Soap

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The olive oil soap's from Selem's shop.

He's Libyan,

We brought roses when Gaddafi fell.

But it speaks to me of Spice Bazaar in Istanbul

Saffron, turmeric, cardamom

 Isparta Rose and Queen of the Night,

 Saudi women smiling through their veils

As we buy atttars side by side in Arifoglu,

Rainbow sheaves of headscarves

Buckets of leeches

Sunlight on the Bosphorus.

 

 Pink Island Rose is Caldey,

Helping Mum across the sands

Boat trip from Tenby Bay

Spray, gulls, tang of salt and seaweed,

Sea thrift, gorse, lavender,

Monks in white choir robes

 Chanting and bowing.

 

 Chuckling Goat sebon llaeth gafr

Oatmeal and Honey

Is Ceredigion and the Cambrian Mountains

Tramps across muddy fields

Rainy walks down winding lanes,

Ros the Poet with her green wellies,

Tony bringing leeks from the polytunnel,

Sunset at Blaepennal Church.

Packed in straw, the rustic soap

Was probably an illegal import.

 

And Mysore Sandal is Sadananda

Coming home with a crate of mangoes

A bag of lychees

Four jars of pickle

A sack of rice

And twelve bars of soap.

 "I hope I didn't spend too much," he says.

 

Lathering in the shower

Hot water on my back

Fragrance of rose and sandalwood,

Journeys relived

Memories recaptured.

Soap.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Christmas Tree

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It is older then me

The little raffia tree

With red wooden berries.

No live Christmas trees

In wartime London.

 

It means so much to her.

Every year it comes out

Lovingly tinseled.

The little fairy--

A plastic baby doll--

Still wearing the lace tutu

I made when I was six.

 

Ragged but still here

The tree speaks of survival

Against the odds

 Victory over darkness

Light reborn.

 

It reminds her too

Of the years of bombs, ration books

And blossoming love

Years that for her

Are redolent of Christmas pudding

Hanukkah candles and kisses.

Blackout years, foreshadowing magical births,

Livy, Katy, Ros and Nick,

Tiny hands fashioning

Papier mâché cribs

And clumsy lace tutus.

Gifts hidden in raffia fronds.

 

 

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Ma's New Year's Letter 2014

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Greetings dear ones,

 

May the blessing of light be on you, light without and light within.

 

May the blessed sunlight shine upon you and warm your heart till it glows,

Like a great peat fire, so that the stranger may come

and warm himself at it, as well as the friend.

 

And may the light shine out of the eyes of you,

like a candle set in the windows of a house,

Bidding the wanderer to come in out of the storm.

(From a traditional Irish blessing.)

 

As I look back upon the past year and reflect on what I want to share with you at the dawn of 2014, there are two things that stand out for me. This year brought Sadananda and myself the extraordinarily grace-full experience of our Celtic journey through England, Wales, Ireland and Scotland, culminating in our pilgrimage to the Sacred Isle of Iona in the Hebrides. The place where the great Saint Columcille or Columba made his home, Iona has been Scotland's most sacred spot for more than fifteen centuries and still possesses an extraordinary aura of peace and serenity.



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This was also the year when I was not just a compassionate witness of world news, but also one who lived through devastating and overwhelming events heard around the world--the Colorado Flood Disaster, which inundated Boulder County, sweeping away entire mountain towns and damaging thousands of buildings, including Alandi Ashram. Recovery efforts are ongoing still, both countywide and at the ashram.

 

There is an underlying thread that links these experiences, so different in emotional tone. The Celtic way is one of harmony with the earth, the elements and the cycles and seasons of nature. In the sacred spaces of cliff and mountain, shore and turf--wild and rugged places lashed by wind and rain--the beauty of sunrise and sunset, dusk and starlight, heather and meadowsweet, the grating cry of the corncrake and the otherworldly moans of Manx shearwater are received with reverence and awe. Beauty suffuses the harshness of these spaces at the edge of the world, calling forth myth, song and story and awakening the heart to other dimensions of being. For the Celts, nature was not a force to be tamed and dominated but a sacred text to be read, learnt and lived.

 

And for us in Boulder the untamable wildness at the heart of nature made itself felt as the earth cleansed herself in a roar of waters. We the privileged, the comfortable, were humbled in the face of a force that could not be contained and that overturned our lives within minutes. At such times, we can only remember that we do not own the Earth, we are her guests, living upon her at her pleasure.

 

May the blessing of the rain be on you - the soft sweet rain.

May it fall upon your spirit so that all the little flowers may spring up,

And shed their sweetness on the air.

 

And may the blessing of the great rains be on you,

that they beat upon your spirit and wash it fair and clean,

and leave there many a shining pool, and sometimes a star.

