“Do not be what you think you should be.”
Be who you really are.
On the third floor of the hospital, we arrive – some of us, awkwardly, with over-packed strollers, diapers and formula supplies oozing out – others with only child in a sling on our still bloated frames. Our eyes are hollowed, puffy, sleep deprived. There in the open room, we are guided through a line up. This way, please. A nurse’s arm reaches out like a chauffeur; it touches one of our backs and we wonder when someone last held our tender places. We move forward and follow the others, first disrobing our bundled infants, hefty diapers and all. It is crucial to get an accurate starting weight. Some babies’ faces scrunch and let out a whimper, others wail immediately, and some remain as silent as they began. All of them, naked and exposed are placed on a scale, a clear plastic tray that holds their day, week and month old bodies. Numbers are noted and fresh diapers are fastened. Onesies and leggings, still warm, slide over limber arms, legs and bellies. We move forward, waiting for what’s next. Some of us sit with our doe eyes wide and bewildered. Others glance at nearby mothers and begin to chat. Some of us laugh. Some of us cry. Some of us laugh and cry at the same time, a mix of wet faces and unpredictable expressions. Each of us is here, some for the first and only time, others as devoted as holy churchgoers. For most...
The road to my grandparents’ house was the steepest climb I’d encountered. It wasn’t because I was young and the world seemed to maximize itself in front of my maturing eyes – it really was a steep hill. Each time mother’s blinker clicked to turn left after we exited the 15, her foot dug deep into the pedal just as my fingers sunk into the plush fabric of her white Mazda minivan. They lived at the highest point of a private development in Escondido. The time my grandfather decided to buy his home, Escondido was nothing but a town of dust, cacti and outcast residents who couldn’t afford living in the southern region of San Diego where airplanes lifted and dropped, where the coast welcomed Naval ships, and life happened. It was this very slowness that slowly crept up on North County. First, it was the mall, the one I still visit each time I go back to my hometown. Then a Starbucks or two plopped themselves snug in between a gas station and taqueria. By the time I graduated high school, lanes were expanded, street lights installed, and the town was a well-deserving destination, the doorway to the coast where Del Mar beach was where the road finally ended. Grandfather, whether he knew it or not, made his land turn into millions. Though I give my grandmother the credit for the way she skillfully kept blossoms of all kinds up and open, it...
You sit on the table. You and your peach skin, soft and constantly opening. I savor your presence knowing you’re only here a while longer. In a while, you will shed all of yourself and die. Perhaps that is the way each of us comes and goes. Our little hearts, so tightly closed until we have no more effort left and must trust, open, surrender. Once we have, others enjoy our true nature. Your scent reaches me across the table. A ladybug lands on you. I open the windows and share you with the breeze. It is what spring gives us. Hope. Life. I used to think a man, money, a fancy job title could bring me happiness. But the more and more I age, the simpler things become. My home is not filled anymore with soulless store-bought items, plastics and mass-production, but carefully selected pieces. Just like you. The table on which you rest was cut, hammered and stained by a friend whose hands I shook and filled with hard-earned money. The felt bird to your left was poked and shaped by my own hands. This bird is how we begin our day, with a poem, a blessing between mother and child. We rise with joy like singing birds giving thanks for this day. And the napkin to your right, left from this morning’s breakfast, shows faces of friendly felines. This napkin is from my grandmother. Nearing her nineties, she still presses her...
Today I sweep a bird beak the size of a cat’s claw. My broom pushes tiny feathers, a blend of gloomy grey and sunburst yellow – an American Goldfinch, no heavier than a child’s small toy. Just yesterday I watched it singing from the backyard, and today it has become pieces of dust to be collected with sandwich crumbs from today’s lunch, and, every now and then, a raisin or blueberry that seem to have glued their way to the floor from who knows how long ago. It’s not just the sweeping; it’s the wiping too. Today I wipe mustard stains from my son’s lips, cheeks and chin. Daily, I wipe floors, counters, toilets, bottoms, hands and tears. It’s a dirty job. And yet, it makes me feel so alive. Just years ago, I remember sneaking away from my cubicle and thinking of the lifelessness I felt at my job. So many letters typed from timid fingertips, so many people I tried to please that were still unhappy. I remember job applications those early years – the careful wavering of wages, hours, commute, and of course job duties. And now I sweep. I wipe. I work on as little as four hours of sleep some nights. Was I to have been warned of the eternal changes to my body, the sting of sleep deprivation or the patience in soothing tears, calming fears and the responsibility creating a safe haven, I might have passed up...
Yes, it is true. I confess, I have thought great thoughts, and sung great songs—all of it rehearsal for the majesty of being held. The dream is awakened when thinking I love you and life begins when saying I love you and joy moves like blood when embracing others with love. My efforts now turn from trying to outrun suffering to accepting love wherever I can find it. Stripped of causes and plans and things to strive for, I have discovered everything I could need or ask for is right here— in flawed abundance. We cannot eliminate hunger, but we can feed each other. We cannot eliminate loneliness, but we can hold each other. We cannot eliminate pain, but we can live a life of compassion. Ultimately, we are small living things awakened in the stream, not gods who carve out rivers. Like human fish, we are asked to experience meaning in the life that moves through the gill of our heart. There is nothing to do and nowhere to go. Accepting this, we can do everything and go anywhere. “Accepting this” by Mark Nepo feature image, three coi, provided by...
