Category Archives: grieving

Do Not Let Your Heart Close


After New Yorker Podcast

Do not let your heart close
no matter
no matter
I know what is inside and out
the dark desperation you may

never speak of…
yet there it is
no matter
no matter

The shadow that follows
the shadow released into the world
and no one knows what will happen
no matter
no matter

Do not let your heart close in fear
or protection (if you can)
without at least a sliver open
How else can the light get in
how will your light—
yes, even you…and you…
how will your light
activate a germinating seed
becoming a green shoot…a tender bud
a fully realized blossom?

You may despair for a moment
but do not live there.
Why did you choose
to come here and come now?

You don’t remember,
but I do.
Everywhere around you
is something beautiful
some kindness. Be generous.

Margaret Dubay Mikus
© 2016

Written a few weeks ago in the midst of that craziness. With some Leonard Cohen influence and so it seemed appropriate for today, to honor his passing.

November 11, 2016, Backyard Sky and Trees, (c) MDMikus

November 8, 2016, Backyard Sky and Trees, Copyright MDMikus

Poem: Election Day This Tuesday


Election Day This Tuesday

two days before

The limits have been tested
and found to be limitless
of what would be believed
despite the factual evidence
when despair and desperation sets in
and along comes a slippery cynical con man.
What is belief but trusting
without seeing the water to wine
drinking the Kool-Aid when told it is time.
Hypnosis on a mass scale
without the ability to read or reason
the ground becomes sky
and the sky is falling.
And here we are with our roles to play
in the greater drama unfolding
without assurances or certainty of safety
will we —as a country—
be on the wrong side of history?
What has been set in motion is no less
than revealing the deepest shadows
lancing the boil that was always there
but ignored. Loosening the noose
that might have eventually strangled
healing the chasm between “us” and “them”
and re-building…stronger together.

Margaret Dubay Mikus
© 2016

Reading this poem now, it seems prescient. But at the time, it looked like Hillary Clinton was going to be the next president of the United States. I was trying to express some of the craziness and turmoil that seemed to be all around.

For those of us who had hoped for an inclusive, historic, and continuing progressive path for our country, there is a time for grieving and that will be ongoing for a while. There is also a time to do what we can. “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” (Arthur Ashe) This is that time. I am a poet. I am a healer. This recent poem is what I can offer right now as support. Perhaps it speaks to you or for you. Perhaps it offers some clarity or calmness or perspective. The work is never over. Who are you in relation to all this? Who are you becoming by your choices? As opera singer (teacher and humanitarian), Joyce Didonato, is asking: “In the midst of chaos, how do you find peace?” Please share.

November Walk, MDMikus Copyright 2016

November Walk, MDMikus Copyright 2016

After Orlando

Do you know the Native American story about the grandfather telling about the two wolves we have inside us? This poem is partly from that story and from the Orlando shooting and all the others that continue unrelenting. An effort to work things through.


After Orlando
more becoming known

We are on permanent vigil as events
swirl and darken and repeat unrelenting
as petitions are again signed hopefully
as if that is the answer to everything

Not to knock petitions, I’ve signed my share
but once signed to relax as if
the signing was the action, the change?

All around is dark and light
Inside are the two kinds of wolves
Graphs can tell us some facts interpreted

but who creates the world we breathe in
Is this one of an infinite number
from all the choices that have been made?

Or is this the result of some agreement or
an earth school we knowingly signed onto
to learn something or unlearn something

to release or take on
becoming who we are…more loving?
And the two wolves we all have inside

one generous and loving, one angry and hate-filled
which one wins the fight was asked?
The one you feed.

Margaret Dubay Mikus
© 2016

Gratitude as an Antidote to Grief

Peony Open to Sun, by MDMikus Copyright 2016

Peony Open to Sun by MDMikus Copyright 2016

For 24 years I’ve taken voice lessons. Singing is part of it, of course, with a focus on recovery of my true full voice. But sometimes it’s about life lessons, releasing what’s in the way of the voice expressing. It’s about self-acceptance and stilling the harsh inner critic. It’s about letting go of control and setting out a premise, an intention to sing full out, and see what happens. It has also become about performance practice: my ability to deliver my poems and songs in the most powerful and effective way possible. To learn not to take up all the emotional space for some dramatic effect, but to be fully present and allow the listener to have their own emotional response, to feel what they need to feel.

