Monday, June 29, 2009
Thursday, June 25, 2009
Did the sunshine take a rest
knowing you were at the crest,
did the robins stop their song,
knowing you would be along,
and the flowers stunt and stay
abed for yet another day?
Soon we'd lose you, did they know,
graying at the slightest show
(we will miss you, miss you so - )
time too short, I wanted more,
now that you were here, ashore,
from your posts and sailing trails,
from the times, the space and veils,
such a vital force are you,
deepest shades and brightest hue,
how we loved you, golden one,
gone and off, now, to the Sun.
JMS ~ 3/28/09
The plump, slightly disheveled blonde woman made facial contact with the other riders on the bus. Facial contact was all that was possible because, the woman was not only blind; she quite literally had no eyes. The empty sockets dipped down into her face, yet the curves were so abruptly soft that she looked more angelic than grotesque. This fact aside, she knew where the others on the bus were, and moved her face in their varied directions as the bus pulled out of the shopping center.
In the midst of such finality, her calm was stunning. Her mouth rested in a slight pinch, as though she were reviewing her day and planning her evening. Her posture revealed no trace of past screaming tirades of agony at her loss, if it was, indeed, a loss - or perhaps it was something she had always known, possibly been born with. It appeared, though, as if her eyes had been plucked from her in some terrible surgery. A thin scar underlined each socket, deftly underscoring the possibility that someday she might have the chance to have eyes again.
Tonight she is going to brush her hair. Fifty strokes in each direction, letting it fall across her hands as she guides the brush sensually through the fine golden-white strands. Each stroke will tell her an answer, a mystery, a dream, and she will let herself languish in the warm safety of this soothing ritual. It is one of the few treasures she allows herself. She is really quite a practical person and her time is taken up with the necessities that guide her survival. But, she loves to brush her hair and dream. In her head, the most beautiful dances flow. Her mind oozes colors that saturate through her, painting her with the scenes of her dances. Sometimes there are bluish white snowflakes that swirl about. At others the red stillness charts a large square about her. But, the best is when the rainbow descends in scintillating kaleidoscopes that weave and sway themselves into the very pores and fibers of her soul. She feels like satin then, and she brushes her hair.....
1993 ~ Ruta JM Shephard ~ JOY in the arts!
Friday, June 19, 2009
"I want to tell you about my wife - what a wonderful woman she is!"
Pastor Jerry Wright raised his arms in emphasis and swept his eyes over the congregation. In the back of the church he quickly found the focus he was searching for, quietly taking note of the young woman standing there.
"Oh, how I miss this goddess I have married," he wailed in a tortured whine. His face contorted in a look of extreme agony and then, in a dramatic transition, he smiled glowingly and continued, "But, God has sent me here to speak to you, to testify about that most luscious of creatures that He saw fit to bring to me. To me!" He emphasized this last statement by throwing his hands up toward the heavens and dancing in mock jubilation.
"I love you, Laura!" he shouted in delight. But all the while he kept check on the young woman at the back of the church.
Through the next hour and a half he entertained the crowd with the vivid story of his first meeting with, initial pursuit of, and eventual marriage to his wife. He enumerated her virtues and postured on his message of love, sharing, and fidelity, bringing his audience to their feet in roaring approval as he wound up his speech with shouted glorifications for love of God, their neighbors, and their spouses.
As the crowd began milling about after he'd dismissed them, he stepped from the altar and moved sociably among them. He had casually retained his study of the young woman, and began to move toward her with the nonchalance of one who was merely moving through the congregation to mingle with the parishioners. And then, when he was directly in front of her, he extended his hand in warm greeting.
"Oh, Pastor Jerry," she blurted, blushing. "It's so wonderful to hear someone speak with such love and reverence for their wife."
The minister smiled sweetly at her. "I'm sure your husband would say the same about you, Mrs......"
"Jenny," she stuck her hand out quickly and then continued shyly, "I'm not married - not yet. I'm only nineteen." The soft blush on her face grew more vivid.
Pastor Jerry took her hand and encased it in both of his. He smiled his most charming smile and patted the top of her hand. "Oh, you will be," he assured her. "You are most charming and very sweet." He patted her hand again and began to move away, then hesitated and turned back to her. "I don't suppose you'd like to meet my wife, would you? She'll be flying in later and we're going out for dinner. Would you like to join us?"
Her young eyes lit up at his invitation, and she eagerly agreed to meet with them. He wrote the name and room number of his hotel on her program, then turned back into the crowd.
At 6:00 that evening, the young woman knocked at the door to Pastor Jerry's hotel suite. When he opened the door, the minister was in obvious distress, but he motioned her inside and escorted her to a chair.
Pastor Jerry, what's wrong?" she pleaded softly.
"My wife," he wailed.
"What's wrong? Did something happen to her?"
He sunk down into his chair and covered his face with his hands. "Oh Lord, she can't make it," he cried. "And, I won't see her for another week."
He sighed deeply, then looked vacantly about the room. He appeared to be thinking - no doubt of the woman he was missing so desperately. Then he brightened a bit and looked sheepishly back at Jenny. "Would you object to joining me for dinner? We could order room service and eat here. Then I could be here for Laura's call." His eyes implored her to stay.
"Of course, I'll stay." She spoke gently, her voice offering reassurance and sympathy.
"Oh, Laura, thank you!" His smile returned and he sat beaming at her.
"Pastor Jerry, My name's not Laura. It's Jenny," she reminded him..
