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Autumn Love Poem
All My Relations
(for my wife)
This is for you,
my avian brothers, my green relations,
and you, sister of vegetables,
squash blossom, my opal, my swan, my emerald,
my companion and fellow traveler
wife and mother of all that we grow
in our garden.
With you by my side
I have accepted who I am.
I have held my hands
in the shapes of birds wings
and tried to feel my body fly free
of human machinations.
Sometimes I have wanted
plant roots for hair
or to feel my forehead reach into a
like a crown of spring trees
catching in their newborn green
the first orange light.
If only I could be an oak tree,
like I thought I was when I was a kid.
But why did I think that?
Years ago, I longed to be a blade of grass,
bending in the wind,
until I realized that winds bend me too,
and I, too
grow greener for sunlight and
am trampled down by human insensitivity.
How many times I have wished my eyes
were not human eyes
so the squirrel, fox, sparrow and redbird
would not fear me
or see me as a predator.
I seek to be innocent
of the crimes of my species
I am not a predator.
But I no longer seek to be what I am not.
Listening to other beings,
as well as white gulls and red squirrels,
is the beginning of understanding
who we are.
But knowing them is something else---
that takes years,
or perhaps life times.
It will be centuries before
forests, fish and birds are truly known.
And such knowledge will come only
if humans first learn to stop
their disrespect for nature---
their refusal to identify
with the others they exploit.
I have learned to accept the paradox
that I am and am not the oak tree
and the blade of grass.
We are a one that is two
equal and different.
It has been some years now since
I went over to the other side
and sought refuge with those that need refuge,
and chose a way of insecurity
to live among those threatened
along the frayed edges of leaves
in a forest abused by the greedy.
Frightened birds are my companions
sick animals, dying trees
and waters murky with wastes.
I live among the survivors and castaways
of their horrendous expansion of greed
on the far side of the arrogant selfishness
some miscall "freedom".
True freedom respects the rights
and liberty of others.
True freedom respects the right
of water to clarity and
of the sky to clean depths.
True freedom is not greedy
but seeks contentment
with what is enough.
I fear humans far more than snakes or bears
I walk hesitantly
not wanting to hurt grasses.
Birds receive education from their parents.
I learn from birds how to be who I am.
It is a wholly new world for me since
nature became my teacher.
I have been learning to live in fear
of the strangers with human eyes,
predators who have corrupted knowledge
with lack of care.
I know the fear that birds and deer feel.
There are dull eyed two-leggeds
who kill without awareness of what they kill.
Except for my mother
I have no blood relations.
My mother is a ghost of her former self
and like the earth
has lost whole parts of who she was.
My other relations by blood
disappeared into greed,
convention, ignorance or malice.
I have no relation to them.
Blood can be much thinner than real affinity.
But I have infinite relations now,
You and our cats and our siblings in natureó--
brother chickadee, sister mushroom--
the infinite family of relations
where birds, leaves, clouds and animals,
all reflected in the waters
call me home into the mirror of lifeís marvel.
I belong to the family of All my Relations
all who live outside the margins,
in the vision peripheral to ambition,
outside the edge of wanting more,
outside the drive of what matters to most,
among the unnoticed aging trees,
where the birds are singing
and hardly anyone listens.
I trust my companions beyond the fences,
outside the corners
beyond the street signs,
where grass grows free of human grasping
and where no humans have negated,
being part of it.
For those to whom I am not invisible---
those who share in my new family---
I would shower gifts of dawn light,
shinning like suncups
out of the depths of my heart.
We have gone to museums together
looking at stiff, stone portraits
of Egyptian couples
who imagined they were gods.
Silly arenít they, these puffed up Ceasers,
or the 17th Century Burgomeister and his wife,
the American plantation owner and his wife,
the "Founding Fathers",
who stole the land they claimed to have discovered--
slave traders and bankers,
and their notions of commercial empires,
"bloodlines" leading to the current corporate
mergers and their notions of "family values".
The cult of blood and money is a curious thing,
these fictional dynasties
of imperial corporations, states, institutions,
as if birds and animals did not have blood too,
as if all life did not depend on the green blood of plants,
as if mountains were not bones of the earth,
as if the Milky way were not the backbone of the sky
as if only rich people had relations
when, in fact, we are all related
not by blood,
but by something more important,
this sun gleaming on the rocks,
this water dripping on wet moss
this light in a leaf glowing green
this earth where we are all equal
breathing and living
between emerald forests and the
bloodless blue of the infinite sea.
So, in the painting I did of us
I didnít paint us as aristocrats
or units in a new corporate dynasty.
Far from it.
I tried to show us as simple as we are,
common as Milkweed and Bunch grass,
worth quite as much as a Blue Jay family
or the equal of Egrets in their nests
two people and a Red Breasted Nuthatch---
ordinary people who seek no harm
and want to live a good life
honoring the earth we live on
and the sun that shares our being
shinning down on all our relations.
Our wedding was simple
like birds nests
made from a few cherished bits
of the world we love and live in.
We wore "shirts of many colors"
as we called them.
Yours was satin-shinning
billowy like a colored cloud
tinted with tones of wildflower twilight
and the magic of tropical fish
and mine was like a sunset horizon
on the edge of the sea, or
rainbows glistening on mountain ridges
clown colored with the good humor
of natureís spring fiesta.
We wrote our own ceremony
and took out all references
to the church and state
claiming dominion over us
and substituted the praise of nature instead.
