We must be clear about the risks.

There are people who are capable of marking our hearts

like the rancher’s fire-heated brand cuts into the steer’s flesh

that will ever leave its imprint.

I have learned to respect my heart’s insistence

to enfold every beautiful, complicated, complex, wounded, or lost soul

who “branded” my heart with or without my permission.

Once branded, we are never again “without” their imprint.

If death, or distance, or irreconcilable differences separate us,

the absence becomes the joint damage from an old accident ~

not correctable by surgery, not enough to medicate, not enough to keep you from being ambulatory.

But enough to make pain free walking a thing of your past.

We don’t speak enough of this Universal grief.

Watch toddlers, They wail and are inconsolable when a parent disappears.

They speak the heart’s language openly,

until they are taught to use distraction, a different toy, a sweeter cookie ~

before they are taught to grow mute to their grief.

“Missing” is not an optional “add-on” to a human life.

There ought to be places, besides country songs

to hold the unquenchable thirst of longing to see again

a face that has disappeared from our view.








A Hundred Years Old at Forty-Five

 This was written for my cousin, Jean, who passed from breast cancer 6 years ago today. She is still a light in my life.Jeannie Jeannie 2

A Hundred Years Old at Forty-Five


A hundred years old at forty-five,

she holds her purse across a crooked elbow

and with mincing steps along the pavement

moves her bony frame to my Subaru.

Once in, adjusts her turban down over her ears,

to cover wisps of hair that remain at the nape of her neck.


Will she be buried in the turban

or a wig, I wonder?

How to ask her preferences.


“Put your seat belt on”, I say

in response to the ding, ding, ding of the warning bell.

“Oh, I can’t”, she says, “it hits the tumor in the breast and it hurts.”


“The” breast.

Not “my” breast.


I’m wrecked.

I want to pound the steering wheel with my fists

until I’ve shattered the bones in my hands.


Does God understand how precious this one was at three?

With corkscrew curls and sky-blue eyes?

This fatherless girl?

This childless woman?


Might God not have looked the other way when parceling out the cancer?

But which way?

My way?


We ignore the ding, ding, ding

on the twenty minute ride to her house

and chat about her car troubles

which is why I’ve been called to drive her home.


Lifting her arm to open the passenger door,

she winces, reaches for her belongings

and shushes me away

before I can help her into her house.

I gather her to me anyway.

Not on the driveway

but in the poem.



Kathy MacDonald

August, 2008





Butterflies Do Not Glance Backwards

Monarch Butterfly

Butterflies do not glance backwards.

Is butterfly obliged to remind herself and others

that her present day beauty is somehow diminished

by her former day unsightliness?

 Is she any less beautiful or gifted because of it?

What difference does it make that she was not beautiful at inception,

but rather beautiful through deception?

The hiding off of herself,

and then, a very private transmutation, to arrive

fully equipped for flight.

If she has a memory of her caterpillar days,

surely as she is about flower business and the whispering of the air ~

surely she does not linger there?

She has earned her right to claim herself beautiful

in the only time that is real, if any time is real.


 She is entitled to let the light dance on her wings.

She is caterpillar no more.

She will die, a butterfly.

Seductive Whisper

Not "the" hibiscus, but lovely all the same.
Not “the” hibiscus, but lovely all the same.

It was no casual encounter.
I cut and claimed a hibiscus blossom for my desk,
though she seduced me first.

I am more easily seduced than when I was a young girl.

A flower.
A bird.
A sky.
An autumn palette of color.

The hibiscus got my attention.

I grew expansive within her beauty
and sought to hold her closer.
I selected a miniature cut crystal vase
to support peach splayed petals
stained with cherry red.

I carried her up to my workspace
and several times heart-fell into her loveliness
without apology or regret.

Then, content, I moved on.

I forgot her existence until this morning
when I see she is spent,
curled in upon herself ~
a lullaby instead of a rock song. 

I love her no less, perhaps more
as she folds up her canvas,
her art show drawing to a close. 

I love her seductive whisper now, in this room.





Remember when there was magic in a backyard?

At five years old,

 you are part of the enchantment. 

Dandelion buttons sprinkle the emerald lawn

with puddles of sunshine by day.

Those you do not pick

transform under the night stars

into globes of silk.

Bewitched with your power

to release and rebirth

you scatter seeds like fairies’ wings.  

Knees to the ground

you hover with bumblebee, sipping at

pink and white clover blossoms.

Taste alongside to learn

if one is sweeter than another. 

You swoon on the scent

of freshly mowed grass and lilacs.

