Monday, December 31, 2012

This

This flame, this ribbon, this branch, this windblown cloudbank covering up the sun.
This song, this crevice, this hammer, this net,
this scrap of orange fabric in the grass.
This pause, this shoelace, this errant ladybug with distended wings crawling across the soft gray crawlspace of my pillow.
This hymn, this bird, this bit of news I wish I hadn't overheard but did.
This wasp fallen into wine.
This lost sentence of love trembling with need,
this half-acre of of sawdust and clay,
this trembling oak leaf suspended by nothing visible from a tender twig in the small gray rain.
This crow, this dog, this laughing coyote, this shed skin that wants to find itself a home in dirt.
This choir stall, this stairwell, this echo of an antiphon in darkness.
This shoe, this hearth, this rock, this bell,
this dazzle of lonesome verbiage truncated into a punctuation full of fire and the scent of piney heartwood as it catches.
This pen, this slip of paper made from sand and bloodroot, wanting nothing but the touch of a thought too small to shout, too big to whisper, too unrepentant to have it out with God,
too shy and wild to say its name in any place where anyone might hear.

©Laura Sorrells 2012
all rights reserved

This is another poem from Thanksgiving week of this year, when I was on retreat at Gethsemani.

Monday, December 10, 2012

the smoke from it sings

My listening heart
dares to praise
the perpetual, tender
roar of your
fire. Sometimes
the smoke from it
sings. Not with
words, but something
seen, a quiet
shadow; or tasted,
the unguarded psalm
of pomegranate
or river.
Nothing else
steals from me
so gently.

-----©Laura Sorrells 2012
all rights reserved

I wrote this while on retreat at Gethsemani Abbey the week of Thanksgiving 2012.

Monday, December 3, 2012

that conversation

Something in this silence
needs to be loved.
Its breath wants
the careful religion
of attention. Each
smoky sigh deepens
the wordless blessing
of this ache. My eyes wait
in the dark for the tender
call of Nothing.
Anywhere can be the
meeting-place of
hymn and emptiness,
the marriage bed
of praise and distance.
Listen for that
conversation, and
be ready
to leave your life.

©Laura Sorrells 2012
all rights reserved

Saturday, November 24, 2012

the patience of the Guest


How does this Feast
always turn
annihilation into
origin? The patience
of the Guest dances
in that eddy of love. Forever
new, the friendship
between
unsayableness and
music trembles like
the skin of a pond,
entered.
-----©Laura Sorrells 2012
all rights reserved

Monday, November 12, 2012

Your quiet nowhere
storms my emptied
world like a hawk,
a helpless lover
shining and nameless
in the tender
solitude of
this forest's night.
No other
moment has
this face's heart;
no other
fire loves what
it burns so
sweetly.

©Laura Sorrells 2012
all rights reserved

Sunday, November 11, 2012

prayer poem before coffee

The world's empty garden
opens to me, a
prayer that wants to
bring me the
living vein of
love I have
longed to breathe
every morning.
Its season is this
prayer's only
moment, a
hatching, a light,
an everything begging
for surrender.

©Laura Sorrells 2012
all rights reserved

Saturday, November 10, 2012

that secret commotion

The unfailing laughter
your compassionate fire speaks
enters the wilderness of rust
that my little soul has built, teaching
me the blossoming
I pray for, showing
me how to want
that secret commotion
that leads to holy stillness.

©Laura Sorrells 2012
all rights reserved

Sunday, November 4, 2012

some knowledge

Some knowledge
becomes fuel.
The ordinary secrets
of November's
nowhere burn into the
sweet, laughing vernacular
I learn when no
one else
is looking.

----©Laura Sorrells 2012
all rights reserved

inside


Last night my teacher taught me the lesson of poverty,
having nothing and wanting nothing.
I am a naked man standing inside a mine of rubies,
clothed in red silk.
I absorb the shining and now I see the ocean,
billions of simultaneous motions moving in me.
A circle of lovely, quiet people
becomes the ring on my finger.
Then wind, and the thunder of rain on the way.
I have such a teacher.
---Rumi, trans. Coleman Barks

Saturday, October 27, 2012

the simple everything

The inexorable law
of light comes home
to us in the brave and
difficult voice of rain and
wind. Receive that
consuming love
and be made
into the simple everything
of God's perfect fire.

©Laura Sorrells 2012
all rights reserved

Monday, October 1, 2012

music and silence

The glowing wind arrives full of sky,
humming with the sound of hornets' ghosts.
Every day I hear the beloved music of the
Earth. The silence is a scarlet oar
taking me through the weather.
Already the bright field of you
blooms in a music of fog and hawk,
the quiet birthday of thistles,
the gentle parent of geese and peonies.

©Laura Sorrells 2012
all rights reserved

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

vocabulary

When the living syllables
of sky and forest
shine through the silent shapes
of sweetgum and red oak,
I search among their scraps for
the powerful, lonely
somewhere of you.
Infinite and wordless,
you hunt my solitude down
and fill its hours with
the vocabulary of daybreak
and campfire, the poetry
of forgiveness vivid
in the roots of
your dancing, passionate
question.

©Laura Sorrells
all rights reserved

This is a found poem I wrote today using words from  the children's book A Crow Doesn't Need a Shadow: a Guide to Writing Poetry from Nature by Lorraine Ferra and a whole bunch of very poetic children.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

inside


Who is it
breathing inside
the shameless green
moment
grace chooses?
--©Laura Sorrells 2012
all rights reserved

Sunday, September 16, 2012

kindled

Listen for the secret name
of God
that the sky prays
in April.
Something wild
and shining follows me
across the dark roof
at night.
My kindled heart
cracks into
lace and marble,
a silent room waiting gladly
for the auspicious weather of Christ
to meet me,
carrying nothing, new-born and
empty as light.

