A Blessing for the Dark

You asked, What will I do
when I am wild and lonely
and you are not there?
What will I do in that dark?

I will give you a blessing
folded tight for that time.

No, you will not see me—
oh, passing in the street perhaps
as I have seen my brother, 

in dreams, for sure, as I have talked 
to my father at a restaurant table—

but that does not mean that I am not there.

If you speak to me, I will answer.
You will feel my words warm in your heart
as if I had said, I'm right here,
as if I had put my hand in yours and kept it there

and you will know what I would have said—
what I am saying—
through the shift in the light,
the flick of your cat's ear,

through memory, yes,
but by the rush, too, of blood through you,
your softening.

When you think there's no way to go on,
know that I sit beside you
silent, but loving you,

that I see how strong you are
as you let yourself steady,

as you choose carefully.

And when you find ones you love,
ones who love you,
I am inside their love,
part of their laugh, their playful pounce,
their hand in yours.

A mound of potatoes, this blessing,
a flower on a spiraling vine,
your breath easing in the soft dark.
Give it to someone hungry.
Give it to yourself.


Language of Place

“To be native to a place, we must learn to speak its language.”
Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer

When I came into this world,
        I was not a native to this land.
At the time, I knew no language,
        no words, thoughts, ideas,
                or even concepts of meaning.
        But I grew and listened and learned.

I spent the next 60 plus years
        learning a language that for all intents and purposes
                barely scratches the surface
                        of communication between people,
        much less with the life
                that surrounds us on this earth.

What good is a language
        where people cannot agree
                on common acts of decency?
        Where a human race can know for certain
                that its existence is not in peril
                        of annihilating each other
                                because we can’t communicate.

What good is a language
        that holds no truth
                to be self-evident?
        For all people?

Perhaps I expect too much of a language
        and not enough of those who speak it.
                Perhaps I just haven’t learned
                        the right words.

I have been told
        there is great wisdom
                in listening,
        and in truth, there is great peace in just that.
                Sitting, listening, breathing.
                        Is there a better language?

The true natives of this land,
        the hawk, the deer, the bear,
                all the lives not human,
        know of a simpler way of living, communicating
                and we still don’t know what they are saying.
                        We don’t have a clue.

Perhaps one day
        we’ll learn.    Perhaps.

Has anyone seen a pig fly?


—Paul Causey

Word Wreck

You sat next to me, in the car, describing
loudly, about how outrageous the 
posting is, accusing you of being careless
by traveling during these pandemic times.

I asked how long has this person 
known you, and you responded 
“I only met her once.” I suggested
you could just ignore her, or consider
that perhaps she doesn’t know another
way to say she cares about you.

My words agitate you further and
yelling, you say there is no reason to 
continue to talking to me, I can stop 
and let you out of the car. 

This is the first time you have spoken
to me like this ~ how did we get to this
intersection ~ wrecking any opportunity
for dialogue, conversation?

The silence that settles between us
feels like a balm, yet too weak to 

ease my feelings. I breathe into myself,
I breathe into you. 

I let the words of silence to say
what there is no room to say, 
no way to say, to speak into your pain, 
and mine.


—Martha Ward

Delight

S. Swan reading “Delight”
  
Every time, I say, I am happy, 
I feel embarrassed, 
as if I didn’t have the right  
to enjoy my own life. 

I live in a furnace, 
I know that. 
How could I forget the pain 
I live in? 

But that’s just it! 
I have lost so so much 
that I appreciate  
so so much more 
what I still have. 

To be able to see 
the blue sky  
with a cloud, 
being caressed by sunlight, 
brings joy to my soul. 

Being able to cuddle up 
with my purring kitty cats. 

Being able to laugh 
in a conversation with a friend. 

Being able to move, 
walk and talk, 
read, write,  
and most of all,  
create. 

The point is, 
I say to myself, 
“You can’t feel happy  
when you’re feeling so much pain. 
You’re supposed to feel utterly depressed. 
You are in so much pain, 
you should be screaming!” 

But that’s just it. 
I am surrounded and tortured by flames. I am suffering so much already, 
that it would be a pity 
to not be able to take delight  
in the beauty of life. 


—S. Swan
  
S. Swan discussing ”Delight”

Oxman Cenote

After a year of lockdown, after getting our jabs, my husband and I pack our carry-on bags and fly
to Cancun. To swim in some of the Yucatan peninsula’s cenotes is more tempting to us than
strolling through museums, so we buy snorkels and seek out sinkholes which were sacred to the
Mayan people: one, a freshwater pool on the edge of the ocean; another, a cave where bats dart
barely above our heads; and an ancient river supported by mangroves, home to an elusive
alligator named Panchito. The deepest of all at nearly 150 feet is the Oxman cenote outside of the
pueblo magico of Valladolid. We descend 73 steps to the water of a collapsed cave, its walls lined with the impossibly long roots of trees that guard the upper edge of the cenote. At the water
level, chattering crowds of life-vested swimmers line up on a dock to grab the rope swing and
propel themselves in. Some are adept at holding on, others drop quickly as their grips slip.
Around the perimeter, lifelines of the trees dangle and dip into the cool blue water.

