Tag Archives: poetry

The Young Cornish Woman

I will sing this song I’ve made by hand
To all those who pass by,
And paint with the colors of who I am,
Echoing the silent cry.

Who are you, born so near the troubled sea
On the shore whose jagged edges pierce the sky?
Where, along life’s unkempt tapestry,
Have we met before then, you and I?

How many times has the sun crested the hills
Peering cautiously above the clouds,
Piercing golden against the grey,
And you, seeing, wove the words that I would say?

Fara who I never knew
You’ve cleared the road without a name,
And lit the way, yourself unseen:
With open hands I welcome you.

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.

Break open and unfold

The seed sewn at the center
Waits to grow
Is always yours to hold.

As if dissolved in a cocoon,
I prepare to emerge changed
Into what I have always been.

My mind doesn’t know it yet,
And yet, I dream
Of unchecked skies and new found wings, I dream.

The metal box overflowing with my fears
Is too heavy to keep
Carrying on this journey,

So I’ll leave it on the bottom shelf
Behind the self help
Books promising “a better you.”

I am enough,
I scream at their winking gold titles.
Because even though I am

Cracked and chipped and damaged,
Dropped by accident too many times,
In turmoil with the mending of old wounds,

Still I take off again into the blue,
No longer meant to hide, or forced to crawl.
I tell the one who fights transforming at all:

Wordless love waits for whomever can
Commend themselves into the hands
Large enough to contain each

Of our sharp and jagged pieces.
Still enough,
To hold each imperfect moment, without comment.

None will hand me back such trying
Marked up red for correcting
Along with, “it would be better had you been done differently.”

So tomorrow, letting go, I’ll break down
The sealed doors to secret rooms
Behind which occupants bide their time, unwelcome.

Even if, to evict them I dissolve shaking
Into a dark shelter beyond
Which nothing is certain.

Hidden there are the keys for the freedom
To reign in my own home,
A butterfly monarch sustained by wildflowers.

Hidden there, myself unchanged.
And because there is nothing to do or be differently,
I’ll be wholly different from before.

I’ll remember what wings are, never forgetting who carries me,
The wind across this expansive, unsung sky,
And above the clouds, I’ll soar.

The Essence of Light

Light moves
Simple and silent

An eternal inscription
Echoing within internal reflection

It bends, it shifts, it shapes
Refracting through time’s hourglass,

Curving hope, carving the colors of forever
Upon each radiant rainbow

Restoring the tree’s core
Growing as the newest flower
Everlasting and ephemeral

And though poised as a prism just above the horizon
It disappears
With the slightest touch

In Difficult Moments: Learning to Let Myself Be Seen

I would speak for you,
I would call the colors, help you name the sadness in your eyes.
I would sing the sky’s song to you,
And hold the space for you that has no words.

But right now, peering through the dark stained glass,
Full of the mists of weariness,
I wish that silence would blow across the marshes of my memory,
Seep into conversation, drowning out my own sadness.

Sometimes there is only inky confusion
Lapping at the shores of my life,
As if a wave could slip onto sand indecisively,
Curling up upon itself just before its journey’s over.

Shame and its isolation wash over,
Conveniently masked by grey tears I wish no one knew about.
We have all asked, but I just don’t know why.
Shifting tides, interrupted flight patterns of birds,

An afternoon of lingering loneliness,
Longing for laughter,
And I’m trembling against sharing the seeds of such sorrow,
That never lets itself be named.

It’s tempting to frame it for you in pretty packaging,
Hoping, halfheartedly, that this time the tenebrous tendrils, fog of forgetfulness
Will snatch the melancholy from my mind,
Before you notice what’s there.

But the icy wind blows fiercely through,
Tossing untried possibilities across the vacant field
Of this directionless day.
And I am haunted by the changes I did not make fast enough, well enough.

Why can I not look inside
And recognize this nameless grief as mine?
Defeated I stare across the divide to where I thought I’d be by now .
Me—–you; place-where-I’m-standing—–place-of-my- longing.

The season is coming to an end,
And I fear I have harvested nothing.
I return empty handed, it seems, but for the tears pooled in my palms
Settling into the lifelines on my skin.

Perhaps, in this way, I can still water my dreams,
While the silent cry, breaking in waves upon the world,
Floods the landscape in its pleading,
Still aching to begin, speaking wordlessly within.

So I stop constructing paper cranes out of my pain,
And unfold the creases, between us its map and the indecipherable key,
The empty spaces for which I have no words.
And we wander the pathways there that I have yet to tread,

Because this is how we remember,
Our lives are but a single thread.
Because this is love that holds us, even if it can’t be heard.
Our raw moments of connection are the knots tying us together,

And it takes everything I have, to step across, reach out,
But when I do, the illusions shatter
And I’m amazed to find that you understand, that the shadows are familiar,
That you too struggle to name them, to share the origins of tears.

