Photo by Alma Ortman

The shape of this smile started to change
when I let myself feel space
inside soil and me the same;
when my fingernails grew long all on their own
so that I could more easily peel the
oldest pieces of weight off my shoulders,
slivers of steel and early selves that began falling
like water, the soil strong enough
and warm enough to absorb it all,
earth teaching me how to let go
and how to alchemize;
my smile teaching me like sunlight does
through trees,
like joy when it merges with the birds’,
like pain when it rests with grass…


Goodbye again & thank you,
city of green and marble,
tree blossoms and suits,
where buildings are low so we can
see more sky.

Where I fell often and picked up
therapy for scars;
Where I learned to hold space
in my life and power in my voice;
Where I learned to hold the earth
in my lap
and see the way ground breathes
and stop fearing insects
and dirt
and being alone.

The city where a mirror
became divine intervention;
Where I opened a room of rest
inside
so that I could stop trying to escape
outside.

Where the…


Photo by Alma Ortman

On one of those bright blue
sun-sky days,
a day that feels spacious
a day that’s like cake
I’m walking this dog,
the one who is like the one
I’ve always wanted,
the one who brought me back
to mother earth,
the one who meets (almost) every
moment aligned, our moods synced
to spend hours hiking for treasure
or long rainy minutes in bed,
playtime at dusk,
meditation in rivery sun,
whispered hunts for creatures
under moon and tide,
our affection and awe
always paralleled.

As we bounce off a trail I wonder,
What is this love I feel in her…


Photo by Alma Ortman

How I like to spend my free time
is like this:
picking up rocks washed by river
gathering the flattest ones to stack
one on top of another —
I know the colors will
always amaze me:
deep safe purples,
eager pinks to red brown clays,
oranges and greens and all the grays,
white that is crystal and white that is milk,
yellowish speckles and strong stripes like
the ones I found in India
only weeks after you died.
(I can feel the grief now folded
in time.)

I place the pretty piles of stones
inside shelters that exist within the…


City night view of Mars in the sky
City night view of Mars in the sky
Photo by Alma Ortman

I didn’t know it yet,
but I was battling my anxiety
with booze and friends
and bars down the street,
tripping over laughs at crosswalks
home —

Drinking just enough to get to that point
where soul would start talking through me
and we could all stop pretending
to be cool or clear
and get deep with the kind of talk
that’s got mud in it and
feels like pure
Present
Love after midnight
but clumsy and a bit lost
the next morning.

Still, I thought,
I’m gonna win at this city life!
And anyway, how could someone so anxious
and lost
host this…


Artwork- Akhilanda: The Goddess of Never Not Broken. Everything happens for my liberation. I choose to become only more love.
Artwork- Akhilanda: The Goddess of Never Not Broken. Everything happens for my liberation. I choose to become only more love.
Artwork by Lisbeth Cheever-Gessaman

I’m in the 2nd grade: a new kid, shy, scared, and thinking about love. This was a worthwhile distraction, my 7-year-old subconscious must have thought, from actually feeling the full anxiety. As I looked around the classroom, my young brain went to work: hmm, who do I have a crush on here? (Not much has changed, I wryly realize as I write that.)

I decided that I liked funny boys. It happened during group time, when we’d arrange four desks into new clusters, tasked to an assignment that felt very important and a little bit stressful. One day, I was…


Photo by Alma Ortman

I’ve been thinking a lot about hope
these days, and how Pema said
hopelessness is the path to freedom,
and accepting the groundlessness
that is forever below our feet
is what
shakes us
awake.

And I’ve been thinking about a woman
whose dad is dying as I touch this paper,
surrounded by frightened strangers
in a hurting hospital,
and whose funeral she’ll attend by herself
and put out a broadcast for everyone’s
pieces of screen. …


Photo by Alma Ortman

I’ve written poems
inside my head
for days
for you.
Like early songs,
they build pieces of stories
I want to believe.

Your face does this thing to me —
it reminds me of how I feel
when I catch a bird soaring through sky
in a way that dances with the music
playing in my car.
It’s joy that comes in simple surprise,
it’s a secret moment of synchronicity with soul,
it’s how I can say I love you
and feel special and solid
and warm
in my bones.

A version of me may still be
getting used to your…


Photo by Alma Ortman

Big year, you
split my heart
open
to getting
familiar with
the demons
that have tried
building fate
and blame
outside,
but are actually
between me
and me,
so I can now see
and honor
the sprite
inside
that loves
creates
and holds
joy in the earth’s
deep forest and ocean,
the river’s laugh,
the sky of birds
across clouds,
the eyes
of strangers
in grace,
and the secret
memory
of sacred spaces
in trees.

I bow to
the human
being
paradoxes:
to belonging,
to feeling wholly
loved
and alone
in one
instant;
like how I feel
most romantic
in airplanes
sitting in small,
expensive spaces
where tears
and smiles
flow
in permission
quietly,
where glee
and remorse
both live,
and where…

Alma Ortman

Mindful poet & lifelong learner. Musings on belonging, authentic connection, joy, spirit, body, nature, inner work, vulnerability, self-love, fierce compassion

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