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a literary journal published by the Black Earth Institute dedicated to re-forging the links between art and spirit, earth and society

Section 1: What Am I?

Mary Newell

Lotus Witness
I choke on the world, daily –
can’t quite swallow Injustice,
need a thump on the back
to force down Indifference.
Seeing a child tugged along, arm wrenching upward
tightens my shoulder blades.
Spiteful innuendos twist my gut.
Forget about the darker zones –
selfish ambition sticks in my craw.
I choke, and I stumble on
because this is the world we’re offered, after all,
beauty and renewal balancing the dross.
I choke.
But Avalokiteshvara opens,
witnesses, embraces,
I’m living under the gaze of Avalokiteshvara
The Buddhist bodhisattva
who chose to remain on this earthly plane,
streaming compassion to redeem us all.
Image in bright Tibetan tones
found in the building’s recycling bin.
Me, who would discard this world for revelation,
Who aims to pass on free –
I chose to place you on my shelf, reminder for my meditation.
But you, you choose to find this world redeemable.
Shattered through disappointment,
expanded through cosmic need,
your thousand arms ricocheting love
with open sentient palms
not grasping but offering, proffering.
If you can open your heart to multitudes,
can I not open my throat
to hum a day into resonance.
Sitting cross-legged on my bed
(the living room too cold)
Calm breath, then brightness.
Sometimes the inner light expands, flows all round
And sometimes it’s just headlights flashing
as a car whirs by,
glare strained through pleated curtains.
Sometimes I can sense the difference
and sometimes
there is no difference.
Why Waiting?

Begin as creation, become a creator.
Never wait at a barrier.
In this kitchen stocked with fresh food,
Why sit content with a cup of warm water?
Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī

Waiting for a wall
to sprout a door
or me wings
How long wavering
before closed doors?
Outside the closed metaphysical
darkness signals mystery or
When does patience
slither into passivity,
smolder into obdurate congeal?
Outside the hospital room
silence signals hope or
endgame for my brother.
How melt the fissured
that clogs my heart?
I wait at your window
but when your door slides open
I find I’m running away
to hide my haughty tatters.
I’m chasing scattered heart-parts.
Rumi says, “never wait”
but he can’t mean rush in self-bounded circles,
drudgery without transpicuity.
At the crossroads
see-saw of hesitant presentiments
tiptoe, barge through, or
turn away?
Or pause
to breathe out wholly
to let a fresh breeze inundate.
In the resplendent early morning
ribs expand around a spaciousness.
Barriers diaphonize. Rumi trumps again:

My soul cries out:
Do not wait, surrender
For the sake of Love.

Fronting that huge unknown
can I surrender residues
and let unbounded Love deluge my heart
so I can welcome you as
Mary Newell lives in the lower Hudson Valley. She has taught literature and writing at the college level, most recently at West Point. Her publications include essays and reviews, and a few poems published in Jivin’ Ladybug and Howling Dog Press. Her poem, “The Traffic in Old Ladies” will appear as an honorable mention in the Best of 2014 Anthology of Kind of a Hurricane Press. Mary received a doctorate from Fordham University in American Literature and the Environment, as well as MAs from Columbia University and from Teachers College. An avid gardener, Dr. Newell raises much of her own produce, as well as berries for birds. See


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