The Poetics of Light



Chapter One

Out of the Ordinary and into the Real


     What do I know of time? The measuring of days, the phases of the moon, the changing seasons, the cycles of history, aging and the natural rhythms of life, they all interweave in my considerations. Memory and possibility play their hands.

         During the days before the turn of the 20st century when the idea of time was prominent in the collective mind, the “timing” was oddly perfect that I was challenged with a puzzle. The puzzle was to understand my relationship with time. The challenge was to become experientially aware of my perceptual relationship with time.

         In the reflective quiet of an afternoon I was prompted to engage in a series of spiritual dialogues with intelligent Beings responsible for various aspects of the natural world, who were well versed in the history of humanity and who surprisingly knew me intimately. When I asked who they were, I was told they were the Divine Angelic Denomination of Light and I admit I went through all my references of angelic visitations and guardian angels until I realized… I was in entirely un-referenced territory. The dialogue that began that afternoon developed into an extended series of dialogues which lasted for many years. The puzzle is something I continue to work on every day.

         I have learned a great deal in my life about persistence, endurance and a flexible kind of continuity since whenever I am finally settled somewhere, something inevitably uproots me, keeping me continually on the move. I have become accustomed to creating a kind of order in these chaotic situations, situations which prevent me from becoming more firmly rooted in place. I find stability in family, in friendship, in being a mother, in nature and even though I am now on my own, in partnership. I will also be eternally grateful that I have two daughters, great friends now they are grown and mothers themselves, who have blessed me with four creatively inquisitive grandchildren. I’ve worked any number of odd and interesting jobs but my energies have remained centered within my family, whether it’s my family by blood or ones created by work or circumstance.

         For the most part from a young age Nature has been my constant spiritual companion. I was raised Catholic, gravitated towards Indigenous and Eastern spiritual traditions, although like the rest of my life, none has firmly taken root. I’m naturally introverted and unabashed by the need for solitude and I enjoy working with my hands. I have only begun writing in recent years in order to understand and share this experience. In trying my hand at writing I very quickly discovered a love for writing poetry, which for me is the most natural language.

         The dialogues themselves were often in poetic voice, a welcome break from the usual strict formality. I would have been happy translating this experience solely in poetry but in writing this narrative I am following the path taken in the dialogues, convincing me that to the best of my ability this narrative necessitates a specific unambiguous clarity. Finally, I am of the persuasion that it is useless to question why I was asked to engage in the dialogues. Perhaps it is just that I had the space in my life to listen.

         In writing this account of my experience I’ve also come to understand the impossibility of describing perception itself in language, since I’ve learned that perception is by nature experiential. In order to acquire a grasp of my perceptual relationship with time however, I was challenged to dialogue in an alternate perception, affording me ample opportunity for comparison. In writing this account I find it difficult, but not entirely impossible, to give an account of engaging in an alternate perception by describing the responses I had in my attempts.

         In my search for vocabulary to describe an experience difficult to describe, I have developed a huge respect for shared dialogue. As I’ve been writing my way to my own understanding and sharing my attempts along the way, I’ve experienced that words have the possibility of becoming more than ink on a page when there is shared dialogue. As in oral culture before we developed and began to depend on the written word in order to communicate, by openly encouraging this sharing I am hoping the ideas presented in the dialogues have the opportunity to stay current, to remain alive, and most importantly to find context in as many personal ways as possible.

         In all honesty, on a day by day basis, my own experiential understanding of perception comes and goes. Living in our world is complicated and I’ve learned that, although we entertain the idea of enlightenment, there is no such thing as static accomplishment. It requires continual participation, continual acknowledgement to navigate the borderlines of awareness and perception. It is also very clear to me that although we may all be in this life together, our spiritual approaches are inevitably unique even when following a common path.

         However, my experience also leads me to acknowledge that even though we are unique in our spirituality, consciousness is relationship and is all inclusive. A door has been opened. When a door opens, it opens for us all.   

To be continued….


Artist credit: Michal Lukasiewicz



An Invitation…



I started this blog on an inspired whim because I needed to learn how to write. I had experienced something unusual and wanted to talk about it… to share it. Learning how to write needed to fit within the crazy parameters of my chaotic life so blogging seemed portable and perfect. I’m a disciplined creative, having taught myself any number of things and so I considered there was a good chance I would learn how to write by simply working at it. Directly publishing whatever I was working on would be nerve wracking enough, I felt, to keep the momentum going. All of this has proved productive with the great impetus of being in the company of so many truly creative people.

