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for sue and terry – who met “Rico” on a post “Hurricane Maria” beach in Puerto Rico. His outgoing nature captivated them as did his situation: starving, abandoned on the beach with no food or water and in bad physical shape. Through no small effort they rescued him, flew him to California and began to restore and care for him. The ear infection turned out to be terminal cancer but he got the finest care and was able to befriend every creature he boldly introduced himself to, including me. The “gait” refers to his severe body injury that left him with a walking disability which deterred him not at all.

Rico with the twirly gait

stepped a tender foot to the exact spot, the intersection to you

Rico with twirly gait walked a jagged, hungry line

straight

into your hearts.

who knows what his eyes have seen

in the poverty of riches, hurricane winds and thirsty ocean

how many hearts has this soul gazed upon

rubbed against and touched

only to be left behind in empty sands.

and yet he never gave up his quest for love

to give love

to receive love.

it only took a small army to bring him to a new land

for his eyes to see no small miracle

to welcome him to a house of love

and a place for him to rest and give love, receive love

for that’s what his soul was meant to do.

a soul that never gave up, never ran away and stayed steady in his crooked walk, never complaining, showing us the meaning of gratitude.

blessed being, your work is done here

we see you

we acknowledge you.

and now,

Rico with the twirly gait

has run off to Shangri-la

Photo by Sue Munroe

aparagraha, the poem inspired after losing our place in the 2017 Sonoma fires, has been included in the Sonoma Valley Museum of Art’s installation “From Fire, Love Rises: Stories Shared from the Artist Community.” Sponsor, radio station, KSVY 91.3 will also feature the poets reading their work. The museum show begins September 29th and features 30 artists and poets who created art about their experience of the fires. Show ends January 6th. I will be there on Saturday, September 29th from 6 to 8 p.m. The poem is below.

aparigraha is a sanskrit word expressing non-possessiveness, non-grasping or non-greediness. it is the opposite of the desire for possessions. our beloved cinque terre, our retreat in sonoma, has burned to the ground. this poem was born from that experience. 

shiva came through this place
smoke signals foretold

Destroyer
wiper of slates

Destroyer, you hit your mark
smeared your body with our ashes

crumbled our city
of material dreams, security illusions.

that which you have reduced to settled piles
disintegrates my grasp of worldly form

with one fierce sweep you’ve left me clinging
my fist clenching

nothing but material ash

oh shiva, open my eyes sealed by
beholding the “Plan”

my hands wail, they pound futile rage,
but all that is left is suffocating ash, a strangle of fear.

run! shiva has swept through here.
run for your life. run until you collapse in the horror stilled by the dissolution
and stand in it, melting like ice in fire

stand in the loss, in the center of it all, in the calm eye of the hurricane
release my false grip

travel through shiva’s eyes where destruction offers a path, that if taken
shows the soul beyond the pointless grasp, false security

aparagraha

shiva, destroyer
cut the cords to my grasp of that which is not my soul

leave only the cinders of what never belonged to me
force my hand open to lay on my heart
embrace eternal heart beat

let what has been taken
blow away in the winds

leaving me standing with palms open
on shiva’s purified ground.

Heart

the time for mourning passes

the horizon sets orange
and the sky turns to ash

sun is setting on the burned behind
the ways before don’t seem to work
on this new puzzle, well timed

waving goodbye to familiar
it is gone
whispering hello to foreign
telling myself, i don’t have to pretend to be strong

let the pattern take shape
find in it, my place

the broken chips, releasing old ties
beg to welcome
the new sunrise…

today was a lifetime in a day

hard edges scraped my sides

reminded me
i’m not alone

pain is with me

like a hot sun, it burned my heart
which bled
and softened it, even when i thought i had nothing left to melt

left me wonderless
limp

like Samuel Beckett
i can’t go on, i will go on

and i do
i did

in one day

anger the street bystander
hopelessness the corner beggar

i can’t give myself to them

i go with the scrapes
embrace the hard edges
i cry out even so

the ache that won’t go away
the terror
that he will become only a memory

how can anyone we love turn into only a memory?

and i am here
today
for no reason i can see

and in the same day, i swim in soft currants of love
miracles, even
and i ask myself, where is your gratitude?

until, all in the same day, i again divide against razor’s edge
and i forget what the question is
i let it slice me
tear me apart
i can’t try anymore

i am your victim, Life
i am your lifetime in a day

through me you feel it all
from sublime grace
to groaning angst

i am apparently your bucket
your receptacle

the body of water open inside
splashing droplets

droplets sparkling in a day
that dare never
ever
to risk their purpose
by asking why

i know the rip

and the tide

the gut of the whale,

it reduces

it drives you down
as if you could disappear in the belly of grief

but you are the force…your reach is the cause

that frees me from
the dark of the whale

your presence that stretches that beast’s mouth open
tosses me out of his black belly

into sunlight and ground.

and now i stand at the shore

in patience

for i have some idea where you are
deep in the belly of that wail

so here i will wait
and i will call in the tones
sing the love notes

to coax that whale to release you

and in divine timing

when the monster is done with you

sunlight will find you again
leading your feet to fertile ground.

there’s any number of things to grieve

so much loss

so much love

so many misunderstandings

and songs that will never be sung again.

death

as a rebirth of some kind

so much crying to deepen the laughter

so many things to tear up about

anniversaries lost without the other, for example

i am here and you are there

and here i am

with any number of things

to grieve

but today, i’ll just pick one.

