for love of god

for love of  god, so many slain across the miles and still today.  the zealot in his practiced way keeps holy all the corners of his world.  sunup, sundown, midday, midnight, a ritual, a code that can be known, recited and repeated and recorded and itself revered, as if it,the ritual, the code, the canon of those things that must be holy, delivers sanctuary.   the holy man will never hear the gnashing of the teeth and tearing of the flesh upon the battlefields or in the tenements and old age homes or on the streets even in the curtained dreams of the powdered and the pampered congregations that flock to the worship halls, the temples and the churches giving of their riches or their poverty to something certain that they may  clutch through the long and frightening nights and desperate days when wars are fought for  love of god.

for love of god, she is cast away, among the shunned, her name not spoken; no other creed can be for them as good as their own: any children born will not be blood of this family, though they have the same dark crescent shape in the brown color of  the eye.  nearly, above all else, family is  holy, to be honored, gloried, cherished manifest power and security, prosperity, unity,the living demonstration of the goodness of the natural order. no forgiveness, only banishment, for she who chose to take a step away, to give her love,to break the code, to make a life with one who has a different creed, to place her own happiness, her self, above community, above the love of god.

for love of god, he held the light of life within his hands and then ended it.  piously, he spoke the words he learned when he became a man, calling out all honor and praise to the powerful being, but secretly he was shamed,  he felt the thrill of power and of control. absolution:  all those days and nights he had fevered in fear; all the times he had watched, helpless, as the enemy had unjustly harmed the innocent in his way.  a life extinguished. power gained. wealth advances.  absolution. all those many days and nights provisos of the creed disregarded, an act, a life, a gift, for love of god.

for love of god, they gather at the wedding and the funeral and the birthright. the first estate takes center stage and recites well-known verses ascribing meaning to tired phrases that sound old and common. in chic hotels, in firehalls, in cemeteries, in cozy parlours, the great moments of a life are clouded by the creed.  the preaching zealot distracts, frightened that he is without words to reach these primal moments, for in his time of rehearsing and rehashing and reshaping his ritual, he has abandoned the essence of connection and of living for his love of god.


the meadow


it was only when i gained the clearing, i noticed i had lost you.

stones and rocks disguised the trail,

forged a grainy weave

leaden rock against  scarlet leaf,

 periwinkle stone glistening in the sun

 like a mislaid bead of tanzanite. 

regard for a misplaced step grew greater than  wonder at  abundant life along the tour.

acoustic ambrosia, aural hypnosis

 medley deep of forest life

it’s true. many voices harmonized early conversations.

 fatigue, strain, disquiet silenced notes of song until the silence became accompaniment.

in the silence i never noticed you had gone.

 now i stand alone in the meadow.

of course, i can continue on my own.

but the sunlight urges forgiveness.

will you walk with me once again.

Somewhere on a Mountaintop….

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERASomewhere on a mountaintop …. dawning caresses awareness; the nearly flawless skin about her eyes lurches;   her silken limbs emerge – brocade and silks, so softly set aside.

On the terrace, the chill has not absconded.  She lifts her shawl, steps out to the abundant morning; beyond, sierra silhouetted against the breaking day, blue enveloping.

The breeze is piquant with juniper, pine ,musk, and sage, and the trace of dew lingering. Collecting into a cloud of steam, above the translucent coffee pot, morning air  steeps her soul with satisfaction, and with a twinge of sadness: her eye contains the image of migrant men in the open truck far down below on the rocky road ascending to a farm somewhere out of view.


Somewhere on a mountaintop….she accompanies her flock to accept the day as it arrives upon the chilled and rocky slope above her whitewashed cottage on the hillside so distant now and barely seen.

Stillness, then the silence snapped by the crack of  sheepdogs barking, the sharp calls echo through the hills, the herd replying. A melody of hooves and brays and barks and bleats and birds and morning.

She settles in a meadow for her meal, the thermos steaming. Her swollen hands,red and knobbed and rough, grasp the teacup clumsily, and are warmed.  Sunshine gathers strength as does the smile that lingers behind flagging eyes that surveil the rock and  field and sky and perceive majesty.


Somewhere on a mountaintop….  she  no longer knows if it is night or  it is day.


Cacophony. Dissonance. Tumult. Noise. Horror, Wails. Moans. Groans. Torment. And worst: Silence.

