This weekend my daughter, her friend and I participated in the Whidbey Institute work party. She wanted to weed the labyrinth as her job, so I joined in. There will be photos of the workday and I believe her holding up a worm on the Whidbey Institute page (on the blogroll to the right) at some point.
Whidbey Institute Labyrinth photos from the man who helped build it.
Here you can learn about sacred geometry, and can find a labyrinth near you with the Labyrinth Locator: Labyrinth Society
Or walk a Virtual Labyrinth with your computer mouse!
I liked weeding the labyrinth so much that I started an intention to spend some of my 1-hour off weekday work schedule doing this as a piece by piece process. If you can gain spiritual connection and solve problems by walking the labyrinth, surely you can by weeding it!
The problem I am trying to resolve is, “Where did my poetry go?” Other than a select few poems for individuals, I have not been able to hear the poetry muse in 20 years. So, in honor of National Poetry Month’s final day, I have decided to post all my poems not lost from my computer crash of 2010 in this blog post. All were written when I was age 19-24, but there were many more now disappeared into the ether.
Beaded, sparkling yellow-blues,
peacock feather swirls —
a work of art on a Ked.
Speared on a stick from tongue to tail,
the shoe leaned against its cement post
under the freeway over-pass,
immovable, an art exhibit for passers-by,
a voodoo icon
waiting for some part in a curse.
~ ~ ~
Mute Sister muses
on the cacophony of desert:
ravens seeding tumbleweeds,
mallow and buckwheat sprouting,
wild rice grass swaying
wind wind wind
Mute Sister thinks she owns time,
having captured sound;
stands and listens, absorbing
orchestras of lightening
Spoken Sister speaks a ballet
of words, aerated words
like water bubbled from
a fish’s mouth —
sharp urchin-spined words,
words sprinkled in classrooms
showered over lecture-halls —
octopus words uncurling
Spoken Sister connects
people, contains her power
and readies her spray
like a humpback whale.
Sometimes Mute Sister listens,
collects her tears in a pool,
and contemplates swimming.
~ ~ ~
I want to create something whole
with the musics and shades and fibers
of my life. So
I am listening to a loom.
Shuttle shushes through woof,
beater clanks toward weaver
and I am listening.
I want to dance with thousands
of hands from thousands of years
in the brilliance of color,
A chickadee’s voice outside,
a perpetual grocery list,
sweat-darkened laundry resting
in its basket, the weaver’s longing
for home — all find a place in the cloth.
I want to create something whole
with my life, so I am listening to a loom.
~ ~ ~
I wish I could knit you a poem
like the sweaters that fly
from my hands remembering
the silk of your fingers
embrace as you pulled me through
stiff motion unlearned
until the yarn could wrap around,
under and through
its own loops.
Each loop replays
your hands’ grace
the angle of gulls’ wings open;
your long hands that knew
the shapes of years
of Birthday cakes, plum tarts, and surprise
cookies just warm like the storybooks said.
You wove stories of war, of leaving
Germany, of surviving growing;
giving as if to compensate
for what you also shared with me
and no one else: a curve in the spine.
You were cased in plaster one summer for this,
and hung from doorways while brothers teased
your dangling feet.
I acquired a plastic shell to keep the world out
for four years breaking
free one hour each day.
The last stitches your hands
held the week you stopped living
with cancer, are a patchwork of saved colors:
Squares that cover me in winter
and help remind me whose fingers
pressed into mine, leaving
the gift of keeping
~ ~ ~
Who will tell me when to get off this train?
I am standing, swaying with the world
swishing, flashing past
tenements and trees,
In the train car womb
people wait limp for the motion to slow.
Doors slide and people wake to be
ushered out by invisible hands.
I am not so sure when to leave.
My instinct grew in a different place.
Who will tell me when to get off this train?
My dreams hold dry,
over-exposed, human-free land
stretching to blue expanse of air everywhere.
Now I stand
in these black shoes,
swaying with the world
~ ~ ~
They died all around him of starvation. “Bullet rice,” they called it.*
Like the wind you run
Through the jungle
In train car dark
Scaling ancient trees in seconds
Reaching the river’s cold edge
That can hide you
Like the fish
You catch in one
You find the camp people,
Your weakened heart a thread.
They fly you
To us for a second life.
Doctors label you 14,
And make you exist
Assigning a new heart,
A birth date.
Betray the years behind your eyes.
Your recovery defies
American laws of medicine
(Our missing chemical is always the spirit).
Sleep runs you into
Valves clicking in plastic dark.
You are 18
Washing dishes in a Mexican restaurant.
