On the Willfulness of Poems

After several false starts today, I just wrote about the difficulty of catching a poem.


Gratitude List:
1. That moment in Math class when we were doing a division drill, and a student suddenly looked up with wonder in her eyes and said, “I get it! This is just the opposite of multiplication!” Yes, oh yes, oh yes! It doesn’t matter that I had already said it and pointed it out over and over and over again–until her brain was ready to make the connection, it didn’t make sense. But today she got it. On her own.
2. Spring rain. I was chilly all day. Still, it feels like this is how spring is supposed to feel.
3. Support systems, webs, communities of care
4. Book sales! Kreutz Creek Valley Library began its sale today
5. All the colors of green
May we walk in Beauty!


“The great affair, the love affair with life, is to live as variously as possible, to groom one’s curiosity like a high-spirited thoroughbred, climb aboard, and gallop over the thick, sun-struck hills every day. Where there is no risk, the emotional terrain is flat and unyielding, and, despite all its dimensions, valleys, pinnacles, and detours, life will seem to have none of its magnificent geography, only a length. It began in mystery, and it will end in mystery, but what a savage and beautiful country lies in between.” —Diane Ackerman


“I take literally the statement in the Gospel of John that God loves the world. I believe that the world was created and approved by love, that it subsists, coheres, and endures by love, and that, insofar as it is redeemable, it can be redeemed only by love. I believe that divine love, incarnate and indwelling in the world, summons the world always toward wholeness, which ultimately is reconciliation and atonement with God.” ―Wendell Berry


“A crone is a woman who has found her voice. She knows that silence is consent. This is a quality that makes older women feared. It is not the innocent voice of a child who says, “the emperor has no clothes,” but the fierce truthfulness of the crone that is the voice of reality. Both the innocent child and the crone are seeing through the illusions, denials, or “spin” to the truth. But the crone knows about the deception and its consequences, and it angers her. Her fierceness springs from the heart, gives her courage, makes her a force to be reckoned with.” —Jean Shinoda Bolen


“Go as far as you can see; when you get there you’ll be able to see farther.” —Thomas Carlyle


“At the end of the day, I’d rather be excluded for who I include than included for who I exclude.” —Eston Williams


“Free me. . .from words, that I may discover the signified, the word unspoken in the darkness.” —Byzantine Prayer


“Father, Mother, God,
Thank you for your presence
during the hard and mean days.
For then we have you to lean upon.
For those who have no voice,
we ask you to speak.
For those who feel unworthy,
we ask you to pour your love out
in waterfalls of tenderness.
For those who live in pain,
we ask you to bathe them
in the river of your healing.
Dear Creator, You, the borderless
sea of substance, we ask you to give to all the
world that which we need most—Peace.”
—Maya Angelou


“This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before.”
—Leonard Bernstein


Stillness. One of the doors
into the temple.”
—Mary Oliver


“If you just learn a single trick, Scout, you’ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.” —Harper Lee


“Some days, you don’t know whether
you are stepping on earth or water or air.
Place each foot carefully before you
and offer your weight gratefully to
whatever it is that holds you.”
—Beth Weaver-Kreider

Out of the Box

This is the fifth day of riffing on phrases from Rilke. I love the choices my friend Tim made, choosing phrases with odd beginnings. I am a little compulsive about following my own rules, and I decided right away for some reason that I would begin every poem with the Rilke line, no matter how awkward. I can already feel it affecting my sentence structure, my sense of the sentence. This one begins with Nor. How do you begin with Nor and create something that makes real sense? It’s forcing my brain to explore different pathways. I’m liking this new view.

Gratitude List:
1. Cats: they’re such good company
2. Daffodils
3. This phrase from a student today: “If this last stanza of the poem were sentient, I would hug it!” (Jimmy Santiago Baca’s “I Am Offering this Poem”)
4. National Poetry Month
5. Praying/Meditating with my body
May we walk in Beauty!


