bag of lemons
adorning the white counter
in my imagination,
not a bag
from supermarket bins
with fruit, pepper, and melon
that each lemon
a limestone grove
on the Coast of Amalfi,
where the salt-tinged air
is ripe with birdsong
is a fist-sized
in my hands,
a cradle of wicker and twine.
the mesh bag’s
as though everything
now requires reverence,
I could honor the journey
of hands –not my own—
fruit to market
the slightest recognition.
My own hands twist
the golden orbs,
at their scented beauty.
in this way
as I sighed
in front of the kitchen window.
Having just returned home with a bag of Meyer lemons last February, I read this poem more closely than I might otherwise have. It seemed directed at me then and now that our produce is so abundant, it came to me again.
Could it be that these lemons actually came from a limestone grove / on the Coast of Amalfi, / where the salt-tinged air / is ripe with birdsong? Already they hold a scent, even a sound that is beyond my kitchen.
How often do we honor the journey / of hands even for a short moment of wonder, hands that have brought us this golden fruit? What might it be like to give reverence to the produce that we bring into our homes?
The poet speaks again of hands when she holds a lemon in her own, marveling / at their scented beauty and says her hands were honored by these lemons. I too have held these small Meyer lemons rolling them around on my skin to awaken their heavenly scent and feeling blessed by these tiny gifts.
Whatever sun-glazed fruit you hold in your hands in your kitchen this summer, take a moment to honor its journey to you and swoon at the scent. Already I’m thinking of peaches!
Starting here, what do you want to remember?
How sunlight creeps along a shining floor?
What scent of old wood hovers, what softened
sound from outside fills the air?
Will you ever bring a better gift for the world
than the breathing respect that you carry
wherever you go right now? Are you waiting
for time to show you some better thoughts?
When you turn around, starting here, lift this
new glimpse that you found; carry into evening
all that you want from this day. This interval you spent
reading or hearing this, keep it for life––
What can anyone give you greater than now,
starting here, right in this room, when you turn around?
This poem has been my loyal companion on my solitary river walks these days, speaking the lines out loud (is that woman talking to herself??) as I go. The more I say these words, the more their comfort eases me and they sink into my bones.
Just that first line Starting here, what do you want to remember? carries me off into realms of wondering. The images of sight and scent and sound are all around me.
But it’s the next question that slows my walk: Will you ever bring a better gift for the world than the breathing respect that you carry wherever you go right now? The answer of course, is no. And I’m hooked on the notion of ‘breathing respect’.
The repetition of starting here brings me back to this moment, just as each breath can do. The invitation to carry all that you want from this day, to keep it for life is too enticing to resist.
And the final question takes my breath away each time: What can anyone give you greater than now? What indeed! Always that reminder that there is nothing more than this, this moment, this now.
May the breathing respect you carry remind you that now is all we have, all we need.
Who knows the mysteries of the poppies
when you look across the red fields,
or hear the sound of long thunder,
then the saving rain.
the solitude of the single body
or sometimes, too, when the body is kissed
on the lips or hands or eyelids tender.
Oh for the pleasure of living in a body.
It may be, it may one day be
this is a world haunted by happiness,
where people finally are loved
in the light of leaves,
the feel of bird wings passing by.
Here it might be that no one wants power.
They don’t want more.
And so they are in the forest,
or those small but grand.
And when you sleep, rapture, beauty,
may seek you out.
Listen. There is
sweet dreams you may never forget.
How worthy the being
in the human body. If,
when you are there, you see women
wading on the water
and clouds in the valley,
the smell of rain,
or a lotus blossom rises out of round green leaves,
remember there is always something
besides our own misery.
Though I am not currently miserable, like all of us I have my moments. And it’s at times like that I need to be reminded as Hogan says there is always something / besides our own misery.
She speaks so eloquently of the mysteries of poppies and rain, of beauty, the pleasure of living in a body. And then she presents us with an astonishing possibility: that the world may one day be haunted (haunted!) by happiness and people finally are loved. This reminds me of Day Dream by A.S.J. Tessimond which you might also like.
Rapture, beauty may seek you out as you sleep. Listen she says, There is / secret joy, / sweet dreams you may never forget. Pay attention, she is telling us. These things are real and close at hand if we open our eyes and ears. How worthy the being in the human body – how often do we truly remember this?
May rapture and beauty seek you out. May you be open to receive it.
And here is another spring poem of mine from a couple of years ago that describes my annual experience. And now the leaves have truly arrived; perhaps it is even summer!
Every year I plan to be there
at that exquisite unveiling
when the tender green leaves,
so tightly wrapped, open themselves
to the waiting new-made world.
Impatiently I watch for signs,
carefully observing the nascent buds
on the winter-bare branches,
biding my time
for they cannot be rushed.
Yet each year, there comes a morning
when I look to find yesterday’s small gift
unwrapped, tiny viridescent leaves
unfurled, waving their diminutive hands
in greeting: hello spring,
hello Janice, sorry we arrived
while you weren’t looking;
we just couldn’t wait.
Savoring the substance
is a serious
Someone must do it.
Someone must love
luminous hours when leaves
marry light and refuse
Someone must speak
before it is lost
Someone must bask
in the beauty of blessing
because the news knows only
When you give yourself
to a particular place
of that place
So savoring the substance
is a serious frivolity.
Someone must do it.
Will that someone
I confess, I love a poem that asks a question, especially when my answer is a strong yes!
I love the contradiction of seriousness and frivolity – what I hear the poet saying is that savouring (as we must) this precious existence is both significant and consequential, and without serious purpose. Therefore, someone, someone must do this impossible thing.
