The Land Knows You (prompt 17, Hour 14)

The land knows you, even when you are lost.
She is you.
She never forgets.
Your juices are her juices.
Your flesh is her flesh.
In cold city offices,
In filthy concrete streets,
Dressed in your warmest and heaviest
coats and boots,
She knows you. She greets you
with cool wind in hot places,
with warm sun in cold realms.
She displays her changing beauties
whether you are there to see them or not,
in case you return.
She is one with your pain and your joy.
She teaches your children
small beauties before they know how to learn.
She remembers your people
from before they succumbed to civilization.
She has tasted your blood.
On foreign seas, in strange lands,
her breath travels to greet and remind you
she is there. Her dust will find you across oceans.
Her rain is born in your homeland
and carried to where you are to remind you.
You cannot get so far away that the land
forgets you. You are never so lost
that she will not find you.
The land knows you, even when you
have not put a seed in the earth in decades.
The land knows you, even when you are lost.
You are never lost.

 

In Community (prompt 16, Hour 13)

In twos and threes the men arrive,
clean, well dressed, solemn.
Prayer shawls in packages tucked
under arms, white or colored caps
perched upon balding heads.

The building greets them,
swallows them up like sugar.
They mingle and mix as they unpack
their shawls, kiss the words on them,
drape them over their shoulders
and pick up prayer books.

It doesn’t matter if blind Sam or crazy Phil
or your angry brother-in-law are there.
All are greeted with ‘good Shabbas’,
and a nod, a handshake or a bow.
All Jews deserve a good rest. A day of peace.
Cessation from hostilities and grievances.
Ha-shem in his wisdom knew this.

In this place, all mitzvahs are honored.
All grief is shared. All joys lift all members.
Place of study. Place of learning.
Place of community. Place of shared meals.
Place of belonging. Place of holidays.
Place of fond memories and dear friends.
Our schul. Our synagogue.

The Breath of Life (prompt 15, Hour 12)

Original Text for Erasure Poem:  The Breath of Life by John Burroughs

As life nears its end with me, I find myself meditating more and more upon the mystery of its nature and origin, yet without the least hope that I can find out the ways of the Eternal in this or in any other world. In these studies I fancy I am about as far from mastering the mystery as the ant which I saw this morning industriously exploring a small section of the garden walk is from getting a clear idea of the geography of the North American Continent. But the ant was occupied and was apparently happy, and she must have learned something about a small fraction of that part of the earth’s surface.

I have passed many pleasant summer days in my hay-barn study, or under the apple trees, exploring these questions, and though I have not solved them, I am satisfied with the clearer view I have given myself of the mystery that envelops them. I have set down in these pages all the thoughts that have come to me on this subject. I have not aimed so much at consistency as at clearness and definiteness of statement, letting my mind drift as upon a shoreless sea. Indeed, what are such questions, and all other ultimate questions, but shoreless seas whereon[Pg vi] the chief reward of the navigator is the joy of the adventure?

Sir Thomas Browne said, over two hundred years ago, that in philosophy truth seemed double-faced, by which I fancy he meant that there was always more than one point of view of all great problems, often contradictory points of view, from which truth is revealed. In the following pages I am aware that two ideas, or principles, struggle in my mind for mastery. One is the idea of the super-mechanical and the super-chemical character of living things; the other is the idea of the supremacy and universality of what we call natural law. The first probably springs from my inborn idealism and literary habit of mind; the second from my love of nature and my scientific bent. It is hard for me to reduce the life impulse to a level with common material forces that shape and control the world of inert matter, and it is equally hard for me to reconcile my reason to the introduction of a new principle, or to see anything in natural processes that savors of the ab-extra. It is the working of these two different ideas in my mind that seems to give rise to the obvious contradictions that crop out here and there throughout this volume. An explanation of life phenomena that savors of the laboratory and chemism repels me, and an explanation that savors of the theological point of view is equally distasteful to me. I crave and seek a natural explanation of all phenomena upon this earth,[Pg vii] but the word “natural” to me implies more than mere chemistry and physics. The birth of a baby, and the blooming of a flower, are natural events, but the laboratory methods forever fail to give us the key to the secret of either.

