Naming the Way
Jennifer Angelina Petro
Go outside late October.
Lock your eyes on one falling leaf.
Try to find the moment
As close to the beginning
Of it’s letting go from the branch
As you can. Really follow that leaf—
That one in a million leaf.
Train your eyes on it. Focus.
Notice the way the wind carries it,
Breathes it. Watch how it turns
Gently over and around, catching little
Fleeting currents, and then
Smoothing out into a kind
Of easy drifting. Its descent held
In the palms of the wind. See
How golden. See how tenderly
It is placed in the stream.
Give that leaf a name—your
Name, and then,
Go back inside
Musings on Prayers and Kisses
Jennifer Angelina Petro
Trying to pray with your eyes open is like trying to walk with your eyes closed. One distracts you, the other confuses you, but the end result is the same—clumsiness. Trying to kiss with your eyes open is more an act of will and wide-eyed-giggling than it is: “I must see where my face is going.” Lips know. The soul knows. The feet do not without aid of the eyes. Then again, it must be considered not all prayers are the same, just as not all kisses are the same. And I must say at the beginning, I am musing along with you as I write these words. The ideas herein are like the aforementioned legs without eyes to guide them. I do have certain experience, albeit limited, with both kissing and praying, but I am roaming these topics of heaven-given moments with as much anticipation as you to see where they lead.
One can kiss a lover, friend, or a child “Good morning—have a good day”—with eyes open (perhaps, however, while staring at the coffee maker or the clock). One can kiss a lover with eyes open—wild, seeing everything—following the other’s eyes like search lights, but that’s usually at first contact—when clothes are dropping off ready bodies, like swollen seed-husks falling from blossoming flowers. Eventually the eyes close and you both connect, like living magnets, and both exhale–surrendering into that intimate vulnerability of having someone ornament your body with decorating kisses. We have an interesting distinction here: eyes open during the initial flurry of passion, then eyes close when things settle in a pulsing rhythm of bodies, and the feast of lips tasting lips. Then, one begins exploring the other’s body with kisses as the other’s eyes close in deep, rising and sinking sighs. And when the lips find the places where rapture happens both lovers’ eyes close. That being said, it’s not uncommon for the one receiving to have their eyes fly open with: “Oh God! Oh God!” When the sweet release comes, and the waves shimmer through the body, the eyes most often close like the deepest, most calming, evening. And when the lovers switch places, the process unfolds, with any luck, the same way.
Prayer is very much the same, only different. So is singing, but that’s another essay. In praying, as in nighttime prayers (that often slip so easily into sleep), the eyes close to shroud the whispers that kiss the dark. Morning prayers too are most often said with eyes closed, head bowed before the body of the day. Of course, there are those prayers where the whole body participates, as when the sea rolls through your body during love making. Dancing prayers, yogic prayers, walking prayers, making coffee for your partner prayers—these are all eyes-open prayers—even if your eyes are drooping with not enough sleep. There are vigil prayers when candles are meditated upon, and lives gone are reflected upon, and hopes for peace rise to the sky. During vespers, the eyes can be open or closed, as the prayers wish for safe sleep and warmth. Then, there are prayers we pray for someone else—someone sick or struggling through a rough patch—these prayers are almost always asked with eyes closed in supplication and intensity, as when we humbly, or boldly ask a lover to kiss us in the places we want kissed. There are prayers of wonder, as when we see stars and newborn babies and sunsets and moon rises. These are prayed with gasps and awes, as when your lover’s lips find the tingling places on your body—eyes suddenly open with surprise and reverence. There are rote prayers where the eyes automatically close because everyone else’s automatically close and if you sneak your eyes open and scan the room full of closed-eyed people you feel a sprinkle mischievous and a dash voyeuristic, and perhaps a pinch of outright rebel. These are moments akin to opening one eye during a kiss to catch the reaction of your lover. Both are perfectly acceptable, of course, for they inspire the fun of witnessing community and union, provided the eyes aren’t opening in either case with insecurity to check whether or not you’re kissing well or praying with the proper piety. Hopefully, however, there are very few rote kisses in your lives. There are prayers of prophecy—spontaneous and unplanned like wild, ravishing kisses predicting soon to come release. Your eyes are always open during these prayers while your lover’s are usually closed with faith and the sweet, blessed, little fear that sometimes accompanies letting go to the control of another. There are also the prayers of grace and blessings before a meal, which can easily be translated into prayers of gratitude before feasting at the table of your lover’s body. Lastly, there are prayers of ecstasy, when your eyes close seeing lights and visions, and the soul stirs awake and bliss shimmers through your entire body, and exclamations of: “Oh God, Oh God!” soar around the room. We don’t have to imagine too hard to know which kisses these are like and where they settle and deepen and what the eyes do when such rapture happens.
Well, there we have it. I truly had no idea where this was going. Now that we’re drawing to a close (or a curious, intriguing opening) it is my hope this meandering piece inspires you to kiss more reverently and to pray with more wildness; to kiss with more attention and devotion, and to pray with more openness to revelation; to kiss more adventurously and to pray more like the trees must pray, like the sea must pray, like the shore must pray, like a hawk gliding on spiraling currents must pray, like the mother bear awakening with cubs must pray, like the owl must pray keeping watch over fields and marshes. In other words, may our prayers and kisses become one and the same, where Lover and Beloved become one and the same–one breath, one sparkling river, one song of praise.
