the smell of wood, the scorch of fire … and a writing prompt to help you prepare for 100TPC

stumpsthis rough-barked sequoia stump, sitting in majesty
in its coastal home, victim of wildfire, burned down
to its gnarly roots, its nicks, holes and char, eons
of scars, life seemingly cut off, goddess snake alive
inside the concentric circles, the smell of wood and
scorch of fire, at the verge of our infinity, in its truth ~

pristine

rugged

pulsing

haunted by the geometry of limbs, the calculus of green,
the algebraic eloquence of a world within a world  ~

So present.

So essential.

So primal.

it sings to itself in the marrow of our bones

– Jamie Dedes

WRITING PROMPT

In preparation for The BeZine 100,000 Poets (and Friends) for Change

Saturday, Sept. 24, 2016

Theme: Environment/Environmental Injustice

This poem was originally written in 2014 for Wilderness Week. There were then and are now a number of fires raging in the western United States. Wildfires are a natural occurrence but since the 1980s they’ve been increasing due to human-caused climate change. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists . . .

Wildfires in the western United States have been . . . occurring nearly four times more often, burning more than six times the land area, and lasting almost five times as long (comparisons are between 1970-1986 and 1986-2003) ….. many of the areas that have seen these increases—such as Yosemite National Park and the Northern Rockies—are protected from or relatively unaffected by human land-use and behaviors. This suggests that climate change is a major factor driving the increase in wildfires.” MORE

We tend to look at these fires in terms of the expense incurred fighting them and the cost of lives, homes, habitat, wild life and so forth. However, there’s one consideration we may tend to forget: Nature teaches us, comforts us, feeds us and is the ebb and flow of our spiritual and physical lives. The loss – the environmental injustice – is profound on more than a material level. This is what the smell of wood, the scorch of fire seeks to illustrate. “Nature” is who we are. Nature is us.

Write a poem or creative nonfiction piece on what the natural environment means to you and perhaps the sense of loss you feel as you note plants, animals, insects and wilderness that you’ve seen damaged or destroyed by climate, industry, overpopulation and whatever else has effected the area in which you live.

© 2014, poem, Jamie Dedes (The Poet by Day), All rights reservedPhoto credit ~Bay Nature.org: “The Bay Nature Institute, based in Berkeley, California, is dedicated to educating the people of the San Francisco Bay Area about, and celebrating the beauty of, the surrounding natural world. We do so with the aim of inspiring residents to explore and preserve the diverse and unique natural heritage of the region, and of nurturing productive relationships among the many organizations and individuals working towards these same goals.” Read more HERE.

You are invited to join The Bardo Group Beguines at The BeZine blog on Saturday, September 24 for 100,000 Poets (and friends) for Change.  Below is a list of more features to provide you with information. We hope you’ll join us.

RELATED:

a man, a woman, a stick

(1921)

the stick stood in the corner of the kitchen
a constant threat; stoking, as it was meant to,
chronic intimidation

he had a man’s right to deliver his blows
to vent his anger and his self-contempt
to cause suffering for the insufferable

someone had to make it up to him,
his loss-of-face to race, creed and poverty

for her part, eve’s daughter was ripe,
shamed by her intrinsic sinfulness,
worn by her constant pregnancies

her femininity: tired and task-bound,
guilt flowing freely, as all-consuming as lava

[relief, only in death]

and the seventh child was born to die
and the man was demanding his bread

she wrapped the girl in swaddling cloth,
placed her gently by the stove, and
while the newborn made busy with dying,
the woman prepared him his meal

– Jamie Dedes
(2)_Cycle_of_abuse,_power_&_control_issues_in_domestic_abuse_situations

© 2015, poem, Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved; illustration source is the National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence, the photograph used here is by moggs oceanlane under CC BY 2.o license

Free, Female, Of Motley Race, Sixty-five

IMG_7727I’ve been known to chat with birds in public places
To rescue lost worms sizzling on the pavement in summer
To photograph the irrepressable in every garden
To weave music, emotion and story into poetry
I’m known to be free, female, of motley race and sixty-five

© 2015, poem and photograph, Jamie Dedes (The Poet by Day), All rights reserved

The April issue of The BeZine will publish here this Wednesday, the 15th.

We’re celebrating interNational Poetry Month

in concert with Second Light Network of Women Poets (SLN).*

The BeZine is a publication of Bequine Again and The Bardo Group.

* Second Light Nework of Women Poets is open world-wide to women poets over forty.  Affiliate membership is available for those under 40. Details on SLN’s website

In Other Words, Love

Scan“call me if you need anything,” you say ~
then the sweet swift chatter of the keyboard
birthing words into evergreen poet-trees,
my thoughts and your face, sometimes the
word is love, other times the word is love,
ubiquitous, omnipotent, found in the heart,
in the dictionary, in the mind of the child,
in the child’s mind that lives in the adult,
love everywhere, i see it written on your lips
as we talk of everyday things, i hear the word
with my heart when you say “good bye , Mom~
next week, we’ll go out for lunch…and a drive ~
along the scenic route,” … that says love too

© 2012, poem and photograph, Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved

Photo on 2014-03-31 at 17.16 #3unnamed-18JAMIE DEDES (The Poet by Day)~ I started blogging shortly after I retired as a way to maintain my sanity and to stay connected to the arts and the artful despite being mostly homebound. My Facebook pages are: Jamie Dedes (Arts and Humanities) and Simply Living, Living Simply.

With the help and support of talented bloggers and readers, I founded The Bardo Group because I feel that blogging offers a means to see one another in our simple humanity, as brothers and sisters and not as “other.” I am the poetry liaison and a member of the Core Team. Terri Stewart (Beguine Again) is in the lead position and the Beguine Again collaborative and The Bardo Group are coordinating a consolidation of the two groups.

