On the day I die…(a tanka)

 

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This tanka was published in the Tanka Café in Ribbons Spring/Summer 2017: Volume 13, Number 2. The Tanka Café theme was nature.

Meditation on the Moment

The following poem of mine, “Meditation on the Moment” was originally published in a book called, True Belonging: Mindful Practices to Help You Overcome Loneliness, Connect with Others, and Cultivate Happiness (c) 2011 by Jeffrey Brantley, MC, DFAPA and Wendy Millstine.

Dr. Jeffrey Brantley was my first meditation teacher in the Duke Integrative Medicine MBSR program. His wife, Mary Brantley, introduced me to the practice of Metta (Loving Kindness). Through both of these teachers my life was forever changed in a most beautiful way. I wrote this poem for Dr. Brantley and he first used it in meditation classes and later asked to publish it in his book. This was an honor I will always hold very close to my heart.

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Meditation on the Moment

When I am ready,
I close my eyes
and focus on the breathing;
awareness of air
passing through the nose
down through the body;
the belly rises, falls,
rises again ~
its slow rhythm
setting the tone.

Next, focus on the body,
accepting it for once
as it is right now,
here in this moment,
for the moment
is all we have.

Breathing in,
breathing out,
shoulders soft,
no striving
to get somewhere
for there is no place
to be but here.

No judging of self,
simply letting it be
in the moment
for the moment.

Rain pounds against the glass
this February evening.
The image begins with sound
transforming into a thought.

Raindrops falling,
each one perfectly formed
but then releasing,
allowing itself to lose
what it was alone,
becoming instead
part of something more.

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Poem by Mary Kendall, 2007

Moments of Gold

(Photograph © 2014 by Harald Illsinger)

(Moments of Gold  © 2014 by Harald Illsinger)

flapping

five times twice

he hovers

over the pale swans

in a shimmering dance

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My thanks to photographer Harald Illsinger for the use of his beautiful picture, “Moments of Gold” (c) 2014

Dining with the Woodpeckers

pileated suet

While visiting my brother and his wife this summer in East Aurora, New York, we experienced a truly wonderful and unexpected visit from three pileated woodpeckers at the suet feeder Jim had filled. His wife, Paulett, said the woodpeckers were frequent visitors to their lovely back garden. This was a first for me. Although I’ve been an on again, off again birdwatcher for most of my adult life, I’ve only seen one pileated woodpecker in person before. Seeing three at the same time was simply brilliant. Watching their acrobatics as they fed on the suet, flew back and forth to peck at a tree, and generally manoeuvered their rather large bodies in amazinglying agile ways was pure delight. After a feeding frenzy, they flew away and it felt amazingly still and empty where they had been. Much like a visit with beloved family and friends, the ‘after’ part comes all too soon and leaves a void in our hearts. This poem is dedicated to Jim and Paulett, two of the kindest and most caring people I know. Thank you for sharing your home, your family and your amazing woodpeckers with us.

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Dining with the Woodpeckers

In the late August garden
The quiet afternoon now

Comes to a languorous close.
Out of nowhere, a flash of red,

Bright scarlet crests crowning
Zebra-patterned feathers.

Three Pileated woodpeckers
Begin to feast at the suet feeder,

Fluttering, flying tree to tree,
Tree to feeder, alternately

Pecking at thick maple bark,
Then shifting to soft silky suet.

The youngest, now the size of its parents,
Joins in to grab his share, and father

And mother dutifully give way.
For a few Cirque des Oiseaux moments

All three woodpeckers hang right side up
And upside down, their brilliant red heads

Flash like stop lights in the early evening sun.
We sit around the table eating an early supper

And sipping local wine. Conversation drifts
As we watch in these avian acrobatics.

Just as quickly as they arrived, so soon are
They are gone. More wine is poured,

Seconds of hot buttered corn and fresh
Heirloom garden tomatoes are passed

From one to the other. Like the birds,
We share this meal together, enjoying

The richness of what the day has given.
A light wind blows the leaves outside,

A beautiful evening for us to be together
Knowing that summer will end all too soon.

