Deciding

The decision begins when I open my eyes
Head on the pillow
Body still 
Sleep still
Under the summer quilt
That quilted illusion of safety

Quietly quietly on my pillow
Not yet awake enough to even stretch
I must decide
How will I live this day
This gift
This increasingly miraculous time
Beyond three score and ten

Shall I start with a dulcimer duet
With my still sleeping husband
Who will not mind my waking him

Shall I start with a whole string quartet
Energetically exercising
Perhaps on my bike
My 27 speed not enough used Fuji Absolute

Shall I drum in my day
With answering emails and paying bills
Neither restful nor beautiful
But somewhat satisfying

What instrument shall I play first
Shall I read or write
Pray or practice the keyboard
Walk the dog
Make a cuppa
Or close my eyes again
Because I am retired
Free of clock discords
Free to choose 
What music to make
To start each day

A Gift from God by Way of Another Poet

I am from New Orleans, Louisiana. When Hurricane Katrina hit 16 years ago today, most of my family’s homes were too damaged to be liveable. 14 relatives evacuated to the homes of me and my friends in Virginia. My mom stayed with me for 3 years then. This morning, Hurricane Ida has bullseyed New Orleans. So finding this poem this morning felt like a wonderful gift from God:

my brain and
heart divorced

a decade ago

over who was
to blame about
how big of a mess
I have become

eventually,
they couldn’t be
in the same room
with each other

now my head and heart
share custody of me

I stay with my brain
during the week

and my heart
gets me on weekends

they never speak to one another-

instead, they give me

the same note to pass
to each other every week

and their notes they
send to one another always
says the same thing:

“This is all your fault”

on Sundays
my heart complains
about how my
head has let me down
in the past

and on Wednesday
my head lists all
of the times my
heart has screwed
things up for me
in the future

they blame each
other for the
state of my life

there’s been a lot
of yelling – and crying

So, lately, I’ve been

spending a lot of
time with my gut

who serves as my
unofficial therapist

most nights, I sneak out of the
window in my ribcage

and slide down my spine
and collapse on my
gut’s plush leather chair
that’s always open for me

~ and I just sit sit sit sit
until the sun comes up

last evening,
my gut asked me
if I was having a hard
time being caught
between my heart
and my head

I nodded

I said I didn’t know
if I could live with
either of them anymore

“my heart is always sad about
something that happened yesterday
while my head is always worried
about something that may happen tomorrow,”
I lamented

my gut squeezed my hand

“I just can’t live with
my mistakes of the past
or my anxiety about the future,”
I sighed

my gut smiled and said:

“in that case,
you should
go stay with your
lungs for a while,”

I was confused

the look on my face gave it away

“if you are exhausted about
your heart’s obsession with
the fixed past and your mind’s focus
on the uncertain future

your lungs are the perfect place for you

there is no yesterday in your lungs
there is no tomorrow there either

there is only now
there is only inhale
there is only exhale
there is only this moment

there is only breath

and in that breath
you can rest while your
heart and head work
their relationship out.”

this morning,
while my brain
was busy reading
tea leaves

and while my
heart was staring
at old photographs

I packed a little
bag and walked
to the door of
my lungs

before I could even knock
she opened the door
with a smile and as
a gust of air embraced me
she said

“what took you so long?”

~ John Roedel (johnroedel.com)

I Wanna Be A Republican

God is great
American is great
Therefore God is American

Abortion is bad
Being on welfare is bad
Therefore poor women are bad

Foreigners are dangerous
Revolutions are dangerous
Therefore immigrants are dangerous

The Civil War ended slavery
Everyone has been equal since then
Therefore black people are greedy

God created two sexes
Man and woman He created them
Therefore gay marriage is a sin

I wanna be a Republican
I want easy answers
I’m tired of thinking

Figs

All winter we anticipated the figs

Three years ago
Woody planted two fig trees
Trees, he warned,
(My tree experienced husband)
Weep the first year
Creep the second year
Leap the third year

And our fig trees leapt
For joy
This year

Last year, one tree gave us
A few juicy figs
Plum rich, wildly satisfying
On our dinner table
Our mouths remembered that taste
As we watched our leaping trees
Bud out, we saw those infant figs
And our mouths coveted their musty sweetness

But our trees could not evade
The pirate birds
With light bodies, strong wings
Sharp beaks, gripping feet
And a taste for ripening figs

We hung sparkly twists of metal
We got a dog
Long legged, deep bark
Beautiful white
Squirrels and rabbits
Run before her
Deserting, finally, the banquet
Of our summer vegetable garden

But oh those birds
Those beautiful pirate birds
Who feast on our figs
Laugh down at our dog
Laugh among our sparkly hangers
Laugh with their bellies
Full of young figs

While our mouths salivate
In vain anticipation
Of the never to be
Ripe figs on our dinner table

Old Questions

What God has joined together
let not fear pull apart
let not water drown
let not life sunder

