Poetry


We were once enwombed in the earth
and the silence of the body
remembers that dark,
inner longing. 
 
Fashioned from clay,
we carry the memory of the earth.
 
Ancient, forgotten things
stir within our hearts,
memories from the time
before the mind was born.
 
Within us are the depths
that keep watch.
 
~John O’ Donohue from Beauty: The Invisible Embrace


THIS IMPERFECT DANCE

We never rehearsed this
We are a mess
We tremble and perspire
We step on each other’s toes

Sometimes we go out of tune
And forget our lines

But at least this is real
At least we are not half-alive
Buried under the weight of some image
We never believed in anyway

I will always take this imperfect dance
Over no dance at all

– Jeff Foster
 

Bugs in a Bowl

Han Shan, that great and crazy, wonder-filled
Chinese poet of a thousand years ago, said:
 
We’re just like bugs in a bowl.
All day going around
never leaving their bowl.
 
I say, That’s right! Every day
climbing up the steep sides,
sliding back.  Over and over again.
Around and around.
Up and back down.
 
Sit in the bottom of the bowl,
head in your hands, cry, moan,
feel sorry for yourself.
 
Or.
 
Look around.
See your fellow bugs.
Walk around. Say,
Hey, how you doin’?
Say, Nice bowl!

David Budbill
 

Like Spring, secretly at work within the heart of Winter,
below the surface of our lives
huge changes are in fermentation.
We never suspect a thing.

Then when the grip of some long-enduring winter mentality
begins to loosen, we find ourselves vulnerable
to a flourish of possibility
and we are suddenly negotiating
the challenges of a threshold…
 
At any time you can ask yourself:
At which threshold am I now standing?
At this time in my life, what am I leaving?
Where am I about to enter?
 
A threshold is not a simple boundary;
it is a frontier that divides
two different territories, rhythms and atmospheres.
 
Indeed, it is a lovely testimony
to the fullness and integrity
of an experience or a stage of life
that it intensifies toward the end
into a real frontier that cannot be crossed
without the heart being passionately engaged
and woken up.
 
At this threshold, a great complexity of emotion comes alive:
confusion, fear, excitement, sadness, hope.
This is one of the reasons such vital crossings
were always clothed in ritual.
 
It is wise in your own life to be able to recognize
and acknowledge the key thresholds;
to take your time;
to feel all the varieties of presence that accrue there;
to listen inward with complete attention
until you hear the inner voice calling you forward:
“The time has come to cross.”
 
John O’Donohue


Funny
 
What’s it like to be a human
the bird asked
 
I myself don’t know
it’s being held prisoner by your skin
while reaching infinity
being a captive of your scrap of time
while touching eternity
being hopelessly uncertain
and helplessly hopeful
being a needle of frost
and a handful of heat
breathing in the air
and choking wordlessly
it’s being on fire
with a nest made of ashes
eating bread
while filling up on hunger
it’s dying without love
it’s loving through death
 
That’s funny said the bird
and flew effortlessly up into the air
 
~ Anna Kamienska ~
 

______________________________________________________________________________

Have patience with everything
         that remains unsolved in your heart.
 
Try to love the questions themselves,
         like locked rooms
                  and like books written in a foreign language.
 
Do not now look for the answers.
 
They cannot now be given to you
         because you could not live them.
 
It is a question of experiencing everything.
 
At present you need to live the question.
 
Perhaps you will gradually,
         without even noticing it,
                  find yourself experiencing the answer,
                           some distant day.
 
Rilke      Letters to a Young Poet
 


The World I Live In
 
I have refused to live
locked in the orderly house of
reasons and proofs.
The world I live in and believe in
is wider than that. And anyway,
what’s wrong with Maybe?
You wouldn’t believe what once or
twice I have seen. I’ll just
tell you this:
only if there are angels in your head will you
ever, possibly, see one.
 
Mary Oliver

Keeping Quiet

Now we will count to twelve
and we will all keep still
for once on the face of the earth,
let’s not speak in any language;
let’s stop for a second,
and not move our arms so much.

It would be an exotic moment
without rush, without engines;
we would all be together
in a sudden strangeness.

Fishermen in the cold sea
would not harm whales
and the man gathering salt
would not look at his hurt hands.

