Tag Archives: longing

For My Mother

I wish the last face I ever saw was yours
Your bright green eyes, your complexion warm and kind
That would be a sight worth cherishing, after I saw nothing more
And your smile, the one expression etched forever in my mind

That look that says, I will always love you fully
I would carry deep within me, to return to, home inside
A stable touchstone, a reminder, that I am whole and holy
Whenever I am struggling, each time I long to hide

I’d replace that ever-present, soul-seared sneer of hate
With the colors of compassion in your soft soothing gaze
And in the places where the harsh shadows wait
Yours would be the lingering face, the gentleness behind closed eyes

I wish I could erase the projections from my map, the fear and false belief
With its overgrown topography, all that’s cruel and haunted
And in its place I’d trace an infant’s landscape in relief
The clay composed of safety, trust, and always feeling wanted

And if I could give one gift to you
Here’s what it would be
To discover, despite all I’ve been through
Your picture in a memory

*********

The last face I ever saw, the only face I have a visual memory of, is the face of the person who abused me when I was six months old. Until I recently recovered the memory and varified it was accurate, I never realized that the face I imagined often in my mind’s eye when I was beeing the cruelest and harshest on myself was identical to this person’s face.

With that discovery, I started to wonder what it would have been like to instead remember my parents’ faces (my brothers weren’t born yet.) I wondered how it might have been different if I had internalized the loving faces of my family, before they had to face what happened to me: faces that held the joy and love of two people who had just brought a new child into the world. If I had a visual memory of that love, even if everything else happened as it did, what might be different?

And for someone who has always believed it was impossible to remember what it was like to see, having even just a glimpse of that experience is still taking a lot of time to process. It was like gaining and losing something simultaneously. And the rest I don’t have words for yet.

The Experience of Exclusion: Incorporeal Embodiment

I am a ghost, but have not died
I walk among the living unseen
Apart from the occasional, startled stare
Everyone else looks quickly away

I am a ghost, but have not died
I speak, though I’ve rarely been allowed a voice
It is easier to dismiss some body different from yours
More comfortable to cut me out of conversation than to answer me

I am a ghost, but have not died
My presence alone has sometimes invoked fear
In the mirror of my sightless eyes, you see your vulnerability reflected
And the truth about mortality, long rejected, haunts you

I am a ghost who has not died
The undead vampire taking resources from the able and the strong
A zombie who cannot belong, with whom you need not empathize
I shoulder shadows, bear the burdens outcast from the light

I am a ghost, though I have yet to die
Invisible to most, but not to some
My heartbeat the same in everyone
I long, I love, I ache, I cry

I am a ghost, a human born to die
And in that we aren’t much different, you and I

Forging Something New

Hoping that struggle will solve every problem,
Treading water for days,
I give in, realizing I’ve not gone anywhere,
But am rather swamped by other people’s feelings.

What am I missing?
staying strong, striving for more,
Too much to be done now
To wait for a quieter kind of transformation.

I don’t want to use the word despair,
It serves no one,
But I am a single person
In a needy sea of change.

Tidal waves crash, over my head,
And it gets hard to breathe.
No place to land, I try floating,
Only to look up at a sky, clouded.

Yesterday we asked for healing.
We saw the red tears fall,
We hoped thread-bare, without ceasing,
Grounding ourselves on the standing stones.

Today I feel so terribly alone,
Finishing a project that cannot restore
The fracked landscape, felled trees,
Sorrow in the lives of my many friends.

It is not enough to ease my exhaustion,
Or put an end to the haunted look in my eyes.
Do we have enough time?
Is there still time?

Yesterday I sprawled out on the rock
And closed my eyes,
A purple hood pulled up over my head,
Keeping out the cold. You said,

Would you ever be willing to bend like a spoon
Reshaped to reflect all your brilliant light?
I’d hold you safe within my hands
Until you became definite, solid again.

I admit, I find this a wholly disagreeable idea,
So I’ve answered you so far with the sound of silence.
What am I missing? Holding still for a moment,
This fragmented world spinning out of control, I am at a loss.

