BROKEN TRUTH

Today’s prompt was to write a thoughtless or/and a thoughtful poem. I decided that a found poem is the perfect example of both. I am taking up the lines that friends on FB offered me, entirely without putting thought into them. Then the arranging requires much thought. Probably more than I have after a long day at school. But here it is:

Childhood traumatic experiences
have been shown to bear very directly
on what authorizes
or rationalizes the fear.

Since appliances vary in power,
the back seat,
unlike the sturdy external shell of my snail,
is the safest place for children.

My supporting structure was internal.
The sport of adult political orientations
was a defining passion
whole clocks later,

Whatever the truth is,
it was eventually broken.

Cuckoos crept into other birds’ nests,
laid their eggs among strangers,
We shouldn’t put it off any longer,
try to minimize the interruption
of bass fishing by scheduling
going to the dragonfly pool.
Water flowed from the ground
in hundreds of springs and seeps
to one huge bottle
that could have contained nothing
but a captured djinn.
It will be anchored to one spot.
I have to dig.
When you identify it,
ask next what I was
and what I wasn’t.
All characters in this book
have no existence.

Discover that the heart is
moved everywhere by a pulse
that is aliveness in gut.

These instructions are guidelines only.
You will know them by their fruits.
In the end there was love,
untried muscles,
glow on your lap,
trial by earth.

You needed the normal routine:
thorn, nettle, bramble, gorse, and briar
sealed in stone and hidden by fire.
I sing, I sing to the end.


Gratitude List:
1. Warm blankets
2. Rest
3. Kind words
4. Doing the work
5. Rest
May we walk in Beauty!
(I didn’t realize at first that I had typed “Rest” twice. I am going to let it stand.)


“Love the earth and sun and animals,
Despise riches, give alms to everyone that asks,
Stand up for the stupid and crazy,
Devote your income and labor to others…
And your very flesh shall be a great poem.”
—Walt Whitman


“I believe the world is incomprehensibly beautiful—an endless prospect of magic and wonder.” —Ansel Adams


“A tree is a nobler object than a prince in his coronation-robes.” —Alexander Pope


“We must finally stop appealing to theology to justify our reserved silence about what the state is doing—for that is nothing but fear. ‘Open your mouth for the one who is voiceless’—for who in the church today still remembers that that is the least of the Bible’s demands in times such as these?” —Dietrich Bonhoeffer


“Christianity stands or falls with its revolutionary protest against violence, arbitrariness, and pride of power, and with its plea for the weak. Christians are doing too little to make these points clear. . . . Christendom adjusts itself far too easily to the worship of power. Christians should give more offense, shock the world far more, than they are doing now.” —Dietrich Bonhoeffer


“Those who love their dream of a Christian community more than they love the Christian community itself become destroyers of that Christian community even though their personal intentions may be ever so honest, earnest, and sacrificial.” —Dietrich Bonhoeffer


“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


“Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.” —Dietrich Bonhoeffer


“It is so easy to break down and destroy. The heroes are those who make peace and build.” —Nelson Mandela


“We are not lacking in the dynamic forces needed to create the future. We live immersed in a sea of energy beyond all comprehension. But this energy, in an ultimate sense, is ours not by domination but by invocation.” —Thomas Berry

Epiphany: The Light Returns

Today is Epiphany, the day of the Holy Aha! The visit of the Wise Travelers to the Child of Light.

It’s the day my father-in-law died thirteen years ago, and so it has become a day when I remember his light.

And now, after last year, it’s become a day of political trauma in the US. I’ve felt a dread upon my shoulders in the past couple of days as this first anniversary of the insurrection at the capitol building approaches. Today, I will meditate on the image of Capitol Police Officer Eugene Goodman standing in a light-filled doorway, one man standing between the mob and the elected leaders of our country, making the courageous decision to put his own life on the line and lure the mob away from their target. There is light of deep courage that shines in the sea of ignorance and rage.

In the lore of Catholic Italy, the story goes that the wealthy magi passed through a town where an old woman, La Befana, was sweeping her house and her walks. The wise ones stopped to ask her if she knew where the Child of Light was to be found, but La Befana was too busy to answer or to bother herself. But as she heard the camels’ bells jingle as they turned the corner far away, she suddenly was filled with an aching desire to seek the Child of Light, but alas! By the time she reached the corner, they had disappeared. Since then, she flies on her broom through the skies, sweeping away the cobwebs, and puts candy into the shoes of good children on Epiphany as she seeks–all her life–for the Child of Light.

