Part-time Love

Whatever she was to you, it was all too brief
anyway, touch-ins on social media, much love
and all that piffle amounted to nothing more
than impulse when you felt generous enough
to trumpet your own exuberance;

Love is round and full, not merely a word
or sentiment to be eschewed when distracted
by bright and shiny things, or when
another rejects you at your most vulnerable;
humans are self-absorbed and often
unintentionally fickle;

Love restores, is richly profound, a luscious
blossom and ever on the lips, though
if deprived of nourishment, withers away
to become a husk of its former blush and bloom;

Take the high road, not only enchanting
with words, mean what is said, take action
in a world short on follow-through;
persist with pledges made not only
at your convenience; dare to be tender,
if only to bask in the promise of probity,
feel the glow, the dazzle of divinity coursing
through the veins, looping back into your
own shining spirit and out to a planet
sorely in need of the heart’s affirmations.

 

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.

Relics

We all die. Relics left behind for others,
once culturally defined, a slurry now
of overcooked vegetables in the melting pot
of what humanity has become;

For better, we are more homogenous,
conferring fewer reasons to hate
that which is and ever was kindred.
Knowing this, do we truly taste the apple
sweetness of experience, or drum up
further excuses to postpone joy?

At worst, we forget our ancestors,
those from whom we inherit genetically,
even behaviorally, perhaps to our peril;
for history, devoid of lessons learned,
proves a hollow saga sucked dry of juice;
a dessicated plum placed primly
alongside a backdrop of ripe peaches,
fruit of our potential
.

What traces will linger
in this adolescent nation whose excesses
are counterpart to senseless severity,
an artistic strangulation where
even the Rubenesque among us
yearn to be thin and dry as wraiths?

A society threatened by hips and thighs
is doomed to infertility of the imagination.

 

Embracing the Sky

Just because it’s all they’ve ever known doesn’t mean it’s all they know.

This was a thought, post grief, after observing for myself creatures my child self deemed mystical: kookaburra, wombat, wallaby, koala; none in a feral state, of course. Which brought up those old feelings around zoos. Part of me loved resting eyes on these amazing critters, discovering the wombat’s scratchy spots and loving her up until helpless, she rolled onto her back, delightfully digging in the dirt and forgetting for a split second that she had to protect, disengage, go back to pacing back and forth so hundreds upon thousands of hands could stroke her moist back and she could keep on moving away, away. The other part of me returned to our hotel where tears would not stop flowing, a silent protest at caging and now having to sequester what once roamed freely and would still, were it not for those of our species who simply will not respect and love what is wild in our world. What of wonder? What is left to wonder about?

Then like streamers released from a barnstormer, we spotted them, hundreds of flying foxes soaring over Sydney harbor as the sun fanned out and swiveled its flaming bald head away from the first chilly crisp of fall day. Out they surged in scattered flocks, an occasional stray, to bash their heads into foliage and suck nectar where they might claim it in towering fruiting figs amidst high rises and yacht-ringed shorelines. There are still cultures that claim their meat a delicacy.

We must take care in our assumptions of the wild ones, we cannot tame the world simply because being in the world, we have chosen to cull our own sense of wildness. I am not alone in suspecting it is this disconnection that fuels all sorts of ills that plague humankind. Yet there is ever a way back, a means to reclaim a life that nourishes and supports us as it sustains all living beings and the planet, herself.

The doors to the world of the wild Self are few but precious. If you have a deep scar, that is a door, if you have an old, old story, that is a door. If you love the sky and the water so much you almost cannot bear it, that is a door. If you yearn for a deeper life, a full life, a sane life, that is a door.

~Clarissa Pinkola Estes

 

[Photo of where we went to see the flying foxes on our last night in Sydney. They came streaming into the trees here, but to capture them on camera was impossible. So we just watched and listened.]

The Blouse

We hardly ever call a blouse a blouse in these days of tops and tees and such. Yet in Mrs. Helsel’s 1967 eighth grade homemaking class (to which only girls were admitted – boys were relegated to ‘shop), we were required to sew an A-line skirt and a blouse. With darts, a tuck sewed perpendicular to the rib-side of the garment. I remember perusing Sears and selecting a dark-not-navy poplin for the skirt and a simple lightweight bedsheet-white cotton for the blouse, then eagerly combing through P.B. Carroll’s for just the right colored spools of thread while being mindful not to omit straight pins, crimson pin cushion in the shape of a tomato and a Dritz tracing wheel with indigo carbon paper. I still possess these items in my closet, though they haven’t seen use in decades.

For my care and precision, I received a duly protested B-minus at the end of the term. My garments were thoughtfully crafted if not perfect, but the teacher was adamantly unmoved. Mrs. Helsel,  a short woman with copper red hair set with foam rollers in a retro bubble style popular in the 1950’s, didn’t seem to keen to my dark eyes, snarky sense of humor and shapely curves. As homemaking was my only non-academic subject, she might well have been the only teacher who ever disliked me as a student. Her small rebellion was to give me the only B I was to receive in a sea of straight A‘s.

In those times and perhaps it remains so to this day, I could sense a teacher’s yearning for the occasional student who reflected their worth back to them as Educator, and I was known to provide good grist for that particular mill. Raised Mormon in a heavy-handed household, I knew how to play by the rules. But hormones had begun flowing in earnest, and I had my own trail to blaze which included, still includes, an eclectic choice of colorful companions. And though I savored these unique comrades like small victories each time I donned that simple A-line skirt, it wore me like a shortcoming and I eventually abandoned it to Goodwill.

