Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Open of Hand

Empty-handed I entered the world.
Barefoot I leave it.
My comings, my goings--
Two simple happenings
That got entangled.

(Kozan Ichikyo (1238-1360), Japanese Zen monk who wrote this poem on the morning of his death, laid down his brush and died sitting upright.)

Monday, July 25, 2011


Feet are a hidden landscape.

On dying, the old woman’s feet 
were exposed for the first time 
to her unbelieving family.

Years of anquish and quiet suffering were writ large,
with toes curled into unbelievable glyphs of worthiness and pain. 

Grand daughters took off shoes     
to read the softness of youth, 
while their mothers stood on silent feet,
hoping for more years of painful walking—
for long enough to learn if it was worth the cost.  

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Holding the meteorite

The meteorite was a revelation. 
It knocked out recent grief,
pinning me like a luna moth
to the large board of the cosmos.
I examined the grid that led
this pitted piece of star stuff
to be at the same coordinates
as my own ephemeral bit of flesh. 
I studied astronomy,
geography, theosophy, philosophy. 
They all said the same things,
                                                   the same things,
in languages only recently revealed.
Universe within a universe---
You look out, and see in.
                 rhonda palmer

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Forgetting the Poem

Ideas run around my feet like bad little children just wanting to be picked up and loved.  I’m usually too busy to take care of them and so they starve into thin shadows that blow away into someone else’s poems.  It’s a problem I’ve learned to live with, reading all my best thoughts in other peoples really great poems.  No, I don't think they're stealing anything.  I really think these great ideas and beautiful words and sounds toodle around the countryside looking for a home, any home.  I'm sort of pleased to see my own letters (A-Z) used in Billy Collins poems, for example.  I get them back and am happy to use them, second-hand.  Some say that Shakespeare used them in his day, which means, I guess, that I'm using Shakespeare's letters and words and ideas.  Who knew?

On forgetting the poem.

I was driving and didn’t write it down.
It was so beautiful I wanted to cry
and now I don’t remember why.

We were talking and the look in your eyes made me think:
But I remember only the glimpse and not the glory.

The westering sun smacked my face
with a message that might change the world
but I was far from home and my pen was dry.

I was bound to forget but I don’t know why.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Becoming Jerusalem (a true story)

On my one day there, the streets of old Jerusalem offered to sell me souvenirs that might say:
                                “here was Jerusalem.” 
I handled the blue tiles and rainbow scarves, the jewelry and tea cups, but left them all behind to watch the pageant that had been walking this crooked street for a thousand years.

Into this ancient place came grizzled priests, long beards, high hats, prayers rising with scented smoke.

Nuns flocked by, dimple cheeked, smiling, nodding, prayer beads clicking.

Soft-eyed Hasid, fringes swaying, walked softly to an ancient wall to offer fervid supplications.

A muezzin called the many faithful to an appointment with God.  Those faithful held hands up to God.

Ragged children prayed, calling: “Lady, lady, lady. . .”

I, the Baha’i, claimed all this heritage, feeling for roots deeper than a Joshua tree.  Armed with one short lifetime of devotion I held this moment tight around me as history blew down my crooked street.

At a sudden corner I bowled into a group of saffron-robed men—their shaved heads gleaming in the Jerusalem sun.   I prayed forgiveness from my six foot vantage to their five foot selves and saw 
the Dalai Lama himself smiling up and nodding a cheerful absolution. 

I became one of many souvenirs that day—took myself home in a bag of pottery and ancient coin.  Learned to say—

                          “Here, here is Jerusalem.”  

                                        Rhonda Palmer

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Vincent Tries to Change His Mind, and I Follow Obediently.

Graceful groves of willow in full leaf—
Sheaves of golden grass erasing grief—

Still I would give it up, he said, for one painting sold before noon.  One painting sold and I could buy bread and cheese and find a doctor for this damned earache.  I’d release the sunflowers and the stars for just that bread please, and cheese.  And soup.
He lay in bed and thought of it while the sunflowers nodded their heads in agreement.  They pitched in some spare coin and the stars ordered carryout for everyone. 