Jennifer Angelina Petro
When you go out you see.
The world opens a little more
With every turn of your gaze.
Yesterday, I walked the stretch of sidewalk
I call, Buttercup Road. It’s lined with buttercups on both sides,
And if that doesn’t sting you with joy
Check your pulse.
I bent down to look more
Closely, each and every buttercup
Trembled with glee at the release of being seen—
Of little, old me witnessing their golden,
Shiny faces; of me getting close enough
I could have kissed them, petal by petal—I could have—
But didn’t. I kissed them instead with praise and adoration,
And their hands opened wider for more.
That evening, I went back to visit them.
The sun was setting, the sky a splendid swirl
Of the transgender flag, and there they were—
Their faces cloaked in prayer, their hands cupping
The sun inside, their lips parted, touched
With moonlight all night long, I said to them:
“You dear, little lockets of honey, you holy, little chalices of sweetness,
I realize you are not here for me, you are here, like me,
For the sun; thank you for drawing my footsteps
Closer to the light.”
However, It Is
Jennifer Angelina Petro
However it is trees really come about, however it is
The moon inhales and exhales, however it is
Raven feathers hold rainbows in their barbs, however it is
We have school yards full of children inside us,
However it is we grow, pouring cells into the world of form
Rising and falling, however it is, the soul is ever thirsty
With oceans living there, however it is birdsong
Follows us wherever we go, however it is we love,
Rising and falling, however it is we dream, however
It is we remember our dreams, however
It is we are immersed in sky, like fish in water, however
It is flowers are so wonderfully geometric, however
It is the earth spins like a whirling dervish, however
It is we search for ourselves in one another, however
It is we kill in God’s name, however
It is we still pray, however
It is, however, it is; however,
Lover and Beloved: Today
Jennifer Angelina Petro
“Lover,” said the Beloved, “Every morning you pray to me saying: ‘I offer you this day. I surrender to your will, please give me the power to carry that out,’ which is, of course, a lovely prayer.
“Today I want you to try listening. You see, I am the one offering this day. It is yours—a gift I freely give to you and to all. I want to surrender to your will, my Lover. Tell me what your will is—I want to know and lavish you with whatever it is you want and need. Of course, I already know what you want, and it is important for you to tell me—for that is what lovers do—they express their desires openly to one another, so that each knows how to please the other best. And of course, I have the power to carry anything out, and so do you—that is another gift I give to you—freedom to use my power. It is yours.
“So, Lover—I offer you this day. I surrender to your will. I give you the power to do the things you want and need to do. Speak to me. Tell me your desires. This day was made for you.”
Today, After Praying
jennifer angelina petro
A mountain got up
and danced away,
water broke from stone,
darkness fled my mind, like
so many angry crows,
a door opened,
a lost sheep was lifted
onto great shoulders
and carried home,
a way became clear,
a woman, clothed with the sun,
kissed my forehead,
light flooded my room,
to bird song and blue sky,
feet were washed,
bread was placed
into tired hands,
questions fell away, like
so many pieces of armor,
doubts were dispelled, like
In the twinkling of an eye,
In the speaking of his name,
And welcomed me home.
This poem is for Mandy.
Joseph Anthony Petro
In the center
Of the field
Prayed the circle
Be one, bowed
Hoping it was so,
Turned, saw spirit
And the flowers
And clouds, the passing
Heron, the nearby river
Sung the hope
Into sweet and fierce truth—
And then—hands open,
Sky embraced, the child,
Realized and full
Of grace, smiled, like
The sun, like the moon,
Like a constellation
Of a million stars,
In a universe made
Of pure adventure.
A Little Story on the Nature of Prayer
Jennifer Angelina Petro
A prayer hung heavily on a branch of the Tree of Life. Ripening over centuries, it grew sweeter with age and the persistence of faith. One day the Gardener strolled by, singing as usual, and plucked the prayer from the Tree, and with great gusto, took a hearty bite, letting the juices river down his chin.
“Now that,” he said, talking with his mouth full, “is a good prayer.”
He continued to eat the prayer, crunching down to the core. When he got to the star shaped seeds he carefully picked them out and then casually, gracefully, and with intention, dropped them to earth. Weeping for the sheer ecstasy of having been touched by the Gardener’s hands, the seeds fell for days and weeks through open, pristine space, tossed here and there by currents of sound and desire. They danced as they descended—leaning into little pirouettes and whirled in sweeping spirals, down, down, down they drifted and eventually landed precisely where the Gardener intended them to go—right into the hearts of a little boy and his father.
The little boy had prayed prayers of gratitude all night, for his father hadn’t had a drink in over three months; and the father, weeping in thanks for finally having been freed from the chains of his disease, had prayed prayers of gratitude all night as well. The seeds nestled in their hearts and, because they were prayers of thanksgiving, sprouted quickly, spreading their holy fire into entire orchards of flourishing trees right through the dark valleys of the lives of that boy and his father. Soon the boy and his father would be harvesting the fruits of their prayers, and sharing them in heaping bushels with each other, their neighbors and friends, and the world.
“A beautiful day,” the Gardener said as he plucked another prayer from the Tree, “thanksgiving is blossoming everywhere.”
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