Floral Designs

Photo courtesy of Maggie Muir

I would give my all

to this one and only blooming,

every cell attentive

to soil and sunshine

in my sweet suckling

desire for water and light.

Perfume and pigment to petal, please,

then welcome, hummingbird,

butterfly, and bee

to my prodigal promiscuity.

Pollen to pistil,

let us give and take our fill

as if night will never fall

or winter ever come.

What Do You Hear?

What do you hear, Mary Camille?

On this first morning of the Labor Day weekend

I hear the roll of tires on asphalt

even through my double-paned windows.

I hear the mourning dove’s coo,

here I am, and where are you?

I hear the rumble of the espresso machine

like a locomotive grinding up a mountain grade

and the hiss of the frother,

spoon clinking against cup.

I hear the thump of squirrel paws

landing on the roof

and a rustling of privet leaves

on the limb he just leapt from.

I hear the silence

in a city without electricity,

the gurgle of receding floodwaters,

the last, labored rasp of the old woman

in the convalescent home.

I hear the clap and roar

of the departing helicopter,

the moans of those left behind,

barely make out the whisper

of a knife pulled from its sheath.

I hear the startled cry of the child

when another aftershock shakes her world,

the creak and clatter of shifting rubble,

the crinkle of plastic

as an empty water bottle is crunched

and tossed on a pile of trash.

I hear the crackle of wildfire

and roaring wind the fire itself creates,

the pop of exploding pinecones,

stamp of boots on earth,

a curse.

I hear the clackety clack

of the Giant Dipper gripping the track,

the cries of thrilled delight

when it crests the hill

and races gravity down.

I hear cheerful old tunes

on the antique organ

urging Looff’s painted ponies on

in their eternal loop,

the clatter of metal rings 

tossed towards the clown’s gaping mouth.

I hear gulls and waves breaking,

sand lapping seawater,

the ocean’s own merry-go-round.

I hear the surf

like the heartbeat of the earth

I hear the surf.

Inspired by the poet’s question to himself, “What do you hear Walt Whitman?” in his poem “Salut au Monde!”

A Clanging Cymbal

The rumble and buzz of cars

that blots out birdsong

is but one bleating sound

in a constellation of noise,

a devil (if I believed in the devil)-

designed distraction from

the voice in the cave

of my heart

that I do believe in.

So, I will arise and go now,

and go to New Camaldoli

and there a cell of silence seek,

a shady seat beneath

the fruiting fig tree, and

            Mother Pacific,

            O Father Sky,

a view of blue further than I can see.

Drench me in Your breezy quietude

and remind me in the cooing of the dove

that I am nothing if I have not love.


With appreciation to St. Paul (1 Corinthians 13:1-3) and W.B. Yeats (The Lake Isle of Innisfree)

A collage of sunbeams streaming into the sanctuary at New Camaldoli, a bench on  a cliff overlooking the ocean, and a garden


What Will Save Us

Drawing by Sarojani Rohan

We’re all in this together,

looking for the songs to sing

that will hold the world together.

We might look to the soldier or scientist

to save us,

but the hero sits in silence before dawn,

looks out the window at the moon

slender and radiant in her old age,

and listens,

listens below ticking clock

and hooting owl,

listens beyond the whisper of candle flame

and the tinkle from the bells

the ants wear round their feet.

Deep in the earth,

deep in the cave of her heart,

angels sing,

and the poet transcribes.

Originally published in Second Wind: Words & Art of Hope & Resilience.

The Nobility of Quiet

Turn off the TV

and silence your phone.

Outside your window

soft rain shimmers

like a silver veil.

Listen to its serenade,

drops hitting leaves,

splashing into the birdbath.

Then attune your ears

to the silence under

this murmur and patter.

What do you hear?

The Lord of the Dance

calling to you,

ephphatha!

Be opened!

 

After reading Mark 7:32-34. Title from “The Winter Apple” by David Whyte. Just published in my parish newsletter, Holy Cross Community Voices.

