For Beauties Lost

 

 

I cried today
For beauties lost, small moments passed
Sifting through as if an hourglass
Each grain shining as the force of time
Pulls along without a sign
That it too will fall from view
To be caught in well-springs deep within
Where it will glitter briefly
When light slants through, bright and true
And pulls tears of joy and loss
From a heart full since broken
More than twice

My daughter stands by some device
In front of rows of chairs and wooden stage
Violin to chin, making music sing
At some young age,
Such sweetness danced behind my eyes
That tears welled up and I wept
For such a moment deeply kept
Somewhere hidden within a cell
Where only dreams are said to dwell.

And then the moment when,
Having watched and run and breathed
With such abandon on the grass
The ball at last with one swift pass
Arrived just where he’d known it should
My blond young son had kicked it straight
With a slight lithe leap, it flew so neat
And so direct to find
The middle of that net.
Bouncing back, we clapped so hard and cheered
My heart so filled with beauty it was seared
Forever, soaked with love within my mind.

And now, in this moment where I sit
I hear the liquid strains of violin
Coming from a box within
this box that seems to move me right along
Driving past woods themselves alive with song
Blossoms drip from apple trees
Where savage flowers in random beauty grow
Below, so many forms I’ll never know

The liquid that has touched my cheeks
Is that which makes all essence flow
Amidst this green that spring makes grow
I drown in some sweet sorrow
We’ll call love.

My Sorrow Speaking

Travesties unseemly

Small and unremarked as may be

Separating  skin from skin,

The longing lover from beloved

and from love itself.

Tearing at us, clawing.

 

We are awed and appalled

At the stupefying ignorance of it all.

Of that lying, of that dying

Of the spirit, of the soul

 

Suspended; not above and not below

And for certain, not within.

Somewhere we are shuddering,

Cowering in our crib.

The world in spin, we cannot move

To stop what is.

 

Holding fast at last

To some beauty we have seen,

For some brief and shining time.

What we have known to be real,

not some remote ideal.

Searching in the darkness in our chest

for something more

We can see it, shimmering and fine

Faint as if a star at rest

Surviving still that searing fire

Burning at its core.

 

Insistent,  clinging still around us 

scandalous, yet well outside

Those tender, seemly confines

Of morality and sensibility

Of comparison, of rejection or ejection.

Sordid beyond what we know of degradation

Of what we  learned of abnegation

Of refusal; inadmissible.

 

All has flown 

To a place so distant

from what we call our home.

The familiar, the known simplicities

The scents, the sounds

that echo in our soul.

 

Stop! We cry again. Just stop!

But it has not the will to shudder

And be done.

It must have the floor

For all there is to say, and more.

 

Mind unwound, we find we too have sinned.

So we will stand and cry aloud

And find forgiveness 

In the swirling

of the wind.

 

 

 

 

The Waxing Moon

There is a time when gold of moon

becomes so rich in hue and light

there is nothing that could

in any way 

surpass this beauty.

 

And, as it glides so imperceptibly 

toward the darkness of the mountain 

waiting,

the sorrow of the moment 

becomes so hard to bear;

such sadness that this beauty 

will so soon vanish 

and  will never again 

be this.

 

And then the morning light begins

to touch the tops 

of those same dark hills 

And turns the bare trees of winter 

to such a deep and burnished gold

the skies themselves

tremble ‘round their edge with awe

as they in turn become suffused

with a brilliant and vibrating blue 

as never before 

was seen.

 

Oh, what to do! Oh, what to do!

Can any moment become 

an infinity in itself?

Can time be stopped 

and nothing else 

be added to this instant

But expand forever only

and  be deepened ?

 

Autumn

 

 

I

The wind in the autumn trees fills the air

With an ease that settles deep

Into the waiting land

Filling it with  the beauty it will store 

Through the times of chill and darkness

Just as it settles like grains of golden light

Into the widest spaces

Deep within me 

Where the expanse of earth 

And stars and wind and sunlight

All reside.

II

Here, in a last wave of beauty

Before bare winter

Brings its black and browns 

To linger soft against the  green of firs,

A golden tapestry unfolds across the hills

As full of light in pouring rain and flowing mists 

As when the sun breaks through in evening

Just before the dark.

 

Take it as a sign 

that we are here in light and darkness, both

Reflecting light through every pore

Storing light, as do the leaves.

Releasing light

In that approaching night.

