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Posts Tagged ‘saying yes to the world as it is’

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for my children, for all children

 

 

I want to give you the kind of day we didn’t have today—

a day when the wide blue sky makes you rush outside,

when we go to the park and meet your friends

and you run to greet them—you hug and play chase

and tag and tackle and whisper in each other’s ears.

I want to give you a day warmed through by laughter,

with crisp green leaves already on the trees.

And on our way home we could stop for ice cream

and joke with the women at the counter

about how there’s not much news to share.

A day when you can’t imagine being afraid. When

you fall asleep not wondering when someone we know

will die. Instead, the world gives us this day—

this day with its fears and its warnings—and

I give you what I can: A scarf to play dress up in.

A homemade pumpkin pie. Dance party in the kitchen.

Three tired and perfect words. Open arms.

A reminder the sleet will make the grass green.

Secrets I will keep for now to myself. The slow tide

of my breath beside you as you fall asleep.

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Hey buddy, he says, as he opens his trench coat,

you wanna buy an epiphany? And there,

in the satiny lining he reveals a flashy display.

Oooh, I say, those look lovely. I could use

an epiphany or three. What is the meaning of life,

of course. The secret of happiness. And how to not care

what others think. This one, he says, I can give you

half price. It is covered in diamonds and bling.

Something less showy? I suggest. Ah yes,

he says, Good taste. Perhaps this. It’s leather. He sees

I am interested. And I’ll throw in this other for free,

never mind where I got it. I stare at the third epiphany.

Big, I say. Yeah, he agrees, try carrying it around in your coat.

The epiphany looks vaguely familiar. In fact, I’m pretty sure

he stole it from me. And a storm breaks loose

in my mind. Um, no thanks, I say, and walk away.

 

The whole way home, the world offers itself

to me: A spruce tree does nothing but

be a spruce tree. A stone is a stone.

A crow flies above me. I marvel at its wings.

A bluebird sits on the fence and sings.

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Again the urge

to bring gauze

to the broken world—

and medicine

and a plaster cast.

Again the urge

to fix things,

to heal them,

to make them right.

Again the chance

to do the work,

which is to look in,

to touch the pain

but not become it,

to see the world

exactly as it is

and still write it

a love letter,

to meet what is cracked

with clarity,

to mirror and grow

whatever beauty

we find.

 

 

 

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I thought I could fix it.

Not with a hammer and glue,

but with listening. With loving.

With holding the wounded

in my arms.

 

I thought I could make

it all better, I mean all of it,

you know, the way a mother

kneels before her child

and kisses his thumb

and miraculously the hurt is gone.

 

I thought I could make myself

bigger than the world’s problems,

as if with devotion and will

and practice, I could touch

infinity, embody enormity,

step over the inconvenience

of pain.

 

But came muck. Came tears.

Came anger and shrill and short.

Came small and weak

and tired. Came shame.

Came embarrassment I ever thought

I could be big. Came the surprising

 

pleasure of muck, the way

I can paint it on my face in wide stripes.

Came the gift of exhaustion.

Only then when I stopped

trying to carry the world, only then

did I notice how generously,

all along, the world

has been holding me,

has been holding us all.

 

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It’s not so much because

poems make things better—

don’t heal the sick, don’t

stop a war, don’t make the bread

any less stale, don’t bring

people back from the dead.

But poems do have a way

of making me feel more

okay with the world not

being the way I wish it were.

They say yes to the world,

again and again, telling it

like it is. And then,

like a dandelion

already gone to seed,

they wait for the gust

that will strip them bare

until all that’s left

is a hint that once

there was something

lovely here.

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We stand in the field.

I swallow any words

that might try to fix things.

Some things cannot be fixed.

Instead, we say the words

that make us weep.

Grief stands with us then,

and holds us

with absolute tenderness,

its arms impossibly kind.

It starts to rain.

We do not move to leave.

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It’s like keeping a weasel in the freezer,

this wishing things were different than they are.

What could possible change

when what is most playful, most wild

is put on ice? Let your prayer be living weasel,

running weasel, frolicking and tricky weasel,

slinking weasel, leaping weasel, wriggling

ferocious weasel. The more you wish,

the more the temperature

on your wishes drops.

Weasel, weasel, weasel,

weasel, weasel, weasel, pop.

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After hoping and trying

and failing and hoping

and trying and failing

and hoping and trying

and failing the mind

perhaps will finally say

I don’t know what comes next

and, startled by the sweet

clarity of this, the body

raises both arms, though

the mind didn’t tell it to—

yes, the arms rise weightless

and open, as if there is nothing

they aren’t ready to embrace,

as if the world as it is

might come rushing in.

 

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Sure you’ve delighted in mud before,

slathered it all over your skin

beside the brown currents of the Gunnison

until the only unmuddied parts of you

are your teeth, your tongue, your eyes.

 

Sure you’ve been baptized before

with gray muck by your best friend

on the edge of the Blue Lakes Road,

her slender hands anointing your forehead

with the color of high mountain shale.

 

You’ve painted with mud on desert rocks

and rolled in mud with your son,

but that doesn’t mean you want

to get muddy now, not when you’re so clean

and on retreat, not when you’re so so very very

 

not not muddy. So you skirt messy ruts

and you gingerly side step, you pussy foot,

weaving your way on the spring-puddled road,

but one slip and one oops and you’re in it again, ankle deep,

and what to do now but laugh

 

and notice how the path expands

when you no longer need to watch

where you’re going—how much more open

the world has become, how available you are

to any step that comes next.

 

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tall and clear

wholly illumined by sun

slowly I learn to see

the vase as lovely

even without the sunflowers

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