Posts Tagged ‘softening’

After Softening

Sometimes, like today,
when I have opened my heart so wide
that anything at all might fly in—
a sweetness or a curiosity—
sometimes when I am most expansive,
a sinister whisper comes.
It flutters through my blood,
shudders in my heart.
Then I find on the floor
a slender rectangle of light
and lie for a time in the warmth.
The sun soaks in through my skin,
and I invite it deeper in.
I soften.
I rest my hands on my belly, my chest,
Notice their weight,
how the simple rise of breath
is enough to lift them.
Outside, there are chickadees
calling to each other.
I imagine them calling to me.
Swee-tee. Swee-tee.
Oh, fear that I am too much,
oh, fear that I dare to be too big,
I am not surprised you showed up today.
But see how the sun showed up, too,
the enormous sun with its unfailing radiance,
the giant sun with its unstinting glow
the generous sun came
and met me on the floor
to remind me what I can do.

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After years,
what once
was enormous,
sharp and piercing
now is rounded,
fits like a marble
in the palm
of my hand.
This is what comes
from touching it,
brushing up against it,
holding it
again and again.
And again.
Once, it cut me.
Now, as I rub it
beneath my fingers,
it soothes me,
reminds me
how I, too,
have been softened,
how I, too,
have been embraced
and held
and nestled
until I am smooth.

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The Softening

I carry it with me now, everywhere I go,
this softness, this limp unstuffed toy, a puppy
with a thin square body made for snuggling.
I carry it in my purse where it mingles
with my wallet, my glasses, my lipstick,
my loss. When I’m walking, I reach in
and let my fingers rub its soft, worn fleece.
When I’m watching a movie, once it’s dark,
I pull it out and let Skinny Puppy settle in my lap,
as if its brown embroidered eyes could see.
I know it’s just an object, but it’s a well-loved object,
some small proof that my boy was here,
that he loved, loved hard, loved long.
I remember how he carried Skinny to school,
clutching the small brown scrap to his belly
when we would say goodbye. I remember
how long after the toy trains and model tractors
and even the complicated Legos had gone away,
Skinny still slept on his pillow.
It’s been worn down by love, this old friend,
and made even softer by the loving—
like me, an old woman who has become
frayed, sentimental, slightly tattered,
distressed, but so shaped by love, and softened,
yes, softened. Even more myself, only softer.

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But I found myself
rigid in the room where my son
took his life. And I sat
on the floor in the doorway
where he had last sat,
where his blood had pooled
and the air had briefly smelled
of burning. I sat there
beneath the wall
where the bullet had made
its narrow hole. I sat there
with my coil of sorrow.
I didn’t want to meet it.
I desperately wanted to meet it.
I wanted to give sorrow space.
I wanted to crawl inside it.
I wanted to be anywhere
but there on the dark wood floor
in the night dark room,
and I wanted to be wholly,
completely, obliteratingly there.
Fear-ridden, ferocious,I met it all,
felt the current pushing through.
Acceptance is a filament
that takes our resistance
and makes it bright,
makes it luminous enough
that we might see ourselves
exactly as we are.
I did not find my son
in that doorway. Perhaps
I had hoped I would.
But I saw the light
that came with me.
I softened into that light.

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Funny on a full moon night
I think about brokenness.
After fifty years of proving
entropy with my life, with
my thoughts, some part of me
still wants to believe in perfection.
I’ve never once thought the moon
any less perfect for being partial.
Tonight, I give myself permission
to be broken. As if I could help it.
But something in the permission
lets me relax, lets me soften
as if I’m covered with moon-drunk snow.
Lets me soften like Erik Satie played low.
Let me see you, the moon seems to say,
just as you are. And I step outside
and the moon slips in.

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In these darkened days,

I think of the potato

that, left in the pantry,

will grow long white arms

to reach for the light.


There is, of course,

a beauty in reaching.

But today I think of Augusta

who taught me

the beauty of softening—


how the same reaching effect

can be achieved

by focusing on the part

that isn’t reaching,

letting it soften.


Soften, she said.

Soften. And it was as if

I were new in my body.

The effect was the same,

the method the opposite.


I love how I didn’t know

there was something

so beautiful yet to learn

about letting go. I love

these lessons in softening—


how, on this morning I learn again

to relax, to unstrive, to unreach,

to lean into ease, and like a camellia blossom,

in the dark of winter to open,

to find such sweet release.


















20 billion atoms from Shakespeare

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