Posts Tagged ‘humanness’

I don’t know why I did not see
my son’s choice to take his life as a failure.
Not as his failure. Not as mine.
Not the failure of the world.
Not the failure of his friends.
It’s not as if I’m a stranger to failure—
I who can endlessly beat myself up
just for failing to remember to return a call.
I don’t know why I did not need to blame.
Don’t know why I didn’t rail at God.
Why I didn’t contract
into a crumpled ball of shame.
I don’t know what grace stepped in
and turned my heart again and again
toward compassion, toward humanness.
Don’t know why it only occurred to me
to love him. To be gentle with myself.
I don’t know why the world
met my broken heart with such generosity,
obliterating any walls of failure
before I could even fashion the bricks.
I don’t know how it works,
this mystery of acceptance,
but it saved me,
never trying to rewrite the story,
asking nothing of me except
that I let myself be led through every moment
by what I cannot know.

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Now when I walk through the market,
I think of how someone else here
beside the stir-fry cart and the tie-dye tent
has just lost a beloved
and is hiding tears behind sunglasses.
Not knowing who they are,
I try to treat everyone with kindness.
Meanwhile the day is beautiful
for everyone, no matter how broken,
how whole our hearts. It gathers us all
in a grand blue embrace.
Part of me resists calling it a miracle.
The other part calls it what it is
and strolls through the miracle
of Friday morning surrounded by arugula
and strawberries, muffins, lilies,
and all these other fragile hearts,
all of us saying excuse me, good morning,
how are you, I’m fine.

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for Craig
It’s so human, the hand,
how it rises
to wave to a friend,
as if it is a direct extension
of the heart. Perhaps
that is why, in these days
of emojis and AI,
when you write to tell me
you wave each time
you drive past my house,
my hand rises to wave back,
though I don’t know where you are
or when’s the last time
you passed by my home,
but, here, friend,
wherever you are,
here’s my hand,
palm open, arm high,
not electromagnetic
but no less full
of song and light
this wave reaching
across the night.

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I focus on the gentle words of my friend,
how I hear her smile come through her voice,
even if my eyes are closed. I focus
on how soft it is, the scarf I am swathed in,
how it warms my bare neck.
I think to myself,
I will remember this moment,
standing in this movie theater lobby,
where the scent of popcorn triggers my hunger.
I will remember feeling unsettled, thinking wow,
that was the moment I understood
how irrevocably the world had changed.
And when, later, we walk outside,
I fall in love with the snowflakes
that hit our face the way no pixel ever could—
and how, when my friend hugs me goodbye,
I fold into her body, tender and strong,
and I inhale the scent that is uniquely hers,
feel it flood my memories.
And later, when I cry, because every day I cry,
I feel so damn grateful to grieve, to hope,
to love beyond what any algorithm could predict,
my heart breaking every rule-based parameter,
yes, thank you for this stubborn and unruly heart
thudding like a storm inside my human chest
as I move through the storm, the wind cold on my cheeks.

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Dear Heather,

on William’s birthday

There was a time before we lost our sons,
a time before the long walks in the frozen woods,
a full-bellied time when we cherished how they grew.

Today the snow came again, at last,
though it was more sifting than deep drift.
I notice I want more.

It’s so human to want more, I tell myself.
More snow, more time, more love,
more memories of making fires in winter,

tasting summer s’mores, feeding hummingbirds,
making cookies, speaking silly languages,
skinny dipping in the river, singing to Rusted Root.

It feels right their birthdays should feel heavy—
heavy as the snow that didn’t fall today,
heavy as the bodies they didn’t grow into.

Oh, the weight of love—light as the sunshine
that slanted through the room between squalls,
substantial as the tractors our boys are not driving.

I think of how much we’ve grown in their absence—
which is to say how much we’ve grown
in the company of heartache, the company of love,

how powerfully loss has stretched us.
Somehow, these boys linger in our being.
They arrive through song, through silence.

In this after time, we feed them with memories—
some true, some more than true.
Each time we say their names, they grow.

It’s so human to want more, no matter
how reconciled we are to what is. Oh,
for more time, somehow, between forever and now.

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The Bidding

Again, I am ruled by it,
this invitation to be wildly open
the way a day is open,
this invitation to be porous
the way birdsong is porous,
this invitation to feel it all
the way skin feels it all when
I slip into a blue alpine lake.
Again this urge to fall all the way
into the mystery and refuse
any rope thrown in an attempt
to rescue me. Morning comes
with the scent of autumn,
charged with ripeness and rot
and the kinship of everything.
What an honor to be mortal,
to know the value of a day,
to know how vulnerable we are
and then give ourselves away.

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Sometimes when I catch myself
judging someone else—
a stranger or perhaps a beloved—

I imagine my son and father watching me,
not looking down from above,
I imagine them looking out from inside me.

I don’t worry I am disappointing them—
I feel certain they would be generous with me.
See how human she is, they might say,

loving me despite my humanness,
because my humanness.
In that moment of imagining,

I feel myself soften,
feel my heart unfurl like a new leaf in spring,
feel how possible it is to be generous

with the humanness of myself and others
and the relief it brings.
In that moment, it is easy to be alive.

Easy to notice my annoyance
and be gentle with the self who gets annoyed.
Easy to touch my palm to my heart

and know it as the palm of my son,
the palm of my father,
reminding me how truly I want to walk it,

this path of compassion.

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Blessings, Blessings

Believing it matters,
today I bless all that seems unable to grow.
I bless the stems of larkspur
broken in yesterday’s storm.
I bless the broken. Bless those in pain.
Bless all who feel as if they are drowning
in the ache of aloneness and betrayal.
I have felt the wide blessing of sky,
cold blessing of rain, green blessing of field,
I have felt the dark, sharp blessing of loss.
How it’s changed me.  
For all I cannot fix, I bless it.
For all I cannot hold, cannot heal, cannot mend,
blessings, blessings, impossible blessings,
tender blessings, blessings
mighty as wildfire,
blessings as gentle
as tears.

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It surprises me she is fragile,

this woman who labored for eighteen hours


to birth me, this woman who cared for me

every time I was sick, who coached


my soccer team, who led my Girl Scout troupe.

This woman who went hunting and fishing


and still often comes home with the biggest

catch. This woman who walked ten miles


to raise money for hunger. This woman

who prays for everyone, everyone.


And so tonight when I walk her

to her room and she needs to stop


a moment to catch her breath,

I marvel at how human she is,


this woman who has been more

than human to me my whole life—


a super hero, a champion, a star.

And somehow, knowing this, and


understanding that it’s been true all along,

I fall even more deeply in love with her


as she leans back on the bed, lets out

a long sigh, closes her eyes, and smiles.

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and saying yes to the world as it is,
my body craves what it craves.
Oh this terrible, beautiful bright stitch of longing
sewn into my breath
with red, red thread,
it pulls, tighter and tighter,
then catches on something
deep in my core,
and some voice,
is it mine? insists,
more, more, I want more.

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