I used to race the crop duster
in golden fields
on dirt roads.
Almost won on two occasions
when his engine sputtered
and stopped midair
the plane suddenly adrift
serene like a silent glider.
Not even the evacuation
of dirty oil made noise
only my footfalls
as I took cover
under the Cottonwoods
evading the downpour by inches
my white summer dress spared.
In general, it seemed good exercise
a brief respite from my
rigorous summer schedule of
syrupy lemonade and
crunchy green beans snatched
from the untamed roadside vines.
My best friend and I napped in our tent
a sheet knotted to the strongest branch
of our favorite Weeping Willow tree.
Unsecured corners fluttered in a breeze
scented by fresh watered garden
We dreamed of becoming elementary school teachers
enjoyed the feel of papers in our hands
passing them out to pretend children
with whom we would get stern
only so we could show mercy later on.
When the lazy din of the
cranky biplane woke me up
I’d part the eaves of the tent
and jump out excitedly
full velocity as if
were at hand and I would be
the honored first to see.
No one ever told me to run in the
opposite direction of the plane.
Never warned me not to inhale.
No one knew better then (our excuse).
Looking back, I should have
in Pam Miller’s bulkhead
and played Old Maid until the dust settled.
Instead I danced in the July snow
raced full throttle in Paradise Acres
Gleefully I chased with mouth agape
the slow-falling candy prisms.
Early on the pilot would laugh at me.
Flash his gay low-flying smile
speed up and slow down
according to the ambition of my gallop.
A real race I fancied.
I could see the pattern of his teeth
and the way he parted his hair.
He flew that low.
He was my friend.
At least it seemed
until the wind changed.
Five summers into our playful duel
I could no longer muster
enough air to run even
half the length of cornfield.
As I grew older and slower
he showed less and less affection for the race
as if he had grown tired of me.
(Though he too was getting older.)
He would pass me no problem
as my feet jogged clumsily along
my heart feeling as if it would erupt
lungs burning with every sip of crystalline air.
I was no longer a challenge
for the man simply doing his job.
His exuberant countenance gave way to
the occasional rigid salute
given just before he would pull up
through his poison vapor trail.
By the time I turned eleven
he had forgotten me altogether.
Never acknowledged me.
Flying low overhead
he would simply open his shutters
let scatter the ashes
into the pregnant thundercloud
leaving me behind
to pant and heave
bent over my knees
until the rattle settled
and the burning went away.
SUN THROUGH THE GRAPE LEAVES
A Meditation on Taking it Easy
life lately has left me
my affection for being
I have to drop things now
my noble commitments
to people, projects, mind
a self-release from life
I must open up time
with intentionality seek
serenity with a fierceness
that sets me on fire towards
cinders of grace wrenching
time open for nothingness
time to categorize the clouds
to notice the sun framed
by grape leaves twining
blossoming fruit dangling
space for the Buddha within to arise
to evaporate my stress hormones
integrate them into the world
into God who has the capacity
to transmute them and me
I must pursue time and space
with focused vigor
to calm my body down
from the race it has been running
from the trauma it has been holding
the involuntary high of crisis
because life lately has left me bone-dry exhausted
with just enough energy
to manically anticipate the end
when sleeping goes on forever
and I am a free-floating whisper
whose only responsibility
is to look straight into the sun
through shaking leaves
and discern the promise of sweet