see her there
that wide open tree out my window
the one with gray arm branches, no leaves, and peeling bark?
holding divine moss in perfectly twisted hands?
the one that all the flickers love?
I am breaking, she says,
Here in this valley between home and field
among healthy trees and young green shrubs
small ponds at our feet
ivy and blackberries
winding up and up and up and still
some of the worried
younger trees and humans
are turning blue with fright again
You are breaking, my friend,
How long have I been here?
you wonder, looking
so dead to some
so teaming with life and generosity to others?
Maybe 300 years.
Lately I’ve been creating warm rotted wood
teaming with ants, bugs
bird nests, diamonds, dripping
mosses, catching dewy golden drops
spying into windows
dancing on roof tops
For 50 years while you flew around here in terror
I’ve been standing right here
offering everything you need
waiting for you to look up
Let me be her!
let my sap harden into a million rent-free ant condos
let birds and hives find my joints the perfect place for nests
let chickadees hide seeds in my bark to re-find
when winter’s ice claims all our ground
let billions find life in the soil, where my branches fall
let me rejoice in being fully here, fully home as home to all and dead to some
We are breathing, break
and just break.
May that be me!
content and confident
teaming with life
talking to busy humans more than 50 years after my death!
May I also always be breaking,
tears and laughter
birds and trees
seeing to that very that.
Ridiculously proud of the pussy-pink hat
—a sort of low-tech asshole detection device—
a kind woman knit for me and placed, very gently
onto my bare head.
What a gift she is.
What a gift you are.
Let’s re-gift the pink hat to the crows in the yard
Ooo! Or maybe to the women in town running the thrift store!
They’ll know who most needs it next.
tree, birds, women, hat
for 46 years of remarkably patient and perfect lessons
How to Breathe and How to Break
How to Shelter, Even In Death
How to Live Strong and Laughing and Untamed
Together In Unshaken Wonder
Since the inauguration two weeks ago, I’ve been having nightmares. I was too freaked out to share them, until I read Sherman Alexie’s new poem Autopsy about his dream that his passport was bleeding. Thank you, master poet. For sharing your pain. I woke up the other morning and jotted this down quickly, before the nightmare could fade…
First they cheered their new savior
Their hearts swelled
imagining that beautiful new world
no enemies near
wealth without fear
They saluted or swooned when he walked
in the room…
Well, except the women, who
shrank almost imperceptibly
inward and back, smiles intact
eyes averted and blank
hands gently cocked, ready to defend
when he approached
to hug them.
Then they watched their new president
his pals with dark smiling eyes
suits and ties
destroy their institutions
generations of work and promise
became ash at his feet
and still they cheered
for soon, so soon now, they’d have nothing to fear
Then they watched as he cut
with our oldest allies
provoke others into terror and war
They watched neighbors beaten
in the streets
When the homes of natives went up in flames
they grew silent, confused
they turned back to FoxNews
where they could read about
The Best Cabinet Since Lincoln
How to Use God to Defend Against Liberal Jackals
(go check that out if you think I made it up)
When they looked outside each new day
they wondered why
millions around the world
marched in the streets
against the savior, who well, sure
may look like a dictator
but they knew he wasn’t
because he was their savior
So they did what they’d been taught
they kept preaching kindness
while they watched babies
terrorized at their borders
and in their heartland
They preached compassion and forgiveness
please, don’t be crude
don’t say pussy
don’t bother me with your petty politics on Facebook
all the while
white guys with dark eyes
poured gasoline on tepees
on women, on nature, on life herself
and dropped the match…
When the world went up in flames
the day World War III began
they didn’t even notice
thought they’d be saved by their new president’s best buddy
There they stood, plain to see
two great men: one bad, one good
and both, sadly,
long since dead.
And they didn’t even notice.
Until their water became too expensive to drink.
Until mom got cancer
nobody could afford to treat.
With no EPA, scientists,
journalists, backbones, or basic human decency left
poison peddlers flourished
bees across the homeland died
more than half the crops
They found themselves
looking for rest and work
anywhere they could get it
A third of their children
died that first bitter winter
another third of them
drowned crossing rivers
the gentle earth gave them stones
to mark their passing
Most of their grandparents died
in one spot
because they were too weak
to climb their own savior’s wall
one mass grave for them all
So that’s how we showed up here broken
bleeding and starving
with literally no place left to go
at the world’s front door
Afraid, no more. Of
Here in our world, which is cold and dark at the moment, January just became Write a Poem for Friends Month. So all my posts this month will be poems I write for friends. This one is for my friend Danyale Thomas Ross. I considered her a friend for many months before I met her in person. Approached by neighbors–strangers (me and Knox)–via email, she jumped onboard whole-heartedly with our crazy Hopscotch CD–1.8 Miles of Fun! idea without a second thought. Made creating the event far more fun, made the day far more fun, just like she made the neighborhood far more fun. She’s been inspiring me every since: as a human, as a small business owner, as a woman, as a neighbor, and as a well-grounded person who takes big scary life leaps. Her courage and openness lift everyone around her. Love you Danyale!
