Welcome I and II

“Rose Cottage” by Helen Allingham
I.

Three crows greet me this morning
Hopping in place on the fence
Strange friends
Crowd around

They stay close
Eyes stop as I pass
And meet the winking black gaze
Of the closest

A fourth alights
On a far wall: the witness
Then a fifth
Late to the murder

What had they been waiting for?

Is it me?
II.
If I must quit something
Quit what separates
Feeds the gnawing doubt
Casts a darkness in the center

Quitting drinking
Is the path of renunciation
Admitting I have lived but half my life
Only part of each moment

I lose the old familiar questions
To the admission of my inheritance
The cycle of hiding
Ends with me

Gaining my wholeness
That needs no assurance
The seeker finds she is
Already home

The Vulnerability of Birds

Image result for feather
I. 
Feathers follow me where I go
And show me the way
A confirmation from the other side of the veil
I’m on the right track

Wine is a thief
Who steals from me moments
Yes of my life but more importantly
From yours

Today on our walk
My first day after giving up wine
We saw so many feathers on the ground
II.
It’s time to quit
When my day looks forward to
The serum of anti-presence
I wonder for hours whether I will
Pour the glass

Even knowing your tiny eyes
Will watch
And learn from me the lie
That there's someplace better to be

A bird's nature is gentle
It does not wish for another moment
It will fly, build its nest, feed its young
Thinking of nothing else

Even an animal who would ravish it into oblivion
Rending the bird wing from wing
Cannot take its grace
As you can plainly see
In the forgiveness heaving from its tiny bosom
Each wisp of breath
Threatening
Mercifully
To be its last

There is something heavenly
In the way it lays
Surrounded by shredded plumage
A scattering of its life
Not clinging
Nor afraid
In surrender
III.
In your deep way that babies have
Of not just looking
But seeing
Softly lacking the ability to assess the meaning of it all
Not wondering about the mess of feathers
You simply inhale the world
As it is
Like a flower or your mama’s smile

Wiser than I
To the present
You teach me about the birds and
Suddenly
There's nowhere else to go

IV.
You don’t yet know that
These feathers are little omens
To me from the ancestors
Who, in their wisdom,
Alternately heal and warn
Drawing them to me
And me to you

Would it be too much to tell you
That you are my reason?
Swirling the air with your hand as you dance
Your silhouette hesitating akimbo in the doorframe
as you devour the landscape

I am your ancestor
Let my life be pure
Protecting your wholeness

We can spend the evenings on the swing
Drinking in the air & the sunset
Looking for the crow who calls us
From the top of the swaying pine
Whom we answer

Ghazal for Johnny

Excerpt from “A Trail of Crumbs” poetry collection, due in late 2019.

A Ghazal is a Persian poetry form using couplets that share a rhyme and a refrain. Each line must share the same meter. The writer must also reference the author’s own name and express longing in the last couplet. Written as the boy became a teen. Baton Rouge, 2008.

For my brother.

My brother, not a small one anymore not a shy boy, 
Little dude hangs loose while days grow into years on the sly, boy

There’s the mean one and the teasing one, with three big sisters
You say “Jo's the fun one” and we’ve had some good times, boy

Do you remember when you were a baby and we’d dance to
“Ob la di Ob la da” - dip low when they’d sing high, boy?

Fresh from high school now you got not much to say
That’s when we drive and play music to describe what’s inside, boy

Not to be seen as young, not to be seen as young, this strong scent
Of Ax masks childhood deeper by the night, boy

Your frame the same since you were a babe now gains mass and size
Big tough guy hugs hard to come by now, boy

Trying to be Perfect

I didn’t know at the time that acting on stage would be so crazy. Be crazy. Crazy.

“Run around the room screaming,” the director told me. I stood there a 16-year old, having just recited a monologue from Romeo & Juliet. I spoke as a mummy, tightly bound, wrapped in the concept of my own perfection as a “good actor.” Whatever that was. But I controlled the experience, and when I was done my auditioners from their seats behind the table across from where I stood at the front of the room, looked at each other. They were silent. Then one said, “run around the room, behind us in a big circle around to the front, screaming. And keep doing that until we tell you to stop.”

I did it. Flushed, humiliated, fully silly and totally out of control. Could they see the wrapping of my mummy cloth streaming behind me as I streaked around losing face, losing my cool? Crazy acting.

I screamed at first like a lost heron had stolen my voice, crowing some wild croaking. Then around the second or third lap I was an angry banshee, and as I grew tired, a keening, wailing mother in grief screamed out of me. The screams I didn’t recognize, yet they were all me. And I stopped. And they were pleased.

Panting, sweaty, hot, feeling not cute and lovely as I had been, but ugly, undone, uncool. I was not me. I was more than me. I was beyond me, beyond what had ever been possible for me before.