 

Leaving


It’s been two months  since I’ve returned from my trip to the States.  The summer here in France, cool and wet much of the time then suddenly very hot and dry before retuning to rain, has now turned the corner into fall. The time has gone by as if it were a heron on it’s flight home. Today, looking back through a lens, I can just make out the whirlwind that swept me there and back.

I prepared as best I could for the trip. I had waited for a moment when Macron had clearly said that Americans would be able to travel to France if they were vaccinated. I should be able to get back to my home in the Ariege.  I bought my round-trip tickets. For weeks, I gathered presents and thought about what I would bring to each of the people I would see. It seemed so very long since I’d put my arms around any of them.

I packed carefully, unpacked and repacked the two suitcases I could now take. It was allowed as part of the ticket package I had to buy in order to anticipate yet another border closure. I made sure I could access the Covid-19 vaccine certificate on my smartphone. I printed out a copy, just in case. I checked and double-checked the other requirements for entry to the US from France and for my re-entry. I contacted all the people I hoped to stay with and those I’d visit. 

My daughter had used up all her time-off from her job coping with two young children in a small apartment. She had patched together expensive child care for the summer but was missing a week, so I chose that time.  I felt a pang of deep regret that the US doesn’t care enough about its people to provide such basic services as care for young children. Most other relatively well-to-do countries see such things as human rights. I looked forward to taking my granddaughter (who I’d seen only in two dimensions for so long) to the parks of Seattle, getting to know her again in her eight-year old form. What transformations would this unusual time have produced in her developing personality, in the expanse of her mind? How would my three year old granddaughter react to someone who she really only knew from a computer screen.

The day arrived when I would begin the first stage of my trip. Thunderstorms were predicted for the afternoon. My plane would leave early the next morning from Toulouse.  I’d booked a hotel room near the airport for the brief night I’d spend before launching myself into space. We left plenty of time to drive from our village to the castle town of  Foix  so I could catch my afternoon train to Toulouse. I had scheduled a taxi to take me the few blocks from the motel to the airport the next morning, knowing from my last trip how sudden downpours  could keep  me from walking the few blocks.

On the way to Foix, the skies opened. Rain poured down so hard I could barely see to drive. Winds gusted with such force that big branches were falling here and there on the road. When we finally got to the autoroute, the storm had almost ended but, somehow, as happens unexpectedly, something had blocked the tunnel that diverts traffic around Foix. The traffic jam to get through Foix would delay us at least another hour. I might barely make it to my train.



The delay got longer and longer. By the time we arrived, frazzled, at the station and I ran to see if perhaps the train itself had been delayed a few minutes, the people walking back from the platform told me the train to  had been totally cancelled. No one knew why, but it was uncertain whether any more trains would come through that evening. Someone speculated that branches had fallen on the tracks. We would have to drive to Toulouse and Walter would have to drive back alone– without a license. “Trust to the Fates and let it go,” we agreed.


We made the trip, I checked in and we said our good-byes. I found a hotel restaurant within walking distance, had a decent meal and tucked in for the night, checking all my papers and passport before falling asleep for the few hours I had before my alarm went off. Walter called when he got home to tell me he’d made it back without incident. The back roads had been quiet and clear.  I could now turn off the lights and drift off.

Waking with a start to my alarm, I got dressed quickly and wheeled my bags down to the lobby, empty at 3:30 am. A man, dark-skinned like so many in the hotel trade in Toulouse, was preparing the croissants and pastries for the breakfast that wouldn’t  be available for another hour. I said “Bonjour” and asked if I might have a croissant to take with me. He smiled, wrapped one in a napkin and handed it to me. I turned to walked through the glass doors to start the long, long day travelling across an ocean and a continent.

In that enchanted time of day, the air was dry, dark and silent. I could be anywhere in the universe.  I grappled with the parking lot gate, feeling dopey for not getting it, read the sign again, tried the directions again–no luck. The nice man from the lobby had fortunately stepped out for a cigarette. I motioned to him that I was stuck and he sprinted over to help me. I slipped through the gate saying “Merci, Monsieur. Vous êtes si gentil”.  He, smiling indulgently again and saying “Pas de tout, Madame. Au Revoir!” went back to his duties in the dark motel.

I stood on the sidewalk waiting for my taxi. I waited ten minutes, called the number I had and got no answer. Another five minutes passed. Worried, I figured I’d better start walking. Turning on the GPS on my phone, I began to walk towards the airport. The instructions became more and more obscure. Was I really supposed to walk through this back alley? Couldn’t be.

