peace

peace has no claim
it is an empty purse
a fearsome enemy
a devastating flood
received like old friends

you cannot decorate with peace
it will shake the very foundations
route out all the rotting timbers

peace is all that is left
when suffering brings you to your senses
no compulsion to succeed
no need for reprisals
just an abiding grace
that illumines the path of healing

oh prodigal sons and daughters of peace
how we long for home
and are cherished when we return

like the love of a spacious heart
like the water in an artesian well,
like those blessed loaves and fishes
draw upon it and it increases

Vancouver, Dec 3, 2006

What’s in a name?

Some men never have
held in their arms
the peace and luminous beauty
of a woman fully loved

They have other agendas
of torture
or perhaps less sinister,
also less loving
plans of acquiring
from her
something they steal
in order to possess

Some men never have had
and are driven to becoming
thieves
Of these,
some are
rehabilitated by Love

Well, after all those years of asking
“What do women want?”
My dear, you see
we really are
not so different

Love is the answer
for the question that never waited.
.. Love is always the answer

Jan 10, 2006

NOTE BY MARAIBA: Despite my thirty years of research into the feminine soul, I have not been able to answer… the great question that has never been answered: what does a woman want? Freud.
This poem is not in answer to Sigmund Freud, but in the early days of the women’s movement, many media (men) often asked the same question. This question has stayed with me. After reading the poetry of Irving Layton, and something he wrote about his wife (reference), I reflected on the often tortured relationships between men and women and wrote this poem

Visionaries

It was an Age
plump as the apple
we picked from the tree

We reached
and the heavens opened
Do you recall then?

when we first realized,
I mean really saw
the possibilities?

Not just to return
old lamps for new
But heaven’s eye opening
and the perennial awakening

As we gathered the ripening fruit
First seeded by the Gnostics,
tended by the transcendentalists
to become the auteurs
of our destiny

Did it matter – you? me? them?
We were the world
The world was us

For each Age, a revelation
And we arise with the light
shining in our eyes
The curse, the pride of our family

To begin anew, our resurrected,
our immaculate conception

2003. Vancouver, BC

Things I’ve always wanted to tell a black woman, but never had the chance.

I crossed the Atlantic in November
Embarked full of promise in Greenwich
to endure hurricanes and sea sickness
for the land of the free
with its iconic, Technicolor beauty

How they must have suffered
The generation from which you sprang

Plucked from home, like wild violets
then chained below deck
to suffer those roiling coils
the chaos and abuse

I cannot imagine their fear
I do not want to…

From London to the Mason Dixon line
the demarcation of their ultimate despair
I arrived in time to see them
listless, excluded, despondent
so out of place, so far from home

Women beaten but defiant
And sullen, brooding men
sitting on the stoops of old shacks
brand-new Cadillacs in the driveway
Nothing could buy them in
I was the newcomer, but they
fifth-generation born
were still outsiders

Then six months later, amidst fury and protests
a reluctant, awkward attempt at integration
and more hated then
for asking to be included
I saw how in fear
some faces took on a look of scorn
and have worn it ever since
defending from the cruel derisions

All this time
I’ve wanted to say I see you
But you were far away on that shore of isolation
Fearing dangers I could barely sense
and plenty more besides

Enslaved by treacherous and cruel adventurers
by greed and lust, disowned
you can take comfort in knowing
how they had to learn
of their ultimate self-loathing
that your robust matriarchal line
had trekked across continents
given birth to nations
how your ancestral blood
flows through us all

Trampled and struggling,
wounded but awakening,
We could not see you, but you entered
our national consciousness –
and your sadness pierced my heart
when striving to find your voice and worth
and losing your men to blond haired, blue eyed sisters
you sought solace on Oprah, to fiercely speak your pain,

That was back in those good ole’days
before Halle showed up in Hollywood
in that Whowzer! dress
And took home the Oscar
Before Beyonce was a household name
for desirable woman
So now, now that you are one of us
I want to give you your-her-stories
The ones you may have missed
About Jacqueline –
(Yes, forty-odd years later, I still remember her name!)
the only black girl in my 8th grade class
she quietly held the room,
her answers so effortless, surpassed us
I learned from her
to strive for excellence

And on the night of the Midshipman’s Ball
a sister who proclaimed her blackness
a glowing beauty in a white strapless gown
inspired a reverent awe
at her regal entrance
(My cousin told me how drab she felt
how inconspicuous in her presence )

And the sister who inspired this poem
who glided onto the stage one summer
as a “hot n’ juicy Mama”
and regaled us with her shameless confidence and laughter
then she stopped
with poignant, gentle eyes
her mind was calm and clear
to ask
why there were no fairy tales to revere her,
why no prince had travelled far to seek her
who wanted just once… you know,
to be Snow White,
or the fair princess in the tower
to possess that fragile, beauty
that men willingly give their lives for.