Intoxicated, recline

to join the ants who

track up and down the slender stalks,

crumbs, like boulders, in their jaws,

transferred from worker to worker. 

You are not observing the world.

You are this world. You and it are not separate.

At five, natural born mystics,

with daily experiences

of what we now, seek to reclaim. 

Magic everywhere

and we, unaware,

are part of the enchantment.





Synapses of Trust


I was hungry for alchemy.

Every night, devoted to the quest for magic,

I went to sleep listening, through headphones,

to new age meditation tracks of binaural beats

hoping to entrain my brain to theta waves

like zen monk masters on the mat.

I listened as disembodied voices walked me through archways,

beside streams

into golden temples

where Beings of Light waited to dialogue with me.


Every night I hoped for magic

and instead awoke, hours later, with headphones hurting my ears,

red light of the CD player interrupting my sleep.

No peak experience.


I wished for the embedded subliminal suggestions

to slip past my conscious gatekeeper ~

work deep in my subconscious

to ignite the law of attraction

in my life.


I listened to CD’s with titles like

Flow and Synchronicity and

Retrieve Your Destiny


I longed to be switched over to a guidance system

programmed from within.

Connected to Source with

a crystal clear path to happiness

where there could be no more missteps or misdeeds or misalignments.


I imagined it was a failed experiment,

as synapses of trust I could not see

were being laid down, reinforced.

New tracks in my old brain ~

 I was not meeting Spirit guides in golden halls;

I was learning how to let go of desires and surrender.

But because I was expecting something more dramatic

I let the CD’s go.


Now, I am no longer looking for magic.

I am seeking, no, not seeking even ~

I am holding a space for the possibility of resting in

the Silence and the Everything I Am.

I am no longer using meditation

as a disguised goal setting trick,

to attract love, money, career, health.

Nor to set up a dialogue with a contingent of angels

well known and named by others, but strangers to me.

Nor to get a clearer view of my Spirit Guides,

hovering around me, special me, to advise, lead, encourage.


It feels to me now that all that kind of meditation

is still a seeking for something.

Still a construction of self,

to manipulate future self into better circumstances.

Insisting that NOW is lacking.

Which as every Buddha knows, is not possible.


Instead, I wish to drop down and trust

The Nothing That Is.

The mindful awareness that observes

with no judgment

all the thinking, feeling, emoting, story telling

that I engage in, but which is not ME

and not any more ME, even if I am conversing with angels,

spirit guides, or Ascended Masters.


I wish to drop down and trust

that regardless of the myriad experiences of living ~

the joys, the sorrows, the pangs and terrors

the blessings, the loves, the accomplishments and failures ~

that behind and through the cycling of that wheel of life,

my wheel of life,

is a spaciousness that will ever hold me.

This spaciousness that is the true Me.

This spaciousness that could never leave me.


Perhaps, decades from now, with one day at a time,

a Spirit Guide may enter my consciousness

and beckon with a hawk feather.

An Angel may illuminate and whisper a word of love.

God may enter every cell of my being and set them on fire with bliss.

But that will be the by-product, not the goal.

The day after the beckoning, the whispering, the fire

I will be back on the mat

practicing the emptiness of spaciousness once again.

Resting in the Nothing That Is.




If I Sneak In



If I sneak in, visit for a while ~

bow to the begonias,

whisper to the delphiniums,

sip iced tea in the hammock and listen

to the chickadees and goldfinches

would that be trespassing?

Screened in summer porches.

with empty Adirondack chairs

facing the hydrangea borders.

Unoccupied garden swings 

shaded under maple trees.

So many suburban sanctuaries.

So few sanctuary visitors.

To rest in gardens of loveliness,

even ones that are not mine,

to do no harm, to appreciate ~

feels more like a necessary act of service

than trespassing.

If I love something beautiful

that others neglect, have I hurt anyone? 

We hold the pleasant nostalgia as comfort~

when our parents and grandparents had time to sit,

listen to the crickets and peepers,

praise the flowers, and how good the tomatoes

are climbing this year.

Were those days ever real?

Or even for them only a rare and occasional

respite from the grinding days of life?

We build tributes to those ideals.

Hire landscaping companies

to plant hostas and roses for us,

architects to design houses with wrap around porches,

 patios, decks to capture the view.

We mean to spend time there, but with work

and childrens’ school and sports

when is there ever time, really? 

I’d like to be a volunteer sanctuary sitter,

alone if necessary, until the owners

join me in these sacred spaces they have desire enough to create

but not yet devotion enough to appreciate.