she celebrated the sacrament of letting go.
First she surrendered her green,
then the orange, yellow, and red
finally she let go of her brown.
Shedding her last leaf
she stood empty and silent, stripped bare.
Leaning against the winter sky
she began her vigil of trust.
Shedding her last leaf
she watched its journey to the ground.
She stood in silence
wearing the color of emptiness,
her branches wondering;
How do you give shade with so much gone?
the sacrament of waiting began.
The sunrise and sunset watched with tenderness.
Clothing her with silhouettes
they kept her hope alive.
They helped her understand that
her dependence and need,
her readiness to receive
were giving her a new kind of beauty.
Every morning and every evening they stood in silence
and celebrated together
the sacrament of waiting.
Don’t speak to me of heartbreak, I have an argument
with habits of metaphor—it’s not the heart
In April I brought tulips white
pale green and orange in from the garden
you mean but the ineffable—character soul
locus of feeling—don’t tell me that muscle
and with his fine pen he drew page after
page of delicate ravishing tulips
is made whole by breaking—the thready beat
made stronger if ravaged, then repaired
In June plush peonies named for Paean
the physician to ancient gods
Could we salvage joy from each day loosening
Then July I brought the overabundance
of the Oriental lily’s perfume
our ravenous hold on the world?
his hand transfigured the rich ivory paper
Where could it be written,
to a garden room various edenic alive
why would anyone say, why would
a rabbi teach the heart survives by breaking?
August now and great maples tall oaks darken
and cool the garden so flowers know not to thrive
that in black ink my love may still shine bright
After the horrific bombings at the Boston Marathon on Monday, we recalled this 2004 Slate piece from the author George Saunders, who explains and defends the many inhabitants of the world who neither cause harm nor wish to see harm done to their fellow human beings in the name of an abstract ideal. The article is reprinted below.
Last Thursday, my organization, People Reluctant To Kill for an Abstraction, orchestrated an overwhelming show of force around the globe.
At precisely 9 in the morning, working with focus and stealth, our entire membership succeeded in simultaneously beheading no one. At 10, Phase II began, during which our entire membership did not force a single man to suck another man’s penis. Also, none of us blew himself/herself up in a crowded public place. No civilians were literally turned inside out via our powerful explosives. In addition, at 11, in Phase III, zero (0) planes were flown into buildings.
During Phase IV, just after lunch, we were able to avoid bulldozing a single home. Furthermore, we set, on roads in every city, in every nation in the world, a total of zero (0) roadside bombs which, not being there, did not subsequently explode, killing/maiming a total of nobody. No bombs were dropped, during the lazy afternoon hours, on crowded civilian neighborhoods, from which, it was observed, no post-bomb momentary silences were then heard. These silences were, in all cases, followed by no unimaginable, grief-stricken bellows of rage, and/or frantic imprecations to a deity. No sleeping baby was awakened from an afternoon nap by the sudden collapse and/or bursting into flame of his/her domicile during Phase IV.
In the late afternoon (Phase V), our membership focused on using zero (0) trained dogs to bite/terrorize naked prisoners. In addition, no stun guns, rubber batons, rubber bullets, tear gas, or bullets were used, by our membership, on any individual, anywhere in the world. No one was forced to don a hood. No teeth were pulled in darkened rooms. No drills were used on human flesh, nor were whips or flames. No one was reduced to hysterical tears via a series of blows to the head or body, by us. Our membership, while casting no racial or ethnic aspersions, skillfully continued not to rape, gang-rape, or sexually assault a single person. On the contrary, during this late-afternoon phase, many of our membership flirted happily and even consoled, in a nonsexual way, individuals to whom they were attracted, putting aside their sexual feelings out of a sudden welling of empathy.
As night fell, our membership harbored no secret feelings of rage or, if they did, meditated, or discussed these feelings with a friend until such time as the feelings abated, or were understood to be symptomatic of some deeper sadness.
It should be noted that, in addition to the above-listed and planned activities completed by our members, a number of unplanned activities were completed by part-time members, or even nonmembers.