 Her eyes, unsighted  now, are parched; tears remain her burden. Fouled air. Ruthless heat. Implacable hunger. These cower in the face of fear. Pulverized sand and dirt cling to her skin, climb down her throat. Her thoughts emerge from blackness to watch again helplessly as he is stolen from her life ,his own extinguished. 

Words amass and seem to mean something about survival …

late stage summer



This, the sluggish time of summer, bemusing in the trace of recent splendour: verdant, periwinkle ,Titian, beryl and gold,  beguiles ambition, seduces passion, as if extravagance and spectacle were spent.

An endeavor to evoke, in these late and steamy days, faded landscapes ablaze and  eloquent once more –

The air cooled and the countryside crackling with fierce shades of color; an intense and earnest conversation, engaging, addictive.



Fire in the Cities


Just days after the nation commemorated the 50th anniversary of the Civil Right Act of 1964, our faces turn to the dead and wounded in our twenty-first century cities.

President Johnson was eloquent on July 2, 1964:

Americans of every race and color have died in battle to protect our freedom. Americans of every race and color have worked to build a nation of widening opportunities. Now our generation of Americans has been called on to continue the unending search for justice within our own borders.We believe that all men are created equal. Yet many are denied equal treatment.We believe that all men have certain unalienable rights. Yet many Americans do not enjoy those rights.We believe that all men are entitled to the blessings of liberty. Yet millions are being deprived of those blessings—not because of their own failures, but because of the color of their skin.

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Down the yellow brick road after almost forty years

cropped-6-13-14.jpgIt does not take much to make us realize what fools we are, but

the little it takes is long in coming.

Flannery O’Connor

Some  days, green times of the early seventies filter through my memory and energize me with a subtle hopefulness.  It was after all, and as they say, a time of innocence.

For over a hundred years our voices had been unwelcome, our presence banned.   None of our ideas were thought to ennoble this  pleasant urban space. Now, the breath of change, crisp and fresh,  gave life to new friendship all around the campus.  

Willowy, long-haired women in denim skirts which reached the ground or those  in peasant garb or  the ones with shaggy hair dressed in traditional worker blues picnicked in the sun.  Books buttressing shoulders or balancing long sheets of ink filled paper, they sidelined sandwiches half-eaten, collected  yogurt cups on the felt-like lawn.  Miniskirts and mustaches  passed, silent or sneering, either way unnoticed as the gathered women vowed to meet again for dinner on Wednesday night to share, then, a more personal conversation.

Elsewhere, alcohol and drugs were expanding minds.  We adventured  landscapes new and old,  together and separately.  And though it was not always sunshine, it remained mostly green, as we became the star-gazer, the professor, the business woman, the writer, the teacher, and the one who disappeared. Nor can we forget, the lawyer, the one who was made duty bound to make the change for our daughters and their daughters. We thought, then,”if women had the power…” We believed better worlds lay down the yellow brick road. 

Young women dreaming, working hard, studying, achieving, so serious. Perched precariously, preparing for the revolutionary times that were ours to make and to finesse with fine ideas and our own fire.

But it became a summer of sweet content, mainly.

We became a writer and a star-gazer turned corporate traveler, a professor and two lawyers. Life gave  husbands, wives, houses, children, joys, sorrows and to one an early death. With our sisters in the same professions or in book clubs, we met at power lunches, for power walks, power runs for sister candidates.  We got older, looking younger than previous generations, with  expensive lotions, female surgeons and women’s fitness routines. We styled our long hair, recycled peasant dresses, shrunk the denim.

As do our sisters of the same color, class and education, we  live in such comfort our mothers dreamt of for the important and the wealthy. Many  mothers, who showed us more than we will ever comprehend about life, age in “assisted living” placements.  Our generation prides itself on our deep, rich, barrier breaking sensibilities.

 Our urban campus today, a testament: “if you let them in they shall seize it all. ”  Women outnumber men by three to one.  The institute  of learning which channeled  leaders to high places in the city, now feeds nurses to the clinics. No less achieved. More?

But, do the women still picnic on the green, grasping a new world order?  What of women vanished into that summer of content?

