Nutshells Notwithstanding

I could tell you a version of my life
that would be intriguing, but would it be
true? In just under seven decades,
memories are viewed through
a prismatic lens of dazzling colors
or in black and white depending,
and I think it has perhaps always
been thus;

To retrieve fodder from far back requires
I plumb the mind of a child, dazzled
by a world of human behavior she never
understood, coming in, as she did,
with a certain clueless high mindedness
and expectations of how things
ought to be;

And I was not perfect, not by a hearty
stretch, I recall both mistreatment
from others but also a secret meanness
in myself, cavalier with my mother in ways
I would never be now, safe to make fun of her
then, taking for granted that unconditional
love and acceptance; I could do little wrong,
and I know now how fortunate I was;

So easy to find fault with those we know
love us without reservation, so facile to treat
our beloveds with praise or scorn, parsing
out kindness like breadcrumbs for hungry birds,
not realizing, until perhaps too late, the nature
of our own blunders, products of an overinflated
sense of self importance in a world starved
for kind words and deeds given simply now
from a heart filled with the sublime grace
and benevolent perceptions of others.

With my brothers in Yosemite, 1959

Circle of Life

Nothing is ever a mistake, not even
what we toss into the maw of a waiting
donation bin, our acquisitions
and castoffs equally important to us
in their time;

And aren’t we a part of nature, bright
flowers blooming their prolific heads off
out there in the garden, then shedding
copious detritus once they’re done,
the difference of course being that
their kind of death contributes to life
and does not impinge on the health
of the planet by piling
up in mountains of landfill;

We also gather people to us in this life,
some challenge us, others delight often
in the same breath, unexpected, sometimes
unwanted, and our responding feelings
of joy or sorrow enrich this journey
into awareness, as deep as we are able
to dive in and emerge, again and again;

Mis-take, mis-step imply we have acted
in error somehow, and yet without stepping
on your toes in the proverbial dance, we might
not have met as fully and honestly as we did
and as we continue to do, day by day, year
after year, and now, some thirty years later,
we can laugh about what others thought
the boldest move, the grandest mistake
of our lives.

Vallecitos, NM ~ bj 2022

What’s the Big Deal?

Stepping into that ladies parlor made me shiver,
reminded me of a rich friend’s house, her mother’s
shell pink bedroom with attached bath, gold gilded pink
tufted velvet chair she sat on to apply considerable amounts
of makeup and tease her platinum bleached blonde hair;

It scared the wits out of me how certain people live,
and I, her daughter’s friend, knew secrets she
of necessity would have to learn later, the pregnancy,
her firstborn running away with a beautiful Mexican
boyfriend to marry, something her mother would
never endorse in a million lifetimes;

And I thought then and I think now, what is this path
of exclusion, the shunning of dear family, friends,
people who don’t comply with another’s version
of what they ought to be, how things must look
in order to be acceptable and to whom I cannot imagine
if not themselves, the bitterness rising as gall
in the throat or feeding a tumor, black wad of hate
and resentment somewhere, now hidden, later
to be discovered somewhere in their own precious body;

We are all on this earth to learn unconditional love,
and experience schools us, molds us, polishes us like
diamonds from the roughest coal if we but accept
the tutelage, the sooner the better, in order
that we garner something of value to pass along
to a world in need of wisdom when our time here
is done.

mountains above Peñasco, NM ~ bj 2022

Shamed (Unfurling Leaves)

Are we really meant to impose shame,
humiliation, mortification upon ourselves
and others in this life? Is this really the
higher road our spirits wish us to take;
in other words, is this the desire in the mind
of the creator of stars, of galaxies,
of worlds too vast for our knowing?

As I watch leaves unfurl from the book
of my own life, I see events in the past
flashing by like pages stripped from a journal
and tossed out the window of a moving car,
tears of frustrated adolescent confusion staining
every one;

And I know, over fifty years later, the folly
in these perceptions, parents and others tasked
with shaping our impending adulthood simply
repeating patterns not found in Nature (She who
does not shame her children, She who follows
the template of a higher calling), not knowing,
for how could they? Generations of it, locked
in roles meant to be outgrown, just like
the clinging chrysalis bursting tight constraints
to reveal the extraordinary beauty within;

They gave me life and lessons, and for that,
I am grateful; and will assume, now they are gone,
that under the anthills of their own vexations,
they would have wanted for me, as I dearly desire
for my own daughters, to see them walking
higher paths, ears leaning always into the voices
on the wind, the whispers of the spirit,
urging forgive! forget! carry on! Make this world
a better place than you found it!

Fall leaves, Santa Fe, NM ~ bj 2021

Pause

There is a pause, before the rosy light of evening
blinks her last, as fragile hummingbirds cease
their whirling dance around feeders
and the incessant cackle of jays, the waterfall
trilling of blackbirds, retreat to the deep arms
of the forest as night creatures emerge
from hiding to seek sustenance;

Can they comprehend, these young progeny,
how invisible luminous threads connect us,
one to the other, in the busyness of the everyday,
illusions that prop up economies, small dramas
of striving toward loves we sustain patiently
without question, the push and pull drawing them
toward consciousness or away from the light?

