Pledge

Pledge

If it’s another hot dish of fear you are holding in your univited hands, don’t bring it here

We need something else to nourish us

 

The door is locked now

We all heard the barrel click when the deadbolt shoved its way in reluctantly

And that was it for us

after Change slipped in and planted herself on the couch

and ate all the chocolates

drank all the liquor

 

Change

a fist through the wall

a broken chair

and that was it

we embraced her for lack of a solution

and pledged to keep it together

 

We stayed put

We started a book and read a chapter a day

We read aloud

We read

We made muffins with what was available

We gave up expectations

and dumped all the ingredients in one big bowl and stirred

We made peace

We cleaned bathrooms

We learned

We worked

We juggled literally

figuratively

 

We found stuff we lost

We did laundry until it was all done

We found a movie we could all watch

We made breakfast, lunch and dinner

We talked to our mothers

We put on a brave face

We listen to music coordinated to our moods

We danced

fast

slow

 

We talked

We listened

We took a seat

We started walking for miles into the interior

We stared down the many, ugly demons hiding there

And so we suffered

We accepted this suffering as a necessary path toward compassion

We understood our suffering as being human

 

We sacrificed for people we will never meet

We were sad

We were lonely

We were humbled

We were truly and utterly afraid

 

and in that gutter of the soul

sensed a possibility for growth

We had to

 

We chose hope

We chose kindness

We chose patience

We chose each other

 

And then we stopped

Stopped checking for updates

Stopped pretending life was a rabid pursuit of happiness

and found contentment

right here

right now

 

Stopping believing our status and stuff could save us

Stopped being in control

and found we never were to begin with

 

Stopped complaining and climbing

Stopped fighting

Stopped winning

Stopped hating

Stopped everything, everywhere

 

We surrendered

at last

to what is and not what we wanted

and did what we had to keep our grandmothers alive

 

Quitting

as an ultimate act of love

 

and suddenly this distance became our connection

to everyone

 

Courage

Courage

Every shoreline is the end of a road.

 

To English Bay

bring your Sunday picnic

your blanket

your grief

 

and drop it there

lay down

on white sand

the only soft ground

 

beyond this

an ocean of unknowing

how deep, how wide

how broken

how willing

 

Forever gulls hover overhead

as waves roll over and over

and the sky, sun stained sherbet

slipping down

 

like your boy

gone

down below the horizon

 

Seeing you bent over that gleaming, white casket

a free fall of

wild pain

 

I searched for hope,

quelling my own fear

imagining a white canoe instead

ready to take his soul wherever it wanted to go

to paradise

to safety

to meaning

 

Beyond his mother’s arms,

another embrace

the long limbs of empathy stretched

to the outer limits of this thing we call humanity

 

To witness is to know we too, will disappear from this life

we have no other choice, so say nothing for once

 

observe the invitation to pause

kneel down while we still can, in shallow water

before the tide rises and takes us

and feel this precious, sweet, miserable moment

and this one

and this one

 

For B. and E.

 

Kneeling

When she came home I was full of hope

the weekend

almost carefree, moving about the house and head with few obstacles

a door slammed

I knew it wasn’t what she had wanted

and all that hope popped and evaporated as I stood in the doorway,

both the real one and the one between us

 

Not having a plan or an escape hatch

I kneeled at the foot of my life

the one I created

the one I was responsible for

 

Sometimes acceptance is the only way to stay alive

the ones who panic drown in all their denial and fighting

fear or ego

getting the best and worst of them

far too quick to vacuum up the debris and all the air with it

strong stomach to just be in the suffering

 

It wasn’t a big thing as compared to the grotesque news of the day

but it was real, it was hard

so I walked through the doorway to meet you where you were

I did what I could, but mainly I witnessed dissappointment

of the kind that erupts in the wake of inexperienced expectations

I left her alone to wrestle with the dragon

 

Within an hour her friends, hearing the mournful call arrived

and chased her around the house like little children

laughing

and just like that, hope settled back into the room, a merciful thick fog

sheilding us from the future and adjusting our focus

 

 

 

 

 

