Friday, April 21, 2017

I Have Sworn to Protect Her

"Healing" giclee by Autumn Skye Morrison

I have sworn to protect Her!           
Miracle blue-green jewel of all the worlds,
ancient blue mountains, vast golden deserts,
hummingbirds in the jewelweed,
black bear in the raspberries.
I speak for Her!
I howl for Her!        
I howl, “Beware!”
to you who remove Her sacred mountaintops
torturing her body to get at Her coal.
I howl, “Beware!”
to you who go deep within her mineral layers,
scraping away at her core
for your own gain.
But no one gains by this.  She feeds us all.
I have sworn to protect Her,           
this day that She needs us,
when even Her vast blue-green oceans, teeming with life,
are tainted with blood, the black oil of power and greed.
This is the day, this is the hour.
She, long-silent, awaits our voice.
The signs of Her anger are everywhere:
desert, flood, tornado, wildfire, earthquake, typhoon, tsunami.
I howl for Her!             
I love my Earth as my own body!
I have sworn to protect Her!

Annelinde Metzner
July 31, 2011

As I turned the page to "December 2015" in the We'Moon wall calendar, I came upon an excerpt from my poem above, with fabulous art by Autumn Skye Morrison.  You can see her wonderful giclee, "Healing," as well as other art pieces at her website here. 

     I send out my poem once more as a prayer, to add to so many others, for divine wisdom to come through.  Prayers especially for those traveling to the Climate March in Washington DC to speak out on behalf of Her and all of us.  May we all protect our Earth, our beloved Home!!   May we love Her more and more each day!!

Delaware River, Margaretville, New York

Sacred mound, Blowing Rock, North Carolina

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Praise House

Praise House on St. Helena's Island, South Carolina

Blessed with a tour of the Gullah homeland,
St. Helena’s Island, where freed slaves
were given each ten acres upon emancipation,
we wander with Robert Middleton, our guide.
He names each place:
“This is Frogmore, this is Scott, this is Land’s End,”
as we pass from one wide-open community to another.
The Gullah people love color,
and the old frame houses, even the trailers,
are painted yellow, pink and blue.
“Everybody here is one family.”
Robert, on his ten acres,
gave a homeplace to each of his children.
“I can holler to ‘em from my front yard.”
Down a long oak-lined road we ride to its end,
where Robert says, “and here’s the Atlantic.”
People come to walk on the stony beach,
and swim when the tide goes out.
“They’d bring the slaves here in a boat,
and just unload ‘em,” he says.
All that grows here is African:
the okra, the tomatoes, the fruit.
When the white owners “skedaddled,” after the war,
land was left to the weary slaves,
and freedom, the first in the nation.
At the Penn School, two white women came
to live up on a little dirt road,
and brought reading and writing, forbidden in enslavement,
for children so eager
they’d walk six miles to school in the rain.
“We teach the young people not to sell their land,” 
says Robert,
a legacy of Penn School’s wisdom.
Gazing into the deep, lush woods lining the roads, I ask,
“Did you ever heal with herbs here?”
“Used to,” says Robert, “we had all we needed.
Didn’t need no doctors.
Life-everlasting tea with lemon,
sassafras, pine gum, elderberry and garlic.
My grandma cured a snakebite with frog blood!
Just stuffed it right in there,
and bound it up good.”
The last stop on our tour,
the white clapboard Praise House,
the last one, preserved by the side of the road.
Every community had one.
“We’d go there to solve our problems,” says Robert,
“trouble with the young ‘uns, money disputes, conflicts.
We’d go to the Praise House so as not to call the law.”
I peer in the window of the tiny house,
a pulpit and four wooden pews.
“Robert, was there praise here too?”
“Sunday nights, Tuesdays and Thursdays,” he says,
when it was too far to walk to church.”

Step it, step it, step it down.  Remember me.
Step it, step it, step it down.  Remember me.
(a ring play of the Gullah children.)

Sing, shout, circle and step.
The praise house.

Annelinde Metzner
St. Helena's Island, South Carolina

    I met Robert Middleton at Penn Center on St. Helena's Island, South Carolina.  This is a place rich in history, where a school was created for local Gullah children, which was forbidden during slavery times.  It became a center of the Civil Rights movement and is now devoted to the history and culture of the island.  I am very honored that my chapbook, This Most Huge Yes, including this poem, is going to be offered at their bookstore. 
      I ended this poem with a song, in italics, which I learned as a music teacher, part of the musical legacy of the Sea Islands.

