NESSA MCCASEY is a poetry therapist and mentor for those wishing to train as a poetry therapist through the International Academy for Poetry Therapy and she is the mom of a 30-something man on the autism spectrum who has taught her everything of substance. It has been a wonderful life wandering through days and she expects more wonder along the path ahead.
So hard to say goodbye
but perhaps we’ll meet again
especially over poems.
Stay true to your self
Stay true to the words
Let the words guide your path.
I say these things to you
and, of course, to myself.
Such a pleasure it has been.
Thank you to the poets
Thank you to the Tiferet Journal
Thank you to the words.
Seasons of My View
Having lived with the view out my office window
now for nearly 15 years, one might think I’d tire
of it or take it for granted. Rather each season
I delight in the scenery. Summer has its fullness
and privacy – with leaves fully out, I no longer
see neighbors across the lake. They disappear.
Fall has its color, oh its color. Leaves falling
abound. I turn to see neighbors again.
Winter is glorious with ice and white snow
covering tree limbs and trunks like paint.
But above all, the turn to spring is my favorite.
No matter how long winter hangs on,
incessant spring has its own schedule. Just
this spring, I planted more native plants
that will more easily rise up past the dregs
of winter. I count on the green to return my heart
to warmth each spring, as the ground warms.
Four Strong Women
When my aunt sold her home in Michigan,
she handed over boxes of photos
and I came upon a gem in one.
Four women, a generational pose,
from my Aunt Mary Ann, upwards.
Mary Ann’s mother, Ilene,
a dark-haired beauty,
and her mother, MawMaw,
and the matriarch, nameless to me.
Their strong brows and deep, kind eyes.
I was very young when MawMaw died, and
Ilene had passed before I was born. No
wonder then, I do not know the name of
my great great grandmother.
The women of my family:
I feel them coursing through my veins.
I often talk to them in my meditations, calling
in the ancestors, near and far.
Posing women in this semi-circle says
that they knew the importance. They knew
their bonds held strength forward through
the ages to me. I feel it, I know it. I harbor it.
It’s good to look at old photos. If only to see those
who lived before me, who allowed me to breathe life, too.
It is as if they are looking straight at me, through the photo.
Their souls held within their eyes, looking out even now at me.
A day filled with stories today:
first of a wonderful girl, gone now,
adventurer with cystic fibrosis,
Gwendolyn Willow. And a conference
on racial justice lent more tales
of intrepid workers needing equity
more than anything else. And why not?
Page 25 of Patricia Fargnoli’s book, Duties of the Spirit, with 7 lines.
I’d like to live in an ash tree forest.
With owls, foxes, woodpeckers, and the like.
Deer would roam amidst the wind blowing
ash leaves about.
Drying up my tears from loss means
leaning into the ash tree again and again,
as if there is wise heartbeat there (and I
know that is a fact).
Building my house out of twigs would take
a long time, but it would be gifted to me by
the ash trees and therefore a best practice
way of living on the earth.
I’d like to live in an ash tree forest.
With raccoon and possum and bats
flying about in the moonlit night.
We can water each other, even asah.*
note: Asah is the Sanskrit word for ashes, or dust.
The text directed me to
Put lavender on wrists and behind my ears
And even on the back of my neck.
Now I sit beside my mom
Who has been sleeping much
This afternoon – PT work tired her so.
Her moans seem part of the healing
Process too. She holds onto my hand
For dear life, it feels. She touches the
Side of my face tenderly. Mixed sweet dreams for me!
Seems romantically medieval,
however, this one is perfectly modern,
electric even, and I am taking liberties
as it has no candle on top, but
rather it glows from within.
I stare at the glowing light.
Silence and this soft light
lift me from the day’s worries
like a kid’s balloon which
escapes his hold. So nice,
to see the worries float up,
transformed from darkness
into blue clouds. If only.
And yet, there is
calm in my breath
that wasn’t there before.
I will use this bit of magic
again and again and
my transformative powers
shall only grow.
Two Women: Perspectives
One day is normal
The next all is new again
What is the difference?
Is it ourselves or the circumstances?
Back home for two nights
Sleeping in my own bed
But oh my, the love and hope
Of strangers helping strangers.
Another Way To Grace
A four part haiku journey
Her mind wakes up so slowly
After a brain bleed –
Joy in raising one’s hand up.
Full-out, giddy joy
Our garbled conversation.
We laugh out loud – yes
Wonder of simple
Ahhh, with wisdom of other
The way is clear.
Rarely easy or chosen…
Forced into grace
It comes in spite of ourSelves.
on its stick
And my goblet
Of communion wine
I am bereft
Even my shadows
After the stroke,
Language turns to jibberish-
My hands stroke her face.
Sustaining Hope With Open Doors
Throwing open the doors and windows
for a few hours today
made papers fly around the house
and cleared out the dark spirits
gathered over the winter from
Eventually, I had to close them
all, except for a sliver on the
front door remaining open to let in
beloved bird voices. Spring songs
inspire me to heights of mood –
Throwing open doors and windows
means opening to vulnerability
in our harsh world and
it means keeping harshness
ruling less than birdsong (and hope),
Thus finished with my women’s group
Here I hunker down to write
and find nothing on my mind
other than politics – No way!
