I am a Boat

ceramic,34x2x5″

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Just felt like revisiting this poem in the midst of so much transition:

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I AM A BOAT

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I am a boat.

Not a Chinese junque. – (my blood is too foreign though I do wish it wasn’t).

Well.. perhaps a gleaming and slippery, “Have a martini”, 40? ode to speed? – (I’d lose the key..).

Maybe that great outboard motorboat we used up at the lake to go bass fishing as the dawn steam rose and we, wee ones still with sleep in our eyes? – (Oh, I did love the control!)

What about a catamaran? Sliding and cutting so deftly through..intent on getting ‘there’ FAST!.. The constant thrill of capsizing the thing?- (Nope).

I could be a giant cargo ship with all the ballast I’d ever need in rough seas.. (No beauty in all that safety and way too much metal. I’m not that fond of metal, anyway).

A folded paper boat adrift on an even pond? – (Not enough substance or staying power).

I will be a canoe.

My own ship carved of a tree so I will remember dry land should I turn toward forgetting.

It will hold one.

Two or three if I so choose.

My family and friends will have helped me carve the thing.

We will have sung songs and toasted it’s doneness before they hand me two paddles and I pause to bow (to them and it) before I step in alone.

I will push off the beach and settle my frame into the curve of the tended wood.

I will not look back.

I am not sad. I will cut the glassy sheen of the lake

And lean into my direction.

I pull the water to me

And let it empty behind.

Pull.

Empty.

Pull.

Empty.

The rhythm lifts me.

And the work is not.

I am free.

Destination is uninteresting.

I just stay with the impossible beauty.

In raw weather

I huddle in the rain and wind

Sometimes, just yielding to the whim of the lake

Because it is bigger than me.

In the morning with wet and straggly hair

I peek outside my parka.

The way seems clear

Though I do not know where I am.

A loon sets me straight

And my paddle meets the waters.

I sing.
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-C. Aten 2011

Friends

A VERY SMALL ROOM

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As I have taken on years
The things I am unsure about
Demand a beginners mind
Whether I like it or not.

Poo Poo the spiritual tests
And life lessons surely needed
For pearly gate entry.
I am bored with keeping myself shiny.

I like, instead, to brush any dust off
the velvet upholstery on the very few
Crimson armchairs
Set up in my heart.

You see…the friends I love
Beyond reason
Each have their very own
Place to rest in my heart.

No one may ever sit
In someone else’s spot.
It must be this way
Because I said so.

When I love a friend
For all the ways
They keep me right
They get a chair.

Because keeping me right
Is sometimes
A very big job..
I am quite complicated (it is said).

My friends cherish my feelings
Or, I feel they do.
They help me remember myself
When I forget.

I am inspired, challenged and tenderized
Sometimes all in one sit-down.
Their curiosity about big Self and little self
I scramble to catch and keep; wear as perfume.

Because, with my friends I am “Home”
I carry a safe place for them as well.
Often you may find me tending each crimson armchair
With the love and respect any thoroughbred deserves.

Any decorations in this room
Are the tears and stories, celebration and sorrow
Precious in themselves-
And held as such.

There’s not much left to tell
But Tequila has been known
To be shared in communion –
We raise a glass to our good fortune.

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-CA

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What Do We Do In The Dark?

monoprint,30×22

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This winter has been challenging for me.

Bitter cold, schizophrenic wind screaming in the eaves

And way, wayyyyyyyy too many mornings

Waking to cool grey watercolor skies.

Yuk.

My wheelchairs deep tread tires itch

For action

And I spray Chanel #5 on my curly lamb neck warmer

And wear it around the house

Like a weird prayer

For the permission

To outdoors myself.

This week warmth has snuck back in.

And good friends and family are coming to visit!

I begin happy-ing up.

Emma gets ditties sung to her

Whether she wants them or not.

During the long dark

I thought of the longest dark.

Not seriously;

More in a curious way.

