what if all the kids stayed home from school and went outside to play instead what if we put down our phones and used our hands to make a meal a tool a basket what if we stopped using plastic what if everybody took a nap what if we lived in one big house together and no one felt the sting of lack we'd sit together in the evening throwing bones we'd say poems and sing and pass the jug and dance once upon a time we knew what we were doing our gods had faces and were our masters not other men. now we spit in invective in our masks distrustful, withholding--but what if we went back who knows the way speak up if you remember a story we once told about the stars.
come for supper my dad says, he's grilling I say we're supposed to stay inside you're not sick he tells me and neither am I, come have a burger some fries, some laughs, let's roll our eyes -- and maybe he's right there's nothing to fear, his generation invented rebellion, invented barefoot invented protest signs gave their middle fingers to the old man in the white house and the sky -- where is your spirit he asks without asking I feel the disappointment like feathers in my lungs, the itch before a coughing spell -- how can it be he raised me to obey some faceless They there were no bathrooms at Woodstock and everyone was high they lived into a legend braided hope and daisies in their hair and how I wish the world they made was made to last and only doctors wore the masks E. D. Watson
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.
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.