Category Archives: music

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

Concert of American Music in Amsterdam

7/3/18

Concert of American Music in Amsterdam

Eric Whitacre conducting

To hold space
while healing takes place
or could, if it would.
A sacred container
a contract, a prearranged pact.
Not bluster under shadows
but constant heart-care
to see what could be
if only
and trust still
and be patient
for the long haul.
Not succumb to the taunt of fear
but invite fear to tea.
Discern, not despair
lightly hold the sphere
I will meet you there.
We are healers
we were made for these times
everything has led up to this.
On the good days, I remember.

Margaret Dubay Mikus
© 2018

After the recent release of my book, Transcending Boundaries, this was the next poem I wrote inspired by composer/conductor, Eric Whitacre. This powerful, glorious music soaked right into me, healing, loosening, nourishing, supporting. Listen if you can–on Dutch radio4.

This references a previous poem of mine, “Invite Fear to Tea.” Read it in this previous post. From my CD, Full Blooming (track 54).

 

 

 

 

Another inspiration was the heartening essay by Clarissa Pinkola Estes, “We Were Made for These Times.”

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!

54–“Gorecki: Symphony of Sorrowful Songs” from “Transcending Boundaries”

Waterfire, Providence, RI by M D Mikus Copyright 2010

8/26/12

Gorecki: “Symphony of Sorrowful Songs”

Thanks for the link, Eric Whitacre

In the stillness
non-essentials fall away
light shines in darkness.

Life is re-built
from mostly re-used bricks
previously battered down.

And in the shadows
music builds for those
with patience to listen

to beauty becoming.
Those who trust long enough
to invest the time

who will breathe with
ascending notes, climb the mountain
be washed clean

come back down to life
transmuted water to wine
and back again.

Intoxication.
Dedication
to feeling.

The Phoenix rising
from everyday ash
willing.

And in the end
a shift in key
a point of light toward

the hoped for
healed reality.

Margaret Dubay Mikus
© 2012

From Transcending Boundaries: Inspired by Eric Whitacre and Virtual Choir

Listen to the poem here: https://youtu.be/Ha3xxshEn6s

Henryk Gorecki was a modern composer (1933-2010) from Poland. His Symphony No. 3—which he called A Symphony of Sorrowful Songs—was composed in 1976 and received a lukewarm reception at the time. It was based on 3 laments, including writing by a teenager to her mother on a cell wall in Gestapo headquarters. Fifteen years later a recording with Dawn Upshaw as soloist became a classical phenomenon. This music is incredibly beautiful and moving, building slowly out of near silence. Patience is rewarded. Truly healing music.

Note: The correct English pronunciation of Gorecki should be “Goo-RET-skee.” I found this out while listening an NPR interview with the composer after I did the recording.

Crossing Michigan Ave., (near Chicago Symphony Center) by M D Mikus, Copyright 2008

For more poem videos in the series

Transcending Boundaries: Inspired by Eric Whitacre and Virtual Choir

52–“Listening to Peter Mulvey” by Margaret Dubay Mikus

12/13/10

Listening to Peter Mulvey

The attempt to do something
that matters, that lasts,
meaning something to someone,

moving a heart to tears
of joy or sorrow that is familiar,
speaks to someone

or for someone,
to say something that hasn’t been,
but needs to be.

It could all be for me—
I am someone—but I refer
to the part of me, the connection,

that is someone else.
I am aware all is not light and laughter,
if not evil, then darkness

surely exists.
But in that pitch black
is still a crystal, a seed, a promise.

That is where I live.

Margaret Dubay Mikus
© 2010

From upcoming collection: Resist the Slide into Darkness by Margaret Dubay Mikus. Listen to this poem: https://youtu.be/vS1G_Rgx4R8

I first heard Peter Mulvey at Folkstage, a live radio show on WFMT radio in Chicago, hosted by Rich Warren. Peter’s music, stories, humor, and humanness were more than entertainment, they were nourishment. They moved me and stayed with me, like velcro, inspiring many poems including this one. I’ve seen and heard Peter many times since then, always with the same penetrating effect. My heart is opened in some way by his artistry and generosity. He creates a space of grace. I chose this poem because it says something relevant for today, these times we are in. What music inspires you to be and do better?

For more poem videos in the series

Traveling the Skyway, Sept. 11, 2011 by M D Mikus, Copyright 2011