Those who prepare green wars,
wars with gas, wars with fire,
victories with no survivors,
would put on clean clothes
and walk about with their brothers
in the shade, doing nothing.

What I want should not be confused
with total inactivity.

Life is what it is about…

If we were not so single-minded
about keeping our lives moving,
and for once could do nothing,
perhaps a huge silence
might interrupt this sadness
of never understanding ourselves
and of threatening ourselves with
death.

Now I’ll count up to twelve
and you keep quiet and I will go.

Pablo Neruda

Wild Love  

Is not impermanence the very fragrance of our days?

Flare up like flame
and make big shadows I can move in.

Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.
Just keep going. No feeling is final.
Don’t let yourself lose me.

Nearby is the country they call life.
You will know it by its seriousness

Give me your hand.

Rainer Maria Rilke  (translated by Joanna Macy)

What’s In The Temple?

In the quiet spaces of my mind a thought lies still, but ready to spring.
It begs me to open the door so it can walk about.
The poets speak in obscure terms pointing madly at the unsayable.
The sages say nothing, but walk ahead patting their thigh calling for us to follow.
The monk sits pen in hand poised to explain the cloud of unknowing.
The seeker seeks, just around the corner from the truth.
If she stands still it will catch up with her.
Pause with us here a while.
Put your ear to the wall of your heart.
Listen for the whisper of knowing there.
Love will touch you if you are very still.

If I say the word God, people run away.
They’ve been frightened–sat on ’till the spirit cried “uncle.”
Now they play hide and seek with somebody they can’t name.
They know he’s out there looking for them, and they want to be found,
But there is all this stuff in the way.

I can’t talk about God and make any sense,
And I can’t not talk about God and make any sense.
So we talk about the weather, and we are talking about God.

I miss the old temples where you could hang out with God.
Still, we have pet pounds where you can feel love draped in warm fur,
And sense the whole tragedy of life and death.
You see there the consequences of carelessness,
And you feel there the yapping urgency of life that wants to be lived.
The only things lacking are the frankincense and myrrh.

We don’t build many temples anymore.
Maybe we learned that the sacred can’t be contained.
Or maybe it can’t be sustained inside a building.
Buildings crumble.
It’s the spirit that lives on.

If you had a temple in the secret spaces of your heart,
What would you worship there?
What would you bring to sacrifice?
What would be behind the curtain in the holy of holies?

Go there now.

~ Tom Barrett ~


And the people stayed home.

And read books,
and listened,
and rested,
and exercised,
and made art,
and played games,
and learned new ways of being,
and were still.

And listened more deeply.

Some meditated,
some prayed,
some danced.
Some met their shadows.

And the people began to think differently.
And the people healed.
And, in the absence of people living in ignorant,
            dangerous, mindless, and heartless ways,
the earth began to heal.

And when the danger passed,
and the people joined together again,
they grieved their losses,
and made new choices,
and dreamed new images,
and created new ways to live
            and heal the earth fully,
as they had been healed.

~Kitty O’Meara’~

Early in the morning we crossed the ghat,
where fires were still smoldering,
and gazed, with our Western minds, into the Ganges.
A woman was standing in the river up to her waist;
she was lifting handfuls of water and spilling it
over her body, slowly and many times,
as if until there came some moment
of inner satisfaction between her own life and the river’s.
Then she dipped a vessel she had brought with her
and carried it filled with water back across the ghat,
no doubt to refresh some shrine near where she lives,
for this is the holy city of Shiva, maker
of the world, and this is his river.
I can’t say much more, except that it all happened
in silence and peaceful simplicity, and something that felt
like that bliss of a certainty and a life lived
in accordance with that certainty.
I must remember this, I thought, as we fly back
to America.
Pray God I remember this.

Mary Oliver

Having Come This Far by James Broughton

I’ve been through what my through was to be
I did what I could and couldn’t
I was never sure how I would get there

I nourished an ardor for thresholds
for stepping stones and for ladders
I discovered detour and ditch

I swam in the high tides of greed
I built sandcastles to house my dreams
I survived the sunburns of love

No longer do I hunt for targets
I’ve climbed all the summits I need to
and I’ve eaten my share of lotus

Now I give praise and thanks
for what could not be avoided
and for every foolhardy choice

I cherish my wounds and their cures
and the sweet enervations of bliss
My book is an open life

I wave goodbye to the absolutes
and send my regards to infinity
I’d rather be blithe than correct

Until something transcendent turns up
I splash in my poetry puddle
and try to keep God amused.

