YOU MUST WALK THAT LONESOME VALLEY

Parts of the poem are sung to the song of the title. And the whole poem is based on the song's rhythm.

(Sing) You must walk that lonesome valley
You have to walk it by yourself
(Speak) The valley of longing
The valley of regret
The valley of despair
The valley of broken childhood
But you can be held.
(Sing) You have to walk it by yourself
(Speak)The valley of broken dreams
The valley of broken love
The valley of gratitude
The valley of patience
The valley of waiting
The valley of opportunity
(Sing) For nobody else
(Speak)
Can walk it for you
But you can be held
The valley of darkness
The valley of silence
The valley of light.
The valley of forgotten love.
The valley of plenitude.
The valley of perpetual longing...
(sing)
For nobody else can walk it for you...
(speak)
And you walk on your hands and knees
You walk running all the while
You walk whistling through your mouth
You walk slipping through the cracks
You walk crashing about
slogging, stumbling, breezing through...
(sing)
You walk it by yourself.
(speak)
And you shall be filled.
You shall be filled.
(sing)
Because we...
(speak)
We walk it
hand in hand
step by step
and when we walk it
Step by step,
we go
hand in hand
in the darkness
and in the light
and if we glance
when we glance
to the side
to the front
to the back
we will find
we are not alone.
Two by two
we are not alone.
Three by three
we are not alone.
to the side,
on and on,
we'll see
we actually walk
together
we walk
together.
though often it
doesn't seem
like together
we gotta see
through our heart--
which is never direct
which is never straightforward
which is never as it seems,
but then it is.

But you gotta
(sing)walk it
by yourself,
For nobody else
Can walk it for you...
(speak)
The walk adds
The walk contributes
Our knees get skinned
Our heads get bumped
Our sides split
Our throats get lumped
Our feet get tickled
Our skin gets parched
Our lips get kissed.
Our stomachs get filled
and then emptied
again
Our thirst gets slacked
Our fingers reach and grab
Our minds get bored
Our patience gets sore, split, excited, worn out, ramshackeled, evanescent,
rewarded, discouraged, enervated, redundant.

And we shall be filled
(sing)
But we must walk
it by ourself
(speak)
and together
we walk
together
we walk
to find ourselves out
to fill ourselves out
to find the spring in our step
the love behind the door
the footloose and fancy free
the mooring for our heart--
around the bend
beneath the waters
on top of the highest peak
we walk it by ourself
(sing)
for nobody else
can walk it for you...
that lonesome valley
(speak)
we walk in the same step
the same moment, at the same time
we just can't see it
but we are held
we are held
(sing)
you have to walk it by yourself.
(speak)
we build ourself in that valley
we find our sisterhood in that valley
our brotherhood
our familyhood
our nationhood
our worldhood
our neighborhood
we find peace
in that valley
our hearts are healed
in that valley
we continue there
in that valley
(sing)no where else.
(speak)
to walk is to lay down
the tread of our life.
(sing)
in that valley
we must walk
we must walk
(speak)
we walk,
in the valley of our heart
the valley of our pain
the valley of our love
the valley of life.


Notes: A wonderful version of the song this poem is based on is John Hurt's Jan. 2014 rendition. Just youtube it.

I realized this poem could be a "participatory" poem. You could easily add your own lines depending on what you are wrestling with at a given moment. That's what the poem is inviting you to do. And it's easy because the rhythms in this song are very forgiving.

An Invitation into Seeing

See, you have to
go beyond
The Flower Gate
for that is where love blooms.

Are you four petaled or five?
See, I know you are part
of The Garden.

Your stem
goes
into the ground —
that’s where
your roots
intermingle
with others.

  See, that’s where love
is found and
that’s where you
discover love
is part
  of death
and life.
Flowers tell you that
by their beauty.

I don’t know
more
than this.

I am just beginning
but beginning
is living.
(I do know this.)  

Do you see?
Tell me.
I want to know
the next step.

We can do this
together.

I know each one of us must find
our own way.

But the more of us there are
the clearer and easier the path.

Meet you in The Garden
we create.

To the Flower Garden

 

blush pinks, duckling yellows, forget-me-not blues, raspberry reds…

there is something about the softness
of a single petal
the way it curves around your finger
scent descending
lingering fresh
with the delicateness on the brink of life
with the fragility on the brink of death

this is the petal way

it beckons you beyond the flower gate

(I believe some words on the first line were inspired by a poem I read awhile back. It was beautiful. I cannot remember the title or who wrote it. So here is a shout out to the author who unfortunately shall remain anonymous.)


This poem has echoes of The Garden found in biblical yore, in literature, in song (Woodstock), and in echoes of spring. But, it also has it’s own true path, highly steeped in the feminine. May it open up or speak to a longing in you. For ecstatic traditions, the longing is the path.



Breakthrough

 

Breaking out of one is the hardest
break of all
the breaking of the toes
which feel too cripple
to walk

the breaking of the thumb
the pointer finger
when will it stop?

