When the sea is glitter lit,
the sky pied and beauty bent, I pause,
stop to rest on a bench with a bronze plaque
installed: For Millie full of life and valor for hers and others.
The planks ground down by salt,
rough with chiseled initials, one word
(love) neatly placed. On unfenced grass, a man
throws a Frisbee low and long and grey-blue pallor sifts
across the river of yellow bloom where mothers sit content.
before the leaves
Mid-afternoon, as the sun grew longer and golder, I heard voices. First two distinct voices speaking loudly in harmony, and then the many repeating, responding. Those voices were distant but approaching. By the time, I had laid aside my work, a small but active crowd was passing in front of my house. Two young women were out in front with megaphones, followed by a group of thirty or forty people, including the Mayor, her husband, the Police Chief and other Oakland city workers, marching solidly up Peralta Street. The women yelled out What do we want? and the crowd yelled back PEACE. And the women yelled back When do we want it? And the voices lifted NOW.
End the violence. End the violence. End the violence now.
Join us, join us, yelled the man with the microphone. My heart was with them, but I couldn't get up and walk. I was working. I was barefoot. I would have to put away my work, close up the house, set the alarm. I had a million excuses, and even before I could scratch them all on the back of my skull, the crowd was turning the corner to head down Twelfth Street towards Mandela Parkway and away.
fern boughs and olive branches
What do we want? PEACE. When do we want it? NOW.
NOW. . .Now. . . Now.
What do we want? PEACE. When do we want it? NOW. . . Now.
The mayor's husband, a doctor, a founder of an over-60 health clinic, reached across my fence and handed me a magnet for my refrigerator. Create a Safer Cleaner Oakland. Report Problems to the Public Works Agency. I thanked him, and then stood still, listened to the gentleness of feet moving together, the pitch of voices rising. Call and Response. Call out and the world calls back.
I did not want to think about how many years ago, how many decades past, I yelled those same words, passionately, convinced that by working together, we could change the world, bring peace to our cities, peace to our land, peace to our world. Almost 50 years. I stood aside and watched them go -- the years, the people, the voices -- wondering why I cling, somewhat stupidly, to a hope for peace, but I do. I do.
After they were gone, my neighbor to my right went back to working on his car. My neighbor across the street picked up his hammer again. The man who had stepped out from the Western Service Workers Association put away his camera and stepped back in. I went back to work, and somewhere behind some closed door someone went back to cleaning his gun.
What do we want? PEACE.
When do we want it? NOW. Stop the Violence, stop it now. NOW. Now. now. . . please NOW.
But how? Federal funds are funneled off to wars. Schools are collapsing under the weight of senseless and useless bureaucracies. Our society is gasping and grasping and gagging. There's no money for schools, no money for health care, no money for housing, no money except for those who already have more than they could ever spend in a lifetime. Education, housing, healthcare have become unaffordable for most of us. Real health care is no longer available except to those who can afford to pay for private insurance and the hefty deductibles. The rest of us make do with aspirin and tisanes. The social safety net is so shot through with holes that if any who has the misfortune to fall into it instantly falls through its rotted netting and hurdles downward into the abyss.
We want peace, but who's going to sign the Peace Treaty and give up war when war is the money machine, the rusted gas guzzling brutal nasty engine that keeping the economy pumping. . . All money goes to war; all money comes from war. Capitalism is war on the people. Once that war was organized with well-defined rules of engagement; now, it is guerrilla war, fought down in the ghettos and out in the streets, and we, the people, are being unwittingly transformed into soldiers, destined to die in those trenches unless we cast off the uniforms, lay down the guns, and give up on war. NOW.
Now . . . NOW . . . Now . . .
If we want peace, we have to stop consuming and start nurturing. We are not the brave soldiers of capitalism, marching off to consume and consume some more. We are mothers and fathers, artists and musicians, farmers and mechanics, dreamers and inventors, scientists and doctors, workers, children, grandchildren, lovers, humans with thin skins and giant hearts.
To find peace, refuse war. All war. All violence. Live simply. Consume less. Do no harm.
Last night, sirens.
Last night, sirens.
Loud, long, many. Sirens
after midnight, on on and on
I have no idea why. I was
too groggy to rise and look
for police cars, ambulances
or something else, zipping
on and on up or down on and on.
My body damp and heavy and limp,
my brain absorbed in making sense
of 3000 elephants swimming
in a giant whirlpool near a coast
with a beach layered in numbers
and fragile bits of brightly colored silk.
The sirens tangled with the waving
of the elephant trunks, and I slipped
beneath the quilts on my bed, screwed
my eyes tight, let elephants trumpet
answers to the clash of sirens,
waves, and rocks. This morning,
nothing in the morning news.
