Monday, April 25, 2022

Coals for Our Hearth Fires

Bedeck the lowing cattle
with yellow flowers,
and trot them round the meadow,
then send them out
to the far summer pastures,
as this soft azure evening
is falling.
All the menfolk are gathering
in the common,
to light the communal fire.
Let us gather round the flames,
faces flickering in its light,
and ask Fire for protection.

Deep peace, deep peace
is all we are asking.
Deep peace of the spring night,
filled with starshine,
and of tomorrow's golden morn,
fresh and new-rising.

I shall take my torch
and light it from the coals,
carry it safely home
to light my own hearth fire,
snuffed out by the last cold winter wind.

But first,we women-of-the-straggly-hair
must hoist our skirts up high
and take long-legged leaps
across the flames.
Set your intention.
If you make it across
the fire without being burned,
you are already blessed.

Deep peace of the first of May to you.
Deep peace of the bee-buzz in the roses.
Deep peace of the skybird's joyous call.
Deep peace.
In your heart of hearts,
may it be always newly spring.

During one of our staff trainings at the treatment centre where I worked for over eight years, we were told about the Celtic spring tradition of putting out the winter fires in all of the houses, and gathering on the common - where each family took home fresh hot coals from the communal fire, to warm their own hearth fires - something we were trying to do in the Centre - send the families home with some living coals to warm their own homes and hearts. This is sort of what we do at earthweal, sharing our words of grief and hope, taking away support, comfort, encouragement, renewed determination to keep striving for that better world humans everywhere want so much yet dont seem to know how to achieve. Putting down all the guns would be a good start, and disabling all the bombs. Removing terrible leaders who are not fit to serve - or lead.

The Dog Pillow of Eternal Tears


All my life, I have been stoic. I once told
my boss I didn't cry, because I was afraid
if I ever started, I wouldn't be able to stop.
He said that was a telling statement.
It turned out to be prophetic, because
when my dog died, I began to weep
and I am weeping still. Not in public,
but in my quiet rooms, as I read my poems
about his leaving; read books where the dog
always dies; watch movies where human
emotion triggers a vast sympathetic aching
in my heart. Tears slide down my cheek
onto the pillow that has a black dog face on it:
the receptacle of my eternal tears.

It is Monday. This is what I know:
when it feels like one is dissembling,
it is just the parts we don't need any more,
falling away. The grief, though, is real,
and as big as the last free lion dying alone
in the wilderness. I carry it with me.
I carry it in my heart, with its many losses.
I feed it hope: at the shore, in the forest,
when the music takes me back
to those golden days of dancing feet
and dreams - so many dreams.

Like the lion, it is giving one last roar
before it is forever silenced.

Inspired by Laurie Wagner at Wild Writing, and by the poem The Lunch Counter of Eternal Tears by Nikki Wallschlaeger. The italicized words are from her poem.

Sunday, April 24, 2022



A lament, a dirge, a cry from the human heart,
for the old folk of Mariupol, weeping in cellars,
without food or water, without hope,
old men and women, longing
for a hot cup of tea,
a warm blanket, somewhere to lie down.

They have been here before; they know
how this goes, as their loved ones disappear:
devastated towns, their dwellings in rubble,
mass graves, executed loved ones,
bombs falling indiscriminately,
with no care  for civilian life. "Shoot them all!"
the soldiers are commanded, and,
somehow, they turn off the switch
of humanity in their heads and
follow orders: tape hands behind backs,
shoot people in the head: uncles, grandfathers,
grandmothers. They rape the young women first.
Deemed  "casualties of war," these people
who never wanted war, but who do not wish
to live under a dictatorship.

(What happens when the soldiers return home
to their wives and children? Will their dreams
be haunted by ghosts of the dead,
arriving at two a.m.
to ask them "why?")

Mass graves and destroyed buildings
where once life thrived - the spoils of war,
perpetrated by those without soul or conscience,
to whom genocide will bring 
perceived glory: more land - full of rubble,
devoid of human life - a testimony
to moral decrepitude.

