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i did not expect
in Mother Africa
that i would need my winter jacket
and a hat

i did not expect
the photographs of the round grass huts with dirt floors
from my sixth grade history book spoke truthfully
the paltry mud walls a poor barrier
to keep the darkness out and the shade in
mothers off to work the thirsty fields and gather water
while fathers drink til sundown
children sauntering to the crowded school that has no plumbing
no food no lunch hour no lunch and usually not even breakfast
the little ones left behind play games outside on hardened ground

i did not expect the dry
the brown cloak that would cake my clothes my boots my skin my hair
the taste of dirt coating my tongue
if you go, do not worry whether you should drink the water
there is no water

i did not expect the unfenced immediacy of nature
a single breathing organism perfect in its totality
the beating drum of the one heart
our dancing interconnectedness so palpable
how one act indeed affects the whole

or the soulful chestnut eyes that speak of hunger and drought and sickness
but also kindness and laughter and humble acceptance
there are no victims
nothing given nothing owed

i did not expect to see the proud fourteen-year-old child bride walking home
her sleeping baby slung upon her back
dried mice heaped in the basket on her head
just enough to feed her husband and his family
we stopped to give her a ride of course

i did not expect to take home with me
the baby the mice the girl that moment
and that expectation would choose to stay behind instead

~jennifer sundeen, june 2016


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we are the reciprocal operation
let me repeat myself
we are the reciprocal operation
trees and humans

the trees are our lungs turned upside down
our lungs are the trees turned upside down
trees hold the necessary ingredients we need to live
we hold the necessary ingredients trees need to live

the ancient trees whom Mother lovingly birthed are dying before their time
our brothers and sisters whom Mother lovingly birthed are dying before their time
we are the reciprocal operation
Shiva and Shakti
without one there is no other

would you as easily cut out your lungs
the way we cut down our trees
for houses
for toothpaste
for shoe polish
plastic fillers
and diapers
for tax forms
glossy magazines
and fireworks
and hairspray
for boxes given at the holidays
wrapped in paper of colored tree ink
hiding dime store excesses
alluding yourself that they contain love?

would you cut your lungs out of your very body
and lay them at the foot of a tree as Prasad?

because our warming earth needs more
green chemical lawns
office buildings
and strip malls
chain restaurants
supersized stores
and eight lane highways
of asphalt
resurfaced each summer
with eight hour lines of cars
sitting and waiting
smoogging and choking
dying to just get home already
because work starts early on monday

let me repeat myself

~jennifer sundeen, october 2015

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Swan Songs

you know this to be true:

someday we will say goodbye
to everything and everyone
we have ever known

in fact
such beautiful Swan Songs happen
a thousand times a day

the exhalation
the expiration
the ebbing back
a heart expanding

but know this too:
goodbye is simply
a matter of perspective

and there is always the One
on the other side
saying hello

~ jennifer sundeen, august 2014

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Divine Mother

a man once offered
to reveal to me
the Divine Mother
said he could summon Her
to appear before me
as pure radiance manifest

he had learned this from his Guru
in India
in the ashram
and now the teachings of his teacher
must surely be shared
for the mere cost of $108

i appreciate the offer
i gently said
but from the moment
i open my eyes each morning
and see the trees greeting me outside my window
and hear the birds awaken at dawn

and throughout the day
as I exchange pleasantries
with the nice girl behind the coffee counter
hear the belly laugh of the toddler in aisle two
notice the adoring gaze of the lady walking her retriever
and her old dog’s joy as he rolls in the grass beneath him

and later
watching the shy deer eating the greenery
smelling the fallen leaves blanketing the earth
listening to the flute notes at the river’s edge
and the dancing rain making puddles in my driveway
as i return home

and each evening
when supper simmers
and my daughters play
and the night owl calls
and the stars delight
She is with me

in all things
in all moments
in all of creation
i see the Mother
and She is tenderly smiling and sweetly singing
and holding me in Her loving embrace

to find Her
i said
is easy
one need only open
the eyes of one’s heart
and truly see

the man stepped over
to the edge of the window
and peeked outside
as if afraid
She might really be there
after all

~ jennifer sundeen, november 2013

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out of this sacred Love ocean
a wave arises
a thought
a reaction
an emotion
and seeking proper footing
it clamors toward solid ground

notice the infinite pattern
the great pull back towards Union
how it invariably returns to its Source
quietly merging with its Mother waters

this is it then:
to know Joy is to simultaneously
deeply submerge
and to sit upon the shore as the waves roll in
and listening
and breathing

~ jennifer sundeen, july 2014

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Not Yet

a few moons ago
the stars tried to call me home
it was suppertime
and day had at last tucked beneath
his heavy black quilt

they sang out for me to join them
in their nightly feasting and dancing
i felt the gentle tug of temptation
and my heart took pause
for my ancient soul remembered the exaltation
of exploding into starlight
and the soaring freedom that comes
when form once again
dissolves into the formless

but i had not yet finished
this dear human waltz
there were more steps that needed learning
more spinning remained on my wheel
more colors and scents that needed discovering
indeed i still had not tasted
so much of Earth’s sweet abundance

so i rooted my feet deeply
and as dawn broke
the dried oak leaves shimmied in delight
and the dark pond smiled with knowing mystery
and the chickadees trilled their approval
and the crabapples blushed with joy
and the sun kissed my grateful mouth

and though i held the berries of bittersweet
the cold wind reminded me of the joy of Aliveness
whispering for me to play here as long as i could
for the stars would always be there waiting
and when the time was just right
they had a radiant sky dance
that they could not wait to show me

~ jennifer sundeen