Robert Middleton, with Sue Ann Metzner

"Here's the Atlantic"

Live oak tree with Spanish moss

Penn Center

Friday, March 31, 2017

Erna's Ark

Mom, Peter and me, her 81st birthday, 1994

Erna’s Ark
Eulogy for Erna Metzner by Linda Metzner,  her daughter
October 21,  2001

     Three times while looking at Mom’s things I came upon the image of Noah’s Ark.  I had bought her a bright colored pants set with the animals marching merrily across her chest.  I remembered a family project, creating Noah’s Ark for my niece Amy thirty years ago,  Dad building and painting the big wooden ark,  myself cutting out and stitching the animals, and Mom providing endless admiration.  And here was a little brooch in her cardboard jewelry box,  gold-colored animals marching merrily into the big-hulled boat.
       Suddenly I knew the theme of Mom’s eulogy.  I was always surprised, occasionally embarrassed,   and often lifted into a spiritual dimension in the most mundane circumstances with my mother.  Maybe there was an impression left in her by that long, scary boat ride all alone when, as a child, the wee Erna departed her German home and grandparents to rejoin her mother in Philadelphia:  that first flight into the unknown that caused Mom never again to set foot on another ship after once reaching land.  To Mom,  we are all boarding Noah’s boat,  and God wants all the species.
       Everyone,  therefore,  becomes kin.  The handyman hanging up her pictures;  the phlebotomist collecting her blood;  the apple seller at the Farmer’s Market;  the mailman;  the shopkeepers;  the office workers.  Mom would, in a minute,  know their names,  their children’s names,  their thoughts of the moment, and, most importantly,  their loving smiles.  At age eighty-seven,  she would get to know a man in the doctor’s waiting room by telling him how good-looking he was.  Thus the source of  some embarrassment for Mom’s caretakers!
       A vivid memory of her, two hours before her passing:  she is looking up into the dark-skinned face of my nurse friend Gwen,  who is trying desperately to draw blood from Mom’s thin old veins.  Mom looks into Gwen’s face,  ten inches from her own,  and says, “You are so beautiful.”          
       I remember Mom decorating my stroller with green crepe paper and pushing me all over Elmhurst, Queens, in the church parade.  I remember how her stepdad,  Dandy,  taught me to bow and say “Salaam”,  which he learned from the Muslims in his childhood in Guyana.  I remember when Dad told me how he’d gone deer hunting side by side with a black man he had met in the field.  I remember trying to reach my brothers in Mom’s last hours,  and she telling the nurses,  “My children are all big shots.”  “You’re not at all proud,  are you?”,  said the nurse,  smiling.
        I remember Mom taking the only airplane trip of her life,  because airplanes were akin to that big, scary boat that had borne her so long ago to America.  She sat between my son Peter and me,  squeezing our hands ‘til you could see the marks,  just so she could be at the bas mitzvah of her granddaughter Emily.  Her first and only airplane flight,  at age seventy-nine!
        She made me aware of the creative and healing power of generosity.  I don’t know  how many times she said to me,  “For you, anything.”  The money they would slip to me to further my education. The immense pride as we all graduated,  one by one.  The yearning expressed in Daddy’s memory of how the doors of college were closed to his capable mind because of the poverty of his family.  I remember the power of his phrase to me, “You’re going to be a scientist!”,  which translated to this young woman of the fifties, “You can be anything you want to be.”  And Mom’s way of expressing pride:  “Daddy will burst his buttons.”
        The briefest of events can affect one so strongly.  I remember leaving groceries in the back seat of a car and asking Mom, “Should we lock up?”  She said, “No. If someone steals our food it’s because they’re hungry.” I had the privilege and the culinary delight of accompanying Mom and Dad as they carried a full course hot meal to Dad’s brother with his three kids,  fallen on hard times.  The smells in that car were intoxicating.  I think the word “generosity” to me secretly means “pork chops and gravy.” 
        And cooking with Mom was phenomenal.  When was there not a pflaumekuchen in the oven,  a chicken to be plucked, a soup stirring in the pot?  She could have written an encyclopedia entitled “Comfort Food.”  And I’m sure that my penchant for music, dance and ceremonies of every description was born in her delight for baby showers, weddings, graduation parties, get-togethers filled with family and friends stretching from the backyard to the basement and out to the garage.
         “Holaderia,  holadio,  holaderia,  holadio!” Our favorite beer-drinking songs rang through the air.   
        Mom’s parents,  my grandparents Nana and Dandy, lived with us all their lives.  I can only now begin to guess the amount of care and responsibility Mom had in their well-being to the very end.  I can only remember how utterly respected and important they were in every aspect of the household,  and the big warm lap Nana had ever ready for me to curl into at every need.  Here’s where I learned the commandment with the most direct influence upon my life:  honor thy father and thy mother, yes, that thy days may be long upon the Earth.
        How this one small life with the gigantic spirit could draw so much of the very best from all she knew. How she inspired devotion in people who knew her only minutes. How she made something “click” in people that said, “We are all human, we all love, we all need love, we all have the same needs.”  I thank my Goddess for letting her educate me again, at the tail end of her life,  when I was capable of seeing the broader import in all the tiny daily occurrences.  
        We are as funny,  as tall,  as short,  as lumpy,  as beautiful as all the creatures in the ark.  We are all going to float together on this big boat,  and God wants us all,  every single one.  All species, all minds, all religions, all colors.
        I know you can hear this,  Mama.
        I love you so much,  and I thank you.

