30 May 2016

Step One:The Paradox of Powerlessness

Merry-Go-Round by Mark Gertler (1913)

How powerless are we?  I laughed. We’re here
alive and breathing hard; we’ve won this round.
Haha! Maybe tomorrow we can rest.
But that's when I notice the Hamster Wheel
we are caught in.  Don’t malign the beast!
The animal is the best part of us.

Some say the only people we can trust  
with power are those who have journeyed “through
powerlessness.”  Our trust in this idea
fluctuates with Israeli-Palestine
relations, bangs itself in pain among
contradictions:  First fix us, then the rest.

Where to accept our pow-POW-erlessness
first?  Just behind the stiff upper lip-ness
of our material well-being? in
the gardens we tend tearfully alert
to any slights and ready to defend ourselves?
Oh, God!  Help me let go the Royal We.

And love myself, for fierce independence
and fight, for graduating and riding
the academy as long as possible—
bronco busting and roping in closed paddocks
while whispering to wild horses: You can
trust me to know what you are going through.

We can trust me to surrender the thought
that we can use the master’s tools without
harming me, thee or they—that in the end
we can restore humanity without
a trace of addiction to structural
tools that helped make survival possible.

How powerless are we?  I choke.  I’m here
alive but breathless, having lost both trust
and time before realizing success
on these terms impoverished us.  I get
off the merry-go-round  and stop its run
only now that my pension has begun.

And that’s how powerless we wereI am.
How can I preach against the holding pat-
tern that secures our freedom now?  Can you
imagine it is possible to live
otherwise?  No?  Listen.  I burn in Hell
of inequalities that None. Will. Quell.

Suggested by today's meditation with 
My blog poems are rough drafts. 
Please respect my copyright.
© 2016 Susan L. Chast

27 May 2016

A View of Pentecost from a Lapsed Jew

Ruth in Boaz's Field by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld (1828)

Pentecost, seven times seven
days after Passover
promises love, nurture, kinship.

As God gave us Torah and Jesus
(at Mount Sinai and on Shavuot)
to read and know and act upon.

Here is the root of existence:
our spirit-filled shells wear out
in time yet leave our deeds behind.

As with the grain of wheat which dies
to bear its fruit, so with all life
we have thus far met on our earth.

In our non-Eden, spring produce
of flowers and leaf reminds us that
mortality has fruitfulness.

As we spread compost on our crops
we show reverence for what dies,
refuse to use what has not lived.

Truth and faith and law—all three—
suggest we are to celebrate  
that death is part of God’s great love.

Death speaks of continuity—
tells us to treat others as we
desire to be treated ourselves—

It is our covenant—our bloom—
gratitude rather than sorrow—
we flower so we can make food.

My blog poems are rough drafts. 
Please respect my copyright.
© 2016 Susan L. Chast

25 May 2016

Family Picnics

 A View of the Two Lakes and Mountain House, Catskill Mountains, Morning 
By Thomas Cole, (@1844) The Hudson River School of Painters

My favorites were at North Lake, up where
the bowlers roamed on stormy days—hidden
in Catskill Mountain forests, cliffs and lakes.

There was an order: First the dangerous drive,
slow curves around sheer cliffs and water falls
that raised anticipation and hunger.

Second unpack the car not too far from
the beach and third plunge in the water cold
till called to eat, towel-wrapped, shivering.

Forth: Cole slaw, hot dogs, buns, Yahoos and chips
mustard and relish, seconds and thirds, and change
to hike and pass the hour before swimming.

Fifth, up in single file quiet, native
style, not harming plant nor ant, step back
from sheer drop edges, surprise sounds and moves. 

The pinnacle reached, ceases to enchant
so Sixth, race down faster than the adult
caution to be careful, faster than  light.

Seventh, fall asleep and miss canoe rides
and second swim, the clean-up and packing.
Re-a-wake, hot, at the ice cream stop.

Vanilla cone in hand, watch out the back
as distant hills recede, family day
already fantasy in red sunset. 