Beginning to imagine various disasters, I turned around and started again, my heart starting to race. Before I could get back to the beginning, a taxi pulled up beside me. Was it my taxi or some random taxi looking for rides? It was my ride, come looking for me, cross that I hadn’t waited. His last ride had taken longer than expected and he had come as quickly as he could.

I made my plane easily. The woman who checked me in verified my negative PCR test. No one ever asked again. No one ever asked at all to see the vaccine certificate that had caused me such anxiety.

It seemed that I had chosen to travel in the window of time between that time when it had not been possible to fly from France to the US (except for “essential” reasons) and when a real onslaught of bookings were made. The plane was only about a third full. Anyone who wanted to stretch out on three seats was able to. I won’t say that it was actually comfortable, but it was so much better than sleeping fitfully almost upright, fearing that at any moment you might fall over on the person next to you or drool on their shoulder, that it felt like sheer and unanticipated luxury.

I arrived in San Francisco airport a bit earlier than scheduled. The airport in Toulouse, although busy even in the early morning, had been quiet. You could hear conversations here and there around you, but the general noise of human activity was subdued.

Here in San Francisco, as I walked out into the big hall, it was as if the volume had been suddenly turned up by some unseen hand. Groups of people went by, masked but still managing to speak loudly enough to be heard for a good distance. The men were particularly loud–their laughter was loud, they gesticulated broadly and spoke as if addressing a group in a bar full of music and chatter. The background music was loud. The announcements were loud.


But not everyone was loud. There were the older couples sitting quietly together, just as in France. There were small families with a child old enough to be looking at their phone or Ipad sitting  quietly together. There were lots of individual adults of all shapes and sizes, walking aimlessly or determinedly, a small rolling suitcase following behind. But then there were the groups of young people that looked like sport teams off somewhere for a meet, talking continuously, laughing giddily, unmasked for the most part. I was overwhelmed by the activity and the noise. I found my gate and sat for the hour or so of my waiting time, looking at my phone like everyone else, creating a little shell around me, drawn every few moments to peer sideways into the lives of the other humans around me. They were all going somewhere different from the place where they usually found themselves, each now having arrived on a new stage, some easy with their lines, some searching for direction.

The plane to Seattle carried the same noisy little groups, their members calling out to the flight attendants for this or that. Things seemed quite amiable. People were enjoying the opportunity to travel again. They were light-hearted. I thought “I actually like this about Americans. We don’t tend to put a lid on things.” I began to remember what it was like to be in this place, to be so accustomed to it that it really was all that existed.

When we arrived in Seattle, I was still feeling pretty fit, despite only an hour or two of sleep here and there for about twenty-eight hours. I had been drinking lots of water during the flights, and eating only fruits and a bit of vegetables and bread. It seemed to help. While I waited for my bag at the Seattle airport, I turned around once clockwise to reset my body’s orientation as instructed by my learned friend . No one stared. I found my way through the fairly familiar landmarks of the airport and walked the long trek to the light rail station. It seemed like miles.

The train ride gave me time to settle into the now-strange atmosphere. A country with myriad cultures I have lived a life in, a city I have come to know over forty years though never my home, now they are places that dwell only in holograms in my mind. Being present in them again gave me the sensation that I had suddenly been sucked through some hole in the universe into an ongoing film. And I hadn’t been hired to play a role. I had to figure out where I fit in the unfolding screen-play.

At the first stop, a young woman covered in tattoos, her blond hair cropped close, skillfully lugged her bike through the open train doors, shifted it around and slid it into a space reserved for bikes. She sat down across from me and at a slight angle as not to intrude. Looking ahead, a wisp of a smile played briefly around her lips, an acknowledgement of my attention. As we pulled out of the station, she turned her head towards me and asked,

“You coming from the airport?”

“Yes” I responded. “I’ve just arrived from France.”

She nodded. 

“You must be tired.”

I remembered my line  in the script. The tenderness between us had awakened it.

“Yeah, that’s true. It’s a really long trip, especially now with Covid.”

We were done. She lapsed into silence, her eyes unfocused, gazing at the other side of the car. We traveled together in a kind of satisfying peace until we reached her station and she reversed her deft actions with her bike. As she paused for a slight moment to wait for the doors, she looked over her shoulder towards me and said with a warm smile,

“Have a good stay. It was nice to meet you”.

“Thanks! You have a good day, too.” I replied, returning the little wave of warmth in my own smile.

The next stage of my journey had begun. I was a long way from home, but home.

 

This Girl



She is so tall now
Hair flowing down
in such luxurious waves
over her shoulders.