The Summer Day

by Mary Oliver

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper I mean—
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down—
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

________________________________________________________________________

clouds-cloudscape-cloudy-158163

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

africa-animals-dusk-40756

THE PEACE OF WILD THINGS

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

Wendell Berry

destiny

The Secret

Two girls discover
the secret of life
in a sudden line of
poetry.

I who don’t know the
secret wrote
the line. They
told me

(through a third person)
they had found it
but not what it was
not even

what line it was.  No doubt
by now, more than a week
later, they have forgotten
the secret,

the line, the name of
the poem.  I love them
for finding what
I can’t find,

and for loving me
for the line I wrote,
and for forgetting it
so that

a thousand times, till death
finds them, they may
discover it again, in other
lines

in other
happenings.  And for
wanting to know it,
for

assuming there is
such a secret, yes,
for that
most of all.

~ Denise Levertov ~

49573793_2396658457071702_6380347018274930688_n

Primary Wonder

Days pass when I forget the mystery.
Problems insoluble and problems offering
their own ignored solutions
jostle for my attention, they crowd its antechamber
along with a host of diversions, my courtiers, wearing
their colored clothes; cap and bells.
And then
once more the quiet mystery
is present to me, the throng’s clamor
recedes: the mystery
that there is anything, anything at all,
let alone cosmos, joy, memory, everything,
rather than void: and that, O Lord,
Creator, Hallowed One, You still,
hour by hour sustain it.

~ Denise Levertov ~

bird-s-nest-birds-9913

On Why I Must Decline To Receive The Prayers

You Say You Are Constantly Sending

Because first of all, I have a feeling that they didn’t cost you anything,

and so I have to wonder: What is their actual market value?

For you, is the prayer like a radar-guided projectile

mounted on the hinged-together wings of several good intentions,

propelled by the flawed translation of a Rumi poem?

Anyway, my mailbox is already pretty much occupied for the season.

At the beginning of May a big mother wren started moving in,

one mouthful of straw and twig at a time.

For three days she flew in and out, in and out and in,

building a nest the size of a small soup bowl.

Then she sat on her eggs for two weeks, cooing and fluffing to keep them warm.

Then she was busy feeding her young.

I think the heat passing through that mother’s body into her brood

has already surpassed the endoplasmic vibrational voltage

you’ve mentioned as a feature of the prayers you are sending me.

I understand that you are doing your best

to hoist yourself up toward a spiritual life,

even if it is through the doorway of a kind of pretending.

But if you really care, as you claim, please

will you kindly sit down and work your shit out?

Stop stealing reality from the world

and replacing it with make-believe!

The newspaper says that poorly aimed prayers

are causing flat tires on I-25.

The sandalwood incense blowing across the valley

is already causing cab drivers a lot of allergies.

So sit still and just look at the colors of the changing sky.

And could you stop burning so many candles, please?

My god, think how many hours and hours and hours —

think of how hard those bees worked

to make all that wax!

Tony Hoagland

Winter Solstice

Today

The ordinary miracles begin. Somewhere

a signal arrives: “Now,” and the rays

come down. A tomorrow has come. Open

your hands, lift them: morning rings

all the doorbells; porches are cells for prayer.

Religion has touched your throat. Not the same now,

you could close your eyes and go on full of light.

And it is already begun, the chord

that will shiver glass, the song full of time

bending above us. Outside, a sign:

a bird intervenes; the wings tell the air,

“Be warm.” No one is out there, but a giant

has passed through town, widening streets, touching

the ground, shouldering away the stars.

~ William Stafford ~

airport runway

Enter at Your Own Risk

I have reached the northwest,

the transformation point.

Greetings from the brink of life

where messages of impermanence

are carved into a jagged edge

and the wonder of each moment

is the only daily news.

