Poem: Clare Bonsall

Because I have come to the fence at night,
the horses arrive also from their ancient stable.
 – Robert Wrigley

In a Meditation, Movement and Verse class, we spent time with Robert Wrigley’s After a Rainstorm. Clare Bonsall shares the beautiful poem she wrote that morning.

Endings or Blue’s Last Breath

The whoosh of air
left its old
grey body

And traveled
into the
ether –

I carried that
old Blue cat
home

And knew what
spirit looked
like

And was relieved
to see that
wind exit

To be drawn in
by another
and another

– Clare Bonsall

 

With MMV, we enter a poem with the assistance of breath and movement. On this day, we practiced mountain pose and ocean breath. We brought flowing movement into the arms and awakened the legs. In a quadruped position (also called “table-top” or “hands and knees”) we practiced a pelvic tilt and imagined having an animal tail. We also moved through some heart opening poses, breathed in a resting crocodile and sat quietly  in thunderbolt pose.

The prompt: Write about what happens after an event, in the human or animal realms; include, if desired, an insight that occurs. Use stanzas of three or four lines, depending on the desired effect.

 

Intimacy, voice, community

We talked this morning about intimacy, voice and community in the final meeting of the inaugural series of Meditation, Movement and Verse. My thanks to the students who brought ideas, memories, rhythm, words, breath and bodies to seven months of weekly meetings. Wow, is all I can say. Your insights and poems confirm that intimacy, if anything, will save the world. Thank you for making yourselves known.

Be brave. Stop bullies.

This poem was begun several years ago when I first started thinking about how intimacy closes the gap between human and non-human animals, one human and another.

A World of Constant Motion

It starts with interrogate,
ends with preserve.

Between, answers
to why we let other species

dwindle. Do we sit ourselves
down on a straight chair

under bare bulbs of what’s left
to question—

When did battle take precedence
over beauty? When did what was

get displaced by now and next?
Preserve means to set aside

acres of jars shelved bright
with tomatoes and peaches picked

in warmer days for cold ones.
“In wildness is preservation”

Thoreau said. I say
intimacy saves the world—

creatures in burrows, beneath waves,
flowers fruiting without witness,

my back against yours as we breathe,
what we love named, and who.

– Alexa Mergen

Communion and Communication

“The philosopher and the poet-yogin both have standing not too far behind them the shaman, with his or her pelt and antlers and other various guises, and with songs going back to the Pleistocene and before,” Gary Snyder writes. He says the poet, shaman and yogini are at ease in the wilderness and the unconscious.

Reading, writing, speaking and listening to poetry taught me to listen. It’s as if each written word is a portal into meanings beyond meanings. Many poets collect dictionaries and relish falling into a rabbit hole of etymology. But it’s more than the meaning. We know that metaphor is an attempt to carry over meaning, and that like all bridges it can fail. But looking at text can be like reading music, each letter of a word functioning like a note, together the letters making phrases of sound that are words and words with words, harmonizing. When I listen to spoken words they transport to another realm like music can.

The thing is, though, words can be pursued. One leads to another and another until they’re rounded up like wild mustangs by the helicopter of the mind.

It’s being with animals, sitting beside a stream in a patch of wilderness or on a city park bench, watching and listening to birds, in particular–because they are the animals most at ease with humans (we cannot follow them when they want to escape)–that showed me how true listening is not about tracking after clues but biding right here with what is. This true waiting requires both time and space, literal and figurative, real and imagined, in an expansive state of credulousness and incredulousness that, paradoxically, has no-thing to do with time and space as we measure them.

Yoga can be an exploration of that unmeasurable time and space within the laboratory of the body. It’s a surprise to find the nose reaches the knees today or the breath seems to seep more deeply into an area of the body that was holding. An hour-long class seems mere minutes. A challenging pose makes one minute feel like one hour.

That’s why if we meld Yoga and poetry with an awareness of the non-human world magic can happen. One definition of magic is changing consciousness at will. Sitting among animals requires us to welcome non-human awareness; poems lead us to see the familiar anew; Yoga braids through movement the three strands of body, mind and feeling (spirit, emotion, soul, self…call it what you will).  One example of this process is Meditation, Movement and Verse. A beautiful poem visits the group. And another. And beauty matters because it makes us pause whether we find it on the published page, the nourishing plate, the sun-covered plain. Beauty stills us in time and in space. We are for a moment animals purely alive.

Snyder continues, “The evidence of anthropology is that countless men and women, through history and prehistory, have experienced a deep sense of communion and communication with nature and with specific nonhuman beings….People of goodwill who cannot see a reasonable mode of either listening to, or speaking for, nature except by analytical and scientific means must surely learn to take this complex, profound, moving, and in many ways highly appropriate worldview of yogis, shamans, and ultimately all our ancestors into account. One of the few modes of speech that give us access to that other yogic or shamanistic  view (in which all are one and all are many, and the many are precious) is poetry and song.”

I hope to see you in a poetry or Yoga class or one that combines the two.

 

Of summer

Releasing the body in movement to allow the mind to recall the then, to breathe into the now, and picking up a pen to make something beautiful to share in the next: Meditation, Movement and Verse.

