Front Porch

When I get a massage
I am polite
but quiet
because in the past
I have made the mistake
of being too friendly
and inquisitive
and hearing too much troubling
information about a person
who was supposed to be
helping me relax

Chida is my massage therapist now
She is usually polite and quiet too

Last week she was
bubbling over
with excitement
because she and her five-year-old
daughter are going back
to Thailand for a month

Chida said she has to go
so her whole family
can participate in the rituals
to say goodbye to her father
who died several months ago
but who neighbors say
they have seen
sitting on his front porch

Chida’s mother told her
“You have to come home
or your father’s spirit
will be stuck here.”

“Miss Betsy,” Chida said to me.
“Do you believe in ghosts?”

My Seventh Season

My main skill
on the soccer field
is getting in people’s way

Also I can cheer

I am not fast

No matter how many
games I play
or watch
I cannot see
what needs to happen
beyond my need to kick
the ball away from me
toward someone who will
know better than I do
what to do with it

Nothing that happens
on a field
or with a ball
or on a court
or in a pool
or on a track
or on a mat
comes easily to me

This is not to say I am weak
because I AM strong
I can be fierce
and determined
and endure
but it is

I watch my teammates
sprint toward the ball
maneuver around our opponents
boot the ball gloriously
through the air
with what seems
to me like
no effort at all

I hear them talk about the other team’s
offense and defense
and which players
are the ones
to watch
“All we need to do is…”
they explain
on the sidelines

but I don’t

still I will jog onto the field
and see who I need to
get in the way of
when she has the ball
and maybe steal the ball
if i’m lucky
and pass it
and cheer loudly
for whoever
takes it down the field
to score

Out of Our Control

So much is out of our control
who moves in next door
who doesn’t clean up
after their dog
on the sidewalk
in front of
your house

When the bus finally arrives
Whether the check
is in the mail
How your boss
How anyone

Who lets you in when
you’re trying to
turn left out of your
neighborhood onto
Columbia Pike
Who stops when
you’re trying to
cross the street

Who is having a bad day
and takes it out
on you
who holds
the door open for you and
all the kids you’ve brought along
and smiles and doesn’t seem to mind
that they are oblivious to the fact of the door

How viruses mutate
whether the nurse assigned to your room
has ever taken care of a patient like you before
Whether the people in charge of your country
decide to start a war
against another country or
against you
Whether someone who looks like you–even a little bit
commits a crime
What DNA you inherit
What your mother did
or did not do while you were
becoming human
Whether she brought you
into the world with joy
or despair

Whether you get put in the class
of a kind kindergarten teacher
or one who should have
already retired or found
another steelier line of work

So much is out of our control
it is a miracle that we find
at the end of the day that
a single thing we set out to do
has been done

A testament
to our optimistic persistence
that we write out
yet another to do list
naively determined to try again
even though
so much is out of our control

The Hardest Part of Being Human

The hardest part of being human
is holding every shiny and perfect and brutal and excruciating piece
in your heart at the same time

The sorrow of knowing a kind young mother
with two extraordinary children
much like your own
who is lying
in hospice

The pride of watching your daughter
herself through a challenge and
stick with it
for years

The shattering tragedy of
ANOTHER white man with
who cannot accept or
understand the value of
who feels threatened and so
turns to hatred

The comfort of a friend
whose struggles are
your struggles
who knows how to
make you laugh through the misery
or when to let you cry

The despair of a parent
who feels trapped
in the chaos of
kicks and screams
when demands
aren’t answered

The joy of watching your son
open up his world
with words
deciphering and expressing
new ones every day
discovering the power of
reading and writing

The absence of familiar faces
and the pain of separation
when people who you loved
and counted on
are missing
knowing the empty spaces
will always leave you

The sweet release that comes from
and warmth
after the clenched fists
and hunched shoulders
of winter

The exhilaration of
shared new experiences
seeing people you love
delight in the bright colors
and sensations of magic

My heart will always overflow

Baby Bird

I invite you to close your eyes and put your feet on the floor. Envision how they are connected to the earth, how all of us are connected to the earth. Place your hands, palms up, open to the universe, on your legs. Feel how your chair supports your body. Know that this can be a moment of rest. Feel the spaciousness of this sanctuary. Know that this can be a place of refuge. Feel the presence beside you of caring people, whether they are friends or family or strangers. Know that they, and you, are worthy of love and compassion. 

Feel your breath. Know that the air you inhale and the air you exhale is shared among all of us. 

Breathe in peace. Breathe out love. Breathe in wonder. Breathe out compassion. Whatever you need right now, feel it filling your body every time you inhale. Whatever you wish to share with the world, feel it gliding into the atmosphere on your breath.

Cup your hands together, as if you are holding a baby bird. Imagine that this baby bird represents the stirring in your spirit that brought you here today, the yearning, the questions, the gratitude. Maybe you don’t have a baby bird. Maybe you have a baby dragon. Maybe you have an egg that hasn’t yet hatched and still needs to be patiently kept warm. Now picture what is held tenderly within the hands of those who surround you. Maybe their birds look a little like yours, or maybe they are wildly different. Maybe they are chicks or emus or penguins or flamingos. Maybe your bird is a kind of bird never before seen or heard of on earth. Be as gentle with yourself and with others as you would with your baby bird, or theirs.  


February 2019