On Prayer, and a Poem

Today, the Gratitude List first, and then the poem.  Today’s Gratitude List is both gratitude and prayer.  Two people in my circles are currently on ventilators fighting for their breath, for their lives.  This is one of those times when the impetus of prayer rests on the shoulders of whole communities, when the feeling of the web that connects us all is so real it is almost physically palpable.  That’s the first one:
1.  The awareness of and atunement to the praying hearts of others, this bond, this web.  Returning again and again throughout the day to that open, listening, waiting, connecting state of prayer and energy and light, of dropped and open awareness (as Starhawk calls it).  It is hard work, but it is a place of great grace.  The heart opens, and opens, and opens.
2. For those fragile and powerful bags, the lungs, that carry our breath into rivers, to tiny deltas, spreading outward like roots to feed us with breath.  The Breath of Life, in so many religious traditions, is the Divine One breathing into the human being. . .in-spir-ation. . .re-spir-ation.  May healing air fill their lungs.
3.  The knowingness of our bodies, how we breathe without thinking, how it comes as naturally as life.  May their bodies remember that work and take it up so that they may return home soon to their families.  Inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale.
4.  The resilience of the brain.  We know how fragile it is, but today we focus our hearts and hopes on its resilience, its ability to heal, to develop, even after trauma.  And gratitude, too, for the protective armor of the skull.
5.  I am grateful for sleep: I wish for them sleep, for healing rest, for the two who are struggling to breathe, for the mothers who must carry their own anxiety as well as that of their children, for the little ones.

Breathe.  Breathe.  Breathe.

<Prompt 20: Write a poem titled, “Always (blank)”>


After we had buried the little hen
in a nest of soft grasses
between the roots of the old walnut tree
on the hill, sifting soil over the red feathers,
we looked around for rocks to cover the spot.

For a moment we considered
the stone that has always been there,
perched atop the last remaining locust post
that held up the electric fence that kept a pair
of hillside steers from wandering,
years before we ever came to this place.

We saw it there that day we first walked these hills,
looking across the patchwork valley,
across the bowl of the gently spreading hollow
and considered whether we could call it home.
Placed by some previous farmer’s hand,
carelessly, perhaps, or deliberately: this belongs here.

That stone has witnessed winters and thaws
and crackling summer heat,
the tractor trundling past by day,
and the patter of fox feet at night, fleeting
down the hill to cross the stream by moonlight.
The eagle flies above it, and the chickadee,
and mockingbird perches there to tell his histories.

A herd of silent deer will sometimes stand
next to the stone on the post
to catch the messages in scents
that waft down the ridge in the breeze.

It is touched by the glow
of light from the fire circle,
where it presides over murmurs and laughter,
singing and chanting, stories and dancing,
the gathering of friendship by firelight.

We gathered other rocks that afternoon
to mark the spot where the little hen lay
nestled among sweet grasses under earth.
The sentinel rock remains on its post.

2013 November 124

What Is My Name?

<Prompt 15: Take the phrase “What _____,” fill in the blank, and use it as the title of the poem>  I am stuck on this initiation-poem track.  I guess that’s not a bad thing.  This one’s not so much about a fairy tale, but is connected to a story that I have always found compelling.  Jacob, the main character, is a greedy, self-aggrandizing, conniving, megalomaniac scoundrel.  He’s had his lovely epiphanies, and still he hasn’t changed.  I don’t actually like him very much, but that’s okay.  Sometimes I don’t like me very much either.

He is on the run from his furious brother–who has every right in the world to be seeking vengeance, and one night, all alone, finds himself suddenly wrestling with a stranger in the dark.  The stranger realizes he cannot overpower Jacob, so he knocks Jacob’s thigh out of joint.  Jacob still won’t let his adversary go–“Not until you bless me!”  What is it with this guy and his demand for blessings?  His brother wants him dead because Jacob stole his own family birthright blessing, and now here he is, out in the wilderness, wrestling with a stranger for a blessing.  I sort of like the gall of that.

Yes, the stranger blessed him in the end, gave him a whole new name.  No, it didn’t seem to change him much.  He continued to be rascally and greedy, and he passed on the family curse of favoritism to his own 12 sons.


