Chapter 3: NOW
"I'll start with small things." Vincent van Gogh
and out of this dim alley
my bones ache and are pulled
I take steps towards the sliver of light
careening from fruit and window sills.
To the left, whizzing one ways
cars speed as those destination deficient ones.
To my right a wise woman's hands
busy weaving her clothes on.
Migration of migrations,
those who are free to speak and step
gather their pace on the sidewalk
in slow dreary form this congregation stops.
Watching the sun rise from over there
to inside our eyes like a distant surprise unwrapped.
Glowing light bounces from cheek to cheek
and all who are grown are born again.
Susan Black, Rising, Watercolor
West Oakland Sunday
Reverend Laronn’s strong voice rises
through the clapboard walls
of his shabby storefront church,
tumbles across Thirty-second Street,
blowing a candy wrapper into the gutter,
ruffling the feathers of pigeons
who are eating my leftover toast.
His voice rises above Cecil’s boombox,
climbs the side of our building,
bursts through my closed kitchen window
on this Sunday afternoon
with a warrior’s cry-
Karen Elizabeth Huff
to go beyond.
Disbelief rolls away
when your face
All suffering as an arrow shot skyward
departing like a cloaked rider.
The land's bullseye is a pearly entry
releasing this vague memory.
WITH RECEPTIVE EYES
Not easy these days
imagining peace in the Middle East,
or between colleagues
for that matter.
Some days I move to the Rockies
or the foot of Kilimanjaro where
dreams of peace might flourish.
But by nightfall I’ve returned to this
Arabian desert where autumn brings
spring-like growth and crickets
to the garden. Some days I roam
the Alaskan tundra with bears,
or swim with green turtles
on their thousand-mile migration.
Some days I capture that baby snake
before it enters Eden’s garden
in the peacock’s beak.
Not easy these days to imagine peace.
But I keep looking at the world with
receptive eyes, keep resisting
the sleep of heedlessness, keep
seeking to live here as a mere sojourner
on my way to the other world.
Broken, divided, devoid of love,
compassion, honor—how long
can the heart survive this way?
Holed up all winter in this desert
with my supply of Shiraz—rich
plum and strawberry—my perfume
the fragrance of ink, I’ll think
of nothing but healing this earth.
Eyes receptive, I’ll imagine peace.
Judy Seidel, Aspect 12, Mixed Media on Paper
The Ones Who Stay
I consider the ones who stay
on benches in the subway
with garbage tents like togas draped
across their chests,
until it’s time to move.
I consider the ones who have never left
the comfort of the boroughs,
where the rooftops prostrate
at the hour the Sun becomes
a slow yolk melting,
setting down his boots
on the ocean’s gaping porch.
I consider the ones born
on the East Atlantic coast,
staring like Siddhartha with their chins propped
on the edge of
stone walls where teachers and magicians promise
the whole universe behind palace gates.
I consider the other coastline.
Her reflection is a softer face,
a softer city,
in the Pacific.
That light haired protégé stands taller
than Long Island sound, wearing fuller hills
of steep concrete in the warmer sun
of a tender seductress.
I consider the day to day,
where truth changes color
and costume and name,
like the stages of living,
exactly that fleeting,
all true and changed,
older and the same.
On Shattuck Avenue
the old homeless men say nothing
these winter nights in the city.
For months they go without speaking,
instead endlessly wandering
as if the stream of love
leaving only boundless pity.
Arms outspread, “Friend!” we croon to them,
when a word said simply would do
so much more to dispel a gloom.
They can’t turn off too soon
from so grand a gesture,
well meant to reassure––
hot food and warm beds––a future.
Are you ever trapped in logic
as I am—caught as if in amber––
willing to act, but no matter
where you aim, missing your target,
unable to stop
or become someone else,
your need for change urgent?
A kind word said simply would do
so much more to dispel a gloom,
an hour in our human houses
feeling out each of many rooms,
their echoes and uses.
We cannot start too soon.
The shelter we seek is human.
Philip Lewenthal, Shattuck Avenue Flower Stand, Photograph
Rose: All Sweet Nothings Are Nothing
Oh, please—it’s the sweet nothings that make
a day worthwhile: the biker who holds a door for you,
the clerk at Trader Joe’s who checks out the Gibsons
on your sweater, the man who’s cut your hair since
you were twenty-seven, who says he’s fired every
client but you. Yesterday—Gung Hay Fat Choy—was
Chinese New Year and a very little girl in fuschia
sequins, her sash dragging, used chopsticks to
beat a drum tattoo on her chair at Yank Sing
as a smaller brother did the same. Today a person
I never saw fed my parking meter and left me,
held by a wiper blade, one long-stemmed red rose.
Knit: ALL Optimists Believe the World Is Getting Better
Optimism, however, is complex—a rose bush with
blunted thorns, a spokeless umbrella on a gray day,
the afghan I knitted for my friend who only had three
months to live. It’s winter now, and in Iowa City
an optimist with a sense of humor has knitted bright
sweaters for street trees and for her neighbor’s chickens.
Optimists may not believe the world is healing, yet they
feel all struggle matters: yes, swords into ploughshares,
peace on earth, no more missiles or drones, no nuclear
tests, much less pollution and many fewer guns.
So where do peace and hope begin? Sometimes with
a pair of #10 needles and skeins of dimestore yarn
to knit hats and scarves for the homeless, afghans
for the dying, and—yes—even sweaters for chickens.
Death and homelessness make us cry but sweatered
chickens remind us, Hope is the thing with feathers.
Chickens in Sweaters, Photograph, submitted by Susan Terris
In the kind of quiet
found in oxygen molecules
inseparable from the air
silence of starlight
freezing night’s dark
slow moving fog
a power stronger that itself
I thought I could hear
the promise coming
skin of liturgy, sorcery
laid over it
but I was wrong
it’s already here
hushed as feathers