Poeming II

The Welcome Weight of Joy

a new poem that came to me yesterday

 

The Welcome Weight of Joy

 

So much has been lost: two younger brothers

In the last three years; my heart-cat, MaChree;

A vision that once saw a bright future daily being

buried in the overdone, the too-much, the gluttony

Of information and intensity, the self-centredness

Which is after all a disguise for survival.

 

Wars abound in the world, small and threateningly large.

Military strength is given support while whole nations starve

and illness spreads while cooking shows waste food

In truckloads every week. The world is a parody of

The Hunger Games in every way...or was it

The other way around? And women - let it be noticed,

Let it be proclaimed, woman are more abused, sold,

trafficked across countries as much as or more than

Any other time in history. And this is only

A very short list.

 

So when a small spark of joy sprung to my notice

All by itself one morning this week - unsolicited,

Unsought, completely, freely given from...God

Knows where - a small spark of joy rising

in this dark

Weight of grief - I knew, I knew as clearly

As my heart pounded and my blood raced

through my veins, singing -

 

I knew that Light was not lost in my world,

Nor in any world I know. I knew in that second

That Light had never been lost, is never lost,

But waits, hidden and present

when eyes and hearts

Cannot see beyond their own darkness.

What's more, I knew that darkness is held by light,

A newborn in a swaddling blanket,

welcome and necessary

Before seeing the light that otherwise

would be indistinguishable

In all its moving parts.

Darkness and Light

Are the same, as an old wise teacher

Has already pointed out.

 

And for me, struggling for weeks to bear the weight

Of darkness, the weight of joy - yes -

It has its own welcome weight -

Flipped reality and opened my eyes to embrace

Them both, inseparable as they always are.

Shadow of Bells being published

A Shadow of Bells: poems of losing and finding will be published by Palabras Press in Canada in spring 2016. I will announce it here and it will be available from me here at SoulWinds. 

Please send an email ahead of time if you wish me to put your name and adddress on an order list. Order directly from me at my usual email address.

Cost: $15 plus $2 shipping...$17 in all.

A Shadow of Bells

I have finally finished a new collection of 110 poems entitled A Shadow of Bells. Here is the title poem:

                                                                

A Shadow of Bells

 Whatever else is happening in the world today –

planes falling out of the sky, plagues threatening

the known world, soldiers refusing

to stop killing even those in sanctuary –

whatever else is happening in the world today –

this morning,

this morning,

a shadow of bells arrested me

there on the back steps of my own house.

 

I was standing still, waiting

as is usual in early morning

for my cat MaChree to explore

whatever smells had emerged during the night.

It was a humid morning and the smells

were strong in the moist air,

so he took a long time.

 

Meanwhile, I was just standing –

feet in who knows what world –

when the shadow of bells stopped my breathing.

 It was small, barely visible, delicate.

an old string of porcelain bells, a long ago gift

hangs from the porch, has hung there

years upon years. I had forgotten them,

hidden as they were in a dark corner.

 

Suddenly the sun delicately illumined –

not the bells – but the wall behind the bells,

so that a shadow of bells appeared

like a curving dance on the wall,

lighting up a forgotten world.

 

If we could see the shadow –

even just the shadow –

of forgotten bells, perhaps

(I am not just hoping here)

the world might, for a moment or two,

stand still. Guns might fall silent.

And in that moment a new world,

a world of infinite peace

might become possible.

A world of infinite peace.

Just the shadow of bells

could open that possibility, could

still a heart long enough to breathe forth

a different, possible world.

 

Brackets

 Sometimes now, my mind stops blankly

wondering the name of this or that, or

knowing there was something I said I would do-

just the moment before –

and seeing only an emptiness

where an idea or a word just was:

a pair of brackets with nothing between them.

 

When this began to happen, the smallest

spurt of anxiety appeared with it, increasing

as the blank moments marched on. Then –

last week –

standing in the kitchen cutting squash –

a different understanding appeared

out of nowhere, filling me with warm comfort:

I was filled with the reaching of gentle arms,

inviting me, gesturing me forward.

