Nancy Wallace

 WINTER IN DETROIT

I’m getting holiday indoor east coast downtown city steamy windows european restaurant with begonias feelings. Looking out across the street at Saks Fifth Avenue, I can see the winter coats, steamy breath, cold cars, ever occluded atmosphere poked with lamplight. Meanwhile, there’s a rush of winter people clanging their voices 20 feet below the art deco enameled ceilings of the Fisher Theatre at noon. Wosh! that I could be there for lunch and return to Sacramento in time to take the 51 home.

– Nancy Wallace

 

Shih Shu

 

the human body is a little universe

its chill tears, so much windblown sleet

beneath our skins, mountains bulge, brooks flow,

within our chests lurk lost cities, hidden tribes.

 

wisdom quarters itself in our tiny hearts.

liver and gall peer out, scrutinize a thousand miles.

follow the path back to its source, or else be

a house vacant save for swallows in the eaves.

 

– Shih Shu, translation by Jerome Seaton

Note:  first published in Finding the Way Home (White Pine Press, 2010); poem used by permission of Dennis Maloney, ed.

Pair with: paschimottanasana

Speak: Allow for a pause between stanza one and stanza two.

Consider: How is the body a home?

Love is All

 

Teacher Mary Paffard writes that the principle of ahimsa, essential to the practice of yoga, “is the conscious act of not acting or moving out of violence that allows us to be what we intrinsically are–love.” I have found in recent months that love is all.

This is not a simplification: choosing love again and again requires attention and fearlessness.  I wobble, teeter and stumble. But possibilities inherent in love encourage me to try again and again. The word “love” comes from Old English, “lief” which is related to “permission” as in “with your leave.”

There’s a great line in the movie “Adaptation” about how it’s more important to love than to be loved. That ties in with the old notion that giving is a greater gift than receiving. Couldn’t all life be intrinsically love? Observe unselfconscious interactions of mammals, including children, at noncompetitive play. The separation between one and the other recedes.

Perhaps, we all want in some way to be permeable, to blur false edges of our being and to come through (the prefix per–) to one another, to the world. I know poetry allows for that permeability.

Clarity

The moon wakes me,

shining in my face.

Sleep follows from the sheets,

rumpled and sweaty

from a night of unanswerable questions.

At the backdoor I reach for the lock,

to turn it and release

two dogs to the dark morning.

Before my fingers move the chamber

I look up

and through the screened window see

the shadow of a hawk

glide to rest on a bare elm

branch and the moon

there

shining on the bird’s face.

– Alexa Mergen

from Late Peaches: Poems by Sacramento Poets (Sacramento Poetry Center, 2012)

 

Balasana + Luis Cernuda

In balasana, child’s pose, the body folds into itself, rests on the ground. Stilled, it seems possible to allow the mind to imagine “eternity in time.”

Country

Your eyes are from a place

Where snow has never stained

The light, and between the palms

The invisible

Air is clear.

 

Your desire is from a place

Where a secret animal

Grace is joined to

Bodies

In a smile or a glance.

 

Your being is from a place

Where thought perceives,

In friendly sands

And seas,

Eternity in time.

 

– Luis Cernuda, translated by Stephen Kessler

 

País

Tus ojos son de donde

La nieve no ha manchado

La luz, y entre las palmas

El aire

Invisible es de claro.

 

Tu deseo es de donde

A los cuerpos se alía

Lo animal con la gracia

Secreta

De mirada y sonrisa.

 

Tu existir es de donde

Percibe el pensamiento,

Por la arena de mares

Amigos,

La eternidad en tiempo.

 

– Luis Cernuda

 

Note:  first published in Desolation of the Chimera (White Pine Press, 2009); poem used by permission of Stephen Kessler

Pair with: balasana

Speak: Read  aloud the original Spanish, whether or not it’s a language you know. Enjoy the warmth within the sounds of the words.

Consider: Where is this place the poem’s speaker describes? Visualize.

Tadasana + Lalla

In tadasana, the body’s weight evenly distributed on heels and toes and between the two hips, we create an awareness of ourselves inhabiting a body. And that body fills a lacuna, a pool of being. Lalla’s poem suggests satisfaction can be found between up and down, here and there, this way and that way.

That one is blessed and at peace

who doesn’t hope, to whom

desire makes no more loans.

 

Nothing coming, nothing owed.

 

– Lalla, translated by Coleman Barks

 

Note: Poem previously published in Naked Song (Maypop, 1992); used by permission of  Coleman Barks

Pair with: tadasana

Speak: The commas play significant roles in this poem. Be aware of them.

Consider: What would it mean to sit on the fulcrum of that final sentence (marked by the comma) between the see-saw of expectation and debt?

Body as Poem

The word “posture” comes from ponere, “placed.” Among the dozen of us, each posture was unique. Just as  personality is shaped by personal history and circumstances, the body is.

I stood in tadasana along my central axis beside a plumb line.

The pose felt different from the tadasana I had been placed in by dozens of yoga teachers through two decades. There was no “lift the heart,” “roll the shoulders back,” or “tuck the pelvis.” Instead, my weight found an evenness supported by my bones. It turns out the spine continues into the skull and I do not need to “lift the chin,” but allow my gaze to be forward and steady.

The lesson: alignment ≠ internal organization.

How like a poem this is. Successful poems (which, like a “successful” body, are efficient and graceful) find their own internal organization using set rules merely as guidelines. A lovely poem breaks pattern with aplomb–perhaps a rhyme is slant or one stanza differs in length from the others.

A final thought: “organize” derives from organon meaning “tool” or “instrument.” We carry within us all that we need to move and to make, to stand and to be. Bodily intelligence, the poem of oneself.