Art Lesson

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We’re told we must be silent when we paint

Turning off the left brain so that we might see

With artist’s eyes

 

In front of me, a small pallet –

Six colors to make six colors

and six hundred colors more

 

Finding hidden shapes

and shades within this leaf

Emerging slow in silent reverie

 

I dip my brush into the water

Let it soak in deep

Specks of paint spread quickly

 

Life bursting into light

Becoming something

Close to nature

 

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A Nun Speaks of Love

Sister Prejean spoke from the altar

a preacher of rivers and fire

awakened to injustice

bearing witness

to secret rituals

hidden behind walls

where she walked with dead men

into the fire

locked eyes with the dead men

to restore life

honored the flowing river of life

knowing, as Jesus did, that

we are all worth

more

than the worst thing

we have ever done

 

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Witness

dublin

In Ireland, we take a bus to 18 Parnell Square

home of the Dublin Writers Museum

to witness the old manuscripts

letters and diaries,

first editions and rare books

locked behind glass

 

Outside, a steady rain

pounds on leaded windows

while we greet the ghosts

of Behan and Beckett

Swift and Wilde

Dracula and Sweet Molly Malone

Alive, alive, oh,

once again

their passionate yearnings

scrawled across yellowed pages

released once again to the musty air

where they swirl and swirl

before settling into my bones

 

 

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Reverie

Today after walking I sat in the sun

September air making its subtle season shifts

readying the leaves for changing

while bird shadows dance high above my perch

and woodpecker taps out his autumn song

time time time time

transporting me back to summer’s end in Papa’s yard

standing still in the garden beneath a tall pine tree

slow bee buzz and my first woodpecker concert

Papa in his suspendered jeans, tapping time on a rusty trash can

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Distraction: A Numbers Game

Yesterday I cleaned my closet,

donated two trash bags stuffed with clothes that used to fit.

I watered all the plants, repotted the lemon tree.

 

It has been three weeks since I retired.

So far, I have rocked two babies, one at a time.

Played pickle in the middle with two grandsons.

Read four books.

Sat in the garden for hours on end,

Thinking about life to the tune of a wisteria-drunk buzz of bees

and one raucous crow.

It’s lovely here in the garden.

 

Maybe tomorrow I’ll write.

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Poetry is Power

Dear Naomi Shihab Nye,

Congratulations on your selection as Young People’s Poet Laureate.

Several years ago, I was fortunate to spend a weekend in your class at Asilomar. I still have the work I completed that weekend, including a detailed drawing of my childhood neighborhood. There were many magical moments as we worked together in our small group, including your recitation of “Kindness” and your sharing of the back story of that poem. To this day, it remains my favorite poem – I’ve passed it along to numerous friends and family when they’ve needed it most.

Years later, I was studying for the week at Teacher’s College when you gave the closing address. Listening to you speak, I felt such kinship with you. Whenever I’m asked who is my favorite poet, your name is the first to pop into my head.

Your words have such power and I am so very grateful for the way your words have enriched my life.

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The Girl on the Train

My friend and I were riding home on BART from San Francisco. The only open seats were the priority seats right inside the doors, designated for disabled riders. We grabbed them and sat down.

 

At the first stop in Oakland, a huge crush of people entered the car all at once. The last one on was a young woman, nearly doubled over. She grabbed onto the seat, looked at us imploringly and said, please, I’m seven weeks pregnant. With that, we both jumped up and she fell into our seats.

 

She looked up at me, and since no one had taken the seat beside her, I sat back down. She then turned to me tearfully and told me that she was in pain. Excruciating. Had to stand up in the middle of a meeting and leave work. Asked me, is this normal?

 

What do you say to a woman doubled over in pain in the early stages of pregnancy?

 

Every pregnancy is different. You should call your doctor. Have you called your doctor?

 

She had called her dad. He was picking her up from the train and driving her to the Emergency Room though he didn’t know why.

 

We rode together for the next several stops. Spoke in quiet voices. Invited calm. It will be all right. No matter what, everything will be all right.

 

Today is Easter Sunday. The day she and her husband had planned to joyously announce to her parents that she was pregnant with their first grandchild.

 

I don’t know her name. I don’t know the rest of the story.  I can’t stop thinking about her.

 

Today she is my Easter prayer.

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