January Is On the Wane

file000592821988with a nod to Juana Inés de la Cruz

January is on the wane
leaving behind early dark and champagne hopes
for the genus Rosa. Wild or tame, they’re lovely.

Garden roses need pruning, solicitous cultivation ~
Layer shorter under taller, drape on trellises
and over pergolas, the promise of color and fragrance,
climbers retelling their stories in ballet up stone walls,
an heirloom lace of tea roses, a voluptuous panorama
rhymed with shrubs and rock roses in poetic repetition.
Feminine pulchritude: their majesties in royal reds
or sometimes subdued in pink or purple gentility,
a cadmium-yellow civil sensibility, their haute couture.

Is it the thorned rose we love or the way it mirrors us
in our own beauty and flaw and our flow into decrepitude?
They remind of our mortality with blooms, ebbs, and bows
to fate, a noble death to rise again in season, after Lazarus.
Divinely fulsome, the genus Rosa, sun-lighted reflexed ~
And January? January is ever on the wane.

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

Portrait by Fray Miguel de Herrera (1700-1789)
Portrait by Fray Miguel de Herrera (1700-1789)

The work that was the jumping off point for my poem is one by the Mexican nun, Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz (1551-1695), who lived during the time when Mexico was a part of the Spanish empire. Sor Juana was an ambitious writer, self-taught, and a Baroque poet. She belonged to the Order of St. Jerome. I am enamored of her work and find her life interesting. She was brilliant, independent and nonconforming.

Sor Juana was a writer, playwright and a Baroque poet. She was hungry for learning and was self-educated. From childhood, she set her own demanding educational goals. These three famous quotes of hers are telling:

“I don’t study to know more, but to ignore less.”

“One can perfectly well philosophize while cooking supper.”

“…for there seemed to be no cause for a head to be adorned with hair and naked of learning…”

For those who might be interested, here is her poem Rosa in Spanish and in English.

Rosa divina que en gentil cultura
eres, con tu fragrante sutileza,
magisterio purpureo en la belleza,
enseñanza nevada a la hermosura.
Amago de la humana arquitectura,
ejemplo de la vana gentileza,
en cuyo ser unió naturaleza
la cuna alegre y triste sepultura.
¡Cuán altiva en tu pompa, presumida,
soberbia, el riesgo de morir desdeñas,
y luego desmayada y encogida
de tu caduco ser das mustias señas,
con que con docta muerte y necia vida,
viviendo engañas y muriendo enseñas!

Rose, heaven’s flower versed in grace,
from your subtle censers you dispense
on beauty, scarlet homilies,
snowy lessons in loveliness.
Frail emblem of our human framing,
prophetess of cultivation’s ruin,
in whose chambers nature beds
the cradle’s joys in sepulchral gloom.
So haughty in your youth, presumptuous bloom,
so archly death’s approaches you disdained.
Yet even as blossoms soon fade and fray
to the tattered copes of our noon’s collapse –
so through life’s low masquerades and death’s high craft,
your living veils all your dying unmasks.

– Juana Inés de la Cruz

Illustration and poem in the public domain. Source of translation unknown.

photo-on-2012-09-19-at-19-541JAMIE DEDES (The Poet by Day)~ I am a mom 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.

it was the golden light …

800px-dovedale_by_moonlight_-_oberlini awoke
it was the golden light
the moon camping out
casting my room in the
glow of its fire

i thought
for a moment
unsure of my place
what city
what state
what day

seconds passed

slowly peeling away
the veil, the confusion
i melted into
the golden light
breathed myself
into sleep again

and done
as easily perhaps
as breathing into
eternal sleep
so frail and fragile
is this anchor
this silver thread
this castle of solitude
this just me
inside me
inside life

– Jamie Dedes

© 2013, poem, Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved
Illustration ~ from Allen Memorial Art Museum (Oberlin College) a photograph Joseph Wright of Derby’s (English Derby, 1734-1797) Dovedale by Moonlight (ca.1784-85). Description/details HERE. It’s original colors are greens and I have change the exposure and color to go with the poem.

photo-on-2012-09-19-at-19-541JAMIE DEDES (The Poet by Day)~ I am a mom 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.

I Want To Make It Sane Again

file0001824554659what must it be like for you in your part of the world?

there is only silence, I don’t know your name, i know only
that the fire of life makes us one in this, the human journey,
search and return, reaching for the sun, running through mud

walking the gauntlet without a prayer or a blessing

our eyes meet in secret, our hearts open on the fringe,
one breath and the wind blows, one tear and seas rise,
on the street where you live, your friends are all gone

the houses are crushed and the doves have flown

there is only silence, no children playing, no laughter
here and there a light remains to speak to you of loneliness,
my breath caught in my throat, i want to make it sane again

“Sometime they’ll give a war and nobody will come.”
Carl Sandburg (1878-1967), American poet, writer, and editor

– Jamie Dedes

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

photo-on-2012-09-19-at-19-541JAMIE DEDES (The Poet by Day)~ I am a mom 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.

“Let me tell you a story,” Nelson Mandela said

Nelson Mandela, 1937
Nselson Mandela, 1937

“If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.”

