Monday, September 8, 2014

Some People Will Do Anything (to get out of doing what they love)

It seems that when I get busy it's the things I love that I neglect.
I avoid reading poetry. I don't play piano. I don't sing.
I ignore the new novel on the shelf that I've been meaning to read for months.
And every day the sun rises and sets without my taking notice.

I keep doing things that I hate.
I keep taking out the trash
I wash the dishes
I scoop the poop out of the litter box
I do laundry
I clean my house
I spend all of my time taking care of other people
solving other people's problems,
meeting other people's needs,
(people who mean nothing to me
and who can do nothing for me),
and at night
I lie down wondering why
I am always able to find time to do the things that aren't important to me
but can't find the time
to write a poem.

I have to do the things I hate. That's why I find time to do them.
I don't have to write a poem,
do I?

There are so many other things more important than writing this poem,
But instead I am writing because
somehow I can't help it.

I still have a voice
I think
I still have something inside of me that wants to speak
And I am trying
to find it.

Friday, August 23, 2013

The Dogwoods (in the evening)

The dogwoods are turning red again
slowly like
the apples
in my parents' tiny orchard
a brown-red russet
smoothness, roughly-smooth
on my cheek.
under the dogwoods' leaves
last year
I cried out
like a dying bird
from the center of
the tiny cage of
my mind
and the dogwoods
This year
I listen to them
as I stroll with my hands
in my pockets
and they speak of peace
and times and seasons
for things
and the transitory nature of life
and the quiet setting of suns
over a million landscapes.

These trees know me well.
the dogwoods were my grandmother
Felicia's favorite tree,
and these were her dogwoods
and perhaps for that reason
these dogwoods have always been kind to me,
spreading their branches over me
as I walk through the grass
to my childhood home.

Saturday, July 13, 2013


Loneliness sits beside me 
on my porch steps
in the cool of the evening,
a quiet presence at my right hand.
As I watch the sun set
behind the black-branched oaks
and the swallows swoop and dive
against the western sky,
I feel him take my hand
with quiet intimacy.

At night, he sleeps beside me.
When I wake,
I feel him cold and heavy and there,
a weight. The moon makes him look
bigger and blacker and larger than life.

Please go away! I plead with him.
But I don't have any authority over Loneliness.
He comes and goes as he pleases.

Someone once told me that
feelings must be welcomed as friends
for as long as they stay, and cared for
until they leave on their own.
So I tend to Loneliness and listen to it,
and try to treat it as a messenger of God.

Perhaps if I can find meaning in this loneliness,
I will not be afraid of it anymore,
and I will become wise, 
like a quiet-faced sage, 
instead of a bewildered
teary-eyed sobbing wretch.

Oh, I hope so.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Recognizing my Habitat

My body could not stand
the grey and glinting metal
sand and cement landscape of San Bernardino.
Although I reminded it every day
that this was its home,
and tried to soothe my animal soul
with potted geraniums and humming bird feeders
and the opulence of a swimming pool,
some deep part of me recoiled
at the artificiality of this beauty,
and mourned the wound which men have struck
into that arid, scarce, harshly beautiful land--
the gravel pit--a great gash,
the freeways, the gaudy billboards,
the cheerless stucco houses of the poor
and the ostentatious McMansions of the rich,
the roads carved into the sides of the grand mountains
which people climb and descend daily in their SUVs,
without awe, without reverence.

The deafness of the people to the needs and wants of the land is
the deafness of people to the voices of their own souls.
Their hearts, bleeding and tired, do not renew each morning
in the light of the sunrise coming up from the desert,
or the majestic purple of the mountains in the evening.

There has been a divorce somewhere, my body screamed. A split, a defying of reality.
You will die if it is not righted, my body told me.
I saw into the abyss, and reeled back, terrified.

Today I stepped from my front porch
into the shade of a maple tree,
barefoot, my toes spreading wide in the
soft clover, feeling the wet ground under me
and the warmth rising up
in the humid air--an exhale.
And I was suddenly a child again
and it was an evening at home,
and I was running through the freshly mowed lawn
to the climbing tree
and swinging up the first branches,
balancing on thin, strong little feet,
and feeling strong, and healthy
and hopeful.

I felt I would like to lay down on the lawn
and embrace the ground.
And I understood.
This is why you had to move three thousand miles home again,
for this contact with the land,
for the chirruping of the birds in the woods
and the stalking deer in the tall grass.
For the violets and the daisies
and the delicate little things that grow and
flourish in the underbrush, and the fireflies
that will soon be out in the evenings again.

Joy flooded me.
So you finally know? whispered my soul.
Know what? I asked.
You are an animal too, it said,
And this is your habitat.

