Posts Tagged ‘choice’

Dear Friends, 

It has been two years today since I wrote you to say that we had a family emergency and it would be some time before I wrote again. Several weeks after that I wrote to explain my son Finn, nearly 17, had chosen to take his life. And it was several weeks after that before I began writing the daily poems again. During these two years, I have received so much love, and I thank you. I thank every one of you who has lit a candle, said a prayer, thought good thoughts, did something nice for someone else who was grieving. I thank every one of you who held me and my family in your hearts. I am so grateful. As it is, it’s been the hardest thing I have ever done–meeting this loss. I honor every other person who has lost a beloved. I honor every other heart that has grieved. It is so hard, and without an enormous upswelling of love, I don’t know how anyone would do it. Your words, your thoughts, your blessings have carried me, and I thank you. Thank you for all the letters and notes today and this week–I read every single one out loud. I thank every one of you by name. I am sorry that I am not able to write everyone back individually–your words matter to me. It matters to me that you reach back. It matters to me that you let me know the poems matter to you. Thank you. Thank you. I can’t imagine doing this without your support. 

Today our family decided to honor Finn’s life by going to the amusement park where we had a lot of fun as he was growing up–and one of my friends pointed out after we’d made our plan, “Life’s a rollercoaster,” and isn’t that an apt metaphor. 

As you ride your own rollercoasters, friends, I wish that you, too, feel carried by love. I wish that peace finds you and makes a home in you. 

with love, 

Riding Rollercoasters on a Difficult Day
The moment we entered the queue
for The Boomerang, we already knew
we’d be turned upside down and whirled around,
and by the time our chests were restrained
in our seats, we knew we’d consented to free fall,
to be shaken and twisted and then do it all again
backwards, but it wasn’t until the ride began,
clackity, clackity, clackity, clackity, clackity
it was only then, when we laughed
the whole time we screamed,
it was only then we surrendered.

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There is a secret music
that hides inside each yes.
At first we think we know
the tune. Heck, we might
even think we wrote it.
But soon, after yessing,
we learn there is a much
grander score than we ever
might have guessed,
and now we hear how
just one yes,
plucked like a string,
creates harmonies
and dissonances
and asks us to listen again,
not for what we think we hear,
but for everything else—
the soundtrack of the infinite after,
Perhaps you notice it, too,
how the masterpiece
needs you. How each note
informs the song forever.

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There comes a time when
the life you have
meets the life you once had
and you stare at that old life
as if it’s a beautiful bird
with a haunting song so familiar
you can’t stop yourself
from singing along.
Isn’t it strange
how quickly things change,
how already you’ve forgotten
some of the words.
How already, your wings
have changed color.

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knowing now
how fragile our hearts—
still choosing love

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On a wooden plank
only eight inches wide
I stood thirty feet
above the ocean
and stared at the waves below,
stared at the horizon,
stared at my fear of heights,
stared until I felt such deep peace
standing on this slender choice.
All it would have taken
was one step.
One step, and gravity
would have done the rest
to plunge me into the ocean
in the name of fun.
The whole time I stood there,
I thought of you,
how you would have
leapt from that plank
with no hesitation.
I loved this about you—
your abandon,
your joy in launching
into something new.
Gravity, they say,
is the weakest force we know.
Though it can hold galaxies together,
it’s weak enough
to overcome it every day.
Weak though it is,
I’d like to say
I overcame it.
That I stood at the edge
and chose, instead of falling,
to hold things up—
chose to hold up
the memory of you falling,
chose to hold up
my own tired heart,
chose to stand
in a difficult place
and notice how beautiful it was,
the golden light on the water,
the wind on my skin,
chose to walk a narrow path
that felt kind to myself,
though in my head
the voice kept saying
jump, jump, jump.

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It’s not the meteor shower
with its wild arcs of light
that unzip the velvet dark—
what moves me is the one star
that manages to shine
through the thick atmosphere,
a lone light in this giant dome,
not more than a speck,
yet it persists, constant.
There are many ways to shine,
it seems to say, its tiny glint
winking against midnight.
And the dark is deep and long.

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In a time of drought
let me choose to love you
the way yucca blooms—
creamy, abundant, soft—
despite drought.
No. Because drought.

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Only after I step one foot over the cliff
do I realize the drop is so deep
and the pool in the river below so small
that the chances of hitting the water at all
seem infinitesimal.
I thought nothing could stop me from my course,
but seeing the rocks so far below
and knowing how likely it is I would hit them,
now I stand one foot on the desperate edge.
The other foot, free as a prophecy, hovers in the air.

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Family Woman

Such awkward dance partners,

this longing to follow my own pursuits,

this longing to be ever available to you.

Both want to lead.

They step on each other’s feet.

One waltzes, though the other

has put on rock and roll.

One loves eye contact, the other

loves closed eyes to better feel the music.

And yet they whirl and two step every day,

taking turns swinging and dipping and bowing.

I used to think they were rivals.

Now I know neither wants to dance alone.

Even now, they’re pushing back the furniture,

rolling up the rug. There’s gonna be a real

fine hoedown tonight.

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It could happen any time, tornado, earthquake, Armageddon. It could happen.

                       — Yes, William Stafford



It’s Saturday and I’m choosing to sit on a broken fence,

the logs all weathered and fallen.

I am choosing to sit in the sun on a broken fence

beside a dirt parking lot in a high desert.

Perhaps I do not really believe

that this is the only moment that matters?

Perhaps I don’t trust that I could be gone,

that all life could be gone in one blink,

in one bomb, in one meteorite.


Or is it that I choose to sit on a broken fence

beside a dirt parking lot with the scent of pine

edging each breath and the sound

of cottonwood leaves rustling then stilling

because this, too, matters, this willingness

to treat each breath as if it were the first,

to treat each place as if it is the last

and give it my full attention. To be like the birds

sitting on the barbed wire knowing now, now

is the moment to sing.

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