What are they reaching for?

The word is grounded—
one tree offers
one hundred roots

Mayans valued cenotes for rituals of sacrifice, where the otherworld was accessed as easily as
diving in and opening the eyes. Before arriving in Valladolid, before our first snorkel trip, we
spend ten days in Akumal where I paint on the beach. Each morning, while crews shovel
sargassum, the smelly seaweed piling up on the shore, I open my travel watercolor set and
unscrew the brush from the reservoir tube. I dip the tube into the sea rushing at my ankles, fill it
with salt water to convert the brackish pyramids of seaweed into wreaths. I don’t care for
elevating sargassum; I want to point out how we construct barriers to our sense of peace. I want
to capture the transient beauty of these blooms we earthbound tourists call a “natural disaster.”

Walking towards water—
my memory stops
at the first wave

I’m six and planted in the surf of a beach in the Florida Keys. My family is who-knows-where,
all there is before me is the gently rushing water, the warm sandbed, and a horizon that hints at
all possibilities.

Roots traverse soil
waves erode the sands—
we are nourished

This 58 year old body lines up behind giggling kids who push off from the rope-swing dock with
ease. Toes gripping the platform, I eye the rope guided by a middle-aged guy working for tips
from anyone with a pocket of spare centavos. I build up my nerve and notice that as I grab the
rope, the chattering din around me quiets down...oh, great. Let’s watch the old lady crash and
burn! I take a breath and swing as far as the rope lets me, turn slightly, and drop into the surface.
This win is marred by water rushing up my nose. I surface, snort, and hear the voices resume
their excited pace. This feat closes the afternoon. Next morning, my husband and I wake up early
enough to have Oxman cenote to ourselves. We dive in, float on our backs as a family of
swallows call to each other, making connections between their perches in the dangling roots.
Above our heads, nothing more miraculous than a day begins.

Nature is a moment
of endless beauty—
birdsong etches the clouds




—Melanie Alberts

Turning to Silence

It is a time of turning.
A time when
nothing is as it was,
despite our wishes for 
it to be otherwise.
We have no choice
but to let life unfold
as it will, hard as
it may seem
to bear and accept.

And so we turn
to each other
for comfort
in the knowledge
that we are not
in fact alone.
And we fall
into silence 
as words prove
to be inadequate.

But it is precisely 
the arms
of Silence
that can best hold 
our sorrow and pain
For Silence makes no demands
and is ever present for us,
ready to hold the heart
that has been hollowed 
out by the river of grief.

And so, we sit in silence
holding each other and being held.


—Laurie Winnette

The Whale at Home

When I rattle my keys in the front door
back from my daughter's, back from months on the road
this house looks at me. Where have you been?
it asks. I have nothing to say to you.

So here we are. Silent and dark.
My daughter and her cats are not here.
My hound dog Rex–who smiled on the front seat
beside me nine summers across the continent–

is not here. Sometimes I pretend he is close,
that he goes in and out the door with me
that he snores on the sofa. When I lie to sleep 
in the soft dark, I can hear him scrabble his blankets.

But I don't catch the gleam of his eyes
as I enter a room. He doesn't slam out 
the dog door to bark at someone on the road.
He is as silent as the house–

this house, which is too big for me. I read a book
by a woman who lost the right half of her brain to a stroke.
She said that going down the hallway at school
was like being a giant electric blue whale.

She had no edges except what bounced against the walls.
If we take it from the right brain, the dream brain
always there, as stars are, just masked by daylight
then we're always the whale.

In this silent house, that whale grows.
I become the monster of the Great Sea Blues
blue electrons rising up to the loft and the bedroom
and out through the door, under the wisteria to the studio.

If I get too small–say in the closet–the electrons
squawl through my hearing aid, electric ringing blue
and the Japanese bell with its blue tail of paper
rings back over the vent in the kitchen.

So it's ringing with sound, this place, 
radiant electric
and my dog is waiting in the garden.