His smile turned to shock and he rushed to apologize. "Oh dear, I'm so sorry. Please forgive me." He shook his head as if to clear it, then chuckled slightly, the warm smile returning. "Of course, you're not Laura. I'm sorry. My wife....." He looked down, embarrassed, then brought his gaze directly back to hers.
"Actually," he stammered, "would you mind if I called you Laura? Then it would seem a bit more like she was here."
Jenny nodded and smiled shyly back at him. "That's okay. I'm sorry she couldn't make it. I was looking forward to meeting her."
"You two would like each other," he said softly. "Actually, you're very much alike." He reached out and tucked a wayward strand of her hair back from her face, then took her hand in his. Ever so gently, he eased her from her chair and pulled her close to him. "Laura, oh, Laura," he whispered softly into her hair.....
"Pastor Jerry!" Jenny pulled away in surprise.
A look of pain flashed over his face and he closed his eyes to hold back the tears that had sprung into them. "You look so much like her," he whispered. He stood stooped and ashamed, stunned at what he had just done.
Jenny reached out to him, soothing his embarrassment with a tender smile. "It's okay."
"Just let me hold you a minute, he begged softly.
This time she didn't resist. He traced his lips down her chin, then pulled her close again. "Oh, Laura," he groaned, "stay with me. I have to leave again in the morning, and I miss you so much when I'm gone." He slid his mouth over hers.....
"I want to tell you about my wife - what a wonderful woman she is!" Pastor Jerry Wright raised his arms in emphasis and swept his eyes over the congregation. As he spoke, his eyes moved over the crowd and came to rest on the obviously shy young woman sitting in the back pew with some of her friends.....
© 1994 The Minister's Wife ~ JM Shephard ~ JOY in the arts!
from White Chocolate Woman © 1984 JM Shephard ~ JOY in the arts!
Candles & Sticks
My home is myself. I didn't realize that until just this past week. For years I've had recurring dreams of endlessly searching for a home - - a place where I could settle in, relax and rest, belong; a place where I could be the best of me without all the trivia and issues that bog me down and slow my tread. Then, last Wednesday, sitting at my Uncle Jerry's funeral, I realized that the only home there was for me was myself. I've had houses, but I've never felt safe in them, and they were always too easily gone. It occurred to me that my home is not some edifice of tangible construction, but rather it is made up of the people who move in to, out of and about my life.
I came to this sense, this perception, when I realized that there was a crack in my being, my sense of self, which was caused by my uncle's death. He'd always been there, part of the mortar of my life. Sitting in the church, I felt exposed, felt a chill draft flitting at me, and I realized that I'd lost a part of my foundation. A stick - part of a wall - had fallen away. I pulled myself about me, huddling into myself against the stunning revelation that opened over me as I went through the procedures of my uncle's death.
The people in my life seem to be a range or combination of sorts of candles and sticks. And, this range can be quite extensive - multi-functional. The candles are usually those whose involvement in my life is like a warm amber glow - like sun in my belly that just feels so good. These are my friends and some of my family. Some are lovers, though their presence covers more of a different range - that which I'd define as being all the way from firecrackers to duds. Candles are the expression, the "art" of our lives.
Sticks are usually foundation people - those who are part of our formation, our growing, and journey through life. They are the method, the tools - the "craft" of our lives. These are usually family, neighbors, teachers - the people who are with us through the routine and mundane, as well as some of the awful or celebratory times of our lives. Of course, sticks are also multi-functional. They may trip us up or beat us down. Those who do can be called, perhaps more appropriately, clubs.
Wednesday, I said goodbye to a stick, a part of a wall - and it hurts. There will be a gap there where he has always been. The chill is un-nerving. I have no way to patch it. My life is changing and I must move with it, even as it begins to feel a bit shredded by the rifts and cracks that chink away at me. It seems to me that no matter what the "materials" of our homes, the elements of life and nature work to maneuver and erode them, bringing us at last to ourselves. Hence we gather our candles and sticks, distant or dear, but essential to the journey and desire - - to the dream.
© 1991 JM Shephard ~ JOY in the arts!
For one of my college classes, I chose to research the initiation rites of young women of a certain culture into the steps of their adult womanhood. When I arrived at the country whose culture I had chosen to study, I was paired with a guide named Helen. She was a middle-aged woman who seemed kindly and wise. Her patience was astounding - pliable and elastic; warm. Nothing seemed to upset her. She met my confusion or dismay at this new culture with a sturdy, but warm arm around my shoulders. She would hug me for a moment, and then release me and smile. She had a way of looking down that was both humble and respectful, but did not usurp her own presence as a woman of strength, purpose and authority in her field. She was a guide. That was considered an honor in her country.
For the initiation sequence, I was taken to a small house in the center of an isolated village. Outside the village there was dry golden-brown desert that stretched for miles in all directions. The house sat in the middle of a garden clump of tree's and tall grasses; an oasis of sorts, though the house itself looked like a rustic cottage more likely to be found sitting in the middle of a mid-western woods. It had a sagging front porch, and a screen door that scraped loudly against the jamb when it was opened. Once inside, I was seated on an old plush cut velvet couch. It was burgundy and dusty and sat at the far end of the house, which appeared to be one large room. Frayed mustard-colored carpeting covered the floor. The windows were hung with yellowed thick gauze curtains and scratchy old asbestos shades. A small cooking area held a stove that was covered with utensils and pots of varying sizes; across the room from the couch stood several hard wooden chairs with carved curving backs, their dark wood sticky with age. Helen took a seat on one of them.