― Rudyard KiplingThe Collected Works

I appreciate this story of a story of Nelson Rolihlahla MandelaI appreciate it for many reasons, but most of all because storytelling is what we are about, whether our creativity expresses in music, theatre, or film, writing or poetry, or visual arts. We tell stories to – among other things – encourage positive change and healing, however modest. In this video we learn how Nelson Mandela used storytelling as leverage to make a big dream come true. It’s the ultimate use of storytelling.  It’s a bit of history and inspiration you won’t soon forget.

“We must use time wisely and forever realize that the time is always ripe to do right.” Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela (1918-2013)

South African anti-apartheid revolutionary, politician and philanthropist, former President of South Africa, first Black South African to be elected in a democratic election, a nationalist, a democratic socialist, a former President of the African Congress, husband, father, friend, inspiration, prophet

His work done. He is resting in peace … no doubt.

It is up to us to carry his vision forward.

Photograph in the U.S. public domain

photo-on-2012-09-19-at-19-541JAMIE DEDES (The Poet by Day)~ I am a mom 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. The gift of blog offers a platform for having my say and a means to maintain off-line and online friendships with others who value the arts and humanities and favor the causes of peace.

“Petrichor Rising” and how the Twitterverse birthed friendships that in turn birthed a poetry collection

This collaboration by the Grass Roots Poetry Group is a wonderful example of how social networking can work at its very best. This feature is the companion piece to John Anstie’s Bardo post on Monday, “To Edit, Perchance to Publish …” and includes an interesting interview with John as well as a brief review of the book. Several take-away lessons from the GRPG collaboration. Enjoy! Jamie


product_thumbnail-3.php“I always had this notion that you earned your living and that poetry was a grace.” Seamus Heaney (1939-2013), Irish, poet, playwright, translator, educator and Nobel Prize winner

I’m sure my friend, John Anstie, poet and renaissance man, The Bardo Group core team member, and editor of and contributor to Petrichor Rising (eBook and paperback), a 2013 poetry collection of The Grass Roots Poetry Group (GRPG), would prefer that I focused on the poems and the collection. The former feature-writer in me still loves a good story though. (Forgive me, John!) The coming together of this group and the publication of their collection is as good a story as any and better than most … and hence, I break my usual self-imposed word limit on posts. Read on … You may recognize yourself in some of this …

“I do accounting. I am a writer.” an…

View original post 1,772 more words

Our Cassandra


Our Cassandra’s agony


in poems of prophecy

and breaks our hearts

upon the stone

of her insanity

She calls on death

to visit

one self-appointed night

And we,

her guardian angels,

wearied by her fight


we soldier on

with all our might

©2012,poem,Jamie Dedes,All rights reserved * Illustration ~painting/Cassandra by Evelyn De Morgan (1885-1919), U.S. public domain photograph

Photo on 2012-09-19 at 20.00JAMIE DEDES ~ My worldly tags are poet and writer. I am in my sixth year of blogging at The Poet by Day,the journey in poem, formerly titled Musing by Moonlight.  Poetry is my spiritual practice. Through the gift of poetry (mine and that of others), I enter sacred space.


[It is two years since I had what I can only describe as a powerful spiritual experience. I wrote about it at some length in an essay entitled “Child-God: Model for our Future… or Victim of our Failure?“. In brief, it was the result of spending a few short hours with my new grandson, my eldest daughter’s second child, in my arms, in the presence of my family. He was then a mere 7 days old. Last week, my son’s wife delivered me another grandson, whom I held for the first time at the age of five days. Although delivered at full term, he is still so tiny and vulnerable and it doesn’t matter how many new-born babies I see, their smallness never ceases to surprise me. The experience of holding my latest grandson, reminded me of this poem] …

baby-13719870150asI walked and wandered,
we talked, I sang,
but also had to sit awhile
for what seemed like an age.
You’d had a surfeit at the bar
you had leaked a bit
from both ends…
and seemed uncomfortable,
unhappy, not surprisingly.

This meant I had to change
your clothes completely!
I struggled for a while,
wishing this messy,
ear-rending moment away
but then…
amidst your own discomfort,
over which you sadly held
little or no control,
I saw a light, it wasn’t bright,
but bright enough;
slow burning, illuminating;
an oh so gentle warmth
that melted my impatient heart
and conferred on me
an unexpected gift
that no amount of money
could ever buy.

How is it that
we all spend so much time
chasing dreams;
seeking solutions
to problems we created;
searching for answers
to humanity’s eternal questions?
Craving, wanting, longing,
ever wishing for a bit
of luck, good fortune,
a favourable turn of dice;
that our numbers will come up
in life’s great lottery.

Don’t we all sometimes wish
for an elusive piece
of impossible magic,
the simple thought of which
dopes our senses
stupefies our rational thought;
makes us wish
that each of our Mondays
was a Friday;
dissolving our conscious lives
into hopelessness
and misery?

How then our dark, dark souls
so easily fall prey
to the business solutions
of Beelzebub;
to the chemical dependencies
of a crowded world;
the release afforded by
a liquid paradise;
perversely powdered

And yet…

and yet you,
all ten pounds of you,
after venting your lungs
– designed to strengthen them
against future exertions –
were unexpectedly becalmed.
As if absorbed by my plight,
your eyes lit up
by dark pools of the universe
and sucked me in…
hook, line and sinker.

