Seagulls

I must keep reminding myself,
this is not just about me; nothing
I have done or failed to do,
it was timing, good or poor,
none of us could have predicted
just how and when the changes
this precious earth needed
in order to cleanse herself
of one species’ avarice and greed
over those of all others, well,
it was bound to come;

I sit here contemplating seagulls
I once used to sit and watch
on the causeway to Mount Desert
Island with her icy emerald waters,
tides flowing in and out,
leaving small crustaceans for them
to pick and peck, dashing
these hapless shelled creatures
upon granite boulders again
and again, breaking them
Apart;

A metaphor, a sign, an understanding
that the shell of my own seclusion
contains tiny cracks and, if dropped
from the great height of self importance,
bursts open, freeing its vulnerable center,
naked and helpless in the face
of what cannot be known by a mind
desirous of plans;

Timing may be not to my liking,
but surely as the cycles of nature
assure me that change is inevitable,
so we shall soon be on our journey
to another place where, surrounded
by forest and stream, a homecoming
of sorts awaits to stitch us back
into rhythms of season and soil.

photo: Chris Johnson

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?

Sand Crabs

The ocean pulls up, pulls away, hisses,
leaving tiny air holes in the sand;
I am fourteen, in love with creation,
full of life and dreaming possibilities;

Still on the beach I lie, slim belly
pressed down against earth’s beating heart,
looking not at the tossing sea, the foam
and sand sucking out with the tides;

I am watching instead the minutiae
as it dances before my bright brimming eyes
trained on a world underfoot, place familiar
and yet not, Alice’s drink-me bottle
clutched in my imagination;

Out of tiny cavities pop the crabs,
size of my thumbnail, eyes swiveling
on longish stems, scuttling sideways
to a clear and shining surface;

What they are about I will never know,
for in the blink of a moment, back they dart
to the safety of the known and commence,
tiny clawfuls at a time, to toss up overhead
the sand encroaching upon their inner sanctum;

Then once again the sea washes ashore,
sweeping hand over flat hand,
smoothing sand free of footprints
while the crabs, for all I know,
seek retreat in the epicenter
of the earth.

all photos ©2020 Bela Johnson

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

Darkness Before the Dawn

Humbled by an ending
which is only the beginning,
I slowly row my boat toward shore,
but find there is no safe harbor,
no spit of earth on which to land,
so I gather up oars again; not time,
not yet;

I know but don’t know this ephemeral
relationship with the calendar, conflating
ever with the now, and now, and now,
pulsing possibilities inherent
in the fullness of living;

There is a wider vision, copious
in its offering, and it stills me,
remaining silent as all possibilities
converge and congeal, darkness
always preceding the breaking
blue grace of dawn.

all photos of Pololu Valley at daybreak
©2020 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

Etheric

ETHERIC

Activate, move! Directions barely registered
in that middle place between worlds;
life in the ethers more familiar, more desirable
than this constant adjusting; bold when she
should choose circumspection; equally
withdrawn when action seems desirable,
imperative even, in the face of those who wait,
feigning patience as though expecting something,
anything, while she remains frozen inside,
tears rolling down pale cheeks, filling roles
chosen by others so that she might survive
the duration of some unknown tenure;

When finally it arrives, that inner direction spills
in surges, haltingly familiar as once-bluster,
then streaming forth clear as spring water,
filling chasms in the incomplete puzzle
form she inhabits, firming up pathways once
simply perceived, interstitial patterns, linked codes
scattered randomly in pitch dark possibilities;

Some say a path is chosen, while others claim
destiny guides, yet in the end (which is likewise
a beginning), one is motivated by forces
only barely understood much less named;
so a deity arises to fill that void, our human need
to attribute, a magic mirror to ask and receive,
and all is well and right; sense is restored, proper
place and timing imbued with meaning,
while mystery, in all its splendor, endures.

The Frequency of Home

Perfect timing is universally ordained,
though once I did not believe it so;
perfection was something I could attain
with enough effort, enough input,
by simply and assiduously being Enough
for everyone and for all time;

Then the learning began.

Years of silence, accustoming myself
to feeling the rhythms inside that synced
with the beat of Mother Earth’s pulse;
the drumbeat rolls coming not from others,
who could never fully be satiated anyway,
but welling up from within, unbidden;
swelling and coursing through my vascular
system, cleansed upon every intentional
breath by the ever-vigilant center
of being, my trustworthy heart;

Then it was discernment, and this only years
later after the chaos and struggle had died
down with those umbilical separations, mother
from child, and then, mother from child
again and anon, the multilayered garments
cast off, shell by shell of the crusty cricket
chirping in my head, humming, droning,
dropping steady pools of grievous tears until,
beyond comprehension, my eyes glistened
with clarity, no longer the weeping, wailing guilt
of my own lost youth revisited, as it seemed
in these fragile partings;

I wonder at the endless capacity of women
to mother others, long after progeny
have vanished from our everyday view;
perhaps it was this closeness, this bond
I wished somehow to recreate with those
let into my private sanctuary; and it sounds
as though I knew at the time the quantity
and quality of those who breached the gates,
but I did not; and time and again, life shook me
down and down, human fallibility rearing
its maned visage, facing off, facing down
until I had no choice but to retreat, once again,
into solitary until, with yet more experience,
I began to harvest grain from the chaff,
carefully weeding out if not disavowing myself
entirely of the very species I had come
into this life to embrace;

Nobody said it would be easy.
No one said it would be this hard, or take
this long, or try my sanity so arduously.
What price, maturity? At what cost comes peace
of mind? And yet it arrives in proper measure,
day by day, moment by moment, in the silent
interstices between thoughts, words,
and the inevitable vicissitudes of existence.

Parenthetical

Sitting still always an option, gazing
at mellow reflections, morning light
on old fir flooring burnished
by the feet of generations;
yet compelled, ever coaxed
out of doors and into an emerald
wonderland punctuated by floral
scents and hues, exuberant birdsong,
busy-ness of others dulled down
into static distance;

Staying with never the issue,
languishing in quiet unfamiliarity,
pausing beyond what is known
to drink in nature’s bounty, forest
or field, oceans or rivers streaming
along with time, alternatively
stretching and restricting, lungs
of creation drawing in sky,
expelling molten earth now
onto seashore rent by surf,
cooling waters receiving,
transforming, amending,
yet perpetually flowing.