By Karina Lutz
I. The poem if you’d left after skating
I flailed at you in skate tag.
How perfect the chase, you
always faster, me always
the ice way too thin at the edges and
bumpy at places—cracking in places.
Fun, fun, fun: pun play as sharp as
the scraping skate blades.
You witnessed your itness—
our breath full and necessary and cheeks red,
bodies warm in the cold,
your smile, your smile,
the inevitable love arising again as my thighs worked,
the sky, white-grey as it prepared to snow,
big and soft enough to hold the love,
the trees around the pond
The ice right where I needed it after I hurled myself at
your ever-evasive self and you somehow didn’t move,
and my cheek smashed into your shoulder.
I wanted nothing but what was there:
laughter, love, ice, breath, health, warmth,
you, you, you.
II. The poem if you had left after the meal
Dharma buddy, I see a pattern.
You attack any new teacher’s description of the dharma
with your own. Sometimes it melts down to nothing:
you glimpse emptiness, I see the smile that comes
from that: a smile of ease and satisfaction:
your whole face opens.
Sometimes, your brow twists as your mind binds
thoughts around each other. Sometimes your bullshit detector gets stuck on
like one of those highly sensitive smoke alarms that need to be moved farther
from the kitchen. Today, in the living room, I loved again
watching you as we conversed
dualism and nondualism,
trying to remember and know one
from the state of the other.
As we often do, we took sides.
We read to each other from
Thich Nhat Hanh’s Teachings on Love.
How I love your mind, your spirit, how I love being your mirror,
to show you what you can’t see of yourself when you’re just being
oppositional, like the mirror shows its right hand on your left side,
and any decent friend would hold up her right hand and call it left,
to leave you less confused. We mimed, we talked,
and meanwhile fire burned hidden in the woodstove,
You love to try to figure things out, my friend,
that the mind is inherently incapable of understanding.
And yet, you say, from here, there are the laws of physics.
From here, I say, astrophysicists have spied through scopes so far back
in time that they found an era, just after the Big Bang,
when the laws of physics did not exist.
Every once in a while, one of us would get up and peek in the stove,
an eye on the fire.
III. If you had left before the foot massage
My love, I said, please don’t drive yet.
The snow is wet on the road,
and the partiers are starting to party.
Yes, you said, but it’s only going to get worse.
IV. Up until I said please don’t leave me now
You were as beautiful in the twilight
as the giant snowflakes behind you through the window,
floating, hovering, surreally suspended in thick thin air.
It was too lovely to turn on the lights, in a room
with windows in four directions, a space within space
warm inside cold, dark within light.
I lit a candle so I could keep peeking
into your eyes, careful not to stare too long,
one eye on the fire.
You were smiling more. I peeled your socks off, massaged
them with lotion, hands, elbows—going slowly so as to not
beg the questions—you often are happy with just a massage.
Hands, elbows, eyes, listening to your voice, your laugh as always
spinal in me, rippling.
I pulled your feet, pushed them, bent your knee
and leaned in, Thai style, my weight towards your heart,
stretching your legs and back, our full bellies, happy bellies, now what?
Why or why not?
I can’t help loving you, you know that, and the only question that changes is
what kind of love. Is it always mixed, the unconditional with the confusion
of desire, the errors of attachment?
I returned to my practice, to my breath,
pacing passion by letting it rise and pass again and again,
the stove closed down tightly
for a slow, full burn. Steady love beams like radiant heat.
I let in enough air to keep the fire alive, though.
Then you let me kiss you.
And once again, we are skating on thin ice. This is where you usually say goodbye.
But you took me by hand
and led me to bed.
Remembering literally takes my breath away: a big huh spoken on the in-breath and gone.
I feel my womb contract and the energy hidden there flies up through my core
to my way-too-open-and-broken heart, and the energy skids the big screechy shush
of a sideways skate blade,
gets lost in the trying to let go, gets stuck around the periphery
of my chest, under the collarbones, in the remote corners of the heart itself.
My love and my passion at odds,
because as soon as you are inside me
you want to stop. I want to honor you but I hear your mind
and spirit and body telling me different things. Passion wins,
I grasp your hipbones.
But you cannot stay.
V. The poem if you’d left without talking it out
I need you to finish pleasuring me. To ask evokes your shame
but your hurt comes out as hurtfulness and I
succumb to that as well.
I don’t realize this at the time.
I allow you to shame me, and not until your side of the bed grows bone cold will my gut say:
I will not be shamed.
