Category Archives: Aenigmas (My Poems)

Pandemic Prayer

In memory of Mary Catherine Nicklas Petro
10/6/1933 – 3/16/2020

mom garden 1966

Pandemic Prayer

We are not all left standing when the war has ended.
It feels like the end times.
For many, it is.
Inhalation is our first act of embodiment.
Exhalation, our last.
One lifetime, millions of breaths
a conversation with all existence.
Where does the spirit go when we die?
Hail Mary, my gentle Momma,
You left; you gave up your breath
before the virus could steal it.
You waged a long campaign to stave off
cancer, old age, and death.
Emancipating your breath
you added the gift of your spirit to all.
Holy Mary, you released your body,
returned to Earth, our suffocating Mother,
in respiratory distress for decades.
Humanity is a virus choking
and drowning our source of life.
When the host dies,
the virus dies too.
Momma, you returned to our Mother
so you could garden with Her,
to try to heal us all.

–Kathryn Harper

Reflections on Sesshin

Almost six years ago I sat my first sesshin at Hazy Moon Zen Center. I did not return, for many reasons and rationalizations. But when my teacher put a winter weekend sesshin on the calendar, I committed to come. It was wonderful sitting with so many people and creating community. These are some small reflections on my experience. A huge rainstorm visited LA, unusual and impressive for California, and a gesture from nature that we might be worthy of deliverance from drought.

Practice has become a priority. Six years will not pass before I sit sesshin again.
———

Reflections on Sesshin

Rain strikes the city
like a kyosaku startling
dusty streets awake.

The rain converses
with the windows
while water gushing
through gutters holds
a debate with the sidewalk.

Nearly six whole years past
the rooster still crows at dawn
in downtown L.A.

I met my match
outwaited her impatience
wrestled her on the mat
until she cried
not my way, the Way
then bowed
and walked into the day.

–Kathryn Harper

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The Dance

For Swap-bot, I joined a project that required writing a sestina.

According to the Academy of American Poets:

“The sestina follows a strict pattern of the repetition of the initial six end-words of the first stanza through the remaining five six-line stanzas, culminating in a three-line envoi. The lines may be of any length, though in its initial incarnation, the sestina followed a syllabic restriction. The form is as follows, where each numeral indicates the stanza position and the letters represent end-words:

ABCDEF
FAEBDC
CFDABE
ECBFAD
DEACFB
BDFECA
(envoi)(tercet) BE. DC. FA.
The envoi, a tercet, must contain two of the repeated words per line.”

So, here is what created itself within me.

The Dance

There I stood, waiting for the express
While pondering ways to renew
my flagging spirit, which struggled to climb
life’s mounting challenges, when I saw you, serene,
your hands moving in the air, a kind of dance —
the glorious joy on your face making you rich.

Gazing around, I noticed the world’s colors were rich.
In each person I sensed the soul’s desire to express,
to enter into the dance.
I felt that I could summon the energy to renew
and make myself serene
like an arbor trellis with those roses that climb.

To reach far, to stretch toward goals that require I climb —
this makes life worthwhile, and I feel rich.
In these moments, my heart beats serene.
I vibrate with life and tremble to express,
to evolve, to embrace impermanence and thus renew
life’s eternal dance.

So, which steps will we choose to dance?
Will it be the hustle, the two-step, the fandango climb?
Or maybe a slow waltz, to allow our breathing to renew
while rhythmically moving to the beat, slow and rich.
Perhaps we will lean in to share a kiss, to express
what tantalizes us as we attempt to appear serene.

We might do this under the silver light of the moon, serene
in the movement of the dance
and the people watching — their murmurs will express
how desire steeps, distills, intensifies, like the climb
of mercury trapped in a glass tube, the red rich
like blood, like the lungs give oxygen to renew.

And after we untwine ourselves, we turn within to renew
the relationship with the One who never leaves, the serene
companion who understands money does not make one rich;
nor does having it guarantee an invitation to the dance
and that life is often one painful, slogging climb
to an illusory summit that cannot contain all we express.

The koan: how to renew attention, surrender to the dance
or rest serene, no longer compelled to grasp or climb,
sitting in life’s rich mystery, waiting on emptiness to express.

–Kathryn Harper

dancers

Glimpses of My Daughter at Age Six

Glimpses of My Daughter At Age Six

She is a sunflower-yellow
hourglass with a
center of nipple pink intensity
bouncing, twirling, burbling, squawking
like a Steller’s jay.
She is inside with Peter, Paul, and Mary,
multiplying three times infinity
in her rocking chair.
She is an apple, crisp and fresh,
the guitar singing melodies
sometimes jarring and jangling ears.
She’s a meandering stream of galaxies,
an ancient Redwood soul, not
fearing abandonment –
a kaleidoscope of wonder.

–Kathryn Harper

Farewell Stella

My dear Fur Person friend, Stella Bella the cat, died today. She was 17 years old. She had tumors in her bladder and on her lung. Sometime I will write about the adventures we had with her, and her many catly qualities. But today, just this.

Farewell Stella

I stroke your fur
no purr
frail limbs give
no resistance
laid out tenderly
no movement
eyes half open
no vision.
It was a good life
a long life
and we let you go
before we wanted
to spare you suffering.
It is the least we could do
for all the joy and love
you gave us.

–Kathryn Harper

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No Ordinary Life

No Ordinary Life

Drink some coffee
light a candle
Rain patters
light a candle
Cat purrs
light a candle
A child’s party
light a candle
Eat cake
light a candle
Buy groceries
light a candle
Fold laundry
light a candle
Clean the bathroom
light a candle
Pay bills
light a candle
Read books
light a candle
Sing carols
light a candle
Cuddle and tickle
light a candle
Wrap presents
light a candle
Color and draw
light a candle
Bake cookies
light a candle
Cook dinner
light a candle
Wash dishes
light a candle
Bathe the child
light a candle
Rock and cuddle
light a candle
Sing lullabyes
light a candle

light a candle
light a candle
light a candle
light a candle
light a candle
light a candle
light a candle

light a candle

–Kathryn Harper

In memory of those who died at Sandy Hook.

Candles at Bongeunsa Temple

Photo courtesy of VancityAllie and Creative Commons