You may have a half-dozen people around
your bed, visits in and out by clergy for your
soul, flowers, gentle music, easy words, tears
from your mourners,
and yet you are now anonymous. Really,
you've always, like so many of us, been
unknown, yet it never mattered when you
were young and healthy;
now, no one can go where you are, and you
can't explain it: frankly, you don't want to;
you don't want to take care of, soothe them,
you just want to be
left alone to finish your journey on your own,
finding your own, private way, peace, your
soul's identity. You're a little tired, maybe even
a little afraid. But
you believe, you know the Divine awaits,
and you're ready.
Bare from the bottom of your soul
the music of the spheres.
Speak then touch your toes.
The earth grumbles at your feet.
Smell the air all over.
Be responsible for one and all.
Notice the quiver in each nostril
Don't pretend you're having a ball.
Don't cast your eyes at another
or flop on the nearest seat.
Smile and say it's nature at play
and you're really extremely neat.
But singles respond differently.
One-on-one there's no escape.
Open or close the window
and blame the landscape.
Or take a breath and beat your chest
if nobody's around.
You've conquered the environment.
Big or little be your sound!
21 living lives
fall down in a few seconds
a bottomless black hole
the mourning hearts
of their families and friends
the sympathetic hearts
of human beings
and those empty hearts
of the mindless brainless unhuman beings
We walk among the sea oats
swaying on lake breeze
while curling waves
unfold at shore's edge.
Gulls swoop and glide
in aerial outlook for fish
streaming below waterline
framed by cloudless horizon.
Here among transient grass
rooted to drifted sand,
apex sun drowns human failure
and unfulfilled dreams.
What abides with limited breath
will one day yield to earth but not
under Argus-eyed feet and our need
to bulletproof this beauty.
It's devoid of warmth
and sweet murmurings.
I tiptoe to my children's rooms,
not that they've disappeared
after I sent them to bed last night,
but to feel their calm and peaceful dreams,
their evenly paced heartbeats
and breathing, soft and content.
Sitting alone with my coffee cup,
I watch the birds
stir out of the bushes.
Sun rises earlier now.
Soon, the music of the day starts playing,
I dance to its tune
maneuver through the traffic that you avoid.
Not me, I am alive in the midst of this noise,
the pulsing blood that flows violently
pushing blockades of unmentionable obstacles,
I take them all on.
Somewhere, in a place I've never been
yet now very familiar, thousands of miles away,
the quiet that dominates their streets
after days and weeks of bombardment
scares me more.
There are no children
sleeping calmly in their rooms,
even the rats
scurried out of basements,
bodies lying on streets undisturbed
(not to give them peace, but taken away.)
In the back of my head, I wish
that their sunrise will take its time
to allow for a breath or two to settle
to muster some strength to face
what morning light reveals.
"... Moscow claims those are staged..."
I expected that.
It frightens me most that you believe it.
I'd forgotten this mirror
released so much so past
but now I remember then
when I leaned my face
against its other me
felt the smooth coolness
and cheekily asked you
to join us for lunch
you tasted me so cautiously
and I'll long remember this
this now when I clear away
the dust and cobwebs
see an older self with you
standing reflected behind me
reaching to stroke my bare nape
as I reach back reflexively
to stroke your wrist and arm
I feel only the smooth coldness
(after an untitled self-portrait
while seated before a mirror,
by Francesca Woodman)
In your garden, getting lost
in lilac coneflowers, mingling
with the bees and hummers,
your grin another bloom.
I move out of the wilderness,
tall as a sunflower, turn to talk
to a stranger veiled with fear,
the pandemic always near.
I ache to see lipstick and balm,
teeth smooth, white, chipped,
stained, or even gapped,
a nose Roman or crooked.
I yearn for a bouquet of expression,
see smiles not hidden by cloth.
A native plant of spontaneous
laughter, growing in public soil.
[Previously published in Friends
Journal (March 1, 2021) and
Your Daily Poem (May 10, 2021)]
Ah, Guilt, you bit my ankle like a stray cat
so I could not ignore your hissing.
I thought I was generous, handing out
Clementines to the homeless
on a hot Chicago day.
A man in a wheelchair accepted the fruit,
pointed to his swollen leg,
told me he'd just been released
from the hospital, but couldn't afford
to fill his prescription. I said,
I don't have any cash, and passed on by
as his eyes clouded and his chin fell to his chest.
Guilt, you nipped at my ankles as I kept walking.
You asked why I didn't offer to go with him
to the pharmacy where I could pay
with my credit card. I wanted to kick you away,
Guilt, but you kept harassing me.
The man was no longer on that corner
when I returned hours later,
but you kept meowing and scratching
until I picked you up, stroked you,
and welcomed you into my cold heart.
I made you my own, told you to hiss in my ear
and pounce on my indifference
if something like that happens again.
(First published in Voices on the Wind)
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