Poem: Temple Bells

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Temple Bells

And so you breathe,
Slowly.
Deliberately,
Calling back to the temple within,
blocking out the cursing and screams
of the neighbors and news,
creating your own wall of calm
from air.

In.
Out.
Again.
Simple.
Incredibly powerful.
Too powerful it seems,
to believe.

And yet here you are, breathing.
Slowly.
Deliberately.
Somewhere a bell rings
in this holy space
that is you.

About this poem

I meditate. I learned how when my world was falling apart a decade and a half ago, and I still do it. It’s a vital part of how I reconnect to the sacred and reground myself Despite common pooh-poohing of the idea, the science agrees. It makes a difference. It’s worth the learning.

The picture was taken at the Isabella Stuart Gardner Museum in Boston. A recreation of a temple space.

Tom

Thoughts: Real Art

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At home, I have a book called “Annotated Art“.  It is like an art appreciation course in a book, taking a group of famous paintings and showing you what makes them unique, what societal influences permeate the work, what symbols lie, hidden by time and changes, in each one.

It’s a picture book, not at all pedantic, and brings work to life, revealing a level upon level of understanding and appreciation. It was this book, many years ago, that helped me understand how little I knew about the art I love.

Even now, when I go to a museum, I go with the knowledge that no matter how much I may love or loathe a work, there is much below the surface I can not see.

This past May, when the woman and I were on our first honeymoon, we spent a day wandering through art galleries in Provincetown, Mass. THere was a lot of good art, but one gallery stood apart.

I don’t think the art was any better than the art in some of the other shops. It was good, but not better. Still, the art in this particular gallery was significantly higher than in the other galleries in town. What, I wondered, made this work worth more?

It was the back story. The gallery owner jumped right in and as we wandered through the rooms of paintings and sculptures, she regaled us with stories about the artists. She talked about the processes each one used to create their work. She gave us personal insight into each painter and sculptor. By the time we left, I felt like I knew these artists. I cared about their work. I appreciated their struggles. They had obtained more value simply by the process of getting to know them. That was kind of an ah-ha moment for me. Both as an artist, and as a person.

Particularly as a person.

We stumble through our lives passing people the whole time. Some of them are pleasant. Some of them are not. Many we hardly notice.

Too often, we are judgemental. I am not criticizing. It’s human nature. We make decisions about people based on what we see. Good or bad. It is something we have to do to live.

The problem is, we only see the surface. It’s just like only seeing a piece of art hanging on the wall. Without all the deep knowledge, we don’t have a full appreciation. I have long since lost track of how many times I saw a person and thought they were “X”, when, as the story unfolded, they were, not just “Y”, but something more like “K”. Nothing like what I thought.

There was pain there. Abuse in the background. Hidden illnesses. Unseen brokenness. Fears. Loss. Life Trauma. (wars aren’t the only thing that causes PSTD). I end up wondering how, and admiring that, they are living as good and full a life as they are.

People have become a wonderment to me.

Over the past decade and a half, I have come to understand that I rarely know people. I know the surface part they care to share, or dare to share. I have to assume there are layers after layers of things that drive and move and influence them and their behavior. Judging, I have come to believe, is useless at best, and harmful at most.

Today, I work hard to simply accept. I wait. If I accept, I find, people come to trust me with the rest of the story. And I can understand better. I seem them more fully, like a piece of annotated art. And in that process, people’s value grows. Not that I was dismissing them before, but that I come to see more of their value over time and over the slow revealing of that time.

So I rarely make quick judgments. I just listen and watch. What is? What isn’t? What lies beneath? Because there is always something beneath.

It has also affected how I experience museums. I love the art, but I watch the people at least as much. I wonder at their stories, their relationships, what they see in these rooms full of creativity.  I people watch as much as art watch.

Because people are the real art.