—Sarah Webb, written to Eva H.B. prompt. the line "when I've been gone"

Crow love

The female crow stood before her beloved on the electric wire,
her head lowered, her beak bowed to her breast.
Her partner turned toward her and generously 
began to preen her head with his beak.
Never have I seen such tenderness among crows. 
All of a sudden he was done and stepped away from her.
Determined, she scooted closer to him, bowing her head once more.
In response, he hauled his closest leg up and around into the air
and whacked her from the side with his foot. 
Unfazed she stepped towards him again, bowed her head, and squawked.
This he could not resist. Obediently, he turned once more to preen her, 
and then flew off with her in close pursuit.

—Laurie Winnette

Before...

We’ve all been here before…. I’ve been you… you’ve been me. I’ve been the tree, the fox, the grape, the house….. the sunlight…. I’ve been it all. There is no separation. Energy does not die, just evolves. We are the incense that burns and scents the air… ash to ash… I will always rise, dissolving and transforming. I am EVERY thing because I am NO thing.


—Jenille G. Cross-Figueroa

Holy Hush

Walking the side yard
I heard Carolina grasshoppers, 
even before I saw them,
announcing take-off
sending them sailing
above tall grasses—

My presence 
made them hush,
a sacred pause, 
before they landed. 

Whisperings  
of private voices,
echos of
intimate conversations. 

Your presence, 
my hush,
a sacred pause,  
before responding, 
when I carefully consider 
every word. 


—judy b myers

I lived

I remember I lived once.
Truly lived.
It was not the mud we trudged through to get where we were going,
But maybe it was despite it all.
It was dark, the sun still asleep
Before the world awoke for the first time.
Perhaps we were all asleep, our eyes not seeing 
as we trudged through the field
where we would lie, waiting,
asleep in the stubble for what?
We thought we were hunting the wild geese 
That flew south for the winter,
But we didn’t know.  We had
No idea what we were about to see, to grasp, to experience.
The sun peaked over the horizon,
Blinking a sleepy eye and spreading its light
Outward to where we lay, 
Gazing up into a still dark sky.
And then, without waiting, the sun vaulted into the morning
To the fanfare of thousands of wings 
Beating the air,
And the cacophony sound of geese 
Crying to the sun, to each other, to me.
I’m here!  I’m here!
Their wings darkened the sky
As they circled, faster and faster,
A vortex of sheer power and being.
Their cries deafening as they rode the wind,
As I rode with them.
I’m here!  I’m here!
I was one of them flying the skies, defending the flock, raising their young.
I was not hunting them.  
They were hunting me.
Making me their own.
And, then they were gone.
The sky cleared,
The sound of beating wings and shrill cries
Faded into the morning.
They were gone
Back to where they came from,
Back to where they lived.
I remember I lived once.
Truly lived.
Just for a moment, I was part of it all.
And it was enough.


—Paul Causey
Prompt: “A Witness to Creation” by N. Scott Momaday

The Day

what day would it be?  N. Scott Momaday

The day
was a tracing of leaves
young as I was, with their first green

their gloss
willing to cast themselves out and be
caught by sun and air

I sat beneath them in a rising
of twigs and green 
slender limbs drawn by the sun

all of us young, all of us saying yes
the leaves, the child, the slim trunks
and the light that held us

the air that said, come then
since you are willing
here is the door open

open in you
and all of us entered together
leaves, child, the young trees

as we began our lives
in the silt of a flood plain
a glint of sun and water

that moment with the wind still
and only ourselves
slow in the light


—Sarah Webb

Photographs by Deontrai Damond

 






—Deontrai Damond

If I Were a Child and Waiting

If I were a child, I would climb the venerable
Pecan tree, in my backyard. It holds my world 
in place, like the mythic Yggdrasil, whose roots 
hold the world together ~ never to loosen.

Along a sturdy branch, I’d chat with the 
squirrels, and share a nut or two from my
pocket, and wonder at their scampering leaps 
into the space between twig ends of limbs. 
Pausing here, I fall into my adult self.

Grounded, like a plane without fuel, altitude
lost, I recall losses irreparable. Settling
against the massive trunk, filled with the
rings of Time, I recalled that at the heart of 
me is a fragile sprout of beginning.

The rough bark, wrinkled Time, reminds
me that I may grow again from here,
surrounded by accumulated years of 
experience. I can learn the scampering 
risk of leaping from stem end to stem end,
across the space of fear. 


—Martha Ward

Shoot After the Storm by Amanda Webb


Past pleading for warmth 
against the pain of cold, 
the wintery wait, the weight 
of the cold, persisted.

Slipping my arms along my 
sides, I was surprised to feel 
warmth radiating from my core. 
Numbed hands felt their way under 
my buttocks, seeking the supple fat 
for their warm nest, cheek to cheek. 

