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Letter Box -- Newsletter #29

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DOC, Plainfield, IN

A friend of mine who receives your newsletter asked me to send you some of my poetry. Here is one to start.

WE BELONG TOGETHER

While I was walking one morning
humming an R&B's tune...
My soul was awakened by the rising sun
burning in the vast blue sky...

I wondered where all the tree's are?
Three years and no trees--just razor wire.

I thought...
What color is green, real dark grassy green...
It is Spring to a tree!
Like in Autumn when colors appear
red, yellow and brown leaves falling
sailing through the wind
winding slowly
swirling around
to the ground.

A memory almost forgotten!

But in time, maybe real soon
I'll climb up a tree.
Why not--it's free!

I cross my heart, dear God--
I'll never again pass a tree without saying "Hi!"
Nor will I ever cut a tree down for it will cry...
Tree tears would break my heart
because non-manipulative tears just hurt!
To hear someone saying timber-r-r-r...
It tears me apart
for if the tree can't breathe
I can't breathe!

I love trees and trees love me...
One in the spirit I be, and be, and be...
We belong together me and the trees!
I love trees, trees, trees!

L. "Carl" Gilchrist DOC #955634, PCF D3-9L
727 Moon Rd., Plainfield, IN 46168-9400

Kentfield, CA

THE FIRST BODHISATTVA

I

I went to the horizon, where the Universe ends,
intending to cross that threshold, and step into the Abyss.
It was the only place I'd never been, and I was tired of all the others.

I I

In truth, I was tired of everything:
-------Tired of being born, and dying;
-------Tired of being the Child--and the Wise Old Man,
-------The Maiden--and the Queen,
-------The Fool--and the Shaman.
-------Tired of all of them.
I was tired of Youth--and Age;
-------of Solitude and Company,
-------of Despair, and of Hope, too;
-------of Ecstasy and Sorrow,
-------of Fear--and Love.
-------Yes! Tired even of Love.

III

Tired of Life and tired of death, I stood at the edge and asked:
Wouldn't it be nice to have nothing to be tired of?
To be nothing?
And, because the place was holy, I was answered;
A Voice spoke from the Abyss, saying:

-------Avalokiteshvara, you do not need
-------another birth, or life, or death.
-------You may go to Nothingness now.
-------But, if you choose, you may fide on
-------and do what is yours to do.

Then a new and awful sound broke across the Cosmos
like a wave, so vast it filled up the space
between the stars, filled it with pain:
The voices of all the worlds, joined in a common grief,
were wailing as one, mourning my departure.
I understood then what was mine to do.
I knew I could--and would, for I was destined to it--
end the agony from which that sound came.

IV

I did not choose Life--Life had already chosen me.
My weariness dropped away, and a great comfort took its place.
I turned my back upon the Abyss and spoke to myself in a
whisper; but my words went forth as if in a mighty roar
that pushed the sound of pain away, dissolved it.
And replaced it with a promise that would remain in every world,
would hang there, resonating like a chord of music too sweet
to disappear or ever be forgotten. These few words:

-------I abandon no one.
-------All shall go before me.

Rick Nelson

Willets, CA

This was inspired by your newsletter!

MEETING YOUR SOUL

My wish is that you can rest, and let go of this massive need to find yourself ... relax--your soul will find you. --John O'Donahue

Okay John, imagine what happens when your soul does find you.

From the unlimited infinite void on God's lap where souls hang out your's arrives and looks around. You are doing your best to relax by watching a good video and then getting in the Jacuzzi with your Walkman listening to your favorite tunes.

You think something is wrong with the Walkman because it keeps malfunctioning and you keep imagining this voice is saying, "Hey you, yes you! Hello, hello. Heaven calling!" So you take off your Walkman and grab the book you've been wanting to read but before you can open it up you get this jolt of electricity and jump out of the tub.

Then you hear in the middle of your skull, "Do I have your attention yet?"

"What's going on? Who are you?" you ask.

"Your soul! Who do you think. I guess you aren't used to listening to me," goes this sarcastic voice.

"Is this some kind of virtual reality trick? Aren't you invading my personal space? you ask a bit annoyed.

"It really isn't my idea. This guy at the workshop you went to promised I'd show up if you'd relax. Donahue's his name. So I figured what you were doing was inviting me for a visit. I don't exactly call what you are doing relaxing but each to his own."

"So you are my soul?" you ask for reassurance.

"Of course. Now what can I do for you?"

"Well do your thing, whatever it is. How am I supposed to know?" you ask.

