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Posts Tagged ‘healing’

Stubborn

When the brain is separated from the heart, it is capable of doing terrible things to each other and the planet.

—Jane Goodall

And so I try to tend the path each day

between brain and heart.

Whatever smallnesses I trip on,

I try to remember to bow as I remove them.

Whatever weeds try to overrun it—

weeds of should and shame—

I try to yank them out, knowing full well

I never get the whole root.

The more I travel the path,

the easier it is—

though steep sometimes,

and the effort to go on

makes me weep.

And sometimes, it feels unfamiliar,

though I’m sure I’ve travelled this way before.

Frightened, lost, tired, exposed—

yet I try to find and preserve the path.

Because the stakes are too high

when the path is gone.

Because the healing is so great

when I honor the path

step by stubborn step.

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The Burn

I keep a bag of frozen peas

for nights like tonight when

I am clumsy and burn my skin.

I press the cold bag against

the angry red welt and always

I marvel how quickly it helps—

until the bag is taken away.

I would like to be your frozen peas,

want to be what you reach for

when the world burns.

When you wince with hurt,

I would make it feel better,

if only you hold me,

if only you don’t let go.

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Because I cannot be there to hold my father’s hand, 

I walk into my children’s room and hold my daughter and son 

as if love in one room emits a wave strong enough  

to be felt many states away. Because I am afraid, 

I don’t try to pretend I am not. Tears run hot 

down my face and I don’t dam them.   

When they dry, I let them dry. 

Because I am helpless to fix my father’s kidneys, 

I tell him I love him, as if words could help 

filter his blood before returning it to his heart, 

his tender heart.  

Because the helicopter is flying him to Miami, 

the blades of my worry begin to spin. 

Because I can’t stop them, I turn them 

into a giant wing that carries prayers 

into the rooms where I’m not allowed to go. 

And though I’m not there, I hold his hand, 

imagine it heavy in my own. Because maybe 

he can feel it. Because I don’t want him to be alone.  

 

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We all belong to the same galactic oneness.

—Carlos Santana, Master Class

 

 

I could be the doctor who, overwhelmed

in the ER, went home and killed herself.

I could be the sixteen-year-old boy

who had to cover his father with a white sheet

before the coroner arrived.

I could be the white sheet.

I could be the lawmaker unable to sleep,

or her pillow that hears her cry out in fear

when at last the sleep arrives.

I could be the rhythmic hissing of the ventilator

or the wail of the wife, or the weary hum

of the custodian beneath her mask

as she wipes the surfaces clean.

It could be me, the eleventh death

in the town next door to mine.

It could be me, the one who

unknowingly makes you sick

because I don’t know I carry

something deadly inside my breath.

And so I don’t hug you when I see you

across the post office lobby,

though my heart leaps up to hold you.

Because you could be the flat line

on the EKG.

Because you could be number twelve.

 

 

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Pneumonia

 

            —for A

 

 

And if I could, I would breathe for you.

I would inhale and exhale and hold

your breath for you. For you I would

sigh and rant, I would hack and pant,

I would be your lungs if I could. I would

ease this ache, I would carry this pain,

I would take away fear, I would be

the wind, the wild mesa wind,

the late April wind that blows change

into all we thought we knew

and rearranges the meaning of here.

No one could ever speak for you.

But I would breathe for you, friend.

Please, breathe, please keep breathing.

I need you to breathe for you, breathe

for me, please, friend. I wish I could

breathe for you, breathe for you.

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for Kyra

 

February ends with the fragrance of change—

not quite the fresh earthy scent of rain,

but no longer the white sterility of winter.

It’s the damp aroma of long dead grass

and the must of soil as it starts to unfreeze,

the bright tang of Gemini distilled from the sky

and the hint that someday there will be green.

 

This is the perfume I imagine you wearing today

as you move from the darkest hours of fear

into the chapter of healing. Yes, I smell it

as I hug you, the scent of making room for the world,

the scent of resilience, of beauty yet to come.

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Docetaxel

 

The yew can live to be over two thousand years old—

a sacred tree that grows large enough for forty people

 

to stand inside it. Today, its ancient power fits

in a clear plastic bag the size of two fists and it drips

 

through a clear plastic tube into the chest of my friend.

In three days, she will not want to move. She will not

 

want to eat. She will wonder if it’s all worth it.

It will last a week. So strange that a plant

 

that causes death when consumed will help

to save her life. Her hair has been gone for weeks.

 

But today, on her last day of chemo, I marvel

at how she is being infused with evergreen

 

in the hopes that she will transmogrify, carry

in her the mystery that grows in the bark of the tree.

 

When a yew branch touches the ground, it takes root.

Sprouts again. Let her body know this secret. Amen.

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As the Chemo Begins

 

 

 

Most of her hair was gone already,

but I guided the electric razor across her scalp,

brown tufts falling into my fingers.

 

We listened to music, drank wine,

toasted to vulnerability. She made jokes

about not needing to buy shampoo.

 

I sang along with the songs we had chosen—

choked on the lyrics to “Life is Wonderful,”

hummed when I couldn’t sing.

 

There are days when wonderful

is so far from what we might have chosen,

but wonderful it was, my hands

 

smoothing across the new naked landscape

of her head, delighting in the feel of the fuzz,

marveling at the gift of sharing loss and fear.

 

There are days when we lean into each other

and cry. And such a terrible wonderful it is,

letting the tears come. Weeping them together.

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Someone has crocheted a half dozen blankets—

one dark purple, another camo green, another

with stripes in every possible color.

There are half a dozen quilts with bright squares.

And someone has knit a dozen hats—

and a basket on the shelf overflows with handmade scarves.

 

My friend chooses a pink cotton pillow

that someone has sewn in the shape of a heart

and a long creamy scarf, impossibly soft.

She would rather be anywhere but here,

but look at that smile as she dons the scarf,

as if its stitches are keeping her from falling away.

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Things are gonna get brighter.

            —”Ooh Child,” The Five Stairsteps

 

 

In the photo, the girl is smiling.

I know all she is hiding.

 

If I could talk to her now,

I wouldn’t tell her much.

 

Wouldn’t warn her about

which boys will break her heart.

 

Wouldn’t tell her which jobs to avoid,

which years will last decades,

 

which friends will lie, which

day she should pay close attention.

 

But I would tell her that Nina Simone

was right when she covered The Five Stairsteps.

 

That things will be brighter.

The young me wouldn’t believe it, of course.

 

Because the healing hasn’t happened yet,

she has stopped believing it’s possible.

 

I might could slip that song into her

cassette mix. Even if she didn’t believe the lyrics,

 

she’d sing along. That’s the way she is.

And the words would land

 

in the branches of her heart

like the truest lyrics do. And build a nest there.

 

And when she lost her voice,

and when it got dark,

 

they would sing to her about the brightening.

Yeah, they would sing. They would sing.

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