Beanstalk

We are all moving on to the next level,
just as he did after coming through
walls, us sitting at our kitchen table,
pleading eyes confused, conflicted;

Nobody spoke of suicide in that place,
yet there he was, and I had to ask
another neighbor if she knew
what had happened;

I remember passing by a lone figure
walking a small white dog,
and sometimes I thought it a woman,
sometimes a man; ahh, this being
was mahu, a two spirited one,
yin and yang that might have merged
into a lovely ebony and ivory symbol,
while instead, his Japanese parents felt
only shame, and so freedom
was sought by moving to a large
east coast city where those of like
kind could seek a life free from
judgments that bound them in ties
far too snug to house the beauty
of their souls;

Distressed parents conspired
somehow to bring their son back,
yet back to what? A life in this
tiny town with its own ideas
of how firstborn sons should act?
Instead in despair, they found
their son hanging limp
from a rope
in the garage,
imagine;

When his spirit came to us,
it was with a desire to find
a way to transition between
this world and the next, and so
we envisioned a beautiful
beanstalk, glistening ivy green
with heart-shaped leaves,
its sinuous vines a strong rope
without obligation of gravity,
and it grew and branched out,
carrying this dear one
into a magical realm
where harmony might prevail,
higher, further from the suffering
of simply living with yearnings
his broken family could never
comprehend.

Tahitian Gardenia ~ 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.

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?

Here and Now

The concert grand stands indifferently
in a palatial room built to house it;
Hardly anyone spends time here,
admiring frescoes and French lace,
worn Italian club chairs gather
in around no one, empty opulence
marking privilege of the lost
and missing inhabitants;

Halfway around the world,
a bustling marketplace explodes
with the din and stench
of the streets, sweat mingling
with rotting vegetable matter
and the smell of human desperation;
gnarled hands of laborers place goods
in the manicured hands of tourists,
a toothless smile exchanging empty symbols
for a better life, benediction
of the Foreigner whose life is inconceivable
as a spaceship from Mars;

Who can fathom choices, freedom the elusive
butterfly in a garden which must be tended
by honest sweat and toil which,
in the opulence of the parlor, slips quietly
into shadow like the ghostly curtain remnants
hanging limply on patterned walls.

 

Kilkenny Castle, photo ~ bj

Complementary

Awake in the pre-dawn, the fields look empty,
vast; wild creatures have long claimed the night,
daytime unsafe for them in the company
of our species, and I know somewhere out there
is a fox leaping onto a rodent, a bear padding
toward her den in the nearby hills, mountain lion
retreating to the mountain cliffs she considers home;

Stars slowly fade as light emerges, tentative at first,
the black and white world retreating,
pattern repeated for as long as memory holds,
a glimmer, then a glow, and finally shifting gears
into daylight, shadows retreating, colors emerging
as if from slumber themselves, and I wonder;

If we are here to witness these cycles, to sync
our bodies in rhythm with those of the planet,
how is it so many court discord, mayhem,
dark against light, light denying dark,
when the brilliance of midday lacks contours,
thus interest, to my own camera lens?

One Equal To All

I stand alone, silhouetted
by the dawn, queen of the mountain,
the hill or nothing at all,
tiny speck on a speck of stardust,
endlessly orbiting in a vast,
wide universe, wondering
(do trees and coyotes wonder?),
waiting, I suppose, to rejoin
the human race
after too much isolation,
and where are the invitations?
Hidden, as well they might be,
behind colorful masks
and color-less fears;

Pandemic bringing all of us
into parity with those sequestered
by choice, yet even the monks
of Tibet have their community;
and what, if anything,
have I drawn from an experience
I did not volunteer for?

Me, me, me. The one who scoffs
at self importance in others.
Other.
Self.
Same.

That’s the takeaway.

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.

Clear Vision

I saw her today, glimpsed her like a new creature
shining and bright, free of the heavy cloak of denotation,
bronze I have cast her in despite myself, all these years
of believing she could in any way be known;

Inside my own skin I remain a mystery, unfolding
like the lotus flower, each new leaf and bud tender
and unfurling, tainted only through these selfsame
definitions, assumptions; we all do this in the dance
of discovery, alone or in tandem;

And I really wonder at the fabric of existence, itself,
a morphing, unified body with attributes thought to be
self and self, unique only insofar as they escape demarcation,
for once named, limitations are imposed and wrapped,
neat little packages, box steps imposed on modern dance,
monotones seeping into a technicolor palette;

What if we could begin again and again, mindful
of past assumptions, apprehend the self and others, eyes
unshuttered, clearly seeing and without bias what lies
before or within us, without guile?


photo ©Bela Johnson