BEFORE THE PEACE
I saw his photo in a magazine,
with his army gear,
just a day before,
he was a killing machine,
controlled by commands,
obeying, almost blindly,
powers bigger than himself.
In a town he never before saw,
in a country so close,
just across an unseen line,
drawn by politicians,
and years of hate,
he sat, for a minute, on the side -walk,
raised his eyes and looked around.
For the first time,
In a town he never saw before,
in a street full of unfamiliar sounds
and scents, the blast
of guns still explodes in his ears,
and the sweat running down his face.
He hunkers, down on his knees.
He sends his hand to touch.
It is only a small, tri-color cat,
just a plain street cat,
he strokes with the tip of his fingers,
and for a fraction of a second
it takes him far away,
to what could be and isn’t.
In the softness in his eyes,
in his gentle touch,
in his hand that lets go of the gun,
I think I saw a hope for peace.
The Pull of the Moon
Photo by Keren Zucker – https://www.kerenzuckerphotography.com/
Where the river flows into the ocean,
Ripples mark its way, colors merge
To hues of blue and green and brown.
And pushed by the incoming tide, salt water
Squeezed up the narrow river bed
Gush and foam, twist and roar.
Then the tide recedes, and
Pulled by the moon’s silver strands,
The river once again ripples in.
I watch it day after day,
One small river, flowing into the bay.
In and out, ripple and gush.
It is a dance so well-rehearsed.
Salt and sweetness intermingle,
Pull and push linger.
And I know,
As long as it is going on, in my tiny town,
Then around the world, the moon and the sun and the earth,
Still orchestrate this intricate nature’s dance,
And I can relax.
Nine o’clock at night and all is quiet. I doze in my hospital bed when suddenly the monitor I am hooked to with many leads starts flashing an angry red. Startled I look up at the heartbeat counter, it shows a big red 0. Before I manage to move, five people show in the room. They stand in front of my bed in a row, they look at the monitor then at me. I look back at them not sure what is going on but sensing that I play a key role in this bizarre scene I cannot resist the urgent need to say something meaningful.
“Zero heartbeats, does that mean that I am not alive? “this is the best that I can come up with being totally unprepared for playing the dying patient. No one smiles.
I feel a bit winded and lightheaded like I did for the past week but my heart that for a few weeks now was beating and fluttering in my chest like a caged bird desperate to fly away feels strangely quiet. Maybe I am indeed dead.
I cast another look at my attentive audience. Two female nurses and three very young, attractive male nurses and I wonder if the abundance of male nurses in this hospital presents a subtle way to help female patients stay alive. It’s a funny thought, so I start to giggle while I toss in the bed in a try to get a better look at the alarming signs on the monitor. In that exact moment, the display flickers and my heartbeat start to climb up. I breathe in, breath out, smile an encouraging smile at the crowd in front of my bed.
“I guess I am still here,”
No one smiles.
I nod my head to my unresponsive audience, rest it back on the pillow and close my eyes. I am tired. It’s been a long week and tomorrow they will fix whatever it is that does not work in my heart. The long words and explanations that were thrown at me had one thing in common; like a flawed machine my heart, the one I trusted until now has failed me, and someone needs to go in and fix it. Tomorrow another piece of machinery, a pacemaker will assume the responsibility. The pacemaker will do an excellent job they assure me.
“You will be as good as new,” these words are like a mantra that supposed to make me feel good.
A specific model, a series number, battery life, all this detailed information is shared orally and in written documents. My signed consent is requested, and still, I feel that my presence in the process is not, I am not a heart mechanic I am only the carrier of this damaged piece of equipment. Only the carrier.
It’s a somber thought that I need to come to terms with. It makes me feel that in some ways the process of separating from my body had already begun.
To everything there is a season.
“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;”
Ecclesiastes 3 King James Version (KJV)
Always in September – when
Summer’s buoyancy yields to the
High-Holidays weighty deliberations.
The Days of Awe wrap around me a heavy cloak,
Till the day of final judgment seals.
Until next year, I repeat the refrain.
Until spring returns – inaudibly in my heart.
A time to be born, and a time to die,
And it all starts in September.
It always starts in September,
A sudden trace of coolness, in the air.
Crisp mornings grab on patchy fog
Vanishes into translucent blue.
And for a second, a red leaf
Shines through the green density.
And I know that with blazing reds and orange the summer will soon die.
Then the somber air of winter’s grays and whites will settle.
There is time to be born,
There is a time to die.
And on the way don’t we change our colors,
Just like the seasons do?
The Purr of a Cat
“You cannot look at a sleeping cat and feel tense.”
“There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats.”
The purr of a cat,
It can’t get any simpler than that.
When this bundle of softness
Radiates warmth all around,
And your body succumbs
To the rhythm.
And life slows down,
As you breathe in and out.
The slow beating of your heart,
The melody of the streaming blood.
The purr of a cat,
Do you need more than that?
Bluer than robin’s eggs
“As I remember your eyes
Were bluer than robin’s eggs.” Joan Baez – Diamond and Rust.
I watched them for almost three weeks, a couple of robins building their nest. They flew around the front yard for a while. Checked the grassy lawn for its offering of forage. Perhaps consulted with the hummingbirds who inhabited of the lawn for many years, and finally decided to construct the nest in the bush right next to the deck. The bush that I neglected to prune and is now hovering over drive.
