How Hot The Night

The still air
stifles
even the act
of breathing.

The hot air
forged in the steel furnace
of daylight
is nowhere a relief.

My eyes droop
with heat heavy
fatigue
and I take refuge

between bed sheets
locked
beneath the pristine
spread all day.

My naked legs
scissor kick
in their coolness,
like swimming

in a dish of vanilla ice cream.
2

A Lesson In Strawberries

I was a young girl, about 12.   It was our first summer on The Farm and it was a hard one.   But it also was filled with good food straight from the warm earth.

My mother had a talent for growing things in the city, despite its polluted air that even 70 years ago people knew to be unhealthy.   But in the clear air of the country, in the soil of her loam filled garden, her talents blossomed as did her crops.

We were getting produce ready for the stand down near the road.   As we were preparing the fruits and vegetables, selling them as fast as we put them out, friends from the city were arriving.  They were what we would consider diverse characters.  Some were people in her circumstances with many children and little money.  A few were wealthy but the outstanding characteristic of all these relationships was mutual respect.

Toward the late afternoon, I was tired and as most adolescents are prone to be, whiny.   The source of my irritation was the fact that my mother was giving to her friends, without charge, the best and finest of what we were putting out.   A bushel of potatoes here, quarts of strawberries there, a bushel of apples,  here.  But the strawberries were my argument.  I loved them and the ones she grew were the reddest, juiciest and largest I had ever seen.   They were sweet clear through and the dream stuff of that first June on The Farm.  With the heavy cream separated from the rich milk the excellent cows gave, these were mine she was giving away.  The strawberries summed up my resentment.

“You can’t keep giving away our profits,” I said.  “you have given away half of all the produce!”

She turned to me in a voice I have not forgotten and a lesson that has stayed with me.

“These are mine,”  she said.  “I will do with them what I please.  These are for me to give away if I want to.  No one can tell me who to give to.  My friends may never do anything for me, but if one of them does something for my children or my grandchildren, then that will be payment for me.”

I have thought often of that lesson in gift giving.  In giving what is yours.   In the course of my days, when someone did something for me I did not expect, there was the lesson in strawberries.  When so much has been done for our children by their friends and ours, the lesson in strawberries comes up.   When time, whole weekends of time, have been given up to add a room, to sit with a sick child, to listen to an impoverished spirit, to make dinner when the task seems insurmountable and appetite non-existent, to do any of these when time has become our most precious commodity, it is a gift of Spirit.  When a check arrived unexpectedly from someone whose only reason was “I remember how I would have felt to have received this. . . ” or the some ones who oftentimes helped our children through school because “it was done for me. . . “,  I thought of the lesson in strawberries.

As I review a life where so much has been done for me and mine, from sources unexpected, I am grateful for the lesson in strawberries.   My mother gave what was hers to give, what she worked for and gave freely.   I do not forget.
4

CROESUS, MY COUNTRY

Croesus stumbled
and laid back a war torn skin
for public autopsy.

With bruises bested by emotional welts
too deep to be visible,  he wept.
In the eye of the cyclone,
the earth's erratic heartbeat
was his heart;
the blood drenching the soil
was his blood
and the screams of the mothers
came from his throat.

From Midas he inherited his golden touch,
spewing riches tinged with decadence;
stroking the mind of man
and lulling into complacency
the aging neophyte.

Promising to pave the illusory streets
with golden bricks,
the purchase price was extracted
ounce by sweaty ounce
from the despairing brows
of the ages' overburdened.

             * * * * *

We will again bathe our Croesus
in the River Pactolus.
We will anoint his open wounded heart
with the balm of Gilead.
He will stand again
with his ancient head in the clouds
and his heart in the eye of the cyclone.
And no longer will he permit
the mothers' screams

to tear the earth apart.
0

For Love’s Sake

What we create are memories.   Not only for ourselves but for others.  What we think we are doing and creating,  to another within their frame of reference, is an altogether different thing.   For ourselves we may be enriching our experience.   For the Other, we are oftentimes teaching something of great value.  Or simply giving them something to warm them when life's experiences are not sufficient.  It is important to keep in mind that what we think we are doing together is often quite different for the Other.

In my lifetime there have been many memory makers.   The memories are sweet at times and often poignant and other times sad.   Maybe not the intent of the memory makers but this was because of my frame of reference .   If we approach each other with the intent of making our meetings something of substance, there will be many memories of those times.   But the most effective I think are the ones where the relationship is mutually satisfying, the good moments become the sole substance in retrospect.  There will not be a defining moment,  simply a sigh of something that has come into our lives uninvited but leaving or creating a deeper fulfillment.  Those are the ones that expand our spirits and give depth to who we are.

Oftentimes we are surprised, especially with children who visit when something is done which is outside their experience.  Coming to mind is a special visit of small children to our home when I set the table for dinner with cloth napkins.  The surprise on the little one's face will stay with me forever.  'I can wipe my face and hands on this?' the question was asked.   Of course, of course.   Another time with older children I quietly put logs in the fireplace and started a fire to take the fall chill out of the room while they slept on couches.  I saw sleepy eyes open and close as they snuggled on down.   The smiles on their lips are my memories.   I am certain that in their adult lives they too will recreate similar moments for those they love.   It is love that desires to make memories.

