profuse gratitude

gratitude - williamarthurwardI have resisted my impulse to combine several days’ worth of one-word WP Daily Prompts into a single post, opting instead to focus my profuse gratitude for an ER physician into this single post.

Dr. Singh is an Emergency Room physician in a hospital south of Boston. It happened that my youngest had been having a remarkably rough sequence of events following an innocent cat bite…

Well, revise that: if you know about cat bites, you know they are anything but innocent. The string of unfortunate events is a shaggy dog story of its own. What brought her to the ER was the result of treatment, and plenty scary. Here, I want to focus on the extreme professionalism, compassion, and cut-to-the-chase sensitivity of this particular physician. He observed the late hour – the distraught parents – the millennial putting on her brave face – the boyfriend with overnight bag in tow – the month-long medical record of interventions and their impact – and, avoiding platitudes, unnecessary overviews or demeaning talking-down, simply addressed us as the concerned and aware people we are.

In turn, I was feeling especially vulnerable on his behalf. Although this was Boston, well-known for its cultural diversity, tolerance and inclusion – all my growing-up years I knew Boston as the ‘melting pot of the nation’ – it was also the first-year anniversary of this country’s most divisive, uninclusive, intolerant period in our modern history. All I could think, as I watched and listened to this soft-spoken man with extreme expertise and learning, as he looked at each of us with searching dark brown eyes between his black turban and thick black beard, was how grateful I was for him. It was only later I realized how grateful I was on his behalf that he is in Boston; and simultaneously, how outraged I felt at the daily confrontations with uncertainty and bias he must face as he goes about his work. After 30 years of dedicated medical practice and doubtless thousands of well-treated patients, he deserves better.

I want to acknowledge his presence at my daughter’s bedside the other evening; and thank him for giving us information, confidence and a caring experience that I will never forget.

journey to peace

JOURNEY TO PEACE

Hope is not a strategy
but a way of living,
letting loose what lives within
into a wanting world

a way of living rising
from roots planted
in the soil of love, twisting
outward to bear lessons

from all those years
of unfurling and return,
the unknown entered
in trust blessed

by seasons of rest
and ripening, their light
illuminating the one
thing that matters –

trust in our instincts
as nature’s creatures
sending peace ahead
of every breath.

swb

With thanks to sister-blogger and supportive reader Philippa Rees for her recent comment in which she shared a phrase that inspired this post:

The mighty tree is alive with its roots deep in you…
Let what it sees guide you.

I spent the better part of yesterday – and it was the better part, I can assure you! – creating the collage and afterward, the poem. Thank you, Philippa, for the encouragement from afar that resonated so deeply within.

at the new year

woman gazing outward, swb, 2018

This year started off dragging a long bag of the last with it. I have been slow to drop it behind me. Especially when the bag included a veritable stream of rejections received the first week of this year for pieces sent with high hopes in the second half of 2017.

I needed to regroup. Hence, for instance, the uploading of a new sub-page under ‘Creative Endeavors’ (collage).

But the new year brings with it lovely surprises, as well. Such as hearing from a favorite poet that you have been accepted into her 2018 Poetry Intensive Workshop. Yep, you read that right! Marge Piercy  — who only wants ’12 serious poets’ to work with in her coveted workshop —  chose me as one of them.

The new year is looking brighter already. Perhaps it’s time to start that collection from my recent trip to Portugal; to polish up some of my earlier attempts at more public (political) pieces; to sort through accumulated poem drafts and consolidate, trash or face-lift the old … and generally, to remember that rejection is not a statement of whether or not one ‘should’ write. It’s just a goad to keep on doing so.

As Marge writes in the final stanza of her powerful ‘At the New Moon’ from “The Art of Blessing the Day: Poems with a Jewish Theme,” Alfred A. Knopf, NY, 1999:

Let the half day festival of the new moon
remind us how to retreat and grow strong, how to
reflect and learn, how to push our bellies forward,
how to roll and turn and pull the tides up, up
when we need them, how to come back each time
we look dead, making a new season shine.

St. Francis

Basilica of St. Francis, Assisi, Italy

 

In the month of October we remember Francis of Assisi, the saint who answered Christ’s call to “repair my church.” Above all, St. Francis stands as one who … boldly challenged a world obsessed with power and status, and a church that conformed to such values. Those today who pursue the cause of peace, who stand with the poor, who engage in respectful dialogue with other faiths, or defend the Earth and its creatures, are following in Francis’ path … a way of kindness, gentleness, and humility that could truly repair our world, which is evidently falling into ruin.

This appeared in my inbox this morning from Orbis Books, the publisher of HEAR ME, SEE ME: Incarcerated Women Write which I co-edited in 2013. By coincidence, earlier this week I received a copy of Colere, A Journal of Cultural Exploration published annually by Coe College. They just published my poem, ‘The Tomb of St. Francis.’

Tomb of St. Francis of Assisi at the Basilica

The Tomb of St. Francis
Assisi, Italy

They come, pilgrims of every shade
in bright red-orange prints, with canes
their grayed heads bound in matching cloth
eyes encased in winkled brown.

Dread-locked youth, his lengths spilling
over dirty blond pack as he kneels,
falls to the stone step marking
the edge of adoration for the deceased.

A lanky dark-haired youth
in plain white tee and tattered jeans
pulls the iron grate tight to heaving chest
entwines hand, arm, head bowed in prayer;

then rises, damp-eyed, whispers, croons,
his body speaking anguish, joy
at this momentous meeting
faith and love lived large

as his beloved Saint before him,
example of the living word
that permeates the air, the bones
of ancient-walled Assisi.

‘The Tomb of St. Francis’ by Sarah W. Bartlett, in Colere Journal of Cultural Exploration, Coe College, Cedar Rapids, IA, 2018

portrait of a morning

credit – jim hester

Although today is sunny, bright and breezy – even coolish with essentially no humidity – I am sharing a poem written yesterday during the Poetry Marathon. As you’ll see from the certificate, I signed up for and duly completed the Half Marathon. Twelve poems in 12 hours. I think the 24-hour version must be utterly grueling, because I’ll admit, there were hours (a new prompt is posted every hour on the hour and you create/post your response within that hour) – well, two or three – when I didn’t feel tired so much as devoid of words. And yet, there are 12 entries on my page!

The prompt for this poem was to write a four-stanza poem, using a line from the first in each of the others. For starters, it was great fun to see how people interpreted this prompt differently. As for my own experience, I loved the challenge of the structure to bring the poem full circle – and have it make sense!

The slow drizzle of gray-turned-rain
laps gently on the canvas covered deck
tapping its own rhythm to the quiet continuo
of Corinthian chimes muting the wind

the slow drizzle of gray-turned-rain
sliding off branch and rail, soaking
the thirsty ground as yellow finches
and the occasional hummer in search of food

lap gently on the canvas covered deck,
the day’s rhythms of hunger and its filing
marking the passage of hours, staging
the shape of a day. Downhill the new house rises

tapping its own rhythm to the quiet continuo
of our life here, its shape and pace
undisturbed by change, though
change unfolds all around us.

swb