Everything Returns, But Not Always Alive

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The bloom on the rose didn’t last long;
Faded in a week, stem now barren,
Pedals scattered across the floor.

In early morning, faint tracks
Visible at dawn but erased by ten,
They told of an affair under full moon.

These words seem sad, dry, austere—
My dry skin like an old snake ready to molt,
Wanting to warm in the sun of spring.

Have you noticed how even boulders
Are dislodged after heavy rains—
Like love when it senses ambush.

My body ticks like an old grandfather clock,
Or a bomb waiting to explode in grief,
Spilling blood all over the sheets.

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When Sense of Self is Lost

dark woods
When at times I lose the sense of self,
Of who I really am or what my life’s about—
I tend to bite my lip, to strike my teeth
Against a hidden piece of tender flesh.
It’s like ship’s captain smashing ship
Against the cliff, wood breaking on hard rock.

The little bit of pain, and never deep for blood,
Seems to help, to wake me up,
Briefly as it is, still tongue comes to lash,
To sooth the little bit of hurt, forbearance for the fight.
The doubt that was curdled and given birth,
Comes as soon as the mind falls asleep.
Now I’m awake and water flows,
Wonder comes and all doubt  quickly goes.

Deep Calls to Deep

Deep calls to deep
There is a thread I sometimes see,
But only on turning around,
Glimpse where I have walked.
Perhaps no one else can see it,
Only me when eyes are closed
Blind in silent wordless prayer.

From my birth through grace,
Thread has never broken, though times,
Hard from grief, confusion,
Friendships and loves found and lost,
Decisions made, constant change
That never changes, now published
As scars upon my bones, chest and back.

I have walked upon bridges,
Felt them tremble in strong wind;
Kicked dessert sands upon Sahara dunes;
Stood atop tall mountain ranges;
Dived deeply in cold ocean currents;
Floated through ancient canyons;
Flown through clouds and prayed
When lightening struck so close
Skin tingled cold with fear.

Yet still red thread was always there,
Unseen and visible, providence of
God, blessed, protected, made whole
Through love and witnessed as I
Cut the cords of birth,
Found mysterious beauty in afterbirth,
Held the heads of those at door of death,
Washed their cold and naked bodies.

Underneath my feet are many people,
Country towns and great cities—
Streams and rivers of souls
Slowly winding toward one ocean.
Testify I do that both past and present
Hold unique, specific gravity—
Shared communion and unbreakable intimacy,
Joined in making love and
Being made love to in same action.

I’ve heard confessions of many,
Shared their suffering and streaming tears,
Painful stories now secrets in my mind,
Buried deep within as people are buried in
Rocky ground and creviced caves of mind,
Boxes that can be opened again and again.

I know such thing as consolation—
Sign not of weakness but of strength.
Promise awaits those whose identity is tied
Rigidly to memories not always clear,
Finding hope and release in new dimensions,
New narratives regarding pain, spacious rooms formed,
Told in present time using healing words,
Connected, released not by shedding history,
But freedom from selective stories of their lives.

Forever surprised, I marvel when
Intersecting threads are glimpsed,
Cross over my own, knots untied,
New knots formed to teach, reveals new energy,
New paths or ways to listen, understand,
Arrange stars into different constellations,
Thrilling, common universal aspirations,
Always a promise leading into
Deeper hope and peace.

 

One River, One Garden, Many Stars

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What if Moses, Jesus and Muhammad
Were all born in the same small village,
Shared the same star at birth.
Would they have grown up as friends?
Embraced their similar yet distinctive
Revelations, shared as friends
Around the fire at night?

Suppose their mothers
Drew water from the same well,
Shared stories of the village fool,
Traded recipes and herbs from gardens,
Complained about husbands,
Babysat the other’s children?

Three mystics, born in fullness of their time,
Gathered in one village,
Validating their common discoveries,
Respecting differences,
Refusing to fight or kill each other….
Swimming naked in the river,
Camping out under stars at night,
Praying alone in the wilderness,
Would they know they shared One God?

And what of the forms my own heart knows?
Can I be broad pasture
Where many wild creatures rest
Under the heat of the day—
The river where water is shared?
Can I embrace such Love
That I follow
Wherever Love’s camels go?

Moses, Jesus and Muhammad
Did not arrive at faith only through scholarship
But through adventure of seeking Truth,
Deep dreams and wordless prayer in the desert,
Wondering under the canopy of stars.
It took great courage to give
Their very lives in service of humanity.
Does God ask less of me?

Give Me Freedom

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I pray to be released
From every sense of confinement,
Confident that day will come,
Lift me away and out of myself.
No longer bound to ego, identity,
Memories of past or hopes for future.
Free me from all limitations of words,
Fears and even dreams of freedom.

