Today’s Prompt on Poetic Asides is to write a Lucky Number poem. My thirteen lines have thirteen syllables each. I might call the form thirteen squared.
Thirteen white pebbles in a woven nettle basket. Thirteen striped feathers floating on the gentle spring breeze. Thirteen tiny minnows circling in a shallow creek.
You’ve drawn the Death card, which is also Transformation. One cycle is ending; another is beginning.
Ouroboros, Jormundgand, and Damballa Wedo: Whatever you call it, the World Serpent eats its tail, delineating a universe, shaping a world, separating the outer space from the inner space.
Don’t take no as your final answer. Don’t give up now. The hardest push comes just before the moment of birth. The final moment of surrender to the process is the moment that the light of the new world shines in.
A few somewhat random thoughts, some drawn from yesterday’s discussions: * Just as I want to loosen my attachment to the physical stuff that bogs me down and overwhelms me, I want to loosen my attachment to my sense of the infallibility of my perceptions. Admitting that my own perceptions may be fallible does not mean that I am relinquishing my core beliefs. * About that loosening of attachment to stuff: Tidying, de-cluttering, un-hoarding, relinquishing–all this allows me to actually deepen my delight in the Beauty that surrounds me. * In much the same way that loosening my attachment to stuff allows me to see Beauty more clearly, perhaps loosening my attachment to my righteous rage might allow me to see the complexities inherent in moments of injustice. * I learned about Anonymous Collective Rage from a friend yesterday. I think I knew what it was, but I didn’t know it had a name. While I would never join those who write threatening letters and who call for violence against the young men from that school, my own immediate rage was part of the collective pile-on. I feel some shame at my quick leap into the fray. Still, that rage is born of a sense of justice and a desire to bring change. * There are not two sides to racism or misogyny, or to mistreatment of elders. While events like the one that occurred in DC on Saturday might be more complex than they first appeared, disrespectful treatment of others based on their age or their race is unacceptable. Always. * Could people who are experts in restorative conversations, in rebuilding peace in tense situations, offer to help moderate conversations between those boys and Mr. Phillips and his group? This could be a time for real healing and learning. * I think that the time of Catholic boys’ schools is pretty much over. Time for a new model. They seem to simply be training schools for the patriarchy.
Gratitude List: 1. Yesterday’s time off. I needed the rest. I always need the rest. 2. Tidy drawers with clothes folded so I can see everything at once. Now I look forward to getting dressed instead of hating putting clothes on. I hope I can sustain it. 3. The lines of tree-shadow cast by the morning’s moon 4. That red eclipse 5. This is going to be a really busy semester for me–I have more preps than is ideal, but I love the classes I am teaching, and I love the kids in them. Last year was my first year teaching Speech, and although it wasn’t bad, I just didn’t quite have a handle on it. This year, I feel like I am much more able to pin down the perfect resources. Of course, I am only one week in, but already the course is taking shape with greater liveliness and interest.
May we walk in Beauty!
fire and flight
“In writing, and perhaps all endeavours, there must be a way which doesn’t simply do as men before us have done, but turns to its own erotic authority. The feminine voice comes from the body’s knowing. It is the writing of aches and ragged breath and dirty fingernails from climbing out of the underworld. It is the sonority of our words which is primary, not their definition. This voice is the howling of a child for its mother before language is even learned. It strives not for the objectivity which is removed from feeling, but rather sinks us deeper into the muck of it. It takes things personally. And it gives personally in return. There is no such thing as impartiality when you live in a body. And it speaks from the flesh and bone rhythms of that first belonging.” —Toko-pa Turner
“A noise annoys an oyster, but a noisier noise annoys an oyster more.” —Anonymous
“…The green earth
is your cloth;
tailor your robe
with dignity and grace.”
“When injustice becomes law, resistance becomes duty.” —Thomas Jefferson
fire and flight
after the fire
of coals beneath
fire within you
fire in the earth
fire in the fruit
flames will burst forth
and you will rise
you will know
open your feathers
catch the breezes
the old world
of magic and monsters
will fall away
you will dance
on pillows of cloud
you will swim
in rivers of air
you will hear your
in the voice
of the wind
I’m not flying south for the whole winter,
not disappearing from the groves and fields completely.
Hunkering down perhaps,
ruffling my feathers in the cool fall breezes
and settling deeper inside myself for a bit,
to a place where there are fewer words.
