Dr. Alexis Pauline Gumbs
For Roberto Tijerina
After Audre Lorde’s “Thanks to Jesse Jackson”
say it like bridge
spell it like splinter
these are the times
when words need carpenters
think out loud reshaping
into places to sit and meet
and walk and not fall through
write it like rice
growing hot and irresistible
undercover in the watched pot of revolution
spell it like cauldron
these are the years
when we eat our words
when the boil-over of desire
is the table we build by sharing
train our tongues to be trans
send ground tap rhythm of meaning
generate light like a helmet
in the mines
like a tread in the sloop
in the loop down of question
this is it
the time when each word
catch fire to ear
clean throat back to pink
when each word
sear like prophecy on our hearts
this is the moment
we all become
Love sorrow. She is yours now, and you must
take care of what has been
given. Brush her hair, help her
into her little coat, hold her hand,
especially when crossing a street. For, think,
what if you should lose her? Then you would be
sorrow yourself; her drawn face, her sleeplessness
would be yours. Take care, touch
her forehead that she feel herself not so
utterly alone. And smile, that she does not
altogether forget the world before the lesson.
Have patience in abundance. And do not
ever lie or ever leave her even for a moment
by herself, which is to say, possibly, again,
abandoned. She is strange, mute, difficult,
sometimes unmanageable but, remember, she is a child.
And amazing things can happen. And you may see,
as the two of you go
walking together in the morning light, how
little by little she relaxes; she looks about her;
she begins to grow.
When grief comes to you as a purple gorilla
you must count yourself lucky.
You must offer her what’s left
of your dinner, the book you were trying to finish
you must put aside
and make her a place to sit at the foot of your bed,
her eyes moving from the clock
to the television and back again.
I am not afraid. She has been here before
and now I can recognize her gait
as she approaches the house.
Some nights, when I know she’s coming,
I unlock the door, lie down on my back,
and count her steps
from the street to the porch.
Tonight she brings a pencil and a ream of paper,
tells me to write down
everyone I have ever known,
and we separate them between the living and the dead
so she can pick each name at random.
I play her favorite Willie Nelson album
because she misses Texas
but I don’t ask why.
She hums a little,
the way my brother does when he gardens.
We sit for an hour
while she tells me how unreasonable I’ve been,
crying in the check-out line,
refusing to eat, refusing to shower,
all the smoking and all the drinking.
Eventually she puts one of her heavy
purple arms around me, leans
her head against mine,
and all of a sudden things are feeling romantic.
So I tell her,
things are feeling romantic.
She pulls another name, this time
from the dead,
and turns to me in that way that parents do
so you feel embarrassed or ashamed of something.
Romantic? She says,
reading the name out loud, slowly
so I am aware of each syllable, each vowel
wrapping around the bones like new muscle,
the sound of that person’s body
and how reckless it is,
how careless that his name is in one pile and not the other.
This being human is a guest house. Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness, some momentary awareness comes as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows, who violently sweep your house empty of its furniture, still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice, meet them at the door laughing, and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes, because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.
IF YOU WERE WITH ME NOW, DEAR FRIEND
(In the Age of Corona)
By S.M. Graesser
I would look more closely
at the color of your eyes and hair,
details not so clear in faded memory.
We’d laugh louder, bliss brighter,
linger longer in embrace to savor
every trace of flesh and bones
that each we own. And if we’d walk,
I’d hold your arm in mine, to gather
tactile bonding, now denied.
I’d listen harder for the nuance
of your words, your mood,
ask more questions, share
more fully of my heart, to bring
to bloom our buds of commonality.
I would look into your eyes,
feel the rhythm of your soul, to
seal the ties unique to you and me.
But mostly if you were with me
now, dear friend, I would not
take for granted where and when
we’d meet like this again.
The Miracle of Morning
I thought I’d awaken to a world in mourning.
Heavy clouds crowding, a society storming.