Going to high school
From all the ART
Nine brothers and sisters
Whisper in your ear
Their voices rise
Into Khmer Rouge bullet screams.
Your eyes ask
Why am I alive?
My friend, you are alive.
You have been the wind.
* “What These Eyes Have Seen,” Northwest Magazine, November 1, 1987, p.36.
~ ~ ~
A large black sea lion
Rolled on shore
Might be nothing
More than death.
Circling the body
Step by step,
I satisfy some scientist in me.
Watching the blue-black eye
Turn white, I stand
One moment longer,
Noticing cowlicked hairs
Begin to catch
Sand grains in the wind;
Small ear flaps limp
On the smooth, bulky head;
Flippers pressed the wrong way.
The way I came,
Sliding up a dune
Through stands of
Salt grass bending.
I follow deer tracks
Until, knowing I am watched,
And turn my head right
To see a smaller gray seal
Against the dune,
Two black eyes questioning.
I step forward–
Wanting to push it back
Thinking the seal will surely die
This far from the tide–
When I realize
It was my eye that had moved,
Not the seal.
Letting a warm drop of salt roll,
Driftwood cannot shake.
~ ~ ~
I. Junipers hold fast
roots four hundred years past seed,
China to Japan.
II. Water purifies
each finger dipped and drying.
Release for the soil.
III. School boys crouch to feed
pigeons in the temple square.
The senko pot burns.
IV. Inside the dragons’
garden; breathless steps to reach
cackling, grinning beasts.
V. Kencho-ji Temple,
student artist at the gate;
black crows urge me home.
~ ~ ~
Two Top Buttons Fell
Portland’s public Reading Room is shelter from
Oregon’s cold winter days;
downtown where you are
always trying to get up.
My high-back, hard-wood chair
brings me to the edge of Medgar Evers’ life story,
marching on Selma’s streets with N double A C P,
Seeing people overcome the hound dogs’ bark,
reading words of freedom-love, life-love, blood-love.
Your tired scarf and maroon wool hat
frame your pride-lined face.
Across the broad yellow table,
your brown salvation coat gapes at me
where two top buttons fell.
Veins in your thumb strain as you move a page.
Your eyes look only down over Time magazine glare.
Glossy red runs there between dark skin
and South African dirt.
I want to teach you to see the words
on that shelf behind your back.
Bright lights in this room
remind us to belong out of the cold;
only closing time pushes you back
to the frosted bench to wait.
Every day you understand
how to sit near the words
and meditate on full color.
No story can explain
how you know that blood speaks.
~ ~ ~
I intended to find your address,
to write all the words I had saved
for you these seven years.
I intended to meet you half-way —
But the fall —
I did not see that trail, the cliff, those rocks;
sing red, red songs
in your honor.
I wonder if the sage and pinon know.
I intended to find your address.
Instead I read those seven years
in a newsletter —
You married and graduated
with a degree in physical therapy,
watched a husband die from a brain tumor,
and two years past grief you entered the
Park Service to give yourself to the land
and you met the person your heart needed to heal.
When you took that step
he was greeting his parents at the airport
flown in to meet you —
Your life was 90 years in 26
as if your foot knew the outline of that step
and the slide of those rocks.
You taught how to see
the whole in the blind girl shoved in high school halls,
how to hear the life of the quadriplegic in his words,
how to wander into truth by feeling differences,
like rubbing stones.
You taught how to turn the pain of those four years
in a spine-straightening brace,
turn the pain over to a group so we could place
the hurt in the middle of a circle
and say, “This is our difference”
and will make us strong
and will make us know.
The song you strummed from the campfire
stays with me
as if I found your address
in the air I breathe when I walk
in the leaves or in desert sand
~ ~ ~
To Real-Timers (After Gwendolyn Brooks’ “To Black Women”)
where there is stifled time —
no spacious hours for colors and words, no
adrenaline rush, no shining muse, no heartfelt conversation —
Continue under the work places of the world!
The cruel phones, the supervisory commands,
telecommunications and envelopes fat
as the paycheck wizard.
It has been a
long week, with fatigue, headache and dizzy-spells.
You have surprised some
You have not agreed to follow
through every order given by those
in higher position, the language thieves.
Earth remains in your hands and you remember
Your own rhythms.
The whisper of leaves.
And you shape and then fling your newness.
~ ~ ~
Fireflies for my Father
On this last, Labor Day visit, your father drives me past his “Avenue of Flags.” Your mother is almost gone, and I want to hold a firefly’s light like the screened summer porch evenings of your one-doctor town. You are capturing every word you can use to assemble a history for your children, imagined grandchildren.
