Every Day Life After the Attack, By Jennifer Angelina Petro

Every Day Life

After the Attack

By

Jennifer Angelina Petro

 

 

The day after.

The slipping back

Into your body.

The stepping back

Into your life.

The sitting down

With your perpetrators

At the breakfast table,

In church, at Thanksgiving dinner,

The friends coming over

To play in a house

Where you were pinned down,

The getting up the next morning,

The shutting down

Of what happened,

The pushing it away,

The surviving by vanishing

In plain sight,

The slow forgetting

So that life can go on

Even though the innocence

Of running outside on a long, drifting

Summer’s evening, disappears

Like a firefly in the trees.

The terror burrowing

Into your body, into your spirit,

Into the fabric of your mind,

To be carried with you

The rest of your life, like

A railroad spike in your guts,

That stabs you again and again

When you least expect it—

When a smell, the sound

Of cicadas, the flashback,

The Thanksgiving dinner,

The priest holding up

The Eucharist, triggers it all again—

And you feel like

You’re going to vomit the horrible truth,

And you freeze as you’re walking

To the store, and you shimmer

Out of your body again,

And don’t come back

For hours, and yet, you go about

Your day, a living mist, a disappearing

Person made of sand,

And somehow you manage

To return to your life—

The stain on your soul

Visible in your eyes,

And yet, you move on, you make it,

You survive another wave,

You emerge from the dark waters,

And you stride towards the healing

Into freedom, into the reclaiming

Of your life—the fucking forgiveness

And twisted loyalties, the fucking

It’s a gift, the fucking it was meant

To be, the fucking you somehow

Made it happen or deserved it,

The fucking you will let it

Hold your life hostage anymore,

The wonder of who you are—

A warrior battling every moment

To live, to recover your innocence

From pain’s tangled trees,

Where fireflies still blink, like

Beacons in the night,

Reminding you that you still

Shine.

 

Me, 5th grade, dressed up for a class play.

 

 


 




Morning’s Arrival, by Jennifer Angelina Petro

Morning’s Arrival

By

Jennifer Angelina Petro

 

 

The tree leans in,

Taps the window.

The one inside

Rises slowly,

Moves, touches the pane.

 

Suddenly it’s gone—

Dissolving into vast, open spaces;

And the freshness of the air

Fills the body, lifts the spirits,

Calms the mind, frees the soul.

 

The one inside

Breathes for the first time

In years, allowing the fingers of the tree

To dance over them

With the utmost tenderness,

Spreading a joy so clean,

So almost unimaginably sweet–

Yet there it is—rivering through them.

 

And as the tree continues its feather-light

Touches, the one inside

Moves further, closer, and climbs

Into its branches, settles

Into its arms, and the tree—

Rooted deeply in the cool, delicious earth,

Cradles the one inside, who is now

The one outside, and lifts them up

Towards the moon and the stars,

Holding them aloft—a new born

Child—and sways, and hums

Freedom songs into the sky, and waves as gently

As morning’s sun-filled arrival.

 

 

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Sitting With Sadness, by Jennifer Angelina Petro

Sitting with Sadness

By

Jennifer Angelina Petro

 

 

Time slows like it does on long summer afternoons,

You smell the scent of rain even though there is a cloudless sky,

You get up to go about your day and sadness follows you like a moveable river,

You resist impulses to drown out her sobbing with food, sex, spending—

You feel her rocking back and forth in your heart causing you to do the same in your chair,

Trees whisper windy syllables through the curtains and gently tousles your hair,

Bees hover around your house making sure you understand sadness brings gifts of honey,

Cicada song drones through the sky in waves and settles into the hollow places deep in your bones,

A terrible longing–timeless and holy, lives in her tears and touches yours,

And when she decides to leave, she assures you she will return,

And if you are able, you will sit with her again as she weeps around the roots of your being.

 

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Child of Sadness, by Jennifer Angelina Petro

Child of Sadness

By

Jennifer Angelina Petro

 

 

 

She came to me in silence,

Stepping from a shroud of light,

I saw her coming from a long distance away,

And stood as still as I could.

When she reached me

And looked at me with tear-filled eyes,

I offered her my hand and she took it,

And we sat in the field

For long summer hours as she wept without ceasing,

Dragonflies and bees and dandelion seeds

Floated around us like dreams.

