Whispered Apologies

[Image description: a black-and-white photo I took through my bedroom window at night, showing the crossbars of the window frame. Most of the picture is in shadow, other than the bare tree branches visible through the top left pane of the window, silhouetted against clouds partly illuminated by the moon.]

I watched clouds surround
the nearly-full Moon

and join to become
a massive dark bird

with one silver eye.
The bird grew heavier

and darker until
the eye closed and

I wondered if clouds
try to shield Moon

from the havoc we’ve wrought
on her tidal-bound sister.

Sitting on my bedroom floor
in nighttime chill,

staring out the window
at a now-dark sky,

I long for more to do than
compose poems about

our shared sadness
and whisper apologies.

Cataclysm

Photo of the waves in the Pacific ocean breaking on a rocky shoreline
[Image Description: low, blue-gray ocean waves crashing on a rocky shoreline in the foreground with a gray sky in the background.]

Staring at scripture,
feeling connection severed,
words barely resonate,
like fiction written
for another time.

Look around.

Wicked prospering
for centuries,
exploitation, extraction, eradication,
while earth suffers,
gasps for relief,
and the righteous die
of hate crimes,
man-made disasters,
preventable medical crises
untreated due to cost of care.

Faith, some say, should
cause radical transformation,
radical community,
radical love,
but look inside most churches
and find the same hierarchy,
thirst for control,
the same willful disregard
as on the outside,
but with a shiny Christian label,

manipulating people to
believe good works are
donating gifts for the disadvantaged,
giving old clothes to the homeless shelter,
dropping groceries to the food pantry,
patting ourselves on the back
as we drive away

as though congregations
haven’t spent years
elevating people who,
from greed and power,
conjure the conditions for
devastation,
disadvantage,
housing insecurity,
hunger,
from a world of abundance,

selling myths of
irresponsible individuals
and climate change denial,
pointing away,
sleight of hand,
from systems of abuse,
their own wicked policies,
all while claiming virtue

and I want
to scream,
to wail,
to fling my Bible
into the rising ocean,
and sit,
hands to earth,
drinking in deep truths
from mother trees
and non-human animals
and water wisdom
and thin places
and learn an entirely different
way of being.

Birthday Thoughts in the Woods in October

Photo of a trail through the woods in the fall.
[Image Description: A photo taken in the woods of a trail in the foreground that curves back between beech trees with green leaves and other trees with orange, yellow, and red autumn leaves with sunlight illuminating the scene from behind.]

All I want today is
time to stand,
awestruck,
watching canopy unravel,
flakes of gold
turning to ordinary leaves
then back
to golden shimmers
falling through sunlight.

Time to appreciate
Beech leaves,
sunkissed,
clinging to chlorophyll
long after
sassafras and maple
colorfully carpet
forest floor.

More than anything
I need time unhurried
to untangle
and enable myself,
to wander out
and return by the same path
just to see the light
both ways.

Through

[Image Description: Photo of a collage showing four magazine clippings. Top right: A tree with a large, sprawling canopy silhouetted against a dark blue, clear night sky the the full moon filling the left side of the frame behind it. Bottom Right: a different large tree with a taller canopy silhouetted against a blue night sky with dark purple clouds and a sliver of crescent moon in the sky to the right of the tree. Bottom left: Close-up of a water bird with a long bill and black, white, and gray feathers bathed in blue evening light. Top Left: a poem by Gaby Comprés about time and change.]

Life already tilting,
then sideways,
questions revealed
through new perspective.

Too much time
viewing everything–
myself–
through the dark glass.

Standing still after nightfall
in attempt to regain footing,
yet moon shadows walk ahead
through sense made of hindsight.

Lenses, narratives, paradigms
fall away, spent petals,
seeing clearly now
through projections.

Giving myself permission
to unfurl hidden wings,
be who I become
through waxing/waning phases.

No one else can
say who I am now–
they’re always naming
through the past.

But I know who I always am:
night sky and moonlight,
steady, yet changing
through the seasons.

