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6 Poems About Nature, Meditation, Politics and the Human Psyche

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Illustration of man lying in white hammock

Exhausted from several hours’ mental effort
I feel as if I’m in a deep pit—
Death Valley or somewhere,
and will never recover.

Heading upstairs to bed to rest,
I remember a meditation technique
and begin saying to myself,
Exhaustion arising and passing away.”

Once in bed, I place both hands
on my heart and begin to repeat,
I breathe in LOVE” on the in-breaths,
I breathe out all limitation” while exhaling.

I blank out for a little while,
returning to find myself
in the midst of a mind-picture

being rocked in a hammock
made of a white linen
that reminds me of angel’s wings.
The hammock is hung,
it seems, from the sky

My spent self observes from down below.
The Swinging Chair!” he shouts,
knowing somehow to call it that.

The Swinging Chair has restored me!
I rise from bed, ready to go about
the rest of my day.

Composite photo of top of U.S. Congress next to hand-drawn human face

The Slow Pace of Change in Politics and the Human Psyche

Take Congress as a symbol
of the human psyche:
The visionary, progressive faction
demands transformation now!
Equal opportunity, inclusion,
hard and “soft” infrastructure
that keeps up with need—
including human need.

The conservative side
just says no to everything.
No to the budget!
(Only those who are alive
spend money!)
No to higher taxes for
corporations and the rich!
The reptilian brain lumbers along—
with frequent naps.

Centrists do not say no,
but no to the price tag!
“It doesn’t matter what
the need is! It can’t cost
that much!”

The broken system
will likely crank out
some incremental change
that doesn’t really meet the need,
but is more than nothing.

This is the way politics
and the human psyche
can be: an impetus to transformation,
with horrified resistance on the other side.
Finally, a slow creeping forward.

But in today’s world,
in politics or the psyche,
is this response enough?
Even for survival?

Dance Cards

Old-style paper dance card

Dad showed me his old scrapbook once.
All the old Dance Cards from his youth were pasted in.

Dance Cards, an old custom, fallen by the wayside—
but the dance, the Real Dance, goes on.

“It’s not about rules, it’s about learning
to dance to His tune,” my mentor said.

The Beloved has a Dance Card for each of us,
only He doesn’t tell us ahead of time, who’s on it.

Someone appears in your life
and you dance in a whirlwind of energy.

It may be a reprise from a past life for that one song.
Or you may dance until death do you part.

Who’s on your Dance Card today? Who was on it six months ago?
It’s a come-and-go world, eh? But what a dance!


Weeds next to garden gate

A garden must be tended every day, or the weeds will sprout and wreak havoc.
Time seems to stand still, but don’t be fooled, it’s a container for change.

This morning, while waiting 30 seconds for the microwave to heat my coffee,
I thought, “Multiply this 30 seconds enough times and empires will rise and fall!”

You do not change, Unlimited One, but change is the constant companion of everything else.
Even the plastic in the landfills, even the Earth itself, will someday decompose.

The gates of some good habits have gotten rusty from disuse.
Little moss-like clumps of fear have begun to spring up around the gateways.

This very day is the fulcrum of the balance, Pilgrim.
The Present is the key: which way do you want to go?

Taking the Holy Name is a good practice,
but it’s only the beginning, is it not?

Oh, Max, the old Scripture says, “God is no respecter of persons.”
It’s your own thoughts, words and deeds that determine how close you are!


Trees and plants in autumn

The air is changed today,
soaked in eucalyptus and moisture.
Today this is a place
I want to visit!

Memories: the long daily processions
up the steps from Parking,
along the path to our door,
the sun no friend
or just back from being possessed
by a stern twin.

Pockets of sweetness,
the days I had to venture out early,
when God was still giving out
kisses on the breeze.

Now, everything new
like the first snow that year in St. Louis
covering and making unrecognizable
the already strange shapes of brick,
metal and the tar-papered roof
of that odd old apartment building.

Perhaps the purpose of monotony
is only to make room
for something amazing
waiting to happen.

After a Non-Life-Threatening Illness (Bronchitis)

Feet in sickbed

I’ve enjoyed my illness,
hope it’s not off-putting to say that.

Not all of it:
not the weakness and fatigue,
the need to rest after even
a couple hours’ work at my desk,
or the realization that walking
across a room leaves me half-exhausted.

But I’ve enjoyed these things:
feeling safe and loved in our home,
blessed by Barbara’s companionship
and the support of my employers,
who found work subs for me and wrote,
“We just want you to get well!”

And I’ve enjoyed the delicious
suspension of time, the ability
when strong enough, to just be,
to savour this new autumn
outside my office window;
and the freedom to create
without limits of time
or other obligations.

Even in bed, resting,
trying to meditate on my breath,
I relish that feeling
of being loved—blessed.

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image 1: Max Reif; image 2: Wikimedia Commons/Max Reif; image 3: Wikimedia Commons; image 4: Wikimedia Commons; image 5: Max Reif; image 6: Max Reif

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