The judge made a few mistakes
and read our text wrong
but it scarcely mattered
on such a happy day
where all we could think of
was the many colors of birds wings flying
and fall leaves, boyant in the wind
and spring blossoms
fluttering down in the butterfly dawn.
You asked me the other day
if you are my "muse".
I thought about it and
Yes, if 'muse' merely means
one person who inspires another.
Then I am your muse too,
two equals who live for each other.
But no, otherwise.
Muses tend to die young
and sit too high on pedestals.
I know nothing of "the eternal feminine
that leads men on high" as Goethe put it.
That sounds like a war song to me
and war does not interest me.
Goddesses, Dakinis, Helens, Beatrices
are mere ossified symbols
of systems of power:
sculpted advertisements in the
architecture of unjust transcendence.
I gave up goddesses the day I learned
that one of the men in the plane
that dropped the atom bomb on Japan
saw Lady Liberty in the mushroom cloud
underneath which 100,000 people,
and countless birds, trees and animalsí
lay dead or burning.
What kind of men use the image
of a beautiful woman
to justify mass murder?
I find nothing heroic in Dante
Homer or Hiroshima
You know me,
stubborn and seeking,
despite all my faults,
for what is good and real.
I donít want to write you a poem that lies.
I know longer dream of muses or goddesses.
I do not dream of being Orpheus anymore.
Birds and animals do not need
to be calmed with my song.
Agitations on earth are nearly all human caused.
It is we who need to be calmed by their songs.
Orpheus had it all upside down.
He sought to calm the wild world
with the civilized songs of his grief
born of the loss of the woman he loved.
How selfish was that?
And what good is the will of Orpheus
to conquer wild beasts now?
Let the jungle birds screech,
and the Elk bugle in the mist.
The only "beasts" on earth have two legs.
The song of Orpheus has mushroomed into a
symphony of destruction of nature.
Nature has lost so much more
than humans want to comprehend.
Too busy counting their advantages.
Who is there to offer solace
for the losses of forests and oceans?
Who comforts the Prairie
now calm and empty of 50 million buffalo?
Oh Orpheus, they call you the first poet
but I am not related to you
and renounce the Orphic patrimony.
I say No to Plato and chase him
back into his Cave,
where he and his archtypal idols belong..
I guess I am not a poet anymore,
or at least not Rilkean,
not in love with death,
with no desire to shatter the envelope,
I have renounced the high flowers
of conceited culture.
Museless, no gods inspire me.
I am happy with leaves and mushrooms
and you holding my hand on the forest path.
So I shut my eyes to Orpheus
and his shadowy underworld.
Nor do I admire St Francis for trying
to turn birds and fish into
obedient little Christians,
he should have let the birds teach him
and stopped the arrogant preaching
to unconverted fishes.
Unlike St. Paul the only "scales"
that have fallen from my eyes,
on the road of my life
are the scales of religion.
I veered off the road to Damascus
to take the road less traveled.
I do not seek the mythic in nature anymore,
or desire a transcendent relation to animals.
No more white birds of the soul
flying to imaginary heavens.
I seek a real relation to actual birds,
feeding and teaching their clumsy young.
I will not demean the Rose Breasted Grosbeak
by making a symbol of it
that means something else.
The Grosbeak means itself,
I am the meaning of who I am,
and I am not an analogy or metaphor.
I hope that never again will I
allow anyone to steal or coerce
me into service of a high flown delusion.
The fragility of birdís nests suffices
to weather most winds
and I too weather in a nest of wounds
a little light of life worth living.
We weather or wounds together, you and I,
and wait for the times of blossoms and fruits.
We do not seek to humanize birds
but to find birds within humans.
I love you for your Wood Duck virtues
your love of trees, and care of tomatoes
solicitous as the Wood Duck cares for her young.
I love you for your hands
that shape the many-colored earths into
plates and cups.
My blackberry picker
and jam maker,
my green eyed companion,
Life with you is like
life in a beaver pond
with our lodge in the middle
milk-warm and hand-built
and all our relations around
nurtured by our pond
busy and noisy
and seeking a way.
You have helped me learn that
my sight is fragile and fallible.
I am often afraid
and tread much more timorously
through the world,
afraid to disturb birdís nests
and mindful of the rights of calm waters,
and leaves rustling
above baby raccoons
sleeping in the hole of a tree.
I have learned that birds see
more clearly than I
and the turtle knows wet earth more intimately,
and the owl teaches me about sound,
and the warbler about spring light.
Now that I know my thoughts are not better
than birds wings
and I am not more than blue mist in morning sun---
the mist is a marvel that I love for its difference
and the way it holds the lives of trees.
Now that I know I am not better
and do not seek presumptive mystical unions
twigs now bend down greenly into my concerns
and water over the rocks carries me soothed
along the river banks
and the wind teaches me how to care
about frail things smaller than my fingertips
and larger things
like the stillness of lakes.
It was you who gave me
these last years of praise
of so many intimate rainbows
so many marvels of days and visions
we had together of what a life worth living
is all about.
It was you and I who stood
looking into wonders----
nature teaching us love of each other---
gazing into the distance.
It is you and I
and the wind
across the water,
you and I and
the cherishing of seasons.
It is you and I
and the treasure of sunlight
held between usj
like a lamp of green leaves
like the lantern of the forest
like a multicolored tree
branching forth between us.
Where you go. I go
and where I go, you go
and together we go
into the golden rod fields
into the purple asters
into the lilac days
and emerald nights
of an existence to be grateful for.
Copyright © 2005 Mark Koslow.
All Rights Reserved.