“When I interviewed Maya Angelou, she told me to write this sentence on my notepad and to never forget it:
EVERY STORM RUNS OUT OF RAIN.
I still think of that to this day. ” —Alex Banyan


“Stay close to anything that makes you glad you are alive.” —Hafiz


“The problem is that you think you are separate from others.” —Richard Rohr


“You have to want a thing enough to reach out for it.” —Lailah Gifty Akita


“To wait within the moment for the coming dawn,
To breathe the single breath of all that lives,
To walk the web on which we all belong,
To face the newborn day with love instead of fear.
To listen for the whisper of the Spirit’s wind,
To feel Creator’s heartbeat in the world around,
To hear the grace of the Beloved in my neighbor’s voice,
To embrace the sacred space between the past and change.”
—Beth Weaver-Kreider


“Hope is a dimension of the soul. . .an orientation of the spirit, an orientation of the heart. It transcends the world that is immediately experienced and is anchored somewhere beyond its horizons. . . .It is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense regardless of how it turns out.” —Vaclav Havel


“When time comes for us to again rejoin the infinite stream of water flowing to and from the great timeless ocean, our little droplet of soulful water will once again flow with the endless stream.” —William E. Marks


“We are not to simply bandage the wounds of victims beneath the wheels of injustice, we are to drive a spoke into the wheel itself.” —Dietrich Bonhoeffer


“Healing is not pouring your energy into another, but activating the widening field of possibility around yourself, so the other may glimpse their own majesty forming on the horizon.” —Toko-pa Turner


“An ant crosses your carpet. A spider weaves a pattern older than mammals beneath your stairs. Just nod, breathe, and think, “Good. It’s all still here. The forest, the mountains, the desert. At home in my home.” The sterile white box is the stranger. Not the ant. Not the spider.” —Jarod Anderson, The Cryptonaturalist

Justice

Since I began this project of creating a tarot deck cooperatively with an online AI generator, the AI itself has evolved so rapidly, and the creators of the generator itself have added so many new features that within the six months since I began, the initial artwork is beginning to feel clunky and old-fashioned. I realize that the work I did to create it was a helpful process, not only in terms of my ideas about the the inner journey and about the tarot, but also in terms of my sense of the artistic and poetic process of cooperating with an AI. I find myself wanting to begin again. Maybe this process will never have an end product, but will simply be a part of my own inner growth. Perhaps I will end up instead creating an oracle deck with the characters that inhabit my own inner meditations: The Psychopomp, the Witch, The Dreamer-Mother, the Two Elves, The Gnomes of Beautiful Vision and Music, The Companion, The Golden One, Death, The Bees, Eagle, Six Crows, The Dancing Fox, Running Deer, The Golden-Crowned Tree, The Lady of the Labyrinth, The Darkness. . . Or perhaps, even, they will merge in some inexplicable way.

So here, halfway through the Major Arcana of the Tarot, I will finish this series for now, with Justice.

What does Justice mean to you? Is it the blind goddess holding her scales and a sword? I find it really interesting that Cupid and Justice are both portrayed in blindfolds: Love and Justice–an odd cosmic balance there.

Is Justice a balance of vengeance? Eye for eye? You hurt me, so I get to extract my pound of flesh from your stony heart.

Is it about karma? The bad stuff we do will come back to haunt us, so we can all relax, knowing that our enemies will eventually get their cosmic comeuppance? I know karma is a lot more complicated and nuanced than that, but I think we sometimes reduce it to this little dance of joy over cosmic rebalancing, celebrating the downfall of the evil-doer.

I want the people who hurt people to be held accountable. I want the ones who are injured and harmed to be seen and heard and listened to, to receive apology or remuneration or recompense for their injury. I don’t need an eye for an eye, but I need the harm to stop. I need the tools of the narrative to be wrested from the hands of the ones who do the injury and handed to the ones who were injured.

