Birth, new beginnings and miracles, with poems by Beth Paulson, Liz Abrams-Morley and Wendy Hoffman.
It’s Spring, that time of year when we think about birth, new beginnings, miracles. That’s what the pieces on this episode of Burning Bright are about.
Beth Paulson said, “I wrote “Chance” after caring for my younger sister during her recovery from heart surgery. Love and loss are two themes that sometimes come forth in my writing. I believe that even in our imperfect relationships, love can intrude and endure if we allow it.”
That my sister was born
with a murmuring heart
but I was not. That
it whispered deep inside her
sshh, sshh, sshh with every beat
until one night a valve stopped,
small dam that finally failed.
That a surgeon cracked her breast open
like an egg, her heart the vital yolk
he probed and patched for hours,
its finger-sized hole. That later
we both cried when she showed me
the line of ragged, bluish stitches.
That love comes to any of us
even when we are unmindful.
That the miracle is we breathe in,
breathe out, our arms, bodies
opening, closing around each other,
answering yes and yes.
Beth Paulson’s poem “Chance” from Passager Issue 55.
Liz Abrams-Morley said her grandchildren reminded her to slow down. They also reminded her of Albert Einstein’s observation that we can live as if nothing is a miracle or as if everything is a miracle. Here’s her poem “Miracle.”
You make of your mouth a mirror of mine as if,
at 3 months, your own creation story sits on the tip
of the tongue in that toothless cave we call your mouth.
You fill your eyes with bare branches of magnolia,
your ear with the drip of snow melt. Maybe you think you hear
milk flow, sun finally chasing winter from our city stoop.
Take time to look, Georgia O’Keeffe is said to have said.
I once had a teacher who told me, Don’t ever write about your
grandmother. Everyone has a grandmother.
Nights when I was not much older than you are now,
I watched mine brush the snow river of her hair,
100 strokes root to ends each night, as her glacial blue eyes
stared off somewhere. Maybe she looked back into
azure shadowed woods. Maybe her ear cradled the hollow
beat of hooves, her nose the odor of Cossacks, their approaching
horses. That fool teacher wanted me to write only Cossack poems
when my ear was tuned by the swish of an old woman’s brush:
Root to end, 100 hundred strokes, my bubby transformed,
become Rapunzel. This was my miracle each evening.
In the morning, she was all tight bun and business.
Now cirrus wisps striate a milk-blue sky and,
for the first time since your birth, the scent of earth screams
spring, even as oil black ice clings to sidewalks.
One day I’ll tell you about the burning bush,
how Moses had to stop and look
to see and hear the miracle. Today I point out the first
crocus and your mouth shapes the O of crocus. I tell you
how the hibiscus bush, hauled in from the patio late in fall,
and which just last week I could have sworn I’d killed,
was only sleeping. Now it presses watery green leaves
from dried stalks. Wesley, Look!
it will flower again. Listen: There are two ways
to live . . . as if nothing is a miracle . . . as if
everything is. Let others live in dark forests,
hoof beats of Cossacks their memories’ bass line.
Let them wake each day and call that living.
“Miracle,” Liz Abrams-Morley from Passager Issue 59.
Wendy Hoffman said, “I was in another country searching for my real self when I had this experience. The feeling is lasting.” Here’s what she wrote about it, “Birth-Day.”
On a forest path studded with hypnotic bouquets of wild red, yellow and purple
emerging from a green carpet of shiny, pointed leaves, I feel a kiss slide and press
in, though it is not physical. It coats my face and tells me I am someone’s child.
I cannot tell whether this voice comes from my desperate inside warriors or the
pregnant outside. As I thread over soft earth and ancient stone, a healthy umbilical
cord descends from beyond a spotless sun through choppy clouds on azure.
It is spring and my birthday. The air smells of swollen summer.
After seventy tortuous, orphaned years, a pleasure joins to my barren lips.
I walk in a light jacket along a squeezed path and belong.
“Birth-Day,” Wendy Hoffman, from Passager Issue 59.
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For Kendra, Mary, Christine, Rosanne, and the rest of the Passager staff, I’m Jon Shorr.