Systemic

[Photo of pavement taken while moving the camera so that it appears as a gray canvas with varying shades of gray and black lines.]

What kind of system produces
those who behold other people
and see only what can be
imposed, controlled, taken?

Autonomy disregarded.
Humanity undermined.

The beautiful unwieldiness of another
callously reduced to
anatomy, role, function, capital,
the fulfillment of demands
from those hellbent to uphold constructed
binaries, hierarchies, supremacies.

Infuriated by anyone
unwilling to accept oppression.

Outraged by those
willing to call harm what it is.

Doubling down on cognitive-dissonance
to maintain the opposite of co-creation:

Extraction as a way of life.

Telling us to continue
consuming, controlling, hoarding
as much as possible
while wildfires rage,
floods overwhelm,
water runs out,
wars are waged,
cities swelter,
children go hungry,
rights are stripped away.

Killing the planet, the future, each other,
so greed and power always rule.

Expected to carry on
feigning independence,
working to exhaustion,
making appointments,
reading fine print,
paying bills,
acting like there is
no other way
things could be.

But systems can be undermined.

Hearts straining against bone,
grief fueling resistance
to this destruction,
anger preventing our deferral,
connection reminding
we can burn with love as well as rage.

Poetry as
indictment, lament, truth.

Truth as
testament, reckoning, re-creation.

Re-creation as
imagination, restoration, healing.

Healing as
the birth of something new.

Lost

Dark clouds surround a crescent moon.
[Image description: Dark blue clouds surround an opening through which a lighter-shade of sky is visible. In the center of the opening, framed by the dark clouds, is the thin, crescent moon.]

Late evening walk while
clouds hide-and-seek moon,

months passed walking or gardening or thinking
while wondering if poetry is lost to me,

if now I’m whatever is the opposite of a poet
because now I can’t write the words.

But the moon and my footsteps
know it’s not that I can’t—

they’re not ready.

Adaptation

[Image Description: the poet’s hand, covered in soil from gardening, holds a maple tree seedling with several small, green leaves growing from a block of potting soil with roots visible.]

Change occurs,
requiring adaptation.

Some refuse,
heels dug in,

only their view
only their way.

Some flow,
untethered

to place or
to values.

Some evaluate,
ponder,

may stay,
may move,

knowing there is
always

more to discover,
more to realize,

wisdom for when
to stand, when to flow,

when to cultivate the shift
that ushers transformation.

Subverting Control

[Image description: one corner of my garden, pallet fence on the left and wire fencing on the right, with trees behind. In the foreground are calendula seedlings growing from the soil next to some stepping stones, with a large patch of black-eyed susan, coneflower, and goldenrod plants growing behind them, yet to bloom.]

In the garden,
work complete for the day
but not ready to leave,
sitting on the kneeling pad,
bare feet in the dirt,
pondering control
and lack of control.

The bodily autonomy
of women and the marginalized,
our children’s safety,
our mother planet,
existing so precariously
at the whim
of those who want total
control as they deem it.

We know there are other ways,
alternatives to this cycle
of dominance and power
we are born into,
inhale with our first breath,
the beginning
of our indoctrination.

Some have left us wisdom, stories,
even shown us by example
other possibilities.

I like to think of other possibilities,
how to subvert control.

Some days,
that feels impossible
and I sit despondent,
weight crushing.

But sometimes I remember resistance,
words of collective liberation.

Looking out at clover growing
abundant in the part of our yard
we’re letting go to meadow,
I think of how lovely it can be
to let go.

I remember years I’ve spent
unraveling my own indoctrination.

And now I breathe deep and look around
at the volunteer Black-eyed Susans
I couldn’t bear to clear,
the goldenrod and late boneset I left
growing among the coneflowers,
even though this gives my garden a wild,
unkempt flair.

I eye the morning glory seedling
I did not plant
that recently appeared
between the rows of straw flowers
and decide to leave her alone.

The act of planting what I have
is enough control for this space,
not everything needs my intervention.

