March for our Lives: A Poem

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What are we holding onto,
so tightly?
When we have our guns
and won’t let go,
what are we afraid to lose
that hasn’t already
been annihilated?
We are scared to death.
We are scared of death.
We are letting the living die,
we are not honouring the dead
when our actions are not
on the side of the living.
Let us march, all of us,
wherever we are,
however we can.
This march, for our lives,
is a plea, a cry, a rally
to the makers of change,
but let us not stand divided.
Let us remember our lives,
our unity, the one life
that threads through us all.
Let us honour every living being,
here and departed and not yet come,
with every single last
shred of hope within us.
Let us build on this honour
so that it grows to fill the world
with respect and reverence for all,
and for ever possibility.

– tammy takahashi

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Writing Genesis (and Shakespeare).

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The Shakespeare sonnet below has been in my life since I was 13 and our visionary, absolutely brilliant English (and French) teacher, Mr. Wilson, made us memorize it, long before we could possibly know what it was about.

I tore it apart, sounded it out, learned new words (livery?), and reveled in its rhythms. Sometimes I thought I got it a little bit, and then it would be gone. All I could hear were its melodious tones reverberating in my head because of the way repetition can make the most familiar words strange.

A few years later, I visited my elementary school and Mr. Wilson invited me in to say hello. Without warning, he prompted me to recite the poem. I knew he knew I would still have it memorized. Which I did.

I can hardly believe I’ve reached the impossibly faraway age referred to in this poem, and that it’s still etched so deeply into me.

I love the way the poem asks us to take a look at ourselves as we change, at the nature of change itself. Parts of who we are bound to fall away. This is the nature of things. We become stripped, bare, a gaping, open thing awaiting our discovery.

I love the way Mr. Wilson, one of my foundational teachers, allowed us, in our earliest of teens and barely out of childhood, to play with an unfathomable future, to have a taste before understanding would becomes possible. So that it would.

I thank him from the bottom of my heart for encouraging me to make my own magic out of words, before I really knew how delicious and powerful they could be.

 

When forty winters shall besiege thy brow, by William Shakespeare

When forty winters shall besiege thy brow,
And dig deep trenches in thy beauty’s field,
Thy youth’s proud livery, so gazed on now,
Will be a tatter’d weed, of small worth held.

Then being asked where all thy beauty lies,
Where all the treasures of thy lusty days,
To say, within thine own deep, sunken eyes,
Were an all eating shame and thriftless praise.

How much more praise deserved thy beauty’s use
If though coulds’t answer, “this fair child of mine
Shall sum my count and make my old excuse.”
Proving his beauty by succession thine.

This were to be new made when thou art old,
And see they blood warm, when thou feel’st it cold.

 

A Poem for Father’s Day (and all days).

This poem was recently published on elephant journal, a great platform for the mindful life, and where I write a column. Check it out!

My father is far, because he is on the other side of the Earth from where I am now, and near, because that’s what love is.

 

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To My Father, Far and Near

 

This morning, a reflection on a youth that was mine.

A walk on a path leading to some woods on the opposite side of the world from my origins, last week’s rain skipping, giddy, toward today’s greenness and vibrancy.

There are sprouting flowers on shrubs and grass to light the way, and I’m overcome:

I don’t know how it started, but in one moment I can’t frame or measure, I am not here,
I am someone else that was once me.

A weekend trip, a hike somewhere in that childhood magical landscape belonging to no one else, a walk in a wooded place with my father, who was everything, who knew it all and lit my world with his bright eyes and

infectious smile, so that a quiet stream became an odyssey in crossing (our mother hen clutching his camera for him, wondering if her whole family might be washed away on a Sunday afternoon),

the trees our navigation, our plaything, our home in every forest and jungle. He taught us to climb, and to see the world from way up there (I am always trying to find my way back up there).

I’m still with him, now: the walk with all those red leaves, and twisted branches shaped like alive things we could never resist. Did my sister win or lose the bet that had her carrying a rock the size of “I love you thisssss much” back to the car, where my mother had a picnic waiting?

She carried it well; my father helped her know there was no reason she might falter.

There were many times like this in my childhood. My father juggling with the dishes, breaking a few but succeeding in letting us in on a little secret about how gravity might be toyed with.

Times like these.

Taking his girls-who-were-not-boys to the hardware store, or his enormous warehouse spaces of work, transforming wherever we were into our very own land of play and adventure. Giving us that freedom.

These spaces that keep expanding with the emotions, now, that fill it, without end, nostalgia on top of old euphorias.

All the woods in the world, the ones who have seen me and the ones that await
meet me today with a kind of breathless force:

I never quite knew what I loved and I can’t have it back,

But I can come close to knowing what is still there, what is now, what made me, the making of love.

(The purple flowers that drew me into these woods this morning, invite me, and so I find my brimming-heart place of now, and I enter.)

 

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