Archive for October, 2007


Yesterday I made the trip across the county to Goshen for some Dad time. He left numerous messages for me while I was in Toronto. Some along this line: “I’m at the airport–I finally made it back. I’m wondering when you are going to pick me up.” Then, “I made it back from the airport–I guess I’m here for awhile. I don’t know how I’m going to pack all this stuff up so I can go back home. Maybe you’ll call and we can talk about it.”

As I drive, I think about how many times I’ve made this drive. And under what circumstances. How many times I’ve sat in the emergency room; how many hours I’ve spent in hospital rooms; all the afternoons of doing laundry, grocery shopping, doctor’s appointments and counting pills. In an ideal world–in my ideal world–Dad wouldn’t be in Room #14 in skilled nursing. In my most ideal world, he would still be on the tennis court; he would still have a car and a driver’s license; he would still be cogent and capable.

When I arrive, he’s at lunch. I wheel him outside and we go once around the building. It’s sunny, seasonable. He tells me that he is enjoying his “elder years.” He’s going to live to be 100. He’s looking forward to getting “back home.” I don’t know what to say. He looks expectant when he says, “Well, what’s next? Where do we go from here?” I consider just going along with him and saying, “Let’s get you better and then we’ll make a plan.” I consider it, but I can’t do it–I opt for brutal honesty–over and over and over…because every five minutes we have the same conversation…”Dad, this is where you need to be–they take good care of you and you need help. You need someone to prepare your meals, help you with bathing, count your pills, empty your foley.”


I help my father
into the shower
with his good hand
he grips my arm for support.

Inside he sits like Buddha
on a plastic stool
and waits for me
to begin.

I drench him
with warm water,
soap his head, his back,
the flabby stomach, 
the private parts
private no more.

I had not before seen my father’s
nakedness, nor the changing
contour of his being,
his growing helplessness.

His brown skin glistens
and I think of him
as a young man on the night
of my conception:

Panting, capable, shining
with sweat and definition,
the soft hands of my mother
grasping his shoulders.

I pat him dry,
he lets me dress him
in the white
hospital clothes,
oil his hair,
put him to bed
and forgive him.



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Time in the car. Rolling hills. Lonely farms. Spectacular vistas. Pewter skies. Autumn colors. Beige stubble of harvested corn…silvery feed corn still standing. Blazing sumacs. Velvet sumac seed plumes. Bright velvet green fields. Shades of soft brown, tan and maroon. Hay rolls bailed, tractors, freshly plowed earth.

The leaves are falling, falling as if from far up,
as if orchards were dying high in space.
Each leaf falls as if it were motioning “no.”

And tonight the heavy earth is falling
away from all other stars in the loneliness.

We’re all falling. This hand here is falling.
And look at the other one. It’s in them all.

And yet there is Someone, whose hands
infinitely calm, holding up all this falling.


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Sometimes, I just stand back in total amazement. I have two beautiful, healthy daughters who are just lovely inside and out. And now a grandbaby on the way. My wish…my hope, is that this baby will arrive with ease; a healthy glow and lust for life.

In the last six days, I have covered a lot of ground–probably in the neighborhood of 1200 miles…including two round trips to Toronto by car. This morning I left at 9:30 and arrived at just in time for yoga at 5:45…US Customs slowed me down considerably. I loved my time in the car–my alone time and the time I spent with Sara…both rich and refreshing. I thought of this poem by Sharon Olds–for us it would need to be retitled: 59/26.


Brushing out our daughter’s brown
silken hair before the mirror
I see the grey gleaming on my head,
the silver-haired servant behind her. Why is it
just as we begin to go
they begin to arrive, the fold in my neck
clarifying as the fine bones of her
hips sharpen? As my skin shows
its dry pitting, she opens like a moist
precise flower on the tip of a cactus;
as my last chances to bear a child
are falling through my body, the duds among them,
her full purse of eggs, round and
firm as hard-boiled yolks, is about
to snap its clasp. I brush her tangled
fragrant hair at bedtime. It’s an old
story—the oldest we have on our planet—
the story of replacement.


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Let us try what it is to be true to gravity,
to grace, to the given, faithful to our own voices,

to lines making the map of our furrowed tongue.
Turned toward the root of a single word, refusing

solemnity and slogans, let us honor what hides
and does not come easy to speech. The pebbles

we hold in our mouths help us to practice song,
and we sing to the sea. May the things of this world

be preserved to us, their beautiful secret
vocabularies. We are dreaming it over and new,

the language of our tribe, music we hear
we can only acknowledge. May the naming powers

be granted. Our words are feathers that fly
on our breath. Let them go in a holy direction.


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Lord: it is time. The summer was immense.
Lay your shadow on the sundials
and let loose the wind in the fields.

Bid the last fruits to be full;
give them another two more southerly days,
press them to ripeness, and chase
the last sweetness into the heavy wine.

Whoever has no house now will not build one
Whoever is alone now will remain so for a long
will stay up, read, write long letters,
and wander the avenues, up and down,
restlessly, while the leaves are blowing.


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There are days of miracles…of good news beyond measure. Today. Today good news came in so many forms. Today, I felt the tiny flutter of tiny feet; tiny feet; kicking inside my daughter’s womb.


Just as the winged energy of delight
Carried you over many chasms early on,
Now raise the daringly imagined arch
Holding up the astounding bridges.

Miracle doesn’t lie only in the amazing
living through and defeat of danger;
miracles become miracles in the clear
achievement that is earned.

To work with things is not hubris
when building the association beyond words
denser and denser the pattern becomes—
being carried along is not enough.

Take your well-disciplined strengths
and stretch them between two
opposing poles. Because inside human beings
is where God learns.


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What you hold onto in form
will also be fixed in vision.
the energy you contain in
an individual effect or possession
will also be bound in
the field of vibrating cause.

What you release from form
will be available for vision.
The energy you allow to grow
beyond your own creation,
cutting the cord that keeps
you and it dependent
will liberate both into the larger
cosmos of unlimited creation.


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