Posts Tagged ‘fear’


When anger enters your body
and swells in you, expands in you
until you don’t fit inside your skin,

when fear enters me
and grows like a virulent weed,
its new shoots propagating
with alarming speed until
its tendrils escape through my throat,

when our voices escalate
to try to express in volume
how big our feelings have become,

then I want to meet you outside
in the center of the meadow
where we are humbled
by the ponderosa pine that stretches skyward,
dwarfed by the red mesa walls,
held by the crystalline airiness.

I want to remember in my body
this capaciousness, this generosity,
so that when I am not standing in the meadow
but in our kitchen or on a street corner
or watching the news,
I can remember the meadow with my whole being,
can remember the scale of sky and stars
and the vast reaches
of the ever-growing universe.

I want to hold you with that kind of openness,
want to relax into knowing we are held together
by the same forces that hold the constellations.
Imagine us all together now—comets, supernovas,
your anger, my fear, and all those countless suns.

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My heart races like a plane
traveling 575 miles per hour
to a country beset with flooding
landslides and significant damage
to roads, homes and buildings.
I watch myself rise from the table
and start to pace the house.
Are you really going to freak out?
I ask myself. I watch myself act out the answer.
Anxiety rushes in, bringing with it
the detritus of recent trauma.
I can’t lose another child, I think.
The idea floats atop wave after wave of fear.
You’re not being rational, says the mind,
but the adrenal medullas above my kidneys
start pumping hormones into the bloodstream,
And I pace the rooms of the house
as panic rises in me like tropical rainwater
gushing over riverbanks.
I hear an inner voice that says,
Even if she is not okay,
you will be able to meet whatever comes.  
But I do not want to.
My lungs can’t get enough air.
I want promises she will be safe.
I want guarantees she will be protected
from harm. I want her wrapped in my arms.
My friends says, There are a lot of other mothers
in the world for our babies,
And I think of how I trust
the woman my daughter is with.
I think how I trust my daughter.
But the world, can I trust the world?
My friend listens when I tell her
I have never been a worrier,
but now I know too well the stakes.
She says to me,
You are not the same woman you were.
In that moment, I sit in the lap
of the truth, and though I don’t like it,
it comforts me, holds me
the way I wish I could hold my daughter.
I am a woman who knows
what it is to lose a child.
And I am a woman who
has been carried by love
when I could not carry myself.
I notice the panic and do not wish it away.
Of course it is here.
I feel cradled by my humanness.
I breathe out and in, out and in.
find the current in my breath—
sometimes a torrent, sometimes a stream.
I let myself ride on it.

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So I can’t save the world—
can’t save even myself,
can’t wrap my arms around
every frightened child, can’t
foster peace among nations,
can’t bring love to all who
feel unlovable.
So I practice opening my heart
right here in this room and being gentle
with my insufficiency. I practice
walking down the street heart first.
And if it is insufficient to share love,
I will practice loving anyway.
I want to converse about truth,
about trust. I want to invite compassion
into every interaction.
One willing heart can’t stop a war.
One willing heart can’t feed all the hungry.
And sometimes, daunted by a task too big,
I tell myself what’s the use of trying?
But today, the invitation is clear:
to be ridiculously courageous in love.
To open the heart like a lilac in May,
knowing freeze is possible
and opening anyway.
To take love seriously.
To give love wildly.
To race up to the world
as if I were a puppy,
adoring and unjaded,
stumbling on my own exuberance.
To feel the shock of indifference,
of anger, of cruelty, of fear,
and stay open. To love as if it matters,
as if the world depends on it.

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A Fearful Heart


Worry comes in like a fruit fly—
slips through the tiniest crack,
a crack I didn’t even know was there—
or it comes in the front door
with something I love—
and soon, worry is everywhere,
laying its eggs in all that would ripen.
Almost instantly, worry multiplies.
Of course, worry would have red eyes.
Worry doesn’t much care the season.
Winter is as good as spring.
And it circles me, buzzes me,
annoys and undoes me,
resists my attempts to be rid of it.
Invites me to learn to live with it.
I never notice when it is gone,
only when it’s here again.

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The day
from wing
to wing,
a bright
and feathered
a path
in wordless
to tag

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Not by writing another poem
about how much you miss them.
No matter how many red-wing blackbirds
you put in it, the poem itself won’t trill.
No matter how many elephants
clomp through the stanzas,
the poem won’t make the earth tremble.
No matter your skill with language
even the ripest metaphoric blood oranges
cannot quench a very real thirst.
Pick up the phone. Press the button.
Call the one you miss.

I know, I skipped the hours
where you worry about how much time
has passed, how every silent day
becomes another thick brick
in a taciturn wall between you.
Perhaps you’ve started to believe it’s impassable.
But a call is like a wrecking ball.
One sincere hello knocks down even a thousand
days of separation with just two syllables.

What happens next will only happen next
if you clear a space for reunion,
if you pick up the phone.

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Mus Musculis

Today fear is a mouse
that scuttles between thoughts
and feeds on whatever it finds—
nibbles on my certainties,
gnaws the coating off my circuitries,
and pulls the stuffing
out of each moment.
Those are its droppings
in the hallways
of my mind.
I thought it was worse
when fear was a tiger,
a badger, a wolverine,
but the mouse of fear
finds its way into everything,
makes nests inside my minutes,
discovers passages into my inner walls,
then scratches against them at night.
It never goes near the traps I’ve set,
no, it scampers around them,
its soft feet pattering,
its small dark eyes
noting everywhere I go.

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One Irrational Fear

inside this trembling woman
her own shadow
wildly distorted, flexing

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Meeting This Moment

There was that night when the cats were frightened

because they saw a feral butterscotch cat outside the door—

and for days they yowled and shrieked at each other

out of fear of what they didn’t understand,

intimidated by what they didn’t know how to fight.

So they fought each other.

Displaced aggression, said the vet,

and she encouraged us to give them space.

Today, when the news is full of butterscotch cats

that come to my door, I understand the instinct

to wail, to caterwaul. I understand the impulse

to fight with someone, anyone, to raise my voice,

to find my claws, to hiss and arch and attack

in an effort to discharge this aggression that pumps in me

churns like a river in flood stage, filled with debris and mud.

And that is when some inner voice,

a voice so quiet it’s almost impossible to hear,

suggests, “Singing is still an option.”

Suggests, “Can you shine in this moment?”

Suggests, “If you choose to speak only love,

if you choose to give space,

how might that change the only thing

you are able to change?”

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Why I Smile at Strangers

In difficult times, carry something beautiful in your heart.


–Blaise Pascal

And so today, I walk the streets

with vermillion maple leaves inside me,

and the deep purple of late-blooming larkspur

and the lilting praise of meadowlark.

I carry with me thin creeks with clear water

and the three-quarters moon

and the spice-warm scent of nasturtiums.

And honey in the sunlight.

And words from Neruda and

slow melodies by Erik Satie.

It is easy sometimes to believe

that everything is wrong.

That people are cruel and the world

destroyed and the end of it all

imminent. But there is yet goodness

beyond imagining—the creamy

white flesh of ripe pears

and the velvety purr of a cat in my lap

and the white smear of milky way—

I carry these things in my heart,

more certain than ever that one way

to counteract evil is to ceaselessly honor what’s good

and share it, share it until

we break the choke hold of fear

and at least for a few linked moments,  

we believe completely in beauty,

growing beauty, yes, beauty.

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