I am forced to conclude that my passion for nature and for all open-air life, though tinged and stimulated by science, is not a passion for pure science, but for literature and philosophy. My imagination and ingrained humanism are appealed to by the facts and methods of natural history. I find something akin to poetry and religion (using the latter word in its non-mythological sense, as indicating the sum of mystery and reverence we feel in the presence of the great facts of life and death) in the shows of day and night, and in my excursions to fields and woods. The love of nature is a different thing from the love of science, though the two may go together. The Wordsworthian sense in nature, of “something far more deeply interfused” than the principles of exact science, is probably the source of nearly if not quite all that this volume holds. To the rigid man of science this is frank mysticism; but without a sense of the unknown and unknowable, life is flat and barren. Without the emotion of the beautiful, the sublime, the mysterious, there is no art, no religion, no literature. How to get from the clod underfoot to the brain and consciousness of man without invoking something outside of, and superior to,[Pg viii] natural laws, is the question. For my own part I content myself with the thought of some unknown and doubtless unknowable tendency or power in the elements themselves—a kind of universal mind pervading living matter and the reason of its living, through which the whole drama of evolution is brought about. –END–

 

New Erasure Poem:

 

The Breath of Life

As life nears its end
I find more and more
mystery of nature and origin,
yet without hope that I can find out
the ways of the Eternal
in this or any other world.
I am as far from mastering the mystery
as the garden walk is
from the geography of North America.

I have passed many pleasant summer days
exploring these questions.
Though I have not solved them,
I am satisfied with the mystery.

I have aimed at a clearness of statement,
letting my mind drift as upon a shoreless sea,
where the chief reward of the navigator is
the joy of the adventure.

In philosophy, truth seemed double-faced,
always more than one point of view,
often contradictory, from which truth is revealed.
Two ideas, or principles, struggle in my mind
for mastery: one, the idea of the super-mechanical
and super-chemical character of living things.
The other, the supremacy and universality
of natural law. The first springs
from my inborn idealism and literary mind.
The second from my love of nature
and my scientific bent.

I crave and seek a natural explanation
of all phenomena upon this earth,
but the ‘natural’ to me implies more
than mere chemistry and physics.
My passion for nature and open-air life,
though tinged by science, is a passion
for literature and philosophy,
something akin to poetry and religion.
The mystery and reverence
we feel in the presence of life and death
in nature is different from the love of science,
though the two may go together.

Without a sense of the unknown and unknowable,
life is flat and barren.
Without the emotion of the beautiful, the sublime,
the mysterious,
there is no art, no religion, no literature.

I content myself with the thought
of some doubtless unknowable tendency or power
in the elements themselves—a kind of universal mind
pervading living matter–the reason through which
the whole drama of evolution is brought about.

Letter to a Former Majorette (prompt 14, Hour 11)

Dear Younger Me,

You knew on some level that life was magical.
Mystical. Enchanting. Unbearably new.
You were all full of possibilities and dreams,
always too headstrong to follow on cue.
That was always a part of your charm, that absolute certainty
that all life would unfold in a way good for you.

Impossibly it both hasn’t and has. You’ve lived
as you wanted. You always had love.
But life is far different now than you could expect
when your greatest concern is wearing white gloves
out on the field of Friday night glory,
Somehow you’ll be guided always from above

Or within or without or wherever help comes from.
You didn’t know how your religious vocation
would dictate your friends, your loves and your study.
Could you know that New York would be your destination?
How strange for a Texan, your family all said.
More strangely, it becomes your favorite location.

Be ready for five loves, none of whom you’d expect,
One you love now, then the one who made you whole,
One many years older, and one as many years younger.
The best will be the middle, who will love your pilgrim soul.
But birthing two children will fill your heart with purpose,
and mothering will turn out to be your most beloved role.

You’ve always worked hard to achieve what you wanted.
Sometimes you’ve failed, most times you’ve come through,
a professional life to be proud of
though all jobs don’t end happily for you.
Your life will be a good one, you’ve the courage to live it.
Stay courageous, outspoken, bold, balanced and true.