Coyotes howl in the distance, owls softly hoot
in snags across the road, insects scurry about
seeking their own forms of shelter and it is
so simple, these rhythms of the cosmos,
the silent grinding whirl of planets in orbit,
moon and sun taking turn in the daily business
of living, the opening and closing of days
and lifetimes.

Piñon Jay, New Mexico ~ bj

Ink Not Yet Dry

The longing to be loved is profound,
the soul sings life into being,
a journey not yet taken, yet once
in progress, so often reprising
experience already inked and dried,
fading on paper not meant to last;

The manuscript is not complete,
we are all unfinished works
in the making, and repeating
what once was
brooks little space for a new
unmanifest destiny of envisioning
all we may dream into being
by dint of our own acts and visions;

Be wary of casting others into molds
too snug to allow for expansion,
human proclivity of those seeking
sentience whilst ignoring the limiting
tendency to love with condition
merely what is befitting,
rather than embracing
with wholehearted acceptance
the splendor of a liberated co-creation.

Monstera maze ~ bj 2017

Let It Be Me

I would rather die laughing,
even if I am the butt of the joke;
Life has too many twists and turns
and not enough levity, yet not
for lack of instances that might
provoke hoots of delight;

I remember in college
there was a gal who wanted
to write about serious things,
death, sex, loss, pain, using humor
and I thought it tasteless, seemed
no respect accorded the suffering,
probing issues too sensitive
and personal, and I would likely
feel the same today;

Yet there are always small things
one notices if observant,
the funny way the dog stalks
his companion’s food dish
once he’s cleaned out his own,
she with lips pulled back in a snarl
the way she dreams sometimes,
if he dares to feign interest;
the lowing cows on their way
to the river for a drink, sounding
like a group of drunken college
frat boys after a night of indulging;
the angle of that massive tilted pine
across the street, as if caught
doing something it ought not,
pointing directly down our road;

There is no need to contribute
to another’s angst for a laugh,
the strange way an old man
with a bad hip walks, the overly
made-up woman trying to impress;
surely there is enough humor
in the everyday, my own blunders,
say, and if that’s what it takes
to spark a chuckle of recognition,
let it be me; oh, please,
let it be me.

Here’s the little stalker. 🤗

Beanstalk

We are all moving on to the next level,
just as he did after coming through
walls, us sitting at our kitchen table,
pleading eyes confused, conflicted;

Nobody spoke of suicide in that place,
yet there he was, and I had to ask
another neighbor if she knew
what had happened;

I remember passing by a lone figure
walking a small white dog,
and sometimes I thought it a woman,
sometimes a man; ahh, this being
was mahu, a two spirited one,
yin and yang that might have merged
into a lovely ebony and ivory symbol,
while instead, his Japanese parents felt
only shame, and so freedom
was sought by moving to a large
east coast city where those of like
kind could seek a life free from
judgments that bound them in ties
far too snug to house the beauty
of their souls;

Distressed parents conspired
somehow to bring their son back,
yet back to what? A life in this
tiny town with its own ideas
of how firstborn sons should act?
Instead in despair, they found
their son hanging limp
from a rope
in the garage,
imagine;

When his spirit came to us,
it was with a desire to find
a way to transition between
this world and the next, and so
we envisioned a beautiful
beanstalk, glistening ivy green
with heart-shaped leaves,
its sinuous vines a strong rope
without obligation of gravity,
and it grew and branched out,
carrying this dear one
into a magical realm
where harmony might prevail,
higher, further from the suffering
of simply living with yearnings
his broken family could never
comprehend.

Tahitian Gardenia ~ bj

Turn on Your Heart Light

The heart is a lonely hunter, soaring
high above, taking the long view,
eyes ever sharp, focused on the objects
of its affection, and yet in flying free,
never asks another to suffer bonds;
Still, heart without head can be
an isolated experience; some of us,
you know, have little choice
in the matter, we are simply called
to another realm beyond logic
with which the world seems entranced;

Perhaps this is why I am beguiled
by the redtails who hunt here,
setting down whatever I am doing
to contemplate with rapture
as they glide, formidable
gaze missing nothing of import
to them anyway, landing heavily
to stand, thick wings mantling
and flexing, muscular thighs poised
to run down what they cannot grasp
in that free-falling dive, oh!

The patience of these majestic ones
as they hover over a prairie dog hole,
waiting a seeming eternity for something
to emerge as it will, sometimes;
I admire them as I do no human being,
the wild animal soul suffers no fools
as does the heart, where it suits,
the mind’s record keeper absent
or sleeping, tucked away in an old
musty library somewhere, lost
in rumination, weighing rights
and slights and caring not at all
about connections so fragile
they might cease to exist altogether.

Red tail hawks hunting in our field, northern NM ~ bj

Retrospective

Go alone, I will join you later,
you are free anytime you wish;
no strings, save the vows
into which you entreated me,
all those years ago;

Go as you will, you have earned
my trust, my soul safe
in your keeping; that, at least,
I can count on, even as I abhor
restraints myself;

I would not entrap you,
yet you stay, always returning
like countless waves thundering
onto the same beach,
each changing the composition
of shoreline forever,
each renewing the sand,
glistening like diamonds
as the salty water calls itself
back to the swollen body
of the sea;

Not everyone is kind.
Not everyone has integrity.
All is imperfect.
And yet you are, we are this,
in the purity of our striving.

Keokea 2020 ~ bj