Buddha and the Effigy

A vast ocean casts itself
into view, each wave thunders
to shore as if it had
always known; black sand
responding, surrendering
to the current, an entire
unseen world existing
under the sea.

I don’t even recognize
who looks out from my eyes
some days, I know so little,
perhaps it’s god or something
like it, trying hard
to get through;

If the soul does not exist
as some Buddhists say,
what lies beyond the body,
what unifying presence
holds worlds together?
Maybe Siddhartha had
a blind spot, too;

In the end, does it matter
if we summon what is sacred
from within or without?

Complicit

I read him Mary Oliver’s luminous words
in bed at night, perceptions written
nearer her end and yes there is sadness,
his eyes well uncomfortably,
who wouldn’t wish (were it possible)
to turn away from the degradation
of nature loved with the whole
of our hearts;

The loons on Goose Pond, circling
around us with crimson eyes, echoes
of their haunting cries tattooed
into memory, early morning and dusk,
nine chicks that year and two adults
and one would be hard pressed today
to hear a single pair if lucky,
human encroachment into nesting areas,
refusal to admit error in bulldozing
sacred spaces for greed and profit,
filling wetlands, giant killer bees
building, harmony absent, drones
taking over the hive,
and what are we, if not complicit?
None are blameless;

It seems a lifetime ago, smoke cannot
pour itself back down the chimney;
opportunity now lies in discovering
wonders of a pine forest far
from lake or ocean.
I must ponder more deeply
the meaning of water.

In Two, A Not-Too-Distant Memory

I

Sounds like a woman screaming.

Then I snap back from my twilight reverie,
Coyote is on the move, or calling the brood
in for the night; there must be a den of them
across the vast fields and rushing stream,
seeking safety in the forest about the same time
every evening now. I realize this, being my
sixth eventide on the mountain.

II

The elk are stalking me, noticing traces
of my passage along their own pathways
through these fourteen acres;

I have likewise lowered strands of barbed
wire used to top acres of fence line
where I notice tufts of blonde fur, revealing
fence-vaulting preferences; having no
serious tools with me on this visit, my gloved
wire wrapping will have to do until we are able
to make more permanent adjustments
to allow them passage, once again;

Someone once sought to keep them out,
but elk have roamed these mountains
for as long as time; I say let them pass;
one day we shall meet, Elk and I,
and I will know more about this majestic
creature than ever before.

No Small Thing

The dance we do, two partners holding
a thin sheet of paper between them, no hands,
just bodies aware of that small bit of substance,
mute as snow, drifting not crashing
into the weight of it;

The dance we do locks eyes and hearts as one
small thing, defining us, still unique, this closeness;
The space of a thin sheet of paper we do not drop,
it does not shift about but holds its own potential
there in the dark or in the light; no writing, no
scribble, no pictures, no definable substance;

It is blank but visible always, this thin sheet
of paper, fragile as an icicle, smooth as the surface
tension of water, strong as the atom and equally
inseparable.

Eternal

The poem that had to be written at two
in the morning; was it carried on the wind
building force in the night, pushing harder
on my head until, evoking surrender,
I turn the page and silently push the pencil,
watching words forming, shapes curving
alongside one another, forging bond
between graphite and sinew, seemingly benign,
but lest it appear deceptive, consider:

These words cast upon vellum one twilight
in the midst of my days will remain long
after this puzzle life breaks apart, leaving
only a specter which once I perceived to be me,
as if the I who loves you could be captured
on a page.



 

Arrival

I have spent too many hours marking time,
waiting for changes to come, passing precious
moments in feckless meandering, spinning wheels,
Ariadne in the shadows, balls of twine raveling
and lying in a tangled heap at my feet;

Now we have arrived, dream fulfilled, bustling rats
abandoning the airship that has sailed true,
conveying us here upon shores we once inhabited,
threaded up steep mountain slopes climbing high
and higher until the panorama unfolds, island scarlet
and gold giving way to azure, indigo, purple, pink,
green everlasting, anchoring us back to forest
and field, sacred groves, room to ramble,
all of it, all.

 

 

Flight

Once in a great while I detect glimpses, sensations,
impulses; what it felt like, those intrepid days
of youth, out of the house, seeding my own liberation,
or so I thought; I could dress up, casting spells
upon the dance floor, long wavy auburn hair flowing
about me, a radiant halo, mistaking those highs
for the freedom I sought;

Then transpired love and loss and love and agonizing
loss again and again, two daughters, lives to protect,
their well being my focus, my own maturation very
much linked to theirs though I knew it not, who does
at that age I wonder, if we are to be completely honest;

Inevitable cracks in the veneer, intimacy too complex
and so I perpetuated it thus, attracted a man that needed
nothing so much as fantasy though the world knew it not,
destined to dissimulate, propping up a ruse, the irony
of it all;

Waiting in the wings, my heart’s desire, nothing expected
or suspected, still it mellowed into rapture of sorts,
partnership longed for requiring years to clarify,
fleshing out the spectre of its origins, girls growing up,
leaving home for college, independence, meanwhile
what I had constructed lay in ruins all about, sparkle
gone, what to do with that kind of sorrow but crumple
into weeping until it appeared unending;

Decades later it has come, those winking memories linking
back to that sense of deliverance, only now it feels real,
and I must discover how to mend the gap, years inside myself
alone, isolation or immolation, phoenix readying for flight,
ashes of failures at my feet, leaden cloak shed
from tired shoulders and shrugged aside, free and clear
and entirely, if fairly late to the party, fundamentally whole.