We sat there in the field—

Her sobbing from a river of sadness,

Me bearing witness to her pain.

And this time, never once trying

To take away her suffering.  This time,

Surrounded by the gentle hum of angel wings,

This time honoring who she was,

I listened, wide eyed, and heart open,

As she filled my soul with tears.

 

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On Thinking, An Angel and Child Story, by Jennifer Angelina Petro

On Thinking,

An Angel and Child Story

By

Jennifer Angelina Petro

 

 

 

“Good morning little one,” said the Angel.

“Morning Angel,” said the child.

“You look like you have a question,” said the Angel.

After a short moment thinking, the child said: “Yes, I do.”

“You’re welcome to share it with me, although I cannot guarantee I have the right answer.”

“You always have the right answer.”

“I try.  Now what is your question, dear one?”

“Well,” began the child, “I keep thinking this nasty thought—about some of my friends getting hurt—not that I am the one hurting them or even want them hurt—it’s just that this thought keeps coming out of nowhere of them getting hurt somehow, and I don’t like it.”

“I see,” said the Angel.

“And I feel like I can’t stop that thought from being in my mind, and I don’t want it there.  What can I do?”

“Well,” offered the Angel, “You could think a different thought.”

“No, I can’t,” said the child, “It’s just there.  I can’t help it.”

“You could try,” said the angel.

“How?”

“Every time the nasty thought comes, catch it, like a fly in a web, and then tuck it over and away, and then, think a different thought.”

“What do you mean?”

“Just what I said.”

“How do I catch a thought?”

“As soon as you realize it’s in your mind catch it, stop the tape, hold the phone, freeze the frame—whatever you want to call it—just notice there’s the thought in your mind you don’t like.”

“And then?”

“And then think a different one—one you do like.”

“That’s impossible,” said the child sitting down defeated on her bed.

“It takes practice,” said the Angel, “You see, we’re so used to believing we have no say, no control, no intentions for what goes through our heads, that we believe we’re helpless to choose thoughts we like.”

“It feels helpless,” said the child, “That thought goes through my mind a million times a day.”

“Some people are helpless,” said the Angel, “they have illnesses that makes it so they need support from outside to help them order their thoughts.”

“What if I am one of the helpless ones?” asked the child.

“Then we get you help,” said the angel, “For now, try it.  After all, a thought is just a picture zooping around your mind’s eye.  When a picture comes you don’t like, freeze it right there in its tracks, and then pick a different picture to look at.”

“That sounds hard,” said the child.

“It might be,” said the Angel, “and often difficult things are the most rewarding. And besides, it can also be fun—a new adventure in thinking.  Think of it like that—an adventure.”

“So, when I think of my friends getting hurt, I catch that picture—like a fly in a web, and then think of a happy picture?  Does it have to be about my friends?”

“That’s a good idea,” said the Angel, “That way you’ll still be thinking about your friends but instead of focusing on a picture of them being hurt you can focus on a picture of them being happy, healthy, surrounded by Light.”

“Will you help me?” asked the child.

“Of course,” said the Angel.

“OK,” said the child, “here goes.”

And as the image of her friends getting hurt raced across the screen of her mind, the child stopped it—froze it right where it was, and then, after taking a deep breath, and asking the Angel’s help, created a different picture—one in which her friends were happy, playing, and dancing.

“I did it!” shouted the child.

“I knew you could,” said the angel.

“Wait,” the child said, sinking down into the bed, “the nasty thought is back.  It didn’t work.”

“It did work,” said the Angel, “It’s just you might need to do it several times, or a hundred times to get the chosen thought to stick.  After all, you said you’ve been thinking the nasty thought a million times a day.  It’s like you’ve created a groove or an easy pathway for it to be there.  Now it’s time to create another path.  You can do it.”

And so, the child did it again.

“It worked,” said the child.

“And it will work over and over, especially the more you feed your mind happy, loving, healthy, positive images.  And,” said the Angel, “this will help too.” Suddenly the Angel drew a golden sword from out of the blue.  The sword was long, brilliantly shining like the sun, and gleaming with sharpness and power.  She laid the sword across her hands and offered it to the child.

“What?!” The child said, her eyes like saucers, her heart racing, her mind afire with wonder, “A sword?!”

“This will help too,” said the Angel, “use it wisely.”

“But, I’m just a kid.  I can’t use a sword like that!”