The soup was delicious.  
                    Rhonda Palmer

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A light shall shine in the darkness...

Fear not,
neither be dismayed,
for your light 
shall penetrate 
the densest darkness.  


Sunday, July 10, 2011

So nice they named it twice

(a true story...)
We were wearing our cutest clothes that night on the Great White Way.  Two sisters on the town, feeling good, feeling free.  Oooooh, New York City……

I had gotten us tickets to the Lion King   Sister and I were happy and there and ready to party with Simba and the gang.  I walked up to the ticket guy, presented my e-ticket and then listened with disbelief as he (kindly) informed me that my ticket was for the previous month.  Something about a minor miscalculation with the calendar while ordering, perhaps, he said.

The young man behind the bullet-proof glass at the will-call window listened (kindly) but was already shaking his head “no” as I asked if there were any tickets available for purchase that night.  Stories about out of town sisters and once-in-a-lifetime opportunities did not move him.  He and I were startled by a scream and flurry of activity in the lobby and I turned in time to see three white haired women topple down the escalator in slow motion.  Sister was also watching it happen and immediately leaped (leapt?) over the velvet cord toward the escalator.  I said to the young man at the will-call window behind the bullet-proof glass, “Watch my purse,” and then I also leaped (leapt?) over the velvet cord by my side and ran to the escalator which had been stopped by that observant ticket-taker.  Sister and I, both nurses, proceeded into emergency mode; directing traffic, triaging wounds, trying to comfort the three elderly, shaken women who were also in their cutest clothes on the Great White Way.  Now they were on their way to an emergency room.  As soon as the EMTs arrived, Sister and I stood up and re-adjusted our now slightly rumpled but still cute clothes, and I walked back for my purse.  As I approached the will-call window and pulled my brain out of adrenaline world—as I reached for my purse—as I remembered that our evening had been ruined by an errant mouse-click—the young man behind the bullet-proof glass slowly pushed two tickets out of the slot next to my purse.  And he said, “Thank you.”  

Oooooh, New York City……

Friday, July 8, 2011

What is essential

from The Little Prince by Antoine de St-Exupery

And he went back to meet the fox.
"Goodbye," he said.
"Goodbye," said the fox.  "And now here is my secret, a very simple secret.  It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye."
"What is essential is invisible to the eye," the little prince repeated, so that he would be sure to remember.
"It is the time you have wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important"
"It is the time I have wasted for my rose--" said the little prince, so that he would be sure to remember.
"Men have forgotten this truth," said the fox, "but you must not forget it.  You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed.  You are responsible for your rose..."
"I am responsible for my rose," the little prince repeated, so that he would be sure to remember. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Vincent on art

"There is an art of the future 
and it is going to be so lovely 
and so young 
that even if we give up our youth for it, 
we must gain in serenity by it."

Vincent Van Gogh, writing to Theo, his brother from Arles, France, May, 1888

Monday, July 4, 2011

I know where my towel is--a mother's legacy

When my mother died last year she left a legacy of story-telling, various obsessive thought patterns, some secrets, a love of theatre and music, clouds of anxiety, an easy laughter and about a hundred plush towels.  The family has been working through the secrets.  We call each other on the phone to tell stories about ourselves or events we can embellish for the laugh factor.  Some of us sing more than others but we’ve all got a hum going at times.  The towels ended up at my house and I’ve been thinking about the general lack of towelishness in the world and the metaphor of towels.  Zen and the art of drying off after a shower.

When I received the stacks of towels left by a loving mother, I listened to what she could never tell me because she was so careful not to create anxiety in her listeners.  Do your best to stay clean, she was saying.  Wash your hands.  Wipe up your messes.  Wipe up any messes I made in my children.  Make the world cleaner.  

Here, use these towels I left you.  

Friday, July 1, 2011

My man, Rumi.

The Music

For sixty years I have been forgetful
every minute, but not for a second
has this flowing toward me stopped or slowed.
I deserve nothing.  Today I recognize
that I am the guest the mystics talk about.
I play this living music for my host.
Everything today is for the host.