©Laura Sorrells 2012
all rights reserved

I got this found poem mostly from Annie Dillard's beautiful book Tickets for a Prayer Wheel, which I just ran across while looking through some old books of my mother's.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

morning prayer


Reverence draws out bliss.
Let the heat of the water on my neck in the morning be an engine for a righteous fire on behalf of my best efforts, my kindest impulses, and my truest hopes.
Let the taste of Greek yogurt and Grape Nuts I share with the dawn chorus remind me of every sweetness possible in the yearnings of sunrise over Sharptop.
Let the conversation I have with the barista who’s overwhelmed with latte orders be one of grounding humor and understanding.
Let the laughter I share with my students before the day begins be a chord of play and a cord of openness between us.
Let the hour I have to myself in the middle of the morning be a space for reclaiming my breath and honoring right livelihood with a little bit of stillness.
Let the ears I hear my students with be fresh and free of any judgment.
Let the air I share with the leaping deer in the meadow off Mineral Springs Road be clean and salvific, the kind of air that tells its own stories and makes them easy to hear, cool with coming October.
Let me understand my role in the sweep of the day with tenderness and fire, with patience and a lover’s soul.
Amen.

This is something I wrote several years ago and tweaked tonight. 

Saturday, September 8, 2012

approach


Tonight was the first night of autumn’s approach. Cool, windy, with wild golden light strobing across the smoky blue of Sharptop and the mountains around it. A rainbow, faint and tall, showed up over to my left as I drove past the Piggly Wiggly and across the train tracks. I went into town, parked my truck on Refuge Road, and walked into the fading light, towards the park and the haunted little pond with the one tree in it. As I walked I realized how hidden I’d let my vision become. I’d stepped away from the expansiveness of spirit with which I’ve always looked at this town, the sleepy little town my mother grew up in, the town I relocated to at thirty. I walked into the park. The tractor show is tomorrow so some men and their families were camping there with their RV’s, their folding camp chairs, and their ancient rusty John Deeres. I waved at the people I walked past and went up past the old county post office, which has been resettled in the middle of the park, and then down to the pond with the single tree. D. and I used to walk here. Of course I walked here before that too but this place has the silent singular energy he can carry. The tree had been pruned or cut but was still there in the middle of the little pond. The water was low and layered with algae. It was getting dark so I couldn’t tell what colors the algae held but I found myself glad that I wondered what they were. I walked through the woods up past the pond towards the firehouse and its big old barn and antique fire engines. I didn’t hang out there but turned and came back to the park and then up into town. This town is almost never in any kind of hurry, but there was a lonesome rush to the wind as I walked past the old county jail and the fountain that I jumped into one Fourth of July a couple of years ago. I had had on shorts and a bathing suit and no one seemed to mind. People waved nonchalantly to me. It was just getting dark then too. A little boy joined me after asking his daddy if he could. The water wasn’t deep. It felt good. I stood under the part of the fountain that brought water down from above and tried to coax D. into the fountain with me. He would have none of it, which surprised me. Remembering that night this evening I felt light and happy, strong and full of the quiet peace this past year's transformation has brought. Nothing is missing. The light is perfect as it changes.

©Laura Sorrells 2012
all rights reserved

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Little Cloud

I don’t know what the weather is going to do. Big winds share the twilight with small snow. Over in the next county, there’s a funnel cloud, but it’s moving slow, and it’s not very big, only a furrow of fast air, just enough spin to show up on someone’s radar. A blip of scarlet purling across an expanse of dark green. It seems somehow lonesome, like a feral animal searching for food in an unfamiliar place. I can feel it trying to show us the bluster of spring’s intermittent thunderheads in defiance of the bitterness of winter. If it doesn’t get much bigger, I wouldn’t mind having it around, a tumble of fast air playing by itself down in the woods. I could feed it errant tree limbs that other winds would blow down and surplus pine cones that I don’t feel like using for firewood or decoration for my lonely hearth. When spring gives way to summer this cloud will move along, or maybe it will just stop spinning, winding down in a gentle way that won’t take down any trees or splinter any houses into piles of hurt and toothy wooden beams. In its place would be a tousled spiral of forest floor, earth made messy with weather but not so much that I couldn’t plant something there if I wanted to. Maybe trillium, or moonvine, or something wild and thorny that I haven’t found the name for yet. I’ll know that seed when I see it: no need to search. These things have a way of finding me.


©Laura Sorrells 2009 
all rights reserved

Monday, September 3, 2012

The Limnologist


She conjures forth bubbles
of fire from frozen lakes.
I heard it on the radio,
circling the dark lanes
of a parking deck
at dusk. A big blue
Suburban nearly backed
into me as I listened to her
talk about the flare
of methane against
the Siberian sky,
just above tables
of dense Russian ice,
and how she freed
the gas from the face
of the invisibly
percolating lake. She is in love
with “the power of water
in its frozen and
unfrozen forms,” and she
unlocks it, standing back
as it lets her have itself—
a propulsion of conjured chemistry,
beloved and unsettling,
a threshold of flow, an ascent
of alchemical liquid strong
enough to free boulders
with the rise of its release.