Head helmeted, in woolen hat, 
only my feet numb, absorbing 
the arctic air stealing in through 
the walls, floor, windows. Rubbing 
them together, only let me know 
their ache. Moving from my shroud 
of blankets, to find warmth for them 
would mean, inviting the cold to wash over me. 

I waited, I waited, then snow gave way
to the sun’s light. And, with it the return
of electricity. Feet arched eagerly, feeling
blood rush, trumpeting.


—Martha Ward

The Little Foxes Salute the World

Little green world, plump as an olive, 
how we love you! 
We, the little foxes 
cavort at night in the grass of your hair. 
The air is sweet with the lavender scent of the chinaberry, 
and the chuck will’s widows 
hide themselves in the dark trees 
and sing their night song like lullabies. 

We were born in the old den, 
the great mound of earth by the oak trees,  
redolent of foxes, 
where our grandmother and grandfather foxes lived from the beginnings of fox time. 
Water was far 
until the human brought it here 
under the old windmill 
towering in the night sky. 
But rats and mice 
scampered through the woods at night, 
and our mothers 
taught us to hunt and climb the cedar trees
to stalk 
  to pounce 
  to rip things apart with our sharp little teeth
and fill our round white furry bellies 
in gratitude 
for the plenty the earth. 

Little green world, 
how we love to be here! 
We love to drink of your water. 
Well water is fine,  
but cold spring water, with a whiff of slime and rot, is even better. We love the little hop rats and the mice, sometimes a lizard or a bunny, a wriggly snake, once a buffet of turkey slices the human put in the field, perfect except for a bit of blue green mold. We love the dewberries and the sour persimmons, the wild grapes that grow up the oaks with stems like trunks of their own. 

We love to roll in your dirt and clean the bugs out of our fur. 
We love to play in your fields 
 and run up and down your trees like playscapes. 
We don’t see much color, but, still,  
the flowers and the sky at dusk are wondrous. 
We are so a part of you, plump little olive-earth 
And we so love being a part of it all.


—Elayne Lansford

Sometimes What Comes to Us, We Never Called For

I never called for cancer, but it came anyway. 

It was not gentle. It was more like the Mongol horde invading. 

I thought I was fine one day. The next day I was told I might be very, very sick. 

Hmm, something could be wrong, let us stick these huge needles in you to get some core samples. 

Hmm, something is wrong, let’s do some exploratory surgery, pull out a bunch of lymph nodes just in case, and cut some nerves. You won’t feel all of your arm afterward, but you will feel most of it. 

Hmmm, everything has to go. We will cut it all off, but leave you with some plastic bags of saline water shoved under your chest muscles, which we can inflate as much as you want. Oh, you will no longer be able to use your chest muscles correctly, and your skin could split, but that is just part of it. 

Those stents and drains, well, that is just part of it too. Wear very, very baggy clothes so no one can see you are full of holes and tubes. You can work with your drains in. Just hide them. 
Uh oh, looks like you need chemo as well. The doses are all standard, whether you weigh 100 or 300 pounds. We can’t give you a smaller dose, even if your liver processes as slowly as a turtle. It’s the law. 

Oops, you didn’t react so well, did you? It hit your central nervous system, you walk like someone with cerebral palsy. It may go away. Oh, the skin in your mouth is sloughing off and you cannot eat? Ensure is great. Try it, use a straw. 

You have shooting pain in your toes? That is neuropathy. You are lucky you can feel them at all. And your fingers are fine, be grateful. What to do about it? We don’t know. 
Your hair has fallen out and you are sometimes so weak you need to crawl? It will pass. Probably your hair will grow back. But it may be different hair, like someone else’s hair on your head. Wear a scarf, wear a cap, wear a wig. 

You feel like the healthy person you once were has died, and you are old before your time, and disfigured? Well, you are alive. That is really the best we can do. 

Cancer is Zen boot camp. You spend a lot of time “in the howl,” as Annie Lamott says. You are too sick to plan, and maybe you are going to die, so you learn to live in the moment. Life? You realize you may not have much of it. That poor bag of bones and skin you call your body? You learn that it is fragile and impermanent. Your mind? You learn it fragments and distorts and falls to pieces when things are awful enough. Your work? You can’t do it, so you can’t identify with it. Your roles? Being responsible, being upbeat, being a giver? Pretty much gone. With your drug addled mind, you can’t be trusted to be responsible. Upbeat? When your life feels “live from the Book of Job?” Pretty difficult. A giver? The only thing you have left to give is your gratitude. 

But if it all works, you learn that none of this really matters. You learn that while you will die, now or later, life will go on. If you are lucky, that will bring inconceivable joy. You learn that not all friends are there in tough times, but many are, and one can live buoyed by love, somehow floating on it when otherwise one would sink. You learn to be very, very present.