And maybe, somehow,
these decisions unravel
one more thread of control
in the universe.

choice

[image description: In the foreground, a stone statue of Mary holding baby Jesus, situated in a flower bed that has greenery and a single, yellow tulip fully open. Behind Mary in the flower bed is the statue of a male-presenting monk with his back turned, and in the distance are several tree branches, a brick building, and a gray, cloudy sky.]

“Once a weapon is built,
there’s no way of ensuring
it will only be used on the enemies
for whom it was first intended”
— Andre Henry

________________________________________________________________

Scripture tells us that
God even gave Mary the choice
of whether or not
to become the mother
of God incarnate,
yet men and women
under the influence of patriarchy
who claim to speak for God
believe they know choice better than
someone seeking medical care,
someone who is pregnant,
a couple struggling with a difficult decision–
even God
Godself.

These patriarchal people
are taught to believe the only choices
available to anyone
should be what they
choose for them,
because patriarchy
is built on
control.

Decades of rhetoric
have worked to train the reach
of their compassion
to extend only to certain groups
and they have been
convinced that there is
no place for complexity,
no space to hold the fact that
multiple things can be true
at the same time,
no possibility that
what they believe best
for themselves
might be trauma
for someone else.

They seem unwilling or unable
to see the truth that choice
is more than just one thing
and what they offer
as easy alternatives are,
in fact,
rarely simple.

Violation is a terrible reality
in our world, homes, churches.
Medical peril is real.
Poverty is trauma.
Pregnancy is dangerous.
Adoption is a labyrinth.
Birth can be death.
Sometimes all available options
are devastating.

This is not to say
there aren’t real moral
questions to address
regarding choice.

This is not to say
there aren’t those who
have sincere personal conviction
regarding when life begins or
what happens in the womb.

Yet too many have allowed the
beliefs they chose
to be used to secure the power
of those who wield their conviction
as the means to strip away
from the marginalized
meger, hard-won
rights of autonomy
because they have been told
it is only the rights of
those who agree with them
that matter.

Convinced their own rights
are absolute even if they
infringe on the rights of others,
convinced they are the ones
persecuted and denied rights
because they can’t always
impose their choices on others,
unable to recognize
that with justice
further undermined,
it could be
their choices,
their rights,
stripped away next.

Even as this seems
the inevitable outcome
of our current state,
I admit
I want to hold out hope
we can find a way
to other possibilities.

Reflections (For One Hundred Thousand Welcomes)

[Image Description: photo resting on a wooden desk of a collage made from magazine photos, showing clockwise from the top left: a blue and yellow passenger train blurred in motion, an artistic juxtaposition of the coronavirus with a green fern and water droplets, a war-zone photo taken from inside a building with a large hole blown in the wall with debris covering the floor, and finally an older, dark-haired woman sitting on a bed wearing a blue skirt and white shirt under a mosquito net featuring an intricate floral and spiral design.]

In lockdown I wrote thoughts
until they became a poem
and then another
and another
and then I remembered
I’ve always thought in poetry.

It was Spring
and the woods smelled of
decaying leaves and honeysuckle blossoms,
as if to remind me that
a cycle of fading and blooming
is the truth of this life and that perhaps
it was possible the
catastrophic failure
of our current systems
would bring about the
letting go and renewal
this world desperately needed.

But time passed and
the ship has yet to right itself.

We have lost so many and
many communities are worse off now than
when pandamonium started
and it’s become impossible to ignore
that we are in a face-off
between those who want a better world
and those whose gods are profit and power
and the only way anything is going
to change for the better is if those of us who can
imagine,
envision,
insist on
a way of life together that is not perpetual harm—
find each other,
work together,
and cultivate it.

Those of us
who are people
of incarnation and resurrection,
of compassion and justice,
of collective healing and liberation,
of knowing there is more to life
than chasing
accumulation,
exploitation,
unfair gain.

Even as we’re told
to go back to normal
and ramp up productivity
and pretend we didn’t see
behind the curtain,
I will keep facing hard truths,
questioning narratives,
dismantling conditioning,
and writing poems.

This is my resistance,
my contribution,
my work.

What is yours?