Speak

Speak
though your throat quivers
your mouth dries up
and its moisture reappears
in your tears.
Speak.

Ask the questions
that invade your mind.
Voice the doubts
that berate you.
Offer them to your love
with open fingers
though your hands
tremble.

If he is good
he will not punish.
If he is true
he will answer.

The success of your union
doesn’t depend on your virtue.
You alone
cannot destroy it.
But
if you’re the only one
chopping wood
and carrying water,
leave.
You are a Woman,
neither servile beast
nor maid.

Speak.
Let him meet you halfway
in the space between.
Allow him to step
into his manhood.
For don’t you want to be met?
Don’t you want a man?

Or do you need control
or victimhood
more than
love?

© S. Rinderle, June 2020

Tides

Expand and contract
Come together
Move apart
These are
natural phases like breathing.
Neither air
nor tides
not orbits
nor human hearts
follow any other law.

Question:
Can my ecosystem
likewise endure
the ebb and flow?
Can my heart tolerate
the changing weather?

The city burned that weekend
as did the juvenile hope
of our illusion.
We fall in love with the fantasy
then one day the full person
shows up.

I cannot force change
even with my passion
and formidable will.
To try
is to inhibit
another’s sacred rhythm.
To try
is to inhabit
another’s sacred sovereignty.

There is a softer truth
underneath the hard one
I’m afraid to feel.
True, I allowed my fear
to overpower my wisdom.
True, I have good reasons.
True, perhaps I’m
the damaged one.

I gingerly embrace
my vulnerability
and gift myself perfection.
I can access divine connection
any time.
I sense it even now
as order comes to roost
inside my flesh
in the shape of calm.
It was not my doing –
it was grace
invited in by my humility.

Loving truly
is truly terrifying
for in the wake of rupture,
follow repair
or removal.

Question:
What can I do today
to invite safety
to come live
between my ribs?

No matter what happens next?

© S. Rinderle, June 2020

The Predator

I wandered into a clearing
in the forest of my soul.
All day
I’d been journeying among the trees
and underbrush.
I thought I might camp there
for the night.

I heard a rustling
crackle of broken branches
and a Beast appeared
at the edge
where the light fell.

Its eyes pierced the shadows like torches
Its broad chest rippled
powerful jaws snapped
solid hooves stomped
and nostrils flared
with huffing breaths
that terrified
my heart.

My eyes widened
pulse quickened
body coiled
like a spring.

This time I paused
before I fled.

Is this Beast a true threat —
I questioned —
or an ally I’ve yet to befriend
whose honest fierceness
frightens
my insecurity?

Is it a mere ghost
of mistakes past?
Or a specter
of imaginary
outcomes?

Or is this Beast
me?

© S. Rinderle, May 2020

Image: Allan Martin

Stand Still

Just stay still
until your feet know
the next step.
Stand still on the trail
until the fog clears,
until the words that must be spoken
take shape in your throat.
Speak too soon
and they may be true
but neither necessary nor kind.
Until you’re sure
stay silent.

Met needs embolden reckless risks.
Full bank accounts fool us
into spending more
than we can afford
long term.
Remember how it was
before you got here,
how hungry and spent
your days filled with longing
your nights of doubt and despair
you have ground under your feet
just stay still.

The wind is blowing stronger,
but what these gusts reveal about your roots
is that they are strong
you have watered well
you have used the time given.
Be the tree.
Bend, but stand still.

Pause but don’t freeze.
Relax your shoulders.
You are a lake, not a glacier.
You are a comma,
a semi-colon;
not a period.

Righteousness, control and fear
will have plenty to say
as always, in loud voices.
Listen
as a kind, wise mother
hear all the facts and feelings.
Discern the best course
for all your younglings.

Most choices
aren’t a commitment
to eternity.
Today’s yes
may be no, tomorrow
be agile with integrity.
Just stand still
trust your knowing and your limbs.