Lincoln in the Bardo (Prompt 11 and 12, Hour 9)

He didn’t mean to die,
and break his daddy’s heart,
that poor little Willy, but he did.
We almost lost our Mr. Lincoln to grief.

Only the kind spirits saw the danger,
knew what had to be done, and selflessly
applied limited etheric skills to pull the boy
from the clutches of schlerosis. To pull daddy
back from his shocked, catatonic state.

The scene was chaotic, as one might expect
when a hodgepodge of circus clowns, comedians,
fathers and doting mothers in various states of decay
confer on strategies best avoided by the living,
and as certain to confuse .

But Mr. Lincoln was closer to joining them himself
than any living person could see. He felt their pull,
and let them lead him back to his boy.
The urgency of his love broke through to his son.

Willy’s spirit raised itself up just in time to be saved
from eternal misery. His spirit arose with a clap
of thunder to the afterlife, and Mr. Lincoln’s spirit
was yanked through the graveyard fence, away from the place.

The spirits drifted back to their flamboyant displays and
collegial mutterings, no emotion attached to the scene
they had created. It had had to be done, and they did it.
A few of their number were rewarded.

They ascended, to the bafflement of the others.
To the bafflement of the readers.
To understanding only of the brilliant writer who gave them life.
And one other, for whom the spirits of the bardo solved
a long-standing literary problem.

(I am uncomfortable posting this as a poem, but the hour is up and I have no time to revise now. Pretend it is poetry until I can make it so! :))

Reconciled Paradox (prompt 10, Hour 8)

Today, a physicist’s eyes lit up with glee, as he said,
We don’t know what dark matter is,
but dark matter is responsible for all of  us, and all of this, being here.

Forty years ago I watched a guru glow with joy as he said,
Everything comes from love.
Love is in all things and gives form to creation.

One drop is not an ocean, yet the ocean is contained in the drop.

Resurrection Fern (prompt 9, Hour 7)

From another day
and far away
soft memories like ghosts
float through my mind
and ruffle my soul.

A love of simple things,
long summer days,
kind people with flaws,
baby goats, big dogs.

Our young eyes saw everything.
We noticed small changes
and wondered at beginnings.
We studied it all..
And loved all we saw.

It formed our bones and it became us–
the songs, the sounds, the smells,
ashes from old fires, rusty barbed wire,
stored in a heart made large for memories.
It was our life.

And through it all,
the spreading oak bowed low
to show a resurrection fern,
its message from the past
saying it is never too late.
We can always go home.

Of Innocence and Consequences (prompt 7 and 8, Hour 6)

Things could certainly have been different
if we were different people.
Songs of blame loop endlessly
when one person breaks free
and one is bound in place.

Abandoned in our small house,
made smaller by lack of you,
I grieved a long time.
Send in the Clowns was my theme for years,
until I realized my destiny can’t be tied
to someone who leaves,
or yours to someone who can’t move on.

Perhaps I could have shown love more—though
It always seemed we were solid and secure.
Perhaps I did make the relationship revolve around me.
That doesn’t mean I didn’t love you.

I loved our days of innocence and consequences
and understand the leaving now.
Hard lessons taught by thorns and pain made marks,
though we shared a rich story, a long walk
made mostly in joy.

You rebounded quickly.
My heart, a wounded deer,
at last peeks cautiously out.
Joy persists.

Mukti (prompt 6, Hour 5)

The tension recedes
as I lift away.
Nothing binds these snowy wings.

I sail high as the eye can see.

A speck of dust,
brilliant
in the sunlight.

A crystal
fracturing
into color.

Three times
I circle your face,
before I vanish.
At last
free.

Perspective on Obstacles (prompt 5, Hour 4)

 

Dark rocky cliffs rise abruptly up
to block a starry night sky.
They feel immense seen from the base.
A tall waterfall heaves violently
over the edge in the high distance.
There is no path forward.

In a perfect world I could take my cursor
and stretch the image out far to the right.
Suddenly the ground would smooth before me.
Scree become a gentle valley
where children lie sleeping in safe beds.
The cliffs recede to low, rounded swells,
and the waterfall is a distant river
waiting to be crossed.

In Indra’s net there is no reality,
only a point of view.