M. Jennifer Markus – When I was in my thirties, continued

The God of my Experience
(inspired by Toby)

The God of my experience
is a passionate celebration
a boundless unifying
in the absence of opposites
and contradictions
The all and the nothing
together in
the matter and the spirit
Separate from me
the whole of me

My God is a rushing river
enveloping me when I step in

carrying me where it will

A universal ocean

of galaxies

stars and planets

All sprung from the same eternal source
All dancing the same eternal dance
My God is a many-faced vision
an intricate message too cumbersome
for one mind
for one religion
This treasure is a multifaceted jewel
for all to share

On Shabbat I am God’s vessel
and the rest of the week God carries me
in a child’s laughter
in the accumulation of knowledge
in friendships too dear for words
and through my memories

My God is the simple beyond
the always one step beyond
the next step on the path
the next path I am lead to

My God is the heart of the celebration
I am calling my life


The Poet’s Thoughts: It was while in Berkeley that I realized I was meant to be Jewish. It was a slow dawning that the conclusions I had come to after years of gathering and organizing had already been figured out by a bunch of rabbis thousands of years ago. This was a shock to me because I had ditched Western religion and had primarily focused on Eastern religions in my search. I still don’t fit into any fundamentalist molds, but I have found rituals that I love and a God I relate to. Go figure.


Orchid in the Garden

He is patiently waiting
Nothing else does he know
but to wait
I have given him nothing else
So he sits
at an eastern point in the garden
and waits
to begin

I have these many days
As I have made the days
And the sun
and the moon
to guide him
I am the garden
as much as I have made the garden
But still he sits
And I must place
A companion beside him

He is as tall and straight
as the trees around him
but still a seed
as he sits and waits to grow
So she must be warmth
and sunlight
a gentle rain
and the moon
Her will strong
to uplift him
and he will hold her close
to give her shelter
and his heart

And then I,
I will watch
and give my secret smile
But first
I pace the many paths
encircling the garden
The spiral wanderings
of one
who must create

I am restless for him
He might sit
And end his days in sitting
And if I give him nothing else
Will be content
But I know the twists
that follow in this garden
in this me
And I have settled on restlessness

He was more in making
than he knows
More days
than he will ever know
is merely a whim
but creation
is a creed
a tearing open and a pouring out
an underground river
It cuts
and carves
and carries out the dust before emerging
So neither she
can be a whim

Cool and soft
this breeze
it brings the setting sun
and I have no more
a moment begun
than when the sun had risen
He is sleeping
And I watch
the dream once set in motion

Is she present in it?
A starting point that passes through
his nescient mind?
Had I given him
Perhaps she would appear
but still he sleeps
and dreams his simple waiting dreams

I am brooding
through this rising sun
No closer to the start
than to the end
subtle half light
pulls back the glistening veil
cast by the moon
shadows retreat
stars fade
all is quiet and still
beneath the serenity
I call to the dawn
of this first place

I am here
and he wakes in my presence
sits and waits on waking
Will he ponder
As I have pondered
on her
and about her
once she has her presence?

I want for him to stop this pose
I want for him to reach beyond it
for him to live in this garden
knowing it is a garden
I want for him the fruit
and the flowering vine
I want her here

And then I want rest

He was thought
well thought
painstakingly produced
And he stands
as evidence of an after thought
Why, then, is this next
so much slower than the first?

Will she be reflection?
Then he will reflect, as well
If she is new
too new
he will not recognize
the shared soul
I will place in her
subtle designs
geometric softness
and sweet mystery

She will hold the moment of creating
and keep it with her
to remind him
when they have gone
beyond this garden
An immortal memory
of original divinity
and mortal impermanence
The cyclical progression
of the undivided whole
She will always carry that flower
And I will delight him
with the one I choose

She will be too much in motion
for a rose
Too resilient
for the morning glory
Too little variation
in a daisy
to capture the essence
she will embody

and tenacious
I will set an orchid
in her warmest place
And this bloom will call him to her

He will be strong
and keep her safe
and guard the sacred memories
within her
Under the moon
her heart
will keep him close
This flower
keep him with her

And the first garden
she carries with her
Whenever they are together
To what new gardens they create
Guided by my spark of eternity
And always she
the final flower
the completion of a garden
The ultimate last born flower
She holds them all


The Poet’s Thoughts: If you have ever looked at orchids, you probably know what the inspiration was for this poem. I wrote this from God’s perspective, which may be arrogant, but I have been known to lean slightly in that direction.


