Monday, October 12, 2009

How Joy Enters

I missed the frogs on my walk to the pond yesterday.  They were hiding somewhere, buried in the warm mud as if they are the truth I’ve been hiding from myself.

In a happy and upbeat mood near the end of my weekend of silent retreat, I stepped onto the boardwalk leading to the trail around the pond, and instantly felt like I was greeting an old friend. Hello Woods! I wanted to shout out loud. Usually I am greeted with a sense of joy and welcome, but instead a heavy and gray weight settled on my chest.

I stopped on the trail and watched the leaves float on the surface of the brook that leads away from the pond.

“What?” I asked that weight that I thought was gone for good. “Why are you here again? Why won’t you leave me alone? Why do you keep coming back? Do you have something to tell me?”

I felt like a petulant child whose fun was spoiled, stamping my foot alone in the woods on this beautiful fall day.  I looked to the blue sky and stood there for a moment gazing at the gorgeous yellow leaves that caressed it, waiting for the answer I was afraid would never come, waiting even though I wanted to lie in the grass and rest from carrying this sudden weight. 

“What is it?” I asked again.
“You have a broken heart,” a voice whispers.

“Oh,” I say, and as if it were a big gray moth that has settled on my chest, the weight I felt when I entered the woods stays there until the tears I need to shed have caressed the skin of my face, and when it has drunk its fill the Moth of Sorrow flies away, and I am free again.  It only takes a few moments, but it feels like it lasts a long time.  I think it took the last of my Great Sorrow with it.

Some part of me has resisted this knowing, this truth about my heart, even as I’ve tried everything to heal it, absolutely everything a sane and sober woman would do, and nothing has worked to completely eradicate it or completely seal it over.  No matter how much wisdom and insight and truth I’ve packed around it, like a pulled wisdom tooth after a visit to the dentist, it resists all my efforts to change it, to turn it into scar tissue so I can move on and forget about it.   No matter how many prayers I’ve said or how long I meditate, no matter how much laughter I’ve shared or fun I’ve had, no matter how long my walks are or how many tears I’ve cried, it has remained open and soft.

I have tried everything, and still it is there, a heart that is broken open wider and somehow wilder and truer than it’s ever been. I have had my heart broken before, but this time is different. This time I wake at least once a week to words and questions, sentences and paragraphs, whole chapters unspoken, unwritten, unasked, seeking answers and closure in the real world and not just in my spirit.   There is no one to direct them to, though, those words and questions, except the wind and my soul, and they have no final answers for me.

The truth is, the good news is, this broken-open heart has brought me face to face with my essential vulnerability, and the deep need my soul has to drop, once and for all, the “tough chick from the projects” persona I have lived with all my life.  The truth is that “tough chick” has been dead for a long time, but when I’m afraid to lose something or take a risk, or when I’m full of desire for something I really shouldn’t have, I hear her voice.   She’s like a big ugly zombie, constantly stalking me with her crazy advice and admonishments, yelling from the sidelines, jumping up and down like a bad coach screaming invectives, telling me what to do. It’s hard to tune her out, sometimes.  She gets loudest when I am frightened, or when there is something or someone delicious and yummy that I want so very badly but have no business having, absolutely no business being with.  It is worse when both of those energies are active at the same time – fear and desire.

“Go for it! “ she yells.  “You can handle it!  What’s the big deal? Don’t be such a baby!”

She stands on the sidelines of my life, jeering at me for being a weakling, a wuss, a woman who requires tenderness and truth, intimacy and commitment, loyalty and trust.  The truth is I am not tough. I have never been tough.  I am mortal and soft, and it’s about time I accepted that.   I am staring down the barrel of the last half of my life, after all.  It’s definitely about time I accepted that.

So I stood next to the pond today and listened to the trickle of the water and the wind in the trees and I heard the truth.  So I took the opportunity to speak to that crazy zombie stalker, but only in the deep quiet of my soul’s rooms and not out loud in the middle of the woods, because while I am many things, I am not crazy.

