Courage: Poems from Interweave’s February Writing Circle

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February 2016

Dear Friends,

A story (be it poetry or prose) requires both the telling and the listening. Yet it is the stillness that allows the deep, patient and courageous roots of understanding to develop and cradle the story, so it may be truly heard. All of this is present in the beautiful and courageous writings offered by Lisa Brown, Nancy Burgas, Marybeth Doctor, Marge Dukes, Eileen Gerety, Barbara Gilford, Stella Humphries, Susan Maitner and Rosalind Seneca.

We are grateful for both the stories told here and the stories that remain quietly cradled in the heart . . . “But heard, half-heard in the stillness between two waves of the sea.”  When the writing circle convened in the Guild Room that first Saturday in February, we began with the poetry of T.S.Eliot. So we begin with his words now.

Blessings,

Lorri

 

 

“I said to my soul, be still and wait without hope,

 for hope would be hope for the wrong thing;

wait without love,

for love would be love of the wrong thing;

there is yet faith,

but the faith and the love are all in the waiting.

Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought:

So the darkness shall be the light,

and the stillness the dancing.”

(T. S. Eliot)

 

 

Not known, because not looked for

But heard, half-heard, in the stillness

Between two waves of the sea.

Quick now, here, now, always–

A condition of complete simplicity

(Costing not less than everything)

And all shall be well and

All manner of thing shall be well

When the tongues of flames are in-folded

Into the crowned knot of fire

And the fire and the rose are one

(Excerpt from “The Little Gidding” – T.S.Eliot, Four Quartets)

 

 

To Go On

By Lisa Brown

Courage

To breathe again

To walk again

To find a future without

My sweet boy

Who loved too much

Hurt too much

Cried too much

And I could not help

Courage to build a life now without

His smile

His love

His laughter

It takes so much courage

To go on

 

 

Rensselaer

By Susan Abbott Maitner

I found it while going through the old albums

A letter from the School of Architecture

Inviting you to an Open House

November 12 1988

 

We’d been there in early September

Driving three hours to Troy and back

Touring the Greene Building

Talking to students on a clear day

 

Showing your art

Riffing on ideas, anticipations

Innocence

 

Laughing during the long ride home

 

RSVP by November7

 

__Yes I will attend

__Yes I would like a portfolio review on that date

__­Sorry, I cannot attend the program

 

Over twenty five years later I found it

And it was hard

Hard to open it and read it alone

Even harder now to read it aloud

To you, my friend

 

My tears streaming

And unstoppable

Your presence

Courageous and silent

 

“Sorry, I cannot attend”

Sorry you can’t attend

Sorry, so sorry you’re gone

 

Sorry, so sorry

I couldn’t prevent your leaving

 

Sorry, so sorry

It takes so long

  

 

Leaving The Guild Room

By Susan Abbott Maitner

Leaving the Guild Room

And scanning for a place to settle

I bear right

Then stop

And veer to the left instead

A sudden choice and inexplicable

To ignore the first call, but heed the next

Rash perhaps, and something later

To regret

 

But here is what I find:

Brother James kneading a faded pillow

A single armchair in the sunlight

The sound of purring

 

And windows all around

 

 

Courage

By Nancy Burgas

Oh, it takes courage

to start a new journal

a clean, blank book

full of emptiness

waits to be filled

with heartfelt, brilliant,

deeply meaningful words

 

The horizontal lines

demand fluency

beckon, taunt:

Do you dare to blot

this crisp, pristine whiteness

with smears of ink?

 

“It better be good,”

the page shouts

no trite, confessional trivia here

only the finest,

thoroughly- thought- through words

need be applied

 

Whew, thank god

I’ve christened the book

now to relax

and exchange pondering

for the sheer pleasure of poetry.

 

 

her mirror.

By Marybeth Doctor

I buried the mirror

so I would always know

Myself.

On bent knee, I dug a hole

so deep

I wondered if it would reach her grave.

We shared a name, 

my grandmother and I.

Same fierce independence,

impermeable shell.