On the wall to my right were two doors about seven feet apart. I found that curious, but said nothing. As we sat quietly, the door through which we had entered the cottage opened. A tall stocky man in a stale grey suit stepped inside. He was followed by several young women, their bowing bodies curving in on themselves from the waist. They looked old and shrunken in this position, but they moved with a sliding ease that conveyed their youth. As he approached me, the man's fiery dark eyes glinted, making laser cuts deep into my psyche. I was sure that no one would ever dare to question their flashing authority. His grey-black hair was wiry, reminding me of a scouring pad and, had his presence not been so compelling, I would have chuckled. Instead, I glanced quickly at Helen. She nodded once and looked down. He said nothing to me, instead reaching out his hand to mine and indicating for me to rise as he took it. His smile flashed rows of square white teeth - - tiny cold tiles in rigidly perfect order up and down his jaw. He held my hand warmly, tucking my arm under his with deliberate gentle force. Without a word, he led me to the door furthest from where I had been sitting.
As we approached them, the young women quickly opened both of the doors and I caught a glimpse of what lie behind them. There was a room - an alcove of sorts, rectangular and narrow. It was tiny, six or seven feet long and no more than five feet wide. There were no windows or openings on the three framing walls, only the two doors on the entrance wall. The bulk of the room was taken up by a rather large contraption that could be changed from a deep white porcelain bathtub, to a long white marble table, or a warm and lush velvety brown bed. Just how this was accomplished escaped me, but I was given view of it in all three states as we moved from the doors and walked three times silently about the room. At the foot of the contraption stood a small dark cabinet, its top level in height to the table. There were reddish-brown stains mottled about its surface, and three strange looking metal instruments lay haphazardly upon it. The man led me into the room. Three of the young women quickly assembled about me and just as quickly began removing my clothing. That accomplished, they wrapped a large white muslin sheet around me and moved me over to the white marble table. Together, they assisted me onto the table, adjusted my position until I was lying on my back, and then departed from the room. I assumed that I was about to be given a massage, perhaps a lecture - instruction. The man stepped up next to me and removed that portion of the sheet which covered my abdomen. He raised his hands, rubbing them together over me for a couple of seconds, then began pummeling my belly in short painful Judo chops. I rolled sideways, moaning at the pain, but he continued striking at me. The blows forced me back, coming so fast that they pinned me to the table. And then, as abruptly as he had begun, he stopped.
"Now, how is that?" he asked me. "Does it hurt?"
This was the first time anyone had spoken to me since I had arrived at the house and the sound of his voice stunned me in its gentle gruffness. "Yes," I moaned, holding my stomach, "It hurts so badly."
"Hmm," he sighed, pursing his lips and shaking his head. Then he moved his hands back over my stomach and began striking me again. During the second assault, my mind finally grasped the concept that I was to remain silent and unflinching. If I moaned or complained of pain, the attacks would continue. This theory proved true when he stopped hitting me and again asked me how I felt. I stared up at him, forcing my face to relax, and said nothing. He smiled and nodded, then made a rapping sound on the table with his knuckles.
The door on the far end of the wall opened and one of the women came in. She was holding a large, round, low basket. She stepped up beside him and he turned back to me. He smoothed his hands over my stomach, then began taking beads from the basket and laying them on me. The beads, heavy, yellowed and ancient looking, were larger than any I had ever seen before. They varied in size and length, the largest as big around as an infant's arm. They ranged from one to six inches in length, reminding me of old bones. After he had arranged the beads in a pattern to his preference, the man took a large needle from the basket. It was threaded with heavy ropey twine, the kind used for baling hay. To my shock, he began stitching the beads to my abdomen. The agony of each stitch tearing roughly through my skin forced my breath from me. I dared not scream, understanding by now that to do so could possibly bring even worse hurt upon me. I fought to stay awake, terrified of passing out and waking to even greater circumstance or torment. Through the haze of pain, I kept thinking of the beads as bones. I tried to focus on that to keep my mind from the sensation of the thick twine dredging through my skin. And then he was finished. He stood up and walked from the room. Someone shut off the light and closed the doors.
I lay for hours in the darkness, in and out of a hazy consciousness that threatened my sanity when things became too clear in my awareness. The agony of my belly seared into my exhaustion, pried itself in jabbing slivers into my mind. I had never imagined that so archaic and ancient a ritual could endure in my lifetime. And, this was a culture that prided itself on its growing modernization.
As time drudged slowly by, I fought to keep from going crazy, to get my mind and myself beyond this puzzling torment. Through my anguish, the purpose of the ritual drifted over me. The women of this culture were expected to "realize" that they must endure excruciating pain without wince or complaint; secondarily, that they were totally captive of and subject to the whims of the culture - again to be met and followed without wince or complaint. My mind slowly began to grasp what had been meant by the phrase "sequential ritual," which had been used to describe how this culture initiated their women into adulthood. Each week for a month, they returned to this room for a different "lesson." And, I was to be brought through the steps as one of them. A heavy silent moan coursed deep inside of me, searing its sore and throbbing sorrow to the very center of my soul. If I continued with the initiation, I feared I would go crazy with the pain.
Quite suddenly, the door opened at the far end of the room. A young woman stepped inside. She was beautifully dressed in a soft pale lavender sweater and soft dark slacks. Her vibrantly brown chin-length hair was perfectly cut and styled, curving about her face and framing her young pink beauty. I sat up, realizing that I was to leave the room. As I rose, the beads on my stomach sagged from their own weight, clinking against each other in melodious accompaniment to the pain that dragged through me. I moved to the door closest to me and opened it. As I began to step through it, she threw herself next to me and blocked my way. I moved to continue through, but she stopped me again. I knew that it was to be her turn for the ritual, but she seemed to implore me not to leave. It was almost as though she wanted me to go through it for her. I tried again to leave.