This time it wasn’t angels riding
up and down their golden escalator.
No happy hallelujahs,
no floodgates of heaven
opening for my vision alone.

This time the angel took on gravity,
grabbed and held me,
wrestled me to the ground.

The angel’s grip was like steel,
like iron, like feathers, ice cold air.
But I’ve been running my whole life.
I wasn’t about to let some angel
keep me from getting away
and getting my way.

I have been limping ever since,
from the touch on my thigh,
but still I wouldn’t let the angel go.

“Not until you bless me.
Not until you tell me,
until you tell me my name.”

And here I am,
building altars in the dawn,
and tasting those new sounds
in my throat, on my lips.

2013 November 082

Gratitude List:
1.  Harvesting potatoes and carrots today with an earnest and energetic bunch of third graders from the Waldorf School.
2.  Hot showers
3.  Going down to Columbia town to shop with my sweetie.  How many years has it been since we two have gone off somewhere to run errands?  It was almost like a date.
4.  There’s a murmuration in the hollow.
5.  A gentle family ceremony for the burial of a little red hen.  We buried her in a nest of dried grasses with a handful of feed and the bright shiny quartzite I found in the potato patch today.  The starlings kept flying through the trees with a wheep and a whoosh, and the near-full moon rose high.

Blessings on the Roots.

More Advice from Aunt Eliza

<Prompt 14:  Write a poem of Exploration>  This is yesterday’s poem–I was too tired last night to wait for my turn at the computer.  I can’t get out of the fairy tales.

It doesn’t always have to be so,
but it seems to be the way things go:

When the sunny trail ends at that dead ash tree,
when the sweet-scented grasses turn to brambles,
when the radiant butterfly flits into shadows
and out from behind the tree pads the wolf–

That is when the story really gets started.

Epiphany can be those shiny angels,
those glittering kings bearing gold,
but it also comes in shadows and cobwebs.

One day you are sleep-walking
through your dreamy life,
not paying attention to where the path leads,
and epiphany comes in the form of a crow,
calling your name from the topmost branch
of a lightning-struck oak.

Or you find the sweet cottage
but wake up surrounded by bears
or tossed head-first into the furnace.

Or an old woman in tatters and rags
swoops into the clearing, chattering,
demanding to know who you think you are,
demanding your service, your heart.

And that’s the key, isn’t it?
Who do you think you are, meddling in this story?
Can you give your whole heart to the process?
What are you doing here, in the heart of this forest,
this landscape of your life?
What is your real name?
Are you ready to fight for it?
To go on a quest, answer the riddle,
do the three impossible tasks,
risk your own dissolution, your death,
just to claim it as your own?

You thought you were so brave,
following the path to explore the woods,
though you’d been warned,
though your skin prickled,
though you knew the stories
of those who never returned.

Now is the time for bravery.
Now is the time for fierce
uncompromising joy.
Now the real exploration begins.

Gratitude List:
1.  That gentle cooing sound my hen Sunny made when I brought her down into a cage in the basement and gave her medicine water.  She  has been stoically enduring whatever is making her sick, but she perked up a little when she found herself in the hospital cage.
2.  New ventures.  Taking steps.
3.  This book: Nurturing the Soul of Your Family, by Renee Peterson Trudeau
4.  The dream I had last night that brought back to mind another book someone recommended to me weeks ago, but which I had forgotten to look up.
5.  My boys’ excitement at the wheat grass and lettuce shoots coming up in the pots on the fish tank.

May we walk courageously in our forests.

Luna, Hen, and Living in the Village

2013 August 270 2013 August 274

Gratitude List:
1.  Luna Moth
2.  Halo of morning sun around a black hen on dewy grass coming to greet me in the morning.
3. The parenting village–we don’t have to do it all alone, don’t have to figure it out all alone.
4.  Dissatisfaction and satisfaction: a two-sided coin.  Right now, I am exploring dissatisfaction as a means to avoid complacency and getting-stuck-in-a-rut-ness.
5.  Ellis is reading Calvin and Hobbes cartoons to Joss.

May we walk in Beauty, fly in Beauty.