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Persistent

Persistent

Jean Sheldon

Shakespir Edition

 

Copyright 2015 Jean Sheldon

 

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Safe journey my friend

Mary Harding

(1943–2014)

Persistent

On countless occasions

during our friendship

I drew comfort and support

from a remarkable gift,

your compassionate ear.

Whether across the table

at a coffee shop,

or on the silent end of

a late night call,

you listened.

It was not your style

to give advice.

Instead, you offered

calm eyes,

soft nods,

and soothing sounds

should words intrude.

In one memorable exchange

you called me persistent.

Applied to the hesitant steps

and poorly marked paths

of my life,

the word surprised

and amused me.

But you had found,

as you often did,

a gentle way to call me on

my exuberant leanings.

Now, while you explore

vaster fields than this

earthly plane can hold,

I persist.

Safe journey my friend.

We will meet again.

Even the most persistent souls

let go when it’s time to soar.

Electrical Storm

Clouds expand, scarcely aware

of the snow-covered peak

waiting to interrupt their flow.

But it would take an

entire range of mountains

to disrupt the mass of

crystals that move

across the sky.

I envy their journey,

sweeping past busy cities and

abandoned towns,

rolling over raging rivers and

sleepy streams,

floating above humanity,

unfettered and untamed.

I envy their journey,

and their ability to dissolve

as quickly as they form.

Mostly I envy those

fierce shows of emotion

that ignite the sky

on a hot summer night.

Crow Remembered

What is this solely

human need I have

to leave a mark,

to remind others

that I was here?

Will the day come

when I awaken

with no poems

to write,

no stories to tell?

Distracted by movement

outside the window

I see the black shape

of a crow watching me.

Has she heard

my thoughts?

Does she have

an answer?

Maybe, but she

doesn’t stay for

conversation.

Instead, she lifts

her wings and

feathers spread,

vibrating the air

in a resplendent

hallelujah.

My busy mind settles,

humbled by the ease

with which she

leaves her mark.

Perfect Harmony

When unyielding night

cloaks you in doubt

and indifference,

cradle the hope of dawn.

It will come, and

when it does, let

the slow morning,

alive with promise,

comfort you.

And when the rush of

thoughts arrive, obsessed

with faults and failings,

make space,

but pay no mind.

What is peace if not

recognition of every voice,

whether discordant

or in perfect harmony?

Steady as She Goes

You were surprised

to lose your balance,

unsure if it was

the wind or a

societal shift that

pushed you off your

usually steady feet.

Remember,

you are human

and life

is change.

Loosen your grip.

Let the burdens

hold you steady

rather than

weigh you down.

You’ll be amazed at

how like a feather

each perceived

problem becomes.

Then, whether the storm

is natural or manmade,

the choice will be yours

to hold tight

or fly.

Recipe for Success

An ounce of wisdom,

a touch of courage,

and the belief that

your savory offering

will nourish

a hungry heart.

Dialogue in a Church

A hinge creaks as I pull open the door.

I had meant my entrance to go unnoticed,

to carry out my research without the opinions

or advice of those with unquestioning faith,

to ask God directly about life and death,

and how to achieve them

in the proper order.

Embarrassed by my drab unholy attitudes,

I move to a dark corner, an empty pew,

where I kneel and rub my hands for warmth

and what might be seen as a prayerful pose.

“I seek answers,” I tell God in a silent appeal.

“Don’t we all?” (My thought, not God’s.)

I question whether I am ready for this discussion

with a Holy Being, but remembering the

press of fear on my chest when squeezed into

a small space, unable to turn, barely believing

in a way out, I push on.

“Life,” I suggest to the Creator of All Things,

“is not meant to be one long unhealed wound.”

The church empties, candles flicker,

decades pass with no response.

One day I recognize my efforts to keep the

wound open. Slowly healing begins.

I had wanted instant answers from a god

of my creation,

to place blame, to define enemies, to assign

responsibility for every stumble, every fall.