Not sulking, not anxious, not despairing,
just settling, shifting the patterns,
changing up the rhythms a bit.
I’ll see you back here again
when I have had a chance
to find a new rhythm,
to identify new patterns.
I’ll draw and sing,
write my secret poems,
gather dreams and images,
stories and feathers.
As always, I’ll be holding my part of the web,
feeling the tension and tug as you do your work
on your own part of the web.
I’ll trust that you are there,
and you can know I will be here,
and I will return, soon enough,
when the winds blow me back again.
“Lift up your faces, you have a piercing need
For this bright morning dawning for you.
History, despite its wrenching pain,
Cannot be unlived, but if faced
With courage, need not be lived again.
Lift up your eyes upon
The day breaking for you.
Give birth again
To the dream.” —Maya Angelou
“With dreamwork, we are endlessly tenderising ourselves to subtletly. When we begin to know its dimensions, pain can no longer envelop us in an indistinct mass. It’s not that we are ridding ourselves of suffering, but rather learning its name, which is the prelude to befriending it.” –Dreamwork with Toko-pa
by Mary Oliver
Poems arrive ready to begin.
Poets are only the transportation.
“On the last day of the world
I would want to plant a tree.” —W. S.Merwin
“Nature never repeats itself, and the possibilities of one human soul will never be found in another.” —Elizabeth Cady Stanton
“All know that the drop merges into the ocean, but few know that the ocean merges into the drop.” —Kabir
Mirabai Starr said, “Poetry is a gateway into unitive consciousness. It knocks on the doors of the heart and the heart opens. Poets speak truth in a very naked way that bypasses the rational mind. Poetry evokes, rather than describes.”
Kathleen Norris writes, “Poets understand that they do not know what they mean, and that is their strength. . . . Writing teaches us to recognize when we have reached the limits of language, and our knowing, and are dependent on our senses to ‘know’ for us.”
“I hope you will go out and let stories, that is life, happen to you, and that you will work with these stories . . . water them with your blood and tears and your laughter till they bloom, till you yourself burst into bloom.” —Clarissa Pinkola Estés
“Every seed contains the potential to save the world. Each seed can keep millions of people from starvation. Each seed is a mirror and guardian of the world’s future. Each seed is the ecology that can sustain the economy. This is why seeds are sacred…”
—His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew
I’m too alone in the world, yet not alone enough
to make each hour holy.
I’m too small in the world, yet not small enough
to be simply in your presence, like a thing–
just as it is.
I want to know my own will
and to move with it.
And I want, in the hushed moments
when the nameless draws near,
to be among the wise ones–
I want to mirror your immensity.
I want never to be too weak or too old
to bear the heavy, lurching image of you.
I want to unfold.
Let no place in me hold itself closed,
for where I am closed, I am false.
I want to stay clear in your sight.
I would describe myself
like a landscape I’ve studied
at length, in detail;
like a word I’m coming to understand;
like a pitcher I pour from at mealtime;
like my mother’s face;
like a ship that carried me
when the waters raged.
—Rainer Maria Rilke
Gratitude List: 1. Teenagers: Asking open, thoughtful questions. Offering deep honesty. Sharing stories.
2. Cats. I know I am obsessed with the cats these days, but they really are caretakers of the soul of a home, and these two are settling into their role beautifully. (Though it can be a little hard to sleep with one on my chest and the other on my feet. I am a tosser and turner.)
3. Did I say teenagers? The energy of this UNICEF club at school, young people who are eager and intent to make a difference, to help a hurting world. They teach me so much about jumping in with an open heart.
4. October morning mists. Surreal and magickal. Moody.
5. Feathers. Guardian angels. Reminders to fly. Messages from Spirit. Invitations to stand in the presence of Beauty.
In the lower right, the original photo, of a feather in the clouds. The others are filtered through Dreamscope app.
“In summer, the song sings itself.”
―William Carlos Williams
“All we have, it seems to me, is the beauty of art and nature and life, and the love which that beauty inspires.” ―Edward Abbey
“They deem me mad because I will not sell my days for gold; and I deem them mad because they think my days have a price.” ―Kahlil Gibran
“Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” ―Pablo Picasso
“Every breath is a sacrament, an affirmation of our connection with all other living things, a renewal of our link with our ancestors and a contribution to generations yet to come. Our breath is a part of life’s breath, the ocean of air that envelops the earth.” ―David Suzuki, The Sacred Balance: Rediscovering Our Place in Nature
“Memory is an invitation to the source of our life, to a fuller participation in the now, to a future about to happen, but ultimately to a frontier identity that holds them all at once.” ―David Whyte
“Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.”