"Oh, you mustn’t," she cried out in a despairing whisper. She put her arm up, holding it across the open doorway as she pleaded, imploring me with her dark eyes and an even louder whisper to stay. "I'm pregnant!" Her confession was swift and desperate, as she stood barring my way out the door.
No sooner had she spoken than the dark menacing face of the man appeared. She shrank back and, as he towered in rage over us, I realized that he was her father. "Pregnant!" he seethed. His words cut through the air like razors.
The young woman pointed at me. "Her, not me!" she cried in terror.
"No!" I screamed and escaped past them, running to stand beside Helen. She was still seated in the chair she'd taken so many hours before. I huddled in terror next to her and she slowly wrapped her arm around me, but said nothing.
The man turned ferociously on his daughter and she began to cry. He bent her back against the door, his anger rising and flashing about his face. Then, she started screaming, her pain and terror dripping like blood in the shrillness of her cries. I jerked my head up and saw that he had begun chopping at her in flat strikes with a sharp knife, flaying at her belly until it was a mass of bloody waxen ribbon-like bands. Her screams became louder, deeper, thicker - drenched with a sickening agony, but she continued to fight him. This seemed to anger him even more, and he stiffened for a moment in his obvious outrage. Through my shock, I realized that she had made an even worse error that I had when I'd complained of the pain. She had dared to fight him. His face grew livid, confirming my thoughts. Then he drew a larger knife from his belt, thrust it into the side of her abdomen, and carved the baby from her. All the while, he held her bent backward and screaming in the agony of his assault.
I begged Helen to intervene, but she sat silently, her head turned sideways and staring at the floor. I began to sob. My guilt at not taking the woman's pain, not lying for her or anticipating the consequences felt ominous and heavy. It had crossed my mind that I was too young to be believed, but that did nothing to ease the awful sense of responsibility I felt for her fate. I noted again her beautiful dark chin-length hair, her pale creamy lavender sweater, and her dark camel wool gabardine pants, and the clarity of my observations stunned me. From somewhere I remembered that my awareness of my surroundings had always intensified whenever I was hurt or afraid. Certain things seemed to coagulate vividly in my observation, staining my awareness with their oddly abject flavor in the midst of my distress. Perhaps it gave me a focus to find my way through, I thought dimly, and wondered if that was what was happening now. I looked back at the woman. She was so beautiful. Her clothes were so beautiful, and she was held writhing, screaming and bloody by her towering angry father. She may live or die I realized, but her agony was, would forever be, unthinkable, irremediable. I shook and cried, desolation overwhelming me; then I felt myself sliding away.
. . .
I awake to my body convulsing, feeling the hazy grayness dissolve into heavy ashen gloom. In the sticky darkness, I sob and pant in anguished despair. A woman appears beside me, surrounded by a fuzzy yellow glow that makes her appear surreal. She moves closer, a look of concern and sympathy furrowing her face, and then she reaches out and softly pats my arm.
"Would you like something for the pain?" she asks gently. "It's been a while since your last shot."
I feel puzzled. I look at her, blink, and then look around the room. I shake my head no.
"Bad dream?" she asks.
I look at her again, trying to comprehend, to orient myself.
"You were moaning and sighing when I came in," she explains. As she reaches out and adjusts the I.V. that is threaded into my arm, the edgy clarity of my surroundings files into my consciousness. Memory rushes back to me, blocking my senses for a moment, and I nod. A long deep sigh courses through me. "Bad dream," I repeat back to her.
She pats my hand again. "Let me know if you need anything."
She retreats from the room, her flashlight laying an amber path before her.
When she's gone, I raise my hands, running them tentatively over my belly. My fingers trace the tender ridge of the newly forming scar that edges along the side of my abdomen then races up to just under my left breast. I raise my arms to hug myself, then throw the sheet back and expose my silvery skin to closer examination. The moon hugs my belly in the splotchy darkness, bathing it in the light of centuries and moments, and I sigh in anguished and curious relief. "Bad dream," I say out loud in the darkness. Suddenly, I am crying, the hot salty tears flooding from my eyes, cauterizing my exhausted mind. This pain is ancient and enduring.
THE RITUAL © 1991 JM Shephard ~ JOY in the arts!
as the breath of Summer chants,
calling out to lure, entice,
the fronds once sleeping in the ice,
so thin a blade will venture out
against the winds of chilling doubt,
then reaching upward for the sun,
the march of seasons there begun,
a rose, a fern, a violet,
and each such welcoming to get
(throw off the fear we'd all forget).
the roots, so sturdy, there at rest
and waiting for the Sun's request
to wake them up, inviting all
to come and show their luscious thrall,
(to heed the breezes in their call),
and make an entrance, splendidly,
and gather there for all to see
(delighting eyes deliciously),
this shift, embracing through the fade,
beyond the curtains Winter made,
to saunter, now, in grand parade.
© 2009 JM Shephard ~ JOY in the arts!
