Category Archives: inspiration

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!

Inspired by Tom Prasada-Rao

Heading Back Home by Margaret Dubay Mikus, Copyright 2015

For me, the past year has been a “Twilight Zone” of one medical crisis after another—a new “surprise” before I’d even healed from the last one. From heart problems, possibly related to cancer treatment 23 years ago (with talk of a pacemaker) to 6 excision biopsies and 4 subsequent surgeries for melanoma, with an extreme allergy to the hypoallergenic tape, which caused blistering of my skin. Extended vertigo. I was hit by a motorcycle (no serious injury). A kidney stone (not my first, not the usual composition) led to a sudden jump in blood pressure. The procedure blasting the stone, went awry due to an equipment malfunction, which led to a whole array of ongoing problems including, bizarrely, a strained knee, which months later, is still debilitating. Interspersed with a sprinkling of other “issues” just for spice.

Not to whine or complain, but really? As it turns out, I’m doing ok. One moment at a time, remembering to breathe. Remembering I have healing tools and support. Remembering to ask for help.

Over and over again help has come to dig me out of the depths. My loving husband stepped up big time. Very few days have we both lost our “cool” in all this mess. Family and friends and my support team kept me going. Doctors who listen. Nature to rebalance. Books to escape with. Music to uplift. And the moving stories of others going through their own big-time challenges.

Tom Prasada-Rao is a gifted musician with a healing story. He is a lovely singer/songwriter who went through major cancer surgery this past winter. He wrote about it on Facebook, showing a photo of his long scar. Normally I don’t really care for post-surgery photos, but his story and attitude about his “bad ass scar” “increasing his street cred” was potent healing medicine for me as I headed into more of my own surgeries.

These are the 3 poems inspired by Tom and his music and courageous, loving, healing presence. My heartfelt thanks, Tom Prasada-Rao!

2/4/19

“Badass Scar”

Thank you Tom Prasada-Rao
for changing my anxious mind
in one heartfelt line
about your long surgery
and re-emergence into the light

As I face another visible scar
another 2 surgeries, not nearly
as complex or dangerous as yours
my troubles lightened and lifted
a smile appeared, no lie

Each scar—of the many—
a badge of survival
And the pain that comes still
even after months of healing
is nothing to what could have been

if cancer had won.

Margaret Dubay Mikus
© 2019

2/13/19

Wounded Healer

of T P-R

Sometimes
stay very still
in one place
quietly breathing
and listen.
It is hard and
it is your job
to receive.
Not at some point
to restore or resume
or even to refresh
but to find
the new threads to weave
and then follow them out
of persistent darkness.
Tell your honest story
invite in those needing comfort
not to rebuild what was, but
to create who you are becoming.
To trust more
to be patient more than ever before.
To befriend darkness
to release and reveal.
To fully inhabit
this body with scars
measured in miles
in tears, in fears.
To go away, to dive deep
and come back
deeper still
loving.

Margaret Dubay Mikus
© 2019

2/23/19

Doing Healing Work

from Tom and Eric and Karla
who have never met as far as I know

The hardest
when traveling
through and past
abject darkness
it to not become
dark
soaked in it
through and through
no matter how
it may damage you
and then spraying dark all around you
unaware, even unwilling.
No
I tell you true
do not choose to
go behind that door
in this life game show
we are creating.
Even if a dark dip
choose love
choose light.
Begin with you
let dark slide off you
“like water off a duck’s back”
as my mother used to say
to her sensitive daughter.
Or let dark overtake
temporarily, feel fully
and remember to release.
Or find your own metaphor
your own goal to aim for.
No matter what has happened
is happening
let go of fear
let go of mindlessness
remember you are a wondrous healer
think of all the scrapes and bruises
you no longer have, inside and out.
You are headed somewhere.
And if this is it
this black bottomless pit
where no light escapes or enters
remember
this is not who you are
only where you are.
Find a bird singing somewhere
or a leaf falling in the flowing river.
Find a cloud of any shape or color
or a clear cloudless depth of azure sky.
Find a song that uplifts
already written or write your own
maybe from your re-formation.
Look anywhere, there is a thread
or beginning of an idea of a thread
that can be woven into
a rope to shape into a ladder
to climb back out on.
Not avoiding the rich loam of life
the shell or armor of protection
as if nothing harsh or fatal
will get out or in
but consider
allowing the possibility of
transformation and transcendence.
Without change there is no growth
without growth there is no life.
Why else did you come?

Margaret Dubay Mikus
© 2019

One more bit of inspiration by Tom:
Although I’ve often read my poems to groups of people, it took years for me to record my first poem-video—just after my birthday in 2014. I was painfully shy about it. My willingness to make that first recording was inspired in part by Tom Prasada-Rao and his deeply heartfelt songs that he posted on Facebook. (I now have almost 70 poem-videos on my YouTube channel.)
Here is the blog post with my reading of that first poem, “I Know That.”

Or is you prefer, you can go directly to YouTube:
“I Know That”—on YouTube

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

John Flynn at Folkstage

Artist Head, M D Mikus, Copyright 2007

Tonight I was moved by a passionate, heart-opening concert by John Flynn on Folkstage (WFMT). Often we don’t know the effect we have on others, how even a kind word or smile can make a difference. We do it naturally and rarely hear that it made someone’s day, lifted their spirits, or inspired them. Here is my John Flynn story.

I first met John Flynn after the Folk Festival extravaganza hosted by Rich Warren in 2007. I volunteered to work the CD tables, selling for one of the other artists. Afterwards, I talked with singer/songwriter, Greg Greenway (who I knew). I gave him my (then) new CD, Full Blooming: Selections from a Poetic Journal. John was standing right there, wearing a stylishly tilted fedora, and said playfully, where’s my copy? As it happened, I had brought another CD with me and I gave it to him. They both asked me to sign my CD for them, as I asked them to sign theirs for me.

That night I wrote this poem of unexpectedly feeling…belonging—instead of my usual tongue-tied, feeling-on-the-outside, blushing paralysis. Thank you! I still remember and it meant a lot to me.

As you said tonight, John—challenged us all—everyday to do what good we can do in this world. Especially right now. I am telling you, so that you know, you inspired me.

9/11/07

Belonging

For Greg Greenway and John Flynn

(For some reason, or no reason,
to be read in a slight drawl)

So natural like
I was one of the guys
for 10 easy bliss minutes
as if I had always been.

No over-thinking
no shy, red face
just joking as if
this is who I am

that sweet taste
still in mouth and memory
that sweet taste
of belonging.

Not to make too much of
what was just after all
two fine singers talking to me
after a really good show.

But I have to say this
at least just once:
thank you for your songs,
for your smiles in my direction,

thank you for accepting my offering
and treating me…well…
treating me well…as if
I was just one of the guys,

the roving troubadours
who have something to say
and the heart and passion
and drive to do it.

As if…
you saw who I am
right through my skin
deep down, those bleached bones.

So natural like
I was one of the guys
for those 10 easy bliss minutes
as if I had always been.

Margaret Dubay Mikus
© 2007

This is the first of two poems inspired by John Flynn.

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