What Mama’s do

While I attend my body
and clean the house
commute to work and home again
walk the dog and pet the cat and feed the hen
plant the garlic and rake the leaves
dance through the night and lie with lovers and walk with friends
I wonder why the world does not stop?
in the presence of so much suffering
I wonder how I can go on with life?
while you exist in crisis

My Mama-self has declared a state of emergency
she does not go on with the routine
she does not eat nor sleep
she holds constant vigil
bowing and praying, praying and bowing
casting spells of protection
making offerings to the spirits
beseeching our ancestors to stand behind you
I seek counsel as you struggle
to find your meaning
your why for coming to earth

I sense you
wandering too far afar
into the shadows
where hungry ghosts, chaotic consumption, and lurking predators
pull and tug at you
I do not know how this came to be
though I have theories
I scan my memory
searching for the moment missed
when I did not love you well enough
or I said the wrong thing
I search for the moment we slipped off the map
the one I drew in my dreams while you were forming in my womb
cracks and ruptures and losses come to mind
the countless mistakes I have made
I believed, once, it was all up to me
I was so arrogant
I believed I could rule our little world
keep you safe from harm
provide the tools for survival
the inspiration for thrival
the skills to observe and question
a code to live by
the freedom to become and belong
I believed I could create a whole new paradigm
a current just beneath the surface for us to swim
perhaps I still do, believe
only I can not do it alone
and not on chronos time

I am scouring the earth for the medicine
if only I knew what you needed
if only it were up to me
if it were up to me
you would know your worth
you would spark your own fire
remember the bright star you fell from
you would transform your pain into medicine
sharing with others
I trust you will do all of these, and more
centering and manifesting
on your time, in your way
I am no good at sitting still
and yet this is my task
so I will wait
I will live my life
and I will wait,
I will hold constant vigil
and I will be here,
imperfectly, at the ready

to find my voice in song

there have been countless moments
like this one
an autumn evening
in the kitchen
roasting tomatoes
blending pesto
when I think of Mother
of her life
her laugh
the softness of her fingertips
her voice calling my name home
the pleasure on her face while dancing
there are countless moments
like this one
when I think of death
in an abundant season of harvest
death
in an abundant season of dying
oh, Mother
38 years and 65 days after
birthing me forth in love
your death taught me
to find my voice
in song

Engage me

I felt its presence 
envelop me slowly,
entering through pores
seeping into thoughts and dreams
churning in my belly
thumping in my sternum.
In the before, I would move away,
side-step, run, 
dance around the edges,
feign indifference,
anything not to risk feeling devoured by absence.
Neither time nor escape nor transformation
have quieted the call for a holy surrender.

There are too many echoes
in the chambers of my mind,
too many losses in my life,
too much love in my heart,
to contemplate, or grieve, or love, alone.

Speak to me, please,
in your mother tongue
so I may know the pleasure 
of the sound of another, 
of the sound of you.
Engage me,
seduce me, 
with words and tones.
Describe other worlds and ways
existing alongside this one.
Then, show me
with your body
a new dance of reciprocity.

A vivid visceral spectrum

in the long trauma

we are future beings foretold

some blindly pine for the past

some grasp for control

others labor to reclaim and remake

every moment anew

empty, then heavy and ripe

with loss and love and longing and loss

my eyes scan for safety

I seek recognition

reaching for kindred, beloved

inherited language has hit a schism

my words dissolve into the void

caressed by an internal wind

the tones of my body are amplified

sensations intensified

my body is nature herself

calling my presence

calling me home from dissociation

to all that is

a vivid visceral spectrum

of wretchedness and beauty

of awe and fascination

In the garden

In the garden,

I sow seeds,

seeds of hope and beauty.

In the garden,

I grow food and medicine.

In the garden,

my presence is love.

In the garden,

I am embodied, strong and lithe.

In the garden,

the noise of society fades to music of winged creatures.

In the garden,

confusion clears and suffering subsides.

In the garden,

I am being.

In the garden,

I am breathing.

In the garden,

I belong.

Here, I am flow.

I am capable.

I am whole and purposeful.

In the garden,

I am a sun-kissed,

rain-drenched,

muddy-footed,

goddess of life and death.

Perhaps

you feel time expand and contract,

disintegrate and reconfigure

around and within you.

you have been losing,

letting go,

shedding,

for years.

you wonder if the experience of having

was an illusion.

you have lost loved ones.

some left you crawling on your knees

clawing at the earth

weeping and wailing into the sky.

some, you cut loose

for growth and healing.

others simply floated away, quietly,

seeds scattered on the wind.

you have become so comfortable with loss,

you have forgotten how fullness feels,

how it feels to be held by,

how it feels to be with,

bodies of others.

sitting for hours on end,

in the shade of your overgrown apple tree

you observe the garden that claimed you.

you become silence

surrounded by sound.

you become wordless

in a mind shaped by language.

you are a vessel of breath

dispersing thoughts that want to devour you.

you await inspiration, or instruction,

a moment of wonder…

perhaps the canyon carved into your heart

is an opening into infinity,

readying you

for the greatest love of all.

 

 

Transplanting

For my mother, for your mother, for the mother in me, for the mother in you, and for the Great Mother.

 

The tender leaves of the brandy-wine have grown cut and distinct

from those of the beefsteak.

They are ready to begin the process of becoming hardened-off

for the world outside.

Moving tomato starts from house to garden,

from perpetual day under ultraviolet light

to cycles of day and night;

exposing them to sun and moon shine,

to rain and wind–

acts of faith.

I blow them kisses,

I pray for their survival.

