By Carol Hopkins
There is shimmering between terror and bliss like the leaves of a birch tree before a powerful storm. Is it terror, is it bliss, is it dark or light, heaven or hell? Who wants to know and why does it matter? Shimmering doesn’t need to know to shimmer. Content to shimmer.
written by Carol Hopkins
You are the One who waits for me.
You have waited for eons – before I was never born.
When I cry or feel pain or despair of my lot,
it’s you whispering my name and knowing I’ll hear
when I’m weary of the dream.
How long you have patiently stood by
while I turned my head and looked away into the galaxies of my mind.
The pain that is on me now is turning my head and
I glimpse you out of the corner of my eye.
Dusk is falling on this world so I can’t quite see yet,
but I know in the morning when the Sun rises
you’ll be there as you have always been.
How fortunate and blessed to finally know
unwavering loyalty and true love.
“By the waters of Babylon we lay down and wept as we remembered Zion”
Down the little White Salmon, a body of fog exactly wide
as the river is floating.
Crows on both sides cawing to each other
choking and gargling the language of crows.
In my right hand a little wind circumambulates five swollen hillocks of knuckle bone
where fires have been built.
That’s how I feel it.
That’s how I know the sky has come down to the riverbed
where white egrets are murmuring,
and their murmuring is a twin to the sound of currents.
I am only a white man walking by a green river in a modest fog.
If there is meaning here, I leave it to debating crows
but my left hand, the color of wonder bread, is open
offering a flow of air across the palm and back to sky.
The One without a name who takes the shape of water and of air
is also present in fire.
The name of Jesus is still powerful, even after 2000 years of depletion by religion and politics. Those who find themselves in the deepest possible need can shelter there and find themselves held in his arms. When we feel we can’t be any more alone, God may come to us as that Aloneness which answers to the name of Jesus.
I have worked twenty years in a paint store, gotten old there, by the measurement of the young. Once I found a sparrow dead behind stacked gallons of white semi-gloss. The little thing was dried up, its beak open wide, begging for water or air. When I found it I got angry with God. I looked at that sparrow and imagined it crying out to be saved but its voice was not heard. It died alone behind a rack of paint. Part of my anger was because I had tried and failed to save the bird myself. Found it flying around the store, door left open by a careless customer but I couldn’t catch it without breaking a wing so finally gave up and let it find its own way.
But then I recalled how so many facing death, unable to do more for themselves, just surrender. I saw that with our last cat. He was ready to go. Came in one night in October, said his good-byes, walked into the woods and didn’t come back. Then there was our little squirrel, rescued as a baby and raised back to life. A few times I saw him playing with the dog. He literally climbed into the dog’s mouth and relaxed there, lying down completely across his jaws! You don’t believe that but it’s true. At that moment I believed he was practicing for his death in the jaws of some cat or coyote. Maybe that sparrow also found himself in the arms of Jesus Christ.
I feel that name always as a blow to my heart and when I saw it in your article, I was reminded. You did good work, my friend, when you brought that name to life for those with eyes to read.
“I hear the surface of the river say, Go deeper.”
Before the stubble is knocked down, gathered
into piles for burning
I walk alone through dry rattling corn to make a hollow
in the center of the field.
When I believe I can’t be seen by passing farmers
I pull stalks up by the root
and lay them down in a circle as spokes of a wheel.
Then I dance inside this circle I have made
moving the way the moon moves around our earth.
In the next field they are already burning.
North, South, East and West, flames
in all directions, the cries of hawks flying into
and out of smoke.
It does not take long to make an opening in the earth
to go down into her
and because I am a man who loves the sound of his own voice,
Every moment I am alive, I am enamored with my self.
I go down into the earth and I come out teeming with prayer.
The body is a boat of leaves
always leaving this world behind
where blind men fight with shadows,
the left hand feeling in the dark
for the right.
Come from behind this wall of words
surprised to find the wall still standing
and slip into the Wind.
The body is a boat of leaves
but we are taken by our chosen river
as oak trees uprooted in a flood
stripped bare of private love and memory.
Compose your mind as you are able and be ready
to abandon face and finger prints. Leave them behind for crows
and river gulls.
These are only thoughts as I paddle under the Wind River bridge
and the blowing railroad trestle into the Columbia.
Eagle Creek Fire 2017 near Cascade Locks, Oregon. Photo by Carol Hopkins
“This is the village of the dead.”
All around us people are setting themselves on fire.
Some for what they think is love
but is nothing but meat fried in yesterday’s lard.
Some for money or to hear their own names carried up in a wind,
as an offering to the God who has no
Every human being is naked.
We see ourselves in mirrors and we always look away.
Only when shame stands up inside us erect as fire
do we know we are burning,
do we see the sky is on fire and every breath of air we take
Compassion sometimes means,
“Let them burn.”