In London, a bitter homophobic grandfather whose grocery bag broke open gave a loaf of very nice bread to a balding gay man who stopped to help him. A stooped toothless woman in Tokyo pounded her head with her hands, tired beyond belief of her lifelong feelings of anger and negativity, and silently prayed that her heart would somehow be opened before it was too late. In Syracuse, New York, holding the broken body of his kitten, a man felt a sudden kinship for all small things.
Even declared nonmembers, it would appear, responded to our efforts. In Chitral, Pakistan, for example, a recent al-Qaida recruit remembered the way an elderly American tourist once made an encouraging remark about his English, and how, as she made the remark, she touched his arm, like a mother. In Gaza, an Israeli soldier and a young Palestinian, just before averting their eyes and muttering insults in their respective languages, exchanged a brief look of mutual shame.
Who are we? A word about our membership.
Since the world began, we have gone about our work quietly, resisting the urge to generalize, valuing the individual over the group, the actual over the conceptual, the inherent sweetness of the present moment over the theoretically peaceful future to be obtained via murder. Many of us have trouble sleeping and lie awake at night, worrying about something catastrophic befalling someone we love. We rise in the morning with no plans to convert anyone via beating, humiliation, or invasion. To tell the truth, we are tired. We work. We would just like some peace and quiet. When wrong, we think about it awhile, then apologize. We stand under awnings during urban thunderstorms, moved to thoughtfulness by the troubled, umbrella-tinged faces rushing by. In moments of crisis, we pat one another awkwardly on the back, mumbling shy truisms. Rushing to an appointment, remembering a friend who has passed away, our eyes well with tears and we think: Well, my God, he could be a pain, but still I’m lucky to have known him.
This is PRKA. To those who would oppose us, I would simply say: We are many. We are worldwide. We, in fact, outnumber you. Though you are louder, though you create a momentary ripple on the water of life, we will endure, and prevail.
Resistance is futile.
From Rob Hardies, my pastor at All Souls Church, Unitarian comes this:
Though the dry leaves still cling to the oak tree’s branches outside my study window, below I see the first green shoots of crocus pushing up through the dark earth. March is the month of the earth’s return to life-it’s the month the earth bounces back. In so doing, she reminds us of an important quality of the soul-resilience. Resilience is our ability to bounce back from loss, setback or despair. After love, it is perhaps the most important human attribute. Resilience will be the subject of our reflection in worship and in small groups this month, and to start us off I offer you this poem by the Mexican poet Octavio Paz.
after chopping off all the arms that reached out to me;
after boarding up all the windows and doors;
after filling all the pits with poisoned water;
after building my house on the rock of no,
inaccessible to flattery and fear;
after cutting off my tongue and eating it;
after hurling handfuls of silence
and monosyllable of scorn at my loves;
after forgetting my name;
and the name of my birthplace;
and the name of my race;
after judging and sentencing myself
to perpetual waiting,
and perpetual loneliness, I heard
against the stones of my dungeon of syllogisms,
the humid, tender, insistent
onset of spring.
Taking a cue from the Yahoo C.E.O. Marissa Mayer’s policy of banning working from home, I ordered all New Yorker cartoonists to get their lazy, coffee-sipping, channel-surfing, Web-browsing, Netflix-streaming, newspaper-riffling, magazine-flipping, vacantly-staring-into-space selves into the office.
I explained to them, quoting the leaked Yahoo memo, that “some of the best decisions and insights come from hallway and cafeteria discussions, meeting new people, and impromptu team meetings.”
The cartoonists responded by sipping their coffee and staring vacantly into space before they made the insightful decision to hold an impromptu team meeting in the Condé Nast cafeteria. Fortified by the Condé comestibles, they came back and requested a meeting in my office. But my office was too small to hold them all, so we repaired to a hallway known to be conducive to insights. And, sure enough, we had one. And it was that coffee sipping, channel surfing, Web browsing, Netflix streaming, newspaper riffling, magazine flipping, and vacantly staring into space were the time-honored prerequisites for cartoon creation, and that they could only find a congenial home in a home. I felt certain that many more insights would have come pouring out of that hallway if not for the fact that the fire marshal came by and ordered us to disperse. Which we did. The cartoonists headed home, and, following their lead, so did I, which is where I’m writing this memo, a cup of coffee in one hand and a remote in the other.