I could not know then, now 20 years ago, that his would be a career for me. Who knew this day would lead to a lifelong process of screaming and running in what became my way of learning? Learning what might break me free from safety and ego, would unleash me wild and true to my audience and more significantly, to myself? As perfect as I had tried to be entering the Shakespearean stage, I had no idea what perfection truly was.

I still do not know. No lifelong quest could give me the sense of rightness in my efforts to be good, or good enough. Would I have been able to predict, as I whirled around the room in a blur, sure I had colossally bombed the audition, letting go of “good acting” would be the metaphor for all creativity in my life? It’s true that because I was ultimately cast in the play, some part of me believed I had indeed found my way to perfect after all. As if screaming and running burned off the layers of control, somehow graduating me from trying to be perfect. Humbly I tell you now I seem to still think one day I will.

Being at home in a crowd

She was slower than the others
Pushing her a little cart in the streams of endless people 
With their cones of gelato and running shoes

I heard the old lady humming as I shouldered by 
Her sing-song tune barely rising above the hundreds of footfalls at once stepping on the slabs of stone
A bridge she has walked hundreds of times

Just then, I saw the rippling water
And finally, the girl clutching her mother and whispering into her shoulder with tears in her eyes
I remembered then that this is Venice

Hello Grace

You found your way to me 
On the island of Mezzorbo on that grassy green
Between my daughter, my husband and a pine cone

You were the 4-leaf clover
Like the ones you sent me pressed into the paper cards
    and your script black ink words
“Joanna”

Of anything I may have inherited from you
It was your propensity to discover
Amid the clovers and blades of grass
That Calhoun good luck charm

I saw you today
Hello, Grace
( grandma )

Hello Grace To Joanna, in Venice on vacation with family.

Poems of Longing

I. 

Anger: what do you want me to hear?
I am fuel: use me or I will consume you

How do I use you?
Ask yourself

Why are you here?
I am your essence: Fire
Expand, or like a candle in a box
You will die

II.

How far must one travel 
From fearing my journals
Left out in the open
Might become your food?

I have nothing to fear:
Lacking hunger for my thoughts
You will not read them

In an unfair leap
My conclusion lands thus
On both feet
III.

The rocks on which we crash and shatter
Continually refresh themselves 

IV.

I spent a lifetime studying
And for what

I've forgotten and now 
Can't sit still

We all know what happens in the end

Enlightenment

One tree-sitting man, all upright spine sprung into the air as the back of a chair standing at attention to the table, all folded-knees under the generous canvas of robes, all chest spread for the exertion of eternal Motionlessness

One hand a lotus its petals a closed paddle of fingers overlapping leaves layer over layer, lines of fingers cupping the world in his palm

One hand the setting for a single ring, an agreement between thumb and forefinger pointed towards the sun

One ring against his forehead funneling an image trapped in the back chamber of his mind, a thought wandering as a stray child, as a movie playing in an empty theater

One tree shades sitting man, an umbrella, an arena

One tree green speech holding forth of leaves a trumpet to nature, a plethora of no- words filling the man’s ear

One tree seated for man, a throne, a twine of roots keeping the earth steady

One image, one thought of his life, his woman, conjures to his placidity, to his peace the sickening ghost of separation. Vital-full love, his blood Remembers her smile as the birth of bitterest pain

To one image, he prays his body could be greater, that the spinning night would unfold into him like a napkin spilling out its contents, this one man falls into the vision of hips undulating like the movement of water, dancing over a tidal wave kept to her time across the miles of water, water

One man’s heart breaks his vow of silence when it goes wa-bum, wa-bum

One man prays to survive for one year off of the air and sun and the dreams of his Love under this tree, and failing that, prays the human dream of death to catch the glint of metal flashing the sun, to die for a moment in ecstasy, to be lifted from this ragged frame and taken in as a single breath into her graceful form, living there forever as her nourishment and her inspiration

Thus, one man prays to become great and one tree bent as a caretaker of man’s destiny eases its cradle of branches to nurture its lock on man’s long contemplation

One tree, arms and head lowing, shepherds man back in toward the sound of nothing, nothing

Sick (Get Well)

Ever have one of those nights in sickness
A torment of monsters
Dancing their agony to you while you sleep?

You can't really call it sleep so much as a project 
In which you have no choice 
Nowhere else to go
But strapped to this bed with your mind glued open to a 100 cut scenes of
 the movies of your past

This constant highway of undead familiars steal from you
Minute by minute as 10:30 turns into 10:31
And 2:10 feels like when am I going to get some sleep please dear God
Wistful for last nights' pastel rolling scape where the soul rested in
  deep unknowing

And when morning finally comes to greet you
Among the shards of rest
You can feel your senses again
A small hole of reality in the pine against the sky