Unlock my cage and dissolve all iron bars
That hold me firm upon the Earth.
Let me rise as warm air into cold night,
Drift into eternal Light that beckons,
Washes over Soul and cleanses all it touches.
It is not enough to hear the silence.
Allow me to embody Silence as a gift.

I need no reasons to prove, no necessary facts,
No inward road to follow. Let me rest in the place
Where everything waits in stillness, yet moves.
Warms but never burns. Creates, destroys,
Recreates to change a lasting chorus of joy.
Tears will freely flow until all pain
Has bled out of every artery and vein.

Let me be forgotten, unremembered….
And so to finally be at Peace,
Lulled to sleep yet also awakened
In that place where even Sun steps back a pace.
Held only in the Mind of God
I will finally wonderfully be absolved,
Dissolved, merged into only One.

Long Blue Shadows

 

long blue shadows

Dreams emerge in sleepy darkness,
Weave images, wordless messages,
Plain and clear yet hidden in deep mystery,
Only hinted as they erupt from depths
Sensed but impossible to know
Except as seen through dark glass,
Cobwebs, all unknown, unknowable
Yet seeking to be known,
Rising this first step to consciousness,
Retrieved, remembered, claimed,
Surprised as truth long resisted.

There, spilled out upon the sheets,
Unseen by eyes, testifies in private,
Joined in morning’s meadow of wonder
More than those who breathe or those
Deceased, without whom my life
Would not be as it is, stretched out,
Lost within haunted woods,
Fallen to the bottom of deep well,
Water from the spring forever flowing
Into long blue shadows of the night.

Louie Bowman Almost Killed Me

 

Louie Bowman

Years ago, a two year old
Runs outside after church,
Down steep steps to the sidewalk,
Trips, falls down and rolls and rolls
Down the embankment,
Out into the street
Just as a car is pulling up.

Louie Bowman is arriving to
Pick up his ailing Bessie.
He sees the young boy rolling down,
Red hair flying. as out into the street he comes,
Rolling right in path of his car.

Louie yanks hard on the steering wheel,
Pulling as hard as he can to the left.
But he feels the right front wheel
Hit something and he panics,
Braking the blue-green 1948 Ford
To full stop in the middle of the street.

He hears the boy screaming,
Adults running, and it takes
A few seconds for Louie
To process that a scream is good.
In order to scream, the boy
Must be alive! Praise God!
He wipes his brow and sobs.

The wheel of his car had only
Grazed the side of the head
Of the little boy named Freddie.
The boy will forever hold memories
Of rolling out into the street
And the rush of the car toward his head,
Vulnerable, helpless in front of the church.

It was only the first of many times
When Death swooped close to Fred,
But left empty handed. As an
Adult, he counts about ten.
Together, they form a web within the mind,
Surrounded and held by patterns
Only partly formed by things that never were.

Whose life is really their own?
Control an illusion, from the day
One is born till one breathes no more.
A child tumbles and rolls into the street,
Only a moment too slow to be killed,
Remembers the story seventy years later.

He counts on fingers the many times he
Could easily have died— car accidents,
Falls, near drowning, illness where he could have,
Should have died, odds objectively calculated at
More than 99.8% that he should have died—
Yet he lives and breathes and finds love, purpose,
Mission, determination from the whole of life.

What of your life? What is the shape of your Web?
Does it sparkle in mornings from dew?
Does it shimmer in the arch of years?
Where has it led you, vulnerable, lucky,
Disposed to exertions of will….
Spun by spider as agent of the Hand of God?
Strangely translucent, mysterious as prayer—
Do you notice each day of your life?

Everything we do belongs to a world
We have not created by ourselves,
Has its history before history
For better and worse. For millennia,
People have pondered such webs in the stars,
Seen omens, cast spells, studied
Visible and invisible webs we call destiny.

In ancient scripture,
God tells Moses for Israel to designate
Six cities of refuge “so that anyone
Who kills someone inadvertently
May flee there for sanctuary.”
Those who kill with weapons cannot live there.
Accidents were contemplated
With great deliberation by highest authorities.
Would Louie had lived in a city of refuge
Had I died at the age of two that Sunday?

Roads leading to cities of refuge were to be well marked,
Free of obstacles, wider than regular roads,
So those who have killed through hand of fate,
Unwittingly, might proceed without delay,
Not be alone with their regret or guilt….
Poor old Louie came close that day, as close
As the little red haired head to his wheel.

Was that one of the reasons Louie and I were friends—
Years later while I was in high school,
Invisible bonds from me to him and he toward me?
I only know we never spoke of it. I wish I’d gone
To thank him for my life, to express my gratitude,
Told him I would be okay now, he could relax.
Something terrible never happened.
And it deserved attention.