What song can we sing as bombs rain down,
on three month old babies?
As people starve, terrified dogs run loose
in the streets, or shiver violently in the rubble?
Are we beyond hope, as a species,
in this land of lost souls? How can we sing
a whole peoples' persecution, for no reason
beyond one man's depravity and thirst for power?
(as if any power or wealth can be gained
from a rubbled landscape
full of graves.)

I sang all my life, but in my old age,
after all I have seen, and lived, and lost,
I don't think my throat can muster
a single note of a song for Mariupol.
I offer  instead my poem and my tears,
for this song is just way too sorrowful
to sing.

A sad song for The Sunday Muse

Friday, April 22, 2022



I read that wild creatures now form
only two percent of the world's population.
Humans, factory cows and chickens
make up all the rest.

How does a human heart encompass
the weight of that? How do we compute
genocide occurring
across the sea - the brutality 
making us wonder how a human being
can allow himself to behave like that.
What fissure in the neurons occurs
to make such hatred, such
grotesque brutality,  even possible?

Keep the pain on the main road, 
my friend said, and travel with it.
Grief is like the covid vaccine,
she told us.
It innoculates us so we can
better withstand all that happens,
all that keeps happening, no respite,
even for the aged, whose hearts
have stretched like pulled elastic,
just this side of snapping.

Some days I can act like
my heart isn't breaking.
Some days I can't.

There are so many reasons
to treat each other with kindness.
We each carry something.
We never know the weight of
another person's load.

Inspired by  comments by Laurie Wagner of Wild Writing. 

Thursday, April 21, 2022

No Country for Old Women


Grotesque brutality and unfathomable
unkindness - how did our world arrive
at this place where cruelty and violence

I am watching death and sorrow
on my tv screen.
I am seeing acts of hatred on the news -
humans harming other humans
in ways too horrible to name.

I remember meadows, and the smell of sage
and Ponderosa pine. I remember hollyhocks
in my Grandma's garden.
I remember peace on summer mornings
in the safest place I knew.

I remember when my dreams were certain
that all would turn out well.

This is no country for old women,
we grandmas who have achieved a peace
the young have yet to find. 
They seem so unforgiving.
They throw words around like shrapnel
that lies embedded in the heart.

This is no country for old women.
I retreat into my shores of peace.
I remember meadows, the smell of sage
and Ponderosa pine. I remember hollyhocks
in my Grandma's garden,
peace on summer mornings
in the safest place I knew.

I heard a journalist refer to putin's grotesque brutality and terror tactics. The phrase stayed with me. There is a lot of gratuitous unkindness around, even in places where there is no war. People seem on edge with all that is going wrong. They are extremely reactive. I retreat.

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

I'll Take Everything


This long journey has brought me
tears and laughter, hard times, and
golden times. It brought me Brock and Friends,
who led me out of a Siberia of the heart
into the sunshine. It brought me ten years 
by the sea in the place of my dreams:
wild waves, old growth forests,
the blockades of '93, a black wolf puppy.
It brought me heartbreak when I had to leave
such joy behind. And joy when life
brought me back again.
 It has brought me struggle
and how to grow a never-give-up heart.

It has taught me to Be the Observer 
of other peoples' jangly stuff. My heart
whispers: let it be. Time is the great teacher.
(My time is short. They may not learn
until after I am gone, but this is
their journey to make, as I make mine.)

Today, though I wish it otherwise,
brings a terrible war across the sea:
genocide, horror, sorrow, suffering
from which we cannot turn away.
(If they can live it, we can bear witness.)
Today also brings springtime blossoms,
another wolf-dog fixing me
with his pale blue eyes,
a bear wandering through the trails,
awaiting berries. A deer is nibbling
at the bird feeder, waiting for
the grass to grow. Across the sea,
under the same sky,
bombs are falling on grandmothers
and babies. Dogs cower in corners,
shivering violently, as the missiles hit.
Somewhere else, there are fields
full of baby lambs.
In poems, joy and sorrow are mates.