But when it does
why then
cannot the good remain
at least for the children

When life hands us 
lemons
we are told
make lemonade

Who can reach high 
above the sour
to grasp a sweetener
for lemoned families

From whose hand drips down
the honeyed sweetener
into the sour
juices of divorce

Whose strong arm
can clear a path
through the impenetrable forest
of never was, never could be

Can faith forgive
Can hope redeem
Can love endure
Can God

I Feel Old Today

How much longer, God, 
How much longer shall I live?
A hawk circles, circles
Now higher, now lower
Now wide, now narrow
No, not a hawk
A vulture
Searches, waits
Hungry with a wide hunger
Its own language
Wordless but loud
Cracks the vaulted sky
The hungry vulture circles
Waits for the answer
That is death
Over springtime’s soft green shoots
Over summer’s emerald growth
Over fall’s gray brown tree limbs
Over winter’s white cold
The vulture circles
Now higher, now lower
Now wide, now narrow

I remember when I looked up
And saw hawks, falcons, eagles
And felt my body could soar with them
Now, today, I feel old, cold
My neck would hurt, I think,
Were I to look up
And what would I see
Just that vulture, waiting
Waiting for the carrion
That he expects will answer
His hunger

What will answer, finally,
My hunger?
Will my spirit grow
When my body dies?
Is this the short asking inbreath
Before the long answering outbreath?

When I Walk Through An Open Door

When I walk through an open door
I expect earth beneath my feet
Not water
I look for the expected daisy
Not the unexpected papaya
I expect to walk not swim
Breathe air not water
Delight in the known

I want to be amazed
And yet I look only for the known
I want to be transformed
And yet I expect only the expected
I look for the straight path
Not the twisty maze
I long for the scent of the daisy
With the memory of my daughter’s wedding
But if I stoop to smell the daisy
Will I miss the papaya on the table
Waiting for the bite of my teeth
To let its golden juice run down my chin
As I inhale an unfamiliar sweetness
As I swim through the unexpected
As I maze my way to an open door
That I did not even know was a door
I breathe in as I turn the knob
I breathe out as I pull the door inward
I breathe in as I step outward

God, lead me through my known
To your unknown
As I breathe out expectations
And breathe in unexpected grace

Finding God

Thoughts from a morning in church and an afternoon in the garden:

We create God in our own image, bestowing desired power and glory on that image, and imprisoning it in words.

We experience God in nature, opening ourselves to the insistent richness and diversity of divinity beyond words.

“O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!”
Romans 11:33 NRSVCE

How I Call My Spirit Back

The poet instructs us
on how to call our spirit back
from wandering the earth

How do I call my spirit back?

I am tempted to believe
I call my spirt back
by writing…by poetry…by reading
by thinking…by striving
By appreciating 
the writing…the poetry…the reading
the thinking…the striving
of others

I am tempted to believe
I call my spirit back
by reading difficult but renowned books
(Has anyone – ever – called their spirit back
by reading Finnegan’s Wake?)
by studying philosophy
by struggling with my faith, my God, my sometimes church

I am tempted to believe
I call my spirit back
by my own great efforts
to improve myself
to become more
as if I am a seed
and my spirit the seedling
I must become
to fulfill my destiny

But, really, truly
I think I call my spirit back
when I don’t call it at all

When I run through a garden sprinkler
like a somewhat crazed old woman
to encourage my three year old grandson
to do the same

When I stoop to kiss my husband’s almost bald head
as I hand him leftovers for lunch
because he seems tired today
too tired to get his own lunch as usual

I think my spirit comes back
most often when I don’t try
to call it at all

A Gift to the World From the Dentist’s Chair

Yesterday
I lay
In the dentist chair
Left side of my face numbed
Feet crossed
One over the other
At the far end of tensed legs
My left hand covered my right
Resting on my stomach
Clenched tight

The right side of my lip
Was pulled down
Over the small vacuum tube
That rested in my mouth
To suck out saliva and blood
And the tiny pieces of hardened grit
That shouldn’t be
On my teeth

I saw her masked face
Loom close over my own
I saw the small round mirror
In one hand
And some fearsome medieval
Instrument of torture
Surely
In the other

I called to my breath
Breathe in calm
Breathe out anxiety
Breathe in cooperation
Breathe out resistance
Breathe in relax
Breathe out tense
In relax
Out tense
In
Out
In
Out

Wait, I thought,
Do I really want to breathe
My anxiety, my resistance, my tension
Out into the world?
Doesn’t the world have enough
Of its own
Already?

Perhaps I should pray
Let my anxiety
My resistance
My tension
Be a small sacrifice
For the world’s sake
No crown of thorns
No nails into a wooden cross
But perhaps a little death
A tiny death
Of the expectation of well-being
Let me give the well-being I seek
To the world
Just for this hour or so
Maybe
Breathe with the anxiety
Let calm be
Breathe with the resistance
Let cooperation be
Breathe with the tension
Let relax be