—Elayne Lansford

Overnighters

 



— Kathleen Burke

Study for Earth Day

 



Coyote

She was observing us, still
with her golden brown silhouette 
She did not move the whole time
while my own dog, Scooby
was walking around 
oblivious
taking in the smells 
of the earth

I noticed
and waited
hoping she would stay

Should I stay still 
or should I walk a bit
to see if I could see her better? 

I walked towards her
and she didn’t move
until Scooby noticed her

Scooby froze and stared at her for a minute
and suddenly 
the coyote ran back into the woods
leaving me and Scooby in the field
watching
wishing 
she would return

She looked a lot like my own dog
who I sometimes observe pouncing on a toy
her back arched and frozen in the air
and I sometimes wonder 
how much coyote she has in her

I also envision the same coyote 
rolling in the grass on her back
with a stupid grin on her face
like my dog does every time I take her to a field

Before I left
I threw one of Scooby’s old tennis balls to that area
thinking
maybe she would come back 
and have something to play with
or at least smell our scent
and in my dreams
thinking it was our gift to her

—Miki Tesh

The shades of your glasses

 Some people thrive in fear, some in times of joy
While others await for a miracle to come
And wash away all the sins that have left them numb;
I have to stay strong and tall, not just a dumb toy
 
That only witnesses life’s unbearable flaws
With content, while all our dreams and ambitions,
Are wiped before our eyes leaving behind the cause
We wished we all had sworn as our sole mission.
 
Now, with all my munitions in hand, I will fight
For all that remains and give all my heart and soul
To the fallen soldiers that had crowning foresight.
 
As for those who relish in this complaisant role,
Be present and set down your gray tinted glasses;
After all, even the darkest of storms passes.


—Aileen Roungou

Wanting

There was a time when people did what their fathers did.
Or mothers depending upon their gender.

There was a time when people did so many things,
Things to just survive.
Their skills were many, 
their tasks even more. 
hunt, gather, cook, build, tend.
A person did it all or simply died.

What was it like 
to know that what you did at any given time 
was critical to your survival?
To your family’s?
What was it like to have to do something that truly mattered?

Today, in this age of specialization, is it any different?
Has anything changed in the last 2000 years?
4000 years?

We still “want” to survive.
But today, I think we want more.
We want to learn, to understand, to “live”,
To make things better for ourselves, for our families, for each other.

The change, I think is that now, we “want” to make a difference.
What we do matters.


—Paul Causey

In Forgotten Tin Cans

 Filtered light through
Leaves unfurled
Casting shadows all about.
Dancing flowers with petaled skirts
Stretch to be caressed 
By drops dripping from branch to branch,
Limb to limb.

The storm has passed, leaving swollen
Streams to carry seasoned
Leaves away to nourish life
Anew far, far away.

Uncovered in the flood bits of glass,
Broken bottles, their notes of
Desperation gone and lost forever,
And a lone forgotten tin can,
Rusted around the edges, dented and no
Less worse for wear, 
Mired in the muck and mud left behind.
Inside the smell of rain 
Fresh upon the air, escaping
With a sigh to fill the void
Left by fleeting clouds.
Its clean, sharp edges 
Cut through the haze.
It speaks of growth, of life, of forgiveness,
Of love reborn.
A welcome unto Spring.


—Paul Causey

The Shot

He decides to make a move. 
Is it on impulse?
Or necessity.
He commits to a
a choice, an action;
That no matter what,
He is willing to accept
All that happens next.

Anticipation of
Water splashing high
Onto the woolen dress suit 
Sized to perfection
By the skilled hands
Of a local tailor.

Cleaning isn’t cheap
Nor is it a quick task
Might take weeks
To get it back from the shop 
And at least forty bucks
For the jacket top alone. 
Pants? Twenty-six.

Leather shoes from
Bovine skin wrapped 
Expertly around soles, 
Ankles and toes.
Layered over a nylon
Sock that reaches
mid-calf.

Soaked in cold water 
Clinging to the taught, tender 
Skin beneath it.

Hadn’t the clothing themselves 
Proven to be unnecessarily 
Unforgiving?
And yet this decision
Will only add more
Of that discomfort
To the mix.

Oh well!
No need to worry about all of those details now. He needs to get somewhere, quick!
Like his life depends on it.
And he takes the leap,
I wonder if he knew
That a camera caught
Him in mid-air and froze him in history
Just before the consequence
of his decision
Could ever be seen or felt.


—Ivory Smith 

Siempre Adelantar

                            I dance along the edge
                      becoming increasingly aware
                      of how close I am to falling.
                   It is not knowing what I will find
                      when I fall that terrifies me.