I cannot feel which rib
She would touch
If I were now to I pull her to me
And kiss her head.

She has cried and felt shame
struggling with a class
She sees only on a screen
Like the children’s programs
she has watched
In that same rectangle
For all the days
She can remember.

She has tried to understand
what is being required 
somewhere in a location
remote from any connection
to her heart.

Life was hard enough
to navigate at six.
Now this.

In captured moments of sheer grace
In the midst of lives
squeezed tight
by our designated protectors
she has taught me
how to draw pictures
of dresses and walking hearts
And flowers.

We, yearning to touch each other,
Peering over the edge
of what separates us
by thousands of miles
Hoping to see the whole of the life
That is trapped there
In the small flat picture
There before us
Made real by our imagination.

Yearning to smell the skin, the fragrance of the cooking
To turn and catch some glimpse
of what is seen by that other
that we take on faith
exists.

Trying not to say how much the pain of separation
Is crushing that space
within our chests
Knowing at each moment
we cannot hold each other
Cannot turn to see the life
In which the other swims.


She has taught her little sister
almost all she knows
They have played for hours in their tiny home.
She has driven her mother to cry
from exhaustion
and confusion
and fear.

They have hugged
and consoled each other
More times than could be counted.
We all are still alive
and growing.
Many now are not.

Hearts have been torn to shreds
In some infinity of variations
Over the eons of our existence.
How will all this pain
now transform us
As its waves wash all around us
In this ocean
of  existence.

The tide is crushing some here
And leaving some there
Safe to ride the next
Inexorable force
And try their luck.

What will heal and teach us
and which wounds
Will leave us
now too weak to stand
and pass our love
One to another.
And hold each other
And let real wisdom
Bloom.

Malik, Al Mulk

The universe is present in a footstep

on the soft leaf cover 

of the ground.

 

And with the next still muffled step, 

endlessness nestles quietly

in some secret expanse 

in that space 

I call my heart,

spreading with no bounds

in the darkness there.

In that exquisite hush.

 

A darkness that when truly sensed

Is yet the most intense of light.

Light before it becomes light

Light without source

 

Light that is filled with only light.

Where all the stars and planets whirl

In their silent 

and majestic flight.

 

There, in just that moment

of the certain placement of a foot 

on the yielding forest floor.

The Hanging Branch

 

 

A long branch
Hangs delicately
Hooked in some miraculous moment
Of windy flight.
Pulled towards the earth
With its mold of leaves,
But caught
by the branch of the tall, great tree
whose dusky bark
lit by the angle
of the dying light.
was once on the trunk of what had been
Itself.
Hooked by a small fork
Set in a new position
It had never yet considered.

When I was younger
Such seeming impermanence
Tempted me to help gravity in its work.
Throwing sticks and stones in play
to knock it from such uncertain fate
Dancing, joyous with the game of it.

Now that I am old
I see the way in which
Its graceful equilibrium
Is yet another gentle motion
In the flowing stillness
Of the forest.
And I sit and feel the quiet
Of its breath.

The Obsidian Knife

Remembering the Big Obsidian Flow, Newberry Caldera, Oregon

 

The black stone that is not stone but 

a piece of earth’s mysterious bowels

Astonished by its appearance in the oxygenated landscape 

Its molecules frozen in that millisecond of emergence.

 

We, the humans, see what it can be.

It is the knife that cuts both ways

Slices atom from atom

Parting astonishment from astonishment

So that we can slice so thin

That even flesh does not pause in its production of cell upon cell

And has no recognition of the parting.

 

It is like the bird,

Cutting the air for such a brief moment that

Air needs not know its passing.

 

From where has this blackness come,

From where this sharp flight?

What can we do but find it

Somewhere in the inventory 

Of the soul.

Angles of Reflection

Standing at the open window
looking out
at the beauty of the brightening world
For one brief moment
a drop of water nestled
in the branches of a winter tree
has caught the beams of sun
at some exacting slant
And a ruby of the purest light
gleams brighter
than the planet Mars.

And just as I can barely breathe
As not to lose that sight,
It has become an emerald
of an unknown shade of green
So clear
It makes me draw that breath
to taste it in my breast.

But before I can then breathe it out
to scatter in the world
It has become a crystal, which,
in evanescence,
Vanishes
As if none of this
Had ever been.


We are in gently whirling motion
with the earth.
The angles of reflection
are in constant flux.
But what was seen
is stored in cells
made of that same uncanny light
Where I can sip it now
from time to time
and savor that exquisite beauty
On my tongue.