Pen and paper are your ears’ extensions, because the lymphoma is spreading. Your mother is dying. You are going back to Illinois, back to Virginia, back to your mother’s farmhouse near Little Rock, her date with Fulbright, her courtship with Grandpa, his second-place design for Boston’s City Hall.
Your father destined his own retirement home, your mother’s infirmary, your childhood house, and acres of blooming pears, Jonathan apples, a glorious peach, rolling lawns and wooded hills milkweed-rich; the pond you fished, the garden once seeded by Grandma’s palms: Corn, tomatoes, allium and parsley.
You grew despite your youth restricted each year to a hospital bed in struggle for breath, despite the burden in the nickname, “Doc”, despite sermons and all the white-spired walls, rolling farms with identical barns and silos facing the road. You sought freedom on those perpendicular lanes of speed, where you could restitch the terrible symmetry of your landscape.
You defined a self despite the Buddy Holly glasses and mirrored hairstyles of your county school. You grew despite the jockey’s grimacing black face on doorsteps.
You fatefully chose a baby sister who once adopted, could not be returned. She sharpened your mother’s vision as the source of Opportunities, a place of work for slow ones, a place free of labels.
I tell you, now I need to walk, fast and far after three days of ‘Country Kitchen’ salad bar, after retirement home air, trying to be heard above hearing loss, trying to be your father’s short-term memory.
You make an exception. You will walk without destination this once. We enter dusk’s ambiguity on a dirt road straight through eye-level corn. Cricket sound reverberates, corn tops glow like moon, but the sky is moonless. An ocean of universal time at high-speed–stars birthed and dying in a series of seconds in our eyes, in front of and behind our moving feet. We walk the purposeless road an hour. I want us to always remember this light palpable as generations, temporal as goodbye.
~ ~ ~
The Anniversary of my Strangeness
I commemorate the occasion with candy corn
vertebrae on a chocolate cake,
pulled to the side like some fault-line
in the frosting; a keyboard snaked
like a river, sounding zany, twisted tones.
In visits to the Albuquerque Prosthetic Clinic–
men of war need limbs, bought parts,
while I stood wrapped in plaster, drying hot,
arms out like a scarecrow, waiting for the saw
to split my casing.
The technician was kind, explaining how a cast saw
stays away from skin. But my stomach
did not know the difference.
A week later I am fitted, the brace
transformed into an inch of plastic and Styrofoam,
springing brass brackets and Velcro-leather straps
that can be tightened between meals.
An adjustable door in the back, pressures
my right scapula to conform
my independently-thinking spine.
Four times I completed the plaster ceremony.
My choice: Refuse the brace for the sake of boys
and a swim team, and grow always leaning–
or, live in a shell to hold my spine in its 35-degree
curve until the bones stop their growth.
Four years spent, twenty three hours each day in its grip.
I bumped off walls,
got elbowed in a crowd and reveled in surprised glares,
heard every knock-knock joke in the book
by well-meaning friends testing my nerves.
Unable to bend at the waist,
my fingers could dance
between black and white on stage
and people listened, eyes closed.
I could have been the hunchback
of Notre Dame and the audience
would not have seen me or themselves
listening to my sound.
Music poured from my fingers,
washing me, carrying me
from my body in its case.
Two, then four, then six hours a day,
the piano spoke my anger, my tears.
I didn’t know I was praying.
~ ~ ~
New Mexican Playground
We tasted string-loop lollipops
from the bank teller counting heads
inside our green Ford wagon,
asking Mother about her day.
We cut clothing and shoe-box homes
for our Barbie alternatives: the Boopsie
doll and red velveteen dog, a garage
sale find with our allowed ten cents.
Our back-bends and somersaults and headstands
won prizes under Hyder Park elms. We harvested
dandelion leaves for dinner salads, marigold
seeds for planting. We asked trees and clouds
for answers–Will I be famous when I grow up?
Will we have Dad’s Cream of Mushroom soup again
for dinner? Will an ice age wipe out my life?
A small-scale miner in sand, I dredged
a horseshoe magnet for hours, competing for
the weight of its sluffed, black fuzz.
We attempted to fly the garbage bag kite
in a windstorm, we roller-skated on basketball courts,
cement over sand, plucked goat-head
burrs from our wheels.
We knew summer theater–
Ant lions slaying minute, black prey
in a desperate slide down the pit,
the drama of the chase–lizards dismembered
bleeding blue tails in our hands. And often,
a line of parents held us above the schoolyard
wall to listen to the twilight lightning
and witness the silent storms.
~ ~ ~