I am an ice cube melting into the one,

an ocean where surrender

is more than a concept

and the mystery glows permeable.

I hold a container

for metamorphosis by osmosis.

This space is a tunnel, a pass through

with no end zone,

a catalytic holding tank

that strips away every excess trapping.

An arrival and departure zone

where we lift off together

on a runway to destiny.

A floor we can die into

and be re-born from

as we dance hardy wings onto our souls.

bella

11-14-18

Half Moon Bay

mystery

The great affair,

the love affair with life,

is to live as variously as possible,

to groom one’s curiosity like a high-spirited thoroughbred,

climb aboard and gallop over the thick sun-struck hills every day.

Where there is no risk,

the emotional terrain is flat and unyielding.

And despite all its dimensions, valleys, pinnacles and detours,

life will seem to have none of its magnificent geography,

only a length.

It began in mystery and it will end in mystery,

but what a savage and beautiful country lies in between.

~ Diane Ackerman ~

(“found poetry” from A Natural History of the Senses)

_There is no charm equal to tenderness pf the heart._ Jane Austen (1)

If You Want Me

You must approach
Quietly as a doe
To the river for her evening drink
You must be slow as the ripening of wood
The patience of a village of weavers
Bringing into being one perfect carpet

If you touch me
All the tenderness
Of fathers watching birth
Must pass through your hands
And you must enter softly
As one day slips on into the next
Through a long summer of sunny afternoons

If I cry, if my sorrow is not more dear
Than oceans of dolphins on the orange morning waves

If you will not lavish me until my body
Like a dying fish, gives up
And I swim like I have flown in my dreams

If you are saving something
If you have not made up your mind
Do not come to me

For I have been wounded
I am a lioness, I am
No longer young.

Ellen Bass

in utero in canyon

Eulogy to a Uterus

Bleeding I emerged from the womb

Bleeding I blossomed into woman

Bleeding two babes were birthed

Bleeding stopped sans fanfare

Bleeding I discovered with alarm,

a signal from the deep end of life,

this heaviness in my belly

echoing the bleeding since time began.

For I have been a womb walker:

mothering, nurturing, caring, holding.

Instinct woven into the tapestry of my cells,

this love and labor of tending:

gardens, children, bodies, communities.

This bleeding womb soaks the earth

in painted spirals of creation and cultivation,

a ceaseless succession of pregnancy and birth,

as if space, emptiness, pause

were dreadful notions, never an option

and the capable and good girl that I am

must always earn her place in the cosmos,

as if simply existing would never suffice.

Maybe this subtext assumption

penned over a long lifetime

is up for grabs, looking a bit suspicious.

There are cracks in the silver platter

and actually, when the light is just right,

all this doing? A bit ridiculous,

a bit presumptuous, a bit over reaching.

And yet, I hold this worn life nugget,

its facets catch that just right light

and it sparkles sublime in perfection.

My hands extend to embrace the world,

I pulse, a well-used servant of the heart

and lord willing, may my last breath

be one of aching contentment

and sweet fiery love.

bella 10-27-18

birds-clouds-color-159489

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.

–Elaine Sutton

iv'ye

The House of Belonging

I awoke this morning in the gold light

turning this way and that

thinking for a moment

it was one day like any other.

But the veil had gone

from my darkened heart

and I thought

it must have been the quiet

candlelight that filled my room,

it must have been

the first easy rhythm

with which I breathed myself to sleep,

it must have been the prayer I said

speaking to the otherness of the night.

And I thought this is the good day

you could meet your love,

this is the black day

someone close to you could die.

This is the day you realize

how easily the thread is broken

between this world and the next.

And I found myself sitting up

in the quiet pathway of light,

the tawny close grained cedar

burning round me like a fire

and all the angels of this housely

heaven ascending through the first

roof of light the sun has made.

This is the bright home in which I live,

this is where I ask my friends to come,

this is where I want to love all the things

it has taken me so long to learn to love.

This is the temple of my adult aloneness

and I belong to that aloneness

as I belong to my life.

There is no house

like the house of belonging.

– David Whyte

moving toward

Hokusai Says by Robert Keyes
Hokusai says look carefully.

He says pay attention, notice.

He says keep looking, stay curious.