Trying to ignore the news is like
missing the storm that blew through town
but oh how I’d rather not know
it is, of course, raging out there.
Crazies and angry sorts fill up
their lungs with the same polluted air
as the newborn babies, bless them,
and the babies are more prone to die.
Told you, I did, I’d rather not notice
the real news of the day…
Writing and Grace
“The merit of your words should exceed
the considerable value of silence.”
– Earl Gray’s Law of Poetry #29
by Nessa McCasey
Laws of poetry
are not laws
but black ink
on a page.
Laws of poetry
are not shown
with red marks
but the music
you may hear
Is it in the undercurrent?
Is it in the air with grace notes?
Blues or jazz
or melodic pop
help me to remember
the blood running
in my veins,
the rhythm of
emphasis on two.
Switch it up
and it becomes a waltz
for a day when one needs
One, two, three.
Can you hear me now?
Easter Sunday Sermon
There were scarce any hats in the sanctuary
today, Easter Sunday 2017.
But the two I saw were sublime!
As we heard all stops pulled out, music
and sermon, the red face of the minister
served up the biggest quandary of all.
He wasn’t happy with his sermon, was
my best guess.
He usually tries to offer us reason
puzzles, so that we might exercise our
brains a bit on Sunday morning.
Maybe this was another one of those
But then I took a leave from listening
for a moment, I have to admit, as I looked
around the sanctuary filled with church-goers
on Easter. High up in the balcony were
small families, say one parent and
one kid or two single adults.
I hope they heard, as I did, that
we all can practice resurrection if we dare. And
that was from Wendell Berry, Mad Farmer Poet, coming
through the voice and body of my minister.
Pardon me while I swoon at the mixing,
as in alchemy, of poetry and ministry.
In the Crosshairs
Finding out, again, that eating out is dangerous for one who needs a special diet, I am in the crosshairs of the breakdown of the food supply… Farmers plant corn over and over in the fields, needing to add chemicals to soil for increased yield. I should have been more aware of food complexities (and corporate greed, of course) but then it hits me in the gut with awareness about 6 hours after eating what was supposed to be a gluten-free meal (or it could be the oil was corn and I did eat two bites of potato).
Back to the kitchen with me! Back to the hot stove no matter the heat, and cook for myself without any offending ingredients. I need to remember my grandmother and her ways of putting food by, so many years ago. Time to go back to the past, rather than into the future, where, more likely than not, we won’t have bees and therefore no food at all. Maybe it won’t happen, but just in case, I might try to keep bees myself. We’ll have to plan on disaster….
First hot day of spring
Eighty degrees in April.
Global warming, yes?
Without the wind,
How would the draft of butterfly wings travel the world?
Without the soil,
How would seeds have their useful lives?
Without the sun and moon,
How would we move between day and night –
And what would I look up to the sky to see?
Why would we dare to live on?
How would we carry songs?
This poem would have no reason.
Springtime in Michigan
Music date on Thursday night.
Darkened sky lends to walking
With refrains still in our ears
I cheated when first making
Black Bean Soup, as detailed
in the Horn of the Moon Cookbook – now
with tomato-smeared pages.
I did not have cumin seed, instead
the ground version. So it wasn’t entirely
the correct Black Bean Soup from The Horn
of the Moon Café in Montpelier, Vermont.
But it well served my young son and me
for a week.
Cumin, ancient spice with history of being accepted
as money, now haunts my memory banks of
earlier days when I loved a simple meal of corn chips
and guacamole with extra cumin in it, as it seemed
a party therefore!
Reading now about the difference
between ground cumin and cumin seed,
there is something else I did not do with
that black bean soup: toasting the seed brings up
the best flavor possible. Ahhh, there is always
another pot of soup to make. I am smelling cumin
just to think of that soup…
Harmonic tones –
Low sounds on air currents.
Meet my soul with sacred voices –
Amazement Bordering on Bewilderment
I don’t like to
or a choice between
two options, instead
I’d rather keep all
open and available
(if not now, then
in the future).
My way of being
problems for those
who are more full
says the dictionary.
I am somewhere
in the middle there,
as you may have guessed.
Rest In Melody, Maximilian
My old piano, forever more dubbed Maximilian, was left behind in my mother’s most recent home. I learned to play music on it as a child and felt he was a great friend, as he accepted my pounding tantrums after my mom preferred to scold my expressive self and discourage my creative spirit. Thereafter, I watched the piano keys rise and fall to hold my anger within that space, while of course Max knew that I was an errant child. He was also surely knowing that he could hold all the shadow I played into him. Unfortunately, now I cannot play Maximilian and besides, my mom never had him tuned over three residential moves. She could never understand the care of creatives. Not even the piano, poor soul of divine melody.