Why could I not see this before,
this embodiment of all that’s good;
this absolute alcohol,
intoxicating, enthralling
absorbing and healing my soul,
melting my heart
into complete and utter
submission to your will.
And when you started to cry again,
it didn’t hurt so much,
the pain in my head subdued
as my whole system absorbed
this powerful essence
of you.

You then relaxed
and shuddered with a sigh
and I felt your body go
completely limp.
It was as if you
had made up your mind
to place your trust in me.
I felt an awesome responsibility.

Then, at once, I looked at you,
as if transformed;
you had cast your magic spell,
as if you had become the very thing
that, instinctively, I know you are;
know that you, who have
no knowledge,
no biass or understanding,
no prejudice, no judgement,
no hint of avarice or greed,
must be protected
from the repeated corruption
that man bestows upon man;
woman upon woman;
protected at all costs,
at any price…
with my life.

You are the Child-God,
the spiritual repository
of all of mankind’s hopes
and dreams:

the embodiment…

…of perfection

– John Anstie

(Read the author’s commentary on this Poem)

© 2011 John Anstie, All rights reserved
Photo credit ~ George Hoden, Public Domain Pictures.net

John_in_Pose_Half_Face351w-rH34dTL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_JOHN ANSTIE (My Poetry Library and 42) ~ is a British poet and writer, a contributing editor here at Bardo, and multi-talented gentleman self-described as a “Family man, Grandfather, Occasional Musician, Amateur photographer and Film-maker, Apple-MAC user, Implementation Manager, and Engineer. John participates in d’Verse Poet’s Pub and is a player in New World Creative Union. He’s been blogging since the beginning of 2011. John is also an active member of The Poetry Society (cover1UK).

John has been involved in the recent publication of two anthologies that are the result of online collaborations among two international groups of amateur and professional poets. One of these is The Grass Roots Poetry Group, for which he produced and edited their anthology, “Petrichor* Rising. The other group is d’Verse Poet Pub, in which John’s poetry also appears The d’Verse Anthology: Voices of Contemporary World Poetry, produced and edited by Frank Watson.

* Petrichor – from the Greek pɛtrɨkər, the scent of rain on the dry earth.

one lifetime after another

Angel and Dove, original watercolor by Gretchen Del Rio, all rights reserved
Angel and Dove, original watercolor by Gretchen Del Rio

one day, you’ll see, i’ll come back to hobnob
with ravens, to fly with the crows at the moment
of apple blossoms and the scent of magnolia ~
look for me winging among the white geese
in their practical formation, migrating to be here,
to keep house for you by the river …

i’ll be home in time for the bees in their slow heavy
search for nectar, when the grass unfurls, nib tipped ~
you’ll sense me as soft and fresh as a rose,
as gentle as a breeze of butterfly wings . . .

i’ll return to honor daisies in the depths of innocence,
i’ll be the raindrops rising dew-like on your brow ~
you’ll see me sliding happy down a comely jacaranda,
as feral as the wind circling the crape myrtle, you’ll
find me waiting, a small gray dove in the dovecot,
loving you, one lifetime after another.

– Jamie Dedes

© 2013, poem , Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved
© Illustration ~ Gretchen Del Rio, used here with Gretchen’s permission, All rights reserved

Photo on 2012-09-19 at 20.00JAMIE DEDES ~ My worldly tags are poet and writer. My most meaningful tags are mother and daughter. This is my sixth year of blogging  at The Poet by Day,the journey in poem, formerly titled Musing by Moonlight.  I’ve hosted The Bardo Group (formerly Into the Bardo) for three years come 22 February 2014. Through the gift of poetry (mine and that of others), I enter sacred space.

THE TIPPING POINT: Good will from and toward women and men everywhere!

Nativité_de_CostaThis is simultaneously blogged on Rev. Terri Stewart’s blog and my own personal blog.

Today begins the first day of our Terri Stewart’s Advent event. There are many bloggers participating in this event. Each day of the Christian celebration of Advent will be sponsored by a different blogger who will post appropriately on his or her site. Their posts will also go up on Terri’s site and the kick-off is on Into the Bardo today.

If you follow Into the Bardo  regularly, you know that we share work here that is not necessarily religious but is reflective of diverse cultures and spiritual paths and representative of universal human values, however differently they might be expressed. This is a space where we hope you’ll delight in learning how much you have in common with “other” peoples.

We acknowledge that there are enormous theological differences and historical resentments that carve wedges among and within the traditions, but we believe that ultimately self-preservation, common sense, and human solidarity will empower connections and collaboration and overcome division and disorder. We work for the tipping point when compromise – an admittedly imperfect peace – will overcome war and respect for life will topple resentment. That may not happen in our time, but it has to start somewhere and sometime and this is our modest contribution toward an end for which diverse people the world over are working.

For those who are not Christian, Advent is the period of time leading up to the Nativity of Christ (Christmas). It is celebrated somewhat differently by different Christian sects and by Roman and Eastern Catholics and Eastern Orthodox churches. I think the details of the celebrations are less important than the scriptural quote for the day …

James 4:1-3
1 Those conflicts and disputes among you, where do they come from? Do they not come from your cravings that are at war within you? 2 You want something and do not have it; so you commit murder. And you covet something and cannot obtain it; so you engage in disputes and conflicts. You do not have, because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, in order to spend what you get on your pleasures.

