Friday, June 17, 2011

It's been almost 6 months now, and I never really feel like this poem is finished, so I'll publish now, anyway, in memoriam. In honor of the feast day of Saint Anthony on June 13, patron saint of lost things & pets....preghiamo.

"For my San Antonio"

January 2011
The loneliest thing that could happen to you is to lose your puppy dog.
That, and your own death, I suppose.
I suppose it's necessary.
I suppose it's supposed to feel like this.
But this is scary, and dark, and the 
Isolation seems to swallow me from all angles.
It seems to me Grief is like this.
I want to tell you a story - 
I'm 7 years old, 
And I'm crying on the back patio 
About being misunderstood 
And I can only tell Pandora who won't laugh or disappear. 
But Pandora's dead and gone, 
And I get a new puppy dog to replace, 
Now, almost 20 years later.
And it's been a long time with bottled up secrets, lies, feelings, love, 
Wishes, dreams, hopes, fears, 
And no puppy dog worth confiding to in sight. 
It's called Healing because it's like this. 
Slow. Painful. Patching & Re-bleeding.
Building up protective tissue only to have it torn away in a single swoop.
Starting over from scratch sometimes.
Remembering not to pick at the same wound, but 
Failing, and then 
For the Healing to begin again tomorrow.
And now it's like this: 
I still feel the wind and the warmth, and can see the
Through the trees 
As it makes dancing shadows & silhouettes.
The puppy dog runs through fields of mint and sage, 
Rushing uncontrollably through fresh breath & knowledge,
Until he comes so close you can whisper secrets in his ear.
And he's so happy and pure...How could you tell him it's like this?
I've told him about the fall;
I used to teach him about the winter.
I mentioned once that things die, that for now the plants are hiding ---- 
I told him that even though it doesn't look like it, 
Life will return.
Spring will come.
There's no reason to be afraid.
And the crows seem to know.
And the weepy trees in Oregon seem to know. 
And the other dogs seem to know.
(I know it's silly - but won't you let me believe it for just a little while?)
I swear, they stare at me
With their Loving, Innocent eyes,
And it's as if Tony's staring right into my soul again.
It's like there's only one Dog Spirit, 
And Doggy Life emanates from and 
Returns to that One Source.
I supppose Life is like this. 
And I finally understand what it means to look around the room at 
"Other Yourselves." 
It means you have to jump from your own 
Lonely perspective, and imagine 
What the world would look like to you if you had been handed
That set of circumstances.
Or if you had grown up with 
That mother,
That mustache.
If the Source had manifested you as a 
Little more insecure or a 
Little less judgemental, or with
That set of fears, or
Those sisters, or
That tail, or
Those particular beliefs.
Or if you had grown up 
In Indiana, for God's sake.
Or if you always had to look out at the world from over that mustache.
It can't be easy.
Or how difficult it would be if you always saw everything, watched everyone, 
Knew everything. 
Or thought you did. 
That wouldn't be easy either.
Owned that quirk, Used this quip, Met this sweetheart, Believed that myth. 
You can begin to see how the same world could look so very different.
If you had never seen it all before.
You begin to really, really understand what the world might look like 
If you were 
That Man
A Man,
A Healer,
A Doctor,
A Dog.
And it's the Same, the Same
All perfect & incompete manifestations of the Whole.
And Great Compassion for those other journeys ----
None of the paths are easy.
And Compassion for your own,
As you realize you are just
An Example. 
An also imperfect, complete version 
Of Something
Part of a Matrix
a Leaf on the Tree,
as Unique and Identical as all the other leaves.
And so you have to wonder ----
How can it be possible to Be This Lonely 
Around so many other Leaves.
But it is.
It is like this:
It's like fumbling around in the dark with a cord, 
Searching desperately for the plug in the wall.
You know, as soon as you find it, as soon as you can 
Plug in,
It will all be over.
The darkness will seem so silly,
Be just a memory, a shadow.
But until you connect it all, 
Until you can get back to the Source, it's all
Dark dark
Scary scary
Like falling
In a black hole
Downward Spiral
There is no light
There will never be light again
What if the plug doesn't work or the cord gets tangled or 
You for whatever reason are incapable of making the connection?
And it's Scary.
And it's Real.
And there are flickers and candles of Hope
But you have to look carefully, 
Pay Attention.
Or you'll lose them
You'll lose it all.
Your whole grip
Everything, all over again, from the beginning. Begin again. 
And again, and again, and again and again and again......
Do butterflies ever feel grief?
They come and go so quickly, 
I imagine it must be impossible to get a sense of
Missed Opportunities
Lost Dreams
Vanquished Friends
Possibilities that will never come to be realized
When you live as short as a butterfly.
And it's very hard to be one of the animals on the planet who outlives so many other animals. 
Maybe I will have many dogs.
Maybe I will know Love many times.
But they say it's never like the first.
How can a dog make you a better human being?
I don't know - but it does.
To love a dog,
To see the world through his eyes,
With all the fear and wonder 
And curiosity and First-time-ness of it all.....
I tried to give him a sense of the big picture of it all.
To help him out, more than I could for a butterfly. 
Wishing someone bigger than me would explain it all to me, in the same way.
That sometimes life is like this.
That the pain comes and goes, that
Life comes and goes,
That dogs come and go.
Pandora will never meet Tony and 
I will never meet my great-great-grandmother or great-great-grandson 
And I suppose that's all Ok.
I suppose the point is 
Life continues.
In some form.
Any form.
The butterflies don't have to meet each other because 
The spirit of the butterfly continues.
I guess.
I don't know really, 
Honestly I'm just trying to work something out.
Some desperate rationalization to make it all Ok.
But if I could have ben there ----
If I could have been by that cold metal table, with all the 
Incomprehensible doctors and 
Helpless machines all around ---
I would have whispered these words of comfort to Tony.
Wishing someone would whisper them to me.
Will you whisper them to me now?
Please, let me pretend, let me believe, just for a little while?
Repeat after me.
"My love,
Sometimes life is like this.
And it's going to be ok.
And you can go home now to that 
Big mint field in the sky.
And I'll meet you there.
I'm so lucky to have known you at all."
E ci vediamo presto presto, sì sì tesoro mio?
Lo so, che pazzo...
Ma la vita, lei è come questa. 
Non preoccupato.
Non impaurito.
Ti amo ti amo ti amo, per sempre.