Annelinde Metzner
October 21, 2001

Seldom do I publish prose in the pages of this blog, but these words I wrote for my mom on her passing in 2001 seem strong and tearfully relevant for our times today.

Mom, Tante Martha and Tante Elsie, about 1933

Mom and me, musician for the clowns, about 1995

"Mom the Bomb," by Lake Susan, Montreat, two months before her passing.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Frozen Lake

The lake is frozen over!
Embedded in her surface,
branches and fallen sticks,
heads-up like ancient monsters.
Walking, walking,
I exclaim over the green softness
of the laurel leaves in the icy cold.
What a world!
I raise my head and call
to the wood thrush,
to her deep song, canto hondo,
which she carries with her across the world.
“Come back!  Come back! 
I await your beauty!”
I bend to the ground,
entreating the first purple of Spring,
the many petaled Dwarf Iris,
little ancient one of the forest,
embedded on the lake’s bank.
I await you!  Sleep until you’re ready,
‘til the new buds burst forth from the dogwoods,
‘til the bear cubs tumble wide-eyed from their den,
‘til Spring warms and thaws our hearts again.

Annelinde Metzner
Hidden Lake
January 26, 2013

It's March of 2017, almost Spring, but snow is expected this weekend.  The hints of Spring are all around.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Run toward your creative life

Run toward your creative life with all your might
even when, and even because, tears stain the very surface,
the fiber of your creative being.

Isn’t this your truest self?
Isn’t this a pristine beach,
more wild than winter, more vast?

Doesn’t the joy breath of your inner life
smell fresher than new-washed cottons hung in the air?

When the long day finally ends,
and I come close to the inner self,
I pull back the veil.

Annelinde Metzner        

June 6, 2006

Sunday, February 12, 2017

At the labyrinth

Light Center and Labyrinth

Ever, ever, She pulsates, warm beneath our feet,
our Mother the precious Earth.
Will She ever let us go?
Warmly She sings to our hearts,
“Love, love”, for all to hear,
for our walk, for our breathing, for all our being.
We are all just puppies in a pile,
one against another, opening our mouths
to find Her sweet teats right near.
Warmly She holds our hearts, with infinite love,
because we are Hers, we are of Her choosing.
In the wind I hear Her sighs, content,
as the day comes to a close.
Shyly appears the Moon, Her lover,
in immense beauty,
to spend the night at Her side.

Annelinde Metzner
Light Center
May 23, 2010

Spent a few hours today in the warm February sun, meditating and listening to the quietness of the Light Center in Black Mountain.  Spiritual seekers and world-weary beings are welcome there, 24/7.  
    I also love to play their piano!

Dome front with Peace Pole


Saturday, February 4, 2017

Festival of Fez

Drums in Fez, Morocco

I cannot hate these people
who opened their doors to me,
who opened their country to me,
Morocco, 2002.
Hate is the impossible word.
All I felt was love...
Children running to see us
on our climb through the olive groves
to the shrine on the hillside of the Holy City.
Our walks in the impossible labyrinth of Fez,
families at their creative work,
a father, a son embroidering,
a copper engraver tap, tap, tapping
amid the ever-present cacophony of the medina.
That word does not fit here,
in this Moroccan sacred society,
the call to prayer five times a day,
the ablutions at the ancient fountain.
The music I stumble upon,
the poet and the oud player in the riad courtyard,
among  the roses and the laughing children,
the fado singer in the museum gardens,
the women of Chechnya chanting.
Never will I hate these people,
my family of Man,
the young woman painting my hand with henna.
There is this place in my heart 

where hate can never be.

Annelinde Metzner
Fez Festival of Sacred Music
February 4, 2017

I was blessed to attend the Fez Festival of Sacred Music in Fez, Morocco in 2002.   Carolina Day School, where I taught music, honored me with a two-week tour of Fez and Marrakech run by Sufis who welcomed me as part of their spiritual practice.
     The political atmosphere in the USA at this moment , 2017, forms a huge cultural dissonance with my experience in this welcoming and highly creative Muslim country. I wept as I wrote this poem, because this chasm is unbearable.