Just stay still.
Remember your heart thumps
and your lungs fill
on their own
they will sustain you
until you’re certain it’s time
to move.

© S. Rinderle, May 2020

The greatest courage

There exists no greater courage than this:
To love
with no guarantee of requitement
To trust
with no guarantee of safety
To strive
with no guarantee of success
To believe
with no guarantee of satisfaction.

There exists no greater valor than this:
To create
with no hope of immortality
To speak
with no hope of listeners
To stand
with no hope of change
To live
with no hope of survival.

We can scale murderous peaks
vanquish impossible Goliaths
in a hostile arena
run fast as a gazelle
with steel blades for feet
migrate whole civilizations
and rebuild entire cities from the scourge
of plague or maelstrom.

Yet there exists no greater courage than this:
to allow the heart
to be our ever-changing compass
faith our engine
and divine Wisdom
its fuel.

© S. Rinderle, 4/20/20

Dolphin Rider

Dolphin Rider
I stand
left foot in the canoe
right one
on the backs
of living torpedoes.

I can fall at any time.
I have no control
yet a pulsing
in your salty blood
and stable skin
brings me calm
for you know me
and sense me.
I’m not alone.

We are not equals.
This is your dominion
since before
my time
you have ruled the waves
before I knew you were there
or that I needed you
since before I learned
these waters
were home.

My canoe is falling apart
not for failure
it’s simply time
like the cocoon
ends its watch
over the brewing butterfly
or the bud resigns
to allow the petals’
expanding.

My right foot grows
melting
like shimmering wax
spreading
like turquoise roots
my toes sprout webs
that bond to the back
of my aquamarine steed.

I straddle two worlds
oblivious to the destination
conscious of the danger
but unafraid
Soon I will shift

I slowly straighten my spine
as my footing steadies
This is all I must do
at 50 miles per hour
I raise my arms
like feathered sails
lift my courageous chin
into the wind
fix my softened gaze
on the blue horizon
close my eyes
and breathe
through my smile.

© S. Rinderle, 4/4/20

Tethered

You make cigarette smoke
tasty
drunken nights sacred
and faith justified.

You give me space for anger
my insistence on lies
wrapped around
your awkward truth.

Your long, sinewy arms
have been there all along
snug
around my torso
as my entire ribcage
breathes.

Your long, sturdy legs
hold you up
as you navigate a treacherous world
uncertain
yet they always
bring you back.

You are a love in slow motion
a benign hurricane
that took months to build.
I didn’t know you were coming
but I see there’s no need
to board up my windows.

I want to bury myself in your hair
not like a schoolgirl
nor a mother —
like a she-wolf in a meadow
splayed out in the sun.
Somehow you always
smell like home.

I never thought
you’d say yes
never thought you’d say
you missed me
ten minutes after you left
Never thought
you missed me at all.

I could bask
in your amber eyes
for days
not getting lost
but being found.
This is not worship –
it’s grace
we meet halfway
in the space
between.
There’s always something
to say.

You make the distasteful
tolerable
traits I loathe elsewhere
I adore in you
not because I’ve abandoned myself
but because you make it worth it.
I will spend
one of my remaining heartaches
on you.

You require no collar
or leash.
No matter where you go
or how far you wander
we’re already tethered
at the heart.

© S. Rinderle, 4/4/20

Impact*

She holds the weary head
of her spent Little One
saying – Welcome Home
This bosom is for your nourishment and relief
I am Mother Bobcat
the Watcher in the Tower
my golden eye fixing
to protect, not prey.
You can enter
You can rest
I’ve left the front door open
for you.

Come, I will drape a gossamer veil of calm
like a floral shroud
over your pyramid body
covering your living, yet still-vigilant brow.
Let us cocoon in safety
Let us camp here for the night
Let us build a blanket fort
buttressed by bricks
that have stood for a thousand years.

