Tag Archives: coming to terms

Making Returns

I’ve been sick with the whisky of sorrow
Drowning in draughts of deep grief
Delirious, intoxicated by the excitement of chaos
Shame the thick tenebrous brew that I drink

I have chosen isolation, drunk from such loneliness
The sharp scent of silence staining my breath
Tending a pantry of long bottled secrets
Despair, and terror, and regret

Here are the hops of hope, all drained dry
The jinn of constant crisis and its tonics on recall
Cocktails of confusion and forbidden joy
And of the cider of solace, not much left at all

Here are my chilled kegs of childhood memories
Just the hurtful ones … I want a refund if I can
And the traits on tap I formed to survive these
If nothing else, please take them off my hands

I want the light stuff, it never goes bad
Something soothing and gentle to calm me inside
The soft touch of wholeness to shelter all that I have
The spring thaw of winter to bring me alive

For the past and its memories, there are no returns
And though life has its trials, no one keeps score
The freedom you long for isn’t something to earn
Learn to trust that with patients, you’ll live more and more

We’ll trade for your hatred, your blame and your rage
Deep peace and acceptance, forgiveness comes slow
And gently replace the twinned silence and shame
With the seeds of compassion, that with you will grow

Your need for pain, your constant clinging in fear
You now can safely leave behind
Hope shines centered in the stillness here
Gathered together, it’s love that we find

Remember, grief cannot be exchanged
Without the tears cried, it’s joy that you’ll lack
And please be mindful when making each change
Of the old and familiar, so you don’t choose it back

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Hill of Tara Part 1, Ireland, 2015

I step off the large tour bus. Mom, very tired, stands to my left. In front of us the hill of Tara rises, and even closer than that, clumps of tourists, families and groups of friends, mill about. We are an odd blending of strangers and companions, all with stories of our own, dropped here from around the world to visit, for all our myriad of reasons, a part of our heritage.

It is a beautiful summer afternoon, the sun shines radiant but unobtrusively through the clear, blue sky, its rays dancing a compromise on the cool breeze, as if seeking, in midfall, to defer deferentially to already ensconced patches of shade.

A cacophony of conversation drifts up the hill over endless neatly mowed grass. Grass? At Tara? When did this happen? The question intrudes on my thoughts and I’m not sure who it’s from. All I know is that, when I was here before long ago, the place was mostly dirt, and grass in the form of neatly kept lawn was conspicuously absent.

To see the place once more, but without eyes, haunts me, taunts me with visions which will remain unconfirmed, cheating me out of an intimacy I once shared. I can walk but cannot trace the contours of the landscape with my eyes, and for a moment I am grief stricken, like someone who can behold but never touch the one she loves.

The metal gate would have been absent of course. so would the bus that dwarfed the distances I might have once traveled by foot. Would I recognize those footpaths now, or would they be permanently lost to me, covered over by time and transformation, deforestation, and fresh green grass? I have little time to ponder, for now the woman with the calm, high voice who will be our guide for the next hour issues us through the gate and we begin our ascent.

Part of me recognizes what I am doing as quite normal and routine, exactly the kind of sequence of events that occurs during a mass tour of an ancient site. And we had had no choice about the large tour group, either. Our trip to Tara is part of a larger tour of the Boinne Valley, including Newgrange, which we visited earlier. The neolithic stones are only accessible through booking a tour with the visitor’s center. What else might I have expected?

The answer comes unbidden to me, unannounced, almost a surprise. For we entered Tara without challenge or ordeal, no statements of pedigree, degree and right, status or reason for business. And I remembered, from somewhere deep within, how such a display of worthiness was required if a person wished to even remotely be considered for the welcoming. And here we are, without trial or travail. My surprise, I realize, is not at the details of the memory, but my unnerving feeling of culture shock.

And “Now watch your step,” warns our vigilant tour guide, in a tone of voice that conveys her desire to avoid a repeat of some prior mishap. “The grass is slippery and wet, and the ground is uneven.”

Of course it is, I think to myself. The first thing I notice, with a pang of sadness, is the absence of the great wall. The open grassland unsettles me, any trace of a protective embrace now long since eroded away. We walk past two stones, which our guide explains are all that remain of an ancient rite of kingship. It was said that these stones were placed a specific distance apart, and that a potential king would only be allowed onto further initiations if he could drive a chariot between the stones without touching them. I felt the two stones, the aspiring king would have had to be very skilled indeed to accomplish the challenge.

I am grateful when mom is too tired to walk with the rest of the group, and we fall behind. I need distance, and badly. Besides our feet upon the now grassy earth and the birds chattering in sporadic song, the occasional caught phrase from a fellow tourist up ahead, the wind whispering its opinion now and again in low, hushed tones – the place is silent, silent.

