IN PRAISE OF HIDEOUSNESS

All praise the lepers,
praise the boars
praise mud and dust and filth,
the flies, metal buildings
with metal doors.

Praise the needle in your arm
the scars, your body broken, maimed.
God bless you in your hospital bed
purple yellow pale, drooling
crying out, wounds weeping
pinkish stuff, God bless
your bad breath, for you are breathing

and God is here, God is not
all rainbow ponies and kitten fluff,
God is the dark blood in your veins
that flows and flows and never
sees the light of day
until it does. Hallelujah,

praise Them, god of darkness
god of light, locked in an embrace
that looks like mortal combat
but is in fact every kind of love.

 

 

Reflections on the Woodshed Year

Well, it’s Advent, beginning of another liturgical year, and the end of my so-called “woodshed year.” I published nothing save for a poem sent out ages ago and forgotten. Instead, I spent the year huddled with a notebook, writing everything by hand, trying to write from my body. Trying to let go of grad school, searching for a new way of writing and speaking, a way that is earthier and more honest, more feminine perhaps.

Did I find it? I don’t know. I think I might be on its trail, though. For so much of the year I was laid up with an inexplicable knee injury, followed by a cancer scare. I suffered choking anxiety and severe depression. It seemed like nothing was happening. Certainly nothing good.

But through it all, I wrote. Mostly, what I wrote were prayers, because I was desperate AF. I re-read the Biblical psalms and the prophets. I began to think of poetry and prayer as made of the same stuff, and imagined the words curling up to God like incense smoke, or chanted like incantations.

I read Betty Friedan and Ram Dass and The Argonauts. I spent a lot of time grappling with the concept of gender. I lifted God’s beard from his face.

And then I tore it off.

Still, it seemed like nothing was happening. From the outside, it just looked like I was sitting in a chair, crying a lot. I skipped church most Sundays because I just couldn’t stand there crossing myself and exchanging the peace when I had no peace to exchange.

But looking back, I can see things were shifting. I’ve been accepted to study with John Fox at the Institute of Poetic Medicine starting January 2020. I’ve written hundreds of poems, lots of them crappy but some of them good. And I’ve been named the inaugural Poet in Residence for St. Mark’s.  All small things in the grand scheme, but movement nevertheless. I can sense a shift in the trajectory of my writing, and possibly my life.