Communion

poem & photo by Elizabeth
COMMUNION

Dividing an elementary class into 
boys on one side 
                                  girls on the other 
invites each to imagine the other group has 
                  cooties! cooties! cooties!
and leaves each vulnerable to those who thrive on power

yet united, we eliminate disease, produce
thriving meccas of cultural exchange,
launch ourselves through the universe….

If you think you’re invulnerable to ads and rhetoric,
think about a lemon—
thrust your teeth through thick
yellow skin to release zest’s 
zinging scent and swallow 
tart 
puckering 
juice.

That saliva now beading your gums is stimulated from the reptilian
brain targeted by an arsenal of ads and six-second sound bites that 
riddle information till deception sounds like truth, our sanctity 
plundered by those who weave their children in the woof of power 
while snipping out poor to be fodder for war.

Girls-boys, red-blue, hick-elite, white-colored, gay-straight…
I can keep going since division perpetuates itself and
blinds us to our need to be touched and to touch

for we are not spiders, autonomous from birth, but must be suckled 
once the thin film of mucus is wiped from our mouths; 
if we didn’t thrive on touch our exterior would be hardened shell
rather than this overlay of neural sensors telling us when to swat,
run, rest, embrace

                                                  the Pleiades in every cell,
                                                                       the bell, the smile, the knife—

yet the nourished thrive amid those with hunger that
sinks skin between bones as the body 
digests its own flesh to survive—
this inequity perpetuated through our mad divisions—

yet madness is tricky. We think of it as 
                                                   moon howling
                              running naked through streets
                                   invisible companions

but true madness skulks where plans are laid 
                               to destroy this planet many times over
          as if this could be done more than once    
          as if this is the best use of our lives

madness in the reverent joy of orchestrating Armageddon                      
          as if some are connected 
          and others not

madness in numbing ourselves to suffering
                                                in ways that cause more suffering

     but before squaring off into us and them
                        remember glass houses 
                               and heal thyself
         for unraveling the madness of this world begins with me. 
                                        It begins with you.

Yet how do we wrap around the odd ones, the violent ones,
the ones who’d sooner slit a throat than say hello?

I know only that we start with kindness and cherishing 
the children we create for they are our future, inheritors, 
providers, while we are holy catalysts for communion.

If we choose to eliminate hunger, rein in our mad greed for power,
cherish this blue planet’s miraculous life, what force could shatter 
our bond for each life is no more than kidney, cell, atom, 
of the same body coalesced from stars and seas—
dust to sky to ocean to algae to fish to bird to human, 
we are one being
                                                    the Pleiades in every cell,
                                                                   the bell, the smile, the knife—
                                 why not live as if we chose this sacred life?


Thank you to the editors of The Tishman Review for first publishing this poem.

Last Days…

poem & photo by Elizabeth
LAST DAYS OF WINTER

War settles like dust for there is no other side 
when winds blow particles from Sudan to 
Hiroshima to icy rivers that wild coho 
struggle against to lay their bright eggs.
 

On the first day of the first war declared in this century 
the Asian Art Museum opens its doors with stilt-walkers 
dressed as emperors and geishas, and with musicians 
from Vietnam, Korea, Afghanistan, for music and art 
transcend transient politics and borders. Even 
the museum’s map of Asia’s Buddhist centers
proclaims Tibet’s sovereignty within China’s 
yawning border. Across the street a demonstration 
swells before City Hall to protest a war 
veiled in an amalgam of virtue, misinformation
and covert interests. 


Something ghostlike transforms this city. 
While most stores close, in others clerks 
focus like compulsive-obsessives just 
to get through the day and homeless 
walk the streets as if San Francisco’s
sole inhabitants. One woman, hair 
plaited with a plethora of mismatched 
ribbons mirroring her clothes, crosses 
against red. She zigzags mostly between 
the yellow lines while drivers remain 
uncharacteristically patient as if 
acknowledging the difficulty of accepting 
war without dissolving in a despair that 
threatens one’s ever-transient 
connection with life.


Within these museum’s walls images of Buddha, 
Bodhisattvas, White Tara embody prayers for all 
sentient beings and symbolize compassion, 
wisdom, the acceptance of suffering, as well as 
our ability to skillfully control rather than be 
controlled by our mad-wraith desires. 
It’s no longer a matter of us versus them, 
good versus evil. We are all messengers of God 
and we are all godless. Energy is neither created 
nor destroyed. All those who have lived and 
don’t yet live share our bodies through the food 
we eat, the air we breathe, the cells that ferociously 
regenerate throughout our lives. Prayer wheels 
fill these halls with unbound intent that passes 
through the walls, the streets, the world: may all
beings be healthy, may all beings be happy, 
may all beings live in peace. 

Thank you to the editors of Buddhist Poetry Review for first publishing this poem.

Simultaneity

art & poem by Elizabeth

SIMULTANEITY

When you touch me—I am
breath rather than a woman breathing.
One thousand wings, a single beat,
split sky with summer rain.

Breath rather than breathing
fills the empty glass.
Split sky with summer rain
to reveal horses carved in stone.

Fill the empty glass
with wine of roses, lilac, heather;
reveal horses carved in stone
but not hands that formed their symmetry.

With wine of roses, lilac, heather,
toast grass that fractures concrete blocks
but not hands that formed the symmetry
of streets concealing streams.

Toast grass that fractures concrete blocks
beside the woman reaching towards you;
on streets concealing streams
she begs for food, shelter beyond grasp.

There is a woman reaching towards you;
her face is old, possessions few,
as she begs for food, shelter beyond grasp,
and I see you, I see myself within her mask.

Her face is old, possessions few;
she came to laugh—she came to love,
and I see you, I see myself within her mask
reflecting how the earth breathes.

We came to laugh—we came to love;
one thousand wings, a single beat
reflecting how the earth breathes
when you touch me.