Deep hued times and even a new century,  women rise with matured aspirations.  Institutions defiantly departed now greet the daughters nonchalantly. Doctors and lawyers and professors, women are not uncommon.  Justice, equality and power remain absent, but inky notes on picnic papers  are quaint  relics of past hopes and philosophies.

The real revolution was women talking.  Women reaching out to women and listening to what was said.  Wanting to know what the other thought, felt, experienced, understood, expressed.  Certainly, this was a way of understanding self, narcissistic.  But it was also, a way of reaching out into the world.  Power, connection, caring.  

As are  blithe gatherings on the green, the conviviality for a cause vanished quickly in the summer. “Sisterhood” soon  shrouded with a bruising cloth.

We used to say the political is personal, the personal, political.

Some us always listened to each other, perhaps because these were the only sisters whose care we had ever known.  In that circle of understanding, learning, justice, connection, but validation above all.  Naively seeing worldly circles equal, these women headed straight to painful falls.

Some of us, unaware we were so vulnerable.  That attachment to a person and a cause would fray so quickly.  “That isn’t the way I see it, I see it differently.  There are extremists on every issue, in every time.”

Some of us,so easily intoxicated, refusing treatment, in denial our whole life long.  For  some, the drug, meanness,  the silent, silken   sway, enchanting, to see the others fall down in the path.  The bitter taste, but men have drunk this brew through ages, so many blends. We drink with gusto.Our right.  Our turn.

We , the bully, the bureaucrat, the shooter,the soldier,now as well.

” and so it goes,” Secretary Hillary Clinton  may refuse to trash Sarah Palin  just because she is asked to do so. But, Terry Gross will  try to trash  Secretary  Clinton  merely to show she can.

The writer will trash the business executive,traveling around the world.  Not in the open, with the concrete thing, which can be seen and defended. But behind the curtains, to some of the others, some words spoken.  The meaning clear, or not so clear, for the executive must believe she herself  at fault.

The director of the community group will trash the  popular professor.  The professor, too kind, too supportive, or, perhaps, presents another defect.  Is she a stand out member, too assertive, too many ideas?  The emails and memos circulate. There are missed meetings, about which the professor was not called. She will later scramble to trace events, as if she is researching her dissertation: who has been told; what has been said; when did this start; what is happening? Falling into a well of darkness, unsure of the beginning or the end.

Trashing is crazymaking.  Conflict announced as conflict avoidance.  Sudden, the unanticipated cold steel apprehended in the midst of warm conversation.

Is this the old, old pattern from years ago, or a dynamic by a newer catchy name: the bully, the frenemy.

Is this just what we did in school when they said that boys were tough but girls were catty?

Oh, has the world changed at all in forty years?

On the TV after another school shooting, another protest.  This time the grandmothers are all marching with colored signs outside the school.  They blame the bullies, they blame the videos and they blame the gun laws.  As I watch them, I cannot hep wonder how they communicate.

The statehouse steps erupt in shouts and angry protest as the car speeds away.  The governor again declares not all citizens have equal rights. At the front, clenched fists are pounding the humid air, relentless.  To the right, a couple embraces, and the woman cries on her partner’s breast.

The small courtroom empties to the lot in the shopping center.  The  man-child marches to his car, the woman-child to hers.  Because he is a soldier, his drunken fists have been forgiven. What will those fists do in three months time in the desert sands of Afghanistan?

…it takes all the running you can do to stay in the same place.  If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!

Lewis Carroll

Memories of an illness



The nerves will not be still.

No, not even in the deepest, fathomless hours of day, new born and dark, time of shape and shadow, no tale yet spawned to drain all thought and heart away.

Relentless burn, torpid crawl of scarlet. Piercing strike, fierce, spontaneous and fleeting. No coherent thought: thick, smoky fog of dread and hurt winnow reason from sensation in dark of night.

For the body remembers.

Transfuses a tincture of those former days and all their wretchedness from some secreted organ, imperceptibly, into the soul which shivers, then, in those dark hours of the day. The sun rises, but not so the heart of the one who can trace again the shape of dread, of solitude and torment marking each new day with shadow and proximate depletion.

In the days when nerves seared, the weight of air could bring a tear, and the weight of tears was too great for a hand to grasp.  She was then a stranger set to roam among the loving and the mean alike, each with ready access to bestow or steal some dignity to her.  She was too weak, or too much made a stranger, by so many gleaming strangers, to discern the loving from the mean, weakness from dignity.  In the nights when sorrow coursed through her, her dreams an endless tumbling through space, avoiding arrival,  the destination: despair.

