Closure

To love someone
beyond hope
is to sit at a banquet table
turning grey
while the feast goes cold
growing cobwebs
on decaying flesh.

To love someone
beyond redemption
is to keep vigil
waiting at the cave door
turning to stone
covered with barnacles
and seaweed for hair.

I still see the divine light
gleaming behind your eyes
a spark all the violence and neglect
could never douse.
I am in awe of you.

I have invited you in to feast
offered you supper on the doorstep
even lifted the spoon
to your starving mouth.
But I cannot make you eat.

I have sung songs into the dank cave
told you stories of the sunlight
and warm, salty breeze
tossed you fishes and bid you come forth
to live between my doting arms.
But I cannot make you leave.

I will love you
until the fire becomes embers
turns to black coal
and then diamonds.

I will love you until the sun
expands, falters, implodes
and folds in on its dying core.

But I am here to say goodbye
draw a cross on your forehead
kiss your gentle eyelids
say I wish I’d been there
when your voice was high
and full of wonder
to rescue you
before the scars.

I will never stop believing
never relinquish my faith.
But it’s time I abandon this beach
and clear this banquet table.

It’s time to set my yearning heart
on an undamaged
star.

© S. Rinderle, 2/21/22

Three Love Lessons

My mother ridiculed me
for cleaving to one pair
of boyish arms
instead of embracing many lightly
and clinging less tightly.
Always more, always less
never enough
she always said.

It took five decades
to learn that my yearning
was as natural and good as heartbeats
‘cause burrowed between
that kind boy’s arms
was the first and only place
I ever felt safe
ever was truly held
ever could fully melt
into gravity.

Her critique
was but a statement
of her own self-hatred;
my elsewhere clinging
an indictment
of her maternal failure.

This is a lie:
“You cannot love someone else
until you love yourself”,
for we are taught to love ourselves
by being loved.

It took me four decades
plus five years
to first know self love,
after clasping dozens of boys
both kind and cruel.
On a high desert ridge
over an ancient valley
during waning summer
I imagined turning
the same adoration and tenderness
that gushed for my dear ones
back upon myself
like a rebellious river.

It was a Revelation
like lightning crackling down
upon Moses’ mythic mountain
I received Divine wisdom
suddenly grasping self love
like a woman having a real orgasm
after 1,000 nights
of hoaxes.

So this time
it only took two months
to realize
there’s a difference
between missing him
and feeling lonely.
I now recognize
I don’t miss what we had
as much as I miss
what we never had
I miss what’s been missing
my entire life.
I’m a lonely child
never truly seen
who studied to be Big
and Impressive,
who practiced having Presence
in Intellect and Form
so she would not evaporate
into the impotent,
dusty air.

I felt cradled
in the arms of a hungry ghost
who wasn’t really there
but it was enough.

I mistook his fickle affection
for love
his calculated walls
for good boundaries
his ambivalent loyalty
for kindness
his lack of stewardship
for whimsy.
I carried his baggage willingly
until their weight slowed my steps
and their rotting contents oozed
onto my shoes.

Our inconsistent joy
and his partial presence
made my long solitude
more bearable
A parched woman stumbling in the desert
needs a sip of water
from time to time.
His oasis quenched me enough
to solider on
alone again
across the dunes again
unable to give up
this yearning
for true gravity —
this searching
for home.

© S. Rinderle, November 2021

Photo: Three Hearts Center, West Allis, WI

Sunday morning stroll

Grief is a Sunday morning alley
eerily quiet
in the early light
unclaimed baggies of dog shit
tossed about
overfilled dumpsters
of rejects
empty boxes
piled carelessly
cars parked partially
rocks strewn
from abandoned construction

in the soothing cool.

On Sunday morning
things look so different
from the dark drunken jubilation
of Saturday night.
More can be noticed –
visible dangers
that were missed
sweetness
that was hidden
surprising finds
among the refuse.
The still, quiet aftermath
allows a more balanced assessment
of the chaos.

The mess left by guests
after the party
makes the party no less festive
the guests no less welcome.
Yet we’re better equipped
to notice the toll
on Sunday morning.

Grieving
is like a Sunday morning stroll.
It awakens us
from our previous stupor
sheds a new angle of unfiltered light
on the familiar
introduces us
to new faces
reveals
what is emergent
or was always there
ignored
or once insignificant.

Grief is not a loss of love
but an exchange
of one love for another
the change
still disorienting,
vulnerable and tender.

Like a Sunday morning stroll
for night birds,
grieving shows us
that despite our fatigue
we can rise anyway
we might even find
our favorite fresh delights
more easily.

In fact, we may wonder
despite the difficulty of waking
why
don’t I do this
more often?

© S. Rinderle, September 2021

Most Best Lessons

Tonight
amidst the smoke and flowers
the primal beat and
boozy showers
I ached to tell you
to never doubt
I loved you, and
I love you still
just the way you are:
perfect.

I yearn to connect across the miles
and distance of our goodbye –
I think
maybe
my words might matter,
might make you reconsider.
But if my daily devotion
over hundreds of days
weren’t enough
to make you stay
forsake
those unfinished tatters
that get in our way
surely one call
won’t change
your stubborn mind
or wobbling heart.
I just hate
this you-shaped hollow
between my ribs
that makes all other men
thin paper –
a pale mockery
of our many best moments.

Oh
how do I survive
these whispers and shadows
of what could have been?
This time
I did not imagine
your possibilities –
they teetered on the cusp
of incarnation
but you could find
neither breath nor courage
to lean into the wind
instead
you fell backwards.

