teacher’s soft voice
by bird song
I first came across the hundred blessings in a wonderful novel by Alison McGhee, What I Leave Behind. She writes, “The hundred blessings display is at the back of the blessings store. Each numbered with a Chinese number…Each with a specific purpose. Blessing for the dead. Blessing for the afraid. Blessing for the lost.”
This struck me so, that I had to put the book down and walk away, just to savor the pleasure of coming back. It stays with me still, and I keep playing with it. Try it yourself. Come up with some hundred blessings of your own. See where they take you.
Another of the hundred blessings–
A forest of solitude, with songbirds, rabbits.
A forest of solitude, with a path running through.
A forest of solitude at the edge of a meadow
where the circus has pitched its tents.
In this, the different circus, the magic circus,
tame lions and tigers roar for the pleasure of
making enormous sounds. The elephants
are happy to be here. The dogs yearn to do tricks.
The clowns rejoice in their huge shoes and tiny cars
and everyone crowds together and feasts on
popcorn and candy apples and spun sugar cotton and if the crowds get too large
or the music too loud,
you are blessed, to be here at the edge of the forest
Remember, you may travel back and forth,
circus to meadow to forest
And remember the forest travels deep within you
Deep within each of us,
beneath the collarbone.
All you need is to learn your own way in.
Learning your way in?
That’s another of the hundred blessings.
open your front door
these early spring mornings
when it’s too cold to open.
to the startled birds
the shivering almost blossoms
the world’s green iced-over heart
slowly warming in the sun
she keeps splashing
as I walk by
her roadside mud puddle
Time is scattered
through a million little rooms these days.
I write in my head on long, solitary walks.
Count breaths and syllables.
Repeat the poems that come,
hoping to grasp their raggedy edges
long enough to get home
where I keep paper and pens
and sometimes one slips away, like this–
My favorite strangers
hang plastic eggs
from bare tree branches
tied on with bits of
shake off last night’s snow,
sweet green almost open buds–
don’t you yearn for change?
Is today still my brother’s birthday
when he’s been dead a dozen years?
Is yesterday’s poem a record
of images I want to hold?
How about this? The bean counter
mechanical thing in this
platform I use to wander words
through the internet–
Yesterday it told me I had posted
poem number 1000. One thousand.
Why am I proud of accumulations
of words in mostly careless patterns?
And how about
that old fashioned term “bean counter”
that I have never said out loud but it
jumped out from a mouth that might have been
my grandmother’s–where does that piece come
from? Where do I put it–
in the trash bin or in a poem?
And where do I put the worst fact–
the long, rambling, happy walk that became
yesterday’s poem? It ended with you calling
as I unlocked my front door.
And when I heard you crying
I thought virus I thought death
and I was half right.
and I dragged myself to yesterday’s poem
anyway– out of habit, out of my depth
and it turned out to be number one thousand
a gnat to brush away with my thoughts on her
On her and the thoughts she sits with now.
And clearly this is a puzzle of many more
than 1000 pieces and the pieces are scattered
and we’ve lost the box that shows what
this picture is supposed to be
I want to tell you
there is still snow under the big tree
and a scattering of brown wreaths
trimmed with bedraggled red bows
There are bright plastic lilies
on your mom’s grave and
her neighbors are looking sprightly too
One grave in the next row back is decorated
with a two foot tall plaster rooster
Nearby, somebody named Smith
is blossoming into daffodils and purple tulips