Visions of a city

Between all the signs of modernity —

glass-to-sky, scaffolding, sleek lines —

I scour the streets seeking this city’s ghosts 

the old cemeteries are the only places still alive 

there, ghosts breathe among trees and birds and earth-scents

elsewhere, cobbles and ancient stones whisper, but silently

their shadows hidden by larger, darker forms 

and parasols, slogans screaming brightly.

I did what I could to seek them, these ancient figures,

but so much of them is gone, so much of now is blind to the past

I went down to the river, hoping the water would at least be constant

but even it it is barely recognizable, churned now by motors and fumes.

The heart of this city is a-bustle 

everyone moving to their own rhythm

but here and there doors remain slightly ajar, open onto lives past,

hinting at some other world.

Glancing sideways I have seen them in their aloof existence

beyond the  hot, dripping streets.

Celestial journey

We are scattered to the wind, now, like seeds drifting, untethered yet to the earth, or like stars 

flung to the corners of the galaxy, each a brilliant blaze of light, dancing apart in a shifting sky

turning, twirling, wheeling free and onward to some unknown future-bound meeting point.

As space and time pull us on, we spin faster, raising our hands stretching them out, reaching for each other

leaning toward our reunion  – the scent of it, crackling sweet like a great celestial bonfire

(bright as the birth of stars -though your birth was eons ago now; this on our horizon is a different celebration, another marker in the universe of us)

tonight I can smell it, almost see it, close enough to anticipate, I settle in, the shooting stars around me intensify, 

and I wait.

Grounding

Life has been flying past me lately. Or rather, I have been flying through life. I recently spent close to three weeks on difficult negotiations at the UN in New York (New York, where everything moves on hyperdrive anyway), working long, lunch-less days, only to return home and continue working on the same negotiations from here, with the same hours.

My son, meanwhile, has been at camp for five weeks, with one more week to go. I miss him all the time, but this weekend I missed him something crazy. I found out yesterday that he’d been feeling homesick over the weekend, too. When we got to speak and I told him he was better off up in the great Canadian wilderness than being in the city while I worked, he was silent for a moment then said, “But Mum, you should be enjoying your summer!” Oh yeah, summer. Quite right. I remember what summer is like…

But there’s much important work to do, work I believe in, and anyway, it’s preferable to keep busy while he’s away.

Of course, when you’re tired and stressed and overwhelmed and missing a part of your soul, all the negative is magnified and everything feels bigger, worse, more dire. So in the end, working more probably isn’t the answer.

If I can catch myself when everything becomes too overwhelming, when it all moves too fast and I feel as though I might drown, I try to focus on the small, delicate details of the world around me. I remember how aware I was as a child, how intimately I knew the flowers of a specific plant, the terrain of the earth beneath it, the patterns of its leaves. How I followed and memorized the veins of quartz cutting through granite. Or the positions of the stars in the summer sky.

This weekend, disillusioned and overwhelmed and brain-tired, I went out to weed, to reconnect with nature and escape all the words and all the screens, and this memory of my childhood familiarity with the world came back to me. I sat down in the path, got as close as I could to the plant beside me, and looked. I forgot everything else. My world shrank down to the size of the plant – variegated leaves, pink flowers, knobbly bumps of earth and mulch beneath. Briefly, I let that feeling of childhood wash over me. I tried to hold onto it but, after 40 years, it’s elusive. Perhaps it takes practice.

Later, as I sat on our rooftop deck and let my gaze sink into the indigo sky of evening, a plane cut across my line of sight. Small, toy-like. The sun glinted off it, turning it copper, polished, bright. The expansiveness of the sky, the minute plane, and I, smaller still. I felt again the way I had in the garden. Real. Small. Connected to something concrete.

When life is flying past, whether we let it because it’s easier than stopping and feeling, whether it takes over because of factors beyond our control, the best thing we can do is reach out and take hold of something, anything. Reach out and hold on – to the flowers, the trees, the earth, the stars. Let them slow the spinning, if only for a moment. Let them bring you back, bring you down, let them ground you.

Remember to look around, then. Stop thinking and instead, feel.

 

Autobiography

The stories we tell about ourselves
hang like stars in the night sky
infinite, glowing bright,
until they wheel onward, unseen
to the other side of consciousness
returning one day with memories uncovered
for people new to us to greet

What stories do you weave about yourself
which constellations do you show which story do you leave hidden, silent
to wish upon like evening’s first star?

We control the setting
paint our truths across the splash of night
and leave our thoughts about our own dark-sky corners
for solitude’s consideration
sharing only on those special nights
when a bright conjunction is framed by twilight blue
when the pinpricks align
and the crescent pauses in the sunset sky
when a twinkling streaks across indigo
flashing for a moment before it disappears
when wonder and intimacy overcome fear and doubt
when, in colonizing another – their skin, their eyes, their heart –
we bare all.

Over stormy seas

The words don’t come when the mind is bound
when feelings are tossed and thrown around
lost
on unseen seas

The currents swirl
alive with jolts –
is this lightening
or dark, hidden creatures shot through with electric sparks?

Above, the moon shines full
serene, all knowing
she betrays nothing of the churn below
benevolent, ageless
she waits for this, too, to pass

She has watched the ebb and flow of the human heart
for long enough to see the patterns
for long enough to know
everything changes —
even this.