Sanaa, at Poets United, asks us to complete the unfinished poem, “In my eyes he matches the gods” by the ancient master, Sappho. Here is one humble attempt. Sappho’s words are italicized.
“…But all must be endured, since even a poor” showing of stars
Will lead you midnight to my door
Unmatched by gods of men…
Asked And Answered
I am asked and answered
Beleaguered jasmine trill of longing
Snake smoke trail seducing sway
Beguiling smile descending
Swing upending the cause
Bemused and bespoke
I am exactly as ordered
Dyed crimson and bordered
In sailcloth and wind
And nothing untangles the fragrant cry of desire
The sea sprayed reaching
For fire aloft
From hands singed with elation to remain
Trauma, indignity, betrayal and other unwelcome visitors show up in some lives more than others. If they show up enough, a person might reach a point where they feel – they believe – they cannot withstand anymore. One more blow, and they will crumple and cease to be. They might plead and put The Great All That Is on notice: “Look, I can’t take anymore. I’m just letting you know this, in case you can find it in your heart to not send any more my way.”
Then, another blow – maybe a series of small ones, or one low-grade, crushing long one. Then, the person might just shut down – cease to even try negotiating with the powers that be. “What’s the point?” Now this person KNOWS, they really cannot take anymore. Truly, this time, the person will break when another wave comes.
Then, another blow. A big one. One that makes all the other blows seem like mere child’s play. And do you know what happens to our little person? Our weary, bedraggled, pushed-beyond-the-breaking-point little human, who has always had thin skin, but who now surely possesses no skin at all anymore.
It takes a long time, but this person opens their heart and makes themselves vulnerable – again. They do it. And they do it because now they really know something. Now this person knows something that is true: Life wants to live. It keeps going whether or not we can keep up. Life wants to live. So may as well embrace it. We are stronger than we think we are.
I’ve watched you break
I have felt every bone,
One by one, splinter into fragments
Into dust and rubble
Utter annihilation, not once
But many times
I’ve seen you stand up to tidal waves
I’ve seen you refuse fortunes
I’ve seen you run headlong into the mouth of a beast
And then another…and then another
How you emerge to run again
I do not know
But I’ve seen you reappear like magic…fully formed
Over and over again
I’ve seen the map re-write itself
I’ve seen the flowers bloom
And ruts in old roads replaced by mountain meadows
Purely by the sheer power of your will
I’ve seen you cry
Alone, abandoned and betrayed
And I’ve seen you walk outside and go right on loving
There is no give up in you
Even when you desperately wish it so
So may as well embrace this
This heart hurt
Because it is happening
And your heart will rise to meet you
With increasing frequency, I see around me a new and different kind of human. Most often they are young people, though not always. They have a wisdom and emotional intelligence, I would say beyond their years, but truthfully it is beyond what has ever been typical in humans at any age. They speak a language of acceptance and inclusion that is unprecedented and embody a depth of compassion that is eye-opening. They are acutely aware of what happens in the world and they act in hope. This too sets them apart – they see, they take action. And I have very often seen them respond to resistance and misunderstanding with openness, patience and kindness while remaining steadfast to principles of common good.
This is more than the optimism of youth. Their wisdom and depth of understanding at astoundingly early ages is at odds with long-accepted psychological theories of human developmental stages. I have come to affectionately refer to them as the new evolution of human, and I believe, as they step forward, more and more of us remember who we are and the power we hold in our innate love.
So FEAR, wherever you act in the world – whether through violent animosity, complacency, psychological paralysis, spiritual imprisonment or exile – you have been put on notice. We are led by a new evolution of human and we are taking back the human race!
To me, truth is joy, and joy is truth – one in the same. So in my view, joy does not always come in the form of happiness. It does not always contain happiness. Always, it comes with the clarity of what is true inside. And that clarity brings a feeling of freedom. Not always a celebratory freedom. Sometimes it is a freedom that is heavy with responsibility to go forth and transform something painful into something so beautiful, it is worthy of the loss that necessitated it and worthy of those who will benefit from the gift of it.
Molasses And Steel
You brought colour to my life
Black for molasses
Blue for steel
You stood for things that were not real
You stole in the morning
Then peeled away
Laying rubber, black as molasses, on scorched streets
You performed elegant and death-defying feats
You raised a glass to greet something
That would beat us into submission
You were cold, hard
Blue like steel
Peeling away the layers of skin
That healed you into my soul
Is not a goal I cherish
Or claim the wherewithal to do
But there is a piece of me in you
And whether black or blue
We both must breathe
We must leave a trace of ourselves in this world
We have to be the steel and molasses
That builds and feeds
And sweetens harsh deeds into submission
It is our composition
At least it is mine
So if I am to thrive on the brine
In the glass you gave me
Break your fast and save me
A cup of molasses
It was September when I brought home these uncommonly dark, richly coloured Stargazers. Within days, the blooms were gone. I planted the bulbs in the garden, and all winter I waited.
