If I were to sweep, it would never end;
this precious earth has only begun
to burn and swirl and blow away
the flimsy trappings, human footprints
laid down along shorelines expanding
now beneath helicopter eyes, unable
to peer further under Pele’s fiery skirts;
What we consider tragedy is to her
but birthquakes of yet another chapter
in an endless cycle of fits and starts
as we stand nervously in parenthetical
lines, waiting our turn to strike through
her heart once again, creative urges blooming
into discrete shapes and forms, disregarding
the transient nature of life amidst miracles
of existence, five senses, legs on starfish, hieros gamos, sacred marriage, heaven
and earth united in the upright carriage
of the sentient human form;
Do we not recall sharp edges honed
over time perpetual as sea nudges shore,
even as memory casts this inviolable link
into archaic history at our own peril;
meanwhile rubbish heaps up and up,
spreading plague-like over land and sea,
all hail, homo erectus, purveyor of hubris,
she will bring you, wracked and shaking,
to your bent and humbled knees.
The body comes last as she bounds into chaos,
the day, to work on no breakfast for starters,
watching her weight as is the call
of her generation, Twiggy-thin or else
considered fat, little choice in the matter
but to subsume any physical appetites
which, by the way, include sex, employed
more to entice than to enjoy;
He doesn’t know where to begin, start
with the basics, try to be a gentleman
like his doddering father and wonders
why it isn’t working, generation gapping
all around his tired visage;
Why are women so unpredictable, masters
of emotional language he cannot grasp, even
with a lifetime of education and experience,
competence lending comfort and yet
here he is, fish flopping on the deck
of his own boat, sun scorching thin skin,
not yet dead but not wholly alive either;
Two halves of one whole, promise to love
and cherish and why is this one thing
so hard, this constancy; how is it
that love itself seems never enough?
What is the lens through which we view another?
What color and hue, are they sister or brother?
Do we place them in boxes without really thinking
of sorrows and pleasures, the history winking
from under the furrows, aside from the layers
the total and sum of the person, not player;
To see them as how we would most likely wish
to be thought of, not pent in or judged
on or dished;
The circle is cast and who knows by what hand,
the scheme of our lives is thus simple or grand,
but these too are but fabrication and frail,
and are easily worn thin when piercing the veil
of illusion that obviates once we wax old
and cannot pretend to be cut from the fold
of the cloth that enshrouds each as death
draws us nigh, no longer the tailor or tinker
or spy; but merely a human as everyone is,
with hopes dashed and dreams and
the unfinished biz;
While the living continue the dance, as it were,
now without us to ponder, confront or infer,
and the wise ones among us reflect, as we must,
on a fragile existence wrapped up in a husk.
Passion peaks and wanes, conflagrations
cannot burn forever, yet if tempered and fed,
a gentle glow is maintained, steady heat,
If we could always remember this moment
now, just as we are, tensions resolved
in baptismal sweetness, life would be
a dream; but we do not, and for all I know,
humans lack the capacity for sustained
euphoria, always something, anything
to pull us into crisis, individually
The young will live forever, the old
hold tragedy too vividly, death
stalking at every turn, and if
the middle way seems ripe
for embracing at middle age,
those days are subsumed in children
leaving home or careers revealing
themselves untenable and we,
with empty hands shaking out
residual memories and thoughts
and habits not readily put aside,
do not easily welcome acceptance
as a viable alternative;
And so we begin again.
At any stage of life. We recommit
to living with each sunrise, and
as the day spreads its magic
and mayhem, we learn to dance.
And we learn to love the dance.
As we learn better how to love.
And that in itself unites us.
Love doesn’t just sit there, like a stone, it has to be made, like bread; remade all the time, made new.
―Ursula K. Le Guin (October 21, 1929 – January 22, 2018)
Yesterday we had a shakedown for residents of Hawaii. A false alarm popped up on cellphones warning us of an imminent ballistic missile attack. I didn’t have my warnings enabled, but my husband showed me his phone. Our reactions were much the same. Well, what are we going to do about it? If it happens, it happens. We live in a crazy world. A provocative lunatic sits in the Oval Office. We would be surprised at nothing.
When this nation elected its current President, I could barely lift my head for days. I had the most ominous feeling of doom, not a sentiment easily conjured. Here we had finally raised a beautiful black man to the highest office in the land, something the flower child in me rejoiced at heartily. We were moving toward a more equal society. ‘Different’ people were crawling out of the woodwork to glimpse the sun, some for the very first time. It was not perfect, but it was a reason to feel promise in the bones. Then the Shadow emerged and is still looming large, insulting our humanity at every turn.
Jungian psychology might posit the Shadow to be a necessary part of the soul’s maturation. As we recognize the dark parts of our own psyches, integration is possible. We become more fully human and compassionate, understanding if for the first time that we all possess the ability to kill and to heal. Once we are mindful of our least acceptable traits, we are capable of choosing right action more often than not. I just mourned that it had to happen on this kind of scale in order to more fully awaken the collective.
So here’s the thing: What were your feelings? Your first thoughts or impulses? When one looks Death in the eye, priorities get quickly shuffled. The cards that rise to the top of the deck are those most worth noting. Did you feel fear? Anger? Outrage? Terror? Did your head spin, searching social media for a kind of discharge and/or comfort? Or were your contemplative feet rooted to the earth and did She give you a sense that there was nothing to panic about, knowing life itself is transient, that if this is your time so be it, it’s been a good life, no regrets, gather those you love close, I am ready to face whatever comes and I have taught my children to accept the same?
Knowing one’s last thoughts and sensations in the face of the worst happening is to know oneself more fully. It is an opportunity to embrace our own shadowy elements of anger and fear and really see how powerful it is when many occupy similar head spaces. Now that we are granted another glorious Hawaiian dawn, in Mary Oliver’s words, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
The headaches come and she weeps alone;
afraid or is it ashamed to let anyone know
the hurt inside, the eye-popping terror
of a heart in chains, distress kept private
in a world that yearns for performance art;
I myself get them rarely, though I am
familiar with pain, can locate it at will
should the need arise, summon it boldly
to my lips. Whether in service to some
particular end I had in mind or a means
unto itself, this kinship with my own
darkest nature can surprise, stirring
deep revulsion at the unsavory;
To what end is this constant shaving,
whittling away perceived rough edges
when those I love most in life maintain
their own feral nature?