This poem by Kristal Tomshany reflects the high plains of the Oklahoma
Panhandle where she grew up and still returns to see her family . .
. and reflects the landscape of love and the human spirit as well.
The weight of my being
is suspended between heaven and earth,
fully borne, held up impossibly by
thin, interlocking spirals of charcoal,
grey, gold and ochre. Oscillating tightly,
each curl clings to the memory of itself
in the midst of this endless, sweeping gale.
Rooted chords vibrate my depths
Currents of connection rush and hum
as I myself am nearly swept away
by the sudden beauty of your presence.
Again we find each other in this world!
Love simultaneously ascends and
descends, colliding in joy:
It is, after all, the expanse of your chest
that I delighted to walk upon as a child.
It is, after all, this spicy sweet grass I return to
in the pasture of your embrace.
It is, after all, full circles we navigate, and
utter grace we inhabit.
It is, after all, the exhalations of pure bliss
hissing out from every dormant blade.
* * * * * * *
Tonight I awoke and found my daughter transformed
into the milk of a distant moon. Once, I was literate in
the transparent pages of her face but now, like the moon,
she wears vague expressions I can only guess at.
Our orbits have become carefully orchestrated so as to
keep one side of herself perpetually hidden from view.
My moon gazing has begun to reveal more about
my own needs and fears than it reveals about hers.
I know this is the way of all mothers and daughters.
It is nature's spin of cycles and tides, of push and pull.
It is a sure sign of love's precarious gyrations,
of the soul's impulse to find its own gravitational core.
A powder-white gypsy moth traverses the black pane
of my window erratically, laying down her invisible script
while my daughter, asleep on her pillow,
fashions in earnest her new secret name:
the one word my lips will not capture.
* * * * * * *
The following poem by Kristal Tomshany tells a story of two paths:
"This is modern manna," I wanted to say,
referring to the blue umbrella which you
had forgotten to bring to the worship service,
and which I had offered to pick up here,
in this quiet, clock-ticking living room we
had shared as childhood cousins.
"This umbrella is Jonah's whale," I wanted to say,
"spitting us out right here, into this present moment."
I sensed your unease, your awareness of how
alone we were, of how the clock spoke truth.
Miles from the safe borders of your monk's
vestments, you felt naked, standing there
before me in every-day pants and a shirt.
Frantically, the hinges of your fingers fumbled
with the umbrella's, searching for collapse,
groping for closure. The threatened animals
of your two moist hands fought wildly against
the stubborn splay of metal tips.
"This is the hair of the woman that dried Jesus feet,"
I wanted to say, "This is love that cannot be contained."
Having pity, I took the umbrella from you,
coaxing the tips slowly and gently back
into their round plastic handle. This being
done, you quickly took it from me, and began
binding the strap round and round the now
mummified cylinder, then velcroed it shut,
like Christ's tomb.
As you handed it back to me, in what
you hoped would be a last transaction,
the long, red vines of my heart emerged,
probing for an entrance to your soul.
How great was your need to stay focused
on the umbrella! How desperately you
tried to transfigure yourself into tight,
compact folds of blue nylon.
The trembling shields of your eyes confirmed the fact that
I now lived as someone who had chosen their own body and blood.
Embrace was now immanent, mandatory.
(It could be years before we saw each other again)
Your hug was perfunctory, pushing for separation
prematurely, as if my arms were pythons, and
delay spelled danger. The tendrils of my heart-vines
knew there would be no intertwining of souls today,
and, along with my arms, they retreated.
I spoke something in your language, bringing
a welcomed closure to the lost moment.
My comment about life's difficult journey
triggered a religious reflex, and out of you
came the liturgically metered response:
"We are all in darkness until Christ comes again."
These armoured words rode forth like crusaders, their bright,
resolute flags distracting our view of the present moment.
It became clear---your utter need for faith
beyond feeling, and my utter incapability of it.
What was this distant smoke-pillar of hope
by which you had so dutifully and carefully
mapped out the course of your life? Un-ownable,
it seemed the only thing you owned.
Comprehension gave way to compassion as I realized:
these words of promise could be your only gift to me.
Back in the car, I tossed the umbrella into
the passenger seat, thinking: The next time
I use this umbrella . . . the next time I loosen
its grave clothes to witness the expansive
stretch of resurrection's unfolding,
I will think of you, dear cousin.
And, in some wet instant of gale-force,
I will resist the impulse to tighten my grip
on the blue plastic handle. Instead, I will
let go, allowing the umbrella it's short-lived
moment of clumsy ascension. Rain will
run down my forehead in cool rivulets.
"This is baptism," I will say out loud, "This is salvation."
And this act of love can be my only gift to you.
* * * * * * *
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