Posts Tagged ‘conversation’

There was a time I believed
we need to tell each other who we are
so you can know me, so I can know you.
Now, I see how words, too,
can be like little masks, little disguises
we can use to hide.
I don’t want to hide anymore.
I want to find the most naked words—
words with no ribbons, no sparkle,
no paint—and speak in the barest
of tongues. I want to speak with you
blood to blood, breath to breath,
grief to grief, fear to fear.
I want to know you and be known
by whatever it is that resonates
inside the words—
a raw and vibrant IS, IS, IS
that pulses between us
like a common heartbeat—
the way two living heart cells
from two different people,
when placed together in a petri dish,
will find a shared rhythm
and sustain it. This is how
I want to meet you—
two silences becoming one silence,
two beings, one life.

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I am suddenly wildly sure
my life is very possible.
I am not asked to leap off cliffs
on a motorcycle or land a parachute
on a runaway train. Not expected
to pickpocket diabolical masterminds.
Not forced to drive a car backwards
down a long set of stairs in a crowded city
while handcuffed to someone else.
In fact, all I’m asked to do
is have a few conversations that,
upon reflection,
don’t seem so difficult to have after all.
Just one word in front of another.
No guns, no swords, no knives.
No one chasing me with a pipe.
All I need are a few well-placed adjectives,
like sorry, like grateful.
A few true nouns,
like connection. Like love.

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as if we had eternity
we spend it together
this hour

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This, too, is Christmas, the quiet
walk on the quiet road in the quiet air.
The only carol here—
unending verses of river.
The only gifts we brought—
our attention, our trust.
This feast is for the heart.
There is a generosity to the sunshine
no candle could equal.
It’s a deep sweetness
to be wrapped in blue sky,
a deep sweetness
to share heartache, exhaustion—
something I would never wish for anyone,
and yet, this Christmas day,
the sharing of it,
such a beautiful present.

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It is possible to be with someone who is gone.
—Linda Gregg, “The Presence in Absence”

I have no phone receiver to connect me to the other side,
but every day I speak to my beloveds through candle flame.
Every night, I speak to them through the dark before sleep.
I speak to them in the car when I am alone.
I speak to them when I walk beneath stars,
when I walk in the woods, when I walk in the rain.
It is possible to be with someone who is gone.
It is possible to feel what cannot be seen,
to sense what cannot be heard,
to be held by what cannot be touched.
It is possible for love to grow after death.
If there is a secret, it is, perhaps, openness.
The way air lets light move through.
The way a window invites in the scent of grass.
The way sand receives the ocean,
then, rearranged, lets it pass.

This poem was published in ONE ART: A Journal of Poetry on 9/11/22

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Night Walk

            for Lara and the Dark

Some conversations prefer the dark,
so, long after sundown we walk
in the nearby field
where a wide path’s been cut
through tall grass gone to seed
and there’s just enough starlight
to make out the twin dirt ruts
where we can walk side by side.
I love conversing this way,
when the dark is less a setting
and more a partner in conversation—
as if nothing we say
could ever make it stop holding us,
as if it will listen for as long as we speak,
as if it will fill in any gaps
with its own simple syntax
of infinite ink. And so we walk,
you, me, and the gentle dark.
When we finally return to the light-warm home,
a little midnight comes in with us
and joins us for sleepytime tea.
It seems to know not even a whisper is needed,
just the certainty that we are being heard,
truly heard, the way
only an old best friend can listen,
and there’s nothing we can’t say.

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inspired by Pietà by Vincent van Gogh and a piano composition by the same name by Kayleen Asbo

When Chopin wrote his prelude in E minor,
its melody descending like sundown in a field,
he could never have guessed how
Eugène Delacroix would listen to the song relentlessly
when he painted his Pietà, how the haunting notes
would infuse themselves into the twilight
of the Virgin Mary’s blue dress,
into her outstretched hands and her oddly angled neck
as she held the dead body of her son.

And Delacroix could not have known
how, two years later, Anna van Gogh
would give birth to Vincent Willem,
his heart unbeating, his lungs unbreathing—
how Anna would long to mourn like the Virgin
and hold her own dead child, but her husband
would forbid her to even speak of the loss,
calling her grief a sin.

And Anna could not have known
how a year to the day when her first son died
she would deliver another boy
and name him Vincent Willem van Gogh,
and he would grow up seeing his own name
and birthday carved into a gravestone.

No surprise then, perhaps, that when Vincent
painted his own version of Delacroix’s Pietà,
he painted the dead son in the likeness of himself—
his own slender shoulders, his own red beard.
In Virgin Mary’s eyes, he painted dusk.

And van Gogh could not have known
how over a hundred years later
a woman named Kayleen, inspired
by Chopin and the agony in Vincent’s painting,
would write a song for piano, a song infused
with heartache and beauty, eventide and gloaming.

And Kayleen could not have known how,
months later, another woman would hear
in the slow rolling bass of the minor key
a mirror for her brokenness,
the spilling of her own golds and blues,
how she would seek out Vincent’s Pietà
and see in the painting
her own empty hands, her own dead son.
She would understand in an instant
she was not alone
in meeting the darkling swell of unbearable loss
and the light of bearing it anyway—


Today (Monday, July 12) at 11 a.m. mountain time, I hope you can join me and composer/pianist/historian Kayleen Asbo for an hour of conversation about the “unfolding delight of collaborating on a multimedia project for Vincent van Gogh. No charge, but if you want to donate in support of our work, we will accept gratefully! Above all, we want to share the joy we have discovered in weaving poetry and music in response to van Gogh and each other. 

To register. cut and paste this link: 

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Beside the purple lupine
she says, “The thing I most
don’t want to talk about—”
and then, with a sigh,
she talks about it,
and the path and the wild iris
and the bear bell and I
all listen as she meets
what she most wishes not
to meet. There are moments
when we step right up
to the line that delineates
the world that is and the world
as we wish it would be,
and no matter how much it hurts,
there is such relief in meeting the truth
that I swear as she spoke
the world was even more itself—
the lupine more purple,
the sky more blue,
and my heart more a heart
because of her courage
to take off her mask
and says this, this is what’s real.

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How are you?
she asks walking by
as I sit on my bumper
and unlace my ski boots.
And I say, The track is amazing today,
and it’s true, the snow is hard and fast
and my lungs are still burning
from pushing myself
in the cold winter air.
What I mean is, I miss
my son every minute,
and my heart feels like
a skinned rabbit still alive.
She says, What length are your skis?
I know what she means is,
Oh friend, I have felt that way, too.
And I tell her one ninety,
and we talk about how much
has changed over the years—
like ski lengths, like skins versus scales.
What I mean:
Like the way a person is here
and then they are not.
Like the way I once
could hold him.
Like the way he could once hold me.

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in the silence
the small talk
a whole life
is lived—
a life
in which
you are
only more so,
a self without
name, a self
of no
where, a
self unselved,
is to say
that sometimes
in the silence
of a minute
you find
some vision
so vast
so true
that you weep
before saying,
And how are you?

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