As a post-script, forty-five years later with bouts of sewing in between (a Sesame Street Ernie doll for my eldest that was as tall as she, numerous custom Halloween costumes, a neverending stream of sewing and mending), I ventured across Hawaii island to a tiny import store. It was there I selected yardage from a few bolts of lovely welterweight Japanese cotton fabric, and within a few days began laboring over my sewing machine, turning out two Aloha shirts, one pair of wrap-around pants and a vest for Christmas presents. All gifts were received with great admiration, and my husband still garners the occasional compliment from admiring strangers. I would wager a bet I’m the only one in that eighth-grade class still sewing, much less enjoying it.

And no, I never went back to church.

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Reflective

 

I never told you I loved you enough, the only ones
to whom it might have mattered and mattered much,
how could I? There are certain things one apprehends
only with age, the fact that most parents were
mere children themselves when they raised us up;

Now when I look back, I am able to glimpse humanity
more humbly instead of simply placing familiar labels,
Mom and Dad, great brazen fire-breathing dragons
of the household, both admired and feared
for their outsized demeanor, similar to the church God
I prayed daily would grant me safety and comfort
in place of the warm arms I yearned to fold myself
into, though dared never trust;

Even with busy single parenting, I was not able
to reflect upon the scope of the job, absorbed
as I was in all things survival to comprehend;
too enraptured in my own harried drama to sit back
and draw parallels, to reconcile present with past,
dissolving patterns and resolving conflict between
what was innate and what absorbed in the confusion
of a young woman’s developing brain;

If still alive, I would tell you today of impressions
large and small, from the sycamore tree
in our front yard I watched dad set into ground,
to books and music and mom’s patience
not with children, but of sewing
that beige corduroy suit; the no small wonder
at flopping pole-caught fish in our boat’s hold
ferried back to feed progeny, of pigeons flying home
to mounds of earth glistening with geraniums and ivy;
how both culture and soil seared themselves
in memory like the grooves of the records spun
in the cabinet, Benny Goodman and Tchaikovsky
in equal measure, while and I listed and fretted,
wishing instead for the beat of my own generation,
the sonorous thumping of my own fragile heart’s desire;

I get it. I am here to button my lip and smile discreetly
like the Kuan Yin herself, knowing bountiful paths
with easier courses lie just alongside
the more arduous ones my own girls are taking;
though to make life worth anything,
they are theirs for the making.

 

This poem was written recently with my longtime Renshi poetry sisters. Renshi is a form of linked poetry; the last line of one poem becomes the first of the next, and so on. Thus are topics revealed. Image is the street in front of the house I grew up in, two of my brothers in the frame.

Awash

I’ve never understood where the salve to heal the trauma
of living as a mortal human exists, save in my own heart;
I cannot impel you to live by my own standards
yet notice eyes brimming with perpetual misery, reflect
back on my own need for it, the drive to feel alive, I suppose,
aching with yearning for the unnameable;

I know certain things it has taken a lifetime to unpack,
but my luggage and yours are fathoms apart
though destination is the same Unknown;
Souls are entwined, and for a moment I notice
you grasping at straws in the wind, searching
for meaning anywhere but inside that shell
and know not how to say it is existential, will ever be
at your shoulder, and if you let it gnaw and feed
on your flesh it will consume that and more, clinging
like nylon fresh from the dryer, second skin
that keeps snapping you awake, awake;

Illusion it is, gain distance, a pause, no-mind thinking,
vapid trail vanishing the moment it’s constructed;
and you wonder at the ruins at your feet, head hung
as if condemned by your own hand. We all come crashing
down sooner or later in someone else’s estimation,
none can live up to the expectations of others.

Instead dwell in forests of imagination, feel feathers
of birds in every hue, the light, bright beating hearts
that synchronize with your own as for that moment
you are lifted far above the world of woes and so stay,
remain there long enough for experience to imprint anew,
raising the bar of fear threatening to crush your chest,
you are not Sisyphus, you are shape shifter, alchemist,
magician and more. Awaken. Awaken.

 

 

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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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Dark Moon Rising

I’m waiting in the dark to sleep,
but it won’t come, I feel the creep,
the broken bits of hearts and minds
lie scattered like the leaves, the vines
are choking back a flood of tears,
are mourning for the empty years
it seems we have accrued in vain
while human rights now fall like rain
onto a toxic, littered ground
of ignorance worn like a crown;

‘Tis not the sceptre of a King,
this ruthless gore, the suffering,
the Baptist’s head upon a plate,
in service to some nobler fate
as if accused could turn within
and simply shed offensive skin;

Did not in mind the lessons gel?
A heaven craved, what tortured hell
demands this blood out on the streets?
Attacking those who cannot meet
the venom dripping from veiled eyes,
the blindness-shredding thin disguise,
the dull and cataracted gaze
of Stepford wives, of husbands crazed,
and even their pale Christ would flee
white-peak’ed haberdashery;

We breathe a truth, believe it’s real,
has always been, despite appeal,
what cannot be accepted, worse
when viewed as blessing or a curse
can only be corrected there,
within the flesh and bones and hair;

One finger pointed out and straight,
four digits cannot castigate,
but curl, unyielding, toward the one
that dares to judge another’s son
or daughter somehow less than they
whose lives, unblemished, rue the day
of Judgment when their fate is sealed
and once again they stand, revealed.

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