“I wouldn’t share it with you if I thought you couldn’t use.  It is alright.  It will fit in your hand, and maybe seem heavy, but it will always swing light as a feather and more powerful than lightening when you need it.”

“Wow,” the child said, standing up to take the mighty sword into her hands.  She felt its weight, its power.  “Does it have a name?” she asked.

“Yes,” said the Angel, “It does.  It is called, Truth.  Use it when the lies come.”

“Thank you, Angel,” said the child, raising the sword in front of her, “I think this will help.  I think this will help indeed.”

 

 

 


 

 

 





Listen Heart

Listen Heart
By
Joseph Anthony Petro

 

Go easy on yourself.
You’re working hard giving birth to the soul.
Allow yourself to rest awhile in a bed of light,
And in the coolness of the soft-winged darkness—
The one that cradles seeds and roots,
The one that carries starlight faithfully on its shoulders
All those millions of millennia.
OK, so the mind you’re with has made some mistakes—
Cut him some slack. He is learning to live unchained
While at the same time bound in God’s care.
You say you feel empty and yet full of sorrow?
Those are contractions from what I am told.
Try and stay steady. I know you’re young,
You always will be. But you and the mind
Must work together during this process,
And you must take the lead.
I realize he is often busy in some fantasy, hating himself–
Find a way, lean on others—the midwives
You know so well. Let them help you,
Hold you, coach you along.
You are doing precious, incredible work—
So precious you might want to call it play–holy play.
You are freeing the soul from waves
That course in and out of you–
The ones that toss even the mind
Up and down in swirling eddies,
So the more light-hearted you can be the better.
And the mind is helping you
By learning to stay present no matter what you are feeling,
And your light helps him for he lives in darkness
Much of the time. So play. Play in hands of light,
And let the soul go, dear heart. Let her go, like a song,
Like a breath, like a prayer wept when you have no strength left.
Let her go the same way you want me to let you go,
The same way I want the mind to let me go—gently, gradually—now
And perfectly, with grace, humor, and dignity.
And while you and the mind work together on this,
I will be here, wrapped in silence, trying to believe
What I tell you–trying to believe that no matter what happens,
I am worthy of love.

 

 


 





Midwifing the Soul

Midwifing the Soul
By
Joseph Anthony Petro

 

Inside the constant doing
A baby is growing
While sleeping;
A baby who will one day
Be your mother, your father,
Your true love.
That baby is an ocean lapping
At the shores of your not feeling worthy
To simply be—
To simply be ravished and perfect
For who you are, not for what you do.
As the baby grows and becomes a wave
Of warmth and wonder,
And the harbor of your breath slows
In surrender, give yourself the gift
Of stopping everything,
Damning it all to hell,
Allowing it all to fall apart
And have someone else
Pick it up for a change.
Give yourself yourself—
Your moon-draped self—
Your star-dappled self—
Your
I-am-telling-you-
Once-and-for-all-that-I-am-finished-
Because-I-am-giving-birth-
To-my-own-desires-so-leave-me-be-
Self.
Go ahead–push a little, only a little,
On your resistance to giving in,
And inhale stillness and exhale whatever sense
Of guilt and control still linger;
Midwife your child of warmth and wonder
Who will raise you up
With the song of your own sleeping breath
And the palms of your own dreaming hands
Lying open in the sun—
And lay you down in a bed
Of satin swaddling clothes with gently
Lowing cattle adoring you
With soft, dreamy eyes.
Now lavish yourself with kisses
And the tender, affirming-
Arriving-breath of peace–
And the warmth and wonder
Of loving
Your
Self
Enough
To simply
Be
Embraced
By this
Moment;
This
One
Unending
(Unless
You
Want it
To)
Moment
Of being
Born
Into being
Born
Into being
Born
Into
Being

 

 

 


 

 

 





On God, Tightropes, and Wheelbarrows

On God, Tightropes, and Wheelbarrows
By
Joseph Anthony Petro

 