I buried the mirror because

I started to see her reflection.

Fingers tense,

hands curved like paws,

I dug a hole.

She died alone, you know.

My grandmother.

Her breath just stopped.

I buried the mirror.

 

 

3

By Margaret A. Dukes

1. Finding Faith

If you have faith in radar –

also in wireless access

to the Internet

and

going back further

in the wireless telegraph –

all means of messages

from one point to another –

can't you believe in the

invisible

grace

that moves among us –

impalpable-

it shows up

sometimes,

despite ourselves.

 

2. Threads of Consciousness

The end of day sun seeps

into the courtyard of courage

it throws a glint of burnt orange

on the mound of snow

of your hidden life-

it's all there –

you piled it up –

now it begins to melt –

as you,

who were not looked for,

step into light

to announce

your presence.

 

3. On the Early Shore of My Life

I stand afar –

dare the waves

to roll up to me.

At first the waves come

about 2-3 inches

from my toes –

but do not touch!

Then when I am looking

at the waves

to either side

ignoring those directly in front –

the three of them collide!

There I stand

the darer and the dared:

To think that I should have the nerve to dare the ocean!

 

 

Trust

By Eileen Gerety

Concern for the summer

How would it be?

Would things flow…

In perfect harmony?

 

Rules and regs

Must get things done

Work is the focus

Under this sun!

 

“Honor Yourself”

I hear myself say

Let go of stress

Keep it at bay.

 

Giving permission

To let myself BE

Can I do this?

Can I really be FREE?

 

Hear something inside

A new faint voice

You CAN let go

It’s really your choice!

 

Breeze passes through me

Unknown – its scent

Welcome and happy

No longer hell bent

 

On doing and achieving

Just want to write

Be there – Be present

Just fly a kite!

 

What’s this new space?

And what’s this feeling?

A turn unexpected…

Breaking a new ceiling?

 

Old voices do warn

Don’t fritter time away

But life feels grand

It’s a brand new day!

 

How can I finally

Just let myself be?

I’m wondering what answer

The “Rune” will see.

 

The tile says TRUST

The voice that’s inside

What an affirmation

Of me and my ride!

 

 

“Coooraj”

By Barbara Gilford

Thematically, (and literally) "COURAGE" is what I need most as I enter the winter of my life, without a map or a wise woman guide to affirm the losses that come with this new landscape I inhabit.

 

Loss of physical strength and agility; loss of friends; loss of a certain competence that includes organization and multi-tasking but is not limited to that; loss of whatever looks and figure I once had; Etc., etc.

 

 Yes, there are great compensations (diminishment of drive and ego; not wanting more "stuff") and thus liberation from the old.  But what will the new, diminished me, need to cope with it all?  "Courage" (say it with a French accent, as in coooraj) is at the top of my list.

 

 

Courage

By Stella Humphries

I find that my impulse to act in small ways is thwarted more than I want to admit.

It may be over a very small thing such as making a phone call instead of sending an email.

Revealing myself, reaching out to connect with another, a person I don't know. 

For some it is nothing. 

They pick up the phone without thought and do what is called for.

I hesitate and the moment passes and I move on to the next thing.

But something is lost.

I contribute to dying not living.

Energy is drained in the dilemma and not gained through the action.

Only a flash of recognition of what I am doing, but I ignore it.

No one knows but I know and it gnaws quietly.

 

On the other hand I can move countries without much consideration.

Oh, I want to live there and I move. 

Some have called this courageous.

I don't feel it to be because it does not call on the energy of "courage" in me.

 

What is that energy?

I want to do this.  An energy pulls me back – almost certainly a fear.

As I write this a flash of insight arises – my fear is to reveal myself.

I write this poem in horror that I am actually revealing myself.

Yet if you are reading it, I have sent it off.

I chose courage. 

Where did it come from?

I am tired of not revealing myself, tired of choosing dying.

Living won.

 

 

Kevin Klein’s Fractured Thumb

By Lorri Lizza

I think I like hockey because playing it seems very courageous to me.

