the thread

First, a comment about process. I don’t know where these poems come from. What a mystery! I stare at the screen and wait. Usually it’s the middle of the night. If I wait long enough, feel deeply enough, something generally happens. Pondering what I’ve just written, I fiddle. A lot. I refine words, try different line breaks, should it have stanzas? Must I turn it upside down? It’s not lonely work, but it is work alone. Eventually, my body says, “Stop.”

Some poems are a wrestling match, and I return again and again for days. Weeks. Longer. Others show up and I’m satisfied with the form. It says what I intended. Some are strange, and I think, “What is this?”

If you’re a poet, what’s your process? Please share in the comments. I’m curious to know.

the thread

note to self

you were young when
you noticed the end
curious, you picked it up
fine—gossamer, even
tugging might snap it, so you
followed the garnet silk instead—
over under around and through
—then you dropped it

in the myth of
Ariadne and Theseus,
he found his way through
the labyrinth home—
an arduous journey, by
following a slender red thread

diligent, moving with care
you sought the thread’s
end that you’d lost—
a few years passed
finally, there it was!
in lush, native terrain
you picked it up again, faithful
to the path it announced—you too
remembered your way home

fault lines

fault lines
note to self

brush by delicate brush
a painstaking excavator
I uncover the skeleton
of what he did—I was
only four years old
that’s faraway past
yet it carved fault lines
in who I might become
cautious instead of creative

every touch leaves signs—
elephants snap limbs
monks arouse hearts
with their clarity
soldiers blast cities to rubble
ants stumble while hefting
a giant crumb—each
singular action shifts
the bones of our world

pick petals from the daisy
it matters, it doesn’t matter
it matters, it doesn’t
both are holy true—
meet the long ago
metabolize and mend
admire fault lines everywhere
trace with care and gold

2022 ©Amrita Skye Blaine
I’m writing a poem a day. These are drafts—they may never turn into anything more or they might flower.

sanctuary

sanctuary

note to self

this is where
I go to get quiet—
my inner sanctuary
sink deep and listen
if I am still, I can find
the cathedral of words
part statement of intent
part supplication
part prayer
words pouring
from the wordless
to write myself awake

there’s nothing to do
yet still I’m compelled
to convey what cannot
be written or spoken or
painted or sung or
sculpted although
it can be revealed
the ineffable—
transparent
luminous
empty
open

*thank you to Ayaz Angus Landman for the phrase “cathedral of words”

2022 ©Amrita Skye Blaine
I’m writing a poem a day. These are drafts—they may never turn into anything more or they might flower.

pilgrim

pilgrim

note to self

since eleven,
a pilgrim, a wayfarer
but not out here
on the inner, instead
what is this?
what am I?
what knows before
anything came to be?

prior,
prior to this outrageous
cosmos—and the birthing,
dying, exploding, expanding
delicious, rollicking mess
of a world, stardust everywhere—
prior to thought, what is that?
what sees through these
eyes? those?

it’s lush in here
the big field of knowing
the password is surrender
however, beware—
beliefs fall away
consciousness shines
a relentless taskmistress
it asks for everything

2022 ©Amrita Skye Blaine
I’m writing a poem a day. These are drafts—they may never turn into anything more or they might flower.

all you can do

all you can do

note to self

nothing’s “under control”
you may think it is, but
it’s a wild mess, wholly
pandemonium,
all happening, happening
redolent and rampant
spilling out in endless
variety—us included—
and brought into play

so relax.

there’s no stopping it
squalling newborn
assault rifles for sale
your first, tentative kiss
tender lips caress yours
friend’s death diagnosis,
and then your own,
sunrise aflame—apricot on cobalt,
sour milk and moldy tortillas,
puppy snoring in your lap
all of it, erupting at once

relax.

forget the mind
the craving to name,
to nail down something,
anything, and
give it meaning.
troublesome thoughts—
oh, suffering ensues,
that’s guaranteed.
meet it, whatever it is,
not slantwise, straight on

and relax

2022 ©Amrita Skye Blaine
I’m writing a poem a day. These are drafts—they may never turn into anything more or they might flower.

