Marriage Portrait
(this page in process)


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 cloudless sunrise, 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 I, too, 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, you 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, new blossoms shinning like suncups out of the depths of my heart.

Part 2

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. No Thanks. 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.