I prayed in my bed

Curled fetal

Around a heating pad

I love

More than is reasonable.

I prayed for my athletic and shredded

Nervous system

To fucking give me some peace.

Emma and I make the micro-adjustments

As we lay there-

Needing the primal reinforcement

Of constant contact.

I let myself love crime TV

And try to meditate in the mornings

But I am water-logged in stillness

So inviting more seems the act of a mad person.

One day I screamed into a pillow

Out of vocal atrophy

But Emma got a look on her face

No one should ever see.

In the dark of this winter

My hibernation was

Not a peaceful one.

My friends will arrive soon

And help me reclaim

Undernourished life lines

Connecting me to

The taut and gracious

Brain and body

I let go to seed.

My underground self

Will keep stretching

Toward their warmth and humor

And my complexion will pink.

My own long migration

From the dark to the light

Depends more and more

On Communion

Of any kind

Which,

In essence,

Means not alone.

I Must Fall In Love

wooden matches,earth

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I MUST FALL IN LOVE
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I must fall in love

With my unfortunately placed

Lines and wrinkly bits.

I remember

Saying to myself

Not too long ago really:

“I hope I don’t age like her.”

“i hope my way is more balanced

In the crevice department.”

The ones

That appeared overnight

Around about my mouth

Are called

“Marionette lines.”

Do men have these?

I don’t think so.

I wonder if mine came

From all the false smiling?

No matter.

I must fall in love

With who I am

Because I haven’t the money

To erase the evidence

Of all the innocent

Choices I made

In service to

Curiosity.

And survival;

Let’s not forget that…

If I plumped myself

Up

And needled

The cracks

I would surely miss

The full landscape

Of me

And I find myself interesting.

I do crave

A gorgeous aging

Like those older models;

Luckily

Calling attention.

My envelope

Of skin

Has travelled

Through the mail

A bit.

I’ve been places;

Mostly in my mind

And

I am

Here still

To tell you

I wish

I had not

Smiled

When

I did not

Want

To.

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CA. 2019

I Bought a Leopard Print Jacket

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I usually shoot for spare and elegant in my “peacockery” when choosing what to wear.

But lately I have ancient anger re-surfacing.

Old “mother-stuff” undealt with.

You’d think a lifetime of therapy would have taken a squeegee

To my nervous system (in chronic hypervigilance due to her)…

But NO……

The glass is not yet cleared of the awful fog of war

I innocently turned in on myself

And ended up with an autoimmune illness

Which makes me fucking ANGRY

So I bought myself

A LEOPARD PRINT COAT

In the hope that when I wrap myself

In the perfect chaos of the spots

I will take on some of that same wild

And

Even as I hold myself

High and risen

In my trusty chariot ;

Contained in an elegant package

Will be me as the wildest, growling, taut in muscle and mind

Leopard-girl.

The leavings of sonic boom shatterings

Of grief laced with rage

And be-fuddlement

Will be seen by those behind me

Perchance ambling by

Confused by the wide and sure

Pressure

Of

Paw prints

Left by

A very large

Cat.

Smelling of Chanel #5.

Don’t Worry

frailty

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DON’T WORRY

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Don’t worry
If you are not
Where you want
To go.

If I say ‘‘empathy’’
Does your heart
Release
A few old scales?

If a dog
Happens to dance
A prayer for food
Do your eyes gleam?

I don’t know
My multiplication tables
But I can remind you
If you lost your song.

No longer do I ask
“Am I good enough?”
I AM which is
Indeed all there is.

Yesterday
I saw two black birds
Dipping and veering.
I gave them my attention.

That’s as good
As it gets I think;
Pay attention.
No expectation.

There is
No wrong road
Unless
You follow someone else’s.

Dipping and veering
In the hall of mirrors
Is the cost
Of character.

I’ve paid my dues
And then some
For the privilege
To know nothing.

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-Cathy Aten

Blue Man

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Yesterday, I passed him by.

