Posts Tagged ‘prompts’

quarterlife crisis decisions

August 4, 2007  |  poetry  |  2 Comments

“It is our decisions
who make make us who we are,”
she used to say to me. Sometimes
that is all we have. The ability
to decide. To choose.

Even with all the social
inequities, we all still
get the same basic things,
in this life here on this planet:
our brains,
our bodies,
and time.

It is what we decide to do
that makes all the difference.

So what am I doing here?
What am I going to decide
to do with my time? What
are the particular ways
that I would like my mind
to grow and change
and evolve and work?
I do have some ideas,
but it seems like – that
age-old cliche – life
gets in the way.

I need focus. Laser-beam
steady focus, pointed precise
direction, precision. I’m not sure
how to gain or maintain that when
everything seems related to what
I want to do, where I want to go.
I’m not sure how to cut things out
when I so enjoy every aspect, the
book group, the writing group, the
drinks with friends, the parties,
the concerts – then of course there’s
the practical parts, the health,
exercise, eating right, taking care
of my body, then there’s money,
there’s my “career” -

all of this hanging in the balance
and I have to decide
decide
decide
what to cancel, what to prioritze
what to celebrate, what to remove
from this delicate balance

me in a nutshell

May 31, 2007  |  poetry  |  3 Comments

Related to the Life/Lines post, though not quite the same thing, I’d like to offer up my poem Me in a Nutshell which was an “I believe” poem. It uses many, many quotes from various sources, mantras of mine, inspiration, quotes (it ends with a different Mary Oliver line, in fact).

 It was published online at This I Believe through NPR.

Me in a Nutshell

I believe love is the closest we get to divinity
I believe in waiting patiently on the corner for the light to change
I believe in being kind

I believe that as birds fly, and fish swim, humans create;
it is our ‘natural’ mode of operation
I believe the opposite of war is not peace, it’s creation
I believe creative expression is a way to get to know
what we don’t know
that we already know

I believe in finding common ground and elevating the discussion
in wanting what I have and giving what I need
I believe in asking myself how it is that I will come alive
because that is what the world needs

I believe in keeping rocks in my pockets
to remind me to stay close to the ground
I believe stones and aerial maps of the ocean floor
teach me to fly
I believe to be free is not merely to cast off one’s shackles
but to live in a way
that respects
and enhances
the freedom of others

I believe in leaving everything and everyone and everywhere
just a little better off then when I found it
I believe when we let go of who we are, we become who we might be
I believe in paying my library fees

I believe in psychics, astrology, epigraphs
crossing fingers at cemeteries
lifting feet when going over a bridge
ice cream on the hot days
I believe in swimming at the glacier in the summer
and chomping icebergs like snow-cones

I believe asking for – and getting – someone’s consent is sexy
and knowing the pleasure you want and how to get it
is subversive and revolutionary
I believe gender and power and play is what makes the sex hot

I believe stretch marks and scars are beautiful
because they tell the history of the body
I believe the body is a temple to be worshipped
that we are not separate than the earth, but rather from the earth
I believe it feels good to shit outside

I believe in cranberries, avocados and cashews
in redheads and black ink
in leaving a trail on an unmarked canvas
in drawings on skin
in tiny yellow flowers under the chin to check if I like butter

I believe in watching the media, pop culture, consumerism,
and celebreality with a critical eye
I believe in turning off the TV
I believe in accessories: shoes, belts, bags, scarves, glasses

I believe growth requires the temporary suspension of security
in second chances and red balloons
I believe in wishing on the full moon and faery rings
and dandelions gone to seed and eyelashes
and shooting stars and lovers’ laughter and birthday candles

I believe very few people are actually out to get us
but are rather just distracted by their own
human-drama-bubble of daily life
I believe differences are the only way we learn
I believe intentions do matter
I believe in giving people the benefit of the doubt
but still protecting the gentle red ribbed cage
around my heart

I believe you and I are not mistakes, we are stardust

I believe in unfolding my own mythology
like an origami swan
asking every day:
what will I do with my one wild and precious life?

“you do not have to be good”

May 31, 2007  |  poetry  |  1 Comment

The Poetry Thursday prompt today is on Life/Lines, which the Academy of American Poets did a collective project with and defines as such:

We each carry lines of poetry with us. Words that others have written float back to us and stay with us, indelibly. We clutch these “Life Lines” like totems, repeat them as mantras, and summon them for comfort and laughter.

Anytime I think of my favorite poetry, poems that changed my life, significant lines of poetry, I always, always, always think of Wild Geese by Mary Oliver. And while I can think of a dozen – two dozen – more poems that have profoundly affected me (Under a Soprano Sky by Sonia Sanchez, Eating Poetry by Mark Strand, Otherwise by Jane Kenyon, Diving into the Wreck by Adrienne Rich), it is always Mary Oliver that I come back to when I have to name just one, and it is always Wild Geese.

At first, it was the opening lines:

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.

The simplicity of it. The miracle of letting go of suffering, and only allowing your body to “love what it loves.” Gorgeous. As if Oliver lept from the pages and plucked a diamond from my heart cavity and said, look. Just look what you have inside you.

But lately, it’s been the ending:

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

… that has really gotten to me. No matter how lonely or alone, or scared or tiny or uneffective you may feel, you still have a place in the family of things. You still have one particular little pinpoint of light on the map, on the earth.

I’ve carried this poem with me for a long time.