Back in 1997, I self-published a book of poetry called The King’s Gift: Poems and Parables. It contained this one that I titled “Change”:
In autumn, the trees start to sing once again
of the bittersweet mystery of change. Is it beauty or pain now attached to my soul? Is it grief… …or relief… …or nostalgia? In the scarlet and gold, the blood-red of life’s hold on my heart and the warmth of its love mingles memories and years into afternoon tears falling softly …as leaves… …to the ground.
I feel this way every fall. The change in light makes everything seem altered and thrown back into the past — until my eyes adjust and my brain catches up. Then the brilliance of the season kicks in. I really love Fall for its ability to draw out a range of emotion and hold it, fully aware and unashamed, in its transient environment.
This post was written for The Be Zine which is dedicating its April issue to International Poetry Month. As a Contributing Editor, I am honored to be able to join with truly accomplished poets in celebrating Poetry, but I am well aware that my skills do not match those of my colleagues! Treat yourself to some truly substantial fare by visiting the magazine here.
My favorite poetry is philosophy dressed in dreaming, not logic. It imagines a larger reality, a more expansive love. Rilke is the gold standard, I think. Oh, but that is the pièce de résistance, and there’s so much more besides that. I am a poem consumer, not a gourmet chef. I know very little of form or craft, but I love to taste and participate. So I’ve written a love poem to my late husband because, well, you might as well start with breakfast.
Thick, boyish lashes fringe Other eyes, perhaps as blue, Open, tender toward Beloved
Still smiling youths may offer Eager grins, warm confidence Gleaming ‘neath soft whiskered lips
Clear voices might ring Thrilling, gentle as yours when
You sang at daybreak just for me
Surely now first loves make vows, Grow mature together, devotion’s Friendly joy becoming solid strength
Fathers must bend heart and arm Wrap manhood’s grace boldly around Each golden, blessed child – like you
No doubt live sorrowing pairs With looming loss, still holding, Fingers trembling, to brave last words
I cannot boast an only, greatest grief; I know this storied world is vast. But still I weep in fond belief That you and I loved first and last.
When I was a little girl, my father read to me from E.B. White’s story “The Trumpet of the Swan”. I was 8 years old when that book was published, and I can imagine my father buying it to read to me and my 3 older sisters with his own great curiosity about that remarkable writer neatly disguised as paternal generosity. I had a fascination with the part where the young swan stays at the Ritz Carlton in Boston and eats watercress sandwiches provided by room service, probably in part because I was born in Massachusetts. We had moved to the Midwest when I was 4 years old. When I was 14, we moved to California. When I was 29 and had 4 kids of my own, I moved back to Illinois. Five years ago, I moved up to Wisconsin. In the north woods, and the edge of designated Wilderness, I saw my first wild swans in the half light of evening as I was setting up camp with Steve. I thought of Louis the swan and of finding your true wild voice. I heard the deep silence of that Place and felt the tender understanding of my father, who loved the outdoors. I stood on the soft, summer pine forest floor and took these pictures. To me, the world is poetry – in moment and memory.
This piece is featured in this month’s issue of the BeZine. For a link to the complete issue, click here.
The hero’s journey is a deeply challenging topic for an amateur writer and philosopher. What a great invitation to read and research, to tie strands together and squint to see a pattern! Typically, I submit essays to this forum, as I am much more comfortable in prose. This time, however, I decided that an essay on this topic would be way too ambitious. What I have is Swiss cheese and spiderwebs, full of holes and only loosely connected, so I thought a poem would be more appropriate. However, I will preface this one with a bibliography. I began with the final chapter of Joseph Campbell’s The Hero With A Thousand Faces, where I read this:
“Today all of these mysteries [“the great pantomime of the sacred moon-king, the sacred sun-king, the hieratic, planetary state, and the symbolic festivals of the world-regulating spheres”] have lost their force; their symbols no longer interest our psyche. The notion of a cosmic law, which all existence serves and to which man himself must bend, has long since passed through the preliminary mystical stages represented in the old astrology, and is now simply accepted in mechanical terms as a matter of course. The descent of the Occidental science from the the heavens to the earth (from 17th century astronomy to 19th century biology), and their concentration today, at last, on man himself (in 20th century anthropology and psychology), mark the path of a prodigious transfer of the focal point of human wonder. Not the animal world, not the plant world, not the miracle of the spheres, but man himself is now the crucial mystery. Man is that alien presence with whom the force of egoism must come to terms, through whom the ego is to be reformed. Man, understood however not as “I” but as “Thou”: for the ideals and temporal institutions of no tribe, race, continent, social class, or century, can be the measure of the inexhaustible and multifariously wonderful divine existence that is the life in all of us.” (emphasis mine)
That reading led me to recall lectures I heard from Dave Foreman at the Wilderness 50 conference. His essay on “The Anthropocene and Ozymandius” can be found in several online posts. From there, I considered Nietzsche’s Übermensch from Also Sprach Zarathustra. And always underlying my thoughts is my admiration for Buddhist practice and The Middle Way. So, with all that as the primordial soup, this emerged:
Homo sapiens sapiens Oh most separate, separating Anthropocene anthropocentric The Egoid egotist Ozymandius, great Wizard of Man Eyes on screen Fingertips fiddling
Journey who will
That Über undertaking Condescend to transcend Dare to die in darkness, Awake in wilderness At one, atoned In mystic Middle
What color is humility? What color is Pope Francis? What color is poverty? What color is racial injustice? What color is responsibility? What color is Noam Chomsky? What color is Bernie Sanders? What color is exploitation? What color is extinction? What color is cowardice? What color is love? What color is peace? What color is Thich Nhat Hahn? What color is health? What color is despair? What color is the sky? What color is Earth? What color am I?
Take my hand.
We will walk.
We will only walk.
We will enjoy our walk
without thinking of arriving anywhere.
Our walk is a peace walk.
Our walk is a happiness walk.
Then we learn that there is no peace walk; that peace is the walk; that there is no happiness walk; that happiness is the walk. We walk for ourselves. We walk for everyone always hand in hand.
Walk and touch peace every moment.
Walk and touch happiness every moment.
Each step brings a fresh breeze.
Each step makes a flower bloom under our feet.
Kiss the Earth with your feet.
Print on Earth your love and happiness.
Earth will be safe
when we feel in us enough safety.
Print on Earth your love and happiness. On the land, on the water, for yourselves, for your children. Peace is the walk.
Each separate tune a secret speech upon Creation’s ear,
an intimate awakening of love. What expression can I give you
to welcome your affection,
to place myself within your waiting arms?
The murmur of my scattered dreams,
the sigh of lonely longing,
a wish for lasting closeness on my lips.
Hear in my stuttering, open heart,
Oh, lover and companion,
the grateful, private music of the dawn.
Happy Earth Day (one day late) and Happy Poetry Month! I am also happy to report that I am now employed in my first environmental job – as the office manager for the Cedar Lakes Conservation Foundation. I feel very fortunate to be able to use my time and energy toward preserving habitat, safe-guarding watersheds from pollution, and halting development and building in Washington County, Wisconsin. It was Wisconsin senator Gaylord Nelson who founded Earth Day 45 years ago; the natural beauty of this state has been an inspiration to a number of prominent environmentalists: Aldo Leopold, John Muir and Sigurd Olson, to name just a few. I celebrate the spirit of the land and the people who love it, and I invite you to join in! Write me a comment and let me know how you spent Earth Day!