Editor’s note: Lisa Paige recently completed the TLA Foundations class as part of TLAN’s certificate program. In the class, students are given weekly prompts to which they may respond in any form they feel called to. The following is Lisa’s reflection on both this aspect of the class and the poem it inspired. The poem itself was in response to the July 2021 Oregon wildfires.
Participating in a TLAN course has opened my eyes to the unpredictable responses to prompts; not so much from others, because I expect that, but from myself! Who knew that after a reading for a class on facilitating writing workshops I would write a poem? It flowed like a waterfall when I had believed I was in a drought.
Experiencing the very thing we hope our workshop participants will has been the best inspiration to continue the work I’ve just begun engaging in with TLAN.
And now, humbly, my poem.
Smoke on the Water
The sky turned gray tonight.
Oregon’s smoke reached New England,
lapping at me like a needy puppy or
maybe more a teething bitch.
She stole the sunset,
swirling in secretive
atop the pond.
“See me?” she said,
Once, the sky looked gray to me even on the sunniest of days.
Now, my bright light shines even in the darkest night.
Once, I had little energy for the troubles of others --
never mind strangers living on a distant coast.
Now, with every leaf that ignites in Oregon,
I lose a part of my soul.
So is this day gray?
Through the clouds of Mother Earth,
I reach for hope.
If my life could be saved,
so too can our home.
Lisa Paige’s essays and features have been published widely; she also ghostwrites, edits, teaches writing for wellness workshops, coaches teen writers, and is at work on a YA novel manuscript. www.insightlearning.co
This poem was inspired by specific terrorist attacks, and applies equally to the ongoing, everyday, barrage of violence swirling around us. It was inspired by the magical comfort a mother provided her child. It was inspired by the work we are all here to do, which requires a steady hand, clear vision and a peaceful heart. How shall we center ourselves in this turbulent new year?
Dedicated to the memory of the 51 Muslims murdered in their mosques on March 15, 2019 in Christchurch, New Zealand.
Questions, Prompts & Ideas:
I invite you to wander through the words, paying attention to places that entice or thrill or repel or otherwise jump out. The shift may show up in your body, mind, emotions or spirit. Linger there in tender exploration; surround your path with loving kindness. Poems are my questions and my statements of possibility that I share in hopes you will explore your own. Feel free to agree or take issue. Change the words if that suits you. And please invite yourself fully into the poem by changing any pronouns that don’t fit.
Are you a member of a group held in contempt by some folks? Are you a member of multiple groups held in contempt by some folks? Are you at risk simply existing in proximity of hateful people? How does this affect your body? Mind? Emotions? Spirit? Goals? Dreams? Education? Employment? Housing? Health care? Transportation? Food availability? Air and Water quality? Finances? Spirituality? World view? What are the everyday and long term affects of this on your precious life? What cumulative entrenchment, if any, do you experience?
If you are not part of a group held in contempt by some folks, what is the effect on your precious life, of living in an environment where others are vulnerable through no fault of their own? Where do you stumble? How do you find and maintain a centered way forward?
At times, we are all the child in the poem, crying out for comfort. Explore your moments of neediness and surround them in tender love. Search for the bedrock cause; don’t stop until you find it. What wholesome, truthful solutions arise?
Consider contemplation, meditation, self-care, prayer, the varied and infinite ways to cultivate a wide-open love that is both deeply personal, and is universal. Consider taking effective actions in hopes of relieving the suffering of others. Are you called toward inward cultivation or outreach? Is one more important than the other? Is it okay to do the thing you are naturally inclined toward, but not the other? Or do you have a responsibility to do both?
My New Year’s wish is that we hold ourselves steady, rock ourselves, sing to ourselves, plant ourselves even for a moment in a place of peace. Then may we respect all beings, bring true equality to life, and champion justice for all.
The enormous healing power of words compels Judith to write. She strives to clarify, challenge, redirect, own up to and celebrate life. And do damage control.
Poetry’s unique spaciousness invites us to land in surprising places, come face to face with ourselves anew, and discover fresh perspectives. It connects us more deeply to ourselves, and erodes isolation.
“Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on.” Pete Seeger
About Judith Goedeke:
An award-winning poet and retired acupuncturist, Judith’s work appears in anthologies, literary journals and River of Silver Sky, a book of poems. She facilitates Poem as Portal Workshops that foster loving self-awareness, intentional living and compassion.