with my arm around the moon...


North Carolina,
June 28
Buddhist, seeking, awakening... Currently spending much of my time swinging wildly between hope and fear.


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NOVEMBER 13, 2009 2:01PM

With thanks to a fine poet

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"Women have no wilderness in them

  They are provident instead

  Content in the tight, hot cell of their hearts

  To eat dusty bread.


   They do not see cattle cropping red grass

   They do not hear

   Snow water going down under culverts

   Shallow and clear


   They wait, when they should turn to journeys,

   They stiffen, when they should bend.

    They use against themselves that benevolence

    To which no man is friend.


    They cannot think of so many crops to a field

    Or of clean wood cleft by an ax.

    Their love is an eager meaninglessness

    Too tense, or too lax.


    They hear in every whisper that speaks to them

    A shout and a cry.

    And like as not, when they take life over their door-sills

    They should let it go by. "

                                                                               ~Louise Bogan 


This poem has had great meaning for me since I was in college. Like the effect the best poetry has, I didn't quite know why, but I knew somehow it spoke to the way I had loved, to the worst aspects of it.

"Content in the tight, hot cell of their hearts

  To eat dusty bread".

How many times have I accepted, even struggled to hold on to, what was not good for me? Held myself prisoner in the tight hot cell of my heart, content to eat dusty bread? How many times have I taken life in over my door-sill, when I should let it go by? 

I want to love wisely, to live up to love, rather than hold my breath. I want to avoid being my love being "an eager meaninglessness, too tense or too lax".  But how to do that? How to hold on without clutching? How to hold myself and another accountable without holding grudges and keeping score? How to speak my truth in a way that doesn't deny my lover's truth? How to know when my fear leads me to see danger where none exists, and when that danger is real?

But let's face it, it always feels dangerous to open one's heart when one has been deeply hurt. Isn't that why we feel sick to our stomachs, breathless, scared when we fall in love? And each time, it has gotten harder...and of course, my lovers are older too, and carry their own scars, so the whole thing becomes clouded by this jangle of our ghosts and the chains by which we're bound to them. 

After the break-up, my grad school fiance wrote to me, "You taught me by example how not to be a selfish, spoiled little brat impressed by how long he could hold a grudge. That lesson is in my soul, and someday I will find myself living it". Those words remained with me, perhaps because I didn't realize I was capable of teaching anyone that, and I knew it was a lesson I would need to learn, over and over again. 

"They wait, when they should turn to journeys

  They stiffen, when they should bend.

  They use against themselves that benevolence

   To which no man is friend."

Reading those lines as a young woman, and now a (dare I say it?) crone, I knew the difference between waiting and journeying. I knew how important it is to walk out of your own door, to venture down unfamiliar streets, to find your own strength rather than believing you must rely on someone else's.  Stiffening when I should bend has always meant staying put and waiting for someone who didn't really want me to come back, or for someone unkind to suddenly become generous and loving, rather than facing what was right in front of me. You see, I always saw the best part of those whom I loved, the part of them which they lived up to in their finest moments. Was I wrong to do that? Was I using against myself that benevolence to which no man is friend?  And what, pray tell, did that mean? That women took more shit than men?

Of course, that may not take into account the shit men took from me...my emotionality, my tending to dissolve into tears at times rather than gathering my courage and standing tall. Etc.

And what of hearing in every whisper a shout and a cry? Is that looking for the worst, and so, finding it? Being too sensitive (an epithet I've heard all my life)? 

I have no answers, only more questions; I seek only to find my way into a truth I can live with. One that gives me a center place on which to stand, and an inner light I can take out into the world.  

Author tags:

letting go, holding on, love, fear, women

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There's beauty in all truth - no matter how ugly the truth. To see the whole person is to love them even more. Knowing is loving.

Looks like you're getting to know yourself :)
"To see the whole truth is to love them even more". If we can love each other despite the less-than-lovely aspects we come to see, then we have a chance at a love which goes far beyond "romance". Thank you for this. And yes, I think I may be getting to know myself. 'Bout time!
I love this poem, too. Thanks for the reflections.
I know I'll be pondering this poem indefinitely. There are aspects that are teasingly like movement or an image in my peripheral vision. I turn to look at them and they have already flitted away. Thanks for your stopping by!