Poetry from Janine Canan




Crucifixion of a Woman


I. To the Fake Guru Who Blames Her

It is not she who should have fallen

at the feet of her rapists—

but you who should fall

at her disembodied martyred feet


and beg forgiveness.



II. To the Martyr

It’s the pole the men shoved

into your vagina through your intestines

to your diaphragm—

that I cannot  get out of my heart.


When you return, in your next life,

may every cell incandesce with Joy

at what your sacrifice achieved

for half of humankind.



III. To the Ancient Banyan that Receives Her

At your feet, how many urns of ash

of bodies battered, burned and raped

have been poured


feeding your ever deeper roots,

many expanding trunks,

long imploring arms?


And how many more vital young women

reduced to ash will be yours

in the centuries to come?


In memory of Braveheart Singh, Asia, 2013



O Star

My mother used to say

about me as a child:

Don’t worry, she was born

under a Lucky Star.


How did I feel about being

pawned off on some distant star?

Not good. But now

I realize she was right.


Thank you, O Star!

For your relentless, protective, urgent

beam that has shown me

my path in the dark.



Body and Soul

The body is flowing

downwards, downwards

to rejoin the earth.


How it must long,

the body, for that clay

and ash and worms.


When it arrives there,

the soul will be free

to rise and float away.


The soul that no one knows,

that cannot be seen

except by Seers who say


it is a vapor,

it is light, it is God’s

very essence.


Where will it go

without its cloak? Its shrine?

Its root? Its reason?


It came for some purpose,

assignment, or duty—

a role in creation.


Will it be satisfied once free?

Will it like the next stop?

Be happy? Lonely? Or sorry?


And those who do not believe

in what they cannot see

with their small soft brief eyes—


they will kneel on the gravestone

and cry, with fear

they will shake.


As their bodies keep flowing

downwards, back down

into the earth.




My body was taken

and then my mind


and my heart was filled

with a deep vibration.


I knew nothing

for I had disappeared.


And then I heard the music—

in all directions, it was coming from me!



It is one thing to hear about a spiritual master

and another to decide

to go and meet her.


It is one thing to accept her blessings again

and again, another to take her

as your teacher.


One thing to try to follow her teachings,

another to renounce attachment

to this world ever pleading.


One, to wear the pure white of renunciation,

another to put on the blazing orange

that burns your ego to a crisp.


And quite another to surrender

altogether, and become truly

one with God.





I Long Ago

Long, long ago,

you didn’t go to a church or an ashram

to be spiritual


every step you took

was spiritual.


II The Treasure

It is not found in books.

They are merely maps.


It is buried deep

in experience.


III To Know

In the long unfolding of humanity,

the constant search for our source,

much confusion

has arisen.


Now we need a purification

of confusion, if we are to know

the essence inherent

in all things.


IV To Feel

We know the teachings.

Now we to need to live them.


To sand away negativities

and egotisms, so we can open

our pores to what is


so we can feel

the light.

To Justine Shapiro, 2013