Wednesday, April 27, 2011

"Clear Side of the Storm"
Spring, 2011
And then, despite everything:
You turn a corner, and there's 
An orange cat.
A yellow bloom.
The woman laughs.
You see a big man with a tiny saxophone, just breaching on its potential.
Despite everything, 
Life begins to return.
A purple flower bursts up through the cracks in the pavement.
A lizard wiggles his way, makes his own path, through the old cobblestones. 
The hypertensive orange cat is, once again, terrified to see you and darts off in her own direction;
        Yes. Being terrified is a part of Life. 
        Running is a part of Life.
        Laughing at the orange cat is part of Life.
        At some point you can't deny it: 
        Despite your sadness, 
        Despite all the grief and horror and emptiness,
Life continues.
( ( ( ) ) ) 
Despite everything, 
Spring is here.
The sun begins to shine more brightly,
The days are longer,
You are warmer.
You can still be pissed about this, if you want.
You don't have to like it.
But still: Life won't wait for you.
Life will carry on Her trumpet second line, whether you join the parade or not.
You can see it everywhere, if and only if you pay attention.
I know it's hard, to 
Push through your own sad walls, to 
Look outside, to 
Be Here Now, but if you can....
You'll hear all the animals who made it through the winter 
Clucking along their own happy brigade.
They must be shocked - 
Imagine if you had no sense of time, no sense of knowing....
When the snow thaws,
When the earth warms,
It's glorious enough to start making everyone do Mother Nature's sexy dance.
And you can join,
If you want ;)
Honestly, she's begging you, taunting you, teasing you everywhere. 
She's imploring you with the green grass,
She's enticing you with chilly blue skies and a warm red heart....
She's saying:
"It's here.
It's ok.
Wake up.
The winter's over.
The worst has past."
And you have to know that, in the deepest part of your heart.
I know it's so very hard hard hard:
To push past all the Mourning of your wintertime.
It's tempting to stay locked in the temple of Blues, 
To give in to the horror of the depression,
The lack of faith,
The one where your world is the only World,
Your sadness is the only Sadness,
But see, none of that is really True.
If you can manage to, 
If you have the strength to 
Lift your head just slightly, 
Look around just a bit, and you can see - 
You weren't the only one mourning this winter.
You weren't the only one who lost something.
The trees are naked too,
And raw,
And scared.
And hold all the hope and potential of the Spring deep inside them already, just like You.
( ( ( ) ) ) 
And of course:
There will be other winters.
There will be more sadness.
Sometimes, you just have to go back in the woods.
But for now, it's ok to enjoy the spring.
Take a big breath.
Be outside.
Write a poem in the cloister.
Lose some of that heavy clothing and walk around naked for awhile.
The sun will come up again.
The earth has never stopped turning.
And despite all your heavy sorrow, 
All your irreversible experiences, 
Despite all that has happened and will happen:
Life is rolling on.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

