Savasana + Perie Longo

After a motorcycle accident, surgeons reassembled a woman using prescriptions and pins. I’d see her at our neighborhood park with her mother, who moved from Oregon to California to help her heal. When I stated the obvious (“It must take so much patience to get better”), she laughed and said, “There’s no other way.” The woman also attended yoga classes. Week by persistent week, the rest of us students watched as she learned with her body how to be whole again.

In “Learning to Walk,” the speaker brings us along as she pushes “the blade of my will” through the poem.

 

Learning to Walk

 

Starts with sitting still, listening

to how time lengthens in silence.

A friend moves off the horizon, her words

of comfort a hook to grasp, to cling to

like the steel traps I sometimes throw down

in disgust. Need greater than pain, I pull myself

to the counter, reach for the cup,

the coffee, the spoon, inch it like a worm

from sink to microwave. Brew.

Place the cup on a chair, push it across

the floor with my good leg scrape by scrape

back to the table, collapse, drink.

Watch the purple delphinium petals drop

and not make a sound, not try to get up again,

knowing their bloom is over. We forget

the softness and light when a child cries

at the life provided and tear our hearts apart

a million times over, looking for the reason

as illusive as why anything happens.

Why apples are green or wheels round.

Why we lose attention, forget we’re on a downhill

ride with all the pushing up,

so I push against the stiffness as I sit,

do what I am told to build up my quads, slide

my rabbit soft footed sock back and forth

across the slick tile floor flatter than snow,

push the blade of my will

across all the small and grand favors.

And when a pin drops casting a fine note that echoes

in the empty house I know I must retrieve it,

no matter how far I have to reach, must go

out of my way, for going forward, for good luck.

 

Perie Longo

 

Note:  first published in The Privacy of Wind (John Daniel and Company, 1997); poem used by permission of the poet

Pair with: savasana

Speak: A gentleness enters the middle of the poem as the speaker looks outside herself at the flowers and the memory of a child’s cry. Allow the tone of your voice to shift as you read.

Consider: What is the relationship between “going forward” and “good luck” in the poem, in life?

Garudasana + Jessie Lendennie

Like climbing a  hill, garudasana, or eagle pose, requires balance and concentration, and strengthens shoulders and legs. Eagle pose starts from tadasana, mountain pose.  Together, the poses explore the area between stability and the unknown, as does this poem.

Hills

Can one be afraid of hills

Or is the fear more a fear

Of challenge. Of testing weak legs

Against the inevitable.

Finding, finally, that there are

Tasks you can’t meet.

 

And what about the hills

That are personal.

That were once your friends,

It’s a sad thing that they

Can’t comfort you now.

That they turn their backs

And stretch up and you’ll never again

See the city from the top of your climb

And you’ll never know if the world

Above has changed

Nor even know if the world

Below still holds you.

 – Jessie Lendennie

Note:  first published in Walking Here (Salmon Poetry, 2011); poem used by permission of the poet

Pair with: garudasana

Speak: The poem shifts from third person (one) to second person (you). Does that shift make the poem more intimate? If so, bring that intimacy to your voice.

Consider: How does the promise of a fresh perspective motivate one to climb a hill? How do hills challenge us and allow us to accept our limitations?

Consciously in Nature

Consciously walking in nature is yoga. Whenever we practice listening to the greater intelligence of the universe we are practicing yoga, whether we listen inside to the pulse of breath and blood or we listen outside to the workings of life expressed in the song of the bird and the splash of the waterfall. Yoga’s aim is to experience ourselves as we truly are, without the constant mental chatter of hankering and fear, past and future. Any practice that silences that chatter is yoga.

 

– from Walking Yoga by Ila Sarley and Garrett Sarley

 

Photo by Matt Weiser.
Photo by Matt Weiser.

Wings

Our two arms are stretched like wings from the pivot, centering all extremes, bringing in, integrating into the core, letting the new forms be born out of this wholeness now, the next wholeness to come. We are what we are, we clay angels, and our tone rings us round; farther we reach than we can see; we extend like the living vine, invisible before birth, carrying the lifelight like a miner’s cap, through the crossing point. Our imagination already extends us into our next season of growth. Out intuition tells us to keep faith with the cracks, the droughts, the withering–to go the cosmic serpent’s path–the coiling clay–never straight on. The next frustration may strike the brightest spark.

 

– M.C. Richards, Imagine Inventing Yellow (Station Hill, 1991)

Savasana + Pat Schneider

Savasana, corpse pose, offers an opportunity for the body to be fully supported. In this poem, the speaker floats in a boat on a lake. Floating, grounding…support from water and earth allow for us to ask  “big questions” like, “What does it mean to never be afraid?”

Going Home the Longest Way Around

We tell stories, build
from fragments of our lives
maps to guide us to each other.
We make collages of the way
it might have been
had it been as we remembered,
as we think perhaps it was,
tallying in our middle age
diminishing returns.

Last night the lake was still;
all along the shoreline
bright pencil marks of light, and
children in the dark canoe pleading
“Tell us scary stories.”
Fingers trailing in the water,
I said someone I loved who died
told me in a dream
to not be lonely, told me
not to ever be afraid.

And they were silent, the children,
listening to the water
lick the sides of the canoe.

It’s what we love the most
can make us most afraid, can make us
for the first time understand
how we are rocking in a dark boat on the water,
taking the long way home.

–  Pat Schneider 

Note: first published in Another River: New and Selected Poems ; used by permission of the poet

Pair with: savasana

Speak: Each line of the poem offers an idea or image. Allow each line to linger in the listener’s ear by pausing slightly at the end of each line.

Consider: “It’s what we love the most/can make us most afraid, can make us/for the first time understand/how we are rocking in a dark boat on the water….” What is the relationship between love and fear?

Adho Mukha Svanasana + Mark Strand

How to keep things whole? Downward-facing dog, Adho mukha svanasana, energizes the whole body and,
as an inversion, changes perspective.

Keeping Things Whole

In a field
I am the absence
of field.
This is
always the case.
Wherever I am
I am what is missing.

When I walk
I part the air
and always
the air moves in
to fill the spaces
where my body’s been.

We all have reasons
for moving.
I move
to keep things whole.

Mark Strand

from Sleeping With One Eye Open (Stone Wall Press, 1964); published with permission of the poet

Pair with: Adho Mukha Svanasana

Speak: The longest sentence is in the middle of the poem, the second stanza. Notice how the line endings work within the sentence to create a feeling of both movement and  air.

Consider: “I move/ to keep things whole.” How can that be?

Michael Blumenthal

 

And It Has All Come to Nothing, My Weeping and Railing

 

The world is.

Prairies pass–coneflowers, coquelicots, thistle.

And the passerine birds.

 

Whatever’s monstrous stays monstrous,

and the beautiful, too–it stays.

So much wind

 

has passed through me,

so many invectives, blasphemies,

riffs and snatches of disputation.

 

And now I have come to see

it’s all to no avail: I am

what I am, dreams be dammed.

 

Only a true romantic

could hope to change me

only something stronger than the wind is

 

could gather me up

take me in its arms

and blow me peacewards.

 

Michael Blumenthal

 

Note: Poem was first published in And (BOA Editions, Ltd., 2009); used by permission of the publisher

Pair with: utkatanasana

Speak: The title of this poem provides a crucial set up for what’s to come. Pause and let the title sink in after speaking it.

Consider: The poem’s speaker says, “I am/what I am” and ends with the word “peacewards.” With acceptance, what direction, for you, is peacewards?

For more of Michael Blumenthal’s work, click here.