Be well. Travel wisely,

Tom

PS – Totally unrelated story. A couple of years ago I had a booth at an art show in Pawlet, Vermont. My paintings are bright and tend to attract kids, who often drag their parents into the booth.  One pair of kids started to drag their mom to the booth, but she firmly took them by hand and dragged them away As they left I overheard her saying, “We’re going to see the real art.” Such is the life of the abstract artist. But then again, doesn’t the same thing happen in the way we treat people?  Sigh.

Poem: A Thing of Yellow

 

Dandelion Flowers

Dandelion Flowers in Meadow, very shallow DOF. Captured with 1969 Pentacon Lens 135/2,8

A Thing of Yellow

It is all I have.
Words.
Simple words,
struggling words,
words to bind my own wounds,
words that flail like a lost boy,
words that frame a world I never quite understand,
and a love beyond my expectations or deserving.

Just words,
a figment really,
made real by electronics and ink,
line drawings
for emotions
that only start out as mine,
but as soon as they exist,
become someone else’s
to claim
or curse
or add a new layer to the confusion.

That is not what I want of course.
I want to cry out.
to understand,
to feel, most of all, to feel

that which was taken from me
by those that purported to love
and never, really, knew how.

And so I write words to fill the empty spaces
in my soul. I release them like dandelion seeds
in a desire to make my whole dark life
a thing of yellow.

Author’s note

The picture is one of the few on this blog that is not mine. It is stock photography I used for a marketing project for a client.

Tom

The Problem with Love (Charlottesville)

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The Problem with Love (Charlottesville)

The problem with love is that it is too quiet,
not self-serving enough,
unwilling to destroy,
too intent on lifting up,
too gentle, not
that it is unable to fight back,
but unwilling.

It is too busy with the hard work
of caring,
improving,
healing,
gently standing fast without fanfare or cannons,
less concerned with headlines than hearts,
less concerned with control or fear or noise,
too willing to suffer than be false.

And yet, when the guns have quieted
and the blood and rubble is everywhere,
only love sticks around to begin the building again.
It is to love even the wounded soldiers of hate turn to,
having tried all else
and failed.

1st Corinthians 13:4-7
Galatians 5:22-26

About this poem

One of my friends was in Charlottesville with his young son this week to stand against the hate. At one point, they found themselves surrounded by Quakers. Quietly, loving, protecting them from the anger and the violence. That did not get a single headline.

It really is not hard in my mind. In 62 years, I’ve never seen hate build people up, save souls, heal, or create anything lasting or good. This is true in politics, workplaces, families, relationships, and religions.

Love is the only thing that works, and yet……

Color me frustrated.

Tom

Poem: An Imprecise History

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An Imprecise History

The thing is, you can’t believe any of it,
all these doodlings
and verbal dances I write upon the page.

At times they are ancient history,
mangled of course by time and madness,
by a need to see what is occasionally in front of my face,
and more often wraith-like, fading in and out.

At times they are current events,
but never quite certain as they seem,
always in flux, a circus mirror designed
to distort, make you laugh, or draw tears at my own
flaws and flippancies.

You may, at times, recognize
the pain and love and wonder and struggle,
raw and real,
but often not of this time or moment,
memories now, futures now, time
without meaning, as it all flows together.

More often, it is a mystery, strange wonderings
that have lingered unanswered too long
and simmered in some unsightly stew for a bit too long,
rendering the vegetables a bit unrecognizable.

The thing is,
feelings have no time table.
They rise from the dead.
They arrive unexpectedly from the future, anticipatory
and shape shifting from then to now to something
hovering on the edge of now,
more than mere spectators,
less than full participants,

bright colors on a white canvas,
abstract art
in words.

Truths
without time,

A poor way to measure a life, particularly one
that has few proclamations,
too many mysteries,
a need to get it out
and a wonderment that my particular madness
seems to save others
from theirs.

About this poem

I am always amazed what people get from my poems. At times, I hardly recognize myself.

The muse is a fickle thing.

Tom

Thoughts: Meanderings of a Born Again Poet

This morning I wrote two poems.

The first one was so so. A little platitude filled. Good thoughts, mediocrely written. The second one was, I think, pretty good.  I posted them both.