“Look,” I said to her.  “ I’m just a fur-less, claw-less, feather-less breather trying to find Love and Happiness and Truth on this beautiful planet, trying my best to live in a sometimes difficult and challenging world.  Can you cut me some slack?”

And I walk on through the woods, and am content in the knowledge, in the hope that she will honor my request.   I took my broken-open heart home, and now I wait quietly and contentedly for more Joy to continue to arrive in my life and in my soul, because that’s how it always comes, that’s how it finds its way home – Joy can only enter through a totally open and wildly beating heart. 

October 11, 2009

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The Charmer

He sat as they all do
in the lotus position
with a turban on his head
and a flute in his hand
his baskets all around him 
and the sound of hissing snakes
emanating from his skin.

He was just a man.

I drew closer to him
pulled in by the music
drawn in by his power 
and he asked 
if I would dance for him
just climb into a basket
and sway for him
and I laughed and said no,
I don't sway for just anybody
just any old snake charmer
I don't climb into baskets
for a stranger
and dance.

I should have walked away
just then, kept my mouth shut
just then, and my ears closed 
just then, because
I am so easily hypnotized.
But he was just a man, really,
just a boy, really,
and so I laughed.

He shifted his position
on his dark red pillow and 
cocked his eyebrow at me and
began to play his flute for me then
began to charm me then
and the lies began to pour
from his mouth
just then
coiling into hissing snakes
at his feet
just then
slithering toward me
muscular and glittering and
full of flattery and promises
just then.

"Beautiful," one said
and wrapped itself around my ankles.
"So special," said another
as it twined around my thighs.
"Sweet and lovely," hissed another
coiling around my belly.
"I am here for you, darling," 
hissed a particularly powerful one
all diamonds and patterns and
blood red eyes.
And those meaty muscular snakes
coiled and slithered
around my limbs and around my chest
held me close around my neck
and bound me tight 
until I was frozen and unable to move
but my heart continued to beat
and I could hear its distant drumbeat
and I was afraid.

And then that charmer 
put me in a basket 
just any old basket 
and played his flute for me
played so darkly for me
to make me dance for him
and dance I did
I was helpless not to
and it wasn't even my best dancing
bound so tightly as I was 
by his lies.

I swayed in that basket
all that long day 
and far into the night.
For two nights I swayed 
until early that last morning 
when he suddenly 
and without warning
flung his flute aside and 
slammed the lid of the basket
down onto my head
because he had finished with me
he had no more use for me
he was bored with me now
and so he strolled off into the sunset
without a backward glance
looking for other dancers
he could charm with his flute
leaving me bound by his lies
his magical coiling snakes
leaving me to untangle 
the now lifeless 
but still twitching serpents
from my warm soft body. 

September 29, 2009

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Tattoo Gods


When I was introduced 
to the Tattoo gods
for the first time
I was horrified. 

"Wait, I have to appease them, too?"
I asked. 

My tattoo guy just smiled and said,
"Yeah. Yeah you do." 

And he took up his needle 
all buzzing and humming
and he pierced my skin
with the colors of truth
and all the bright lights went out
and we danced around the bonfire
and someone beat the drums
and someone yelled like a native 
and the Tattoo gods just smiled
and every permutation of
everyone I've ever been
flashed through my mind. 

I sat in my car afterward 
with this creature on my arm
the Fairy that is me
all beauty and light
and I sobbed and I cried 
and then
a red dragon
wrapped itself around me
all firy and red 
and light-filled and scaly
and I knew the Tattoo gods
weren't done with me yet.

September 11, 2009 

Monday, September 14, 2009


Many weeks ago now
decades ago now
eons ago now
I met Betrayal
for the first time
in my life.

He is not
a handsome creature.

Here I am, Betrayal said
on that early Sunday morning
with his big fat grin,
his teeth all showing like a shark’s.
Are you ready for another lesson
on your fancy road to Enlightenment?
Hah! he answered himself gleefully.
Of course you are not,
but here I am anyway.

