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.
“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
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
It takes so much courage
To go on
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
By Marybeth Doctor
I buried the mirror
so I would always know
On bent knee, I dug a hole
I wondered if it would reach her grave.
We shared a name,
my grandmother and I.
Same fierce independence,
I buried the mirror because
I started to see her reflection.
hands curved like paws,
I dug a hole.
She died alone, you know.
Her breath just stopped.
I buried the mirror.
By Margaret A. Dukes
1. Finding Faith
If you have faith in radar –
also in wireless access
to the Internet
going back further
in the wireless telegraph –
all means of messages
from one point to another –
can't you believe in the
that moves among us –
it shows up
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 –
who were not looked for,
step into light
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!
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!
I hear myself say
Let go of stress
Keep it at bay.
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!
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.
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.
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
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.”
“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.)
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.