To all my dark-skinned sisters I want to say
I hear your longing for a kind word,
a warm caress,
For a lover who knows your true worth

Sweet sister, for all those
who suffered before you,
fainting from their peril, shock and grief
I say let a good prince find his courage
and in a moment of solace,
of kindness too long absent,
reveal to him your undefended face
your true heart, trusting and gentle
Allow yourself your innocence,
though it may make you faint
Surrender, just once, in a graceful swoon,

And may you be cherished and adored
A tender-hearted heroine
of a new era

Begun Aug? 2005 – finished Dec, 2007

The Undefended Self

I found my voice
in an era of assassinations
And in the midst
of all these tragedies
I have a dream that still survives

I found my voice early
but it was an angry voice
for the most part
So I put it away
because, even I didn’t like
the shrill sound
the terrible mutilations
the shock and grief
caused by bitter arrows
that always hit their mark

And inside, always
that tender place
that longed to speak
of mystery and love
of wisdom and ineffable beauty
the sheer joy of living

A profound tenderness
protected from the vagaries of the world
and almost lost,
but sometimes taken out
and gazed at lovingly,
luminous and beautiful
like a pearl

while grieving at my loss
my long separation

And in the search for
“Enlightenment”
I thought I would conquer my demons
unfold an elaborate revelation
I did not think I would simply
reveal the undefended self
uncover the tenderness of love
the soothing balm
of a spacious heart
so long sought for in a lover,
(the Perfect Lover
– troublingly elusive
and always a distraction from
liberation) Oh, save me
from this suffering, this restless
karmic sea

Defended I assumed my
treasure would be safe,
would be brought out
at a later time
would then be cherished and
adored, as was befitting of it’s
hidden glory
But, so long ignored, it became
encrusted and brittle to my tarnished eyes
and I doubted
I had ever seen it

Why then this anguished yearning?

Yet once in a while
it appears in its former brilliance
often in the form of another person,
a wise teacher
in the sacred space that
opens up to receive you
when you feel you’ve lost your way
and remember again
that you are searching for something
of true value
which has been with you all along

Or in one of life’s tantalizing mysteries
that lift us out of ordinary mind
into a wide sea of possibilities
magnificent and awe-inspiring

This is where I like to hang out,
not in the insidious, uninterrupted
battle for power and advantage
not in the “winners circle” of life
Because I don’t want to push
you out of my way
I want to welcome you in

This finally is my true voice
The dream of many generations
So gentle it is not often heard
So simple it is not always honoured

In the anguish of anger,
of Paradise lost
The Muslim, the Jew, the Christian,
the Sikh, the Hindu… Ah, how many
there are to name…
Have sometimes forgotten the true
message of religion – hard won
by mystics in quiet places,
compelled to dispel
the suffering of the world

The once true treasure
has become a rallying cry for war
heaping more agony upon the world
And forgotten is the surrender
that rescues from all poverty

Now the Defended Self lays siege upon
a wounded humanity
thinking this is the way to salvation
to the long awaited glory,
thinking a concept will do for reality
thinking the false prophets are all
on the other side

I found my voice
early- but it was
an angry voice
for the most part
So I put it away

because, I didn’t like
the shrill sound
the terrible mutilations of truth
so easy to utter with great conviction
The thoughts that set in motion
All the tragedies of the world

Vancouver, Spring, 2004.

The nakedness of age

Aging bodies, once so unappealing
sent a shiver up my back
to see the crepe flesh, the withering
spine and stance
Now they appear so beautifully endearing
as I grow into life and my own body

I once sought the flesh of youth
was overcome by the enamour
of manhood in its vigour
the beauty of women I aspired
to be like, glowing alluring
Now I am moved by the concealed
messages of older bodies
When you age, you can read them,
their mysteries revealed

As each heart has many stories to tell
I like the look of old flesh
the softness of its wisdom
its beauty like a well-worn glove
that has served us well

Then one day
lost in the snow
our well-lived-lives hail
into tiny little particles that
call us home in nakedness and wonder

June 2011. Annapolis, MD

The Evening News

During a leisurely dinner
between the sweet potatoes
and the new blond Bond
my throat constricts
with a tightening grip of sadness

200,000 lost in Guatemala?
Yes, I think that’s what they said…
In Pakistan now, 2 million without homes?
How many dead?

In Southern Africa, along the Eastern Coast, 12 million
– Yes that’s what they said!
12 million people prepare for starvation!
They call for help while eking out a subsistence living
Peasant farmers on a parched land
set up blogs, send frantic e-mails
to let the world know
they will soon die without our help
Hoping this new technology will save them
cross oceans and whole continents on their behalf
like winged messengers to convey
their desperation

Now tonight
their story is again being told
And once again, seemingly hopeless…
But why?

And wasn’t that Korea underwater, not so long ago?
Japan, in the desperate search for survivors after an earthquake?
Flooding in my beloved Eastern Europe?
No!… we are still trembling from the losses in South East Asia!!

Gone in a heartbeat
the father they all needed and grieve so deeply
the mother who loved them like no other
the child with all the promises of future
The wisdom and greatness we hoped for them
Family, friends
…lives broken, scattered
Homes washed away

I add up all these lives
Precious, beyond comprehension
and must not miss a single one
As though my accounting will save them

Then add to them, New Orleans
and Southern India
Like some incantation I must get exactly right
In a prayer without an answer

Vancouver, October 12th, 2005

Ta-meri

How I long to return to the black earth
Pulsing with the flood of the Nile
Where the beetle gathers its dung
To sustain birth in death

Here the quiet knowledge of life
is written where all can see,
but few can decipher

How I long to go where the Pharaoh
is cradled by the wings of Horus
Who whispers to him
Four golden shaabti will guard the viscera of your life
and your spirit shall rise again.
A beatific vision to nurture the heart of a people

I weep as I sit by the river of memory
The golden light of Life Divine
Oh Egypt, how they plundered you!
The remnants of your ancient wonders
buried in the shifting, hermetic sands of time
are now dull by comparison

How you once shone with the brilliance of 19 Suns!
The Light of the ancient world.

2002?