“Good work, like good talk or any other form of worthwhile human relationship, depends upon being able to assume an extended shared world.” Stefan Collini (b. 1947), English Literary Critic and Professor of English Literature at Cambridge

Earthlings, Making the Compassionate Connection

Horrific. Devastating. Unflinching.  Earthlings goes where our willful ignorance fears to tread. Using undercover cameras it takes us inside of farms, dairies, slaughterhouses, labs that do animal testing, fur ranches and circuses. It shows us the pain our younger brothers and sisters in the animal kingdom suffer for our sake.

This documentary also shows us just how far we humans can go to debase ourselves: at least that was my reaction to seeing people skinning animals alive and leaving them to die slowly, hanging live cattle by the leg and slitting their throats, tossing live male chicks into a grinder to make feed, getting a laugh out of swinging chickens on a hook or tossing a live dog into the back of a garbage truck, and digging hooks into elephants to train them …

It was painful to see calves that are separated from their mothers to prepare them to be veal and of dairy cows, pigs and chickens going insane packed into small indoor spaces and never walking the good earth or seeing the blue sky.

A key point this movie makes is about the link between our ability to be cruel dominators of our fellow creatures in the animal kingdom with our ability to be cruel to other human beings. It shows the damage done to the environment as we pursue dominance over nature and not stewardship of it. Both thumbs up on this one. It’s the movie to watch – however difficult – for the sake of our humanity. I watched it to strengthen my vegan resolve. 

Earthlings is an antidote to willful ignorance.

The video below is the trailer for the movie. You can view the entire movie for free HERE.

Narrated by Academy Award Nominee Joaquin Phoenix and featuring music by the critically acclaimed platinum artist Moby, EARTHLINGS is a documentary film about humankind’s complete economic dependence on animals raised for pets, food, clothing, entertainment and scientific research. Using hidden cameras and never-before-seen footage, EARTHLINGS chronicles the day-to-day practices of the largest industries in the world, all of which rely entirely on animals for profit.

© 2011, review, Jamie Dedes All rights reserved

Photo on 2014-03-31 at 17.16 #3unnamed-18JAMIE DEDES (The Poet by Day)~I am a medically retired (disabled) elder and the mother of married son who is very dear. I started blogging shortly after I retired as a way to maintain my sanity and to stay connected to the arts and the artful despite being mostly homebound. My Facebook pages are: Jamie Dedes (Arts and Humanities) and Simply Living, Living Simply.

With the help and support of talented bloggers and readers, I founded The Bardo Group because I feel that blogging offers a means to see one another in our simple humanity, as brothers and sisters and not as “other.” I am the poetry liaison and a member of the Core Team. Terri Stewart (Beguine Again) is in the lead position and the Beguine Again collaborative and The Bardo Group are coordinating a consolidation of the two groups.

“Good work, like good talk or any other form of worthwhile human relationship, depends upon being able to assume an extended shared world.” Stefan Collini (b. 1947), English Literary Critic and Professor of English Literature at Cambridge

Done . . . and not done yet . . .

photo-37-1I watched it all over my friend’s dear shoulder,
that time of living while dying and celebrating ~
like a garden snake ~ the shedding of the skin,
the detritus of material man with its hungers and
wild, woody creative soul, sketching ruby-jeweled
memories in sand to be blown like a Tibetan mandala
across Timelessness . . .

while he,

lone monk,

gripped

by systems on systems of hospital wiring, billing,
approvals, and laws around funerals and burials,
estates, plans, and proposals for headstones and
the where, when, and how of a memorial service,
the left-overs of his life to be sorted, stashed, stored
or sent to the right people in the right places.

Done!

… as though there had been nothing. No one.

– Jamie Dedes

♥♥♥♥

NOT DONE YET

Dedicated to everyone who is living with dying. That would be all of us.

A Taiwanese advertisement based on a true story.
Inspiring. Give it a chance. It will make you smile … and maybe shed a tear or two.

© 2014, poem and photograph, Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved

Photo on 2014-03-31 at 17.16 #3unnamed-18JAMIE DEDES (The Poet by Day)~I am a medically retired (disabled) elder and the mother of married son who is very dear. I started blogging shortly after I retired as a way to maintain my sanity and to stay connected to the arts and the artful despite being mostly homebound. My Facebook pages are: Jamie Dedes (Arts and Humanities) and Simply Living, Living Simply.

With the help and support of talented bloggers and readers, I founded The Bardo Group because I feel that blogging offers a means to see one another in our simple humanity, as brothers and sisters and not as “other.” I am the poetry liaison and a member of the Core Team. Terri Stewart (Beguine Again) is in the lead position and the Beguine Again collaborative and The Bardo Group are coordinating a consolidation of the two groups.

“Good work, like good talk or any other form of worthwhile human relationship, depends upon being able to assume an extended shared world.” Stefan Collini (b. 1947), English Literary Critic and Professor of English Literature at Cambridge

Time of Orphaning

file0001349463653It’s tough when you are orphaned at seventy. I say that without rancor or irony. I’d known Mrs. O’Donall and her daughter for fifteen years, which at the time of this story was the entire length of my life.

The ladies – as everyone called them – were fixtures in our parish. Each morning they arrived at St. Anselm’s at precisely six-fifty for daily Mass. Their consistency was such that my mom said she could tell time by them. They generally made their way into church arm-in-arm and always sat in the first pew.

While the younger lady was fragile, tentative and wide-eyed, the older one was stern, sturdy and quick-minded. With her daughter in tow, she worked on the Annual Church Carnival Planning Committee and in the Women’s Auxiliary as well, relied upon to help the nuns clean the sacristy, press altar cloths and arrange flowers. Over time they left cleaning the sacristy to younger women.

