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Archive for April, 2012

I sat down to listen
and in the silence I saw
a grand house in the future
with light shining behind it.
The door opened,
and my husband came out,
our two-year-old son Samuel
still clinging to his left knee.
Then my little dog, Joyful,
burst out into the green yard
and barked fiercely
at the shadow-men walking by.

I saw myself once more sitting
by the tidepool—a surprise.
I was myself, a woman grown,
not a child, but still naked.
There was glass in the tidepool, shards of glass,
and sometimes the water became all glass.
Then it changed back, to just shards,
and I knew they were my pain.
Nevertheless, there was something gold
in the water. I reached in and drew it out.
It was a gold bracelet made of hearts. I put it on.
There was a gold ring with an amber stone on my left hand.
My husband appeared on the beach.
He was naked, too.
I stood up, and we walked away from the tidepool
holding hands.

Then, I didn’t see myself,
but I saw Jesus
walking on water toward me
and the light was all around him.
It was in him, radiating out
from him, and I gave him
my heart.
He took my heart in his hands,
and when he did,
I went inside of his heart,
and rocked there, hidden in his love.

Jane Beal
Sunflower Songs (2012)

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Seeded apple, symbol of fertility,
the promise of fruitfulness in the land

glowing, open and red, in the hands of Jesus,
himself held by our Lady under the white wings
of the Spirit on Pentecost

an intimation of the day when your seed
would come out of Persia into California
by way of España and flourish
in the backyards of strangers

making from you the sweet elixir of life
and drinking to their health, ’til drunk on joy,
they forget Persephone—

winter never comes when the sun is shining,
and the sun is shining in the gift-wine of your blood.

Jane Beal
Sunflower Songs (2012)

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The trouble is the riddle, strange as it can be—
luminescent, as it were, with tender mystery:

the young sweetheart who sends her love the cherry
without any stone–then the pretty dove, without any bone—

finally the briar, without any branch, and the plea to love her
without any longing, despite all mischance!

How can it be? How can it be?
A cherry without stone, a dove without bone—

a briar without branch, a love without mischance? Ah!
When the cherry was in flower, why, then it had no stone!

And when the dove was an egg, then it had no bone.
And when the briar was seed, then it had no branch

and when the maiden has the one she loves,
then there’s no more longing, and she’s fulfilled in the dance.

Jane Beal
Sunflower Songs (2012)

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I was listening to a man
on the radio talking
about his dream of being

there when the animals
were marching onto the arc,
two by two, seven by seven.

He could feel the zebras
breathing on the back of his neck—
it was so real!

The turtles were going
so slowly, he feared
they would never make it

on board, but he heard
the voice of God say:
the turtles made it.

Of course they did!
The slowest would not be
left behind.

Herding turtles, the man
thought, ever after,
when feeling impatient.

Every turtle will come along
in his own time—
even a turtle-man.

Jane Beal
Sunflower Songs (2012)

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Sportive Shakespeare said playfully through him,
Feste, twelfth night’s honest clown, “Your mind’s an
opal!” as he peered into the night’s dim
and falling darkness, into which they ran:

master and young man, a boy, but disguised,
for underneath a soldier’s uniform
a woman’s heart, beating fast, had surmised
all her love must remain hidden—or be torn!

Where is my brother? Lost under the wave.
Where is my hope of being belovèd?
So close we stand, hard by this rock sea-cave.
We touch, untouched, but come not near to it.

Bright-whirling fire beneath the white surface—
still veiled—that longing for Love’s golden kiss.

Jane Beal
Sunflower Songs (2012)

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“I caught this morning morning’s minion, king-
dom of daylight’s dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon!”
~ Gerard Manly Hopkins, “The Windover: To Christ our Lord”

MORNING AND EVENING, THE FIRST DAY

Last night, before I went to sleep,
I watched the Mama House Finch and her husband
stuff food into the open beaks of their three babies
snug in their nest under my roof—
and my heart was touched with the awareness
that there is a God.