He danced around the room
and mocked me openly
waving his sword around
as if he owned the place. 

And I stood there helplessly
as he handed that sword
to the unwitting human
he’d chosen for his work.

And that unwitting human
thoughtlessly and easily
bowed to Betrayal
as he took up that dark sword
and cut deep into my belly
and sliced up to my throat
and opened up a wound that
totally exposed and
completely revealed
my totally real
and completely open
and loudly beating
and the red blood poured out
and puddled on the floor
and Betrayal stepped over it
in his fucking little flip-flops
and his backwards little hat
stepped right the hell over it
as if he didn’t even see it
as if he didn’t even feel
its heat.
September 11, 2009 
 –verb (used with object)
to deliver or expose to an enemy by treachery or disloyalty
to be unfaithful in guarding, maintaining, or fulfilling
to disappoint the hopes or expectations of; be disloyal to
to reveal or disclose in violation of confidence
to reveal unconsciously something one would preferably conceal
to show or exhibit; reveal; disclose
to deceive, misguide, or corrupt
to seduce and desert.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Last Night


So last night I went for it.
I brought my sleeping bag to the field
and lay on the wet grass
under the full moon
and soothed by the rhythm
of the peeping frogs
I pulled the moon and the stars
deep into my pores,
and felt the wind in the trees
as if they were my own hair,
and way off in the distance,
I swear to you,
someone was playing a Jackson Five album.

June 7, 2009

Friday, September 11, 2009

The Knowing


This pathway through the woods
is the landscape of my Soul
made eerily manifest.
Pulled by the dark vines of worry
and tripped by the hard roots of fear
I am soothed by the artist of loved Brother Sky
who pulls me dreaming to himself
to create.
I hear the quiet invitation
from the breezy marsh to rest,
and the call of the trail
whispers silently to explore
to fearlessly move forward
and not look back
knowing deep in my bones
and in the ground of my being
that I am held very tightly
on this lushly green rock
this gorgeous blue orb
of Mother-Sister Earth
and I truly understand
for the first time ever
She will never
not ever
never ever
let me go.

September 11, 2009

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Live As If You Mean It


There's this woman that works in Walgreen's down the street who is so deeply unhappy it stuns me.

It's the thing you notice first about her, that and her size. Then you notice her voice, nasally and depressed. When she speaks, it drops an octave or two at the end of every sentence, as if she's let it go into a deep dark well and doesn't care if she ever hears the splash. She just doesn't care. I think she feels that way about her whole life, really, as if it were an unwanted and diseased baby and someone dropped it on its little head and she doesn't care to pick it up, to comfort or to heal it. I can't tell if something bad has happened to make her this way, or if she is this way by nature, born to be miserable and not wild at all.

Sometimes I worry that I am secretly as morose as she is, but then I laugh and shake my head. Once, maybe, when I was 17 and pregnant, rising at 5:30 a.m. to go to work at Dunkin' Donuts, I appeared that miserable. I was exhausted and worried, serving people with such tiredness and lack of care about what I was doing, not looking into the faces of my also weary customers. One brave woman reprimanded me at 7:15 a.m. one Thursday morning, she really did: "Can't you smile?" she said sharply. "We come in here for our coffee," and here she looked around at her fellow coffee getters, "a little pick-me-up before work and we don't want to be greeted by your unhappy face." Or words to that effect; it was such a long time ago who can remember the exact words, but it stung and embarrassed me and stuck with me for a long time.

She must be, if I have to guess, in her mid-20's, this woman in Walgreen's, but her energy, her movements, are of a tired old woman who has seen so much of life that it's worn her out and now she's just waiting for it to end. Even her hair is tired, some thinning no-color grayish blonde. I can't tell if she dyes it or was born with it that way, the sense of listlessness endemic to who she is.