I am lost

in a landscape

laid to waste by grief
devastated by

an all consuming despair

frozen and bitter now
in the still winter air
this vista was a lush

and verdant view

a garden filled

with summer hues and birdsong

and all of it is gone
Withered, dried up, scattered

as if some plague settled here

and drained the very life away

leaving only a vast and empty scar

Picture postcard memories

cover the walls of the room in my heart

that empty place

echoes summer song

but nothing will grow

in the poisoned ground

no matter how many years

it lies fallow


The Poet’s Thoughts: Some years it feels like the loss of my daughter weighs heavier on me rather than lighter. It hits me as hard as it did when I first found her in her crib.


God paints the sunsets here

like some mad artist

who has never left the mountain

after a fated love affair

Isolation turns that depth of passion

into an expression of the divine

A sacred act in remembrance of

a love burning steadily and bright

I am humble in the presence

of a vision so majestic, a love so intense

it envelops the entire span of heaven


The Poet’s Thoughts: I live within sight of the Sandia Mountains in Albuquerque. The word ‘sandia’ means ‘watermelon’ in Spanish. At just the right time and for just a short time the mountains will turn watermelon pink and the sky turns beautiful colors. I call it Michelangelo’s sky, because it looks like what he painted on the Sistine chapel.


light simply travels along a geodesic
a shortest distance
longest time line
in 4-dimensional space-time
the stuff of space that we perceive
as flat
and straight out toward forever
is sometimes gently
sometimes violently
bent and rent
and curved
by the presence of objects massive
but not voluminous
or is it
that the bending, rending, curving
of space-time
the actions of
the geometric foundations of
space and time intermingled
create the holes and bulges
scientists spend their time
or, perhaps, a universal feedback loop
in which there is no direct cause
and no direct effect
where some quantum fluctuation
dating back to the very beginning
and disturbed
and set in motion a seesaw
of bend, energy, mass, curve
the gently rocking motion of a system
settling slowly into equilibrium
we have fallen
you and I
and continue to fall in
on an undisturbed straight line
toward each other
a short distance
on universal scales
but a long time we’ve been on these paths
dragging the countless reference frames
of every moment in our pasts
as they were once our presents
into this present
and toward the future
the pull of two hearts
toward each other
massive energy
condensed into small fist size organs
bends our perceptions
of each other as separate
rends the boundary lines
of you and of me
curves them
into something larger and cohesive
redraws the simple geometric pattern
as a complex intermingling resulting in Us
in the unimaginable hotly condensed ball of the Universe
at the time of its almost begetting
you and I were fire side by side
one from the other
torn apart
by the creation explosion
and hurled out into the newly drawn map
of a God expanding
then settling back on itself
waiting finally for a momentary equilibrium
and for the cycle to begin again
we have remembered
being once side by side
we recognize
that once we shared
the same small moment
at the beginning of eternity
and that is what brings us together


The Poet’s Thoughts: Love, Science and Spirituality. Another failed relationship, but I like the poem.


Demands I make on God

I lay
vehement claim
to my soul
the right to hold
within my being
a stair to step upon
that takes me up above
this matter world
and promises a veil of peace

I demand
God exist
in some form or another
and I demand it
for myself alone
but I demand a partner
in this existence
something to fall in toward
and someone to reach out to
somewhere to seek in the silence

I call
upon the mystery of prayer
not as supplication
but as exploration
as revelation
of and to myself
and as reflection
in the sparkling mirror
of God’s eyes
it is the gate that marks the road
to within and beyond

I affirm
the power in ritual
as bond
connecting to the constant flow
I grant no miracles
but I allow a place
for the miraculous
for healing
for comfort
for actions and words
to pierce the mundane
to cut it away
and sanctify what remains

All these I place on God to meet


The Poet’s Thoughts: I think this one pretty much speaks for itself.


Pesach Memories and Reflections

I don’t recall the day

this home became a hazard zone

the moment when comfort

turned to pain

and trust to chilling lies
I don’t remember how the love

dwindled to your fist

and soft sighs of passion

to the harsh cries

of embittered, tattered souls

I woke up one morning

with you beside me

everything as it should be

shackles on my wrists

and in my mind

chained down by words and memories
so heavy, so final

they had settled me in for eternity

as a slave to what was once a celebration

I recall yearning to be free

the secret delight of yearning

like a well withheld promise

of lightness and peace

the salve to ease those many wounds

and to erase the scars dug so deeply
I remember fighting with the knowledge

that you would never set me free

that my every step was policed

That the guards blocking the door

weren’t real

I woke up one morning

with the courage to leave

somehow in the night

the will crept into my bones

I walked away from the pain

from you

from that life

from the slave that I was

I walked away free

I don’t remember the day

I walked into the wilderness

when the cultured landscape of my freedom

faded into desert and weeds

and the shackles and chains

found me again

I don’t recall

becoming enslaved

after the hard won escape

after so much time free

but I peered out through a small barred window

and the door was locked again

from outside
When does the slavery end?

