Jill Bolte Taylor's Stroke of Insight


Monday, July 20, 2015


I killed a lot of fish today
Waist-deep in the river
Leaning into the current, reeling
Them in and netting them
From the glacial water. Then grasping
Their slick silver bodies in my hands, feeling
Each flash and flip, electric almost
In their will to live.
Watching them rise to the surface
At the end of my line
That sweet silver tail-dance that brings
The fish to me
Or me to the fish
It's hard to say, my heart
Swooping like an eagle to the catch.
But when finally the fish
Is in my hands and it's time
To make the kill
There is a pause.
A prayer.
Just a moment--thank you.
And, I'm sorry.
But not sorry enough to let you go.

KB ©7/2015

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Let Your Lover Go

Once the realization is accepted that even between the closest human beings infinite distances continue, a wonderful living side by side can grow, if they succeed in loving the distance between them which makes it possible for each to see the other whole against the sky.
--Rainer Maria Rilke

Let your lover go
For everything you think you know
There are a thousand things more
You haven't yet imagined
He is the secret roots of trees
And the dark earth in which they grow
He is the light of the sun
Playing through the leaves--
Let your lover go.

Let your lover breathe
Wide as the sky she is, and free
As the storms that fly across it
She falls to earth like rain and rises
Again with the heat of the sun
For everything you think you've seen
She still comes to you in mystical ways
And blankets your nights with stars--
Let your lover breathe.

Sing your lover home
If you are willing to learn the song
That conjures their heart to your side
Build a sanctuary, that they might kneel
With open walls and a roof of clouds
On the side of a mountain next to the sea
Place your heart there and let its tricky beat
Be the rhythm they feel in their bones--
Sing your lover home.

KB ©7/2015

Monday, June 29, 2015

About Love

Don't grieve. Anything you lose comes round in another form.   --Rumi

In my dream, you are standing by the fence
with an armload of sunflowers
and above them, your sweet boyish face
that makes my heart stumble. We stay outside
and talk for hours, and you are not dead
and it does not seem strange.

I might be clinically insane
every now and then, and perhaps
irretrievably narcissistic
but I know more about love than most people.
I know that love is the one who'll drive
all night in a driving rain
just to hold your hand. You knew this, too
and when I flew for miles to see you
in the hospital though there was nothing
much to say, we sat together
and didn't say much
and it was enough.

You taught me nearly everything
I know about love, and I learned the rest
from hard experience: what a person says
means something
but what he does means everything.
Also, that thing about sticks and stones
is bullshit: words can bite and burn
down to the bone, quick as anything.

You don't have to be altruistic
to feel grief; sanity is not required
in order to love someone
so deeply that when they are gone
they take with them a whole band in the spectrum
of your color wheel. Suddenly, blue
no longer exists
and your sky will never look the same:
clouds drifting across pale grey.

Love is a strange
and haunted animal. It will stay
long after all the other guests
have left the party.
It curls itself around me now
familiar as an old friend, as I wake
to a world where you are not.
I watch as dawn comes
and the stars press themselves into her arms
and fall asleep, one by one.
This is how I know
you and I and everything
are always alright.

KB ©6/2015

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Dead Man's Blanket

"There are a thousand ways to kneel and kiss the ground; there are a thousand ways to go home again."  --Rumi 

I don't know who he was
but he's dead now
and I have his blanket.
I am wrapping myself in it tonight
seeking sleep on the desert floor
but it has failed to keep me warm, so instead
I am watching the wheel of the galaxy
turning endlessly overhead. I am glad
to be an insomniac spectator, front and center
at the greatest show this end of the cosmos
with bats and frogs for company
and the wind and waves to orchestrate.

I stopped today at a roadside church
and lit a candle for my soul at Mary's altar
nevermind I haven't worn the tattered shroud
of religion since before this dead man
wore his blanket.
It doesn't matter to Mary;
whatever I've done
it doesn't have to be repeated
whatever sin I've committed
I don't have to atone for it now.
When I drove on I left that candle burning
and I know she watched over it
open-eyed, hands outstretched and clement.
It is more than I have ever given myself:
this simple mercy.

Now I lay me down to stay awake
cold and sure of nothing
except the planet is still spinning
and I am still here to bear witness.
I wait for the stars to show their faces
and then I speak to them, one by one
first the planets and then
the constellations: scorpio
and the bear and orion
telling them I am still here, alive if not well
and it almost seems that they listen
pausing for a bare second
to bend their stately forms, kindly, nodding.

Startling to be noticed in this way;
I am just a bit of dust wrapped up
in a shit-for-nothing blanket
that once belonged to someone
who now lies below the earth
while I lie on top of it, shivering
staring up
like god's own maniac.
But, after all, I am a living maniac
grateful for the dirt and the cold
the finite breath in my lungs
the flawed beat of my little heart.

Someday, somebody will wrap themselves
in an old thing of mine: a silk scarf
a bit of faded denim
the bright weave of a poem.
But it will not be today
because today I am alive
and there are uncharted miles ahead of me;
see, the sun is already at my back
warm, bold, impatient
pressing me on down a desert road.

KB ©6/2015

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Nepal 2015

It is better to conquer yourself than to win a thousand battles. Then the victory is yours. It cannot be taken from you, not by angels or by demons, heaven or hell.

