Category Archives: Poetry

I’m not complaining: Rudy Francisco

I have a bit of a headache this morning—a rare event for me. But I’m not complaining.

My house is overdue for a good scrub, and I really don’t like cleaning. But I’m not complaining.

Yesterday I had to pick my son up early from his school alpine ski team practice. The timing of the pick-up put us in rush-hour traffic. We snailed from one end of the city of Ottawa to the other at the paint-drying-watching speed of 20 kilometers per hour. But I’m not complaining.

Rudy Francisco set me straight. His poetry slam performance gives all of us first-world, privileged, spoiled folks a timely tongue lashing. I won’t complain because my inconveniences are not even tragedies. I don’t even need the tip of my tongue to accommodate them.

He fired me up for my day. I hope he does the same for you. Few, if any, of us will crumble at the corner of tragedy and silence today.

 

A good time of year to dance: Hafiz

At this time of year, many people for many different reasons contemplate God or the God-ness in our world. These two poems by Hafiz, as translated by Daniel Ladinsky in The Gift: Poems by Hafiz the Great Sufi Masterreminded my that, more than anything, for whatever reason, this time of year is good for dancing. And better dancing than fussing about details or interpretations.

The God Who Only Knows Four Words

Every

Child

Has known God.

Not the God of names,

Not the God of don’ts,

Not the God who ever does

Anything weird,

But the God who only knows four words

And keeps repeating them, saying:

“Come dance with Me.”

Come

Dance.

_________

What Should We Do About That Moon?

A wine bottle fell from a wagon
And broke open in a field.

That night one hundred beetles and all their cousins
Gathered

And did some serious binge drinking.

They even found some seed husks nearby
And began to play them like drums and whirl.
This made God very happy.

Then the “night candle” rose into the sky
And one drunk creature, laying down his instrument,
Said to his friend—for no apparent
Reason,

“What should we do about that moon?”

Seems to Hafiz
Most everyone has laid aside the music

Tackling such profoundly useless
Questions.

________

Arlene, dancing like nobody is watching.

Arlene, dancing.

The sacrament of waiting: . . .

winter-waitingThe sun shines in my window this morning in a February kind of way.  Winter wanes.

I celebrate the sacrament of waiting for a new kind of spring beauty.

As our calendars turn from January to February, I share with you this beautiful poem by Macrina Wiederkehr. Macrina is a Benedictine sister, author, and lover of the spiritual who blogs at Under the Sycamore Tree. Her poem celebrates the sacrament of letting go as a natural part of life. When we’re stripped down, vulnerable, and “wearing the colors of emptiness” we live the sacrament of waiting, ready for a new, surprising kind of beauty.

The Sacrament of Letting Go

© Macrina Wiederkehr

Slowly
she celebrated the sacrament of letting go.
First she surrendered her green,
then the orange, yellow, and red.
finally she let go of her own brown.
Shedding her last leaf
she stood empty and silent, stripped bare.
Leaning against the winter sky,
she began her vigil of trust.

Shedding her last leaf,
she watched it journey to the ground.
She stood in silence
wearing the colors of emptiness,
her branches wondering,
How do you give shade with so much gone?

And then,
the sacrament of waiting began.
The sunrise and the sunset watched with tenderness.
Clothing her with silhouettes
that kept her hope alive.

They helped her to understand that
her vulnerability,
her dependence and need,
her emptiness, her readiness to receive,
were giving her a new kind of Beauty.
Every morning and every evening they stood in silence,
and celebrated together
the sacrament of waiting.

© Macrina Wiederkehr

We are the ones we’ve been waiting for!

Some wisdom at the new year from the Elder Oraibi, Arizona Hopi Nation

__________________________

We are the ones we’ve been waiting for!

You have been telling the people that this is the Eleventh Hour.
Now you must go back and tell the people that this is the Magical Hour.

There are things to be considered:
Where are you living?
What are you doing?
What are your relationships?
Are you in right relation?
Where is your water?
Know your garden.
It is time to speak your Truth.

Create your community. Be good to each other. And do not look outside yourself for the leader.
This could be a good time!

ottawa-riverThere is a river flowing now very fast. It is so great and swift that there are those who will be afraid. They will try to hold on to the shore. They will feel they are being torn apart and they will suffer greatly.

Know the river has its destination. The elders say we must let go of the shore, push off into the middle of the river, keep our eyes open, and our heads above the water. See who is in there with you and celebrate.

At this time in history, we are to take nothing personally, least of all, ourselves. For the moment that we do, our spiritual growth and journey come to a halt.

The time of the lone wolf is over. Gather yourselves!
Banish the word struggle from your attitude and your vocabulary.
All that we do now must be done in a sacred manner and in CELEBRATION!

We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.

