Monday, October 21, 2019

Sensational Curves
















Art: Mark Collins
https://markcollinsfineart.com/


Stick figures are drawn,
and then, hung.

As children, what were we
supposed to learn from that
about body image?

Sometimes, they called me
a stick figure. It wasn’t meant
to be nice. Once, in front of
the other kids, my coach handed
me a big tub of peanut butter
and told me to eat it.

I wondered if I’d ever have
curves and if I’d be lovable
then.

I thought:

“That would be sensational!”

~

When people think of flamingos,
I think they think of pink and,
then, legs. Maybe they stand there,
for a bit, contemplating that beak
that was put on upside down
and backwards.

But, you know, if you really watch
a flamingo, you must conclude
that they are all about showing
off their curves.

Strut right, leg up, forward, down.
Left, leg up, forward, down. Lean
in, twist just so, make it hippy,
lift a little wing.

Paying attention to me now?

Stretch the long neck out, up, angle,
slowly now, in, start to tuck, roll,
bring the head around, look at that
shape, the sensational curves!

Hold for a count of five.

Do you still think we are alone
in the universe?

~

Every day, well almost every day,
when the painter takes a walk down
to the stream, he picks up a pebble
and gives it a name. Something, like:

“Sensational.”

He started doing this for the poet,
but those little stones claimed
his life too.

So, now, when it lands in the water,
with a plink or a plop,
what ripples forth, in row after
row of curves, is a two-fold blessing.

We are not alone.

~
And, there’s at least one more
thing to say about curves.

Look to the right, to the left,
in front, behind. Turn your head
all around.

Pay attention now. Notice that
we are all lovable.

Isn’t that sensational!


© 2019/Jamie K. Reaser
For a book collaboration in progress with artist Mark Collins

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Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Autumn Rain
















Photo: (c) Jamie K. Reaser


There have been years, when the summer has
been so dry, that this wish arrives deep

in the soul, wanting autumn rains to yield to prayers.
I think that there are within us certain longings

that, no matter the rules of the times, find us
embodying our animal ways, the longings

that take us back to the realization that this
isn’t ours to control, that there is something else
out there that we depend on. Today, it’s the

rain and whoever it is that caretakes the rain.
And too, there is this thing that happens when

you realize that the earth is rejoicing along with
you—listen to the way it praises!—that some of our
desires are shared with things that are still enlivened
though it has become convenient to think them not.

So, this is what it is like to light the first fire in the
woodstove as the rain pelts the metal roof and I
consider that here too is another day to be grateful
for the company that keeps me alive.


© 2019/Jamie K. Reaser
From "Truth and Beauty" (a work in progress)

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Thursday, September 19, 2019

The Black Walnut Trees















Photo: (c) Jamie K. Reaser


When I arrived here things
were not as I had expected,
not at all, truth be told.
On my first night, I slept
out on the deck, under the
stars and the arm of a tree.
In the night, she came to me,
a bright shining she who
was the tree and she said,
“I know why you are here. The
land called you here.” With
that, she left, but I did not.
One day, a man came up the
drive in an old rust-bottomed
pick up. He thought me a fool.
“Mam, I see ya got these big
ol’ trees, dangerous, gonna fall
on yur place. I’ll cut ‘em fer ya,
even carry ‘em away, cheap.”
I know a thing or two about
being swindled, and also how
to talk like I’m from a place.
“Sir, ain’t nobody gonna touch
my black walnuts! Not today,
not ever. No, Sir, they ain’t.
Now, git!” He understood me.
The truck bumped its way back
down the drive at, quite remarkably,
twice the speed it had arrived.
He hasn’t called on me since.
So, the black walnut grove still
extends its arms, still embraces
my little cabin, still embraces me,
still knows secrets that
I haven’t yet learned
of myself.


© 2019/Jamie K. Reaser
Published in Conversations with Mary: Words of Attention and Devotion
Available through major online retailers

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Friday, September 13, 2019

The Necessary Voyage















Photo: (c) Jamie K. Reaser



When the birds have come to say, “wake and rise,”
I do, gathering my life into a bundle of severances,
resting words of gratitude on the brows of the departed,
some of them in mirrors, my heart used up in this place.

Not of all voyagers get maps or a compass that points
to something other than grief. Some must go without
bearing. Actually, the honest books, sermons, and town
criers say that many and many more are going this way,
just on from somewhere destroyed, hoping with an acrid,
musty hope that there is a healing land before them.
For a man to leave what he loves, there’s a good chance
he’s already died, or begun to and surely will.

Does one remain a citizen of a fallen city?
Shall I ask this of the woodland creatures? Shall I ask it
of my name and those who carried it into the world
before me over long distances because, well, because
love departed the soul of some person and place.

At my desk near a large picture window, I write and
and wonder while listening to the song of birds
who will soon lift and go. What can I inherit of this?
What’s there to make of the necessary voyage when
the land no longer offers a tending embrace.

I don’t know how the birds do it, keeping their glee
about it year after year. We humans aren’t built
like that it seems. Life after life it goes on, the
wretched longing for birth place, for story place,
for the place that made sense of us.

We arrive wounded, betrayed by the gods, weeping,
and impatient to love and be loved again. Looking
around I realize that we are all necessary voyagers.
How do I make my peace with that fact? How
do I reconcile my ability to hang seed for the birds,
but not to provision water in a desert, or a map and
compass to the great ship captain?


