Honoring the Living On

Saturday, May 14, marked the 5th anniversary of my mother’s passing. Generally, some time in the week before the anniversary day, I’ll begin to notice undertow in my physical and psychic functions, as if entering a tunnel. It is always a mystery how when and how the phenomena show up.  This past week the phenomena did not seem so pronounced as they have been in years previous. Good, I thought, perhaps the process is completing. I supposed that, as we burn through the densest “unresolveds,” each year will bring a shorter tunnel, a milder altered state, until I’ll be left with only the slightest and sweetest souvenirs, little love-notes from the Deep Self.

For instance, this year, on the morning of the 14th, I awoke from a night of truly bizarre dreams, which scattered like cockroaches when I opened my eyes to the light. I didn’t chase them, and as I stirred about in the kitchen, the morning song came into focus. Not surprisingly, but still poignantly, it was a Crowded House song I’d not thought of for some time: “She Goes On,”  a remembrance of someone’s departed mum.

More happened to give that morning the special aura and fullness of times when the veils are thin. But that is the easiest to convey with words. Little significances and synchronicities presented throughout the day, ending with my discovering The Blind Side playing on T.V. shortly before I retired for bed. (It takes place in Memphis and features my mother’s alma mater, Ole Miss, and themes whose relevance I could sense in the nebula of intelligent mystery around me).

In the preceding days, I’d been sorting through my “Deep Save” box of keep sakes. I found a journal made for me by my father in the mid 80’s, collecting his poetry and some of my mother’s that he had rescued from the trash. When I first found it, I read in his writings, until they built a charge that sent me to the computer to write. That project isn’t finished.

Today, the 15th, I awoke completely out of it. After morning meditation and yoga practice, I prepared for a walk, but never got past the deck. I simply lay down, with my feet up the deck railing, until I had the juice to rise again. And when I did it was to return to bed. I rose again after 1 p.m., still swimmy, and I was good for very little all day but witnessing the inarticulable processes I could feel working on my energetic system.

This evening, I found the cache of my mother’s poems in the journal of Dad’s. They probably predate me, but they reveal the seeds of my own poetic impulses. To honor that and her, I share three of them here.  

The Brain’s a hungry animal

The brain’s a hungry animal,

distainful of its food;

it lets the meat of friendship rot

and gnaws on solitude.

Imprisoned in a bony cage

it paces like a wolf

and nothing, even liberty,

can ever bridge the gulf.

 

All being, all existing

All being, all existing

has darkness on each side

but is a state whose opposite

is better left untried.

All being, all existing is daring death to pounce;

but those who’ve tried not living

only try it once.

 

Parks

Parks are very private worlds;

pink-toed pigeons and dapper squirrels

will shut the door

on all but little boys an girls

or lovers, or the poor.

Exclusive membership is granted

to applicants starvation haunted,

to those who show upon request

certificates of loneliness;

to children, with their innocence

to serve as note of reference.

 

Rosemary S. Landon

 

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…In which Pooh learns Nothing is VERY Important…

Then Eeyore  stepped out from under his cloud and concluded,

E:         And yet, all is well.

            Just Love.

            Be Present.

Piglet (thoughtfully):

            Love….    Be Present.

E:         Be Love.

            Present Love.

            Love Presence.

Pooh (who had nodded off):

            Love Presents?!

E:         Pre-sense Love.

Piglet: What senses Love?

E:         Presence.

(on a roll now)

            And what Loves sense?

            Presence!

            What Presents Love?

            Love.

            And what Loves Presence?

            Love!

Christopher Robin:

            …What asks “What?”

E:         Presence!

Pooh:  What’s the Difference?

E:         Nothing.

 

What does this have to do with Mother’s Day?… you might well ask (particularly if you were Kanga, apparently the only mother in the Hundred Acre Wood). And here Owl would have to swoop down and unravel a rather tenuous syllogism for everyone (without actually using the word “syllogism,” which would cause Piglet to tremble and Pooh to nod off again).  

OWL: M had thought of calling that poem–if you can call it a poem–“Eeyore being Milne for Enso…,” which really makes very little sense, except that Enso is another name for Mu, which is another name for The Void, but which was–sort of –also the nick-name of the mother of her friend, A.   