Those two were always proper and powdered, wearing red lipstick and hats and gloves as if it was still the forties or fifties. Everyone called Miss O’Donall “Baby,” though she was seventy. In fact I never knew her real name until I read it in the in the church bulletin: “Patricia O’Donall of County Cork, Ireland and the widow of John is survived by their only daughter, Margaret O’Donall . . . ” Margaret, I thought. Well that doesn’t seem to suit her. Maggie maybe. I could see her being called Maggie.

****

Mrs. O’Donall was ninety-one when the call came and “a nice ripe old age it ‘tis,” said my mother. She was preparing stuffed cabbage for after the funeral. The gathering would be in the church hall and the funeral at St. Charles Cemetery, which is where everyone in our parish gets buried. It has green lawns, tree-lined walks and stone fences. Odd that the dead are buried in a more beautiful place than the ones in which they had lived.

The O’Donall place was owned by the church. It was a four story walk-up on 97th Street next to an empty lot and so old it had dumb-waiters with ropes on pulleys and rusty hot-water radiators that hissed and rattled. The halls and stairwells smelled of rancid oils and the walls were marked with I’d guess was about fifty-or-so years of grime and fingerprints. The old ladies lived on Mrs. O’Donall’s husband’s pension combined with Baby’s savings left from her working days.

I was at their place often, whenever they needed me to run errands or to help lug groceries up the stairs. Their apartment had one bedroom. Mrs. O’Donall slept in the bedroom and Baby slept in the livingroom on a daybed. They kept their place as scrubbed and as sparkling as they could get an old place like that, with paint peeling and the linoleum worn and yellowing and starting to curl. You could smell the mothballs they used in their closet.

Their furniture “had seen better days,” as my Gram would say. They had small replicas of the Irish tricolor and the American flag on the buffet, odd splashes of color in the midst of pragmatic tan and brown. The end tables and the backs and arms of the chairs and sofa were protected with crocheted doilies in the old way, crochet hooks and cotton being as constant in the old ladies hands as their prayer beads and almost as revered. You could count on them to ply their craft like you could count on having to study for the SATs and on your parents giving you a curfew. Whatever the ladies gifted you from crib to coffin would be crocheted. “And so you should be honored,” my mother had said, “that the ladies made something with their own hands for your birthday.” That was the last year before Mrs. O’Donall died. They gave me two white crocheted collars for my cardigans, but no one wears that kind of collar anymore.

****

Uncle Tom and Uncle Andy, my mother’s brothers, took Baby in charge throughout the days of the wake and during the funeral, taking turns to help her up-and-down the stairs at home and holding onto her so that she didn’t trip into the grave at the funeral. She wasn’t normally doddering, but it did seem she was in shock. Mom made sure Baby ate some dinner at night and helped her into bed and my aunt on my father’s side, Claire Marie, got Baby up each morning and made her Red Rose tea and steel-cut oatmeal with raisins, brown sugar and milk. She drank the tea but barely touched the oatmeal.

We all worried about how Baby would fare when the flurry of activity subsided and she was left alone with silence and the reality of her mother’s death. She was the subject of the Women’s Auxiliary as they wondered if they should create a rotation of its members to check on her each day and make sure she didn’t feel abandoned. They wondered if they should also call the county social services. “I don’t want to be mean,” said Mrs. St. John, “but we all have husbands and children to care for. Where’s the time?”

“Where’s the time indeed,” said my mother with five kids and a husband “who is really just another child after all and more helpless than the rest.” So in the end county social services was called and a Miss Antonio came to talk with my mom and Mrs. St. John. My mother opened the door to her knock and found the lady dressed in a snappy red pants suit and carrying a brown leather briefcase. “Not Irish, but she’s a nice young lady and got herself an education too.”

In the end Miss Antonio’s considered opinion was that Baby was too frail to live on her own and too emotionally unstable for her judgement to be trusted. Amid Baby’s tears and confusion, Miss Antonio and some others from county social services packed a bag with the “basics” and moved Baby to an old people’s home. Her furniture and other things were sold or otherwise disposed of.  Mom said that money from the sale went into some sort of trust account for Baby’s care along with her remaining savings.

After a couple of days, some of the women in the Auxiliary and one of the nuns visited Baby. They said she was grieving but that the home was nice and she’d be happy and safe there.  I wanted to see it for myself. I wanted to see if Baby was really okay in that place. About two weeks after the move, Mom finally said I could go visit.

****

The following Sunday after ten-o’clock Mass, I made the twelve-block hike in the summer heat, arriving sweaty and dry-mouthed. I was surprised to find that the home didn’t look like a home at all. It was more like a government building, a school or something. Institutional. I went to the front desk and asked to see Miss Margaret O’Donall. The receptionist – who didn’t look much older than I – politely pointed to the stairs and said, “Next floor. First room on your right.”

Baby’s room was nothing like her old apartment and wasn’t very homey. There was a small night-stand with a lamp by a single bed, its metal frame painted black. There was an oak dresser with a mirror attached and a padded arm chair. The floor was bare and the window barred. The bed was neatly made with a worn white chenille bedspread.

The room’s saving grace was a big maple outside the window. Someone had placed the chair so that Baby could sit and look at the tree and the birds and squirrels. You could see patches of blue between the buildings, though their high rising blocked any view of the horizon.

Whenever I visited Baby during the months that followed I’d find her sitting by that window. Staring. Silent. Almost breathless. After awhile she’d realize I was there. “Oh, our bonnie Bonnie,” she’d say, “Mother will be so glad to see you.” When the winter came, she asked me to buy her crochet cotton and hooks and she started crocheting again and all winter long Baby made bed jackets. “You know Mother,” she said, “she always feels the chill.”