No one lives here. No horses whinny impatiently in a stable, no king’s servants hurry by with provisions, wash buckets, hay bundles, or cooking pots. No last minute commotion to repair a building. No children hollering and playing in the dirt. No pits for fires, no conclaves of brehons, no bards with their harps, no druids preparing the ceremonies of Samhain. No shouts from the now absent walls. No buildings in fact, except for a church, constructed in 1822.

It’s a very interesting church, but while I am appreciating its existence and contribution to the long history of this place, I am left grappling with the elusive transience of uncertainty forged through the passage of time. Time and its remnants seem to emanate from this place from every age, from the stone age to the present, clambering for their own share of loyalty, of recognition, of honor. In the midst of the iconic passage tombs with their transparent mystery, the allure of the Christian era crossing the minds of those from the middle ages to modernity, casting its shadows over the past, Tara from the second century CE seems to have fallen into obscurity. To the hand or the eye mapping the surface, the time I walked this world as Mairin is almost forgotten, or else shrouded in the misunderstandings and messiness of myth.

We walk on. My feet take to the landscape almost effortlessly. True to our guide’s word, the ground is quite uneven and slippery. Mom stumbles, and instantly I catch her fall, perfectly poised on the ridge of a dip in the landscape. Farther on she trips again. Again, I compensate without thinking, immediately placing us solidly on the furrowed plane of the hill. “Don’t worry, this is what sighted guide is for,” I joke, grinning at her, “So that I can ensure you don’t lose your balance.”

We laugh. “You’re doing pretty well,” she admits and I wonder, should I tell her that I am fairly convinced that I know my way around?

I decide against it. Mom is pretty tired after all and I feel she might need a break from conversation: she’s been describing landscapes and standing stones to me all day. Besides, I don’t know where my brothers are, and if either of them overhear, I’ll be hard pressed for a decent explanation. In fact, I’ve yet to figure out an adequate explanation that satisfies myself, though I can feel myself teasing out the story from my bones, as if patiently completing a one thousand piece puzzle.

Just before we crest the top of the hill, it is plain to me that I do in fact have some sort of instinctual memory of the place. Toward the top is a very steep portion, and forgetting mom’s fatigue, I bound up the steep incline like a dear in the dark, slowing down only because I am still holding onto mom’s arm, and I can’t as well drag her with me.

I want, so badly want, to run, to race up the rest of the hill, then race down again, several times, until I’ve exhausted myself. But I don’t have Allegro or my cane with me, and I can’t run with a cane anyway, doing so is the equivalent of sprinting with a big stick, and that has other potentially hazardous consequences (usually for other people.)

So I do the next best thing, what I have always done when I long to be able to move gracefully in a world that doesn’t allow that without vision: I take a moment and imagine, in vivid sensory detail, what it would be like to move fast on my own. Then I let go of the desire. I’ve done all I can with it.

Mounds within mounds. Age packed onto age. Standing atop it all at the summit, where everyone with the eyes for it are looking out over three fourths of the whole country, history sings to me from far beyond who I was, far before who I am now. As I stand, the energy of this place captivates me, courses through me, a raw reverberation of remembrances. I am centered in their radiance. As if a tree, rooted, I pull up a current of change that seems to seap out of the ground through the soles of my shoes, traveling like sap through a tree trunk, until I am not sure where the soul of the land ends and my spirit begins. That is when I remember.

Demeter’s Fire

Six months old she is
When I begin gathering her in my arms,
To gently rock her
Within the flames.

I stand by her fiercely
Every night, with love,
Sweep away the ashes
Of the no longer needed.

With ardent joy I watch her change
As the outer shell dissolves,
Her eyes take on a charcoal grey
And raw and radiant, she burns to live.

Stop, stop! her mother cries
Tearing tears from raging eyes,
Her fervent passion rivals mine,
Equal, by the love with which we’re both defined

What are you doing to my child?
I am seeing to her being wild.
Bone deep the memories I set alight,
To the song of the soul I sing each night.

I do not deliver death on one so small,
The smallness itself is all that dies.
Who questions me, when there’s only love behind
what to you appears, at once, harsh and strange?

I, born of eternal light divine,
I lit the wisdom in the child’s eyes,
Set smoldering, her limits, to shine her light free,
Turned resilient and bright all she can be.

Do not tear her from my arms
As with Demeter of old,
Do not misunderstand
Healing in unfamiliar guise.

Do not be mistaken
By what you’ve been told.
Though tried, she will rise
Brilliant and bold.

I know, for I too am self-made
And could not help but recognize
My kindred, spark which can’t be tamed
Which as well within myself resides.