―not actually Benjamin Franklin, as the internet claims
by Martha Collins
Draw a line. Write a line. There.
Stay in line, hold the line, a glance
between the lines is fine but don’t
turn corners, cross, cut in, go over
or out, between two points of no
return’s a line of flight, between
two points of view’s a line of vision.
But a line of thought is rarely
straight, an open line’s no party
line, however fine your point.
A line of fire communicates, but drop
your weapons and drop your line,
consider the shortest distance from x
to y, let x be me, let y be you.
Gratitude List: 1. Not feeling wretched. Sometimes it’s good to have a day of pathetic wretchedness in order to remember how wonderful normal feels. Is that weird? It just feels so incredibly good not to feel awful.
2. Driving Pippi Prius again. In the same vein as #1, I was incredibly grateful that my father let us borrow his car while Pippi was getting her battery cells fixed, and his car is wonderful, but it just feels so good to drive my car again. As a smallish person, I feel most comfortable and safest driving a little car.
3. Following #2, I am grateful that we did not have to replace the whole hybrid battery just yet. The local garage thought that would be necessary, but Sam the Prius guy was able to change the cells instead, and they were still under warranty. We’ll save the big expenses for another time.
4. Long weekend ahead. I have a lovely day of in-service ahead with my colleagues, and then three days of break.
5. The puppycat. Joss and Thorby are playing fetch all over the house.
“You’re always you, and that don’t change, and you’re always changing, and there’s nothing you can do about it.” ― Neil Gaiman, The Graveyard Book
“Many people need desperately to receive this message: ‘I feel and think much as you do, care about many of the things you care about, although most people do not care about them. You are not alone.'” –Kurt Vonnegut
“I know there are people who don’t read fiction at all, and I find it hard to understand how they can bear to be inside the same head all the time.” ― Diane Setterfield
“Wherever you go, you take yourself with you.” ― Neil Gaiman, The Graveyard Book
“A good story is always more dazzling than a broken piece of truth.” ― Diane Setterfield
(Yesterday, my friend Christi sent me this exquisite poem)
A Small, Soft Feather
by Joyce Rupp
a small, soft feather,
from bluebird’s wing,
falls onto the receptive
lightly it lands
under a thick-branched oak;
quietly it waits,
until a sister of earth pauses,
beckoned by a flutter
of unseen energy.
she bows her kindled heart
stoops ever so slowly,
and the remnant of the blue bird
to her generous hand.
days later another earth sister
opens an envelope;
resting inside, waiting,
is the blue of sky
in shape of a feather.
from warm wing
to great oak,
to earth sister
comes the soft blue signal,
and in a sparkle of recognition
a woman, weighed down
with too many wants,
remembers how to fly.
Gratitude List: 1. One of the four major projects that 3rd graders do at Wrightsville Elementary is a report on an African American historical figure. Josiah had already decided that he wanted to do his report on Ruby Bridges. But we watched “Hidden Figures” last night, and he thinks he might do his report on Katherine Johnson. Can’t go wrong either way.
3. Saturday morning with a talkative boy and a playful cat
4. Walnut leaves dancing down the wind. Mabon approaches.
Nancy’s stargazer lily will not let you enter the house without Noticing. She shines in the sun, and her scent grabs you and holds you. I think she likes the backdrop of Nancy’s purple step rail.
Bean Patch Yoga
We will call this asana the suspended downward dog.
Bend at the hips. Keep your back as straight as you can.
Sweep the bush to the left.
Pick. Breathe. Toss.
To the right. Pick-breathe-toss.
Shuffle forward, keeping your core muscles tight.
Sweep left-pick-breathe-toss. Right-pick-breathe-toss.
Stop. Drop your arms,
and roll upward slowly,
vertebra by vertebra,
breathing in on a count of eight.
Breathe out and in, slowly, carefully.
Breathe into your back muscles.
Repeat this asana one hundred times.
Gratitude List: 1. Pounding rain
2. Last night, my dreams took me back to Africa and childhood
3. Stargazer lily
4. Synchronicity: In a conversation with a stranger, she spoke of her friendly and caring neighborhood. Suddenly we were talking about people we know in common.