That spring Baby joined Mrs. O’Donall. I went to the home one day to find her bed stripped and her things packed in two paper shopping bags. I brought everything home to my mom and she let me keep the bed jackets. It’s been two years and I’m still not sure what I should do with them, but I don’t want to let them go. I don’t want to erase my memory of Baby. I don’t want to forget how hard it is when the time of orphaning comes, even if it doesn’t come until I am old.

© 2014,  Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved; This short story is a fiction and any resemblence to anyone living or dead is coincidence. Photo credit ~ courtesy of morgueFile

Photo on 2014-03-31 at 17.16 #3unnamed-18JAMIE DEDES (The Poet by Day)~I am a medically retired (disabled) elder and the mother of married son who is very dear. I started blogging shortly after I retired as a way to maintain my sanity and to stay connected to the arts and the artful despite being mostly homebound. My Facebook pages are: Jamie Dedes (Arts and Humanities) and Simply Living, Living Simply.

With the help and support of talented bloggers and readers, I founded and host The Bardo Group because I feel that blogging offers a means to see one another in our simple humanity, as brothers and sisters and not as “other.”

“Good work, like good talk or any other form of worthwhile human relationship, depends upon being able to assume an extended shared world.” Stefan Collini (b. 1947), English Literary Critic and Professor of English Literature at Cambridge

swallowed whole

“I suspect there will never be a requiem for a dream, simply because it will destroy us before we have the opportunity to mourn its passing.” Hubert Sibley, Jr., Requiem for a Dream

we of the blue work-a-day Mondays,
stale “Pastor says” Sundays
and Veterans’ Day at the mall
where manufactured dreams are sold
they’ve fitted us with iron lungs
the muscle we use is not our own
our scripts are poorly written
our poems stillborn, our music silenced
by Madison Avenue, by financiers
and politicians, some teachers,
some preachers too
and entertainment news …
like carnival barkers, they hawk their wares
material addictions, stoked jingoism …
……for this …
we barter our minds, betray our souls
……Chumped!
we are swallowed whole

.

© 2010, poem, Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved; Illustration courtesy of Frits Ahlefeldt, Public Domain Pictures.net.

.

Photo on 2014-03-31 at 17.16 #3unnamed-18JAMIE DEDES (The Poet by Day)~I am a medically retired (disabled) elder and the mother of married son who is very dear. I started blogging shortly after I retired as a way to maintain my sanity and to stay connected to the arts and the artful despite being mostly homebound. My Facebook pages are: Jamie Dedes (Arts and Humanities) and Simply Living, Living Simply.

With the help and support of talented bloggers and readers, I founded and host The Bardo Group because I feel that blogging offers a means to see one another in our simple humanity, as brothers and sisters and not as “other.”

“Good work, like good talk or any other form of worthwhile human relationship, depends upon being able to assume an extended shared world.” Stefan Collini (b. 1947), English Literary Critic and Professor of English Literature at Cambridge

caressed by a white-lighted wrinkle in time

Big Sur, California
Big Sur, California

a bountiful dawn breaks along the beach,
the salty air rousing me out of bed to a
good morning dressed in silken pale, in soft
pastels, like violet and peach and the seduction
of a blue-green ocean that sighs with its ebb tides
and with its surge, it roars on slivered winds ~

between the whiles, how pleasant this tender verge,
softly caressed by a white-lighted wrinkle in time*

.
* A nod to Madeleine L’Engle 
© 2012, poem, Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved; photo by Caliliver and generously released into the public domain.

Photo on 2014-03-31 at 17.16 #3unnamed-18JAMIE DEDES (The Poet by Day)~I am a medically retired (disabled) elder and the mother of married son who is very dear. I started blogging shortly after I retired as a way to maintain my sanity and to stay connected to the arts and the artful despite being mostly homebound. My Facebook pages are: Jamie Dedes (Arts and Humanities) and Simply Living, Living Simply.

With the help and support of talented bloggers and readers, I founded and host The Bardo Group because I feel that blogging offers a means to see one another in our simple humanity, as brothers and sisters and not as “other.”

“Good work, like good talk or any other form of worthwhile human relationship, depends upon being able to assume an extended shared world.” Stefan Collini (b. 1947), English Literary Critic and Professor of English Literature at Cambridge

and then a new generation

10358082_10152372768442034_1234373728_n…and then a new generation …
a boy, an old soul
but a merry new story
fresh at bone and marrow
adhering to Conrad’s dictum
with little shocks and surprises
in every sentence of his book
his life, his metaphor . . .
wearing Truth as his dermis
seeking tears, not blood
and he, like all good art
changed me for the better

© 2014, poem, Jamie Dedes, Photograph courtesy of my cousin Dan, all rights reserved, from the family album, please be respectful

Photo on 2014-03-31 at 17.16 #3unnamed-18JAMIE DEDES (The Poet by Day)~I am a medically retired (disabled) elder and the mother of married son who is very dear. I started blogging shortly after I retired as a way to maintain my sanity and to stay connected to the arts and the artful despite being mostly homebound. My Facebook pages are: Jamie Dedes (Arts and Humanities) and Simply Living, Living Simply.

With the help and support of talented bloggers and readers, I founded and host The Bardo Group because I feel that blogging offers a means to see one another in our simple humanity, as brothers and sisters and not as “other.”

“Good work, like good talk or any other form of worthwhile human relationship, depends upon being able to assume an extended shared world.” Stefan Collini (b. 1947), English Literary Critic and Professor of English Literature at Cambridge

The Garden of My Heart

With all the strife in the world now, it seems a good thing to post something healing and peaceful.