With the unfailing support of others,

the salve of music, words, and art,

I discovered that life is not a wound, or a

collection of past and future struggles.

It is this breath, this kiss, this smile,

this song, this purr, this sigh. It is all that

we are, were, and will be, in this moment,

and each day we grow more conscious

of that truth.

On the Surface

Engaged in a conversation

that required exactly

the right word, I scoured

the beach for something

smooth and flat, an object

whose diameter allowed

my index finger to wrap

it securely, kept in place

with the tip of my thumb.

I released the treasure

side-armed into our

shimmering dialogue

and held my breath.

If calculations were correct,

the word would skip,

touching the surface

without breaking tension,

its reach measured

by ripples unfolding

at each gentle glance.

If the word were wrong,

or my delivery faulty,

it would hit the surface

with a hollow sound

and sink to the bottom,

dull and unheard.

I watch as circles expand,

and in a world of carefully

measured conversations,

savor the triumph of

my buoyant reply.

What We Expected

The spaceship Galileo

found Jupiter different

than we expected.

What did we expect?

What did we find?

What drives us

to understand the

farthest reaches

of our galaxy

and ignore

the universe within?

Keep the faith NASA.

And as we rise to each

new unexplored experience,

keep the faith humankind.

When It Rains

One day, without warning,

mud washed down the

mountain and covered my

life in thick grayness.

I had not given much

thought to the increasing

number of stormy days.

Nor had I realized that

minor events had a way

of accumulating until

even carefully constructed

walls could not

stop the flow.

Some good did come of

the unwelcomed mess.

I learned to pay attention

to even the slightest sprinkle,

and that carrying an umbrella

was not a sign of weakness.

One lesson took a bit

longer to soak in:

It is rain that brings the mud,

and rain that washes it away.

I Understood

At the sight of

my brother’s body

returned home

from Vietnam,

I understood.

Form remained,

but light returned

to a timeless realm,

the infinite

before and

after.

When a week before

her death, my spirited

grandmother appeared

in a vision to invite

me across the

country for coffee,

I understood.

Those separations,

time, space, and distance

are illusions,

nothing more.

When even death’s

barrier did not

silence your voice,

it took time,

but eventually,

I understood.

Only a belief in

solid ground

keeps me anchored,

and only a fear of

exploding into the

universe keeps these

expansive wings

pressed to my sides.

Mesa Morning

At another point on this journey,

inspired by the stark profile

of a sprawling mesa, I began

a ritual of morning prayers.

Not on my knees offering

repentance for debatable sins,

but parked on a rickety wooden porch

with a pack of lively dogs,

sipping coffee of a similar disposition.

I doubt the mesa noticed my presence.

Five years are not many to one

fifty million or so in the making.

But to this novice cowgirl, who

could not quite grasp beauty so large,

every sunrise made a new entry

in my soul.

Those high desert days are behind me,

and at times I struggle to separate memories

from dreams.

Do scrubby juniper still

pour long shadows

down the ragged slope,

or coyote, in fine voice, gather

for their nightly serenade?

I have yet to see a moon as large,

or stars as plentiful.

And nowhere have I found a

stillness so complete.

A reminder perhaps of

the silent unraveled universe

we shared

before this voyage began.

Old Words

I find

no comfort

in the

old words.

Even the

most clever

are heavy

with a struggle

to be

right.

So much

has lifted,

so much

will stay

behind.

Unobstructed View

When my limbs were as

strong and flexible

as the willow

in our backyard,

they carried me to

its highest branches

to scan the night sky

and survey the path

of my dreams.

The world spun at a

less frantic pace,

and my mind,

focused on rocky

footpaths and wild

new mornings,

gave no thought

to gathering years.

Today, limbs stiff

from climbing,

argue for fewer hours

folded in an office chair,

and eyes, parched by

robust suns, appeal

for views less harsh

than a computer screen.

While I have no doubt

that imagination is

best fueled by an

unobstructed view,

humor and wisdom,

the rewards of survival,

suggest the time has come

not to relinquish trees,

but to observe life

from branches a little

closer to the ground.

