Oncoming, Ongoing

I don’t know how I swallowed the myth
that life would ease with age, itself,
the oncoming traffic of debts
and obligations never slows; in fact
it seems sped up as we work at carving
out time away to regain sanity lost
in forgetting that all is illusion;
still, the gift of distance allows us
to recapture tender moments that now seem
luxurious in the face of ongoing fatigue;

Meanwhile the lens of memory narrows
until I can view naught but the carefree,
the careworn falling away into mist,
an idyllic life in the woods on a lake
and the ability to shut the world out
once I turned down that dirt road;
the young mother I was then, growing up
alongside my girls as I watched
them pull away into worlds and circles
of their own, bit by bit, until college
conveyed them to a distant shore
for the remainder, running headlong
into partners and jobs and college debt
as their own pirouettes began turning
in the dance of independent creation;

Now I find my own rhythms in gardens
or creating art, meditation in motion,
an outlet for emotion; still I ponder
escape, a prisoner in Paradise, even
as the fount of gratitude fills
back to overflowing and imagining
a better life anywhere else dissolves,
the image shattering, the tinkling glass
falling in shards around my feet
as I pick up the fragments of my future
to compose them into a mosaic
for visions yet to be apprehended.

The Frequency of Home

Perfect timing is universally ordained,
though once I did not believe it so;
perfection was something I could attain
with enough effort, enough input,
by simply and assiduously being Enough
for everyone and for all time;

Then the learning began.

Years of silence, accustoming myself
to feeling the rhythms inside that synced
with the beat of Mother Earth’s pulse;
the drumbeat rolls coming not from others,
who could never fully be satiated anyway,
but welling up from within, unbidden;
swelling and coursing through my vascular
system, cleansed upon every intentional
breath by the ever-vigilant center
of being, my trustworthy heart;

Then it was discernment, and this only years
later after the chaos and struggle had died
down with those umbilical separations, mother
from child, and then, mother from child
again and anon, the multilayered garments
cast off, shell by shell of the crusty cricket
chirping in my head, humming, droning,
dropping steady pools of grievous tears until,
beyond comprehension, my eyes glistened
with clarity, no longer the weeping, wailing guilt
of my own lost youth revisited, as it seemed
in these fragile partings;

I wonder at the endless capacity of women
to mother others, long after progeny
have vanished from our everyday view;
perhaps it was this closeness, this bond
I wished somehow to recreate with those
let into my private sanctuary; and it sounds
as though I knew at the time the quantity
and quality of those who breached the gates,
but I did not; and time and again, life shook me
down and down, human fallibility rearing
its maned visage, facing off, facing down
until I had no choice but to retreat, once again,
into solitary until, with yet more experience,
I began to harvest grain from the chaff,
carefully weeding out if not disavowing myself
entirely of the very species I had come
into this life to embrace;

Nobody said it would be easy.
No one said it would be this hard, or take
this long, or try my sanity so arduously.
What price, maturity? At what cost comes peace
of mind? And yet it arrives in proper measure,
day by day, moment by moment, in the silent
interstices between thoughts, words,
and the inevitable vicissitudes of existence.

Assemblage #writephoto

The Photo Prompt: Wicker

A walk in the forest reveals character,
the too-smooth perfect bark of white cedar
alongside the pocked husk of a dead relation
not yet upended, bustling home to woodpeckers
and nuthatches; mossy trunks of ancient
fir spirits, rooted then and now
in the goddess’ good earth;

Long before humans roamed these woods,
forest kinfolk called by others Druantia
visualized their own forms, gathering first
the dying limbs of relations who gathered
about in free association following
each sylph’s template, finally crowning
tops to denote distinct identities,
informing other beings who may then
behold them without trepidation
in their three-dimensional world;

Rituals practiced by the faithful remained,
in form or invisible, and as the greatest
of sacred numbers was three, a trio
of Druantia would venture forth to bless
open ground, threatened then and now
by strangers fearing to enter the dank
of their cool, dark forest home.

All photos ©Bela Johnson 2019

Posted in response to Sue Vincent’s Thursday Photo Prompt

 

Old Growth

The wind through the firs sounds
like the distant thundering South Pacific
from our island home, yet similarities end
there, ruddy nose running from unaccustomed
chill and fingers reluctant to part
from pockets;

It has been years since I rooted feet
in forest soil, younger and more absorbed
with survival, and it seems I never perceived
sensations so acutely, my skeleton awakened
as discrete and frail in companionship
with these massive giants, finger bones clad
insufficiently in thin shrouds of flesh,
tapping on keys as I attempt to record
a tangle of sensations since arriving
on this northwest spit of land;

Old growth firs harbor a resilience witnessed
in few places, save the redwood forests
of northern California, sudden winds damage
delicate saplings yet they continue growing
apace if not more determined into curvy
arboreal titans that dwarf mere human
presence; only massive metal contraptions
conceived by the minds of men can conquer
them lacking, as men do, unknown frontiers
yet to vanquish;

Ordered chaos is strewn everywhere,
detritus piled up, living jumble of oversized
matchsticks awaiting one careless spark; yet
when fires once regularly swept through
these forests (lightning-scarred trunks bearing
witness), the strongest survived and soil
was enriched, carbon craved by undergrowth, layer
upon layer assuring futures for generations
mirroring the content of life on the surface
of a planet defined by science but experienced
as a living poetry only nature can inscribe.

Day Sail

Wavelets snap and turn
in the sunlight, deceiving eyes
into believing there are creatures
emerging from the depths;

Strands of kelp curve and twist
like the wake of a ship, glinting
just enough to hint at sea otters
frolicking in welcome brilliance;

Markers the novice misses, looking
too hard and long while gulls
soar and dive in the distance
and this, only this indicates activity
worthy of the quest;

As the sloop approaches the kerfuffle,
a rank sea smell overwhelms the senses
and I am reminded of our encounter
with a Hawaiian monk seal detected
by aura alone on shores too distant
for ancestors to comprehend traversing.

All photos 2019 ©Bela Johnson

Coast

When the silver spool of dawn unravels
in languorous wisps, as clouds unfurl low
and wide in the overhead sky, my gaze sweeps
broadly and what I behold is the artist’s palette
come to life, a masterpiece with every dawning
and dusky day while the earth spins slowly
on her axis, oceans holding fast to the anchor
of gravity, fathoms of depth containing secrets
they intend to keep for eternity, horizon bending
at the ends, not level as many presume;

Soon a stark light prevails, flattens out,
shadows vanish as too-bright colors define
this segment of day, creatures move or retreat
as befits patterns held by generations of their kind,
minutes tick somewhere in cities and towns,
bells toll, hands of giant timepieces click into place
ticking time with the pace of that frantic life,
while elsewhere the sleek white neck of a swan
settles into its downy shoulders to paddle serenely
around the cool mossy waters of a still,
reflective pond.

Photos ©Bela Johnson

Poetic Angst

There is an economy in words, blunted
kindergarten shears in the hands
of an earnest student, shaping patterns
already memorized in forest and field;

A poet’s dilemma as nature herself
spreads and grows, chaos becoming her
in forest and glade, streams crashing,
gushing through boulder-encrusted banks
as gnarled roots of trees wrap stones
in a thirsty quest to survive what is
to come, waning light and the crunch
of frost-encrusted gravel underfoot.

All photos taken in Washington State (©Bela Johnson)