Every morning with my first cup of coffee I would sit, and watch fascinated how they were flying back and forth each time with a new trophy; a blue thread, a twig, a dead leaf, stopping occasionally to chat, while resting on the arch that holds my Dutch Trumpet’s vine.
I was a bit worried about their choice of location, at the tip of the bush, on a rather low branch. Constructing the nest at the section of the bush that seemed fragile, unstable in the wind and easily seen from the front drive. But I calmed myself thinking that they have generations of instincts guiding them so who am I to judge. It was nice to be able to see, from my seat on the deck how the nest grows and forms with each day and becomes an elaborate creation to hug and protect the eggs and then the newborn birds.
But this morning, on the deck a blue egg, fractured is the first thing that caught my eyes. It laid half open on the floor with its insides oozing out. I knew right then and there that my worries were justified; this was not a good place, not a safe location at all. For a few minutes, I was consumed by sadness and anger.
I was surprised by my own reaction. Only a broken robin’s egg, I kept telling myself, not a big deal. Light blue, the kind of blue robin eggs are known for. Blue for happiness and rebirth, in this case, became the death of a hope.
I found myself mourning the loss of one blue robin egg, the death of a future bird. Perhaps in a world full of misery, and anger, it is the simple daily things that in the end get us.
In our seasonal mom-and-pop motel, in Down East Maine, every season has its unique signs, and over the years we learned to sense the seasons, even before they officially began, by the many subtle signs that precede.
This year I missed all the cues. When the days got longer, and the grass greener and in the morning the first wild lily, along the ditch, opened her orange head, I should have known. It is July again.
When the first red leaves shined at me from behind the unified green coat on the old maple tree in the front yard, I should have known. Every summer about this time we look at these red leaves and ponder; is this a sign of fall coming earlier, or the tree is showing the first signs of decline?
When I mowed the grass, zooming from side to side on my green John Deere did I miss the changes in the wildflowers population, not dandelions with their silvery white heads but small yellow buttercups glistening with the morning dew and Hawk- weeds dotted here and there with a white head of a daisy or the red of a red clover.
The mornings heavy with the night’s moisture, the sun barely seen behind the dense fog, the cardinal on the bird feeder and an occasional turkey waddling in the backyard
All these signs went right by me until last night when the lady from room 19 walked into the lobby and said, half apologetically that she cannot change the channels on her TV and by the way there was an ant in the bathroom, but it is not a big deal, they get them at home all the time in July.
Then the man from room 21 joined to ask for help for his kid who locked himself in the bathroom.
The young lady, from room 18 couldn’t get the cold water to flaw in her shower.
“Only hot water,” she said, “cannot shower like that.”
Room 9 locked the door but then remembered that he left the key (and perhaps his wife) in the room, do we have a spare key? He did not forget to lock his car though because in the midst of all these the car’s alarm started howling.
And the nice man from room 2 while doing his laundry broke the nob of the dryer.
I took a deep breath, looked at my husband who was at that exact moment changing the pages on the calendar.
He pointed at the new page, that declared in bold letters – July.
Summer season snuck on us for the first time in twelve years.
Spring by far is my favorite season. Every year when the snow finally melts I can’t get over the magic of the first spring sprouts. It’s as powerful as God’s promise never to bring a second flood. Regardless of the craziness that engulfs us daily when even nature at times seems to lose its grip and lash at us humans with unremembered fury. When April rolls in, the days get longer, the ground gets softer, and the green erupts. Soft greens at the beginning dot the ground or appear as tiny buds on the trees until one morning everything is green.
My favorites are old friends I saw last fall and are now coming back. The Clematis who all through the winter looked like a dead twig springs new leaves and buds that will open into glorious purple flowers. The sweet pea in the corner sends tender, shy shoots that from experience I know will grow and grow relentlessly and if not stopped will cover walls and windows. In the wet ditch, bordering the road the nine cattails raise their brown heads and sway in the light breeze while next to them my pride and joy, the wild lilies I planted years ago start their journey that will yield my favorite orange blossoms.
It’s nothing less than a dazzling celebration. The colors of the new growth mingle with the loud music of the peepers. First, just a lone forerunner whose voice is heard at dusk from the wetland in the forest across the road but before long another one joins and another to create a deafening orchestra that salutes nature and will last all through the night reaching its crescendo shortly before dawn.
The cycle of life, perhaps a cliché, or maybe it holds an inner truth that we can adopt into our lives. Decline and death are but stages that interact with the spring bloom and the summer’s lush. It makes me feel good to know that the seeds I invested in the ground will forever become a part of this everlasting succession.
Compartmentalizing is the name of the game
Work is to the front,
A lobby and a reception desk
“Hi, how are you?”
“A room for one night, or two?”
Behind, is my living room
My books, my pictures, my cat,
My private life, just a warm breath away
A soft breath in my back.
In this land of opportunities, I call now home
Longing all the while for the one left behind,
History, memory, emotions intertwined
I keep them separate yet intact
I open doors and close them at will
Shine in a beam of light
Each room holds something that I like
Each room holds something I deride.
What’s holding me together
Are fine threads, hemmed in crude stitches,
An aggregate appearance
Graciously covers the cracks.