The lilies became a symbol for my own internal transitions. Unidentified potential skulking about in me. Restless and impatient with containment, angry and eager to burst. Bruised by the longing to be.
And at the same time, a growing sense of all that is alive in the universe that we do not see. Reading about experiments in physics demonstrating that light is sentient and, in its way, senses us. Waits in its own state of potential for us to choose and take part in the co-creation of what is and what will be.
Awaiting warmth of sun
Churning deep plum
Like a bruise
A cold and soundless
Waiting with hint of light
For scent of night
Alive with bloom
I am often grappling with the uneasy coexistence of absolute oneness and the seeming separation imposed by being in a physical body and of an individual mind – the condition of being an earthling, as it were. Here, the antidote to existential loneliness is an acceptance of a connection that is not knowable through my physical senses – a real surrender to my own beliefs. Physical touch is so much easier, yet this other kind of connection is so much bigger. But how do we live that kind of connection in our day-to-day physical world? We have to reach out our hands, answers my intuition. She gives no further instructions.
The Art Of Touching You
Telescope to the sky
A tingling darkness rises within
Shaping me tenderly
Resonating with things too far or too close for the eye to see
Things to be known instinctively
I sit alone with the universe
Embodying its great infinity
Contemplating the boundlessness
And the borders we impose
Intersecting at nowhere
And it is here that I laugh again
Because you are so close
That I can feel and know and love you
You are in my very own particles
And yet you are uniquely apart, as am I
But the art of touching you
This is the quest for which I turn to the telescope
The finer details eluding me
Out there we intersect, you and I,
At every point imagined and unimaginable
Here, I lie back and open my soul
To the immensity of that truth
My cosmology defining nothing while explaining everything at once
In this vast darkness swirling immeasurable light, I surrender and repose my longing
And reach out my hand and accept that you are here
I hear a lot of talk about the state of the world. Often, I hear statements that begin with vision and understanding and shift quickly into sentences starting with, “but sadly… .” I hear a lot of voices filled with resignation saying “I hope… .” The implication being “I hope I’m wrong about where all this is headed.” This is not hope.
Hope is not passive.
Hope is not waiting to see what will happen. Hope is not about outcomes. Hope is making choices. Hope is choosing what you do with your thoughts, where you focus your attention, what you do in response to the challenges in your world. Hope is not passive.
Hope is investing in life. Showing up. Being here – for however long you get to be here. You wonder sometimes, “is there any hope for us, for our world?” Youare our hope. Be here! I am our hope. Stand with me! All we have to do is show up, see ourselves in each other and choose accordingly.
Fear is just a pioneer
Leading our way into undiscovered territory
Making of us children at the feet of a great storyteller
Where colour has no rules and form is open to interpretation
And the unexpected is the stuff of life
And the trail leads on as the story goes
And the artist knows what we fail to imagine
But the ground is broken
And the sun is high
And the first faces will break the chain of habitual seeing
And the pioneers will break their hold on the living
And no more will the roots of tyranny determine our destiny
Heart Open is the first in the “Out Loud” series of my spoken word poetry. Any time you see the above white and orange “Out Loud” logo, click play and have a listen.
Heart Open is about living a courageous devotion to love, vulnerability and freedom and recognizing these as inherent experiences that we all share.
The opening lines, “her heart is open / and mine is watching,” were born as I watched Alicia Keys perform on television. She sang and played, heart on her sleeve, and I felt how my heart had become guarded after a few solid years of consecutive illness, brain injury and personal loss.
I perceived in Alicia Keys’ expression and performance, the fullness of love for life she is capable of enjoying because she is willing to be vulnerable in her art, and I remembered! I remembered how to achieve that experience for myself.
It is a universal experience. A universal capacity to love. To choose love. To be love. To remember that love is life, and life is the point. I am grateful that we can learn, and relearn, from each other. Awaken, and reawaken, because we see ourselves in each other and we know in our being the power of love that unites us.
Her heart is open
And mine is watching
Her heart is open
And mine keeps stopping to see
‘cuz if it’s her
Then it’s me
And the deluge is gonna come
And the day I run?
Woman, that ain’t gonna happen
If I’m livin’, I’m laughin’
I’m soakin’ up the sun
I’m dancin’ in the rain
And I’m sane
And if you’re gonna hit me with rage
I will stand with the almighty
The all-knowing power
‘cuz if it’s in my heart
It’s in your heart too
Sweet, sweet synchronicity
If it’s her
Then it’s me
Then it’s you