 

While we struggled to reclaim our lives after the disaster in Boulder County, wild weather events continued around the world at an unprecedented rate. The worst storm ever to make landfall hit poor and vulnerable people in the Philippines. Tens of thousands were evacuated in Britain as one Atlantic storm after another came roaring in. As I write today from Wales, a series of severe storms throughout the past two weeks have brought flooding, fallen trees, power failures and tidal surges. Meanwhile Minnesota is anticipating the coldest temperatures it has ever known. The climate is destabilizing faster than we could have imagined. Five hundred year events are the new normal. Each storm brings an invitation to radical change in a way of life that is rendering our beautiful home a hostile place for humans and animals alike.

 

As the year drew to a close, I became once more a participant in tragic news. The school shooting that occurred on 13th December took place not just in Colorado, but at Arapahoe High School, the school our nephew attends and from which our niece recently graduated.  Like the floods, the shooting was a reminder that disturbing events don't just happen to other people. We are all participants in a culture disconnected from nature and from our own hearts. Although stricter gun controls would undoubtedly help make events of this kind less likely, such legislation does not address the deepest cause or offer the most effective remedy.

 

A year after the terrible school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, local Rabbi Shaul Praver spoke eloquently of the one effective remedy for violence and the wounds of violence--loving-kindness. "We have found the cure for the social disease of violence, hatred and bigotry, and that cure is good old-fashioned loving kindness. When everyone practices that it does change the atmosphere of a room, of a town, of a community, of a state and a country. And so, it is not of only local value, but it is of universal value."

 

 I invite all of us to dedicate 2014 to loving-kindness--the wish that all beings be happy. For a few minutes each day, let us breathe in 'May I be happy,' drawing warmth into every cell. And let us breathe out 'May all beings be happy' radiating warmth to all humans, animals and plants.

 

And may the blessing of the earth be on you - the great round earth;

May you ever have a kindly greeting for people you pass

as you are going along the roads.

 

And now may the Lord bless you, and bless you kindly.

 

Wishing you a joyous New Year and peace and prosperity during 2014!

 

With my love and blessings always

 

Alakananda Ma


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Solstice 2013

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In these days of deepening dark

Curtains drawn at four o'clock

The house littered with dismembered reptile corpses

In these days of wet brown bracken

Muddy boots and early snow

In these uneasy times

 Of shortages of Kleenex, coriander

And bendy wooden snakes

The Lord of Misrule walks our halls.

 

And she who must continually blow her nose

And he who cannot cook without coriander

And she whose world is safe

Only when peopled with friendly snakeys

Gird ourselves against the darkness

Call upon the light

And with song, with wooden spoons

With Punch and Judy puppets

Invoke the Prince of Peace

Invoke the one

Who comes with healing in his wings

Bringing with him tinsel and mince pies

And a wealth of Kleenex, coriander

And bendy wooden snakes.

A Murder of Crows

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Black shapes glide overhead

Wave upon wave

Cawing loudly,

Calling their corvid brethren.

 

They swoop down

Roosting on treetops--

Golden, green, bare-twigged--

Like an autumn harvest

Of great black pears

Rich with fabled wisdom.

 

Solitary, flightless

I stand transfixed.

Full moon rises smoky,

Penumbral shadow.

I gaze at the dark heralds

Of Ancient Grandmother.

 

 



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Afghanistan, 7 April 2013

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Eleven small children laid out in a row.

Village men sobbing into shawls.

How glorious is war!

 

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Wednesday

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It is Wednesday.

In the cold pre-dawn

I empty the dish rack.

Pots and spoons I washed

Seven hours before

When the week was young.

Glisten with wednesdayness.

 

It is Wednesday, Woden's day

Full moon of the week

Day of the wild hunter

Master of the runes

Seer of the single eye.

 

It is Wednesday, Mercredi,

Day of the winged one

Gifting us quicksilver speech,

Sprinkling everyday things

With emerald glitter dust.

 

It is Wednesday

Heart of the week

The kingly day,

After the sleepy infancy of Sunday

Monday's awkward adolescence

Tuesday's impetuous youth.

 

It is Wednesday

Apex, turning point,

Before the leaves of the week

Turn Thursday gold

And fall to Friday's rich, moist ground,

Before the lighting of candles

Invites Saturday's repose.

 

It is Wednesday.

Where does the Sabbath go

During the week?

 

 

 

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Lancashire Lads for Lincoln

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I

The mills are closed, the children hungry

Proud workingmen in soup kitchen queues

mixt wi't stondin paupers too,
Ut wilno work when works t'be 'ad.

The cotton hoed beneath the lash

The cotton picked by bleeding hands

The cotton cleaned by groaning slaves

Rots in Charleston warehouses.

For the pure cloth spun in Manchester mills

The fine cloth woven by Lancashire lads

Is dyed with blood

 And stained by chattel slavery.

And the men in the Free Trade Hall rise up

Not to demand the blockade be broken

Not to agitate for cotton to come

But to call for the end of that foul blot

On civilization and Christian faith

To call for the day when all the slaves

Shall be forever free.

