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Acceptance

Today grief is a long steady rain
and the thing to do is to walk
in the long and steady rain.
The thing is to let the face
get wet, let the clothes get wet,
let the hair get wet and plastered
against the cheeks, the neck.
The thing is to meet the soaking world
and the soaking skin and the soaking
shoes and the soaking dreams
and not pretend it’s dry.
Whatever longing there is for dryness,
it is soaking too. Because it is raining,
the thing to do is to walk in the long
and steady rain, to walk in sodden,
soaking world, to trust that it will
not rain forever, to breathe in the scent
of the wet, wet earth, to be wet
in the wet, wet world.

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Let’s say there’s a window
at the end of a long dark hall—
the more we walk toward it
the farther away it feels.
And then, let’s say, we stop
trying to get anywhere and meet
where we are. That is how
I found myself on the other side
of the window, released
into sky—blue sky, then tangerine
sky, then sky dusky pink.
That is how I found myself
talking with my son the way
we used to whenever he went
to camp—through the sky.
Only this time we didn’t talk.
We just were. Together.
I would say we were fused,
but more truly, perhaps, commingled,
as if our atoms were diffused enough
to commune. To know this
for a moment is to know it
forever—how it is that
there is no separation.
How it is that we are one.

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But I found myself
rigid in the room where my son
took his life. And I sat
on the floor in the doorway
where he had last sat,
where his blood had pooled
and the air had briefly smelled
of burning. I sat there
beneath the wall
where the bullet had made
its narrow hole. I sat there
with my coil of sorrow.
I didn’t want to meet it.
I desperately wanted to meet it.
I wanted to give sorrow space.
I wanted to crawl inside it.
I wanted to be anywhere
but there on the dark wood floor
in the night dark room,
and I wanted to be wholly,
completely, obliteratingly there.
Fear-ridden, ferocious,I met it all,
felt the current pushing through.
Acceptance is a filament
that takes our resistance
and makes it bright,
makes it luminous enough
that we might see ourselves
exactly as we are.
I did not find my son
in that doorway. Perhaps
I had hoped I would.
But I saw the light
that came with me.
I softened into that light.

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As Francis lay dying
in his humble hut,
he wrote a praise poem
that honored Sister Death.
And when death came
to dance with him,
he did not shun her
nor shame her nor
push her away.
He embraced her
the way he embraced
the sun, the wind,
the water, the air.
He claimed her as family,
as dance partner, guide.
Oh Francis, here
in the hut of my heart
is a wooden box of ashes
about the size of a baby.
I can cradle it, carry it,
sway with it slow
the way I once did
with the boy in the box, now dust,
the boy the coroner
swaddled in white.
I did not want this dance.
I stumble. I trip.
I am awkward, ungainly.
Sister Death is certain, serene.
I would have barred
the doors if I could have, Francis,
but now she walks with me,
sleeps with me, makes
dinner and cleans with me.
There is no locking her out.
She brings me the costliest gifts:
Trust in life. Immeasurable love.
Perfume of the great mystery.
I tell her I’d trade them all back
for my son. She whispers,
Oh, sister. Dance with me.

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After shoveling
and raking and
scraping and
pitch forking
and transporting
and scrubbing
and scratching
mud from the ground,
at last looking up
to find a weed
in the grass
where the mudslide
didn’t pass.
Letting it stay.

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Earl Gray


 
 
Today the lesson is in the little black leaves
floating freely in the tea, loosened
from their bag. How quickly things come apart—
things I wish would stay intact.
And yet I drink from the dark cup
and find joy in the bold, citrusy warmth.
Though it’s messy, though the bits catch
in my teeth and tickle in my throat,
though it isn’t what I would have wanted,
neither has it ruined the pleasure of bergamot,
the sharpness of lemon, the flavor
of acceptance, of morning.

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Though it’s July, the grass is iced

from last night’s frost, and the heart-shaped leaves

of the pole beans hang limp and dead.

And so the chance to practice letting go.

It’s too bad, of course,

but the stakes are low.

It was only one row,

a handful of seeds,

a hankering for fresh green beans.

Not a livelihood. Not a child.

Not a hope. Not a dream.

Just a small row of leaves

that do what leaves do.

No one to point a finger at.

No one to pick a fight with.

Just this practice of meeting  

the world as it is. This chance to start again—

the work of the living.

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Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.

            —Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

 

 

I put off breakfast for hours,

hoping it will allow more time

for impossible thoughts to come.

 

They trickle in: World peace.

Inner peace. Healing.

Pure love. An abundance

 

of unrestricted hours.

Then, stymied,  I put off lunch.

Put off snack. Just before dinner

 

I meet a sixth impossible thought:

accepting the world the way it is,

falling in love anyway.

 

Who wants to believe in that?

But acceptance shines

through the window like a full moon,

 

as if it’s the only thing that makes sense.

Eventually, the night is so bright

anything seems possible.

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When It Comes to Ideas

 

 

 

I am perhaps like the mama sheep

who rejects the lamb that is not her own—

snorts at it, won’t let it suckle,

shoves it away with her nose.

Though her own lamb was born lifeless,

though her teats are full to leaking,

she will have nothing to do with the alien.

It’s not the lamb’s fault it has the wrong scent,

just as it’s not the idea’s fault it was born

in another’s mind. It’s likely a good idea,

just needing a bit of nourishment.

 

But there are skilled herders who know the art

of grafting, who make of the dead lamb’s skin

a jacket and wrap it around the alien lamb,

tricking the ewe into taking it on as her own.

Then it’s a matter of bonding.

 

Don’t think I didn’t see you as you stripped the skin.

Don’t think I’m unaware of what you’ve done.

The truth is, I wanted to foster it, to claim it

as my own, to see it frolic in these fields of sage.

I was made for nurturing. It’s just that loss is difficult.

It’s just that sometimes it’s hard to say yes.

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Apparently no one told the tickle in my throat

that this was a silent retreat.

All it wanted to do was explore the sound

of throat clearing, the sound of cough.

 

All around me the sound of nothing

but breathing and sitting, but in me,

this tickle saying Notice me, Notice me.

Here I am and what will you do about it?

I told the tickle, If I were freeclimbing,

I would ignore you. My life would depend on it.

 

The tickle said, but you’re here,

here in a quiet room, and your life is at stake

in a much different way. What are you willing

to notice? What do you wish away?

Isn’t this just one more way you tell yourself

life would be better if it were different?

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