The River That Mines the Silence of Stone

Image courtesy of Sarojani Rohan

 

After the light

beams into the inner chamber

 

on the shortest day,

after the souls of the dead have departed,

 

silence fills the hollow space

like the beat of the drum just did.

 

The underland will feed it

like a candle perpetually snuffed,

 

scent of melted wax and burnt wick

in the dark.

 

Above, nights pass

and days come

 

in the temple of time

that makes equals of us all.

 

The earth blooms into spring,

flowers and fruits through summer,

 

and releases once more into fall.

On that first winter day,

 

when the priestess returns

before dawn,

 

lint and tinder in her pouch,

but guided by memory and touch,

 

this is what she hears:

the silence of stone.

 

No words, no message,

just the time-nourished silence.

 

Rebirth is the gift of the deep,

to return as servant once more –

 

lover and light-bearer,

priestess and poet reborn.

 

Title from Rilke’s Book of Hours, I,16

 

At Newgrange August 2019

Second Wind

What gets you through adversity? Last spring my friends Kate Aver Avraham and Melody Culver decided to answer that question by gathering diverse voices to share prose, poetry and art that speaks of how we get through 2020, make the most of our changed lives, and move toward a meaningful future. The resulting book, Second Wind, has just been published, and I’m honored that it includes a few of my poems, including this one I began my blog  with five years ago. As we face a pandemic and a divided nation, I look forward to finding hope and resilience in this lovely book.

Copies of Second Wind are available at Bookshop Santa Cruz and on Amazon, and all sale profits will go to the Santa Cruz County Community Foundation Covid-19 Relief Fund.


A Map to the Kingdom

Let me draw myself a map

out of the world of scarcity

into the kingdom

where everyone has enough.

The map I’m talking about

requires a subtle yet revolutionary algorithm

to rewrite the neuronal pathways of my brain.

Let my ears hear the soft call to prayer

from the cave of my heart

instead of the 21st-century symphonic blast

begging me to worship at the altar of the mall

and buy more apps for my iPhone.

The promise of productivity

and the buzz of news and games

want to trick me into believing

they can fill me up and give me purpose.

But no.

Rewire the neurons.

Let me rejoice in the gift of each moment

instead of fretting about what I don’t have time for.

Then I can find the cartographers

who will collaborate with me

in mapping our way to the kingdom of enough.

In that place time is the currency,

and communion is all we want to buy.

What does the kingdom look like? This week I had a chance to share my reflections on the parable of the ten virgins with Deacon Joe DePage of Holy Cross Church.

I Drip Out Slowly

What essence remains in the dry grass

when it gives itself to the fire?

A single blade

before the flame

has no say.


I see You, Beloved,

in the green

at the tip of the redwood bough,

in the yellow roses

climbing up the garden arch,

but could it also be You

carving the fine lines into my face

that will deepen into wrinkles,

drawing the color from my hair?

My own aging is the flame

and You the all-consuming fire.


Title from a poem by Lal Ded, a 14th century woman mystic from Kashmir

I Am

This is how Foothill faculty and staff describe academic year 2019-20

On the Friday before fall classes start at Foothill College faculty and staff come together for “Opening Day” to prepare for the new academic year. This year a panel of student leaders became our teachers and offered us a two-hour training on equity, focusing on implicit bias, privilege, and racism in higher education, including at Foothill. For our last activity at the end of the session we were invited to write a poem in which each line begins with the words “I am” to help us see our diversity and our unity.

I was almost too heartbroken by the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg to share this poem, but the students who asked us to “Listen, Learn, and Level Up” inspire me to live up to RBG’s legacy and work for a just and democratic society. Please take ten minutes to write your own I Am poem and share it in the comments.

I Am

I am a woman with no children

   learning to mother others.

I am a librarian

   learning to read

   myself and the world

   in a new way.

I am a seeker

   learning how to listen.

I am a human

   learning how to be a better creature

   on this planet.

I am grateful to be

   on this clear and sunny morning

part of the Foothill family.