Spritely

That strong wiry body she wore
like a curse, smiling all the while,
nature diffusing her with passion
for dun and verdant, fruit and flowers
astounding nimble fingers, eyes darting
and dancing with delight not reciprocated
in a world of humans she tried to forgive
as we communed in silence, renegotiated
until endings inserted themselves
as they will, all gardens being temporary;

And refusing to take further insult
from a species short on integrity tried
to end it, booze and pills, vomit clumped
in a long tangle of hula hair, cradled
skeleton rocking back and forth, back
and forth, rejoin the living, meet us
again on terms of this earth, let us touch
the sparkle, share wisdom and laughter
while sifting  through mounds of harvest
heaped onto old unblemished porcelain
as we pass time reflecting on budding
cloves and sliding doors to worlds
beyond the veil.

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.

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Who is This I?

My ex-husband used to tell me that there are many kinds of love. This in response to my frustration that he couldn’t make up his mind, or rather his heart. I should have read the signs right there and then, faced the disappointing truth that he would always desire intimacy with more than one woman. But I was young and swooning and voluntarily blind to the faults of my beloved. What I failed to understand then was that we were both spellbound; transfixed and captivated by an idealized version of romantic love, a yearning, fiery fervor fanned and stoked by the smoke of the silver screen of our youth. My parents were likewise enamored of high drama, so it was not surprising that I had no other point of reference; these two put Liz and Dick to shame.

I cannot tell you that I came to any sudden realizations on the road to relational contentment. Instead there was a painfully slow awakening, a process of learning who I was underneath all the parental and religious conditioning, of recognizing a deep dissatisfaction with the impact my own confusion had upon others I cared most about. In a word, I recognized a lack of authenticity. It was as if I was going through the motions in life like an actor in a play, one step removed. I was not being honest with myself or anyone else. I lacked integrity.

It’s tough to get to the core of who we are when we don’t have an inkling of what that might be. In the throes of confusion, we cannot imagine that the small insignificant being that lies beneath our projected persona could possibly be enough. Everyone else seems so confident, so dynamic. We are constantly comparing ourselves, coming up short. We don’t realize our fellow actors are likewise engaged in their own role playing. And so on we go, on and on in that grand passion play of life, until something jolts us awake or until we become so miserable that we begin looking for answers outside the lines that have defined us up until that point.

Awakening to a deeper, more authentic presence has been a lifetime process of opening up and daring to drop the armor, bit by bit. My own path has been to practice this in the companionship of a best friend and life partner. Without this solid friendship however, the trust it takes to become that painfully vulnerable would never have truly developed. Without deeply valuing friendship in and of itself, the idealized romantic mold would, somewhere along the line, have been blown to smithereens. Without being committed to the very best for a dear friend, a gentle soul would have been shattered in the throes of my own bonds bursting. Without holding one another in tender regard, frustration would have easily mounted, as layer upon protective layer papered over accessibility, holding both of us at the stale distance many come to know in their own long-term relationships.

While commitment to authenticity can be difficult at times, the rewards are well worth pursuing. They are lasting, far reaching and doubtless contribute enormously to the betterment of humanity and our own inner peace. Besides, who wants to feel defeated in the face of aging bodies and forgetful minds? Far better to continue awakening, becoming aware and energized for the unknown journey ahead.

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Provisional Peace

Her tears roll down my cheeks
while I, imperfect proxy, pore over them
one by one, not having done so
since transferring onto flash drives
the sheer volume of archives once overloading
a laptop, then hidden inconspicuously
in a small wooden box near to
and yet far away from their power
to tear at fragile hearts
each time files were clicked open;

Once again I scan through pages stained
from years pressed into albums stored
in a piano bench, grit and dust in the midst
of new construction, implausible façade
for the crumbling life dreamed about
during days when fantasy still captivated,
impossible quandaries, what to do,
not only her life now, but those
of two precious ones entrusted
to her care, numbly trying to shield
while at the same time placing them squarely
in the thrall of her own desperate drama;

Sifting back through time, agony refreshed,
tears sliding unbidden down hollows creased
with living history, withering shoot pushing
wearily through a crack in the granite
of social veneer, the face one wears
in greeting another day without drowning,
gaze fixed firmly on growing things hidden
from people not known well if at all,
distance placed – temporary lives
and shallow roots like existence itself,
she reasons, philosophical smugness passing
off as modern maturity; elderly wisdom arching,
careening over losses in the detritus
of living well as can be expected;

Yet scratch the surface and she
is reminded we are all casualties of conflict,
lovers of life biding time in provisional peace
amidst destruction all around in the form
of memories that keen our awareness;
perhaps it is the best any of us can brook,
this truce with being human, wondering
at the time we have yet to traverse
before we lie still, animated only
in others’ memories while we voyage
into spaces lesser known.

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Birthday reflections, 2016

Birthdays and holidays have always been tricky for me. These are occasions where we indulge in the pleasure of being remembered by those we love, times we can feel a bit special and pampered. Or at least that’s true for many women I know, some givers to the point of exhaustion.