Thursday, June 18, 2009
It was as though she had been born under some condemning, unforgiving shadow. So much of her life had been colored by pain, suffering, illness, and unkindness that she often cried out to God asking what she had done to deserve such cruelty. But the only answer that ever came from God or people was, “Nothing.” But if she had really done nothing surely this had to stop, and it never seemed to. She tried constantly to remember, to find that place in her life where she had done, or said, or thought that one thing that had made everything go wrong from that point thereon so she could try to go back and correct it, but she could never find it. Yet, she seemed the dupe and victim of all who cared to make her so, all who looked for some human vessel to unleash and dump their hatred, intolerance, and meanness upon. The power-plays and vicious deeds so deliberately rendered were willfully brutal and callously outrageous. Coupled with the day-to-day discord and misery of her constant endeavors for existence they were often overwhelming. Eventually all the pain, strife, and struggle in her life began to overtake her even as she continued fighting to get past it. There was so much negativity that, despite all her efforts to keep going and to think positively, it began to compact itself into a shadowy, spiny spot that converged inside of her like some dense, dark, rough pit. It sat there growing, gathering, and forcing itself to her very center A pit, she realized one day, that was very much like one finds inside an olive.
More and more she began to feel like the olive of her musings, with that heavy, caliginous, and adamantine kernel growing inside of her. As the pit grew, so ripened her sense of utter hopelessness and despair. The darkness cast upon her by it all made even breathing difficult. After a while every time she tried to do something in her life, in her pursuit of deed or satisfaction - - to function, survive, to find some enjoyment or accomplishment, or even to just think, some sinew, some piece of her mind, heart, or her soul would catch on its’ roughness and tug painfully at her. It would pull and hold her back until she was locked mid-step - - mid-dream - - by it, semi-aloft and sinking painfully into a new, but familiar, desperation. More and more she felt the desire to just give up in frustrated disheartenment. This scratchy, insistent impediment was exhausting, filling her days and nights with laments of anguish, discouragement, and dread. Somehow it snagged and tore at her every attempt to move past it. Eventually its’ heavy essence seeped throughout her so fully and completely that its’ burden weakened her, sapping her strength and emotions and leaving her bereft and in tears.
Crying became second nature to her until her eyes were permanently puffed and red-rimmed and her face was always blotchy, peaked and swollen. Her eyes themselves became deep wells of sorrow that flashed past her smiles, trumpeting their agony to all who truly looked into them. Attempts at pleasure were short-lived, knowing that they would be dashed at the whim of an unforgiving cosmos, entity, or person. Her nights were spent sleepless and in great, mounting despair. When she did sleep she was plagued by horrific nightmares that she awoke from screaming, weeping, and further traumatized, while her waking moments were increasingly filled with formidable gloom. It became ever harder for her to find reasons to try to continue in this bramble of a life, as her struggles only seemed to bring her further damage, injury, insult, and strife. She fought desperately to find some rational, logical way out, all to no avail, and yet she pondered it constantly. Slowly her mind began to grasp the anatomical physiology of it all, articulating it to her bit by bit so that she could understand some of what was happening to her in all of this and showing her at last the burgeoning craggy hub in the depths of her being. As the reality seeped into her exhausted mind, she sought to comprehend it on a practical level. And then one night she began to realize, since evicting it was not a possibility because she had no supports for the massive void it would crush upon her, that she had to find a way to change it, to smooth it out, or she would never get anything done in her life. Intrigued, she pondered the solution to this, turning ideas over and over in her mind as she contemplated some way to accomplish her task. And then she hit upon an idea that she knew she had to at least try.
Ever so slowly she began to meditate, each time envisioning that pit more and more like a smooth striated marble. Three times a day she sunk down into a warm corner in her living room, pulled a blanket about her, leaned her head back into the dark softness, and fixed her mind upon the pit. She first began by learning its’ every nuance, point, and cranny, letting her mind linger over it as she took in the texture, weight, color, and depth of it. She began to let herself anticipate her fingers moving over it, roughly, but gingerly at first, and then working carefully to smooth it into a silken dark orb. She put a golden cloth into her hands to protect them from the harshness, and to give the pit a radiant sheen as she hewed, polished, burnished and refined its character. When she grew tired, she cupped it gently in her arms as she rested. As new hindrances challenged her, she worked to burnish them into the sculpture she was refining so deeply inside of her until it all began to take on the aura and shape of a round, gleaming, color-chambered, crystal sphere. As the color of the orb inside of her became lighter, so did its weight and it began more and more to feel like a sturdy and solid, but buoyant jewel. This gem became a beautiful adornment that gave her balance and grounding while giving ornament and permission to her thoughts and ideas. She began to thrive on its very brilliance until after a while, whenever some part of her moved over it, those parts became smoother, more elastic, even as they polished the marble to a gleaming jewel-like gloss. The unison of it all only made her glow more and more luminous like the stars in the cosmos until one day she looked up to realize that she had become part of all of the universe, coursing easily about all the craggy din of her life with silken ease. She could put out her fingers and feel them trail about the very esprit of the atmosphere, leisurely reach to the sunny warmth, let it soak into her like energy seeping and racing through a rich and brilliantly gleaming copper conduit. Her nights were emblazoned with the light, love, and community of a million stars, comets, and shimmering novas that cradled her in their celestial auras. She had found a home with the thousands of other frail, delicate, and vivid beings whose ethereal blessings had been coaxed, coruscated, and refined in their own jagged and dusty journeys. If only . . . . .
