Click here for more Carolyn’s new book of poems Communion: In Praise of the Sacred Earth.
Video from poetry reading at the One World, Many Voices for Japan Fundraiser on May 20, 2011, after the March tsunami and earthquake.
Imagine a day
when good news fills the newspapers,
and war and violence are a
special section on Thursdays.
A Hundred Monks Pray At Sunrise
the front page announces,
and below the fold,
Wild Geese Gather At The Shores
followed by: Double the
number from last year.
Day after day, a rising chorus,
Neighbors Plan Local Assistance,
and Gray Whales Sing New Songs,
and Ballerinas Dance In The Streets.
Imagine a world
enthralled by our daily rituals
of love and good works,
TV news looping endlessly
upon yesterday’s weddings, poetry readings
and bat mitvahs. Awed parents
with newborns shown again and again:
we never tire of watching.
And oh, on certain days in Section H of the paper,
we read that thus and such country is still
bearing arms, and we neither stare
in fascination nor look away,
but offer a small blessing
and assistance to Doctors Without Borders.
And we close the newspaper–
notice morning sun illuminating
the blossoming apple tree.
We have whales and monks
and weddings and geese in us,
and we prepare then to fill the our days
with such good news as we have seen,
because what other thing is reasonable
with these bodies of ours,
these opposable thumbs, these hearts
that love with such fierceness,
the earthy sunlight streaming
like crazy gold all around.
Prayer for all Beloved Life
Pray for the beetle, that she patter across the grasses
and for the hoary toad, and the brown frog,
for the pond that is their lives,
thick with marsh grasses and tiny minnows.
Pray for the earth that is the sacred bowl for the waters.
Pray for the birch trees at pond’s edge,
for the fallen leaves of the season,
that they may find their way in the season’s dying.
Pray for your heart as it skims its way
along the bleak edge of what is known,
over-warm oceans, tides swinging
into cyclones, thousands dead in Bangladesh.
Pray for the thousands dead, the eighty year old grandfather
carried in the arms of a stranger
to the flattened earth of his home,
his family drowned as torrents washed him kilometers away.
Pray for him. Pray for the young man carrying him.
Pray for the rice field, the earth in the throws of growth,
pray for what we eat, for the creatures who pull the plows
in Bangladesh, the men who drive tractors
in Iowa, fields of wheat and corn.
Pray for the food on your table, bowls overflowing,
bread in warm wrappers, your daughter’s hands
pulling the slices, melted butter, cranberries.
Pray for all that. Pray.
Pray for the bulbs underneath the earth,
the future they hold, the coming beauty.
Pray for the cold that will nourish them,
pray for winters, and ice, and ice caps,
and the tundra. Pray for Greenland,
and penguins and snow.
Make blessings to the sun, that she be gentle.
Lay in the grasses, and pray for the lady bug
and the grasshopper, the hummingbird
and the honey bee. While the flowers still blossom,
glory in them, and pray. While the earth still grows,
make her your beloved. Walk outside in the morning,
remove your shoes, stand on the cold earth.
Glory in all blessed life. And pray.
© Carolyn Brigit Flynn
I am of water, and of air.
At three weeks old
holy water bathed
my brow, and they say
I was an angel, that
I lay serene and calm while
the priest held me awkward
blood rushing to my head
along with God’s water.
Sometimes angels stand
on the tip of a needle
or along the ridges
of a woman’s comb.
Sometimes angels are at baptisms,
underneath the world, singing,
You are held,
you have always been held.
You come from sea creatures,
who flew on ancient wings.
Your feet were fins,
your arms lush feathers.
Don’t trust the land doctors.
Ignore the priests
when they intone over you.
You are more water
than land, and inside the cells
of your body lie great stretches
of uninhabited sky.
You can swim, or fly.
And when you are called
you will return, floating
into the opened legs of your mother,
where you were born
in a splash of breaking waters.
Sea mists will welcome you home,
to a world as heavy and light
as the moment
just before the moment
you were conceived.
(From Sisters Singing, Wild Girl Publishing, 2009)
Is this how it was for you?
Watching over us through kindergarten’s fence,
rushing to protect from bullies
and rough-handed adults?
I sit night watch, guarding
against nurses with pinpricks
and beeping machines,
who may or may not
have hands of grace. I’ve learned
to present my daughter-bear intentions early,
call out orders before they near your bed.
