Poetry in the Desert



Each day a bird would shelter
in the withered branches of a tree
that stood in the idle of a vast, deserted plain.
One day a whirlwind uprooted the tree,
forcing the poor bird to fly a hundred miles
in search of shelter—
till it finally came to a forest
of fruit-laden trees.
If the tree had survived,
nothing would have induced
the bird to give up its security and fly.
— Anthony DeMello, One-Minute Wisdom

Desert rose

Desert rose

I’ve written a lot of poetry this month.  I took up the write-one-poem-a-day challenge of the National Poetry Writing Month and had a lot of fun with it.

The good thing about writing one poem a day is, as William Stafford’s son pointed out, you don’t have to write a GOOD poem every day.

The month culminated in presenting a workshop for the National Association for Poetry Therapy conference in Scottsdale, Arizona.  Which is in the middle of a desert. Which is where I literally found myself, the little bird that once sat in a dead tree tree, perched in a “healing garden” filled with fruit-laden trees.
You don’t get more poetic than that!

Well, actually, you can:
A tiny goldfinch, the symbol of resurrection, appeared on a water fountain in front of me as I sat in the garden with an old friend.

So there you are.
Poetry, in real life.
(Check out my favorite photos from my visit on my FB site.)

To celebrate, I’ve selected three poems to share. One is a found poem, collected as ReadBack lines from the Open Mic night we had at the conference.  I wasn’t quite ready to share any poetry yet, so, I played my ukulele to open the show.  Which was risky and vulnerable and lots of fun.  And then I wrapped the night with the ReadBack lines.  Which was magical.

The second poem I wrote at the conference.  The third is a group poem I compiled from the participants in my workshop. I’ll share those in a separate post.

So, here we go.

Open Mic Night
Alchemy at the Jung Institute in Asheville.
What I see here are beautiful lotus flowers,
and their words are hard and heartfelt.
It was a kindness.
My house is stuffed.
I shiver shards of broken wishes.
I made wonder my roof.
I whisper secrets to the moon.
Back to bread.  Back to wine.
The river’s cool color never repeats.
My arms are uncannily light.
A paradoxical experience.
Low doorways and open space.
An artist who dreamed in circles.
He’d been inspired by a poem.
As one free sky-seeking lark ascending.
I saw hundreds of spiders in the shower.
Nothing but a bird’s nest, I wept.
One night I dreamed my head was full of feathers.
Ancient swollen spiky thumbs.
It’s about a rose being a rose, thorns and all.
Who is an emperor without clothes or a throne?
Turn your gold into God.
Time to get out of the gene pool.
Always I find my maps at AAA.
Squeezed tight and flustered,
there she will be.
Then will come the Goddesses.
Love gifts will flood the void.
Each moment is the was of the next.
This has been my most beautiful day on the water.
Hear the silence in the spaces.
Why am I concerned with worry?
I am tainted by the inevitable fall.
Will I find the smooth taste of awareness again?
I’m here to journey.
I’m here to journey.
Everyone can be free in the now.
First the clearing away.
I can make a hole with my finger.
Pulling the long root of a weed.
You love him, they teased.
A thick salmon in your mouth.
You are a poet if you write a poem.
Instead of right angles, slopes.
The precision given in that answer.
They only attack when they are scared.
Both wild, both endangered,
they understood each other.
Yes, we both say to olives.
With perfect moments, completely out of place.
Wet nose up the back of a visitor’s skirt.
Better get cracking!
I am very tenderly rinsing,
covered by the indignities of illness.
An urgent love that longs to be enough to raise the dead.
How we played Gotcha Last every night, and you always let me win.
Until I was 21, and you left us.
It’s a memoir in poems.
Effigies of horror burned.
Let the weeping begin.
Does my anger scare you?
Like you’re the mother fuckin’ president of something.
Dreams take the form of rocks.
The abyss of sweet dreams.
— Read-back lines from poetry open mic night at
the National Association of Poetry Therapy Conference
Compiled by Jennifer Wolfe April 25, 2014


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