This night, this life.

It sounds like a cliche but I blink and the last eighteen years flew out the door. My son is graduating from high school in less than one month. My daughter is three quarters into her Sophomore year in college. Soon, she will be in her twenties, and he will be out of the house. I look around and still see the traces of their childhood in the house. Every step, every door handle, every corner of the wall, every piece of carpet, every hollow space holds their sounds, their essence, their imprints.

It’s so easy to look back into the past because it has already happened. I can see every dot that was placed, and could connect them without looking.  It’s so hard to look forward into the future. This unknowingness nips at my legs, the way my cat Emmie nips at my toes when I am trying to write a poem. Where would we be in five years, ten years, twenty years? Where would I be? My father had his heart attack at the age of fifty-five, and dead within ten years. How many dreams were buried when he went?

Am I making too many mistakes along the way? How many things will remain undone or done in the most wronged way? Always, fear marches in and I am practicing my mindfulness with so much difficulty.

This life flies. I could almost hear the whooshing sound it makes as it runs at full sprint.  Tonight, this poem by Jane Hirshfield speaks to me. Every word makes a powerful impact. Every word forces me to pay attention.  (Plus I love the title).

My Sandwich
By Jane Hirshfield

So many things
you’d not have thought of
until they were given.

Even the simple–
a cottage cheese sandwich,
a heron’s contractible neck.

You eat. You look.
Then you look back and it’s over.

This life. This flood–
unbargained for as lasting love was–
of lasting oddness.

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Self

Photo on 2-26-13 at 10.35 AM #2

Photo on 2-26-13 at 10.35 AM

That was only four years ago, a brief span of time in a lifetime. Looking at her now, she looked so young. I didn’t know it then, of what I know now. That I looked so young, enough to pass for a thirty year-old at times. I didn’t know it then, of what I know now. That without estrogen, skin, like all elements of this body will become a stranger too. That it would thin and crinkle like a wad of tissues. With time, eyes will house every tragedy of this world. And my hair will lose its sheen; the little bird now sings with a crackle and a longing. My mood will dip watching  my lover estrogen leave. Every morning, I make rituals in front of my make-shift alter  chanting this life, this life, this life when every cell of this aliveness tenses for what’s next, what’s next, what’s next.

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Miracles/aliens/angels/science on this day in 2011:

miracles/aliens/angels/science
March 11, 2011 at 8:14am

miracles_holeinthesky

We were excited to see it. It was my son who pointed it out to me as we drove onto the highway from the hospital plaza where the kids just had their dental cleaning. I said we have to take a picture. Told them that it was worthy to share, to capture, to keep, to remember for later. And he took the phone from me, as I handed it to him from the front seat to the back where he and his sister had been sitting licking their teeth, and grimacing at the fluoride taste for the past fifteen minutes since we left the dentist office.

It’s a miracle, I said perhaps too eagerly, wanting them to cherish the sight. I am in this teaching mode always but often, there is no student. We are all teachers here. No, it’s not, they replied in unison. It’s science, my son added with conviction. Well, I paused, sensing a losing battle but not quite determined to give up yet. It’s like the rodeo, this thing I do with my kids, where I try time and time again to get on the animal desperate to teach, to tame but in the end, I go away, often with a noticeable limp. Well, I tried again. Miracle is everywhere. Seeing this beautiful sky is a miracle. You and me being here in this car is a miracle. You see?

He frowned, or I guessed he frowned. I couldn’t really see his face, as I was driving on the highway, looking ahead. I heard him fidgeting in the backseat, with the phone camera and with the conversation about miracles his mother was determined to have. It’s not a miracle, he responded but I could tell his focus was now on capturing the light shone from the sky, peering in between the gray clouds.

I can’t get it right, he muttered in frustration. You try, he said, handing the phone to his sister. She started snapping away, without much fuss. She’s like that. No worry. No second thoughts. She just goes. He, on the other hand, is a little body full of careful deliberation. He debates and ponders, considers and agonizes over every details. It’s an alien ship, spotting the church, she chimed in with a smile. Or the little angels tearing the clouds, playing flashlight tag, he started playing along.

Are you going to write a poem about it? my son wanted to know after a while. Maybe, I told him, unsure of my ability to come up with something decent. Recently I’ve cleared out clutter in my head, and along with it, my supposed ability to compose poems went.

Write a poem, he insisted. Call it “Heaven’s light.”

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Friday Poem: You’ve Come Back to Me

For G
A small thing crawling toward me
across this dark lawn. Bright
eyes the only thing I’m sure I see.
You’ve come back to me,
haven’t you, my sweet? From
long ago, and very far. Through
crawling dark, my sweet, you’ve
come back to me, have you? Even
smaller this time than the stars.
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This moment

IMG_7612

 

Death has a way of softening us, like a fruit ripening, from the center to the edges.  I remember her as a child, a beautiful little girl with striking eyebrows, the kinds that never require penciling in. It’s been so long ago now, but her smile is somewhere edged in my memory.  A smile of a happy child, a smile of “before”, a smile of pure radiance. Somewhere along our lives, we will inevitably be covered with scars.  We learn to walk, but not all of us learn how to get up again after falling.  Falling is so natural.  We lean toward earth at all times as gravity pulls.

How to live with silence. So many dialogues inside and out. Today, I am observing silence. My hands itch to write these words I am not speaking. Thinking is dangerous, someone has said. Thinking sharpens the self’s warped senses. The righteousness of self must be put on a dimmer.

