what do you call a circular flourish in the air? a bird
what do you call yellow and pink and blue? dawn, maybe dusk
what do you call ten fingers like a cup? finding your face
what do you call a combustable memory, then none? a flame
what do you call a river between sky and land? rain
what do you call the sky upside down? a bowl
what do you call an idyll stroll from the west? zephyr
what do you call a wrinkle in the sky? summit
what do you call one eye open, one eye closed? a question mark
what do you call a boy born from a peach? Momotaro
what do you call room enough for one more? bench
what do you call how earth sees your face? bare feet
what do you call a mountain going home? mud
what do you call hunger revealed? spoon
what do you call the shadow on your face? lips
Fair is fair. The blog so christened, then shouldn’t it
contain a poem of its own kins sake name?
You could save the world by torturing one innocent child.
Which innocent child?
William Stafford (teaching notes, provocative questions)
to answer once better than already done…
The devil doesn’t mind predicament. Neither God.
Do we navigate toward redemption or doom? There!
Right there! That thought just rolling off the roof,
splashing at your feet. What choice did you make?
We turn our heads into wind or away from wind.
We think about the widening wakes we leave behind.
Too late for them. Which innocent child sacrificed?
Observation of a choice already made.
Which child? Myself.
Answering another question, years later, she wrote, my doctor said, you should write just for yourself – write and post as if no one is watching but you! She wasn’t the only one. I already understood and agreed.
However I said, this is a pin-cushion, not a switch. Some history.
Of my former California home from child to young to middle age to the older me – I was painfully shy. If I didn’t already know you or’d been introduced, I’d never start up a conversation with you. Never. Might as well have been a tortoise shell. Honestly “being smart” was my mask. Not genuine, but hard delivered, the appearance of true. Then I moved to Washington state.
Everything. Except for one. Shyness got left behind. No history no expectations, no one knowing me that way. So I wasn’t. It wasn’t a plan, but there it was. Curious. Not their fault, not my fault. But real as a rock.
Before it was isolation that nourished me. Being with people was burning my candle down.
Most folk go one way or the other, but not both. Now I had a wick at either end. Anyone, fair game for my attention. Someone said, engage before people have a chance to turn away. This was not the me I’d been for the majority of my life. Words fail to describe, new heart new voice.
Two things about writing I should explain.
One. I write because I was asked to write. Years back, confused, hurting to be honest, I posed a prayer, the question – what should I do now? Next day, some say meditate, I say listen, an answer introduced itself. One word. Just one. write No explanation, no detail, no write and publish, no write and be well received. Not even “write well”. write No clouds opened in the sky, no voice of god, no nothing but that one word. I took it to heart.
Two. So I wrote. I tried to learn, to express with better clarity. I read, I wrote, think I learned along the way. Engaging with others, that part, that I added in. Vanity, sure, some of that, unavoidable. I wanted my work to show, to be appreciated, to be engaging. Ego doesn’t go away. Of those who think ego’s been eschewed, that’s only ego taking the backdoor in again.
There’s the rub. Two sticks making fire. I don’t write to please anyone else, and really, what choice is there? But a response? That’s how I gauge my measure here. This skin. This warmth. This breath.
This is the part where I’d go smoke a cigarette. Punctuation. But no.
So what changed? It wasn’t seven hundred miles. It was me.
And where’s the tail for this old dog? Circular. Surely you guessed.
It’s where the paddles come to water. Sitting on my sidewalk bench, coffee in hand, I never felt a slight when folks passed by without a word. Meaning only that I’d not reached out far enough, warmly enough. A lesson for next time. Nothing else. The ending isn’t written yet.
Every fierce battle in your life is with a paper dragon.
my tokens are heart lungs muscles fingers toes, even those. capitalization,
think I lost that one. words, really, where do those originate? not me,
not me, said the rabbit. cousin Alice, is that you?
my friend, I think she also had a snake. he stayed in his box, and me in mine.
not so fond of snakes. although that one in the garden, I had to laugh. no
hiding that recognition. true friends are hard to find.
wings to get over the tricky parts. three flames to illuminate the way.
a wooden bowl that was once on fire in the hills west of me.
My half-sister Ione. Beautiful. She held me as a child, her distinctive braids.
When parents parted ways Ione returned to father’s side of the family. Lost to me.
If somehow you are reading this – hello No period. hello
Ceramic rendition done by Robert Coates, a multi-talented odd sheep of the family. He did watercolors, oils, ceramics, wood carvings, sailed on tall masted wooden ships to Alaska. Died too early in life.
if you’re looking for clues, this is one.
here, two hands, one to either shoulder.
shifting, guiding, suggesting where to rest.
table was stoic, flat to my curves, rigid,
unforgiving. then a minute a flash and
big bright cross. hips cradled, rotated
to another view. again, please, here,
move just this measured much.
geography. my body was earth.
into this earthen bowl she was gentle
breathing. same same as her hands.
here, a radiograph of my not so better
side inside. uncomfortable?
you might reason so.
rather. unexpected welcome weather.
too long. too long. no skin-folded
first draft. no touch. just alone.
now I see myself again.
kindness like sun like wind like rain.
She touched my arm. “I’m glad you’re here tonight.” Then she stepped away. Back into unknown. And I was changed. Even years, many years later, I am not the same.
Where rock meets sea, this shelter cove. We all know what heaven looks like, do you? And I see here what you cannot. I can see when I was eight or ten or twelve years old. When I look that memory remains in my eye.
Some memories live on together.
I am broken. Am I mosaic?
I don’t know.
my fingers my handwriting reveals a face
I don’t recognize. write less I think to myself,
remain a better unknown. my fingers holding
chopsticks, holding a pen. same result.
my skin is water. finally cooling waves.
waiting has arrived. fish starfish and rocks,
a moving bough in a small universe. water
holds us all. like a child’s dream.
my lips. dry, crackling, a fire while I catch my
breath. they remember more than my thoughts
can describe. they know it when home arrives.
my feet don’t go so far as once they did. down
the slanted ground, will balance be of good faith?
socks or no socks are the questions today.
chest is where the air goes inside. a space
bounded by me, my ribs, my unsatisfied breath.
desperate is a word I’ve used a lot recently.
tongue waits for something chocolate or maybe
even just sweet. waits. waits.
eyes, they write the words first, inside.
it’s life that casts the long shadow here.
here’s the screen. here’s the shadow play.
you, audience, you make the story that makes the play.
truth be told you know, there’s only one.
one shadow seen from a thousand eyes.
by shadow we mean nothing revealed.
by shadow we mean between the fingertips.
by shadow we mean a kiss.
said before but worth repeating.
once upon a time I was fond of shadows.
shadows under trees, shadows under rocks,
shadows under books, beneath handwritten script.
shadows under you, no hiding them.
shadows between your lips.
well, I still am.