 

Those blank moments are not emptiness, perhaps

not even forgetting –

but the approaching of the next world, reaching

towards me, clearing the way towards a far home,

opening a path

through my dense and dark, crowded wood.

 

It isn’t emptiness between the brackets,

But a different gold altogether –

alive, filling my empty spaces,

reassuring me that what I am losing

is so much less important

than what is finding me.

 

Slivers of Time

Slivers of Time

 And once again those invisible paths
made of dancing ribbons,
those unknown currents of mysterious light
opening the darkness at its very heart

for slivers of time.

And then on again, invisible until an unexpected
flash force of light suddenly surges
but not where you would expect.

Life has lost its progression, neat and predictable.
Life has lost its timeframes of familiarity and sometimes
dependable focus. No day unfolds as first morning light
would have it seem. This is a reshaping, rough
and experimental. This is solid ground before
the unpredicted earthquake, edge of autumn
before the first snow that lasts until spring.

Looking for Visions

 (for Christopher Pratt)*

The artist at eighty is refining
not only his own life but how
everyone who sees his paintings
sees the world. I gaze
and gaze, surrounded by schoolboys
imitating his intricate lines of perspective,
leaning from side to side as in a dance,
but looking - looking.

My own birth land through the artist's eyes
is a banquet of pure sensation
seeping into my soul. Roads upon roads,
rough and smooth and straight and curved
all ending in light, all ending in the sea.
The artist shows light
seeping through the darkest nights,
his life unfolding like a road, its ending
drawing closer...but what he will leave us,
how he is, even now, opening vistas
most of us looking here will never see:
what we will see is that trace, like a falling star-
light that changes but never ends.

Back at the house where we are staying
right on the beach of Conception Bay South,
I gaze out the back door at two small stones,
side by side, the sea rising and falling over them.
Sometimes they appear and then they are lost from view.
I am hypnotized by the rising and falling -
then I know why:
I too am lost and found, seen and unseen
in a gray rippling sea, now illumined,
now darkened, and - like the stones -
never lost and never found. I too
am swirling in the artist's light,
leaning from side to side and looking -
looking for the visions always present,
always right before my eyes.

*(in his exhibition at The Rooms, St. John’s, summer 2015)

Not Waiting

 The birds are not waiting

for light this morning.

They are singing loudly

And melodically

in the blackest dark

before dawn.

 

Perhaps I too

should take heed

and sing in the dark

and forget

waiting for light.

Good Friday

 

Everyone is nailed to a cross

and not of their own making.

Life itself – with its necessities

and its surprises and its

entanglements and turnings

from one moment to the next –

Life itself is a crucifixion

and not just for one or a few

but for every

tree and flower and animal and insect

and human being in all of history.

 

Dying and rising –

can anything further be said

of the nature of life itself?

Neither one a permanent state

not dying, with all its attendant mysteries,

not rising and living

with all their unfathomable mysteries.

Neither one lasts long in time’s measure

nor looks long upon the same world.

 

And surely it would be wiser then

To live – as a Great Teacher once said –

Like the lilies of the field? Alas –

Not possible for most –

that living in harmony

with all that rises and passes away.

 

Yet, wherever I look – if I look for it

with focus, responding to grace, no doubt,

wherever I look I catch glimpses

of presences and sometimes even people

tipping their heads, sensing something

just on the edge there, just

out of reach – but there , there –

something is there offering

and loving when I think there is nothing.

 

Good Friday is always here

just as Resurrection is always here –

a turn of the head, a shift of the heart

reveal the only constant in a world

of fading and passing and appearing  again –

the cross and the empty tomb,

blinding with light,

live in the same moment of time,

and the cross

with its vertical and horizontal intersection

releases the energy of light

again and again and again.

Only in the Dark


 
Even broken light
finds its way into the world,
fuelled and framed
by full fertile darkness.

There is no such thing
as lesser light: all light
rises and falls, fractures
and blooms. Darkness
is a fertile compost,
its food and fuel.

They are one, these two. Don't listen
to anyone who says otherwise.
They are not two; they are not opposed,
one holds the other with cradling arms.
One cannot be without the other,
and holding them as one
is true fullness of being.

