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MERI Center Blog

September 23, 2020
SMS Meeting Poems
Grief/Loss

Today, Mike Rabow read, "When Great Trees Fall" by Maya Angelou, in honor of Ruth Bader Ginsburg's passing.  Since Friday, I've cycled between shock, grief, anxiety, and gratitude.  Losing Notorious RBG was devastating not only on a personal, human level, but also on a societal and political level.  We owe her a debt of gratitude for all her work on equality and road she has paved for us. We owe it to her and many others, including Maya Angelou, to continue the struggle for equality, against social injustice of any sort.  We can be. Be and be better. For they have existed. And today, it feels like we must be and better for so much is at stake. 

Thank you, RBG, for blazing the trail as long as you could and for being an outstanding role model.  May we pick up the torch you have passed us and hold it high.

When Great Trees Fall

Maya Angelou

When great trees fall,

rocks on distant hills shudder,

lions hunker down

in tall grasses,

and even elephants

lumber after safety.



When great trees fall

in forests,

small things recoil into silence,

their senses

eroded beyond fear.



When great souls die,

the air around us becomes

light, rare, sterile.

We breathe, briefly.
Our eyes, briefly,

see with

a hurtful clarity.

Our memory, suddenly sharpened,

examines,

gnaws on kind words

unsaid,

promised walks

never taken.


Great souls die and

our reality, bound to

them, takes leave of us.

Our souls,

dependent upon their

nurture,

now shrink, wizened.

Our minds, formed...

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September 10, 2020
SMS Meeting Poems

Yesterday's Symptom Management Service meeting poem, read by Dr. Mike Rabow, was "I Am Not I" by Juan Ramon Jiminez.

“I Am Not I”

BY JUAN RAMÓN JIMÉNEZ

TRANSLATED BY ROBERT BLY

I am not I.

                   I am this one

walking beside me whom I do not see,

whom at times I manage to visit,

and whom at other times I forget;

who remains calm and silent while I talk,

and forgives, gently, when I hate,

who walks where I am not,

who will remain standing when I die.

 

The title in and of itself seemed appropriate for yesterday, which to me seemed like a day that was not a day. The orange-hued fire haze eclipsing the sun and turning the day into an endless night.  My social media was flooded with pictures of the tinted air that blanketed the Bay Area and beyond. Eerie, brownish-orange apocalyptic air mixed with a heavy layer of fog in my neighborhood.  By 2:30 pm, it felt like 7:30 pm and I was ready to stop working and go to bed.  What more will 2020 bring us?  

 

September 2, 2020

2020 continues to devolve with hurricanes, typhoons, and wildfires piling it on, not to mention the continued police brutality against Black Americans.  In mid-August, the San Francisco Bay Area reached a sad milestone of 1,000 deaths due to COVID.  Our director, Dr. Michael Rabow, was interviewed for this piece in the SF Chronicle, “Bay Area’s COVID death toll reaches 1,000 as coronavirus pandemic marches on”,  where he contemplated not only the loss of lives, but the collective losses that we are all feeling. Not only are we suffering from loss of life, we are suffering from loss of normalcy, loss of physical connection, loss of almost a year. 
 
The MERI Center continues to contemplate how best to help both internally at UCSF and in the greater community. We have converted our Loss, Losing, & Loosening: Exploring Grief and Healing Through Poem-Making to a weekly group in the month of September, where we can...

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August 27, 2020
SMS Meeting Poems
Resilience/Wellbeing

It’s been too long since we have last posted to this blog.  The summer, even during the pandemic, diverted our attention. New workshops, writing a paper, focusing on the future and how we will mold it to our vision.  And a fear that I personally was using it as a platform for my agenda, my beliefs, my pain.  It can be a fine line of representing an organization and misrepresenting your own beliefs as the organization’s.   But I realize that not focusing on the blog was a mistake.   So I, we, will make an effort to post regularly. 

To start our renewed efforts, I end with a poem that Dr. Rabow read at yesterday's Symptom Management Service meeting, one that is particularly powerful as we contineu to fight against racial injustice.

 

Absolute
by Jacqueline Woodson

The summer I was ten a teenager named Kim butterflied my hair. Cornrows curling into braids behind each ear.

Everybody’s wearing this style now, Kim said.

Who could try to tell me I wasn’t beautiful. The magic in something as once ordinary as hair that for too long had not been good enough now winged and amazing now connected

to a long line of crowns.