Indeed, where do the conflicts and disputes originate: in the cravings that make us restless within ourselves, in coveting things or situations we don’t have (and may not really need), and in not using right means for just ends? These are appropriate considerations as we approach the annual celebration of the “Prince of Peace,” a celebration which is in the end a call for compassion and understanding.

May our compassion have legs.

The tipping point:

… and Happy Thanksgiving and Happy Hanukkah to those who are celebrating  …

Follow the entire Advent season
with Terri Stewart HERE.

… If you are so inclined, we would be grateful to have this post reblogged. Thank you! …

– Jamie Dedes

© 2013, essay, Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved
Photo credit ~ Pramzan via Wikipedia under CC A-SA 3.0 Unported 2.5 Generic, 2.0 Generic, 1.0 Generic license

Photo on 2012-09-19 at 20.00JAMIE DEDES ~ Poetry remains a gift in disability and medical retirement. It’s a compact thing that I can still manage. I am the founder and host of Into the Bardo, a spirited international collaborative of word-play, music, art and photography where our core team members function independently and yet with a remarkable synergy. They do everything. They are the stars. I have simply created a space in which to share.

For the past five years I’ve blogged at The Poet by Day, the journey in poem, formerly titled Musing by Moonlight (hence the url). Poetry is my spiritual practice.

Life, Death, and Poetry

Monterey Cypress at Carmel-by-the-Sea
Monterey Cypress at Carmel-by-the-Sea

the mindful peace of the cypress beckons,
she bows in the wind but doesn’t break,
she knows well the moments, but nothing of time
her poetry is written in presence, not words

in this business of life, of death and of poetry
today is, i think, best forgotten ~
just a figment, after all, an old locked-room mystery,
stored among a million neurons, a trillion connections,
soundproof, but for the occasional cerebral accident
with its quick crack of a gunshot fading into a yellow eye,
watching with an understandable fatalism

life, as it turns out, is a matter of imagination,
or folly, nurturing the seesaw of grief and joy,
the contrapuntal pulls of yin and yang

we can reframe, but we can’t rewrite
there are no encores

this business of life, of death and of poetry is what it is
and the past is not a salve nor the future a savior,
the same sun that warms words poemed into life
will dry our skin to leather and weld it to bone ~

moss, says the poet, will cover up our names*

it’s best then, i think, to mimic the cypress
to let go the days, the clutter and the noise,
to bow – but not snap – in the wind,
to know well the moments, but nothing of time

– Jamie Dedes

* I Died for Beauty (“Until the moss had reached our lips,/And covered up our names.”), Emily Dickinson

© 2013, poem , Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved
Photo credit ~ Amadscientist via Wikipedia under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

Photo on 2012-09-19 at 20.00JAMIE DEDES ~ My worldly tags are poet and writer. For the past five years I’ve blogged at The Poet by Day,the journey in poem, formerly titled Musing by Moonlight.  Through the gift of poetry (mine and that of others), I enter sacred space.

sleeping without walls

My mom died twenty-two years ago this month. She has been much on my mind these past few weeks.

squeezing a penny

my mother never knew the names for things
the trees were just trees, the flowers just flowers,
but she knew life as a sigh and love as a linchpin
and how to get to work and maneuver in the dark,
she could squeeze a penny and was known to force
tired feet into worn shoes, she could make them dance

Mom and Me 1950, Brooklyn
Mom and Me
1950, Brooklyn, NY

sleeping without walls

camp that year taught the art of sleeping outside
sleeping without walls, watching the stars and moon,
gathering dreams from sunsets and morning dew

we slept in bed-rolls configured of old white sheets
and army blankets made of itchy khaki-colored wool
i wondered if my uncles slept on them during the war,
as I wondered about many things, many things …
and that summer held other delights, climbing trees
and eating cherries without washing them, oh!

and there were blueberry bushes and fig trees and
i lined the path to our food hut with odd sunday stones,
my own bare prayer while the big girls were at Mass,
i marveled at my middle-aged mother’s plump knees
and marked her spirit for wearing shorts and for her
joining in children’s games and singing ‘round the fire

now i wonder at summer camp morphing into metaphor ~
all our lives we did those things: gathering dreams,
mom and me, outsider artists sleeping without walls

Mom and me 1980, San Francisco, CA
Mom and me
1980, San Francisco, CA

in the shadow of the moon

like lucid dreaming, like light-infused rain drops and
the untarnished silver stars above country terrain,
my mother calls to me from the shadow of the moon
my father beams his smile at me from the milky way
gone and gone, still their essence scents my nights

– Jamie Dedes

© 2013, poems and family photos, Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved

Photo on 2012-09-19 at 20.00JAMIE DEDES ~ My worldly tags are poet and writer. For nearly six years I’ve blogged at The Poet by Day,the journey in poem, formerly titled Musing by Moonlight.  Through the gift of poetry (mine and that of others), I enter sacred space.

she leaps from the cleavage of time . . .