But there’s something different on this golden morning.
Something magical in the sunlight, wide and warming.
I see a dad with a stroller taking a jog.
Across the street, a bright-eyed girl chases her dog.
A grandma on a porch fingers her rosaries.
She grins as her young neighbor brings her groceries.
While we might feel small, separate, and all alone,
Our people have never been more closely tethered.
The question isn’t if we will weather this unknown,
But how we will weather this unknown together.
So on this meaningful morn, we mourn and we mend.
Like light, we can’t be broken, even when we bend.
As one, we will defeat both despair and disease.
We stand with healthcare heroes and all employees;
With families, libraries, schools, waiters, artists;
Businesses, restaurants, and hospitals hit hardest.
We ignite not in the light, but in lack thereof,
For it is in loss that we truly learn to love.
In this chaos, we will discover clarity.
In suffering, we must find solidarity.
For it’s our grief that gives us our gratitude,
Shows us how to find hope, if we ever lose it.
So ensure that this ache wasn’t endured in vain:
Do not ignore the pain. Give it purpose. Use it.
Read children’s books, dance alone to DJ music.
Know that this distance will make our hearts grow fonder.
From a wave of woes our world will emerge stronger.
We’ll observe how the burdens braved by humankind
Are also the moments that make us humans kind;
Let every dawn find us courageous, brought closer;
Heeding the light before the fight is over.
When this ends, we’ll smile sweetly, finally seeing
In testing times, we became the best of beings.
by America’s inaugural Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman
BRING US CLOSE TO THE EARTH
Spirit of Life,
Ground of our being,
Root of unified mystery
Growing into myriad branches of expression,
Bring us together now.
Bring us close to the earth,
Ear to the whispering grass,
Waiting with slow breaths,
Listening for the very stones to cry out
With their rocky stories of
Tectonic plates meeting and parting meeting
Their mineral memories of
Hadean days, molten rocks flowing and joining
Their ancient legends of
Stars born out of the collapse of other stars
Help us to re-member.
Help us to piece together
Our one-ness with matter,
Our one-ness that matters.
With one more deep breath,
May we rise, star-stuff walking and rolling
Across the surface of an impossible blue-green planet.
May we join together to heal what is divided.
May we find wholeness within, without, among, between.
Eternal Source, Seed of the Universe, help us to grow peace.
So be it. Blessed be. Amen.
Sound of Sleat
I always looked out at the world,
And wondered if the world looked back at me,
Standing on the edge of something,
On my face- the wind from the cold sea.Across the waters were mirrors to see
Faces that looked like me,
People caught between two places,
People crossing over the seas.And it seemed from my croft
-With the old stones and the sheep,
And the sound of the songs in my sleep-
That the music of folk somewhere meetsOn the edge of the place we would be.
I’ve lived through some hard times.
My face is lined; my body so frail.
I used to think I might be able -When the river ran to meet the sea,
When the sun and moon shared the sky-
To look out as far as the eye could see,
And raise a glass to the girl looking back at me.
Laura Kelly Fanucci
When this is over, may we never again take for granted
A handshake with a stranger
Full shelves at the store
Conversations with neighbors
A crowded theater
Friday night out
The taste of communion
A routine checkup
The school rush each morning
Coffee with a friend
The stadium roaring
Each deep breath
A boring Tuesday
When this ends
may we find
that we have become
more like the people
we wanted to be
we hope to be
and may we stay
that way – better
for each other
because of the worst.
SHELTER IN PLACE
Long before the pandemic, the trees
knew how to guard one place with
roots and shade. Moss found
how to hug a stone for life.
Every stream works out how
to move in place, staying home
even as it flows generously
outward, sending bounty far.
Now is our time to practice —
singing from balconies, sending
words of comfort by any courier,
kindling our lonesome generosity
to shine in all directions like stars.