©Laura Sorrells 2007--2012
all rights reserved

Sunday, September 2, 2012

This Leaf


This leaf is an atlas of small worlds that travel silently.
This leaf is a tabula rasa, a scrim of thinning blankness waiting for change.
This leaf is the empty swimming pool after Labor Day, a shape turned deeper by emptiness.
This leaf is the tilt of the bird-feeder’s wooden roof clambered on by squirrels, spinning from a cord of fraying rope.
This leaf is a patchwork quilt, or the lining of one, found at a thrift store and waiting for its cotton body.
This leaf is an acoustic guitar secretly yearning for the buzz of electricity.
This leaf is the pond that is filling back up with water after months of crackling drought.
This leaf is a plastic tugboat the color of a jack o’lantern, waiting to be mysteriously sunken in a small moat.
This leaf is a cloud fallen to earth, limning what it touches with the disappearance of winter.
This leaf is a mirror, cupping the shifts of seasons above it and showing them off to the sky.
This leaf is a skillet, sizzling with flour and waiting for the little green dice of homegrown okra to give it purpose and flavors.
This leaf is the lens you lost from your glasses last year when you were climbing up a rocky bank to take a picture of a tree.
This leaf is a band-aid, the last one left in your upper left hand desk drawer, handed to a child whose elbow wants to wear the face of Batman.
This leaf is a sandalwood mala, sagging over the splinters of a wooden bench beside a pond you used to visit, its crimson tassel fading into rose in rain.
This leaf is the chamois shirt your old lover gave you, left beside the trail tree in the forest, its buttery warmth befriending other leaves now.
This leaf is the chalice that you found in the basement, one of a pair, tarnished but waiting to hold something wet.
This leaf is the puddle you stepped in in sockfeet, the touch of cold that woke you up.
This leaf is a shard of pottery tucked against the base of a big old oak tree in what used to be a garden.
This leaf is an anchor, but not one that works real well.
This leaf is the kayak you fell out of on the Coosawattee River near some rocks and roaring water.
This leaf is a crimson prayer flag ripped down by wind from the branch of a poplar in your yard.
This leaf is a page from a book in another language.
This leaf is the raft of logs and twine you dream of floating away on when you’re restless.
This leaf is a riverstone, cool to touch and carried in the pocket of your peacoat in December.
This leaf is a circle of abalone smoking with sage.
This leaf is a lost wooden chesspawn  lonesome for bishops and knights.
This leaf is the story of threshold you love like the poem you memorized in April, the one that sang like an angel might, the one you wrote down in four different places so you could read it whenever you wanted. It knows how to keep you up late at night and tell you things you need to hear.
This leaf is the note in the bottle, the koan you floated away on a rising Sapelo Island tide.
This leaf resists being part of constructed art and does not enjoy the way tape feels between it and thick journal paper.
This leaf is the magnifying glass you carry around to see even smaller.
This leaf is the top of a fencepost, once a circle but splayed into broadness by seasons.
This leaf is a crumbling cabin of tannin, its roofbeams collapsing in on the space inside it.
This leaf is the adventure of touch, the challenge of handclasp and holding.
This leaf is a page from the book I write every day, the one where every word carries more than most people would be able to see, the one with the color of slow smoke and pondwater at its heart, the one synonymous with the best prayer I’ve offered, the one that holds my fingers captive and shows them what to do when they don’t know. No one will ever read it, but its chapters love the world I give it relentlessly and without fear, certain of the rightness of moments and the syllables of speech, determined to keep on talking even when its writer’s voice is soft with another poem’s hidden longing.

©Laura Sorrells 2012
all rights reserved

Friday, August 31, 2012

the wordless question

The wordless question
your breath releases
is becoming
the chalice my
blazing heart
adores

©Laura Sorrells 2012
 all rights reserved

Thursday, August 30, 2012

a shout in a dream

Always, the radical
wisdom of paradox
brings me the work
my spirit yearns
for. The austere gifts
of conversion reveal
a frontier I have always
longed for in the
secret obedience of
my heart. Love's
pensive psalm travels through
and with me
like the surprise of a shout
in a dream, an ancient
source remembered,
holy, sweet, and fierce.

©Laura Sorrells 2012
all rights reserved

Thursday, August 23, 2012

shed skins


I wrote this in 2007 in response to a writing prompt of some sort.

I haven’t been around snakes all that much, but I’ve always felt a tenderness for them. When I was a kid we talked about big fierce shiny black racers that would turn themselves into hoops and whirl after us across the fields where we played. These tales didn’t make me afraid of snakes, though. I remember holding my friend Mark’s pet blacksnake in an old dive bar in Athens, Georgia, feeling its dry narrow body curve around my forearms through the skin of Southern Comfort I was wearing. And another time, we were paddling down a blackwater river in south Georgia one unseasonably warm February day and we nearly crashed into a big water moccasin sunning itself on a branch on the banks. We steered away and I watched the snake get smaller with some odd sense of missing it. Mostly around here I just see the dry paper shells of snakeskins shed and left by Cove Road or down by the path into the ravine. Or I read about them, about how Dennis Covington got caught up in handling serpents in backwoods Alabama churches, and some ancient pagan part of me wonders about the trickiness of that, the sliding of muscle over sleeve onto arm, the flare or hiddenness of fangs, the thickness of those triangled heads. There’s mystery there I suppose but also plainness, the elemental earthliness of snakebelly, reptile eye. There was, I remember now, also a large boa constrictor that lived in the walls of the house my family rented the year my parents split, or so we were told by the people who lived there before us. They were friends of ours, and I knew that snake; it had lived in my eighth grade classroom the previous year, and I never felt frightened for an instant of its alleged presence in the plumbing. It felt reassuring, a hunger gone outlaw, a jailbreak, a movement from domesticity into wildness, from a glass box into the shadowed wall and floorspaces I couldn’t even imagine the dimensions of, the ones we slept between and above, the ones that held us tame and gave us heat and water. I liked to think of Bo the boa curled around the plastic knee of a pipe, warm with the pressure of city water, sleeping off a feast of mice and crickets, a fallen creature, lonesome, large, and grand with the solitude of escape.