she’s present
returned to bite through the umbilical of tradition,
to flick her tongue
and cut loose the animus-god of our parents,
like a panther she roams the earth, she is eve wild in the night,
freeing minds from hard shells
and hearts from the confines of their cages,
she’s entwined in the woodlands of our psyches
and offers her silken locks to the sacred forests of our souls ~
naked but for her righteousness,
she stands in primal light,
in the untrammeled river of dreams
the yin to balance yang
the cup of peace to uncross the swords of war ~
through the eons she’s been waiting for her time
her quiet numinosity hiding in the phenomenal world,
in the cyclical renewal of mother earth,
whispering to us as the silver intuition of grandmother moon
watching us as the warm vigilance of father sun ~
she, omen of peace birthed out of the dark,
even as tradition tries to block her return,
her power leaps from the cleavage of time


– Jamie Dedes

Original water color by Gretchen Del Rio
Original water color by Gretchen Del Rio

©2013, poem, Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved 

Illustration ~ this lovely watercolor painting by Gretchen Del Rio with its girl-tree, panther and other spirit animals seemed the perfect illustration for my poem on the spiritual return of the feminine. The real back-story on the painting is just as interesting. Gretchen says, “I painted this for a 14 year old Navaho girl. It is for her protection and her power. She sees auras and is very disturbed by this. She is just amazing. Beauty beyond any words. You can see into the soul of the universe when you look at her eyes. She has no idea. I loved her the moment I saw her. My blessings for her well being are woven into the art.” Such a charming piece. I posted it full-size so that everyone can enjoy the detail. Bravo, Gretchen, and thank you. J.D.

Photo on 2012-09-19 at 20.00JAMIE DEDES ~ My worldly tags are poet and writer. For nearly six years I’ve blogged at The Poet by Day,the journey in poem, formerly titled Musing by Moonlight.  Through the gift of poetry (mine and that of others), I enter sacred space.

Attn.: Poets and Writers

Victoria C. Slotto’s Writers’ Fourth Wednesday is tonight.

7 p.m. P.S.T. here on Into the Bardo

See you then …

I Remember the Amber Moon

file3761333734081When I remember you
I remember the amber moon
the burnished brown of the old oaks
their leaves like hands waving goodbye
As dusk transitioned to dark, stars alight,
we sat on the beach by slow cooking-fires,
their coals gone from hard black to gray dust
I cherished your warm hug in the chill of the night
and falling asleep, safe

I stopped loving you,
but I never stopped loving the memory of you
I carry that with me on lunatic trips of the heart ~
though my preference is to rest solitary on forest logs
with their stunning imperfections and
the secret-lives swirling in the sunless damp on which they rest

I think of the path that led from then to now,
a mix of smooth and rough along a rocky coast
I live near the sea to breath
I imagine you living, wherever you are
by an ocean with your skin still smelling of Old Spice,
with your well-formed hands, the hands of a pianist and surgeon,
and the high-tensile strength of your mind

In the odd geography of life, no one knows where we came from
or how it was, how it felt to be us in the days of promise
when the spell of Hudson Bay felt like a prayer to St. Christopher
That bay is no longer our safe harbor,
but it gave us our sturdy roots and strong wings
and so the nights, the nights by this bay are good
When I smile at the amber moon, it smiles at you

– Jamie Dedes

© 2013, poem, Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved 
Photo credit ~ Anne Lowe, Public Domain Pictures.net

Photo on 2012-09-19 at 20.00JAMIE DEDES ~ My worldly tags are poet and writer. For the past five years I’ve blogged at The Poet by Day,the journey in poem, formerly titled Musing by Moonlight.  Through the gift of poetry (mine and that of others), I enter sacred space.

The Keep Smiling Bag

“Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.” His Holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet

A lifetime ago I was privileged to work with folks who were everyday heroes in desperate circumstances. They were people transitioning into the mainstream and the workplace from welfare, foster youth programs, homelessness, drug and alcohol rehabilitation, catastrophic illness,  disability, prison, violent environments, and job layoffs and plant closures.

There were many things we could do to help our clients. We helped them find jobs and housing. We encouraged them to get G.E.D.s and vocational training or retraining. We found ways to address learning disabilities and get people out of abusive relationships. We offered classes on nutrition and parenting. We facilitated a sense of community and support.  In true hero fashion, our clients worked hard.  They took advantage of and were grateful for whatever was made available to them. They honored their contracts and did all the extra things that can make a difference between failure and success. Over eighty-percent successfully turned their lives around.

In those days, my responsibilities included teaching a three-unit community college career-development class. To provide  inspiration through the often overwhelming ups-and-downs,  some of us made our students Keep Smiling Bags. A Buddhist might call these bags a Metta* Bag; a Catholic, a Caritas* Bag; a Jew, a Chesid* Bag, a Muslim, a Birr bag. To a Native American it might be a Medicine Bag. Since I learn from all and affiliate with none, I just call it a Keep Smiling Bag. It’s a gift of love and inspiration and you might even say it’s about attitude adjustment.

In these trying times, you may have a few people in your life who could use a Keep Smiling Bag. The bags also make nice token gifts for birthdays or holidays or as get-well gifts or party favors. Those who are crafty may especially enjoy this exercise and will no doubt create beautiful and unusual presentations, perhaps doing the card in calligraphy or hand-crafting the bag or hand-sewing cloth pouches in place of paper bags.

