Category Archives: poetry

When the Journey Seems a Jungle

On so many days, the journey daunts. It’s the obstacle. It’s the path. It’s both. You choose the order, if that’s a must for you. Some days I stagger but I also admit to a bit of swagger. Those days cost me more, ultimately.

This day, the journey is loud with “voices I leave behind.” I have miles to go, new voices to know but not all do I let go. A constant companion is Mary Oliver who always seems to know.

The Journey

One day you finally knew

what you had to do, and began,

though the voices around you

kept shouting

their bad advice–

though the whole house

began to tremble

and you felt the old tug

at your ankles.

“Mend my life!”

each voice cried.

But you didn’t stop.

You knew what you had to do,

though the wind pried

with its stiff fingers

at the very foundations,

though their melancholy

was terrible.

It was already late

enough, and a wild night,

and the road full of fallen

branches and stones.

But little by little,

as you left their voices behind,

the stars began to burn

through the sheets of clouds,

and there was a new voice

which you slowly

recognized as your own,

that kept you company

as you strode deeper and deeper

into the world,

determined to do

the only thing you could do–

determined to save

the only life you could save.

Mary Oliver

Aim for Even posts offer equanimity a dose at a time. No day or dose is ever the same, even if the aim is. You may read about the origins of Aim for Even here or on this site’s About page.

“Poem” Pause: Being By a Cat

Nothing grounds me like a poem. Nothing. It brings me to life right where I am. Crossing the gulf of today’s #DailyDose is not a task too tall. It is paw by paw focus.

as the cat
climbed over
the top of

the jamcloset
first the right
forefoot 

carefully
then the hind
stepped down 

into the pit of
the empty
flowerpot.

(William Carlos Williams, “Poem”)

Aim for Even posts offer equanimity a dose at a time. No day or dose is ever the same, even if the aim is. You may read about the origins of Aim for Even here or on this site’s About page.

A Wendell Berry Kind of Day

It may be that when we no longer know what to do

we have come to our real work

and that when we no longer know

which way to go we

have begun our real journey.

Wendell Berry, Standing by Words

When despair for the world grows in me

 and I wake in the night at the least sound

 in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,

 I go and lie down where the wood drake

 rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.

 I come into the peace of wild things

 who do not tax their lives with forethought

 of grief. I come into the presence of still water.

 And I feel above me the day-blind stars

 waiting with their light. For a time

 I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

“The Peace of Wild Things,” Wendell Berry

On days when words fail, awash in my heart’s overflow, I go to “rest in the grace of the world.” What better compass than the “presence of still water?”

Aim for Even posts offer equanimity a dose at a time. No day or dose is ever the same, even if the aim is. You may read about the origins of Aim for Even here or on this site’s About page.

The Essence of Mirage

If equanimity opens me to the colors of the day, mindfulness provides the canvas. These are my daily tools, and I keep them close. If I do not, ego will send me in search of something so promising that to escape the day seems my only choice.

As well, I am provided 1001 reasons why inattentiveness to the day and its requirements is my best course. Sometimes this is true but mostly, it is a mirage.

Ego is formidable and endless but acknowledging–not avoiding or attaching–to such strong desire is the pause I need. I go to a poem, albeit one of a Victorian girl new to dreams. No matter; its essence provides what I need.

Mirage

The hope I dreamed of was a dream,

Was but a dream; and now I wake

Exceeding comfortless, and worn, and old,

For a dream’s sake.

I hang my harp upon a tree,

A weeping willow in a lake;

I hang my silenced harp there, wrung and snapt

For a dream’s sake.

Lie still, lie still, my breaking heart;

My silent heart, lie still and break:

Life, and the world, and mine own self, are changed

For a dream’s sake.

Christina Rossetti (c. 1842)

The line that lingers is “life, and the world, and mine own self, are changed.” It is what I need for this day, the day I have, and I am attentive to its canvas.

Aim for Even posts offer equanimity a dose at a time. No day or dose is ever the same, even if the aim is. You may read about the origins of Aim for Even here or on this site’s About page.

When There Is No Other Name

Sometimes, I leave too much unwritten but then, there are those times I “run aground” a metaphor. My writing lies somewhere between poetry and prose, falling short of either. Yet, it reflects the way I live now, a place in between.