Haibun for Transition to Spring
We have had messy weeks with snow and rain, clouds and sunshine. Sooner or later it warms and leaves us forgetting all about the cold darkness of winter nights. Each new green sprout gives me hope again. Equinox is passage from one season to the next, whether winter to spring or maid to mother to crone. But if we never notice the moon’s movement, too, across the sky, how will we be able to make note of time? I have noticed the travel of moonbeam on my home’s floor from south to north over winter to summer. The midpoint of spring gives me pause again to note time’s passage, right there on the floor. Thank you, Spring, for the many gifts you bring.
Spring joyful sunshine
Gratitude floats on my thoughts
As winter gives way to green.
I am not afraid of my shadow.
No longer afraid of monsters under the bed.
No longer afraid of thunder and lightning
and certainly not afraid of unknowns (ahhh mystery).
No longer afraid of aging or dying
though not preferring either.
I do fear running out of time for
my mothering tasks, set upon me by me
as a result of society’s lack of care
for those different or challenging.
(What can they do with a man who will not speak?
His eyes are clearer than words, I try to tell
all who will listen.)
Gradually, even that fear will leave, blown away in the wind.
Face to the breeze, in sun or rain,
I smile and meet a stranger who smiles back.
Trust could be just that easy, given a smiling face.
Day after day after day. Leaning into
the trust of the world.
Palimpsest – The Root of All Cruelty
I don’t know you;
You don’t know me.
We sleepwalk through our lives
And if, perchance, we bump
into each other, it may jar us awake.
“I call it cruel and maybe the root of all cruelty
To know what occurs but not recognize the fact.”
I call it cruel – the news of
chemical poisoning of babies
in Syria and an orange man
blaming a black man no longer
in office for this death and suffering.We have seen the reality of a man
and elected him despite his failings,
his evil ways, his misogyny,
his bankruptcies, his corruption,
his orange flyaway hair.
Did we not allow our brains to register
to our hands as we filled in the little boxes
next to the candidate of choice’s name? Were
we filled with too many other voices
our heads overfilled with lies and deception
and the inability of a scarred woman to
make us believe she could govern
(given our misogyny).
Oh me, oh my so we squander decades
of progress towards civil liberties. Not
recognizing the power we have in our hands
we go back to our couches and watch tv ads
for food and drink. This is the root of all cruelty
for gradually we forget that it is our own
wellbeing at risk, no matter who we are.
Orange one fires up coal, polluting our air,
our water; our thinking is lost in the darkened
clouds from the factories. Meanness is
meanness and wringing one’s hands
can also be considered mean as it is doing
nothing of consequence.“Not so much to be loved as to love.”
And still, I find that I love this world
of sunshine, rain, spring and fall, birds
and trees. Despite mean people, I find
the moon often and smile at my mistakes.
All Around Me
1. To My Left
Birds, unseen, chirping.
Bird-feeder, unattended now.
Beyond that, the lake
having gentle ripples,
awaiting spring snow,
as I understand,
though hopefully not,
says me and the swans..
2. To My Right
A landscape of books on shelves.
Order tends towards chaos and
results in creative flowing,
which of course, I enjoy
What is buried behind?
3. All Around
The air, the rhythm
of the earth living its beat,
the noise humans make
even when they don’t do
more than breathe.
of human speech.
Summertime perfect time
Drinking Up My Words
“The ribbons tear and fly like kites
So that you may rest your head on the blue of the sky.”
– Tomaz Saluman
On wash day, Grandmother would hang up her sheets
on the line drying in the sunshine of the blue sky.
Those sheets blew wildly
towards the sky as if they were dancing.
The same grandmother made pancakes for supper
and grandpa was happy to endure them for my sake.
She poured out M&M’s into a glass bowl – twinkling –
as if it was raining chocolate loudly for me.
Relaxing my head on the blue of the sky just now
as I write this brings her back
to me again. What a pleasure to write and
drink her in, each word on my tongue alive.
It is beyond my comprehension to think
of building a wall around or between countries.
Would they include doorways?
How will anyone get back and forth?
Why would citizens want to be walled in?
Thereby letting out the disturbing questions
from my mind in that first stanza…
Now, freshly opened, I can close down
that upset freeway and meditate into bliss again.
Breathing in deeply to a count of 4 and then holding
another 4 counts. Breathing out to a count of 4
and then holding again 4 counts.
Kind of easy for a musician to count beats
while meditating and for having
enough breath to last.
A few of those and then I am nearly dizzy and
truly relaxed again. Breathing meditation
does wonders for my mind when it is rolling along
with paranoid adventures (or the news).
A natural gateway to nirvana, as they say.
The day begins without me,
while evergreen appreciates the sun.
As it rises, warmth spreads onto
branches as flowing water as life.
In concert, all of the outside world
enters a new day; birds twitter,
dogs sit in wait for early morning walkers
with biscuits, and at last, we notice them all.
This spring, I plant native species who may recognize
the old sun as its younger self long long ago.
I want to listen in to their conversation,
so need to be with them before sunrise.
I will arise and see the fog before the sun rises
and be able to cross over to liminal space
between worlds. I know ancestors wait for us
in those between spaces – precious moments
just before sunrise.
Daily chances remain
timeless for an instant
until fully kissed by sun.