"What can I do? Where would I start?" asks your soul. "Looks like you have this long list of can'ts and just a short list of cans. You've only claimed a few friends and a couple of enemies out of the billions here. You've managed to partially disable your body with diseases, aches and pains. You are insistent on using one of the more crude methods of communication, words, and act as if you can't connect to another by just a thought. You carefully save your love to give to only a few when in fact there is no limit to it. You wallow in fear, pity, and anger as if joy had to be rationed out. And then there is the pollution and filth you take for granted along with war, famine and cruelty. When you do manage to shine a little light you get into arguments about it and who should take credit and who should be served as if there was a shortage of anything."

After a pause your soul continues, "I heard it was bad down here but this is much worse than I expected. You tell me what I'm supposed to do for you?"

"I thought you had that all worked out," you say.

"Sure I do, that's why I hang out in heaven, not with the likes of you."

"Can you just give me a few hints on how to live a better life," says you.

"If I did you wouldn't believe me. We periodically send messages down and for all those messages just look at yourself. You've taken the most beautiful image of creation and act as if it is not worthy of the slightest love and appreciation," says the soul.

"You mean, the earth? Yeah, I know, we're working on it," you say.

"Earth is doing just fine, it will take care of itself. As usual you're way off base. The most beautiful image of creation is YOU! You are the thing you show the least love and appreciation for. If you loved yourself and the rest of your earthling buddies did the same this place would transform instantly," your soul declares vehemently. "But I'm not placing any bets on it. This is more like a prison full of guilt ridden convicts who don't deserve any better, not a home. I really don't feel that welcome but thanks for the invite."

Before you know what to say, your soul continues, "Look, I'm going back to the great infinite void for a while." The exasperation is obvious. "I got some bliss to lap up. Don't call me, I'll call you."

Well John, are you sure we are ready for our soul to find us?

Max Zbitnoff

Pacific Grove, CA

ARE YOU HUNGRY?

What hunger haunts you
when you know you want
but not what you want
hunger for the unknown, untried, unlearned?

What hunger hurts you?
in the height of night
takes away your sleep, your peace
fills you with empty longing

What hunger devours you?
the uneaten life
What hunger starves you?
an untasted world

What hunger holds you in its skinny arms?
Which hunger speaks your name?

Julie Houy

Carmel, CA

UNTITLED

I am the wind
that carries the scent of somewhere else,
... that lifts a prayer.
I am the sound of children in play,
sea spray...
feather... stone.

I am the chase... the catch,
the fallen tree to sit upon for rest.
I am desire for springtime.
I am the warm pond
from which the squiggle of new life forms.

I am anticipation on waters' edge.
I am the fallen leaf,
the dream,
the laugh in a surprise,
a song of inspiration,
... the glory of God.

I am the furnace, anvil,
sting of hammer on steel.
I am this moment,
... the next step,
the weapon of love,
the sparkle in your eye,
sweat from pushing,
allowing in the open hand.

I am the courage in a "yes" and "no,"
a whistle in the dark,
a flag unfurled,
sons' father... fathers' son.

I am the pollen of wildflowers
on the legs of honeybees...
the jab of fear in jealousy,
the broken law of gravity.

I am the silence before the sound.

I am the intended blow withheld.

I am the wound of mortality,
an avalanche of creativity,
a dance of contradiction,
desperate invocation...
nobility on it's knees.

I am surrender.
I am the call of beauty.
I am the open space in a poem.

Gary Ibsen.

Portsmouth, NH

BODY POEM III (At 68)

Listen,
there are still many things to love...

showering, soaping
skin of belly and breast

lying in bed in the morning,
resting the hand
in the warm place
under the breast,
feeling the heart
beat

loving still
sweet acquaintance
with
the private parts

and
rising from the bed
from white sheets
and pale blankets,

tracing the warm outline
where the body has just lain,

the palpable essence
that lingers

Anne De Wees

Carmel, CA

SCENT OF JASMINE
(Birthday Poem for Rosa Doner)

Your beauty is everywhere.

Your hair, long and gray, hangs like Spanish moss
on the pines in Point Lobos; your eyes have
the quickness of the hummingbird darting
from purple fuchsia to white jasmine;
your voice, the sweetness of a gentle rain,
the sound of raindrops; your body, the grace
of the cypress, limbs twisting and swaying,
dancing, dancing in the morning wind.

No way to tell which birthday: so alive
to each moment, you see with such freshness
the beauty around you; are that beauty,
outside of time, whole, beyond yearly birthdays;
glow with the same spirit that animates
moss and hummingbird, rain and cypress,
the same spirit that fills your garden

with the scent of jasmine.

Elliot Roberts

Carmel, CA

SPILT MILK: TALES
FROM THE NURSERY

the milk's in the batter,
the milk's in the batter,
what does it matter,
if the milk's in the batter?

hickory-dickery dock
a child raced round the clock,
the girl fell down and broke
-------her crown,
a man chased right behind her.
the clock struck one,
the man fell dumb
-------and suddenly climbed
-------right up inside her.

the man beats the child
the man beats the girl
the child hates the man
the girl hates the man

the man rapes his daughter
the man rapes his wife
the man rapes his girlfriend
they all grow to hate the man
and so--many women learn to hate men, and
men hate themselves and women, too

the man finds an enemy,
the man finds the enemy,
the enemy rapes his wife,
the enemy rapes his daughter:

the man kills the enemy
---------------------and then he kills himself.

