Tag Archives: poetry

Promises to Keep

Carol A. Hand

Sometimes I wish there was someone to rock me to sleep
To lighten my burdens and give me time to weep
Some days the cruelty seems too heavy to bear
The powerful keep causing suffering and don’t seem to care.

Hubris and profligacy rule in these days
Tragically it’s the earth and the majority that pays
Let me breathe in love, let my courage run deep
Let me love life fiercely, I have promises to keep.

26487_1293977746691_1147731241_30741017_6277852_n

Photo: Aadi, Ahma (Me), Ava, Jnana – Duluth 2009

Postscript:

I wanted to give credit for the eclectic sources of inspiration woven into this work:

Rock me to sleep” was inspired by a song that I remembered from years ago, “Rockin’ myself to sleep.” It was written by Stuart Stotts and recorded by Laurie Ellen Neustadt (1987), Harvestime songs of aging. Madison, WI: Laurie Ellen Neustadt & Bi-Folkal Productions, Inc. (Link for more information)

Hubris and profligacy” were the words Andrew Bacevich (2008) used to describe the current policies and actions of the U.S. government in his book “The limits of power: The end of American exceptionalism.” (Link for more information)

But I have promises to keep” are words Robert Frost used in his poem “Stopping by the woods on a snowy evening.” (Link for more information)

Copyright Notice: © Carol A. Hand and carolahand, 2013-2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Carol A. Hand and carolahand with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

La Joie de la Vie

Carol A. Hand

Funny what people will do
When they care deeply about others.
I finally gave my car a name
Even though it’s nine year’s old
Inspired by the song my granddaughter sang
As we washed it together yesterday
In the intermittent rain.

DSC00827

Photo: Ava in front of the Sunshine Café – July 24, 2015

After Mickey Mouse pancakes
With a chocolate chip smile
At the Sunshine Café
Where we stopped for a while.
An assortment of people
Caught my attention as we
Drew pictures and ate our lunch
Some because of their silent kindness
Others because of their need to be seen.

pancakes

Photo: Sunshine Café – July 24, 2015

When we left the Café to go home
It was 90 degrees in the blazing sun
But in the few minutes to took us to arrive
The clouds had come and I wondered aloud,
What can we do that’s fun in the rain?
Do you think we should wash the car?
Oh yes, oh yes!,” you said.
So I grabbed a bucket and two new sponges,
Yours orange and mine purple.

Does your car have a name?
I thought quickly of one of your favorite toys – Pink Pony!
And I remembered an Ojibwe friend from long ago
Who teased me about riding to the rescue in my White Pony
When I drove another white car
Through the forests, past lakes and farmlands
To tribal communities and the State Capital
In our work on tribal social justice issues.

So my car was given its predecessor’s name – White Pony.
But this White Pony mostly stays in the driveway now
Even though it once climbed mountain passes
As it brought me, in a round-about way, to my new home.

DSC00840

Photo: Ava hard at work – July 24, 2015

Dear Ava, although I didn’t tell you how the car got this name
I listened to the song you sang.
Oh poor White Pony, I know you’re very sad
Because the other ponies tease you about being so dirty
But you are loved – that’s why we’re washing you.
Now the bullies will leave you alone.”
I didn’t ask where this song came from – but now
I know I need to continue to watch and listen
Even more carefully to make sure you’re safe.

Although I appreciate the memories of days long ago
I’m much more grateful for the chance to be here with you
To hear your songs, dear Ava, and to watch you grow.
I hope you always remember that you are loved, too.

DSC00838

Photo: Ava – ready for the rain – July 24, 2015

In the end, it’s not the things we have that matter.
It’s the time we have together – working, singing, laughing, loving
And enjoying life – whether it’s hot and sunny or even in the intermittent rain …

Copyright Notice: © Carol A. Hand and carolahand, 2013-2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Carol A. Hand and carolahand with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

The Scent of Sweetgrass

Carol A. Hand

Suddenly, I awake when I’m in your presence –
The scent of sweetgrass
My attention is sharpened and focused,
I feel peace and hope and joy surge in my heart.

You appear at the strangest of times.

sweetgrass

Photo: Sweetgrass. ( Source – Four Sacred Medicines …, Kade M. Ferris )

I’m not sure what I am doing just before
Your delicate essence drifts by,
A gentle wake-up call to become aware
Of the beauty of life that surrounds me.

Even in a world where people are suffering
And fighting pointless endless wars
For things that will never bring them happiness or peace.
Your presence gives me hope that peace is possible.

Chi miigwetch for reminding me of what really matters,
For reminding me to breathe deeply
To be present, to love and to celebrate simply being
During the fleeting moment of this life.

 Copyright Notice: © Carol A. Hand and carolahand, 2013-2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Carol A. Hand and carolahand with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

One with the Storm

Carol A. Hand

Suddenly the sky fills with dark clouds,
Lightning flashes and thunder rumbles,
Echoing from the hill to the west, intensifying its power.
Heavy rain begins to fall, buffeted by the wind.

