Emergence – Poem and Mandala

Emergence ©2016 Bo Mackison

Emergence ©2016 Bo Mackison

In the middle of the night
when my companion is the tick
of the second-hand
– and heart beat

In the early morning hours
awaiting first light
so still in the house
– too quiet

In wait for the coming of storm,
be it thunder, hail, snow squall
– or a brewing wild within

Midst scheduled days or days unfettered,
in calm or angst
with joy or grief,
– take up your pen and paper

And in keen or chant, praise or lament,
in raised voice or sultry whisper,
(remember this)
– all is sacred and profane

Cast spell and benediction,
turn your words into phrases
and phrases into lines
– invite unruliness and ecstasy too

Take up your pen,
invoke madness or muse
Take up your pen and write
– then, poetry emerges.

Blessing – A Poem and Mandala


Blessing © 2016 Bo Mackison

A Thanksgiving Blessing

Bless the beginning and the end
and all moments in between.

Those in-between moments, long pauses,
interminable wait or – paradoxically –
too much action. A blur, a flash, a crash.

Bless this very moment.
Bless me, sitting at my desk, with filtered November shining through my window,
a light/shadow abstract cast upon these written words. Holy words.

Bless this moment of routine
of ritual.
In the midst of the ordinary and mundane
In between the common and the trivial.

In the midst of unspeakable despair
lingers a relentless awareness of what is.

Yes, here is the sacred.
In this – the present – there is presence.

Bless the quiet night
and the firelight,
the dark shiver and the cold.

Bless the dream unfolding in sleep
and the dreamer;
Bless the seeds germinating in damp earth
and the cracked seed, foreteller of life.

Bless a pale sun that casts blue shadows on crested snow;
Bless the lakes and rivers in icy embrace.

Bless us, in our silence and our singing,
our laughter and our weeping.

Bless absence in the presence
and presence in the absence.

Bless this moment.
Bless us all.

After Votes Are Counted, A Low Simmering Hatred Boils Over – A Cento


This is a different sort of writing. A different sort of writing practice. I wrote a cento.

Cento, from the Latin word patchwork. A collage poem, a cento is a poetic form that is composed of lines from other poets’ poems. A true cento is formed entirely from other poets’ lines.

After Votes Are Counted, A Low Simmering Hatred Boils Over

a cento

Weep for the country in its present state.
So fallen! So lost! The light withdrawn –
All night I dreamed of roses
Of morning, the languor of another morning.

Today the headlines clot in my blood.
We need to know in America there is still
for forgiveness.

Let’s look at our loneliness in this desert
The deep night, and birds singing, and clouds flying,
And sleep, and freedom, and the autumnal earth.

When the few true defenders of love and justice survive to tell the tale,
Then, perhaps then, God Bless America.


from the poets George Horton, John Whittier, Sophie Jewett, Cesare Pavese, Naomi Shihab Nye, Shann Ray, Raul Zurita, Rupert Brooke, John Fuller


Telling My Story – A Mandala

Tell My Story ©2016 Bo Mackison

Tell My Story ©2016 Bo Mackison

Tell my story.

I’ve been writing a lot. Stories that feel “too hard, too messy” to write anywhere other than my private, password-protected journal. Just yesterday, I reached a tipping point where it now feels important to give my story the dignity of being seen in the light, not kept hidden in the darkness.

More often than not I want to diminish my story. But in diminishing my story, I keep myself in a dark cage, silenced. I reinforce “my story is not allowed.” “I am not allowed to speak.” “I am not seen.”

The above mandala? It was part of my process of allowing, of sharing, of being. For every “x” I marked on the mandala, I spoke aloud the words “my story needs telling.”

And so I… tell my story.


I woke up this morning unsure of where I was. I grappled with my bed sheets for a minute trying to remember. Oh. Pillow. Mattress. Early morning light shining through the window. Gracie breathing at the foot of my bed. My bed. All safe. All sound.

And though I know this to be true, that I am safe and sound in my bed, I am not convinced.

Moments before I did not feel safe nor sound. Suspended in that half-awake half-asleep threshold, in a gray state of floating semi-consciousness. Where reality and fantasy mix. Where truth is mist and swirl. Where my foot searches for a place to step that does not shift into nothingness.

