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Sandra Noel

All for Marilyn

Her pale blue eyes are kind
but clearly she does not know me
the person she’s been calling all week
asking, “Please, please, come soon?”
I bitched my way through rush hour traffic
getting lost in the middle of no and where
to do my karmic duty, my bodhicitta
only to find myself unrecognized.

In my hands are gifts for her;
nori crackers
organic cashews
candied ginger
chocolate chip cookies
a new beloved National Geographic

All for Marilyn, who lost her heart
when her first child died
and then her mind
asks instead of all my bounty
for organic salt-free peanut butter
from Trader Joe's about ten miles back.
Because this distance means nothing to her
and everything to me I turn away a moment
wrestling with anger and resentment
the twin dark angels of my nature.

“Sugar-free, don’t forget…”
Turning back, I begin to laugh
and so does she, innocently
like the teacher she’s become  
all my guilt-driven compassion laid bare
as the golden arrow finds my heart
and off I go again
making the first of many wrong turns
smiling at the driver
with his middle finger up
like Buddha pointing heavenward.


Prehistoric vocalizations
in the giant fir next to my window
stuttering, shape shifting, lifting
silently soaring across the mirror-black bay
into the light on the horizon
first rose, now golden

As I sit on my cushion
with alter and bowl
the first of many habits
acquired with age
to replace the passions
of my youth–only you remain.
I still wake up loving you
knowing you are impossible.
(knowing you are impossible!)

I sit and wait for peace to descend
for hope to expire
or rest in a tree nearby
knowing (somehow)
I will never wake to an empty heart--
that I will stagger
with the weight of you each morning
stuttering, shape shifting, lifting
then silently soaring into the light.

(haiku version)
Outside, a heron calls
Inside, my heart
How can you sleep though this din?

Tree Tonglen

When I die let it be alone with trees
within some ancient forest grove
to fall among them into leafy loam

Let me become a tapestry
of lichens, mosses green and gold
red-spattered blooming fungi
bright blue bells and fiddle ferns
an orchestra of species

Shattering all man-made myths of beauty
smooth, glossy and unmarked
where nothing much can grow

And deep inside and underneath
let beetles, worms and termites
feast on soggy pulpy meals of me
excreting no less than new earth
to grow with sun and centuries
another mighty giant home for creatures
far too numerous to mention in a poem

And forest generator of all life
taking in this foul polluted air
in great green gulps
breathing out the clean and good
Let me be as useful as a tree

Sandra Noel works as a freelance illustrator/designer developing interpretive text and illustrations for environmental education exhibits. Her passion is working with Alliance for Tompotika, an environmental organization involved in rainforest/community conservation work. She provides art and design for the group and has had the opportunity to teach art and ecology workshops for youth in Sulawesi, Indonesia in 2007 and 2009. Her other passion is poetry– reading and writing it. Heart of Darkness, a narrative poem was published in In the Mist, Imagining Babylon in Paradigm and Imagine, Night visitor and Albatross in Barnwood International Poetry Magazine and Blessed in ProtestPoems.