let go for dear life

on letting go | part 3

let go for dear life

if there are end times, well, they may
as well have been yesterday,
and the way
you walk out your front door
ought to be more examined, friend,
even if this lady Terra Firma
actually has no end.

the evidence of loss is woven through and sewn into
her superficial cracks; likewise, into
yours.
they could be beautiful, if only you dared to look
at their curves,
their softer turns, and
their sharpness.

these are the kinds of thoughts that arrive
whenever someone leaves the world.

yesterday, a voice was lost
to what some would yet call The Void —
but then, what is a Void except
another opening, another space?
a presence chaos dared to try erase?

is it something we can face? i’ll dare.
even, yes, if there is nothing there.

yesterday, a voice was drowned;
today, it echoes. what will follow? more of the
same noise?
a swarm of every other shouting voice?

wish i knew. i stare
out my window at the calmer passers-by, and wish
i, too, cared not to know.
one day your heart is beating; then, it slows —

it’s beautiful and stark.
those prose words on missing a stair in the dark
ring awfully thick-bellied tonight.

yet i burn here on earth
for those who, too, still want a
better
fight.

for all of you who have known grace,
that silvery bird that darts through life
like moonlight does on water;

for you who have known hope,
that wellspring that still bubbles up in drought;

and for you who have sought both,
even when your candle was snuffed out.

i burn and channel words for you,
for i am you, and yours is mine.

the breath we share is life divine.

you have distilled the love you have been shown.
you need not be afraid of anything.
or, if you are — as i have been — i hope you choose
to say, move forward anyway, and sing.

pour water on a dry and thirsty land.
let go of comfort you’ve gripped in your hand.

and know that even when you do —
others may still try to step on you.
somewhere, someone will believe
they are goliath enough to try and crush you underfoot.

they will be blind to the reality —
the fact that

your spirit is immaterial, transcendent —
more —
and you are like the phoenix, but
better, because

you are no myth.
you are no mystery.

they will fail to understand that
you have died one thousand times
by others’ hands — the hands of those
who cared not for the raw nerves of your heart.
they will not see — but how you will! — that
every time
you have revived.

now you are again reborn. in spite of spite, in spite of scorn.
now you grow tall — won’t turn away       from what you have most longed to say.

now you are made braver, and made wise.
now there it is: the wherewithal to rise.

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*

“Perfection,” says the ballet director in Black Swan, “is not just about control. It’s also about letting go.”

What is control? What is it to let go?

Does freedom live in that in-between, too?

Can one only reclaim one’s life in seeking an intersection of those choices?

That is the crux of these words. It was written in the wake of Rachel Held Evans’ death, but how much more weight it has taken on since then. How many layers have unearthed themselves. All thanks to the massive waves of transformation and change going on all around each of us each day.

When we change, and when we look at what stays in the midst of change, who are we then?

It is so easy in the face of daily-reported atrocities to think of yourself as better than that. For grief and outrage to pour out of a sense that you cannot conceive of behaving in that way, of treating people so horribly. And perhaps you cannot, and would not, and that’s honest and real and part of who you are.

But none of us is good. At least not in the way that has been beaten into many of us by a Puritanically informed culture.

Goodness. Does it get in the way of real beauty? Of freedom, of a perfection that results from the presence of imperfection?

Maybe perfection and freedom are the same. Maybe perfection must contain imperfections, contrary to its very definition. The way every Persian-style rug has, by design, at least one intentional flaw. The way, as Leonard Cohen put it,

“There is a crack in everything / that’s how the light gets in.”

You wake up in the morning and you see the way things have shattered, and you grieve, and you rage, because you never would have let this happen if you had any say in it. But you have never been in charge. Have you ever let this happen in your own life, though, in any capacity? Possibly. Probably.

No, none of us is good. And yet in that, all of us are whole. Those things that break us, or that darken our doorways, make us so.

Never would I justify the horrors that have been exposed of late. But I would say, until one willingly looks at their own darkness, one cannot do much of anything about horrors of any kind.

That, I suppose, is what it is to die one thousand times. And one thousand times again. Maybe that is what could, someday, allow those who are only too aware of their flaws and darkness to summon the bravery to battle our modern beasts.

*

This piece was also published on The Urban Howl as of 8/6/2019.

You Are Climbing

Taking a break from the series for the moment. This is a story I wrote this morning before hearing the news of the death of one of my heroes (mine, and so many others’)–now, it seems eerily/oddly fitting. Lest we ever forget that there is no peak in life that will save us. It is so easy to forget to simply live. But maybe this will help someone (anyone) remember. I know I need the reminder often enough.

(God, but he reminded me…)

This piece is in honor and in memory of his marvelous existence. Tony, you were and are loved.

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You Are Climbing

You are climbing.

And there comes a point wherein you begin to wonder: Will I ever see anything that tells me I’ve reached An Apex—if not The Apex? Will there ever be a sign? Will the vista be enough?

You keep climbing, yet you harbor this doubt in your heart.

Then, suddenly, there is no more stone shielding your eyes. The mountain face falls away. Pink clouds greet you in the belly of a pale blue sky.

And all you can summon is,
This is it? This can’t be it.

You were climbing. And now you are not climbing. How foreign it feels to you.

What to do?

You can choose to sit or stand, and to stare and linger, because the view is, admittedly, beautiful. Even if it is not the Utmost of anything.

Or, you can choose to keep going. To return to that constant sense of Up that you know so well. To, as the song puts it, see what you can see. Because maybe there is an Utmost and maybe it feels more potent and powerful than this.

Letting the crisp thin air filter through you, you decide, yes, that must be the answer.

You begin your journey once more.

Or so you think. Because as you turn to depart, to descend,
The light catches your eye in a way subtle and strange.

It is for a half of a second; no longer. But something about the colors that strike you then—
It sends you reeling.

It reminds you of a summer, years ago, where all you did was walk by the riverside and watch sunsets and read. Sometimes you painted. Sometimes you swam.

Mostly you did not, though. Mostly you embraced this—what would you call it?

Ease.
Nothingness.
Solitude.
Quiet.

Freedom.

How could you have been capable of that, though? It feels so near
And yet
So far away.

But that flash of Then, that memory, is yours. No doubt about that.

Once upon a time—once there was no Apex. It didn’t matter.

I wonder, are the words that cross your mind now. I wonder. Could it not-matter again. When did it even begin to.

There was a story that was told. Wasn’t there?

A myth. It should have been called what it was. Mythology. Fantasy. Fiction.

But it’s not too late. Right? You step back to where you were before, and you sit. You breathe. You watch the light move through the clouds, like a gentle waterfall. You remember.

You remember that there was someone who you loved before all of this began. That there were grounded dreams you had, dreams with shape and texture and definition, absolved of the Utmost. That there was a world beyond this mountain range, a world you wanted to see and explore.

It could be, the volleying cries of the birds seem to say. It could be again.

Couldn’t it?

It is nearly time to descend; you know because the light is shifting in the direction known as Late Afternoon.

But, you think, let’s give it a minute longer. Let’s linger here. Let’s remember what that really means.

To linger.
To live.
To be.