I tend to post poems as I write them. I write. Rewrite. Prune. Rework and post. Others perhaps, would let them settle and come back to them. There’s some wisdom in that. But I don’t.

I discovered something today. On days I write two or more poems, the first one is always the weakest. I thought that when I wrote today’s poems, and when I looked back a few weeks, it proved to be mostly true.

“Why is that?” I wondered.

As I thought about it, I thought about my process a little. I am a disciplined writer, in that I sit down nearly every day, at a certain time, and write. I write first in my journal, and secondly, I write poetry or essays for my various blogs.

Most days, it comes pretty easily. Like any skill, when you work at it regularly (and I write for much of my work as well.), you get pretty good at it. My journal writing sort of breaks the logjam loose, and away I go.

Except of course, when I don’t.

Some days I am just flat. I don’t have a lot of emotion going on. I am not struggling with anything. Or I am struggling too much with things. The words have to be chipped out of me like carving marble. Slow and painstakingly.

But I write anyway. And often, it’s not my best work. It feels (to me) like the struggle it took to write it. Technically good. But lacking in passion. Like the difference between an English landscape painting by Robert Gallon…

Robert Gallon

… And something by Salvadore Dali:

Painting

The difference, of course, is that by the time I have plowed through writing the first poem, I am loosened up. I am more tapped in. I have plowed through my own barriers and more open to being open.

“Write what you know.” the old adage goes. The first poem is almost inevitably what I think. The second one is what I feel. What I know. And it’s better.

The trouble is, I never know if a second one will come. Some days, all I get is the thinking poem, all technically correct with good, skilled writing and utterly devoid of life. Maybe I am the only one who sees it, but I suspect you guys notice the difference, despite your kind words on both types of poems.

So I post the first one.

You see, when I was in therapy after my divorce, my therapist told me I needed to write again. I had been a writer for much of my adult life and that had fallen to the wayside in the bustle we call life, and I had paid the price. NOT writing had been one of many factors in my coming undone. (not to mention the divorce itself.).

So she had me write. And she suggested I begin a blog. “Having readers, even half a dozen, will tap into your sense of responsibility and make sure you keep writing.”

She was right.

I began my blog, with no expectations of readers, and just wrote and posted. I still do that. Whether or not you care that I write every day, I like to pretend you do. It does feed that responsible gene (Dang therapists, they keep being right.) and keeps me at it. Good days. Bad days. I write.

And I post.

I don’t bank things towards a flat day or a day when might not want to write. I keep no backlog. This makes me trust the muse, God, inspiration, my own skill, to provide something every day. Manna, I call it, like the biblical bread God provided Moses and the Israelites in the desert.

Trusting that something will come, and then acting on that trust, day after day, generally means it comes. That’s true in poetry, and in life in general. So I trust and I write and somehow it works out.

That’s what I have learned. One of the lessons I have taken from the first half or so of my life. Trust and act, day after day, and things work out. I have given up trying to understand why. I am content with the fact that it does. When I write. And as I live.

Good poems and bad.

Just the act of writing helps me. I am glad when someone says something I have written has touched them or was just what they needed. I love hearing that, in fact. It gives additional purpose to my writing. But I write, ultimately, for myself. For my sanity. You guys get to come along for the ride.

Good poems and bad.

So now you know my process. There’s no grand plan. Heck, there’s no plan at all. I just do it. In the moment, whatever happens that moment. I’ve come to believe that writing, in general, is more powerful when it is less processed, and more real, more in the moment, with the emotions overflowing, our skill barely able to contain it. Raw.

That’s the hard stuff, of course. Most of us don’t like being revealing. I know I don’t. But, it seems to do me good. It seems to do some of you good. So even if it does not always feel good, it seems to be a good thing. And I do it every day. My sanity preserver.  One of the things that brought me back from the brink, many years ago.

So there you go. Meanderings of a born again poet.

Have a good weekend. Be well. Travel wisely,

Tom