Resurrection

He has lost her, or thinks he has,
forever from this realm; sadness knowing
no bounds, as it would, given over five decades
of devotion and dedication; hardly knowing
life without her in it;

I remind him, a gardener, hiker, animal lover,
father, much beloved grand and great-grandsire,
caretaker of this precious earth, that if nothing else,
nature demonstrates endurance, resurrection,
perpetuity; yet the questions linger, what if, how
would we, how do any of us move on with half
of our limbs and hearts missing, absent, lost;

The mirror held to us daily, our best self, the truest
of reflections; what now to do with a voice meant
to spark truth; who is there to hold us quite
like a lover, who has witnessed the dark spaces
in our soul and loved us still, without reservation?

How does advice fall on ears that will never again
attune to the melody of that familiar, how again to taste
the smell of that One’s touch, the subtleties of a glance
meant only for us, the sole recipient, repository
of shared hopes, dreams and visions;

And time does heal, and we might go on; still
the wise and earnest hopes of others for our future
land hollow in the ear and gut, one’s own demise
seeming preferable to echoes of ghosts of our own
making, and breaking time in time, damnable time
now the enemy, adversary, cruel master
of feckless fate;

Yet there it is, a look, a gesture, the shine in eyes
of the deer, delicate swish of a raven’s wing,
padding feet of beloved dogs, the bright, blooming
desert in springtime renewing itself beyond memory,
unlooked-for comfort on the long drive into town
while tears begin once again to flow, then cease
upon discovering duality’s illusion while we struggle
still for the breath that has failed us;

And we rise, rise like a dolphin from the depths,
rise like the phoenix from dull grayness of ashes,
arching into the sun’s first rays, open vessel spouting,
reflexively aspiring life into lungs weary
from submersion, even as we dare to smile and greet
another sun-washed day.

Lewis and Clark Caverns, MT Fire in the sky, Upolu Airport Road, North Kohala

Garden in the dying light, Dayton, WA
Setting sun, Kohala Mountain Road

Makapala sunset

I have tried here to depict through photographs what it must feel like to experience the death of a dearly beloved and then to begin emerging from deep grief. I cannot say I’ve done it justice; only that I have made the attempt.
(All photos ©Bela Johnson)

Quench

Drip, drip, drip, the rains come
and drop from the ends of ti leaves
scorched yellow by ceaseless sun
even during this Hawaiian winter
while the rest of the country lies
deeply buried in drifts of snow
or snarled in turbulence
of another sort;

Drip, drip, drip and I count precious
beads of moisture, one per second,
and reflect how it is that by morning
the ground will be soaked through,
roots nourished, new growth pushing
out from centers of petioles;

One drop per second, 86,400 in a day,
and if the rain can manage it,
we might well take its lead
and spread love, one act
of kindness at a time, moment
by moment, day upon day in
this parched and thirsty world.

Dance

Passion peaks and wanes, conflagrations
cannot burn forever, yet if tempered and fed,
a gentle glow is maintained, steady heat,
protracted afterglow;

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
or collectively;

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)

More

Vistas of the inner mind expand
before me, always visibly rich,
effervescent with possibilities.
Some appear through a thin mist
while others focus cleanly into view
like adjusting the diopter on my camera.

Love makes allowances for horizons.
Now. When younger attending more
to immediacy, unwilling to pause
to more deeply understand, afraid knowing
more would disappoint, I did not trust
in futures, snatching at flesh and fantasy,
mutely watching as sand fell through fingers,
time running out, no litmus for self respect,
vision obscured.

Time alters perspectives, love’s presence
or absence sensed more acutely
with commencements and conclusions,
lovers and children and friends distinct
in texture and timbre, threads in an
ever-changing tapestry of bounding time
as the telescope pulls back, readying itself
for deep pockets on a chilly fall day;

Now. While we have this dance,
warm me love, I cannot be touched often
enough, animal hackles need soothing, help
in consortium, marinate us deeply into pores
unaccustomed to simple quenching.