I would speak for me:
I feel undone, discouraged, , alone.
Could you surround me in your present, quiet light,
Until the fog clears, until I’m assured once more we’re home?

Please, help me gather these broken pieces
On the edge of this unknown,
Where there is nothing left to hide:
And for a moment keep them safe for me, carry them with your own.

Song of the Butterfly

Butterfly you’re trapped,
Inside a hollow stone,
All alone.

Longing to get back
To the rocks and streams,
The forest of your own.

Among the trees and shaded shadows you have grown.
Beyond these hills to sacred hollows return home.
You were meant to sail the wind,
Remember all that you have known,

And fly away, oh fly away,
Find your way,
It’s time to change.

Not knowing who you are,
You take the path to these
Nine hazel trees

And long to stay what wanders far,
To gather all you ever loved
In endless song.

But if ever love is to be near,
You’ll have to set it free.
I let you go not knowing,

Whether you’d come back to me.
And life can only take its shape
Once you let it be.

So fly away, oh fly away,
Find your way,
It’s time to change.

This chrysalis has crystallized around you.
You’re afraid to climb outside,
Find what surrounds you.

Come break free,
No need to hide,
Just spread your wings

And try
This open door.
I promise you will soar.

Fly away, oh fly away,
Find your way,
It’s time to change.

Butterfly you’ve flown,
Dancing across the sky,
No telling where you’ll land.

A shattered crystal stone
Lies still and empty,
In my palm, my open hand.

And just before I turn to leave,
I reflect on what I’ve found.
The rustling trees and running stream
Remain the only sounds.

They whisper in the twilight,
“none have returned here until now.
Don’t you understand?”
Transformed, I’m here again,

And fly away, I fly away,
Find my way,
It’s time to change.

Lost Under Flesh and Bone

This is a poem I wrote a couple years ago after coming home from an ob/gyn appointment. Perhaps I should add that the doctor was actually incredibly kind, but that wasn’t enough to resolve years of trauma I experienced at doctors’ offices generally. I’ve subsequently done a lot of work on myself in healing, but this poem still captures a reality of the past that I remember vividly.

She took my hand
How did she guess
The depths to which I’d be afraid
If a connection were not made?

The landscape is full of craters and lost children
I close my eyes, though I’ve already gone within
She hands to me a prayer strand of beads
And they become a lifeline, from what’s mine to a distant soul, the deepest part of me.

It is the landscape that’s crying
While a substrate of hands are reaching, reaching
To name and to conquer, each sacred knot’s untying

Until I am no longer sure
Whether this is a laying on of hands for healing,
Or whether I am the frontier over which exploration is persisting,
For no boundary’s untouched by her endless insisting.

I lose track of which colonized countries I am mapping to my body,
And through thickets of gnarly briers I crawl,
Tumbling down the treacherous hills I climbed so young,
And though now I am not young, I feel very very small.

To the subterranean spaces, I dig down quickly,
Here I am alone, and no one can touch me.
The cave drips with water
So I let it drizzle echoes of my names.

The murmur at the bottom, is nothing but a river laughing,
I imagine it would not dare to laugh at me,
But giggles like a child,
A place to linger for safe abiding.

I am aware of a room and a distant conversation,
But I am in a salty womb, and have turned the grey tears warm.
Blood still pulses through my veins,
It would turn an angry red at the suggestion of exposure.

And it flashes through my mind, that day they cut the Glastonbury thorn tree down.
At least I will not be torn asunder, but earnestly I wonder
Whether I can demand the equality of silence, if I cannot be safe or sound.
I lie there still, an object for a while, wounded, unwound,

And forget I asked about existence
Or ever lived inside a song,
As the observations, voiced, are cataloged
And the search beneath a beating heart goes on.

I have forgotten that there or windows or that daylight comes in
My hands are fisted my face a warrior’s shield,
My true self, who I am, to this place, in this way,
I refuse to yield.

Reason left me at the door, with only a simple never-giving-in,
While what is happening is filtered through a sieve,
And all I feel is the fear:
Is it real, am I here?

And when I walk away there’ll be nothing to redeem,
No place to replant supplanted pieces,
No earth to catch a whispered scream.

I cannot hide from the person in the mirror,
I cannot hide,
I fill entire buildings with my taking space.
I long, in vain, to hide my face.

But my body is an earthquake and my foundations don’t hold
And that’s when I start to fold,
A tree into its seed.
Into my center I fold and enfold.

Moments march to mantras:
Oh I will not concede,
Oh this mothered child of new and old,
This is much more than just a loop of beads,

It is the acorn of a life I’ve wrapped myself around.
Far from the mountains under siege,
Mold me whole,
Keep me found.

And beneath the city walls
Far below the ground,
I send all those who can defend
The story that never should be told,

The song of myself
Belonging to the sky and land and sea,
The language of the wind,
The light that burns in me.