This morning the green fists of the peonies are getting ready
to break my heart
as the sun rises,
as the sun strokes them with his old, buttery fingers
and they open —
pools of lace,
white and pink —
and all day the black ants climb over them,
boring their deep and mysterious holes
into the curls,
craving the sweet sap,
taking it away
to their dark, underground cities —
and all day
under the shifty wind,
as in a dance to the great wedding,
the flowers bend their bright bodies,
and tip their fragrance to the air,
their red stems holding
all that dampness and recklessness
gladly and lightly,
and there it is again —
beauty the brave, the exemplary,
Do you love this world?
Do you cherish your humble and silky life?
Do you adore the green grass, with its terror beneath?
Do you also hurry, half-dressed and barefoot, into the garden,
and exclaiming of their dearness,
fill your arms with the white and pink flowers,
with their honeyed heaviness, their lush trembling,
to be wild and perfect for a moment, before they are
Perhaps your favourite place feels proud of you.
~ John O’Donohue
May I be radiantly healthy so that others can feel more well.
May I be more infinite so the world can be set free.
May I be more inspired to awaken the artist in every heart.
May I be more loving so the world knows its safe to be open, receptive and vulnerable.
May I be more energetically grounded so that others can feel more connected and aligned.
May I be more forgiving so that all darkness can be transformed by light.
May I be more authentic to dissolve the masks of ego that most people hide behind.
May I be more deliberate with my thoughts, words and actions to bring more mindfulness to this planet.
May I be more decisive and aligned so that the world can know the difference between being present in the flow and being impulsive.
May I be all the things I was born to be and may it all come to life as blessings of worthiness, transformation and expansion for all beings.
~ Matt Kahn
IT DOESN’T INTEREST ME WHAT YOU DO FOR A LIVING
By Oriah Mountain Dreamer
I want to know what you ache for, and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing.
It doesn’t interest me how old you are. I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love, for your dream, for the adventure of being alive.
It doesn’t interest me what planets are squaring your moon. I want to know if you have touched the center of your own sorrow, if you have been opened by life’s betrayals or have become shriveled and closed from fear of further pain. I want to know if you can sit with pain, mine or your own, without moving to hide it or fade it or fix it.
I want to know if you can be with joy, mine or your own, if you can dance with wild-ness and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes without cautioning us to be careful, to be realistic, to remember the limitations of being human.
It doesn’t interest me if the story you are telling me is true. I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself; if you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul; if you can be faithless and therefore trustworthy.
I want to know if you can see beauty, even when it’s not pretty, every day, and if you can source your own life from its presence.
I want to know if you can live with failure, yours and mine, and still stand on the edge of the lake and shout to the silver of the full moon, “Yes!”
It doesn’t interest me to know where you live or how much money you have. I want to know if you can get up, after the night of grief and despair, weary and bruised to the bone, and do what needs to be done to feed the children.
It doesn’t interest me who you know or how you came to be here. I want to know if you will stand in the center of the fire with me and not shrink back.
It doesn’t interest me where or what or with whom you have studied. I want to know what sustains you, from the inside, when all else falls away.
I want to know if you can be alone with yourself and if you truly like the company you keep in the empty moments.
By Richard Hendrick March 13, 2020
Yes there is fear.
Yes there is isolation.
Yes there is panic buying.
Yes there is sickness.
Yes there is even death.
They say that in Wuhan after so many years of noise
You can hear the birds again.
They say that after just a few weeks of quiet
The sky is no longer thick with fumes
But blue and grey and clear.
They say that in the streets of Assisi
People are singing to each other
across the empty squares,
keeping their windows open
so that those who are alone
may hear the sounds of family around them.
They say that a hotel in the West of Ireland
Is offering free meals and delivery to the housebound.
Today a young woman I know
is busy spreading fliers with her number
through the neighbourhood
So that the elders may have someone to call on.