We must love the radiant light shining on the leaves, the sweet, transient smell of lilacs, the beauty of blessing because, and this is the reason: the news knows only / brokenness. Every day we are given opportunities to see this truth in the face of all the brokenness.
You are both the giver and the receiver: when you give yourself wholly to wherever you are, you receive the power and peace that is transmitted to you, through you.
Therefore, we must fully taste, in all senses of the word, this seriously frivolously amazing life. So what do you say, Will that someone be you? I’m willing to bet the answer is Yes!
Because it is spring
the world unfolds itself to our wonder:
the thawing, melting, juicy dripping
that is the earth softening,
that is our bodies softening,
opening like the green buds of new leaves.
Muscles that have been tightly clenched
begin to lengthen and unfurl
placing eager trust in the warming air
and our winter-pale faces turn like flowers
toward the sun’s comforting heat.
As the earth bestirs its waking self
so does our blood and breath quicken,
our movements informed by the season
becoming supple as air as we lighten,
shedding the heavy vestments of hibernation,
dancing the gladness of spring.
~ Janice Falls
Including one of my own poems is a departure for me but after my dear friend Anne read this at her yoga class this week and again last night at the spring equinox dance she curates, I received a few requests to share this further.
I was surprised to find that I wrote this six years ago, inspired by Anne’s dances that mark the seasonal turnings of the year. I don’t have much more to say than what is contained in the poem itself except that I know I felt this change of season in my body then as I do each year. Perhaps you too are dancing the gladness of spring.
My gratitude to Anne for her inspiration and sharing of these words and to my friends who encourage me always.
by Alberto Rios
There is no controlling life.
Try corralling a lightning bolt,
containing a tornado. Dam a
stream, and it will create a new
channel. Resist, and the tide
will sweep you off your feet.
Allow, and grace will carry
you to higher ground. The only
safety lies in letting it all in—
the wild with the weak; fear,
fantasies, failures and success.
When loss rips off the doors of
the heart, or sadness veils your
vision with despair, practice
becomes simply bearing the truth.
In the choice to let go of your
known way of being, the whole
world is revealed to your new eyes.
Control, resistance, refusal – who of us has not experienced this urge to shape life to our own desires? And how we struggle to make things happen the way we want, things that are out of our hands no matter how we try.
Allow – to permit something to happen, to admit the truth of, to acknowledge. This is such a different perspective, where grace will carry you to higher ground. Safety in letting it all in – the wild with the weak; fear, / fantasies,failures and success – this is not a common understanding in our culture where we are taught to try to keep it all out.
Allow loss, sadness, despair? To practice being with what is, simply bearing the truth? What kind of direction is this? Does this call up more resistance or can there be another, more affirming way?
The answer is so simple, if not easy: In the choice to let go of your / known way of being, the whole / world is revealed to your new eyes. As we release our habitual hold on what we thought was the way, fighting, resisting, we see with new eyes – a whole world we have refused. Until we allow.
May you wake with a sense of play,
An exultation of the possible.
May you rest without guilt,
Satisfied at the end of a day well done.
May all the rough edges be smoothed,
If to smooth is to heal,
And the edges be left rough,
When the unpolished is more true
And infinitely more interesting.
May you wear your years like a well-tailored coat
Or a brave sassy scarf.
May every year yet to come
Be one more bright button
Sewn on a hat you wear at a tilt.
May the friendships you’ve sown
Grown tall as summer corn.
And the things you’ve left behind,
Rest quietly in the unchangeable past.
May you embrace this day,
Not just as any old day,
But as this day.
Held in trust
In a singular place,
As we begin the rituals of a new year, whether in passive hopes for better things or with more active intentions to shape our lives, I do find it helpful to have a poem in my pocket to remind me of what’s important.
I’ve always appreciated the opening phrase of ‘may you’ which offers possibilities – in this case of play, the possible, guiltlessness. And don’t you love the idea of smoothing the rough edges when it brings healing and leaving them rough When the unpolished is more true / And infinitely more interesting.
I may just have to start sewing buttons on my hat with each year yet to come, to go with the coat and scarf. And I know my friendships are a vast field of tall summer corn, healthy and abundant. It’s good to be reminded that the things we’ve left behind can Rest quietly in the unchangeable past.
Finally, we are called to embrace this day as our own, Held in trust / By you, / In a singular place, / Called now. Each day, held in trust, to hold, to spend, to treasure, to return to the present moment over and over. May it be so for all beings.
One morning you might wake up
to realize that the knot in your stomach
had loosened itself and slipped away,
and that the pit of unfulfilled longing in your heart
had gradually, and without your really noticing,
been filled in—patched like a pothole, not quite
the same as it was, but good enough.
And in that moment it might occur to you
that your life, though not the way
you planned it, and maybe not even entirely
the way you wanted it, is nonetheless—
persistently, abundantly, miraculously—
exactly the way it is.
This poem has been reaching out and nudging me since I first encountered it in Poetry of Presence, a gorgeous collection of poems of mindfulness. https://poetryofpresencebook.com/
Who has not experienced the knot in your stomach, the unfulfilled longing in your heart and then noticed with grateful surprise when those feelings have disappeared, like a pain that has mysteriously stopped. The image of patched like a pothole, not quite / the same as it was, but good enough makes me smile each time. Good enough is such an important and undervalued concept.
And then there is the possibility of realizing that your life is just how it is regardless of how you thought you wanted it to be. That it is persistently, abundantly, miraculously just as it is, perhaps even just as it is meant to be.
On this solstice day, as the light begins to return, as we come to the close of this year, I wish for you to experience the persistent, abundant, miraculousness of your life, exactly the way it is.