She not only seeks, she keeps, she asks,
She takes my hand, and what I was first, and what I am last.
And though I am now safe and sure and tall,
And unclench the fists, hand back a circle of beads,

I can’t imagine reaching out,
Yet do it with a smile.
For a while I don’t measure how far I had to fall.
In fact, for a moment I feel nothing at all.

But if ever I recall,
Each bead comes back to me,
Each a truth I long to cry,
Each a memory of something I lost silently.

Each a part of me,
That in the forgetting of the thing,
I simply left apart, behind.

And I don’t know how long it will take me to return
Back to myself, to the trusting of someone.
I, who am still lost under flesh and bone,
Retracing and reclaiming all I call my own.

For I know all about the duality of hands:
They can hold you, rock you, shape you, break you.
You’re a person or a thing,
Depending on how they treat you.

And they will make ruins of entire worlds,
Or rebuild them grain on grain of sand.
But just because, for a moment, they try to erase you,
It will never, ever, mean you’re theirs.

And some ancient people carved hands upon the stones
To make it clear to others where they dwell,
But I make my way solidly, and to myself I still belong.
And my place: surely it is ever I, the written carvings, and the song.

The Night Watch: Caoilte’s Song for Ailbhe

Hushed the night, all in their sleeping,
Dark, with misty cloak, draws near,
I the silent vigil keeping,
O’er you, and many dreaming here.

With the wonder of a child,
Among the trees these wakeful hours,
I will watch the land born wild,
This wood and all beyond, is ours.

In the shadows I am here
Beneath the hearth fires of the sky,
Though creatures creep where nothing’s clear,
I will see they pass us by.

Alone, the night song all about me
Soft spun, woven threads of moon
Rise, as if a tide within me
Spilled over with these thoughts of you.

Soon enough the day’s bright dawning,
Soon to wake the world astir,
And we with sun’s flight take our wandering,
I’ll see you just the way you were.

Swift the days in endless passing,
Uncertainty, our path wound through,
But long since this brief moment’s lasting,
I will ne’er be far from you.

Song for Brighid

I wanted to share the lyrics of a song I wrote last September while preparing for a surgery that would help heal me from a chronic illness. I finished the last verse recently, and hopefully I’ll have a recording at some point to share as well.

Brighid

Learn the language of all that is remembered,
Share the voice inside you that you hid away,
To Those who eat, but hunger still for meaning,
Say the things that love would have you say.

Come bring all you are and stand beside us,
You who know the spirit of this place,
Seek the echoes lingering, to find us,
Keep strong through all the silences you face.

Chorus:
Shine in me,
Give light to me,
May light shine through me though darkness surrounds me.
Shine in me,
Be light to me,
May I find wholeness resides in me.

One too many people gone before you,
Barely can remember what it is to live out loud
But you will learn to do this from your shadow,
How to drink the water in a cloud.

Keeper of the healing fire, the song of life,
Maiden by the well appearing very old
Waiting through each season for a passerby,
To recognize the woman they behold.

Chorus

When in desperation I first found her,
Running place to place to look for where I left myself
I saw within her radiant flame the spark that was my own
The light I almost lost to someone else.

Rekindle what is yours, reshape your world anew,
Between your hands exists the pulse of life,
Forge a new beginning for the one who lives in you,
She told me before vanishing from sight.

Chorus

For many years I wandered as a stranger,
Unable to accept everything I had become,
Giving into fear and doubt and anger
Convinced there’d be no rising of the sun

Then she bid me walk into the water,
And I let go of all that I’d been through,
When I awoke I met the world with laughter,
Returned to the belonging that I knew.

Chorus

One Night At a Berkeley Pub

At the Starry Plow, , a young man sings “And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda”
It’s the first time I have really listened to the words:
Tales of the ravages of the first world war
Exhausted, I wistfully wish he’d picked a different song tonight.

But when the verses are over and the chorus repeats
Again and again, my attention starts shifting.
To the ten people standing in the isle
Standing in a line, silent as a grave.

I’m the only one to notice them,
Held transfixed by the grief that haunts their tearless eyes
And within such sadness, I lose my bearings,
Their solemn sorrow startles me.

This is not what I expected.
Too many emotions that contradict each other
Course through their bodies, as they let the music move them.
Too much to be present to, but I try.

And then forgetting to make sense out of it all,
I fold my hands and sit still with them until the song is over.
Together, they wrap their Arms around each other,
Holding on tightly, as if bracing themselves against emptiness.

As if, by trying to appear as one,
They could quell the different struggles taking place within them each,
A weary story etched upon their faces,
Between us and the silence, and with the silence it remains.

If I were alone I’d cry for those whose tears cannot fall.
My friend asks me, “Aren’t you going to drink your beer?”
But I am far, so far, far away from here.
Feeling what they’re feeling, I can’t move or speak at all.

The song done, I wish that I could comfort her, my troubled soul sister,
Beside me now, determined to regain composure,
And though I cannot hold her, I can reach out and enfold her,
Never alone, I whisper, a single space is ours together.