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Mothers Day 2020

Today I posted an apology to my mother, now deceased, on Facebook. Apologized for not being more patient, more understanding; in essence a better daughter. Immediately friends rallied around me, supporting and consoling in these shared reflective times in that way women do. My mother raised us in virtual self-imposed isolation. She sequestered her shame in a beautiful home with an abusive husband, her constant companions being sorrow and confusion at how a man she adored could turn so savage and loving, in turn. If social media had existed, I wonder if she would or even could have reached out for the comfort she desperately needed.

She was only eighteen, a child herself when she gave birth to the first of seven healthy children. I was fifth down the line, her baby girl, the object of her devotion through most of my childhood. It was complicated as she clearly favored me, which set up many years of resentment from my siblings. I was not aware of the repercussions when young, children take what love they can get. Later on I resented her in turn for causing such confusion and heartbreak amongst my siblings. And on it went, the baton was passed and I seized and flat-out ran with it.

I wonder how parent/child relationships would alter if we could time travel to the future, just far enough to consider what we are about to say or do. My child self had the luxury of few filters when it came to Mom. My father was unsafe at any speed, so what I stifled with him, I let fly with her. It was not constant, and I was not often unkind, but even after I left home, there were excuses not to call or visit except when it suited me. I was wrapped up in my own adult dramas then, with the challenges of an errant husband and two little girls to think about. Coping was just about what I could handle. Yet even when the girls left home, I called mom less and less frequently. She had found religion, and I tired easily of the conversion tactics. Had I more tolerance, I might have found a way around the touchier comments. Had I cultivated patience, I might have realized she was getting old and older, more and more frail and finally death overcame her non-resistance to it. She had suffered enough to consider it a benediction.

As I approach my sixty-seventh birthday next month, I don’t know if it’s mortality or the prevalence of pandemic-driven morbidity that tugs more assiduously at the strings of my heart. I feel tender and a little raw and a bit weepy. As diligent as I was about my own mothering, I made mistakes as she said I would. I don’t know if kids are even meant to understand, but parents are very much growing up alongside them. This, whilst trying to fill shoes of archetypal proportions. Mother. Father. Even with the best of marriages or parenting intentions, who among us can ever measure up to these impossible standards?

Wishing all of you mothers everywhere a blessed Mothers Day tomorrow and every day. It’s the hardest and paradoxically the most rewarding job on the planet. May we all support one another in sharing the kind of love we either received or lacked from our own moms. With genuine forgiveness, love and compassion flows like singing water. May we all attune to its frequency. Aloha.Kohala Mountain Road morning glories ~ bj

Seagulls

I must keep reminding myself,
this is not just about me; nothing
I have done or failed to do,
it was timing, good or poor,
none of us could have predicted
just how and when the changes
this precious earth needed
in order to cleanse herself
of one species’ avarice and greed
over those of all others, well,
it was bound to come;

I sit here contemplating seagulls
I once used to sit and watch
on the causeway to Mount Desert
Island with her icy emerald waters,
tides flowing in and out,
leaving small crustaceans for them
to pick and peck, dashing
these hapless shelled creatures
upon granite boulders again
and again, breaking them
Apart;

A metaphor, a sign, an understanding
that the shell of my own seclusion
contains tiny cracks and, if dropped
from the great height of self importance,
bursts open, freeing its vulnerable center,
naked and helpless in the face
of what cannot be known by a mind
desirous of plans;

Timing may be not to my liking,
but surely as the cycles of nature
assure me that change is inevitable,
so we shall soon be on our journey
to another place where, surrounded
by forest and stream, a homecoming
of sorts awaits to stitch us back
into rhythms of season and soil.

photo: Chris Johnson

Old Journal Entry

Going back into my journals for the first time in years, I discover it’s interesting to note how clearly I perceive things now, compared to 15 years ago. For all those sheltering in isolation with others they are not quite used to being with 24/7, perhaps these old meanderings might give rise to your own deeper contemplations …

July 4, 2005

Is it fear or is it excitement? Such a question for those of us raised not to expect much or anything at all;

How to be with inner trembling without precipitating an earthquake? Life goes about its business, we are here waiting in the wings for it to happen, whatever that might look like;

Perhaps it is excitement only, then again, maybe fear. But if I don’t know, why label it at all? Say it’s both or neither. But if I don’t sit still enough and listen, it becomes a mantle, then a shroud;

Am I sad or am I angry? Allowing neither, they have become, as have I, confused. Sitting on a powder keg of emotion, I tremble with energy burning inside, steaming my vitals like massive hydroelectric turbines (and we wonder why, by mid life, we feel burned out);

How to disengage from self destruction now seems bigger than searching for what path to walk or spinning wheels at the scrim of the past;

What an intense awakening! To realize that, at some fundamental level, I lack deep awareness of the benevolent nature of the universe;

Disrupted early on by promises rarely met with integrity, instead, behind the power of the original delivery lay a raw, wounded place in another’s story;

How to unravel myself? I go deeper into ‘belief’ and find it less substantial, and when visiting it again, it seems to strangle less. What emerges is more my own truth.

mid-1970’s