When They Sleep
All people are children when they sleep.
there’s no war in them then.
They open their hands and breathe
in that quiet rhythm heaven has given them.
They pucker their lips like small children
and open their hands halfway,
soldiers and statesmen, servants and masters.
The stars stand guard
and a haze veils the sky,
a few hours when no one will do anybody harm.
If only we could speak to one another then
when our hearts are half-open flowers.
Words like golden bees
would drift in.
– God, teach me the language of sleep.
Indigenous Grandmothers Surround Me
There are old women who come to you at night when you are sleeping, when you are awake, when you are relaxed and have stopped “trying” to make something happen.
When you have surrendered your grasping, clawing, survival and give yourself over to rest to allow to let go and just be soft, breathing, open fertile emptiness.
And then, when you are in that place of allowing, they can reach you they sit around you always talking softly around the fire of your light.
They chew on roots, leaves, your words spoken in brusque, harshness They eat Fear that oozes out your pores.
They laugh and pour tea and always always they Listen and chant into your ear, soothing down the voices that would make you small and less than.
They are there, always there whittling away on the debris that covers your soul, tending you holding you planting you... though you try your best to pull the roots and block the shoots.
They wait, silent, mindful, knowing. In Pure Trust. They sit inches from you, offering you the true bread, waiting my love, smelling your blossom before it has bloomed.
IF YOU KNEW
By Ellen Bass
What if you knew you’d be the last
to touch someone?
If you were taking tickets, for example,
at the theater, tearing them,
giving back the ragged stubs,
you might take care to touch that palm,
brush your fingertips
along the life line’s crease.
When a man pulls his wheeled suitcase
too slowly through the airport, when
the car in front of me doesn’t signal,
when the clerk at the pharmacy
won’t say Thank you, I don’t remember
they’re going to die.
A friend told me she’d been with her aunt.
They’d just had lunch and the waiter,
a young gay man with plum black eyes,
joked as he served the coffee, kissed
her aunt’s powdered cheek when they left.
Then they walked half a block and her aunt
dropped dead on the sidewalk.
How close does the dragon’s spume
have to come? How wide does the crack
in heaven have to split?
What would people look like
if we could see them as they are,
soaked in honey, stung and swollen,
reckless, pinned against time?
It was Rumi who said “If you only say one prayer in a day, make it thank you.” I love this poem by Elaine Sutton:
After a sleepless night, worrying about the world
I stand in the whispering grass,
watching the mountains crouch
under their burden of sky.
The morning sun glides above the peaks
and the field is suddenly flooded
with turquoise light. A flock of red wings rise,
they turn together like a page of poetry.
I read between the lines
realize I am lonely, and afraid.
I worry about the wars, the weather,
the end of our beautiful, broken world.
I see the way we can harden our hearts
when fear is what moves us.
Now a marsh hawk cruises the yellow reeds, she dives swiftly
and some soft-furred creature’s life is over.
For each of us, hauling our basket of dreams,
it is only one breath, one breath,
that divides this world, and the next.
What is there to do then but give thanks,
Offer praise and gratitude for the sweetness we’re allotted,
Fling open our burning hearts, and help each other.
Prescription for the Disillusioned
Come new to this day.
Remove the rigid overcoat of experience,
the notion of knowing,
the beliefs that cloud your vision.
Leave behind the stories of your life.
Spit out the sour taste of unmet expectation.
Let the stale scent of what-ifs waft back into the swamp
of your useless fears.
Arrive curious, without the armor of certainty,
the plans and planned results of the life you’ve imagined.
Live the life that chooses you,
new every breath, every blink of your astonished eyes.
– Rebecca del Rio
Everyone should be born into this world happy
and loving everything.
But in truth it rarely works that way.
For myself, I have spent my life clamoring toward it.
Halleluiah, anyway I’m not where I started!
And have you too been trudging like that, sometimes
almost forgetting how wondrous the world is
and how miraculously kind some people can be?
And have you too decided that probably nothing important
is ever easy?
Not, say, for the first sixty years.
Halleluiah, I’m sixty now, and even a little more,
and some days I feel I have wings.
~ Mary Oliver ~
~ Clearing ~
Do not try to save the whole world or do anything grandiose.
Instead, create a clearing in the dense forest of your life
and wait there patiently,
until the song that is your life
falls into your own cupped hands
and you recognize and greet it.
Only then will you know how to give yourself
to this world
so worthy of rescue.
May I never not be frisky,
May I never not be risqué.
May my ashes, when you have them, friend,
and give them to the ocean,
leap in the froth of the waves,
still loving movement,
still ready, beyond all else,
to dance for the world.
~ Mary Oliver ~
There is a trough in waves,
A low spot
Where horizon disappears
And only sky
Are our company.
And there we lose our way
We rest, knowing the wave will bring us
To its crest again.