Friday, August 17, 2012


They sag in just the way I remember, clotting against each other in nests of purple and gold, skins thinning and flesh softening in cracks of sidewalk concrete.  As a child I used to eat them off a tree at the edge of a cotton field, loving them more than wild plums but not as much as blackberries. Their feral sweetness in my throat tickled with its hint of something gone to ruin, something almost too wild to be with. Only once I picked them before they’d ripened, the blister of their greenness sending me home for water in a hurry, my mouth full of trickery and insolence. Some years later I made some jam with them. It sat on my shelf in jars until someone insisted I spread it on toast, and I did. My teeth missed the skins and the nudge of the pit. Wasps still crawl inside their golden hearts, I notice now, intoxicated with loamy fruitflesh and the heady disappearing nourishment of summer.

©Laura Sorrells 2007--2012
all rights reserved

Saturday, August 11, 2012

a poem by Molly Peacock

The Soul House

To the soul house no guests can be asked
though it is calm as a lake, its shore so prepared
anyone who stops by wants to build there.
But no. Who lives here lives unmasked.
Across the waxed floors slips only a soul
in a soul's bathrobe, tattered of course.
This is what spirits at home wear. That bowl
received real plums, the vases real flowers.
Soul breath is quite real, too, its naked powers
insisting it be housed exclusively
for its air alone---pure being. And no
secrets in the soul house, only privacy.
A place to grow in, but not outgrow.
Not emptiness, but emptiedness. A source.

--Molly Peacock

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

A certain gentle light
can carry everything
into the desert
my soul returns to.
Without you,
no flame of love,
no tree of blessing
reaching across the
hidden field of night
to breathe me
quietly home.

©Laura Sorrells 2012
all rights reserved

Sunday, July 22, 2012

The liturgy this hidden
country breathes
is a dance of living
emptiness. Its smoky desert
heart brings secrets home:
crows flying in peace
with eagles, a
transformation shining
like a bonfire's
dream.
The nearest temple is your own
barefooted truth. The God
you are learning to love
might bring you anything,
now, if you listen, if
you see, if you
let his wild
and claiming silence
begin.

©Laura Sorrells 2012
all rights reserved

Thursday, July 19, 2012

rediscovered the night before visiting Gethsemani


My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

Thomas Merton

I was already familiar with this prayer but rediscovered it quite by accident tonight in one of my late mother's old computer folders. 

Newborn


It’s haphazard and I don’t like it, this way I have, when I’m living alone, of collapsing into self-neglect when it comes to how and what I eat. I know better. Rice cakes broken in half like sacramental wafers and nibbled as I sweep or read. Peanut butter slathered loosely on heels of whole wheat loaf bread. I’m not down to Sunbeam yet but maybe getting there. Lots of coffee. The French press is working overtime. I unwittingly bought a pound of decaf Sumatra the other day and buzzed around organizing my shelves and folding clothes until I happened to notice there was nothing behind the imagined push I felt from the beans. Diet soda, once my sworn enemy, crowds my refrigerator shelves in half-full bottles that I’ll empty and recycle soon. Some days I don’t eat till evening, eschewing the corn dogs and cardboard pizza triangles the school cafeteria offers. Other days I go ahead and dance with the devil and I always regret it: flavorless chicken sandwiches that would make Thich Naht Hanh shudder and throw up his patient hands, wilted huddles of what passes for salad, and the inevitable applesauce. Nowadays I don’t even boil water for oatmeal, much less sit down at my dining room table to eat it slow with raisins and honey like I used to. I deserve some homemade guacamole, an organic spinach salad nurtured with the sweetest flakes of carrot you can think of, and fresh crusty French bread dipped in EVOO. I need some green tea, the kind flavored with rose petals, or maybe some pomegranate juice, pure and expensive. Bring me something clean and wild, something delicate, something strong. Hurry it onto the plate, into my glass, and sit me down in front of it. light me a candle and tell me something about the sky. Hold my hand and break bread with me, and slow me down when I chew too fast. Remind me to hear the way I taste my food and to smell the colors as if they were newborn: fragile, wet, and hooked by the miracle of how to swallow.

©Laura Sorrells 2012
all rights reserved

Fresh


Torn down by longing,
I pass through a state of fitful meanness
and come out
on the other side,
transparent and content with the citrus fizz
of the cold medicine
you pour into a cup for me,
the light of your heart
in the middle of the day
like no bright sun
I’ve seen, a soft beam
that doesn’t burn
but nurtures,
a shine with no sharp edges.
You often play with metaphors
about light
(and other things),
your thoughts returning
to syllables
in strangeness,
telling new stories
inside the hoops
and wriggles of words,
each one a narrative of brightness
delivered with the particulars
of each moment’s unexpectant love
for its hues and angles,
for its curves and disparities.
Not a reconsideration,
but some kind
of birth.

©Laura Sorrells 2007
all rights reserved

I wrote this in 2007 for someone I loved very much.

