on my tongue

write a poem that explores your sense of taste

a tin cup at my lip,
a copper penny hidden in my cheek
cold water overflowing my mouth
and I’m thirsty
and it’s hot out

a silk scarf coming loose
warm milk in the half light
teeth and nails dragging over
unbroken skin
salty that way

an entire savannah and four legs
the blood of fresh kill
the wind whistling as you dive
dirt and fur
river from the sea

the dew on your tongue
when he’s just behind you
the bliss on your brow when
she steps so near
you only inhale

the moment you cross
the white man’s border
the moment you stand
on your own land
you taste it

blessed madiba

dear and blessed madiba

for most of my life you had been in prison
longer than i had been alive
madiba mandela
the song of your life was made lovely by what you believed
in the spaces your body was held
in the waiting and waiting
in what i could not imagine and still cannot

years that might make a life
passed by and you took them and you shaped them into your wisdom
madiba madiba
you let me know my anger, though justifiable,
was it’s own prison
your heart grew until no bars could hold you
you grew a collective freedom,
perhaps love freed you
but i wonder so, how did you find love inside of there,
was all of that inside of you?

your face of a thousand folds
appeared to be carved from smiling
miraculous madiba
black bodhisatva
the stories keep coming of your human-ness
thank you for how you journeyed this short arc
mandela mandela
madiba madiba
go on

i am not a dog person.

today we got a dog.

i am not a dog person.

to be technical, sam and autumn and the babies got a dog. which means once a month for a week i now have a dog to love and care for.

this morning his name was dewie. up until a few weeks ago he lived in an apartment, and was too big and excited and awesome to be there. then he lived at the humane society.

now his name is bran, a good irish name, which is what all new beings to this home immediately receive. bran is house trained, but has no other visible forms of obedience. he loves chewing children’s toys, but he is discerning, showing zero interest in the dog toys that came with him. he barks at the fire as if putting another living creature in it’s place. he is mostly sleek black labrador, but has a slight sagginess to him that is apparently from his ‘coon hound lineage, as well as white paws and lots of spots, including one at the very tip of his long tail. he likes going outside, but doesn’t appear to feel any obligation to pee. he is playful and incredibly sweet and keeps bumping up against me until i scratch his hips.

he is ten months old, the same age as mairead, the youngest child here. mairead is the least interested in him. siobhan has tried twice to mount him, and keeps asking in wonder, ‘do we have a dog?’, while finn tries tirelessly to engage the dog in the massive overly directed production called finn’s imagined life.

i had my dog already. her name was sugarfoot because she was all black with white paws. we reveled in her mutt-ness, it matched our family. she was small and perfect, untrained, not interested in barking or conflict. we grew up with her, and when we went to college she became the primary confidant of both of my parents. during my last visit home before she died she took me out to look at the stars and we had closure. i knew i’d never need or want another dog.

i am not a dog person, i just loved her.

i am not a hater of creatures, not ever. in fact i am mostly not a dog (or cat, ferret, parrot, snake, mouse, or other pet) person because of my deep belief in freedom. the domestication of animals who cannot reason or choose such dependence has always felt like an entrapment. and particularly dogs, who love so thoroughly…how can humans ever earn that love enough to justify taking the wilderness away?

i know i am centuries late in this argument. still.

and yet…i loved sugarfoot. i grieved her death, i still get caught up if i find a hair in some parental storage or her picture comes up on my screen saver, and it’s been a decade since she passed.

and i love when i see people who truly love wild and unreasonable creatures, somehow domesticated and found. i see the difference when it is truly cross-species love. there are my politics and and then there is the current complex world.

and these kids are the kind of kids who will do well to love and care for a dog. my sister and brotherinlaw are the kind of people who will be soothed and amused and enlivened by the presence of this creature.

but of course i was surprised when i saw this dog in the yard and my heart trilled a bit. and then when he made eye contact and looked familiar. and then when i needed to take him on a walk, one on one, and i was giggling as he dragged me along. and then let him lay on my floor futon, albeit flipped over so he isn’t touching where i sleep. he loves it. he already, with some suspicion, but genuinely, seems to love me.

i don’t know. he’s awfully sweet. and curious, young, full of life. i am not a dog person. i was a sugarfoot person. maybe a decade is long enough to grieve and release and be loyal. maybe i can consider this friendship? maybe i can be a bran person.

we’ll see. regardless, we have a dog.


21 observations for a new day

i love days like this, uplifted as something special – winter solstice, new calendar, mom’s birthday, named in time. here are 21 current observations from my life.

1 there is no silence, but it is good to quiet ourselves enough to hear the night animals hunting, the snow melting, the vibrant pounding of our own hearts.

2 there are moments which cannot be thought through, must be felt through. this becomes more apparent as i am growing my capacity to feel.

3 i am starting to ask children the questions i really hold. their answers delight me. i highly recommend this.

4 ‘so now i am older/than my mother and father/when they had their daughter’ – fleet fox, ‘montezuma’. when i remember this, i feel such compassion for my parents.

5 it comforts me to imagine that thousands of years ago, people sensed that humans would need thousands of years to work out our worst tendencies, but longing for a compassionate resilient way of being was present even then.

6 that said, i don’t presume to understand what was known then. it makes me nervous when people speak too definitively of what someone in the past was thinking, knowing how often i am mysterious and misunderstood in this time.

7 every single day that i begin with meditation and/or yoga is better than days i don’t. writing is a meditation some days, jo others.

8 it is taking me a long time to apply that lesson to my morning routines. but i am aware now, and feel the immensity of choice in me, that any time things aren’t feeling right i can return to breath, begin again, and again.

9 dignity is becoming very important to me. i notice it in posture, in the way people meet my eyes without falling in or falling away, in the pull of gravity and dreams. i want to be of a dignified people.

10 i’m not the only one who hears music all the time inside. when i let my ‘soft animal body love what it loves,’ i am always dancing. (mary oliver, a beast among poets, wrote those words in her poem ‘wild geese’)

11 i really do hope i was foreseen, and am worthy of my time.

12 home is an internal condition, and a way of being in relationship, for me.

13 fashion is a communication of home, beauty and vision. my fashion, which i am finally allowing to matter to me and for me, was shaped by marilyn monroe, new york city, and images of the future from the past: star wars, star trek, idoru.

14 i prefer to be part of the beauty, not part of the background.

15 ‘we must keep in mind that we are not going to be free – we already are free. every idea that we are bound is a delusion.’ swami vivekananda


16 ‘the only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion.’ camus

17 complexity is liberating me. i now hold that there is an absolute freedom, some place we are all driven to, and a relative freedom, the freest we think we can get given our conditions. taking steps towards the relative freedom can move us towards the absolute.

18 i love love. it feels really essential to being alive, to risk the vulnerability and the heartbreak, to actually live in love with others.

19 i love this body of mine, part of the greater human body. the more i feel, the more i realize every cell is full of stories, and more are coming.

20 i have, so far, avoided getting so serious i can’t laugh at these efforts of ours to make meaning of our seeming insignificance. we are completely hilarious.

21 i have, so far, avoided getting so cynical i can’t feel the miraculousness of my life, and of our efforts to understand and evolve what it means to live. we are utterly incredible.