Another Day’s Work

We get it, everything dances.

Everything is vast, simple, unfathomable, a transcendent oneness emerging from all pairs of opposites, glimpsed at times through the burning blaze of the spectacle of the human spirit in all of its messy tortured glory.

We get it.  The dust and the stars are remembered, forgotten.  You’ve entered the noun of your choice, ruminated upon it with adjectives, and yes, it is illuminating, clever, insightful, heart-wrenching, life-vivifying.  True for someone, somewhere, for us all.

We can relate to that bit about surgery, about something broken, something mended.  And that middle stanza, especially, helps fulfill our longing to feel connected even as we maintain our illusion of separation.

We’re with you.  We are so, so with you.

Tell us again how everything cycles, ripples, dreams of itself, contains something unexpected, possesses a sudden softness, an impartial hardness.  Tell us again about the immigrants, the patients, lovers, neighbors.  Tell us about the rising smoke, windowpanes, birds, seasons, positioning of planets, democracy.

What is sacred, broken, metamorphosed, alchemized?  Who will remember your great grandfather, grandmother, and the way they were?  What enters us, consumes us, abandons us, eludes us?

We trust that you will give us the answers to all this, and more, and that it will not be tiresome.

We’re prepared to embrace whatever you put before us, as long as it seems relatively extraordinary.  We want to hear about the rain’s toothache, the collective consciousness of house keys.  We want political shouts, spiritual hymns, soulful rants about things that mustn’t be forgotten.

We long to know better the depths of ourselves as audience to your light-shedding, enthralled in the predictability of our own fascination with what is – to you – just another day’s work.

 

 

Changing Stones to Feathers

Sometimes it’s easy to forget that before you can get down to the nitty-gritty business of saving the world, you must tackle yourself, tend to yourself, save yourself, overcome yourself – so you can get out of your own way and just be yourself.  Not the you anyone else wants or needs you to be.  Just the true you – simple, clear, free.

Sometimes you travel back in time, inside, and you search for something lost, and you get caught there.  Part of you wants to stay there, to escape having to confront your fears in the present.

Whatever you hold, carry, store: roll in it, study it, get closer to it, embrace it, absorb it, accept it, celebrate it.  And finally, love it.  If you love it instead of trying to reject it, it’s power over you will be diminished, broken like a spell, and you won’t have to carry it in the same way after that.  The stone will become a feather.

Watch it evaporate, dissipate.  Give it all away to everyone, free.  Soften your grip on the balloon string, open your hand, open your heart.  Watch it float away, up into the sky, and fade into the ether.

Zen

Daylight passes over the garden.

Wild green things grow thick

‘round the entranceway.

Spotted fawns have come by,

their mother not far behind.

Cat sits and watches.

 

 

Starlight Stay

Here’s a link to my poem Starlight Stay, currently appearing in The Adirondack Review.

I wrote this in the middle of the night, up late writing, reading, listening to music, feeling vividly awake and energized.  It’s pretty out of character for me to stay up into the wee hours, though, and I remember longing for the magic dust of sleep, and dreams.

 


Horizon

music brings you out of bed like a puppeteer retrieving her showpiece from its box / old stories and new stories are all the same but you still love them especially when dawn is foggy and the dog complains that you are a don quixote of sorts / your lovers complain you are a tracker of your own self that you spend too much time doing this tracking but you pay it no mind because you know it’s what drew them to you in the first place / your life appears to be informed by world myths not the daily news / if people paid more attention to the myths you think the contents of the daily news might begin to change / pilgrim of roads wanderer of open distances your heart is magnetic and you’re pretty certain the Horizon is the best thing you’ve ever seen the most beautiful thing the biggest thing the place where you’re bound to arrive / feathers crowd your pirate-smile mouth your birthmarks ripple and glow / you come from a long line of shapeshifting storytelling compass-reading card-shuffling fire-eating boundary-penetrating contortionists / you explore landscapes borrowed and abandoned / territories uncharted and unknown / trails overgrown and forgotten / if they think so much as one tiny detail has escaped your notice they are radically off-target / details do matter they say someone is always looking / that’s why you are a book and will always be a book everyone is a book everyone has a spine a cover a type everyone has chapters highlights cross-outs everyone has a contract with something someone somewhere / at times you are open at times you are closed but inside you always have a story / this is who I am you tell people take it or leave it and so they set about taking you or leaving you and you’re pretty certain they must have misunderstood / but it’s too late to worry about all that now so you burn the newspaper put dynamite in the TV leave the den of dogs and no-sleep behind / you set out to do all the things everyone has always said you shouldn’t but first you go out for a walk and listen to your new playlist that makes you feel like you just hit a homerun in the biggest game in the history of baseball / with paintbrush eyes you take in the world you canvas it with all your heart you take it in over and over like stars brushed across someone’s forehead as if the sky were the world’s forehead / knowing the time will come when you have to leave and return to your Horizon / knowing a departure time will come for each of us who it has not yet come for / bringing our heads up from whatever we’re involved in / bringing our attention back to the most basic thing we know about our lives here as we scramble to quickly review whatever it is we feel / whatever we think we believe / beliefs are prison guards who have us convinced we’re free / meanwhile we’re living in confinement

