt.

If we hold the knowledge loosely, though, we can simultaneously benefit from it and release it.  We can make our minds flexible, make our beliefs pliable, liberate ourselves from all the things we were once so certain about, the stuff we believed to comprise the sum total of our life’s potential, our very identity.  We can open doors, remove blockages, step out of the whirlwind and return to our awareness: simple, calm, uncluttered, lucid with breathtaking clarity.

And the heart knows that to be at peace, it must ignore the ravings of the mind.  When we learn to listen better to our heart, our heart learns to stop listening to the mind.  We lead with our heart and we see that the rest just sort of takes care of itself.  The movie of our life begins to change in tonality and theme, because once we accept ourselves for who we are, we allow our projector to change.  And that’s a beautiful thing.