But the story doesn't end here--
it goes on and on ad-infinitem,
Until the spell is broken.

Everybody knows this story:
It's as old as time and as young as
-------nursery rhymes.

Anya Kucharev

DOC, Tennessee Colony, TX

I once was a real loud mouth and too big for my britches, but I learned the hard
way to "tone it down" and it has been better for me.

GETTING OVER THE
COMMUNICATION BREAKDOWN
or Better Said--Lust Isn't Love

From all I've gathered,
love is ridiculously queer,
some believe it means
never having to say you're sorry--
love is a rose and a hammer,
both blind and all--seeing,
some say it makes the world
go round and round and round...
I say it's often life's fatal error.

From all I've experienced
love is better left for others,
many say it fades when left alone
or absence might make the heart fonder--
love is a two way street...
think about it...
some say it makes you normal
in a world gone insane...
I say it's often life's fatal error.

From all I've learned this time around
rather than suffer the consequences I've
deemed love to be out-of-bounds for me,
myself and I--we know each other well
enough to avoid the sorrow--
we're buddies who don't need the
nervous habit they call
L-o-v-e...
love is only meant to make us
socially acceptable or
thoughtlessly open and close to
a legitimate reason for existing
when there are other alternatives,
love is an illusion...
an attachment...
just one more cheap, inert. impermanent
excitement--the universal outhouse for
the narrow-minded--a pit without bottom...
I say it's life's most fatal error.

Chester "Hollywood" Hass III #327322 BC-1B-08
Coffield Unit Rt. 1, Box 150
Tennessee Colony, TX 75884

Carmel, CA

TO SURVIVE LOSS

Go outside yourself. (Make yourself go outside.) Go someplace you've never been before. Help someone else who needs help. Focus on a project. Learn something new. Hurt. Realize that hurt is wanting what you can't have. Let go of that want, and want again. Want what's possible. Make something for someone. Develop a talent. Tell someone you love that you love them. Make a small change. Make a big change. Make yourself get involved with those around you. Scream. Strike out against the pain. Exhaust yourself dancing. Then, go to sleep with a cat curled up against you. Hug a dog. (or a cat or a rabbit or a horse or anything at all to stop the pain. Even for a moment, stop the pain.) Choose not to be miserable. Treat yourself. Treat yourself to a deliciously-long, hot bath or a shower and a bar of sweet-smelling watermelon soap. Eat a piece of your favorite food. (Eat another piece.) Get a massage. Lose yourself in your favorite music. (Turn it up, and lose yourself again.) Buy yourself a present that's fun and colorful and bright. Take a walk. Take a long deep breath. (Take another one.) Study the lines of something beautiful. Marvel at its beauty. Find words that touch your heart--from books, from films--and tape them inside, outside cupboard doors, so that everytime you look at them, you smile. Lose yourself in their strength. Lose yourself in a new dream. Lose yourself in a children's book where magic is real and dreams all come true. Find a rainbow in the darkness. Find a rainbow in the darkness 'round the full moon on an oh-so-cloudy night. Believe. (Life is full of magic.) Believe yourself to be on your way to a new dream coming true.

Tay Scott

DOC, Michigan City, IN

Since my 16 year-old sisters death last year, I have trudged an overwhelming path of despair. The emotional shock waves were overpowering, and came in patterns interfaced with my emotional, physical, intellectual, social and spiritual grids. I was in total meltdown.

I remember writing you saying "I get this feeling of vertigo and my entire feeling and perception grids go into overload. I have to grit my teeth, hold my breath, and push it all down!" When you wrote back you said to expand on that in my journals. I did and it became my refuge. At that point I interpreted your letter as "Stand Against the Storm!" As on other occasions such as my son Eli's (threatened) health, your sound advice was a light in otherwise violent waters.

A new fusing has taken place. A process of the "Inner-me" aligning with the "Outer-me" For a long time in my life I lived two lives--what people saw outside and what was really going on inside of me. I learned what outward signs of attention would please. I learned to put up a good front. As if donning masks, I'd cut my hair to the "norm style," pick out clothes "in style" and use body language to impress others around me. Over time I have come to realize that all I've achieved is to excel at hiding truly serious problems or any pain, etc.