There must have been the months of June, sunlit Sundays conferring perfumed air, lustrous landscapes, verdant fields and animals at play.  Wide beaches, no doubt, allowed buoyant children shrieking at cascading waves on newly sanded shores. Midnight rainstorms, spilling coolness from the sky after overheated hours, dramatic flashes of silver light and drum-roll far away. Surely, there were vital summer days and nights in that unfathomed time.  But the body has not etched a map. The mind  has  no recall.

And so the dread.

She feels herself  in time and space, with heart and mind and body, celebrating each new day, each June, each  sunrise, each rainstorm. The scarlet streak, angry, like a mark of shame, screams the termination of these things. Will she be the one who embraces June or the stranger dreading day.

The question comes.

Can she be a body burning in agony, in the gentle glory of the sun?

Sapped and spent beyond imagining.  Too rare a stranger, in an even stranger world.


20140531_074719Cornflowers sketched on porcelain  reminded me of you that humid afternoon. Anticipating our conversations, the stuffy Philadelphia store, smelling of mustard, onions and incense, too crowded with overpriced goods  from “exotic” lands where poor artists  turned their craft into a trade to feed the village from dollars spent by the good-hearted and  comfortable consumer who likely will never see the suffering, oppressed me .

And more so as I envisioned the early morning clouds rising, your sparkling lake, calls of water fowl, whispered conversation,  strong, strong coffee in that porcelain cup, and you, your reassuring friendship stronger still  than coffee and with no bitterness in all the many decades. Cornflowers,growing freely in your field, is so like your heart, brave, persistent, secluded; any reference to your body then blissfully unknown.

And after. I have never known a love to grow so strong in the face of certain ending.  I have never known a love to grow stronger still each day as I discover new places in my heart I kept you with me.  It is true, each day I find a piece of me which you alone allowed  power to discover; and finding that, each day I feel again how much it is that I have lost since the morning I was told that you had gone.

The cornflower sketched on porcelain greeted me the first time there, the late spring light and all the glories of that place now seeming somehow truly an afterthought, a place for children’s play apart from intent, adult attention, a place for animals to run, but not, any longer, no more, the unifier, the center stage.  Could it be that, without your love, the magnificence and splendour, the healing power we, each, could find in nature diminished itself in size and power.  No god were you.  One bears the stain of your stubbornness and another still grieves the consequences of your full autonomy.  Love that is rich  and generous is god-like enough for me. Life changing.

It was one of the few you loathed, but I suppose, it could have been another.  Carelessly, he cast the cornflowers and porcelain upon the stone. My eyelids burned.  My throat felt there was a fire.  My brain searched and searched for meaning that this late gift had been destroyed.

I sought solace again in nature.  Your empty chair in the shadow of the sun reproves me, and I walk on.  The waters greet me so much sooner than they would have done before, the wide grand yard seems eaten up by lake.  I close my eyes, steady breathing to the sound of small waves that are arriving. I again regard  clear, clear cold northern waters, and turn away. The house appears unchanged.

Inside, he sits venturing a life without you.  His face, bereft, conveys such sorrow, a fragment of what he feels. I love him more than ever. There was that time and now there is another.  We will hold this sorrow the remainder of our days.

There are stars whose radiance is visible on Earth though they have been long extinct.  There are people whose brilliance continues to light this world even though they are no longer among the living.  These lights are particularly bright when the night is dark.  They light the way for humankind.

Hannah Senesh

And So The Tears Still Fall…

No shadow is remembered nor an echo recalled of the impassioned campaign the women waged, (year upon year, under purple, white and golden banners) that they be seen and heard and counted:  enjoy enfranchisement alongside men. Ideals propelled them: their voice would jettison poverty, inferiority, powerlessness, within the home and in other spheres for white and black, for wife and spinster.

Marching, publishing, explaining with practiced elocution, they stood in cold and rain, they endured the glass and rocks hurled at their heads, they suffered far too many days of unlawful confinement and vicious jailers’ blows struck in a rage fueled by lack of comprehension.  They yearned for sunlight or the feel of a fresh breeze and writhed with pain and disgust as food forced through their nostrils mixed with their own vomit. They suffered the mantras of their detractors:  “You are not fit to think or speak your mind. You are like an errant child, you who were born for these things alone: to breed and to obey.”