My gifted voice teacher, and long-time friend, is Kip Snyder. He was the former music and artistic director of the Chicago Gay Men’s Chorus during the peak of the AIDS epidemic. He knows about grieving. From the beginning of my writing poetry (and songs) 20 years ago, I brought them to my lessons and Kip treated it like this was totally normal. His deep listening and easy acceptance was crucial to encouraging the baby steps that lead to my own acceptance of being a poet. We’ve worked together through multiple sclerosis, multiple cancers, heart disease, hernia repairs, kidney stones and grief for many reasons, as well as laughter and joy, the fullness of life.

Months ago, to get ready to record poems from my latest book, Thrown Again into the Frazzle Machine, I began reading aloud 3 to 6 poems per lesson, starting at the beginning of the book and continuing chronologically. We also might vocalize and work on songs, but doing the reading was consistent. Invariably these poems would “happen to fit” what was going on in life at that moment. And we would look at each other with “that look” and shrug at the mysteries of the Universe.

In a lesson a month ago I read the poem, “Gratitude as an Antidote to Grief,” and I could see in Kip’s eyes and face that he resonated with in it a big way. This was powerfully affirming for me: to deeply move someone with my writing and my reading. This is what he said (from the 5/11/16 recorded lesson):

“I think that is one of the most valuable ones that’s in the book. It really is. I see why people would contact you and say, it’s what I needed, right on the money. For people dealing with loss… this is the light at the end of the tunnel.”

This poem is from the part of the book around the time of my mother’s death. She was the third and last of our parents to pass away in a very short time. I wrote this poem as comfort for my youngest sister…and myself. It turned out to be the day before Mom died. It seems particularly apropos right now with the shooting this week in Orlando. May it be a comfort to someone.

7/13/12 PM

Gratitude as an Antidote to Grief

For Dorothy

Grief as a tidal wave
after the tsunami
washing lives out to sea.

Roots ripped out
of living trees,
no end to sorrow.

But to be grateful
for what is and was,
even as future is lost

to notice and bless
peace and stillness
in place of struggle.

To hope for music
and music comes,
to imagine comfort

of holding a hand,
singing a childhood song,
praying a familiar prayer,

to desire someone to act as if
I were there,
and it is done.

Blessings on everyone.

Margaret Dubay Mikus
© 2012

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

THROWN AGAIN into the FRAZZLE MACHINE: Poems of Grace, Hope, and Healing

THROWN AGAIN into the FRAZZLE MACHINE: Poems of Grace, Hope, and Healing

Inspired by David Bowie: Poems Part 1

Piccadilly Circus at Night, London MDMikus Copyright 2005

Piccadilly Circus at Night, London MDMikus Copyright 2005

Many of us discovered how woven into our past was the music, the wide-ranging influence of David Bowie. How bereft we felt and shocked even upon hearing of his death on Jan. 10. I was not the kind of fan growing up who bought his records or attended his concerts, but the songs were such an integral part of me, I recognized more than I was aware I knew. Of course, there are also all those artists he influenced or encouraged. By nature he expanded boundaries. He was just 5 years older than I am, so there is that, a look at shared mortality.

After the news went out, as did many others, I went to the internet and listened to songs, watched videos and interviews, and began to read. The more I learned, the more I felt I had lost, but also the more I appreciated being able to “know” such a charismatic, gracious artist. And as usual, the poems started coming to me, each day writing prompted by what I had just learned or heard. And yes, the dream poem is a true story.

So here is the beginning of my tribute: To someone who somehow, by being himself, snuck into the fabric of my life and so many others. Let me know if perhaps these poems with speak for you or to you.


Early Tribute and Promise
David Bowie

Some ideas are only
accessible in the dark void.
They slink, they slide
they slither in
around the admonition
despite the admiration
to become again…pure
And the part of us
that has always been
David Bowie welcomes them
into expression
however flawed or flamboyant
in their perfection
unique in all creation.

