From One Poem to Another

This morning, my friend Chris sent me this poem, which inspired me to write my own poem.

To Be of Use
by Marge Piercy

The people I love the best
jump into work headfirst
without dallying in the shallows
and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.
They seem to become natives of that element,
the black sleek heads of seals
bouncing like half-submerged balls.

I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart,
who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,
who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward,
who do what has to be done, again and again.

I want to be with people who submerge
in the task, who go into the fields to harvest
and work in a row and pass the bags along,
who are not parlor generals and field deserters
but move in a common rhythm
when the food must come in or the fire be put out.

The work of the world is common as mud.
Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.
But the thing worth doing well done
has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.
Greek amphoras for wine or oil,
Hopi vases that held corn, are put in museums
but you know they were made to be used.
The pitcher cries for water to carry
and a person for work that is real.

___________

Untitled
by Nicole Dunn

I want to invest in people
who can keep up with me
or lead the way;
who aren’t intimidated by how I show up;
who don’t feel it necessary to cut me down
in order to make them self feel better;
who have strong backs
and soft hearts, like me.

I want to associate with people
who know what their work is – and do it;
who don’t consider it bad ass that I
ride a motorcycle or play drums like I meant it;
who make it no big deal that I do what I do;
who can grow and shine their own light
and not shrink or shirk away
in the presence of mine.

(NOTE: The “strong backs and soft hearts” is based on a core teaching of Roshi Joan’s “strong back, soft front.”)

My week in poems

Penned this morning: 10/17

It’s safe to fashion poems
about birds in flight
or on perched parade.
It’s safe to cover such topics
as accentuate the earth,
the sky and the uprising of varied landscapes
in their wild glory.
And don’t get me wrong,
I write script about all of these
marvels with great pleasure and frequency.

But I am pressing now in another direction
alongside the birds and sky,
one much less safe and cozy.

One that pushes the envelope,
urging an important inquiry
to form on my lips,
and on the tip of my writing pen
amid the candle flame flickering
in the early morning darkness:
where is the middle ground
between angrily amping up
and letting go in heart heavy defeat?

________

Penned on 10/16:

Things are changing
and I am no longer interested
in sparing others hard truths
at the expense of my own.

There is a price to pay for silence
when words are what need
to be ushered forward.

There is a toll the body
accrues when niceness
overrides honesty.

Hang on, dear ones.
This is going to be a bumpy ride.

_________

Continue reading

Forehead to the Ground

When I bend down
and touch my forehead to the ground
in gratitude,
I am pretty sure the
aging leaves still clinging
to the two elm trees in the backyard
murmur in resonance.

I am pretty sure
it calls birds in closer and
inspires the squirrels
to lean in to listen more intently
and the roots of the front yard
mountain ash to dig down a little deeper.

I am pretty sure
a shifting in the air can be felt
and the moon in her wisdom clad gown
sits a touch more upright
in her royal posture.

Face to stone, heart to flames

All I said in response was:
“I’m not sure that’s the best idea.”
And with that, he brandished the sword
of ancient male domination.
He unsheathed it from its hiding place
and held it to my neck and said:
I am the elder. This is what we’re doing.
This is not up for discussion.

His words thundered down from on high.
They were coarse and sterile
and befitting a great tyrant.
His eyes were wide as he spoke
and it was clear that I was not welcome
to proceed.

I’d like to say I defended myself.
That I picked up my own sword and
thrusted back.
But I didn’t.
Instead, my face turned to stone
and my heart turned to flames.
I said: Yep, got it, and walked away,
seething with a rage I didn’t know
I could feel.

I let him win.

I regret my inaction to speak up.

It won’t happen again.

Simple Things

I want excitement
to be born from
simple things.

Like being presented
with another day
to live and breathe
and sing.

Or knowing how very fortunate
I am
to have all the
luxuries of life:
running water
ready access to food
electricity
shelter
and countless modern conveniences.

I want excitement
to not be hinged on
having to go someplace
or do something
or be someone
in particular.

I want excitement
to bubble up
from the deep cauldron
of my heart,
for the wondrous miracle to
be
here
now.

This is my aspiration;
my practice;
my winding path
through the thicket of collective hardships
and planetary throng of woes.

– penned today, July 10th, 2019, around 6am

Birthday Day

Soft rain falling at 5:30am.
40-years ago today I was born,
head first into an air and water world
that agreed without being asked –
without question –
to take me on,
for however long:
40, 50, 70, 90 years.

Who knows?
No one.
No matter.

This day is really all that matters.
Just like when tomorrow comes,
that day will be all that matters.

This day, with its arm extended and hand open
in everyone’s direction, all at once,
ready to guide us, one soft step at a time,
along whatever path we’re traveling.
Ready to go neck deep into the throngs of the urban jungle, hand-in-hand, if we so choose.

Ready to love a little more with us; sing the duet of sorrow with us; drop to its knees in prayer with us.

Ready to keep up with us in good company.

Ready to take us on.

Spoken Word

This morning, I finished a new spoken word piece called Turning 40. Spoken word is the performance art of poetry, so it translates better in person verses on the page, but here it is anyway :)

Also, it’s worth mentioning that in my spoken word repertoire, this piece is by far the shortest. But sometimes, short and sweet and to the point just makes good sense.

Turning 40

I’m not interested in towing the heavy, lead-laden line given to me by those who’ve come before. The one that says I shouldn’t be on good terms with aging – ya know, the one that says I should pretend to be some other age than I actually am and would do well to color up over all this grey hair coming in.

The one that says I should learn creative ways to outstretch my neck or gain an affinity for scarves to cover up the fact that I have folds and that I lose my sexual allure the further I drift from the shores of 18.

You’re welcome to keep towing that line but I’m not interested. I am setting it down, in favor of something…more.

I wanna tow the line that says aging is part of life and not separate; I wanna end the drama filled strife by pursuing a life based on responses and not reactions; I wanna water the seeds of mad love for the whole of things and not split it up into fractions; and I wanna swim naked in the waters of whatever age I’m kicking in and embrace my body, the whole damn thing.

cuz there ain’t no shame in not being a size 2, there’s shame in playing the beauty-looks-like-this game that no one wins. I’m fixin’ to tow a different line, saddle up if you’re in cuz I’m not sweatin’ turning 40, I’ve been enjoying the ride since 1979 and I love this mixed-bag world – and for what it’s worth, I’m interested in towing the line of being more than a pretty girl.