Posts Tagged ‘beauty’


For years, I have run
from this anger.
Tonight I stopped running,
let the anger catch me,
let it burn in me,
a wild conflagration,
it terrified me,
and then I watched it leave.
For the first time in years,
I am not running.
How still it is.
Whatever has turned to ash
was not essential.
What is left is so raw,
so beautiful.

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It hides in the rafters,
this tightly woven nest of grass,
brown and humble,
lined with mud.
I would like to hold
this messy vessel in my hands,
as if to hold is understand.
I would like to know
what the nest knows—
how to hold what is fragile,
how to keep life safe,
how it is to be made to be useful,
how it is to be made to be left.
How beautiful it can be
to hold emptiness.

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Memory of sitting by the river,
you taking my picture,
the leaves around us
already changing—
you were happy that day,
camera in hand,
no hint of sorrow,
no augury of grief.
Oh, that beautiful day.
I fold it in half,
run my finger down the crease,
unfold it, rotate it ninety degrees
and fold it in half again.
In six more steps,
I’ve folded it neatly into a boat.
Someday, perhaps,
I will float it down the river.
Today, I tuck it
into my mind’s back pocket.
When I need to, I touch it,
run my fingers along the folds.
It carries me along
the current.

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Give me your hand.
            —this epigraph, and all italic lines by Rainer Maria Rilke, from “Wild Love,” trans. by Joanna Macy

Tonight, again, I slip my hand into the hand of Rilke
and let him lead me into regions of beauty and terror.
Though I weep, though I tremble, he does not let go.
When I praise, he reminds me, No feeling is final.
There was a time, perhaps, when I did not believe
a poem could save my life. Now, I know.
If you could examine my cells, you would see
every single one of them has been tattooed
with his words. I use poems the way others
use a rope, a light, a crust of bread, a knife.
He whispers to me of impermanence.
Is it not the very fragrance of our days?
And yet, he seems to say, in the meantime
there is so much splendor to be made.

*Inspired also by correspondence with Luise Levy and John Mason

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The Bouquet

for Summer, Autumn, Lulu and Katie
From the garden, the girls brought
a small bouquet of late summer’s
loveliest flowers: snapdragons,
nasturtiums, lavender, salvia,
and the fernlike leaves of marigold.
And there in the center, like a guest
who did not care what clothes
she was given to wear to the ball,
was the white globe of dandelion
gone to seed, its white filigree
quite unlike all the other petals.
How could I not notice this orb
of wishes still waiting to be wished?
How I longed to spend all the wishes
on these girls who had seen
this fragile sphere as a gift.
May they be happy.
May they be sure they are loved.
May they know their own beauty
beyond any mirror.
May they flourish in all soils.
May they believe their own hearts.
May they trust their own voices.
May they find friends wherever they travel.
May they feel vital in any bouquet.
May they know love. Again and again.
Live into the fullness of each ordinary moment.
And wherever they grow, may they know
for certain the earth itself will carry them.

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Relative Key

I paid extra for the bell
with a beautiful sound,
knowing we would ring it
one hundred and eight times
on the anniversary of your death.
I wanted it to be beautiful.
I wanted to play a sound
that would reach
to wherever you are
and offer you peace.
There are bells that ring
danger or failure or shame,
bells that clang with dissonance,
bells that toll only melancholy.
I have heard those bells.
But for you, my boy,
the bell we rang for you
pealed with a brilliant, shining ring,
a rousing chiming,
a surprising harmony
that opened the evening
with new light,
a ringing that rhymed
with new colors I’ve found in my heart—
the shimmering blue of enduring hope,
the glimmering gold of companioning.
I could still hear the blue
and the resonant gold
long after the bell stopped ringing.

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These warm summer evenings
I take in the nighthawks
looping above the field.
I take in their fast and agile flight,
take in their long and pointed wings.
Come winter, I will be grateful
to have stored such things.
When the nighthawks are gone
and the world is dim,
I will want to remember thema—
their aerialist displays, the way
they make of the dusk a playground,
the way the whole night
seems to hang on an angling wing—
Oh summer is such a generous thing.
Even the dark is charged with the thrill
of living. Even this heart, wounded
and bruised, can’t help but open
to the wheeling of nighthawks,
how they arc and sweep
as the sun disappears
and then continue their swooping
long after the light is gone.