Restorative Justice has become a bit of a catchword in institutions these days, especially church-based institutions. When understood and practiced with depth and skill, it’s a wonderful tool for healing and returning to balance, offering a circle of story-telling, where the injured party can speak of their pain and suffering, and the ones who caused harm listen, and take account of what they have done to cause harm. In the process, they, too, get to speak, to tell their own pieces of the experience. We enter restorative justice circles with a recognition that harm has been done, and that healing is possible, but only if we meet ourselves and each other at deep, deep levels of accountability can we hope to repair the breaches in relationships.

Saying that you practice restorative justice, but doing the work half-heartedly or simply to score social points only causes more harm in the long run. Institutions, clubs, churches, and organizations that claim to do restorative justice work but only implement the process when the most powerful members of the group want to exercise controls over less powerful members of the group is an abuse of power and is the antithesis of restorative justice.

The Justice card holds us to keep high moral and ethical codes that include ourselves as well as others. We hold ourselves to the standards we demand of others. We offer others the grace and mercy we would show ourselves. Sounds a little like the Golden Rule.


Tomorrow is November. I am hoping to do a poem a day for the month.


Gratitude List:
1. My compassionate and tender-hearted and fun-loving colleagues. They made Halloween so special and magical and fun for the kids (while also managing to keep things educational).
2. The turning of the wheel. We step into a new season. We can change, metamorphose, transform.
3. Presence. Accompaniment. Companionship.
4. Cats
5. Golden, golden, golden: light and leaves and hearts.
May we walk ever in Beauty!


The wheel turns.
The harvest is in.
The veil parts.
We walk into the dark time.
Dream well.
Bright Blessings.
—Beth WK


“The moon has awoken with the sleep of the sun, the light has been broken; the spell has begun.” —Midgard Morningstar


“A labyrinth is a symbolic journey . . . but it is a map we can really walk on, blurring the difference between map and world.” —Rebecca Solnit


“Turn inward: If you’re asking ‘why’, also ask why ‘why’? If your power is to question, also question the questioner in you.” —Shunya


“Everybody is trying to make their journey till death comfortable. In the process they are missing the moments that can open the door to immortality.” —Shunya


“Walk through the veil of the season.
Carry your own little light into the dark time.
Celebrate the inward spiral.” —Beth WK

New Poems

Inquisition
by Beth Weaver-Kreider

We require that you speak into your
misalignment with our doctrine.
Also, do you float when ducked, or drown?
Do you truck with Satan?
Or run naked in the moonlight?
Do you own a speckled hen?

Please tell us which of the following are true:
You commune with fairies.
You read people’s fortunes in the cards.
You talk to trees.
You have a one-eyed cat named Old Scratch.

Tell us about that wart on your chin.
Do you have a roving eye?
Do you claim to sweep the cobwebs
from the sky upon your broom?
Do you own a cauldron?

Your neighbor says you threatened him,
you killed his cow and fouled his well.
He says you are a danger to his children.

How combustible are you?
For instance,
how long will it take, we wonder,
for your life to go up in flames?

Will you renounce the path of inner knowledge?
Denounce your friends,
your unmentionable activities?
Will you use our chosen names for God?

Sign this confession,
this creed, this code,
this doctrine of belief.
Explain your heresies
and offer us an actionable plan
for self-correction.

This is an ambush.
The story is rigged.
We’ve seen you in our visions
when we kneel to pray,
flying free and far from here,
no longer troubling our status quo.

Again, we ask:
When we duck you,
will you float or drown?


What I Want to Tell the Bullies
by Beth Weaver-Kreider

You’ve made your god too small,
clothed him in your own cast-off suits,
put him in a little box
and now you claim to worship
the poor little thing.

But the one whose name you wear
had a thing or two to say
about your kind of sanctimony:
Brood of vipers.
White-washed sepulchres,
the hypocritical teeth of your Sunday smiles
hiding the mouldering flesh of your lies,
and the dust and dry bones of a faith
that should be lush and living,
but which you killed so you
could set yourself up as god-kings.