                          Each move in this dance
                    makes my journey more dangerous.
                                       Falling,
                    I may lose what little control I have.
                          But still I continue to dance.

                           Who will pick up the pieces?
                      Will there be any pieces to pick up?
                                         Pieces.
                           Who will I have become
                      when I am put back together?

                              I have at various times,
                                      in my life,
                              avoided pressing questions.
                                          Fear,
                                   limited my choices
                         lest the next step would change me,
                         would necessitate a change  in my life
                                 that I did not want to face.

                                      If the tears start,
                                  when will they end?
                                      Will they end?


—Laura A. Smith

Dear Brother

I saw a picture of you in the photo album the other day and I thought of you. I remember you taught me how to fight so you would always win. It was fun and eventually I caught on to your sneaky ways.

I remember you taught me how to play football with your friends and how I was always the one that played the dummy.

As an older brother, you were the best. You told me not to do the things you did because you knew I would get into trouble; and you were right. I still wanted to do them though because you did.

Can you see me now from where you are? Is the sun shining or is it dark as night? Are the stars shining?

I’m doing all the things I can to see you, to remember you. The color of your hair, your smile; what you said when I said you didn’t have to go, I love you. 

Can you see me now doing what the living do to remember someone they love? Can you see me trying to explain to my children why you are no longer here? How you died? Or how you lived?

We go on; forward, maybe backward. I’m not really sure, but we do all the things the living do. I wish you could tell me what you do when you are not here, when you’re not remembered anymore. Are you still there? Wherever you are?

Do you still see people living? Or do you see them dying? Is there a difference or is it simply different?

For now, I remember you. It’s what the living do.


—Paul Causey

Flowers and So Much More

 “The flowers are losing their petals and all too fast they fade.”

Did Mahakasyapa smile at the flower in its peak, knowing that that was all there is, the peak of their existence? Or did he smile having been reminded fondly of a dream he once had that faded as he journeyed along on his pilgrimage through life?

When we are young, we have all kinds of dreams, all kinds of plans, paths to destinations unknown. The paths are familiar friends we carry along with us for a while until we find new paths, new dreams, new loves.

Perhaps Mahakasyapa smiled because the flower reminded him of someone in his past or some dream still yet to be fulfilled.

I do not think that flowers, blooming year after year, reflect all there is, but more of what can be. They speak of growth to come and are a harbinger of longevity and strength, the “green” of growing things. I think Mahakasyapa knew this and saw well beyond the impermanence of things into the permanence of all there is.

Perhaps Mahakasyapa saw in that instant the hope of humankind and smiled that the path ahead was illuminated by the whole plant projecting its beauty and life ahead of itself. Look! I am alive! And I will carry on!

What sign do we give as humans that is just as powerful? Just as sincere and true as that of the flower?

There is none, but a smile.


—Paul Causey

++++++++++


Kim Mosley

Cherry Blossoms

Pink, dainty, water-colored flowers, splashed against a white background, propped deliberately on brown, twisty vines that swirl around each other in an open embrace,

A dance that both connects and disconnects at the same time.

The small buds top a procession up the thin, brown surface, where more mature blooms sit, open and bright.

They reach, curved toward a sun-filled sky. Both the vines and blooms create a beauty that withstands time and brings me joy each moment I see them.



—Ivory Smith

A Cast Heron

A bronze bird, this heron belonged to my mother. 
It frowned at me from behind the lamp, 
the line of the eye slanting down to its long beak.
On my lap, its tail of three feathers dig into the soft of my hand. 
Clawed feet poke my leg.
It has never been a comfortable bird. 
Its cast metal feet teeter and make it crash,
but the artisan has taken care to make the feathers flow
over the curve of its body, stylized yet right for the breed.
Its legs curve, limber and strong, as if it could push off into flight.

Wiping the dust from its side, I find a tiny feather, 
cobweb light and grey, a magical thing,
as if this bird were trying to be more fully bird. 
My breath blows it away.

It’s a reminder of the heron we see from our living room window,
one of a long lineage, on the neighbor’s dock for forty years.
My mother’s bird. Turning it over, I see with a small shock
her name. D.Webb, written with careless marker on the belly.
The label must be from the nursing home, from her last days.
So much lost in the fog of time. It is old enough for white corrosion
where the solder joins the legs to the hollow body
and in spots between the wings on the back.

So like my mother—awkward and difficult but with her own beauty.
I run my handkerchief along the back. 
It feels like petting a cat.


—Sarah Webb



Let Me Know I'm Here

Let me know I’m here. I fumble 
in the morning dark. And, as familiar
as a grackle lighting on a sign, I light
upon the textured knob of the lamp, 
at my desk. On. It knows I’m here.