Small incidents surely.   But in the lives of those we welcome into our hearts they become the stuffs that are the substance of character.  Someone took or takes the time for these small things that begin to form the shape of who we are.   Someone loved us enough to do this.

For love's sake,  are we not honor bound to do the same?
6

Family Drama

We should give children roots to know they are connected to us but we must
remember to uncover their wings so they can fly.   Then they will come back.

The straight spine is an inheritance.  It is agile enough to bend but its natural
position is perpendicular. . . . to hold the chin up

When as adults we realize that we no longer have the chance to save the world,
there are the children.

The children will do what we did not or could not.   It is with great relief that the
torch is passed.

As we get older, our world becomes smaller but infinitely richer.

The one who chooses to come with an open head is the miracle among men.
Are all babies born this way and we masterfully close them up?

Each of us have soft spots in need of gentle handling.

Friends feed the Spirit and good families are icing on the cake.

We should be building lives for ourselves, not lifestyles.

In a partnership there must be a compromise . . . of wishes but
not of self.

If humour was a monetary form of exchange, too many of us must
of needs file for bankruptcy.
2

Time In The Heart

I was an oppressed people.
I wandered long
and became very tired of wandering.

I hugged the banks
of the green river and
shredded lives of high calibre.

Crying hard and loud
I voiced irritation
that rubbed edges raw.

And soon I walked
into the promised land.
Even before, even before I died.

It was green and fertile
and without enmity.
Without rancor I tended gardens.

And in the wide calm of doing
I knew of Being.
Ah, it was so.   It was so.

Tending the cabbages
I found the young fruit sweet.
Tending the orchards,  I found the hearts tender.

It was in the doing that I found beauty.
And I know it has never been done this way.
And I have done it before.

Each time fresh, each time new,
but the promise and the land even
more beautiful than I had remembered.

But even now, new eyes approach mine
and I whisper. . . . search for it,
search for it.

It is real and when you find it,
you will know it never was a place

but a time in the heart.
6

Toward A Destiny

No_writing

wild geese move
within the moments of their destiny
framing patterns struck
upon a naked sky.

clocked by indiscreet motions
they move
in gentler waves
instinctively.

confirmed in their geesehood
they soar with speed
amid the chastening winds
and luring skies.

untethered, unfettered.
dressed in their celestial garb,
melding motive and design
toward a destiny disclosed.

in a moment
they can do
what in a lifetime
I cannot.
7

The Poet’s Memories

Torn from an event
with memories still alive
and placed in an incubator to breathe
are poets expected to live.

Leaving a world incomplete,
they wander in vegetation totally unfamiliar
and yet expected to survive.
And give rise to credence
in a world with no root,
where trees are shades of others more vivid,
whose flowers whisper their names
in a forgotten language,
whose people are ghosts of livelier images,
all crowding the nimbus.

Where horizons are vast
and what eyes behold are stark lines
dividing two dimensional realities
pretending a depth that fools not a one.
Where snow sheds its stars
on a crystal night and the night becomes
a holy night eliciting unexpected
extravagances bestowing grace.

All grasped in a moment's vision
to linger through worlds creating ulcers
by gnawing the viscera
with dreams not completed.

The poet's pen translates worlds
of mean existence from memories held
long in the heart's pocket.
Translates the colors of those other places
where winds caressed and sun bathed
a skin unlike their own.
In another place and time they walk
and because they do,

their memories give rise to Others' dreams.
0

GENETIC MEMORIES

Lurking behind every door are ghosts
from a shadowy past,
eager to be translated
to a dubious present.

Impregnated in genes
are the memories of these ghosts,
split second DNA, with desire housing
the delicate substance quoting life.

Stupid am I to allow
others' memories,
lurking in my fresh Being
to suck life out of my present.
But power filled, even to think
that I could release their tenacious hold
from a life unfulfilled
and requiring recompense.

Helplessness rages simultaneously,
pleading a judicious balance
to satisfy life's imbalances,
yet knowing

I cannot do it.
4

Peace In The Center

Refresh yourself at the trough of knowledge.  The water is cool and fresh and deserves a thirst that can appreciate it.

When the eyes see, there is peace in the center.  Providing of course the footwork has been done.

Not until one sees where one has been can one change direction.

Illusions are the finery with which we dress all the dailyness, all the scullery to make life not only bearable but to elevate it also.   It is a noble endeavor.   It is a god-work.

Evolution can only be taken a step at a time.  No lesson is skipped else it will not stick and carry forth.

It bodes no good to keep ploughing when the field is ready for seed.

One cannot expect to govern a body of men when one cannot govern one's own body.

One cannot be a better anything that what one is as a person.

Words are water and actions are stone it is said.  Your actions will shout who you are and your words will whisper to the ears of them who do not wish to hear and hear what you do as louder than what you say.

Do and you will be shown how.

The Spirit requires an indulgence now and again.

Man is a country quilt.  A patchwork of many colors and shapes.   Altogether beautiful.
4

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