Robin’s poem holds within it paradoxes of time, as do the best. Before writing, we read  Invitation by Carl Dennis.

On “Invitation”

I have kept the green lace-wing on the kitchen wall
It is a remembrance.
A time of summer
A pale green & yellow
A flicker of gauze & fairies

Why is it still here?
A stamp of the past
or is it a stamp for traveling?
Going to other places
It may just take you too.

Just a jot
A remembrance
of pale yellow hair,
& freckled skin,
the smell of summer.

The wings of summer,
    just in case we forget.
Veining & musculature so slight
imperceptible scales   the skin   holding it together
on the kitchen wall.

– Robin Netzer

Note: poem published with permission of the poet

Fascination

What happens when we invite the body and heart to join our heads in the making of a poem?

Diane Bader, a student in Meditation, Movement and Verse, began “Fascination” in class on September 19. These are the steps we followed that morning.

  • Seated in chairs, we started with a simple meditation
  • We brought  awareness to the breath’s movement in the body
  • We released holding in the upper back and chest to make space in the heart center
  • We read Grace Paley’s Autumn and discussed the poem’s two parts
  • We responded to the prompt: Write about a tree while holding a memory in mind. Repeat and extend the poem.
  • Share. (The best part!)
  • Savasana (The next best part!)
  • At home, revise with attention to using the space on the page and providing a meaningful title

Fascination

Outside, the maple

has become a

variegated symbol

of autumn.

I invite its

brilliant tangerine,

vermilion, emerald,

saffron-colored leaves

  into my heart.

 

Wind rustles,

 rattles the leaves.

Paper-thin, they

  begin their cascade

        down to earth.

Outside, the maple

 has become a

  variegated symbol

of autumn.

I invite its

brilliant tangerine,

vermilion, emerald,

  saffron-colored leaves

 into my heart.

Wind rustles,

rattles the leaves.

  Paper-thin, they

begin their cascade

  down to earth.

One morning

  I am amazed

    as naked umber

      branches sparkle – –

blanketed in

  hoarfrost.

I make a dash

  for my camera,

    endeavor to capture

this ephemeral

  moment.

– Diane Bader, September 30, 2014

Note: Poem used with permission of the poet.

Energy, intimacy, poetry and breath

Poetry is energy,” says Josephine Jacobsen.  A poem connects the made and the eternal. After all, metaphor means to carry over, words create bridges, fragile or solid. Language actively links.

In yoga, bodies are instruments of connection. We recognize the cadence of our own rhythms and join with others’.

During a recent class of Meditation, Movement and Verse, we sat back to back, tail bones nestled together, and breathed. Doing so is an odd sensation. The bodies start to communicate with each other, not necessarily synching but softening in awareness with each other. The touch of the bodies, intimate and autonomous, creates connection.

Listening to another’s breath can be a lesson in love. Watching a baby breathe is wondrous; feeling the movement of a dog’s chest soothes.

At one time in my life, I commuted 200 miles a few days a week from Bakersfield to work as a mentor teacher in Desert Hot Springs High School, staying with a friend in Yucca Valley. I was in my thirties; my friend in her eighties. In the stillness of a high desert night I could hear her breathing in her bedroom down the hall from mine. Listening to her respiration grounded me in place, settling me after road travel.

At another time, teaching elementary school, I cared for the classroom parakeet during winter break. The veterinarian showed me how to cradle the small yellow creature in one hand and bring her into the darkness of the coat closet for a daily injection of antibiotic. I could feel the bird’s chest rising and administer the shot to avoid piercing heart or lungs.

 

Jacobsen’s poem The Edge asks us to listen to breath.

The poem begins,

“The edge?     The edge is:

lie by the breath you cannot

do without; while

the breather sleeps.”

She concludes,

“Listen, listen.     Say, Love, love,

breathe so, breathe so.’

 

Consider listening to or feeling your own or another’s breath for a few minutes today. Notice the energy.

 

 

Now we begin

Now we begin.

The first yoga book I read was a 1960s paperback discovered on my grandmother’s dusty hall bookshelf at her house in Henderson, Nevada, where I spent my childhood summers. I’d take the book into my little room, crank the window air conditioner and try to make sense of the poses while the cat looked down from the blue coverlet. Helen wore skirts exclusively, hated playing or even watching anything athletic, and did not condone discussion of bodily functions. But she was a curious person who kept up with trends and believed in trying things. In her seventies, a breathing class at the local hospital changed her quality of life. I wish I could ask her if that old yoga book paved the way.

I think she’d enjoy the Meditation, Movement and Verse workshops. We move with awareness of breath.

We investigate how words’ meanings shift depending on our physical and emotional states. For the act of reading and writing poems provides us with a vertical cross section of linear, horizontal time. We embody this when we increase the range of motion in our bodies and notice a breath, then another and another. There’s nothing mysterious about “the here and now” but it is difficult to quantify so we need to experience it directly.

Looking for inspiration? Read this article about a 50-year-old ex-con who teaches fitness to seniors in New York.