The Consistency of Dirt

I always had dirt between my toes, beginning when I was old enough to toddle, and my parents did not care, having come out west from Chicago, land of the freezing, and I do not remember any scolding for it, surely I would if it existed, walked on blistering asphalt too, never caring if my feet hardened into hooves, all the better to play horse, romping and galloping around the yard;

I went to Hamilton Park bare chested in only white underwear, more like shorts back then, and I will never forget the boys that made fun of me on the merry-go-round, free as they likely would never be, instead targeting a smiling little girl, sun streaking her chestnut hair blonde, but you know, I never went without a shirt after that day, so it must have made quite an impression, the end of innocence, perhaps we all recall this in our lives;

Five years old and off to school, I do not recall rebelling at shoes, only the delight in learning, and walking with neighborhood kids picked up along the way, a small gang of non-thugs back then, the place was safe, ridiculously so compared to these times, our school tucked neatly into the arms of a huge mountain range; breathing fully, natural as a mountain goat, and to think city folks need yoga to teach them what came naturally to children raised
in sunshine and lush surroundings;

Moving to New England after high school gave me another sort of grounding, bare feet tucked into thick socks and boots, but oh, the forest! The lakes! I never missed those barefooted excursions, I would always be nature’s child, wild as the fisher cats and foxes roaming the woods, swimming with the loons and giant bass, naked as there was no one to notice; my new form of bare feet for over three decades, a dance with nature that would always be, both girls raised in the forest, free as too many children will never experience;

Then it was off to Moloka’i, the girls choosing public over homeschooling, local kids walking barefoot to school, their wide brown feet slapping red dirt roads and the one short sidewalk on the way up the hill from the ocean, no chastisement from teachers, families recently freed from pineapple plantation work, and who was there to mandate otherwise? Still I wonder, thirty years later, have the rules changed? Or will there always be places that subconsciously realize we need bare ground under our feet in order to heal this fractured species of ours?

Coffers

Fill a vessel with clean water,
and imagine a world where all
may do the same; imagining
such a world is not difficult,
we only have to carve out
a small space into which
we insert our intentions;
these are not meaningless,
in fact, they are essential,
if we are to ever change
the dominant paradigm;

Greed and lust for more
have held sway in this world
long enough, cruelties visited
upon others, bodies over
which one steps roughly
on the way to some imagined
pot of gold and to hell
with the fallen;

Isn’t it time we ceased
taking it all for ourselves
or for granted, that we,
the privileged ones
who possess such incredible
bounty are somehow entitled
to this position; after all,
we have worked hard
(and most have) for our
petty luxuries, though we
might not envision it so;

And back we arrive at the vision,
how now to change it, now we have
more than too many, how to use
that same focus on dreaming a world
where all are safe and smiling,
giving where and how we can
without tremendous sacrifice,
after all, finding it easier
than we thought to lift others up;
it diminishes us not, in fact
it fills us up in a way
that nothing material ever could.

Enchanted

The music of the universe greets me daily,
voices on the wind, crackling through
heavily laden boughs of pine trees,
chattering black and blue birds arriving
in massive flocks every morning to the feeder,
ravens and magpies keeping their distance,
waiting on fence posts out by the fields,
trusting that what fed them yesterday
will show up in perpetuity, abundance
in the midst of winter’s cold; meanwhile
the pack of coyotes howls and yips,
acknowledging the bounty tossed
across the road nearly every day;
with compost tumblers full, we have
enough to share;

None of us knows what will greet us
as we open eyes and senses
onto a new day, fresh start for every
sentient creature on earth;
how we meet the Mystery is up to us,
cranked on caffeine and sugar,
boarding the train to a city high rise,
or quietly, softly, in wonder at another
precious gift, the sky, the clouds,
the breath we have drawn since birth,
bellows of lungs automatic, in, out,
are we aware of their significance?
Are we grateful for the intelligence
of these bodies, treating them kindly,
reverently even, as we stroll
into brilliant rays of blessed sunlight?

Retrospective

Go alone, I will join you later,
you are free anytime you wish;
no strings, save the vows
into which you entreated me,
all those years ago;

Go as you will, you have earned
my trust, my soul safe
in your keeping; that, at least,
I can count on, even as I abhor
restraints myself;

I would not entrap you,
yet you stay, always returning
like countless waves thundering
onto the same beach,
each changing the composition
of shoreline forever,
each renewing the sand,
glistening like diamonds
as the salty water calls itself
back to the swollen body
of the sea;

Not everyone is kind.
Not everyone has integrity.
All is imperfect.
And yet you are, we are this,
in the purity of our striving.

Keokea 2020 ~ bj

The Fire Within

Sip the nectar apapane bird,
that golden liquid fire,
warming the belly, opening
those channels to life,
itself born of twin flames;

Conflagrations ignite so easily
when young, not enough wisdom
to pick and choose, nature does it
for us, the rest is up to fate,
giving rise to yet more knowledge
or a ripening child within,
hardly knowing its own destiny,
and we, ignorant of our own,
clasp hands and waddle off
into the virtual sunset;

Oh, life! Oh, love! What little
we know of its permutations
until much later, raising the young one
perhaps our first real reckoning
with a thing unconditional, a bond
so deep it scares us, responsibility
we perhaps might have exercised
in that choice seemingly made for us
by hormones, finally gripping us
in alternating waves of delight
and terror;

Fast forward decades of joy and sorrow,
and if we are lucky we learn; if luckier,
we grow apart as well as together,
fluid units of life force, rivers diverging
and flowing back, each branch lifting
nutrients and debris along respective
pathways, joining up again and again
as experience and choices alter our course;
and thus that ever flowing river is changed
forever.

