Poem: Teetering

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There’s no guardrail here.

A few days ago, I visited the Grand Canyon. I wasn’t even sure I wanted to go, even if it was on my bucket list. The Grand Canyon is a bit of a challenge for someone with even a mild fear of heights, and I definitely have at least that. But I found once I got there that the paths were wide and I could walk on the side away from the canyon and enjoy the view.

My kids were another story entirely. It seemed they were intent on walking as close to the edge as I would allow. I was constantly calling or motioning them back from what seemed like a precipitous edge down which they were sure to fall. My oldest finally looked at me with exasperation and said, “You bring me to a big hole in the ground and tell me to stay away from the big hole in the ground!”

I laughed, but it’s true. I told him to stay away from the hole in the ground because I want to protect him. I don’t want him to fall.

Of course, while we were looking at the big hole in the ground, the United States teetered on the brink of far worse. We put our toes over the very edge of a very dark, deep hole waiting to drown us in war (and don’t fool yourself that it won’t be nuclear). We’re still balancing on the edge of that black pit, but it’s full of our sins just waiting to pull us in. Sins like helpless children held prisoner without decent beds or meals. Environmental regulations rolled back every day in favor of money. A clueless leader who has lost the respect of every nation on earth except those hoping to profit from his ignorance. And our blind eyes turned to all of it.

Remember the feeling of standing on the edge of a pool waiting to plunge in but not quite ready for the cold water to envelop your steaming skin? Remember the feel of the rough concrete beneath your feet as you leaned forward just a little more, spreading your arms for balance so you didn’t fall too soon but you might fall any minute?

Remember the moment your toes finally lost their grip and you plunged in before you were ready and the hopelessness of knowing the icy water would shock your skin and pull you down?

We’re teetering on the edge of something far worse now.

 

Teetering

By Michelle Garren Flye

 

Toe slides…

Over the edge…

Arms spread…

Balanced,

But mindful.

 

Lean a little more—how far can we go?

How far before…

The balance

Slips?

And we

Fall?

 

Wobbling,

Swaying,

Sliding,

It may be

Fate,

But—

 

Who will see the plunge and watch us flatten the world?

Can anyone stop it?

Please?

A poem for a friend

For Pam

By Michelle

Oh my brain just couldn’t comprehend

But my treacherous heart heard the news

And held it close and took it in

Oh today is gray because you’re gone

Taking your light and helpful spirit

And you won’t be coming around

And oh my heart keeps reminding me

You’re gone.

Oh my friend what you’ve left behind

Has more value than words can say

More than most with twice the time

Oh the legacy of a loving life

The warm work of hands that care

Reminds us soon we’ll see the sun shine

But oh my heart keeps telling me

You’re gone.

Poem: In Her Prime

I have a particular affinity for daffodils. I’ve taken dozens of pictures of them this spring alone. They’re almost done here, but I found this lovely this morning, and it seemed like a special gift to me. So I wrote a poem about her.

In Her Prime

By Michelle Garren Flye

A little wrinkled,

She holds up her bobbing head.

Not done yet, she says.

Author’s Note: Happy shared birthday, RBG. Sometimes wrinkles make you stronger.

Hallelujahs and the creative process (with a poem)

By this point everyone probably thinks they know Leonard Cohen’s song “Hallelujah”. It’s been in movies and television. Even Kate McKinnon had a go at it on Saturday Night Live. So even if, like many, you’re confused about the meaning of the song, you probably think you have heard it from beginning to end.

Possibly think again.

For my own reasons I’ve been doing some research on this song. It was supposed to be a simple Google search, but I found a rabbit hole and plunged right in. I found that there are more than 300 recorded versions. Not surprising considering Cohen wrote more than 80 draft verses for the song. Maybe that’s why he also recorded two versions himself.

According to legend, he spent one writing session in a motel room writing verse after verse while sitting on the floor in his underwear.

That’s quite a creative process.

In spite of all he went through to create his masterpiece, Cohen never expressed disappointment that other versions came to exist when others recorded his song. (Recording artists have rearranged verses, changed words and omitted lines.) In fact, he said himself that he believed that many hallelujahs exist. To me, this explains why he let the act of creating this work of art to consume him so. And I think he’s right. If we let ourselves, we find our own hallelujah.

By the way, I listened to many, many versions of this song while I wrote this. My favorite? Cohen’s live performance in London in 2009.

Many Hallelujahs (for LC)

By Michelle Garren Flye

A mother approaches a borderline.

Safety awaits her on the other side.

Baby in her arms, clutched against her breast—

She crosses the line and whispers, “Hallelujah.”

A black man sits alone in his car.

Flashing blue lights his rear view mirror.

He knows his fate is not his own,

So when he is told to go, he says, “Hallelujah.”

A woman awaits her weekly call

From desert sands so far away.