Monday, April 22, 2013

In which I personify my garden

I walked into Banana Republic today
wearing old gardening jeans
with dirt stains on the knees
and a faded t-shirt and
muddy sneakers and was
swiftly judged by the skinny-jeans-wearing
petite brunette store clerk
as she hung merchandise
on the clearance rack.

I held my nose in the air and said,
"I can wear whatever I want!"
(well, I said it in my head.)
My internal childlike defiance
made me smile.
I felt cheeky,
like the robins that hop boldly up the mulch pile,
looking for worms.

My garden 
does not judge me
for not having trendy jeans on
when I come to see her in the morning.

My garden
does not judge me
for wearing a ratty old t-shirt
that I have owned for six years,
and she also doesn't care that
I didn't fix my hair
or put on makeup today.

What is the judgement of a store clerk compared with
the grass in my flower bed, which
is cool and green
and moistly squeaks when I grab handfuls of it
out by the roots?

What is it compared with the stalks of iris that push
smooth and slender out of the red-brown clay?

Today, I dressed for
the most important person in my life
and it was not anyone
at Banana Republic. So,
she can deal with it.

I hope I didn't leave any tracks in the store, though.
I'd feel bad about that.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Other Side of Spring

Yesterday I sat under a tree
holding a frightened baby bunny in my cupped hands.
It was so soft and warm,
a brown and grey ball of fur,
and it had such
sweet little floppy ears,
and wide bright eyes
and a little twitching nose.
It was a little wild rabbit
and the thrill of holding this tiny
snippet of wild life--wild
young pulsing terrified but quiet life in my hands--
it was profound.
It did not try to run away from me; it did not struggle, although it did
nibble on the tip of my finger with its tiny little teeth.
It could not walk.

I knew it was going to die.
My cat had dragged it by the neck into my kitchen with a
triumphant meow,
and I had caught up the warm panting little body,
and, locking my cat in my bedroom
(where she sat and howled at the door),
I took it outside to release it.
It did not appear to be wounded, there was
only a small puncture under its eye (it raised its little paw to its face
as if to explore the wound), but when I set it in the grass,
it flopped onto its side, helpless.

I got a cardboard box and put a towel in it and made the bunny a nest.
I placed the bunny in the box, and it did not curl up, it simply lay as I had placed it.
I thought, the humane thing would be to kill it.
But I can't do it. I can't do it, even though it's the best thing to do,
even though it's the kindest thing to do. I don't know how to kill anything.
I don't WANT to know how to kill anything. What would I even kill it with? A shovel?
A bucket of water and a sack? No, no, no, I can't do it.

So I made it a warm soft bed in a box
and kept it in my room where scavengers couldn't start eating it
while it was still alive. Where my beloved cat
couldn't get to it and play with it.
(Minka wonders why I've locked her out of my room all day.)

I check on the bunny several times during the day.
Its black eye is dim now and half shut.
It's motionless except for its shallow little breaths
that come rapid, rapid, rapid.
I stroke its tiny ears, and then leave it alone;
I know my presence only makes it more scared.
It won't be long.
I know what something looks like when it's dying.

Tonight I kneel under the tree in the dark
and dig a hole and put the cold little body into it.
This is the first time I've buried something--I mean done it myself.
I sob like a baby, desolate.
I think, why am I crying so hard? After all, it's just a bunny.
But . . .
I held it yesterday, and
it had such sweet, tiny little paws,
and such bright eyes,
and it was so alive
and so perfect.
It was the most perfect little thing,
so soft and warm and alive
in my cupped hands.

Oh, I don't understand.
Why are the most basic things
the hardest to understand?

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Late Spring

Spring came late this year.
It was cold and gloomy on Easter,
like a day in late November,
and then the next week
temperatures rocketed into the high eighties,
leaving us perspiring in tank tops and shorts
before the first leaf was even on the trees.

Now, after a long warm up, a symphony of cherry trees
has exploded into concertos of pink and white,
the larks and thrushes are chirruping me awake
every morning through my open window,
and my little cat stalks the new clover of my front lawn,
searching for the small, furry critters she hears
scurrying under my porch in the night.
I fear she will find the groundhog which, I am sure, lives here.

The wind is now a breeze
and the smell of manure and fresh-tilled earth
rises up to me from the valley. I stand outside,
looking out on the farm land spread out below me
and at the hills,
which are turning a light, timid green.

I am not fooled by spring's slowness.
I am relieved to not be responsible for its progression.
I am happy to just be a part of it,
A creature in this new, green world, a creature
with as much power to rush spring
as I have power to spin the earth on its axis.

I marvel at my finiteness--and,
for the first time in my life--
thank God for it.

Oh the pleasures of the created,
the lightness of being for those
who are not responsible for the song of a thrush,
or the red-gold of the morning sun!