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.

IMG_2297

*

“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.

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 –’.

*