It reveals my last thoughts, actions, in-
actions before I went to bed. Chaos or
order, a to-do list, or tucks of days of 
forgotten solicitations, to which 
I’ve meant to respond, and haven’t. 

I finger for the braille patch, at the rear of
the computer screen, press it. On. It knows 
I’m here. Next, to the kitchen, the 
electric kettle filled with water, I push
down the tongue shaped lever. On. It
knows I’m here. 

I open the back door, step out on
the blue porch, look for the morning
star, the first hint of light. On. It knows 
I am here. 

Opening to the little joys of
morning rituals. I know I’m here.


—Martha Koock Ward



Things That Didn’t Get Put on My Resume

I too read the tales of Narnia and the Ring Trilogy as well as the Wheel of Time, the tales of the Dark Elf, Drizzt Do’Urden to name a few. I didn’t put them on my resume because there were other things more important.

Like bouncing my children on my knee while plowing a field in preparation for planting; or showing them how to lure crawfish out of their mud houses in the road ditch; or how to bait a hook with a worm or grasshopper. I didn’t put that on my resume either because there were other things more important for the job.

Like knowing how to put a band-aid on a skinned knee, or providing reassurance that monsters were not under the bed and later helping to mend a broken heart. Or taking care of aging parents, organizing medications, and coordinating doctor’s visits, or laying them to rest when their time had come.

But I did not put these things on my resume either because, well, it just seemed that employers didn’t really care about these things; those things that make us human.

Not that it matters now, but there were a lot of things that did not get on the resume. Things that I was good at; things I wouldn’t change for the world.

Maybe these things didn’t get on the resume because I didn’t want them to know who I really am.

—Paul Causey

Inspired by “Things You Didn’t Put on Your Resumé” by Joyce Sutphen

It's Always the Animals

There was a time when I used to know what the animals were thinking; what they felt and knew about our universe. There was a time when I felt a part of all there is, was and ever will be. It must have been in a previous lifetime; or maybe it was simply a dream.

The connection I once had is so tenuous now it seems hardly real. Every now and then, I'll watch a hawk glide over its domain in search of prey and feel like I can see forever. I feel the wind flow over and under my wings lifting me higher until the sticker in my butt brings me rushing back to earth.

Whatever happened to our connection must have been truly traumatic for the animals, for they have been skittish ever since. They must be wondering what they did to upset those humans so much that they have separated themselves from the rest of the universe; to isolate themselves from the source of what "is." I imagine that they are sad, for this world could be so much more with a little help from their lost brothers.

I wonder if the animals remember the ark and the rain and the floods and were afraid. I wonder if they are afraid now whenever it begins to rain. I've got to go now. It's starting to sprinkle.

—Paul Causey

Inspired by “It Was the Animals” by Natalie Diaz


Frogs Estivating

Breathe. In. Out. Become love. 

The frogs once singing loudly their love and adulation of living are silent now. They did not fail
even though I knew their singing would not last. They have gone underground, buried beneath
layer upon layer of Mother Earth's love. Hibernating perhaps, or maybe estivating if it's in their
nature. I like to think they are meditating deeply and have become one with the universe. I wish
that I could meditate so deeply, so peacefully and become one with —who? Myself?

They say that God is love. Do the frogs become one with God and do they know what love is? I
don't think love fails or fades away. I think love is always with us; surrounding us, and we simply
stop breathing. We forget who we are and sometimes, it takes a while to
remember. Sometimes we have to become frogs so that in the spring, we can sing our joy for
living and loving and simply being.

Breathe. In. and Out.

—Paul Causey
Inspired by “Failing and Flying” by Jack Gilbert and by a discussion about frogs

The Screen

They…the ubiquitous ‘they’…say to 

wake and sleep and go through the

day with my mind like a white screen

that life can be clearly projected on.


Is that even possible?


On waking, dream images continue

to drift in and out—last night, it was

the satin dress I was required to wear

in my role of counselor/realtor to a 

woman with an aviary.  It was filled 

with what she insisted were doves,

though they were striped and dotted 

in every extravagant color.


Then come thoughts of breakfast.

    NO!  NO!

Say blessings first! Give thanks!


I give thanks for the thought of

a soft-boiled egg, a creamy yellow

center, a dab of butter and strong

black coffee.  But the dog comes

first.  He does his yoga stretches

and wags happily as I reattach

his green collar that jingles.  He

is one proud Chihuahua…a dog

of strong preferences and a sense

of protectiveness.  Later at the park, 

he growls, snaps at the Great Dane

who tries to befriend him.