Footwings


Thin wings catch
light and move against
hot glass
and rust:
tiny feet an intrusion of
even smaller movement,
a tickle,
a hand cupped
around an ear,
a node hummed
and spun,
inhabited.

©Laura Sorrells 2007
all rights reserved

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Watching the light in
a summer garden, I notice
how a cathedral of unexpected
geometry reflects its
living heart.
Without everything here,
(and elsewhere)
the improvisation of reverence
would be lost.
What other weather
is there?

©Laura Sorrells 2012
some rights reserved


I wrote this found poem using Nicholas Harberd's book Seed to Seed: the Secret Life of Plants.

Monday, July 16, 2012

softer than

The language of slipstream and bridal veil
slides across some holy threshold,
a breath softer than the Spanish
songs that punctuate my dreams.
The patience of God shivers
in the ordinary shapes of grotto
and fern, dusky and wild
like the mystery
of rain summoned by prayer.
Everything is willing to be itself.
Whose forever can hold
such sweet chaos,
such grace?

©Laura Sorrells 2012
all rights reserved

Friday, July 13, 2012

speechless

Almost everything tells
me news of the demolished
always
we craved.
When the speechless hinge
of loss
sings to my invisible
heart,
I surrender and become
its tender plaything.
At home in the story
you left me, I
hide inside the noise
of silence
and slowly start to
hear the praise
breathing in its
ancient room.


©Laura Sorrells 2012
all rights reserved

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

dreams from the desert

I had a dream this afternoon while a soft, quick summer rain fell on the forest outside. In the dream I had moved to northern Arizona and was living in the desert, teaching on the Hopi reservation, something I dreamt of and considered doing for years. The dream prompted me to reread something I wrote many years ago about my time in Hopiland in 2001. Here it is.



In my dreams I revisit the sunbaked plaza often. The slant of the wooden ladder, the calm eyes of my traveling companion, the corncob-littered rooftop, and the faint gauzy drift of cattail fuzz through the desert air dance in a kaleidoscopic swirl of dizzying remembrance. What am I supposed to have taken away from Hotevilla? The slow, rhythmic chanting of the katsinas in their sacred masks and the fierce continuity of the desert itself gave me the strength to leave behind so many things. As Charlotte Joko Beck has written, "Practice has to be a process of endless disappointment. We have to see that everything we demand (and even get) eventually disappoints us. This discovery is our teacher."
My traveling companion was my teacher for those five days in the desert last summer, as were the Hopi, the dove that accompanied us down a bad dirt road to an abandoned village we were not supposed to visit, the ancient petroglyphs of Betatakin, and the solemn trickster jackrabbit at Wupatki. I had been reading Edward Abbey's sternly loving memoir of his time in the Utah canyonlands, Desert Solitaire; in the book Abbey tells of hurling a stone at the head of a lone jackrabbit just to prove to himself that he can take the rabbit out. To his surprise, the rock lays the rabbit right out and kills it instantaneously. A little befuddled but ultimately unrepentant, Abbey examines his work and moves on. He ponders what he did and searches his conscience for any sign of grief or remorse; there is none. Instead, he feels like he has moved more deeply into the landscape, has become for a time just another skillful predator in the wild. I thought about that passage as I recalled the jackrabbit at Wupatki. I had sat in the desert sand amid juniper, sage, and tamarack and let the auburn air surround the hunched gray form of rabbit as the moon lifted her brash and womanly visage up in that immense and lovely arc of Arizona sky above us. Though I was not offended by Abbey's act, and it even made a kind of quixotic sense to me, I felt a visitation of a different sort settle in there beside the ancient rocks and ruins. I imagined the rabbit with its wide eyes and tall ears to be a beneficent commentary upon the quality of stillness possible in the world. The rabbit seemed to embody the paradoxical laughter of a kindly animal spirit in the night, a passage into unity with something huge and varied and singular, a flicker of connection with everyone I ever knew and loved. I saw in the rabbit and its undaunted and continuous presence beside me the living ghosts of all my old lovers, friends, heroes, and teachers. As the evening deepened and my traveling companion approached me from his place by the ballground, the moments shared  with the jackrabbit shifted from an almost palpable lambent stillness into a distinct movement back into the world of road maps, airplanes, pickup trucks, and raspberry granola bars. I smiled at my friend and we walked up out of that place of haunted ceremony back into our teachers' worlds.
Away from the desert now, I like to think I can see the ghost of Edward Abbey in the deep crook of a tall tree by a steep mountain path, or moving fast in water down the side of Tallulah Gorge. This spirit is my watchdog against complacency, my trickster playmate who keeps me from taking the world of strip malls, teacher meetings, curriculum realignments, and cafeteria food too seriously. He reminds me to move back into the kaleidoscope of wildness and grace I witnessed at the dance at Hotevilla, to recall that the sacred is real and that the real is everywhere. He lets me laugh at myself and he recently gave me a vivid dream of Georgia O'Keeffe gathering bones from a dumpster in the night. Even the most savage and unpromising of landscapes hold forth beauty, that dream reminded me, and when I woke my cat was curled close against me, his yellow eyes and silver fur weirdly reminiscent of other eyes and fur in the morning grayness. I tried for a moment to move back into the dream, wanting to know what O'Keeffe would do with those bones---would she paint them?---but the sun was coming up behind Sharptop and I decided instead to go outside and see it rise. The shapes of birds and conifers moved into slow distinctness in the gradual orange light and the dawn chorus replaced the silence of my sleep as the day began. I didn't have to look hard to see the ghosts of Abbey and O'Keeffe there, too.

