erasure

on letting go | part 1

erasure

itfelliguess

saw a girl get baptized in the
roiling river this morning,

grey morning, still sticky but
cool from the stormclouds chased away

and i remembered,
some people still pray.

they do because they must.
because, sometimes, it’s nigh-impossible
to see a path until you pause
and let your eyes adjust

to courses far unlike any
expected or perceived.

it is less overrun with weeds and
fibrous roots than
you believed

and
anyway,
if you listen to the briny wind
between the leaves —
if you dare to breathe that rush of air
no matter how much grey you see —

you just might remember
that
everything around you,
every tree,

wants you to be cleansed now, too —
wants you to be
only you —
wants you to be

free.

*

 

bythejames

I like the river better when it rains. It has much more to say.

*

a very american anxiety

on letting go | an introduction called

a very american anxiety

Turbulence is the tone and timbre of late, here in America but also globally, and no reprieve has been promised. No end seems to be in sight. No captain is coming over the loudspeaker to let us know that this is just a brief foray, please fasten your seatbelts and hold tight, this will all be over momentarily.

I’ve heard it said before (and/or seen it on quotable cards) that peace has more to do with being in a place of chaos and staying with yourself than with finding a lack of chaos somewhere else.

Challenge accepted, I guess.

To go with the rising tide of chaos, anxiety is reportedly more and more common lately. At least on a clinical (?!) level (whatever that means). Anecdotally and statistically, though, this seems obvious. Here and here are a few interesting treatises on the matter, as a sidenote. (Skewing more cultural, for what it’s worth.)

As a lifelong anxious being (is that a curse I just put on myself? never mind), I am not all that shocked. I’m more impatiently here for it. Finally, I am not alone at this party.

I don’t mean to come off as cute in saying that. But when Sarah Wilson shared the nugget of wisdom that “if you’re not anxious, you’re not paying attention,” I felt that heavily. Sometimes that sense of disorder is a cue that something is wrong. Whether it’s a past or present something.

So if you are sort of already wired to pay attention—and if there are more people thusly wired these days—since there are more people overall—

Yeah. It’s something of a perfect storm. A gut-churning, eyelid-twitching, muscle-gripping, 4 AM-waking storm.

*

stormsky

I really wanted this to start off on the level of a big, gushing waterfall of a reason for all of us to be anxious. Or for anxiety to threaten. But there are and have been so many such reasons over the last few weeks. So let’s start with two.

We’ve got the whole slew of recent women’s health related lawmaking events—that-which-shall-not-be-named. I say this mostly because I don’t even know what to call such a fiasco. Our Collective Almost-Handmaid’s Tale? Is that too melodramatic for this space?

We’ve also suffered the loss of a writer wildly influential to so many, myself included. Rachel Held Evans passed away at the end of April and left a void that is unbelievably vast.

I want to talk about both of these things because that’s what you do. It’s how you survive.

But also because there is no turning around from this.

There is no turning around because the coinciding of both events puts in stark relief the fact that there’s a lot of nonsense in what we are doing anymore. The old-world sort of stance of trying to legislate something very private, intimate and personal—an action which, mind, contradicts the original philosophy behind said stance—is getting very old and tiresome and sad. Humans have physical and emotional needs foremost, and how did we all forget this very basic thing so quickly?!

(Not to sound too surprised. Clearly most of our institutions and ideas were started with a foundation of ignoring said needs for most groups of people.)

And I understand the opposite perspective. Really, with all my heart, I do. It used to be mine. But there is no getting to a deeper place spiritually or morally without reconciling with this piece first.

Furthermore, a very eloquent and measured writer who was part of the community that arguably planted the seeds of this conflict—which I’ll just go ahead and say because I used to be/am sort of part of it, too—is gone. She cannot chime in with wisdom and guidance regarding this mess.

This turbulence is for the remainder of the flight. This plane is not turning around.

*

skylight

None of this is meant in a battle-cry sort of way, but then, maybe it is. Because all of this, frankly, hurts, and on several levels. Personally, I am so sick of false lines being drawn that pit people against one another, and for people controlled by their fear and their pasts getting to make the rules, letting people stay stuck in cycles from which they may never emerge. It’s ridiculous: don’t we all want the same things, deep down? To be safe, known, loved?

Someone like Rachel Held Evans was in a powerful place: she knew how to cross those lines. We have so few people in that place: people willing to be unafraid, and who are unshaken by the fact that things are not as they should be.

That willingness is the only coping mechanism that counts, in the end.

Because there are so many coping tools we lovely anxious humans cling to, and if you’re only getting anxious now, these may be quite new to you. We get irritable, combative. Or addicted—to people, to substances. Or we freeze up, check out, dissociate. I suspect that last one has become incredibly garden-variety. Complacency—it’s a straightforward choice. Scrolling can be the sweetest thing.

Of course, when life keeps being scary and unpredictable, some of us get less complacent. That righteous anger bubbles up. Words are volleyed. Action is taken. Whew, that was a doozy. Now that’s over.

No. It’s not. This just keeps happening.

And so with these last several doozies, well, what do we do?

What, I’d ask instead, do we not do?