Then OWL would have to pause, and, seeing that this illuminated no one, make something up.

“M’s mother very much appreciated Milne. She read it to all the dear children in her life, which made them love Milne, too.  M’s mother was a dear and remarkable creature. She loved Mozart,” Owl said, with knowing approval, “And she loved Cats, which, if they had wings, would be owls,” he added generously.  And then, with his gaze drifting to disguise incomprehension as irony, he concluded. “She also loved The Teletubbies.” And he paused, as if for portent…or perhaps for a rimshot, but all the monkeys were two jungles over being extras in a Rudyard Kipling story.

 

Happy Mother’s Day, everyone.

 

M

 

Two White Tulips

Canto I

Two white tulips, placed

in two inches of water

in the cup-holder on my dash-panel

for the drive home…

Here in this windshield hothouse

one opens its petals to welcome the sun like a lover.

The other soon hangs limp,

Without will or libido for life.

What a Mystery!

Who can predict

the hidden secrets of twins,

the seeds of divergent fate

within sisters tended by the same hand?

Once home, I transfer them into a bottle,

hoping the flaccid body of one

may awaken in the cool stillness.

But I forget to transfer the water into their vessel!

By morning, both are limp against the glass.

Heart pinched,

accepting responsibility but not defeat,

I add water.

In an hour, one bloom reaches again for the sky.

The other hasn’t stirred:

A tender testament to all the babies who…reconsidered.

…And to the stillborn dreams in every heart.

 

 

Canto II

I wrote three stanzas on Two White Tulips,

And though I supposed the story over,

I did not remove the sleeping sister from the vase:

The sight kept the poem alive before me–

a bittersweet nativity,

mythic with all we can not know.

Beneath my cognition, her fragile body full of something—

the sacredness of all things, perhaps,

and more.

The written poem and the live one took strength from incoming praise.

The surviving sister thrived;

the sun’s song filled her full-moon face with Life,

living for two,

but never fully eclipsing the muted mourning dove-song of the silent, still sister.

And as the afternoon progressed,

after the sun had given his best,

As if by will and contagion, she stirred.

Sleeping Beauty awakened.

A late bloomer…

Left to honor the dead and joining the living, at last,

straining her neck like a migrating goose

toward the only destination she knows,

and in the only timing.

And with her stir so many other secrets.

We do not know the treasure waiting within the sleeping ones.

What of the sister in a coma?

Or the sister unwanted in the womb?

Or the sister stigmatized with Down’s Syndrome

even before emerging to light the harsh world with

simplified, infectious enthusiasm?

It gives me pause:

This mystery and miracle so far beyond us,

outside of time.

We mis-define life as animation;

we believe in failure and mistake it for death.

How often do we give up too soon?

…On ourselves, on our sisters, on our “sinners,”

On late bloomers?

On all the elegant Tortoises in a Hare’s world?

 

Canto III

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Cinco de Mayo
New Mexico
M.L.

MayDay!

Snow…

Like ash…

Aloft …

and parachuting back to earth after its mission of purification;

In leisurely Sunday morning recreation,

Drifting the same direction that I walk—

a joyful traveller on a train to unknown wonder—

Flurries glide alongside me:

Village children, white teeth gleaming, racing the train for jubilation.

                                                                                                                                        

Then I turn

And my buoyant racing companions

Become innocent kamikazes on a collision course with my face,

Their gentle landings caught up abruptly

on the wool-clad whale of my body

cresting unexpected under their boats.

 

…And jostling vexation into the air–

That I would be swimming upstream, against the wind and current.

The branches reaching more often across my path now, like turnstiles,

Also brush my body with that question.

 

The wind picks up, as if whetted by the blood-sport,

Causing the innocents to strike harder, melt faster.

 

But the sound of my boots in the sand hasn’t changed;

Massages my senses with a savory sound: rhythmic, sure, benign.

 

Then a brilliant Blue bird,

an angel descended onto the battlefield,

Redeems all;

Pierces melancholy with miracle,

And then– his mission complete–

Disappears, literally, in the blink of my eye.

 

And the battalion of pale paratroopers thickens,

Swirling around me now as the wind further quickens,

Like water around a bow,

Each defining the other’s course,

And Slaloming, absolved,

in the ballet of the Tao.

m.l. 2016, Eldorado