Dear Friends, You are welcome to print and share my poems with wild abandon, provided that you credit me with their writing and offer a link to my website, www.kayleenasbo.com. May my humble efforts encourage you to find and share your own unique voice.
Growing Juicy by Kayleen Asbo
The summer light is leaving little by little, Each evening noticeably shorter than the one before. And yet, in the necessary dying of the days, How deeply the earth invites us to intimacy.
At the market, there are the flirtatious stacks of golden corn Playing peekaboo from beneath their green silk petticoats. The heirloom tomatoes Are just bursting with their scarlet longing, Inviting us to stroke their supple skin.
It is only now, as summer is leaving, That the sunflowers lift their heads to exult in prayer and the lavender unabashedly casts her essence to the wind with wild abandon, While hidden deep in the growing darkness of the forest The orange dragon-tongued flowers Sing out in their full-throated glory.
May I learn from the dying summer How to be like the blackberries, Bursting into fervent bloom as my time wanes, Ripening into such sweetness as I come to the end of my days That I leave an indelible mark on everyone I encounter, Whispering, “Taste and see the goodness of the world” As I tenderly offer the juice of my inner life When we touch.
- September 7, 2019
Negotiations by Kayleen Asbo
Be the hummingbird above The tar pit. Don't get caught In the mess and stickiness of it all. Instead, fly above, Searching for sweetness and beauty.
Mysteries by Kayleen Asbo
I can’t tell you why there is so much pain and loss, Only this: There have been several times When I have been shattered. Yet somehow the cracks Became windows to see more deeply into the the world. The shards of broken dreams, Became seeds to plant to feed The hunger of strangers. The ripping open of the cocoon Became the passageway Leading me To become part of the family Of all things.
A Blessing For My Friends Growing Old by Kayleen Asbo
When you despair As you feel your powers begin to dim, Set your feet on a path to higher ground. Watch how the sun lets her strength ebb, Ripening to a sweet radiance That bathes the world in a gentle glow Kissing everything she touches. Then linger to learn That the beauty found in the dark Can be even more lovely than in the fierce brightness of the day. Have faith that in time, a softer light will emerge To guide your slowing feet Gently, Tenderly Back home In the company of stars As they bless you on your journey.
-August 12, 2019
3 poems written before dinner 7 tear stained faces crying at my song 212 visitors to the website 94 laps in the pool.
Why do I need to count things To feel like I matter?
-August 11, 2019
Feast of the Transfiguration, 1945/2019 by Kayleen Asbo Fire rained from the sky And innocent bodies melted into ash. The fallout echoed for decades to come And struck nuclear fear into every heart. In the scarred earth the gingko stood silently Waiting in tree time To bloom again. I do not know what might blossom in seventy years time In El Paso or Dayton or Las Vegas or Pittsburgh But I do know this: Today, we are each called to plant the seeds of peace.
In the middle of my life, I found myself in the loamy place Where the things that no longer serve me Are beginning to decompose. Here, it is dark and still And l learn from the slowness of the snails As they find their way Blindly, Tentatively, Patiently From leaf to leaf.
The Things We Miss By Kayleen Asbo
The things we miss if we don’t sit still: The reverent way the fuchsias Bow their vibrant heads; The butterflies kissing the lilies With their delicate white wings; The hummingbird Dancing in the fountain-- All teaching me That even a shower can become a Celebration And stillness A song.
Ode to Joy by Kayleen Asbo May 2019
It's possible that the apocalypti crumors and reports are right- that these are the end times and that the fire-ash falling from the sky that covered everything for weeks last year was only a prelude to the larger conflagration to come.
It's conceivable that the floods and shootings and suicides and daily extinctions will not wane, but bleed their dark hues into a shattering crescendo in the years that follow leading us to total annihilation.
But the old ones knew that relentless tragedy could also be the beginning of transformation - could become paint on the cave wall, song in a scarred throat the drumming heartbeat of a dance of lamentation that would lead us to a deeper truth.
I think of that long scream of terror that opens the last movement of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, the cacophonous descent that signals the end of the world and how the orchestra tries so valiantly to recapture the past recapitulating one theme after another from the first three movements.
How each time, the Greek Chorus of the orchestra says:
No. This will not do. We cannot go back to where we have already been.
And that moment --when all seems lost in utter chaos and darkness-- how slowly, tentatively, ever so gently emerging from the soft underbelly of the strings is the simplest of tunes-- Childlike, almost embarrassing in its utter transparency and open hearted vulnerability
And how the goosebumps rise upon my neck as the melody begins its sure ascent Higher Higher Until it blazes with triumph, blossoming into the Ode to Joy, Shattering all notions of what a symphony should be What a symphony could be. I wonder if Beethoven, gripped with liver disease and completely deaf knew as he flailed his swollen hands that his agony had opened the door to a new vision for the entire human race.
I imagine how his sad eyes would open wide with wonder If he could see his simple tune sung at Auschwitz, as Chinese students faced tanks in Tianenman Square, if he could hear it sung at the fall of the Berlin Wall, and see the choirs all across the world after 911 uniting the world into his lifelong dream: a chorus of common humanity, resounding with love.
