Poetry Post: Prayer on a Full Moon

Over the past two years, I have been developing classes in contemplative writing. One of those classes focuses on prayerful writing according to the rhythm of the moon. Experiencing the cycle of life with the phases of the moon is something all ancient cultures did. And it is an art we have lost in the modern world. We have lost our connection to the God’s expression in the natural world. Living and creating with this rhythm has been a powerful process for me in my own inner work. And it’s something I look forward to sharing soon with my students. 

Here is one of my recent full moon prayer-poems. 


Prayer on a Full Moon

On this moon of completion

help us to release old things,

heavy things which have outlasted

their purpose,

attachments and expectations

that are burdensome,


and senseless to keep carrying.

Lift the weight of chain mail,

and unbind the shackles

that keep us from love.


Bless us with courage

to shed old ways,

and with faith

to believe we are enough,

and don’t need to drag

outdated furnishings

into a new home,

a home where you have plans for us.


Give us the conviction

to walk into a new room

in a new way.


Copyright 2017

Maria Grace Mandarino



Meeting God in the Patterns

090Last night someone at church had mentioned she made a church decision based on logic. Turned out logic was not the right choice.

I joked with her that logic is way overrated anyway.

It turned out the decision should have been made based on tradition. And tradition typically involves following a certain order and a patterned way of doing things, which isn’t often linear or logical.

Years ago, when I was a student observer in the acupuncture clinic, our supervisor, Dan Bedgood, had mentioned to a senior intern that a student had complained to the dean about his teaching style. The complaint? He did not teach in a linear fashion.

I could not help myself.  I blurted out, “But this isn’t a linear medicine.”

Student observers are meant to do just that: observe. They are not expected to speak. And if they are foolish enough to do so, it is assumed they do not have much to share worth listening to.

Dan’s head went up and he stared at me from across the table. It was probably the first time he heard my voice and possibly the first time he even noticed me. And I think we were very close to pointing a finger at each other as if we suddenly recognized something in the other,  about to say, “Atlantis, right?”

The truth is Chinese Medicine is not at all linear. It is based on patterns. Patterns that need to be observed, respected, and honored.  It works like this: if this happens, then that happens. BUT if THAT happens, then THIS happens. Or… if the wind is blowing, then THAT happens. But if it’s damp and cold, well then THIS happens. And if it’s dry and hot, well, look at what happens then! And let’s not even talk about whether you are standing on the sunny or shady side of the mountain, because that can uncover a whole other set of patterns.

It’s a story of patterns of potential. Not of a narrow and limited road.

Chinese Medicine is a medicine that always made more sense to me than Western Medicine for this reason. Seek the pattern and you are led to the answer. Pull the piece of yarn and watch the pattern unravel; each time you tug, a new skein of possibilities.

As a writer and a poet (and as someone who crafts with yarn), I have always interpreted life through metaphor. So of course I grasped the language of this ancient medicine easily. Once you figure out the patterns in Chinese Medicine, you have the key to everything: physical pain, emotional pain, organ disease. Find the pattern, find the key. Find the pattern, find the language of the Divine.

Think about it. God is not linear. How dull would that be? This has to happen before that can happen in order for this to happen. Wait and get on line and until you reach the destination point, it’s pretty much a process of drudgery. Kind of like the Department of Motor Vehicles.

Look at the universe and tell me it’s linear. You can’t. God is a creative God. And She speaks in patterns. In the patterns and cycles of life, in the patterns of our experience, in the patterns of the people we meet, in the many synchronous gifts and mysteries that come into our lives. Linear thought says you have to go through 24 other letters to get from A to Z. With God, it’s possible to get there in a heartbeat. There’s no logic in that.

What are you on line waiting for? What are you expecting might take ten years and not ten days? What do you think needs to happen before the next thing can occur? Does God need that thing to happen, or do you need the logic of that thing happening first? How might life look if you shifted that view and let go of your brain’s need for reason? And control?

How might life look if you decided to not limit God to a linear process, and instead opened yourself up to the infinite patterns of Divine Mystery?

Blessings and peace on your journey,

Maria Mandarino


Poetry: Beyond This Life

I study your eyes

over Darjeeling, dark

like henna

in hand-painted porcelain cups,

and wonder who you were


how small you were when placed

in my thin brown arms,

how warm your pink flesh

might have felt against mine,

and how your anxious cries

would have eased

as I rocked you

to a foreign lullaby.