If life itself has truly become this ill-suited to everyone then a holistic overhaul is clearly due. Environmental reform. Maybe the kind that starts from within and works its way out on several levels.

I have no idea how to make that happen. That’s the goddamn million-dollar question, isn’t it? But this cycle is the unfortunate equivalent of trying many different kinds of band-aids (like an abortion ban! like a march in DC!) when the bleeding is internal.

And maybe it’s also to say, I’m aggrieved and exhausted of this national dysregulation—this existential crisis—and if you’re reading this, perhaps you are, too. Maybe all of these attempts at ideology are just twisting us more thoroughly into something not-us. And maybe we all need to take a breather from the way things should have been and used to be.

Maybe that’s the only road toward something better. Toward being all of who and what we can possibly be.

*

Residual | Part 6

residual | part 6

roots like veins

dyingleaves

Roots like veins:
How gently they reach first;
Then, not at all.
Suddenly they’re shoots that call
Unto the soil, the earth’s
Very core.

So doggedly
Will not dissolve
Until you know what
They have done so for.

I know this rhythm
All too well:
Overplayed song
I’ve listened to too long.

My garden was
A mess, my friend.
I woke up in July,
Realized all the green had died off;
Every vine, gone dry,

And
All those roots, so much like veins,
Were fallow.
I knelt and wept, because
Not one had a tomorrow, and
I had nothing else left.
Was hollow; so bereft.

But when the sun
Had crested, and
The sweat smothered my skin,
Ruthless, I ransacked it all—
Reckless, I could begin

To unravel and to reckon and to unroot
Every tree,
Those parchment-thin remnants of
All that could never be.

Every page has filled up and
I repeat the words now.
Because I have met my shadow, because
I know now
That I was once the grasshopper, sleeping
Beneath the song
Of what seemed to be rifer days.
But that exoskeleton’s gone.
Now it is the crusted-over chaff left
For the birds.
And I’m starting over with these seeds;
All I have are my words.

*

More gardens. More roots. More of that old life cycle—sprouting growth, fading death, rebirth. Maybe it is the most obvious of metaphors but it works for me.

It’s one that my porch reflects well. Every spring since moving here I have planted literal seeds there in pickle buckets and aluminum bins: cauliflower, carrots, calendula, cherry tomatoes. Every year, they’ve started to get their roots beneath them before the heat and humidity or lack of space or shuddering shadows get to them.

When it comes to the more figurative seeds, it seems to be the same situation. Highly temporal, slow to get going, fading fast.

Perhaps it’s a lack of the right timing. Perhaps it’s not the proper environment or soil. Perhaps they need fertilizer, or compost, or some kind of herbal medicine.

Or perhaps I don’t really know what I’m doing.

But what I am finally starting to integrate is this: the act and the art of trying, those are the important parts. Process over product. That is wherein lies the beauty.

A simple lesson, to be sure, but maybe one to learn anew each morning.

*

Residual | Part 5

residual | part 5

What if I were smiling, and running into your arms?
Would you see then what I see now?

We wait for so much beneath the embrace of fluorescent lights—
Lingering is a natural state of things.
It pushes us towards entropy, that slow-consuming enemy;
It eats at order we desire, and renders patience faint.

How can we take in truth with slumbering eyes,
As if we’re in the cool of a coma?
Dreams try to tell us we still do, but
There’s still the clinging feeling, is there not, that someone’s forgotten you?

How can we go on waiting?
We have rooms for such things.
If there were a cavernous one for us all, well,
Those walls would be heavy with song, with sadness.
For waiting to give life, or to receive it;
To leave, or to return home;
To change, or to see change;
To find someone, or to lose him.

If this story has a moral, perhaps it’s this:
Our names are not our lives,
Nor are they graven with any chisel, safe as that would seem.

Yet why should not the opposite be comfort?
Why not tend another’s garden just to see the bloom?
Why sleep curled, fetal, on the floor in yet another empty room?

While our veins are yet undrained of second chances,
Let us be not timid—bravery comes in quiet ways.

Waiting is not wrong—perhaps purgatory is
Like paradise—

And it ends, eventually, and all things are made new.

*

I have little to say about this one. But I do believe that, eventually, all things are made new, no matter how blighted or seemingly depleted. Sometimes it simply requires waiting—patience—to get that full abundant result. That new breath of life. That grace-filled renewal that is real.

*

title drawn from Into the Wild (film version)

Residual | Part 4

residual | part 4

‘To ache is Human – not polite –’

mauisunrise

once there was a morning when
the sun dripped out of bed
infusing the air with the violet
drops of a blood orange, just
as citrus just as sweet, and
it was harsh and threatening. it made
the day action, abstraction
to concrete form, now. now. now.

what could i have done?
every brain was churning yet
in dream juices and acid trips.
what could i have done then?
i pushed open the doors
windows locks latches

and ah the reprieve! to drink
the atmosphere – clean and strong
as black coffee, and
what then?

an inhale – fear despair sadness cynicism
helpless hopelessness pain the dark
the shallow

yellowgreen bruises burnt edges
weeds dark deeds
doubt

cheeks drop numb, and
heat prickles behind my eyes,
and words escape:

my heart bleeds like a river                my heart bleeds like a river
my heart bleeds like a river from my soul
I’ve got peace like a river                   I’ve got peace like a river
so roll              Jordan             roll.

and the sky rippled with the stark dance
and the skyflash was brusque
with this exhale of it all.
its path was watercolored on the map of the sky
in red
bright red
blood apple cherry rose copper blood
then darker, darker: scarlet maroon crimson
color, color gushing from my lungs in an arc

a fountain

a river.

