Relinquishment

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1 Kings 19:11-13

11 God said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of HaShem, for is HaShem about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountain apart and shattered the rocks by HaShem ’s power—but HaShem was not in the whirlwind. After the wind there was an earthquake—but HaShem was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake came a fire—but HaShem was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.13 When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

Relinquishment

After

Whirlwind
Earthquake
Fire

You come to me,
Finally Faceless.
Eyes Ears Mouth relinquished,
I hear the steadfast summons
With Other ears.

Here I am. Send me.

© Rita H Kowats May 21, 2017

 

Photo Credit: https://honesterrors.com/2013/10/16/the-cave-cities-of-cappadocia-were-carved-by-hand/

“The Art of Precious Scars”

 

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Explosion

DANGER
Sizzles between air molecules
In spaces intended for patience and love.
Two-year-old Alice, impatient for food
Punctuates the room with a crescendo of piercing cries.
You are in the kitchen cooking a dinner that refuses to cook…
The Protector is away on retreat.
My seven year-old empathic brain is on high alert
Pleaser Stand-in Protector
I seek a distraction to divert the explosion.

From my place under the high chair
I make faces at Alice. It has worked before
BUT
As the high chair is bumped the milk sprouts wings

“WHAT HAVE YOU DONE NOW?”

Your behemoth bulk looming over me
You snatch me up and carry me to my bedroom

Do you know how terrified and shamed I am
As you pull down my pants
EXPOSING
My tiny seven-year-old bottom?

Off comes the belt
Which leaves angry welts on
The seven-year-old
Who just wanted to keep the peace.

THE PROTECTOR
Never left you in charge after that.

Reconciliation

My fifty-five-year-old empathic brain had evolved
By the time of your visit.
The Protector came first on another bright Autumn day
After she died. “Honey, I’m alright,” she said.
You came many years later, having also evolved.

I lay on the couch before a roaring fire
Pretending to grade papers
While Beethoven’s Ninth wove its magic.
The chorus intoned Shiller’s “Ode to Joy”
And I became the music.
You came to me at the fireplace
As I stoked and the chorus proclaimed

Brothers, above the starry canopy
Must a loving Father reside.

“Honey, I do love you so much. Forgive me.”
Came the gentle whisper in my ear.

I wonder if Beethoven ever heard those words
From his abusive father.

Kintsugi

Sixty -six years later
The fissure gleams
With the gold
Of healing experiences
Whole gift to fellow fractured
Pilgrims

© Rita H Kowats 2017

 

 

For a poignant description of Kintsugi go here

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Holocaust Day of Remembrance

bitsela-2HR

  Yom HaShoah

“You just keep living until you are alive again,” said a character in a BBC episode of “Call the Midwife.”  The words stir me to write on this Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day.  Survivors, their families, indeed, the whole Jewish community endure, and even thrive, with a resilience I can hardly even dream of mustering.  I repent and grieve for the evil perpetrated against Jews, gays, and those physically and mentally challenged.l  I celebrate their resilience, born from a deep well of faith.

Inaugurated in Israel in 1953, Holocaust Remembrance Day is ritualized differently throughout the world.  Common threads are the lighting of six memorial candles to represent the approximately six million victims.  The Mourners’ Kaddish is often recited to show that despite their loss, Jews still praise G-d.  At the memorial ritual in Auschwitz, school children participate in “The March of the Living,” which is a profound defiance of the Death Marches to the crematoriums.  I am reminded of the work of theologian Walter Brueggemann, who calls for a “prophetic imagination” which re-appropriates acts of injustice as positive acts of life- a way of living until we are alive again.

One Sunday I came to Hebrew class at Temple Beth El- always the only Christian student- this day, the only student.  My teacher, whose relatives did not survive the holocaust, took the opportunity to teach me some of the more obscure facts about anti-Semitism.  She said with searing pain, that in the Spanish Inquisition Jews were denied the right to recite Kaddish.  The refrain that G-d will “uproot foreign worship from the earth,” threatened the power of Christianity.

As I imagine the youth reciting Kaddish on their March of Life today at Auschwitz, I rejoice in the hope their action evokes.  In them, their ancestors live on.  Paul Celan’s poem, “Death Fugue,” draws us inside life in a death camp.  The images are shattering, but we must look.  We must remember.  After embracing the horrifying reality, I return to celebration of the resilience of a people who still chooses life.  L’Chaim!