If you do make Keep Smiling Bags, make them with the intention to heal.

Here are the supplies you’ll need to gather:

  • Small, cheerful gift bags
  • Little decorative erasers
  • Glass marbles
  • Colored rubber bands
  • Assorted colored crayons
  • Silk ribbons
  • Silver stars
  • Birthday candles
  • Hershey’s Hugs and Kisses
Gather the trinkets and place them into the bag.
Prepare this instruction card to go with the trinkets:
♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

These are a few things to get you through the day:
  1. Eraser –  to erase your negative self-talk
  2. Marbles – for when you think you’ve lost yours (you haven’t)
  3. Rubber band – s-t-r-e-t-c-h yourself into new activities. new points of view, new enthusiasms
  4. Crayons – events may color your life, you choose the colors
  5. Silk ribbon – to tie everything together when it seems life is falling apart
  6. Stars – to get to the top of the mountain, you have to reach for the stars
  7. Candle – your inner light shines bright no matter what the circumstances of your life
  8. Hugs & Kisses – Someone cares. Me! 🙂.

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

metta, caritas, and chesid ~ all mean loving kindness, birr (Islam) deep love
 – Jamie Dedes
© 2010, 2013, essay & photo of roses, Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved
Photo credits ~ Gift Bag, Ann Cervova, Public Domain Pictures.net. 
Hershey’s Kisses, courtesy of IvoShandor,  CreativeCommons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license via Wikipedia. 

Photo on 2012-09-19 at 20.00JAMIE DEDES ~ My worldly tags are poet and writer. For the past five years I’ve blogged at The Poet by Day,the journey in poem, formerly titled Musing by Moonlight.  Through the gift of poetry (mine and that of others), I enter sacred space.

“Poetry” . . . captivated by this 2010 South Korean film (English subtitles) directed by Lee Chang-dong


“The apricot throws itself on the ground. It is crushed and trampled for its next life.”  Yang Mija “sees” while walking through an orchard and takes notes in her poetry notebook

This movie speaks quietly about life and art, devastation and redemption. Like the most refined poetry, it is nuanced, honest and dramatic without being melodramatic or manipulative. It is a spare work, whittled down to essentials. It whispers. It never shouts.  Its pacing is leisurely and thoughtful. There is no suggestive music here to help you grasp the story’s progression. There are no stars who have been nipped, tucked, brushed, trussed and boosted. These people are real. They could be me or you or our next-door neighbor.  The story could be  anyone’s story anywhere in the world. Indeed, Director Lee Chang-dong got the basic idea for the screenplay from a news report..

… this story was finally born from a combination of different elements: the sexual assault case, the suicide of a girl, and the lady in her 60s writing a poem.” Lee Chang-dong in an interview HERE

Yoon Jeong-hee stars in the leading role (Yang Mija) and it is the lean script (though the movie is over two hours long) and Jeon-hee’s exquisitely understated acting that transfix us. Watch her face. Watch her body movements.  These also are a kind of poetry.

“I’m quite a poet. I do like flowers and say odd things.” Yang Mija

Yang Mija is a sixty-six year-old grandmother charged with the care of a teenaged grandson, Jongwook – or Wook – whose mother is divorced and living in Busan. Wook is lazy and ungrateful and shows no respect for his grandmother or sensitivity to her age and her loneliness.

“You’re sprouting a mustache but acting like a child.” Yang Mija to Wook

Wook is part of a “gang” of male friends, fellow students, who over the course of six months repeatedly rape a young woman who subsequently drowns herself. News of this comes coincident with Yang Mija’s diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease and her first poetry class. It is her poetry classes and effort to write a poem that provide the through-line for this story.

“The most important thing is seeing.” the poetry instructor to the class on the first day

img1-lgWe walk alongside Yang Mija as she struggles with these multiple challenges – not without some humor – and sorts through her emotions regarding her grandson’s actions, her sympathy for the drowned girl, and the desire of other parents to hide the boys’ culpability by buying off the drowned girl’s mother. While Yang Mija may be suffering the early stages of memory loss, she hasn’t lost her moral compass.

As she moves from one experience to the next, Yang Mija questions: How do you write a poem? Where does the poetry come from? When she decides how she is going to handle her grandson, she is finally able to write her poem.

Agnes’s Song

How is it over there?
How lonely is it?
Is it still glowing red at sunset?
Are the birds still singing on
the way to the forest?

Can you receive the letter
I dared not send?
Can I convey the confession
I dared not make?
Will time pass and roses fade?

Now it is time to say goodbye,
Like the wind that lingers
And then goes, just like shadows.

To promises that never came,
To the love sealed till the end,
To the grass kissing my weary ankles,
and to the tiny footsteps following me,
It is time to say goodbye.

Now as darkness falls
will a candle be lit again?
Here I pray nobody shall cry
and for you to know
how deeply I loved you.

The long wait in the middle
of a hot summer day.
An old path resembling my father’s face.
Even the lonesome wild flower
shyly turning away.

How deeply I loved.
How my heart fluttered at
hearing your faint song.
I bless you
before crossing the black river
with my soul’s last breath.