Thich Nhat Hanh (b. 1926) Zen Monk, Dharma Teacher, Social Activist, Writer, Poet, Peacemaker

Thich Nhat Hanh is now recognized as a Dharmacharya and as the spiritual head of the Từ Hiếu Temple and associated monasteries. On May 1, 1966 at Từ Hiếu Temple, Thich Nhat Hanh received the “lamp transmission”, making him a Dharmacharya or Dharma Teacher, from Master Chân Thật. MORE [Wikipedia]

Though a Zen Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh combines traditional Zen with techniques from Theravada Buddhism, the wisdom of the Mahayana tradition, and ideas of modern Western psychology to teach meditation and spiritual values and practices in a way that resonates for people from diverse religious, political, and cultural backgrounds. He is a writer, poet, and peacemaker with over one-hundred books published, many in English. He was suggested for the Nobel Prize for Peace by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1967. He was nominated again 2013.

Since 1966, Thich Nhat Hanh has lived in exile. Based at Plum Village, a meditation community in the south of France, he is a leading Buddhist teacher, encouraging engaged Buddhism, a movement for social activism that he founded. He organizes and supports many worthwhile humanitarian efforts.

Thich Nhat Hahn coined the term “interbeing,” a pointer to the Buddhist principles of impermanence and non-self, which bring light to the idea and ideal of the inter-connectedness of all things. He founded The Order of Interbeing, the members of which include lay people. Link HERE to brief summaries of each of the fourteen mindfulness trainings of the Order of Interbeing.

“If in our daily lives we can smile, if we can be peaceful and happy, not only we, but everyone will profit from it. If we really know how to live, what better way to start the day than with a smile? Our smile affirms our awareness and determination to live in peace and joy. The source of a true smile is an awakened mind.” ~ from Peace is Every Step by Thich Nhat Hanh

Here is  a meditative interlude. The title of this post is a quote from the meditation, which is an excerpt from an album called Graceful Passages: A Companion for Living and Dying. It features spiritual teachers from many traditions offering advice to the dying … in other words, advice to all of us.

Photo on 2014-03-31 at 17.16 #3unnamed-18JAMIE DEDES (The Poet by Day)~I am a medically retired (disabled) elder and the mother of married son who is very dear. I started blogging shortly after I retired as a way to maintain my sanity, to stay connected to the arts and the artful despite being mostly homebound. My Facebook pages are: Jamie Dedes (Arts and Humanities) and Simply Living, Living Simply.

With the help and support of talented bloggers and readers, I founded and host The Bardo Group because I feel that blogging offers a means to see one another – no matter our tribe – in our simple humanity, as brothers and sisters and not as “other.”

“Good work, like good talk or any other form of worthwhile human relationship, depends upon being able to assume an extended shared world.” Stefan Collini (b. 1947), English Literary Critic and Professor of English Literature at Cambridge

Our Sighs Ride the Ebb-tides of Eternity …

 

On May 28, our group for people with life-threatening illnesses celebrated the lives of those who have already passed on. I was unable to attend the memorial service due to bronchitis, but I celebrate them, two of my family, and this wonderful group here today.

Our group is composed of people from several different religious traditions and is hosted by our local Insight Meditation Center. The group was founded and is run by a Buddhist chaplain who has been very kind and is a stalwart friend to each of us.

I no longer attend meetings. By some surely unearned grace, I am now considered “chronic and stable” and I’ve grown to the point that the news of death no longer disturbs me. The major take-away for me from this experience is that the only difference between having a medically predicted expiration date and not knowing when our time will come is that with a diagnosis, we no longer fall into those moments of denial. That’s a huge gift. Huge! The result is that we become present in each moment. 

Today, is my loving celebration of: Ann, Deborah, Dick, Ernie, Hilda, Mary, Parvathy, Robert, Mary Kate, Steve, Victor and to family lost in recent years: my former husband, Kirby (the most decent man I’ve ever known), and my cousin, Christopher, with whom I grew-up and who was like a brother … 

Each moment and every person is precious and beautiful and the only thing that really matters is how much we have loved and been loved and that – as survivors – we continue to live in the service of our families and those in need. In the end it would seem that’s the best way to honor the family and friends whose memory we treasure .

IMG_20140525_103644407Eternity flowed deftly through the last eight years
enfolding in her stream eleven with whom we
contemplated Knowledge and Mortality
Looking back, we ponder amazed at love among friends,
……….it blossoms fragrant, as gentle
……….as a dewy rose among thorns and thistles
We thrash and crawl and climb
……….puzzling
……….over the sea and fire that stalks us
Our hearts, cupped in one another’s hands
……….like castanets, beat in unison
Our measured moments grave lines in phantom fears,
……….they float like storm clouds above us
In words of jade, we speak elegies and encomiums
Our smiles mask our sorrows and yearning
Our laughter is love grown wild
We see each other in a thousand shapes and dreams
……….and in nameless names
Our sighs ride the ebb tides of Eternity
…..Another moment:
…..and even the sun will die
…..but our lotus song will echo on ….
……….We have lived! We have loved!

© 2014, poem and photograph (yellow roses traditionally symbolize friendship), Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved

Photo on 2014-03-31 at 17.16 #3unnamed-18JAMIE DEDES (The Poet by Day)~I am a medically retired (disabled) elder and the mother of married son who is very dear. I started blogging shortly after I retired as a way to maintain my sanity, to stay connected to the arts and the artful despite being mostly homebound. My Facebook pages are: Jamie Dedes (Arts and Humanities) and Simply Living, Living Simply.

With the help and support of talented bloggers and readers, I founded and host The Bardo Group because I feel that blogging offers a means to see one another – no matter our tribe – in our simple humanity, as brothers and sisters and not as “other.”

