uncluttered soul

finding peace in the midst of chaos

La Ciudad

“One would give generous alms if one had the eyes to see the beauty of a cupped receiving hand.” … Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

***

La Ciudad is a poem that began many, many years ago. 1977 to be exact.

The skies were dark. A brisk wind hinted of the freezing rain and thundering gusts that were gathering in the distance. I quickened my pace along the Boulevard Puerto Aereo.

As it turned out, Mexico City was not kind to me, though the tacos were indeed delicious concoctions of sassy jalapeños, mystery meat and age old recipes.

There is always a place in my heart for a smiling Señora on a street corner selling tacos. I figured a savory stall in the subway would be no different.

I’ve been wrong before.

I just wanted to board my flight, and arrive in Ecuador without requiring a change of shorts.

In my rush to outwit life I carefully jumped across a gutter swollen with filth, and eyed the terminal entrance. I was close.

Sitting in the gutter was an old woman with a baby in her arms. She said nothing, she didn’t smile, she wasn’t selling delicious tacos, she held a cupped hand high.

There were many people along the boulevard that day. Who can know how many saw this woman and her child. Most were no doubt just like me, in a hurry to leave somewhere behind in the hope that somewhere new might be better.

Unlike the old woman. She was in no hurry, and had nowhere to go.

I made it to Ecuador intact, but spent the first several days leaping out of bed and charging toward the bathroom door.

As I recovered from my adventurous eating habits, I did little, and had much time to think about life. The woman that I had passed by commanded a large part of my time. I sought out pen and paper.

Thirty five years later she remains a vivid part of my life, though I gave her nothing, not even a smile.

***

I am grateful for the few moments of my life that were spent passing this woman. Though we may fail to recognize them at first, we are often given gifts in mysterious ways.

I am grateful to the poor woman and child. They are part of who I am today, and though I have thought of them often, they do not haunt my todays and tomorrows.

I prefer to recognize that they have given my life a loving nudge toward selfless wisdom.

The poem is a continual work in progress, as am I. It has seen many revisions, as have I, the latest being a Sestina, yet remains nothing more than my attempt at crafting a grateful passage through time. Where does the time go?

My heart is more giving because of this woman. I am a more thoughtful and gracious man because of this woman. I have stopped to help someone in need many times in my life, because of this woman.

I wish I could go back and tell her thank you.

***

La Ciudad

 

My dress darkens with the filth of the gutter.
Shivering, I sit, and I wait for my Brother.
I wait, as many pass by.
Footsteps fade and my heart fills with sorrow.
Retreating glances offer only sadness for tomorrow.
Why must I suffer so? I close my eyes and cry.

For a moment I search in the ominous sky,
as I cry tears that disappear in the wind, aimless.
They are not seeds. I care little for tomorrow.
Can you see God’s gift in my arms?
She’s hungry, cold, and feeling my pain.
Thankfully, she doesn’t share my sorrow.
Please, look at my child before you pass by.

She’s my faith in God’s love as time passes by.
That my child should live is my desperate cry.
Can you, could you share a part of my sorrow?
I’ll hold one hand high as you cross the gutter.
If not for my child, I would die, my dear Brother.
If not for my child, I don’t care about tomorrow.

Where will you be if I wake tomorrow?
Where do you go as your plane passes by?
Am I one of many, that you’ll forget, my Brother?
In your travels, are there any reasons to cry?
Where you live is there someone who sits in the gutter?
Is there room in your heart for a part of my sorrow?

Will my child’s future be struggles and sorrow?
I shudder. Chill winds bring a glimpse of tomorrow.
I find no hope for my child in the gutter.
I’ll pray that the storm will quickly pass by.
Will anyone hear my child’s cry?
I beg for your love, my Brother.

So little to give, for my child to live.
The weakest warrior could conquer my sorrow,
though my heart breaks with every cry.
I comfort my child, I won’t dream of tomorrow
while I sit… and many pass by.
I hold my hand high from the depths of the gutter.

Your eyes heard what mine cry, yet I’m the one you passed by.

My dear Brother, I pray that I’ll not haunt your tomorrows.