What you worship
is simply a reflection
of your own self-righteousness
and power.

You’ve taken the word of Love
and turned it into a purity prison,
a death cult, an excuse
for your own violence and greed.

Jesus never burned a witch,
refused aid to the ailing,
or excommunicated someone
for loving who they loved.

The Holy One will not be caged.
The god-bird you thought
you’d caught flies free,
inviting all who Love to follow.

You did not cage or break me.
I followed the Bird.


Gratitude List:

  • Cool weather
  • Tomorrow begins in-service for my new job!
  • All my beloveds
  • Hidden patterns
  • The Holy realm of the senses

May we walk in Beauty!


“What is freedom of expression? Without the freedom to offend, it ceases to exist.” —Salman Rushdie
*****
“I used to say, ‘There is a God-shaped hole in me.’ For a long time I stressed the absence, the hole. Now I find it is the shape which has become more important.” —Salman Rushdie
*****
“Run my dear,
From anything
That may not strengthen
Your precious budding wings.”
—Hafez
*****
“The Word is living, being, spirit, all verdant greening, all creativity. This Word manifests itself in every creature.” —Hildegard of Bingen
*****
“Dare to declare who you are. It is not far from the shores of silence to the boundaries of speech. The path is not long, but the way is deep. You must not only walk there, you must be prepared to leap.” —St. Hildegard of Bingen
*****
“The power of a bold idea uttered publicly in defiance of dominant opinion cannot be easily measured. Those special people who speak out in such a way as to shake up not only the self-assurance of their enemies, but the complacency of their friends, are precious catalysts for change.” —Howard Zinn
*****
“Dominance. Control. These things the unjust seek most of all. And so it is the duty of the just to defy dominance and to challenge control.” —Robert Fanney
*****
“No person is your friend who demands your silence, or denies your right to grow.” —Alice Walker
*****
“I think us here to wonder, myself. To wonder. To ask. And that in wondering bout the big things and asking bout the big things, you learn about the little ones, almost by accident. But you never know nothing more about the big things than you start out with. The more I wonder, the more I love.” —Alice Walker
*****
“I am an expression of the divine, just like a peach is, just like a fish is. I have a right to be this way…I can’t apologize for that, nor can I change it, nor do I want to… We will never have to be other than who we are in order to be successful…We realize that we are as ourselves unlimited and our experiences valid. It is for the rest of the world to recognize this, if they choose.” —Alice Walker

Words and Wilds

I’m getting a late start today, and I need to go get ready for school in a moment. This morning, first thing, I took a cup of my wild yeast, mixed in a cup of water, a Tbsp. of salt, and then added flour until I had a good kneadable dough. It’s rising now, covered by a damp cloth, for six hours. Then I’ll knead it again and form it into a loaf or two, let it rise another two hours, and see what happens!


Gratitude List:
Words I am grateful for today.
1. Winsome: curious, dreamy, innocent, fool-ish
2. Wild: untame, free, safe, creative
3. Weird: eccentric, magical, fate, unpredictable
4. Woods: inscape, numinous, serendipitous, shining
5. Windy: scouring, shriving, re-vivifying, inspiration

Walk Wildly!


“Buying a book is not about obtaining a possession. . .but about securing a portal.” —Laura Miller


“I’m writing a first draft and reminding myself that I’m simply shoveling sand into a box so that later I can build castles.” ―Shannon Hale


“I can promise you that women working together―linked, informed, and educated―can bring peace and prosperity to this forsaken planet.” ―Isabel Allende


“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul alike.” ―John Muir


“When we went to jail, we were setting our faces against the world, against things as they are, the terrible injustice of our capitalist industrial system which lives by war and by preparing for war.” ―Dorothy Day


“What is not acceptable is silence in face of oppression. Boycott if you want, or participate if you want. But do not remain silent in face of injustice.” ―Omid Safi