At That Moment

When you

have exhausted

every possibility,

you will lay

a gentle hand

on your heart

and remember

that you are

a part of

the whole.

A New Road

The path I followed ended abruptly and

left me with what seemed no choice

but to return to the beginning.

Not fond of wasting time or energy

I lingered amid a crowd of sturdy trees

and considered the constraints

of going forward.

There was my age, of course.

After six decades on trails designed

by others, was it foolhardy to attempt

to blaze my own?

Then there was the terrain.

What if just beyond my vision, obstacles

increased and brambles thickened into

impassable knots?

And surely, with so little sky visible above

the treetops, I had to consider the weather.

Was a storm brewing, preparing

at any moment to reenact a tempest

of biblical proportion?

 

As often happens in life—at least in mine—

the more I thought, the more reasons

I found to abandon my quest.

I was about to retreat when a small

forest creature dashed across my boots

into the ominous territory. The tiny hero

prompted an embarrassed laugh and

a sudden change in course.

With apologies to Mother Nature,

I stepped forward to forge

a long-overdue trail

of my own design.

Religion

I plunge into a nearly

frozen stream hoping

to remove ancient vines

grown tight around

my ankles, my thoughts.

They cling cold and wet,

filled with recriminations.

An old missal,

a discarded rosary.

A prayer, dredged from

sleeping brain cells,

reminds me that

“I am not worthy.”

Religions teach self-loathing

and disconnect us from

the Source,

but a knowing guide waits within.

Listen, your heart knows

the way.

Encouraging Spring

If spring had need

of encouragement,

the ground might not thaw,

or crocuses wake

nodding velvet heads and

stretching verdant stems.

At times, though the outcome

is unclear, we are drawn

to take action,

to not wait for inspiration,

but to inspire.

With a trust of spring

in our hearts,

we abandon winter’s grip,

open to grace and hope,

and prepare to take part

in the awakening.

Enough

We wandered the landscape,

food, land, and laughter

plentiful.

We settled in villages,

peaceful, united,

with bounty for all.

Armies invaded and

gave us their gods.

Friends became enemies,

there was never enough.

When an insatiable

need for power

destroyed us,

earth,

restored to all

but humanity,

was once again

enough.

From the Stars

I’ve often argued that

I am not a poet,

that I fill my messenger bag

with promises and guidance

gathered from the stars

and do my best to deliver

them unchanged.

But, if it is the job of a poet to

find inspiration in solitude

and share each point of light

revealed there,

perhaps I am a poet after all.

Getting It Right

We knew the miracles

were ours.

We knew, and

turned away.

Terrified to be gods,

we appointed others

to take charge.

One day we will

come to terms

with our godness

and create the world

we yearn for,

comforted by the

knowledge that

we are

bound

to get it

right.

Your Own Level

Water seeks its

own level.

Winding,

flowing,

unstopped by

massive boulders

or slender twigs,

moving as it has

for millennia

on familiar paths

in different forms,

here snow,

there rain.

A cloud that

greeted an

ancient civilization

returns to

renew a city street,

refresh a slender tree.

Remember, we are

largely water,

useful information

if life has pushed you

to your lowest level.

Ups and Downs

We look down to

measure our climb,

and climb because

to stay in one place

is against our nature.

Some fear a misstep,

a stumble,

a fall,

but those who

have learned

there is no up,

no down,

understand

the point has

always been

the journey.

The Things We Need

The sun tempts me from a desk

cluttered with loud chores demanding

attention to look out at my neighbor

weeding her garden.

Her simple effort to move plants

instead of paper fascinates me,

producing food we need to live

instead of snappy slogans persuading

others to buy things they don’t.

At the end of the day,

soil stained and wrapped in the

scent of fresh air, she sleeps soundly,

while I stare at her garden,

pale, wide awake, and having

much less success stopping the

spread of invasive thoughts than

she had with dandelions.

