Skip to main content

PALO SANTO by Shannon K. Lockhart

 I spent most of my life feeling censored…

Ironically, it wasn't until I lived in Guatemala as a human rights and mental health worker, working on a project called "Historic Memory," that I began to feel freer to explore who I was and what I wanted to say. I also experienced many things in post war Guatemala that are difficult to put into words, in part because it all happened in languages that are not my native one, and in part because sometimes the depths of experience surpass words. 

A few years after I moved back to the US, drawings and poems began to pour out, surprising me with their vibrancy and emotion. I had promised the people of Guatemala, the survivors of unspeakable acts, that I would remember them and tell their stories. Our stories became entwined, sacred acts of defiance in the face of those who wanted to erase the truth. 

Palo santo and copal are two different types of incense used to cleanse the air and draw the spirit world and the actual world together. They are often used in healing rituals, and I often begin my drawings or writings by burning the palo santo in the hopes that it will cleanse me and lead me towards healing.

Palo Santo
by Shannon K. Lockhart

aching with

i take off my
my feet 
ground themselves
in the scratchy sweet
of the grass,
i light copal
and palo santo,
dancing them into
the air,
this space

that will reconnect me,
perhaps the smoke will
guide my hands
into a drawing,
so i can see what i feel
even if i can't name it

the sacred
always pulls me
into that other world

i get lost
or perhaps i
just don't want to

i feel lighter there
maybe it is 
my reality and 
my waking life is only
a dream
that repeats

Shannon K. Lockhart is a social worker, human rights activist, and teacher who has recently embarked on her newest journey as an artist and poet. She is a native Louisvillian, but has spent most of her adult life living in Chicago and Central America. Shannon spent 12 years working with indigenous communities, genocide survivors, and other human rights activists in Guatemala before returning to the U.S. with her family. Her greatest source of pride is her family, and she works hard to be a mother who imparts joy, gratitude, and respect for the unexpected bumps along the road. Shannon has published her poetry online with Rebelle Society and in DoveTales, a print journal published by the group, Writing for Peace. She can frequently be found drumming in parks with her family, drawing, or reading her poetry at the Urban Goatwalker Coffeehouse in the Phoenix Hill neighborhood.

~If you are interested in seeing your poetry appear in this blog, or submitting a poem by a woman that has inspired you, please click here for submission guidelines. I greatly look forward to hearing from you!~


  1. Absolutely beautiful. Every sacred-given word of it. Thank you.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

I AM STILL HERE by Janavi Held


This was composed by a very gifted and beautiful soul: a regular contributor to our poetry project, and dear friend of mine, Janavi Held, whose life is gradually being taken from us by an incurable illness. She has been suffering from Complex Regional Pain Syndrome and Internal Adhesions for six painful years now, and neither her insurance nor the government healthcare will help her. She reaches out to us, her sisters, as a last plea. This is a poem she wrote yesterday on her birthday, in which she offers us the gift of her friendship. May it touch your generous hearts and inspire you to reach out to her in her plight.

Dear Friends,

The last time I was able to leave the house was by ambulance on my way to the hospital. After many long hours in the emergency room I was admitted and taken upstairs. After everyone left I sat on the hospital bed, knees to chest, bracing my body against the pain and trembling.

The light of this cold day was fading. I turned my eyes to the la…

THE JOURNEY by Mary Oliver

Today we honor Mary Oliver (1936-2019) and all the words she left behind. May they inspire you on your journey! 

Excerpt from Mary Oliver’s book Long Life: Essays and Other Writings:

"Poets must read and study...but, also, they must learn to tilt and whisper, shout, or dance, each in his or her own way, or we might just as well copy the old books. But, no, that would never do, for always the new self swimming around in the old world feels itself uniquely verbal. And that is just the point: how the world, moist and bountiful, calls to each of us to make a new and serious response. That's the big question, the one the world throws at you every morning. 'Here you are, alive. Would you like to make a comment?'"

The Journey
By Mary Oliver 
One day you finally knew what you had to do, and began, though the voices around you kept shouting their bad advice-- though the whole house began to tremble and you felt the old tug at your ankles. "Mend my life!" each voice cried. But y…

I KEEP GOING by Kai Coggin

(EDITOR'S NOTE: I am sharing this beautiful message by poet Kai Coggin again today, after Kate Spade's tragic death, to give hope to all those thinking about ending their lives right now. If you ned help, please call the National Suicide Hotline: 800- 273- 8255. Your life is a gift to the world. We need you here. Please never forget that.)

To keep going is sometimes both the hardest and easiest step to take out of darkness...
It may not look like a promise to smile, or to pull yourself up by your bootstraps and conquer the world today… it is just a gentle nudge of Spirit, it is holding your head just above water for one more moment, one more hour, one more day, until there is no longer the struggle to keep going, you just unshakably ARE. 
Suicide was a lying shadow of escape that lingered in my life for years. Today, I am thankful to be able to say that I no longer have those thoughts of permanent escape. I no longer lend myself to the darkness in that way, but so many creative s…