Sometimes even a small sweetness—
a kind word, a kind act—

is robust enough to take root,
and though its perfume soon fades

and its petals wither,
the roots persist so years later

when you least expect it,
there in a forgotten field,

or perhaps in your own well-tended yard,
you catch the scent of sweetness

and follow it until you find again
the fragrant bloom of it, not at all

diminished by time. No, maybe sweeter
because it was forgotten.

Sweeter because with roots like that,
you now trust it will come back again.

Your own way, of course,
though that will always
be lost again.
Your keys. Your balance.
Your groove.
You can find your joy.
Your jean size. Your niche.
Your face shape. Your rhythm.
Your love.
Find your rapper name, like Da Real Ro$e,
or Rosormous G,
or Inspectah Jazz.
Your happy place. Your inner peace.
Your people. Your tribe.
Your wings.
You can find your career.
Your spirit animal. Your voice.
Your senator.
Your song.
But some things that are lost
are lost for good. Some that go
are gone.
Like a moment ago.
Like yesterday.
Like last week, last month,
last year.
Can you find now?
Find yes? Find truth?
Can you find (yet again)
why you are here?

Seeing Clearly

Forgive me for wanting to fix you.
As if we could be anything
but who we are.
Forgive me for every time
I have looked at you with hawkish eyes,
eyes with talons, eyes that hunt.
Forgive me for thinking I know
what you need, for thinking I am right.
For scrutinizing, for judging,
for using my gaze to build walls.
I want to look at you with eyes
as soft as the light in the field after dawn.
Want to meet you with eyes
as benevolent as rain. Want to see you
with eyes as open as sky, open as innocence.
Want to see myself this way, too—
then, it is easier to soften, to lean in, to bloom.
This is how I want to look at you—
not with eyes that fix, but eyes
that dismantle defensiveness,
eyes that say let us meet in our flawedness,
eyes unstintingly generous,
a gaze that says you are safe with me,
a gaze born of humility, a gaze made of wings.

No Slam Dunk, But

Every day, a second chance—
as if all of life before has been one big shot
and today, I get to try again. Get to
forgive. Get to be kind. Get to let go,
be open, be gentle with myself.
Get to learn, unlearn, play again.
I think of Michael Jordan, and though
I know nothing of basketball, I know
he missed more than nine thousand shots
and lost nearly three hundred games and missed
the winning shot twenty-six times.
I know Michael Jordan was named by the NBA
as the greatest player of all time.
Every morning, though I can’t dribble
or shoot any more than I can flap my arms
and fly, I step onto the court of the new day
and let myself take the next shot. And miss.
And take the next shot again. Every day,
a new foul. Every day I want to argue with the ref.
Every day, I realize it does no good to argue.
At the end of the day, I see how I am the basket,
the ball, the bounce, the pass, the MVP,
the sub, the booing, the cheers.
I am the one who keeps score. And I am
the one who marvels when,
sweet miracle, the score is reset to zero,
and I’m given another chance—how is it?—
to make the winning shot.

What’s in a Name

after “Wunderlich” by Mark Wunderlich

It’s not the aromatic herb that means remembrance.
It’s spelled R-O-S-E-M-E-R-R-Y, which means
it is almost always misspelled by others,
even though I spell it out. Even though I say,
Merry, as in merry go round—
as in Merry Christmas. I give up often
on the spelling because I have learned
I’m happier that way.
It means granddaughter of Rose, who
was one of sixteen children in Illinois,
who cared for all her siblings and so never
finished school herself. Rose who cleaned
homes and vacationed in Vegas,
who waltzed and wore red nail polish
and made fancy Slovenian nut bread
she slathered with soft butter.
It means granddaughter of Merry
who planted vast gardens and drank
Bloody Marys and arranged the flowers
for the church altar on Sundays. Merry
who had a gift for painting and sang
soprano in the choir. It means “too sincere.”
It means “cries when she says I love you.”
It means “can’t understand sarcasm without help.”
It means “unable to wink with the left eye”
and “afraid of driving Red Mountain Pass.”
The name was once listed on the gym wall
in Pewaukee Elementary School
as the reigning toe touching champion,
because Rosemerry also means short legs,
overly flexible hamstrings, and long arms.
In the mid-’90s, McDonald’s chose the name
for a Happy Meal Toy—a pink-haired sky dancer
with long green legs. Now, the name is found
on recipe cards around the world
for ginger cookies, zucchini pie and dark rye bread.
It’s carved in an aspen tree on Lookout Mountain
and is not tattooed on anyone’s arm.
There are no Greek myths about Rosemerry—
no stories in which she is chased
by a god and then turned into a bird or a tree,
though sometimes I hear Rosemerry stories
that sound like myths to me.
The name means “unable to wear clothes with patterns.”
It means “quitter of ballet.”
It means “always two hours shy of an extra five minutes.”
Recently, a friend pointed out it’s nearly homophonous
with “rows merrily” as in “down the stream,”
but unfortunately it’s also synonymous with seasickness,
carsickness, airsickness and now a near constant
feeling of being rocked, even on dry land.
And though it does not mean “easy going,”
it does mean “loyal, devoted.”
It means “stubborn.”
It means “willing to try again.”
It means a girl who wanted to grow into her name.
It means a woman who carries her grandmothers with her,
remembers them everywhere she goes.

