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Despite the fact the road is empty

there’s a way that two friends

 

will bump into each other as they walk,

as if they are two wine glasses clinking,

 

toasting to the trees around them,

to the cold clear air, to the laughter

 

that rises, to the joy of finding themselves

walking the same road at the same time.

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Bound by Natalie Seabolt

Today, Rattle.com featured my poem, “Seeking Purpose,” which I wrote in response to Natalie Seabolt’s beautiful image, “Bound,” as the Editor’s Choice for their Ekphrastic Challenge! I love this practice of writing poems for images–this one explores our purpose, and how it might be nice for the world to give us just a little clue about what that might be. You can download a broadside of the poem and image right there on Rattle’s page.

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On a day when the world is cruel,

I do not try to fall in love with cruelty.

No, I invite myself to fall in love

with the what is beneath what is cruel.

In the meadow, it is a herd of elk walking through the snow.

In the room, it is a kitten curled in a crescent on the couch.

In myself, it is the part of me that defies any label—

woman/man, Christian/Jew, good/bad, knower/unknower.

I invite that ineffable part of me to go find itself

in the world. And everything is beautiful then.

There is nothing I cannot love.

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emerging form

It’s a new year, and Christie Aschwanden and I have a whole new season of Emerging Form dropping on January 30. Our podcast is still about creative process, but we have other changes in the works. We will continue releasing regular episodes every other Thursday, but we’re also introducing some new stuff this year. We’ve hired a terrific new audio editor, Rob Dozier, and we’re taking some other steps to ensure that we can continue bringing you Emerging Form on a regular basis.

You can continue to listen to the podcast for free on your favorite podcast app, but now you also have a chance to subscribe to bonus content by signing up for our supporter newsletter. For only a few bucks per month, you can help us keep the lights on. We are offering a special deal to our founding subscribers — 20% off monthly or yearly subscriptions for the next 12 months. Sign up now, to get the discount and new content every Thursday.

If you sign up for the paid newsletter, you’ll also be able to comment on episodes in our substack feed, and take part in discussions here.

We’ve got some fantastic topics and guests lined up in the coming weeks. We’ll be talking about everything from how play can foster creativity to how to handle rejection and how and when to say no. We’ll also share our friendship’s origin story and what it reveals about creativity and friendship.

 

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Docetaxel

 

The yew can live to be over two thousand years old—

a sacred tree that grows large enough for forty people

 

to stand inside it. Today, its ancient power fits

in a clear plastic bag the size of two fists and it drips

 

through a clear plastic tube into the chest of my friend.

In three days, she will not want to move. She will not

 

want to eat. She will wonder if it’s all worth it.

It will last a week. So strange that a plant

 

that causes death when consumed will help

to save her life. Her hair has been gone for weeks.

 

But today, on her last day of chemo, I marvel

at how she is being infused with evergreen

 

in the hopes that she will transmogrify, carry

in her the mystery that grows in the bark of the tree.

 

When a yew branch touches the ground, it takes root.

Sprouts again. Let her body know this secret. Amen.

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And if I snap at you about the soap

in the wrong place or the toaster

not being put away or how we

are late, it is simply that I have forgotten

the inner spaciousness of everything.

I have forgotten the poem inside everything.

 

And if I mutter and pace and stiffen,

if I prickle and fuss and pout,

it is because I simply do not remember

how essential it is to let myself

be broken, how a sweet alchemy

is happening in me even now.

 

There are days when I lose sight

of how beautiful it is, this chance

to get things wrong, this gift

of making mistakes so that I might learn.

And all that I don’t yet know grows wings—

it will choose when and where it lands.

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Grace

 

 

 

After all these years of falling, falling,

terrified of my own weight, terrified

of gravity, after all these years of dropping

through the sky, through all these fears

of not good enough, certain I will crash,

I will die, I find myself now wearing

a great white parachute that appeared

as if I were dreaming, to save me.

 

After all these years harnessed only to fear,

I land gently, as if on a flat green lawn.

And I’m not just safe, I’m smiling.

I try to reason it logically: Air resistance

with a chute is greater than gravity.

But there is no logic here. How

did the parachute appear? I

didn’t even ask to be saved. Here I am,

good enough, two feet on the ground.

After years and years of falling,

I’m okay. I’m wildly okay.

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 (with thanks to Rebecca Mullen)

 

The way the tangerine never thinks

to thank its peel, the way the button

doesn’t appreciate the thread

that tethers it, the way the water

doesn’t honor the shore

for encompassing it, this is the way I want

you to take me for granted. As if

I will always be here to hold you. As if

you are so safe you forget

that things change. As if you are so sure

of my love that it’s as assumed

as air, as unremarkable as birdsong

in summer, as given as the gravity

that keeps you from floating away,

as constant as the sound of the river

that you need to leave before

you remember to hear it again.

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This morning the new kitten played with a hair tie

for twenty minutes, kicking it under the table,

swatting it across the room, catching it on a nail

and tossing it into the air. Meanwhile, I tried

to do the same thing with an idea—tried

to bat at it, swipe at it, fling it across the room

and then chase it and pounce on it again.

But that’s not what happened. The idea

sat dead on the desk. I barely even looked at it.

I let my paws make tea instead. And then

went to Facebook. Then vacuumed the room.

Then stared at the idea and wondered why

it hadn’t moved. Boring idea. Dumb idea.

Why did it just sit there, lifeless as a hair tie?

Eventually the kitten, exhausted from frolic,

curled down for a nap. I sat back in the chair,

wondered at what I might learn from the cat.

Picked up the idea again. Gave it a whack. And darned

if it didn’t take on some life as my nose

nudged it into new places. Curious, my whole body

readied to pounce, my tail swishing behind my back.

 

*Yes, friends, we’ve gotten a new kitten, Tamale.

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Wish

 

 

 

Perhaps because I am cold

I want to bring you warmth—

isn’t that how it goes?

We wish for each other

what we most want for ourselves.

And so I wish you real love,

the kind that is as familiar

as brushing your teeth, as spectacular

as the sky tonight drenching the world

in pink just before

the dark took everything.

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