When do I become my own master?

When do the walls finally tumble down

and stay crumbled round me?

I remember the day

I looked back on my bondage

I recall the moment

the last chains fell

After so many years in a searing desert

After so many years of pacing in hell

I remember the first sip of cooling water

I recall the first evening breeze

I woke from a dream

and entered the garden

knowing finally what it meant to be free


The Poet’s Thoughts: Pesach is Hebrew for Passover. It is when Jews retell the story of the Exodus from Egypt. I relate to the slavery and to the forty years of wandering in the desert. Even though I had gotten out of that abusive relationship in 1988, it took me many, many years to get out of the mindset that allowed me to remain in it for almost four years.


I wrestle with a man at night
He changes shape and form
Once his words soothed my soul
Now he sets my blood with fire
His hand, my thigh
His voice, my enigmatic listening
I waver
I slip out of a leather sheath
A knife jabbing into his heart
He changes shape and form

I wrestled with a man last night
face to face
length of body pressed to mine
Hand in hand
I held a common dream behind my eyes
and shared it in a kiss
when he changed his shape and form

I wrestled with a man last night
and he turned into an angel
while I watched the static interplay
of flesh and phantom
force the outcome of my desire
the answer to my question
ethereal eternal and out of reach
still he changes shape and form

I wrestle with an angel
with a doubt
with a ghost
with an unpinned web
tangling and unraveling
I create the muted fantasy
that revels in my bed
calling in my sleep to me
to him
to heart and head and hand
one last time he changes shape and form

I wrestled with an angel
and he turned into a man


The Poet’s Thoughts: This is inspired by Jacob’s dream in the Bible. It is just my take on it.


More or Less—Birthday 2002

I gather throughout the year

Stuff into the empty spaces

the trinkets I hold dear
Memories of the many places
I say I won’t forget

Anchoring every moment

Weighed down upon a chain

So it will not float away

And nor will I

And am I any greater

For these gains?

I leak tears and tainted moments

Like an ever filling sieve

Drop dainty handkerchiefs

And lacy gloves

I tear my heart out nightly
In a gory masquerade

Of sadness and tragedy

Some noble epic gone awry
And always I am pulled back on the stage

Yet, am I any less for all this loss?

I stand every year

On the makeshift stage

Of my birthday cake

Lit from below

In ever growing numbers
And every year I ask myself these questions
And every year I hedge around the answers
And every year I cannot face the simple

If I take my place within

the universal soul

Dive in, grab on, let go
These questions from a mind

steeped in opposites opposing

dissolve within a cosmic brine
The boundaries are illusory

The separation, nil

A thousand miles

A million years

More and less
Are trinkets I dream up
To explain my artful mess


The Poet’s Thoughts: I try every year to write a birthday poem, to make some sense of aging. I am no closer to figuring it out, but that is why I write


A Prayer for those who HAVE to Know (inspired by Andi)

Help me to appreciate
the knowledge I have
And to use it wisely
with compassion
and love

Allow me to see the power in knowing
But help me to know
faith is more powerful
than fact
love is more valuable
than certainty
and life blooms in serendipity

Give me the courage
to breathe in the passion
of adventure and of the unknown
And grant me the wonder
to revel in this game
with no ending
no winner
no loser
no score

Help me especially
just to keep playing
not knowing the rules
or the outcome
or what I’ll encounter
or where I’ll end up
on my way


The Poet’s Thoughts: The most spiritual state a human being can be in is a state of unknowing. I did not make that up, I read it when I got to Hinduism. This is a prayer to help resolve the fear that comes up with not knowing.


Pretend (A Prayer for Trienah)

Pretend today

is not yesterday

Pretend who you are

is not who you were

Pretend life blooms

from the seeds of hope

and every garden

is sown with surprises

Pretend you can

laugh like a child

cry like a child

and like a child

forget in a moment

why you cried

for now it’s time to play
Pretend love is enough

to get you through a day

Pretend everyday

until you no longer have to



The Poet’s Thoughts: For those low moments when you just need to get through.

continue A Life in Poetry: When I was in my forties