And so it goes all day long:  breathe in 

and banish the movies of what to do 

after the park:  grocery shop, write the

holiday letter, pine to travel to 

the sea.  Notice long gray moss 

hanging in the live oaks.  Notice

the reflections in Shoal Creek 

and the presence of fall colors 

on the winter solstice. Breathe

in the golden light and note to 

self:  how lucky, how lovely to 

breathe deeply when so many 

around us struggle.  How lovely

to see the giant tree invite me to

climb, recline on her long

stretching limbs.  


And for a moment, that moment,

the screen is not a screen but 

only blue sky

with a blue heron 

soaring,

flapping away into her

indigo

future.


—Beverly Voss

Screen

If it’s true

(could it be?)

that we reveal to others

only a fraction of all

that goes on inside

our minds—

with untold millions of thoughts

flitting at random

in a blur of impression—

and untold millions more

processing

assessing

undressing

obsessing—

if it’s true

just who are you

anyway?


—Marilyn Duncan

Projection

Dim the lights,

take a breath,

strike a pose,

hold the blink,

project serenity, 

exude equanimity,

breathe in silence,

breathe out insolence,

toss the vanity,

check the mirror,

smile.


—Marilyn Duncan

A Death by Covid

  Everday life is like a movie …

Have a pure, white screen.  — Sunryu Suzuki


The mind is white and silent.

Then we fill it with our baby lungs, our searching eyes. 

We scream or coo to bring us what we need.

From the start we add, I want, I need. 

Joy. Despair.


The e mail informed me of his death.

I read it to my friends as we sat with lowered tea cups. 

When I opened my computer, there it had sat: 

unexpected, final. No more chances.

They knew him too, had worried 

what might happen at his release, coming soon.

We couldn’t believe it. Dead. 

Two days before his sentence ended.


The statement to the news gave no name. 

It could have been any prisoner, any cause.

Any of us, any day, any cause. 


One site linked to a photo: 

long, graying beard, erratic and sparse

on a face that had always been smooth,

eyes dim and blinking.

I wondered how far he had sunk into himself.

He did not seem to see out of those eyes.


And was it him?

The boy who wandered alone past midnight on dirty streets, 

whose breath choked as he scratched and flailed

against classmates piled heavy on top of him, 

the man who raged against the fate that trapped him,

who feared his failure, who drew a woman close

and loved—or tried to love—

was that man there, that boy?


The reds and blacks of his mind could fade to white.

I saw it in his photographs: a flame of ice

melting on basalt, a girl—his sister in a tweed coat—

spinning between track lanes that led to different futures.

He had it in him to be still, to let the screen pale to white,

to see that clearly.


Years ago and in a different country. I cannot know

the mind inside the man.

Nor do I know if it whitened at his death.

Did he go into silence then?


And can he take a breath now?

Some time, some place, can he begin again?


—Sarah Webb

Fire

I said the other day that I don’t like curriculums. I seem to be going through a period of not liking things. I suppose I could figure out what I really don’t like, so that the other stuff wouldn’t have to suffer. But that isn’t in the cards for today. Suzuki Roshi talked about turning on a pure plain white screen. In meeting others, whether it be an individual or a group, that seems to make so much sense. Another Zen teacher quoted or misquoted Buddha saying “Gaze upon your thoughts with kindness and remain still.” As we gaze either upon ourselves or others, with stillness and presence it is hard to be anything but kind. The next nugget from the Zen teacher was this phrase, “without manipulation or judgement.”

So you walk into the classroom. If you were a boy scout or a sailor, you’d wet your finger and see which way the wind was blowing. That’s starting with a pure, plain white screen. You certainly can have a topic but curriculum seems to bind you to a particular approach to the topic. Suppose you approach the other as a pure white screen. At first you notice how they walk into the room, and then you notice how they are when they sit down. Are they ready for wonder and curiosity, or are they preoccupied with what happened last and how are we might be perceiving their constructed colorful screen?

When we sit in meditation we can construct the same pure white screen. We might have pictures on the wall, but we can pull down the screen and start there. When you clear your mind, what appears? What have you been obsessing about that is on your screen. You walk into the zendo? You bow to the zafu and then you bow to the room. Finally you are sitting and physically still. But where are you? Did you remember to even open the door? Did you get out of your car? What is on your screen?

You don’t have to worry about being bored. The whiter and purer the screen the more it will reflect the space around you. You’ll see everything in the room, including yourself. You’ll see your mother who hit you. You’ll see your father who deceived you. You’ll find your childhood pet who licked you on the face. The challenge is simply to watch the movie rather than to be in the movie. Typically you have nothing to add to the old stories. But you do have the opportunity to watch these thoughts as you might watch birds playing in a spring puddle, without “manipulation or judgement.”

Kim Mosley