Stray

Why did we have to spot her?
By all accounts the gods know
we have done our best, taking
on one too many before, now
knowing our limits and that
of our yard and sanity;

Yet there she was, and we felt
before seeing, noticed slight
movement and heard a low
warning growl, coal black eyes
and fur to match in the inky
light of evening;

It had been raining, furiously
pouring down, thunder and lightning
and fear may have driven her
to hide under that massive machine,
its labors stilled until better weather,
and it might have driven her straight
into salvation for all we know;

So we fed her, not once but many
times, yet on that first, even
as voracious jaws began working,
she paused to look up and straight
into my eyes and I swear she gave
thanks;

Today she came out for the first time
to expose tiny dark shoulders caved
in surrender, great patches of missing
hair, eyes still imploring, won’t you,
can you please, I will be yours forever
and it breaks our hearts over
and over again that we cannot.

photo credit: Chris Johnson

I’d Rather Be Bitten

It’s a scurrilous affair to be the target of an assault upon our humanity. Judgments, condemnation and criticisms all aim to reduce our opinions of ourselves, and are often successful in altering how others view us as well. We may well learn best through adversity, but none of us likes feeling attacked. It perpetuates suffering on both sides of the defenseless/defensive coin, especially when it’s of the insidious variety. That’s how the term backstabbing doubtless came into being, this feeling of being assaulted from behind where we can’t view the perceived enemy. And it’s a coward’s way out, this character assassination. It may temporarily grant the accuser a sense of superiority, but of one thing we can be certain; if we observe another engaging in this practice, it’s only a matter of time before they place us squarely in their sights.

I grew up with some fairly critical people, and would venture to say that years of habituation brought this trait out in me. I was an extremely sensitive child in a chaotic environment, and did not receive much guidance in handling the world with equanimity. And though I did garner some fundamental truths which would later prove beneficial, the chasm between what was practiced and what was preached was too vast for my child’s mind to bridge. Only later with age, experience and my own inevitable mistakes in parenting was I able to put the past into greater perspective. It’s still a process at midlife, so I suspect some lessons are deeper than mere conditioning.

As a teenager, I bolstered my fragile sense of self by finding fault with someone I thought better looking than I was, smarter, more talented or popular. Even if I shared these thoughts with no one else, a sense of smugness enveloped me like the proverbial warm fuzzy blanket. Eventually though, and it wasn’t too long in coming, that wrap felt suffocating. To something more decent inside of me, it just felt wrong. Hacking others down did not fill me up, nor did it give me any genuine or lasting sense of self worth. In fact it lent nothing of these attributes, it only carved a hole in my soul.

It has taken many years to rout the poison of criticism from my core. Like standing before a polished mirror, the presence of truth reflects back anything unlike itself. In this space, I am able to experience an up-swelling of compassion for the child that was me and for all the confused children in the world, trying as best they can to survive and thrive in adverse circumstances. Thus my ruminations extend to the child that lives within every adult, and it is easy to experience forgiveness and unconditional love, both for myself as well as for our deeply flawed yet simply human race.

 

Her World on a String

I once knew a woman who kept her world on the shortest leash imaginable. This overstuffed orb consisted of all she felt she could control and nothing she could not. It must have been mind bending trying to keep all the plates spinning in the air, for if one crashed to the ground, it would be over. All or nothing. And nothing scared the bejeezus out of her.

On the flip side, nothing is what I strive for; nobody wrangling for attention around my ankles anymore, no mental mice racing on the cerebral hamster wheel, little obstructing my view, no plans most days. I seek nothing like a teen intent upon a scavenger hunt but instead of discovering an old leather shoe or a vinyl record hidden in the crotch of a lichen-encrusted oak tree, I discover solace, blessed quiet, welcome respite from nervous natterings over nothing. Instead of din, I crave a steaming beverage and good companionship. If I cannot sit with a kindred soul with whom I can empathically discuss world events, philosophical leanings and the beauty of what last surprised us in nature, I’d rather be still.

The longer I live, the more I crave quality in daily interactions. The wordlessness of dogs is preferable to that of gossip; the serenity of sitting across the room from my beloved intent on reading grants the mind ease in a world fraught with tumult and chaos. A lack of dissonance soothes the cilia of ears overwrought with the thrum of existence. The overworked fist of my heart craves slack time, a free-flowing whoosh of blood through capillaries like and unlike the fast-forward aerials of headlights on busy freeways. It’s why I live as I do, in the naked blackness of star-struck oblivion; in the endless blue where sky meets sea.

The tintinnabulation of a city’s bustle and hum, metal against glass, hammers on asphalt grant me little rest. At the end of the day my mind cannot cease its grasping, try though I might to engender calm. I don’t wonder at the plague of urban insomnia, for it was not all that long ago our ancestors matched movements with spade hitting soil, watching sun coming up over frosty fields spiked with the husks of dying crops. Before that we roamed seeking food and shelter, a surplus of idle time not likely contemplated, much less craved. Technology has brought, among other things, a promise of release. Machines doing what used to gobble up time have now become our obsession in and of themselves. In the place of honoring silence, we fill every nook and cranny with sound and sight and substance. We fashion a world that then needs orchestrating in its complexity. Ancient genes thrill to the hunt, and we rise to the challenge. To simplify seems unthinkable. The body breaks under the pressure but we drive on, ignoring subtle cues.

I knew my friend was tired. You could see it in her drawn expression, the dullness that veiled the light in her eyes. Some of us are doers and some of us of necessity must simply be. And in holding the balance necessary to a world steeped in paradox, I left her to meet the Beyond with an unspoken whisper of gratitude just inside my lips; for the path I have chosen. For the choices I remain free to make.

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?

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.

Call It Moving On

She’s been dead a couple of years,
my soul mate. Lots of people’s soul mate.
That was her gift. She belonged to everybody
and nobody at all. She was very much
her own woman or the Goddess’ woman
or at least a powerful woman; no less
nor more than I, myself; but still.

We are stratified into more subtle layers
than most people care to discover,
a bit of fairy dust really, and yet.
It matters less and less only we did
understand one another, and upon death,
suddenly our work comes more alive.
People are searching for answers.
Our passing reminds them of this.

I keep wondering if I ought to be shaking
bits of her out of my body, but where
then do I put the pieces? I who am
daily reminded of footprints and planets,
the excesses of my own species. And still
I am reluctant to see those remnants go.

It’s not that I cannot let her progress,
she is doing that splendidly, even now;
and images come alive in heartbeats
out in the garden by the clove tree
which could never cast those memories
into fires of forgetfulness, knowing deep
as sap the need for proliferation of kindred,
her now-forgotten mace and nutmeg.

Progress

Money’s not love
and it isn’t respect,
it sure isn’t friendship,
it doesn’t buy that;

So retreat if you must
in a world overmuch,
when content and timbre
appear out of touch;

Regroup and resist,
the temptation is grand,
hold onto your vision
all else out of hand;

Only you cut the deck
while there’s magic afoot;
in the creases and cracks,
all trees start with the root.