A New Poem

Morning comes in on bare feet,
lifts the sheet and peeks at me, smiles.
Says, don’t you want to get up?
The window is open
and I’ve heard the birds singing the dreams they had last night.
Pick up your head, she says. 
Don’t you want to step out from under the heavy night?
Today the sky might be bluer than ever before,
and breezes are already teasing.
And now it is still quiet
the floor is not too cold
and that is a kind of grace, like the pink tinge
on the edges of a new sky the color of cream,
like early breath
and new things,
like the birds in all the trees, 
singing their dreams. 

Many Years

Aahhh, I have so many things I want to write to you, thoughts and happenings and dreams. 

For now, here is a poem in progress. I read it at our town's spoken word evening and I'm still working on it, but here it is right now. 

Many Years

It has taken many years, my love,
Inhalation of spring, exhalation of bright
Leaves that scatter over mountains and dust along
Streets.
Or, a different sort of year:
One that starts with cold,
Then blankets the hills with smoke and heat and yellowing leaves
Fire necklaces on the mountains
Dragons winding their way up to find the hidden stars again,
And then rain
Water streaming from the sky, plunging, falling, washing, crying
over death until life comes again and everything is new
And steam rises from rice fields and we walk through wet air
Wiping it from our foreheads and chins, wading through a wet sky.

Anyway, you know what a year is, I don’t have to tell you.
At the time of this reading we have seen fourteen of them together,
All different sorts of them, leaping, falling, limping, tumbling.
The kind where cars break down and you can’t pay for it so you
sit on the side of the road for hours with your head in your hands
Or people yell. Or children go to the hospital, or the kind of year when there is
fire in the grasses, angry hedgehogs, furious cattle with bruises and scrapes.
And there are the beautiful years where the days fly so fast that you barely touch them
Before they’ve slipped away.

Years. It has taken many years, my love,
For me to know that love is not for perfection, 
Human perfection, anyway,
Because perfection is tight, smooth, too slippery to hold,
Too airy to caress, too overwhelming to approach. 
Love cannot permeate perfection’s marble surfaces.

No, love is for waiting, and dying, and crumbling.
Love is for reaching and breathing, and being out of breath.
Love is for genteel poverty, or true poverty, for picnics on train station floors.
For stumbling and running to catch up. Love is for clothes with holes,
For birthday presents that aren’t quite right.
Love is for bitten nails.
For forgotten anniversaries, pods of orcas, and the tiniest of geckos running along the ceiling

Love reveals, and love protects,
Love grows bigger and bigger, filling all the holes, 
Reaching the unlovable places, and expanding them,
Possessing them,
Lifting them.
Love is for old broken days in the hospital, 
And mornings when the sky is so blue you could tap it and it would ring like a bell

Love is for your eyes
And your hands.
And your mouth kissing mine.
For when you play the piano and the world is filled with golden light
For when the kids are getting along. 
Marriage is a greenhouse for love.
I remember a year that was so bad I wasn’t sure that I would get through it
And even then, with the world on fire,
And houses that bent and broke, loss, and the birds all quiet in their trees,

I knew that I would follow you anywhere.

Because our love is for
Your sleepless nights, my early mornings
The egg shape of my round belly, 
The five births you walked me through, the pools of milk,
The day we lost the tiniest of souls
It was for our youth and it is for gray hair, and it will be for our old and fragile bones,
When we will sail anywhere we want and live in our boat.
It is for asthma and high blood pressure
and that one time I got a dog when you were away and then you
Never let me forget it and pretended that you hated her when you
Actually secretly love her.
We swell with our love, each year we rise a little higher
Like lanterns in a river of light

And we might float away completely
If it wasn’t for sliding back to earth together to
find rivers and creek beds where the love can soak in.
And we find each other here, stunningly imperfect,
Sun-warm, arms and legs and faces touching,
Our greenhouse holding us, nurturing us, and stretching the greenest,
Lightest of limbs,
Into a sky so blue, you could tap it and it would ring like a bell.

A poem for my daughter

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how could I have known
when i pulled you to me--
shaky as i was with that last effort--
that i had given birth to such a friend.
we were strangers,
but immediately
your heart caught at all of me. and i was gone.

you have this way
of gazing off toward the sky
and the look on your face has 
the very same wedge of longing and joy
i often feel in my own heart,
when the evening blue slips over the sky
or a flock of birds rises
or the branches of a tree shudder with happiness.

i am growing older as we speak
my face surprising to me in the mirror
and you surprise me in a different way,
no more roundness to your cheeks
as your bones show us who you will be.
growth like a sudden crash,
an outburst of shouting,
that flock of birds.

strength, is what i want for you
my daughter,
and hands that race across your pages,
you the master of your land,
your thoughts, your paper.
and i think, as i come across you 
in the tree with your book again,
that you will have these things,
that i couldn't wish them for you any more
than they have been written for you,
in the heart of who you are.
 