Margaret Dubay Mikus
© 2016



David Jones
nee Bowie

Now you look
and Death seems obvious
in that iconic face
and the last words he wrote
at first glance
inexplicable, now explained.
To leave life privately
restore the loss of privacy.
To make what could be
of this final transformation
this inevitable reinvention
whatever he believed
about reincarnation.
To have inspired and influenced
and championed
those in need of a hand up.
That smile, those cheekbones
that versatility of hair and makeup
the otherworldly uniqueness of eyes
not losing track
of the overall arc
the forward momentum
until the very end
the last breath
the amazing grace.
He knew and made the most of it
what else is there
of earth and heaven?
To be who he was
after giving the last gifts.
To look back and see what you left
to stay and go ahead
a spirit released from
all constrictions, all small boxes,
all constraint, all confines.

Margaret Dubay Mikus
© 2016



D. B.

To live and to leave
as desired by heart’s longing
the door opening
on the way through
spilling creative juice
back and onto.
And those behind
for a brief time
awakened and aware
some purpose clear
the urge to accomplish

Margaret Dubay Mikus
© 2016




To be born innocent
knowing nothing in that moment
containing everything from before
stardust coalesced into firmament shaped
into specific form by an unknowable hand
and shaped by choices again and
what seems like chance from this
sliver-skewed perspective.
In fact the universe playing out
and I being here, playing the hand I am dealt.
Potential shifting into real.

Margaret Dubay Mikus
© 2016

Entrance to Chinatown, London MDMikus Copyright 2005

Entrance to Chinatown, London MDMikus Copyright 2005


David Bowie Comes in a Dream
After a “video” of his final poetry reading

I am not the only one I’m certain
who received a dream-visitation
talking of things that matter
life and death and in between
just as it might have been
and most gracious and welcoming.

There are advantages in spirit form
like teleportation and omnipresence
that are harder to pull off as human.
He heard us talking after and walked over
smiling as he was and thoughtful
bent toward and leaned in to the conversation
ever the interested generous gentleman
showing how it’s done:
this end of lifetime celebration
and relevant immortality.

Margaret Dubay Mikus
© 2016



More and No More

There will be no more sightings
of him holding hands with Iman
on the streets of New York
London, Berlin, or Hoboken
David Bowie has flown

But the ripples have not stilled
that were set in motion
Even now
momentum builds with more listening
new waves overreaching someone

stimulating discussion
In a context inevitably altered
he was a willing conduit

We received what became
a foundation, a template
expanding what could be healed
expanding what was possible
and expanding still

Margaret Dubay Mikus
© 2016



What I see Now, From this Distance
David Bowie, still Jones

Truly he was not one
born of immaculate conception
but a man born of a woman
in a particular house in Brixton, London
after the war was won
in the midst of that devastation.

And what happened then to shape and form
the one he would become
driven to create and perform
what turned into what it was:
re-shaping the world around him.
What was inside coming to fruition

what had to be tamed or all was lost
what allowed or pushed him to pursue
what kept him who he was
and led to finding happiness and solace?
How was or wasn’t he his mother’s son
generous and kind to everyone.

Of course in those days he was very young
And the context, the times he lived in
the cultural milieu, the shifting sands
what he rejected, what he embraced
for connection and separation

to not be swept away as others had
by contempt or adulation.
To see the path or if not a path
a next step and take it:
what if I mix these things that do not
seem to go together

sprinkle with stardust and stubborn sweat
and voila! A charismatic life well-spent.

Margaret Dubay Mikus
© 2016




Now the stories are told
no one to correct faulty recollection
the rosy ones first to emerge
then later the thorns?

But now the adulation
sweeping the lands
of those who were inspired then
to be more than seemed possible for them.

Worlds expanded, minds blown
by this father’s boy, this mother’s son
who was real underneath all the glam
who searched and found

and became again
the next reinvention.
Charisma they say, and talent
timing, risk-taking, intelligence and

the courage to be seen…
the true gift given.

Margaret Dubay Mikus
© 2016



Still Bowie

He had a gift
and he gave it
he was almost lost
and somehow saved
the mistakes he made
the chances and choices
creating, re-creating
weaving threads
that didn’t belong together
until they did
and on to the next thing
always the next
Do you think this
is any different?

Margaret Dubay Mikus
© 2016

Coming Home from London, MDMikus Copyright 2005

Coming Home from London, MDMikus Copyright 2005