But, too discouraged to do anything else,
I let go, with no clue as to what’s going on.
Cave early, I’ve heard. I agree out of weariness, not curiosity,
The hapless child stumbling over myself to get out of the way.

What’s going to happen now?
The oceans are heaving in grief,
The world cries out in human and nonhuman voices,
Longing, pleading, to end this needless suffering.

And so far I have only fought battles with my shadow,
Tried healing my own raw woundedness.
What is the shape of fear, turned to love?
Such a strange alchemy, when truth meets with acceptance.

I hope for the best,
I come face to face with my own ignorance,
I take one step and then the next,
All right, then, if it means you’ll carry me through the rest.

Bringing in the New Year

It is around three in the afternoon, and I’m in bed. Yes, it’s the first of the year and celebrations abound, but I’m not up for any of it. Instead, I am cozy and warm wearing fleecy pajamas and curled under blankets. I’ve been given several free meditations over the past three days, and think now that in fact a relaxing meditation is just what I need to care for myself and recover quickly. I decide on a meditation for manifesting your dreams. I mean, out with the old, in with the new, right? Surely since I’ve done the letting go, now is the time to dream in what I want to bring about in this new year.

I press play and close my eyes. Three breaths, in and out, the guiding voice hypnotizing, and I’m slowly diving into that space that’s mine, to form within my mind the landscape of my life I want to be realizing. It’s all fine until the steady voice speaks these words over the gentle notes underlying her tone: “What is it, this dream, this wonderful thing that will make your life complete? Is it more money, a soul mate, a home?”

I freeze. I stop listening. Words are being spoken over my head it seems. More complete? More complete, I’m afraid to know what that means. And somewhere deep inside screams a truth so loud I have to stop, pause the track, breathe, recenter and reconsider what I might be doing here to the start of my year if I begin it in a state of want and lack and never enough just being here.

Complete is breathing in sunrise. Complete is walking my journey with my ancient family, looking into their eyes, even while a whole world away, and knowing what it’s like to be sincerely seen, and fiercely loved. Complete is lying in bed with a cold and the dog on the floor beginning to snore and then sleep takes me away into dreaming and I am exactly where I’m needing to be. Complete is me. Complete is no longer wandering because I already know I am home. Complete is knowing, in my soul, in the whole of every cell of my being and the silences between the beating of my heart that I am not alone. Complete is finding I am whole, complete is a day lived and another begun, complete is the setting of the sun. Complete is being the sister, the daughter, the woman I already am. Complete is the aching to understand another’s pain, the songs we sing, the laughter we birth into the world to share, the dancing I do when no one is there to watch me.

I cannot think of one external thing, the having of which would finally render me complete. I cannot think of what to add to my vibrantly lived life. I cannot think of a single reason why I am not enough. Why, oh why, do we do this foolish stuff? We do and strive and compromise our ability to take in and devour the moments before us. So hungry for experience, so eager for the awe of the mystery that surrounds and beckons and enfolds us, and yet we’re so worried that we’ll lose that we’ll choose to grab anything promising to shape and mold us. Do we even want what we think we do from the perspective of our immediate and limited point of view?

. I look at my hands, palms up and resting on my lap. I was instructed on doing this from the guided track, and I’m wondering how I can possibly sign the word from the world beyond for receiving, while insisting it’s me who brings my life into being. This openness pulling me back out of the way, I keep nothing to myself, but surrender the need to do things my way. Because I don’t understand, anyway. Because I am a child to the experience that has not made itself my own, because I am growing rather than grown and I have been unable to fathom the immensity of all the wonders that happen to me that help me to heal and bring me back to what’s real even while I remain unknowing. A year ago today I would have made the wrong prediction if I tried hard to envision the vast and wild tide of joy that ripped through knots in which I was tied and left me feeling worthy of being alive. I am not about to go back to taking control when I know that my soul already has other plans of which I am not aware, and if I dare to trust the path ahead I’ll come upon more than any manifestation could have brought about instead.

The living of a life makes it complete. Of course I long: to not live so much in isolation, to find a career that fulfills me, to have a partner that can love without conditions, I long. I long and then let go. I accept, but keep nothing, because I know that in the moment I cease to hold on, I become completely sure that someone holds me still, still and sure, still sure.