*

While I’d like to fancy myself someone who can be Strong Independent Woman (™) enough to not let certain things get to me, if I am being completely honest, a number of others’ comments both to and about me have stung enough that they stuck. Which is unfortunate, because many times they were not meant maliciously. And even more unfortunately,
(a) of course my reactions only reflected my own insecurity as well as
(b) a sort of existential belief that how others saw me was, in turn, how I was.

Anyway, this conversation in particular was great fun:

Other Person: “I love how you never get too excited or upset about anything.”
Me: “What? No, I’m not – stoic…
Other Person Again: “Yeah, stoic! That’s the word.”

Oh lord. Not that it’s a bad word: the Stoics were wise folk, being placid is crucial at times, who doesn’t need composure, etc. Just, for me, the word is not really that (typically anyway) true. In fact, I get excited about really microscopic and/or silly things. That SNL sketch about how much Ryan Gosling hates Papyrus? Totally me. Once I wrote a series of essay-length rants about the more egregious parts of commissioning and publishing poorly-written SEO content. (If it were well-written, no problem, but…) After seeing mother!, and the movie ended and the whole theatre started complaining, to my regret, I replied to those complaints rather loudly: “Haven’t you people ever heard of an allegory??”

It goes on. I won’t. Better to quit while I’m, what, behind, and being revealed to be a very obvious snob.

But. But. All that aside, stoic is a modus I once used in contexts where being otherwise was, shall we say, frowned upon. Not a great idea.

Getting to a place of being not-stoic most of the time means something like this: being okay with dealing pretty words like blades that never deemed they hurt.

(It’s from the poem this poem’s title is drawn from – please read it! Emily Dickinson deserves all of the appreciation.)

All this is to say, I suppose, that sometimes, to actually get free from whatever bullshit is dragging you down, you have to relinquish everything you’ve been holding completely. A bit like an elimination diet: flush out all that’s not right for you so you can know for sure what is.

And maybe it’s an exorcism to and for no one in particular, except for you. Because it could be there’s nobody to blame anymore. And/or, maybe there never was. Still, it is release of some kind that each of us needs. Because, as the Great One said (and I’ll say it over and over): to ache is Human – not Polite –’.

*

Residual | Part 3

residual | part 3

And how does one truly Stay True

(feat. slightly echoic audio right here)

 

and how does one truly Stay True?
as if it were something to simply Go Do—
or, were it not, perhaps it could relate
to that letting the presence of
Innermost You
radiate.

perhaps it is simple as
listening to
the whisper or trill of the pulse that is
something that’s
someone; that’s
You—
all of that which rises
like vapor, like steam,
approaches like a steady friend, saying

And If You Believe You Can
Then You Will Begin Again.

and again and again until
there’s some new bloom,
that you swear to keep alive within
that solemn room
that is your heart.

and never again let it depart.
because

you have an explosion in you, too.
i hope you know.
there are colors that flow,
and enervate,
and energize,
and procreate;
do realize
how palindromes and postulates and poetry
and, at times, pain,
all frolic and gambol and twirl and surge
from those quietest crevices in your
Beautiful Brain.

don’t be afraid—
because its light
circles          around        again.

the outside world is stillbeckoning
still hungry for you to Be There
even in the face of this reckoning
even when you are unaware.

so
take that pain from in your veins and
let it go from you.
take the story from your core and
let it free you all the more,
to speak its piece
and let it flow
and be your peace
until you know
that this is that realest fullest breath of
real              release.

*

 

morning

Who are you really?
Tend to her. Take him out to where he longs to be.
Or, be still and simply be with that truest you.

Isn’t that what the world needs?
Isn’t that what you need?

*

Residual | Part 2

residual | part 2

He could not fathom it:

gardenview

In his garden he spent each day
With the moon at his feet, and
There he sang to the wolves as they
Prowled and preened around the trees
And they howled. Echoed, empty. Lonely
He stood steady with the pines and
Howled –

As if to ask God for something
Heavy and whole as a
Brick in the belly.

In his eyes the flurries fell,
Little crystal daggers,
Inconsequential flecks.

Under heaven he stood still
And his hair turned slate.

*

sky blue sky

Sometimes you see a space and it tells a story. Gardens in particular do this for me: they prompt thoughts of growth, yes, but also of the cycle of death-life-renewal, and of melting into a more natural environment.

And sometimes that environment reflects you in ways that are more painful than productive. And sometimes you realize the seeds you planted didn’t sprout — or that you forgot to place them in the earth in the first place. And from that, sometimes you learn, but then, maybe you also yearn.

*