Bad China Day

Bad China Day

I feel the real hunger here

despite a table set rich with progress
that old world
a tough and cruel permanent marker
underlines our every move
at the very same moment we claim to have none of it
It’s easy to fill up
holding a mango soft serve at McDonald’s
the laminated menu and kindergarten yellow
offered relief from the ancient angry lions standing guard
the female, with her cub wrapped around and under her giant paw
as if to crush him
suspended in time for 500 years
American temples are light in comparison
even trapped under the golden arches
we make it so enjoyable you don’t even notice the cameras
pointed at all of us, all of the time
the new guns
One night off the 4th Ring Road
a city park
in a dark heat soaking
we danced with the neighborhood ladies under trees wailing with cicadas
we improvised the steps to cross an ocean
while a man with his whip beat a rock
with everything he had
each blow to the house sized stone
shook the dragons of China past
and the Donalds of China present
releasing their terrible grip if only for a moment
a submission to the will of the people
to be left to the business of park diplomacy despite all this
still, we didn’t step off the kept path
keeping hands to ourselves
sunk deep in the pockets of longing
waiting for the old stone to crack

Poem for Brett Kavanaugh

They put a letter on your chest

like Hester Prynne

remember her

left with the worry

as Wanda Coleman predicted

it almost broke you

those heavy brother blues

yet you rose triumphant

again

higher still

lifted by the filthy hands of your tribe

draped in new robes and annointed

shedding your past crimes hastily

like your pants or

a snake skin on the side of the road

discarded

at the daughter’s feet

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Easter Egg

In plain sight

the colored egg hid

perched on a chunky candle stand

a blue egg

resting, as if in a funky nest

where last night a white, softball shaped candle had been

suitably arranged next to its twin, both suspended high in motionless orbit on their decorative platforms

one slightly higher than the other

forever waiting for the match that will bring them back to life.

 

She had them all, but the blue one

in a fushia pink basket

Seventeen eggs, some bright, some muted, a few with hearts where the white, waxy crayon had made the eggshell impenetrable

like the mystery of spring itself

all that new life

everywhere

and as she looks in vain, straining under chairs, eyeballing the ceiling

running exasperated into the bathroom

“Is it in the tub?” I shout, my gaze fixed on the egg.

She runs back into the room, pajamas dishevelled

“Hot potato!” I say, as she stands in front of the coffee table

spread thick with the evidence of our weekend

and the candlesticks

 

I am her steady sign post

“Colder,” I warn as she moves toward the desk

like a train conductor, I keep her on track

 

She looks blankly in my direction

not seeing it

but it’s not the egg she’s really after

it’s the magic

that same magic we all think we’ve lost

yet it’s there all the time

right in front of our weary, startled faces

like a blue Easter egg where a candle should be

calling like a siren

the magic is right here.

 

“Look one more time,” I say quietly,

“You will find it.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I broke a bone

I broke a bone

That year I slipped and broke a bone

you broke away from this continent

like California

bright and beautiful

will slip away at last

glance over her shoulder at the shoreline

redefined

as she floats a new identity

 

Short of breath, I watched you ease away from the known world

after years and years

of practice swims,

swift, hard,

triumphant

an earthquake always comes as predicted with time.

 

All that training comes to this

 

staring down the situation

with its magnetic dangers

you stuffed a duffel bag with what was available

treasures from the hoard

unearthed slowly in the backyard wilderness

you had been digging there for a long time and

crowned yourself finally

as your own hero

 

Sore, I helped push the raft away lightly

using only my fingertip

you did the rest

a merciful act

the quiet euthanizing of childhood

 

I asked so much of you

like Christmas with it’s promises and miraculous transformations

even common pinecones decorate the wreath

sparkling anew with glitter and gold paint

but still just pinecones underneath

each one hit the ground somewhere

with a little damage

no matter the preparations

 

I wish for you to keep the good stuff and take it with you to your future kingdom

the rest of it

leave as the imperfect human bullshit it is

and learn from that.

 

make a cloak of the feeling in your gut at jumping off the dock

scandalous pop songs on road trips

orange drop cookies

compassion

for everything

but most especially for yourself.

 

for Lucy Rose