(c) 2019/Jamie K. Reaser
Published in Conversations with Mary: Words of Attention and Devotion
Available from major online book retailers

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Saturday, September 7, 2019

I Bow Down















Photo: (c) Jamie K. Reaser


I bow down.
I bow down to the sky that oversees
the liars and the truthsayers.
I bow down to the earth that conveys
the rich and the poor.
I bow down to the child that will lead
tomorrow and the child that leads
today and the child that must become
an angel because we won’t follow
the children otherwise.

What I stand for is that which
I bow down to:

that which says we’re not done
yet, there’s a lot more to learn
to love.


© 2019/Jamie K. Reaser
Published in Conversations with Mary
Available through major online retailers

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Tuesday, September 3, 2019

The Black Walnut Grove














Photo: (c) Jamie K. Reaser


My cabin is nestled in a black walnut grove. The grey-black trees stand tall and firm, like guardians. Their thick branches reach out and around, embracing. Lichen, moss, and vines adorn them in a manner that you’re sure is ceremonial. They are trees and not just trees, like in the way that you know you’ve had dreams that weren’t just dreams. I’m getting to that.

The black walnut is an edge species, meaning that it is neither of the forest nor the field. Its role is not to fit quite in. It’s also considered a pioneer species, meaning that it’s one of the first to show up when a place needs healing. It has been widely regarded for its utility: the dark wood—easily worked as hardwoods go—sap sugars, brown dye from the nut hulls, and nut meat and oil, despite the fact that it is one tough nut to crack. Medicinally, among other things, it has been used to address a wide range of skin and gut issues. 

I think I was in my late twenties when the first part of the dream came to me. I’m pretty sure that it was after my mother’s death. So, I would have been twenty-six, at least.

I was listening to a young woman talk about her stepmother. She was saying that the thing she appreciated most about her was her sense of gratitude. Her stepmother was a deeply grateful person. It was like gratitude was what her stepmother lived on—her breath, her sustenance. The young woman went on to say that when she was a child, she didn’t think much about it; it was just the way her stepmother was. However, as she grew older and began to frequent the edges of adult conversations, she started to learn things about her stepmother’s life before she had become her stepmother. Her stepmother’s life, she learned, had been difficult. At times, very difficult. This surprised her and impacted her deeply. She considered herself lucky. She was well loved and supported. To be truthful, she was quite privileged. If her stepmother could be so grateful despite an affluence of dark days, then certainly she could be more grateful for all that she had. She decided to become a grateful person, like her stepmother.

When I awoke from the dream, I thought it beautiful. It felt bittersweet—like something that exists at the interface of sadness and joy. It couldn’t fully occupy either sentiment, but contained both, actively. I was deeply moved by the thought of what it would be like to impart such a gift to a child, how it could transform a life, how it could transform some aspect of the world. I thought: I’m going to be grateful. I’m going adopt gratitude as a way of living. And, so, I did. Well, I’ve been trying my best, anyway.

The scientific name for the black walnut is Juglans nigra. The tree is literally of the gods; juglans is derived from jovis glans, meaning the nut of Jupiter, the king of the gods. In the Autumn, when the leaves are golden and the walnuts begin to crash down on my metal roof, it can feel like the gods are having something of a temper tantrum. Some people hate the trees for this and cut them away from their homes. I learned a long time ago neither to quarrel with nor dismiss the gods. They are usually up to something beyond mortal understanding. Although there has been many a night when the walnuts have awakened me from a deep sleep, a crash, bang, causing me to bolt upright in bed, I adore them still.

I adorn them sufficiently to want to grow their company. In large bushel baskets, I collect all of the nuts that fall in the driveway and on the decks. I then walk the thresholds, tossing the nuts to their destiny at the edges of my farm’s woods and meadow, along the stream courses, and at roadside, wherever they will be able to get sufficient moisture and light. If it wasn’t for my appreciation of their company, they wouldn’t be in this holler anymore. Over the decades that preceded my arrival, loggers removed all but my parent grove.

I think I was in my late forties, maybe fifty, when the second part of the dream came to me. It was short. This time, I wasn’t just listening to the story. I was watching the young woman standing behind a podium, speaking into a microphone, telling the story about her stepmother’s gratitude. People were listening. People were feeling. It was a funeral. It was my funeral. I had been the stepmother.

There’s a certain delight that I feel when I look down and, there before me, I see the first few inches of a young walnut sapling making its way into the world.


(c) 2019/Jamie K. Reaser
From "RidgeLines" (a work in progress)

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Thursday, August 29, 2019

One Guinea for a Second Look



















Art: Mark Collins
https://markcollinsfineart.com/


Their presence is unmistakable:
brightly colored, raucous flocks pecking
and dashing in collective frenzy across
dusty ground. They are of the day that
some god manifested, well, I don’t know.
There are brilliant acts of creation and
there are accidents to be learned from.
Is the telling of either entirely truthful?

~

Life often requires us to take a second
glance at the obvious. His brushes thought
they were going to be doing something
ordinary, but they didn’t. As you can see.
They never do. He’s incapable of observing
things in ordinary ways.

The poet, she found herself wondering
about her dark days of awkwardness, there
was cackling, and what a gift they had turned
out to be. And, a word found her: delightful.

~

So, these fowl birds. Let’s look again.
If I focus, I can see the possibility
of beauty in everything.


© 2019/Jamie K. Reaser
From a book collaboration in progress with artist Mark Collins

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