© 2018 by Medicinal Poetry

 

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An audio offering with music by Theo Grace of Entheo with Benjamin Jack Crandall on Saxaphone.

The future

not fixed

draws us forward

as we reach towards it.

Spider tickles my skin

we are weavers, both.

I draw filaments of light

braided with heartstrings,

play our yearning as a harp

in a song not yet learned.

Let the wind sing through me.

Let the children sing to me.

I am my mother’s child.

No thought will free mine

of the legacy of slavery,

only the careful unbinding

of the dragon under my skin,

whose volatile breath 

rips the pleasantries out of my mouth.

The taste of ash gives me courage.

I will scream until no more babies are beaten by the ones sworn to tend them,

until no more Black churches crumble in flames,

until no one looks at my flesh and decides I am less for it.

See my scales, weak men playing God.

See my claws, and shudder.

Recognize reckoning in my serpentine gaze.

Perhaps one day you will understand that I am powered

not by the rage you fear,

but by this underbelly, once rent and rewoven,

which waits for those willing to bare their own.

The downy fullness visible only to those who have also braved fire,

and trauma,

and learned the skill of grief,

and that the hardest thing to do

is to find one’s voice and sing.

The future,

not fixed

draws us forward

as we reach towards it.

We learn that tears are pickaxes,

breaking through the concrete over our hearts.

Wails the tethers that bring our soul pieces home.

Outraged howls the hammers that destroy that which wastes life.

Fists to the sky and voices speaking truth to power the shovels of the Great Turning.

This weaving is not done in a day,

or a lifetime,

and cannot be done alone.

Uncertain, yet inevitable.

Beauty calls us on.

Chaos and infinity

a maelstrom,

a concordance,

the paradox of birthing a tomorrow

where we can see the sky:

One part opening,

envisioning our dancing grandchildren.

Creating through our believing.

One part destroying,

dismantling the structures that imprisoned our ancestors.

Healing through our unraveling.

Seeds cannot grow in undigested shit.

Learn to make compost again.

Let me feel your hot breath.

I will not mind too much if you brush me with your scales.

I know they are there, beneath the patina of fragility

and the weight of complacence.

Don’t tell me you have no time for the revolution,

that it's not your job. 

We are too wily and wild for such nonsense.

I will only listen to your tenderness,

be it whisper 

or roar,

and the truth

that calls you on.

Picture me dancing.

Along the wild edge, 

where land meets the sea.

Belly and thighs bare.

Salt in windswept hair,

sand under bare feet.

Pressing soft tracks

along the warm ocean.

When you think of me,

this strong black woman,

it would be easy 

to envision toil

my endless struggle, 

how hard I must work.

As black women have 

long been measured by 

what we can produce 

and by what against we fight.

Do not lend your voice to the chorus

that would clamor “rest is indulgence

and fun is only for the lazy, or the white.”

Disagree with the hordes 

saying, “we must work ourselves to exhaustion.”

Capitalism was built on our brown backs

Do not try to beat us with that whip, again.

Question that which would ask 

if I deserve 

such relaxation,

and why we believe 

we must earn feeling well.

I have spent too many years 

believing myself worthless 

in this dark skin,

too many hours never accomplishing enough.

My grandmothers did not sing me into being

to work myself to death

for them, or for you, 

and especially not for the system 

that tried to eat them.

No single nap could touch the tiredness settled into these bones.

Play must be my path, now.

Pleasure my guide.

And art my tool,

to chisel the new paradigm into being through our joy.

Strong is a word I, too, have earned,

and also brave.

but now,

but now

let it be brave, too,

to put down shovel

and pick up snorkel

or paintbrush, or pen.

To trade, for a moment,

a sword for a swimsuit.

When you think of me,

do not envision me working

though that will come in myriad essential ways;

Not struggling, please, never that again,

not distressedly shaking my fist at a concrete sky.

Picture my unbound thighs jiggling as I play in the foam,

my unfettered hair swept by the tradewinds,

my copper-brown skin shimmering as I twirl and bend

as I dance my gratitude for this body’s place

in the symphony of sun, sea, and sand.

The taste of salt, and freedom, 

and a soft smile on my lips

as I gaze into the beyond.

 

 

 

The path to presence. 

Different, every time.

Time as a spiral, not a line.

The true way never looks the same

Because open eyes are always changing.

Wisdom is born of the silent spring,

the fertile darkness that lives below our knowing,

that begets our awakening,

and opens to our remembering.

