Been thinking of you, all of you, and of the distance
that may be between us as the old year closes,
the new looms so close, thinking of the strange ways we
now pass our thoughts, the slow scratch and fold that served
so well for so long, almost completely supplanted
by these soft and immediate clickings.
Soft too is the color of the green here this time
of year. A break in the rains let me to the hills,
as I haven’t been for awhile, new grasses
pushing to the surface, looking to cover the slopes
in silent, steady waves, from bottom to top.
Coyote bush, a coastal, hill country shrub, common
from here into the Sierra, blossoms in December
and January, small, frost-white petals, bursting
to seeds spread across the dampened earth in minute
snow flakes. Red Christmas berries bunch in native toyon,
young hummingbird sage sprouts along the trail, soap plant
on it. And the blue-grey leaves of new sage, fragrant
and tender to touch.
I say their names out loud, these few I know. The season’s
so short, this seems important. The streams, silent in summer,
sing too; their tongues knowing all there is to know of this place,
their Bodhisattva voices carry every name,
forgetting not even one.
Higher in the hills, I begin to recall the carnage.
It might be the middle-east, could be the invisible
Philippines or some unknown African country,
but it’s Connecticut this time, teachers and children,
targets so common these days, almost anywhere
we might name.
With a President as thoughtful as our own,
I am saddened when he touts our military might
as a towering accomplishment, and more so
as he stands today, helpless in the face of our children
killing our children. As real as outside threats may be,
it’s a cancer on the inside that torments us—all of our might
cannot make this right.
Something different need be done.
The News will chew and bite, encourage us
to swallow, as they diligently search more feed.
But what matter the motive, when the method
is readily given; what matter the method
when the solution is imbedded
in society’s psyche
Broken bodies litter non-combat zones across the globe,
school yards just one. How many names, how many the lives
as brief as interludes, snapped shut—we are not different
in this, and any indifference marks complicity. This
is not the heritage I wish to protect—it is this
that needs breaking.
Whether ensconced in constitutions or lodged, abstract,
in folk-laws, this cancer will have its way with us
and within the lives of those we influence, unless
we learn to call it what it is, aloud: ours, it is ours.
But sickness rides the same currents that healing does,
and in time all resistance can be recognized
as temporary. With this, and only with this,
comes the light that allows for creative change.
Just as winter is one word, but not a single experience,
our work needs to be in the deeper recesses
of the violence in our own hearts. There, and in sharing
as open and authentic as the working of streams,
we will find the way to the seeds
of violence’s opposites
and the beginnings
of a different way to be.
I am indebted to poet Sam Hamill, and his “Awakening in Buenos Aires,” which closes with the following:
“….to have come so far
to find again what I believe:
but inevitably—can change,
and how our hearts
and this world can, at last, be made.”