Category Archives: compassion

Turning “Wagon Wheel” into…Something Else

How will we participate in creating the new world that is becoming, all of us contributing something? What I want to know is: what will inspire the best in us, the most kindness and compassion? How do we keep going in times of trouble and not sink, exhausted, into despair? What will you make from what you have been given, your unique perspective and vision?

On Facebook, in September, singer / songwriter/ performer / artist, Joe Crookston, posted a new video of how he had created a new song from the words of a tired old song (“Wagon Wheel”). I like the metaphor of this process. Watch the video here.

And that inspired me to write this:

9/16/19

Turning “Wagon Wheel” into…Something Else

Inspired by Joe Crookston

Take what doesn’t work—
are you listening—
chop it up, not even all
that compulsively straight

But use it all to create
something else
use it all according to
rules you made up yourself

I like the new song
I like the metaphor
I like the process
the cutting , the choices, the paste

I like the melody, the voice
the instruments, the video of all of it
the hope, the inspiration
the conscious letting go of outcome

I like the decision to share
to include, to invite in. And
in joyful wonder at the birth of a new song
I soaked it in and sang along

Margaret Dubay Mikus
© 2019

Writing this new poem reminded me of resonant lines from an earlier poem:

“uses the bricks from the wall
to make something else altogether.”

Here is that poem:

2/25/03

The Poet

I am my mother’s daughter
and I am the Mother of my Self—
one who made the form
and one who filled it.

And I am the mother of my daughter,
a beauty like no other.
She forgot to wash her socks until midnight and,
smiling her smile, asked if I could put them
in the dryer and I did…easily…again.

Who rules on any given day?
What boundaries between the roles I play
tying me to sanity?

No instructions, no models or even myths.
In all the worlds there ever were,
no one has ever been exactly like me…or you.

Or has done what we are about to attempt.
I am tempted to stop, not life, but struggle
to be more, to become what I imagine.

But a poet who is fearless,
who carries on regardless,
whose words are kind and true and honest

is more than essential for survival…
is the compassionate and dispassionate glue
that holds it all together,

or later after the fall,
uses the bricks from the wall
to make something else altogether.

Margaret Dubay Mikus
© 2003

This poem was published in several places, including in my book, Letting Go and New Beginnings: A Mother’s Poetic Journey. I also read it on my CD, Full Blooming. Listen here.

Thank you, Joe Crookston!

John Flynn at Folkstage–part2

August Monarch, Margaret Dubay Mikus, Copyright 2007

While searching for my poems that were inspired by singer/songwriter, John Flynn, I found this second one (included in my book, Thrown Again into the Frazzle Machine.) It was from a Facebook post on the day of Nelson Mandela’s death. Reading it now reminds me of John urging us at the concert last night: to be more kind, to do something to help lift someone up. Thank you, John, for all of it.

12/8/13

White Woman from Illinois on Mandela

Posted by John Flynn on Facebook:

“I am not a saint, unless you think of a saint
as a sinner who keeps on trying.”
Nelson Mandela (1918-2013)

He might be the first to say
he was ordinary,
a man making choices with great clarity,

understanding consequences
to holding hate and anger close,
how one gets burned
and nothing is accomplished.

To say now he was awe-inspiring,
to raise him so high in sainthood,
select media-glorifying snippets to focus on,
reducing him to an icon on a pedestal

does him and us a disservice
for it assumes we cannot also be better,
do better, make the forgiving choices.
It assumes he was a hero above us, beyond us,

a mythological figure, not flesh and bone.
It says we admire from afar but do not aspire
to be something held so high…
and that is wrong.

We are all capable of better,
more conscious loving acts.
We are all awesome healers
no matter our circumstance.

We do not have to reflexively perpetuate
old patterns that do not serve us.
We can heal within and radiate healing out.

Start now, start somewhere,
some small breach, maybe love yourself
a little or a little more today
as a way of remembering him,
honoring a long life of sacrifice
and ultimate joy—as a choice.

Margaret Dubay Mikus
© 2013

To hear this poem and read more about it

For my first John Flynn-inspired poem: read here

Thrown Again into the Frazzle Machine:
Poems of Grace, Hope, and Healing

Our Future, Still Being Written

6/20/18

Listening to Amelia Curran
After Hours of Reading

If this is all there is
and you have forgotten the rest
and if you cannot keep from
the seduction of despair
I understand
and
hold out a hand.
Rest a while
in the shade of favorite music
or vacation in a favorite book.
No shame in resting,
I understand
and
give permission
as for you
as for me.
And if in the barrage of news
every bit worse than the last
and tears well up and head hangs
still, I would urge you to remember
what is real,
who you are, have always been,
the long perspective.
A marathon requires pacing
replenishment, an eye on the far-off goal
as you put one foot in front of the other
as your heart beats and muscles ache
as you breathe
and breathe
and
remember.
You have trained for this:
Every challenge, hard time, tragedy, trauma
you found strength to heal and endure
and now you are called on for more.
Those faltering for now
are aided by others
who will in turn
need help.
Like geese in a “V”
stronger together, each leader in turn
falls back, resumes.
Yes, this is not what you sought
but this is what was sown,
the past playing out
but not necessarily
our future, still being written.

