Monthly Archives: November 2009

workshop

I came across some notes from a poetry workshop given by Texas poet Lianne Mercer: Writing is a physical thing. Let is spill out and get somewhere. Don’t think. Keep your hand moving. Have few expectations. Admit you don’t want to write so you can get past it. Be willing to take what comes. Be curious about what might come. Pause and breathe….. Good advice about more than writing.

And here’s a poem I wrote in that workshop set in the wonderful Hill Country of Texas…..

I had a boy’s body once

slim and lithe running forward

then blood came

and breasts and a burka of shoulds as old as Eve

covering spirit

covering daring

making me a girl

waiting on a man

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what if

What if our smallest actions do matter? What if the frown we gave the clerk at Walgreen’s was the last straw of a bad day? What if we’d smiled instead? There’s a theory out there called the Butterfly Effect. It’s about a small change in an unstable system, like the weather, and how a small change can affect a big outcome. There’s a whole lot around it, the chaos theory and other things, but aren’t we, the human race, an unstable system? Hate and love lie equally in us. What if all our tiny violences, the frown, the cruel thought, the curse at someone whose driving upsets us, matter? What if our least thought is important? That would mean a responsibility almost too big to comprehend. We so small and yet our place in the scheme of things so much more than we realize…..

(This was motivated by watching the role of a wasp in a PBS Masterpiece Contemporary piece called Collision.)

prodigal

DSC_3233She leaves me the season’s gifts

crimson tallow leaves

a thousand-petaled camellia

pert johnny-jump-up faces

I like to imagine her in a green silk slip

hazelnuts for eyes

hair corn husks dried and whispering

barefoot, winged, dazzling, elusive

Houston’s winter, subtle until late December

littering her bounty on my sidewalk like some prodigal daughter

journal entry 11/14/00

What tears were cried Sunday. I cried missed God tears. I was with a Holy Man, and he told DSC_4912a Sufi story. Tell me, the man in the story asked of the Master, how to find God. The Master took the man to the ocean, walked in with him, held him under water until he was fighting, crazy to be up in the air. Are you insane? shouted the man when the Master let him go. Why did you do that?

When you desire God the way you desired your next breath of air, you’ll find him, replied the Master.

Well, ain’t that a kick in the pants. When I heard that I went outside and cried for the girl who once sought God but turned away because he/she/it seemed all bound up in hellfire and damnation and original sin and nailed to a cross–no thanks–only when her husband went crazy, God saved her, and now she knows she has to find her path with this God, that this has to come before job, children, men, only she’s afraid to go full blast…..too many born again Christians in her memory….oh bless me, thank you, Jesus….gag me with a spoon….only she does need, does seek, so I cried Sunday because I was with this Holy Man who never lost God even when he was in the pits of suicide, of complete despair, and I’m so far from Mecca…so far…………..

poetry

DSC_0096

I always tell the people who take my writing classes to listen to the Writers Almanac on NPR. You can even have its daily dose of poetry and Garrison Keillor’s commentary delivered to your email doorstep, hit a link, and hear the podcast. I tell them to listen to it because poetry is the highest writing art, requiring the perfect word and reflecting in a few lines ideas that can bring one to one’s knees. Which just recently happened. I don’t listen everyday. I think I’m too busy. But a friend of mine always emails me about poems she thinks I ought not to miss. And so I read Baptism by one Ted Thomas Jr and felt breathless when I was done because in a single sentence he captured what has happened to me around my mother. He writes in the poem of his father’s helplessness. In the last stanza, he says he “I pat him dry, he lets me dress him in the white hospital clothes, oil his hair, put him to bed and forgive him.”

Bam. That’s what’s happened in all this. I’ve forgiven the resentments I nurtured so close to my heart. In the bathing and dressing and feeding, in her shuffling daily endless need, something has dropped, but not by my insistence. There is only breathless, painful witnessing of  frailty, and my attendance upon it as best I can, some days far better than others. This last slow dance we’re in is immediate and huge. All else is nothing.