“Good work, like good talk or any other form of worthwhile human relationship, depends upon being able to assume an extended shared world.” Stefan Collini (b. 1947), English Literary Critic and Professor of English Literature at Cambridge

A Madwoman, A Madonna, A Medusa

640px-Medusa_by_Carvaggio-1What’s it to me?
A knotted and nasty old poet of introverted time
wearing five-dollar sweats
dressing in black on black,
silver earrings tinkling softly in the winter breeze
What’s it to me? …

A Madwoman, A Madonna, A Medusa
Traipsing neighborhood streets, city parks, country lanes
Nibbling on sharp yellow cheese and glossy red apples
Sitting down on some wayward curb to sigh in wonder at
noisy birds, children, wizened old men, whiskered grandmothers
Dogs walking their humans by the side of the road
Feral cats scratching a living of pigeon stuffed with stale bread

Muttering, muttering, whispering, watching, writing
Writing long poems and short about what it was to be us
through clocked days trapped in pointless, punctilious youth
Enjoying now the wild, gnarly randomness of life
and the music of our dusty blue souls jingling as we walk …
What’s it to me? What’s it to this so lately untamable me?

© 2013, poem and photographs, Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved; “Medusa” is in the public domain

Photo on 2014-03-31 at 17.16 #3unnamed-18JAMIE DEDES (The Poet by Day)~I am a medically retired (disabled) elder and the mother of married son who is very dear. I started blogging shortly after I retired as a way to maintain my sanity, to stay connected to the arts and the artful despite being mostly homebound. My Facebook pages are: Jamie Dedes (Arts and Humanities) and Simply Living, Living Simply.

With the help and support of talented bloggers and readers, I founded and host The Bardo Group because I feel that blogging offers a means to see one another – no matter our tribe – in our simple humanity, as brothers and sisters and not as “other.”

“Good work, like good talk or any other form of worthwhile human relationship, depends upon being able to assume an extended shared world.” Stefan Collini (b. 1947), English Literary Critic and Professor of English Literature at Cambridge

The View From My Place

1354462638grfgkThe winds in May are still rusty from winter
and our crystal spring arrives stop-and-go,
not here in full force yet this year, not dense
enough to clear the rust or make the iris

dance, though the poppies are present and
there are star lilies and peonies to tempt my
eye and my wallet at the grocery. They stand
alongside the strawberries, buxom and red
and on sale this morning. A sprightly breeze

blew me home with promises of summer
tenderness, of willow branches sashaying
and of wild grasses amassed in tangles that
attract the artist’s vision and able brush.
My purple orchid is thriving and the bees are

as fat as baby mice, clever and cute. On the
mossy margins of the northern side there
are human infants with their midnight tears
waiting to be dried by serious fathers who walk
deep purple streets in slow comforing rhythms,

their newborns gently held, heads wobbling
like little drunks dripping saliva on their dads’
49er sweatshirts, while moms catch a rare nap.
Watching quietly from my place in life, I poem.

© 2013, poem, Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved
Photo courtesy of morgueFile

Note: A recording of John Anstie reading this poem can be heard on John’s SoundCloud site HERE. John’s other readings may be heard HERE.

Photo on 2014-03-31 at 17.16 #3JAMIE DEDES (The Poet by Day)~ I am a mother and a medically retired (disabled) elder. The graces of poetry, art, music, writing and study continue to evolve as a sources of wonder and solace, as a creative outlet, and as a part of my spiritual practice.

Señora Ortega’s Frijoles

flores de la frijoles
las flores de frijoles

Her fate was set when she fell under the spell of his kind eyes and bigger than life personality. For his part, he loved her gentle ways, the fluid dance of her hands at work, the sensual swing of her hips as she walked to the market with basket in hand. And so it happened that in 1948, with her father’s permission and her mother’s tears, they were wed in the old adobe iglesia where uncounted generations of her family had been married before her. Not many months after the wedding, she kissed her parents and siblings goodbye, took a long loving look at her village, and she followed her new husband north to los Estados Unidos de América. She was already pregnant with Clarita.

****

As the days and years passed, they settled into their routines. Sunday mornings were her husband’s quiet time. He stayed at home while Señora Ortega and Clarita were at Mass. In their absence he would occasionally put down his newspaper and stir his wife’s frijoles simmering fragrant with pork, a few bay leaves, onions and garlic.

Last night: their Saturday ritual, she and Clarita had sorted and then washed the dried beans in cold water and left them to soak until morning. The child – fast becoming a young woman – took the time and care to do a good job of this. El trabajo es vertud. Work is virtue, Señora Ortega encouraged. In the tradition of Señora Ortega’s own madre, la cocina was a place of teaching – about food, about life, about being a woman, about being human.

“!Ten cuidado, hija!”  Be careful, she would say as she demonstrated her almost sacramental sorting of the dry beans. It was an opportunity to teach Clarita the dichos, the proverbs, of her mother and grandmother and all the grandmothers before. “Los frijoles son nuestra fuerza.” We get our strength from los frijoles, she taught Clarita just as her own mother taught her. Certainly the beans give the strength to our bodies, but also the strength to our character.  There are lessons. “¡Aqui!”  Remove these. Remove the wrinkled, the broken, the discolored or malformed. Remove them as you should remove flaws from your character. One bad frijole will ruin the whole pot.  Taparse con la misma cobija.* … You will be judged by the company you keep. Be cautious in your choice of friends.  Even the norteamericanos have such a saying: one bad apple spoils the bunch.

“Mama,” said Clarita, rolling her eyes after her mother’s latest speech. We are North Americans.” Señora Ortega’s brow furrowed when she heard this. She was given to worry about such reactions from her daughter. What of the child’s values?  It is true after all. My daughter is American. What does this mean for her future, for our relations, and for us as la familia?

****

Soon Señora Ortega had to put her concerns aside. It was springtime. Easter was upon them and with it a visit from her husband’s sister with her two small children. Señora Ortega and Clarita were busy with preparations. The air in her house smelled of poblanos roasting and cookies baking. They put fresh linens on the beds in the guest rooms. They picked flowers from her garden and set them in vases around the house. She gave in and bought chocolate Easter bunnies too, the silly convention of this country, but the children loved them and looked forward to them each year.