Margaret Dubay Mikus
© 2018

Note: Amelia Curran is a Canadian singer-songwriter I heard of from Peter Mulvey (an incredible American singer-songwriter). Listening to music and reading is how I have been getting through some personally dark days and high anxiety.

I found this recent poem while looking for something else. Although written this past June, it was as if I had written it to encourage and support myself — and others– right now, the week of the midterm election. A reminder to breathe, to rest when needed, to help each other, to take the long view, to vote. I offer this to you in kindness, as my way of holding out a hand. Hang in there, dear ones.

November Sunset, M D Mikus, Copyright 2017

Photos of the Children

6/10/18

Photos of the Children

from many stories posted on Facebook

I refuse to be sad and helpless
as my only human choice
I refuse to be angry
burning to impotent cinders
when I see the children
lined up in orange rows
stripped of mothers, protectors
young innocents in cages
When I see freight cars
mentioned in titles
clearly to remind
I refuse to be hopeless
Every day, something…
some kindness, some donation
a call, a signature, a conversation
some antidote to poison
even to remember who I am
who we are
I have lived this long
and refuse the comfort of
numbness or amnesia
What is being cruelly done
to dismantle, to diminish,
to disturb, to disrupt
to lead to apocalypse, I refuse
to go along with that narrative
a story whose ending is yet unwritten
I cannot undo what is being done. I am one
I cannot re-weave what is deliberately torn
but we can, everyone
bring to this pot luck what gifts we can
We can keep each other
from cliff’s edge of despair
not soak in hatred and fear
We can transform the energy
we are immersed in into love
that unconditional endless food
undiminished by grasping greed
true power to heal…
yes, even this.

Margaret Dubay Mikus
© 2018

I responded viscerally to the photos of children, some quite young, taken from their parents who were trying to come into this country, many seeking asylum. Some children were in cages or lined up in orange prison garb or held inside a dark building. They had no legal representation, no one to speak for them. I had to write something or explode.

My 4th book, “Transcending Boundaries” is Out!!!

I’m thrilled to tell you that my 4th book, Transcending Boundaries: Inspired by Eric Whitacre and Virtual Choir, is out!!! The paperback is on amazon (and elsewhere). I am still working on the ebook. It took over a year longer than expected, but there were additional poems…and life…. Here is my reading of a poem inspired by a VC friend, “ On Imperfection: For Corax.”

Have you ever felt deeply moved by a piece of art? Perhaps a movie, book, dance, painting, or piece of music even spurred you to create? Transcending Boundaries is a wide-ranging collection of poems inspired by Eric Whitacre and Virtual Choir. These poems of inclusiveness and love act as an antidote to divisiveness and fear.

I first heard about Eric Whitacre from his TED talk. He’s a Grammy award-winning composer/conductor who envisioned what became the global phenomenon of Virtual Choir. The way it works is this: From anywhere in the world, singers learn and record their individual parts (soprano, alto, tenor, or bass) to one of his choral pieces. The videos are sent via the internet, compiled, and released. The first 4 VC videos have been viewed more than ten million times! Singers of all ages and abilities, from everywhere in the world, are encouraged to join in. Thousands of singers from more than 100 countries have participated. No one is turned away.

My whole life I’ve loved to sing. Once I heard about Virtual Choir, I longed to be part of it. For VC3 and VC4, I learned the music, recorded, and sent in my alto videos. For five years I also wrote a series of poems sparked by Eric Whitacre—his glorious music, gracious interviews, and Facebook posts—and the compelling stories and true connections with VC singers. My intention with Transcending Boundaries is to aid in healing what seems to divide us, enhance compassion and empathy, and awaken the imagination, encouraging yet further creativity.

Who should read this? Anyone who has ever felt the power of music (or any art) to move us: listeners, singers, musicians, and of course, those who are part of Virtual Choir. These reflective poems allow you to experience optimism, generosity, playfulness, kindness, and beauty, celebrating the open-hearted, richness of being human.

May healing inspiration continue to ripple out. Thank you for your support!