Hold It All

Month: March, 2017

The Good News of a Play, 3.31.2017

Playwright, clown, musician, and mensch Colin McLaughlin has invited friends over this evening to do a collective reading of his new play, Jailbird, about Eugene Debs. Colin asked me to read Debs’ famous statement to the judge at his trial for sedition, which includes the following: “Your Honor, years ago I recognized my kinship with all living beings, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on earth. I said then, and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it, and while there is a criminal element I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free.”  May Colin’s retrieval of Debs eventually spread light and spark determination all over the U.S. and beyond.

The Good News of Jean Abbott’s Accompaniment, 3.30.2017

Jean Abbott* is like Kwan Yin, a bodhisattva who hears the cries of the world and through such listening knows what to do, or knows sometimes that there’s nothing to do except the being present and sharing accompaniment. She listened to me in those months of Mev death pang. She’s listened to hundreds of Bosnian, Somali, Guatemalan, Afghan, and Ugandan women. She’d lean forward in her chair as she’s listening and extend her hand to someone who doesn’t believe there’s a way out of hell. She’s given ten thousand hours of her life to this person, then that person, then another person. Andrew Wimmer said he’d go crazy doing for three hours in a single week what she’s been doing since the mid-1980s. She’s assisted people in recovering their some of their humanity after experiencing devastating violence, but she’d say to me, “Marko, it was the Bosnian woman who helped me to stop being a zombie, she gave life to me…”

*Jean founded the Center for Survivors of Torture and War Trauma.

The Good News of Monthly Mutuality, 3.29.2017

Since this past September, Cami Kasmerchak and I have been visiting monthly, taking turns to come up with an agenda to explore topics and themes of mutual interest, such as photography, politics, poetry, traveling, teachers, and, through it all, creativity.

The Young Who Teach Us

Jim Zwerg left Madison Wisconsin
To be part of an intensive seminar
In American satyagraha
In Southern viciousness
In the ways power twists the human soul
In the ways the human soul resists power
He was one of the Freedom Riders

One of his fellow riders said
When Zwerg came off the bus at the terminal in Birmingham
The mob that had gathered acted as if it was possessed
“They couldn’t believe there would be a white man who would try to help us”
From a hospital bed
Zwerg said with matter of fact calm
“Segregation must be stopped
It must be broken down
Those of us on the Freedom Ride will continue…
We’re dedicated to this
We’ll take hitting
We’ll take beating
We’re willing to accept death”

Read the rest of this entry »

Universal Gatha

Breathing in, I recognize my flawed humanity
Breathing out, I smile

–shared with me by Ale V.

Nothing Special

I don’t aspire to the New York Times op-ed page
Or The New Yorker
I’d be pleased if Eileen Mosher “likes”
One of the free verse mind flows I write to and for her

My CV is one of the least impressive you’ll read
When it comes to professors who’ve been at it for 15 plus years like me
But I’ve had a fun time doing what it is I do
(People ask quizzically, “What do you do?”) Read the rest of this entry »

When We Are Artists

“When the artist is alive in any person, whatever her kind of work may be, she becomes an inventive, searching, daring, self-expressive creature.  She becomes interesting to other people. She disturbs, upsets, enlightens, and opens ways for a better understanding. Where those who are not artists are trying to close the book, she opens it and shows there are still more pages possible.”

–Robert Henri, The Art Spirit

Note to Cami on Reznikoff

I read Reznikoff in summer of 2010
As much as I could find

Used, at Amazon
By him, about him

I like his spare style
That was the year

I was generating a piece a day
For my project that later

Became Dear Layla
So he influenced me

Toward that spareness
Most chapters very short

To the point
Like the one on p. 123

Reading influences writing!



The Good News of Remembering the Big Picture, 3.26.2017

I randomly pull books off of my shelves and turn to a page to see what’s there. Today I found the following in Dorothee Soelle’s Against the Wind: Memoir of a Radical Christian (she was a German theologian, feminist, and peace activist):

Once, when I was particularly depressed, a friend and pacifist from Holland told me something very beautiful: “The people who worked to build the cathedrals in the Middle Ages never saw them completed. It took two hundred years and more to build them. Some stone-cutter somewhere sculpted a beautiful rose; it was his life’s work, and it was all he ever saw. But he never entered into the completed cathedral. But one day, the cathedral was really there. You must imagine peace the same way.” Those words helped me a lot. It was good to know: I was participating in building a cathedral, and I knew that someday it would be completed, just as slavery was abolished, so war will also be abolished, though beyond my lifetime.

The Good News of a Sangha, 3.25.2017

Five years ago today, Jenn Reyes Lay and I started a  St. Louis sangha in the lineage of Thich Nhat Hanh.   Annie Fitzgerald offered Sophia House  on Gibson Avenue for our first gathering. Many wonderful people have shared the fruits of their practice with us during these 60 months: sitting, walking, singing, reciting the precepts, slowing down, studying the Heart and Diamond Sutras,  offering retreats  in the country, and facilitating mindful dinners.

As poet Diane di Prima wrote in her poem Life Chant, May it continue!