Chapter 3: TRANSCENDENCE
“When Time is spent, Eternity begins.” Helen Hunt Jackson
OFF YOU GO, BOYS AND GIRLS
I'm thinking of heaven as a place
Where souls are shells with light in them
And they float as on a crowded shore
Not quite touching but moving closer
And farther away from each other.
If these souls could speak they would forgive
The brusque remark or deep betrayal
And once all the disregard for others
Was washed clean by salt and sand
They might recall a time
When they sat by the sea and drank beers.
Laughing with the children they made
This carefree hug and that smudgy kiss
Would swell the Long Island nights
Into mornings, whereupon the girls would walk
The edge off their evening, picking up a shell
Or two, saying this is a pretty one, let's listen
To what it says about love.
In memory of betty and joan
San Francisco, CA 2016
On his deathbed he could not drop his pencil
On his deathbed he could not drop his pencil
bought with his last shilling, some say
hoping to carve out one vision perfect
of how lovely this thin black world is
sketching right up to his last moment
to gasp and then die pencil in hand
his wife's tears sweetening his frantic lines
tablet paper curling across his knees.
But the angels interrupted him as only
they could with their foolish singing.
Angel-drunk, he paused to lift an ear
his pencil dangling over empty paper
when he'd seen an angel in every leaf.
No one heaven-sent stands any chance
against his brush-and-paint angels
or the mad prophets snarling in his head
of knives, treacheries, chains and pains
mixing his paints of light and deep dark.
No heavenly lyric can ever bring to life
his young lamb upon a new Spring morn.
Jealous multitudes singing furious loud
for beauty's toiler is dragging up to the gate
his great work hard put to an end
useful moments before the man himself.
Elaine Drew, The Gift, egg tempera
For No Reason a Blessing Comes
in purple, the paint
on the ledge after the rain
bruised and beautiful,
the small cracks sealed,
brimming with water
in white, brilliant and bleached,
the towel taking water,
the stark snowfall
so bright it closes eyes
and then we see
in copper, the skin of a man
who will love my daughter
long after my death,
all the fears and longings
of father placed at rest
in gray, the curling cues
of vapor above the coffee cup,
blanketed by bliss
lifted with the climbing helix
vanishing in the room
Carolyn WarmSun, Bridge, Acrylic on canvas
cathedral looms up from its portico
sound rising though colour-filled atmospheric
vaults echo breathing
ribs of pillars and arches
stone stone glass structuring
beams of light cross the gaps touching
paver candle shoulder pew
murmur of feet prayers pigeons dance
jackhammer slamming across the plaza
in the street trucks rumble the foundation
into the constant silence breathes
sounds layer my heart
valves open one and then one brushing
breath lungs open droop open
pipe organ valve flaps
a small gasp before the reed
the note takes flight
a large white bird soaring steadily
across the bars of light
down the heights of the nave nesting
near the chancel echo of feathers settling
there the crucifix
suspended a small stab of violence
seraphic saints and apostolic miracles surround
20-foot glass catechesis
sit down drop to your knees or leave
what can sustain this presence
As if, in Reply, Again 2
As if words would be sufficient in reply
I wax sentimental, with ancient tolls, spilling
doubts; visions of tested lives.
A friend lies in a bed, griping; grim and
groping about, as if he's just now finally seen
the big hurdle; the ending rapids, in the stream.
Outside, moving trucks; the flow of California—
those out-of-work people fleeing for their lives
(the rent now higher, for all the noise).
Dying in bed, this artist beyond canvases of colors
asking nothing from life, his hours without a brush
his last answers, anyone's guess.
I watch him slowly giving up (weary hours)
his fragments of telling, cast wasting, and empty
waiting, hope waning, beyond human sorrow and pride.
He wants to feel the sun one last time
(he doesn't want to hear my take on life); out
on the patio, I feel peaceful; I become silent
(as if to discover) a remainder of common commerce
where an agent sea laps upon a distant and foreign shore
well beyond a leaping passage we could no longer share.
Over the patio looms a California palm, a scraggly tree
beyond winter visions: dead leaves and bare limb scenes
as life—slowly ebbing, gotten over—so soon to be gone.
The Day the World Was Supposed to End
The world never ends
Because it always begins again.
The Big Bang is but a burp in the Universe's digestive cycle.
You honestly think God is some mad scientist?
Filling test tubes and petri dishes?
Playing with exploding gasses?
Compacting them into snowballs of stars?
Flicking off dust into planets,
Which gravitate to moons?
That time is a watch, without a battery,
That ticks off our lives
Which is a tag team of generations evolving toward what exactly?
That space is something you can explore with robots and fools
And little shovels on the end of billion mile journeys?
You really think it's that simple?
Well, think again.
Better yet, breathe again.
In breath, out,
Out breath, in.
Note: The world just started again
soon as it ended
When Nothing Is Left
We knew more names for love than "Dear Abby"
the deep blue endless air
bent down to us – warmed our backs
That moment when nothing is left arrives
your breath – sputtering towards song stops
hands eager to touch stop
You fly off to travel with clouds
I'm trapped in a monastic room
pictures of you in cheap frames
We never put love in bondage
I listen to midnight gossip of
hip bone/knee bone/ thigh bone
louder than the word of the Lord
Stumble into sleep -- grasping a kitchen knife
to cut myself free of dreams
that kick/bite/and buck
Wake to exercise to keep my heart in shape
now that you're gone
who sees the shape of my heart?
I bow down to the butterfly that
lives as long as a wing beat
Does it remember the cocoon/the worm?
Jeannie Motherwell, Mariana 2015, Acrylic on Claybord
© Copyright Jeannie Motherwell
A PRAYER FOR SAFE RETURN
We long to show you rainbows
pouring pastels off both ends,
hillside poppies opening
in morning light,
gulls gliding, diving, climbing,
riding curled peaks of ocean.
Here at home clouds linger
as creamy white as Calla lilies;
sunrise and sunset are color
At dawn and dusk, see
lavender blue between tops
of redwood trees.
soon no more IED's
or night-raid explosions.
Stars over California ring bells
and phases of the moon
will herald whole new chapters
in your healing and recovery.
you can sleep
on pillows as restful
as peace doves filling the sky.
We pray for your safe return.
Claire J. Baker
Susan Jokelson, Fatal Shore, Collage-mixed media