(I read this poem at a spoken word evening in my town, and just after I read it, my friend Jay told me that she had taken a photo of the very look I talked about in my poem. So this photo comes from Jay.) 

a poem about the journey

peace


first, there was the mountain.

what a thing! to scale the sheer cliff of your own doubt

gravel lodged beneath your broken fingernails.

but. you mastered it, you stood, bruised and triumphant

knees bloodied by the sharp rocks of unbelief that you had to climb over.

you stood in faith, God all around you.

you drove your flag into the ground.

 

from the mountain top, you could see everything spread out before you

the whole world, the silver river threading it all together

the path was hidden by thick jungle, but you knew it was there

heading toward the sun, the distant hills

you saw flowering trees as if for the first time,

a new pounding in your heart. the urge to continue on, to run.

 

but at the bottom. the bottom. a different story

the path stretches out before you. you walk,

sticky face, old eyes, the air from the forest threatening

to close you in. the sudden flight of a flock of birds terrifies you in

the stillness. you can't see above the canopy.

for a few steps in front of you the path is clear. the rest is hidden.

the way seems closed

 

but you're not alone. the new presence lives under your skin.

and with every step you hear a clicking in your heart, feel an opening to light,

warm breath on you, the clear piece of blue sky visible through the tops of branches even

as you fight through thorns duck unforgiving branches.

God in you, the song that fills you and pulls you onward.

 

what is this? you think. the path goes on and on,

through forest, jungle, desert, as years peel off you like bark

sloughing from a tree. the song inside you so loud now,

it is part of your cells, you cannot stop moving, you must

walk as it tells you to go, but still. what is this?

you didn't know it would take so long to reach the hills,

to find the place where the sun meets the world.

maybe, you realize. maybe this is it.

 

one day you will get there, but now. here.

you walk. the music so strong in your veins it pounds the ground beneath your

feet, it stirs up old seeds, they come to life, they breathe and spring into

flowers in the places your feet have touched,

the warm breath around you stirs the forest alive, the sky comes to meet you

as you walk on, pieces of blue fitting inside you like parts of a puzzle,

and you feel peace that is beyond the journey, beyond understanding,

peace clearer than the sky filled with stars.

Jesus with you on the journey, Jesus somewhere on ahead.

this is it, you think. this is it.

 

A Poem about Motherhood

eight and a half years later

i can't say that i ever knew,
ever had the slightest fathoming
of the things i would find,
would understand
in a sweaty upper lip
a warm damp palm in mine
the eight eyes that follow me
trace me without really seeing me
only knowing me as the shell that
encloses, that webs and encases,
that lifts and cups and tamps:
mother.

my bending took form within and without me, in
that first eye opening, first gust of breath
in a hospital fragrant with death and life
i lost the entitlement i had.

i battled it, i really did. raged
because surely i would get my dazzle
in the sunlight. surely i was not now a servant
of tiny needs, the yawning gulf of desire
for food, for touch. walking the infinite hours
that should have been my sleep
covered with my own milk, waiting for
relief and then realizing that i was there
to give it.

fighting proved ineffective.

outnumbered and bent almost in half
i gave in to the bending
and straightened. i lost
and won. the stories that now make me
are curved like their cheeks, the lines of
their necks, the boats they make from paper
the origami creases, the dirty heels marking
me as they swing against my legs, the swirls
of crayon on the walls where there should be no
such thing, the hours sitting beside the toilet telling stories,
the food left in the bowls, all the coaxing
the sharp words, the sticks that are really swords, the climbing,
the jumping from high places, the naked soft limbs
in the water, the card games, the robots, the snakes
and dogs, the sheafs of paper dreams, the infinite mornings.

the infinite mornings.

i let them inside and they shaped me
i became fuzzy, rounded, looser, damper.
with force my new shape could not hold my old self,
the girl that i was
she would slip right through me,
i would lose her. but somehow,
--you know how this ends--
somehow stretched and matted,
glued and bent,
i have found her.

 

*

This is a blog poem, which means you got it off the cuff, spun right off of the shelf of my head, first thing in the morning with coffee and a pancake.

Happy Mother's Day, all. Especially to my mother.