I wonder too how long

you had been mine to love;


I know the time had been brief

as my heart still feels

the ancient stabs of sorrow.

I watch you now

over steaming cups

and wonder if that son would have grown

to look like you,

if he would have had

your regal posture

and carriage,

your warm smile,

and embracing laugh.

Because I know with a force

beyond this life

he had your soul.

         -Maria Mandarino

         June 1, 2000



Poetry Post: ‘Cenzo and Bupe, A Love Story

This following is another Luxation Poem.

‘Cenzo and Bupe, A Love Story

How I loved to visit your house,

the small white ranch surrounded

by rose bushes

taller than I ever believed

I might grow.

I loved you, of course,

but I loved your dogs


and the way I knew

they would do anything for you.

You understood the wisdom

of the wolf,

so you named your first Doberman

Lupa, for the great pack animal.

I remember your barrel-chested pride

when Lupa finally caught

and you kept her largest pup

and named her Bupida, the thorn

in Rosa’s side.

Her ink-black hair tightly tied in a bun,

your wife would stir the pot of sauce and scowl.

                               “Bupida si chiame il cane.

                                 Io, solo Rosa.”

                                “Sweetheart he calls the dog.

Me, only Rosa.”

I dreamed of you

years after I grew

beyond your rose bushes,

when my world first began

to cleave open.

You sat on the altar

of an empty candle-lit church,

wrapped in a hooded brown flannel cloak,

like a Capuchin monk.

At your flanks were two Dobermans,

sentinels at your side.

“Don’t worry,” you had said,

“I’m going on vacation.”

Then, my dead grandmother

and some old lady in a white Cadillac

burned rubber outside the church

and I woke up.

The next morning my mother telephoned

and told me you had died that night

while playing cards at your kitchen table.

I wondered if Bupe had been there;

I couldn’t imagine

she would have let you die.

I recalled how she had saved your life

years before

when a man with fear in his eyes

and a gun in his hand

tried to hold up your fish store

during Holy Week.

You had told us the story

as you sipped your demitasse and anisette

after Sunday dinner,

Bupe, a statue at your side,

eyeing you like a young girl

in love.

To be looked at that way –

how must it feel?

© 2003 Maria Mandarino

Poetry: Roses, Street Toughs, and the Dalai Lama

This poem came out of a moment of holding the space and being present for a little girl who had not been accustomed to such moments in her life.

Roses, Street Toughs, and the Dalai Lama

The Lama says

angry people

are only that way because

they are frustrated

in their search

for compassion.

So when the little girl


at the neighbor’s dog,

I picked roses and calculated the odds

of softening a street toughened nine-year-old.

I walked over,

smiled and handed

her a fistful of


wrapped in a damp towel.

I told her she might

put them in water.

She froze.  Smiled.

Then reached out with both hands, shyly,

as if accepting

a June bride’s bouquet.

She lowered her nose to them

and inhaled.

She thanked me


“They smell beautiful,” she said.

She left with them and

within minutes returned

to my garden, curious now

about my pruner and spray bottle.

She followed me

while I explained blackspot,

organics,and beneficials.

I waited for her

to trudge off, sullen and bored,

but she listened

and then asked more questions.

She thanked me


before going home and I

was left to think

about the Lama,

and the net gain.

Not about compassion,

or sentient beings,

but a nine year old girl

carrying roses.

-Maria Mandarino


Poetry: “Art Lesson”

“Art Lesson” speaks to a different type of space.  The spaces left in an unfinished painting, the last painting of an artist friend who died an untimely death at the age of 30. Looking into the unfinished parts of this work, the open spaces, it was hard to not wonder what he planned for this last work and it is hard to not see this piece as exceptionally sacred.  The italicized line translates to “even in death you teach me.”

Art Lesson

(For Eddie)

Anche nella morte mi insegni.

The gargoyles you left

waiting in Florence

in that April garden

are suspended,

like me.  But

they don’t know what I’ve come to:

the trembling intimacy of seeing

what your eyes saw

in those years you were away,

being fed by the banquet

only Florence could provide;

How she transformed

your sight,

your soul.

Watered brush strokes fill the gaps,

but some remain.

Gone now are simple Sundays

in marbled museum corridors.

Chiaroscuro, impressionism, modernism –


that reduced art

to something safe.

-Maria Mandarino

 January 30, 2000