Ancestral light, the substance of our wings

though they look like muscle and bone;

and, however caged, some part of us 

still remembers these hearts where meant to sing us home.

 

The truth is, I am afraid of my shadow.

And though all the teachers say it contains a gift,

that the birthplace of my fecundity is the ugliest part of me,

I want only to look away from it, to numb, to hide it, to hide from it.

I want the well-lit path. 

So I flee towards the Sun,

the fanfare and exultation,

seeking triumphant exclamation

on a road sparkling clean like my brightest meditations,

in a quest for transcendence;

retracing the steps that have brought me thus far,

centered me before,

but I turn and the shadow is still right there,

stitched to my heels.

The path to presence 

is different every time.

There is so much further to go 

than only light

we must balance above with below.

 

Pilgrim, there is no one road to follow, 

the road is made by walking

over stone and bone,

is made by breathing 

beyond everything you’ve ever known,

and home is an ever-shifting location.

You may taste the sweet nectar for a moment

but then the flower dies,

and you’d best learn to see the beauty in compost.

This path is understood for only an instant

sunlight caught in the hand through a prism

a rainbow bridge to absolute nowness.

This path found in the effusive glee

of a child’s first spinning dance in a summer meadow,

in the feel of my lover’s lips upon my brow,

in the silence before every sound.

The path is different every time,

because it leads to a place that can never be known,

and only in the seeking

can we ever be found.

 

{{{Listen to Niema speak this on soundcloud}}}

 

 

The pattern made by what falls through

the careful construction 

delineating false from true

as simply as red from blue

some spaces inside, some out

some realms hell,

some heaven

yet all the same sand.

Freehand  

 

     measuring pigment and silica

in proper proportion,

the perfection of straight lines,

born of decades of practice,

all the possible precision

of a truly focused mind.

Hours tap, tap, tapping a single image,

bright mandala a few feet wide,

sometimes years carefully offered 

to this immaculate collection of particles

telling one part of the divine story.

When it’s complete,

every grain in its place,

the breath and prayer of each monk arranged

as so much color and imagery:

a brush of sleeve,

a rush of eager wind,

and it is gone,

never to be seen in such way again.

 

Offerings made not for the glory of human eyes.

Not for consumption and rapturous cries

of the hungry hordes.

Not to fill the emptiness,

Nor ease the longing.

Knowledge never to be known,

seeds held in futures sown,

ephemeral, ineffable,

a fleeting fragrance, dance of effulgence,

to intimate and celebrate humanity’s greatest, wisest enemy: 

impermanence.

 

How, after years of creation, 

refinement, prayed for alignment, gracious inspiration,

to say “my life, my art, my identity,

is as complete as it can be,”

and let it go completely,

to take up new colors and a new form?

To hold so lightly something given such attention,

sweat and blood and tears to come this far

the grieving of each lost star,

and everything between the original wish,

and now.

How to say “I am not anything I have ever made, I am akin to the Maker:

I have but one slate in this life.”

And wipe it clean.

 

To stop running from impermanence, 

doggedly tapping a mark upon the world,

clinging to the false hope of meaning

the potential fulfillment of longing.

Building a castle of sand,

when no matter how we try,

the tide will rise

the leaves will fall

and only a spiral 

of compressed colored carbon

will remain.

Why make an enemy

of the inevitable end of all striving,

when it could be our best inspiring?

 

Pride and yearning notwithstanding,

beyond my desire to give nourishment and meaning

perhaps I can learn from those monks.

Offer my art to the tempestuous ocean,

to the wild quiet of bubbling mountain streams,

and let it be carried away:

Grains of sand melting into nothingness

dissolving on the water’s surface,

until all is lost, and found, and fallen through.

 

 

Listen to the demo track of this here 

 

the depths of the Fall.

Some leaves still green,

some brown,

some a radiant red,

defying death for a moment

of blazing, illustrious relishment

before succumbing to the inevitable insensitivity

 

of time to beauty.

The long nights 

punctuated by bright crescent moon

and crisp air,

and the inexorable charging

towards release into darkness.

We can never accomplish

all that we hope

in a season, a year,

a life.

That is the nature of the meeting

of our cyclical universe

with the linearity of desire.

Flow exists because of ebb.

And letting go is the art of a lifetime;

though incremental, increasingly essential the longer we live.

 

So we fall.