Now connected to a long line of girls moving through Brooklyn with our heads

held so high, our necks ached. You must know this too – that feeling

of being so much more than you once believed yourself to be

so much more than your too-skinny arms and too-big feet and too-long fingers and too-thick and stubborn hair

All of us now suddenly seen the trick mirror that had us believe we weren’t truly beautiful suddenly shifts

and there we are

and there we are

and...

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June 11, 2020
SMS Meeting Poems

Hope to Sin Only in the Service of Waking Up 

by Alice Walker

Hope never to believe it is your duty or right to harm another simply because you mistakenly believe they are not you.

Hope to understand suffering as the hard assignment even in school you wished to avoid. But could not.

Hope to be imperfect in all the ways that keep you growing.

Hope never to see another not even a blade of grass that is beyond your joy.

Hope not to be a snob the very day Love shows up in love’s work clothes.

Hope to see your own skin in the wood grains of your house.

Hope to talk to trees & at last tell them everything you’ve always thought.

Hope at the end to enter the Unknown knowing yourself. Forgetting yourself also. 

Hope to be consumed to disappear into your own Love.

Hope to know where you are –Paradise–if nobody else does.

Hope that every failure is an arrow pointing toward enlightenment.

Hope to sin only in the service of waking up.

June 3, 2020
Personal Reflections

Since June 1, I’ve been trying to write about the uprisings/protests/riots happening right now in a clear and thoughtful way.  With anger and sadness, between meetings and work, the words jumbled together in a near stream of consciousness, fragmented and all over the place.   Reading and rereading my written thoughts, I struggle to find the balance between professionalism and honesty, between honesty and unintended (?) consequences.  And yet, it feels profoundly important to write something for this blog during this time.

I am an Asian American woman, daughter of Asian American activists. My father was a part of the Third World Strike at UC Berkeley in 1968/9, when Black, Latinx, and Asian American students came together to demand Ethnic Studies.  My mother, a bit older than my father, marched with Martin Luther King, Jr. My paternal grandparents were incarcerated during WWII at Topaz, Utah.  My paternal grandfather fought in WWII with the 44nd Regimental Battalion made up of Japanese American men.  I am also the wife of a Caucasian man and the mother of two incredible Hapa children. I am a Person of Color.  These uprisings have affected me deeply. 

Monday was a struggle, trying to find the words to adequately describe my feelings while going from meeting to meeting, where the uprisings became the main topic of discussion. I ping ponged between anger and intense grief.  I cried about 3, maybe 4 times.  Cried at the injustice, cried for the strides we haven’t made, cried in anger, cried in sadness.  There was also frustration as colleagues reminded our workgroups to make talking about racism a normal part of our conversations.  Such privilege to have to be reminded to make this a normal...

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June 1, 2020

 

Blackie's Pasture
by Redwing Keyssar, RN, Poet Author
May 9, 2020

placid water
mt Tam rising
blustery wind
 catching geese
   on its tail
 as it wags
 across the powder blue background
   of the pale grey clouds
While yarrow shine
 their golden yellow
 under the chins
  of lavendar blossoms

while shocking pink-purple
   iceplant lay low
 bearing witness

The glare
 of preciousness
   of the moment
 is blinding.

Where I walk is holy

I am walking
 in a pandemic
 making history
 that someone else’s children
   and their children
  will hear about
  and wonder...
   what was it like
   in the U.S.
      B.C?
 Before Covid

Where I sing is holy

In the shower
 walking by water
 waking from dreamland
sitting
or dancing
  alone
with eyes half-closed
feeling the warmth
 of the sun without wind
   streaming through my
  dirty city window
   filling me with
  light
   filtered
    by glass

Where I pray is holy

Alone
 in water
   on mountains
under Moonlight
and Sunlight
  in Ceremony
in circles
 of Healing

Where I work is holy

In the realm
 of the invisible
  using words
  and color,...

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May 20, 2020
SMS Meeting Poems
Resilience/Wellbeing

Today's poem was written & read by Dr. Tom McNalley and was one of the award winning poems from the UCSF Department of Medicine Shelter-in-Poetry contest.

The Things We Bear Alone

Some things were not made to be borne alone:
the impossible dance of Anna’s hummingbird
returned to the nectar of the crimson snapdragon,
the surprise of the first scent of night jasmine,
the circle dance of the bluebird pair, side-looking,
honeybees chanting over new lavender,
sounding their Om resonant into the garden.

These things we were made to bear together:
to hold our gaze to the beauty that breaks our hearts
for even as it enters into us,
we cannot embrace it all. 

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