Posts Tagged ‘presence’

A Blessing

In the dream, you are ten
and your slender body
curls into my side. We
lie on a purple bed.
Our awareness wings
at the edge of sleep,
our bodies more stone
than bird, your head
on my arm as heavy as time,
and I think, I love this
sweet sapling boy.
In the dream, you are alive,
and I sink all the way
into the sweetness
of the moment
the way I sometimes don’t
in life. I sink full weight
into the tender present
and no part of me wishes
to be anywhere but
in the low golden dream light,
your body warm and gentled,
my body quiet and easy.
Two days later,
I feel it still, the heft of love
unending and generous
close against my side.
It invites me to be more here
with the ones I am with.
With that same arm that held you,
I hold them. Time lifts.

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I didn’t stop what I was doing
to enjoy the exotic red fruity notes,
didn’t pause my busy mind
to cherish the bold dark leaves.
That’s not to say I didn’t love drinking the tea.
I did. Every velvety sip.
And as I pulled the final muslin sachet
from the classic black box lined with gold foil,
I thought of the woman
who had bought me such extravagant tea
and I fell even more deeply in love with her.

I tell myself it’s not wrong
I divided my attention
between the delicate tea
and the generous sun
and the work that I love.
I tell myself they spoke to each other
in the most beautiful morning voices—
all of them conspiring
the way a violin and cello and piano conspire,
the way a poet and a pianist and an artist conspire,
the way strawberry and cocoa
and dark leaves conspire
to create something more from the moment—
an alchemy that only comes when we say yes
in the moment to everything.

Now, when I read those words I wrote,
I taste in them Tibetan flowers.
They wear the fragrance of sunshine,
the bouquet of exotic lands.
Now when I see the empty drawer
where the tea is not,
I dream of how I drank the last cup
as if it would last forever.

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All day, the wind, the ruthless wind,
unruly, unsettling, relentless wind,
the wind that crashed the leafless trees
and strewed the branches across the streets,
the wind that scraped at my fragile peace
until I was as dismantled as the day—

I noticed the part of me that wanted
to wish the wind away. I asked it
to sit with me. With little option
except to be present with each other,
together, we listened to the wind.

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It is possible to be with someone who is gone.
—Linda Gregg, “The Presence in Absence”

I have no phone receiver to connect me to the other side,
but every day I speak to my beloveds through candle flame.
Every night, I speak to them through the dark before sleep.
I speak to them in the car when I am alone.
I speak to them when I walk beneath stars,
when I walk in the woods, when I walk in the rain.
It is possible to be with someone who is gone.
It is possible to feel what cannot be seen,
to sense what cannot be heard,
to be held by what cannot be touched.
It is possible for love to grow after death.
If there is a secret, it is, perhaps, openness.
The way air lets light move through.
The way a window invites in the scent of grass.
The way sand receives the ocean,
then, rearranged, lets it pass.

This poem was published in ONE ART: A Journal of Poetry on 9/11/22

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for MS

She taught me it is enough to sit
with someone who is grieving—
to sit and listen with your whole body
as if eyes could hear as well as ears,
as if a person’s silence is as essential as her words.

She taught me it is a gift to say
the name of the one who is gone—
such powerful balm, that briefest
of songs, the name.

She taught me to light a candle
and to promise to not blow it out,
not even after the conversation is done.

She taught me the solace
of offering no wisdom, asking no questions.

She gave me the gift of myself. And met me there.  

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Two Truths

after Ruth Stone, “Train Ride”

He is dead. Never again
to pull on the fencing mask,
moonwalk to his bedroom
or snuggle on the couch.
Not dancing on the stage.
He is dead. Not spinning
the gator through the field.
Not graphing equations for fun.
Is he dead? asks the heart.
No, he lives on forever.
In the scent of lemon.
In the cloudy ice on the pond.
In the buds of the lilac tree.
In the song on my breath. He lives
in blue sky and comet and field.
He lives in ink and in spaces between.
He is dead.
I held his body in my arms.
Since that day, he has never left me.
He is alive forever.

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The miracle is not to walk on water. The miracle is to walk on the green Earth in the present moment, to appreciate the peace and beauty that are available now.
—Thich Nhat Hanh

Today the miracle is to sit
in the sunlit room and be
in the sunlit room,
to be here and only here,
here in the bountiful silence,
here in the shifting shadows,
here in the hands of midwinter,
not in this same room five years ago,
but now as the tulips
drop the soft curls of their petals
like lingering pink praise.
So seldom in these grief ridden days
do I feel a feeling so pure
as this peace that arrives
on the low-angled light
when I am quiet and still
and the world invites me
to show up for whatever
slim warmth there is, and
know it is enough.

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An Inside Job

Do you feel his presence
all the time now? she said,
and I imagined she meant
do I find signs of you
in spilled salt, in the background
of my reflection, in the light
behind the trees, in the color
of the sky, in the shape of clouds.
No, I scoffed.
And then I thought of how,
in every moment
I beam love to you,
and how I feel you
receive it, how I feel you
send love back.
Yes, I said. Yes,
I feel his presence
all the time. Not some
abstract experience, but
something vital as blood,
something integral as breath,
no longer separate—
you the love that fuels me
from the inside.

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Notice his teeth. Know that they could shred you
at any time. Wonder why you didn’t stay on the other side
where it was safe. Remember how boring safe was.
Feel the blood thrumming inside you, how your heart pounds
like the waves on the beach you might never see again.
Pray, though you long ago stopped remembering how,
and notice how faith feels so necessary now. Practice
saying Nice kitty, nice kitty, as if renaming the lion
could change anything. It doesn’t, of course, but
there is something soothing about the tone you are using.
Use the same tone to speak to yourself. Nice human,
nice human, though you’d rather curse yourself
for putting yourself in this position.
Witness how the longer you stay here
the easier it is to breathe, though the danger
is no less real. Now you can even notice the sky—
how blue it is above you, fathomless,
bluer somehow than you’ve ever seen it before,
rising as it does above the golden mane,
the shockingly beautiful amber eyes.

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Even as the snow was falling,

the birds in the branches

kept singing into morning,

easing their bright notes

into the thin gray spaces

between snowflakes.


There are days, imagine,

when the birds go unheard.

And it isn’t for lack of song—

the single note chirp

of sparrow, the bass of raven,

the chickadee’s hey swee-tee.


Some gifts come only

when we stay in one place,

come only when we are alone,

come only when we stop praying

to be somewhere else and instead

pray to be here.







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