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)

Bricolage

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?

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