La Befana: Epiphany Witch
by Beth Weaver-Kreider

She’d got her eyes fixed
on what was right in front of her,
the dust and the dirt
and the everyday mess.

Wanted to be ready
for the coming of the child
but couldn’t see beyond
the day she was in.

Believe me, I know
what the old one
was up to–and I don’t
sweep and dust–
but I too get caught
by the fishhook of the present,
stuck in the nextness
of each task ahead,
forget to lift my eyes
to see the shine and sparkle
of my arriving guests,
can’t put down my broom,
my pen, my daily rhythm,
to look up and outward.

Like Old Befana, I catch, too late,
the jingle of the caravan bells
as they turn the corner in the distance,
see the disappearing cloud of dust.

Hastening to grab my cloak and bag,
I’ve lost their trail before I reach
the distant corner, left behind,
bereft, alone, dust-covered,
traveling bag in one hand
and broom in the other,
destined to spend my life
sweeping the skies,
chasing down the Holy Aha.


Gratitude List:
1. Democracy. The believe that all the people have a right to political agency in the right to vote.
2. The Story of La Befana and the longing for the Child of Light.
3. So many beautiful hearts in my life. So many lovely souls. Such tenderness. Such courage. Such compassion and winsomeness and good humor.”
4. The light shines in difficult places
5. The anticipation of having a new (to me) car. It might be something other than silver this time!
May we walk in Wisdom!


“Epiphany. The light floods in. The eyes open. And open again. See. See further. Aha!” —Moonbat, ‘14


“With an eye made quiet by the power of harmony, and the deep power of joy, we see into the life of things.” —William Wordsworth


“A Woman in harmony with her spirit is like a river flowing. She goes where she will without pretense and arrives at her destination prepared to be herself and only herself.” —Maya Angelou


“In such ugly times, the only true protest is beauty.” —Phil Ochs


“The sense-making in poetry is about getting behind the brain. A poem is a door. Sometimes poets make sturdy, locked, exclusive club doors that you can only enter if you are one of ‘us,’ or if you can speak (or pretend to know) the password. A really good and satisfying poem is an open and inviting doorway that frames the view in a particularly compelling way. ‘Look!’ it says. ‘Stand and stare. Take a deep breath. Then tell me what you see.’
“Good poetry, I think, holds a paradoxical perspective on language itself: it acknowledges the inadequacy of words to completely map an inner geography, and it also steps with reverence and awe into the sacred space that language creates between writer and reader. Words are both inadequate and holy.” —Beth Weaver-Kreider, 2014


“Where does despair fit in? Why is our pain for the world so important? Because these responses manifest our interconnectedness. Our feelings of social and planetary distress serve as a doorway to systemic social consciousness. To use another metaphor, they are like a ‘shadow limb.’ Just as an amputee continues to feel twinges in the severed limb, so in a sense do we experience, in anguish for homeless people or hunted whales, pain that belongs to a separated part of our body—a larger body than we thought we had, unbounded by our skin. Through the systemic currents of knowing that interweave our world, each of us can be the catalyst or ‘tipping point’ by which new forms of behavior can spread. There are as many different ways of being responsive as there are different gifts we possess. For some of us it can be through study or conversation, for others theater or public office, for still others civil disobedience and imprisonment. But the diversities of our gifts interweave richly when we recognize the larger web within which we act. We begin in this web and, at the same time, journey toward it. We are making it conscious.” —Joanna Macy


“In a time that would have us believe there is always more to strive for, more to accumulate, more enlightenment to reach – the most radical stance we can take is enoughness.
What if we quit trying to be spiritual and aspired to be human instead?
What if there is nothing to fix because we are already whole?
What if there was no time to prove ourselves, because we’re consumed with marveling at life?
What if there is no reason to hold back our gifts, because they are meant to be given?
What if every morsel, every glance, every moment and every breath is a miracle of enough?” —Dreamwork with Toko-pa


“It was miraculous. It was almost no trick at all, he saw, to turn vice into virtue and slander into truth, impotence into abstinence, arrogance into humility, plunder into philanthropy, thievery into honor, blasphemy into wisdom, brutality into patriotism, and sadism into justice. Anybody could do it; it required no brains at all. It merely required no character.” ―Joseph Heller, Catch 22

Applying Compassion

In 2005, my first pregnancy ended in a traumatic miscarriage. I recognize that all miscarriages are traumatic; this one, however, did not take care of itself. After the initial days of a slow bleed, I experienced a day of what I learned later (during the labor for my first live birth) was essentially hard labor. At thirteen weeks, my body went into full contraction mode to expel this pregnancy. I began to recover. I grieved. I went back to work, only to experience massive bleeding which began while I was teaching a class. I rushed to the ER at Women’s and Babies Hospital, where I was given surgical help to complete the miscarriage.