Olive/Coloring the Moon ~ © 2001 JM Shephard ~ JOY in the arts!
dusky in their dread,
moments they would crush and pave,
obliterate their tread,
deep within the pockets there,
wells so deep to stride,
hazing in the tired air
and all the years they tried
a syncopation few would know,
and fewer still would meet,
feigned indifference to them though
they’re mired in their deceit,
the patches sting their wounding taps
the puzzles left to quake,
through myriad and lengthy laps,
this queasy, long mistake
may venture to a calming vein,
though weary it may trace
the edges of its filtered pain
to etch the sins they face,
the slopes meander in the ropes,
these threads that cultivate
the simplest of aching hopes
the heart could estimate,
and still the answers slide and glisten,
strobe about the night,
the reasons strain to heal and listen
past the mottled sight,
they circle in among the dust
that scintillates and shames,
between the twinges throbbing gust,
the shadows of their claims,
and time will never really heal
the damage they have done,
the heart will ever crease, reveal
abrasions cruelly won,
this circus only rattles then
onto another stage,
the measures only slowing when
there’s no more left to gauge,
yet on the littered paths that led
into the chambered gloom,
so many ways were left instead
to share this caring room,
but loneliness too long defies
and all the prairies and their skies
have dried too miserably,
and carved into the eons breeze
that swifts so sadly by,
the chants fall vacant to the trees,
their treasures slowly sigh.
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
that stun a waking mind,
and all the matter presages
the whispers, whirling, dancing,
the stories start to climb,
each vowel built enhancing
in esoteric rhyme,
but still the language coding,
and sliding from the dreams,
the pressure, words there loading
in consciousness’ of streams,
so take a pen and tablet,
each close up to the bed
and build upon a habit
to note what's in your head,
so waking will not shatter
the shadows of your sleep,
and those that really matter
are there for you to keep.
© 2009 JM Shephard ~ JOY in the arts!
although it tried to overstay,
but Spring, impatient, would engage
the whirlwinds upon the stage
and in the lovely, crystal mist
the green and velvet would exist
until a tiny, budding rose
would break into the ebbing snows,
and, such the beauty, would instill
a stunning choice, a seasoned will,
when Winter, there, would swift relent
and, off into the future, went,
so Spring could settle, come to be
and moved in all, so pleasantly,
to bathe and glow, the moments here
'til Summer's breath would reappear.
© 2009 JM Shephard ~ JOY in the arts!
stroking warm upon my breast -
touching tender, tenderly
speaking love and melody -
tracing fingers softly skim
upon my thigh to pleasure him,
then lightly press in urgency
to know, explore inside of me,
as lips and mouth in whisper sweep
across my brow and to my cheek -
to touching tender, tenderly,
of fluid dance enticingly -
then rock me near to ease the span
and know the closeness of this man
so lean and muscled holding me;
I reach to stroke him lovingly
and trace my learning to his hips,
come back to share sweet tongue and lips
that play at tasting, knowing me
in strong and tactile harmony -
demanding in a growing press,
we gather close in kiss, caress
to share the wonder we are born
and learn the patterns we may form,
then quiver, tremble as we wait,
on whispered breath anticipate
this joining ease of which we share
among the auras resting there,
as mind and body gentle, free,
in rhymed and rythmed poetry.
© 1983 JM Shephard ~ JOY in the arts!
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
the nights and years in stunning pains,
the seeping wounds so vivid red,
residing in the aura'd bed,
the stories circle on through time
exploring layers, rampant rhyme
this episodic vein of trails,
the stunning, sad and epic tales,
the legacy the breath would leave,
a heart still clinging to the sleeve,
a valentine, a wishful pose,
yet on and on the story goes,
still etching to the frosty glaze
that settles over all the days,
and in the dance, the stillness tells
the ways, the thickets and the hells,
a memory, a shadow there,
echoing all cold and bare,
so lonely in the thorns of night,
they scratch and tickle, edging light,
it seeps across the graying hues
so quickly there to save the cues,
a story dawning ever told,
it lies amid the seeping cold,
so ever there and ever bold,
but in the stunning still parade,
the imprints that the heartbeats made,
the mystery still magic to
the shades and ventures long and true,
plunging from a hazy view,
their essence in some amber stand,
it rises, shines across the land,
the pebbles twinkling ever bright,
the green and purple clear and light,
the castles ever in the glass,
the dew reflecting in the grass,
the tales my mother told to me
they ever always seem to be
a pledge, a warning, there a way
to lead me to a better day,
to magic lands, to placid grains,
ameliorating wounded stains,
and maybe islands there to be,
perhaps, a safety place for me.
© 2009 JM Shephard ~ JOY in the arts!
Sunday, June 14, 2009
I'd think it quite intriguing
but, a little scary too,
to sit and watch the traffic-way
and do what he must do -
I guess his job quite awesome
and imagine patience shown
of looking up while cars go by
while down there all alone
And gauging how the traffic goes
from morning until night,
the man who sits beneath the street
and works the signal light –
Odd Job © 1980 J M Shephard ~ JOY in the arts!
My Grandfather, John, was a modern-day Thoreau. He differed from Thoreau in that he lived his philosophy without writing or expounding on it. In fact, he had probably never even heard of Thoreau. Rather, he was the personification of the ideals Thoreau proposed.
He lived on Lake Minnetonka in a cottage that he had originally started to build for someone else. The house was built from used wood. Halfway through the building and the clearing of the land, he came upon a rock that was too large to move, so he built the cottage around it. I still remember that one corner of each side room was angled off and bricked. He painted the bricks the same colors as the rooms, so one a soft pink, one white, another a pale aqua blue. The contrast of the soft colors on the hard bricks still plays at my fingers when I think of those rooms. I used to stand and touch them, trying to reconcile their polarities. In these rooms, as in his life, my grandfather was a springboard to love - - of him, of goodness, of reading, good food, solitude.
