Question-Mark Cat

Lichen on a branch like a lace doily on the arm of a grandmother’s chair.

Brewer’s prompt today is to write an animal poem. As usual, when I leave the poem until the end of the day, my mind has scrambled down too many tunnels to form a coherent poem.

On the green carpet,
a golden patch of sunlight.
A question-mark cat.

Living Poetry


Rumi: “Let yourself become living poetry.”
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“We Americans are not usually thought to be a submissive people, but of course we are,” Wendell Berry writes. “Why else would we allow our country to be destroyed? Why else would we be rewarding its destroyers? Why else would we all—by proxies we have given to greedy corporations and corrupt politicians—be participating in its destruction? Most of us are still too sane to piss in our own cistern, but we allow others to do so and we reward them for it. We reward them so well, in fact, that those who piss in our cistern are wealthier than the rest of us. How do we submit? By not being radical enough. Or by not being thorough enough, which is the same thing.”
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“If I write about the past as I simultaneously dwell in the present, am I still in real time? Perhaps there is no past or future, only the perpetual present that contains this trinity of memory.” –Patti Smith
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“Waiting on the words
to do their usual tumble,
I will find instead
a pocketful of golden
leaves, and some scarlet berries.”
–Beth Weaver-Kreider
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Come into animal presence
by Denise Levertov

Come into animal presence
No man is so guileless as
the serpent. The lonely white
rabbit on the roof is a star
twitching its ears at the rain.
The llama intricately
folding its hind legs to be seated
not disdains but mildly
disregards human approval.
What joy when the insouciant
armadillo glances at us and doesn’t
quicken his trotting
across the track and into the palm brush.

What is this joy? That no animal
falters, but knows what it must do?
That the snake has no blemish,
that the rabbit inspects his strange surroundings
in white star-silence? The llama
rests in dignity, the armadillo
has some intention to pursue in the palm-forest.
Those who were sacred have remained so,
holiness does not dissolve, it is a presence
of bronze, only the sight that saw it
faltered and turned from it.
An old joy returns in holy presence.


Gratitude List:
1. The black arms of the walnut tree against the sky
2. Indigo clouds draped like cobwebs upon the morning
3. Always new chances to practice equanimity and balance
4. Wise friends
5. Intellectual puzzles

May we walk in Beauty!

Cocooned


The hollow is cocooned in a bowl of fog and mist. The songbirds are striking up the second movement in the dawn chorus, and the gang of crows that were arguing in the bosque has moved on to other venues. The mourning dove is giving voice to her emotions. Perhaps three cars have passed in the hour I have been sitting here.

I have been thinking more about how we live in layers, how the past and the present come together in this moment, and sometimes we seem to be living in the layers of time simultaneously. In recent years, Facebook has become my diary, showing me what I have done on this day in years past. I have been fascinated by some of the uncanny coincidences. We went to the Shoe House for ice cream on the exact same day two years in a row–the only two times we have taken our children there. Yesterday before we took Fred to the vet to release him from his pain and confusion, Jon had a tender encounter with a hummingbird who hovered for a few seconds so close to him that he could hear her wings. This morning, I read that two years ago yesterday, I had a similar encounter with a hummingbird. These are lovely little whimsical connections, but they draw my mind to the deeper ones, to the circles and spirals and overlaps of my existence here. Nothing that happens has happened before. Everything has happened before. All moments are unique and separate, and all moments are one single moment.

Sometimes I would like to be one of those crows and sail above the landscape of my life, looking for patterns, gaining perspective. I suppose these moments of reflection are just that. But I can’t live my life with that sort of distance, that sort of intellectual fascination. I have to live down here, in the moments that come, holding within me the fragments of the map as I glimpse them, and experiencing everything as though it is both the freshest and newest thing and also a part of the ancient pattern.
*****

I have done very little writing of my own this summer, choosing instead to curate the words of others. In the past decade, I have been honing my craft, finding my voice, building up a body of poems. I have self-published two little books, and that has been immensely satisfying, but I am feeling unsettled again, like I need to find my voice in a wider space. I have been playing with submitting poems and short stories to various publications this summer, and garnering the requisite rejections. I am not discouraged, although I have come to the realization that I need to find a better focus for the work of submission. I have worked in publishing myself (25 years ago), yet I still don’t think I have the requisite savvy for the art of selling my work to the appropriate venues.  That’s my goal for the coming season–not just to submit my poems to random contests and magazines, but to target publications that might appreciate my particular perspectives. Advice is always welcome.


“It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, who had ever been alive.” ~James Baldwin
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“Three things cannot be hidden: the Moon, the Sun and the Truth.” ~ Gautama Buddha
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“Those doing soul work, who want the searing truth more than solace or applause, know each other right away. Those who want something else turn and take a seat in another room. Soul-makers find each other’s company” ~ Rumi
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“Going within is the only way out.” ~Toko-pa Turner
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“What can we gain by sailing to the moon if we are not able to cross the abyss that separates us from ourselves? This is the most important of all voyages of discovery, and without it, all the rest are not only useless, but disastrous.”
~Thomas Merton
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“Let me fall, if I must. The one I will become will catch me.” ~Baal Shem Tov
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“The sky itself
Reels with love.”
—Rumi
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“That’s a tough spirituality. That’s not any kind of sweet-by-and-by spirituality. That’s a spirituality that takes on the world as it is and says, ‘I’m gonna figure this out one way or another.’ The mystic and the Moses.” ~Vincent Harding (On Being interview)
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“How do you survive through time and chance,
through the twisty songs of fate?
Plant your roots deep,
cling to rock and boulder.
Send your strong trunk up into sky.
Live in the stillness.
Breathe.” ~Beth Weaver-Kreider
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“May you know the fearlessness of an open heart. May you never meet anyone you consider a stranger, and know that no matter what, you are not alone. May you have compassion for others’ suffering and joy in their delights. May you be free to give and receive love.” –Sharon Salzberg
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“In our culture, we use the word ‘dreamy’ derogatively to describe someone who is unrealistic or without ambition. But what thrills and amazes me about dreamwork is how truly grounding it is. One of the reasons this is true, is because dreams are expressions of that larger ecosystem in which we are embedded, and which has a design for our lives within that greater context! So rather than taking our cues from consensus culture, instead we are listening to the mystery which combines us. As Jungian analyst Ann Bedford Ulanov puts it, “the Self is that within us that knows about God.” So when we come together in dreamsharing community, our symbols can begin to heal one another as we work within our psychic commons.” – Dreamwork with Toko-pa