The chaos is now a dream
of broken spoons and vessels
a ruin of daily domesticity
order and routine
shattered and still
yet haunted by a crouching oil spill
an iridescent echo of what was
a hovering reminder
of what might have been
the Angel at the Moment of Impact.

Push off from the sides now
with your muscular thighs
Float up, up towards the north
Float back to the horizon
where the meerkat watches with patient calm
He will hold vigil
He will sit shivah
under the amber eye of the predator
that looks to tomorrow
for today is a truce
Today there will be no more violence.

Rise up when you are ready
Rise up from the frozen ground
Witness the torchbearer
relight the flame
in your outstretched mandala’ed hand
Carry it forth once again from your tomb
to light the way
towards a firey dawn
leaving a trail
we can follow
and build upon.

© S. Rinderle, 2020

** NOTE: This poem was inspired by the incredible art at the top of this page, which was created by my artist sister Nancy Alder in response to a serious car accident she experienced in December. You can see more of her work at Innerwoven, or purchase her creations on Etsy.

Intolerance

I have become allergic to my life
habitual thoughts now blur my mind
cover my eyes with sticky film
convert my zest to lethargy
coerce focus into distracted myopia

habitual tropes and memes
invade my throat and nostrils
tender mucous membranes
mount an attack to expel
offending foreigners
mundane reports of murder
meanness, bigotry
celebrated stupidity
provoke nausea
my deepest bowels
roil in toxic discomfort
unable to digest the daily feed
of meaninglessness

habitual people
poison my skin
I break out in boils at their touch
sleep-less for the obsessive itching
this thin barrier
between me and you
crawls with tiny parasites
I want to run
so the wind resistance
knocks their stabbing, sucking mouthparts
away from my blood

habitual places
enter my lungs like noxious smoke
obnoxious smog
polluting where grief resides
once pure fresh
and cobalt blue
memories follow me like clouds
loss and regret
I can’t see through
can’t breathe true
despite my coughing

I have become allergic to my life
What was habitual is now intolerable
the accumulation overwhelms
I have become antibody to my own flesh
all passageways to the outside world
clogged, constricted
sore, irritated
depleted

Perhaps I need a thorough cleanse
stronger meds
stricter rules
further tests

Maybe I need to migrate
to a more suitable climate
like thousands of misunderstood infirm
misfit fledglings
midlife metamorphing
heeding an internal beacon
navigating the uncharted
before me.

© S. Rinderle, 2015

the meaning of life

My life means nothing
to the world

White men still murder Black women
in church
even after sitting in their pews
Confederate flags still fly
at full mast
in the aftermath
Politicians still lie
with their black eyes
and gun powder lips
Dim-witted masses
still cheer wild and blind
for their Savior

They want me to think
my life means nothing
to the world
Their gnashing teeth savor
my beaten-down bones
and tired flesh
My fierce optimism and tender heart muscle
nourish the fiery acid
of their putrid bellies
like forsaken bodies
in concentration camp ovens

I will become poison in their bowels
refuse to break down
kick my way out the other end
intact and fortified
I will shake off their filth
like a muddied dog
The growing throng
of kind hands around me
will midwife my rebirth
the pushing out of this rotting membrane
of constriction and intimidation
I will continue to speak truth
now turned up louder
I have been forged in the crucible
of their patriarchal terror
their shortsighted self-serving
smallness

I am Bigger than that.
We are BIGGER than that.
They are a blip
on the radar screen of history
a burp
during a long banquet of progress
long view trajectory over time
of increasing freedom and equity
We are the future
we won’t live to see
it doesn’t matter because
#OurLivesMatter
to our children

I don’t know what happens when we die
no one does
those who profess this knowledge
accept a comforting deception
to stave off this uniquely human affliction
this recognition
we are mortal

Meanwhile
if my life means nothing to the world
I will make it profoundly meaningful
to me
It will be a radiant statement
that NO I was not complicit
in our self-annihilation and
YES I was afraid but

NO!

I was not silent
and I did not lie
still.

© S. Rinderle, 6/20/15