Posts Tagged ‘help’


for Kayleen

As the tide rose and the waves grew nearer,
she took a stick and drew in the sand
a small labyrinth. In the center
she placed a dried tangle of roots,
some sodden gray feathers,
and the broken open shells of oysters.
White stone at the entrance.
Warm sun on our skin.
On the short path, we wrote with a stick
the names of people and places we longed to heal.
All around us the whirling of dark sea birds
seeking higher places to land.
All around us the sound of waves crashing on rocks,
sound of cliffs slowly eroding into sand.

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Like Tonight

After wrapping the present,

mom would pull ribbon from a roll

and wrap it around the gift.

She’d tie a knot at the top,

then ask for my finger

to hold the ribbon in place

while she fashioned the double knot.

Eventually I learned what Mom knew—

it’s not hard to tie a ribbon alone.

Still, the loan of a finger is lovely.

Lovelier still, partnership.

This is what you do for me.

Though you’re far away,

sometimes when I find myself trying

to, oh, wrap things up,

I feel, perhaps, an invisible hand

reaching in to help where I most need it.

How much easier the work is then,

such a gift, to meet the present together.

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Longing to Help



The world enters

us as breath. We

return to it itself

as breath.

            —Joseph Hutchison, “Comfort Food: Breath”



And so today, on a day

when I feel quite sure

I can’t give you anything,

not anything that really matters,

I give you my breath.

It’s more conceptual

than actual, perhaps,

though scientists say

that the molecules we breathe

have been redistributed

in our atmosphere

for a century or two.

I decide to breathe as if.

As if with each breath,

I connect to you. As if

with each breath, we

become just a little

more each other

one molecule at a time.


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Because I cannot fix her heart,

I plant flowers in the two empty pots

on my mother’s high rise patio.

She’s always loved flowers around the house—

peonies and petunias in Wisconsin,

succulents and larkspur in Colorado.

She taught me when I was a girl

how to deadhead the plants

to produce more blooms,

how to make the snapdragon

open its reptilian mouth, how

to tell the story of Cinderella

by carefully dissecting the bleeding heart,

how to make touch me nots spit their seeds,

and how a few flowers around the home

bring immeasurable joy. And so

I pick out white and blue lobelia and

a soft gray vine and a hot pink begonia

and other flowers and vines I can’t name

and we sit on her patio together

in the late afternoon sun

and arrange the potted plants.

There is something about planting flowers

together that changes the way

you see the flowers—the same way

a soup tastes better when made

by someone who loves you—

and I thrill to think of her

looking out the window and seeing

the bright red geraniums surrounded

by purples and blues and greens

and thinking to herself, wow,

that girl really loves me, and

surely, surely, though it won’t

fix her heart, surely it will do some good,

those draping pink petunias

so familiar, so new.


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Because I can’t make things better,

I offer you tea. I am grateful when you accept.

The night holds us both

as we sit in the kitchen,

your voice a small boat

in an ocean of ache.


Because I can’t fix the problems,

I cover you with a blanket

when I see you are shivering,

though I know your shudders

have little to do with cold.

Still, it feels good when you pull

the white throw around you,

as if for the moment you’re protected.


I think of the Queen of Sheba,

how she learned to be grateful

for falling. How, in the dark,

she found her own light within,

then rose up and shared

this pearl with the world.


Because you are hurting,

I listen to you, would listen

all night, would listen all week.

I offer my whole attention.

And as you find in yourself

the light that is there,

I marvel as you marvel

at your own wisdom, your

own strength.

I listen. I nod.

I pour you tea.




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Our Birthright




Don’t say, don’t say

that no one can help us now—


there are hands all around us,

all of them reaching,


in every corner appears

bright wings,


and, like a miracle

that’s always been waiting


to happen, out of the stump

of yourself emerges


your own open hand.

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wanting to be your lifeboat—

so different from simply

being your lifeboat

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From the Pod

Did you know, she says,
that dolphins will help
an injured animal
reach the surface so it can breathe?
She is six, and she shares
this new knowledge with anyone
she meets—a teacher, a waitress,
a woman in the airport, a man
in line at the store.
Perhaps she is already
somehow aware
that every one of us
is in treacherous waters
in need of a little nudge
from beneath that guides us
to emerge.

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I find you
crouched in the cold
lighting matches
one after another.
It is a long, long night
and it is not near over.
There is nowhere
you want to return.
You strike another.
And again.
We cup our palms
around your light.
What do you see in it?
I want to offer you
bread, a blanket, a room,
my hands, a different ending,
a kinder plot.
You want only
another match.

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