Jane Beal
Sunflower Songs (2012)

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“Let’s dance! Put on your red shoes,
and dance the blues …” ~ David Bowie, “Let’s Dance”

THE GOBLIN KING AND THE SEA-MESSENGER

When I was young,
and lost in the labyrinth of my dreams,
I was in love with the Goblin King.

The Goblin King! The Goblin King!
I was in love with the Goblin King.

He stole one baby and then another.
Death was all their disappearing.
I could not catch their souls, like birds, flying.

I called their names, I called their names!
Not one of them was answering.

All over the hills I ran
and hid in oak trees older than man,
always dreaming, never remembering.

Set me free from this misery,
I prayed as I laid awake at night,
and my house broke in half.

My house, my house, my house
broke open to the sky!

From heaven, I heard a mysterious song
and a light was all around me!
Then my fear was drowned in the sea.

The sea is always calling me to dive down
and capture pearls, white and shining.

My child-soul is surrounded by oysters,
as I sit on the sandy beach and play,
until the Messenger who walks on water

reaches my side, visible,
with kindness in his eyes.

Jane Beal
Sunflower Songs (2012)

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“If music be the food of love, play on … ”
~ Duke Orsino, Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night” 

EURYDICE REMEMBERS

I remember the sound of Orpheus singing,
and how the harp-strings he touched resounded,
forming a bridge in mid-air
between heaven and earth,
between earth and the grave.

I remember an African drum,
carried for miles across the ocean
to be played before the King’s throne,
in the outer court by day
and the inner sanctuary by night—

I remember the sound of a bell
carried away over a green field,
its tender call fading away
to silence.

Jane Beal
Sunflower Songs (2012)

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I kneel down beside the mother.
Her baby will come soon.

I place my hands on her belly
to feel the body of the baby inside.

He needs to turn, head-down,
but he has chosen to curl up sideways—

his hard little head to the right,
his tiny little feet tucked in to the left.

I tell the mother we can try
lots of things to help her baby to turn.

But if he will not move before the day,
his mother will have to have surgery

because babies cannot be born
from his position.

I explain this as slowly
and as reassuringly as I can.

This is the mother’s fifth baby,
and she’s never had a cesarean.

She nods and is not afraid.
She tells me she had a sense

that this one
would be born that way.

Jane Beal
Sunflower Songs (2012)

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A Dragon in the Garden
inspired by the creativity of Scott G.

He has a garden.
It’s the mirror of his dreams.
Elves wonder there,
and a human harpist, singing.
There is a Good Presence
in the trees.

Then the Dark Mage comes
with a book of spells in his hand
and pronounces the twisted rune-words
over the severed head of the Dragon,
whispering, “What have they done
to you, my beloved?”

The whole earth shudders.
The severed head opens its eyes.

 

A Thief in the Mirror
inspired by creativity of Abigail H.

She has a covered mirror.
When she dares to uncover it,
it’s the doorway to another world.

A thief is there
where her reflection should be,
staring back at her.

He’s all in black and white,
but he’s fascinated by her color.

Jane Beal
Sunflower Songs (2012)

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I came to the words, and I saw brightly
White Horse and his victorious rider!
I saw his yew-bow and his shining crown—
I saw he came to conquer the whole earth.

Our father moves through dooms of love

I saw Red Horse and his robber-rider,
who comes to steal all peace from the good earth.
I saw his upraised sword, flashing and keen,
and men slaying one another all day.

Our father moves through dooms of love

I saw Black Horse and his rider, a judge,
with uplifted scales, imbalanced, in hand,
declaring devastation to the wheat—
high prices to the poor but wine for the rich!

Our father moves through dooms of love

I saw Pale Horse, and his rider’s name
was Death. From him flowed famine, pestilence,
death by the sword and the rage of wild beasts,
crying out for the blood of unborn babes.

