Wound Mending

The crescent mark left by a garden knife
is slowly mending, unresisting as I cleave
yet another lifted layer of my own skin
from its center until a proper feeling
of softness returns to adjacent banks
of that once-jagged riverbed;

Like one’s own feelings repeatedly
disregarded, trauma inflicted by those
unaware of consequences, of actions
and words cast carelessly about
like roadside refuse, transformation
taken back by my own hands becomes
a thing of beauty, weaving words
into textiles for the fabric
of the soul, spinning veils
of verbiage into mantles fit
for undefended hearts.

Jump

Over the precipice I crouch, ready to fly,
far from nature’s firm embrace,
my familiar; wondering now
what remains, how to regain ground
if the choice is to stay;

I have been here before many times;
only jump, I counsel, and you will rise
like the phoenix, sail through basalt
ethers, soaring up and up
into azure heavens where the view
fans out clearly before me; then,
and only then can I return refreshed,
renewed in spite of edging darkness
threatening to engulf me in confusion;

Black birds dart obscenely as shadows
lengthen, drawing me forward and out
beyond the delicate framework
of existence and soon my choices
will evaporate like mist; favoring action
over indecision hastens transmutation;

Jump. The word echoes in the rushing
reverberations of wind, a whirling vortex
of ecstatic wonder, freedom of flight,
liberation from the dull pique of gravity,
unimpeded vistas of emerald and chestnut
and umber; snow-capped mountain peaks,
their jagged edges framed starkly against
smooth shoulder of river and glade,
oceanic indigo and turquoise hues
punctuating torn cotton shreds of clouds,
golden beams of light scattered through;

Without effort I light softly now, no bone-
crushing landing in this dreamscape,
weightless and cleansed and struck through
with illumination I awaken, newly birthed
into a world filled with marvels yet to behold.

Kohala double rainbow Waimea canyon overlook, Kauai

Red cardinal, Pololu ValleyMauna Kea beach sands

Kilauea tidepool, Kauai

as always, all photos ©Bela Johnson

Resurrection

He has lost her, or thinks he has,
forever from this realm; sadness knowing
no bounds, as it would, given over five decades
of devotion and dedication; hardly knowing
life without her in it;

I remind him, a gardener, hiker, animal lover,
father, much beloved grand and great-grandsire,
caretaker of this precious earth, that if nothing else,
nature demonstrates endurance, resurrection,
perpetuity; yet the questions linger, what if, how
would we, how do any of us move on with half
of our limbs and hearts missing, absent, lost;

The mirror held to us daily, our best self, the truest
of reflections; what now to do with a voice meant
to spark truth; who is there to hold us quite
like a lover, who has witnessed the dark spaces
in our soul and loved us still, without reservation?

How does advice fall on ears that will never again
attune to the melody of that familiar, how again to taste
the smell of that One’s touch, the subtleties of a glance
meant only for us, the sole recipient, repository
of shared hopes, dreams and visions;

And time does heal, and we might go on; still
the wise and earnest hopes of others for our future
land hollow in the ear and gut, one’s own demise
seeming preferable to echoes of ghosts of our own
making, and breaking time in time, damnable time
now the enemy, adversary, cruel master
of feckless fate;

Yet there it is, a look, a gesture, the shine in eyes
of the deer, delicate swish of a raven’s wing,
padding feet of beloved dogs, the bright, blooming
desert in springtime renewing itself beyond memory,
unlooked-for comfort on the long drive into town
while tears begin once again to flow, then cease
upon discovering duality’s illusion while we struggle
still for the breath that has failed us;

And we rise, rise like a dolphin from the depths,
rise like the phoenix from dull grayness of ashes,
arching into the sun’s first rays, open vessel spouting,
reflexively aspiring life into lungs weary
from submersion, even as we dare to smile and greet
another sun-washed day.