Death has a way of opening the mind. I go through the list of people whom I am indebted to: my parents, my first and last teachers, my children, my family, even the boy who told me he could never love me the way I deserved to, the people who opened doors for me knowingly or unknowingly, the inspirations I found at the street corners when I was not looking, the moments that allow  me to crack myself open and peer into. So many items on my gratitude list. Every day, someone is changing my life, sometimes with words, sometimes with deeds, sometimes on pages or in person with a smile or a frown. On rare moments when I am truly present, I would walk through these many gates opening right in front of me, and glimpse the wonders on the other side.

Death has a way of ripening the mind. I don’t remember her as a full-grown adult, plagued by her own demons. Somewhere along the way, she got lost. Somewhere along the way, I got lost too. She exited this world now, while I still breathe, right now at least. The fleeting moments cannot be harnessed, but this moment still rests in my cupped palms. This moment. This moment. And this moment.

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Letter to my son

Contemplation

Tharlay Alex,

Most of our moments together in the past eighteen years were colored with my fears –for your safety, for your future, for your life, and with my worries about how I am not delivering the goods a normal perfect mother delivers to a good son like you. Deep under all of this murkiness of my anxieties is my unconditional love for you.

Love is my only gift as you go out into the world on your own in the very near future. Love is the only thing that makes sense in this world. Always remember to love yourself, like I love you.

Continue to hold onto your tenderness, your warm heart full of kindness and empathy.  This world you are about to enter is full of predictable surprises. There will be challenges for sure; hardships, heartbreaks and setbacks, but there will also be unbelievable moments of wonders and beauty, sweetness of success and contentment for things small and big.  Sometimes, life plays out exactly as you imagine it. But most of the times, life takes you to a path that you had not known to plan or even imagine the possibility of existence. Those paths may bring you to your knees at times but most of the times, they make you feel like you are the most blessed person in the world.

My advice to you is to live in the present. Set intentions of your day. Be mindful when fear is speaking to you, (recognize it like how you would recognize your mother’s voice), and respond instead of react. (Do the opposite of what I have done.)

Remember, your mother believes in you, your goodness, your intelligence, your determination and your creativity. This world is about to experience a little more magic and wonder because of you.

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save me Friday

save me, I said
to the blank pages
that remain bare.
save me I pleaded
to the passersbys who
glanced and then went
on with their ways.
save me I cried
until my eyes were
dry wells, having allowed
the earth to shunt away
the hidden vein.
save me I tried
but even I knew
there was no one
who does the saving
or being saved.
save me, I saved
the paper with the poem
I wrote at the Universe cafe.
save me, said no one
to me, and I say to none.
save me, I sent
second, third, fourth
arrow to the sky
until they fell.
save me, my cat meows
Her universe contains
of just three people.

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The history of 2017

History remembers the biggest thug
in this place, the loudest voice he spoke with
still ringing in ears where it pierced the drums.
All sounds were muted except his voice
which raised other voices as they echoed
his gesture & amplified his hate. The gate
opened letting the ice to spill out to the streets.
We were the powerless
except we too had our names given & written.
Our mothers verified our existence.
We are the documented! We screamed
even as they pierced our drums.

 

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You’re an Asian

collage_oldphotos

After K.

You’re an Asian
They won’t come for you
Keep your head down
Seal your lips shut
Move your hands and feet
Dig your shovel
to plant your feet
to pluck the later-fruits
to chop it down
for the fire & wood
to keep warm
when winter comes
with Ice.
You’re an Asian
Cut your roots before
seedlings sprout
Lose your
tree that once housed
birds and flowers
of paradise
Speak louder in English
Enunciate!
For Jesus’s sake.
Camouflage at the mall
in red white blue
Let your tongue lose
its hue.
You’re an Asian
Be smart
in math & science
Nod fiercer smile broader
when they mispronounce
your name
and ask you
if your people live in huts
and hunt with spears.
You’re an Asian
Bow deeper
They will not notice
how you turn brown
in the summer
and your Buddha
on your make-shift alter.

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Friday forgiven

When I speak passionately,
that’s when I’m least to be trusted.
– Louis Gluck

Screen Shot 2016-01-21 at 4.10.01 PM

 

Today I need to practice the mantra “Forgiven, forgiven” heard in one of the talks of Tara Brach. Now is the opportunity to  be “let be”.  Feel the tightness, the perpetual squeeze inside my chest, the emptiness, the ache and the longing. I’ve been longing all my life as if a sunflower sprouted in the darkest corner of a cellar, leaning  toward the path of the sun. I am never at ease. Always trying to get somewhere. To work. To home. To “self-improvement.” To love. Now I am learning that this longing is the longing to my true self, my capacity to bloom as a full-fledge flower. This is the yearning for awakeness, my acceptance of who I am, the capacity for freeness one is born with. What this moment presents: I am now given a crack in the thick wall around me to peer outside of my told-stories. I long to belong to me. To feel at home in my own skin. This body I am in. This mind that narrates earnestly with passion but stories are not real. There is no need to stretch and strain to belong. I already belong to me. I already belong to this world, this beautiful connected thread. Forgiven, forgiven. For being given a body that does what a body does, a mind that wanders, a self that focuses on itself, I am forgiven forgiven. Feel compassion for the self’s pain, her fear, her relentless search for a place to call home. I am home. All is forgiven, forgiven. Let this moment be. Let this fear be named as fear. Let whispers be gentle. Speak to the little girl who feels lonely, alone, ugly, unworthy, inadequate, needing a place to let the breath out. I am home. I belong. My future awake self knows. Loves. This moment.  Forgiven, forgiven.

 

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