I look at myself, wonder
is there more to myself
than I

I turn my head, my
neck breaks, cracks
circles to include
a bit more,
a bit of a break,
for breaking
into myself
breaking my fear
of being alone
in this long life

I feel a terror, tremor of
being me
my knees break
bend
to come up
again
bend
up

I become shorter and taller than myself

And then,
my heart breaks
I shatter:
dislocation
dysfunction
dysmorphia
dystopia
“no foot loose and fancy free”

But, a falling, falling
fall    ing       fall     ing
fall    ing       fall/I am falling
falling fall/  

                into
 ALL

 

 

 

 

Thanksgiving

 

I have so much life around my house
Coyotes howl
Owls in their pas de deux calling
Fox, red and grey, weasels, raccoons
Bushy tailed squirrels, chipmunks, and quail
Slithering snakes—garter, gopher, and king
Blind moles, burrowing badgers
Turkeys gobbling, deer prancing, skunky stinks
Feral cats, bobcats, roof rats, bats
Cougars in the valley, a peacock on the roof
Waddling possums ’cross my path
Horses of course
And multiple wings—
Blue birds, black birds, red wing
Hummingbirds thrumming
Sparrows fighting, swallows swooping, wrens’ chirrup
Cedar wax wings, thrush, orioles
Cowbirds, grackles, chickadees, crows
Red tailed and red shouldered hawks
The great blue heron
Dark shadowed vultures
Seeking their prey
Crawling creatures with bellies so low
Lizards leaping, frogs a hopping, crickets whirring
Daddy-long-legs dancing up the door
I have so much in life to be grateful for.

What are you grateful for?

 

In Memoriam: For Kathleen and Rosemary

 

On Bernal hilltop
looking up
a strong wind hits my face
but only a hint of cold.

Fog rolls in big clumps
passes towards the horizon
and then…
downing sun lights up the sky
highlights the tiniest finger of
gathered air.
It gathers there.
And then…a
tendril of wispy cloud
sails right towards me
longer it grows
longer longer still
right o’er my head.

I felt like it could touch me.
Awe I am…and then…
touched am I
by the feathered wing of an angel.

Note:  They both liked clouds.

 

A Fly

 

When you’ve been alone all day—
even though you’ve talked to a neighbor
a mail man, a homeless man, a friend on
the phone:

There’s this fly. It started
the morning with a buzz.

Is it     inside?     out?     It’s in.
Damn, should I kill it dead?
Damn it dead, should I kill it, but with what?

Upstairs I go to the computer.
Back down again.
In the living room I sit on a big
leather chair.

Around it goes, passes me
By. Dives straight behind the clothes
on the rack
by the front door.

Jump up I, and run slinging open it
To whoosh IT out—but no luck for me
                                   no luck for it.
Hidden, no FLY zone.     Gone.    Done.

Out I go to buy food for dinner
Cook and chop. Chop to cook.
Saffron and basil. Chicken in chunks.

Down I sit at the dining room table
look up to see…
                                     my     friend     fly—  

Emily Dickinson and I.

 

 

LIVES

 

I.

I hear the seagull
crying across the waters
late at night.
Black crosses the moon.

II.

This is the time of my life.
I wake up, go back to sleep
Wake up
Go back
Wake, back
Up, up I/
/What form
Will I wake in
Next?

III.

My hooves hit the floor
A deer, a sheep
Centipede feet
Webbed toes,  feathered wings
A duck, an angel…

IV.

The nascent steps
Of a little one
Are hard
To hear
But they are there.

V.

The moon the moon the moon
Is the face of the child.

VI.

I cry across the waters.

 

THE WILD NIGHT OF SLEEP

 

White blue-moon
     with the brilliance of full
Sky indigo
     with a hint of Parrish

Like fallen stars,
     shimmer home lights
     on distant hills

Woozy me
     gowned in white
     with half lidded eyes

Down on my bed
I stretch to the moon
     revel in its peace
I release
     but then tighten
     from a worry way wondering:

What will I face
     in this dark world place
     of confounding
     rhythms and rhymes

Unwinding and knitting
     duo pattern of sleep,
     pearls garner
     from paradise

Wild night hold me
in your unfathomable arms

 

BLOSSOMS

 

Plum, apricot, cherry, apple
the trees have put on their finest
plumes of bloom.
Each flower bursts with water—
dripping blossoms weigh down boughs
in pendulous languor.

Sweet sweet promise

Everywhere i look—
rippling white down creeks
distant dots in crevasses
swaths of swirling crimson
pinks, whites—
each petal plumper.

Sweet sweet promise

One hill near Canfield Road
sports a wide white shawl
bordering the creek at its feet.
on on on on it goes
and when all of those petals are gone….

Promise promise promise promise.

The promise in the mouth

Sweet sweet promise

Plumsplumsplums
cherriescherriescherries
peachespeachespeaches
cherriespeachesplums         apples
the  promise in the mouth

And then I found
the queen of all trees
in my daughter's back yard
as wide as it was tall—
a cherry blossom cloud.