©Laura Sorrells 2001
all rights reserved

the history of light

Your hungry blessing
whispers my spirit's wilderness
into strength. I hear
the radiant silence unfold
into the patient, easy breath
of my beloved. All
the words you bring
reveal the history
of light, and I rest
in the rising wander
of your grace.

© Laura Sorrells 2012
all rights reserved

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

the shape of revelation

Here in this bright summer
world of blackberries and river,
a green tumble of sweetness
breathes into a beginning.
Anything can bear
the shape of revelation:
if you listen, the recklessness
of paradise confesses
how it has dreamed your truth,
and you will be ravished by
its wild and happy
mystery.


©Laura Sorrells 2012
all rights reserved

Thursday, June 14, 2012

the secret names of things


There are not names for many things, perhaps most. I make up names for how things look, when they change, how they fade, what their connections are to each other. The names just come to me, mostly, though sometimes I give them thought and planning. I sometimes consult books too, but mostly to find out what names have already been used. I have forgotten when I chose to name light that shines through spiderwebs at night “silklumen.” I think it was two summers ago, when a big garden spider who had made her web stretch across the eastern corner of my deck captured an errant flying cicada. I don’t know why the name wasn’t fiercer, more violent. The event was certainly intense, and the mostly artificial light I saw it under made it seem sharper and more calculated. Still, now when I see light through spiderwebs under any conditions the light carries that name for me.
I named the suspected but unconfirmed sound of tiny mousefeet in my kitchen on a winter night “skitterpaws.” I really did not want there to be mice in my kitchen. There were, though. I tried to make them leave without killing them. Eventually they did. In the meantime, this name did not make me less anxious about their presence. In retrospect, I wish I’d chosen something more abstract, less creaturely.
Last night I tried to name the recurrent experience of nearly crashing into a whitetail deer (sometimes a whole bunch of them, together) while I am out for a run. Nothing seemed to fit. This happens fairly often. I lose myself in my music or in the way the sky or trees look and suddenly this tawny flank and flashing banner of white haunch and tail blazes across Old Cove Road in front of me. No matter how frequently this occurs, the sight of the deer always makes my heart beat faster with exhilaration and joy. It always feels like a blessing, like a nod from the holy ancestral body of the forest. I know the deer population is out of control but I still feel called into conspiratorial beauty when I see them.
Mysterious ripples in ponds, probably caused by jumping frogs or fish, are called leapshadows.
The noisy, raucous phenomenon of a redtail hawk being harassed by crows (usually three, though not always) is called cawclobber. Really.
The area next to shore where cypress knees push out from under water into air is called the kneeshallows.
The phenomenon of dragonflies flying away when I first approach them but then coming closer and lighting either near me or actually on my body (usually my feet but once or twice my knee or ankle) is called snakedoctorsettle.
The mist rising off the headwaters of a busy mountain creek or river is called streamsoul.
I am still trying to decide what to name the way a bald eagle looks flying away from the side of the road as I drive past in my truck. I don’t think there are any words wild and strange enough for it in the language I know.
The mysterious grottoes in the forest below my house are called foxhollows. It sounds a bit too genteel, but I can’t seem to think of them as anything else. They are deep and green, and they sometimes have running water down in them, just past seeing. They seem bottomless and tricky. Really they are small caves, and they do open shyly into the body of the mountainous earth. Roots curl around and above them but they are not defined by trees. I have the feeling that if I look at them right they will show me something important, something mysterious and ineffable. That feeling comes other times too but not often. It has come when I’ve seen the eerie flicker of foxfire in a swamp and when black bear raises her snout and snuffs the air that we are both sharing and smelling. When coyote yips like a petulant child in the hills. It came one night at a place where two rivers flow together; I was awakened from sleep by the loud sharp slap of sound on water. Beavers, I was told the next day. The energy of it had a quality of singular deliberate familiarity. Palpable in the moonlight of three a.m. The feeling is one that really disavows language as we know it altogether. It stands aside from that and is more about the way things smell, the way they might taste if we could know them that way. The colors they are about to show us but fall just shy of letting us see.
©Laura Sorrells 2012
all rights reserved



