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Strange Balance


 
 
When the boy is sneering
or the glass is breaking
or the woman is weeping
or the streets are crowded
with anger and rage,
it is hard to believe
a small joy
has any real value,
hard to believe
a single red gerber daisy
or a cup of grapefruit-scented tea
might have any relevance,
could bear any weight on the scale
that measures what it is to be alive,
but last night, while I was steeping
in worry, aching with injustice,
my daughter created a stage
between the threadbare couches
and hummed herself a soundtrack
as she leapt and spun
and shuffled and flapped,
and oh, how her brief flare of joy
changed the flavor of the night,
an improbable balance,
the way even the smallest amount of sugar
transforms the bitter sauce,
the way just one note
resolves a minor chord,
the way the barest hint of rain
makes the whole desert
erupt into bloom.
 
 

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Getting Ready

What might you need to let go of or “clean out” in order to make room for wonder or joy?

—Kayleen Asbo, Advent and the Arts: The Week of Hope

Just today I walked

in the shadows

and noticed how

they scrubbed me

the way silence sometimes

scrubs a room.

Wonder rushed in.

It wasn’t that I was trying

to keep wonder out,

it’s just that with my schedule

and rigor, I hadn’t left it

space to enter.

If only with mop

and broom I could sweep

out anything

that would keep me

from wonder, from joy.

Instead, the world offers

shadow, stillness,

quietude, loss,

and a red-tailed hawk

in the heart,

circling, circling,

wondering what

it might subtract next.

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Perhaps we stumbled

on the words, perhaps

we forgot a note,

forgot a bridge,

bumbled our entrances,

fumbled our parts,

but we sang, oh yes,

we sang into the low golden light

of summer, sang

because joy, because

harmony, sang because

lonely, because fear,

sang because, tears

spilling down our cheeks,

we could sing, oh friends,

before we said goodbye,

we could sing.

 

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Right down the middle of main street

the woman with the long red braids

and fairy wings strapped to her back

rode a unicycle more than two times

taller than she was—rode it with balance

and grace, her arms stretched out,

as if swimming through gravity,

as if embracing space—her smile an invitation

to join in her bliss. How simple it is, really,

to make of ourselves a gate. To swing open

to the joy that is. To give others the key.

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One Art

 

for Sherry

 

 

in a time of thorns

finding the smallest joy—

making a room in it

big enough

we can all slip in

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Dear __________,

 

 

 

You are warmly invited to join our conspiracy of joy,

a growing cabal of strangers and friends who collude

to create delight, who initiate random acts of bliss, who

scheme of ways to help all others find authentic jubilance,

who tear down walls that would separate us and them.

If you enjoy such subterfuge, there certainly is room

for you. To be clear, you may be charged with pleasure,

ecstasy, and truth. Next meeting, now. And now. And now

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Once there’s one, you know

that there are hundreds to follow

hiding in and amongst everything,

next to impossible to eradicate—

some things seem to come

in great abundance.

May joy be one.

 

 

 

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Odd Joy in Paradox Valley

 

 

 

Driving through Bedrock,

population 14, I remember

sitting on the stoop of the general store

and asking Rose to come out from behind the counter

and sing me a song about sorrow.

Crazy how a sad song could make me

so happy. Crazy how every time I drive by

I still smile to think of her voice,

soaring as the red rock cliffs,

haunting as the windows shuttered and dark.

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One minute you’re sitting on the porch

in the warm morning sun and ten minutes later

 

it’s been an hour or more and you have forgotten

your name, forgotten the year, forgotten

 

who’s president, all that you know is the sky

has never been so clear and your body

 

has never been this starved for blue—the way

it steeps so deeply into you that by the time

 

you enter yourself again, you forget to wonder

how to make this radiance last,

 

can’t imagine you could ever feel

any other way.

 

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Window

 

 

 

In dark times it is sometimes hard

to speak of joy—not because

 

it doesn’t exist but because

of the guilt in feeling it.

 

The dark clots our arteries,

it keens in our ears, floods the streets.

 

Still, my friend sends me a word—

wushdan. It’s pronounced like swush,

 

she says, not swoosh. Wushdan.

I say it aloud, and the syllables

 

hush my tongue. It means,

she says, “heart awareness,

 

conscience,” as in a practice

of inner discipline. Wushdan,

 

I say again, as if to speak a word

is to know the secrets harboring

 

inside it for centuries.

The root, says my friend, is wush,

 

which is Persian, means joy.

It feels as if someone

 

has slipped me a piece of chocolate

in math class during a test.

 

Or as if, while reading

the headlines of war I look out

 

the window and see the big brown eyes

of a doe looking unwaveringly

 

into mine. And I put the paper down

and watch out the window

 

until the light is gone.

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