I bow down in beauty and
Sweet sweet promise.

 

 

FIRE FIRE FIRE Part I

 

I wanted to write about so many other things, but I couldn’t. I was there in Sebastopol with my family when the fire broke out. It had been such a sweet Sunday with a barbeque. So beautifully warm. Balmy evening—so rare in West County, Sonoma. And then a delicious strong warm wind which quickened our hearts.  It reminded me of the massive winds in the movie CHOCOLATE portentous.  We sang until 1:00 in the morning. Going to bed I looked out the window. Something was different about the sky. A subtle, glowing  haze in the far north.  Mmmmm, maybe a small fire.

In the morning I walked to the kitchen. Solemnity masked a frisson of fear. “The kids came to wake us up and we said it was too dark outside. It’s not time. We looked at our watches. The kids were right. The sun looked like the moon.”

There were scraps of burnt paper collected from outside. One was about 4 inches square, a remnant from a mortgage document blown in from Healdsburg. My son-in-law said he had witnessed many fires in Australia. When the land was this dry, all it took was one spark. You must know: my son-in-law is not an alarmist.

Outside. Ashes everywhere and more bits of paper. Erie yellow light reminiscent of sunset—except it wasn’t. Later others described it as feeling like “Armageddon.” Our animal bodies knew something was wrong.

What are the roads like? Could we even drive?  Traffic was bumper to bumper. Would it take hours? Would it be safe? Did we have enough gas? The air started getting better and so we waited. Waited. Hard not knowing what was best. Then the air got worse. Decision made. We left.

The drive home was not that bad, but then the harder part came.

Many many many  fires. They could not stop them. Houses upon houses incinerated to the ground. Fire safes melted. One friend’s house gone. All that was left was one blackened necklace. She and her family had barely made it out. Another friend’s house was 1 mile from the evacuated areas. People left anyway because the smoke was so bad.

Acres upon acres burned. Places we loved. Places in danger. Shock and Waiting…. Would more friends loose their homes, die? Would we loose our family home? Reading every text message from the emergency team to know what was happening. Tension in every beeping text as it came in night and day for days. Fire. Fire.  Fire.  No containment. No containment. More winds. More high temperatures.

Then shock again to realize how bad the smoke was in San Francisco. We had to wear masks on certain days. Day after day smoke.

I prayed for colder weather.

And now the more amorphous part. I was not there long but I was still traumatized. The first week I was dizzy, eyes hurt, had sleepless nights along with being drugged by sleep. I walked around in a daze forgetting everything. Sometimes not knowing what day it was. Foggy brain. The second week it all continued. The more I talked to people everywhere the more I realized I was not alone.. Everyone looked dazed.  Everyone knew people who were touched by the destruction. Everyone had favorite visiting places that may be ruined or are threatened by future fires. The suddenness, the river of fire, the vastness of it coming on the heels of a perfect day.

And the grieving: crying for the loss of so many people’s homes and land near my home town. Crying for the loss of places I loved. Landmarks, eateries, schools. I still don’t know if the woods around Lake Elsanjo have been destroyed. Crying for the loss of people, animals, trees, plants… But there was a grief I could not reach. Then I faced it: the  unswallowable behemouth of HUNDREDS of THOUSANDS of acres torched. The scourged land was crying. I could feel it. I could feel it and I could feel our people’s burned connection to it.

To feel is to unfreeze, to shift, to move, to let go, to go forward.

A good place to donate is the Redwood Empire Food Bank.

 

Grief: A Mysterious Lumbering Beast: An Article, a Poem, and Thoughts

 

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/23/magazine/the-rothko-chapel.html

Above is an article from The New York Times Magazine written by Jacqui Shine on beginning to grieve the death of her mother. She describes the complexities and process so clearly and speaks about how sitting in the Rothko Chapel helped her.

And here is a poem of mine:

THE RIVER OF HEARTBREAK

the river of heartbreak
glides slow today
moving me south...
I lie on my back
stiller than I've ever been

silent
as the rock—
longing...
we are alone
here
we are alone
and so still
we can feel the
white planes of
our faces—
the hollows
without bones

breathing in, out
past the place of
weeping remains...
feeling the river—
the continuing river
the holding river
the caring river,
carrying us south
slowly
to the unfreezing sun

St. Francis
knew this
Rumi
knew this
Emily Dickinson
knew this
Mirabai
for adornment
carved sorrow
to wooden
beads
hanging
from her
nipples—
she danced and sang
the river

 

I     float     home.

 

THOUGHTS

We all have spent time on this river. I have found if we let go, float, feel, and don't hold on,  we move towards healing. Others have also found that grief and joy are part of the same dance. I have experienced this in moments :-). And if the grief is severe or unbearable get help: friends, therapists, counselors, spiritual teachers, books—what ever it takes and however long it takes. I have done so many many times.