This world has so many dangers for her heart—

The phone rings and she cries, “Hallelujah.”

The activist lays it on the line every day,

To make a difference, he argues and persuades.

He won’t stop until he’s made it right.

Then someone listens at last and he shouts, “Hallelujah!”

The writer ponders the meaning of one word

And writes and writes, thinks it will never be his.

He bangs his head—and then it’s in his grasp.

His tired hand shakes as he declares, “Hallelujah.”

Confession time: Imagine, my deepest secret

So, here’s my confession. The deepest secret I’ve been keeping for the last two months.

I’m taking singing lessons.

What? You’re not shocked? You would be if you knew me. I’ve always said I can’t carry a tune to save my life. I’ve even claimed to be tone deaf.

Long story short, my very brave and lovely voice teacher gave me first choice of songs to learn, and I chose Imagine by John Lennon. At this point, I’ve sung it so many times, I know it by heart—and by that, I mean more than just that I know every word.

It’s like those words are, literally, inscribed on my heart.

I’ve always loved the song, of course. But until I had to do the work of matching the words to the music and singing them more or less in tune, I didn’t really think about their meanings.

Imagine there’s no heaven…no hell below us…living for today…

What might the world be like if we were all driven just by the desire to live our best lives right here? On earth, right now. This is the moment we have. This is the only moment we have.

…no countries…no religion too…living life in peace…

Can you imagine that? Can you imagine living your life for your family and the people you love without imagined boundaries to separate us? No race, no patriotism, no gods to get in the way.

Am I dreamer? I bet there are more with the same dream. Heck, it’s what Star Trek is based on.

…no possessions…

That’s a big one, isn’t it? That’s why the next line is, “I wonder if you can.” It’s a big ask. A revolutionary thought in a capitalistic society that puts different values on skills. But what if everyone’s skills were regarded with the same value? If we truly reached that point of nirvana where the garbage collector’s service is of the same value as the teacher’s and the doctor’s?

no need for greed or hunger…a brotherhood of man…

And forget lawyers and criminals because:

…imagine all the people sharing all the world…

Do you see? What Lennon dreamed was a world of pure freedom unlike anything any of us have ever experienced. I’ve dreamed of that, too. But I’ve never fought for it. Too caught up in what the world actually is to be able to see what it could be, I guess.

It may be too late to have that world, but we can dream it. We can imagine it if we try really hard—and if we can imagine it, we can work toward it.

Imagine that.

Poem: Red Sky Vow

I’ve been thinking a lot about the nature of the promise. Like the old saying, “Red sky at night, sailors’ delight.” How do we know a red sky at night means clear sailing? Because nature makes a promise and actually follows through.

This year I’ve decided to depend less on others’ promises to me and more on my own promises to myself. Promises from outside entities may never become reality. I am the one in charge of promises to myself. Michelangelo agreed with me, evidently. He said:

“The promises of this world are, for the most part, vain phantoms; and to confide in one’s self, and become something of worth and value is the best and safest course.”

Was he right? Undoubtedly. We cannot depend on the “world”, whether that be our government, our friends, our schools or our churches. What really matters is the promises we make ourselves—more specifically the promises we make to ourselves that we keep.

Nature, after all, does not make its red sky vow to us. It makes it to itself. Tomorrow, it tells itself, I will make a beautiful day. And that vow shows in its beauty that it will be followed through on.

I’ve made myself a vow to reach beyond my comfort zone and try things I’ve never tried because I thought I couldn’t do them. I’ve promised myself when things are wrong in the world, I’ll do what I can to make them right. My promises are not to others. They are to me.

The result is a kind of red sky in my own soul. I’ve written a children’s book though I’ve always sworn I’m not smart enough to write for children. I’m taking singing lessons because, in spite of a lifelong love of music and singing, I’ve never thought I could sing—but I can, at least a little. I’m not as tone deaf as I thought. I’m writing poetry and I’m speaking out instead of shrugging things off. It feels right.

What red sky vow could you make?

Red Sky Vow

By Michelle Garren Flye

Make a red sky vow today.

The power comes from within.

Tomorrow is the promise—

A better and brighter day;

The end of rain, the sun will shine.

Follow through comes from you—

Light the candle of your vow,

Watch the air brighten and clear.

A red sky vow is one you make yourself

And fulfill for the good of your soul.

I’m Building an Army of Daffodils (poem and pictures)

With great respect for Emily Dickinson

I’m Building an Army of Daffodils (with pictures as proof)

By Michelle Garren Flye

I’m building an army of daffodils.

It grows larger every day.

New recruits swell the ranks,

Bursting to take up the fight.

You’d think they’d be frightened,

But slender stems are strong,

And I’ve found them guarding

The most dark and unfriendly places.

Time and toil cannot dim golden rays.

Weather cannot bring them down.

I’m heartened by their constant grace,

Humbled by their passing allegiance.