By afternoon, the moon has drained
nearly all the water from the bay.
Some low tides steal us out to sea, forget to return us to the shore.
On a grey day, a pink river, no current
We’re in the thick of it, this spring --
Blossoms falling as soon as they open.
No wind sweeps them away, no rain
washes them helter-skelter to the bay.
Oxalis, February bloom
Louder on full moon nights, the street
wakes up. Highway whine sharpens its axis.
Train whistles whip the wind to speed.
Dogs bark longer louder faster. The couple
on the corner argue more with words
and less with fists, finally. Unmuzzled,
a motorcycle wraps up the banging pile driver
breaking concrete beneath the overpass,
and inside all that clamor, the steady tick-tock
of a clock with a spring that needs daily winding
and rings as loud as a firetruck if the alarm is set.
For now, my alarm is the cherry tree, its pink bloom
washed white by the early February moon.
This spring, one spring, come too soon.
February 5: new leaves, willow tree, Alameda, CA
When we leave, what stays
what goes, light shrinks
and in the travelled space, stars
and something else, like god
in between, without
I have been feeling purple blue ever since the Occupiers went on their rampage through downtown resulting in the arrest of 400 and the "banishment" of a dozen. I was as disappointed by the arrests as by the violence; both actions resulted in expenditure of tax payer dollars that might have been better spent creating housing for the homeless, subsidies for public education, or any number of public works such as filling potholes, cleaning trash from parks, etc etc etc. In these still hard days of budget cuts, we don't need the expenses incurred by violence and mayhem, and we don't need more people behind bars. The United States is, as the ACLU correctly states, a nation behind bars. We have 5% of the world's population and 25% of its prisoners. If we are going to find across the murky swamp of violence that has become commonplace in our cities, we need bridges, ways to communicate that work.
Emeryville, wall sculpture, unidentified artist
I don't purport to have any concise precise answers; I know there is no magic wand to wave, but I also know that if we want generous loving lives in a compassionate world, we need to revise old tired systems, abandon violence and war, long favored and applauded by the hierarchies of power, including most political systems and organized religion.
We're not going to save the world by maiming and killing one another. I know what you're thinking -- oh, goodness, how naive! Tell that to the politicians. Tell that to the corporate raiders. Tell that to every sneering mean-spirited pompous self-righteous man or woman who has blamed the poor for their poverty, the sick for their illness, the ignorant for their ignorance, the grieving for their sorrow.
Okay, do that.
Tell them, quietly and firmly, without shouting. Forgive student loans. Regulate financial systems and insurance companies. Adequately fund public education. Reduce the cost of health care and make it available to all. Help our world to bloom.
Elsewhere ice is still holding back the green, but here it is spring. Perhaps it's a spring too early, but it's spring, the season when imaginations run to dreams of peaceful days and visions of verdant summer gardens alive with fruit and flowers. True, this year rainstorms have gone missing, and that's a worry. There are more and more people crowded up against the coast, more and more water consumed daily, and the skies are brilliant blue even in the earliest morning hours. No rain, but in all that blue, can't we find a rock near a hidden spring perhaps where we might anchor a human bridge that might take us hand over hand from old to new, here to there?
Or are we going to once again leave it up to God and/or Government?
Emeryville, February 2
I've always thought of God as nothing more than the space between, that which both holds us apart from one another and simultaneously provides connection, a borderless place where we store all our knowledge, all our love. The only God I know is love. I never could imagine 'a' God, slipped inside a body, perched upon a throne, soberly surveying the troubled paradise below. Thinking of God as that vibrant space between, human life can perhaps be imagined as the Bridge between. We are the builders of the Bridge. We get to decide which stones we'll use, how much concrete we pour, how high our Bridge will soar, how far its reach. We can choose to eschew those flimsily manufactured pillars of violence and cruelty, choose instead to build the every day with sturdier stock, using only the willowy branches of love and hope lashed together with kindness and generosity. As for Government. . . well that would be us, wouldn't it? We the people, remaining flexible and fluid, retaining the dream.
Spring is a hopeful dreamy season, a kind Bridge built of earth spirits and sky shadows, one that allows us to slip from darkness into light. Nothing is yet ripe (except the citrus fruits, lemons everywhere) and anything rotten is being greedily consumed by the new growth of old plants. Bursting in bloom, flowering cherries and plums are redrawing horizons, coaxing winter skies to the earth below where those flowers that are the true markers of a Northern California spring -- poppies and oxalis -- are opening to the sun as exuberant and as brilliant as they are short-lived.
Berkeley Marina, February 1
Life is short. Live lovingly. Do no harm. Practice random acts of Kindness. Be generous. Make art.