Posts Tagged ‘gratefulness’

at the Palais Montcalm
Just because I’ve been grateful before
doesn’t make today’s gratefulness any less true—
I think of Beethoven who fell in love
with a melody by Mozart,
then wrote seven variations for cello and piano—
one minor, one song-like,
three written in different times,
but each variation at heart the same.
I think of the joy on the young cellist’s face tonight
as he drew on the bow and plucked on the strings
as if this one performance were everything.
And so it is with gratefulness—
each time we express it, it matters the most.
Whether it’s a new expression
or a variation on a gratefulness theme
that we will again and again name.
Like gratefulness for family.
Gratefulness for friends.
Gratefulness for morning, evening.
For each scrap of peace.
For each chance to be grateful again.

If you are interested in listening:

* Seven Variations in E flat major for cello and piano is based on the aria Bei Männern, welche Liebe fühlen (“In men, who feel love”) from Mozart’s opera The Magic Flute.


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“The odds of you being alive are basically zero.”
—Dina Spector reporting the work of Dr. Ali Binazir,
Business Insider, June 11, 2012
It’s like this. The sun itself
is constantly moving through space,
and yet it never leaves us.
Add this to the list of marvels—
like how a glass of water
was once a cloud,
like how love can grow in us
despite sorrow, fear.
Given such gifts,
one must wonder how it is
our arms aren’t constantly raised
in spontaneous praise for life.
I know and you know
why sometimes our hands stay down.
But now, standing still together,
even as we’re spinning
and racing through space,
even if it’s only a whisper,
when faced with the truth
that great forces hold
our lives in place,
it feels right to say
thank you, thank you,
eyes lifting, heart trembling,
the improbable earth
so solid beneath our feet.

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From across the stack of bottled water
the man who lost his beloved wife
and the woman who lost her beloved son
recognized each other and stopped.
Can I hug you? he said. And they met
in the center of the aisle.
They stood there long moments,
heart to heart, while all around them
the carts continued to roll
and the shoppers shopped
and the checkers checked
and the strawberries were ripe and on sale.
And though no one took their picture,
no one noticed them at all,
in that moment their hearts,
already expanded by grief,
expanded even more.
They became their hearts.  

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When, in ancient Persia, the farmers
began to selectively breed wild carrots
to make them sweeter and minimize the woody core,
they could not have imagined how,
over two thousand years later,
a woman on another continent
would harvest hundreds and hundreds of carrots
on a late October day and,
as she pulled the long orange roots
from the near-frozen earth,
she would thank those farmers for their work.
Such a miracle of sweetness, the carrot—
so brittle, so high in sugar,
such a shocking brilliant orange.
And yet not a miracle.
The story of the carrot is like so many stories—
it is a testament to many hands over centuries
shaped it into what it is today.
I look at these hands of mine as they tug the rosettes,
as they scrape the loose dirt, as they trim.
What will they sow? What will they select?
What legacy of change will they leave?  

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Dear Pablo,

Because you dared to love Matilde
without knowing how, or when, or from where,
I, too, became the unblooming reed
that carries inside it the radiance of summer days,
the luminosity of moon, the glittering secrets of stars.
I, too, believed I could be worthy of devotion
despite my darkness, because my darkness,
because my shadows, because my shame.
I embraced love as wood instead of crystal—
something growing, something vital,
something solid and difficult to break.
Because you spilled love into ink,
I learned your love by heart.
Your words caressed me and drenched me
like late summer rain, they carried me
through gloomy rooms and moonless years.  
Because you dared to deeply love one woman,
you touched the soul of this other woman,
and I, too, know, because of you,
the perfume of dark carnation, the ripe apple
of happiness, the bliss of being spread out
on a blanket of ancient night,
a kiss that transcends borders and centuries,
the gift of a love so obscure it resists translation,
the gift of a love so personal
it invites the rest of the world.

*with references to Love Sonnets XII and XVII

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Of course, there are books everywhere—
shelves and stacks and bags of books.
Though I would not have guessed
there would be small wooden ladders
with many rungs for the mind to climb.
And the colors on the walls are warm
and the breeze through the open window
is cool. Through one window, some neighbor
is playing their radio loud,
though it’s after one a.m.
And out the back window, I can see
in the moonlight a persimmon tree
laden with hundreds of pale orange fruits.
And though Alison isn’t here,
she is so thoroughly here,
and I feel so very not all alone
as I fall asleep by myself in Alison’s room,
aware of my exact shape and grateful
that for this moment, I know myself
as something else that belongs here,
something chosen, something defined in part
by its presence here, something integral
as the tennis ball, the blue flashlight,
the tick, tick, tick of the clock on the wall.

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for Merry Stoll

I loved those Sundays
when I, a teenage girl,
would climb the stairs
to the church choir loft
where my grandmother and I
would sing hymns side by side.

God, I loved her voice,
rich with vibrato and conviction,
loved her wide warble—
not a pure note,
yet wholly in tune.

Of all the selves I have been,
I cherish that girl
who knew to the core
she was lucky
to sit beside such a woman.

She didn’t yet know
nothing lasts forever,
she only knew
how she loved those moments,
their voices weaving together,
their bodies leaning into each other
like two notes grateful to be sung.

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The Prayers

When I asked the world to open me,
I did not know the price.
When I wrote that two-word prayer in the sand,
I did not know loss was the key,
devastation the hinge,
trust was the dissolution
of the idea of a door.
When I asked the world to open me,
I could never have said yes to what came next.
Perhaps I imagined the waves
knew only how to carry me.
I did not imagine they would also pull me under.
When I asked the world to open me,
I had not imagined drowning
was the way to reach the shore.
The waves of sorrow dragged me down
with their tides of unthinkable loss.
The currents emptied my pockets
and stripped me of my ideas.
I was rolled and eroded
and washed up on the sand
like driftwood—softened.
I sprawled there and wept,
astonished to still be alive.
It is not easy to continue to pray this way.
Open me.
And yet it is the truest prayer I know.
The other truest prayer,
though sometimes it frightens me,
is Thank you.

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Like a pale blue ribbon,
soft and lovely,
your words are woven
through the nest that has held me
since the merciless shot of loss.
Your poems meet me again and again
with their open eyes
and their open hands.
They say, Rest here,
sweetheart. I understand.
You, with your pilgrim heart,
your insistence on devotion,
you have cradled me
with your honesty.
Long before I knew
I needed to be saved,
your words found me,
stitched through me with love
as if that is what words are for.

Dear friends, here is where you can find out more about the remarkable Gregory Orr. 

And here is where you can find one of his poems that has saved me in the past year. 

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Sitting on folding chairs
in the dark, we talk
in hushed tones
as night birds swoop
and call across the lake.
The evening air is warm
and though I can’t see
the pale purple flowers
on the rosemary bushes,
I know they are there—
it’s the kind of night
I will someday miss most,
the kind when we speak
of plans and weather
and what’s for lunch tomorrow,
the kind of night
when we know full well
how else a night might go,
but for this night we
sit with the stars
and the sound of the train
and we snuggle deeper in.

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