This year I do not ask, who will make me whole? I do not ask, what should I gain in order to have enough? For I am where I belong, and no longer find it to make any sense to hope something outside myself could fill any of the gaps between heart and mind. Beneath the shadows that twine through waking, the truth is that nothing is missing. The moment softens into silence, crystallizes and clears, and all there is, it is the now, and in it I am here. Right now, I reach out, with nothing to fear, and like one discovering a friendship, willing to learn from the other who they are, I don’t bother with the manifestation of my desires that can only go so far. Instead, I welcome the new year in wonder. And to the question, what would make you complete, if you could have more than what you think you can, I answer, nothing. I am complete in who I am.

Spilling Over

She eats cereals like there is no tomorrow,
My Grandmother, depressions
Dripping like droplets of milk down her mouth,
Mouthing “more,” when she is not speaking,

Because she never got enough
When still a child, spilled by the fountain of youth onto the sprawling clay,
Needy and not kneaded at the bottom of the Bread Basket,
During the Depression.

She married my grandfather, tall, dark, and disciplined by Want,
Who used his knock-kneed frame as a jungle gym
Especially when the children ran rampant with hunger,
Crying shyly as they were tagged “it.”

My mother warns me to respect grandpa’s habits,
As if God herself deemed his behavior redeemable,
In a last attempt to tempt him with wanting grace.

“Eat your cereal, young lady,” grandma chides. My eyes
Bulge, suspecting yesterday’s meal of frosted minny-wheats
Will be mysteriously displaced into my metal spoon,
Milk draining off the cupped bowl of a concave collection of grain.

The children were always hungry, always crying.
My mother watches me fiercely with a hesitant sympathy plaguing
The whites of her corneas.
I see it sift through her eye like sand and flinch,

She, my mother, the survivor, silently
Witnessing the way I will pay
Tribute to my ancestors.

Quickly, I qualify my breakfast, a hurried gulp
Of saturated solution and swallow,
Exhaling elatedly after the enormous effort.

Two years ago, Grandfather wouldn’t insist on such a crude
Relapse into recalling such remembrances of long-ago,
But senescence seems to detain his decency behind bars,
And as the meal ends with many brothey bowls untouched,

He lifts them up sacredly from his table and gently pours
The contents of each eager-lipped, glossy dish
Into a fountain overflowing, that drips back into the carton of milk;
The same ritual he performed yesterday.

Tomorrow, I’ll leave the furrowed house
Where the roof thatches sink concavely toward the floor,
Where water, after accumulating in the troughs made
By the derivative of the roof’s normal triangular shape,
Eventually cascades into a freak rainstorm off the eves.

In the evening, brother and sister would play in puddles;
You could see the whites of their eyes reflect off the water
As they buried cold toes in dusty sand.

And if you were filled with the sustenance of sparse fortune,
You might offer them milk, and watch their mouths gape open
Like dry caves, accepting the first spray of waterfall.
Then they would save some for the family jar
To relive that white dream whenever they needed.

It was raining when the younger finally slipped out of sight,
Over him mounded grains of earth, and the grey-sky tears falling.
And at dawn, mother crept their barefoot, hardly believing,
There, dew dripped in silence, and there was one who longed no more.

*This poem is based on a story told to me by a family friend.

Caught In the Tides of Samhain

Every once and a while,
a longing …

An aching
in bone,

A sighing
Disturbing disquiet,

A howling low
Like wind,

Blowing through
Catches me sharply.

Displaced, disoriented,
The known feels so unfamiliar.

Silent emptiness, tightly contained,
Sifts through,

The outer shell,
too small.

Every once in a while,
reaching out
for you,

Isn’t enough,
Not face to face,
Speaking, no voices.

Passing by, passing through,
Each other

I am the other
Where space is crowded with your absence.

Every once and a while,
home beckons
a shining light,

And I long,
I ache for home,
For the solidness of knowing you.

For that time when we’ll be
Reunited, together,

Even though, around me
The great world unfolds, dazzling wonder,
And I love all of it.