Heart adds, nor will I shame.
VI. What really happened
I was coming up to a peak of passion, had let go the guard,
flown open the woodstove doors, it was beginning to roar and then, closed at the flue,
smoke filled the house. Smudging us with anger, aversion, and you asked me
to stop feeling pain, desire.
I couldn’t but I stopped asking for more.
Then you asked: please honor that I don’t want sex like you want sex.
Of course your no trumps my yes.
I want yes-I-said-yes-I-will-Yes abandonment. You want to teach me
to accept No.
The golden rule does not always apply:
true love is not giving what you want to receive
nor what you have handy to give, but what the other needs.
You see this and ask me for what you really want:
for me not to want to change you.
Okay, so out with the old. The old dream of healing,
that I could fall back in love a third time (or is it seventh or eighth by now? Depends
on how you count fires: if there were still enough coals to start new kindling,
is that new? or maybe it doesn’t count if you banked the coals).
Here I am, water, water,
stirring the hissing ashes.
Yet I refuse to starve the love its air. That would mean stopping breathing.
Instead, I will I tease out sex-passion from love,
conditional from un,
truth from attachment,
aversion from letting
VII. Sleep’s koan
VIII. If you had stayed for breakfast
I wake up, recalling your sweat from the night before,
how fine it was, all over you,
how you opened the window, and let the cold
pour all over you, how I’d had to climb
under the covers. I tiptoe past the room
where you slept, see your mouth open,
vulnerable, trusting, keep walking, open the stove, peek in.
Tiny redness peeks back out of the ash-dusted coals.
Snow dusts the trees (still silent),
the fields, the cars, the road.
Pink and blue streak the sky, and where night’s wind
already blew off the dusting,
the icy crust on the field shines lavender.
I dust snow off wood, carry it in,
build a new fire. It doesn’t need a match.
At breakfast you are smiling again. You are forgiving,
I am forgiving, but we still have
no clue how to love each other well.
I imagine this poem from bed.
Pull the covers to my neck,
too cold to build a new fire.
I hurt like a 17-year-old girl in a 47-
year-old body: losing the same lover again.
I sob my letting go, fully, for good
this time, for real. Out with the old.
IX. If you’d come to the woods for the ritual . . .
. . . it would have been very different. Maybe you would have liked to see
my soul-sister smudge me, pray for me to let go of the old attachment
to failed love and make room for the new. Maybe you would have had something else
to say to the goddess, who we invited to clear our spirits and bring us
new loves and skillful means.
You might have been shocked to see when the smoke touched me and
my sister’s words made it through my mind and through my body to what
had lain asleep in my solar plexus, how it looked like an orgasm. How I made a similar
sound. How the energy burned up my feet from the snow and rattled out
the crown of my head, how I got it.
I think that was a yes.
X. Another kind of yes
I smudged my sister in the new light of the open sky above the old maple,
which had died and fallen almost all the way to the ground.
It was easy to pray for her, golden-rule easy,
to wish her what I wished: a new lover, as soon as she is ready, to love her well and deeply;
that she will know she deserves this, as she is so loving and giving and ripe;
that spirit fill her: fresh, full, nourishing, clear.
Over by the oldest living maple, where a half-frozen vernal pool
covered the living green of a hardy violet, and a spider
walked across the water, a miracle,
we prayed for all earth:
Clean air, clear water, and plenty of healthy food for all.
I would have loved to wave the lavender and white sage into your whitening, wild hair,
with the snow on the maple bark behind you. How the tree would have framed you,
held you in love as it did us. How the bits of snow alighting from the canopy above
would have moistened your cheek as they melted, cool tears:
how I would have loved you.
But would you have loved the new prayer that still sings in my heart?
Or would you have imagined we kept the loss at bay, outside
the circle of our snow-lit hope?
Would we have been able to be as open to spirit as we were without you?
And would you have let the goddess shake you free, would you
let her touch you like you had, the night before, let my fingers at your nape
gently awaken your spine?
Karina Lutz is a workshop leader, writer, editor, teacher, and lifelong activist. She has helped secure passage of sustainable energy legislation, thwart a proposed megaport, and restore wetlands in her home watershed of Narragansett Bay, RI. In 2013, she received honorable mention from Homebound Publications Poetry Prize for her manuscript, Preliminary Visions. She has performed her epic peace poem, “Encircling Earth,” at venues, including Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health’s first International Day of Peace performance and the American Friends Service Committee’s 10th year anniversary of the Iraq invasion.