Echo

I do not flourish in chaos,
though some thrive completely therein;
I’ve caused and I’ve witnessed the sorrows
that settle just under the skin;

You may tempt me or taunt as it pleases,
that is your need, not mine to behold;
I prefer and I cherish the spaces
in deep quiet that nurture the soul.

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Independence Day 2014

Today the USA honors Independence Day, a holiday celebrated with food and fireworks and thoughts of those who died to grant us the freedoms we now enjoy as a nation. I’m always conflicted when it comes to this holiday, however, as it’s far too easy to memorialize war over peace, to value aggression over compassion in our quest to secure an outdated dependence on oil and other precious resources rather than to implement a worldwide model of sustainable living.

From the Cambridge Dictionary: Independent: Capable of thinking or acting for oneself.

I wonder how a nation of ‘rugged individuals’ has devolved into one in which its citizens seem to prefer a trancelike adherence to the status quo rather than realizing that democracy and freedom are both intrinsically linked to the participation of the citizenry, itself, of each and every one of us. Instead, many have bent to the corporate takeover of our country and greed supplants the largesse of spirit Americans have long been admired for.

We possess the resources, as one of the richest nations on earth, to advocate for the oppressed and downtrodden and to celebrate the amazing freedom of every citizen to develop their unique gifts and talents. Most all of us, save the Native Americans, remain descendants of immigrants. Instead of celebrating our growing diversity, however, many currently argue for closing the door on those we consider ‘outsiders.’

I don’t possess the answers, but I often ponder this quote, engraved below our own Statue of Liberty:

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore,
Send these, the homeless, tempest tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

~ Emma Lazarus

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SCHEMA

He rolls over, nestles into her back;
warm, soft hands cupping bony ribs,
slack belly, full hips.
Years they have lain this way,
waning dancers in the twilight.

She turns, his synchronized movements
practiced upon nights beyond number;
limbs flailing, twisting, entwining.

This is comfort, closing out their days
after the world leaks in.
This is life, restoring rhythm until,
like the last smear of a comet’s tail,
their light extinguishes,
and another assumes its place.

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image: Carolyn Weltman

Lady of the Lake

The hills lay sideways

like a sleeping woman,

hips colored now in showy hue

before winter strips her

back to bone.

 

Caught in waiting,

hair tipped with a million blazing stars

and fog laced over her crown;

steam rising from mouths

of fishermen, ignorant

of the sensuous body brazenly

revealed before them,

not amazed.

 

Yet a few unknowingly take heed

and, with each sideways glance;

each fluttered eyelash;

her variegated image registers

on the tipped lens of human retinae

and a patient vigil,

though unchanged to the eye,

lays tracks in the heart.

 

~ bj

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Duality

Sheila and me c.1957

If you knew me when I was young, you never would have imagined me as the solitary sort. I was always with friends, either surrounded by people or animals or any sort of distraction. Yet I never fully trusted anyone, for I was raised to keep secrets. And keep them I did, well into my thirties and beyond. It turned out to be a great quality as a therapist, for I could hold even the most heinous truths close to my chest and not betray those most accustomed to betrayals.

And so it is that I find myself at nearly sixty preferring my own company and that of my husband, children and a couple of very dear friends. With little tolerance for idle chitchat and disingenuous people, I am rarely inclined to cultivate new relationships, preferring instead spontaneous interactions with those I meet while bicycling or hiking or, more rarely, at gatherings. Spending the balance of time in silence is a luxury I never take for granted.

I wonder if I am antisocial or simply set in my ways, but life is full enough with its eddies and surges, both my own as well as those of loved ones. I’d rather invest myself  in a precious few rather than to twist in awkward silence while others drink themselves into conversation.

It was with great spontaneity today then, that I struck out with a friend with whom I have shared only a few hours in the past. We lunched, laughed, and conversed nonstop for most of the afternoon. Coming from very different worlds, we disclosed heart and soul and life experiences. And I felt blessed and lightened and energized to think that I might have discovered another kindred spirit in this magnificent hall of mirrors called life. Makes it worth investing in the human race, if only for a day now and again.

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Well Met

Strange fruit –

shape and husks like the mottled

purple-white breasts

of small dying birds,

scattered on asphalt.

Running together,

life and death

in the avenue.

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That we choose one

over the other –

fight like cancer to linger

in this place –

affirms daily the experiment.

To validate, rather than destroy –

whether with arms, words

or intention –

the inviolate

right of our fellows

to share space on

this spinning playground;

promotes delight

in earthly pleasures

on nature’s own terms.

Eulogy to My Father

Sometimes we give all that we can,

and it’s not enough.

Will never be,

unto death.

Other times

(and this may be a mistake)

We do not.

 

Wounded pride,

arrogance,

hurt,

sensitivity;

anger, fear, resentment

keep us from it.

 

We cannot give

what we do not possess.

There is only this

to forgive.