There’s this old story still going around
About a tightrope walker pushing a man
In a wheelbarrow across a tightrope
Suspended over Niagara Falls.
The story is supposed to illustrate
How we, if we truly have faith in God,
Need to get in the wheelbarrow
And allow ourselves to be pushed
Across the tightrope in the wheelbarrow.
Belief is thinking the tightrope walker can do it,
Faith is getting in the wheelbarrow.
Of course we’re all supposed to say:
“Well, that sounds hard, but yes, I’ll do it.
I want that kind of surrender-faith.”
May I give you my slant on this whole idea
Of wheelbarrows and tightropes, and Gods
That want us to do this sort of thing?
Any God that requires someone
To get in a wheelbarrow on a tightrope
And be pushed across, is not God.
Any God that tells Abraham to tie
His son to a rock and sacrifice him
Is not God. If he is, then join me up
With the local Atheist Society.
My God, works on the ground,
In a garden, on a bright, spring day.
My God doesn’t need me
To prove anything to him
Or anyone else. My God
Isn’t a performer of feats
Of audacity and sheer stupidity.
My God’s on the ground, working
In a garden, and one day (every day) says to me:
“Hey there, want a ride in the wheelbarrow?”
And I am free to get in or not. My faith
Is not tested one bit regardless
Of my answer. If I want to stay out of the wheelbarrow
That’s fine, I can putz around the garden
All day, all life, looking for bugs and rocks and other treasures,
And God will just wave every now and then
As he goes by and I can go over and show him
The praying mantis I found and he’ll say,
“Wow, that’s really cool. Now let it go.”
But for the sake of this discussion, let’s say I get in,
And God begins pushing the wheelbarrow,
And it’s still got a little dirt in it and I like that,
And the sides are hard and cold as I hold on tight,
And I like that too, it feels safe and solid,
And God pushes, slowly at first, but then
Picks up a little speed, and is soon
Dashing along the border of the garden
And the wind is blowing through my hair,
And I am laughing, and a kid again—
A kid the whole time, forever, in a wheelbarrow.
And maybe God keeps walking–slows
To a steady gate, and I drift to sleep,
And God, being God, just keeps walking
And pushing the wheelbarrow,
And whenever I choose, he stops,
Lets me push, and maybe even,
On real, heretical days, gets in himself
Lets me push, or at very least, give other people,
Other kids, rides around the garden.
Or maybe he gets in, and because he’s God
Can make the wheelbarrow go without
Anyone pushing it, and so we can both
Ride together, and I can allow myself
To sink into his arms as the wheelbarrow
Sails across the field, and I can stick my hands out
And brush the tall, passing grass, or the nodding
Sunflowers, and maybe the wheelbarrow can
Grow and grow and grow and fit
As many kids as want to get in.
That all sounds much better to me,
Than getting in a wheelbarrow, on a tightrope,
Over Niagara Falls, and being pushed across.

 

 



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The Burial, by Jennifer Angelina Petro

Burial
By
Jennifer Angelina Petro

 

 

The spirits gathered around my bed
Hooded, cloaked in darkness,
Arms like terrible branches
Grasping and hungry.
They wanted the child
I was holding, and yet I
Was only a child myself,
Unable to protect myself
Or the child from their frenzied hunger.
And yet they wanted the child.
And in the blackness of that midnight,
In the utter aloneness of that moment,
As the spirits tore at my arms,
I wouldn’t give them what they wanted.
I held on to the child.
But not out of heroics.
For the child I held was already dead.
And I simply wouldn’t give her up.
I wouldn’t. I couldn’t. And my life
Became a shrine to this baby,
This baby dead from as far back
As I can remember.
And just as the spirits from the darkness
Surrounded me, and just as I sometimes feel like
I have become one of them,
The spirit of that baby lives
And guides my every movement.
I cannot bring the child back
But I can live in her honor,
And bury her at the roots
Of the Tree of Life, believing
She will rise again, transfiguring
However she will into my life
And yours, informing us all, like
Breath, like a garden, like morning, like
The wide open sky.

 



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Birthday Verse

Birthday Verse
By
Joseph Anthony Petro

Dream into the day
Of roads and rivers
And paths winding
Through sleepy woods,
And fields draped with butterflies
And honeybees, and time,
And a summer evening blessed
With cricket songs and a carnival of fireflies.
Keep these things, tuck them away
In the pockets of your life.
They are yours forever.
And then awaken.
Awaken into the joy
Of discovering the purpose
You were created for,
And be yourself—
Full of treasure, full
Of blessings, full
Of an emptiness never meant
To be filled—an emptiness
That sings: I am a river
And I am a fountain,
And I am the day,
And I am your life.
Share me with the world.

 


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