to have once

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To Have Once
Alice Walker
For years I meditated
Peacefully
In this small ruined retreat.
It was whole until the hurricane.
All around it now are fallen trees,
Broken limbs,
Broken windows
Broken doors.

Many roofs in the neighborhood
And in the pueblo, both palapa
And tile, are gone.
Nothing,
It appears,
Has remained
Unscathed.

Everything is trashed.

There is a feeling of unreality,
Of sadness that so much beauty
And peace of solitude
Has been destroyed,
But overwhelmingly there is
Gratitude.

Our beautiful friends and their beautiful children
Are alive.

No one was injured, and no one died
From the tempestuous winds
And drowning rain of hurricane Patricia,
Who charted her course
Right to the places
Most out of the way
-Or so we thought-
Of unwelcome visitors.

Impermanence. So the Buddha taught.
And, To have once is to have
Forever:
So certain of the Aboriginal peoples
Believe.

Photo by Paweł Czerwiński on Unsplash

heartless fist

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The Future Captured in a Heartless Fist
Alice Walker
Somehow it is left to us
This most hopeful of generations
To bear
The unbearable.
We do not need to have given birth
To the children
Who are being destroyed
To know they are our children
Not only in the present and the past
But certainly in the future.
All children are connected at birth
To all the others ever to arrive.
Their faces turned upward
Toward the parents all grown-ups were meant to be.
How can you separate your child
From mine?
Little one, they have captured you
And placed you in a cage.
What are we to make of this?
Are we supposed to see you
As an animal?
Though animals also do not deserve
This fate.
Are we supposed to think
That you are, at five years old,
Already a “terrorist”?
Are we to believe you deserve
To stand alone in this tiny jail
Obviously constructed with you in mind
While grownups stand around
And frighten you?
Who paid for this cage
Anyway?
Whose taxes?
Whose labor?
Whose sweat?
Little One,
You are Palestinian
You are also Earthling,
You are Every Child.
By most humans of this planet
You are beloved.
But in this moment,
So hard to own
As what any parent or grown-up
Anywhere
Could desire or wish
You are The Future
Captured in a heartless
Fist.

Photo by Oladimeji Odunsi on Unsplash

hope to

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Hope to Sin Only in the Service of Waking Up
Alice Walker
Hope never to believe it is your duty or right to harm another simply because you mistakenly believe they are not you.

Hope to understand suffering as the hard assignment even in school you wished to avoid. But could not.

Hope to be imperfect in all the ways that keep you growing.

Hope never to see another not even a blade of grass that is beyond your joy.

Hope not to be a snob the very day Love shows up in love’s work clothes.

Hope to see your own skin in the wood grains of your house.

Hope to talk to trees & at last tell them everything you’ve always thought.

Hope at the end to enter the Unknown knowing yourself. Forgetting yourself also.

Hope to be consumed to disappear into your own Love.

Hope to know where you are –Paradise–if nobody else does.

Hope that every failure is an arrow pointing toward enlightenment.

Hope to sin only in the service of waking up.

sweet time

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Life Takes Its Own Sweet Time
Alice Walker
Life takes
its own
sweet time
to configure
just the wound
to stagger us:
so we may never forget
who runs the show
in these territories.

For years
we may circle
the puncture
soundlessly
running mental fingers
around its edges
as if fearing
a drain
that might suck away
the soul.

A decade might pass
in silence
before we once again
test our timid
voice
to shout inside the wound
& discover
the miracle:
that where pain has lived
so resplendently
for so long
there now resides
an insouciant
exuberance
to match
our
newly revealed
and
irrepressible smile.

Photo by Sean Mungur on Unsplash

desire

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Desire
Alice Walker
My desire
is always the same; wherever Life
deposits me:
I want to stick my toe
& soon my whole body
into the water.
I want to shake out a fat broom
& sweep dried leaves
bruised blossoms
dead insects
& dust.
I want to grow
something.
It seems impossible that desire
can sometimes transform into devotion;
but this has happened.
And that is how I’ve survived:
how the hole
I carefully tended
in the garden of my heart
grew a heart
to fill it.