 

 

Stanley Kunitz’s Poem “The Layers”

The Layers

I have walked through many lives,
some of them my own,
and I am not who I was,
though some principle of being
abides, from which I struggle
not to stray.
When I look behind,
as I am compelled to look
before I can gather strength
to proceed on my journey,
I see the milestones dwindling
toward the horizon
and the slow fires trailing
from the abandoned camp-sites,
over which scavenger angels
wheel on heavy wings.
Oh, I have made myself a tribe
out of my true affections,
and my tribe is scattered!
How shall the heart be reconciled
to its feast of losses?
In a rising wind
the manic dust of my friends,
those who fell along the way,
bitterly stings my face.
Yet I turn, I turn,
exulting somewhat,
with my will intact to go
wherever I need to go,
and every stone on the road
precious to me.
In my darkest night,
when the moon was covered
and I roamed through wreckage,
a nimbus-clouded voice
directed me:
“Live in the layers,
not on the litter.”
Though I lack the art
to decipher it,
no doubt the next chapter
in my book of transformations
is already written.
I am not done with my changes.

 

 

Carl Sandburg’s Poem”Wilderness”

“Wilderness” by Carl Sandburg
There is a wolf in me . . . fangs pointed for tearing gashes . . . a red tongue for raw meat . . . and the hot lapping of blood—I keep this wolf because the wilderness gave it to me and the wilderness will not let it go.
There is a fox in me . . . a silver-gray fox . . . I sniff and guess . . . I pick things out of the wind and air . . . I nose in the dark night and take sleepers and eat them and hide the feathers . . . I circle and loop and double-cross.
There is a hog in me . . . a snout and a belly . . . a machinery for eating and grunting . . . a machinery for sleeping satisfied in the sun—I got this too from the wilderness and the wilderness will not let it go.
There is a fish in me . . . I know I came from salt-blue water-gates . . . I scurried with shoals of herring . . . I blew waterspouts with porpoises . . . before land was . . . before the water went down . . . before Noah . . . before the first chapter of Genesis.
There is a baboon in me . . . clambering-clawed . . . dog-faced . . . yawping a galoot’s hunger . . . hairy under the armpits . . . here are the hawk-eyed hankering men . . . here are the blonde and blue-eyed women . . . here they hide curled asleep waiting . . . ready to snarl and kill . . . ready to sing and give milk . . . waiting—I keep the baboon because the wilderness says so.
There is an eagle in me and a mockingbird . . . and the eagle flies among the Rocky Mountains of my dreams and fights among the Sierra crags of what I want . . . and the mockingbird warbles in the early forenoon before the dew is gone, warbles in the underbrush of my Chattanoogas of hope, gushes over the blue Ozark foothills of my wishes—And I got the eagle and the mockingbird from the wilderness.
O, I got a zoo, I got a menagerie, inside my ribs, under my bony head, under my red-valve heart—and I got something else: it is a man-child heart, a woman-child heart: it is a father and mother and lover: it came from God-Knows-Where: it is going to God-Knows-Where—For I am the keeper of the zoo: I say yes and no: I sing and kill and work: I am a pal of the world: I came from the wilderness.
Carl Sandburg