Let me hold her,
Until she knows her name,
Until trembling, leaping
Through a waking world, she flies,

And with our ones
Who stir the sleeping,
Though she’ll not see
Her world the same,

She’ll be as the sun
Is to the dreaming
Rekindling the hearths
No one thought would blaze again.

Then through this life, let me carry her,
These trials, triumphs to the wise.
There is no loss here undertaken,
She is opening her eyes.

When I Loved a Narcissist

Year 2012

Contester, protester, how long have you consented
To pop every culture you’ve yet comprehended?
Resentment runs rampant,
A betrayer’s dis-ease
Passionate anger, and the door locked it’s keys

When hegemony is a commodity
And when every senseless schemed dichotomy
Rends from us autonomy, tears our very selves in two
An unnecessary planned divide between the many and the few.

To either side of the wall on Wall Street
A battle’s being waged
Left there are mobs of the many raging
Right there, cannons crouch in waiting
Their makers, long gone, now congenially debating,
Insatiably their wealth displaying: Set apart, disengaged.

The statue of Liberty waves it’s arms, cold and rusted
For unkempt intruders always welcomed, then mistrusted
Borders have been marked and crossed, their origins now overlaid
The utility costs of livelihoods over human lives
Having long ago been sought, then weighed

I’ve heard your raging excuses countless times
Such unfairness in the world, the reason why you fall
Have you ever dared to look inside
To notice what dark things you hide, at all?

It’s all wrong outside you, while slowly you’re dying
Distancing, mistaking commitment for complying
Avoiding the turmoil that lingers inside you
You focus instead on the horrors around you

The truth, can’t you see, is not just lost out there
Denied it lies languishing within you, silent despair
Would you confront it head-on as you would global warming
Hardly, my dear, for what first would you start mourning?

A child who knew no love, no friendship, just terror
No wonder you run when I try to gather
You up in my arms. And always putting you first,
It’s a foreign thing that, so you’re fearing the worst

And though I try and try, and tell you that all that you are
Brought my spirit to life, lit inside out like a star
You can’t get too close lest you venture too far
Away from your wounds and the seeds of your scars

They rattle like bones and bleed through, become ours
And your silence is deafening and shouts every word
That you never once said, though you speak, and I’ve heard
Confusion collects then like mist near dark towers
Your imprint that glistens, shatters, lingers for hours.

There is so much grief, so much fear, so much hurt
And you force me to wear your pain like a shirt
How convenient for you to have a living mirror
In which to reflect how you’re never sincere.

Of course we are alienated, living when we do,
But within us we each have a light that shines through
You tried to take mine, but I’m leaving your dream,
Oh you who are lost in a long silent scream.

The Beauty In All Things

I look all around this world
For the beauty in all things:
It’s in your eyes,
It’s in the starlight in your hair,

It’s in the cries of children,
The murmurings of all that grows.
Sometimes it just breaks me to see so much anger, so much fear,
And the tears we cry over what people’s hands and minds have done.

Flowers do not know despair,
Sitting there so patiently
They never mind the waiting.
I am looking far away, struck by memories almost fading–

For what is left behind when we die, but how we’ll be remembered?
None of the trees, none of the seas, none of the green stands still,
Until pieces of the scars start to be beautiful, make sense,
Bright and radiant, even holding truth at our expense.

How change so suddenly engulfs us,
Forcing us to recognize dishonesty.
How change so suddenly enfolds us,
Transforming all we thought we’d be.

In time I know wounds will heal, mountains fading into sea,
Time smooths over what is real, while conquerors write its history.
In time the children crawl, then stand, to walk life’s mystery,
And I hope this time that I can find the beauty in all things.

Rarely is existence black and white,
As in betweens we have a power of our own:
To magnify the bruises,
Etch the outlines of scars,

Glint in the rain drops,
Shimmer with the echos through the sky,
And bless the dawn with light,
And draw out all the life in everyone.

Sometimes there is too much darkness,
And I don’t know what will become of us,
But as long as I am here, I’ll make sure I’m standing tall,
Taking in all, swaying when the wind blows.

I’ll survive somehow,
Our memories, our dreams they have survived,
Broken pieces of identity,
Often not invaluable enough to save,

Our needs not what they used to be,
In a way there is nothing more to need.
I am here, a testament to love,
What are tides, if we never had changed course sometimes.

It’s hard to say just how I feel,
Harder still to share the desperation in my eyes,
Hardest to admit when I’m afraid
To walk the world alone, unsure of what’s ahead.

What else can I say, you are shining, ,
You are changing the way I face the things of life.
Holding gently in my hands what time has left for me,
Songs of joy and sorrow, I wish to gather gratefully.

And I hope, despite what life might bring,
I’ll find shelter in some trees,
Look across the seas,
Hear the laughter of my children and with them, wonder at such beauty,
The beauty in all things.