They say pain opens the heart
and maybe this is true;
a man once told me he never felt love
until the doctors broke open his chest
stopped his heart and cut out the blockage.
Now love flows over and around him
and his eyes cry for joy
and for the loss of everything he did not feel
before he was torn in two.

If pain opens the heart
then the heart of the world is a bleeding mess
and there is no surgery skilled enough
to staunch the gaping loss:
this place where some human lives mean less
than others, this planet
that heaves and groans and hurls its children
into the unknown.

The side of a mountain is no place to be
even in the safest conditions; you do not want
to stay there, all that uncertain ground
falling away beneath you.
When disaster strikes
you want solid ground, you want working
cellphones, you want infrastructure and exit signs
the certainty of rescue
a place to stand which does not move.
But certainty is the habitat of the moneyed few
and not many are privileged to live there.

They say pain opens the heart
and my heart is open. It does not need
to be stopped, eviscerated and unblocked
in order to understand what it has lost.
Do not tell me about uncertain ground
because I already live here; do not
give me a tour of the exit signs
because I am not leaving.
I will cling to the side of this mountain
side by side with the wild unknown
these fearful prayers, this monkey mind;
they are the only words I know
so they will have to be enough.

KB ©6/2015

Wednesday, June 3, 2015


Today is a tangerine
I am peeling slowly
placing each section in my mouth
to savor it there, letting
the sweet juice run
till it bites lips and tongue

Today is a song played
in a forgotten room
where we dance in slow circles
eyes closed growing dizzy
falling together, falling apart
touch and breath and beating heart

Today is a lover's touch
softly given and then gone
sleight of hand and a tricky beat
that quick sharp ache
wild taste on the tongue
citrus-tang and wine-spun

Today is a thousand years
a moment flown from memory
I take it piece by bitten piece
skin and scent and hair unspooled
rind and peel and seed, oh
sweet, oh shameless tangerine

KB ©6/2015

Sunday, May 31, 2015


They say never to make decisions when you're in a wild state of mind, but I've never made decisions any other way. Maybe I'm always in a wild state of mind. What other way is there to be? The natural state of me is wild, that awkward girl I grew up trying to leave behind, and who never quite succeeded at hiding herself away. A half-tamed horse, tugging on strange clothing and hoping nobody would notice. But how could they not? All those boys who pawed at me thinking they were getting a pretty girl, a nice girl, a sweet girl, and when I tried to bend myself to fit their hungry bodies I always held them too hard, frightened them off with clumsy affection. People never knew what to do with me and I never knew what to do with them. So many times I've reached out to hold someone, to love them, be loved; and so many times ended up hurting, bruising, instead. 

So I'm on the razor's edge again. Never really comfortable. Maybe never really meant to be. And it always feels, at these times, like the right thing to do is to leave--pull up the rugs, sell the furniture, drag everything outside and leave it for whoever needs it, the hell with it. Grab the dog and some supplies, get in the car and gun it for the road. Aching for the road, these eyes, aching to see far distances, unhindered by buildings, traffic, stoplights. Comfort feels like a smothering blanket. Accidental strangers are easier than friends, who have no idea what to do with me. I'm not speaking their language; it's not their fault. I've never known how. 

It's stupid to leave. Makes no sense. I'm enjoying more success than I know what to do with; in an odd twist of irony there is so much anguish-become-healing flowing out of my hands these days, and this draws people like bees to nectar. It is only because I am in pain and have no idea what else to do with myself. People recognize that somehow. They are coming in waves, appointments are piling up. It is driving me into the desert. The busier I get, the deeper the loneliness grows and the wilder I become. Staying put is now a daily effort, a spiritual practice; I am an ascetic dwelling in the emptiness at the center of a whirling wind of plenty. 

So it's time to go. Deep down I know this. Humans are the only animals that seem to think they have to dig in, build a foundation, eke out a home and stay put for years on end. What is this insanity? Since when does security come from staying in one place? Nature doesn't seem to favor this idea. Floods come. Earthquakes. Fire, drought, famine, financial loss, and the biggest one for me, the restlessness inherent in my genes. I can't stay. If I do, I'll die. If I stop moving, stop creating, that's it. Done. Slow death. Humans gave up their souls when they gave up their nomadic lifestyle--of this I am convinced. Soulless cities. Soulless cubicles in soulless office buildings where we stare at soulless computer screens that drown out our internal songs and their wild, soulful harmonies. The stars are lost to us in a maze of artificial light. This makes me crazy. I need to see it clearly again, the night sky with its planets and pathways, I need Jupiter and Venus and Virgo and Orion. My friends and neighbors. Sometime, some far-flung time in our future, dark energy will hurl us all so far apart we will forget one another's existence. Imagine loneliness then. Imagine the void. I wonder will we have any gurus left, with no stars to turn to, no night stories to tell except that of the moon, tiredly pulling on the tides. 

My hands are tired and my heart is empty, for now. I have poured out my pain. There is nothing left of it here. I want music on the stereo and the drumming of tires against asphalt and the rockabilly chords of the desert going by. I want to take this sad, awkward girl away from those who would hurt her out of exploitation or misunderstanding or schoolboy cruelty. She can live her wild stories elsewhere, build her home out of wind and sun and silence and song. Home goes with me. Home goes wild and becomes the place where I sleep at night, full of the soul I am remaking, daily, putting together piece by unfettered piece, alone, not lonely, a mansion on the move. 

KB© 5/2015