Finally the honored guests arrived and the house was filled with the cheerful noises of los niños. The boy and girl were now old enough to learn to prepare beans and, on the eve of Easter Sunday, Señora Ortega gave Clarita the task of showing the children how to sort los frijoles for cooking.  She looked on as Clarita explained the process. “!Ten cuidado, mis primos. Aqui! Remove these. Remove the wrinkled, the broken, the discolored or malformed.  Remove them as you should remove flaws from your character. Remember one bad frijole will ruin the whole pot. Be cautious in your choice of friends. Taparse con la misma cobija. You will be judged by the company you keep. “Los frijoles son nuestra fuerza.” Los frijoles are our strength.

****

At some point, Señora Ortega’s husband had come to stand by her side. She realized he was watching her as intently as she watched their daughter. He put his arm around her and held her close. “You see, mi querida, she is a good girl and you are a good mother. It’s gonna be okay …” “Am I that transparent,” thought Señora Ortega, but she sighed gratefully. All will be well. My mother was right. “Los frijoles son nuestra fuerza.” 

Taparse con la misma cobija – literally: to cover yourself with the same blanket, i.e. likely the same meaning as our expression “birds of a feather.”

© 2012, short story, Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved. This story is a fabrication and not meant to depict any specific person or persons living or dead. It is, however, meant to provide a slight view of immigrant concerns and to show how in some traditions values are passed from mother to daughter. Photo credit ~ Schnobby via Wikipedia under Creative Commons Share-Alike 3.0 unported license

Photo on 2014-03-31 at 17.16 #3– JAMIE DEDES (The Poet by Day)~ I am a mother and a medically retired (disabled) elder. The graces of poetry, art, music, writing and study continue to evolve as a sources of wonder and solace, as a creative outlet, and as a part of my spiritual practice.

because a poem is everything you can be …

Chirlane McCray by Kelly Weill, NYU Local.com
Chirlane McCray by Kelly Weill, NYU Local.com

CHIRLANE McCRAY is a writer and poet, a speechwriter and wife of New York City’s new (as of January 2014) mayor, Bill de Blasio. She is also the mother of two children, Chiara and Dante.

According to her bio on de Blasio’s website, “Chirlane began writing at a young age. In high school she discovered ways to use writing as a tool for activism. While studying at Wellesley College and the famed Radcliffe Publishing Course, Chirlane became a member of the Combahee River Collective, a pioneering black feminist collective, which inspired her to write groundbreaking prose and poetry.”

I’ve triend to find poems by Chirlane other than the one below, which is being featured by just about everyone in the New York blogosphere. No luck. The poems are probably out in the world somewhere, but try to bring one up in a search and you get bombarded by the overriding political effluvia and razzmatazz. Nonetheless, this is extraordinatry poem and the one – according to the man himself – that made de Blasio fall in love with her. It is from Home Girls: A Black Feminist Anthology. I happen to have a copy of Home Girls, so I know it’s the only poem of hers in that collection. I was unable to find Chirlane McCray’s poems in the other anthologies I own.

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 10: Public Advocate and mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio kisses his wife Chirlane McCray after voting in the New York City mayoral primary on September 10, 2013 (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK CITY: Public Advocate and then mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio kisses his wife, Chirlane, after voting in the mayoral primary on September 10, 2013 (photograph by Spencer Platt via Getty Images)

I Used To Think

I used to think
I can’t be a poet
because a poem is being everything you can be
in one moment,
speaking with lightning protest
unveiling a fiery intellect
or letting the words drift feather-soft
into the ears of strangers
who will suddenly understand
my beautiful and tortured soul.
But, I’ve spent my life as a Black girl
a nappy-headed, no-haired,
fat-lipped,
big-bottomed Black girl
and the poem will surely come out wrong
like me.

And, I don’t want everyone looking at me.

If I could be a cream-colored lovely
with gypsy curls,
someone’s pecan dream and sweet sensation,
I’d be

poetry in motion
without saying a word
and wouldn’t have to make sense if I did.
If I were beautiful, I could be angry and cute
instead of an evil, pouting mammy bitch
a nigger woman, passed over
conquested and passed over,
a nigger woman
to do it to in the bushes.

My mother tells me
I used to run home crying
that I wanted to be light like my sisters.
She shook her head and told me
there was nothing wrong with my color.
She didn’t tell me I was pretty
(so my head wouldn’t swell up).

Black girls cannot afford to
have illusions of grandeur,
not ass-kicking, too-loud-laughing,
mean and loose Black girls.

And even though in Afrika
I was mistaken for someone’s fine sister or cousin
or neighbor down the way,
even though I swore
never again to walk with my head down,
ashamed,
never to care
that those people who celebrate
the popular brand of beauty
don’t see me,
it still matters.

Looking for a job, it matters.
Standing next to my lover
when someone light gets that
“she ain’t nothin come home with me” expression
it matters.

But it’s not so bad now.
I can laugh about it,
trade stories and write poems
about all those put-downs,
my rage and hiding.
I’m through waiting for minds to change,
the 60’s didn’t put me on a throne
and as many years as I’ve been
Black like ebony
Black like the night
I have seen in the mirror
and the eyes of my sisters
that pretty is the woman in darkness
who flowers with loving

– Chirlane McCray

Photo on 2014-03-31 at 17.16 #3JAMIE DEDES (The Poet by Day)~ I am a medically retired (disabled) elder and the mother of a married son. The graces of poetry, art, music, writing and reading continue to evolve as a sources of wonder and solace, as creative outlets, and as a part of my spiritual practice. My Facebook pages are: Jamie Dedes (Arts and Humanities) and Simply Living, Living Simply.

