I remember my mother

Something I’ve been working on, this poem, late at night.  Trigger warning.

I remember my mother
her hatred
her fear
her need to outsmart
you and screw you over
her wild laughter
in the middle of the night
her rages
and tantrums
her drinking
way past the point
of no return

I remember how
she tried to drown
my cat in the toilet
how she attacked me
with a wood file
one sunny Sunday morning
how she said
things too horrible to hear
or ever speak aloud
how she always needed
to be smarter than

She is long gone now
and there is nothing
of beauty that remains
only sorrow
and compassion
for the woman she
could have been
might have chosen
to be despite
the fear
the neurosis
that grew and grew.

I remember my mother
and see how terrible
life was for her
how sorrow and pain
marred her path
how abuse
and terror
ruled her childhood
how anger
filled her heart
way past the point
of no return

I remember my mother
and wish for
moments of grace

Within the tightly held bud, beauty waits to unfold

Within the tightly held bud, beauty waits to unfold

A fenced in garden

garden at Vaux le Vicomte in France

garden at Vaux le Vicomte in France

To be still
in quietness
in crowds

Stillness as
heart place

The stillness
of the mind
can only happen
in the stillness
of the heart

The heart can
be the gate
of the mind

The gate needs
to be closed
or the mind
simply allows
all and everything
to enter
its courtyard

Better to close
the gate
than to spend
one’s life
sweeping out
cleaning up
after guests and

The mind allows
free passage
to everyone
and everything

The heart asks
are you an
invited guest?

The mind
fears loss
and is terrified
of being less
and so
it accumulates
and gathers

The heart is
a fenced-in
and the
scent and beauty
of its herbs
and flowers
bless all
who pass by

Visitors are
by choice
not need

Evening arrives
and all return
to their own
the heart rests
and refreshes.

~Joss Burnel

Living Tree

Cap d'Or, Nova Scotia

Cap d’Or, Nova Scotia

Tree who has died
you still stand
in praise to
the skies

Crow chooses
your highest point
from which
to welcome the morn

Ants burrow
between bark and trunk
creating a safe haven
– home

The day will come
when roots
weakened by rot
a strong wind
will knock you to
the forest floor

Slowly, over time
your tired body
will be consumed
by earth and fungus
and still…

you live on

~Joss Burnel

Ode to the abused child

Super Moon Summer 2011

Super Moon Summer 2011

I am sometimes taken by surprise when I put pen to paper in the early morning.  This was one of those times.  I began with my own writing prompt ” Be present – be here” and this is what flowed onto the page.

This is perhaps the greatest challenge of the abused child.

At a young age, we learn to survive by not being present – by going away somewhere else.

And yet – and yet – perhaps we are more truly present than others.

Able to step out of the flow of “how are you? I’m fine”, we live in a quieter, deeper place of “who are you really?”.

We know that appearances are just that – appearances – and what matters is who you are behind closed doors.

We know that it is our secrets that drive us and not our possessions or status.

We know that we can survive the dark night and that morning arrives with new light.

Being alone does not terrify us but, rather, it is our center.

We know that everything can change in the blink of an eye and learn, very young, to live the moment.

We know that people may not be who they seem – who they want others to think they are – so we look beneath the surface.

We know that if you don’t deal with and heal your pain, it will devour you and reach out to destroy others.

The shadow world welcomes us and holds us dear – that in-between realm where reality pauses and what is truly real, truly of value, is birthed.

We rarely ask “how are you” – because what we really want to know is “where are you most whole?” or “what places within you need tending?”

We are not always good friends and yet we are the best of friends.

We are the wounded of this world – we have filled our broken places with molten gold.

We are called to live a life of contemplation, of diving deep for that which has been hidden for generations.

We have been called to answer “who are you really?”

May you be blessed to know us.

Moment by Moment

Sunset in Normandy

Sunset in Normandy

Moment by moment
I encounter you
in the sound of
the whippoorwill
in the deep dark
cave of despair
You are there.

There is no place
I can go
no moment I can
sink into
that does not contain You

The beggar on the street
the bride scenting
her body as a gift
the actor on the stage
the whore in the parlor
show me they are
the many faces of me
the many faces of You

Move beyond your boxes
your straight lines
and categories
your labeling of good
and bad
behold the reflection
in every face
in every heart
in every breath
in each gentle touch
a glimpse of that one
who is all
from bee to bumbling
and see

~Joss Burnel