Turning 41-years-old

This body –
my body –
of flesh, bones, organs,
a forever pumping heart and breathing lungs,
turns 41-years-old today.

I wonder if my mom and my dad,
each in their own separate states,
will travel back in time today,
thinking back to the day I was born.
Will they will reflect on what it means
to be the parent of a 41-year-old woman,
self-possessed, dwelling in the mountains
so many hundreds of miles away
from the land of her raising?

This day is not in celebration of me,
as though I were self-created,
self-propelled, self-contained.
Today I want to elevate my heart
in celebration not of me but of my parents;
my grandparents; my ancestors, blood and land;
my tribe of people near and far, past and present;
the wealth of resources and privileges
I’ve been so richly and generously afforded.

Did I mention I am filled to over-flowing with gratitude?
Did I mention that I try my very best
not to take it all for granted?

Have I mentioned that each day
when I rise, I form a smile of love
on my lips for the sheer joy
that comes from waking?

Fish, Birds, Fragrance, Goodness

When I think of rivers,
I think soon after of fish.
And if someone were to ask me
what kind I’d say trout.

When I think of the sky,
I think first of sun
then of moon
then of clouds
then of birds.
And if someone were to ask me
what kind I’d say crows,
my most beloved and favorite.

When I think of trees,
I flash straight away
to a great assembly of them,
a great choir of them
spanning acres and acres of land
in their brown and green attire,
rich with fragrance and teachings.
And if someone were to ask me
what kind I’d say pine.

When I think of people –
us collectively as a tribe of humans –
I think first and foremost of goodness,
and how each of us are showing up
the best way we know how.

Origin Story (a poem)

Origin Story

This is me,
soon to turn 41-years-old,
just starting to properly familiarize myself with history
and educate myself on such matters as
how the heck did we get here as a nation?

I don’t mind telling you
it’s brutal as hell.

I don’t mind telling you
there’s part of me that is
wishing I had not opened
this door to our past.

I don’t mind telling you
to buckle up
to expect a different me
than you’re accustomed
in the wake of my learning.

My life is made
on the backs of Native Americans
African slaves
indentured servants
those who were painfully poor
immigrants looking for a better life
for their children.

Eyes that let in the light
can no longer feast on
the same darkness they once relied.

A heart no longer saturated
in its own will alone
pumps the blood of all those
whose lives were taken.

 

 

Shades of Silence

There are different
and many kinds
of silence.

Some silence is like a fence
separating one thing from another thing –
and sometimes that thing is mere
possession of a fallow field
unintended for anything other
than ownership.

There are punishing silences,
liberating silences,
silences like a warm bed to fall into
at the end of a cold day.

Sunrise silence,
penetrating right into the heart of things.

Library silence,
enforced but pleasant.

Radio silence,
an indicator that something has gone wrong.

Sleeping baby silence,
a gift we give to someone else.

Weakening silence,
where a voice is stifled
by power over.

Preservation silence,
where a voice is snuffed out
by fear.

Don’t rock the boat silence,
a learned behavior over years
of lessening.

Swan Song silence,
the kind that marks the final
end of something.

Poetry silence,
the kind that lingers
long after the poem is done.

The Gift of Vision

pic I took last week at the Mission Lookout Tower in Swan Lake, Montana

This is me
at 5:28am on a Thursday,
gazing affectionately
at the morning sky,
and the pinks it’s dancing wide
on the horizon.

This is me
chewing on the gift
of having vision
and what it means to see.

This is me
casting a smooth round stone of gratitude
into the pool of today,
watching as the echo of my quiet joy
ripples out in all directions,
above and below.

Poem of Sunday Morning

In honor and ending celebration of National Poetry Month here in the U.S, a poem I penned just this morning:

On Sunday morning,
during a time when pre-covid
I would’ve been gleefully
lounging about intentionally doing nothing,
I took to my vehicular steed
and made my way slowly down
Johnson Street
en route to fetch groceries
ahead of the masses at the market.

Near 7th Ave,
I came upon a bird in the road.
When I drew closer,
the nondescript winged being
turned into a handsome mallard duck,
with green plumage shining
famously in the 7am sun.

I came to a stop,
as he clearly was both
not in a hurry to cross
nor was he bothered in the slightest
by my 4-tired presence.
And for the quick shutter flash
of a hot second, I was bothered
by this obstruction to my
privileged right of way passage.

Then, I thought better
and declared joyously:
“And why shouldn’t I stop
for this grand creature?!
He is on royal parade
and I am fortunate enough
to be his only witness.
Oh happy day,
that I should be afforded
such riches as this sighting!”

Once he was out of my harm’s way,
I carried on to the store,
where I loaded up my cart
with masked face such luxuries as
butternut squash, basil, lasagna noodles,
and a sweet pastry to gift my dear husband
when he woke.

On my way back home,
I thought nothing of the mallard
when passing by the spot
we crossed paths
just 20-minutes before.

Still, he nestled into my heart’s memory,
where I will cherish him
until the end of my blessed days.

 

Poem by Billy Collins

Aimless Love
by Billy Collins

This morning as I walked along the lake shore,
I fell in love with a wren
and later in the day with a mouse
the cat had dropped under the dining room table.

In the shadows of an autumn evening,
I fell for a seamstress
still at her machine in the tailor’s window,
and later for a bowl of broth,
steam rising like smoke from a naval battle.

This is the best kind of love, I thought,
without recompense, without gifts,
or unkind words, without suspicion,
or silence on the telephone.

The love of the chestnut,
the jazz cap and one hand on the wheel.

No lust, no slam of the door—
the love of the miniature orange tree,
the clean white shirt, the hot evening shower,
the highway that cuts across Florida.

No waiting, no huffiness, or rancor—
just a twinge every now and then

for the wren who had built her nest
on a low branch overhanging the water
and for the dead mouse,
still dressed in its light brown suit.

But my heart is always propped up
in a field on its tripod,
ready for the next arrow.

After I carried the mouse by the tail
to a pile of leaves in the woods,
I found myself standing at the bathroom sink
gazing down affectionately at the soap,

so patient and soluble,
so at home in its pale green soap dish.
I could feel myself falling again
as I felt its turning in my wet hands
and caught the scent of lavender and stone.

 

Perhaps now more than ever, turning to poetry is one of the very best things we can do to help nourish and restore our love for humanity and the preciousness of life.

It was only just last night that a friend of mine turned me onto the poet Billy Collins. This is the first poem I found of his online and I loved it so much, I immediately went onto Amazon and ordered a book of his poetry.

Good news: while certain items are sold out at our local stores and online, poetry books are still in rich supply! :)

 

Please Don’t Wait

Please, Don’t Wait

Dearest of friends,
sweet acquaintances,
kind strangers,
people I will never meet or know:
Please, don’t wait.

Don’t wait for the “right” moment
(whatever that flippin means)
to be caring and kind and full of splendor.

Don’t wait for someone to give
you approval for who you are
in this magnificent and heartbreaking world.

Don’t wait for all the stars to align
before you make good on the promise
to live a good life.

Don’t wait to do the thing,
whatever the thing is.

Don’t wait to tell that gal or dude
that you’re wild about them,
even – and especially – if you’ve
been partnered with that gal or dude
for hundreds of years.

Don’t wait to roll up on a crowd
of gathered people and extend your heart,
like an open palm waiting to be filled
with something you never want to let go of.

Don’t wait to move in the direction
of a calling only you can hear and feel.

Don’t wait to start.

Waiting is death
to possibility.

To wait is to die:
tomorrow, next year, decades down the line,
still waiting.

– a poem, penned by me, just now

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.