Carla Shafer, Ruling Elder at St. James Presbyterian Church in Bellingham, WA, was recently selected to receive the Empowered Poet Award at World Poetry Canada International Peace Festival held in Vancouver, BC, October 6-24, 2014. World Poetry Canada is a Vancouver, BC organization of poets, writers, musicians, artists, film makers, and dancers who gather to support poetry and the arts around the world. Carla was one of five poets honored. Carla also had a prose piece, Coming to Montana, recognized with a first place prize by Washington Community Colleges Humanities Association. Her prose and poem appeared in Crosscurrents 2014, the organization’s annual magazine of literature and art.
Coming to Montana
I have traversed mountains and sped across desserts, the sun winching toward me, to find you caught up in letting go of a once dearly-held lover, defending your injured dog, getting to know new neighbors and kibitzing with the old ones. Blue sky, wide and warm, spans this wildness. Limber grasses shift and roll, as the wind whispers healing breezes from the Salish medicine tree. Feathers, ribbons, hang from branches too high to reach. Beads adorn bark settings, strewn with peoples’ prayers penetrating to its core where hope and suffering travel dark striae between us and the spirit world.
The East Fork of the Bitteroot flows through this valley, a wide and shallow ribbon of dark waters stippled with sunlight. Deer, elk and bear pass through the lodge pole forest to linger in the stream. The wildness of place alive in their flesh, bone and sinew. I breathe in this time of cleansing for the days of work ahead. You pace in and out, one moment preparing lunch, the next trying to remember how to assemble a sandwich. I have been where you are now and these memories goad sadness.
The red-tailed hawk whistles the fourth note of “Ode to Joy” as it circles the sky. Still-spread wings mark a certain distance in the breeze. We lift our eyes to that raptor, our hearts tugged open. It regards this space and keens the ephemeral breeze.
Two ways to be a Pacifist
If you lie down at the tideline
let the surf fall over you
pull you with debris and sand
into the sea – then push and
roll your limp body back onto
the beach—you will be picked at
by seagulls and sand fleas – while
the moon pulls and pushes earth’s
water in continual motion
of fullness and withering.
Or imagine yourself as a leaf to ride passage
in a river. Idly you watch as it grinds away
at the bank carving a bend. At the right
moment you push your legs out
against the moss and stone border
reduce the hazard of coming to harm.
You turn with the current into deeper waters
where a pool widens and traveling slows—
while you think your way downstream,
plan how to stay afloat, resist being pulled
under a log or high-ended on a sandbar—
you have taken the river—made it your own.