I remember the careful sowing of seeds–

the tending, the watering, the watching.

In three days, I will gently tease their dense roots.

I will place them in prepared soil.

I will intuit the pleasure of moving

from the boundaries of a small pot into earth expansive.

*I wrote this poem as a young mother in a rare and quiet moment with a writer-friend at a local cafe. It first appeared, in an earlier version, in the first edition of Voice Catcher, an Anthology of New Writing by Portland-Area Women, 2006.

 

 

 

A September When…

They are twenty-two,

white American women overseas,

drawn to Morocco,

a land of cities adorned

in tile and brick, clay and stone, metal and wood.

A land of cities painted,

doors of forest green

walls of sun-faded red

window shutters of royal azure blue.

The air thick with aroma…

fallen, rotting figs,

burning sandalwood,

dried cinnamon, saffron, coriander, cumin and ginger,

baking nan and frying fish.

Language forms a discordant song.

Children sell chick peas by the gram,

calling out in French, then Spanish, sometimes English.

Men fill cafes, their dialogue in Arabic spilling out into the streets.

Waves of drums and voices lift, resonate,

hands clap and castanets clack.

They feel the thrill of anonymity

coupled with the terror of estrangement.

They are willful others, foreign tourists,

naive to their privilege,

hearts and minds tender and budding.

Two among hundreds of thousands navigating crowded streets.

They are wanderers seeking the unknown.

A man brushes against her shoulder,

He leans in close, utters words meant for her, for them,

“…catastrophe à La Maison-Blanche!”

Suddenly she feels caught by eyes searching.

She bows her head, clenches stiff white cotton.

They move swift and bewildered,

through a labyrinth of doorways, side streets and tunnels,

passing women who silently carry baskets of goods,

men who gut tilapia in fish markets,

Emerging into the medina,

relieved to return to this new familiar center.

They enter a small cafe, tiled in red and pink.

The owner, Raashid, sits beside them,

pointing to the television in the corner

where an image replays–

airplanes crashing into tall towers,

smoke and ash billowing…

time escapes them.

They have been crying.

Raashid offers his compassionate gaze, his smile warm.

They talk of fear, of shock, of shame, of death and loss.

They contemplate the future–how it could be shaped by tyrants.

They hold hands, praying in silence.

They part at nightfall.

He hails them a taxi to the train station,

to their next destination–south and westward,

as westerners never stop moving.

Essaouira via Marrakesh.

Young beckoning men of the Sahara sell jewelry,

silver, lapis, amber, jade, moonstone.

Aziz, the rider of waves,

Mohammed, the philosopher,

Mustafa, the flamboyant.

Shots of rum are offered behind closed doors.

They talk of life and love,

of politics and marriage,

of the beauty of the desert and the mountains.

They share stories, jokes, and the tonic of laughter.

They extend an invitation for dinner.

At home, they are greeted by mothers, sisters, cousin, aunt and uncle.

They say she has the eyes of a Berber.

They ask, what are they doing, two women, far from home, traveling alone?

They express heartfelt condolences for American lives lost.

They ask, do they support the president?

They ask, what will the U.S. do now?

They sit in a circle, eating quietly,

tajine and couscous, Coca-Cola and nan.

They watch a broadcast of Gnaoua musicians on a glowing screen.

Aziz and Mohammed walk them to the hotel,

the cobbled streets quiet,

the earth beneath compact and cool.

They linger in shadow, whispering of simplicity,

exchanging kisses and caresses,

outlining the shapes of their bodies.

They invite them to forget what they know–

to miss the next bus, the next train and ferry,

to spend winter in the desert.

To inhabit another life…

rising at dawn with birdsong,

walking two miles to fetch water,

being shaped and sifted by wind,

cooking meals with family extended,

gazing outward into the galaxy and beyond,

unleashing from western notions of time,

experiencing the opening of eternity…

maybe then, they would know peace,

maybe then, they would feel whole.

 

 

 

 

 

A Rough Draft

Lovers of other times

are dropping into my mind,

for cups of coffee, day-dreaming,

recalling:

our dances of magnetism,

late-night philosophizing,

lessons in foreign tongues,

games of chess in the park,

melting flavors of pleasure,

sudden departures,

enduring friendships,

heart aches and heart hooks,

photographs and missing negatives,

love letters and tearful goodbyes–

many seas traversed and worlds gone by.

I wonder, is this the flooding review

that comes before a dying?

If I surrender to the dissolution,

can I carry parts of you, and me, forward?

If I have a choice, I will carry memories of feeling,

of our rare, naked moments when we let each other in.

And to you, you who are on your way,

I have heard you through the distance.

I have felt you in the space between,

flirting on the periphery of time.

you orbit, coming in close, then departing.

Are you a mirage? a soul projection? a mate? a kindred?

When we meet, sunlight breaks through,

casting rainbow arcs and amber warmth.

When we part, clouds gather,

bearing water and blue-grey cooling.

I savor the sensation of the brush of your cheek against mine,

I breathe in, capturing the earthy scent of you.

I long for our embrace,

the heat of our tender friction imprinting us,

the alchemy of our souls forming a new language for the world to come.

 

Untitled

When nobody whispers the words you long to hear

as you tuck in at night,

you recite them to yourself instead.

You call your fragments home.

You weave them back together,

feeling the emotion held in each one,

settling them with caresses.

The light of the sun follows you

as you descend into the expansive dark within.

The language of your origins rises from the margins.

It tugs at the folds of your mind,

reaches into sealed off heart-channels.

Unshed tears, long-caught in your throat, release.

You awaken to the task of now,

the task of learning to trust your wisdom.