I offer tobacco with a prayer,
Please spare us all from harm.”

Suddenly I am one with the storm raging overhead
I can feel its energy coursing through my body
My heart is aglow and I feel the warmth
Of healing energy flowing from my hands.
I send out love to all those who are suffering,
And to those who cause others to suffer.
May we learn to live in peace with each other
And in balance with the earth we all share.”

The storm quickly passes,
The sky clears and the wind calms,
Leaving only rain-soaked gardens in its wake.
I offer tobacco again, “Chi miigwetch.”

I wonder, “Is this the key for surviving other storms?”

garden june 29 2015

Photo: June 29, 2015

*

Reflections about Symbolic Actions

Carol A. Hand

Thoughts racing all over the place –
Happy for some but worried
That seeming humane advances
For some groups while other groups suffer
Without an end in sight
Is only a calculated way to create divisions
Among those on the margins.

mole lake flag

Photo Credit: Sokaogon Band of Lake Superior Chippewa – Mole Lake Band Flag

We speak of flags as symbols
Yes, we are a nation still at war.
To me, that is democracy
Where the thinnest majority may sometimes
Have a modest say
But only in the best of times.
These are not the best of times.

Polarized views are seldom addressed or reconciled
And left to fester until another
Winner-take-all contest.
There have always been overseers of the rabble
To serve as buffers for the gated elite.
What will it take for us to realize
That we all need to stand together as one?

543061_3230615677519_1030432801_32416790_1161756695_n

Photo Credit: Brotherhood of the Spirit – Warwick, MA – 1973

*

When I Think of Love …

Carol A. Hand

When I read poetry that speaks of soul-deep love
I wonder if there’s something wrong with me.
When I think back, it’s not romantic love that touches me most deeply.
It’s a mother’s love for a daughter.

Jnana & me

Photo: Minnesota State Park – Fall 2011

We have lived through many challenging times
in more states than I can remember,
ridden horses together on Haleakala
and traveled by ferry to Madeline Island,
one of the ancestral homes of the Anishinaabeg
where we saw a magical epeaturstrich.

horse 4

Photo: Haleakala, Maui – Fall 1998

When I think of enduring love, dear daughter,
I think of you and the words of an old song.

215603_200818563289593_100000843525245_502492_8215608_n

Photo: Turners Falls, Massachusetts – Summer 1974

Of all the people and places I remember fondly,
In my life – I love you more.”

(for my beloved daughter, Jnana)

Video Credit: Emi Fujita, singing the Beatles song “In my life

Copyright Notice: © Carol A. Hand and carolahand, 2013-2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Carol A. Hand and carolahand with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Patience

Carol A. Hand

Patience –
it’s not my strongest attribute –
but I do try as I anxiously wait for spring to really arrive.
Sometimes, I feel the need to take risks because winter often comes so early.
I plant things before June.
For two mornings in a row this week, I looked over my gardens,
grateful that my neighborhood was spared a killing frost.
I hope other neighborhoods were spared as well.

It’s the first spring in the four I’ve experienced here
that the columbines might flower before being eaten by deer,
the first spring that the tender little plants might be able to grow tall enough to survive torrential, pounding rain.

DSC00744

Photo: Looking southeast as the sun sets – June 1, 2015

As I watched the gently moving shadows created by the sunlight
filtered through the newly emerging leaves this morning,
I wondered how many people in the world today
were able to awaken to a peaceful sanctuary.

This morning and every morning to come,
let me remember to envision peace for all
no matter where I am.

bleeding hearts

Photo: Bleeding Hearts – one of the first flowers to bloom despite very cold nights – May 22, 2015

Copyright Notice: © Carol A. Hand and carolahand, 2013-2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Carol A. Hand and carolahand with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Breathe Deeply

Carol A. Hand

Breathe deeply. Take a moment for silence to remember why you’re here
In this place, at this time – it will help still your fear.
You’re here for a reason – don’t forget it’s really your choice
To take responsibility for those who suffer and don’t have a voice.

It’s not because those who suffer don’t matter – don’t have important things to say
It’s more likely they don’t feel they’ll be respected so it’s best to stay away.
Let me try again to build a bridge with those in power despite shyness or fear
So they too will breathe deeply and take a moment to remember why we’re all here.

