You Showed Me

My assistant city attorneys and I have prosecuted domestic violence perpetrators for 24 years.  I have come to loathe the mentality that allows a perpetrator to use violence to maintain power and control in an intimate relationship.  The very person the perpetrator should love with tenderness he beats into submission.  A cherished friend recently confided in me that her estranged husband had clobbered her in the face with a work boot he was holding, breaking her nose.  As painful as was the injury to her face, the deeper injury was to her spirit and her mind.  That strike caused her eyes to swell and blacken, but at the same time opened her eyes wide to who and what he was, and to what a future with him would bring.  I wrote this poem to honor my friend’s courage to see the truth and to seek a place of safety for herself and her children.  I dedicate this poem to all victims of domestic violence, those who survive and thrive, and those who have not yet broken free.  God bless.

YOU SHOWED ME

You bashed my face
with your boot,
steel-toed,
to show me
who you are:
tough, in control,
powerful.

You broke my nose
with your heel.

Our lambs watched, and
wept.

I am bleeding now,
swollen, my face
red and sore.

Yes, you showed me
the man you are.

But I say
to your face:
You missed!

Bereft I may be, but
I am not destroyed!
Because
you beat me,
you bruised me,
you cut me,
but you missed
my heart
my mind
my dreams
my soul
my will.

Yes,
you showed me.

Skyward

In our struggles to get it all done, to get ahead in the world, do we stop often enough to observe nature’s beauty, to smell gorgeous blooms, to listen to bird song, and to feel the warmth of the sun on our upturned face?  This poem is about slowing down and noticing the miracles of nature all around us.

SKYWARD

Do not look directly
at the Sun; instead,
look upon all
the Sun touches;
see the tall trees
wave in the wind;
draw in the aromas:
the many-petalled rose,
pink peonies,
bunches of lilac blooms;
tingle in the ice-melt
bouncing over boulders,
brushing over moss;
sink your toes
into the sandy surf,
white sails and gulls
highlighting the horizon;
contemplate the warmth
across eight billion miles
on your skin,
the glow through
closed lids turned
skyward.

Times and Seasons

Just because the skirmish is over does not mean we feel safe to come out of hiding.  Though the day may be sunny and calm, we may yet believe the safest place is underground, in our hole, in our cave.  Eventually, we dare to poke our heads out into the light, eyes squinting, hoping for peace, the memory of battle still fresh, wounds still stinging.  We cannot stay in our dark caves forever, can we?  For life happens outside, in the sun and the breeze, under the trees, with the sound in our ears of waves rolling onto the sand.

TIMES AND SEASONS

A time to retrench,
to dig the fox hole deeper,
though the enemy’s tanks have gone,
the rumble and the smoke and the clatter, gone;
deep ruts angling off in the mud.

A time to hunker down,
to close my eyes and let
the war rage on in
some other field.

My battle is done.
In my trench I hide,
safely.

Footsteps to Beyond

I often contemplate the many metaphors for our voyage through this temporal life: ships crossing rough seas; trains chugging up mountains; footsteps in the sand.  What gives momentum to our life’s journey?  What guides our life’s direction?  Where did we begin, and what will our destination be?  What are the roles of God, of pain, of choice?  Whatever your travels, may they be blessed.

FOOTSTEPS TO BEYOND

Wingtips and heels
traversed that chasm
between
the last train car
step
and the train station
platform
just as the forward motion
stopped
and the locomotion
whooshed
its unnecessary steam,
as their movement along
the tracks,
over hills and through forests and farms,
became,
crossing that chasm,
footsteps
to beyond.

Rabbit Lane: Memoir of a Country Road, b Roger Baker, is now available in print and for Kindle on Amazon.

Commandments

In our lives, in this world, so much of what we hear screams at us; so much of what we see strains the eye; so much stimulus overwhelms our senses.  So how do we sense the sublime? How do we discern the quintessential?  Beauty and ugliness both surround us.  To see beauty despite what is ugly requires both a choice to see, and a belief that beauty is there to be seen. For a moment, put aside religion, God, spirituality, and morality–and trust that intrinsic beauty and goodness are real.  That is when you will see.  My poem “Commandments” points at the difficulty of having faith in goodness, of sensing the sublime, of believing in beauty, touches on the straining effort faith requires, but affirms the reality and virtue of light, goodness, beauty, and sublimity, and their power to eclipse evil.

COMMANDMENTS

Of you
I require
to hear Wren’s peep
through the hurricane’s howl,
to stare at the sun
yet see Luna fly,
to feel the breeze on your skin
as you’re quartered and drawn.
I demand your peaceability
despite warmongerings and deceits,
against abominations and lying hearts.
Your peaceable walk
I adjure.
Discern the beauty
of the muddy speck,
the song
in the screech and cry.

Fly

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A butterfly, though battered, does not cease to fly.  It pays no mind to the sloughed scales that leave it cracked and drab.  Though not as graceful, perhaps, as in younger days, the butterfly yet lilts from flower to flower, following scents of sweetness.  So must I not give up because I am cracked and broken, weary, and showing my age.  The world is beautiful still, sweet still, ripe and available still, for me, for you.

FLY

Today you limp
on air:
wings faded,
edges serrated,
tails broken off.
Still, flowers
beckon
you to push awkwardly on,
to cling with three barbed feet.
Uncurl your coil
to taste the sweetness
of the flowers
today.

Farmer

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I have often second-guessed my career as a lawyer, wondering if I would have been better suited as an ornithologist, a cosmologist, an English teacher, or a writer.  It doesn’t matter anymore, really: I’ve been a lawyer for 25 years.  And I will be the best municipal lawyer I can be until I retire, and happy to do it.  Throughout my career, I have found opportunities to be both the intellectual and the romantic, the lawyer and the poet, the analyst and the naturalist. In my poem “Farmer” I explore the concept of being who we really are in the midst of circumstances that, we think, may not suit us but in which we find ourselves.  And, maybe we are right where we need to be: learning, stretching, becoming.

FARMER

Now,
looking back thirty years,
I would to have sidestepped
a torturous jurisprudence.
I would, rather, to have studied
the sturdy soil,
the art of growing things.
Still, today,
from my desk,
I till and I plant;
I nurture and hoe out the choking weeds,
looking to the harvest.
Resolutions are my cash crop,
statutes and prosecutions.
Policies and proclamations
yield forthcoming fruits.
The pen is my plough,
reams of paper
my fertile, furrowed fields,
poems my flower garden,
where butterflies condescend
to radiate.