Love or Something Like It

I could spend the rest of my life ruminating:
this is why I do not create bonds easily,
trust takes years, betrayal ever ready
to sharpen its fangs on a tender heart;

I could say it’s because you abandoned me
and failed to protect us Mother, and it would
be true, in part; yet all parents disappoint
and damage despite love and sacrifice,
their own deep suffering notwithstanding,
due in part to perils children can never know;

I passed it on as well, I who least wanted to,
I, the diligent one who was going to get it right
still made mistakes, nothing critical and yet
here we are, frail silly humans, dragging one
another through chambers of ecstacy
and suffering and no matter what we do,
we err;

Love is the great leveler. If we love, we risk
its opposite; if we revel in delicious splendor
these bodies grant us as small compensation
for daily stressors, we cast wide the gates
for all of it, orgasmic bliss and the seed
of life perpetual when another loop is formed
in the tiny golden chain with a locket,
treasured keepsake, the same link that
when magnified darkens under the lens
like forged iron intimating opposites,
a hell of our own making;

And still we chance it and who could refuse?
Again and again the heart beckons
and we return singing Solomon’s song,
humbled into eloquence and beatitudes,
bowing at the feet of the beloved; I would
do it all again. Differently, of course. Yet
I beseech you, who among us would not?

image: Amanda Johnson

Pup

The pain of loving intertwined,
remembering that which is treasured
will be lost, even as ‘forever’
spills from the lips;

Gazing now at this precious face,
new life paused in eternity
long enough to be companions
for awhile and it must suffice,
though water seeps from weary eyes
that well know the pain of partings;

And we do it again. Once more
we rise to the heart’s yearning
for loving connection, living amidst
collective illusion that seeing
must be believing, and so it is.

photo: Chris Johnson

Part-time Love

Whatever she was to you, it was all too brief
anyway, touch-ins on social media, much love
and all that piffle amounted to nothing more
than impulse when you felt generous enough
to trumpet your own exuberance;

Love is round and full, not merely a word
or sentiment to be eschewed when distracted
by bright and shiny things, or when
another rejects you at your most vulnerable;
humans are self-absorbed and often
unintentionally fickle;

Love restores, is richly profound, a luscious
blossom and ever on the lips, though
if deprived of nourishment, withers away
to become a husk of its former blush and bloom;

Take the high road, not only enchanting
with words, mean what is said, take action
in a world short on follow-through;
persist with pledges made not only
at your convenience; dare to be tender,
if only to bask in the promise of probity,
feel the glow, the dazzle of divinity coursing
through the veins, looping back into your
own shining spirit and out to a planet
sorely in need of the heart’s affirmations.

 

Everlasting

Who knows which of us first decided
to move on it, heed the call, answer
the pounding pulse in full presence
of the other;

The heart I hold tender yet firmly
in these cupped gardener’s hands
is revealed without guile,
a fistful of manna, food
for the gods overwatching;

We imagine, this passion play
of bodies too temporal and finite
as souls awaken from the drone
of not knowing, all experiments
performed well when young;

It is you, this is me, and we give
over to its shining pulsing rhythm,
merely as token of an everlasting
eternal love.

Love, Actually?

Today I took a notion to look up love in the thesaurus; to investigate, inquire, elucidate, and perhaps pontificate on the kinds and qualities and misappropriations and justifications for using this word for a feeling. After all, it’s such a very big word. It’s so all-encompassing in fact, that these are the synonyms I discovered, some which are repetitive:

adoration, very strong liking, adulation, affection, allegiance, amity, amorousness, amour, appreciation, ardency, ardor, attachment, cherishing, crush, delight, devotedness, devotion, emotion, enchantment, enjoyment, fervor, fidelity, flame, fondness, friendship, hankering, idolatry, inclination, infatuation, involvement, like, lust, mad for, partiality, passion, piety, rapture, regard, relish, respect, sentiment, soft spot, taste, tenderness, weakness, worship, yearning, zeal

adore, like very much, admire, adulate, be attached to, be captivated by, be crazy about, be enamored of, be enchanted by, be fascinated with, be fond of, be in love with, canonize, care for, cherish, choose, deify, delight in, dote on, esteem, exalt, fall for, fancy, glorify, go for, gone on, have affection for, have it bad, hold dear, hold high, idolize, long for, lose one’s heart to, prefer, prize, put on pedestal, think the world of, thrive with, treasure, venerate, wild for, worship

Good grief, no wonder we might be confused!