Monday, June 11, 2012

tell me a time

Gray: The ash is blowing towards the restaurant.
Maureen: Not any fire? Just ashes?
G: I guess. I don't know what blowing fire would look like.
M: Wouldn't there just be tongues of licking flame?
G: Well people always talk about tongues of flame. There's something Pentecostal about it. But fire does seem alive, doesn't it?
M: Yes. (Pauses.) I think it might be. Even the embers.
G: Even when you can't see any more flame through the smoke?
M: Sure.
G: Did you say you worked around here?
M: Yes. I work at the cafe just down the street, on the corner of Cobb and Sullivan.
G: Maxine's?
M: That's it. I don't think I've seen you in there. (Pauses and gazes intently at the fire.) Wow. This house has a balcony on the third story. 
G: The fire's not there yet.
M: I should go home and sleep. But this fire will keep me awake. Kind of a holographic imprint. Only with sound. Not a memory. More immediate. Bigger. More present. Do you ever get that?
G: Not quite.
M: Quite?
G: I have a kind of synesthesia that happens when I'm working sometimes. Usually it's strongest around the big cats. That sad old king with the tattered mane. Then sometimes with the lemurs. Don't ask me why.
M: Because they're so noisy?
G: (Chuckles.) I don't think so. But maybe.
M: What else?
G: The wolves.
M: (Softly but eagerly) I can see that. Kind of. Tell me something. Tell me a time.
G: With the wolves?
M: Yes. With the wolves.
G: (Takes a deep breath and rubs his eyes.) This was last week. These wolves are getting old. Their attachment to each other is almost (pauses again).....palpable. They don't have the territory to heal when they need to. So things just hang around in this air.....(Sweeps an arm towards the entrance to the zoo, down the street.) 
M: Go on. 
G: So, they bay and yip and howl during the day, now. Midmorning, midafternoon. There doesn't seem to be a pattern to it. I've paid very close attention and it seems to happen independently of anything I can see. So last week this big male was loping across the grass towards the edge, the fence, where the hidden gate is. I could see his fur through flashing through the leaves. He knew I was watching him. He ran right up to the gate. Like he could go through it or it wasn't there. Then he skidded to a stop. Very undignified and very unlike him. He didn't know what to do with himself, after that. I felt embarrassed and sad for him. I went the other way. 
M: Wow.
G: I know. You know what's really odd, though? Not what happened but how I received it. How it (pauses) registered with me. (Glances at her as if to make sure she is following him.)
M: Please. Tell me the rest.
G: Well, it isn't a story. Just how.....well, it was like I heard him running. He wasn't making any noise, but it seemed like I could hear the air around him moving aside. Or something. Not his footfall, you understand. But the air itself. Like it was alive and trying to give him room. Moving aside for him....



I wrote this in response to a dialogue exercise a couple of summers ago and tweaked it a bit just now as I typed. The prompt read "A zookeeper talks to a waitress at a house fire." I named the zookeeper Gray and the waitress Maureen. I may do something more with this. I didn't come to a satisfactory stopping place.


©Laura Sorrells 2012
all rights reserved

Saturday, June 9, 2012

the air in a garden

All the shy green fire
of your vulnerable knowing
hums like the immaculate
havoc of God
in a field of light
and silence.

The seeds of a restless
delight are
remembering how
to love the world.

Your beginning
is enough,
imperishable and
absolute,
a lion gentled
by the air
in a garden.

--©Laura Sorrells 2012
all rights reserved

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Slowly, a new Medicine gathers
within the rumor of shift.
A confluence of hunter
and forest
is bringing me into
its honeyed abundance.
Stay here with me
in this breathing field
of tender audacity.
The edge of immensity
surrounds us,
expressive and kind
in the blossom of
its unfurling depth.

--lks 6/5/12


©Laura Sorrells 2012
all rights reserved


I put together this found poem from David Abram's book Becoming Animal, which I am still reading and rereading. This is part of what is more or less a series of such poems. They are pretty much love poems to God, for lack of a better description.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

giving up

You alone know how to sing
the green ferment
my darkness wants.
I am giving up the old
calendar of scatter
and waste. The ardent
nowhere of God is all
the kiss my impatient
beggar's heart
can bear.


©Laura Sorrells 2012
all rights reserved



I took this found poem from Rilke's Book of Hours, the Anita Barrows/Joanna Macy translation.

Monday, May 14, 2012

a shared seeing


I can’t quite see the mountain from where I am. Tall trees obscure its tip. A collar of pink clouds rises up from just above it. I am reminded of last October when I wrote about the shedding of old skin and the emptiness that follows. That skin has continued to fall away, mostly, with patches of reclamation here and there. There is loneliness in it but beauty too. A paradox, as ever. I have a little outdoor altar here, with a fading illustration of an artsy greeting-card rabbit amidst a little silver crucifix and a swathe of bright green flowered fabric. Shells and feathers are settling into the damp fabric after today’s rain. A tall spike of some kind of volunteer bulb spreads out across the glass table towards the forest. I light a tall white glass pillar candle and a glass pillar candle with an image of the Virgin of Guadalupe on it, both brought in with dry wicks from my hearth. A whippoorwhill calls in the woods and I remember that I actually seem to have heard cicadas out at a friend’s horse rescue farm the other night. Seems improbable in May but it sure sounded like cicadas to me.
That night was one of connection, understanding, and conversation offered and shared with tremendous warmth and sincerity. I sat on a log beside a campfire with two people who had heretofore been strangers and talked about my spiritual journey and listened to them talk about theirs. We all believe in paying attention to synchronicity, and we talked about that. We laughed at our own misadventures and at the beautiful incongruities of being human. We talked about sacrifice and how we watch it happen and how some people seem to choose it, to take on the pain of others in a deliberate way, a profoundly unselfish and loving thing that is impossible to explain in words. It sounds trite. Unless you have seen it, it can sound maudlin and empty, platitudinous. But it is not. And I honor it in my heart every day. I know it when I feel it, more than when I see it. It is a palpable energy, a largesse of soul that I do not understand or even envy at this point but which I revere and am grateful for. It felt good to be able to say these things and have them be understood.
And we laughed and ate pizza and they drank a little beer. Finally it began to rain, and as the sweet early-summer smell of grass and hay began to saturate my senses I gathered up my camera and my old serape and the peacock feather one of my new friends had given me and headed home. 

--©Laura Sorrells 2012
all rights reserved

Sunday, May 13, 2012

the work of the daily

Begin to read
the sweet Nothing this
testament teaches.
Accept the pure
work of the daily
with love.
The homeland of God
is seeking the life
you belong to.
Everything includes you
in its secret.