I am powerless
against your story.
I cannot
make you see,
cannot make you see
me
and so I cannot see
you.
I see myself
instead.

I cannot face time.
Most best lessons must be learned
the hard way.

© S. Rinderle, October 2021

Terminal

This is the end.
No more arriving
No more striving
It’s irrelevant and futile.
This life now
was the destination.
It’s not a layover.
I will never be a rock star
Never birth a child
The man I truly crave
is not produced
by this culture.
I cannot make a living
doing what I truly love.
How sweet
these lowered expectations.
How precious
this humbled bar.
What welcome relief.
Once I accept
we all have a terminal illness
and today
is tomorrow’s memory
of better times
so much is forgiven
so little wasted
and good enough
becomes perfection.

© S. Rinderle, December 2020

Precious

I held a jewel in my hand
but I let it go
I didn’t know
It was so precious, so rare
I was 19
I thought jewels
were easy to come by
I thought I should be
the sole sovereign
of my destiny.

On a California beach
on a January night
I watched him
as his trousers flapped in the wind
his impossibly gorgeous hair
rippling like the rolling waves
his impossibly blue eyes
welling.

I knew it was the worst pain I’d felt
I knew it was the most logical decision
I didn’t know
It was the first biggest mistake
I’d ever make.

When god hands you a jewel for safekeeping
ask not why
nor for how long.
Guard it in your bosom
Marvel at a new night sky
Revel at the palm trees gently swaying
under the moon.
Revere the smoke issuing
from his impossibly luscious mouth
Cherish the tender delight beaming
from his impossibly gorgeous eyes.

Abdicate your dictatorship
over an unknown future.
Relinquish your tyranny
over what is possible.

Let god figure out
the how
and when.

© S. Rinderle, May 2020

Echo

You remind me of someone
I’ve never met
like a memory
I can’t fully recall
that makes me question
whether it was lived
at all.

He is elusive like mist
that fogs my vision
but avoids my grasp
dissolving with every advancing step.
He is evasive like an echo
that beckons
but fades
as soon as I reach the place
where I heard his voice
calling me.

My phantom groom,
you are compelling and necessary
like gravity
so I wander in search of your soul
pulling the masks off promising strangers
looking for your eyes
shouting:
Yes! This is Him!
I recognize this feeling!
I think:
Finally!
At last
I can put down my walking stick
remove my own mask
and rest
entwined with my beloved
at our wedding hearth.

Yet after a few drinks and dreams
I realize
he is not you
and I cannot make him be.

But that one fleeting taste
so exquisite
the waiting so eternal
I simply cannot return
to death
and hollowness
so I cling
to hopelessness
pretending I can live
without you
pretending I can live
on these sorry scraps.

I seek their embrace
out of loneliness
but I know it’s just an oasis
in the desert of your absence.

My Love,
I have been away from home
far too long.
Please recall me
from exile
for I cannot find you here
and my arms weary
of trying to hold space
around your constant
and inexplicable
void.

© S. Rinderle, Feb 2019 – Jan 2020

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.

Shards

I don’t know how to be
among so much brokenness.
I have the hands of a healer,
the eyes of a fixer.
There are too many that need healing
too many that worship
the brokenness
obediently inhaling toxic fumes
they mistake for air.

I’m not accustomed
to lying down on broken glass.
I set about with my broom
and my glue
because I was born this way.
I still believe in wholeness,
still covet purpose
but the mob rolls their eyes
at what mine can see
waving away my glue and salve
calling them futility
even as they ask me
to heal and fix
their brokenness

while
they
keep
breaking things.

I know I should adapt.
It would be easier
if I could learn
to whirl and thrash
amidst the chaos
as they do.
It’s not my principles
it’s my programming
I simply cannot get comfortable
among these shards
and twisted metal.

I love softness and green.
I crave slow quiet
in my cells.
I’m convinced they are possible
and I am worthy.

I’ve given up
on finding the edge
of this rusting decay.
I suspect this crumbling
is the world now.
Dread and déjà vu
slow my steps,
for I know how
this movie ends.

But I still don’t know how to be
among so much brokenness.

Perhaps
if I can just
sweep a clear, smooth patch
to claim as my own
away from the mob
I’ll be able to lie down
rest
and survey the terrain.
Perhaps I’ll find others
truly weary of the brokenness
or a path leading out
of this shatter zone
where
my hands
and my eyes
can find a new home.

© S. Rinderle, October 2018
Published in Deep Times: A Journal of The Work That Reconnects, March 2021.

On Loss

It’s better to have loved and lost
they say
with pitying eyes.
They lie,
reciting flimsy greeting card verse
scrawled in cheap ink
that smears
at the slightest touch.

I am glass
The sound of their words
passes through me
they don’t see me
I might shatter
this corpse is a shell
I am mist
dissolving
and unstable
dissipating in the wake
of their breath.

They know nothing
of my love
or my loss.
It’s only better to have loved
and lost
if the loving was enough
and the loss
bearable.
The having mocks my life
for it is less betrayal
to believe there is no god
and disbelieve miracles
than to glimpse His face
and be forever denied
his Glory.

Do not lecture me
about patience and optimism
if you have not sat
on the chilled riverbank at dawn
watching the bodies wash ashore
with the incoming tide —
If instead you sip hot tea
standing in a warm kitchen
with your back to the window,
a picket fence you built
blocking your view
of the water.

I would trade those months of Joy
in an instant
to get back all the years
of pain and disfigurement.
I would rather float at the surface
than momentarily soar,
just to be plunged
into the drowning depths
to linger.

© S. Rinderle, 2018