And yet it is impossible,
as you must have learned all those years ago,
to keep you from your life.
Here on my trembling cot,
sitting up at each entrance,
standing keenly over you
as they change your midnight IV –
I pray, too, that I may accept
the rest of the mother bear’s knowledge,
the part that knows
at some point you must
run off ahead of me
on your own.
From Inside Grief: Death, Loss and Bereavement, Wise Press, 2001
We have done this before.
Moistened the cloth
with warm water and soap,
wiped her body clean.
But then she moaned, and sighed,
and her arms did not
have this heaviness.
Still we sing the song.
Wash her hair, anoint her body with holy water
she herself brought from Ireland.
We wash her entire
her feet last, each part three times
and we hum the tune
while her skin is still warm and moist,
her face translucent.
Perhaps she has never look more like herself
than in this final moment,
her spirit hovering above her earthly body.
The last creases of earthly care on her brow
smoothed to a fine glow.
Her priest says to pray for her easy travel
through the heavenly gates,
but I saw my mother’s face
as she made that transition,
I saw her glow into the Great Heart
at the center of the world.
Final fluids rush from her body.
We wipe them clean, roll her to one side
then another. We touch her brow
like we are touching a holy relic.
We kiss her one last time
and watch them take her from us,
her face still glowing, even as
they zip cold plastic up to her neck,
even as they take her out the door
into bright sunlight. And we her children
watch her go, weeping, arms outstretched,
leaning together heavy inside the doorway
as though an invisible hand holds us,
and we are not mean to follow
into the brightness she is headed.
(From Inside Grief: Death, Loss and Bereavement, Wise Press, 2001)
Take a Walk by Your Town
Begin at 30th Avenue,
once trail for deer,
brown bear, and wild cougar
among great live oaks
and tall pines. Walk past
pale painted condominiums
and small bungalows on the black-wet
road slick with winter rain.
Come to Portola Drive, ease across
four traffic lanes
to the ocean side of things.
Continue on, past Corner Pocket Billiards,
the Fluff-n-Fold Laundromat and the 7-11.
Pass a woman crossing to her house,
keys and milk carton in hand. She asks,
Aren’t you hot in all that gear?
Her smooth arms jiggle
as she smiles, walking past.
Keep on. Walk down 30th
to a hidden place that leads
(if you know where to look)
to a trail through a eucalyptus grove
along a running creek. Walk
through the rounded gate,
pass the old apartments, follow
the path until it widens
among tall pale trees
leaning in the rainy breeze. The trail
is forest leaves and duff,
your feet tramp contentedly
by the muddy creek. Then it opens:
a wide door, an invitation,
a moment of witness – you have been led
to a great, open, gushing place.
Creek waters rush forward,
harsh rains pour deep into their hunger.
A great white egret flies
out of the mists,
and another is suddenly there
in great wings of flutter and light.
Follow them to where the creek flows deep
into a five-fingered stream.
Stand very still in the rain,
eyes on the true world.
Then, perhaps because you are lucky,
or because you were born
under a difficult sign
but with a good heart,
the path winds round to Moran Lake, which flows
under the bridge of East Cliff Drive,
and into the crashing white-blue ocean,
which is before you now.
Walk onto the sandy beach.
Tie your hood as winds come up
and raindrops fly sideways
to your eyes. Walk to the surf
among sudden sprays of water and air.
Stay a while, your coat
and pants collecting rain.
When it is time, turn around,
cross the road, pass the lake,
walk again along
the wide wet creek.
Back at your house, make tea
at your table. Pour the hot cup,
sit and be still. Let the wild continue on
inside you, with what remains–
the ancient, absent pines
above your dining table,
the white-winged creatures
flying towards you,
always out of the mists.
From The Pedestal Magazine, Dec 2004
(a poem to be read in horizontal or vertical columns)
I continue Watching for you
I walk a blind path I know no bounds
I am reckless I break speed limits
I rush through wind I am hollow
I am Walking through your house
Unseen I am at your table
I am the reason You stroke your daughter’s hair
I am the moon’s night I rush through trees
When it is cold I am with the stars
I am in the back of closets In attic boxes
I am waiting for you I will wait seventy years
Porter Gulch Review, Spring 2000