 

II

 

Night falls on the silent spindles and the idle looms

The factories dark and shuttered

The cold and crowded tenements

The children crying for food,

The slight man wearing kadhi cloth

Depressed and distressed by this misery.

And you whose grandfathers stood with Lincoln

Men and women of Darwen

At Greenfield Cotton Mill

Raise your voices for freedom

Raise your arms for Gandhi

The simple man with a spinning wheel.

 

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Remembering Menuhin

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 January 17th 2013

"You must love if you yearn to be loved; you must trust to be trusted, serve in return to be served."  Menuhin to the Knesset


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Eighty-seven years ago today

You made your debut

At the Metropolitan opera house

Returning to the city of your birth.

My parents were not yet crawling

And you were nine years old.

When other boys were playing fivestones

You played Handel and Paganini.

 

A Russian Jew from New York City

You won an unparalleled place

In your adopted homeland.

For us, you will always be

King of the violin.

You inspired our troops,

Played for wounded soldiers,

Roused dead souls in Belsen,

Planted deep roots

Among your young musicians,

Lord of Stoke D'Abernon.

 

When I was nine years old

You were my hero

Your unseen presence guiding my bow

As I played Hungarian Dances

Inaccurately but with passion.

I saved sixpence a week

For my first gramophone record,

You and Hephzibah playing Bach.

You were an elder cousin

For a lone Jewish child

Close to my heart

Although we never met.

 

You spoke to Israel of love and trust

Gave benefit concerts for Palestinian refugees

Reached out in friendship to Germany.

Your humanitarian spirit guides me still

As a lover of animals

Practitioner of ahimsa

And builder of bridges

 Between East and West.

 

You have passed to other worlds

But your music lives

Awakening dead souls now.

Today you play Bach in my living room

As you always have in my heart

The tender adagio reminding me

To listen to the Master's Voice within.


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2012 Year In Review Haibun

This poem is in approximate haibun style. Haibun consists of haiku interspersed with short prose pieces. This poem consists of Haiku-like poems interspersed with verses written in the rhythms of ordinary speech.


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2012 year in review

(Actually beginning from December 15th 2011)

 Thanks to TS Eliot for verse 15)

 

Five birthday cakes

A total of sixty candles

In Britain I would be a pensioner.

 

It was the year I knew I was growing older,

A year of struggles and triumphs

As perhaps all years are

But more remarked

Because of the sixty candles.

 

Menorah kindling at Rhoshelyg

Caroling in the mud

Christmas pudding flaming.

 

It was the year I went carol singing in a Welsh village

The year I saw a mother grizzly bear with two cubs,

 The year we were pulled over by the Washington State patrol

Going five miles an hour over the speed limit

 And Sarah was thrilled, because it was like the movies.

 

Willow tree of life and death

Springs anew and green

Beside Goose Creek.

 

It was a year when trees befriended me.

 I stood inside a hollow redwood,

Camped amid sitka spruce and mountain hemlock

And meditated beneath an ancient English oak.

 

Brilliant Mars with Mercury and Saturn

Venus and Jupiter conjunct in Western sky

Night falls on Bluestem trail.

 

It was a year of celestial events.

The perihelion of Mars lit our evening hikes.

We watched the transit of Venus in the alley

With binoculars, printer paper

And our physics graduate neighbour.

 

Dormant for years

White orchid awakens

Delicate, breathtaking bloom.

 

It was the year I worked late nights and early mornings

Compiling twenty years of herbal studies

And the year the first white-robed students

Flowered as Ayurvedic doctors.

 

You have received everything.

Keep practicing.

Lama's last words.

 

It was the year Tenge Rinpoche shed his nirmanakaya form

Meditating for three days after death

And the year Juba and Julie exchanged vows

Witnessed by squirrel and vulture.

 

Scent of pine smoke fills the air

Flames leap on the mother mountain

Beloved home of bears.

 

It was the year winter was like spring

And Summer was an inferno

Fires blazing to North, South and West,

Smoke burning throat and lungs.

 

The wounded surgeon plies the steel

That questions the distempered part;

Beneath the bleeding hands we feel

The sharp compassion of the healer's art.

 

It was the year I sprained my ankle

Five days after the doctor told me to exercise more

And the year I travelled to Hammersmith hospital for thyroid surgery

At the height of the London Olympics.

 

Rose perfume in my hands

Rose quartz around my neck

 Unbidden, unforeseen generosity.

 

It was a year graced by the kindness of stangers;

The family who shared their Ramadan fast-break food with me,

The Arab woman who filled my hands with perfumed oil,

The Jesus tower builder of Antonito,

Who gave me a rose quartz Navajo necklace.

 

Winter Solstice twenty twelve

World didn't end

Or did it?

 

It was the year the Mayan calendar ended

Polar ice caps melted

And New York subway was flooded.

 The year we began to notice

That our fate lies in our own hands.

 

 

 






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