Even though in the stillness you are
Here, I am not alone,
On this journey, still not the same.

Even though…
I long, something is missing,

Laughter and music,
Drying tears, simple gestures.

When you run to catch me flying,
I might never let you go.

Dream-Bitten 1998

Shallow the water from which I came,
Still earth, waits, to receive my trial-errored body

Dropped like a star falling
I concentrate dizzily on balance.

Like mistletoe around the oak,
You leave me dream-bitten.

I belong to time’s entropy,
And to spirit-kin, wild, wild, wild.

You say to wait… passion pooling within the hopeful ones, …
Plunged back into black holes. I wait to be whole.

Into infinitudes of time,
Cornered by curiosity,

I discover, I almost remember,
The deer run, bear skin, wolf-wild world rewandered.

Happiness halts along a dilapidated road,
And a lighthouse lurks,

Star-crimson among
Fog’s shining shadows.

Silence pierces perfectly cold loss,
Dare I soar to drift through evanescent light,

Scampering effortlessly,
A lonely light beam traveling.

So much left behind among the waves,
To a desolate world, vailed in endless tears,

Wrapped within the spiraled coils,
You fix me with beady eyes,

And with the dawn, unknown longing,
You leave me dream-bitten.

Waking From The Dream

An old, dream-man sits on a gnarled tree stump,
Crumbling and full of bugs.
Death hovers red and shimmering at the rim,
For him, on the brink of living.

The hands of the dream-man lie folded across his chest,
Chiseled and raw like driftwood.
What meanings do the carved hands have,
Now that others occupy the dwelling they protected?

I stamp my feet and shout at him,
Wildly I gesture, get up, I cry.
The dream-man snores on, oblivious to my hollering,
And to the mosquitoes that land on him, eating him alive.

This affront to age, the young standing awake, the old decaying in sleep,
I wonder how long I must keep screaming
Before I not only hear my words,
But listen to them, recognize the voice that commands them as mine.

What happened to Afagddu,
After receiving neither beauty nor wisdom?
Did he slump against a cobwebbed stump,
Indifferent to the slashing wind, the crawling things?

Did he then marvel at his skin,
Suddenly seeing the darkness for the cocoon it was,
And how it was breaking open, crumbling away,
And how the unraveled and undone, give way to wings unfolding,

For the soul-creature, captured and changing within
To fly free of his aching, twisted, slumbering body?
Lifted by that ancient longing,
A homecoming which yet had only come to him in dreams.

I live, one breathless briefest moment,
Sandwiched between the book ends of becoming and leaving,
Between those vast emptinesses haunting me with the mystery of my origin,
The destination shrouded in mist, my eternal address of nowhere.

The dream-man fades into the past,
And I have no more patience for sleep.
, there is no place in which to house,
Much less contain the kinetics of change.

That which once calmed me,
Only leaves me wary and watchful,
And each day, burning within the fierce fire, carving
The path of the present, I rise.

There is no amount of warning
That could stir whoever refuses to wake up,
I am rooted in the earth,
Leaping into the light streaming morning.

Open your eyes, we are alive.
Open your eyes.
We are
Alive.

For One of the Shining Ones

And it’s leaping into light,
The song wrapped in shadow,
A day unfurling out of night.
Will you meet me there?

Shrouded mist, just beyond the horizon,
On the way to at-the-center,
I re-place myself,
Turning and returning.

Breaking through the surface from within,
I will throw myself into every messy corner,
I will not ask:
Will you come for me, when its time?

Not knowing when and how, or where,
No longer stopping to catch my breath,
Content with now, I look my own way.
I stand strong on the ground where others stood,
And cease my yearning for you.

Let me stay here for awhile
Falling like rain through mountains
Onto every flower glowing with your smile,
For your laughter echoes water tumbling over.

I struggle to bring a thought child into this world
So take me in your arms while I begin
To try to recover your truth,
For I am not what I feel myself to be,
And I hover here, on these two first steps.

The sparse landscapes plead silently:
We do not share our ideas,
Nor do the cacti share their water.

Leafy hands reach out, open,
The ones I wish I held
Let the rain fall.