In a poem, it doesn't matter that my thoughts
bounce from light to dark and back again.
It is all life, in this aging body that's
bending towards the earth. Even the infirmities
are blessings; it is a privilege to still be here,
still traveling. This is the deal:
we never know what spoonful will be served
to us next. But we say, with faith and hope:
I'll take everything on the menu.

Inspired by Everything On the Menu by Ellen Bass. The italicized lines are hers.

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Today's Sermon


Today's sermon is two ancient cherry trees
loaded with white blossoms.

It is sun breaking through clouds
after days of rain.

It is a sad wolf-dog, in need of love,
resting his head on my shoulder
and heaving a big sigh.

Today's sermon is appreciation
for the ordinary, the small pleasures,
the larger joys, in a world
spiraling wildly out of control.

Today's sermon looks for grace
in the places where it is hard to find,
and extends it to those
who need it most,
even if they don't know how 
to say thank you for trying.

Today's sermon says
count your blessings
because, on any given day,
everything you know
and everything you love
can disappear.

Inspired by Today's Sermon by Cheryl Dumesnil.

Monday, April 18, 2022



Through three decades of
trauma and oppression,
caged, abused, in search of Me,
there was something in my spirit
that said one day I'll be free.

In those years of growing whole,
of refurbishing my soul,
nature called to me, her child,
told me I'd be forever wild.

I followed my heart to the ocean's roar,
was happier than ever before.
Forest and waves restored my soul.
Steeped in nature, I grew whole.

In years when I am watching
the world that I love dying,
all the wild things crying,
it is to nature that I turn
for solace, as the seasons burn.

Even though we treat her ill,
she is our Mother, loves us still.
Always, I am nature's child.
I'll always be forever wild.

For my prompt at earthweal: Everwild, inspired by Ingrid Wilson's wonderful poem Everwild.

Sunday, April 17, 2022

In the Lobby of Hotel Zed


In the lobby of Hotel Zed,
there is a photo of activists
on the road in Clayoquot Sound 
in the summer of '93. I was there,
some misty mornings before dawn,
listening to the gentle beat of the tom-toms,
breathing in woodsmoke from the fire,
waiting for the big trucks to roll in,
and the police to come and make their arrests.

Let's name a few things: old growth.
Forestry. Clearcuts. Climate change.
Heat domes. Wildfires. Floods.

Back then, we were warning
that time (and trees) were running out.
Today, we are past the tipping point.
Clearcuts are still happening,
along with all the rest.

In the lobby of Hotel Zed,
there is a fun cubicle draped
with curtains, that has a crystal ball
on the table, over which I crooked my fingers,
invoking the future, to make
my friend laugh. 

Then we drove into town,
past all the trees coming down,
and our smiles faded, the way
the fires went out when they shut
the Peace Camp down,
the way the land defenders
at Fairy Creek stopped singing
when the pepper spray
hit their faces, the way
we're still trying to save trees
when there are hardly any
forests left alive.

Inspired by In the Lobby of Holiday Inn Express by Jean Reinhold. Shared with earthweal's open link.

Friday, April 15, 2022

A Poem for Your Pocket


When I'm looking for light,
I read poems.
When I'm fleeing heartache,
I write them.
Maybe I look out my window
and see some small puff-ball clouds
slowly moving across my morning sky,
or two eagles, circling,
wind-surfing the thermals.

This is your poem.
I want it to speak to
that part of your heart
that has walked many miles
to reach it.
Perhaps you don't read poetry,
thinking it a country of no resonance
for you. Perhaps, if you give it a try,
it will surprise you, connect
with a feeling, a shared experience.
Maybe you will do a mental double-take,
realising that words can dance,
sometimes - albeit infrequently -
so nimbly across the page,
like young Jack leaping the candlestick
all those many years ago.

This is your poem.
If it bores you, no worries.
This poem's feelings cannot be hurt.
Like the tired heart
that composed it, it has seen enough pain
to not need to go down those roads again.