Approaching the elevator

Leading up to my favorite coffee spot

I saw a blue man sitting on a bench.

His whole self was covered in bundles

Of blue plastic tarp- wrapped belongings.

Sleeping bag, blanket, sundries.

Each carefully placed around him

Creating a weighted balance.

He looked weary

And pulled in like a turtle.

I said: “Are you staying warm?”

I didn’t listen closely enough

To what he said

Because I wanted it to be

What I wanted it to be.

The elevator took a really long time to come.

In hindsight it was surely God

Giving me extra time.

Waiting there for the elevator to open

We were silent.

My head was dropped a bit

Doing my own unconscious pulling in.

I didn’t think about him again

Until this morning.

I totally missed the holy man;

Hungry and defrosting

Sitting silently there with me.

The temperature outside was 15 degrees with wind.

The blue man was taking shelter there

Trying to stay alive

Within his challenges.

I could easily have bought him breakfast and a warm drink.

So easily.

But I didn’t even think of it.

And that is the thing that bothers me.

I missed the holy man completely.

Holy. Sacred.

Resting there

In his ordinary-ness.

This is the way we humans learn.

We carry on

Easy in our habits

Designed to prolong comfort

And assuage desires

Like a latte

Or post-holiday sales.

I could have done better.

Next time I hope I will.

Maybe I will see the holy man

(who is me)

(and you)

And I will recognize his need for comfort.

I will ease his suffering if I can.

This is how we learn;

We triumph

By failing first.

Then we rise up

All ash-covered like a phoenix

And trundle on

With wider eyes

And stretch marks on our hearts.

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Happy New Year to the sacred in and amongst us. xxxx

Rollabout

detail “BLACK FOREST”, 2009, ceramic, sand, wood, 8’l x 18″h x 38″w

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HALF

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Half brittle
Half dampened yellow leaving leaves
Laid down
Under my half worn
Tires
Half-way
Downtown
This morning.

A half-grey sky
Spit half snow
And some rain
Onto Emma and me
As we cruised
At full speed
Dressed for the bitter
Except for mittens.

There were no croissants
And half-glad
I read my magazine
Half-judging
New mothers
Allowing
New humans
Full access
To the dirty floor
Of the coffeeshop.

Emma was half content
When we sped home
Before she was ready.
I was too cold
And half-assedly
Swore into the full headwind
Making sure
I pulled it completely together
Before crossing the street.

Barely just inside
My apartment door
Emma and I just sat there
Fully winter-clad
Still.
Silently, we waited five minutes;
Both heads half-mast
Waiting quietly
To de-frost.

You wouldn’t think
A day like today
Merited the label
“HALF FULL”
Would you?
However,
I am a fine specimen
Of full-on Michigander
And I say it is so.
Half in jest.

-CA 2018

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Farmer

installation in private garden,naturally pigmented earth,ceramic

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If one is a farmer of life
Times of drought tiptoe in.
Rough, old earth workers
Expect such chilly emptiness.
They wait.
Patiently by the fire
With a scrappy mutt
And darned socks
They wait.
Inside illness
As I am
Time is stained by fear;
Will I slide smoothly
Into a new season
Of fecundity?
Will summer sweat be mine again?
Or will I wither
From lack?
The oddest questions
Seek me out.
Really…ANYTHING
With expectation
Is suffering.
I should know by now
That emptiness
Is only
Rest
And possibility
We humans
Dress up
in
Anxiety.
Today, Riley
(my shaman barista)
Decorated my latte
With an artfully drawn frond
Of some sort.
That tiny action
Rose up to grab me
By the heart.
Can we make anything beautiful?
That little flower he drew
Affected me as such
Because it came
Suddenly
Into my anxiety-tinged emptiness
I feared
Might never end.
If the emptiness disappeared
There’d be nowhere
For the Love
To land.

I Sing

“BIRD”, 2001, 5″ x 4″ x 4″, ceramic

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I SING
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Big.
Black.
Eyes.
Watching
Me.

