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Posts Tagged ‘gift’

 

for Tomàs

 

The candle is not there to illuminate itself. 

            —Jan-Fishan Khan

 

 

It will only take five minutes, he said,

and so, though I’d not spoken with him before

and though I was about to teach a class,

I followed him outside the library door

to the dirt lot where his truck was parked

and from the open pick up bed

he pulled with flourish a rolled-up rug

and spread it between the rabbit brush

and milk thistle, then hoisted

two flat wooden seats he’d fashioned

out of pine, arranged them on the rug,

and swung a bench-like table from the bed

and placed it in the center.

And I expected, what, well, not

what happened next. It’s your canoe,

he said, and from his truck he plucked

a long and knobby stick. And here’s your oar,

he offered, with a slight bow of his head.

I took it up and kicked my shoes off, stepped

onto the rug, then leapt up to table top

and began to paddle the air.

Where are we going then, I said,

my eyes on the horizon.

To Java, he said, and I paddled harder,

eager to reach its shores. I’ve always

wanted to go to Java, I said, pulling

through currents of air. And look, he said,

there’s a farmer there on the banks

saying his morning prayers.

And he pulled from the truck a large

straw hat that he set upon his head

and a simple white scarf he let

slip through his fingers in a ritual

of silk. And when my boat came near,

he stepped beside it, met me

with a bowl-shaped bell, and circled

the small canoe, baptizing the air

with its one-note song. I closed my eyes,

and felt the tone open inside me,

and when I let my lids fly up,

he was standing right in front of me

with a vial of dark oil that smelled of vanilla

and evergreen. And he anointed me,

touching the oil to my head with his finger.

I knew I had arrived. I jumped down and hugged

the farmer, then searched the ground

for a smooth white stone to give him in return.

And as I journeyed back to the library,

somehow now only steps away, I took with me

the scent of pine, the smile of the native man,

the joy that comes when all the lines

we thought we knew have been erased,

and our inner map wildly rearranged.

 

 

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One Contentment

 

 

 

not all gifts are gifts we want

this one, perhaps, leave unopened

the day itself gift enough

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When she is drought,

be rain, and when

she is rain, be cup.

When she is lost,

let her be her own map,

and when she is wind

be wind. There are trees

in her, no, whole orchards.

Be soil and sunshine and bee.

When she is seed,

be time. When she

is moon, be sea.

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But you got it all wrong,

I wanted to say to that gift horse.

You brought me what,

stubbornness, devotion and persistence?

What kind of gifts are those?

I wanted to be a poet.

The gift horse reared and ran off,

leaving me with a thousand thousand poems

to read, a pen that will never run out,

and a whole lifetime of blank pages

just waiting to be written.

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For Christmas, I want to buy you the softest green
shirt, green the color of Wisconsin in springtime,
so green we could almost fall into the color
and find ourselves running once more to the lake,
cane poles in hand, to see if the fish are biting.
Or we might find ourselves in the dark green woods
behind the neighbor’s house where we used to dig
in the old junk yard for shards of blue and white porcelain.

But green is my favorite color, not yours. And those days
of running down the great grassy hill are gone, are gone
and faded. You like blue. Forgive me, brother, for buying
you again for Christmas another green shirt. Oh hush,
can you hear them, the cicadas, trilling through the leaves
of the old willow tree, serenading the warm summer night?

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Just because the new lemon squeezer
is useful does not mean I do not also admire it
for its cheerful yellow color and the surprising
weight of its grip in my hand. I have wanted
a lemon squeezer, not of course in the same way
that Romeo wanted Juliet, and not with the same
urgency that Rumi felt with his love for Shams.
Still, I have wanted it, longed for the ease of squeezing
a single lemon half into the chickpeas before they are hummus,
wanted it so I might juice a small lime into the blender already fragrant
with jalepeno and garlic, Thai basil and peanut oil.
It was a simple wish. And now, here it is
in my hands, not only useful but beautiful.
There will always be work to do.
A lemon squeezer by any other color might not squeeze as sweet—
though we use what’s at hand when we have to.

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Not the song but
the silence under the song,
not the stars
but the darkness between,
not the kiss
but the longing before the kiss
and the trembling long after, and
not the snow
but the spaces connecting the snow,
not the heart
but the pulse that persuades it to move,
no not the web
but the light in the strands,
not the certainty
but the wonder that birthed it,
and the branches, bare
and the cup, empty
waiting to be filled.

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