But for the Love

“Unless you know how to love your neighbor, you cannot love God. Before placing an offering on the altar of God, you have to reconcile with your neighbor, because reconciling with your neighbor is to reconcile with God. You can only touch God through his creatures; you will not understand what is true love, the love of God, unless you practice the love of humanity.” ~Thich Nhat Hahn, Zen master, poet and peace activist, Taming the Tiger Within

Recently, I had the honor of becoming friends with Chase Gagnon through a poetry group we’re apart of on Facebook. To say it simply, his words move my soul. Today, I have the privilege to share the power of his poetry, photography and storytelling! Enjoy.

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“I was walking into Zeff’s on the corner of Russell and Winder for lunch when I saw him sitting against the wall. The same tattered old man who’s always roaming around Eastern Market through the snow and freezing rain asking strangers for money, the guy who you can see digging through dumpsters and trash cans looking for scraps of food.

I never have anything to give him, and he knows this by now. But it’s the day after Christmas, and I just hit it big off a dollar scratcher. Won thirty five bucks. He puts his head down as I approach, shielding his face from the wind. “Hey man, you want some lunch?” His eyes lit up “you serious fam? I’m hungry as a motherfucker!

I said “hell yeah!” motioning him with my head to get up off the cold ground. We walked into the filthy dive and sat at the bar, each ordered a couple coney dogs and some chilly fries with a hot cup of coffee.”

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“We sat and talked about basketball, how insane Andre Drummond played last night as highlights from the game flashed across the fuzzy TV screen above the counter. Laughed at how stupid our fellow Americans were for electing Donald Trump, and then talked a little bit about how goddamn cold it’s been this past week.

I saw his eyes ice over when he thought about the weather outside, gazing back out into the filthy streets where he sleeps while he sipped his piping hot coffee, both bare hands gripping the mug for warmth. “You know, I can’t remember the last time someone treated me like a human.”

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how bitter
its silence —
gently falling snow

~Chase Gagnon

*photos, poetry, and storytelling by Chase Gagnon

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Heaven’s Expanse

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Summer’s golden dreams

In the last breath of August

The space between

© Salem Islas-Madlo 2015

“To create a space for all our words, Drawing us to listen inward and outward. We seldom notice how each day is a holy place Where the eucharist of the ordinary happens, Transforming our broken fragments Into an eternal continuity that keeps us. Somewhere in us a dignity presides That is more gracious than the smallness That fuels us with fear and force, A dignity that trusts the form a day takes. So at the end of this day, we give thanks For being betrothed to the unknown And for the secret work Through which the mind of the day And wisdom of the soul become one.”
― John O’Donohue

Self Exploration

antique bottles

Want ripped a hole

Into the pocket 

Of my life

I lost a lot 

Of energy

To the nickels

And dimes

Of dramatic emotion

Now I empty

My pockets

Everyday

So that 

I can be free

To explore

My true nature

© Salem Islas-Madlo 2015

*photo found on  

https://www.etsy.com/shop/leapinggazelle?ref=unav_listing-r

Looking Deeper

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“It’s better to conquer yourself than to win a thousand battles. Then the victory is yours. It can’t be taken away from you not by angels or demons, heaven or hell.” 

-Buddha

The Return of Dignity

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Layers with raw edges

Blending into dusky horizons

Of velvet integrity.

© Salem Islas-Madlo 2014

“If we’re wrapping ourselves up to conceal any vulnerability, whatever happens to us has to go through all those extra layers. Sometimes love doesn’t even reach where we truly live.”
― Alexandra Katehakis

“To write poetry, like sincere poetry, it is like performing heart surgery on yourself without anesthesia…in public…You are peeling back layers. You are dissecting yourself…You do not know what they [the audience] is going to do when you reach into yourself and rip out your organs to be displayed”
― Amir Sulaiman

“Layer by layer art strips life bare.”

― Robert Musil