Immeasurable Effect

Awareness brings compassion

and a softened heart,

a conscious state, reminding me

to make every action kind,

and every response one

of gratitude.

How Wise the Design

In a recent period of spiritual doubt

I sought refuge in nature,

a patch of grass that, while small,

was no less important than the

encircling galaxy.

Muting the chatter that ego brings

to every event, I sank into a lush

green carpet to consider the fear

that haunted me.

How wise the design that allowed me

to lie perfectly still beneath a giant

dome and witness endless change.

How clever the painter who countered

rich earth tones with soft pastels to

separate earth from sky.

How expansive the setting when the

brightest light departed to expose a

billion siblings dancing in celebration.

How rapid the conquest of fear

when both heart and mind opened

to fill with the stuff of stars.

The Connection

What about you is astonishing?

Your generosity, kindness,

your ability to forgive?

We are collectively

remarkable, you know.

When a powerful few,

hearts black with greed,

try to divide us,

to drive us to our knees,

we blink sleep-encrusted

eyes and take a stand.

Chins lift and hands reach

out to guide fallen sisters

and brothers to their feet.

We learn to talk beyond our

phones, to friend offline.

We like without icons

and share secrets without

counting characters.

The world moves forward,

global bonds grow,

joined by love

instead of hate.

Are we worthy

of this connection?

Oh, yes.

More than

we know.

The Next Step

I take a step and wonder

if it will define the worth

of previous journeys;

if every movement

forward or back

will be judged

by the direction

I choose now.

I whisper “Amen” and wonder

if this prayer will replace

earlier pleas for

guidance and grace,

or if past requests

for support apply to

coming storms.

I take a breath and wonder

if the arrangement of steps

and prayers really matters

in the scheme of things;

if, perhaps, what the

universe most treasures

are the steps we dance

and the prayers we sing

in any order we choose.

A Quick Recovery

Morning comes,

dissolving dreams

and shedding light

on the day’s

first challenges.

I forgot to put

water in the

coffee maker.

A phone message

arrived in the

night with sad news

from a friend.

I consider crawling

back under the covers

to wait for a day

that welcomes me

filled with blessings.

Tap, tap, tap

from the paw

of a nearby cat

reminds me,

rather firmly,

that this morning

is exactly that.

Sweet Talk Me

Sweet talk me this morning sun.

Warm these wings still trembling

from the long dark flight.

Dissolve the fear that

feeds my anger

and when I awaken,

confused by the purpose

of this earthly form,

hold me in your

honey-sweet embrace

and assure me of

my place in the light.

Questions

Can you be sure the

ground is solid?

Or when the

sun returns,

will the weight

of a shadow

cave the earth

beneath your feet?

Are you certain the

boulder rolls downhill?

Or does someone

on the other side

push with equal

passion?

Are you confident

life is measured by

success and failure?

Or is the gauge

not the weight

of shadows

or the press

of gravity,

but the level

of love

in your heart?

Under the Bridge

There was so little

light under the bridge

that my body thought it

night and went to sleep.

Noise and traffic ignited

the surroundings,

but I slept.

Healing sunrises and

magical sunsets

propelled the world

on its rhythmic spin;

still I slept.

When a feral cat

joined me,

his body as

malnourished

as my spirit,

I went for food.

These are days of

plump cats and

a clear view of

rising and setting suns,

but I never pass a bridge

without checking for

those who might

be in need of

food or light.

Has Anything Changed?

I study the words of poets

whose voices, decades ago,

are as anguished as my own.

Has anything changed?

A baby cries from hunger and a

mother despairs at her failure

to find food.

Has anything changed?

Men threaten each other

in the name of their god,

in the name of their ego.

Has anything changed?

Voices join a global chant

proclaiming “the time is now.”

To these urgent calls for change

I add my own.

Steady Stride

Footprints from days long gone

recall a path of survival.

Staggered first steps as I rose

from my knees.

Hints of strength in

a widening gait.

Then a strong steady stride,

a joyous return to the parade.