“When we walk on the earth with reverence, beauty will decide to trust us. The rushed heart and arrogant mind lack the gentleness and patience to enter that embrace.” ―John O’Donohue


“Beauty is an experience, nothing else. It is not a fixed pattern or an arrangement of features. It is something felt, a glow or a communicated sense of fineness. What ails us is our sense of beauty is so bruised and blunted, we miss all the best.” ―D. H. Lawrence


“Poems are maps to the place where you already are.” —Jane Hirshfield


“Be still, and the world is bound to turn herself inside out to entertain you. Everywhere you look, joyful noise is clanging to drown out quiet desperation. The choice is to draw the blinds and shut it all out, or believe.” ―Barbara Kingsolver


“Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth. They do not preach learning and precepts, they preach, undeterred by particulars, the ancient law of life.” ―Hermann Hesse

Wish You Were Here!

When this is all over, I wonder how it will have affected my teaching? I try to create a student-centered classroom, and I think my normal (non-Exile) classroom is very student-focused, but I still found myself spending a lot of time as the sage on the stage. But now, in the past week and a half, I have probably erred on the side of not enough teaching, and more on project-style instruction. I am working toward finding a balance. I hope that as I travel this new pedagogical pathway I can integrate old and new aspects of my teaching self. Maybe, hopefully, I will come out of this a better teacher.

How are you faring in your new rhythms? Are you able to consider that the new ways of doing things in this time-out-of-time might actually improve your understanding of yourself? It’s okay if you feel like you are in a holding pattern, or like you’re losing ground. Or if you’re back and forth (truth be told, that’s a more accurate picture of my status–it’s just that morning brings a clarity that is not always completely present for me all day).

My heart is with you, who must still go out daily to do essential jobs for the good of the community. May your immune system be as strong as your good heart.

My heart is with you, who have been laid off, or who will be laid off. May you find a settled place within, to face the uncertainty of these days. May help come soon.

My heart is with you, who live alone in Exile. May you find alternate ways to do community, from a safe distance.

My heart is with you, who suddenly have two or more overwhelming jobs: working from home or out in the community, and still supervising your children’s schooling, or caring for the emotional needs of family members and beloveds. May you find rest and may you settle into the new rhythms with grace. You are doing enough. You are enough.


Gratitude List:
1. The birthday bush (I thought tree, but I have been corrected by the soon-to-be-birthday-boy) survived the night. Before we went to bed, I repeatedly reminded the cats that it was their responsibility to protect the tree from goblins in the night. They’re less likely to destroy something (like sleep or a birthday bush) if they have been charged with its protection.
2. I realized yesterday that I will likely be home this year when Oriole returns. My heart rises in anticipation. To sit on the porch all day and listen to him calling in his beloved is one of my great joys.
3. Yesterday, I managed to keep up with the minute-by-minute work as well as catch up significantly on pre-Friday-the-13th work. I am feeling more on top of things, school-wise, than I have felt since the beginning of the semester. Now if only I can try to end my school day at 5 today, then I will be golden.
4. The way humans rise to a crisis. And I know not all humans are rising. But the regular people, often those with the most to lose, have been settling in and creating community, reaching out, looking after each other. I really do love humans.
5. The bird feeders. If I go back to teaching in my physical school building this spring, I am going to have to figure out how to set up some bird feeders on the roof outside my windows. It brings me such great joy to watch the birds.

Take care of each other!

This morning my grandmother is teaching me
that the easiest (and most elegant) way to defeat an army of hatred,
is to sing it beautiful songs
until it falls to its knees and surrenders.

