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The Path of Love


            with gratitude to Jude Janett and Joi Sharp
 
 
And here I thought the path of love
would look like love. Like kindness.
Like generosity. Like gentleness.
 
Instead it looks like me being bothered
by the sound of loud chewing. Me
wanting praise. Me needing to feel
 
loved. Hello me. How elegantly love
has arranged for me to meet
all the parts of me that would stand
 
in love’s way. How easily
it shows me I’ve thought of love
as a destination. But here is love
 
with no expectation. Here is love
with no name, no locus. Here
is love with no face, no shape, no
 
promise, no vow, no hope.
Here is love as itself, surging
and flowing, love as itself insisting
 
on love, love as itself eroding
all those layers of me that still
think they know something about love
 
(and love holds me while I rail
and love throws me back in the stream
and love is what is still here when I am not).
   

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Fluency




Stepping off the edge
I began to learn falling
as I would learn to speak
another tongue—
confused at first,
disoriented,
but now the thrill
as I notice
how the new
airy syntax
and unbound grammar
have changed
everything
about the way I think,
everything
about the way
I love.

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Bald Eagle

In less than ten seconds

I fell in love with the eagle

before it rounded the corner

and disappeared.

Sometimes,

it’s easier to love

that which moves quickly

through our lives.

Harder to love

what stays long enough

to disappoint, to hurt, to betray—

harder to feel disenchanted

and love anyway.

I’ve seen an eagle

carry prey that weighs

more than it does.

Makes me want to believe

I, too, can carry more—

like a love bigger than I am.

Like forgiveness beyond

what my thoughts can think.

Like willingness to keep loving

long after I’d rather rest my wings.

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Meeting This Moment

There was that night when the cats were frightened

because they saw a feral butterscotch cat outside the door—

and for days they yowled and shrieked at each other

out of fear of what they didn’t understand,

intimidated by what they didn’t know how to fight.

So they fought each other.

Displaced aggression, said the vet,

and she encouraged us to give them space.

Today, when the news is full of butterscotch cats

that come to my door, I understand the instinct

to wail, to caterwaul. I understand the impulse

to fight with someone, anyone, to raise my voice,

to find my claws, to hiss and arch and attack

in an effort to discharge this aggression that pumps in me

churns like a river in flood stage, filled with debris and mud.

And that is when some inner voice,

a voice so quiet it’s almost impossible to hear,

suggests, “Singing is still an option.”

Suggests, “Can you shine in this moment?”

Suggests, “If you choose to speak only love,

if you choose to give space,

how might that change the only thing

you are able to change?”

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Whatever It Means

Certain I can’t carry

another sadness,

I step outside

and let the shine

of the mid-morning sun

stroke my cheek

like a lover.

And the air has a strange

bright citrus tang,

and I inhale it

again and again.

Whatever it means

to be alive,

it has something

to do with this—

the scent of leaf

and soil and shadow.

The astonishing warmth

of a late October day.

The weight

of loving another,

that weight

without which

I would be nothing.

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Advice to Self: Get Lost

To move forward, move forward.

But first, get lost.

Really lost. If you have a map,

burn it. Not that there’s

anything wrong with a map.

But you must recalibrate

the one using it. Let her not know

where she is. And if she does know,

perhaps through rote,

perhaps through muscle memory,

then spin her around

with a blindfold on,

the way kids do when pinning

a paper tail on a donkey.

Spin her until she has no idea

which direction to walk with that tail.

Spin her until she falls.

And then let her do as St. Francis taught—

let step in whatever direction

her head is pointing.

Let her trust that any direction she steps

can be the right way forward,

every path can be a path toward love.

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            on seeing The Lovers by Pablo Picasso when I was sixteen

Perhaps because I was in love

I fell in love with The Lovers

fell in love with the way

the man held the woman from behind.

Fell in love with his red,

with her yellow and green.

Fell in love with his gaze,

with the tilt of her head.

I knew what it was like

to be that woman.

Even now, looking

at the painting in pixels,

not in oil on linen,

I feel it—the harmony

of the blue sky behind them,

a sky somehow boundless

inside of them, too.

Thirty years later,

I’m still charged with that blue.

And whatever it is

that forces the woman

to look beyond the frame,

I remember that, too.

It’s as if she can’t quite see

what’s about to happen,

so with one hand,

she holds on to her lover.

With the other, she reaches,

or is she holding herself?

And here’s what I grasp

that she doesn’t yet know—

how hard it will be, how hard

it will be to let go.

The Lovers by Pablo Picasso

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Join Me?

all day I spike my tea

with sky—

is it any wonder

by night I’m singing

love songs

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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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Inside my heart is a gardener.

She knows eventually

all seeds planted in the heart

will die. That doesn’t stop her

from planting. And on a night

when she knows it will frost—

winter, after all, comes soon—

that doesn’t stop her

from rummaging around for blankets

to cover everything in bloom.

You could just let it go,

says some other inner voice.

Nothing lasts forever.

She pauses to listen.

Perhaps all she’ll get is one more week—

one more week of lush and unruly beauty,

one more week of riotous love.

It’s late and she’s tired.

She grabs another blanket.

Damn right, she’ll fight for it.  

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