And so the boy who would become
the emperor of Rome, the boy
who would one day defeat the Parthian Empire
and rebel Kingdom of Armenia,
the boy who would rule through the Antonine Plague
the boy who would become father of Stoicism—
when that boy learned of the death
of his favorite tutor, he wept and wept,
was a wild and uncontrollable thing.
And his stepfather, the emperor,
refused to let him be comforted
or calmed. “Neither philosophy
nor empire takes away natural feeling,”
he said. Oh, the gift of being given ourselves—
despite teachings, despite expectation,
despite shoulds, despite strength—
the gift to fall deeper into our own humanness,
horrible and beautiful as it is, to know the terrible
blessing of love, oh how it hurts, to know
ourselves as tender beings, to trust how
our love touches everything. Everything.  

If I could do it all again,
I would—every blooming bit of it.
Every bout of pink eye,
every snotty nose, every
late night waking, every
single reading of Good Night Moon,
every fairy house, every
drive to every ballet class,
every singalong to the entire
soundtrack of Hamilton,
every wobble and stumble
and blunder and lapse
to arrive at this very moment
when we lie on her bed
in the dark and talk about
this miracle, this astonishing
life, and watch dumb videos
and curl into each other.
In every moment, a seed.
It surprises me now,
how beautiful the field.

At the Houston Zoo

Not the chuckwalla
nor the cheetah nor the capybara,
it was the pigeon
I couldn’t stop watching
as it sat on its nest
in the tall sturdy grass
beside the glassed-in walls
of the chimpanzees
with its fluffy grey chicks
tucked against its grey breast.
She looked as if she belonged
exactly where she was—oh
how I cherish that feeling.

for Laurie Wagner Buyer
I remember her handwritten letters—
her careful cursive telling
me about freezing the ripe plums
and the tree in the back yard
and sitting in the passenger seat
watching the world go by.
I remember walking with her
and admiring the sway
of her hips, her generous smile,
how everyone turned to watch her.
But most of all I remember
the way she loved to fall in love—
how she gave herself over so completely
to partnership. There are some
who love like virga—the rain
that falls but never reaches the land.
But she loved like a long steady rain—
the kind that seeps in slowly
and reaches the deepest roots.
The kind of rain that makes the whole world
glisten. The kind of rain
she might have written me about—
how it drizzles down the windows,
clings to the pane, how in every drop,
if you look, you can resee the world.
Dear friends, I am well aware there are two amazing Laurie Wagner Buyer poets. This one is about the Laurie Wagner Buyer who lived in Texas.

At the Bookshelf

Today I touch the spines of the books
I have saved—run my hands over
shelves and shelves of poems
and stories and teachings and text books,
some I have never read, some
that have made a home in me.
I touch them as if to touch is to love,
as if the books themselves could feel
the enormous gratitude I have for the ways
their words have changed my life.
Touching them, I touch the days
I’ve spent curled up in couches and beds,
transported into other realms
of loss and belonging. I touch the longing
in me to be known, to be seen, to be heard,
to have a story worth telling, a story
worth living. I touch the fear that I am not enough,
and the hope that it is not too late
and the steadying pulse of the moment.
And the moment, generous as it is,
reaches out with its invisible hands
and touches me back, touches me here
as I stand by the shelves, touches
all the stories I tell myself, touches
the one who’s left as the stories fall away.

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