Gratitude List:
1. The tenderness of the folks at St. Francis Animal Hospital. They gave us space to grieve, and one woman walked us out to the car afterward. There’s a hole in our hearts, and we were at loose ends much of the day yesterday, but we are grateful that Fred is no longer suffering. It’s the contract we make when we take animals into our care, that we will be ready to make the hard decision to relieve them of their pain when life is about endurance rather than contentment.
2. These quiet moments on the porch, in the fog, in the bowl of birdsong and silence.
3. The work of the coming day. This is the season of clearing clutter and making spaces that work for us.
4. Yesterday’s storm.
5. The human urge to create and to make.

May we walk in Beauty!

Animal Poem

Today’s prompt is to write an animal poem:

Sand Castle

Words race and scuttle, crabwise,
across the cluttered dunes of my brain,
leaving runes, cuneiform, in their wake,
scattering the grains of sand from place to place,
and shuffling between the shadows of the dune grass.

When I reach my hand to catch them,
they skitter down a hole or underneath a stone,
while the rude gulls laugh into the wind.

Ceremony for the Lost Ones

Today’s prompt was to write about animal/s and/or to write a sestina.  I love to play with forms, but this idea for a ritual to mark the grief for the loss of animals to extinction grabbed hold of me, and it felt too forced to put it into a sestina form.

Before you cross the threshhold,
remember to greet the guardians of the place.
Step to the center of the circle.

Stand still and silent,
watchful and waiting.
Close your eyes, and you will feel them all about you:
soft breath, whiskers, and feathers,
cool sinuous scales and rough bristles,
hints of movement like the whispers in a dream.

Turn to the east, to the birds, to the wing-folk,
turn to the flying ones, feathered and beaked ones.
Feel the sky darken as the Passenger Pigeons fly over.
Hear the maniacal bark of the Laughing Owl,
the whistles and chuckles of the Carolina Parakeet,
the caw and the clamor of the Hawaiian Crow,
the deep distant drumming of the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker.
All these, the People of the Wind, gone now.  Gone.

Turn to the south, to the mammals, the fur-folk,
the ones who run with the fire of the sun in their blood.
Here is Celia, last of the sure-footed Pyrenean Ibex.
There, standing silently like a shadow,
the West African Black Rhino.
And there, sliding down the riverbank,
the Japanese River Otter.
This one, the Eastern Cougar, stealthy as a dream
That one, the Formosan Clouded Leopard.
All these, the People of the Fire, gone now.  Gone.

Turn to the west, to the fish, to the fin-folk,
turn to the gill people, the swimmers, the divers,
the people of the moist places, the wetlands.
That sleek gentle head over there in the water
is Baiji, the dolphin of the Yangtze River.
There is the fluke of the Atlantic Gray Whale.
Shimmering in the cool depths,
the Blackfin Cisco, the Galapagos Damsel,
the Blue Walleye, the Gravenche.
In the swamps and the wetlands,
the Golden Toad, Holdridge’s Toad,
and the Cape Verde Giant Skink.
All these, the People of Water, gone now.  Gone.

Turn to the north, to the reptiles and insects,
turn to the cool ones, the scaly, the earth people.
Larger than a rock, there is Lonesome George,
the last of the Pinta Island Tortoises.
There, in coils, like a great rope,
the Round Island Burrowing Boa.
This lizard–the Jamaican Giant Galliwasp.
The Lake Pedder Earthworm,
the Polynesian Tree Snail,
the Rocky Mountain Locust.
All these, the People of the Earth, gone now.  Gone.

And wandering in brilliant circles and meanders
in the sky about us, but not yet within the circle,
bright orange butterflies, the Monarchs,
and droplets of sunlight zipping through the trees,
the Honeybees.  And others, too, not yet gone–
the Pangolin and the Mountain Gorilla,
the Hawaiian Monk Seal and the Island Fox,
the California Condor and the Amur Leopard.
All these, the next in line, the ones on the brink.

As you step out of the circle,
look to the air above you,
see the Bald Eagle wheeling on the wind,
the Peregrine Falcon diving toward earth.
See the Wolf, the Bison, the Bobcat.
These are the ones who stood on the brink,
who wandered back to the woods and the wildlands,
who walked away from that veil and returned.

Now we must shift.  Now we must change.
Now we must make a new way.

 

Gratitude List:
1.  The golden glow around the moon, there in the indigo sky.
2.  Chipping sparrow
3.  Forsythia and myrtle
4.  Local hangouts, where a really diverse local crowd can be happy together.
5.  Sleep.

May we walk in Beauty.