I invite them to enjoy
the way the adobe walls
make a quiet space to write,
or read, or be,
to savor the contrast of sun and shade
on the deep back porch.
I say, help yourself to peaches from the tree.
If you sit for a while with your coffee
you will see the birds come to play in the fountain
and a lizard or two step quickly across the brick floor.
I want them to feel
how the crown chakra opens
under this blue sky so wide
there is no way to resist.
They want me to know
there are ants in the yard
and one of the clean sheets has lint.
They point out there is no microwave.
“They didn’t say they had one,
but it’s the first place I’ve stayed
Dr. Lad, teaching pranayama, instructs his students
not to practice brahmari past a count of 17. Otherwise,
he warns, you will end up selling everything you have
and living in cave on a holy mountain. Bluebeard’s wife,
I have to try it. It’s an easy practice: sit in stillness, hum
on the long exhale. I count with my fingers so the numbers
don’t confuse my scattering mind. Four times four,
plus one more, then two or three after that. Then I get up
and go on with the day. Three days later, I sit with my notebook
and find I…
That year when the peacock just
showed up in our neighborhood, I had
heard they were loud, what I didn’t
know was that they are loud in the
middle of the night, at odd intervals
just long enough to fall back asleep in.
I printed this dress with Krishna’s
peacock feather, thinking about his
reputation as a considerate and
fulfilling lover to each of his many
girlfriends. Last night I didn’t sleep much,
maybe it was the full moon or maybe
I’m more jittery from the news, the public
hostility over vaccine and virus,
than I want to let on…
Today I will not make the coffee on schedule.
I maybe won’t make coffee at all. Today
I am thinking of the paintings in Cusco
where the goddess has the shape of
the holy mountain. My blue linen dress
is my sanctuary, I am the maker
in my studio, I have been away from the
work for too long, today I am back
inside my own mind, owning my attention,
ready to listen and construct.
It’s a smooth morning, when I
came out of Walgreen’s there was
no traffic and I crossed Rio Grande
without having to wait for the walk signal.
Now I’m making coffee, in this dress
I could be at a sidewalk cafe in Paris
instead of a back yard in Albuquerque
barely reclaimed from the desert dirt.
The hummingbirds are busy feasting
on the tiny green bugs that jump
around among the grapevines.
Today is the day I sit still enough
to see one of the tiny whirring birds
stop for a moment and stick out its tongue.
In India there are lower rates of certain cancers
because everyone eats turmeric in their food every day.
I did not dye this dress with turmeric, but I could
have. I regularly stain my left palm yellow
hand-measuring turmeric into my breakfast kasha,
my after dinner golden milk. The dress
celebrates the flames I am hoping to reduce
in my joints, acknowledges the heat
of this high-pressure summer, the fires
literal and figurative that we are all enduring.
In the temple in Mylapore, a family brought their
small child for a blessing. All of them had had
their heads shaved for the ritual, then
coated with turmeric paste to cool the heat
of the tender exposed scalps. What will cool
the heat of this hottest summer? I cut my own
hair the other day, still worried enough about
the virus to avoid the salon.
The zucchinis are a mystery. We plant seeds
at various places around the garden, all on the
same day, and some don’t even come up.
Some open to the size of an apple, a head of cabbage,
and stay there, existing but not moving,
until, late in the season, they are eaten by harlequin bugs.
One or two come up, grow, and just keep
growing, gracefully offering zucchini spears,
which we transform into ratatouille, pancakes,
grilled salad, curry. Poems are like that,
and fabric, too. Some days the words connect
the heavens to the earth like an electric storm,
Tea flowers, tea colored, on good linen.
Back yard bench, view of the garden.
Here’s where I sit and watch for the next thing,
changing weather or ripening fruit,
phone call or some old piece of myself,
one I had forgotten, ready now
to tell her story. Invite her to sit.
Pour her some tea. In this heat there’s
no rush. Let’s find out what gifts
my past is bringing me today.
Comes a time when you realize
you can have a kitchen counter full of prescription bottles
and a bellyful of fear and complaint
or you can own it, admit that this body really is wearing down.
Even so, with or without the pharmaceuticals, you have
maybe twenty, maybe thirty, more years to slog through,
more or less uncomfortably, if you’re lucky enough.
May as well step up and learn how it’s done.
So, begin. Establish a breathing practice. Learn
the kind of massage that keeps your ankles from swelling.
Get familiar with the recipe for the tonic
that keeps you…
Maybe we could stop roaring at each other.
Maybe let your lion sing instead.
Or yawn luxuriously and settle in for a nap.
It’s been hard, so hard, even for those of us
who’ve had it easy. So much tension,
so much fear. The impulse to proclaim
certainty, to define turf and defend it,
is surely understandable. Or you could
maybe turn the roar itself into
a kind of song, give it a melody,
even if it still has to be loud and emotional.
Explain to the neighbors if you have to.
Let the deep rumble carry your heart
through the frustration all the way
to laughter, let it show you
the absurdity of building walls of hostility
when you already live in the house of joy.