Perhaps it wasn’t survival at all, but

a less common approach to life.

Can anyone look at their past and

find only perfectly spaced reminders

of where they have been?

A Cryptic Message

After days spent

knocking on the door

of an empty castle,

and nights filled with

a search for home,

I uncover a cryptic

message in my journal,

Spirit knows the way.

I don’t know how

it came to be there,

or what it means,

but it makes me

wonder if Spirit is not

a powerful wizard

hiding in a castle,

and home no more

difficult to find

than a quick tap

of my heels.

On a Happier Note

We reached the finale

and the bassoon,

in complete despair,

let the story fade.

I teetered on the

edge of my seat,

living my own

tragedy,

not sure I could

bear to hear another.

Then a flute,

making a cautious

and youthful entrance,

brought a glimmer

of hope.

And though it seemed

an obvious play

for attention,

it lightened the mood

and set the tone

for a welcomed

happy ending.

The Mistake

At first only a whisper,

the slightest hint of

sadness,

but the feeling gains strength

bringing its own kind of

grief.

You know it too.

You’ve seen the color

drain from life,

but we never

discuss it for fear of

losing control.

The mistake I made,

for many years, was to

grab on and hold tight.

And isn’t that the

biggest challenge,

letting go.

Looking for Peace

Looking back

the pain is sharper,

the blade thicker

and thrust with

greater force.

Looking ahead

the path is treacherous,

the climb steep,

and my shoes,

already worn,

begin to bleed.

“Close your eyes,”

the moment whispers,

“pay attention to me alone.”

No pain, no blade,

no path to conquer.

This place,

this peace

is home.

On Driving and Life

Slide the key into

the ignition and

depress the clutch,

give it a little gas,

turn the key and

move the stick

into gear.

Now, release the

clutch slowly and

be on your way.

Starting is easy,

but be prepared for

everyone

and their brother

to offer advice on

how to drive.

A Gardener and a Poet

For you

the night comes

too quickly.

Plants need moving,

ground needs cover.

For me

it is morning that arrives

too soon.

Stars tease the senses,

silence invites the muse.

Each in our way

we pray.

You kneel

to pat the earth.

I stretch

to tap the heavens.

Author Jean Sheldon

Jean published her first book Jelly Side Down, a collection of drawings and poems, in 1987. In 2015 she returned to the genre to release Persistent, another collection of poems, this time without the drawings. In the nearly thirty years between the publication of these poems she has worked as a fine and graphic artist, published a number of mysteries, and found a great deal of delight in living each day to the fullest.

www.jeansheldon.com


Persistent

“Persistent” is a collection of poems from mystery writer Jean Sheldon who sees all of life as a mystery. This book reflects that view. "Scribbled notes from daily life have filled pockets and backpacks since my childhood. Recent events brought me to examine my life and my words and in them, I found a measure of peace. In these challenging times it is that peace I hope to share.” "In "Persistent," accomplished mystery writer Jean Sheldon turns her considerable talents to the poetic form, condensing personal experience into the exquisite expression of thought, emotion and revelatory moment...No doubt her journey, one of open-minded and compassionate possibility, will inspire you to consider your own." —Laurence Overmire, poet and author of "The One Idea That Saves The World: A Call to Conscience and A Call to Action." "Reading the poems in Jean Sheldon's new book, "Persistent," is rewarding and inspiring. While deeply personal, each poem seemed to reach me as if she had written it just for me. I read the book from start to finish, but am now enjoying just picking a poem and letting it sink in for a meditation that leads to my own thoughts, memories and reflections. But don't think for a minute that "Persistent" is not filled with Sheldon's humor, earthiness, her keen eye and way with words. All have come together to make a window into this life we live, our own place in it, our eventual leaving of it and the strength that a self-examined persistence brings us all." — Nancy McDonald, Indelible Mark Publishing

  • ISBN: 9781370335619
  • Author: Jean Sheldon
  • Published: 2016-09-07 18:05:13
  • Words: 3590
Persistent Persistent