I am beginning to dream…
A bright sunny morning again I awake,
blinded by the light and meet you
standing by me.

– Yang Mija

“It is not difficult to write a poem. It is difficult to have the heart to write a poem.” the poetry instructor on the last day of class. Yang Meja is not in attendance but has left a bouquet of flowers and her poem

Both thumbs up on this one.
There are probably a lot of places you can go to rent or buy this, but I streamed it from Amazon.   

Photographs, poem, quotes courtesy of and property of the filmmaker and used here under fair use.
© 2013, review, Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved

Photo on 2012-09-19 at 20.00JAMIE DEDES ~ My worldly tags are poet and writer. For the past five years I’ve blogged at The Poet by Day,the journey in poem, formerly titled Musing by Moonlight.  Through the gift of poetry (mine and that of others), I enter sacred space.

Goddess Mothers and True Heroes

“All you need is a sense that there is no such thing as ‘no’ and everything is possible.” Moira Kelly

This shining face, this sweet spirit with reason to be bitter and yet he is not. He is a hero and pure inspiration. When our own Naomi Baltuck posted this video on Facebook, I was as touched as anyone would be. I had to wonder though about his mom. What kind of hero is she, I thought, remembering the heroes of my childhood: Josephine Baker and my spiritual mother, Pearl Buck. Each of these women grew their families in unique – and extraordinarily unselfish – ways.

“All my life, I have maintained that the people of the world can learn to live together in peace if they are not brought up in prejudice.”  Josephine Baker (1906-1975)

Josephine_Baker_1950Josephine Baker was born in America but became a French citizen. She was a dancer, singer, actress and civil-rights activist.  As a child living in St. Louis, Missouri, she suffered from discrimination, abandonment, and poverty.  As an adult she had one miscarriage. She adopted twelve children, two girls and ten boys. They were from diverse races and cultures because, in addition to caring for them, she wanted to show that people can get along despite their different backgrounds. In the early ’80s two of her sons went into business together. They started Chez Josephine, which is on Theatre Row (42nd Street) in Manhattan. They dedicated the restaurant to their adoptive mom’s memory and decorated it with her memorabilia.

“. . .  the test of a civilization is the way that it cares for its helpless members.” Pearl Buck (1892-1973)

220px-Pearl_Buck_(Nobel)Pearl Buck was an American novelist, writer, humanitarian and the first woman to be awarded the Noble Prize in Literature (1938).  She grew up in China and spent most of her life there until 1934. She had a deep affection for and knowledge of the countries of the East, not just China. She suffered through the Nanking Incident when the National Revolutionary Army captured Nanking (now Nanjing) in 1927.  Many Westerners were killed, their homes destroyed, and their property stolen.  Her only biological child, Carol, had phenylketonuria (PKU), which causes mental retardation and seizures.  She adopted seven children. At a time when mixed-race children were considered unadoptable, Pearl Buck founded Welcome House, Inc., the first international, interracial adoption agency. Welcome House has placed some five thousand children since it was established 1949.

“The greatest act of kindness changes generations. Wherever there is the greatest evil, the greatest good can be achieved.” Moira Kelly (b. 1964)

emmanuel-kellyThis brings us to a contemporary hero: the mother of Emanuel Kelly, the young man in the video. Moira Kelly is an Australian humanitarian whose work has garnered her many awards and acknowledgements.  When she was eight years old, after seeing a movie about Blessed Teresa of Calcutta (now Kolkata), Moira committed herself to working with disadvantaged children.  She is the legal guardian of twins from Bangladesh, Trisha and Krishna. They are surgically separated but originally cranially conjoined twins.  Moira Kelly also adopted the Iraqi-born Emmanuel and his brother Ahmet, both born with underdeveloped limbs. Among her efforts is Children First Foundation, formed to provide transportation and healthcare for children with urgent needs in developing countries.

These women are mothers in the best senses of that word. Their ideals are real and they stand by them. They have saved children from abandonment and loneliness, from poverty and hopelessness and, in some cases, from early death. They are goddess mothers and true heroes.

– Jamie Dedes

© 2013, essay, Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved
Video uploaded to YouTube by DrReaps
Photographs of Josephine Baker and Pearl Buck are in the U.S. Public Domain.
I don’t know the origin or copyright of the photograph of Moira Kelly and her sons. If it is yours, let me know and I’ll credit you or take it down as you wish.

Photo on 2012-09-19 at 20.00JAMIE DEDES ~ My worldly tags are poet and writer. For the past five years I’ve blogged at The Poet by Day,the journey in poem, formerly titled Musing by Moonlight.  Through the gift of poetry (mine and that of others), I enter sacred space.

