25 July 2017

Just in Case: A Checklist for Sanctuary

Sanctuary is in the air—
a sibilant chorus of threat
and promise—now that almost one tenth
of our earth’s population roams.

Uprooted homelessness comes with
unimaginable dangers,
and I find myself glued to the news
where images arise as truth.

From where I live, I cannot see
the needy hoards directly.  Threats
have neither prompted me to leave
home nor to open up my doors.

But just in case, I’ve filled water
bottles and packed my get-away
backpack.  And just in case, I’ve laid
out my disguise, layers of clothes.

I’m weaning myself from pain meds
in case my prescriptions are lost.
I’m hoarding my supply to share—
in case that could be a mercy.

I'm forcing late seedlings for food
and air and beauty now that I’m
learning what sanctuary could
be for my two cats and for me.

In this apartment we call home
we have windows and doors to come
and go, and we have entries to
our soul through eyes open and closed.

We meditate alone, but touch
to sing our songs.  Like them, I nap 
lightly, I sniff the air with mouth 
ajar, and my skin, like fur, responds.  

My blog poems are rough drafts. 
Please respect my copyright. 
© 2017 Susan L. Chast

24 July 2017

Friends, Let's Pray

A little something for Suzanne                       

You say we meet, but
we contend and compete.

Not knowing which is weed
and which is flower, we crowd
each other and vie for power.

The roots of our agendas
grow, tangle and strangle
as each of us takes more
than we did before.

Pushed aside, a few decide
to yield and watch instead.
Un-noticed, they share the bed
and discern the urgent need
that drives each to succeed.

What happens next, I do not know. 
That’s as far as I dared go.  But
light might dawn if they keep on.
“How?” is the mystery.  
Those who stay will find a way
that those who leave won’t see. 

My blog poems are rough drafts. 
Please respect my copyright. 
© 2017 Susan L. Chast

19 July 2017

To My Masks, Goodbye

Neutral Mask


I love the masks I made and hung
upon the wall, but those of you that
made me? You that came as I
had need, piecing yourselves into
life rafts and duck blinds so that I
might both survive and thrive, do I
love you?  I thank you.  I even
pour forth libations in your honor.
But you should expire! 

Instead you hang in and pop up
as if still welcome, and though
I take you off and off and off
to be naked and transparent,
there you are, multiplying
in so many variations
that I feel like Bartholomew
with his five hundred hats.*
Did I need you all? 

I’m fascinated by your agency,
your beauty and your number,
but now I only want to look
once more before I release you.
So, line up along the wall.
Let’s have the retrospective.
And then let me un-hang the show
or--you can stay there upon the wall.
but rest, please, cease to enthrall.

Revised 7/23  (The comments are from before the revision.)

*"The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins" by Theodor Geisel (Dr. Seuss)

My blog poems are rough drafts. 
Please respect my copyright. 
© 2017 Susan L. Chast

Who's Behind the Mask?

We know who is behind the mask:
Zorro, Batman, and Spiderman—
males who characters don’t recognize
though TV viewers can.

Dramatic irony gives them
to us wiser watchers, we whose
identities mask truer selves
after years of endless practice.

Peek-a-boo, I see you!” is
the first of many games we play
to distinguish what can’t be seen
from identities we claim.

“It’s me!”  Is it?  Words come through
our masks, though they may not defraud.
We think that we control the mask,
but we are the mask of God.

My blog poems are VERY rough drafts. 
Please respect my copyright. 
© 2017 Susan L. Chast

16 July 2017

Ode to Frequent Dying

I die again and again.

"You're killing me" “I could just die”   "I'll die without . . . . "
The idioms of quick death flow through us like cartoon characters who, 
crushed and flattened, peel themselves off the pavement with a pop 
and go full steam ahead, still fuming, having learned nothing.

I’ve slipped out of worlds—sometimes before I know I will—
leaving relationships, quitting jobs, changing my faith.  
And this latest death.  The one where a brother acts like I am dead, 
and I finally agree to die, to live without him.

I’ll tell you what this dying is like. 

First there is trying to duck under the pain of becoming 
the flattened Road Runner.  Or Coyote.  Victimized or defeated villain, 
the crushing feels the same.  

And then there is peeling up and floating above—not embodied
suspended and looking down at yourself in that situation.
Up there you are cut off, adrift, a shell of a boat with a useless anchor.  


And then there arises (like a lump in the throat) a desire to live again.
Re-entry hurts like a short PING if you get up and walk away,
but like a very long slow FIRE if you think you’ll stay and try again.
Fire.  Embers, then ashes.   
Eatable.  Wearable.
If you become part of the pattern, if you choose to re-anchor 
instead of hoisting sails and flying 
or simply floating away.  

There is loss either way--loss of limbs and organs.
Tears fall, but for no reason
if you have been blessed with forgetfulness.

In these frequent deaths it’s hard to tell where the blessing lies.
Is it in the experience before dying?
The dying? or the resurrection?
For me, each has had its poetry.

Poets United Poetry Pantry #362

My blog poems are rough drafts. 
Please respect my copyright. 
© 2017 Susan L. Chast

12 July 2017

Having Died Once

File:Rippl-Rónai - Carousel.jpg
Carousel by József Rippl-Rónai (1987)

I died once. At age 12
I entered a coma and saw life
swirling from a set point beyond all. 

Looking down, I saw Mom crying at my bedside,
and I fought my way back to the pulse of heartbeats,
days turning at the pace of home-made carousels.

Family’s embrace pushed me higher and further
out from home and on to claim rewards from success,
images of backyard games and swings in my head.

Perhaps you were also caught up in hummingbird energy
constantly beating wings, achieving flight, height and love
in service, in money, in steady rewarding commitment.

Then how now does slowing down at life's end feel to you?
Does it seem (like to me) a death-like distancing from real life,
or do you welcome time at turtle’s pace, staying out of traffic?

Do you clutch your ticket to travel in fear that you’ll lose it?
I grip my memories in both hands, harness them to my mind’s
horse power and urge them to move me as fast as my neighbors.

I fear re-entering coma-view, feeling that remoteness
separates me from joining the bustle, forgetting I am not
in exile but reaping the rewards of a well-traveled life.

Let's speed up, take corners with courage, abandon, bravado
and forget to take pills prescribed to regulate blood pressure--
Let's not wait to slow down, not witness our bodies going on without us.


(This is half here, my coma vs forward movement story.  
I'm thinking of cutting the second to last stanza. 
Or maybe the one before it.  Any thoughts?
BTW, I'm using dactyls and anapests, not iambs,
reaching for more life.) 

For Sumana's prompt 

Poets United Midweek Motif ~ Movement

My blog poems are rough drafts. 
Please respect my copyright. 
© 2017 Susan L. Chast