Let us sing with all we have in us no matter what storms rage all around, and know this in our bones: If a deaf and dying man (who believed his whole life was a failure) could give birth to such miraculous starshine as this, surely, surely, there is still hope for us all.
We may all be poised in the moments between agony and death. Our symphonies may never be performed in our sight. Marriage, children, fame and wealth may elude us. We may be forever haunted by the ghosts of lost siblings, failed dreams and tragic choices.
But even so, there is a path towards hope.
If you look closely, The swan on the lake has never been more luminous Gliding with her soft white wings. through the ebony shadows and the pearly water lilies.
Take the time to really see and capture the light in whatever way you can. Take the time to really listen, And you, too, might hear a song that makes the whole journey worthwhile.
There are cracks in even the hardest thing . Find a way to celebrate the scarlet poppies that still insist on blooming even in the darkest days of life.
Passing the Torch by Kayleen Asbo Once, in his prime, He strode across the stage to the Steinway and bowed Sat at the cool keyboard And poured molten passion upon its shiny surface. Her 13 year old heart melted All the way back in row Y. The flame of that concerto burned in her breast, Kindling a fire That lit the way through the underworld of adolescence. It was during that terrible year That she learned what it is to become Orpheus To pour love and longing, loss and grief Into the strings of the piano How if she opens up her bleeding heart with her small fingers And impassioned words She might even cause Sisyphus to stop and weep As she pleads on behalf of the dead. Now it is thirty five years later. The seeds of that dark year have ripened, Flowered into bouquets of stories and songs. She bestows garlands fragrant with beauty Upon the aged ones gathered in hopeful expectation at the senior center to listen to the life of Beethoven His steps falter and he grasps another’s arm for support as he crosses to the speakers’ podium. He teeters, almost falls Barely able to see through the tears with his fading eyesight before he gives her a kiss on each cheek, Benediction for passing the torch of inspiration Back to him after all these years.
In Rumi's Footsteps by Kayleen Asbo "Today, like every other day, we wake up empty and frightened... ...Let the beauty we love be what we do. There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.” -Rumi, translated by Coleman Barks
Don't turn on the television or open the newspapers. Instead, walk through the woods and smell the damp laurel leaves. Go to yoga class. Find your old Chopin books and sit at the piano. Take up a pen to write a thank you letter to your college mentor. Savor the sunset with a friend and hold their hand. Give the man with the cardboard sign your leftovers from lunch. Help the poor mother who doesn't have enough hands by entertaining her squirming toddler while she fishes for change at the check out stand. Gather wildflowers to put by the bedside of your sweetheart. Tuck an "I love you" note inside your husband's suitcase before he leaves for yet another exhausting business trip. Tell your imperfect father that you forgive him. Read Mary Oliver. Listen to Schubert. Buy the children with their noses pressed at the window an ice cream cone. Smile at everyone you meet today. Know that whatever armor clad hardness or seeming perfection is before you, Inside is a messy and aching being--like you-- filled with both unbelievable heartache and the seed of astonishing beauty. Be the breeze that blows love and hope towards that divine spark inside each pair of eyes you see. Then watch the world become illuminated from within.
Florestan and Eusebius by Kayleen Asbo For Clara Schumann There was a split so deep in Schumann That he gave names to his different sides: Florestan, the bold, confident hero Eusebius: the tender, melancholy, soulful pilgrim. At first, the split was a game they played , Etched in song in Carnival and Opus 6 She proofread the witty reviews he wrote under the two pseudonyms in the music journal that gave them their daily bread. The crack widened over the years . Florestan became filled with rage and fire, burning with humiliation and fury, while Eusebius, sank into total silence: agoraphobic, listless and depressed. Eventually the crack opened so wide, the conflicting voices threw Robert into the Rhine River and he passed his last days in the asylum in Bonn. Through it all, Clara trudged on: practicing piano, birthing children, teaching students, writing love letters from her concert tours and tender melodies to here husband for his birthday. She was drawn by a siren song she could not tune out. Despite the paranoia, the fits of abuse, the whirlpool of instability and emotional extremes, even in the face of suicide attempts, she played on, remembering the beauty that lived trapped inside him.
At the end , she dipped her fingers into wine so he could suck on them like a baby. She closed his eyes with tears of both sorrow and relief and spent the rest of her days enshrining the memory of her love in the music that called him back to life under her devoted fingers. I think of this as I go aching with my own grief to the piano to play ‘Widmung”, Noticing for the first time that the words translate as “You are my grave”. I imagine her shaking, a leaf in the wind after one of Robert’s storms, Pasting a smile of composed tranquility on her face while she practiced this song (though inside, her stomach heaved and her pulse raced). Day after day until the end, She continued to inscribe their conjugal felicity in the marriage diary they shared -- Marking in frail symbols their nights of passion unable to deny their sacred splendor as she held fast to the songs that she knew were inside of him.