Picture by Beth Brandkamp

Picture by Beth Brandkamp

The First Coyote

The First Coyote

Shadowed by trees, it was alert,
Watching those on the porch.
Tall, thin, a knife sharp gaze,
This coyote knew its way around.

The startled man cradled the cat
And called the nervous dogs back
Inside the house, far away from
This lurker in the evening woods.

Was it waiting for a squirrel or
Rabbit? You couldn’t tell this far
Away, yet clearly it was patient
And after tonight’s dinner.

How else could it survive
If not for foraging here and
There, waiting for a quick
Capture, meat for a day or two.

This was the first coyote seen
In the neighborhood, and now
I open the window late at night
To listen to it sing to the moon.

 

Daybreak (1)

I have included an audio clip of me reading the poem, Daybreak. To hear it, simply click on the link below and wait a few seconds for it to begin.

 

 

Early Morning at Bagnegrole (Photograph by Yolanda Litton)

Early Morning at Bagnegrole (Photograph by Yolanda Litton)

Daybreak

The garden at daybreak.
Before the sun dares
to unveil the dawn.

Clouds and birds.
Dew glimmering
on grass.

Stillness.

Blurred trail of bats
filing into the attic
for rest.

Clouds bloom.
Birds now singing.
Morning shadows lead the way.

 

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My thanks to friend and photographer, Yolanda Litton, for her beautiful photograph from the south of France. Seeing it inspired this poem after bringing back memories of my own travel to Provence.

Willow Branches

Boston Public Garden

Boston Public Garden

The weeping willow is perhaps one of the loveliest trees of all. It certainly plays an important part of many myths and legends in different cultures, and it has stories linking it with full moons, protection and inspiration. I have always loved willows. One of my fondest memories is of living in Cambridge and walking through the Boston Public Gardens when the willows were out in full. On a hot day, you could sit under one and feel ten degrees cooler. The were also among the earliest trees to leaf in spring.

Old Tombstone with Weeping Willow

Old Tombstone with Weeping Willow

In the old, old cemetaries of Boston and Cambridge, willows adorned gravestones and iron work going back to Colonial times.

Lovely Iron Gate with Willow

Lovely Iron Gate with Willow

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the beautiful North Carolina community in which I live there was once a beautiful lotus pond with a magnificent willow overlooking it. One night the tree came crashing down. Later the pond dried up and the lotuses were no more. This poem began quite some time ago, but it, too, lay dormant until I pulled out a forgotten draft of the first three stanzas. Strange how that can be–sometimes returning to a poem that was left unfinished so long ago is suddenly the very thing you need.

~ ~

Click on the link below if you’d like to listen to me reading this poem. It will take a few seconds before the clip begins so please be patient.

 

Weeping Willow Tree

Weeping Willow Tree

 

Willow Branches

 

They said it was the drought that did it.
Too many summers the pond dried up,
Even the lotus pods soon went dormant.

Rainstorms came that June: day after
Day the rain flooded the nearby creek
And filled the small pond you graced.

It was just too much and all too fast.
In the night you fell, your shallow roots
Rudely ripped out of the raw wet earth.

The old gardener pulls up in his truck,
Walks over with chain saw in hand,
Ready to dismember branches and trunk.

I ask if I might take a few willow wands.
He waits patiently and watches as I
Cut three long sticks of fallen green.

I thank him and walk away. He nods,
and smiles wryly after me, at the whimsy
Of a stranger who was passing by.

The chain saw shrieks as it starts
On its ruthless task as I continue
By on my walk, recalling a story I love.

Carrying sticks of willow for protection,
Orpheus, singer of sweet songs and poems,
Wandered in dark and silent Hades.

We know the ending, how Eurydice
Was soon lost forever. But the willow gifted
Orpheus with music, songs so beautiful

Even the wild and rowdy winds stopped
Blowing to listen to his broken heart. With
Orpheus’ death, the lyre lay silenced.

Over the chain saw’s tuneless humming,
I picture the willow’s nocturnal passing,
And I weep for all who are lost too soon.