"Cacti & Lilacs"
from Artmonk Retreat, January 2011
You have to go slowly to know the soft side of a cactus.
You can't just jump in there and kiss it.
You have to talk sweet to it first.
But it is possible.
Go slow ~ try the "wrong way."
Be gentle, gentle, quiet, quiet.
Listen to its secrets.
Understand why the prickly parts are there.
And then ~ it will let you touch it.
A factoid about cacti:
They're supposed to BE like that.
Prickly is just the way they are.
We can't all be lilacs, you know. 

And kalamata olives ~ they're supposed to TASTE like that.
Taste one with your full mouth - 
Not just the front,
Or your tongue,
Or one side.
Try it This Way - it's more fun
To swish swish swish it around all the way, so that it fills up your whole, whole mouth with flavor.
Maybe so much that it fills your neighbor's mouth, too.
Taste that?
It's supposed to taste shockingly bitter at first; 
It's supposed to be that salty.
It's supposed to make your nose wrinkle and lips curl around as you try to hold in ALL that flavor from one perfect purple morsel.
It's OK - olives are supposed to taste like that.


And the pain ~ oh, the pain.
It is supposed to feel like that.
I know, this one is the hardest to believe, 
Rougher than a cactus to touch,
Harder than an olive to swallow.
But it IS supposed to be there.
Long, Dull, Prolonged, Never-Ending, your Whole universe, the Only thing. 
The center and 
Beginning and 
End of all your 
Thoughts, your everything.
It's supposed to overtake you like that. 
It's supposed to make you cry.
It's supposed to FORCE you to 
Go inside. To go 
Deep in and know that 
You are the only thing.
That you hold ALL the universe,
All the pain and suffering inside.
And the beauty, the beauty inside, too.
And it's supposed to be that hard to climb three flights of stairs.
And it's supposed to be that cold before you get in your sleeping bag.
And it's supposed to make you laugh til your heart hurts.
And you don't have to worry any more,
Or feel shame anymore,
Or feel doubt.
You can smile, and be.
Or laugh, or cry,
Or dance like you've got ants in your pants,
Or whatever.
What if it was all supposed to be like that?
"What if it were all OK?"
For now, try to just rest still, & know---
The other side of pain is lilacs.
And the sister of an olive is a smile.
And deep, deep, deep at the 
Center of a cactus, if you can
Manage to get in beyond the toughest of gatekeepers ~ if you can
Survive that first bite ~ if you can
Unravel all the terribly wonderful, beautifully awful
Complexity of your pain....
If ~When ~ you arrive at the Center of it all...
You're Home.