Posted for my prompt 

Poets United Midweek Motif ~ Picnic

My blog poems are rough drafts. 
Please respect my copyright.
© 2016 Susan L. Chast

24 May 2016


Image result for photo booth art

Swim poems remind me of photos—the ones
we took every year once upon a time—
emerging links of four from traffic “stops,”
once busy portals train depots provide.

Provided.  Once upon a time, we piled
our happy bodies into booths until
the bench might crack; we drew the heavy drape
and slid three coins into the slot, then posed

In bright light flash, one two, three four and done
a pool of friendship rushed and vivid black
and whites.  We spilled out laughing until we heard
the strip drop wet and silly, grabbed for it

And broke into tinkling bells of giggles
again—and once upon a time, we did
not care who took the pictures  home.  The fun
was over. Our stomachs were full and fine.

But now, I look for those after-our-swim
photos in boxes I carried around
for years and can’t find them. Were they figments
of my imagination?  So vivid!

My memory wants evidence to hold
and share—with shaking  hands and wonder—that
we created images that sustain
us now.  We knew the truth unconsciously

And solidly: Knew once upon a time
to plunge into the streams and portals who
beckoned, even if they might hurt.  Knew fun
was work that called us out to become whole.

My blog poems are rough drafts. 
Please respect my copyright.
© 2016 Susan L. Chast

22 May 2016


File:Brooklyn Museum - The Last Supper (La Cène légale) - James Tissot.jpg
The Last Supper (La Cène légale) - James Tissot
Passion connotes suffering mystery.
It’s just a word until we accuse
our friends of  “too much enthusiasm”
which is itself a passion to prevent
a transformation from reality
and its disturbances to something more
than benign mindfulness and acceptance.

Tragic passion demands witness, even
reluctant testimony empowers
the mystery to spread, hence martyrdom
and legend, old and new Testament books
and Quran, the Mahabharata and I Ching
and you and me with our rituals of
containment congregation and counsel.

So we perform passion, holding it
at arms’ distance on stage in characters
that we perform repeatedly—without
entering doors repetition offers
to trance and depth and spirals through the locks
we place on experience for safety’s
sake.  Calling it our civilization.

Civility!  Let’s pause here to aprec-
iate the paradox of democracy:
to be good citizens we reign in our
passions to social conventions and we
passionately defend our right to have
representation  in the laws and debts
that rule our day to day every day.

Ironically, safety separates
passion from civility, spirit
from reason, both from civil love
where most we need to suffer mystery.
So hear this poem—non-poem—that won’t seduce
you into gardens of delight and melt
you with sounds into sensuality.

Let it demand wide eyed and alert
attention instead to where passion in-
vites you.  Yes, get up and leave the arena
where this is not a performance and you
are not an audience.  Leave dissatis-
fied with your retreats and find yourself
with other astonished anonymous disciples.

My blog poems are rough drafts. 
Please respect my copyright.
© 2016 Susan L. Chast

20 May 2016

The Message: A Parable

File:Teachings of Jesus 27 of 40. parable of the rich man and Lazarus. Jan Luyken etching. Bowyer Bible.gif
 An etching by Jan Luyken illustrating Luke 16:19-21
in the Bowyer Bible, Bolton, England.

[Use] every adversity to stimulate you to creative survival,
to concentrate your attention on the bare essentials,
so you’ll live, really live, and not complacently
just get by on good behavior.”
~ Luke 16:19-31 (MSG)

Sweet are the uses of adversity
the Poet said, but finding them demands
bottoming out and leaving pride of self
among the crumbs that drop from tables—
requires having no crumbs to fall at all,
means surviving with creativity.

Then like Duke Senior in As You Like It,
we might find freedom in exile, find love
in forest leaves, and meet kindred enough
to recognize the gift of faith, to brave
return renewed and ready for the right
to work on love instead of choosing flight.

Refugees expect nothing from the rich,
and find no pastures make a welcome niche.

As You Like It: II. 1. 14-19.

My blog poems are rough drafts. 
Please respect my copyright.
© 2016 Susan L. Chast