Early on I discovered that it is the connections between us that is decidedly the warp drive behind momentum. Although we may be communicating through a virtual medium, the depth of communication is deeply and responsively immediate, often uncannily synchronistic. Which is pretty amazing. We must be arcing on a frontier out here in cyber space…or in here….(hand on heart) because this is where I feel the connections.

At the same time as I have been here blogging, I have simultaneously been working on a separate long term writing project. With this project I’ve experienced that the process is similar to all the aspects of birthing. There’s the initial conception, the long gestation, the transitional period when the intensity is at its peak and I go a little crazy and then the project is ready to take on a life of its own.

I have been working out many of my ideas for this “long term project” here on this blog. It was the reason I started this blog in the first place, so in many respects I recognize that this separate project has been a collaboration from the beginning. I can not imagine I would have found my way through the complicated labyrinth of this project without the many relationships that have inspired me here. I am truly deeply grateful…

I am finally full to bursting with this “baby”. It only seems natural to continue this extraordinary relationship by birthing this project here. So I’m trying an experiment. I am serializing it and every Sunday morning you’ll find a new mini-chapter in your Reader. I hope you’ll continue to join me as the project grows and continues to morph.

Who knows? Perhaps publishing what I’ve written in this way is giving it the opportunity of growing into a new kind of creative form where words stay alive and have the opportunity for continued growth instead of remaining singular and static on a page. I’d like that….See you Sunday!


Photo credit:


Collage collaboration!



It’s been a steamy tropical summer here in the Blue Ridge Mountains. At odd moments errant cloud bursts are signaled by the booming of thunder and zig-zag flashes of light. Just as suddenly the clouds part and the air radiates with the returning intense heat of the sun and everything changes color. I’ve become accustomed to waiting out the impenetrable sheets of rain. They rarely last long. It’s as if someone is having fun with the on/off switch. Makes me wonder what the birds and bees are doing during these drenching interludes.

And I’ve been traveling a bit…the bath tub waters of the Gulf Coast and a retreat on the southern Atlantic coast with alligators and jellyfish. My most recent trip was a road trip to upstate NY to celebrate with my Father on his 94th birthday!

Upon my return, I was delighted to find a request from fellow blogger, Marcy Erb. She wanted to know if I’d be interested in allowing her to post my poem “I dream of being a weed…” with a collage she was creating inspired by the poem. What a great idea Marcy! Another weed lover…and so much more! If you aren’t familiar with Marcy’s blog,  head right over there. She has begun designing a Major Arcana with birds as the focus. Her alignment of archetypal symbology is so unique, relevant and beautiful, I’ve become completely captivated. The links are below….

“I dream of being a weed…”

The Emperor

The Tower

The Wheel of Fortune   …. and my favorite!


pastel: j h white

Beauty waits



There is nothing ambiguous about loss

it fills the spaces left behind

a tenderness that registers the slightest wind

so vulnerable it stops breath from breathing

in sudden recognition of how hard it is

to fill space when empty

waking each day turned inside out


There is nothing ambiguous about loss

That sharp clacking of stone upon stone

leaving a path of shards

the hidden gravity that shades the color blue

Even though memory seems only skin

translucent but barnacled

by the legacy of dead stars


There is nothing ambiguous about loss

it separates the cut edges

opening abrasions with graveled hands

where hearing is more sensitive than sight

as music evokes both acid and balm

and the heaviness of dreaming

is carried in weary flesh


There is nothing ambiguous about loss

I am ever present in its deep grain

comprising the growth rings

through which side branches grow

I have become something other than I was

something less something more

while separated from beauty


This seemingly inexhaustible thirst

redeemed in the breath of wildness

each inhalation responding

each exhalation my wordless prayer

In animal distress

I bend low at the stream

Silent, listening…. I drink


Photo credit:


abstract 6


there are no round corners

my imagination is akimbo

jolts of current spark within context

without setting light

What to do?


I gather the dexterity needed

and carry it to the scales

only to find

it weighs more than I do


my skin is transparent

I employ a magnifying glass

angling towards the sun

the beam passes right through me

blazing and unhindered


I bulk up

looking for muscular advantage

and slip easily into the crowd

our words are hot but cool off fast

leaving nuggets between my teeth


I turn invisible

and pass easily through the crowd

floating a few inches off the ground

I still stub my toe

while leaving no footprints


I want to weep like a child

but worrying about the leak

I put duct tape on my face

covering my mouth

leaving space for my eyes


awkward and exploding

my imagination

is no longer rooted

in safe ground

I am uncomfortable

I am vulnerable

profusely sweating

this sensory revolution


painting and poem: Jana H. White


Neon nightmare dog


Neon nightmare dog frightening a child’s dream

Each curly golden hair aflame with water drops prisming the sun


Coyote jaws salivating raw fluids wetting lips held in grimace face

Smiling on my small life. I am alive. I am alive. How long has it been?