Today Churches, Synagogues, Mosques and Temples
are preparing to welcome
and shelter the homeless, the sick, the weary
All over the world people are slowing down and reflecting
All over the world people are looking at their neighbours in a new way
All over the world people are waking up to a new reality
To how big we really are.
To how little control we really have.
To what really matters.
So we pray and we remember that
Yes there is fear.
But there does not have to be hate.
Yes there is isolation.
But there does not have to be loneliness.
Yes there is panic buying.
But there does not have to be meanness.
Yes there is sickness.
But there does not have to be disease of the soul
Yes there is even death.
But there can always be a rebirth of love.
Wake to the choices you make as to how to live now.
Listen, behind the factory noises of your panic
The birds are singing again
The sky is clearing,
Spring is coming,
And we are always encompassed by Love.
Open the windows of your soul
And though you may not be able
to touch across the empty square,
Instructions on Not Giving Up
Ada Limón – 1976-
than the fuchsia funnels breaking out
crabapple tree, more than the neighbor’s
obscene display of cherry limbs shoving
cotton candy-colored blossoms to the slate
Spring rains, it’s the greening of the trees
really gets to me. When all the shock of white
taffy, the world’s baubles and trinkets, leave
pavement strewn with the confetti of aftermath,
leaves come. Patient, plodding, a green skin
over whatever winter did to us, a return
strange idea of continuous living despite
mess of us, the hurt, the empty. Fine then,
take it, the tree seems to say, a new slick leaf
like a fist to an open palm, I’ll take it all.
not from the
lines to the
let it go-the
smashed word broken
open vow or
the oath cracked lengthwise-
let it go it
was sworn to
let them go-the
truthful liars and
the false fair friends
and the both and
neither-you must let them go they
let all go-the
big small middling
tall bigger really
the biggest and all
things-let all go
so comes love
April 3, 2020
Lynn Ungar – March 11, 2020
What if you thought of it as the Jews consider the Sabbath—
the most sacred of times?
Cease from travel. Cease from buying and selling.
Give up, just for now, on trying to make the worlddifferent than it is.
Sing. Pray. Touch only those
to whom you commit your life.
And when your body has become still,
reach out with your heart.
Know that we are connected
in ways that are terrifying and beautiful.
(You could hardly deny it now.)
Know that our lives
are in one another’s hands.
(Surely, that has come clear.)
Do not reach out your hands.
Reach out your heart.
Reach out your words.
Reach out all the tendrils
of compassion that move, invisibly,
where we cannot touch.
Promise this world your love–
for better or for worse,
in sickness and in health,
so long as we all shall live.
April 2, 2020
Sheltered-in-Place Mark Nepo (3/28/20)
I was walking our dog during the pandemic,
the neighborhood empty, the clouds heavy,
and, through my headphones, the music of a
man now gone, the love from his soul helping
me keep my head above water. And though
it’s hard to bow to the vastness of the sea
when being pulled under, hard to believe
in the merit of light when lost in the dark,
hard to wait on love when painfully lonely—
these larger truths never stop being true.
Even as I voice this, someone is dying in
the hall of an overcrowded hospital, while
another is lifted from their own hell by the
grace of a kindness no one saw coming. As
if the spirit of the one dying arrives like pollen
in the heart of the one stuck in hell, giving them
just enough to begin again. If we could only give
the extra warmth we receive to someone who is
shivering. If we could shed the masks that
keep us from ourselves, there would be
enough to save the world.
April 1, 2020
And the people stayed home. And read books, and listened, and rested, and exercised, and made art, and played games, and learned new ways of being, and were still. And listened more deeply.
Some meditated, some prayed, some danced. Some met their shadows.
And the people began to think differently. And the people healed.
And, in the absence of people living in ignorant, dangerous, mindless, and heartless ways, the earth began to heal.
And when the danger passed, and the people joined together again, they grieved their losses, and made new choices, and dreamed new images, and created new ways to live and heal the earth fully, as they had been healed.