Friday’s Poem: At the Refuge

Photos by Cynthia Guenther Richardson

First this: brazen bolts of sound

as a multitude of geese strike the right

formation, alarm punctuating sky yet

harbored in a common beauty.

And the order of things alters

as the eagle rises to the hunt

so easy, magnificent.

One more joins, and I stay the urge

to salute or fall on my knees.

It is that tapestry of wild calls,

of bones within feathers like

an architecture of life, of power. Survival.

And then comes a rough-skinned salamander,

auburn and sleek atop dirt, beady eyed, prepared.

I do not touch even with careful toe of boot.

It is sleekness wrapped in poisonous skin.

A pencil-thin, stripey garter snake nestles

between moss and grass,

slips lithe and invisible into harmony

beneath an ancient white oak.

Great branches snag me as my eyes move upward,

lifts my soul to its crown; I am held in its breath,

am granted one spell of peace.

Frogs along the path like country singers,

sing sonorous measures in starts and stops–

a comedy routine, the telegraphed news.

Most of all, this great blue heron.

It stirs from riverbed before I hear it.

Leaps from water, rising with heartstopping wings

in a miracle of elegance and strength,

glides past clouds of winter

to light that spills into this day.

I think of it: laying on its fine back,

moving past edges of this world without falling.

I cannot say more of why this brings me to tears.

I am given this afternoon where

many beings show themselves and

the wetlands let me pass through, and

groves of oaks watch over, naked and unafraid,

and sunlight kind as compassion rests on my skin…

this earth so generous with blessings,

may I not ever, may I not ever forget.

Friday’s Poem: A Student of the Rivers

The Willamette River, south of Portland

What would it be to live as this river

which labors and keeps its own counsel,

carries cargo along ragged banks or thundering falls

a heft and roll of mighty water that sweeps

toward the mother-father river, Columbia,

and exhilaration of bliss: the Pacific and its bounties.

To possess such a sure homing instinct,

its pull and push moving me toward wonder

and brimming vastness of wisdom;

shuttled beyond the endangering world

and released to life’s healing in a mandala of unity.

What would it be to travel as our river,

swift and potent, a messenger of nature

as it grazes earthy arms, melds with a greater whole,

generous in spirit, giving and taking as its waters

gather, fold, churn, ruffle, twirl and glide–

this waterway’s bright, honorable element

shared with creatures, sustenance imparted:

all for one, one for all.

May this never be a missable, everyday miracle.

And may I not miss my daily call-

to go forth in strength, peace and purpose.

The Columbia River, which courses between Washington and Oregon

(Note: The Willamette River flows south to north, an uncommon occurrence, mostly uphill to join the Columbia as it runs to the Pacific Ocean.)

Friday’s Poem on Saturday: Rumors of Beginnings

The rumor is that the year changes.

Still, I breathe with my heart, earthen and
cosmic oxygen rising from conduits
hewn of shadow, light, water.
If it is a new entrance before us, also an exodus
that carries us to beginnings. A labyrinth, a journey
with pilgrims come round from afar. You and I.

I say, remand our treasures to the fire
of life, of loss. Plant random bits in good places
where springs quench deeper thirst.
Move among trees and mossy rocks, hollow and peak,
greet sea’s leviathans, guardians of earth, winged messengers.
We can recall such language; God recalls our names.
See, evening is seeded with starlight and the heavens
shed grace: mercy and knowledge given with no falsity.

I hope for a miracle of start overs. Righteous indignations and
angers loosed to be upended, disbanded.

For the poverty of fear and shame with their
failed assumptions, viperous words to be relinquished.

For the superfluous to fall away so ears hear
and eyes see each moment now with the best expectancy.

And fissures and fractures that divert us from
transformation to be healed, and lives that strain
from pressures of the world to be reinforced.

I call for a shepherding of our errant stories,
each one born of blood and bone, erupting with
a capacity for love: let us carry them to country and town.
And reimagine shards of beauty, breakage of sorrows
to remake and brace our living, a creation amid the harrowing.

This labyrinth of prayer is a minor strand of our tapestry.
We hail from a fathomless universe, crisscross earth
in designs of tender bodies. This is what is given us.
We are not ever quite lost as imagined. Nor alone in our cocoons of flesh.

A new time, the talk goes. A chance for reclamation, reaffirmation.

I give it credence, my face tilted to sky, then street.

May we grant favor to one another,
and hoist compassion, a torch from dawn to dark.
Greet peace upon entering and leaving each door, feet
casting off the chains of futility.

Here, my hands, joining the common circle.

Friday’s Passing Fancy/Poem: The Sound

No speaking, my love.

This must be the moment we remember.

Between one day and its night,

amber water and horizon below and above,

your hands and my hands.

Everything now envelops this northerly air

and we, it, even our faintest breaths,

mine alongside yours, and exhalations of shadowed seabirds,

orcas with their white bellies and eyepatches,

ghostly visitations here, in Puget Sound.

You yearn for all you cannot have, impatient with this life.

Those better parts of your desire where we are free,

set loose like wayfarers with no need of a compass.

But this moment feel the pull, pitch, roll of waves,

let your eyes awaken as sunset unveils its fire,

let soul alight, mine leaning into yours.

Take this breath, this welcome. Want for nothing.

For this, no speaking, my love.

Friday’s Passing Fancy/Poem: Seeking Truth

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Pexels.com

If the truth can set us free let’s seek it,

turn upside down our boxes of heaviness

and bore into them with eyes of hawks, golden orbs

that clarify options and magnify treasure.

May we find the dense, throbbing heart of matters.

Leave the rest, let it float past birch and cedar.

It costs too much to gather little lies into a deep nest

and avoid questions that are thorns; they burrow in.

Don’t these times leave us breathless? Humans can disguise

even deception with more that cannot be well undone.

Who do we fool? Who among us offers a story

that does not sweat, embrace and bleed?

Even the mighty. And the meek, no denial.

These times have hurt forgotten ones, small ones.

Have torn from us choices to go this way or that,

when before we sailed through what we thought

the good life, simpler truths bright as doves about us.

Flight comes badly to those who close their eyes.

And who too often doubt: checking too far below

obscures the way.

Have we forgotten the value and costs of freedom?

We can fall in a blink, inelegant. Faint. Clumsy with fear.

But rise up, step forward do not slide, slither backward.

It is shouldering into the next storm that we often do

with our bundles of longing to lift up in prayer.

Harboring anger whiplashed on our tongues, we soon

blame others, forgetting what is built in us.

A deeper core. Rare human energy: impetus for growth.

Such courage can reveal us, inches closer to victory.

We can more than endure, even make anew.

Discover a potency of humility, that alchemy of soul

and mind that brings change with no dishonor, no disregard.

This life is near weightless.

Lived so short: a circuitous day and night.

We were born whole. We can meld riven parts into one.

Can we live like a steady flame, even in and out

of the maw of coming upheavals?

We have before; we can do so now. Tomorrow.

Look, here I am beside you; you, beside another;

he/she/they/we, yet another.

Purge mouths of hate, elicit no rancor.

May we speak from our lightness, and no burdensome lies.

Easier goes the journey with shining eye,

willing feet, wings spread. We will sail.

What is once sought in earnest is more than twice gained.

Above photos, Cynthia Guenther Richardson