What would they call me
Letting your flames leap behind my eyes,
For within the carefully hidden bone,
Beneath my pale face,
Blazes a fire whose shape I’ve never dared to dance.

Oh shining one,
The same winds caress and toss aside,
And stones  sink into cold fresh streams,
And no day comes
When I do not call your name.

For you hold me
Out of reach of the gnarled brambles,
Away from the haggard stumps,
No need to wait, now I am in it.

Paths cross once more along the running sands,
Re-found foundation, home again,
Here I am beyond my wildest hope
With you once more, longing no longer.

The Sojourner’s Lament

“We have to give up the life we have planned, in order to have the one that is waiting for us.”
–Joseph Campbell

Ah my friend, what plans have been well-made that have then been undone, what visions of freedom are never born into the world for no reason but that of fear, what successes have never occurred because of the slight possibility of failure, what loneliness was never quelled since the distress of rejection proved stronger, what hopes have been shattered by the begrudging jealous voices of our previous generations, how many people stay in the nest as they’ve been told that there is no reason to look beyond how they were brought up, how many shouts are never heard because mouths have never opened to make them, how many fallen tears, whether of joy or of sorrow, have been lost in the cycles of clouds and rain, how many of us go hungry out of ignorance of what might nourish us, how very few of us take a leap into the unknown and discover we have found all that we are looking for?  How do you ground yourself where you cannot take root? 

 

Ah my friend, how much sadness has already made the face of the world swollen and bloodshot?  Is it sadness or the constant companion of mortality that subdues us into silent murmurings by the sides of the roads?  For life and death are faces of the same coin and the coin can be tossed purposefully or with abandon, all the same.  Do we not wonder while we breathe why we are here?  Do we not stop to marvel at the goings-on of life that persist among and around us regardless of the most violent moments human beings have ever seen?  Perhaps we can learn from our wordless brothers and sisters who survey the world on wing through sky, or consult the ones who put four paws to the ground.  Perhaps we might learn from our own brothers and sisters, gone to rest in the world beyond this world.

 

Oh, will we ever learn, indeed?  We will not ask the flowers, you agree, what they have seen, for even they wish not to recall.  How many dreams lay untouched at the end of lifetimes?  Who will dare to carry out what they long for to come to terms only later with whether they have done right?  You may travel thousands of miles, and still the inner space in which you keep your most hidden thoughts is the largest uncharted ground you will ever find. 

 

You could weep at the enormity of it.  But it is better, you know, to put on some sunglasses and a big funny hat and strike out through the undergrowth:  the unruly branches of unkempt trees, the marshes of memory, the fog of the forgotten.  View it as a great adventure, one you will never chance to make again, and learn to confront all the wild creatures that might cross your path, for they are all parts of you that you have left in shadow.  What dream could you realize once you are this strong?  I think, as it is, you could manage anything you ever thought to be worthwhile doing in this world.  And are you the kind of person who can manage it, regardless of what happens or how many eyes roll in your direction?

 

In this particularly forlorn and unfortunate pop culture, “live life to its fullest,” has become cliche. Life is so fragile.  What can we make of ourselves if we do not know what we, who we are?  Not just what kind of success we can achieve, but what song still sings just beneath the rushing of blood, what landscape is imprinted on our skin, what hard-won determination defines us intricately like the labyrinth of bone that allows us to stand at all. 

 

Ah my friend, if only there were answers.   Anyone who tells you they have the right one is not worth listening to.  Anyone who stares at the sky wistfully and longs for something she cannot speak, treat her like your own relation, , for you surely have seen the same bewildered longing haunting the unfathomable eyes staring back at you from your own mirrored reflection.  Do what is needed for you, then, for there is nothing else, nothing more you could ever ask of yourself.

 

What is waiting for me, my friend, if I close my eyes and let go of this straight and narrow existence I chose for myself so so long ago, thinking then it was all I would ever need?  Do needs change with age, with experience, with growing?  I am here: perhaps this is strength enough to turn my hopes into something real.  Then I will no longer be dreaming of what could be, but find myself being all I could ever dream.