I say the polite thing as I get to the check out counter: how are you, I say, being casual and a bit wary, because I know how this goes. "By tomorrow at this time," she sighs, "I will have worked 33 hours this week," and she looks into my face for some response. I just look at her. What should I say? Any sympathy I might genuinely have for the many hours she's been on her feet is swallowed up, is swamped by her oozing self-pity. I feel no sympathy for her, because she has too much for herself. She wants you to commiserate with her, co-sign her displeasure at life. She never asks how I am, she just sighs and tells me how she can't wait to get out of work and go home.

She never once has anything hopeful or cheerful or cheering or enlightened to say. She is never anything but tired and unhappy and self-centered. I hope I am never like that, not for two lousy (additional) minutes, ever. She's asleep on her feet, sleep walking through her own life all the time, and she doesn't even know it, she can't see it. I want to shake her, tell her to snap out of it, to wake up! This is your life, honey, for God's sake, no one but you made it this way, all those little choices you make every day make it this way. Do something about it if you don't like it. Get up tomorrow morning and be a different person if you want, a cheerful person, one with hope and a sparkle in your eye, a dream in your heart and a kind word for your neighbor. Do what Hitch said and start every day like you mean it, with passion and pride and intention. Fake it if you must, my dear, until it becomes real. And smile once in a while. Just try it -- it won't hurt, I promise. I bet it won't hurt one tiny little bit at all.

August 27, 2009

Monday, August 17, 2009

The Woods


On a walk just this morning

or maybe it was yesterday

a little gray rabbit shot into the path

and skittered and scattered

away ahead of me

its little white tail bipping and bopping

like a little motor on a boat

pushing it faster as if the rabbit’s life

depended on it

on speed and escape

and on getting away from me

which it didn’t.


The pond at the center

of these woods

is full of life -

dragonflies and skate bugs

and birds I’ve never seen

or heard before

and turtles aligned

like sentries on a log

resting and absorbing sunlight

and butterflies and bees at its edge

doing what they do best, which is

flitter and flutter and gather nectar

not hurrying or worrying

and staying out of each other’s way,

mostly, and with a flurry of buzzing wings

they apologize

when they bump into each other.


An army of frogs afloat on the water

serenely waits for brunch to fly by

because it’s that time of day

while other frogs chirrup and bark

yes bark, I mean it,

bark warnings to one another

leaping from the bank or the log

upon which they rest

leaping headlong and artlessly

with big noisy splashes

into the dark murky water

to hurry away

from danger

which is me.

August 17, 2009

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Brush with Divinity


In this dirty dark bar room

with the music too loud

my ears begin to ring

as a prelude to tomorrow

and the damage inflicted

by modern technology.


The tall guy I came with

has too much to drink,

knocking back shots 

at an alarming rate,

and swaying on his feet

he reaches for the door jamb

to steady himself. 

He bumps someone gently

in reaching for support

and since he's not a mean drunk

he apologizes profusely:  

“Oh shorry,” he says,

“Sho shorry.”


A new band takes the stage

the one he's raved about

the one we are here for

and the husky voiced woman 

voluptuous and pale

tattooed and wild haired

sexy in that grungy way

without really trying to be

sings and plays guitar

and sways to the beat

her eyes firmly closed

as if she is alone in the room

with her most intimate thoughts

but doesn't really give a shit

if she's not.


And the men in the room

are clearly drawn to her

invisibly strain toward her

wanting her, I swear

to notice them

come out of her trance

make contact with them

acknowledge they exist

see their love for her

see their lust for her

they don't really care which.


I tell you in all honesty

without any embarrassment

that I stand in that bar room

in that dirty dark bar room

and nearly weep in the darkness

because  ~ I know it's crazy

I really do know this ~

but their longing 

it seems to me

is that great human longing

to be one with the Other

the longing for Spirit

the longing for connection

the longing, I just know it

to be one with God.  


But the music plays on

and her eyes stay closed

and the bar room shuts down

and the people wander home

and none of them know

they don’t really know

how close they just came

to the Divine.


August 10, 2009