There we may drown
If we let fear
Hold us within its grip and shake us
Side to side,
And leave us flailing, torn, disoriented.
But if we rest there
In the trough,
The low part of the wave,
Our energy and
Noticing the shape of things,
Then time alone
Will bring us to another
Where we can see
Horizon, see the land again,
Regain our sense
And where we need to swim.
~ Judy Brown ~
In Blackwater Woods
Look, the trees
their own bodies
are giving off the rich
fragrance of cinnamon
the long tapers
are bursting and floating away over
the blue shoulders
of the ponds,
and every pond,
no matter what its
name is, is
I have ever learned
in my lifetime
leads back to this: the fires
and the black river of loss
whose other side
none of us will ever know.
To live in this world
you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it
against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.
On the Ridge
We can grow by simply listening,
the way the tree on
that ridge listens its branches
to the sky, the way blood
listens its flow to the site
of a wound, the way you
listen like a basin when
my head so full of grief
can’t look you in the eye.
We can listen our way out
of anger, if we let the heart
soften the wolf we keep inside.
We can last by listening
deeply, the way roots reach for
the next inch of earth, the way
an old turtle listens all he hears
into the pattern of his shell.
I love the dark hours of my being.
My mind deepens into them.
There I can find, as in old letters,
the days of my life, already lived,
and held like a legend, and understood.
Then the knowing comes: I can open
to another life that’s wide and timeless.
So I am sometimes like a tree
rustling over a gravesite
and making real the dream
of the one its living roots
a dream once lost
among sorrows and songs.
~ Ranier Maria Rilke ~
my body as indispensable
the limits of my heart’s capacity
the notion I’m losing my mind
attachment to a guaranteed next breath
my ancestor’s fear and shame
the pull to distraction
belief my body cannot heal
my beloved from the need to change
my judgments about 1,000 things
the seduction of isolation
life in the fast lane
the jaws of perfection
the earth from fixing this mess
my children to live as they will
my need to know
To be alive: not just the carcass
But the spark.
That’s crudely put, but …
If we’re not supposed to dance,
Why all this music?
~ Gregory Orr ~
A Necessary Autumn
…I have one small drop
of knowing in my soul. Let it dissolve in your ocean.
There are so many threats to it.
Inside each of us, there’s continual autumn. Our leaves
fall and are blown out
over the water. A raven sits in the blackened limbs and talks
about what’s gone. Then
your generosity returns: spring, moisture, intelligence, the
scent of hyacinth and rose
There’s a necessary dying, and then Jesus is breathing again.
Very little grows on jagged
rock. Be ground. Be crumbled, so wildflowers will come up
where you are. You’ve been
stony for too many years. Try something different. Surrender.
~~The Thing About Fear~~
We try to avoid it, distracting ourselves,
even put others in the way. Because it
makes what is necessary seem monumental.
It makes what is needed seem uncrossable.
Yet when we stumble over the line, or are
loved over the line, or, in our exhaustion,
fall beyond our pain, what we feared
was a fall to our death turns out
to have been the next step.
Forget about enlightenment.
Sit down and listen to the wind singing in your veins.
Feel the love, the longing,
and the fear in your bones.
Open your heart to who you are, right now.
Not who you’d like to be,
but the being right here before you,
inside you, around you.
All of you is holy.
You’re already more than whatever you can know.
Breathe out, look in, let go.
Grandpa was conscripted by the czar,
marched to the battle beat before
desperately herding his fledglings
to the dream shore of America.
My father was a bombardier
loyally perched in the womb of a P-38
gunning the faceless to kingdom come,
burning visions haunt his bedroom still.
Me? I sat silent in slick university halls,
paraded in hope-filled San Francisco streets
outraged at senseless carnage déjà vu,
my high school heart-throb stolen.
Now Memorial Day transpires once more
and I remember the sacrifice of youth and
the ancient lineage of wounded fathers passing
this mortal legacy through time immemorial.
In a world where drones fly and grandmothers cry
where collateral damage parades as logic
and home security trumps daily sanity,
we pray for peace, instead of fighting for it.
bella May 26, 2013
All My Body Calls
All my body calls
for something in this sleeping
we call the spirit.
from lifted arms
where stars run through fingers
and the night is like sand
do I breathe a fragrance of its wisdom
do I call its name
or listen to the drops
that trickle down to earth
life being given
not only through the moving hands of the forest
but through the hand that reaches in
the dark unmoving regions of the chest
and uncovers slowly
shape of the ocean.
~ David Whyte ~
i am a little church(no great cathedral)
far from the splendor and squalor of hurrying cities
-i do not worry if briefer days grow briefest,
i am not sorry when sun and rain make april
my life is the life of the reaper and the sower;
my prayers are prayers of earth’s own clumsily striving