Rio Grande River, Taos Gorge ~ 2021 bj

Closing the Gap

Stay in the distance, watch the light,
it is all you need; It is all I ever craved,
this meeting with light imbued forms,
spirit beings that visited me when young,
floating up the canyon, me standing
small, eagerly awaiting that reunion;

The Church would have called them
evil, figments of imagination,
not recognizing anything outside
their own proscribed reality, black books, old
white men directing men, women standing
ever on the outside looking in, told they are
crucial, a support system for the Patriarchs,
though heaven forbid this was disclosed
directly;

So women remained background images,
baking cookies, cross stitching pictures,
singing hymns, and I yearned
for any other life, free from this
indentured servitude in a nylon body
suit slit for necessary procreation,
bouncing baby after baby
on bruised knees, tender from all
that bowing and scraping;

Yes, if it was sin, I was all for it,
liberty to make my own mistakes,
free from castigation, worthy, I knew,
in the eyes of Creation, never believing
myself otherwise, and I made many
painful choices, yet here I sit, whole
in my own person, still questioning,
still wondering, day after day,
at the purpose of it all;

Will humanity survive, and if it does,
I can assure you, it will not be because
we all filed into neat lines, but rather
because we burst free from imagined
constraints to discover, as if for the
first time, the wonders awaiting us
each day we draw breath, seeds cast
everywhere by Earth herself, and us,
in open-eyed wonder, finally deciding
to tend them as if all life hinged
on their germination.

desert sunset, BJ

La Même Chose

When I gaze out over the field
and spot a herd of elk, which
upon closer inspection
is really only distant
sagebrush; when I, in a flash
lasting no longer than a
millisecond, see my own body
as a juniper tree, I no longer
question it;

We are all made of the same
elements derived from this earth,
and I can be forgiven if I confuse
a log for a prairie dog’s alert body,
facing toward the sun,
a Muslim bowing toward Mecca.

Contemplations under the juniper and piñons ~ bj

Filling the Void

Some things are not meant to be,
though I still save space for them,
not knowing divine timing
or even my own mind sometimes,
and what is this compulsion
to occupy perceptual emptiness,
is it simply creativity seeking
a natural outlet, the crashing surf
carving out caves on Mt. Desert’s
rugged shoreline or the smoothing
of lava rock at the base of Halawa’s
thundering waterfall?

I can wish, and in wishing
place my desires on the altar
of possibilities, then forget them
if I am wise, releasing attachment
to outcome, opening time’s parachute
upside-down, the beggar’s empty cup
yawning with space minus the desperation
of those truly in need of wish fulfillment;

Meanwhile the two empty chairs sitting
next to and caddy corner from mine
leave room for those yet to arrive, and even
they do not know, anymore than I, what seats
will be occupied when and where
in the near or distant future;

Imagine my surprise then when, one day
and least expected, the fulfillment
of those forgotten desires returns to gladden
or to haunt, depending (be careful
what you wish for); the unexpected visitor
materializes, and I am left to wonder
at which juncture I might have yearned
for such an encounter, prepared or not.

Futuristic

When the spin slows down to a pin-drop lull,
and time moves forward, collapses,
telescopic Trickster demonstrating the folly
of what most consider solid;
When accepted illusion no longer holds sway,
capturing the monkey mind in sticky spider web
trappings of its own making;

All synapses point click to Now, as perhaps
they always have done, and what can be said?
How can this finger snap in time be configured
into sentences, concepts, a thing written down
and shared, how can word forms be crafted,
steps away from that immediacy
(as they are bound to be), concept wired
to mind controlling hands on keys, eyes
riveted now on print moving?

One day, perhaps, telepathy will become
accepted, sweeping elephantine humanity
into a prismatic jet stream, speed of light
transmitting what is now thus laboriously
midwifed into being.

 

‘Cauldron of Creation” ~ Bela Johnson

In Memory of the Still Living

There are confusing encounters
leaving one gasping for breath,
the mind grasping for understanding;
such is the nature of life and death,
the latter being more recent
in my world of experience;

I eschew addictions, just as they
are sought to resolve what seems
unfathomable to others, and I know
in this life I am meant to demonstrate
more understanding than my petulant
inner child might conjure;
still, it is the most natural direction
in which to gravitate these days,
the world being as unknowable now
as it was then,
and who am I to judge?

Thus when I see this precious one,
once strong and vital, now weak
and yellow and skeletal and all
this happening in the span of a year
in a life too short to be terminal,
feelings arise, and more and yet
more questions on the meaning
of existence;

This time last year, we were wrangling
with thorny bushes that had become
trees, both cursing, he more ardently,
as this was not his first rodeo
in these mountains, and yet there was
laughter, good humor, companionship
of then-strangers taking the measure
of the other’s character;

Loved ones gather now, and I feel
not at all out of place in this tiny trailer
amidst people of a culture I don’t need
to understand; the old man’s body
the main event in the living room,
surrounded by photos of the past,
and who could know fifty years ago
how fate would hold them now
in its thrall?

Two weeks ago, he seemed empty
of life, yet his spirit still felt strong;
today that spirit had its due;
jaundice had receded, and flesh
had mysteriously begun reassembling
on his bones, and once again I marvel
at the same sorts of questions
I have asked all my life,
how does the journey begin
to make sense in the face
of what we are dealt?