 

Death Fugue
by Paul Celan

Black milk of daybreak we drink it at sundown
we drink it at noon in the morning we drink it at night
we drink it and drink it
we dig a grave in the breezes there one lies unconfined
A man lives in the house he plays with the serpents
he writes
he writes when dusk falls to Germany your golden
hair Margarete
he writes it and steps out of doors and the stars are
flashing he whistles his pack out
he whistles his Jews out in earth has them dig for a
grave
he commands us strike up for the dance

Black milk of daybreak we drink you at night
we drink you in the morning at noon we drink you at
sundown
we drink and we drink you
A man lives in the house he plays with the serpents
he writes
he writes when dusk falls to Germany your golden hair
Margarete
your ashen hair Sulamith we dig a grave in the breezes
there one lies unconfined

He calls out jab deeper into the earth you lot you
others sing now and play
he grabs at the iron in his belt he waves it his
eyes are blue
jab deeper you lot with your spades you others play
on for the dance

Black milk of daybreak we drink you at night
we drink you at at noon in the morning we drink you
at sundown
we drink and we drink you
a man lives in the house your golden hair Margarete
your ashen hair Sulamith he plays with the serpents
He calls out more sweetly play death death is a master
from Germany
he calls out more darkly now stroke your strings then
as smoke you will rise into air
then a grave you will have in the clouds there one
lies unconfined

Black milk of daybreak we drink you at night
we drink you at noon death is a master from Germany
we drink you at sundown and in the morning we drink
and we drink you
death is a master from Germany his eyes are blue
he strikes you with leaden bullets his aim is true
a man lives in the house your golden hair Margarete
he sets his pack on to us he grants us a grave in
the air
He plays with the serpents and daydreams death is
a master from Germany

your golden hair Margarete
your ashen hair Shulamith

Translated by Michael Hamburger

Clip Art Credits:  http://free-bitsela.com/

An Easter Prayer for These Times

Lynn Schooler DAWN

 

Waiting for Hope

From the grip of all that is evil, free us.
Into the womb of the Sacred deliver us.

Brood us, Lifegiver.
Warm our crippled core
with the elixer of your hope.

We waited…
The immalleable membrane of despair
Stretched to the limits against
Unimagined possibilities.

We dared to imagine-

Barrier breached.

© Rita H Kowats 4-10-2017

(Inspired by The Lord’s Prayer, New Zealand Prayer Book)

 

 

The video takes a few seconds to begin…don’t give up!

 

 

Photo Credit: Lynn Schooler, Juneau AK

Cultivating Wisdom in This Spate of Fake News

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The beginning of wisdom

was when I learnt the difference
between believing in the truth
and telling the truth
about
belief.

Padraig O’ Tuama in Readings from the Book of Exile

 

 

Photo Credit: Truth is Beauty pictured at Burning Man. The 55-foot tall sculpture is part of ‘The Bliss Project’ by Marco Cochrane, and she currently resides at the San Leandro Tech Center, across the street from BART. Photo courtesy of marcocochranesculpture.net.

 

 

 

 

Solitary Self: A Valentine

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I don’t know what possessed this young pacifist years ago to take a class entitled “The Great American War Novel.” I read eight novels about war that summer. A scene from one story sticks with me after forty seven years. A soldier was shot in battle and left to die alone in a foreign field because his squad did not know he was hit. The soldier’s inner dialogue affected me deeply. He died alone and I resolved there and then that ultimately, whether or not accompanied, we all die alone, so I had better learn how to companion myself.

Sometime in those forty seven years I fell in love and the marriage I had hoped for didn’t happen. I learned again how to accompany myself. To all of you out there who are alone today, celebrate yourself! There is a whole community of us.

 

Love In Absentia

 

For ten years
I stepped and misstepped
In and out of the
Craters of your absence,
Tangled in the tidewrack of
Your memory.

You married
Someone else and
The tidewrack tangled
Around wounds not yet congealed,
In craters not yet sealed .

Twenty-nine years of
High tides and low tides have
Closed the craters now.
Tidewrack washes ashore to be sure,
But it doesn’t stay.
While you must be coupled,
I must be solitary.  Your gift to me
Is your absence, wherein I found
My Self.

