A photojournalist on NPR talks of Amal.
Not Amahl, of Amahl and the Night Visitors,
whose infirmity is healed under the star of the
Christ child, but Amal, a starving girl in
Northern Yemen. He describes his close-up shots of
her blank eyes, ribs, her dark cot. But he is not the Magi, the bearer of Christmas miracle.
His haunting photos point the world’s blind eyes to Famine in Yemen,
but the photos nor the world will get this child the specialized healthcare she needs to survive.
Amal will die in the week to come.
Spring issue of a poetry journal in my mailbox
the pages more like Winter to my fingertips.
I forgot I subscribed. Submitted.
We found…nothing overall that seemed quite right for us…
Such kind rejection.
I walk over soft yard grass under starless Winter sky,
enter the warmth of home wafting with
scent of long-haired dog, pull off my coat, set
poetry journal atop pile of twelve others, and
greet again my luxurious sorrow.
(from a writing prompt, L.H. in NM: “Pay attention to something for 10 minutes, then write about it for 20 minutes”)
St. Francis sits stoic, almost wooden, on the stump of a tree. I could swear he was made of wood, for, were he really St. Francis, would not the birds who chatter in the branches overhead come instead to light upon his hooded head? His hands are folded, one over the other. Would St. Francis sit so still? Even the lines of age entrenched around his cheeks resemble the grains of wood, as though time had carved his face from the trunk of the tree he sits upon.
Most insulting, though, to me, is that he won’t even look at me. He stares beyond, with fixed gaze, as though some other bird were more colorful, some other bunny with a cuter tail. The deep lines across his forehead suggest worry. Compassion perhaps…not meant for me. I picture him like this, 20 minutes from now, unchanged. Should I stay, just in case? I picture him like this four months from now, the shoulders of his robe dusted in snow, his eyes still unblinking.
Me, I pray to be seen. Please St. Francis, God, my Father, my Mother, my brother, my sister, my lover, please, St Francis, gentlest of Saints, turn your gaze my way. Don’t make me sit in pretense anymore, don’t make me put on make-up, panty hose, a flowing skirt. Must I twirl and dance and flirt? I spent my life hidden in plain view, and I liked it that way. Better hidden than pretending. But I languished there in pain ~ between fully being and fully hiding.
(Whoa, St Francis! Did you send that fancy bird just now? Is that you? God? You surprise me in the most beautiful and unexpected ways!)
What was I complaining about, oh yes – the wooden church, the wooden parent, the wooden St. Francis sitting on a stump…
But God, the bird, the real, just flew into the late afternoon glowing sunlit tree with tail of deep red fire and wings tinted green, then dove down near my head and flew on by.
God is not wood. My heart will not become a stone.
Apparently, this is all the seeing that I need.
I’ll be damned, St. Francis, you of wood, what magic in those eyes….
(response to a writing prompt, L.H. in N.M.)
I have entered the doors of Aging with great suspicion and trepidation. Suddenly, my body has started a slow and painful process of breaking down, on the way to its eventual disintegration. I shouldn’t be surprised. I’ve been educated my entire life that this would happen.
Once, I had sharp memory and only occasionally forgot the location of my keys. Now, I forget what I was saying mid-sentence, mid-morning, mid-day, all day, oh, mid-dear! (my-dear) Where was I?
Oh yes, forgetting. The aging, the contracting of my brain’s capacity for memory. But also the loss of steadiness on my feet. I miss and grieve the loss of balance and agility; the jumping, leaping, climbing, bending, twisting, skipping of my youth in which I took joy and pride. The absence of lasting physical pain.
But none of that is the thing I never saw coming. As my pride falls away, as I am forced to accept help with simple things I used to do for others, something new emerges. A gentle humility. Something new expands, though my body contracts. Something beautiful increases while memory and agility decrease.
What I did not see coming was this sudden expansion of my spirit. A constantly growing capacity for love, understanding, compassion, and humility. An ever-deepening appreciation for every second I still have my breath, my beating heart, my senses, and my consciousness, with which to be ever increasingly present to the beauty of this weird and precious living – to feel the expansiveness of the wide open New Mexico sky, to be able to see her colors and feel them all in the core of my heart, to be able to meet each new moment, each new person, each new place, each old friend, every experience, with this new breath, this new heartbeat, this ever-expanding consciousness.
This is how I accept with grace and love each new pain, each new suffering, each new loss.
This beauty, this, is what I never saw coming.
Simple little Chickadee,
clamped onto a slender twig:
I saw you,
thought you plain, and
wished you were instead
the elusive Winter Waxwing.
But you flicked one wing
into the air, and
backlit as you were,
made of yourself a prism,
tiny colored jewels of light
into all the unlit corners
of my simple mind.
Sweet little Chickadee.
dedicated to Jill and Sheila