Really - has any group or single person
claiming to hold only light, the only light,
ever brought anything but division and havoc
into the world? Violence and death?

And even though we live in a world
that favours light, that throws
all its energies, all its creative focus
towards light, in frenetic and frantic activity,
refusing even the rhythm
of night's restful darkness-
the world also quietly misses the dark womb
from which everything light is born
and to which everything light returns.

Who will turn towards that dark womb
and run its richness through trembling fingers?
Who will go to that first source
and stand waiting, empty arms outstretched
and shed of all the previous securities
that light seems to provide, who will leap -
and trust the gift that awaits only in the dark?
Only, only in the dark.

Life is Lived

Life  is lived in depths
unseen, unheard, ungrasped
In the daily concerns
Of weather and news
And who will cook supper today.

Life is lived in a
Barely discernible hum
Beneath everything
Seen and encountered
In the living of life
On the surface,
The day by day by day
Of shelter, meals, weather,
Work and even play.

Listening for that deep note
Underlying everything
seen and unseen asks
An attention unusual,
Unpromoted, unseen-
Even in a mindful attempt
To access it. Meditation,
Contemplation, attention-
All these open doors-
But the note itself,
Constant and unchanging
Since before time's beginning,
Continues unaided, unchanging
And uninvited, singing the light,
Singing light into being
Moment by moment.

It is I who only have to
Turn and open, turn and open,
To hear and to see.

A Low Note

 

 One day a yes began

Like a low note

emerging from a new place

I didn’t know lived inside me.

 

Every now and then

I hear it again – in the distance

or emerging from some small opening

deep in my own earth.

 

Yes is the note

But as for yes to what

Or how or even to whom –

I am as far from knowing that

As I was the first time

The low note of yes emerged

Inside me, and I was –

a miracle – empty enough

to hear it, to know what it was.

Above and Below

The stars fell into my feet, 

burning and tingling. I kept

looking up, and the black sky

felt so familiar, the black sky covered

with shining white dots.

There was no distance between us, really -

an illusion of distance

danced around me

but not inside me.

 

Meanwhile, a yes began

as one deep long note -

yes to what didn't matter,

didn't make itself known.

And the stars continued

to inhabit my feet,

tingling and burning.

Most Mornings

Most Mornings

Most mornings, before the pale gray smear of first light
makes the dark back away like a graceful dancer,
and before the necessities of daily engagement stomp
uninvited and too early into the warm kitchen,

I sit with a warm cat's body on his back in my arms
like an infant, begging to be carved by my fingers
into the day's unfolding pageant.

Just as I set up tea and books, pens and shimmering colors,
he arrives, content with breakfast and now looking for warmth.
What he doesn't know is the vibrating energy he offers me,
the call to shed my own small wishes in favor of
the luminescent world he embodies just by being alive.

It is his aliveness I learn from, take in like a sponge,
relinquishing my books and small-minded immediacies
and even seductive ideas
in favor of his primal presence.
Simply being  - breathing and purring with pleasure
is unknown to me without a goal or a way to
capture the moment - but there is no capturing
the pure essence which any moment in a cat's day
embodies; no staying in the one place,
no moment like the one before.

And so I have found a new teacher,
right in my house and in my heart,
who arrives most mornings, just when
I had decided to do something else.

Inchworm

On this morning's early walk

right in the middle of the busy road

I came face to face with an inchworm.

She had lowere herself on her thin string of light

right to my eye level, and stopped.

 

I saw her long body - that wrinkled worm skin -

staying still as I looked, focusing

on her delicate presence. For a moment

I felt her looking back at me -

a meeting of cousins, each remembering

(oh this is pure whimsey)

a long ago common relative.

 

And what she gave me was this:

that nothing, no miniscule creature

is too small for recognition or exchange.

Nothing in the whole of this incomprehensible home

is beyond mutual recognition

or an exchange of soul-nurturing love.

 

[...this is our original unity...we do not have to ceate our relationship with all things. We simply need to let it be born again from the very foundations of our being..."] Thomas Merton quoted in John Philip Newell's The Rebirthing of God, p.71)

A Shadow of Bells

Whatever else is happening in the world today -

Planes falling out of the sky, plagues threatening

the known world, soldiers refusing

to stop killing even those in sanctuary -

whatever else is happening in the world today -

this morning, this morning, a shadow of bells arrested me

there on the back steps of my own house.