I may be making a big deal of what most people call growing up--but the process of "becoming" is so peaceful and yet exposed at the same time, perhaps fear can at times be our ally. As humans we are apt to look outside ourselves for the answers. I was doing just that till you gave me a nudge. It was two sentences that really got my attention. You said, "Sooner or later, we must all embrace all the stuff of our life experience and that also means trying to get a clear look at who we really are beneath all the layers of protection developed over our lifetime." Those words re-vamped my entire mainframe and I began anew at that point.

I think that we have been given a gift, posted down from our Neolithic brothers. It is creativity--the ability to try new things, stumble, but pick ourselves back up and learn something new each time. Me, I'll stick to the learning process. I enjoy the process of becoming whole too much. I just need bigger Band-Aids than most people!

Robert Burgess DOC #954722, B-526, ISP
PO Box 41, Michigan City, IN 46361-0041

DOC, Plainfield IN

Enclosed you find another drawing. It too was done in pencil. I named this portrait "Waiting" and I even wrote a little essay to go with it. Your words really encouraged me to really put my best effort into my drawings and I can now express myself even more freely than ever. Thank You...

[Ray Saunders image]

WAITING

And all is always now while I wait
It's timing from above that's said to be perfection.
And chemistry by far has to equate, but waiting
to feel its worth is affection.

Waiting alone knows no ones heart while it murmurs.
Alone waiting knows no ones fears and tearing eyes
Waiting like darkness keeps me slumbering, sleeping
Softly towards the cliffs edge so high.

Waiting has got to be easier anywhere else than here,
or is that a lie?
Waiting for freedom from the worlds hold, waiting for
the nights that won't be so cold.
Waiting for a friend who will stand by my side.
Hand in hand towards goodness abreast.
Anticipating my walk away from this razor city
is enough
Giving up the wait for I'm waiting no more.

Waiting is hearing my heart pounding in sympathy,
but like everything else the waiting soon comes to and end.
Then a deep breath, a sigh of relief that waiting
brings, a smile, a laugh, a hug, a kiss for you
at last my one and only, my friend.

Ray Saunders #906379
ISP DOC, 727 Moon Rd., Plainfield, IN 46168-940

San Antonio, TX

One morning a wonderful poem came to me about depression...the words sounded just perfect, but I did not get up and write down the words. Never having been a depressed person, at least not depressed for a long period of time, I could not imagine why that particular poem came to me and why I could not write it down. Two mornings later I awoke at 2:00 a.m. The thoughts rolled over me like flouring a roast for Sunday morning.

I find it hard for me to cry....perhaps I just cry on the inside, but tears just do not show. My heart trembles, and my stomach squeezes up tight, and I find my throat tightening as if in a scream, but tears just do not flow.

I wish I could have changed a great many things about my life and my decisions ...but as I look back, time manages to slip away...When my days on this earth are over, there really is nothing of any greatness to show that I have been here.

The last lines of the poem are kind of a fatalistic thought that each of us are given just so much time on earth and like the material in a tapestry or quilt hanging on a wall, we are given choices of the patterns that make up our lives. We can weave our lives into something beautiful or just spin the tapestry into a mixture of hodgepodge colors that lead nowhere and say nothing of who we really are. What a mystery each person's life truly is until we uncover the true fiber contents.

I guess the capping of the entire poem came from the realization that a lot more than half of my life is over, and I must have just played away the time, enjoying myself and trying to please others. Suddenly life becomes delicate and like antique lace, becomes fragile to the touch. One is almost afraid to handle the goods for fear that all that will be left is a pile of flimsy, decaying threads of life.

BLANKET OF TEARS

A blanket of blinding tears crashed over me
Birthed from smoldering waves far out to sea.
Booming, roaring they came surging in,
'Til my languid soul bursts free of the gyrating spin.

Oh, could I be young again and boulder strong,
And face the tomorrow to choose right from wrong.
Oh, might I take up my dusty, creaking soul
And make accomplishments my erstwhile goal.

I cannot contemplate long, nor search the wild
Wishing I could again be just a mere child,
For knowledge and wisdom comes too late in life,
For I ponder now--what have I done--mother & wife?

One never knows how many lives have been saved,
Or how many forgotten flags have been waved.
My advice is to put away that blanket of anxious tears
And let happiness wipe away all ungrounded fears.

One may hide in dark shadows and give in to earthly pain,
Or one may look to the rainbow that cometh after the rain.
The truth is--life is as long or short as God commands it to be
But how we use the time given--that is up to you and to me.

Shirley Smalley Price

Thank you for your creative offerings!

I invite readers to share their own creative works with a few words about the context of their work for either the new Letter Box On-line or regular hard copy version. I look for work and comments I feel support understanding and encouragement of the creative process, and hence, the process of life.

Submit your name, city and state with your works to Donald@creative-edge.org for publication. I also encourage you to approve adding your E-mail address. Submit images in 72dpi GIF or TIFF format.

The Editor

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