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.”)

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

Tell Me How It Is

Speak to me of what makes your eyes spark to life. Speak to me about the heart of your experience. Speak not in fragrant poetic verse, unless there is authenticity in so doing.

Don’t put a spin on things to help soften the blow of your inner strife. I want you to tell me like it is; what it means to be you in your own skin. I am not interested in meeting a version of you – one you gussy up for company: muted, fake, and dull. I don’t want to meet you in passing, sharing only pleasantries and hollow sentiments.

This may sound strange. It may even scare you off, but it’s a risk I’m willing to take. I want to absorb you fully and consume you. I want to dissolve the separation we think exists between us and become one being – all of us, in this together.

The Invitation

The Invitation by Oriah Mountain Dreamer

It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing.

It doesn’t interest me how old you are. I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love, for your dream, for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn’t interest me what planets are squaring your moon. I want to know if you have touched the center of your own sorrow, if you have been opened by life’s betrayals or have become shrivelled and closed from fear of further pain. I want to know if you can sit with pain, mine or your own, without moving to hide it or fade it or fix it.

I want to know if you can be with joy, mine or your own, if you can dance with wildness and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes without cautioning us to be careful, to be realistic, to remember the limitations of being human.

It doesn’t interest me if the story you are telling me is true. I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself; if you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul; if you can be faithless and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see beauty, even when it is not pretty, every day, and if you can source your own life from its presence.

I want to know if you can live with failure, yours and mine, and still stand at the edge of the lake and shout to the silver of the full moon, “Yes!”

It doesn’t interest me to know where you live or how much money you have. I want to know if you can get up, after the night of grief and despair, weary and bruised to the bone, and do what needs to be done to feed the children.

It doesn’t interest me who you know or how you came to be here. I want to know if you will stand in the center of the fire with me and not shrink back.

It doesn’t interest me where or what or with whom you have studied. I want to know what sustains you, from the inside,
when all else falls away.

I want to know if you can be alone with yourself and if you truly like the company you keep in the empty moments.

 

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More Than Enough

MoreThanEnough_md

Inspired by a poem my friend Llora recently wrote on her new adventure: A Poem A Day http://lhkontheroad.blogspot.com/ I decided to write this:

More Than Enough

Just what is happiness?
Today, I think that it is:
eating a warm blueberry muffin that I just baked
and making a pot of chili for 15 friends,
that we’ll be eating during our sangha campout
on the Flathead Lake this coming weekend.

The orange glow of the mountain ash berries,
glistening on the tree in my front yard.

Taking a nap,
drinking cold water,
listening to the soft chattering of my backyard chickens,
great music,
and the practice of sitting meditation.

Wet grass on my bare feet
and waiting for the sprinkler to rotate
before heading to empty the compost bucket.

Feeling the sun on my skin.

And there’s more.
So much more.
But this is plenty.
It’s more than enough.

Here’s Llora’s poem:

All I Want 

Just what is happiness?
Today, I think that it is:
really good pizza
comfortable shoes and finally
finding a bra I actually like.

Red bricks after the rain.

Seeing a friend in a unexpected place
and it not being 90 degrees.

The guy in the book store
letting me sit for an hour
lost in a book
and the girl at the counter
whose smile and chit chat
made me feel normal again.

Sand between my toes
and everything being made
whole again
by the sea.

Today, it’s all these things
and that will have to do
because that is plenty
for any life.

– Llora Kressmann