5. Feathers. One Small Boy has begun to join me on the daily Noticing of feathers. “Mom! Here’s your feather for today!” Every day.
I gave my students in Creative Writing an assignment to create a collage and then write a short story or poem or essay that was sparked by the images that came together. The idea was to begin the semester by unhitching the horse of the brain from the writing process for a moment–letting the creative urge impel them–and also to get them working with images right away.
I haven’t taken a photo of my collage yet, but here is the poem I wrote in response to them (I always seem to make two collages at a time). A friend of mine recently turned me on to Francisco X. Alarcon’s poetry (he died a couple days ago), and I am finding the simplicity of his work to be incredibly powerful. I cannot quite get myself to simplify enough to really be Alarconesque, but it was a powerful poetic experience to work in his style. Also, we have been working with models of professional writers as a way to spark creativity, and we were working with an Ursula Le Guin short story about True Names, and that also found its way into my poem:
fire and flight
after the fire has kindled within you patient gestation of coals beneath your heart between your ribs
fire within you fire in the earth fire in the fruit the egg the seed
flames will burst forth and you will rise
you will know your wings you will open your feathers catch the breezes
the old world of magic and monsters will fall away below you
you will dance on pillows of cloud you will swim in rivers of air
you will hear your true name in the voice of the wind
Gratitude List: 1. The promise of snow. (I know, it causes anxiety, too, not knowing what will happen, but I look forward to being cocooned in the house for a time.)
2. Making collage. Perhaps it was an entirely personal agenda to give that assignment, but I had fun making my own collages.
3. Lights at ends of tunnels.
4. Taking root. Taking flight.
5. True Names. One of your True Names is Beloved.
Not so much time for poems these days. Hardly time to catch my breath for the gratitude lists. All is well. All is growing and changing. Moving. I am tired, so weary. I am energized, so excited. I feel competent and capable, but I am also humbled by the fact that I have so very much to learn.
Gratitude List: 1. More feathers. Two days ago, as I was walking out of school, I was thinking to myself that I hadn’t found a feather yet that day, and I thought perhaps the daily feather find was at an end. I had it in my head, the actual words “There will be no more feathers.” But there, on the sidewalk in front of me was yet another feather. I have been telling my students that they get to make the meaning of their stories, and I told some of them about the feathers. I can be the scientific naturalist and say that I find a feather every single day because there are owls in the trees at night eating little birds and crows fighting as they fly above my house and school. I can say that the Universe is offering me little gifts to remind me that I have wings, that I can fly. I can say that I just have keen eyes for feathers. Whatever it is, I am really glad that they keep finding me. 2. This is a weird one for a gratitude because it’s a difficult story. But I learned this story this week about how a group of Prussian Mennonites, during WWII, actually sent a letter of support to Hitler. It was chilling to hear how they unquestioningly thanked the fuhrer for his dedication to the “Fatherland” and to Christian principles. So sobering. And a good reminder to myownself to pay more attention to my commitment to my spiritual work than to the work of politics, to keep the political in the perspective of the spiritual. I am grateful for reminders to be true to the deeper realities. 3. The laughter of my new friends, my new colleagues. Belly laughter builds community. And after the in-breath of focused work together, we need the out-breath of laughter together. 4. How sleep brings answers. I went to bed last night anxious about the chapel service I have to prepare for school on Tuesday, not sure what I would say or how I would present my own story. I woke up this morning knowing exactly (sort of) what I am going to say. 5. Small kindnesses. At the end of the day Thursday, I put two bags of trash at my classroom door so I would trip on them and remember to take them out to the big bins. A student I have never met stopped and peeked in the room and asked it he should throw them away for me. Little thing, but it made my day. Probably my week, too. Or semester.
Who will tell us who we are
when the voices of the trees are silenced?
Who will give us direction
when the sentinels of the forest
can no longer tell us the way?
Gratitude List: 1. Trees
2. Sushi–I am still enjoying the memory of Sunday’s lunch
3. Yesterday’s feathers. I found three yesterday. One on the ground, another simply resting in mid-air, caught between a spiderweb and a ray of sunshine, and the third a tiny feather floating down from the sycamore tree. I caught that one before it hit the ground.
4. Easing into the transition
5. Yesterday’s visit from Mindy and Willow. One of the children went off in a sulk, and when small Willow saw him again, she peered up into his face and said, “Are you better now?”