He says there is no end to seeing

He says look forward to getting old.

He says keep changing, you just get more who you really are.

He says get stuck, accept it, repeat yourself as long as it’s interesting.

He says keep doing what you love.

He says keep praying.

He says every one of us is a child,

every one of us is ancient, every one of us has a body.

He says every one of us is frightened.

He says every one of us has to find a way to live with fear.

He says everything is alive –

shells, buildings, people, fish, mountains, trees.

Wood is alive.

Water is alive

Everything has its own life.

Everything lives inside us.

He says live with the world inside you.

He says it doesn’t matter if you draw, or write books.

It doesn’t matter if you saw wood, or catch fish.

It doesn’t matter if you sit at home and stare at the ants on your verandah

or the shadows of the trees and grasses in your garden.

It matters that you care.

It matters that you feel.

It matters that you notice.

It matters that life lives through you.

Contentment is life living through you.

Joy is life living through you.

Satisfaction and strength is life living through you.

Peace is life living through you.

He says don’t be afraid.

Don’t be afraid.

Look, feel, let life take you by the hand.

Let life live through you.

vulnerability 2

I feel vulnerable when my well-being is in jeopardy:

my physical body is precious and I am exposed:

turbulence in flight, choppy water, traffic blips,

nights home alone, dark empty streets.

In my nebulous girlhood primeval

my physical welfare was not guaranteed;

my emotional safety was non-existent.

Rigidity and tension are my twin saviors.

Steep though their cost may be,

I learn how to erect walls.

I feel vulnerable when I am not busy,

time is of the essence and I am exposed

as unimportant if I rest, gaze, sit.

Productivity, efficiency, fruits of labor!

Though I can fall into numbness

in more ways than one.

My father said the lazy man works twice as hard

and my mom was always impatient.

They were born first generation:

driven struggle, diligent producing,

I got straight A’s.

I feel vulnerable when I try to speak what I feel,

someone is listening and I am exposed,

the only person alive who does not know.

I must be stupid, close-hearted, hard-hearted.

Put on the spot generates internal confusion

that dives elusive feelings ever deeper.

Well who didn’t have an insecure childhood?

Never OK to reveal the frightening truth

or threats that remain nameless.

In the face of upheaval and shambles,

I learned how to slip out the back jack.

I perfect my invisibility cloak.

I feel vulnerable when I lose stuff,

I’m devastated, rejected, exposed.

I lose keys, friends, vital bits of information.

Phones, water bottles and students abandon me.

I lose my sister, my brother, my mother.

Getting a grip, clinging for all I’m worth

morphs into an elusive full time stranglehold.

Things have been slipping away as long

as I can remember.

I fine-tune how to hold on.

I feel vulnerable when I ask for help,

someone is judging and I am exposed

as less than competent,

less than all together,

so clearly less than perfect.

Taking charge becomes the ideal antidote,

creates that early safe haven I still long for.

Instead there was relentless uncertainty

where the caress of a soft supporting hand

was simply out of the question.

I pretend to be OK a lot.

I know what it means to be out there defensive…

life force consumed by hiding, blame, deception.

I know what it means to be out there free…

patient, transparent, graceful, humble.

I surrender to showing up unbuttoned.

My awkward clumsy lack of poise self,

my stories of a life gone awry…

my own outing, I offer as my gift to the world

because it is true and universal and

funny and pathetic and mortal.

Time is a wasting on make-believe and pretense.

I feel vulnerable when I am being human.

Hardcore Vulnerability: Sacramento March 2-4, 2018

Bella 3-7-18

_how can you be the ancestor of your future happiness__ David Whyte (1)

Start Close In

 

Start close in,
don’t take the second step
or the third,
start with the first
thing
close in,
the step
you don’t want to take.

 

Start with
the ground
you know,
the pale ground
beneath your feet,
your own
way of starting
the conversation.

Start with your own
question,
give up on other
people’s questions,
don’t let them
smother something
simple.

To find
another’s voice,
follow
your own voice,
wait until
that voice
becomes a
private ear
listening
to another.

Start right now
take a small step
you can call your own
don’t follow
someone else’s
heroics, be humble
and focused,
start close in,
don’t mistake
that other
for your own.

