Posts Tagged ‘ownership’

Waking Up Grateful

You have to remember this isn’t your land.
It belongs to no one

—Philip Levine, “Our Valley”

I am not your land. Not your woman, either.
Not your girl, not your scapegoat, not your Juliet.
I can’t be mapped, can’t be trapped, can’t be pinned.
Can’t be bought, can’t be caught, can’t be won.
But here I am, open handed, and here
you are. I don’t know this valley,
though I’ve walked it many times.
Let’s learn it again together. This time on our knees.

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It is not so much the look on Mary’s face,
as if she is yet untouched by the tragedy.
It is not so much the diagonal drape
of the dead Christ’s arm, nor the empty folds
of the virgin’s dress. It’s the name that catches me,
Michelangelo Buonarroti, chiseled in the sash
that runs between Mary’s breasts, as if to say,
“This is my work, and it is good.”

Oh Mary, holding your son, dead,
what do you know about wanting to own something
that cannot be owned? Just this morning
my own six-year-old girl curled into my lap
and reached up with her right hand to clasp
my shirt in her fist. You never ever go, she said,
sprawling across me, loaning me all of her weight.

I love to find my signature in this girl—
the greenish gray color of her eyes,
the way she loves to read. The color of her skin,
her silly side. Mary, how did you do it, say goodbye?
I run my hands over the startling muscles of her legs,
trace the shape of her jaw, the length of her neck.
Oh the body, how it loves to touch, oh the soul, how
it blossoms by letting go. And the ego, oh how it wants

to say, this is mine, this is mine,
though the mind knows the way that all things go—
even the glass surrounding the Carrara marble,
even the marble, the cathedral, the square.
Even the girl, who leaps up to chase the cat.
Even her mother retelling the story of longing
and love and fear. Even the story itself.

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Reversing Leda

It never belonged to me,
the blue heron. At least not
in the way that one might own
a sweater or a tea cup or a car.
Still, I had that feeling of ownership,
the kind that one has when
she finds wild berries growing
in her yard and eats them by the purple handful,
giddy with her good luck. Or the feeling
you might have when the marigolds bloom,
and because you have planted them
from seed you feel in some way responsible
for the mounds of yellow and orange.
Not that I was responsible for the heron,
stoic and elegant standing in the shallows or
rising slowly as it did above the river on great
blue wings, though I did take it personally
each time I saw it, and I did love to give
it my whole attention, stilling my body
and following it with my eyes,
as if through appreciation I could create
a greater connection, a connection that went
beyond woman and bird.
It is so funny, this longing to own
what we adore, to call it ours. My love,
my darling, my precious, my dear.
This morning, after a year without seeing
a single blue heron, I found one resting
on a branch outside my front door.
We were both equally startled, though it
moved first, gathering air in its angles,
reaching away from me with its neck,
disappearing beyond the tops of the cottonwood trees.
As always, I gave it everything I had to offer—
the only things I really own, my adoration,
my attention, my gratitude, my wonder.

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What Isn’t Mine

a fifteen-minute sonnet on a title by Veronica Patterson

No not this day with all its sudden snow
and not the sunshine sliding through the white.
Not my children, though I call them mine
and feed them, drive them where they need to go.
My car? It’s in my husband’s name. My home?
The bank owns part of it. The words I write?
I steal from all my heroes. My delight?
I learned it from my mother. There is no
computer, cell phone, cookbook, shirt or cat
that I can point to and say I own that—
for anything I think is mine can steal
away like snow in sun or autumn leaves
in trees. The less I hold the more I feel
whatever owns the trees is living me.

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