Yesterday’s post mentions an acceptance of nothingness, as if there were no fear attached. In a society that values objects, possessions, the security of identity–more than 10,000 things–nothingness is its own terror.

I’m not a stranger to that terror for most of my life nothingness was my greatest fear, if I had known the concept. Some would argue that I do not have “enough things” to appreciate nothingness. They would not be wrong, which is not to say they are right.

Aging may be an advantage in assuming a larger perspective on things and no things. I know chronic illness is. After 40 years, I get impermanence–it is insurance against stasis–it is rarely comforting, almost always challenging, but it offers options.

Opportunity, however, is not without loss. It took me years to accept that. Sometimes, opportunity knocked elsewhere before coming back round to me. Ultimately, I had to let go of what I could not live without. Yet, here I am.

Whether reading or writing, I have always loved words. They give me solace, like the nameless Tao and the 10,000 things it manifests. For me, nothingness is the nameless of which I catch a glimpse from time to time. Sometimes, with one of my 10,000 words, I bravely name it poetry.

Aim for Even posts offer equanimity a dose at a time. No day or dose is ever the same, even if the aim is. You may read about the origins of Aim for Even here or on this site’s About page.

What to Think

Things to Think

Think in ways you’ve never thought before.
If the phone rings, think of it as carrying a message
Larger than anything you’ve ever heard,
Vaster than a hundred lines of Yeats.

Think that someone may bring a bear to your door,
Maybe wounded and deranged; or think that a moose
Has risen out of the lake, and he’s carrying on his antlers
A child of your own whom you’ve never seen.

When someone knocks on the door, think that he’s about
To give you something large: tell you you’re forgiven,
Or that it’s not necessary to work all the time, or that it’s
Been decided that if you lie down no one will die.

Robert Bly, Morning Poems (1998).

The first stanza of this poem appeared in a March 20 post, Not Running Short of Small Change. Yet, a single stanza is but one piece of the pie when the poet has meant for us to have the whole. To deny, is to shortchange.

Aim for Even posts offer equanimity a dose at a time. No day or dose is ever the same, even if the aim is. You may read about the origins of Aim for Even here or on this site’s About page.

Once in A While a Protest Post

Something there is that does not love a wall…” (Robert Frost).

No, not the wall specifically but all walls–any walls–put up under the mistaken belief that in isolation, life thrives. How can it? It exhausts its limited resources.

When we wall out what is on the other side, we lull ourselves into a false sense of security. We become self-righteous. Our way is the only way. There is no one way for everyone but for each of us there is a way.

No one label completely identifies who we are. We are walking contradictions, unique expressions of nature’s intentions. Nature cycles in seasons. No wall will hold it.

Something there is that does not love a wall….”

Impermanence. No matter what side of the wall you and I live, the reigning administration is just happy the wall exists. And intends to keep it that way. Both sides have nostalgic fondness for a life that is gone. Why? No one and no one thing ever stays.

It is a painful loss, the life I think I had. Perhaps for you, too. If I look closely, I find complacency, privilege, and a lot more. I did nothing while the wall went up–maybe you did–I did not look so it did not exist.

My Zen reminds me daily, sometimes hourly: don’t attach to the pain of loss or you’ll get stuck in its drama. But late at night, scrolling through social media, I want my say.

But more than my snark, I want my country–again–what is left of it. There is a sliver of light in #TheResistance if both sides pull down the wall together. And that is a big if.

We must lay down our labels—put country above party—to effectively pressure Congress and the administration. And we are; it is hard work. We are Americans, not sunshine patriots.

“Something there is that does not love a wall….”

So, now in my late-night scrolling through social media I aspire to Robert Frost’s “The Mending Wall.”

Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence.

Mirror the apple orchard and pine forest who grow side-by-side, their purpose to drop their seeds for future generations— theirs a life larger than their own.

It’s simply good manners, this reverence for life. Before you laugh me away remember reverence is innate in nature. Only we must keep re-learning.

Aim for Even posts offer equanimity a dose at a time. No day or dose is ever the same, even if the aim is. You may read about the origins of Aim for Even here or on this site’s About page.