Our father moves through dooms of love

O Michael! Gabriel! Raphael and
Uriel! Bring your mighty winds to blow
from the four corners of the universe
on our hearts in fear of the Last Judgement—

that we might turn, and pray, and heal before
the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse
come

down.

Jane Beal
Sunflower Songs (2012)

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse

by Albrecht Durer

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Button, button, who’s got the button?
(It’s my grandmother’s voice, laughing
on the other side of eternity
reminding me of a game I never played.)

Red balloon, bright red balloon, from a French film.
(I remember it bobbing over cobblestone streets
–maybe they were black and white–
but the balloon was in color, and I felt so strongly
that it was a heart alone in the sky.)

Masks, masks on the wall, masks we never wear.
(Why would we wear an African mask? Or
a brightly painted porcelain mask? Or
even my Mardi Gras mask when Lent is over?
We have other masks we never take off.
How could we wear two at once?)

Slash, crash, burn, bash—it won’t last.
(It’s a goblin song. Don’t you recognize it?
They sang it to my cousin when she was
cutting herself. But they have stopped
their vile enchantment. Now she is expecting a baby,
and her husband is feeding her tender grapes.
A life of joy has begun.)

I strap myself into the imaginary cockpit,
as the fighter plane transforms into a hot air balloon basket,
and rise—yes, I rise! Looking down at that strange,
miraculous landscape: memories
like buttons in the distance.

Jane Beal
Sunflower Songs (2012)

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I step outside the door and see
the bright red hearts
of two Northern Cardinals
flirting in the green trees
of Shady Lane

and I remember our spirits
are alive and speaking to one another
across the vast distances
of space and time and spring,
opening.

Jane Beal
Sunflower Songs (2012)

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rainy sky

pink petals scatter

blossoms lost

Jane Beal
Sunflower Songs (2012)

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The apple tree is in blossom outside—
petals, pink and white with yellow centers, open like a promise.

Beside them, little green leaves split open the tender branches
in silence, in exquisite pain, to be the new life of spring.

I hear the red-headed finch singing, and I look
through the apple-blossom branches to see him on a telephone wire.

Maybe he is singing to the lady-finch nested under my roof.
She is not singing back.

A black crow flies overhead, cawing.

The red-headed singer vanishes in a split second.
He is gone, wings, song, and all.

There is only blue sky now through the branches
and the memory of his unanswered love-song.

The mother-finch in her nest stays and stays,
waiting for her babies to be born.

Jane Beal
Sunflower Songs (2012)

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Infinity. Impossibility. Reflection.
The regular divisions of a plane:

all the etchings and sketchings of your brain, Escher,
the fish and the birds that go on forever,

the geckos, the angels and devils, the Chinaman
who cartwheels out of a checkerboard pattern,

the books that become buildings,
the table that becomes a street,

the waterfall that flows upward,
the labyrinth of stairs that never ends,

your wife’s face made of orange ribbon,
your own face made of ribbon,

then entwined with the ribbon of a face
that was yours in youth,

your body in a glass ball
held by your own hand—

two hands, each drawing
the other.

 

Jane Beal
Sunflower Songs (2012)

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“He was despised and rejected,
a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” Is. 53:3

AN ANGLICAN WOMAN ON GOOD FRIDAY

She sits down in the semi-darkness
of the sanctuary at twilight—
surrounded by others, yet alone with her soul.

One of the church carpenters has made
a rough cross out of wooden boards—
too small for a man, too big to be ignored.

When it comes time, she does not hesitate,
but scribbles down her sins on white paper
and goes forward.

All that anxiety dangles, fragile, between her fingertips.
All that fear and doubt. All her questions
about whether God is really good.

With the others, she takes a hammer
and a nail and pounds the paper
into the wood of the Cross.

Never has she had such a sense
that it was her sins
that nailed him there.

Her eyes are wide open
with fresh tears
as new life stirs inside of her.