 

like finally dried leaves,

still damp with the memory

of a Spring seemingly barely gone.

We wrap our uncertainty and impermanence around us

like so much wool.

Somehow surprised, again, 

that not even Summer lasts forever.

And the height of bright days’ blossoming

returns, in time,

both from and to

the depths of Autumn’s falling.

 

 

Listen to Niema share this poem on soundcloud

I am that rock on the river bottom,

rendered rotund by countless days of rushing water.

 

I was not always smooth.

Once I had crags and crevices.

Gnarly places,

where things got stuck.

Debris of old lives

hiding in my skin.

Became more than I could bare,

carrying all the broken bits,

rubbing myself raw with my own roughness,

overwhelmed by my own heaviness.

No one was brave enough to risk the scratches and rendings

of holding my sharp edges.

So I fell to the bottom.

Where there was nothing but darkness and moistness.

Water, ceaselessly rushing over me.

Tumbling me just enough to reach all of my places,

but mostly just letting me be in it.

I lost track of time, shape, or anything else seemingly certain.

 

Vanity melted in the gently relentless reshaping.

Who knew I was so attached to my untouchability.

no more

no more

I am not identifiable by any obvious means,

indistinguishable from the other stones polished by patience. 

I am just that rock on the river bottom,

 

sitting at the ground of being as it all rushes by above me.

Curious enough to watch it go by, 

let it rouse me enough to travel a bit further downstream,

but mostly just let it be.

Though it will take more time than I care to count,

eventually, eventually,

there will be no more substance here.

Just as there are no longer edges on my cool grey skin,

there will be no leaves or logs or bits of bird's nests,

and there will be no stone.

Just the water, 

carrying it all away.

Should is the sledgehammer of shame,

wielded against the marrow of our souls.

 

“You should have known better.

You should do what you’re told.

You should let go of what’s old.

You should already be evolved…”

 

Robbing us of our spontaneity,

humanity,

vulnerability,

and any sense of worth.

It tells us that frailty is inexcusable.

Omnipotence and omniscience requirements for acceptance.

That somehow our futures can inform the past

in concrete and solid ways.

We do not know what we do not know.

 

This weapon of mass destruction,

the torturous instruction

to be something other than we are.

To conform, follow the norm, or be ever informed.

This pounding shattering soul-crushing illusion

that holds us in heart-aching confusion,

that hides so close to the desire for greatness,

stealing words from our higher selves’ edicts,

and twisting them into whips

with which we scar our own backs.

 

 

Stop. Shoulding. on yourself.

Put down the hammer you have used

to punish yourself for being human.

Listen, yes, for the wellspring of discernment.

The wisdom to make life-giving choices.

The knowing of when a misstep needs atonement.

But do not contort to the whims

of a half-awake world.

Do not cast yourself out

from the circle of your own love,

for any of the ways weakness, failure,

or especially authenticity find you.

Let not your mind bind you.

Speak words that unwind you.

Allow intention to define you.

And hold up your open hand.

resting in the breath at the beginning of creation.

the precious petals still spiraled over center.

trusting in the lightless journey of incubation

and the wisdom of growth’s unfolding; beyond fear.

 

I have grown accustomed to being excellent at everything I do.

I have convinced myself that I must do it all alone.

A forgetting that evolution is ongoing,

and we have ever-shifting knowings

of what is true.

And that I am partially made of you.

Wanting the promised satisfaction of completion,

without accepting the necessity of uncertainty;

the fragmentation required for deeper integration.

The interdependence inherent in real power.

We revere the fully-bloomed flower,

adore its scent and beckoning openness.

But the mountaintop is only one moment of the trail.

The fragrance of forgiveness may draw us towards freedom,

but darkened woods and bottomless chasms

elicit many a vital despairing wail.

 

Baby birds, bits of primordial viscousness

sticking to their uncoordinated wings,

do not judge themselves for their undeveloped ability to sing.

Roses do not believe they will only be worthy of love when their petals unfurl.

And lion cubs roar with abandon, regardless of their obvious harmlessness.

Embrace unblossomedness.

How can you expect to be at your destination when you are still on the road?

Why collapse your life into someone else’s mold?
What if you stopped demanding perfection,

allowing life its own form of completion?

Put down the sledgehammer of should, 

shaming the sap out of your soul

Put down the chisel and awl,

and rest in ever-curious awe

at the beauty of your becoming:

the unplanable inevitability of your timeless blossoming.

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