To Have Once
For years I meditated
In this small ruined retreat.
It was whole until the hurricane.
All around it now are fallen trees,
Many roofs in the neighborhood
And in the pueblo, both palapa
And tile, are gone.
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
Our beautiful friends and their beautiful children
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
So certain of the Aboriginal peoples
The Future Captured in a Heartless Fist
Somehow it is left to us
This most hopeful of generations
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
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
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
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
Could desire or wish
You are The Future
Captured in a heartless
Hope to Sin Only in the Service of Waking Up
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.
Life Takes Its Own Sweet Time
just the wound
to stagger us:
so we may never forget
who runs the show
in these territories.
we may circle
running mental fingers
around its edges
as if fearing
that might suck away
A decade might pass
before we once again
test our timid
to shout inside the wound
that where pain has lived
for so long
there now resides
Rushing around these days preparing for an intense next (at least) six months, I feel a sense of premature loss. I know that I will be unable to continue reading as much or at the furious pace I have maintained for the last (almost) two years. This may, in fact, even be the last of these recap posts that I put together for a while because I simply doubt that I will have the time, nor will I have read enough to make these recaps worthwhile. This is not to say that they have been worthwhile in a wider sense (as in, useful to anyone but me). Indulgence at its finest. And now, I shall not have time to indulge in quite this way.
Knowing that this moment of bittersweet “parting” from leisurely, if voracious and greedy, reading was coming to an end, I spent most of August trying to work my way through things I’d begun reading and hadn’t finished, and through the list of books I’d already purchased but hadn’t seen fit to dive into yet. As of August 20, when I started drafting this, I had read 32 books, which is a good bit more ambitious than July’s 23 books. I hope to finish at least 10 more before the month ends (done). I don’t necessarily place stock in keeping a running tally on this, and it is not about quantity, as I keep having to explain to people. It’s just so satisfying to keep devouring such different writings from all over the world. Just this month, to note the diversity, I swung from Novica Tadić‘s spare poetry to Ousmane Sembène‘s Xala, both loved, from the complete Martha Quest/Children of Violence series by Doris Lessing (which I mostly disliked, wanting to kill Quest by the end, but nevertheless persevered) to non-fiction about hormones…
I don’t really know how much or what kinds of things I will find time to read, as I will be up to my eyeballs in formal study. That said, I am still the kind of weirdo who gets distracted looking for one thing – a poem I thought was written by Irving Feldman but was actually written by Michael Ryan that references semen – only to stumble on a good many clinical studies on semen quality, and I was drawn to/nearly obsessed with reading all those studies and their outcomes. And why? Who knows? Why was I so obsessed with teeth last year (and still)?
How difficult will it be to feel as though I am (if temporarily) giving this up?
Thoughts on reading for August:
I don’t have words for this, for William Stafford. Unrivaled beauty, poetry… the only book I read in August to which I gave a five-star (of five) rating – without reservation.
Laux’s poetry often sets me on fire. I have to read the work again and again, and find my throat has gone dry.
Good – really good
While I didn’t love White is for Witching, it – like Boy, Snow, Bird (which I loved last month) – delivered unusual characters that kept me in the story and unable to stop until the end. I think that’s what I enjoy about Oyeyemi – characters and character development.
“White is for witching, a colour to be worn so that all other colours can enter you, so that you may use them. At a pinch, cream will do.”
It was one of those nights when I found myself revisiting the poetry of Tomaž Šalamun – probably my favorite poet from Slovenia – when I was reminded of Andrej Blatnik. For me, these are the true exports of Slovenia – not a certain “be best” First Lady.
I was charmed by Blatnik’s ability to write a complete short story in often only a few words. Not perfect but quite arresting in its way.
Entertaining/informative/thoughtful or some combination thereof
Poetry – poetry – poetry. Usually the poetry I read makes it into the “highly recommended” (must not miss) category, but this month I read a lot of solid poetry that is nevertheless nothing I want to revisit and don’t necessarily think anyone else needs to either. But poetry is very personal, if you like it at all, so it’s not really for me to say.
I don’t think I ran into any coincidences this month… at least none worth noting.
Biggest disappointment (or hated/disliked)
*The entire Children of Violence series – Doris Lessing
It probably isn’t so much disappointment because I had no expectations, but by the time I finished reading Doris Lessing’s Children of Violence series, I wanted to kill Martha Quest and all the other characters populating these books. Still, I could not quite not finish… I also cannot say what it is about them/this series that I hate so much. Not that there are not flashes of what the Nobel committee must have seen when they gave Lessing her Nobel for lit – although who can trust that institution these days? Some timely and timeless observations:
“He went so far, carried away by the official in him, as to make various sound remarks about the unsuitability of danger for women. She thought he must be joking; nothing is more astonishing to young women than the ease with which men, even intelligent and liberal-minded men, lapse back into that anonymous voice of authority whenever their own personal authority is threatened, saying things of a banality and a pomposity infinitely removed from their own level of thinking.” – from A Proper Marriage
is always the same; wherever Life
I want to stick my toe
& soon my whole body
into the water.
I want to shake out a fat broom
& sweep dried leaves
I want to grow
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.