Ever-present oceans
Of adoration
And also
Fairly gracious
Demands:
“Get a move on, wheelchair girl!!”

Does each
And every
Tree trunk
Play
It’s own personal
Dog symphony?

In her complete silence
Emma is
A potent diplomat.
She instantly shifts all
Discontent;
Granting us a few untainted moments.

If she likes someone
She may
Grant the fortunate
A tiny tail wag
Or even a lick.
Maybe.

Never needy
Or unappreciative
Except
When I move
Away from her
In bed at night.

It is then
I hear a rustle of blanket
And slight adjustment
Until the press
Of her warm back
Meets mine again.

Emma is communion.
A wafer and wine at mass
Don’t hold a candle to her.
Everyday
I open my personally writ hymn book
And sing.
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– CA.

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Emma Loves Earthworms

detail-ceramic

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AFTER THE BIG STORM

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EMMA LOVES EARTHWORMS.

INTOXICATING! BROWN. DEAD.

MOVE ALONG, DOGGIE.

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CA- 2017

Raven Walking


RAVEN WALKING

I saw a raven walking.
Really more of a strut.
He felt himself fully
Flashing this way and that.
Hysterical children
Bothered him not.
He walked;
Courting no one.

I am like him.
Little need
To bolster my flash.
I enjoy my lot
Taking only as much
Sidewalk
As I need.
I roll on;
Courting no one
In particular.

That raven I saw
Has a black stride
Way
More secure
Than my own.
I did notice
He had
One feather
Slightly
Amiss.

His naturally black eyes
Have no overleaves
Of pretense or posturing.
The swagger he owns
And the flash too;
He can’t divorce himself
From who he is.

I got up this morning
And vacuumed
The dustbunnies
Off my precious
And secret
Self.
When I emptied
The bag
It was less full
Than yesterday.
(Big sigh)

I roll.
Hoping to meet that raven.
“Thank you
For showing me
Your Real”
I shall say.
“Here is some of mine
For you.”

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White Dog Waiting

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HAIKU FOR EMMA

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A white dog waits while

I perform my ablutions.

She extends her paw.

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CA. 2017

 

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Pigeons and Autism

 

 

In the early morning on the plaza 

A young

Well-dressed

Father

Tried unsuccessfully

To keep up with his autistic child

Who,

Flapping his arms wildly

Made pigeon guttural soundings

Weaving wildly

This way and that.

The Dad

Was close

To  hysteria

Trying to make it

To the street curb

Before his kid

Attempted flight

Not wanting

To leave his feathered friends

Quite yet.

The mom

Was inside a restaurant

Across the street

Finishing her breakfast;

Her stress level

Evened 

With their absence (I imagine).

I was the watcher.

The boy,

With his pre-existing condition,

Seemed free.

I envied his arm-flapping

And calling

To the pigeons.

I wanted to take the Dad to a bar

And leave the Mom

In peace.

The boy

Flew the coop

In my private theater

And 

So 

Did

I.

Hand in hand

We took off

After those glittering quicksilver birds.

The boy

Knew more

Than I

About giving in

To the Mystery.

 

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photo- Dennis Chamberlain

How a Heart Gets Plumped

 

Sometimes twice a year

My blonde sister visits me.

I say that

As all in my family

Are blonde

But me.

Dreary Oregon days

Wetted her down

The past 100 days

Or so…

I prayed for sun;

Making a deal

With God:

If He/She delivered

I’d start meditating

In the mornings

Beginning my day

With my own 

Fervent prayer

For goodness

To glitter-bomb

All who could use a shine.

As it happened

THERE WAS SUN!

We ate and drank

And just looked around

At stuff;

Told stories

Of bad husbandsX

And other curious choices.

I saw her bloom

In the sunshine.

I was,

Like a plant,

Ever drawn 

Toward the essence 

Of her.

My recently

Chipped front tooth

Really saw 

The light;

Laughing

As we did.

Now she is gone.