--lks 2012

Saturday, May 12, 2012

like a sister


A solemn glisten of awe
declares its music.
If you look at the wind,
you will find
a sustaining expectancy,
familiar in its
wild shining. Go with
that stormy pilgrim.
Your listening soul
will enter its healing mystery
like a sister
speaking with family.

-©Laura Sorrells 2012
all rights reserved

Thursday, May 10, 2012

White Lily


Last week I was looking through old notebooks and ran across a 2008 journal entry written in response to a prompt about a food from my childhood. I had written about these little freezer rolls my Grandma Sorrells made, which were actually rather bland but took on the texture and flavor of whatever you ate them with in a really fine and singular way. I remember how butter and homemade fig preserves turned them into islands of sweetness and flake. I remember how my grandma rarely made biscuits, at least not that I recall. When I found out later in life how dangerously good a big old buttered cathead biscuit could be, I thought about the little rolls and how Grandma used to bake them by the dozen for us and for her best friend, an African-American woman named Claudia with whom she worked at the local primary school cafeteria. I wish I knew how to bake them myself. Possibly my father has the recipe. I will have to ask him.
Thinking about the little rolls got me to thinking too about White Lily flour. It’s the best flour you can bake with, the Southern foodways people I know assert. It’s supposed to yield fluffier cakes, more perfectly textured bread. Lighter biscuits?  Maybe. I’m not sure, though, that biscuits are meant to be light. I think of them as intense and substantive, dense and strong. If they were light, maybe they’d lose some of their heft and power. Maybe I just haven’t had the right biscuits yet. I don’t eat them much anymore. Hardly ever,  really.
At any rate, White Lily flour does have a luster and pearly softness that make it sweet to touch on tabletops, and other places, too. I’m not any sort of expert so I don’t know what makes it like that, what turns it into a sift of loose satin, like something a Vermeer model might choose to bake bread with. My grandma was an expert, though. Her reverence for the gentle softness of flour and the alchemy surrounding it makes me think now about cornmeal and its holiness, about the scatter of it around the dancing katsina spirits at Hopiland several summers ago. I think about the flung goldenness of it on a warm September wind at the Etowah Indian Mounds, and about my dear old friend John, who flung it, and who died last June at the age of 52.  Ceremonially, White Lily has a sacred quality to it that I surmise is borne of its capacity to bring sustenance, to make a meal, to build up blood and bone and brain and vision. It’s the raw stuff of spirit despite its tangible delicate softness. It becomes a tribute, maybe even a conduit, for those who use it to mark sacred time and honor ancestors. It brings things into an awareness of their commonality in a Body. I think about White Lily and wonder how odd it would seem if I headed out to the big old rural cemetery where my grandma is buried, north of Monroe, and dusted a fine skein of flour around the flat metal plate that marks her grave. I don’t think I’ll do that, but not because of the strangeness of the act or of what anyone might think about it. It just doesn’t feel like my grandma is there, beneath that grassy space with its dozens of unperturbable little memorial flags and lopsided flower arrangements made of plastic and cheap cloth. A better spot to put the flour would be around the steps of the old two-room schoolhouse at Sorrells Springs where my grandma went to school and graduated from the eighth grade in 1926. (It was as far as she got with her education; her family was large and far from wealthy and needed her to help work in what she referred to as “the field.”) The silkiness of the flour would hang around beside the concrete steps and the stones holding up the foundation of the old schoolhouse until rain fell or wind dispersed it. I doubt it anyone would notice. Not very many people visit the schoolhouse now. Still, it’s the place where my grandmother, Ruth Williams then, won her school spelling bee and received a bright blue ceramic bell edged with goldleaf as a prize. I don’t know what else she did there. Maybe she played with her dog Jack, shared a secret with a friend, or smiled at my grandfather or another boy. The milkweed and dandelions beside the old schoolhouse feel like a place where soft pale petals of floursilk could settle, a mattress of feast for ants and hornets in summer. A feeding hole of remembrance and acknowledgment bowing to the Body of ancestry that led people in the neighboring church to wash each other’s feet in big bowls or maybe in the running water of the spring. The flour-body would become a blessing, a way of saying with reverence and love, “All my relations!” before settling shyly into the waiting cimarron clay.

©Laura Sorrells 2012
all rights reserved



Sunday, May 6, 2012

more Nothing


A hesitant quiver of wilderness
circles the open window where
an inexorable blue
spends its sky.
Speak the word
your half-wild coyote soul
is unlocking,
in its faltering vein of dream.
More Nothing is loose in you
than you can hope
to follow.

I put together this found poem Friday evening using William Stafford's wonderful collection of poems The Way It Is. 

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Georgia, United States
I live at the edge of the forest in a little town in the north Georgia mountains. I teach sixth grade Language Arts and am writing a memoir of sorts about family, spirituality, and narrative. I am also exploring a possible writing project having to do with contemporary lay contemplative experience and how it might be informed by the Desert Fathers and Mothers of early Christianity. I am a relatively recent convert to Roman Catholicism and an admirer of Pope Francis, Leonardo Boff, Joan Chittister, and Richard Rohr. I'm a Lay Associate of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Monastery in Conyers, Georgia. I am interested in indigenous cultures, narratives, and spirituality, especially how these can inform my spirituality as a lay contemplative. I write, read, take pictures, play around with creating ephemera from paper and cloth and other organic things. I cook, hike, watch wildlife, and collect random bits of interesting oddness, both tangible and abstract. I am a seer of smallness and a caretaker of ridiculous minutiae. If you want, e-mail me at riverrun67@gmail.com or lksorrells@hotmail.com.