Start close in,
don’t take
the second step
or the third,
start with the first
thing
close in,
the step
you don’t want to take.

David Whyte

_________________________________________________________

Praise What Comes

surprising as unplanned kisses, all you haven’t deserved

of days and solitude, your body’s immoderate good health

that lets you work in many kinds of weather.  Praise

talk with just about anyone.  And quiet intervals, books

that are your food and your hunger; nightfall and walks

before sleep.  Praising these for practice, perhaps

you will come at last to praise grief and the wrongs

you never intended.  At the end there may be no answers

and only a few very simple questions: did I love,

finish my task in the world?  Learn at least one

of the many names of God?  At the intersections,

the boundaries where one life began and another

ended, the jumping-off places between fear and

possibility, at the ragged edges of pain,

did I catch the smallest glimpse of the holy?

~ Jeanne Lohmann ~

flags

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
(finding and losing and laughing and crying)children
whose any sadness or joy is my grief or my gladness

around me surges a miracle of unceasing
birth and glory and death and resurrection:
over my sleeping self float flaming symbols
of hope, and i wake to a perfect patience of mountains

i am a little church(far from the frantic
world with its rapture and anguish)at peace with nature
-i do not worry if longer nights grow longest;
i am not sorry when silence becomes singing

winter by spring,i lift my diminutive spire to
merciful Him Whose only now is forever:
standing erect in the deathless truth of His presence
(welcoming humbly His light and proudly His darkness)

~ e.e.cummings ~

Buddah snow
The Healing Time

Finally on my way to yes

I bump into

all the places

where I said no

to my life

all the untended wounds

the red and purple scars

those heiroglyphs of pain

carved into my skin, my bones

those coded messages

that send me down

the wrong street

again and again

where I find them

the old wounds

the old misdirections

and I lift them

one by one

close to my heart

and I say   holy

holy.

Pesha Gertler

Business competition

Housing Shortage

I tried to live small.
I took a narrow bed.
I held my elbows to my sides.
I tried to step carefully
and to think softly
and to breathe shallowly
in my portion of air
and to disturb no one.

Yet see how I spread out and I cannot help it.
I take to myself more and more, and I take nothing
that I do not need, but my needs grow like weeds,
all over and invading; I clutter this place.
with all the apparatus of living.
You stumble over it daily.

And then my lungs take their fill.
And then you gasp for air.
Excuse me for living,
but, since I am living,
given inches, I take yards,
taking yards, dream of miles,
and a landscape, unbounded
and vast in abandon.

You too dreaming the same.
Naomi Replansky
Faith

I am and I know

Golden marguerites sit me tall,

faces yearning toward

the last seasonal sun drops

even as a menacing dim looms real.

The water moves relentless

under Half Dome’s sheer mass,

anchors me to these buff cool pebbles

that grind my feet into presence.

I am a recovering do-er…

I am an exhausted thinker…

Among the random things I know

is that I am, although that is

just another thought, holding zero value,

as is the fate of all thinking.

Here in the shadow of granite silence,

witnessed by simplicity,

the doing and the thinking haunt me:

looping whines and circular demands,

scraping away at my dwindling time,

the whole charade hysterical

whenever I cease to despair

and wake up to remember

I stand alive with forest pine

knowing that I am and that is plenty.

bella 10-19-17

autumn-leaves-wallpaper-1

A Necessary Autumn

You and I have spoken all these words, but as for the way

we have to go, words

are no preparation. There is no getting ready, other than
grace. My faults

have stayed hidden. One might call that a preparation!
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

and cypress. Joseph is back! And if you don’t feel in
yourself the freshness of

Joseph, be Jacob! Weep and then smile. Don’t pretend to know
something you haven’t experienced.

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.

Rumi

soul 2

Self Portrait

It doesn’t interest me if there is one God or many gods.

I want to know if you belong or feel abandoned,

if you know despair or can see it in others.

I want to know if you are prepared to live in the world

with its harsh need to change you,

if you can look back with firm eyes saying this is where I stand.

I want to know if you know how to melt into that fierce heat of living,

falling toward the center of your longing.

I want to know if you are willing to live, day by day,

with the consequence of love

and the bitter unwanted passion of sure defeat.

