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Lesson from the Ouzel

Sometimes I want to be anywhere but here,
but today, I let myself feel it all.

I go to the river covered in ice,
and move along the bank until

I find the open places where the dark-feathered ouzel
chooses to submerge in the cold, cold water—

It doesn’t hesitate to plunge into frigid depths.
It knows it was made for this.

The Path of Love


            with gratitude to Jude Janett and Joi Sharp
 
 
And here I thought the path of love
would look like love. Like kindness.
Like generosity. Like gentleness.
 
Instead it looks like me being bothered
by the sound of loud chewing. Me
wanting praise. Me needing to feel
 
loved. Hello me. How elegantly love
has arranged for me to meet
all the parts of me that would stand
 
in love’s way. How easily
it shows me I’ve thought of love
as a destination. But here is love
 
with no expectation. Here is love
with no name, no locus. Here
is love with no face, no shape, no
 
promise, no vow, no hope.
Here is love as itself, surging
and flowing, love as itself insisting
 
on love, love as itself eroding
all those layers of me that still
think they know something about love
 
(and love holds me while I rail
and love throws me back in the stream
and love is what is still here when I am not).
   

Hope



Nudged by hope
the heart rises
from exhaustion.

It’s like the great blue heron
I saw this morning
flying up from a wasteland

on broad gray wings
with strong, slow beats
for a moment charged

with grace
before—did you
see this, heart?—

it chose to land again,
bringing all its beauty
to the desolate place.

Better Half


After midnight, the shadow
is with me drinking tea—
mint and lemongrass.
It doesn’t mind a spill.
What’s a mess to a shadow?
If there is a question
that must be asked,
the shadow doesn’t speak it—
no, it understands, perhaps,
the only reason
to ask a question is to let
the universe know  
a willingness to not know.
The shadow doesn’t worry
about what comes next.
That’s the concern
of the flesh. When I sleep,
it untethers itself
from my breath and slips
into the night. It doesn’t curse
the light for bringing it back.
It simply joins me as I
do whatever I do,
stays close to me,
like a dream, like a friend.
 

One in the Woods




crooked staves
aspen shadows on snow—
our attention the song

January 1




When I say Happy New Year,
I hear my grandmother’s voice
inside my voice, the way
she slapped the first syllable,
the way silence hung for a moment
before she finished the rest of the phrase.
HAP-py New Year!
Each time I say the words, she
is so alive in that moment—
the syllables themselves
wear her bright red nails,
her signature updo
and her rhinestone earrings.
HAP-py New Year!
I sing out again and again,
loving how she enters
each conversation this day.
There are small ways
to bring our beloveds back,
little rituals so strong they
defy the loss, so strong
that each time we do them
we become more and more
who we love. Her voice
becomes my voice and her
joy becomes my joy.
I don’t have to look in the mirror
to see she is here, her smile
my smile curving up from the inside.

For Auld Lang Syne


 
 
We’ll drink a cup of kindness yet,
says the song, and I would give you
the cup, friend, would fill it
with whiskey or water or whatever
would best meet your thirst.
 
I fill it with the terrifying beauty
of tonight’s bonfire—giant licks
of red and swirls of blue that consume
what is dead and melt the ice
and give warmth to what is here.
 
I fill it with moonrise and snow crystal
and the silver river song beneath the ice.
With the boom of fireworks and with laughter
that persists through tears. With
Lilac Wine and Over the Rainbow and Fever.
 
I toast you with all the poems we’ve yet to write
and all the tears we’ve yet to weep,
I hold the cup to your lips,
this chalice of kindness, we’ll drink it yet,
though the days are cold, the nights so long.
 
 
 
 
 

Again, Again




On a day when the world
asks too much of me
and I don’t know how to give it,
I think of the squirrels
at the feeder when I was a girl.

Dad hung the feeder
on a squirrel-proof wire.
Dad set the feeder
on a squirrel-proof pole.
Squirrels found a way.

Surely there’s some squirrel in me,
some chattering tenacity,
some bushy tailed resolve.
If I can’t be courageous and brave,
then let me at least be stubborn.

Surely inside this aching heart
is a scamperer willing to try again,
to try again, to meet disappointment
and failure and exhaustion
and try again, again.

Permission


 
Funny on a full moon night
I think about brokenness.
After fifty years of proving
entropy with my life, with
my thoughts, some part of me
still wants to believe in perfection.
I’ve never once thought the moon
any less perfect for being partial.
Tonight, I give myself permission
to be broken. As if I could help it.
But something in the permission
lets me relax, lets me soften
as if I’m covered with moon-drunk snow.
Lets me soften like Erik Satie played low.
Let me see you, the moon seems to say,
just as you are. And I step outside
and the moon slips in.
  




Tonight, for a moment,
my world shrinks to the size
of the Christmas cactus,
which, despite the storm
that even now blusters outside,
has opened dozens of voluptuous
red blooms, as if to say,
Here I am, blooming midwinter,
and you can do it, too.
There are days when
the news makes me doubt
the value of blooming—
when the headlines alone
twist hope into a crumpled,
unrecognizable heap.
But then some snippet
of beauty finds me—
a scarlet flower,
a handwritten letter—
and breaks any scale
I would use to interpret
the world. It’s not that the terror
goes away, no. But for a few
moments, I am blessed
with the certainty
that even the smallest beauty matters
and that it is my job
to meet life however it appears—
petal, bomb, sweetness, pain—
grateful for my humanness,
vulnerable and tenuous
though it is.

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