Lessons In The Landscape

Change comes, in little packets of seasons. Each time one opens, it adds flavor to the landscape; salty or sweet depending on its mood. When I become the landscape, feet take on new importance to me. When I get stepped on, my rhythms stop, and I lie still like an ocean without an undertow. There will always be a landscape.

 

Sometimes, it is easy to sculpt like sandcastles peaking out from under grain, as close as the distance between two hands. Sometimes on a distant shore, I awake not knowing where I am, and wander for days until I find a river to trace back to my beginnings. When I arrive the terrain changes, takes on more mass, perhaps. It moves slower than I do and knows more than me. What it knows it cannot tell me, although I can always find it in myself.

 

I am standing with the trees. I am grounded under them. I am flying above them, carried by my wings. The wings are actually made of thread, and I fly because I will do anything to be a light beam.

 

I have a country all my own, full of particles with particular personalities. They don’t have good resonance, but their echoes do. There is always something falling—a leaf, a broken wing—and always feet first. Whenever I land on my feet, I assume I’m a child. Whenever I land on my feet, I am forced to remember that I have grown up.

 

I have never built a cocoon. I am somewhere between larva and butterfly, but don’t know how I got here. The people in this country never wanted me to change: they carved their hands into me so I couldn’t own my body, or my words. There are other children like me inhabiting this country who scatter like particles with no freedom to harmonize. Chaos is white in particles and dark purple in children. Children are purple because they have to hold their voices in like breaths, and lose life quickly. As a child who loved purple, I could never make sense of the world I was born into or why no one sees the signs that guide them back to their own voices.

 

Silences I think are clearer compared to reverberation and those haunting echoes that make me cry. If silence covers the land, words hand over their meanings and get sentenced to periods where they’re locked up in capitols—no rights are stated. Laughter dwindles into nothingness. Nothing always conceives water that forms its own music, breaking down silences.

 

Even the leaves and the dirt they become have voices. The voices echo throughout the labyrinth under the landscape where I found my string and wound my way to where I could skip like shale, though fragile, to the water’s surface. Somewhere under the water, there is the original source I would like to touch.

 

Whatever home I once shared, no one treads water like I do. I am your wanderer, that is clear; I have built myself from the cores of trees and the hold-fasts of the ocean floor. I have made myself walk through narrows, because I can find footing best. I can climb and crawl anywhere, I can get lost in a free world. I wove a rope from the string and tensioned my way all the way up the mountain to look down. There is only one mountain here and it lessens every time I climb it. Someday it will be a pebble glistening red on the sand.

 

I have been, in most conditions, a gray wolf, compact and wild, fiercely maintaining my territory. I defend my people, too. I am with people, but I have no people. For most of my life I have been left alone, making my way like a nomad across these fields.

 

Time feels as though it is being measured by the clock in someone else’s reference frame. Moments whiz by like lightning bugs; I cringe in a corner knowing I will be next. I am always last. I get dizzy waiting, standing still, so I go fast, dance until the wind carries me, and I catch light beams in my hands.

 

Why is it so hard to learn to trust again? I fought for my hand and my words and my steps, I fought for I have been trod down, I fought to move the figures in my head, I figured the objects would love me so much more that they’d give me a guide to worldmaking. I thought I could trace the contours of concavity, fill closed loops like smiles, use my hand to signal direction. I thought my hands became my eyes, that I would know even though this and that stand in the way.

 

I strain to hold my neglected child, I know I do not know, and I am lost, crying for you, flat on the floor with my hands stretched out flat against gravity, and fields and fields away from where I first met you. I must come to terms with my own darkness. How much have I given up to seek a definitive? Perhaps every object I ever loved will let me go. I am reaching for edges to grasp what it is to break out of a circle.

 

I am always looking for the center and never find it. I am the center.  The words come to me.  They wait in lines to begin their journey across steppes and cliffs and wetlands, many meters, and eventually home. When I reflect, I mirror the shadows. Darkness is just the absence of light.

 

To fill the silence that follows, I twine color through my songs, remember what I lost, and how to find it again. The truth is like a sphere, like parabolas and sine waves, like music and friendship—simple and everywhere. In wonder I reach out my hand, for myself, on my own. And light has been worth the destruction of every shadow; this is another way to find the center of it all.

 

I lift my song by hand and it shimmers through my hair like burgundy, comes out clean. I am usually alone, though you are welcome to find me here. You are welcome to experience everything, live with me in the peaks and troughs, mountains, and valleys of long incantations. In the place where answers are questioned, where silence speaks, where space is woven through our belonging and we have never left each other, you may fly between the chords. And home is what happens when you no longer throw yourself into living as if it’s a thing to chase after or prove you can hold, and just let go.  I let go, I let go, I am found again.