I awoke this morning in the gold light turning this way and that thinking for a moment it was one day like any other. But the veil had gone from my darkened heart and I thought it must have been the quiet candlelight that filled my room, it must have been the first easy rhythm with which I breathed myself to sleep, it must have been the prayer I said speaking to the otherness of the night. And I thought this is the good day you could meet your love, this is the black day someone close to you could die. This is the day you realize how easily the thread is broken between this world and the next and I found myself sitting up in the quiet pathway of light, the tawny close grained cedar burning round me like fire and all the angels of this housely heaven ascending through the first roof of light the sun has made. This is the bright home in which I live, this is where I ask my friends to come, this is where I want to love all the things it has taken me so long to learn to love. This is the temple of my adult aloneness and I belong to that aloneness as I belong to my life. There is no house like the house of belonging. “The House of Belonging” by David White from River Flow: New and Selected Poems feature image, Cold...
We skilled prisoners. We, packed with our bulky suitcases of expectations, our years upon years of planning out the road written for us. Each day we polish silver rings around our wrists, their grip so tight from the swelling of running and tugging against our very selves. Nevertheless, with all devotion, we polish, trusting in their false safety, these chimes adorning the sores on our skin whispering promises we’ve distorted generations long. This morning I saw the faintest sliver of light entering the crack of my cell house. I saw a galaxy of infinite stars of dust dancing, their almost invisible bodies bending, jumping, leaping with such freedom. How must it feel to live in the eye of such blind men unafraid to dance, unafraid of wholeness, purity, courage? I neared this wedge of sun – his harshness greeting the dark sockets of my face. In the conference room of my den I began my day a different way. I asked the stranger before me, How will you change? With an intention, a mantra, a prayer? A belief, a song? “Like this,” he spoke, and the longing swirled across daylight: As particles of life dance before you, as sand stretches across shores, as rebels share secrets, as shells collect stories, as birds open their wings – In tiny pitter-patters of the heart our true becoming occurs like this. Like invisible atoms busy at work, in small ways. It was...
Now I understand that there are two melodies playing, one below the other, one easier to hear, the other lower, steady, perhaps more faithful for being less heard yet always present. When all other things seem lively and real, this one fades. Yet the notes of it touch as gently as fingertips, as the sound of the names laid over each child at birth. I want to stay in that music without striving or cover. If the truth of our lives is what it is playing, the telling is so soft that this mortal time, this irrevocable change, becomes beautiful. I stop and stop again to hear the second music. I hear the children in the yard, a train, then birds. All this is in it and will be gone. I set my ear to it as I would to a heart. “The Second Music” by Annie Lighthart from Iron String © Airlie Press, 2015. feature image, Navajo Mother, provided by...
Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself. They come through you but not from you, And though they are with you yet they belong not to you. You may give them your love but not your thoughts, For they have their own thoughts. You may house their bodies but not their souls, For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams. You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you. For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday. You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth. The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far. Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness; For even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is...
In the library of my home I spend hours digging and searching as if a book or even a final sentence will give me what it is I hope to find. Some days books are sorted by category: … Parenting Poetry Spanish Spiritual … Other days, when the moon lightens the entire room, books have wiggled their way off the shelf and onto a dresser – a quick skim as I dress – or the arm of the living room couch – a moment or two when sipping on tea as my little one runs on the natural rush of boyhood. Whether sorted or scattered, new authors with names unknown, and those forever marked on our tongues, I seek their voices as the call on the other end of the line as my heart shares the latest news. “I am lost,” I tell Mr. Nepo. I open The Book of Awakening for his reply. Or perhaps it’s dear Hafiz I call on lonely days to hear his bellowing laughter as he reminds me The Friend is always near. It is then, as the result after conversing with any good friend, I’m lifted up to carry on for a short while, until, just as the moon, the inevitable cycle continues. What is it – the moon must wonder – she searches for night and day, her eyes scanning tiny bends and folds of black against white? The pages begin thin on one side, thick on...
The river is famous to the fish.
The loud voice is famous to silence,
which knew it would inherit the earth
before anybody said so.
The cat sleeping on the fence is famous to the birds
watching him from the birdhouse.
The tear is famous, briefly, to the cheek.Read More
It is difficult to know what to do with so much happiness.
With sadness there is something to rub against,
a wound to tend with lotion and cloth.
When the world falls in around you, you have pieces to pick up,
something to hold in your hands, like ticket stubs or change.
But happiness floats.
It doesn’t need you to hold it down.
It doesn’t need anything.
I am a seed in the feeder.
Though there are thousands –
each of us with our striped backs, crisp
coats and fatty filling –
on this particular day, this sparrow
chose me.Read More
Today I am asked to witness
Those around me that I am not:
The shiny black coat of my pet
Cat moves towards me on all fours.
Nuthatches and finches shiftRead More
It is a morning where even sunlight is too tired to wake. Not quite dawn, he tucks his bright sun-face behind the sheets of clouds as if masking himself from his duties of his endless days. It is a morning where I now decide I would have changed the night before, cupping my hands around the walls of a warm teacup instead of a the stem of hefty glass of wine, I should have fallen asleep two hours earlier, instead of choosing a few more moments awake, alone.Read More
Each morning we rise the same way.
Our footsteps tiptoe along damp floorboards
Careful not to walk too loudly
As to please the one that wipes the dust left from days before.
We take these tired feet into the world
Cover them with straps, secure Velcro, lace sneakers,
Slip our insecurities
Into the safety of hiding our true selves.
There comes a time when one realizes the cage was unlocked all along. Learn More