Turtle Speaks

Painted Turtle by Gretchen Del Rio c 2010, rights reserved
Painted Turtle by Gretchen Del Rio c 2010, all rights reserved

we live on Turtle Island and turtle is my totem ~
she speaks in the easy way only turtle can,
as one who is at home in herself, at home between
her plastron and carapace, wisdom in her measured
gait, her introversion a model for freedom, for cutting
the nets spun of wars and deceptions . . .

she is the everyday re-enchantment of my solitary
cosmos, my solidarity with life, i read her pastoral
letters in green on green, the sweet grasses and seas,
she speaks of connectedness, the basic constituents
of enigma, wizardry; and in the insanity of the times,
how best to journey and retrieve this world’s soul . . .
she is the unrushed cure for nature-deficit,
that consuming affliction, the spawn of culture’s
back-lighted screens and advertising of every bilk

turtle healing is simple peace and master lessons in
self-containment, she draws me into my meditations
and back along the first path of Maka Ina, the forgotten
primal path of earth ways and feminine energies and
the rhythms of grandmother moon whirling me heavenward.

– Jamie Dedes

  • Turtle ~ totem or power animal representing earth in Native American tradition
  • Turtle Island ~ in Iroquois tradition, when the earth was covered over with water, sundry animals attempted  to create land by swimming to the bottom of the ocean and hauling up dirt. Muskrat succeeded. He placed the dirt on the back of  Turtle, which grew into the landmass known today as North America. 
  • Maka Ina ~ Lakota (Sioux) ~ “maka” is earth and “ina” is mother, so Mother Earth. Earth teachings were/are considered a path to wholeness (heaven).

© 2013, poem, Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved,
Illustration courtesy of Gretchen Del Rio, all rights reserved

Photo on 2012-09-19 at 20.00JAMIE DEDES ~ My worldly tags are poet and writer. For the past five years I’ve blogged at The Poet by Day,the journey in poem, formerly titled Musing by Moonlight.  Through the gift of poetry (mine and that of others), I enter sacred space.

Beathless Between Language and Myth


Here I am, caught between language and myth …
the principles of grammar written on my tongue by the wind,

the alphabet strung like seed-pearls around my willing neck.
Each day I take to the quarries, hard mining for the sweetly lyrical,

blistered from digging in hot sands and lifting stone for parables.
The very walls that bound my heart are fairly breached by the

gentle solace of poems spun on a spiritual quest, on toiling
though the hill country of my youthful and once indomitable

dreams. Like dandelion fluff, I blow them into history and write
as though poetry is the only nourishment.  Perhaps it is.

– Jamie Dedes

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

Photo on 2012-09-19 at 20.00JAMIE DEDES ~ My worldly tags are poet and writer. For the past five years I’ve blogged at The Poet by Day,the journey in poem, formerly titled Musing by Moonlight.  Through the gift of poetry (mine and that of others), I enter sacred space.

Hero of the Practicalities


for Kirby, in loving memory

What can I tell you?
She loved the guy …
She even loved the
scent of whiskey and cigarettes
She took due note of the clues
warning of devises and vices
that she’d never acquired
She didn’t care
He was charming

Coupled in delicate balance
a yin and yang of extremes
a second marriage of differences
Fog being the common denominator ~
though his drink didn’t mix well
with her off-in-the-clouds-somewhere being
The accountant of just-the-facts ma’am
and the dreamer of unlikely dreams
She was a trial

The bear who liked to escape to the woods
nonetheless some comfort, a decent person,
a hero of the practicalities,
a maker of omelets and fixer of things,
a reader, a gardener, an angry man

Anger . . .
. . . read pain
but you probably knew that
a pain that waltzed with Jack Daniels
lent itself to long diatribes
and Pilsner-invented pontifications
it skied through the veins
built road-blocks to his heart
and in the end,
in the end,
in the end
the pain did him in
that lost man
that well-meaning, decent
distant, funny, lost man

©2012,2013, poem, Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved
Illustration ~ Petr Kratochvil, Public Domain Pictures.net

Photo on 2012-09-19 at 20.00JAMIE DEDES ~ My worldly tags are poet and writer. For the past five years I’ve blogged at The Poet by Day,the journey in poem, formerly titled Musing by Moonlight.  Through the gift of poetry (mine and that of others), I enter sacred space.

Wabi Sabi

Japanese tea house: reflects the wabi sabi aesthetic, Kenroku-n Garden
Japanese tea house: reflects the wabi sabi aesthetic, Kenroku-en Garden

if only i knew
what the artist knows

about the great
perfection in imperfection

i would sip grace slowly
at the ragged edges of the creek

kiss the pitted
face of the moon

befriend the sea
though it can be a danger

embrace the thunder of a waterfall
as if its strains were a symphony

prostrate myself atop the rank dregs on the forest floor,
worshiping them as a breeding ground for fertile seeds
and the home of a million small lives

if i knew what the artist knows,
then i wouldn’t be afraid to die,
to leave everyone

i would be sure that some part of me
would remain present
and that one day you would join me
as the dusky branch of a river or the
bright moment of the flowering desert

if i knew what the artist knows,
i would surely respond body and soul
to the echo of eternity in rough earthy things

i would not fear decay or work undone
i would travel like the river through its rugged, irregular channels
comfortable in this life; imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete

© 2013, poem, Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved,
Photo credit ~ from Pictures section of OpenHistory via Wikipedia under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.o Unported license

Photo on 2012-09-19 at 20.00JAMIE DEDES ~ My worldly tags are poet and writer. For the past five years I’ve blogged at The Poet by Day,the journey in poem, formerly titled Musing by Moonlight.  Through the gift of poetry (mine and that of others), I enter sacred space.