It will do this, she says, because it has finally
found a sweeter fire than revenge.
It has found heaven.
It has found HOZHO.
—Lyla Johnston


“It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them. I was so preposterously serious in those days… Lightly, lightly – it’s the best advice ever given me…So throw away your baggage and go forward. There are quicksands all about you, sucking at your feet, trying to suck you down into fear and self-pity and despair. That’s why you must walk so lightly. Lightly my darling…” —Aldous Huxley


“We travel, some of us forever, to seek other states, other lives, other souls.” —Anaïs Nin


“What a miracle to be awake inside your breathing!” —Hildegard of Bingen


Definition of Weald: wild, forested lands, uncultivated regions


“Religion is at its best when it makes us ask hard questions of ourselves. It is at its worst when it deludes us into thinking we have all the answers for everybody else.” —Archibald Macleish


“This poem is not housebroken.” —Anne Haines


*I have already lost touch with a couple of people I used to be.” —Joan Didion


“Give yourself time to make a prayer that will become the prayer of your soul. Listen to the voices of longing in your soul. Listen to your hungers. Give attention to the unexpected that lives around the rim of your life. Listen to your memory and to the inrush of your future, to the voices of those near you and those you have lost. Out of all of that attention to your soul, make a prayer that is big enough for your wild soul, yet tender enough for your shy and awkward vulnerability; that has enough healing to gain the ointment of divine forgiveness for your wounds; enough truth and vigour to challenge your blindness and complacency; enough graciousness and vision to mirror your immortal beauty. Write a prayer that is worthy of the destiny to which you have been called.” —John O’Donohue

If you have never read Toko-pa Turner’s work, begin by buying her book Belonging. It will be a comforting and enlightening companion for your Exile.

Welcome, November

This month, I am trying to re-arrange some of my daily practice in order to make more space for writing. I have had two books floating about in my brain for some time, but I can never seem to find the time to work on them, so I thought I would give my first morning moments to the process and see what happens. So far, in the last two days, in the moments before I wake up fully, my brain has grasped a piece of dream-flotsam, and wrangled it into an image or phrase which I have used to begin a dreamy piece of super-flash fiction.

Perhaps I’ll be able to fit these into one of the books. Meanwhile, I am following the Dreamcatcher to see what she offers me.

In the past six or eight years, I have missed very few November Poem-A-Day challenges with Poetic Asides blog. This new process feels a little solitary, even lonely. But it feels like I have stepped onto a pathway, in much the same way that my first forays into Poem-A-Day were steps on a poetic pathway.

Here’s another thing: This week, I opened a Bag of Longing to see what was inside. This one was the idea of getting an MFA. It’s been haunting the deep corners of my brain for some time now. I decided to look at it more closely and see what it might look like this week. It’s so easy to get excited about it, but it’s hard to justify adding debt to debt when we have projects on the farm that must be fed money, and when the first of the children has just entered high school and will be exploring college possibilities himself before we can even catch our breath. Shall I close this Bag and stuff it back into a corner before it starts to eat me? Or shall I let the creature inside it out to roam, hoping it can find its own way home?


Gratitude List:
1. The many varieties of orange
2. That bright scarlet leaf on the neighbors’ orange dogwood tree was actually a cardinal
3. One small person humming quietly to himself in the car last night on the way home from trick-or-treating in town
4. November means cats in the bed, and that’s wonderful, as long as they give each other space and don’t start hissing
5. New practices

May we walk in Beauty!

Voices Made of Fire

If you could trust your voice completely,
if you didn’t have to consider how how others would respond,
if you didn’t have to be safe, to be tame, to be docile and
humble, acceptable and charming and quiet,
if you had not been trained to make your words
into an easy chair, to turn your voice to honey:
What would you say?

Poetry

Gratitude of Resistance Twenty-Three:
Poetry. November always feels a little frantic because I add writing a poem a day to my schedule. I have been doing this for so many years that by now, I would feel lost and bereft if I didn’t do this. It’s part of what holds me to my true purpose. I love teaching, and I feel like I belong in this job with these students and these colleagues at this time in my life. But I have chosen Poet as my identity, and whether or not my poetry ever makes an impression in the world, I would no longer be able to do my other work without it. November and April and summer always bring me back to poetic center.

May we walk in Beauty!