Feast not too often on meager crumbs of joy,
fallen haphazardly from someone else’s table.
Thinking yourself filled, sated,
you will find yourself crouching, smiling,
lowering your head to be patted by the hand
that cares nothing for you.
Then, when beaten back from the table,
you will scuttle away crouching low,
spirit yielding to fear.
But rise, rise then, standing—
staring eye to eye.
Lift your head and turn,
walk to new horizons.
There, build a table all your own
where you feast wholeheartedly
upon the delightful dishes of joy
inviting others to share.
Each one partaking in as much joy
as can be held
at your table
where no one
need feast on crumbs.
With ramshackle shards
Of heart, soul, self
Falling away like the browned petals
Of a long-wilted bouquet,
We create a riotous noise
In ramshackle attempts
To find some connection.
Lumbering, awkward attempts
At reaching out to touch once again,
To replace, to freshen
The brown wilted and missing parts
With new bouquets of spring
Whose stems sit in eternally
Fresh, clean waters.
We dream of a life lived
No longer ramshackle,
With no long-wilted bouquets
Of a past to haunt with falling petals,
But a life returning whole,
To move without noise
Through the world once again.
My lessons in listening: To a mother’s final words— Always remember I loved you and was proud Tossed off, too rushed to leave work To get to the hospital, to see her, Always thinking of more days, time. Not thinking all I’d see, Her dead eyes.
To all my dogs– little tells Of cocked heads, whines, barks, The ways of wagging tails, To know what meant what– Hunger, pain, desire to play, A need for love or to go outside. Those I’ve always learned well.
To students, the teens I taught, A puzzle to figure of pieces and placement What each meant for each— The lift of a shoulder, how the eyes met or did not meet mine, The head upon the desk, the work done or not, The things said, not said— To figure needs- Some basic, some not so, Requiring other safety nets, Bruised and broken, Some I could help repair. I knew what to listen for, Almost by instinct, Since I had not been listened to When I was one of them.
To my child, a whirlwind of cries, Hunger, diaper, cold, hot, sick— Each cry different A knowing, animal instinct, Some primal thing beating Inside knew the way Of my infant’s need. When a teen— A different thing, A new species of need, My animal and her animal Had no common language Of smells, signals, or cries In the darkened tunnels We went through.
To my dying wife, my dying wife— So hard to listen to, to understand a language no longer including My daughter or me. Never knowing for whom The last coma spoken words– I’m sorry, so sorry— Were spoken.
Now, I learn the final lesson of listening, A lesson sixty years in the learning,
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