(This was inspired by the second visit I will be making today for the Neighborhood Project I wrote about in The Street Where I Live.)

duluth bridge

Photo – Aerial Lift Bridge, Duluth, MN (Source)

Copyright Notice: © Carol A. Hand and carolahand, 2013-2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Carol A. Hand and carolahand with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

A Zoo of a Day

Carol A. Hand

DSC00423

Photo: Lake Superior Zoo – August 25, 2014

After breakfast and bus rides we went to the zoo
to visit the animals on a windy spring day
We talked of other visits and discovered something new
clutching your red teddy bear as you led the way

Other children ran and yelled, tapping glass and poking cages
as we spoke quietly and read each plaque
I’m grateful you respect animals – perhaps it’s because of different ages
You are kinder and gentler and always want to come back

We visited the graveyard of the animals killed two years ago
When the zoo was under water and the seals swam away
to see if the polar bear’s back – you so wanted to know
but her area was still empty when we visited today

I know that being around animals is something you see as fun
Please forgive me – I really don’t mean to spoil it,
but seeing animals in cages where they’re unable to run
alone, living on concrete, doesn’t please me one bit

DSC00425

Photo: Lake Superior Zoo – August 25, 2014

We spent time talking when we went to the zoo
and visited with the snapping turtle in a cage bounded by glass
alone in a basement corner, in a world of concrete with nothing to do
Still the turtle was fed and housed but how slowly its day must pass

without any plants to hide in, without another living creature
so we stayed for a while, and it seemed to understand
that you wanted it to know that it was now the zoo’s star feature
When we left, we decided to learn more about it and help it if we can

You asked to watch a movie before you went to bed
about a baby sloth that was taken from its home
to sell as a pet – she was rescued and healed, housed and fed
and released when she was ready to live on her own.

As you were sleeping peacefully in your new bed
the neighbors built a fire and like the children at the zoo
didn’t stop to think of others – only pleasure in their head
they watched as flames leapt skyway, burning embers too.

With red flag warnings in effect- fire danger was quite clear
yet they added more wood and watched the blaze
only feet from where you lay – my beloved Ava dear
the fire department came – an urgent warning about the zoo of our days.

ava at the zoo 2014

Photo: Ava – Lake Superior Zoo August 25, 2014

It makes me worry about the future that we all face
when momentary amusement is a more important thing
when kindness toward animals and people takes second place
I sincerely hope enough of us will soon be awakening.

***

Reflections about Being Honest and Fair

Carol A. Hand

Working on my mother’s story sometimes dredges up memories that I would prefer to forget. I don’t often speak of my father, but he’s an important part of her story. They were together for 51 years.

Wedding Photo

Photo: My Mother and Father’s Wedding – December 1943

I really know very little about him because I always tried to avoid him as much as possible – to steel my heart and shield my body from his emotional and physical abuse. I decided to see what I would find if I googled his name – an odd one – and much to my surprise I discovered personal details about him and his family here, including social security numbers! Looking through the documents my mother saved has stirred up a lot of memories and ambivalent, unresolved feelings. The following poem is an attempt to remember and make sense of past events. A warning – it’s not a light-hearted read.

Father

I rarely write about my father – It’s not a topic that’s appealing
It’s fraught with memories of abuse and the nauseated feeling
At every meal when he was present and every time when he was around
Never knowing what would trigger his yelling or being thrown to the ground.

Although I understood him – the deep insecurity caused by his class and size
His bullying and aggression didn’t earn respect in other people’s eyes.
One moment he was charming, the next holding an unraveled belt or later, a gun
For some imagined slight in a war that must be fought – a war that must be won.

It was twenty-one years ago when he died all alone
On a veterans’ psych ward that became his final home
It was my document that placed him there – a promise I made long ago
If you raise your hand and strike again, you’ll be on a psych ward quicker than you know.”

I didn’t do it out of anger – I forgave you so may years ago
But you forced me to stand up to bullies – to learn how to deal with pain
To speak truth to power and protect those who didn’t know
That they deserved more than to be hurt again and again.

I always wished there were a treatment to help you quell your inner agony,
It was your right to refuse, you had a right to make a choice – but others paid the fee,
Perhaps your fear was too great or your delusions of grandeur too overblown
I hope your suffering has ended, that you finally found peace, even though you died alone.

bird-feather-13486506267nW

Photo Credit: Public Domain Pictures

Writing accounts of other people’s lives is not an easy task for me. I feel the need to be honest and to look for everybody’s strengths at the same time. Yet I wonder what to do if, in balance, it would be dishonest to gloss over the deep legacy of harm others have done, just as it would be for me to stand by as a silent witness to abuse. The fear and abuse my mother lived through in her personal life was much like the historical trauma her ancestors experienced. Imagine feeling helpless as you stand by as a witness while your little children offer themselves up to take your beatings? How does one write about this in a way that will be read and, more importantly, be understood? How does one see the humanity and pain of those who are abusive and represent them with compassion, regardless of their past and present actions, but still hold them accountable for the harm they’ve done? How does one make clear connections to the violence embedded in the decisions politicians, corporate decision makers, and bankers make every day, the same kinds of decisions that killed millions of my indigenous ancestors and will kill millions today? Are they just really insecure people like my father who have more power to do far greater harm?

Today, I hesitated to publish this. I don’t have answers to these questions, but they are crucial and central to the work I have begun… As always, I welcome your thoughts.

Copyright Notice: © Carol A. Hand and carolahand, 2013-2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Carol A. Hand and carolahand with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.