 

I was standing still, waiting,

as is usual in early morning,

for my cat MaChree to explore

whatever smells had arrived during the night.

It was a humid morning and the smells

were strong in the m oist air,

so he took a long time.

 

Meanwhile, I was just standing -

feet in who knows what world -

when the shadow of bells stopped my breath.

It was small, barely visible, delicate.

An old set of porecelain bells, a long ago gift,

hangs from the porch, has hung there

years upon years. I had forgotten them,

hidden as they were in a dark corner.

 

Suddenly the sun delicately illumined -

not the bells - but the wall begind the bells,

so that a shadow of bells appeared

like a curving dance on the wall,

lighting up a forgotten world.

 

If we could only see the shadow -

even the shadow - of forgotten bells, perhaps-

I am not hoping here -

the world might, for a moment or two,

stand still. Guns might fall silent.

And in that moment, a new world,

a world of infinite peace might become possible.

A world of infinite peace. Just the shadow of bells

could open that possibility, could

still a heart long enough to breathe forth

a different, possible world.

 

We Must Be Ready

 

We must be ready for the thick blinding snow
and the piled up drifts of trees and the roads
made of ice and lakes disguised as solid ground,
and rising prices of food and gas.

We must be ready for news of the bombs
destroying whole sections of the blue planet,
and for testaments to the dying forests
and the innocent poisoned oceans.

We must be ready for the lies and deceptions
coming in steady streams through our dubious airwaves,
and for the death of thousands and for melting ice caps
and shifting of poles, north and south.

And we must be ready for the soft emergence
of tender shoots, and delicate bursting of new leaves
and surprising colours waiting in the ground, whole forests
and dancing clouds in blue sky on a windy day.

And we must be ready for the sudden kiss,
the surprise of love, the wonder that sneaks
into the heart and baffles the mind with its lack of logic,
the beauty of wrinkled eyes and hands.

And we must be ready for how unspeakable losses
offer gifts previously unimaginable, how the world
transforms in seconds as well as years,
how embraced pain is a shapeshifter into bright joy.

And we must be ready for all of this and more,
though we are not and never have been. And still,
life - that unspeakable disappearing magician -
returns and returns and returns, holding darkness
like a sorrowful lover, awaiting the loved one's
shift into heaven. Which happens again and again,
and again.                                  

 

Filling With Riches

 Just this morning, drinking tea in that darkest moment

before dawn shows up, doing nothing

but breathing in and out, in and out, not knowing

that there was anything else to be done -

I felt my whole body filling with riches.

 

It started with my feet, tingling and trembling,

then rose - quickly, it seemed - up my legs,

where my knees expanded and sent out little sparks.

Soon my belly and chest took on light,

as if someone unknown to me had lit a candle there.

And then it was that I knew -

I had filled with riches. I was a kind of candle flame

that  sent out waves of light in beams, in soft fire.

I breathed in the being, not the doing of it.

 

Then my cat meowed a demanding cry, outraged

that I had forgotten to open the door to the porch for him,

where he goes every morning after his breakfast.

Then the puppy raced up the stairs and eagerly threw herself in my lap

as she does in her time, pawing my arms and licking my face,

so deprived she feels from not having seen me all night.

Then Joan arrived in the kitchen and began to talk about the fire-

the quality of the flames, the shape of the wood,

the temperature on the gauge, and what time in the night

did I add a log?

 

There are times that I feel all this as interrupting my

carefully designed morning quiet. This morning

was not one of them. This morning, full of grace,

all I saw was another way I was filling with riches.

The flame burning so vividly within received its fuel

as much from that noisy rising of creature love

as it did from that nameless, unbiddable fire

filling me within.

Dragonfly Face

Yesterday, while I was watering lettuce and kale

(what privilege, what joy to do so)

a blue-bodied dragonfly caught his wings

in the black netting surrounding the garden.

He was exquisite – and desperate. I hoped

he was not damaging his wings,

beating and beating as he was,

trying to free them.