predicament of being alive

predicament of being alive

note to self

it isn’t easy on planet earth.
losses carve our hearts
staggering low-back pain
your family business fails
a parent’s sudden demise
empty craters of loss

a monarch flickers by
the mockingbird’s serenade
a dog’s cold nose in greeting
jasmine scents the air
chocolate melts on your tongue
the scent of a baby’s neck
enough joy to keep us here. just.

the predicament is this:
how to welcome paradox:
are you vast enough?
open? willing?
can your heart spread wide?
that is what is asked for
the courage to breathe it all

thank you to Margaret Rooney for the title phrase

2022 ©Amrita Skye Blaine
I’m writing a poem a day. These are drafts—they may never turn into anything more or they might flower.

a Pantoum on grief

The Pantoum is a poetry form originating in 15th century Malaysia.
It uses a pattern of repetition; the second and fourth lines serve as
the first and third lines of the stanza that follows.

grief

a pantoum in practice
(with thanks to Emily Dickinson for “dwindled dawn”)

every grief is a true grief
a different flavor of love
if we do not love
we cannot grieve

a different flavor of love
without heart opening
we cannot grieve
what if we welcome it?

without heart opening
life is a dwindled dawn
what if we welcome it?
sorrow and joy, one song

life is a dwindled dawn
strangled without love
sorrow and joy, one song
we’re asked to hold them both

we cannot grieve
if we do not love

2022 ©Amrita Skye Blaine
I’m writing a poem a day. These are drafts—they may never turn into anything more or they might flower.

ravished

ravished

okay, it’s true
I’m ravished by poems.
lines brush me awake at
twelve, one, two
if I resist getting up, they’ve
vanished by dawn.
gone. I’m left bereft

words stalk, draw me
from bed—most every
night now—a phrase
threads through me
like tendrils of dreams,
shakes me and won’t let go
until they find their home

here on the page.
I’ve given up
no more withholding.
words, have your way
confide to my heart
pry me open
play me, your flute

2022 ©Amrita Skye Blaine
I’m writing a poem a day. These are drafts—they may never turn into anything more or they might flower.

off my wrist they sailed

off my wrist they sailed

note to self 1993

olive wood, worn pecan and
buttery from my touch—
fingering love, gratitude, peace,
and prayers upon prayers upon prayers

ninety-nine beads, each an aroma
of the beloved, plus two carved ones
that divide each thirty-three
a gift from my Sufi teacher—
bestowed from his murshid to him
the indelible chain of hearts

three wraps around my wrist,
always there. for thirty years,
I’d passed the tasbih beads
through thumb and forefinger
marking a sacred word or phrase

precious, old friends.

on a ten-day island retreat
I found a cockle 500 feet
above the sea—a shell, up here?
Did the land upheave
three-hundred-million years ago?

my intention: throw it back
from whence it came,
return it home to the Maui gods.
I made the cast and the shell took flight

as though in pursuit,
my treasured beads sailed off my wrist
aghast, I watched them fly
a long, asymmetrical
arc toward the woods

a chilla, a test, so very clear.
suspended, frozen,
my heart lurched at the loss
they’re well and truly gone

let them go!

did I pinpoint their likely
grave in forest duff, spongy
and deep? oh, I searched!
frantic, desperate, digging, pawing
they must be there.
why had I not replaced aging string?

never found.

cross-legged on my bed,
sick at heart that I hadn’t
released my claim on them
I pondered the test I’d failed—
how will it come again?

2022 ©Amrita Skye Blaine
I’m writing a poem a day. These are drafts—they may never turn into anything more or they might flower.

koan

koan

note to self
“This that we speak of can never be found by seeking, yet only seekers find it.”—Al Bastami, born 804 CE

it haunted
lived inside my chest—
for two years I
leaned into it
reckoned with
the felt meaning
I knew it spoke truth
but couldn’t tell you why
a patient excavation,
I breathed it
pondered,
but not with thought
lobbed it into
the big field
light splintered
the kernel inside
it opened
tight bud to flower
released its perfume,
the aching aroma of love

2022 ©Amrita Skye Blaine
I’m writing a poem a day. These are drafts—they may never turn into anything more or they might flower.