WASHING OUT

I wrote down the biggest
mistakes I made in life
on the backs of newly fallen
maple leaves, and carried them,
a fair number, to the river.

I cast them onto the water,
some quickly swept up,
a few lingering on a fallen
tree partially damming
the flow, waiting for this.

Most disappeared as
the water approached
the falls, cascaded over
on its way to the waiting lake
and then to a place unknown.

This was an act of catharsis,
for the maple, if not for me,
a freedom, not to bear
the burden of impending winter,
frozen still with regrets.

KYIV

From the moment it began, we knew, it was
obvious that peace and freedom were under assault,
Russia had thrown societal norms to the wind.

Under gunmetal gray skies they attacked by air,
killing women, children, destroying hospitals, homes
raining hell on the innocents with nowhere to turn.
All we could do was watch, pray and offer paltry aid
in the hope that this proud nation could hold out,
negotiate some peace, maintain their freedom,
emerge like the phoenix slowly rising from the rubble.

ONE MORE

How many nails does
a simple coffin need?

They hammered another one
today, the largest yet.

We had invited them
to do so it seems.

We were upset by this
but there was nothing we
could really do except
call them out and threaten
to do what exactly
has never been clear.

So we are left to mourn
again the death, knowing
that there can be no
resurrection for Ukraine
and freedom itself
is a step closer to death.

A SEPTEMBER SKY

Lie back, I said to her,
just stare up that way
stare into the sky
without any clear focus.
Do you see him now,
the hunter with his bow
outstretched, the belt
cinched about his waist
locked in his eternal search
for the prey that would free him
from his nightly quest.
And there, I pointed
can you see the great bear
gamboling with her child
or there a goddess reclining
on her heavenly throne.
Now she said, that’s
not it at all, not even close,
look over there, don’t you see
a small child crying out
for her mother,
and there, two lovers
locked in an eternal embrace,
their lips barely touching,
hips pressed together
reclining as one,
and there, clear as day
a cat lying curled
as though sleeping
in the warmth of a hearth.

Publshed in As Above, So Below, Issue 9, August 2022
https://issuu.com/bethanyrivers77/docs/as_above_so_below_issue_9

ON ARRIVING

They arrive after a long flight
from tyranny, from oppression
from the nightmare of endless
fear, from hunger, from faith
denied, from the bottomless
depths of poverty, scarred
memories etched in their souls,
hoping for an ending as much
as wishing for a new beginning.
They have been here, a new
generation, raised on the stories,
versed in the painful history,
still residual anger born
of love for those who fled,
without the pain of experience,
who can forget when it is
others who now wish only
to arrive to the freedom they
have known since childhood

First appeared in Circumference, Issue 5, June 2022
https://poetryatpi.wordpress.com/

WAR (an acrostic)

SOMETIMES A POEM CANNOT WAIT

From the moment it began, we knew, it was

obvious that peace and freedom were under assault,

Russia had thrown societal norms to the wind.

Under gunmetal gray skies they attacked by air,

killing women, children, destroying hospital, homes

raining hell on the innocents with nowhere to turn.

All we could do was watch, pray and offer paltry aid

in the hope that this proud nation could hold out

negotiate some sort of peace, maintain their freedom,

emerge like the phoenix slowly rising from the rubble.

CALLING THE MASTER 無門關 十二

Each morning ask yourself
if it is you who is there
and answer: “Of course.”

Remind yourself
“Do not be made
a fool of today”
and assure yourself
you will not

Each morning
four selves,
each deluded, each
the fool, of one self
which is no self
free of all delusion.

A reflection on Case 12 of the Mumonkan (Gateless Gate Koans)

FORGETTING

What they don’t want to see, or are
perhaps blind to, is that it always
came down to boats, and fear was
always overcome, the ocean tamed.

Today, it is trucks, trailers, and still
boats, and fear is still overcome
for the promise of better, for
the hope for life without terror.

None of the arrivals came invited
many were turned away repeatedly,
but if they still breathed they
would continue the attempts for

such was the value of freedom,
from tyrants, oppressors and fear,
but we have forgotten them, those
who are why we are here today,

we so willing to build walls, to turn
others away for they have no
invitations, for we offer none,
the country being ours alone

PATIENCE

Even a cat knows when the screen is on Zoom, you sit and wait. Or stick your head in the picture so all can acknowledge your presence. Either works, and you know patience is not a virtue, but at times a necessity. You are a cat, after all. Patience is for dogs, poor beasts, having to be walked regularly. There is no freedom being a dog, and when they call you bad, that day is shot for you and you slink off. But cats must sometimes be patient when they are on Zoom, but it gives you time to plot your revenge, which the humans will never expect, but always soon enough forgive.