 

I dropped the hose and it turned,

spraying me from head to foot.

I didn’t care. Holding my breath,

I separated the almost-invisible tangle,

fingers finding the right strands,

slowly and quickly, all at once. He rested,

and I thought for a moment – just a moment –

that he knew my intention.

The face of that dragonfly, that blue ball,

that head-of-a-pin-face,

eyes seeing me,

knew I was trying to free him.

And I did. He flew exuberantly away.

 

This is no fancy, or projection.

This is one creature simply

recognizing another

and grateful for help. You help

whatever, whomever, is in front of you

in heaven-sent moment:

one creature at a time.

 

Since that moment of mutual recognition

the face of the dragonfly

 keeps appearing before me.

And – like him – I see

the invisible nets

that keep my wings entangled,

see how I struggle

often fruitlessly,

trying to free them.

 

Good Friday 2

 

I watched her this morning

holding forth,

answering a question about Jesus –

whether Paul lived at the same time –

the question came

from a Seikh Muslim man

from Pakistan, and his partner, a Jewish woman.

 

I watched her as she threw her knowledge around

like a flame-thrower, eager, avid,

teaching, delighting in being asked

such an ordinary question

standing informally with a few others

after a class in Compassionate Yoga.

It was Good Friday.

 

And all the while I watched her – I

the one within – the one knowing

her lifetime of heartbreak

and her ecstasy

in momentary insight.

I watched her with soft and forgiving eyes.

 

All the years I spent

creating her like a madwoman-

reading, writing, speaking, leading-

finding just the right clothing and dangly earrings –

and now I step back, but fondly,

and allow her to shine when she must

while I turn away into the light,

knowing she will dazzle the Jewish woman

and the Sikh/Muslim man with her knowledge.

 

Time to go. Time to go.

Is this what Jesus finally thought,

hanging there?

Knowing that the going was only one doorway

while all the others waited to open.

Good Friday 1

 

The silence from which each day is born

seems stronger on Good Friday. What paradox

is it that calls this Friday Good?

This lamenting memory

of torture, this dying of innocence,

lost to the world. But isn’t that the truth

of every death,

of all deaths that have ever been?

 

The world evolves, each new idea unfolding

from the one before, birth slipping out

from the womb of loss and death.

From this womb

We all march forward, marking time

until – until – some of us see

might it not all be the same at the core?

Every new form of life birthed

by the same fire?

 

So Good Friday is a bridge,

has always been a bridge, to resurrection –

and not only on that day two thousand years ago.

Earth herself is a continual miracle of death and birth

death and birth and every one

along with her.

Good Friday holds up one man

who showed us better than most

what it means to die and how it is to rise.

Meltings

I am watching fat birds foraging

through empty feeders

    while an equally plump squirrel

peeps through a hole in the snow,

waiting his turn. A white cat

watches the whole scene from inside the window:

I wonder at his thoughts. He watches

with peaceful resignation, not eagerness,

not shivering anticipation.

 

Thus the spring melt opens windows

into how one world slowly melts

into another, unobtrusively nudging the eyes

and the body to let go

of all the vagaries of winter

and breathe sighs of relief.

 

And I wonder about the longer melts;

the ones we seldom see or name:

the one where an infant becomes a child;

the child an adult; and strong adults

melting into softer subtleties of elder age; then

the lovely melting (so it is meant to be)

 into death.

 Eager as I am to let go of this winter,

I also want to welcome how much closer it is bringing me

to the next melting; the falling away of all the passing things

I no longer need

the melting of my whole self

soul and body

into the waiting

Unfolding Whole.

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DONE Sending...

Mary Beth | Reply 25.06.2014 10.31

Thank you for accompanying dragonfly...to freedom!
May we recognize more opportunities to do the same in the next 2 weeks!!

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28.11 | 07:46

Now into a second reading of INK and HONEY, I am finding it much richer and it's pulling me ever deeper into contemplation of my daily life.

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Perusing your musings about these books are a great help for me so I can choose my next book.. one that resonates at this time in my life. Thanks Brenda.

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Welcomed reading recommendations !

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and you have gifted me with cards that were like visits!!

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