Posts Tagged ‘joy’


After almost two years
of growing only leaves,
the orchid that sat
on the back windowsill,
the one I have dutifully
watered and whispered to,
the one I had finally
resolved to throw away,
sent up a single spiraling stem,
shiny and darksome green,
and I who have needed
years to hide, to heal,
felt such joy rise in me
at the site of tight buds,
the kind of irrational joy
one feels when something
thought dead is found alive,
not only alive, but on the edge
of exploding into beauty,
and now it doesn’t seem
so foolish after all, does it,
this insistent bent toward hope.

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All at Once

Before I woke, my son and I
were eating breakfast—

a beautiful brown-crusted boule,
warm from the oven,

and he was slicing it and making
a giant mess of it,

the bread tearing and smushing,
and we were laughing—

his head was thrown back
with the joy of making a mess,

carefree and goofy and foolish.
Crumbs everywhere.

God, how I loved him
as he smashed a hardboiled egg

onto the uneven slice.
How I loved him

as he stuffed his mouth
with the botched bread and egg.

How I loved him as we laughed
and laughed and laughed.  

How I loved him when I woke
and he was dead,

his absence making the love
no less beautiful, no less true,

our laughter no less mirthful
in the empty room.

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By Heart

So familiar, how the dusky pink sunset
glows above snow-covered mountains,
The color blesses me as I walk alone
while Eva Cassidy sings in my ear,
I know you by heart,
I know you by heart.
My son has been dead
for over year, and now by heart
is the only way I know him.
No longer by touch, by sound, by scent.
Eva sings about how old joy
lives on and on,
and I breathe into the truth of it.
Two years ago I sent my son photographs
of this same dusky pink sunset
over snow-covered mountains—
there was joy in sharing it with him
and I feel that joy now as I talk to him,
my words coming out as visible air
as I speak to what cannot be seen.
Eva sings it again, a descending line,
I know you by heart.
I am grateful for the certainty
that rings through me in song.
He is here. As is joy.
Though he is gone.

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One Unexpected

at the edge of understanding
growing wings—
now, the leap a joy

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Ripening Joy

Joy grows, sometimes, like a persimmon.
A moment might begin like a lifeless-looking stick
shoved in the ground and ignored and, somehow—
perhaps through the fine soil of friendship—
perhaps just through luck,
it becomes a giant tree with branches
laden with the bright orange, honey-ish fruit,
so much fruit you have to scrape sweetness
from your feet just to walk in the door.
No way, you think, can joy can go from barren
to bountiful so quickly. But just today, I woke
with an ache and within an hour found myself
with friends under a tall persimmon tree
picking ripe, warm fruits.
We gathered the globes with our hands,
those reddening ambassadors of joy,
pulled the lusciousness to our mouths,
laughed with our good fortune,
and bit into the jam-like flesh—so delicate,
so unashamed of the fact it wasn’t always this way.

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How do we live at the traumatic center of death and life?
            —Rabbi Irwin Kula, Original Thinkers Festival 2022

A single moment contains
the scent of warm pumpkin pie
and the gravedigger’s spade,
the splatter of blood
and the smooth honeyed flesh of mango.
Did we ever believe we would live
this life unscathed?
Oh, the stab of loss
and the clean, mineral perfume of rain.
Oh, the ache of loss
and the deep golden sunflowered yes.
Oh, the carving of loss
and the sweet subtle tang of apples in fall.
Oh, the ache, bless the ache,
oh, the beauty, the loss,
oh, the beauty, the loss, oh, the beauty.

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for Finn (9/11/04-8/14/21)

I threw rocks in the river today.
Not because I thrill to throw rocks,
but because I love to remember
how you thrilled to throw rocks.
How you squealed at the spray
and clapped your hands at the sound
of the quiescent surface being broken.

Your joy was the pure joy of life itself,
life that knows itself through tossing,
through splattering, through squealing,
life that longs to stand on the bank
and throw rock after rock after rock.
Joy was never in the rock itself,
it wasn’t even in the splash,

nor is there joy in the rocks today.
But there is joy in feeling close to you here.
Joy in the memory of you being so alive.
Joy in remembering your smile,
your hands flying up in delight.
Joy, even, in the longing for you.
I throw rock after rock. I remember.

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Small Stuff

It can be so small, what saves me.
   Like the crow that arrives every day
     in the same green spot in the yard.
Like the baby bunny that lives
   beneath our porch who locks eyes
     with me every morning.
Like skinny dipping with Corinne
   in a frigid alpine lake. Bite of radish
     just picked from the garden.
Scent of wild roses on the trail.
   It does not make sense that pleasures
     so small could somehow stand up
to a ransacked heart, and yet
   when I hear the whir of hummingbird wings
     or see the tiny purple of a Lady Slipper
rising out of the dirt,
   I notice the dogged joy in me,
     how it glimmers against the dark
like the shooting star I saw tonight,
   long and brilliant and red,
     or like the owl in the spruce trees
that with only a handful
   of low and sonorous notes,
     redefines the night with song.

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Contact Joy

He cleans the base of the skis
with a fine, steel brush to remove
the old wax, his body swaying
above the ski, tip to tail, tip to tail,
so the micro hairs on the base
will lay down in the direction of travel
on snow. A fine copper brush
cleans it more. His movements
are quick, precise, a dance
that now comes naturally.
The only music is the sound
of the brushes, the sound
of his breath. There is no
laughter, no joking,
not even a smile, but
sometimes on winter nights
I walk toward the light
in the garage and watch
his body intent on its work,
and I feel the quiet joy
he finds in preparation
and the work of foundation,
and his joy seeps into me,
soft as the darkness
that holds the garage,
deep as the space
that holds us all.

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I want a word that means
   okay and not okay,
     a word that means
devastated and stunned with joy.
   I want the word that says
     I feel it all, all at once.
The heart is not like a songbird
   singing only one note at a time,
     more like a Tuvan throat singer
able to sing both a drone
   and simultaneously
     two or three harmonics high above it—
a sound, the Tuvans say,
   that gives the impression
     of wind swirling among rocks.
The heart understands the swirl,
   how the churning of opposite feelings
     weaves through us like an insistent breeze,
leads us wordlessly deeper into ourselves,
   blesses us with paradox
     so we might walk more openly
into this world so rife with devastation,
   this world so ripe with joy.


by the way, friends, if you are aware of a word in another language that means okay/not okay, gosh, I would love to know it

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