Pack Nothing

Not even my laptop or photo albums?

What about insurance policies,

the earrings my sweetheart gave me?

One pair in your ears.

If I go with just the clothes on my back,

which outfit should I choose?

Shoes you can run in.

My books?

Start memorizing poems now.

Learn how to tell a story.

If you trust the prayer

in breath and heartbeat,

you can travel light.

All Things Sing You

yellow roses climbing up archHuman ears hear

the chittering of squirrels

and the here I am coos

of the mated mourning doves,

the breeze playing

in redwood boughs,

bamboo fronds,

and ponderous birds of paradise,

each tree as distinct

in the fingers of the wind

as instruments in an orchestra.

But could I ever learn to hear

the spit spat spurt

of asparagus cells eating sunlight

or slow my vision to catch

those green spears soaring to the sky?

Ordain my senses

that I may eavesdrop

on the love song

of the vine to the rosebuds

and the petals’ pleasure-soaked sighs

as they unfurl their delicate curves.

May I too sing You

ten thousand ways

in the ebb and flow

of silence.

Title from Rilke’s Book of Hours, 1,45

The Womb of Winter

Snowy scene
Photo courtesy of Quin Johnson

Hidden in the earth

a seed waits, drinking darkness.

Conceived on a summer day

when the sun suckled the earth,

fruit of wanton flowers frolicking

with passionate, hungry bees,

a seed in the womb of winter

might feel lost and forgotten.

But no,

the earth is not a grave;

it is your swaddling clothes.

Trust in the darkness,

trust in your quiescent potential

that holds all in its nothingness.

Spring will come,

and the light of lengthening days

will coax the glory of God

from the seedpod

and beckon you to itself.

For the Lifetime of a Minute

Sunrise over the beach
When dawn approaches
on this January day,
sky flaunts willful, windborne
clouds. They resist the usual
palette – all but shades of gray.
 
At my window I return
to coffee and notebook,
like a fisherman intent
on what hides in the sea.
Hearts beat,
his and mine and the fishes,
and the rhythm
of unwritten poems.
 
Then, for a minute,
sky accepts the brush
of dawn.
While fish and poems
swim in secret places,
a hint of color snags
me at my desk,
the fisherman on the beach.
For a minute
between slate and silver,
we look up.
The sky is washed
pale pink,
and this is all
we need.

Title from “Revelation” by Jenny George

What Cannot Be Defied

sunlight pouring into the inner chamber of Newgrange

Apples ripened and acorns fell early,

confusing madcap squirrels.

Girls wore sundresses in November,

and the pedicurist polished

toes to peep out of sandals.

Where were the umbrellas and wool sweaters?

Our customary summer drought

lingered past its welcome;

even the rosemary and echevaria thirsted.

But beyond our fevered planet’s ripped cocoon,

the stars still proceed in their stately course.

We may defy gravity,

but the law itself remains unbroken.

Our earth continues to orbit the sun

at the same tilt,

and the days grow shorter.

At dawn on the winter solstice

sunlight will pour down the ancient stone passage

just as it did five thousand years ago.

Oh, praise the light that is beyond our reach!

Thanksgiving at Dawn

For the pace of the sun

and the gentle way

light returns to us each day.

For my eyes that see

shades of white and blue,

notice when specters become

guava tree and bamboo.

 

Now leaves that were black in the night

turn olive, sage, and seaweed green,

and for a moment

light tickles the cloud’s belly pink.

 

For the cup of silence

that holds this witness

to what never fails

but might be missed –

everyday magic.

The Drum of a Day

All we have is the heartbeat

played on the drum of this day.

We are the hands on the skin,

and this hollow space

that swells with the rising sun,

pregnant with possibility.

Here resonates the call

to work and play and —

thrumming within each beat —

the sun’s farewell,

the night into which we naked return.

 

(Title from a poem by Antal, an 8th-century poet and the only woman among the Twelve Alvars of  South Indian Vishnu worship)

The Place That Shelters

desk and garden in retreat room at New Camaldoli

A bumblebee buzzes under the eave

as I take a sip from my coffee cup.

Though the sun has yet to peep

over the mountaintop,

light is seeping into the world.

All is still

except for the bee and me.

Jasmine and juniper,

salvia and fig tree,

even chipmunks and quail

wait in silence.

All is still 

but the bee and me

and the rolling restless sea.

Soon, soon

stirrings will burst

into full-throated blessing,

the rest and prayer

of this longed-for retreat day,

but in this moment

we perch on the threshold

and see,

   as guests at the feast would,

   the bee and me seeking and sipping,

   creatures alike in our need,

that this day will be good,

yes, very good indeed.

California coast from New Camaldoli

Solstice Fire

Long days and sultry nights

leach all reason

from my sleep-starved

flesh-enmeshed spirit

drunk on light and heat

then hungover

and with me a whole hemisphere

besotted and whirling.

Here at the edge of the sea 

the fog will float in soon 

and for all of us eventually

the soft quilt of darkness

but today and always

the cave of your heart

is lit with God-fire.

Feel it flow

through your veins.

Burn —

as only you know how.

Inspired by Linda Serrato’s poem “On This Morning” in Sacred Stone,  Sacred Water: Women Writers & Artists Encounter Ireland.