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Posts Tagged ‘tenderness’

The Sublime




In the middle of the night
in a tiny well-lit kitchen
in the middle of a city
known for violence,
my father spent hours
combing my hair
looking for nits,
meticulously pulling through
the toxic shampoo.
The hours passed
with tenderness.
I was grateful then,
but could not know
how sweetly I would come to recall
his patient hands, his quiet devotion,
his exhaustion, my exhaustion,
could not know how
years later I would treasure
those dark hours
when the sirens
blared through the window glass
and hour after hour
came to pass.

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Her smile was clear sky, was green grass,
was slender stream of waterfall.
Her smile said, You are welcome here.
Her smile said, You are not alone.

She waved to me as I climbed the hill
to sit by the grave of my son and she offered
to water the flowers I’d brought from the garden.
Her offer was pink snapdragon, was orange marigold,
was golden calendula. Her offer said,
There are some things we can do.
Her offer said, I see you.

Thank you, I said. Thank you
 for taking care of this place.
I looked around at the trim lawn,
the lovely, well-cared for space
where we bring our dead.
She shrugged and smiled and said,
We love Finn, and backed away,
her right hand pressed to her heart,
her eyes embracing mine.

There are moments so flooded with tenderness
every wall around our heart collapses
from the beauty of it,
and we are left wet and trembling, like newborns.
There are moments when we are so naked
love enters us completely, shakes us from within
and wrecks us, and there,
in the rubble of our defenses
we fall so deeply in love with life,
with the goodness of people,
we are remade.

When I left, she blew me a kiss.
I caught it. Twelve hours later,
I still cradle that kiss in my hand.

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I couldn’t say why that particular hymn
made me cry—not that I am averse
to weeping—but when love broke me open
with hot, relentless tears,
my daughter beside me reached
to hold my hand and leaned into me
and I bloomed into wild gratefulness.
Grief comes with its arms full of blessings.
I am not grateful for the loss,
but there is so much beauty in how the world
rises up to hold us—cradles us with kindness,
cradles us with song. There is so much good
in how grief asks us to be tender with each other—
teaches us to reach, to offer comfort,
to receive comfort, to connect.
In a world where we crave beauty,
we learn we are beauty,
our every word, our every touch
a building block that makes the world.

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for Merce & Bert & Heartbeat


It is true that anger, that betrayal,
that loss, but it is also true
that one day you might follow
a map to a high desert clearing
where there is a home
that runs on sunshine and rainwater,
and the floors are the color
of autumn leaves, and the beds are warm
and soft, and generous strangers
feed you thick soup and dark greens,
warm bread and good wine,
and as the clouds all around you lift,
you find yourself surrounded by song
and the love of good women and
the ripeness of years and you know yourself
as yet another soft animal—
like a rabbit or a fawn—a being
blessed to exist without claw,
without fang, a being blessed
for now to label this tenderness life.

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Somewhere I’ve never been
reaches across the ocean
and wrenches my thoughts.
I don’t try to push it away.
I let the ache in,
let sorrow do its terrible
work. It slices in
deeper than I want it to,
but I do not resist.
All day I think of the small child
being pulled from the rubble.
All day I think of the many hands
reaching for small frightened body.
All day, I am softened by
grief, ravaged into tenderness.

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Today I wish I were a potato peeler,

able to remove the outer layers of myself,

able to shave off any toughness I’ve developed

to protect, to safeguard, to shield. I want to give

myself to you, the inner sweetness,

the tenderest parts. I want to unpeel

any husk, any rind, any barrier

that would keep you from the heart

of me. I want to meet you vulnerably.

Today I want to take the long thin blade

and make ribbons of my resistance,

make strips of my defenses and watch

them fall like burlap veils. And if I cannot

find the courage to be the one who peels,

let me put the tool in your hand. I’m afraid,

but I am ready. Be sure, love. Be quick.

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How It Goes with Hope

Eventually a burning hope
becomes ember, becomes glow,
becomes gone.
Whatever fuel it found
is spent, is done, is ash.
Not that you blame hope
for losing its brilliance.
More that you become
increasingly intimate with what is.
What is is an absence. What is
doesn’t sit in your lap. What is
doesn’t come to the door.
What is is very quiet.
But there is, if not hope,
a tenderness that lingers,
a tenderness that has a glow
of its own, a tenderness
that you carry with you
until it becomes you,
a warmth, a golden light
there when you fall asleep,
still there when you rise.
*
(note: sweet friends, thank you for all the emails and even the lovely letter about the loss of our cat, Otter. I didn’t mean to leave you hanging. She has not returned, and I am quite sure she met a predator. But my dear friend Jack gave me the sweetest advice: Please, when you are ready, begin to—maybe for only a minute—carry Otter in your body. That invitation a couple weeks ago was the basis for the feeling that evolved into this poem. And here it is, evidence of the small ways that we help each other as we carry grief. Thank you all. Thank you.)

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On Earth, just a teaspoon of neutron star
would weigh six billion tons. Six billion tons
equals the collective weight of every animal
on earth. Including the insects. Times three.

Six billion tons sounds impossible
until I consider how it is to swallow grief—
just a teaspoon and one might as well have consumed
a neutron star. How dense it is,
how it carries inside it the memory of collapse.
How difficult it is to move then.
How impossible to believe that anything
could lift that weight.

There are many reasons to treat each other
with great tenderness. One is
the sheer miracle that we are here together
on a planet surrounded by dying stars.
One is that we cannot see what
anyone else has swallowed.

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I wonder who else today

in Concourse A

is traveling to see their mom

in the hospital, who else

has a parent with a surgery

gone wrong? Who else

could use some tenderness—

perhaps that woman in green

on the transporter? Or maybe

the young mother chasing her child

on the moving walkway? Or

the middle-aged man deliberating

over snacks? Today, it seems

so obvious that all of us

need some tenderness—

regardless our story.

And so when the man

in 31 C offers to lift my suitcase

and fit it somehow

into the overhead bin,

I almost weep with relief,

but instead I smile and say

Thank you, yes, I need help.

All day, I think of how

one small generosity changes

the landscape of the heart.

All day, I am met with chances

to be grateful, to be kind.

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Cut Deep

 

 

 

Picking up broken glass

with bare hands,

of course I was cut,

but something in me

was curious to learn

the secrets of being sharp.

Something in me

wanted another reason

to be tender

with everyone I meet.

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