When most of the others have gone,
she goes forward again
to serve as one

who takes all those tiny pieces of white paper
down from the cross, as if, taken together
they were his body

and she hands them to the priest for burial,
then bows to the cross,
venerating it for the first time in seven years.

Jane Beal
Sunflower Songs (2012)

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“A bird may love a fish—but where will they live?”

Tevia, “Fiddler on the Roof”

A SPARROW’S LOVE

A sparrow looks into the water with one eye—
the other watches her back.

Her name is not Narcissa. No. She sees
her reflection but looks through it

to the beautiful goldfish flashing
beneath the cool, dark pond-water.

His round eyes are amazed by her wings fluttering
above him, free in air he can never breathe—

glinting in the light of the sun setting behind mountains
neither one of them can climb.

She sings and sings to him,
but he does not hear.

She sees herself reflected in his eyes!
She hops and then flies a little—insistent, hopeful.

He leaps for a moment
above the water, brilliant and shining

then falls back down below.
They never touch.

Jane Beal
Sunflower Songs (2012)

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Beneath the roof awning,

a tiny bird

hides in her nest—

so my heart hides from you,

waiting for the rebirth of joy.

Jane Beal
Sunflower Songs (2012)

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I taught myself to live simply and wisely,
to look at the sky and pray to God,
and to wander long before evening
to tire my superfluous worries.
When the burdocks rustle in the ravine
and the yellow-red rowanberry cluster droops,
I compose happy verses
about life’s decay, decay and beauty.
I come back. The fluffy cat
licks my palm, purrs so sweetly
and the fire flares bright
on the saw-mill turret by the lake.
Only the cry of a stork landing on the roof
occasionally breaks the silence.
If you knock on my door
I may not even hear.

Anna Akhmatova
1889-1966

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Before God spilled the stars like diamonds across the velvet black sky,
before the sun eclipsed the moon,
before the sweet-pea flowers grew in the garden of Eden,
before rain fell in buckets too big for earth,
before an old man got drunk in his vineyard,
before no one could understand one another anymore,
before the princess was barren,
before the father raised his knife over his son,
before the trickster met the shepherdess by the well,
before the mandrake roots and the coat of many colors,
before dreaming in Egypt, before escape, before the Promised Land,
before conquests and kings, prophets and traitors and the Carpenter-Christ—

your soul was known by the Maker-of-all-Things
and swaddled forever in the heart of love.

Jane Beal
Sunflower Songs (2012)

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100 %

one—

a woman alone.

two zeros—

two ova.

the sign—

two tiny twins

lying side-by-side

inside.

growing seeds—

soon to flower.

Jane Beal
Sunflower Songs (2012)

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Before the colibríes of Costa Rica,
before the shining rainbow wings
of shimmering angels danced
in midair before me—
there was darkness,
and I was sitting in it.

Darkness had become my only companion.

Then in the voice of a beautiful woman,
then in the sound of an African song,
as her words and the drumbeats
flowed together—
there was light,
and I was illuminated by it.

For you are light, and there is no darkness in you. 

Years ago, he gave the flowers
he gathered for me to another;
years ago, there was pain,
but in the Presence I heard an answer—
I will give you a flower
that will never fade.

Consider the lilies of the field.

I saw him! I saw the man!
I was holding a shining rose of light in my hand,
and I pressed it into his chest,
into his heart—
and my forgiveness
healed us forever.

Then my eyes were opened.

In the next moment, the birds,
like the flowers of heaven made visible,
kissed my face with their wings,
in the next moment—
my tears, reflecting their glory,
were transformed into pinpoints of light

full of joy.

Jane Beal
Sunflower Songs (2012)

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THE LILY

First there was a white wall,

and then there was a lily

with a green stem

suspended in mid-air.

The angel was invisible,

but I could see the petals,

fragrant, open and white,

so clearly when he laid the flower

in my open arms.

Jane Beal
Sunflower Songs (2012)

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