Of Death and Magic

Cracking through his crusty skin,
the butterflies await therein;
In trembling light, antennae perched
in front, ahead, and primed to lurch;

The quavered sense that life’s amiss
somehow obscures the hours of bliss;
the chores and drudge originate,
perspective laid upon his plate;

It stretches out, then snaps again
around a fix-ed clutch of ken,
persona-non-so gratified as truth
confirmed with startled eyes;

The darkness plunges overhead,
a trembling, aching fear and dread;
As sensate options push and shove,
pure mercy fills him with its love;

The spell is cast, illusion broken,
he lives no more like pawn or token,
and from a trusting, willing mind
white magic steals in from behind.

Butterfly House, Botanical Gardens, Albuquerque, NM ~ 2019 Bela Johnson

Whisper

Before the brief but long breath of lifetimes
was profound silence, and if sounds were apprehended,
they were but whispers compared to the chaos most
have come to accept as the new normal;

Before memory, arrived humans and wild creatures
and whooshing winds, lapping briny waters caressing
pristine sands strewn with strands of brightly frilled
emerald kelp, thundering waves lashing rocks
and promontories, scooping away scuttling crabs
and tiny bright fishes marooned in sun-warmed tidepools;

Our hearing has become dulled and a rushing sound
lingers when din is relinquished to wilderness, eyes
maladjusted to nighttime perceptions, fearing darkness
despite the thrill of a million stars blazing overhead,
hoot of a horned owl or the scream of panther, howl
of coyote or swooshing bats in flight;
all the world is calling our body back into unity
with itself, we, the lone wallflowers standing against
the school gymnasium wall, forgetting the dance
all have been summoned to, worried and frightened
and oddly secure in our fragile and fraying cloak
of invisible self abnegation.

Bela Johnson photo: taken from the top of Hurricane Ridge, Olympic Peninsula, WA, 2019

Apparitions #writephoto

Gaze long enough into the mist
and forms appear, a figure, two,
fairy folk, the hag, an angel,
as if the barge to Avalon had
never faded far into memory;

Look without looking, summon
with your heart wide open
and perhaps they will come,
hestitant at first, trusting
no human (and who can blame them),
but you, you seek their trust,
and all artists know what it is
to be marginalized;

These folks or angels
(for who can say), appearances
fluctuating according to pleasure
or whim, shape-shifters all,
having learned wariness long ago
beyond our reckoning surely
as we grow impatient, sharpening
rather than softening the retinae,
losing rather than capturing,
lessons learned well
in the dominant paradigm
of patriarchy;

Balance is the way of the world,
and She will have her way; yet
we who remain curious witness
this reemergence, resurgence
in a world increasingly in need
of visions thus recreated.

all photos @2019 Bela Johnson

Inspired by Sue Vincent’s Thursday #photoprompt Destination

Wound Mending

The crescent mark left by a garden knife
is slowly mending, unresisting as I cleave
yet another lifted layer of my own skin
from its center until a proper feeling
of softness returns to adjacent banks
of that once-jagged riverbed;

Like one’s own feelings repeatedly
disregarded, trauma inflicted by those
unaware of consequences, of actions
and words cast carelessly about
like roadside refuse, transformation
taken back by my own hands becomes
a thing of beauty, weaving words
into textiles for the fabric
of the soul, spinning veils
of verbiage into mantles fit
for undefended hearts.

Raising Mana

My own sadness pulls me inward,
bringing tears but also fond
and tender memories of another
time, another place; sometimes
it feels as though it was another life
that guided me to those dense woods
and sparkling waters of eastern Maine,
a place I never thought to leave;

After growing up in the foothills
of the San Gabriel Mountains surrounded
by eucalyptus glades and dancing streams
with all the freedom a child could ever want,
my heart ached every time a tree was hacked down
for yet another tract home or shopping center
anchoring suburban residents to a world
far removed from the pulse of a growing town
then dubbed the City of Roses;

When the final insult came, it was in the form
of an eighteen-hole golf course as trees were felled
and carted off like cattle to slaughter, a child’s
magical forest gone, singing brook diverted
so that white men with white hair sporting white
polyester slacks and shirts with tiny alligators
embroidered over thumping hearts could play
adult games; men driving diminutive
battery powered cars with ragtop canopies
that carried them and their leather bags stocked
with wood and iron clubs around and around
closely cropped turf laid down to replace
fragrant leaf mulch and arching tree limbs’
dappled shade;

Oh, when I cast memory back
to that enchanted wonderland where
my sight beheld spirits from deep
within the earth, all seems ensconced
in watery illusion similar yet different
from that secluded cabin in the woods
where I learned how to gather forgotten
ground under my feet while raising two
young women to care about things
that mattered;

Now here I find myself in beloved Kohala,
surrounded by lush gardens created
with my own two hands, and I know the pain
of partition has been a deception, for nature
within has all the time become informed
by experiences only appearing to be other;
there is no separation, has never been;
all is, as Poe divined, a dream within a dream,
and as I live my life, this treasured vision
becomes my chosen reality.

Windswept
Dragonfruit blossoms ~ Chris Johnson
Gloriosa lilies
Nightfall ~ Coast Guard Point
Eventide

 

Hybrid Hibiscus
Echinacea

~ all images ©Bela Johnson (or Chris Johnson, where noted)

Scraps

Do not torture yourself with what-if’s,
unknown to you now or in future times,
mind-blowing images the result
of imagination in overdrive, time to regroup,
redirect into something worthwhile;

Humans are creative beings who do not
do well when long sated, beacon-like rays
of mental anguish beaming fore and aft,
searchlights meant to discover what lurks
in the shadows of dissimulation;

We all go thence, mindfulness is telling,
indulging fantastical ruminations
in the lax moments of a perfect day;
Better to dwell upon beauty in unexpected
places, focus on wind and weather,
the wet noses of dogs and the crumbling
of fertile soil, bending palms in waning light
or perfectly veined golden birch leaves
dropping onto crystal-encrusted ground;

I will never cease asking questions
despite education to the contrariness
of Whys, neverending hamster wheel
of insanity yet still I query, Why this life?
To what purpose the suffering?
I have read abundant teachings,
there is merit in all wisdom,
little snippets meant for stitching, warp
and woofing into wonder meant to comfort
both our bodies on the coldest winter night.

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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