Boy holding embroidery thread for his father

Father embroidering, Grandfather standing nearby

Three generations at a Sufi issawa, an all night music ceremony

Portuguese Fado singer in a museum concert

Chechnyan women's singing ensemble

Getting henna painted on my hand at an Issawa

Olive groves near the shrine of a saint

Tree of Life tiles at a pottery

Saturday, January 28, 2017

I save the world by loving Her

I save the world by loving Her.
April in Sandy Mush, the new green apple leaves,
so soft, each flutters a different way at the slightest breeze;
the butterfly, fresh out of the cocoon,
careening downhill, already a crackerjack
at navigating with her iridescent wings;
the blackberry blossoms, full of themselves,
wide open to the hungry and meticulous bees.
The air is filled with buzzing things, 

delirious with the sun’s warmth.
Even a cloud floating high seems to smile with delight.
It is true, I know, 

someone crouches somewhere in a room,
cut off from the world,
fervently praying that the next gunshot, 

the knock at the door,
does not come his way.
I know somewhere, 

a mother walks miles for a jug of water
diverted from her village to sluice the mines.
I know the world will end, or so they say.
But Gaia exhorts me, 

“Look at me!  Take notice!
For you I have perched these roses on their stems,
for you I bring the striped grasshopper to set beside you,
and the wild turkey walks, stately, through the woods.
Are you listening yet?   For you, four wide-eyed deer
come to gaze at your body while you sleep.”
I cannot ignore her, I cannot turn away.
It is my job to love Her, and She is vast,
and long, and wide, and huge;
I save the world by loving Her, 

and in this way, She saves me.

Annelinde Metzner 

April 13, 2012

Friday, January 6, 2017


Glass rosette from 16th Street Baptist Church, Alabama


(“We Have Seen,” from the poem by Natasha Tretheway)

I put down my fork, pancakes all eaten,
at Denny’s that early September morning.
A few moments to gaze at Smithsonian Magazine,
brought along to fill my time
waiting for breakfast to arrive.
“We Have Seen,” says her poem, Natasha Tretheway,
printed white upon black on the pages
beside the twisted glass rosette preserved from 1963.
Her poem: the debris, the shattered wrecks,
the firetruck moving away;
the martyred girls, four girls!
Babies, waiting for Sunday school to begin.
Their faces and Jesus’, mangled beyond recognition.
How Frederick Douglas pushed himself into the public eye,
knowing that photography, in 1873, must show us the truth,
ready or not.
I gaze across my plate at Denny’s,
reaching for my coffee,
eyes filling with tears.
Those four little girls...
I gaze around and wonder: will I weep right here?
Is it at last the time
to let the tears brim over?

Annelinde Metzner
September 6, 2016

The photos in September's Smithsonian Magazine are of objects on display at the new National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington DC.  I was moved to tears by the photo above of one of the only pieces of stained glass left after the bombing of 16th Street Baptist, a gathering place of the Civil Rights Movement, in 1963. This is the church where four little girls were killed as they waited for Sunday school to begin.

Frederic Douglas ambrotype, 1855-1865

Shawl given to Harriet Tubman by Queen Victoria in 1897

Monday, January 2, 2017

Elsie's Garden

Tante Elsie in her gardening hat

Drove up to Elsie’s garden, my head in the radio,
counting measures and checking musical forms.
I raise my eyes just to park and...
Jolted into Eden, an ecstasy of brilliant color, 

like a cold slap. I’m awakened.
These Irises (the eyes?) are a queen’s purple, 

a ransom of gold,
fringed, bearded, double ruffled about their delicate mouths,
waiting lush as Sheba.
Lemon yellow bearded coral, glacier white fringed,
with a calligraphy of magenta.
Rust-red and egg-yolk yellow.
I gain my breath, and big tears, here at Elsie’s garden.
Tante, at ninety-two, fosters this ecstasy of color,
and scent of peony, double, triple, magenta, snow!
Knowing I must go knock and enter at the door,
I breathe deep, remembering, 

remembering the grace of my DNA,
the colors, the purple, saying “This is me,”
coming off the highway.  

“This is also me”, my old Tante in her garden,
pulling a true miracle of flowers from the unsuspecting soil,
back in the dirt where we belong.
This is me. I weep, I love, I remember.

Annelinde Metzner

April 2006

Feeling gratitude for my Tante Elsie, who nurtured so much life in me by living to the fullest herself.