Posts Tagged ‘gift’

            with thanks to Rae
Inside the glass bottle,
the wine from Sangiovese grapes—
aged in oak barrels for three years—
continues to age,
losing its youthful fruitiness,
becoming more heady,
more sour cherry, more rose.
A glass of such wine is like
a drinkable love letter to change.
So when the sommelier’s wife
gifts me a vintage from the year
my son was born,
I taste more than raspberry,
dried flowers, coconut and tobacco.
I taste deep red.
I taste rolling down grassy hills
and painting our faces with mud.
I taste sleepless nights and midnight fears.
Homework at the table.
Camping in the desert.
The vinosity of devotion.
Late summer swims in the pond.
The glass empty long before
I wish it were done.

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            for Shawnee, my step-daughter, on her 40th birthday
How generously she let me into her life.
How we sang songs about Cowboy Joe in the car
and read books out loud on the couch.
I remember falling on the floor laughing
about a silly joke that wasn’t really funny,
except it hit us just right in the right moment.
To this day we laugh about Chesterfield.
I remember river trips and watching her
snowboard in a straight line down
the black diamond run, her sure path
the only track through the powder.
There are gifts we never could expect—
like the way a girl can make a home in our hearts
and never leave, her life like a flower
that someone else planted, and yet
I have been lucky enough to be part
of the garden soil that helps her grow.
And my god, she is beautiful as she grows,
beautiful as with tender hands,
she plants new flowers of her own.

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     composed by Jeffrey Nytch, conducted by Elizabeth Swanson

Sitting in the red velvet chair
in the first tier box of Carnegie Hall,
I was well aware
that for some in the audience,
this was just another song being sung,
one more moment of beauty
in a long string of moments of beauty,
but for me, looking down at that stage
full of singers, the pianist, the conductor,
I saw, too, the same space thirty-seven years ago
when my father and I sat in chairs on the stage
and listened to Vladimir Ashkenazy play piano
and my dad whispered to me,
This is only the first time
you’ll be on stage at Carnegie Hall.
So when one hundred twenty people
began to sing words I wrote,
their voices both thundersome and tender,
I lived into the chance to be who
my dad believed I could be,
the chance to live through music,
the chance to grow into a dream.

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     for Janet Kaye Schoeberlein, March 26, 1930-Dec. 28, 2021

When I was fourteen, Jan gave me her flannel nightgowns,
the long white ones with tiny blue flowers
that I had admired on her for years.
When I wore them, I wore
the classical music always playing
in the background in her home.
I wore the high tilting treble of her voice
as she sang around the campfire.
I wore her world class hiccups that always
seemed to arrive when she didn’t approve
of what was about to happen.
I wore desert river adventures
and trips to the theater downtown
and dinners with foods I’d never tried before.
And though I didn’t know it then,
I wore the past of her childhood in Germany,
and her memory of how she graduated law school
as the only woman in her class.
I wore her willingness to raise her young nephew
and her joy in raising her daughter
and the way she always said my name
as if I were a south American flower.
Those nightgowns, I took their shape,
loved the way their soft cloth swirled
around my body, wrapping me in eccentricity.
I still wear the other hand me downs she gave me—
Curiosity. Independence. Individuality.
Because she was so herself,
she taught me I could trust myself to be me.
She was the queen of oddness,
a model of uniqueness,
an archetype of being true.
To this day I feel these qualities
swirl around me, too—
the comfort of her integrity
the warmth of her generosity,
the way Jan was so very, very Jan.

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Surprise Visit

She arrived with a small box of gifts—
two tree-ripened avocados, crispy kale
she’d roasted with spicy tahin,
a bar of dark chocolate laced with salt,
and a paperback book of koans.
I received them all with raw gratitude,
knowing what was really in that box
was devotion, compassion, integrity, hope.

But it was her arms that saved me
that day, her arms and the quiet song
of her breath, the way she held me
until I felt known—the way a shore
holds a lake, the way empty branches
hold sky, the way love holds us all.

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for Paul Fericano and so many others

I turn first to the chapter
on techniques for broken wings.
I learn of contour splints and anchor tape
and reasons why most broken wings
should not be completely immobilized.

I am not so unlike an injured bird.
Struck down by grief, I too, am unable to fly.
Even walking, I find I’m off balance.
I’m best treated without an audience.
I heal best with absolute calm.

I was unsure at first why my friend
would have sent me—along with tea,
chocolate, crackers and sweet biscuits—
a book on “kitchen healing:”
how to treat injured wildlife at home.

But there beneath the image
of a simple wing break, I read,
a sentence like a prophecy:
“Nature starts the healing process
almost as soon as the injury occurs.”

And I feel, to my surprise,
the tender places where the bones
of my wings no longer protrude.
And though my joints are rigid,
with supports, I’m recovering.

And I am thankful for all the hands of friends—
unskilled, untrained, yet willing to try.
Hands that send letters and blankets
and feathers and books. Calm hands
that help heal these fractures until I can fly.

*Quote from Care of the Wild Feathered & Furred: A Guide to Wildlife Handling & Care by Mae Hickman and Maxine Guy (Unity Press, 1973)

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On the day
I most needed
to remember
how to pray,
a prayer shawl
arrived in the mail.
I wrapped myself in it
and felt in the trinity stitch
the singing of my name,
felt the colors tether me
to my own heart.
Sometimes when we
feel most alone,
the world conspires
through the goodness
of others to remind us
who we are,
remind us that now
is the right moment
to wrap ourselves
in the kind of beauty
no fear can extinguish,
now is the right moment
to feel how,
though we are alone,
love floats
around our shoulders
soft and so warm.

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            I’m sure there’s a blossom in there somewhere

And if all I can give you is silence,

then let it be the most beautiful silence,

a silence perfumed with mint and sage,

a silence that brings a quiet shine

to everything it touches.

Let it be the kind of silence

that opens into a deeper silence,

the kind that knows golden petals and sunshine

and the scent of rain unfolding in the meadow—

a silence that holds you so lightly,

the way candlelight might hold you

inside the dark. May it find you

in the morning, be waiting for you

before you rise. May you find it behind

and between every word you say,

the way sky supports the dark cursive

of starlings. And may you hear it, really hear it,

the deep silence. Like your favorite

song playing over and over again.

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no ribbons, no bows,

no fancy wrapping, no box—

you, the very gift

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Into Your Stocking




I slipped some magic markers

for coloring the world—

the leaves, the river, the moon.

You can write messages

in the sky and the wind

will blow them where

they need to go.

You can color thoughts—

give them stripes or polka dots.

You can change the hue

of a mood with a few broad strokes.

There’s one that will make you

invisible. Some markers I

don’t know what they do.

One is the color of laughter.

Another the color of forgiveness.

Don’t be surprised if other people

can’t see them. Don’t be

surprised when they graffiti

the walls around your heart.

Don’t be surprised when

you start to think in color—

when you start to believe

every idea, every word,

every dream can change

the shade of the world.

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