A Hunger for Bone

800px-Big_Sur_Coast_California…….For Ann who died a year ago of a rare cancer of the bone

we scattered your relics, charred bone
blithe spirit, to be rocked by waves,
to be rocked into yourself, the rhythm
enchanting you with sapphire spume,
sighs merging your poetry with the ether,
rending our hearts of their shivered memories,
shattering the ocean floor with your dreams
lost in lapping lazuli tides, dependable ~
relief perhaps after pain-swollen years of
suckle on the shards of a capricious grace

those last weeks …
your restless sleeps disrupted by
medical monitors, their metallic pings
not unlike meditation bells calling to you,
bringing you to presence and contemplation,
while bags hung as prayer-flags on a zephyr,
fusing blood, salt, water
into collapsing veins, bleeding-out
under skin, yellowing and puce-stained,
fetid air filled, we came not with chant,
but the breath of love, we tumbled in
one-by-one to stand by you

to stand by you
when death arrived

and it arrived in sound, not in stealth,
broadcasting its jaundiced entrance
i am here, death bellowed on morphine
in slow drip, i am here death shouted,
offering tape to secure tubing, handing
you a standard-issue gown, oversized –
in washed-out blue, for your last journey
under the cold pale of fluorescent light

far from the evergreen life of your redwood forest,
eager and greedy, death snatched
your jazzy PJs, your bling and pedicures,
your journals and pens, your computer and
cat, death tried your dignity and identity
not quickly, no … in a tedious hospital bed,
extending torment, its rough tongue salting
your wounds, death’s hungering, a hunger
for bones, your frail white bones –
but you in your last exercise of will, thwarted death,
bequeathing your bones to the living sea

– Jamie Dedes

© 2013, poem, Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved * Photo ~ Big Sur in Central California looking south near the Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park by Joseph Plotz under CC A-SA 3.0 unported license

photo-on-2012-09-19-at-19-541JAMIE DEDES (The Poet by Day)~ I am a mother and a medically retired (disabled) elder. The graces of poetry, art, music, writing and reading continue to evolve as a sources of wonder and solace, as a creative outlet, and as a part of my spiritual practice.

through the ache of time

720px-52706main_hstorion_lgsee it moving – Life!
moving through the ache of time
seeking that place
where identity isn’t worn on a sleeve,
where individuals challenge the tribe,
where beauty frees itself from convention,
where the chain of fear dissolves

– Jamie Dedes

© 2013, poem, Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved * Photo credit ~ NASA, U.S. Public Domain

photo-on-2012-09-19-at-19-541JAMIE DEDES (The Poet by Day)~ I am a mother and a medically retired (disabled) elder. The graces of poetry, art, music, writing and reading continue to evolve as a sources of wonder and solace, as a creative outlet, and as a part of my spiritual practice.

Roger McGough and his “Mafia Cats” … fun and funny

said-and-done-s
I am only just now familiarizing myself with English poet Roger McGough’s work, having recently been introduced to it by a friend who sent me his poem, Mafia Cats. The presentation she sent me is the one HERE (scroll down), which I couldn’t load into this post. I think it’s the better one, though the one below is fun and funny too.

“Yes, you can feel very alone as a poet and you sometimes think, is it worth it? Is it worth carrying on? But because there were other poets, you became part of a scene. Even though they were very different writers, it makes it easier because you’re together.” Roger McGough

McGough is a prodigious writer with an apparently broad range. He has about fifty published books. Of a certain age – he is one of the Liverpool Poets (c.1960s) – he takes some inspiration from the Beats. It seems he belongs to several poetry societies and has a bit of alphabet jumble after his name, indicative of some of his country’s special honors: CBE – Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire and FRSL – Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. I’m always happy to see poets honored in this way.

Until I read more about him and much more of his poetry, I’ll just leave you with Roger McGough’s own reading of Mafia Cats, which will surely put a smile on your Wednesday face.

.

Don’t forget to join us this evening (7 p.m. PST) for Writers’ Fourth Wednesday prompt hosted by poet, writer and writing coach, Victoria C. Slotto. Mister Linky will remain open for seventy-two hours so that you can link in your own work in response to the prompt. Victoria and I will visit and comment.

Mafioas, Gypsy Rose
Mafiosa, Gypsy Rose

photo-on-2012-09-19-at-20-00JAMIE DEDES ~ I am a mother and a medically retired (disabled) elder. The graces of poetry, art, music, writing and reading continue to evolve as a sources of wonder and solace, as a creative outlet, and as a part of my spiritual practice. In addition to my blog, The Poet by Day, I have two Facebook Pages: Jamie Dedes, Arts and Humanities and Simply Living, Living Simply. (© Grandkitty photo by Karen Fayeth.)

drawing the world back into ourselves … celebrating Lung Leavin’ Day

Heather Von St. James is an eight-year survivor of mesothelioma – a rare cancer caused by asbestos exposure. She initiated Lung Leavin’ Day to encourge people to face their fears, whatever those fears might be. Together she and Jamie Dedes share some of their experiences with and victories over Interstitial Lung Disease (ILD) and encourage you care for yourself.

THE POET BY DAY

“Breathing involves a continual oscillation between exhaling and inhaling, offering ourselves to the world at one moment and drawing the world into ourselves at the next…” David Abram, Becoming Animal: An Earthly Cosmology

469px-Lungs_diagram_detailed.svgBreath: So necessary to the maintenance of life and so often a metaphor for life and spirit. Every year around this time, I take advantage of my blog to change the subject and write about diseases that harm the mechanism of breath, our lungs. I don’t do this to draw attention to myself. I do it to draw attention to the lung disease. I want people to be aware because Interstitial Lung Disease (ILD) can go undiagnosed or misdiagnosed and unattended for too long adding even more devastation to what is frankly horrific.

This year I was contacted by Heather Von St. James who wrote to me saying, ” I am an 8-year survivor of mesothelioma – a rare…

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