Keep this poem
in your heart's pocket,
and, one day when I am gone,
come back and find
me in it
once again.

Inspired by Poem for People That are Understandably Too Busy to Read Poetry by Stephen Dunn. Sharing with earthweal's open link. Heavens, has another week gone by so fast????????

Thursday, April 14, 2022


Today I could do so many things:
wash the car, clean my rooms,
work on my memoir, wash the windows,
address an estrangement
I do not understand.

But Doing requires energy and, these days,
Being takes what little life force I have.
So instead I will sit in the sun, and rock.
I will commune with bees and hummingbirds,
breathe in the scent of cherry blossoms
and newly cut grass.
I will watch my small swiss chard
and kale plants turn their leaves up
to the warmth and straighten their small stems.

Today, it will be enough to be alive,
on a springtime morning,
on the edge of the sea,
watching the rest of the world
stroll by. 

Inspired by This Morning I Could Do a Thousand Things by Robert Hedin. This afternoon, while watching the news, and hearing more horrors, I look up to see two eagles, circling in the sky out my big window, and I feel blessed.

Wednesday, April 13, 2022



The world is full of surprises:
the four brown wolves loping along the shore,
the grey owl, perched in a tree alongside the trail,
her gaze meeting mine - no startling, no fear,
just a placid gaze that says "I am here
and you are there, and we are Looking."

I don't know why I was surprised
that someone who seemed so close
could remove herself so completely,
leaving the "why?" hanging, unanswered.
Perhaps forever?

I did not expect, in my declining years, 
to see fascism rising around the globe:
the fascism I have spent my life studying,
believing it could never happen here.
And yet it has.

I did not expect, having been born
at the end of WWII,
that I would be watching a brutal war
on my tv screen: such suffering imposed
unjustly, the behaviour so cruel;
or the random mass shootings by people
so enraged they want to impose their pain
on innocent others.

I used to believe that good always
triumphed, that light outshone the darkness,
that everything would come out right
in the end. That we would save the planet,
and ourselves.

I wanted to be surprised by life,
and I have been. I have. Just not
in any of the ways that I expected.
Just not in any of the ways that I
once dreamed.

Inspired by "I Wanted to Be Surprised" by Jane Hirschfield. The italicized lines are hers.

Disappearing Fathers

Where do I start with disappearing fathers?
There was mine who disappeared into the bottle,
and then death. There was my children's father,
absent financially, whom they saw once a year
for three days. Then my youngest's, who did
the most thorough disappearing act of all.

I watched them, all my life, the fathers:
washing their cars in the driveway,
coming home at the end of the day
to their normal homes, their normal lives,
the husbands and fathers I had longed for,
who never arrived.

They were a breed undiscovered
and foreign: the ones who stayed.
At writers' group, when we read
the stories of our childhood, I listen
as if to a fairy tale, about summer nights,
fireflies, and happy families.
When I look up from reading my piece,
the faces are appalled, my stories
tales from the Brothers Grimm,
full of disappearing fathers,
strong, exhausted mothers,
and children longing for a Normal
they had never learned to recognize,
and so could never find.

Inspired by Disappearing Fathers by Faith Shearin

Saturday, April 9, 2022

Old Bird


Old Bird is perched
at the microphone,
in readiness to speak,
fluffing all her feathers out
and pursing her small beak.

Tell me, Old Bird,
what to do with my heart
in this world
where being brutal
has been made into an art?

Old Bird tilts her head, perturbed,
throws a harried glance at me,
puts her cool John Lennon glasses on
to make sure she can see.

She thumbs through the Book of Possibles:
thumb thumb thumb.
Humans could save themselves
a lot of trouble,
she says,
if  they weren't so dumb.
Your heart, she informs me,
has a rubber soul.
It has learned to accommodate
the sorrow
of its growing whole.

But how will that help me bear
the inhumanity of man?
I ask.
Look through eyes
of love and peace,

she says,
and cherish what you can.

Holy Ground

It was an ordinary day,
until I turned on the news
and heard you were gone.