But here’s the quandary: for many years, my husband has borne the brunt of my disappointment, whether in him or in others who have occasionally failed to display requisite feedback. While on one hand I love celebrations, when paired with expectations they surely lead to disappointment. Chris is a practical guy, one who demonstrates devotion on a day to day basis. An earnest man, he is quick to assess, slower to process, yet inevitably one who seeks forgiveness when words or actions are out of line with his noble heart.

What my partner grants me every day I draw breath is priceless: the freedom to be, to explore, expand and contract, to write, reflect, take photographs, go back to school and embrace whatever each new day presents. In my personal history, freedom has always arrived with chains around its ankles. Too often it padded in on the heels of betrayal, jealousy and unspoken bargains and entitlement. I hardened myself early on, beginning by telling my father he could stuff his inheritance back into his bank book. I was not for sale, never would be.

Two faithless husbands followed that early family life, along with two blessed daughters. This duality did not escape me, for what was given always seemed to demand equal sacrifice. I worked both inside and outside the home, proving to an oblivious world that I was not a helpless, hapless victim. Still, lessons continued as they will. Clearly relationships were where my mettle was tested, but this did not become summarily obvious until well into my fifties.

Through no calculated means whatsoever, I got lucky. For over twenty years this man has stood by my side, and though our early days were fraught with growing pains, the peace we finally attained is beyond measure. Only in the past year or two have I begun to truly and utterly comprehend the scope and meaning of freedom, and it has nothing whatsoever to do with things money can buy. Which only goes to show that a media-driven society that equates purchases with love is juvenile, piteous and damaging to anything so fragile as the human heart. I wish I had learned this sooner, but am grateful to the core I learned it at all.

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By Any Other Name …

Red and thorny rose, Rugosa
memorized my heart
while cruising Acadia’s coastline trail
in younger times, longer times,
youth captured in floral scent,
theories one espouses
while waiting for life to begin
in earnest.

I regret nothing.

There is nothing to return to,
only a vapor trail of memories,
and rich or ripe or painful,
insults and passions and heartache
part and parcel of the new buds
bursting out of shellacked shells,
arching toward the sun;
they give it their all,
even if only for one season.

I did nothing less.

I do not know how to live subtly,
all those voices imploring,
Act like you want it less
and you’ll get it more,
Acting being the imperative,
and all I knew and know now
is how to Be, as fully myself
as I am able, and when I know more,
it will surely be revealed in my temperament.Schoodic June 2012 092

 

image: fieldnotes-steve.blogspot.com

 

not like Mona Lisa

who seems too pious for the picking
and more like Vermeer’s Girl,
something suggested only
as if she knows she’s goddess,
while the other is bent toward God;

I am not one of those who
harbors yearning for the unresponsive,
though I understand the predilection.
Still, to whet one’s appetite
for what’s authentic conjures
in one another the deities
of which we speak, asking more
of what lies dormant within;
and even then, we dally.

Ah, to awaken the most wondrous spirit,
to imagine the fullness of existence
and embrace eternity in this moment.
To do this with another.
We are ecstatic in the dance,
we are living the dream.

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IF

If I wanted right now I could ask, Please come
and hold me. And you would, no excuses,
if I wanted.

If I asked, you would drop the tool from your hands,
help me gather debris hacked from our jungle yard,
no complaining.

It is not that you lack direction, far from it.
Not that your life so depends upon mine,
as quietly you sit, strumming guitar, serenading dogs
lying sprawled in hot sun.

What it speaks to is the quality person you are,
wholly magnanimous, completely selfless,
unfailing.

What it means, dear purveyor of patience,
is that any would come up short
if compared.

But we do not make comparisons,
as morning spins webs into evening,
weeks furrow into years and life extinguishes,
too hastily to gather meaning beyond daytime patter
and rituals of the night.

 

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Cast

Desirous of returning, perhaps,
furtive glances at the young couple, hands
never far from one another, stroking gently
and they know, these manatee women,
how it changes, that touch,
first a small betrayal, feelings far out
of proportion to events peculiar
to youth they would gladly recapture,
if only wisdom would imbue it;

Then follow the children contemplated
even now, his building a sand belly
and photographing, sending to envious friends
because they say so, faking is funny, oh,
the irony, biological urges blurring senses,
morning passion play marking faces,
masks one sees through, if attentive;

Elder gestures now revealing,
impressing far more than the telling,
(youth’s perception terms it envy,
oversimplifying complexities developing,
years left in the making);

Still, the mind casts to and fro,
fly fisher’s line not quite settling on the waters
of imagination, back and forth encores,
brains sharp as once they were,
bodies standing stock still,
melting candle legs supporting
burgeoned bellies, gravity drawing them inexorably
back to point of origin;
bargain made, body borrowed,
innocence hearkening to a time
they, too, were blissfully unafraid.
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