© rita h kowats

 

Diminishment

mock-orange

 
Diminishment
Held my eyes in the mirror this morning
As she spoke her stark truth.
My body has declined.
There is no bringing it back.
Now Is the time of adaptation.

Yesterday, walking the Interurban Trail,
Bikers shouted “Seventy is the new 60. You can do it!”
Dropping me in a whir of wheels and wind
As they passed.
My mind wanders to the memory of another bike ride-
The rush of river rapids
A whiff of mock orange transporting me
To someplace beyond myself,
Hair awry in the wind and thirty-year-old muscles
Giddy With endurance
As they close in on mile thirty.
Grief and gratitude ride the memory with me
Calling me back to the visitor
In the mirror.

Today I live in that place beyond myself
With seventy two-year-old muscles
Wrapped around arthritic bones,
And the heavenly scent
Of mock orange to keep me company.

© Rita H Kowats 2-3-17

Photo Credit: http://www.nwplants.com/business/catalog/phi_lew.html

 

 

 

Sitting Together in the Light

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It is time to revisit Ernest Hemingway’s poignant masterpiece, “A Clean Well Lighted Place.” It is a short story about a cafe which shelters the lonely and distraught, affording them safe harbor for a few hours. A clean well lighted place where one can feel at home. A place where “everyone knows your name.”

An older waiter is convinced that all is “nada,” nothing, meaningless and that his elderly customer is there to push the nothingness away for a while because “This is a clean and pleasant cafe. It is well lighted. The light is very good and also, now, there are shadows of the leaves.”

Isn’t that all each of us desires, to sit with someone in the light when “nada” starts closing in? Let’s do that for one another when we feel hopeless, when panic pushes up from our gut threatening to take over our lives. Be that clean well lighted place, a safe haven for one another.

 
Surviving

An old codger on a bar stool
Spins victory vignettes
Swaying in sync
With the melodies of stories
That play in his head
Hoping for a listener to relieve him
Of the nothingness that calls him
To the warmth of the cafe.

RIta H Kowats 1-27-2017

 

Photo Credit:  https://www.pexels.com/photo/light-road-nature-night-1163/

 

 

A Companion to the Women’s Marches

 

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huffingtonpost.com

 

 

For Strong Women

A strong woman is a woman who is straining
A strong woman is a woman standing
on tiptoe and lifting a barbel
while trying to sing “Boris Godunov.”
A strong woman is a woman at work
cleaning out the cesspool of the ages,
and while she shovels, she talks about
how she doesn’t mind crying, it opens
the ducts of the eyes, and throwing up
develops the stomach muscles, and
she goes on shoveling with tears in her nose.
A strong woman is a woman in whose head
a voice is repeating, I told you so,
ugly, bad girl, bitch, nag, shrill, witch,
ballbuster, nobody will ever love you back,
why aren’t you feminine, why aren’t
you soft, why aren’t you quiet, why aren’t you dead?
A strong woman is a woman determined
to do something others are determined
not be done. She is pushing up on the bottom
of a lead coffin lid. She is trying to raise
a manhole cover with her head, she is trying
to butt her way through a steel wall.
Her head hurts. People waiting for the hole
to be made say, hurry, you’re so strong.
A strong woman is a woman bleeding
inside. A strong woman is a woman making
herself strong every morning while her teeth
loosen and her back throbs. Every baby,
a tooth, midwives used to say, and now
every battle a scar. A strong woman
is a mass of scar tissue that aches
when it rains and wounds that bleed
when you bump them and memories that get up
in the night and pace in boots to and fro.
A strong woman is a woman who craves love
like oxygen or she turns blue choking.
A strong woman is a woman who loves
strongly and weeps strongly and is strongly
terrified and has strong needs. A strong woman is strong
in words, in action, in connection, in feeling;
she is not strong as a stone but as a wolf
suckling her young. Strength is not in her, but she
enacts it as the wind fills a sail.
What comforts her is others loving
her equally for the strength and for the weakness
from which it issues, lightning from a cloud.
Lightning stuns. In rain, the clouds disperse.
Only water of connection remains,
flowing through us. Strong is what we make
each other. Until we are all strong together,
a strong woman is a woman strongly afraid.

– Marge Piercy in Circles on the Water