My blonde sister

Has left.

I feel hungry

In my heart.

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Tiny Noises

The day Emma and I met for the first time. Finally safe and off the streets of L.A. We rescued one another. Still do.

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TINY NOISES

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Emma’s tiny sleep noises

Heat up my heart

And my heart

Melts it’s way

Down to my toes

And my heart seeps

Out onto the damp land

And takes me with it

So-

In the end

There remains  

Just Us.

As Every

Thing.

In Spring.

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-CA

 

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Apricot Night

my living room

___________

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APRICOT NIGHT

 

Last night Emma and I rolled.

In the deep 

Sort of dark

Dark

We silently skirted potholes.

A restless bird

Given to insomnia

Cawed a weary warning

As we passed.

Venus gleamed.

Suddenly

A scent

Slipped into 

My sphere.

Ahead of us

Dotting black pavement

Were leavings

Of the first blooming

Apricot tree;

Fluorescent.

Impossibly tender and innocent

Tailings

Of bursting bloom

Slipped toward us

Through the night air.

I released

My wheelchair joystick,

Turning 

To let the barely pink gift

Give its’ self.

I lifted my head 

As Emma rustled nearby

And felt my being

Slightly dusted

With something

More than me.

Onward we went

Cruising the dark;

Our pace slowed 

By olfactory arrest.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christmas Haiku

bda-2016-7302

 

Deftly, the wide wings

Of hope gave us some shady

Ground to pray after all.

 

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– CA

 

.photo:  Dennis Chamberlain

Yellow

she walks
detail of painting on wool flannel
_________________________

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YELLOW

Crispy cracklin’
Happenin’
Underfoot.
Sleepy ground
Frosted yellow.
Floating yellow.
Down, down,
Leaves leaving.
Catching air.
Tilting this way
And that.
Slicing through
Air
On their way
To rest.
This yellowing
Of leaves
Takes a whole year
To get the color
Right.
I will wait
For the next round.

When
The yellowing
Leaves leaving
Finally rest;
Suddenly still
Post-flight,
The brown
From the ground
Takes them home.
They surrender
Their yellow
Then brown
And crisp
Their way
Into the folds
Of Mother.

Turning
As they do
Into wallpaper
For worms
The coming Winter
Makes them rest.
In their de-yellowed
Silence
They each dream
in utter
Stripped down
Nakedness
Of yet another season
Of yellow.

The truth is
It is quite impossible
To reproduce
The very
Same yellow
Next year.
It will never happen
Again
And this is why
We must be
The registrars
Of the perfectness
Of the yellowing
They give us
As their gift.
It happens once.
Only once.
And it is we
Who
Must
Remember.

– CA Oct. 2016

Just Breathe

containment1
detail,painting
___________

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PUTTING IT DOWN

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She had her own mind
But it bored her finally.

She loved her own company
A little too much.

She knew there is a reason for everything.
Spent her time decrypting life.

She learned what love is
From her dog not a man.

She came close to violent
When hungry.

A whole life got used up
Finding her true voice.

Perpetual ‘original self’ student
Describes her well.

For too long she looked to be saved.
Then saved herself after all.

Red lipstick
Is her favorite.

It lays top drawer
In her weaponry cache.

Dressing to entertain herself
Pleases her.

So easily distracted in life was she;
Endless shiny threads to follow.

Her concocted story
Was entertaining. But done.

Giving it up
Took lacking the energy to tell it.

Precious family and friends
Always listened well.

When that day came
Everything was oddly empty.

Threads still shine
In a lovely tangle at her feet.

Now, lusty living
Is dialed down to low.

Finally learning to live with fewer I’m sorrys
She is free to be.

Her closet is home
To some very fetching hats.

She costumes herself
With a white dog to match.

She rides her wheelchair
With a bright orange safety flag.

But she was saved
That day she laid her story down.

This is not to say
Chanel #5 holds no elan!

Stand in her wake
And breathe.

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-CA 2016

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