Across from the cottage, on the other side of the road, was a large wood. Whenever I went to visit, he would take me for walks through them, pointing out Jack-in the Pulpit, Cowslips, Trillium. Lady Slipper (the State Flower) and other wildflowers. We'd marvel at them together and he'd carry the conversation on to the wildflowers in his own garden, naturalized or appearing on their own, with stories and folklore of their existence. I remember the tiny pink bloomer-like flowers that he called "Dutchman's Breeches." Sometimes I happen upon one of these in the wildflower selection of some local nursery, and I still gasp in wonder.
His own gardens were full of flowers, all blooming at various times, some for most of the year. He tended these with love and patience, and my every visit with him included a walk through them while he cut a massive bouquet for me to bring home. He was the first man to give me flowers. He taught me to notice color and subtlety - to see them as shades and hues of difference, all massed together, yet each showy in their own wondrous presentation.
John took a lot of his food from his garden. Some of it was just regular fare - - Green Beans, Tomatoes, carrots, Peas. But, there were also the luxury foods - Asparagus, Rhubarb, Black Walnuts from the tree in the middle of his garden. And, much of his "meat" he took from the lake. He was a natural fisherman who taught me to dig for worms, bait a hook, catch, clean and cook fish - Crappies, Sunfish, Bluegills and Bullheads; luscious ordinary pan fish that sustained and nourished my growing. We spent hours pursuing this pleasure. He even built a dock, especially to my wishes, with the built-in bench I'd suggested for us to sit and fish from. He taught me that I could learn and contribute something of value.
My Grandfather is dead now. He was so central to me, so pivotal to my life, that I still find myself, at times, mystified as to why his life didn't go better for him - - why he didn't endure forever. He was such strength and goodness, and yet, a cruel stroke rendered him helpless and dying.
I try to deal with how changes in society or Geographic’s have nullified, in a physical sense, some of the wonders he taught me. The woods are gone - - torn down for upscale housing developments. The formerly-public off-shore fishing spots are staked out and fenced off. His land - - taken by the county to pay his mounting medical bills, now holds two houses and part of a marina/apartment complex. The reeds, the rushes, the gardens are all gone - - as are the Red-Wing Blackbirds, the wildflowers and the luxurious foods. Commercialism has eroded even his echo.
I am so much of what my grandfather taught me, and I am often confused and perplexed - - intimidated - - by the world today. So I guess I guard the ideals, the gifts, he taught me quite tenaciously, though I do so with a measure of dismay. All of the material, spiritual teachings, and "stuff" aside, even our hearts can't protect us and, though our souls can't be bound they can be crushed. He taught me to search beyond reason.
©1992 JM Shephard ~ JOY in the arts!
Saturday, June 13, 2009
We've all had the occasion to be startled by the sudden appearance of some critter or crawly we weren't expecting - - a bug, a snake, a mouse, etc., in our immediate environment. This intrusion can be quite unsettling - - terrifying, to be exact, and in our panic we often devise ways and methods of dealing with these creatures that are ingenious, elaborate, expedient and - - in our minds - - safe. In exploring this process, I came face to face with my own primitive responses and resolutions to the situation - - yell or gasp, attack with the closest thing at hand that I don't mind defiling, and shiver for the next hour. But, that cannot begin to top the system devised by my friend, Marita, when she was confronted with the need to dispatch a mouse that had invaded her living room.
To implement this system you need - obviously - a mouse, as well as a mouse-trap, a shovel - - preferably long-handled, a yardstick, a fly swatter, and a hero. First you must bait and set the mouse- trap. This is usually the first job of the hero, but you can do this part and still reserve their input for the crucial latter phase of this process. That accomplished, you must wait patiently (nervously) for the mouse to venture into the terrain you have strategically laid out to annihilate it. Check the traps regularly - at least every twenty minutes or so if you are home. Once you have determined that the mouse has been caught and is securely attached to the trap, you can move into the second phase of the plan.
Assemble your shovel, yardstick, and fly-swatter. Approach the trap and the mouse with tentative, but deliberate steps. (You want to be able to break and run should the thing remove itself from the trap as you approach it.) Lay the shovel in front of the contraption and with very careful sweeping motions use the yardstick to slide the mouse and the trap into the bowl of the shovel. The odds are that the mouse is still alive at this point, however, whether that is the case or not the next phase is very important to ensure that that is not the end result. Raise the fly-swatter to shoulder level and with a series of heavy rapid strokes flay at the mouse until you are quite sure that there is no longer any threat from it. Then take the whole business and set it somewhere out of your line of vision while you wait for your hero to come and dispose of it. It may be advisable to check it every so often to ascertain that it has, in fact, been dispatched and has not reincarnated itself; That done, you can then proceed with expediency and relief to whatever you were doing before the thing ventured into your path.
There are some of us who do not have the stomach for this kind of violence. Our squeamishness precludes our sense of survival to the degree that we may scramble for another way to escort this creature from our home. I have another friend who spreads a trail of crackers and cheese from where she last saw the mouse to the open door of her apartment. She then sat very still (frozen, actually) on the couch - - feet up, of course - - and waited for the mouse to make its appearance. It didn't. She still has difficulty walking through her living room. She doesn't sleep too well at night either.
Mice are not the only critters to invade our spaces. Spiders, roaches, moths, bees and centipedes track their own paths across our lives, defying us to deal with them and still remain humane. These can be impeded by using a jar, a glove, a piece of thin cardboard and an open door or window, or a grocery bag and a rock - the rock is optional. First, put on the gloves. Then you must follow the thing quickly enough to keep sight of it, but slowly enough not frighten it into increasing its' speed and fleeing from your vision. Should that happen, you have the option of watching and waiting for it to reappear, however, this is intensely nerve-wracking and time-consuming. Better to still your panic and follow the critter until it pauses or lights in its' journey. This pause must take place on a flat surface. The moment it does, quickly set the open end of the jar over it. Continue to hold the jar, allowing yourself a couple of minutes to regain your composure for the next move. Once you have stopped shaking, jiggle the jar enough to agitate the contents into moving up to the closed end.