And I Rise
Whenever I think
“The deck’s stacked against me”
“I have nothing important to add to the conversation”…
“This path that we’ve chosen is way too hard”
I think of you
Whenever I wonder
“Can a woman really do this?”
“Do good people really get ahead in this world?”
“What in the holy hell do we do now?”
I return to you, listen more closely
to your wide open story
When I give in
that I’m not exactly where I planned to be
I think of you
and your mother
all the women who believe
and each other
Whenever I fail
which is often
at being a good neighbor,
supportive friend and partner,
or small business owner
I come see what you’re up to
just to check in
to remember who I am
I see you at rest
and in action
There you are
that our world needs nothing
but my presence
wants nothing less for me
that I can stretch beyond each
with nothing but our shared history,
wits, kindness, and some friends
You haven’t taught me, yet
how to cut hair in the CD
how to farm in Texas or
how exactly to move from
this here to that there
how to rise
I love it when
the wind strolls in
and my meadow friends
dance and bow.
Love it when
waves rush to crash across
the wide beach smiles up
where the eagles rest silent on the wind above
etch greetings sky to horizon down to me
all the way home: carried and strong.
I love it when
ears find old playground laughter between
of empty swing sways
find playground teasing within
little sister crow’s nagging cries
following big sister eagle
back and forth
back and forth
boat house to nest
nest to boat house
boat house to nest.
Ah, little sisters.
Love it when
eyes cherish the faded flap-flapping flag
forgotten by neighbors rushing back to the city.
Cherish wind: an absent spacious presence
Cherish sand: a shattered toe-hugging
Cherish the polished-cream beauty of driftwood.
Here books, stones, deer, and gentle evening light
invite themselves to play:
sated, triumphant, wildly creative
complete within themselves and completely inappropriate.
All silent and awkward at just the right moments.
Humans arriving here
and far between.
We arrive like children
gleefully joining the chorus
certain our tiny voice is heard
among books, stones, deer, dancing warm light
heard within silence.
Or, we arrive here like grownups: certain of nothing at all.
Either way, those invited here
come to play
pulled by the sea
or some other place
where they grow quiet enough to hear the invitation.
I love that we hear the call
so everywhere, so often now
More than anything else in this world
I love dropping every last big plan I had
just to respond, in kind
to the invitation
Dancing in the breeze the tree
is quiet and self-contained.
except for the sun
the soil, the birds
butterflies and bees
rain and wind
Daniel and me
pruning away dead and crossing branches
inviting more sun in to her center
lending her our shoulders and driftwood
to prop her up
after November’s storm pulled up some of her roots.
Ok, so not exactly self-contained.
What I mean is self-assured
happy with where and who she is
not fliting about like we humans do.
You know, worried, questioning everything,
wandering some days, angry, distrusting
Although, some years she is lost too:
like the two years that she was covered with
she had to have been a little worried
made almost no apples, and dropped those she did, quickly.
Her world was dark then. She hunkered down, moved within
sent no new branches toward the sun.
my point about this apple tree is that
Beautiful, strong leaves.
Graceful, arching branches
and more than a few that prove trees get bed head too
with limbs nestled all askew against the sky at night.
Amazing, delicious apples
beyond generous in her season
(to the point that we have run out of ideas again
for things to do with all these apples
and so have our neighbors
even the deer here are drunk).
The apple tree is pure delight.
To play a small part in her full and shining life is enough.
Every single time
I doubt my intuition
compromise what I need
shove aside my body’s warnings
bow before convention
elevate kindness too far above truth
allow another’s needs, or society’s, to entirely drown my own
the world goes sideways, fast
I become angry
I become the destroyer.
Behold the power of the goddess.
When will I fully trust myself?
Trust others enough to handle me as me?
Listen to my body?
Listen to her wisdom?
To myself? Here at this window.
Surely now at middle age
I should have learned by now
by now at least
that I am trustworthy and strong
that my intuition speaks only truth
that it’s my fear that sometimes lies
and lands me here again. Again.
Surely I should know
you, too, can handle my truth
my messy self, my needs, especially those that appear crazy at first
those that appear to contradict yours. How silly we seem now
the people who let fear lead us.
Crazy contradictions are precursors to all life-bringing creation.
Mud to a lotus.
I rest today, at peace, here within storm’s gentle eye
covered in the mud I made myself, grinning ear to ear.
No tom boy.
I apparently needed just one more example.
Laying sick again, in bed, on this beautiful and perfect August weekend day
while others brunch, slightly worried about she who takes cover at home.
Don’t worry about me. I can brunch another day.
I am content here, now, learning the lessons I insist on teaching myself until I get it.
I am stubborn. Thank god.
We become idiots when we don’t trust ourselves. Destroyers of selves and of worlds.
I was an idiot. Again.
humility and gratitude
my oldest, dearest friends.
And well played, self.
Too much humility is annoying as shit.