In my dream, I am trapped in a small stone hut on the outskirts of a metropolis. I could see through a ground level slit in the door. There were people, tall buildings, streets clogged with traffic in the just beyond. I had no voice. I tried to call out to the passers-by, to the taxi drivers, to a crowd of children feeding birds near a rainbow-lit fountain. No one could see me, huddled on a concrete floor. No one could hear me, my voice silenced. I tried to write a message on the floor of the hut, convinced all I needed to do was write my name. Until I realized that I was writing with my blood.

Half awake, I struggling with the twisted bed sheets. Then I was fully awake and on the verge of panic.

There is a lot of noise in the world right now. Nationally, the presidential election, only 19 days away, is in the headlines 24/7. Closer to home, I am adjusting to elder care, responsibilities that do not play into my strengths. In my home, I am working through relational issues. None of these are easy. I might call them triggers, but triggers are getting a lot of pushback in the news. Media headlines imply they are an over-reaction, that we should all just grow up as a society and be strong enough to handle the unpleasantries in life. Triggers be damned.

Recently Donald Trump made clear (to me) his reputation as an abuser. In one of his many verbal diatribes, he called out Senator John McCain as suspect, claiming he was “only a war hero” because “he was captured.” Trump insinuated that the very act of being captured by the enemy was a sign of weakness. Trump is a trigger.

Trump also claimed that returning veterans who are “strong” do not get PTSD, but “others can’t handle it.” It is the victim’s fault for getting captured, for not being strong enough. For not rising over impossible hurdles. It is the victim’s fault.

When my youngest daughter was a senior at the University of Wisconsin, a student group had a rally on the quad. A few students erected several bamboo cages on a grassy space in the middle of campus and “lived” in these cages for 24 hours. It was their way of calling attention to still-unaccounted-for POWs from the Viet Nam Era.

The cages were constructed of bamboo sticks, maybe 3 feet by 4 feet by 4 feet, the size of a large dog kennel.

We had made plans to meet for lunch across the street from the quad. We had a thirty-minute wait at our window table for pizza, so we watched some of the POW activities. When our food finally arrived, I was no longer hungry. I was having trouble enough simply breathing.

Putting these pieces together — my panic upon waking, a dream where I am trapped in a small hut, my only way of communication writing my name in blood, the blaming of victims for their weaknesses in response to trauma, the cages of torture and imprisonment — makes me want to deny there is any connection between the horrors of war and the horrors of child abuse.

Isn’t it better to minimize, to accept the blame, to deny triggers?

I hear voices from my childhood. “Don’t make a big deal out of nothing?” “Don’t tell. No one will believe you.” “It’s your fault.”

And a half century later, I am ready to say, “No. That was a big deal. I get to tell my story. It was never my fault. I believe me… and maybe others will, too.”

A Stitch, In Time – A Mandala and a Practice

A Stitch, In Time © 2016 Bo Mackison

A Stitch, In Time © 2016 Bo Mackison

A Stitch, in Time

There are moments in time when it is just too noisy, too busy, too much.

What is the single thing (the stitch) I can do to bring quiet and ease to my life? Right now, without delay.

Some things I do when I need to step into a place of ease:

  • First, the breathing. Steady. Slow. When I feel in control of nothing, I remember I am always in control of my breath.
  • Look. What do I see that is pleasing, comforting. My lounging hound? The orchid I was given as a surprise “I love you” gift? The view outside my window – the backyard maple with a halo of yellow-orange? The sky, deep blue and infinite? What do I see that offers me a moment of ease?
  • Listen. No, really listen. Close your eyes and listen. What do you hear? The murmur of street traffic? Children laughing? Background television? Birdsong? Take a moment to listen to the sounds that surround you. How does this make you feel? If this is a positive experience, pay attention. If this provokes a negative response, pay attention. You hear these sounds even when you are not consciously aware of such. How might you make your environment more sound-friendly? How might you invite more ease?
  • Touch. Something we do not often think about is how touch can affect us. It is a powerful tool, too often neglected. Are you sitting comfortably? Are the clothes you are wearing body-friendly? No binding or rough spots? Touch is also a comfort I can add with minimal effort. Sometimes I finger mala beads. Or hold a special talisman — a ceramic heart from a dear friend — in my hand while I work. Or I rest my feet in the furry coat of Gracie the Wonder Dog — this makes us both incredibly happy. How can you add the gift of touch to this moment?

In a world that often feels over-whelming and loud, how can I find ease and comfort in the tiny space I inhabit? How can I make my environment friendly and conducive to my work? It does not have to be complicated or time-consuming. Just an awareness, a pause, may be enough to invite ease and calm into your day.

Remember. One stitch at a time!