 

 

this suspension bridge offering a crossing…

it allures

it sways

it may cross you over

but makes no promises

suspension bridge

may leave you hanging

suspended over the rush of your life

as you watch it flow below

the river of your life before

out of reach–history now, rushing forward to…

unknown, i can’t see

i’m navigating this bridge

too determined to turn back

dizzy going forward

seeking rhythm with the sway

of this delicate passage

an offering of No Guarantees

just an uneasy tightrope

a place with a view

calling me away

 

 

a poem i wrote when i learned of Lise’s cancer so many years ago…about 9 years ago, i believe.

speechless

i always knew
what to say to you
my sister

your problems
so easy to me

you inspired my advise
and big sister wisdom
you let me hold you
let me believe i could fix all your problems
let me toss you the bones of what
had been true for me

your problems
your life so easy
if you just listen to me

you accepted my speeches
my sermons
mantras
and chants

your problems
so easy to me
i knew just what to say

until the day
you went beyond my reach
used the cancer words

after he cut you he said
the margins are bad
they are bad

and today
for once
your problem, my problem
slams me like a machine

today for once
i open my all-advising mouth
and i don’t have any idea
what to say

except i love you.

two girls by Ray Ferrer

two girls by Ray Ferrer

See more of Ray Ferrer at http://urbanwallart.wordpress.com/

I will reprint a series of poems for my heart, Lise Martine Gilchrist, who passed Sunday, November 3, 2019, All Saints Day. This is one I wrote many years ago for her. Thank you for sharing in this journey of mourning my sister-friend, a love of my life, of 30 years.

twin hearts

furniture shared
and letters traded

hardly a thing i own
without your mark

i’ve nurtured you
as you threw up bile

and you shed tears
when i bled my heart

your ways become mine
and my heart yours

the line that runs between us unbroken

the knocking doors and answered phones
have always been eager between us

some unbroken lineage
we have to fulfill

we both laugh at the prospect
and toss back another cup of fate

you tell me your stories
and i tell you mine

we blend together in this weave

and it’s too late
to pull us apart

Thank you to Mady Chatfield for referring me to grief counseling and to Randi Wren at Sutter Hospice for grief counseling. For more information go to: https://www.sutterhealth.org/services/home-health-hospice/grief-bereavement-support. Below is the talk I gave last night:

A year and a half ago, a bomb went off in my life.

If you are here, I suspect you too are a casualty of a similar explosion. It’s that awful death bomb that blows your life apart, that scatters your pieces everywhere. That changes everything. That makes it not only hard to put the pieces back together, but in fact, impossible.

Scattered remnants are everywhere. How do you deal with them?

For me I tried to run away from it…I’ve made an art out of distraction. And I was truly at a loss. But one smart thing I did was listen to my good friend Mady who works at Sutter. She said go see Randi. And I thought, what else am I going to do? I needed help. So I did. I joined the grief group and I realized I wasn’t the only one feeling like a zombie walking around in the wake of an exploded. There were others who had experienced a hard loss and they were having trouble too. It helped to know I wasn’t quite so alone on this new, surreal, unwanted terrain and I looked forward to each meeting.

One of my biggest challenges has been acceptance. You see, my husband Daniel he was my rock. He wasn’t supposed to die. He was supposed to live until he was in his 90s. In fact he died three days after his 66th birthday, unexpectedly.

The grief has been almost impossible, but the hardest part has been my resistance to accept it. Like if I accept it he will really be gone and I cannot have that. At first I thought this was something I had to overcome. Like there was something broken in me that needed to be fixed. Somehow in my grief I HAD to accept this or I wasn’t doing it right. But even as I said these things to myself, I knew I was not ready, I absolutely did NOT want to accept this: NO!

So another thought comes to me. And the grief counseling at Sutter has helped me to see this. Maybe it’s not my less evolved part of myself who is resisting this “death.” Maybe it’s actually the wise part of myself. Maybe we’re wrong about death. We think it is final, they are gone, we’re alone, etc. Maybe the truth is, we need to listen to that part who says “NO!” and accept their presence is still here, will always be here. In fact, it’s impossible for it to be any other way! They are here, with us, with you, with me. Everywhere. They have changed form, yes. But we do not HAVE to let them go. It’s OK to still send them love, to connect with them, recall them and yes, miss them. Miss them terribly, for their physical presence has left us and that hurts. And it seems unbearable until you realize you can shift from that yearning to feel their body again…from the resistance to letting them go to embracing them in the non-physical.  Embracing them by tapping into the love in your heart. The love you have for them (now) and the love they continually have for you (now). That is real. That exists. Love is alive. It does not end with death. Feel it. Know it. Love transcends, Love sustains, Love heals. And it’s all we have.

I’m reminding all of us, who have had our hearts broken open, that while we are here in this wide open, vulnerable, hurting place…and as you send your beloved love remember to also send and give love to those around you. Remember to love and love.

Because when a bomb goes off in your life, a lot of kindness and healing is needed to tend to the hurt. That healing remedy is love. Big Love.

So let’s remember, as we sit in our pain, we can also sit in the limitless love of our hearts. Love never, ever dies.

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