The Elder Oraibi, Arizona Hopi Nation

Breaking trail, or following in footsteps

snowy-parkThis morning I had to mail a letter. The shortest way to the mailbox (usually) is a quick jaunt across the park behind our house. However, it is January in Ottawa, Canada, and we’ve had a snowy year. The short way at this time of year is the hard way.

But, we had above zero temperatures this week, so I thought maybe the snow might have melted to passable depth. I ventured out into the whiteness. You know what? We’ve had a snowy year. Even with our recent meltdown, the snow lay deep. I worked up a sweat and burned a few calories breaking trail through it.

After posting the letter, I took the sidewalk around to the road beside the park. That’s when I spotted the trail my son broke through the snow as a shortcut home from school. I followed in his footsteps. Much easier.

It reminded me of a movie we watched over the holidays: Made in Dagenham. The movie dramatized the 1968 strike at a Ford plant in Dagenham, England where women went on strike to fight for equal pay. The idea of equal pay for women upset the economic order of the time, and businesses resisted. The strike created hardship for the women, the men who worked at the plant, and the community, but the women didn’t give up. They worked up a sweat, burned a few calories and broke trail through to the Equal Pay Act of 1970.

When I started work at my first job in 1985, I received the same pay as the men working in my male-dominated field. By then it was accepted practice. At the time it never occurred to me that it ever could have been another way. By then, we all took it for granted. Because women before us had broken trail, the rest of us followed easily in their footsteps.

(Now, we still have some distance to go. Salaries for female-dominated occupations still trail behind those of male-dominated occupations. Child-care workers, in particular, are grossly undervalued and underpaid for performing one of the most vital roles in our society.)

I chose the challenging route to the mailbox this morning. I second-guessed my decision several times in the middle of the field. Should I turn back? Give up? But I kept going. Soon the goal was closer than my starting point, so I kept trudging.

And so it is when we break trail. We begin with a goal in mind, one that we know will be a challenge to achieve. As we take each difficult step, we wonder, “Should I turn back? Should I just give up?” But we keep trudging, and soon the goal becomes closer than the starting point.

And the next trip is always much easier.

broken-trail

6 fun words to say and think about

Thong

When I was a kid, everyone wore thongs in the summer: to the beach, to school, even to church sometimes. Mind you, thongs then looked like the picture to the left.

Over time words change in meaning. “We had a gay time on our cruise” had a different meaning in 1950 than it does today. Thong is one of those words. Today, thong means something completely different (no, I’m not putting in a picture) and people under a certain age have never heard the previous meaning. My husband still hasn’t adapted to the new use of thong, and often uses it to refer to flip-flops. This prompts looks of astonishment on the faces of my kids’ friends when he roams around the house looking for his footwear and calling out, “Has anyone seen my thongs?” Hilarious.

Rubberboat

I was an exchange student in Mexico when I was a teenager. One day the Spanish-speaking girls in my class pointed to a picture of an inflatable raft and asked me what the word for it was in English. “Rubberboat,” I said. They burst into laughter. “What?” they said. “Rubberboat,” I repeated. They fell apart all over again. “Say it again,” they said. “Say it again.” Every time I said “rubberboat,” they could not contain their laughter.

Think about it. Say it out loud to yourself. You can see how it would sound ridiculous to someone unfamiliar with our language. Rubberboat. It’s funny.

Gobsmacked

I love this word. It’s so visual and carries such clear meaning. When someone uses this word, you can visualize the recoil reaction to shocking news. The gob of shocking news hurls through the air and, smack, hits the person. Recoil. Love that.

Lollipop

My daughter offered this one, and I agree. Lollipop is just fun to say. The “lolli” loiters on the tongue in a rolling ell kind of way, and then you pop the last syllable. You could say lollipop, but why would you when you could say lolliPOP.

Pickle

I read somewhere that comedians use words with a “k” sound, because they are funnier than other words. The word pickle makes me laugh, and maybe the “k” has something to do with it. The pop of the “p” followed by the “k” just sounds funny. Also, when someone is “in a pickle” it usually means a person has put themselves in an awkward situation because of a poor choice. Usually we (a) have made the same mistake ourselves, or (b) we imagine we would make the same mistake under similar circumstances, so we empathize.  “Oh, that person is in a pickle,” we say, shaking our heads.  We chuckle.

Ruffle

I wonder who the first person was to use the word “ruffle.” What prompted the word, and did he/she immediately realize it was the perfect word? It so aptly suits what it describes. Again, it’s visual. You see the flounciness of whatever it describes. It’s auditory, too. When feathers ruffle, you hear the disturbance.

This word sticks with me, too, because of Margaret Laurence. In her great book, The Stone Angel, she describes a character named Arlene as being “all ruffles.” Arlene is not a common name, so when I come across a character with it, I take it rather personally. Arlene, all ruffles? I’ll tell you, my feathers ruffled over that.

Those are my fun words. What are yours?