Postponing Joy

Remember Wimpy from Popeye cartoons? I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today! That guy knew what he wanted and couldn’t wait to enjoy it, although I’m not entirely sure about the indebting part, but I digress …

Some truths are hard to swallow. Yet is it possible we court death in postponing joy? When you die, says the Koran, God will call upon you to account for all the permitted pleasures you did not enjoy while on earth. From the Talmud, A person will be called upon to account, on Judgment Day, for all the permitted pleasures he might have enjoyed but did not.

I possess a wicked work ethic, and don’t consider it a bad thing. No matter the pressures of daily living, no matter what sticky situation I find myself mired in, I can always source joy through creative expression and participating in nature. If I find myself making excuses or justifications (some indeed compelling), it is important to recognize them for what they are so that I do not delay any longer. If I sense the corners of my mouth are cranked down in frustration or too much concentration, I know it’s time to get out into the garden and/or with the dogs and start smiling again.

Deepening consciousness through whatever avenues requires that I open my eyes to what is around me, to awaken further to how thoughts and desires co-create my life, moment to moment. Perhaps if one were ever mindful of temporality, one would live that much more fully. We could prioritize like never before while dismissing grievances and getting on with engaging ‘best possible self’ more than occasionally.

 

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Refract

How easy it is to reveal our best
in writing; reflective, unlike life
which requires reflexive, interactive,
unpredictable; like it or not the mirror
is held up and there we are refracted,
simply human, the same myriad collection
of jukebox tunes flipped out and panned
in turn on impulse perhaps, able to
be present to the situation or not, with
or without guile depending, personalities
the stanchions we prop ourselves up on,
unfurled in part or fully fledged;

Merely to be is to remain surprised,
for instinct requires nothing less nor more,
existing unpretentiously as the dance we cut
in on just as the rhythm changes, slow and blue
to whiplash fast, sparks arcing off heels,
forget dusting off the old, the new sweeps us
up and up into unchartered territory,
realms felt to be inhabited only by the gods
and yet here we clearly stand, two feet planted
on this earth, gobsmacked into wonder
once again.

 

Regroup

She cannot begin to know grief, difficult
as it is to penetrate veil upon veil,
self deceptions and descriptions, the torment
of pleasing in order that one
might feel loved;

She is sure she knows at such a tender age,
and life has but toyed with her up
to this point, lovers and love, planes
and trains and automobiles speeding her
away from any unpleasant experiences; has
yet to encounter a wall she cannot vault
over, the one that demands we climb it brick
by brick until, exhausted beyond weariness,
we glimpse the other side;

By that time, we are no longer concerned
with vistas, even as the most extraordinary
perspective unfolds before the eyes.

 

Temporal

The exquisite beauty of youth
is lost on the young, ego
in overdrive, unseated soul;

We’re as deep as what we
think we know, but oh!

A fragile petal waiting
to be plucked; and from
that very moment, life
begins winking off and on
until, settled into its vase,
it crescendos, withers
and dies;

But in the interim,
what informs the flower?

Stripes

Pomposity has its price.
Many doubt this when, swelled
in the afterglow of achievement,
the dominoes fall, one by one;

It doesn’t need to be this way, yet it
almost always is, hubris topples
the bravest among us. Still 
if we are listening, attentive, a small
inner voice that is easily ignored serves
to correct the course;

We perceive what is best, know we are
not separate from anyone or anything
under creation; we, who exist
in the here and now, specks among stars,
imbued with far greater potential
than we dare admit to administer wisely; 

Tigers know their tigerhood, women 
our womanhood often because it is reflected
in the mirror or through the eyes of another;

Imagine there are no mirrors anywhere
in sight; would we move more like animals,
loose and lithe in our bodies, keen in the subtleties
of what is essential, pared down to the bone
of what is not?

 

Subterranean

Whether sharing your body
or changing your views,
the blind mole of magic
is following you;

In the cubicle days
or the tropical nights,
what exists in the shadows
remains hidden from sight;

Clutching those hands filled
with fabric or fame as you place them
in pockets and tap out your name
like the hustling hordes that are docilely
bridled when you file alongside them
in that sideways sidle;

Somewhere inside lies the sweet
serene forest, a place that you visit
when your soul needs a deep rest;
the trees hanging brilliant
with garlands of fire, unaware
of all meaning, the insulting mire;

Along streaming bubbles
of illusory time dribble sonnets
and lyrics, the unending rhymes;
there are tunes and tonations
held secret by Masters, you can hear
if you listen while sifting
through ashes of self immolation
transformed, as it were,
by the humming of bees
and the flight paths of birds;

Without guile, you are stripped
of the need to be wise, to be teacher
or student is only a guise; in degrees
all are both in the mounding of ages,
no frenetic obsession to turn all
of the pages;

Thus, true knowledge is gained
while all secrets unfold into books
lacking stories before they are told,
never giving a care that what’s written
is gold.

Reflective

 

I never told you I loved you enough, the only ones
to whom it might have mattered and mattered much,
how could I? There are certain things one apprehends
only with age, the fact that most parents were
mere children themselves when they raised us up;

Now when I look back, I am able to glimpse humanity
more humbly instead of simply placing familiar labels,
Mom and Dad, great brazen fire-breathing dragons
of the household, both admired and feared
for their outsized demeanor, similar to the church God
I prayed daily would grant me safety and comfort
in place of the warm arms I yearned to fold myself
into, though dared never trust;

Even with busy single parenting, I was not able
to reflect upon the scope of the job, absorbed
as I was in all things survival to comprehend;
too enraptured in my own harried drama to sit back
and draw parallels, to reconcile present with past,
dissolving patterns and resolving conflict between
what was innate and what absorbed in the confusion
of a young woman’s developing brain;

If still alive, I would tell you today of impressions
large and small, from the sycamore tree
in our front yard I watched dad set into ground,
to books and music and mom’s patience
not with children, but of sewing
that beige corduroy suit; the no small wonder
at flopping pole-caught fish in our boat’s hold
ferried back to feed progeny, of pigeons flying home
to mounds of earth glistening with geraniums and ivy;
how both culture and soil seared themselves
in memory like the grooves of the records spun
in the cabinet, Benny Goodman and Tchaikovsky
in equal measure, while and I listed and fretted,
wishing instead for the beat of my own generation,
the sonorous thumping of my own fragile heart’s desire;

I get it. I am here to button my lip and smile discreetly
like the Kuan Yin herself, knowing bountiful paths
with easier courses lie just alongside
the more arduous ones my own girls are taking;
though to make life worth anything,
they are theirs for the making.

 

This poem was written recently with my longtime Renshi poetry sisters. Renshi is a form of linked poetry; the last line of one poem becomes the first of the next, and so on. Thus are topics revealed. Image is the street in front of the house I grew up in, two of my brothers in the frame.