I have been told, in that fierce embrace, even the gods speak of God.

David Whyte

___________________________________________________

Oriah Mountain Dreamer took a writing class from David Whyte and the instruction was to write her own personal version of this poem.  Here it is:

The Invitation

It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living.

I want to know what you ache for

and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing.

It doesn’t interest me how old you are.

I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool

for love, for your dream, for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn’t interest me what planets are squaring your moon…

I want to know if you have touched the centre of your own sorrow

if you have been opened by life’s betrayals

or have become shriveled and closed from fear of further pain.

I want to know if you can sit with pain,

mine or your own,

without moving to hide it or fade it or fix it.

I want to know if you can be with joy,

mine or your own

if you can dance with wildness and let the ecstasy fill you

to the tips of your fingers and toes

without cautioning us to be careful, be realistic,

remember the limitations of being human.

It doesn’t interest me if the story you are telling me is true.

I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself.

If you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul.

If you can be faithless and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see Beauty even when it is not pretty every day.

And if you can source your own life from its presence.

I want to know if you can live with failure,

yours and mine, and still stand at the edge of the lake

and shout to the silver of the full moon, “Yes.”

It doesn’t interest me to know where you live or how much money you have.

I want to know if you can get up after the night of grief and despair

weary and bruised to the bone and do what needs to be done to feed the children.

It doesn’t interest me who you know or how you came to be here.

I want to know if you will stand in the centre of the fire with me

and not shrink back.

It doesn’t interest me where or what or with whom you have studied.

I want to know what sustains you from the inside when all else falls away.

I want to know if you can be alone with yourself

and if you truly like the company you keep

in the empty moments.

Oriah Mountain Dreamer

________________________________________________

begin again

Nothing

Nothing sings in our bodies

like breath in a flute.

It dwells in the drum.

I hear it now

that slow beat

like when a voice said to the dark,

let there be light,

let there be ocean

and blue fish

born of nothing

and they were there.

I turn back to bed.

The man there is breathing.

I touch him

with hands already owned by another world

Look, they are desert,

they are rust. They have washed the dead.

They have washed the just born.

They are open.

They offer nothing.

Take it.

Take nothing from me.

There is still a little life

left inside this body,

a little wildness here

and mercy

and it is the emptiness

we love, touch, enter in one another

and try to fill.

~ Linda Hogan ~

Better Than Expected (1)

children dancing

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.

Rolf Jacobsen

_____________________________________________________________

grandmother

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.

Deborah Gutierrez

dragon spume

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?

gratitude 1

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.

pelvic bowl 3

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

wings

Halleluiah

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 ~

forest

~ 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.

Martha Postlewaite

_________________________________________

prayer hnds

Prayer

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 ~

___________________________________________

wave

Trough

There is a trough in waves,

A low spot

Where horizon disappears

And only sky

And water

Are our company.

And there we lose our way

Unless

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,

Are silent,

Being with

The low part of the wave,

Keeping

Our energy and

Noticing the shape of things,

The flow,

Then time alone

Will bring us to another

Place

Where we can see

Horizon, see the land again,

Regain our sense

Of where

We are,

And where we need to swim.

~ Judy Brown ~

cattails

In Blackwater Woods

Look, the trees

are turning
their own bodies
into pillars

of light,
are giving off the rich
fragrance of cinnamon
and fulfillment,

the long tapers
of cattails
are bursting and floating away over
the blue shoulders

of the ponds,
and every pond,
no matter what its
name is, is

nameless now.
Every year
everything
I have ever learned

in my lifetime
leads back to this: the fires
and the black river of loss
whose other side

is salvation,

whose meaning
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.

Mary Oliver

turtle

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.

Mark Nepo

_______________________________________________________

black dance

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

embrace:

a dream once lost

among sorrows and songs.

~ Ranier Maria Rilke ~

_____________________________________________________________________________________________

FullSizeRender

I’m releasing:

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

bella 10-28-15

spark9

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 ~

rooted tree

 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

and cypress…

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.

Rumi

fear0

~~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.

~Mark Nepo~

Quan Yin6f

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.

John Welwood

plane58

Memorial Day

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

little church80

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
(finding

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