You appear now as if we are friends old man, for man dog you are

Holding all life’s genders in your jaws, all our unpaid bills


Your karmic pinball game has kept me lean with a taste for wine

Too often a static cliche′ tumbling through icons of improbable possibilities


Show your real face and prove me wrong

There are no mirrors in this dark place. No broken glass. Only song.


Another “form” to tackle. This time an Epistle. I decided to wing it. See what came up through the pipeline without placing “form” anywhere near it accept while writing it down. I woke up this morning and there it was. This is the first draft. The nightmare was real and one I remember having around 3 years old that has stayed with me visually. Made me wary of dogs for years until my father told me dogs need to hold their mouths open to breath. Perhaps they drool. When I was looking for who to write an epistle to, the face of this nightmare coyote showed up. It was thrilling physically to address this nightmare face and I thoroughly enjoyed writing this. I am going to start thinking of writing forms as a “form tango” and learn to hold my own.


Artist: Doug Lawler

Momma clock


You were never adventurous

insisting on sticking to interaction

proscribed a sure thing

trying to be a “good girl” but always told

you were never good enough…

I spent my days intoxicated by a flower’s breath

building new homes out of cardboard or snow

exhuming pets I was curious about death

and bones and teeth

climbing trees listening to their heart sap

nipping change from Norman’s penny jar

just for the sneak of it

not caring much about showing my girl parts

to the neighbor boys

And there you were pushing me off

unsteady on two bicycle wheels

as if your moods weren’t the day’s bad weather

and me always approaching you with the caution

of the kid held flat out in high winds

and now you were casting me off like a baby bird

as if you yourself knew how to fly

Well…little did I know your strange insistence

was giving me more than wings

your internal Mamma clock was saying

it was time I learned to really fly

even though you knew

I’d take off and keep rolling


Art by Terry Turrell

Pencil Dust


Indomitable as a sovereign species

progress draws its discordant lines

straight through the rhythms of my days


A bucolic bovine sound?

Or a swarm of ooooooo’s

persistent and indicative of shove?

five toothbrushes

pail of sponges

caustic powders

poisonous sprays

My disciples of progress

grooming the delicate interstices of

refrigerator seal

baseboard cracks

faucet edge

I wash the wood and plaster body

My thoughts anointing and releasing

each surface that held the poems, the remnants, the family,

the guests, the conversations, the discipline that twisted time

into sailor’s knots and tied dreams into a body of words

able to float in this deluge of constant progress

This particular move (one of too many to count)

This wood and plaster body

that held me disciplined within panes of glass

where I grew words into lines, into paragraphs, into pages, into life

enclosed in winter and summer solitude behind the glass

Erasing all outward signs of a life

We have nothing in common

this place and I

We have nothing now in common

except the fine pile of pencil dust

intentionally left behind

scrumbled raw into the grains of wood

in the floor of my kitchen

Finished, I set the keys on the counter

leaving progress



The past few weeks have been a scramble. In mid March my landlady informed me that she is downsizing, selling her house, which she has run as a Bed and Breakfast, and will be moving into my apartment! In a city with a 1% vacancy rate, after 3 years tenancy, she asked that I be out in 34 days. She also holds my last month’s rent and a considerable security deposit. She apparently needs to legalize the fact that she has three units behind the house that she successfully rents by the day, week, or month through Air B&B. This is illegal in this city unless the owner lives on the premises. If caught this may incur a $500 a day fine. I think she still may not be in full compliance because two of the units are unattached, but she’s getting closer to her cash flow.

I beat the deadline she set by ten days. Sanctuary! I am now back in the garden….


Noh mask: Acrylic and graphite on black paper….  j.h.white




thought hovers

is this thought mine?


I watch the few words

just there

I look askance to see if they move

do they move of their own volition?


they hover


we’re moving through walls

what does this mean?


I once could hear through walls

I’d lost my skin

rendered immobile

I heard nuclear indifference

red lights green lights

flying metal and a dying jesus

I wet myself

although the bed stayed dry


I looked for what was left

at the time

I was empty

much later I understood

this was the right place to start


it takes awhile

starting from nothing

to un-know everything


we hover

not knowing

we move through walls



    Acrylic on paper….j. h. white


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