Lewis and Clark Caverns, MT Fire in the sky, Upolu Airport Road, North Kohala

Garden in the dying light, Dayton, WA
Setting sun, Kohala Mountain Road

Makapala sunset

I have tried here to depict through photographs what it must feel like to experience the death of a dearly beloved and then to begin emerging from deep grief. I cannot say I’ve done it justice; only that I have made the attempt.
(All photos ©Bela Johnson)

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.

Of Cabbages and Kings

When first I met you, bright-eyed one,
brow creased, corners of that small mouth
turned down in concentration,
trying to understand the mind of God
as if I might help you do that;

None you sought failed in this,
not even those blue foggy mountain ridges
where eagles soared above scanty
treelines, altitude heady even as it slowed
your increasingly ragged breathing,
beloved four-footeds trotting by your side
uncomplaining, ranging wide and low
over earth’s most sacred ground;

Each conifer holds in her tangle of hair
enough wisdom to stack all the ancient
philosophers on a ship bound for nowhere
listing heavily, as may be, to one side,
while Mother Nature holds court
on the other, no comparison, try
as we might to capture a fragment
of enlightenment in this time capsule
known as life;

But you understand this now in your place
of refuge, don’t you, smiling from
that small sliver on the great wheel
of continuum, and all those bored games fade
into oblivion in the face
of the knowledge you have gained
since residing in that Great Beyond.

Tributaries

Black is the color of undefined space,
of chasms so large many fear to fall,
inky background behind the night rainbow
void of busy-ness of day,
flowing cleanly down the split shaft
of an old quill pen, seeping deeply
into dimples of vellum;

Striking contrast, none or full phases
of lunation, back to black, again
and anon, ebony skin bejeweled
in glorious hues, unruly hair
and wild patterned dress,
cradle of civilization suffused
with damp earthen heat;

Unsterile, untamed, U as in unify, more
like u-turn, what did I miss, back to origins,
basics, unity in community, necessitating
complementarity, muting
blinding tonalities of white;

Born into a dusky womb, darkness follows
into death, settled now into the earth,
home we take for granted
until breath and water are gone.

 

OUT LIKE A LION

I miss building huge bonfires, where, in the midst of 60 acres of Maine woods with good snow cover, we would set match to paper and twig, urging spark to flame, then fanning to a crescendo of conflagration. Stepping back to avoid singeing hair and nostrils, we’d observe flames consuming dead, heavy 4’ wet logs without losing momentum. These fires were big; too much for anybody paranoid about setting the forest aflame, but we lived in tune with nature enough to respect certain laws and boundaries. The process went on seasonally for years.

There is something about the contrast of icy skin rosy with sweat under layers of wool, the smell of woodsmoke and ash, flames shooting twenty feet in the air singeing tips of hemlock boughs, the crack and groan of expanding ice on the nearby lake, and the intense heat and raw energy of a confluence of elements in nature. It pushes everything else out; a cheating husband, an unexpected pregnancy, a friend’s betrayal, the fear of loss and change. There is nothing but action and vigilance and focus and presence, all desirable to me today as I ponder the ending of another year of life on this magnificent planet.

Today while riding my bike, I found myself building that bonfire, fanning and feeding it to a glorious blaze while tossing into its cavernous mouth each negative thought and impulse as it arose. In preparation for clearing a path for renewal in 2016, I smelled the woodsmoke, felt the heavy wool-lined rubber boots on my feet, wiped the sweat from my ash-streaked brow, and tromped out into the cold for more crackling brush. I was assured in the rhythm of slippery steps and a beating heart and heaving lungs that in nature abides the perpetual promise of renewal. And while most challenges I have faced down in six decades of life sneak in innocently enough, their transcendence roars out and through me like a bonfire. Or a lion. And 2015, at least for me, is going out just this way.

Perhaps 2016 will reveal unity rather than separation, as we collectively realize it is to this amazing earth we owe our life and breath. Maybe it will become clearer that working in harmony with nature and one another is the surest way to purge ourselves of the discomfort of disconnection. And this, dear reader, is my hope, as we step into the future together.

 

iur