Sadness, I instruct you

For my dear friend

And now, sadness,
I instruct you
to be still.

Let these bones rest. Marrow
pale and depleted by memory
and forgiveness,
they are weary and cannot stand your shaking.

Let the exhausted heart
encased in this bombarded cage beneath my skin

jarred by your gnashing and clamouring

float in the buoyancy of you forgetting

for a moment

to squeeze it dry.

Do not bewilder
me with your wailing.

Now I tell you:
Let me be.

~~~

Sums done in the heart

One, one and one equals three
if you think mathematically.

But sums done in the heart
have a subtler art –

Hazel plus Mabel plus me.

______________________________

Hazel and Mabel are the cats I live with, who have just turned 12 and 7 years old respectively. This is their annual birthday poem.

______________________________

Mabelline the dancing queen

was real sweet, she didn’t mean
to make a mess,

but when she saw
the earth, she couldn’t stop her paw

from digging down and shovelling up
mountains of the rich, wet stuff

until the plant sagged toward the ground
and silt and soil piled all around.

Then, with her tail puffed up for joy,
Mabel grabbed her favourite toy

and threw herself, while Mommy slept,
entranced

into the dirt dance.

~

In the morning, before dawn,
still dark, not a lightbulb on,

stumbling awake, Mom promptly trod
directly through those piles of sod.

She tracked them through the house and then
she turned and tracked them back again!

Wondering at her kitten’s glee,
Mom flicked the switch, so she could see…

and after she had sighed, and wept

took her broom and carefully swept…

while Mabel
entranced

threw herself into the dirt dance.

~

Audio version: http://bit.ly/1tWqlOD

Written when Mabel was just wee, and published for her sixth birthday, 2014

_________________________________

When Hazel was a kitten, she

would climb the drapes,
wanting to see what life looked like from up above.
It wasn’t mischief, it was love! of exploration
and adventure. And folks, here’s where I should mention:
Haze was born into a barn, where climbing things could do no harm
and walking on the rafters was the favourite pastime of her cousins
who filled the barn in tens and dozens; from their perch, close to the sky
casting a protective eye
over the cows below.

~

When Hazel moved to city life she honed her skills in chasing mice:
some had little hearts that beat though most had plastic tails and feet.
Those plastic mousies ran Haze ragged, but they soon learned
her claws are jagged. And each toy mouse has lost its tail
to Hazel’s nails.

~

Now Hazel is a little older and, we say, a bit less bold,
she doesn’t swing from chandeliers or dangle from the chiffon sheers.
But she still claims the highest shelf, contentedly washing herself
and from her perch, close to the sky
casting a protective eye
over the house below.

~

Audio version: http://bit.ly/1uejuzg

Written when Hazel was 10 years younger, and published for her 11th birthday, 2014

_________________________________

Sorted Those

Went through the clothes draped
over the chair, you know,
the in-between,
the ones you’re not sure
if you should wear
one more time –
the not worthy
to be hung as clean, the not dirty
enough to be tossed
in the laundry.

Went through the letters saved
in the box, you know,
the bittersweet,
the ones you’re not sure
if you should save
to poke again at that not-yet-
healed memory, the not so foolish
as to make you hang your head,
but sharp enough to squeeze your heart.

Went through the conversations bottled
in my mind, the ones where you said
this and I said
something reasonable, I must have
you know, I’m not sure
why it still hangs
in the air between us, a clean
break not permitted
and I can still be tossed
to the ground by desperate sorrow.

(The first stanza of this poem was ‘found’: it is a note written by my friend Dove about some tidying she did. I found it irresistibly poignant and compelling to riff upon.)

The Travelling Onion

To the Muses, with love, 2005

“And I would never scold the onion
for causing tears.”* The onion does
what it does. We each must live this way.
The small tears you have caused me
the days of laughter
they are of my own making
yet they are yours; you must love the way
you live your life. You must love your own
rich juices, your protective skin, the layers
of your heart revealing
chamber after secret chamber,
the floating centre. You must love
the way your roots have nourished you
and clung to dirt to keep you honest.
Remember your beginnings.
Do not ask me to believe
you are anyone but yourself.

*Naomi Shihab Nye, “The Travelling Onion”, from Yellow Glove, 1986.