“Ask Me” a poem by Esther Elizabeth–and a Tribute to Ponong


“The noblest and the wisest thing to do is to cherish others instead of cherishing yourself.

This will bring healing to your heart,  healing to your mind, and healing to your spirit.”

–Sogyal Rinpoche, The Tibetan Book of Living & Dying


In memory of Uncle Berto (pictured), Uncle Dionisio–and all the kind people who accepted me as an awkward visitor–and shared their lives.

We human being are a lot alike. Some build houses while others discover cures for disease, but anywhere we roam we’ll meet people trying to find happiness, love, and how to charm their way into a child’s smile.

The more we travel, the more we understand how much we are alike. One human being is a lot like the next despite how much we can feel (and appear) separate and different. I can remember thinking–super-naive–that people in other parts of the world must get along better than my family and people in my hometown: I imagined brothers and sisters working together, and was certain they would never go months or years without talking. In other countries, families stayed close and didn’t hold grudges like we Americans.

Wrong, wrong, wrong!

Working with the people on the rice harvest in Ponong, Larena, Siquijor.

I shared time with people in other countries and lived with other families. With the Viernes clan on a tiny island in the Philippines, I lived in one house but ate meals next-door.  I lived in the house of Uncle Berto and shared meals with the family of Uncle Dionisio–two brothers.

And those two guys did not speak to each other. A third brother–the wealthiest–would sometimes visit from the southern island of Mindanao. Because of some squabble over who owned the coconut trees, none of them got along.


Human beings!

This is our path to happiness?



I don’t mean to say a person must spend years traveling to figure out our plight, but it can help. I’m sure some folk “get it” before graduating pre-school, but I’m on the slow side.

Here’s a poem by Esther Elizabeth, another poet-friend. She wrote “Ask Me” at a workshop lead by John Fox, one we attended together in September. A narrative, it tells a story–many stories. Thanks, Esther, for sharing.

Sometimes we humans get stuck in those questions of “If only. . . ” or “What if. . . ” and spend years or a lifetime regretting. I like this poem that invites us to embrace it all and be here now.


Esther Elisabeth
Esther Elizabeth

Ask Me

Ask me
If I would live the same life all over again
And I would tell you yes

I would be sexually assaulted
Because recovering from that wound
Connected me to the wounds
Of one out of four women
We are sisters
And my wound will not let me abandon you

I would be an addict
Because it shattered my life
Brought me to my knees
Forced me on the path
To reality (not the pretend world)
To truth (not the life of lies)
To the beginning of healing and wholeness

I would be a divorcee
Because I learned the meaning of spousal abuse
I can spot emotional abuse from a distance
And I can name for you
What you need to hear
What you need to know

I would be the promiscuous woman
Who thought power was about
Using others before being used by them
Because now I know
The only power and voice that matters to any woman
Is the one that comes from within

I would be a single parent
And have just the child I have
No other will do
Because I know the meaning of love
And I know what the word
Challenge means
And I can hear and feel you
Who are using that word
Who are living that challenged life

I would be a risk taker
Who traveled to India, Africa, Haiti
Where I fell apart, was humbled to the core
Had my heart broken
As I worked with the poorest of the poor
Because now I know
That the world is much bigger, much darker
Much more beautiful than the narrow sanitized
White world I come from
And where I often want to hide

I would be an advocate for justice
Get arrested again
And again
Because that is one of life’s mandates
To right the wrongs

I would once again
Sit under the full moon of the
African sky in Nairobi
And without knowing you
Or knowing why
Say “yes”
And spend the rest of my life with you

Ask me
If I would live the same life all over again
And I would tell you yes
© Esther Elizabeth

Kids in the village doing their part–on the way to feed the pigs.


4 Replies to ““Ask Me” a poem by Esther Elizabeth–and a Tribute to Ponong”

    1. Deborah, thank you for the reminder of our oneness and for Esther’s poem. Her poem is a great reminder of life’s possibilities and how even the most difficult life moments can be seen as opportunities (kind of like a charred chocolate chip cookie).

  1. I find the subject thought-provoking and the poem’s development pretty brave.
    I wonder how many of us would live the same life, given a chance to choose something else.

    it so often seems to me to be somethinng other than what I think it is, anyway.
    you know, the old hindsight.
    thanks for sharing Deborah; the pictures are delightful.

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