Archives for posts with tag: poetry

Yestderday I was dealing with a family crisis and didn’t get the chance to write a new blog post, so instead of my regular reflections you get a poem I wrote a month ago. Sorry for the abrupt change of pace, but the blog must go on! #bahaiblogging

Two Reflections on Breath


I hadn’t been to the ocean
in years, didn’t have a reference
to say this is calm or this is wild, I only knew
that it pushed me back to shore
like an angry teenager, I told you get OUT,
and I laughed and punched back
again and again,
because there is such a fierce human pleasure
in fighting without anger, just because
it is difficult, and just because.


Not for nothing you fought,
and not only for your own personhood
—a woman lecturing from behind a curtain—
but because you had seen the ocean of His mercy,
run to the shore, and jumped in.


When my feet danced out from beneath me
and something pulled, I was unafraid,
I knew
I simply had to breathe
out but not in
until my feet were mine again,
until I was cradled again by air and sun and sky.
But my feet were somewhere
just too many inches out to sea
and salt water forced itself into my throat,
and I thought I can’t believe
I am going to be the idiot
who drowns in three feet of water.
This is my unbelieving mind.


And you walked willingly
to the theft that awaited you—
air from your lungs, years from your life,
words of poems you would never speak
and that the world would never hear;
there was silk around your neck
and songs in your soul,
until the animal part of you ceased
to twitch and think and beat in salty streams.

They threw your body down a well.


Until there was my body and there was the sky
and there was the fierce pain in my chest
and ashamed, I said Oh, there’s the family,
let’s go back and see what they need,
pretending to laugh
while the ocean ran from my nose
and I breathed—knives and needles and joy.


Then there was no more body
and no more sky,
only the ocean, closer than your life-vein.

You immersed yourself
and swam free.


Context. While Tahirih’s birthday is not known for certain, she was approximately my age on her death.

This is a bit older. I wrote it in 2008 while living in Malawi (and clearly reading too much Rumi), but the feeling is as fresh now as it ever was then. Maybe more.

The Second Way

There is a way
to look at the crisis,
and not cry. To see injustice,
famine, the virus of the blood, and yet stand
straight enough to speak
is difficult, but not impossible: forget your glasses.
Bring instead your weak
myopia, your astigmatic haze,
dulling the vistas of hopelessness until
there is only your nose and one pot of maize,
one school fee, one welcome song, one child
wailing in your arms. This way,
survive, and serve again.

There is only one way
to look at the crisis,
and not cry.

But if you would cry, get up!
Walk out of that body, prostrated
and voiceless in its shame. Baptize
yourself in its tears and turn your back.
When you see the fires of impossible hope,
jump in! Blaze. Immolate fear in the coals
of your joy. This is the second way.
Then watch: these sparks,
they are heating a nation,
they are lighting the world.


I came into your house when it was empty,
turned on all the lamps, and waited for you to arrive.
When you did, you stomped your feet and scolded me:
Did you think I was made of money?
No, I answered truthfully.

I thought you were made of light.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

Image from Make Peace, Build Community

The Gaps in Us

The God of my dream has narrow hands—
He is a violinist, perhaps,
or a scholar who never sleeps.
This God slips His fingers into spiderweb cracks
in sidewalks, plaster, linoleum floors,
memories, teacups, clay,
in between the ribs at odds in my chest.
The bones should feel stranger, I think,
as God lifts us up by the gaps in us.

Sore Thumbs

Poets are contrary creatures,
always in search of sore thumbs.
We like the shock of hototogisu
or red wheelbarrows,
a sudden host of daffodils,
a collapsing pleasure-dome.
Little is said of a corn-colored girl
in a corn-colored field,
or the unremarking cars that pass her
on the freeway, sounding all the same.

Know what? The internet doesn’t suck. Despite the ads for weight loss and brand-name garbage that accost me every day, here’s so much out there that’s beautiful. New stuff, old stuff, all kinds of stuff. I share a lot with friends, but I haven’t done so in this blog. Why haven’t I? No good reason whatsoever, so here’s the first installment.

The theme is: video! Here are just a few of the the videos that make me fall in love with the web.

LaLaLa Human Steps- “Amelia”

  • If you think you’re too cool for ballet, this is the dance like you’ve never seen it before.

Mitchell Rose- “Islands in the Sky”

  • Dancing, daydreams, and heavy machinery!

ISME Opening Ceremony

  • My dad was at this conference in Beijing. Go ahead and skip to 2:00 in the video to get to the dancing. PS- all the dancers are Deaf students.

Playing for Change-“Stand By Me”

  • The original Playing for Change video, featuring street musicians from around the world.

Kutiman- “I’m New”

  • Unlike the Playing for Change piece in which musicians from afar collaborate on a musical performance, Kutiman takes bits of videos off of YouTube, mixes them, and creates new compositions from the pieces.

Stjepan Hauser and Luka Sulic- “Smooth Criminal”

  • Covered by a couple of insane cellists.

Extreme Trombone Quartet- “Toccata and Fugue”

  • “Never look at the trombones. You’ll only encourage them.” Richard Strauss

Jake Shimabukuro- “Bohemian Rhapsody”

  • Okay, so this one is audio only. I’ve never heard Queen sound so peaceful!

The Muppets- “Bohemian Rhapsody”

  • No discussion of Bohemian Rhapsody covers would be complete without this video.

Big Bird Learns About Breastfeeding

  • While we’re talking Muppets, there are all kinds of sweet Sesame Street moments online.

Taylor Mali- “What Teachers Make”

  • This has been one of my favorite poems for a long time. [A little bit of mild profanity here.]

Embrace Life

  • Most gorgeous seatbelt ad ever. Surprisingly, not an oxymoron!

Idiot With a Tripod

  • The beauty in a New York blizzard.

Of course there’s so much more. Got any favorite video beauties to share?

The Adobe People

The adobe people walk out their doors as one—
singing—as soon as it rains, rolling the earth
between blunted hands to patch an eye,
a knee, replace a missing toe. Ruddy-brown
coils and eager youth surround the dressers of hair,
and lovers carefully repair the private consequence
of passion. The creases of a season’s hungry cries
are smoothed from the cheeks of the young,
a gesture as much of hope as love. The adobe people
are gentle in this, the mercy-season, laughing
in the knowledge of their perpetual undoings,
in the knowledge of all broken flesh restored.