April 3, 2012 Posted by | poetry, thoughts | Leave a comment

Float Like A Butterfly, Sting Like…

“It’s not because things are difficult that we dare not venture. It’s because we dare not venture that they are difficult.” …Seneca

***

A few months ago I was soaring high above the clouds. 38,000 feet and 3,000 miles lay between me and the sadness that I tried to leave behind.

An upgrade to first class, and a charming flight attendant brought a smile to my face, but it wouldn’t last. Even countless glasses of coursing wine couldn’t chase away the pangs of sorrow that overwhelmed my broken heart.

I thought I had found what truly made me happy.

***

Paint brush in one hand, a sloshing bucket in the other, I inspected the 12′ wooden ladder. It appeared sturdy, though the 10′ mark was defaced by a reckless pattern of hammer marks where mismatched boards were joined together.

Like I said, it looked sturdy enough.

I’ve been wrong before.

Up I went.

The C came into view as I filled the space around it with fresh paint. Centro Misionero Jehova Jireh would soon proclaim its renewed welcome to anyone who would venture within reach of its always open door.

I’ve never had much of a problem with venturing.

My gracious hosts were busy below as I moved further to my right. A few trips up and down the dubious ladder to refill my paint bucket were simply part of the deal. I enjoyed the deal. I was in a place where people needed help, and I was able to give it.

Little did they know that I received far more from them than anything I could give.

It’s simple. I don’t deserve any awards, or even a pat on the back. I’m no star. Is anyone?

I was halfway through Jehova when it happened. After filling my bucket, once again I ascended the community ladder. Hands full and my heart in flames, Heaven was 12 feet above me.

Confident steps carried me closer, and I smiled. Nearing the h I pushed hard with my right leg to reach the pinnacle.

As the two sections of ladder separated I watched swollen drops of paint hover above me. It was too late to be concerned. I was going to hit the ground hard.

Have you ever felt your life to be completely out of your own control? Like the present moment has passed without consequence, and the future is, well, the future. I was ushered into a strangely timeless limbo, and it was calm.

Father Alfredo came running as I lay on the concrete. I was the loser in an unforgiving game of paintball. Surprisingly I was unbroken, and though there was significant pain, I accepted the calm that embraced me.

Work was done for the day, and Father walked with me back to my home.

***

It was easy going to Panama. Many told me I was a bit unhinged. Well, I’ve always enjoyed being like a banging door coming off the hinges. It makes things simpler, you know, less time to contemplate fear. I think many years of surfing in front of big rocks has a lot to do with my adventurous instability.

I must admit though that the arms of adventure hold me much more tightly than any perceived sense of well being, and as life would have it, after averting serious injury while painting in Panama, I was blessed with wonderful, loving moments in the arms of a beautiful woman.

I thought I had everything; love, adventure, opportunities to make a difference in the lives of those less fortunate than most of us in America.

One Valentine’s Day she and I had planned to have a quiet, romantic dinner at a nice restaurant in Panama City. Unfortunately, that morning I became ill, and later learned that the local water supply had become tainted, and yes I had been drinking the water. Panama’s water supply is said to be good, when it flows, but that day even restaurants in the area were using only bottled water.

Later in the day, as I lay miserably on the sofa, I apologized for making a mess of our dinner plans. She replied sweetly, “It’s OK. What better gift could I receive, than the chance to take care of my Valentine”.

I was close to tears as she gently wiped the fever from my forehead. I felt truly loved.

Today, it’s just a memory, and my heart is like a laden wilderness where flowing waters no longer mingle.

I struggle to understand what happened, and why. I’ll probably never know, and perhaps that’s the way it should be.

But if we dare not venture, things will always remain unexplained. Too many questions will eventually paint a pretty picture with no Soul.

Venture into the arms of the Universe in search of secrets. You will never be misled, or denied. Open your heart to sorrow, and you will also find joy.

No matter how hard we try to bottle up time, it unfailingly continues to move forward.

Love keeps calling. And though I’m still falling, I’ll be OK.

You will too.

December 13, 2011 Posted by | thoughts | Leave a comment

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