Three Haiku – Daily Constitutional at the Office Park

sunny open field
soft, cool air of late summer
and the maple’s shade

bare feet in the grass
daily constitutional
sans electronics

indescribable
the pleasure that comes from just
a moment outside

What Lokito’s Death Reminded Me About the Gifts of Being Present During Painful Moments

photograph of a cat and a kitten on a suburban lawn
Old man Walter and young pup Loki

I was visiting a good friend in Hartford, CT on a fine spring day in 1998 when a passel of kittens tumbled across her neighbor’s driveway and onto the grass, mewing and scratching and generally working their kitten magic. From that litter I adopted Loki, a tiger/calico mix with kohl-like markings around his eyes. It seemed appropriate to name a kitten after the Norse god of mischief.

He lived up to his name. On Saturday mornings he would skitter over the hardwood floors of my apartment and under my futon, scratching the underside of it and then running away again. Continue reading “What Lokito’s Death Reminded Me About the Gifts of Being Present During Painful Moments”

The Burden of Bearing Fruit

Two years ago I read a piece in the Sun Magazine by a woman named Brenda Miller called The Burden of Bearing Fruit. It was the sort of article one finds there a great deal: a personal essay, contemplative, sometimes rambling, with a flash of beauty  — a surprise tie-up, an effortless making-sense of daily objects and events. The making-sense of art, which tells the true but tells it slant.

These essays often shame me in their seeming effortlessness in the same way that Martha Stewart shames wives and mothers all across America, or the way Oksana Baiul shames 12-year-old figure skaters. In my saner moments I remember that the authors of these essays (often English professors or professional writers) probably went through multiple drafts, worked and worked on each word and sentence, considered the form and flow of the piece, perhaps the thesis and the theme. In my less sane moments I wonder why my own work doesn’t appear in The Sun’s pages. Never mind that I’m focusing on honing my craft in poetry right now, not personal essays. Or that I have a full-time job writing meeting minutes and functional specifications. Why am I not better at it by now? Where is my Harvest-themed centerpiece? Where is my triple lutz?

But let me, for the sake of this moment, put aside those inner critics. Let me even put aside the notion that I might beat that little hater. And let me return to that phrase which has stayed with me for two years and more: the burden of bearing fruit. Miller describes her own complicated relationship to the cherry tree that graces her property. You’ll have to read the essay to catalog its full meaning, but what stays with me is the notion that as the tree ages it is released from the burden of bearing fruit. Approaching 40, years into an artistic recovery I can barely discuss without weeping, I’m well aware of this burden. The terrible secret of farming and gardening is that bringing in the harvest is just as difficult as the plowing, the sowing, the planting, and the tending. Once the fruit arrives it must be picked, it must be eaten, it must be shared, it must be preserved and set away for the winter.  Some of it always rots.

My tree has blossomed and begun to bear fruit. This evening I read at the Newton Free Library and the day after a brand new workshop begins meeting in my home.  It’s not the first time I’ve read to an audience, not the first time I’ve led a workshop, but the burden of bearing fruit remains. Perhaps this time the harvest will be more sustainable.

In Memoriam: Trayvon Martin

I’ve been largely silent regarding the issue of Trayvon Martin’s death and Zimmerman’s acquittal. As a white woman living in Boston, I don’t see the ongoing effects of racism in the same way that I did when I was living on the north side of Poughkeepsie, or growing up in a housing project in Stamford. But racism still affects me and those I love. I’d like to take a moment to honor the friends and loved ones whom I know deal with racism on a daily basis — and the friends and loved ones I never met or never got to know well because of the racist and segregated society in which I live.

From a New York Times editorial published July 14, 2013:

While Mr. Zimmerman’s conviction might have provided an emotional catharsis, we would still be a country plagued by racism, which persists in ever more insidious forms despite the Supreme Court’s sanguine assessment that “things have changed dramatically,” as it said in last month’s ruling striking down the heart of the Voting Rights Act.

The Day After the Boston Marathon Bombing

Sudden violence (is there any other kind?) throws the world into sharp relief. Horror that doesn’t speak but roars in the head like the ocean. Magnolias blooming under the crescent moon.

It gives things the proper perspective, too.

Last night, laying on the bed, talking to my mother on the phone while Army Guy relaxed next to me, the younger cat purring between us, I felt utter contentment.

This morning I woke at 6:00 am to take down the emergency update on the hospital website that I maintain. Cortisol shot me awake, makes me drained and snappy today. The sun is shining, the air is crisp and lovely. The Copley Square area is closed from Mass Ave to Berkeley. Did they wash the pavement clean? Will they find who did this? Will the cycle of violence continue, into the end of the time? Is peace just a pipe dream, like dreaming for the end of hunger, the end of darkness?

All things in sharp relief, from one moment to the next.

Silence, Lost Sisters, Escape

seeking emptiness
and learning not to fear it
we lost our sisters in the forest

now they gather in the back,
their voices shrill and loud
they don’t seem to have aged
but we have

when did we trade the forest
for this dry museum?
where is the way out?

must we exit through the gift shop
or is there another doorway
we have yet to find?

Hammond Pond Reservation, Green Line crossing

For five extra minutes you follow the path
through mayapple, sarsaparilla and anxiety
over a little hill and through
what might be blueberry and poison ivy
with beech and oak and maple rustling overhead
to a pond, a flooded field really
and the curl of wind over its flat surface
and the beaten-down dried rushes
and a barrier of stones
upon which rests
a butterfly with black, gold-tipped wings

thirty seconds later, you turn to see
the Riverside Line cross,
two green trolleys
over the silent water