The goal achieved.  The tale forgotten. The marching women’s words erased from our collective memory.

A treasured text from ancient times, feared, revered, misunderstood.  Talking heads on the flickering screen lob phrases: “jihad,” “Quar’an,”  “religious imperialism.”

 On the city street, a young, raven beauty darts before the dark to don again the  hijab she secreted, its heft, its gloom not matched to  her spirit.  She spies her brother in his western dress, and is immobilized; thought quelled; breath quashed. She  ceases to apprehend what is before her.  Her heart  plummtes below ground.  The young man’s eyes lock  hers, then look away, black and beautiful  as her own, burning coldly inside her brain.  The thin young body breathes again, short, fractured, gasping breaths.  The silken hair yields to the cloth as she withdraws into the shadows of the football field now falling into night.

Silken hair spills from the cloth when her body is found days later stabbed twenty-three times.  A father claims it is his right, his duty, to uphold the honor so demeaned by his daughter’s defiance.

After-dinner theater for a highly select group.  The stage: institutional greens, glass and steel.  The script so secret, any miscue, all is chaos and the public show is cancelled.

Out of view, the family arrives, still mourning. They know not what they seek precisely, each or all: vengeance, retribution, finality. Can rage, now after fifteen years, still feed the just and eternal flames of sorrow that scorched the hearts and faces, the eyes that now look on, somewhere, behind the stage, in a quiet room apart. Do those dolorous eyes surveill the set, after all, or do they see again, her face, her wave, her disappearing image  on that last June night of her so cruelly truncated life.

Photographs pose a hardened man, reporters tell a tale of unrepentant evil. He seized a life at random,he dispatched it for no reason.  His state pronounces a right to life, a right to kill.  They have sent him to the place to die.  But his body is recalcitrant and taunts their secret script.  The actors scramble in disarray.  The curtain falls.  Did the man writhe in pain, call out and convulse ?

Reviews are omnipresent: a macabre  performance.

Crimson stream on pearly ground glistens in the cold below the January stars.  Air escapes hissing from the embers still smoldering in the fire pit but the frigid form remains still.  The pistol reflects the light of the blue and white police cars where the woman sobs under blankets.

Inside the stately home, the grey haired detective sits on the leather chair and smells the lemon oil that recently kissed the antique cherry desk.His deep sigh echos on the empty shelves, the papers, arranged in martial rows and columns, announce the imminent seizure of the home by the bankers.

White candles in the night illuminate uncomprehending faces, stricken with loss and fear and rage.

Colored plastic body bags obscure the faces of the students slain on that Freedom’s  Friday.  And so the fabrications begin, the quest to be included in the sorrow, or, surpassing that, to become the tragedy itself. A  ripple,  soon to reach crescendo in a worldwide wave.

So many reach in fatigue, in desperation, with  minds too full, too  severely throbbing to comprehend that no single answer will ever serve to the simple question:  Why.

Communicators tangle threads.  “Another mass school shooting  ” Six young students slain, three slashed and stabbed.  Horrible.  Intimate.  Full of  hate.  And personal. Three students gunned down in moments.   Two, pre-meditated killed in a hunt for female flesh.  One random shot. All  young lives extinguished as the young man preened in his sleek black car through the California college beach town with far too many guns, more ammunition, hoarded,  like a nation’ treasure.One suicide. A bullet to the head.

The chain of blame: a bullied child was he.  A bullied child in wonderland, in wealth and privilege, ancient parkland, grandmother’s tales.  His anguished parents questing until the moments  he lay dying,  speeding through the night to rescue others, to interrupt his action.

A lonely man living in the modern electronic world riddled with thoughts of hatred.  Young women  slaughtered in the morning of  joyous lives, blameless, strong, empowered. Their memory untarnished by his disordered mind.  To honor them we must not seize their tragic story. Nor fail to hear his loathing for the Asian, or see the slashing death he wrought on Asian men with whom he shared nothing more than perhaps a skin tone.

Their lives deserve full honor, not least to be remembered.

In light of day, by clear starlight, the tide returns in peace. Each will reach to touch a heart. Many times, we will succeed.

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