As soon as you have an opening to do so, very carefully slide the cardboard in between the flat surface and the mouth of the jar. This must be done rapidly, but gingerly, or you will need to start the whole process all over again, that is provided you survive the escape of the thing. Once the cardboard is in place, jiggle the jar again to compel the creature back down to the closed end. (These little beasties are quite sensitive to air flow and will have rushed back to the top of the jar the moment they sensed the crack caused by the cardboard being inserted.) Once again, when it is at the closed end, you can make your move. This time, work your finger under the
cardboard just enough to bring it away from the surface while still covering the opening of the jar. Right the jar and then clamp your hand down over the top to keep the cardboard in place. You have several options at this point. You can proceed to a door or window, set the jar out, remove the cardboard, and run - - being sure to shut the door or window as you withdraw. Or, you may want to set the whole thing down into a grocery bag, set a rock on the cardboard, roll the top of the bag shut, and throw the whole thing into the garbage.
Upon hearing of my venture into writing this particular piece of commentary, my Mother related to me her own way of dealing with the critters, crawlies and such that she encounters. She shoots them with hairspray. She swears by this method. It is simple, quick, effective, and it doesn't require any special tools. However, if these methods seem too repugnant, primitive, time-consuming, or too much a threat to the ozone, I would like to offer up the method that Marita’s neighbor recounted to her upon hearing of her exploits with the mouse; He told her, “I just suck them up with the shop vac. ’Got three so far this year."
but pulls the weed
against the nature
that they seed,
then toss the wish -
a lazing hill
yet meets the ground
they melt and fill -
sake they grow,
beyond the rain,
the frost and snow,
into the spring,
and tempered means
that reach, surpass
the steps they know
On the birth that I knew,
in the echoes I grew,
brought my soul to a seeking despair -
where a hunger but cried
of the dreams it denied
in the childish push to repair -
There wasn't a mother,
a father, a brother
to answer the questions I sought,
so I conjured them there
full of loving and care,
to ward off all the sorrow I fought -
I knocked and implored
at a make-believe door,
and examined the whiteness I felt -
as I lingered in step
and an aching breeze swept,
wiping out all the pain it had dealt -
On the sounds in my head,
there came whispered my dread,
fearing what I had wanted so much -
peering out from the cage,
past the agonized rage,
lay the subtle emergence of such -
Now the reasoning’s fight
long and far into night,
as the questions but circle again -
stealing deep to my reach
for the knowledge they teach,
in my need to find out who I am -
So, I looked to a glass
for the stories it cast,
learned the faces of turning aside -
catatonic in touch,
these assemblies of such,
used in numbing the hurts I had lied -
and, I closed up my mind
to the fear I would find
in the secrets I'd hidden from view -
yet, they forced coming near,
the awareness’s clear,
some familiar, a little bit new -
I returned on the chance
of the mirrors true glance,
the reflections don't show what I ask -
so, I shattered the mold
from the haziness told,
broke the capturing out of the glass -
In the darkness of sight
there came whispered my plight,
scans my gaze to the world around -
definitions hold wait
to the needs they'll relate,
cautious wonder of learning I've found -
And I listen myself,
the uncertainties felt,
but suspended to faceted chain -
sorting reason and rhyme
with the facts in my mind,
form acceptance to causes they frame -
Still the process prevailed
to the dreams I assailed,
touched the loneliness borne of the way -
and I wrote down some words
of the thoughts that I'd heard
finding out I had nothing to say -
Then I moved to the crest
of the traumas they'd pressed,
in the tattering, sorry and worn -
as the sadness they'd see
mellowed touch over me,
starts repairing the places they'd torn -
In the auras that ring,
understanding they bring,
gently settles the message to me -
and the depth of the field
to the realm it would yield
shows in quiet transition to see -
of a pondered relief,
letting go of the grief,
comes a root blended fine to the air -
learning helps letting go
of the hell it would know,
but it tells of an emptiness there -
Scattered wishes seem blown
in the wind that I've grown,
passed me by as they paid me no heed -
breaking out of this shell,
evolution will tell
the conception yet borne of its' seed -
Evolution – from Strawberry Anthology
© 1983 JM Shephard ~ JOY in the arts!
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
that makes me dream and drool,
delectable when cooked just right,
or eaten fresh and cool.
Oh, potato, rice, or bread
succulent with Spam,
there’s nothing I would want instead -
not chicken, steak, or lamb,
for nothing comes, but even close,
to yummy as you are -
not fresh, or frozen, caught, or spun
into a fancy jar.
So, grab the Spam that’s in the can,
don’t eat of any other,
‘cause Spam is all of all that am -
why bother with another
© 2001 – JM Shephard ~ JOY in the arts!
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
Monday, June 8, 2009
When did we sell our souls?
To what polls,
in what dark night or day
did we lay them to rest,
knowing it was not best,
yet set them aside,
as we would decide
to let those dying,
to the test,
we let them slide,
while they all died,
while we patted
sealed the cracks
with smug pronouncements,
judgments,and sorry platitudes,
all the while pushing aside,
and choosing, instead,
to see some dead
in the lanes,
their hearts, their very veins,
too tired,too weary
in our stead.
To what gains,
these horrid stains?
JMS © 2009