Posts Tagged ‘compassion’





Across the country, blizzards—blizzards

so big that folks speak of bombogenesis

while standing in line in the coffee shop.


And the snow begins to fall, snow

blocks out the sun, snow fills the roads,

the drives, the sills until people begin to forget


who they are when there isn’t a storm.

Imagine the storm goes on.

Imagine that it isn’t snow falling,


but forgiveness. Imagine all those people

rising morning after morning to find

themselves buried in compassion.


Piles of it. Heaps of it. Giant white drifts of it.

It must be dealt with before anything else

can happen. Before people can even


walk out the door, they must lift it

and move it and feel its surprising weight.

Who knew there was so much of it? Who knew


just how completely it could shut things down

if not engaged with properly? It takes some time,

perhaps, before the people see


how beautiful it is, how every single thing

it touches is softened, turned to sparkle,

turned to shine. A disruption, to be sure,


but sometimes it takes a blizzard

to find the calm. Sometimes

we must be stopped


before we learn how to go on.

And the colder it gets, the more

we must work to be warm.

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Going Your Way



You idiot, is what you say

to the driver five cars ahead of you

on the two-lane road that winds

through the river canyon.

There is no passing lane,

and you feel the crushing

of the minutes as they rub against each other

while the white SUV five cars ahead

does not pull over

in the wide spot on the road

where all conscientious slow drivers know

to pull over to let the other drivers pass.

Idiot, you grumble, and miss

any beauty outside the window,

focused as you are on the speedometer,

the brake. Once it was you,

a girl of fifteen, who drove so cautiously

the windy roads to church

on a Sunday morning, that first day

with your driver’s permit.

And who was it in the long line

behind you who called the police

to report a drunk driver?

When they pulled you over,

the two squad cars with their blaring lights,

you didn’t cry when the officers laughed—

there was warmth in their relief

to find that you were not drunk but young.

No, you cried after they walked away,

cried all the way to mass.

Bless them, the irate ones,

the ones who fume in the back,

the ones who think furious thoughts.

That’s right. Bless yourself,

you, the livid one, can you find

a way to love her, this hurler of names,

this one who disdains the others going

the same way she is going? Laugh

at her if you can, a real laugh.

Tell her you get it, it’s frustrating.

Tell her we are all travelling the same winding road

toward evening, toward morning,

toward grace.


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I pour the hot water

into the sugar that waits

inside the mason jar.


Here I am in the kitchen

longing to be

of use in the world.


Outside the window,

the broad tailed hummingbirds

swarm the near-empty feeder.


They will find, I know,

some other sweetness

if I do not make the nectar.


I long to believe

one small act of devotion

might ripple out


and affect the world

as profoundly as an act

of hate, but I do not believe it.


Still, I stir. The contents

of the jar change

from solid to cloudy to clear.


Outside, the blur

of hunger, the whirring

of dark green wings.



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In All Cases




all the more reason

to hug one another—

this great news, that terrible news

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Tonight I will give you yourself.

All those pretty words you spun

into negligee, all those promises

you strung like pearls and then

tightened around my neck, all

those lovely leashes you made

out of praise, I give them back.


I have always loved being naked.

I think this is what you loved

most about me, too. Once. No one

is at fault for this strange game

of dress up we’ve been playing.

Perhaps it is what we were taught to do.

I unlearn this game. I want to give

you you. I give you your

own nakedness. Any robes

of hope I put on you, I untie

them. See them slip into soft piles

on the floor. Look at you now.

I see I never saw you before.


Out the window, winter is melting.

Everything loses its sheen.

I tried to hate you for the ways

you bound me, though the bounds

were beautiful. Now, all I can feel

is the thrill of this body so bare,

so new. I stare at my feet, my hands

and marvel at how they move.

Is this me? I never knew her.

I know her so intimately.


It is almost sweet now, so innocent,

how we tried to dress each other in dreams.

We didn’t know then that even

the softest words become chains.

I give you yourself, your longing

to be loved in the ways you thought

you needed. I give me myself,

I don’t know what that means,

already I am shedding.



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This is the year I learned to hate the moles,

the whole blind-tunneling, garden-raiding,

carrot-devouring, pea-sprout-munching,

rapidly reproducing, miserable movement of moles.

Not for a lifetime, but for an hour or two,

I would like to be an owl so I might

swoop down on their company in the dark

with my enormous silent wings and my sharp

and merciless beak. I would pluck their bodies

from the rows of beans with relentless precision

and I’d pull them apart, the young ones, too,

no, not for the joy of the massacre,

but because that is what I am born to do.

How free it must be to kill with no conscience,

to take their furry, soft-skinned lives

without tripping on compassion.

How much easier not to muse

about how a rodent’s got to eat something, too,

and why wouldn’t she want an organic carrot,

all crunchy and sweet, or a pea sprout or one hundred,

so tender, so green.

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One Story

here, I’m thirsty
said my cheek
to your tear

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And my brain rifles
through my internal drawer
of office supplies to deal
with her distress. It comes up
with an eraser and white out
to delete the pain, a Sharpie
to scribble it out. Scissors to cut
it away. A pencil to write a new story.
A miscellaneous small marble
that could be used to distract.
And my heart lets the brain
carry on with its busyness
and meanwhile tells
my arms to hold her, tells
me to sit on the couch beside
her and listen to her fears
and let her cry until
the tears are done.

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I remember how,
as I was free falling,
for weeks I fell,
so many hands reached
out for me as if
to save me from falling.

I extended my own hand,
not to catch hold, but
to wave as I passed.
I knew there was nothing
anyone could do
to stop the plummeting.

There was
no sorrow in this.
I was falling. That was
the way it was.
And then one day
I was not.

I don’t remember
how it stopped. There
was no violence.
No pain. No crash.
No blood. No bruises.
No scars.

Even knowing this,
as I watch you fall,
my hands can’t
stop themselves
from reaching.

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Hearts will never be practical until they can be made unbreakable.
—The Wizard of Oz

Give me a heart that breaks,
a heart that longs to open
wider and wider, always revealing

more space. Give me hands
that long to serve. Make them strong
enough to build what must be built.

Make them fall in love with letting go.
Make them unable to hurt. Give me a mind
that leans toward generosity. A tongue

that speaks in only we. Feet that run
toward those in need. Eyes
that see beneath the masks. Ears

that hear the silence
that is the staff for every sound. A nose
that follows the fragrance of truth.

Blood the same red as everyone else’s.
And give me a heart that breaks again
and again, the way ocean waves

break, unpredictable, an endless
breaking, an endless release,
in which nothing is ever really lost.

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