You have to go out in front of millions of people

(When the games are televised)

Skate like the proverbial bat out of hell

Be willing to have your fingers broken

Ribs cracked

Jaw wired

All the time risking humiliation, heartbreak and total disdain

From the people who claim

To love you so much

 

This morning before coming to our writing circle I read in the NY Post that Rangers Defenseman Kevin Klein had fractured his right thumb earlier in the week.  I was at that game; it was against the NJ Devils who won. Their people were very happy, as I recall, ours not so much. A few nights later we beat them.

 

But I digress.

 

“It was . . . one of the most painful injuries I’ve ever had,” said Klein about his thumb. When asked if he’d play today against Philly, he said he hoped so. “It can’t get any worse. It can heal on its own.”

 

Heal on it’s own??

While he’s playing today against

The Philadelphia Flyers – not exactly that city’s best example of Brotherly Love when hosting their rivals to the north –

Kevin Klein’s fractured thumb would be healing on its own?

 

This really struck me. Was there a message?

Here – in the sacred space of the Parish Hall

  Sun streaming in through beveled church windows

  All things quiet and sweet

  Starched white cloth covering the table where I lean to write

Here – far from the body checks about to take place

   Against the boards of the Wells Fargo Center

I uncover a little more about courage and hockey and life

 

Courage is present in, but not exclusive to

The physical and psychological domains

Courage is also present in the will

The willingness not to divorce or kill off in the name of love

 But to show up, stay in the game

“Play the miracle,” as my brother says

Even when you lose your footing and it hurts like hell

 

The waterwheel keeps turning; life flows; healings happen

Courage is a non-linear harmonious parallel process

Contiguous parts – heart, mind, body, spirit, psyche, cells – a jazz ensemble

 Playing together, as we go about our serious work

Until one day, while walking the dog or watering the plants

“It can’t get any worse.”

Transforms into

“It is actually getting better!”

 

Courage is letting it happen

Eyes wide open

Splints and all

 

 (Post Script: While hockey players can do many incredible things, they cannot return to play without medical approval. Kevin Klein was released to play in the February 6th game against the Flyers. He played with his thumb in a splint. The Rangers won in overtime.)

 

 

 

Whence Courage

By Rosalind Seneca

   Millions of years ago we were shrews who survived the mighty collision of the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs. We rooted around in our tiny world of mud and weeds, found food and ran from our enemies in fear.

  

  Now it is 1942 and World War two has begun. My father has a twinkle in his eye as he spots my mother across the room, takes himself in hand and walks towards her.

 

   Two years later, as the war becomes even fiercer, they make what has become a familiar but still great and inexorable connection. There is much thrusting and roiling of bodies and whether from chance, courage or love, a river enters my mother’s body and the great competition begins. Millions of fish like entities dart and thrust against each other in an interior war, and out of countless possibilities only one with supreme strength and courage becomes the first to reach and cling to a descending egg. That egg has been thrust or willed itself to drop out of the ovary and is waved into the womb by little fibrillaters which seem to know in which direction to wave. It meets the triumphant sperm coming up the fallopian tube and together they embrace, descend into the womb and attach themselves to the soft wet wall.

  

   Now begins a time of paradise. There is an endless rocking and moving and dull rhythmic thump, thump as the little being grows and changes and unfolds. All is warmth for months and months as the baby being floats in its dark safe sac full of warm liquid that cushions and holds it.

 

   Suddenly the world calls and paradise abruptly ends. Will and courage arise anew as the inner baby faces its first great worldly and daunting task. How to navigate a dark narrow passage, which is squeezing it and contracting and pushing the baby towards a blinding light- the light of the world? Now it is out of its mother’s body and must find its first breath. It tries and tries until a violent smack shocks it into life. It is a little person in the world and utterly vulnerable and dependent on its mother. Now it breathes and cries and sucks for dear life.

 

     Now its inexorable life force and courage are combined. Every move and new discovery requires determination and risk.

 

     Living means courage- we all have it every step of the way.