This was one of the most difficult times of my life. In the hospital, I received immediate and compassionate care from everyone involved. There was no questioning, no second-guessing. Of course my records confirmed that I had had a sonogram the previous week that showed a nonviable fetus. Still, I experience horror when I think of the stories I have read of women in my same situation who were forced to wait and bleed for hours or days because a rigorously anti-abortion hospital would not give surgical assistance without establishing the lack of a heartbeat. In some cases, women have developed infections or lost grave amounts of blood or even died for lack of essential medical care during miscarriage.

Will these merciless anti-abortion laws increase the risks for miscarrying women? I have absolutely no doubt that they will. On top of that, women who are experiencing the tragedy of pregnancy loss, of the self-doubt and shame we carry about how our bodies have let us down, will be placed in the position of being interrogated about whether they did anything to cause their miscarriages, with the risk of being charged as felons if they are not believed.

If some of us are particularly twitchy and quick to rage and grieving these days, it might have something to do with this, with having to re-open the trauma of our pregnancy losses–for whatever their reason or cause–finding ourselves imagining what the world will be like for women of the future who may have to endure what we experienced, only without compassionate care or empathetic understanding.

It’s time to trust women to understand what is happening to our bodies.

Questioning the Wolf

Little Red
I am a big fan of reinterpreting the wolf, of finding new ways to look at fairy tales. I think that’s one of the great beauties of fairy tales: like dream images, they can hold so many meanings, so many messages. I need my wolf today to be as big and scary as the messages from last night’s dream. I need Little Red to be little and solid as she confronts the creature. (This image is all over the internet, but I cannot seem to find the author’s name, or I would gladly give credit. I would like to see more work by this artist.)

In recent years, my most difficult dreams have been those disturbing anxiety dreams where I can’t find my classroom or I am totally unprepared or I can’t find clothes that fit. It’s been years since I had one of those dreams that wakes you up, paralyzed and sweating, unable to move anything but your eyeballs, months since I have had one of the ones that leave me with disturbing, haunting images that I can’t get out of the back of my head.  This morning, I woke up with an adrenaline shot and a searing image from one of those.

Isn’t that the funny thing about dreams? The lovely ones, the weird ones, the ones that feel like they have thoughtful messages–those I need to capture and hold onto with pen and paper the second I open my eyes, or they’re gone like frost crystals in the morning sun, dissipated like a mist. But the ones that pierce and hurt, the images that haunt and ache, that tell you the stories of your deepest, most panicky fears–those live on like a bad smell, like a poison ivy rash.

I know last night’s dream had messages for me. I used every technique I could think of to erase the image, and it isn’t holding such power over me as it did in the panicky moment of waking, though it’s still there, lurking. Now is the time to look back at it from this slightly safer distance and ask it what it wants to tell me. I am Little Red Riding Hood talking to the Wolf, Vassilissa in the house of Baba Yaga.

Gratitude List:
1. The gentle and fierce ones, the compassionate and powerful ones, the wise ones–so many people I know who work directly with people and communities who have experienced trauma, to explore and understand it, to help people seek for their inner resilience and to heal. These people I know, they work in education–both in the US and internationally, they develop social services to break cycles of trauma across generations, they make songs and music, they write poems, they tell their stories and the stories of others, they listen.  How they listen! And they ask questions. They hold a big, big bowl. You probably know some of these people, too. Let’s stand around them and help them hold the bowl of stories that they carry.
2. History. How we live into it today, wear it like a scarf over the clothes of this moment. Not just our own personal history, but deep history, the history of our ancestors, our nations, our idealistic and philosophical and spiritual pathways.
3. The Sermon on the Mount. That’s revolutionary stuff. I keep coming back to it, seeing it with fresh eyes. One of my favorite poems. One of my favorite spiritual growth essays. One of my favorite revolutionary treatises. It’s all in there.
4. Butterflies! Everywhere. They’re just everywhere. Monarchs flit along the highways and down the River. The swallowtails drift across the hollow all day long. I wish I could see a residual image of their pathways. I bet they’ve flown an intricate dreamcatcher across our life here, a web. (Perhaps it was that dream catcher that caught this morning’s fearsome nightmare before it could settle too deeply.)
5. Cooler days are coming.  Which is a thinly veiled complaint about the current heat. It bothers me so much more than it used to. So I will live with the happy thought of cool autumn days and chilly nights with a warm quilt.

May we walk in Beauty, ever ancient, ever new.