Determination, Home, Poetry, spirit

Then the Day Comes

Then the day comes when you return.
The dog leaps at you
shrieking with such abandon you almost cry.
As if you’ve just been to the mailbox and back,
your dear ones barely look up.

How is it the same dishes are piled in the sink,
same library books in a stack by the door?
The fines must be in the thousands by now.

You peel off your shoes and nudge them
into the space on the rack.
The road has worn through the soles
and deep between the bones
of your right foot,
an ache
like the hunger
that became so much a part of you,
you stopped noticing

(or tried to)

You had bigger problems out there.
The understudy,
the one who knocked you sideways
and sent you walking
all the way around the world,
wasn’t going without a fight.

She poisoned your food
when you dared take a rest,
cut holes in your pack
and dumped your maps
in the gutter.
She bared her teeth and called it a smile,
offering you the mercy
of freedom. She’d take the pain
when you surrendered the story.
Small price, she said. Stay gone.

A formidable opponent.
She even dreamed your dreams of drowning.

Your dear ones, they didn’t know
how far away,
how hard you were trying
to get back.
It stings a bit that she had them fooled,
that flat simulacrum. But she was clever
enough to make them say thanks over dinner
and to whine just a little when she lost at cards.

Oscar-worthy, that performance,
but she could never tune to the pulse
coming from deep in the earth
that calls you always
back to you.
That was what did her in.
You were not strong or brave.
You just stopped finding comfort
in her promise of release.
Pain, it turns out, isn’t the worst thing.

You kept walking.
That is all.

Then the day comes
when you return
as if from the mailbox.
Your dear ones don’t hear the scuffle
just outside the door,
the snarl of the imposter
as her disguise blisters away,
as you banish her from this place.

Only the dog
hurtling across the room
to herald your arrival.


Image: Jamie R. Morheim, The Vigil

activism, Poetry, race, Take Action

Out Loud, With Your Very Own Voice

The way the kindergarten teacher called it on the first day of class.
The way the receptionist spoke it into the waiting room before the annual checkup.
The way the librarian whispered it when entering information on the card.
The way the coach boomed it during lineup.
The way the camp counselor hollered it at the YMCA summer Olympics.
The way the local newspaper listed it among the loving grandchildren she left behind.

The way the principal announced it during the graduation procession.
The way the future in-laws enunciated it during that first meeting.
The way the minister intoned it when asking the dearly beloved to witness this holy union.
The way the nurse confirmed it before writing it on the birth certificate.
The way the HR assistant checked its spelling when setting up the job interview.
The way the emcee declared it at the awards ceremony.
The way the children proclaimed it when asked who their people are.

Continue reading “Out Loud, With Your Very Own Voice”

activism, Children, growth, Parenting, prayer, race

This Sweet Thing We Grow For Him

For me, the honeysuckle does it. Out walking the dog, I pass through that place behind the apartment building where the vine-covered shrubs form a loose fence line with the neighboring townhouses. There, the scent lifts me up from whatever chaos is in my head. I pause and find one underneath, going for the yellow blossom. While the fulsome white catch the eye, I’ve learned from experience. The yellowed, crepey petals store astonishing sweetness.

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Letting Go, Outdoors, prayer, spirit

You Think You Are Small

creek_david-latorre-romero

You think you are small. You crouch at the edge. This one like so many before, the low riverbed where you seek sustenance.

It’s far from a river, really, barely a trickle. You crouch here and watch how pebbles below the surface make water glint. In the copse of trees between one set of houses and the next, the big road bearing down just around the bend, this is the closest you come to a sacred place.

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community, Fitness, Mindfulness, neighborhood, Parenting, spirit

This Bubble, Spinning and Viscous

world-edwin-hooper

Our governor gave us the stay-at-home order yesterday. With presumptive positives surpassing 1000 in the state, it’s a wise directive. That said, judging by the volume on I-66 right outside my condo, only a handful of my fellow Virginians are complying. And no, they still have not finished replacing the sound wall as they ravage the land around us for new express lanes. Which means even as spring explodes from the tulip poplar and cherry trees all around the complex, my balcony door stays sealed tight.

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Family, Relationships

Close Quarters

crowded-house-pau-casals

My university made the announcement that all buildings will be closed starting tomorrow. Some students still live on campus, some international students have not been able to get home. “Essential services,” as we call them now, will remain functional. Grab-and-go meals in a few dining halls. Campus security. A couple of residence halls. The rest of campus shuttered. All of us that can telework are doing so.

In the span of a week, an entire faculty has figured out, more or less, how to teach online — a skill some sizable percentage has been resisting for a decade.

Today I went into my building for the first time since March 10. With a gloved left hand and a “clean” right, I navigated to my office to collect my ergonomic keyboard and a standing desk floor mat. My partner and son have assembled a plywood contraption on casters that will work for me to stand at home. This small condo is quickly shrinking, and it’s good to have a place to work that isn’t the dining table. Especially now that we’re eating three meals a day there.

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Choices, Living in the Moment, Mindfulness, spirit

Just Stand There

cristina-gottardi-tunnel

At this point, I check the news only three times a day. The rationing is keeping me steady. When this all started a few weeks ago, broadcasts from the various corners of the world helped me make decisions. I pulled my son out of school a day before the county caught up. The conversation with his dad about the decision was tough — I had to make the case for why our boy’s academic well-being was less critical than flattening the curve. This meant providing evidence from the Italian news, from scientists who were begging for distancing in the absence of any kind of coordinated response from our leadership.

Like so many people, I read and read and read. Tracked curves from around the world, learned why South Korea looks so different from Iran. Then not 24 hours after I made the call, our school board followed suit. That early vigilance validated, I continued to gulp down news from every source I could find.

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body, Choices, Love, Poetry, Relationships

How to Write a Love Poem

dance-couple-john-moeses-bauan

1. Here is your blank page.
A crease deepening in the fold of their neck.
A spiderweb alongside the eyes.
Knuckles nicked and gnarled
from every saw blade that has ever gone sideways.
Their hull with its jagged seams lashed back together
more times than even they can count,
Yet strength enough still to flip you like an egg
over easy, your wet yolk intact (but not for long).
Their silhouette against the moonlaced slats,
looming, flesh-wrapped,
lifting the crenulation of your ribs
smoothing the oil they somehow coax
from pockets
you forgot you’d sewn into the edges of your whispers.

Continue reading “How to Write a Love Poem”