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Oh Vincent,

There is in my heart
a small yellow room
with a small wooden table
with a dull yellow cloth
and a rounded clay vase
with your name scrawled in blue,
and it’s bursting with sunflowers,
all of them open, all of them turning,
turning toward the light,
which is to say the flowers face every which way.
There is light everywhere we dare to turn.

Consider this a love letter, Vincent,
a letter sent back in time,
a letter that impossibly arrives
just when you despair,
just when you believe no one cares about your art,
the letter that reaches you to say you are loved
in that exact moment you feel unlovable.

Let this be the letter in which you see
the sunflowers you sowed a hundred thirty years ago
have re-seeded themselves in me
and now grow rampant in my days,
golden petalled and flagrantly lovely.
And your stars, swirling, your wheat fields goldening,
your cypress reaching, your church bells unsinging,
you will find them all my words.

This is how love replants itself—
more love, old friend, more love.
Because you were so truly you,
so full of hope, so full of fear,
because you risked your everything,
I, too, will risk, will dare.

Consider this a love letter, Vincent,
the one that helps you see
how your life is linked to eternity.
Let this be a letter that says thank you, Vincent,
for teaching us new ways to see beauty.

Perhaps this letter will arrive
when you are in the yellow room,
or perhaps the asylum, perhaps in Neuwen,
and you, surprised to find it addressed to you,
will receive it and let the words in,
then hear your own startled voice saying,
It matters? as you pick up your brush
and begin again.  


My dear friend composer/pianist/historian Kayleen Asbo and I want to offer you the video recording of our hour-long conversation about Vincent Van Gogh, loss and The Art of Creative Collaboration– click here.This project has been such an important part for each of us in holding on to hope and beauty during a dark and challenging time. If it speaks to a part of your own aching soul and you want to share it, you have our blessing to forward it to whomever you wish.

If you want to offer a donation in support of our work so that we can professionally record our project in both audio and video format, click here for our Go Fund Me account. And we have an anonymous donor who will match all funds donated before July 30! 

If you want to engage in the full collaboration–Vincent’s paintings, Kayleen’s music, and my poems–I hope you will join us in “Love Letters to Vincent” on July 29, the day Vincent died, at 11 a.m. mountain time. We will present the entire collaboration, sending love letters back in time to honor this man who changed the way we see beauty. There will also be a chance to participate in a group creative activity, responding to his work, creating a giant love letter for Vincent. Sliding scale. It will be recorded and sent to all who register.

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It prefers barren soil.
It prefers land that is dry.
It prefers to grow
without protection of trees.
The larkspur doesn’t want to compete.
It simply grows where others don’t grow,
brings beauty to the lonely ground.
It grows tall—tall enough
that the weight of its petals
might bend the stem,
might force a fall.
It says to me as I walk by,
there are many ways
to serve the world,
bringing beauty is one.

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Stitching It Together

In our imperfect world/ we are meant to repair/ and stitch together/ what beauty there is
            —Stuart Kestenbaum, “Holding the Light”
Today I gather the morning light
as it angles gold across the lawn.
I gather the scent of fennel fronds
in the garden and the surprising sweetness
of the one-bite strawberries
and the softness of the shawl
I thought was lost, but today I found.
I gather the weight of my daughter
as she leans into me on the couch
and the smooth burn of rye whiskey
and the purr of the cat as she naps
deeper into my lap, and I stitch
them together with the thread
of my attention.
Long ago, I learned what I focus on
creates me. Not that I ignore the bindweed,
the news, the drought, the young raccoon
dead beside the road. I do not turn away
from the stories that make me weep.
I am willing to be ferocious—
to stand up for what I know is true.
But I study what is beautiful,
what is generous. I offer it my devotion.
Even in this moment writing this poem,
I stitch in the pauses and the stumblings—
these, too, are beautiful because they are true.
I stitch in the pure potential that steeps
in uncertainty. I stitch in silence. I stitch in hope.

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