Just as there is no manual that can assure we will be good enough parents, there is nothing that assures us success in intimate relationships, despite our best efforts or whether or not we’ve had adequate role models. There are too many variables in each human life to account for simplistic reductions.

If we attune to the din of an ever-present media (and heaven knows it has a very loud and persuasive voice), aren’t we all but doomed? This medium would largely have us believe in a romantic ideal. If we learn about relationship from script however, isn’t failure almost certain? How could one remain in touch with anything remotely close to who and what, in essence, we truly are? One might, for example, discover oneself compromised until the person that once was, that individual drawn to another in order to share this thing called love, becomes a shadow of what once was genuinely, unequivocally and delightfully unique. Resentment might cloud vision on both sides, as a future attempted as a couple crumbles to cinder.

If one expects another to fulfill an epitome, isn’t disappointment fairly certain? It takes a great deal of energy to hold oneself equal to another’s illusion. And there is no room for power plays when we seek equal footing; no room for pedestals in a long-term relationship. Living in close proximity to another helps clarify both one’s highest and basest qualities. Accepting this while being open and willing to grow with these painful realizations – along with the support and loving acceptance of another – can help both mature in unexpected ways.

What would we do, how would we present ourselves if tomorrow we and a lover parted? Would we go back to school, dye our hair green, get a full body tattoo or the job we always wanted? If the life we are living and the life we dream of radically diverge, we may have lost touch with the essence referred to earlier. Yet the person with the power to get life back on track lies within. If I live fully and make choices as though my life matters both independently as well as in relationship (meanwhile allowing the same freedom for my beloved), I am likely to enjoy and sustain a successful union. This seems to require many adjustments over time, and conciliation can be tricky. It cannot succeed with me losing myself to the needs and/or demands of another. It does require, however, that I learn to dance, and occasionally toes get stepped on in the process. I can groan in pain or realize the minor missteps. Sometimes both realizations occur simultaneously and it’s a split-second decision as to which is more important. However as I practice, I get better at knowing where these metaphoric toes are, both mine as well as my partner’s. As my significant other does the same, we deepen in love and understanding.

Of course nothing can be reduced to simple platitudes when it comes to human interaction. Yet it still seems that expectations regarding the nature of love, itself somehow requires the other to transport one into fantasy. And although this might be a welcome respite from time to time, I don’t believe it can sustain over the long term. While it can be dessert, the main meal or daily sustenance comes from consistently holding one another in a space of deep friendship and caring, of sharing a life best lived together. If it does not, consider the blessings inherent in solitude.

image-1

Knowing God

She must have felt wicked
at an early age; sin seeding flesh
and flesh breeding sin for as long
as she could remember;

Was it the Church or the palpable shudder
of being assaulted at any moment
which engendered fear of Father
God betrayal around every curve
of cursed flesh, bane of she who strode lithely
through lush gardens, first of Eden,
bête primordial, cleanly cunning;

At the same time jammed into juxtaposition,
fire and grace sensed in nature as in cells,
could she own it, part and parcel,
in a form both exalted and condemned,
settling feet instead in streambeds,
seeking texture over flat, sensing oneness
with Creation, surely this and nothing Other
was her answer;

Still, awakened first in silence, sound waves stifled,
mind awash in quaking foliage, crests and swells
yet seeking ground in less deserving;
nonetheless arriving at considerable cost
to the core of Eve’s apple, tasting first
the sweetness, apprehensive, nothing lasting,
so bit firmly, stopping short of bitter center,
then was savored, fully through.

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