The CoOp had the usual people
sitting out front. There was a small line-up
at the post office.
Cars slowed, looking for
somewhere to park.

At your memorial, in the Legion basement,
people shared stories of you
with laughter and tears.
It can happen like that.
Anywhere we share stories,
grace flows between us.

Someone let your dogs into the room.
They ran about excitedly; we all smiled
in relief. Someone said, "Shannon,
if you're here, if you can hear us,
we miss you. We'll remember you

And just like that, suddenly, an ordinary day
becomes holy ground.

Inspired by Everyday Grace by Stella Nesanovich. The italicized lines are hers.

Thursday, April 7, 2022



Shannon Boothman, R.I.P.

Sunday morning, early,* they found you,
no longer alive, alongside the road,
your faithful dogs sitting by your side.
It was storming; you were walking.
Hypothermia, they say.
Perhaps you fell. Perhaps the cold
seeped into your bones
and you drifted away. Perhaps
your dogs howled their grief.
I know they're grieving now.

Two things in life you loved:
dogs and Tofino, just like me.

Everything is a metaphor.*
Just this swiftly and unexpectedly
does the ferryman arrive
to spirit us away.
I take no day for granted,
for each is numbered.

Sunday morning, early,*
too soon you slipped away.
Every evening, now, I count my future
tomorrows, less one day.


For Shannon Boothman, age 52
May she rest in peace.
May there be dogs and beaches
where she has gone.

One of Shannon's dogs

*** Italicized lines are borrowed from the poem "Sunday Morning, Early" by David Romtvedt.

Monday, April 4, 2022


"Hope takes root
in suffering and sadness."
- David Montgomery /
Washington Post

Hope is a radical act, 
a continuing to believe,
in spite of melting poles,
warming seas, warring countries,
that we humans can be better
than we are right now.
Some days, when the bodies
littering the streets of a small town
are seen on our tv screens
through a blur of tears,
hope is 70 orcas swimming
through the Salish sea.

It is the cherry tree blooming
springtime beauty,
- in spite of us, in spite of us -
frogs croaking in the creek,
baby everythings being born,
the endless cycle of the seasons
- miraculous -
arriving right on time, with a night-time sky
purple and green with the northern lights
thrown in for good measure.

A hopeful heart can take a beating
when global politics run amok.
Our hope has been whittled down
by the last five years of living.
When the heart begins to feel defeated,
when the news is unrelentingly grim,
now more than ever
does hope become a radical act,
a determination to not give up,
to keep on trying to save a forest,
or write a hundred letters of protest
to the powers-that-be, to clean a beach,
rescue a dog, plant a wildlife garden,
or simply sit in awe in front of
a thousand year old tree
and feel its beauty seeping into
our tired souls.

The whales, the frogs, the trees
keep on keeping on,
and so must we.

for Brendan at earthweal,  where we are contemplating Radical Hope. Being hopeful does feel radical these days. 

Friday, April 1, 2022

My Most Imperfect Offering


The practice of wabi sabi,
being with the beauty of
the imperfect, I have
turned into an art.

This is life, the poet said:
the aging body, the greying hair,
the slow days and fast weeks,
the gentle bending towards the earth
waiting to receive us.

Old age is deep time.
We sit in silent rooms
where the phone never rings.
But we know some truths by now
that the young have yet to learn:
we are the single drop; at the same time,
we are the ocean's wave.

This is how it is:
my heart, an undiscovered country,
my heart, an open book, still waiting
to be read
and understood.

My grandmother's eyes
look out of my face.
My mother's eyes
look out of my daughter's.
This is how it is.
We hold on,
we let go.
We keep silent
when the words don't work
and wait for time to soften
hearts and memory.

Reflecting, I scatter aged blossoms
to make a soft place
on which to kneel.
When I am ready, 
I ring the bell,
one solitary ring. 
I pray to the All-That-Is
to accept
my most imperfect

The first part of this poem was inspired by "Wabi Sabi" by Sharon Corcoran. The italicized words are hers.