Forest Home

I have chosen to come here to this place, bleak
and dry and windblown after the harshness of winter;
the land has been in isolation too, as it perpetually will
uncomplainingly, year following year, why do we humans
resist it so? The is-ness of life is a thing we have to remind
ourselves of, lest we forget all is in divine order;

The elk are out most mornings, grazing and moving further
toward the denser Ponderosa forest, following seasonal
dictates of their species; boundary fences notwithstanding,
they leap and bound over all but the highest barrier
and I rejoice that I have spotted, just this morning,
the places they bed down at night and traverse the terrain
we are now privileged to steward for what time it is ours;

What are our collective impulses and dreams? Have we
lost all sense of feet planted on earth, pulse of the planet
drawing us this way and that, moving in herds or alone
as befits the calling (and we are summoned, no mistake),
yet I arrived here in the midst of a global pandemic edgy,
unsure we had done the right thing, planning a move
from our lush Hawaiian landscape to this high desert
that once captivated with pungent scents of sage
and juniper, pine and cedar, magical carpet of cones
and needles and quartz scattered as if nature intended
nothing so much as delight;

Without courage we are lost, without faith we lack
a compass, without taking chances, we miss
opportunities that await the global citizen for whom
this collective in-breath provides pause to reflect
on the quality of choices made daily in a life
meant simply for us to breathe deeply
and enjoy the journey.

 

Dreaming Awake

I had to look twice, glancing
out the kitchen window as the flutter
of a mynah bird’s jet black wings
jogged my vision into memory,
the giant frond of a Queen Emma lily
flung carelessly by a kicking wind,
bent not broken into a shape resembling 
the appendage of a giant blue heron,
yet how could that be, here in Hawaii?

From one shore to the next,
one continent of time sliding
into present tense, images juxtapose
into a full fantasy life, fronds and wings,
shadows of pterodactyls still roaming
the earth, nothing ever really vanishes
as some aboriginal tribes would vouch,
though we can claim obliteration;

Reach back and forward into the now
of memory, let the mind slip and slither,
producing its own version of what
is perceived, and it might astound you
or not; yet how can one explain the impulse
to wander out to affirm, grounding self
in solidarity, or is all but illusion?

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.