The King’s Speech

“Today, I will talk about
gaslighting,” the boy
started his speech. I
smiled, proud of him
for choosing such an
interesting topic.

As he continued, though,
the parts of his speech
meant to be dry facts,
hit all the soft, wounded
places I am trying to
let recover and heal.

“Gaslighting is a form
of mental and emotional
abuse. Sociopaths [his
word, and yours] will
nurture, then ignore,
then nurture, then
nurture again, causing
the victim to lose the
ability to trust their
own recollection.”

How many swinging
catwalks did I
learn to navigate,
legs aching as they
tried to find safety.

How many times did
I praise the safety
of your hand, tell
you how much I
appreciated the steady
guidance it provided,
not seeing that the
other was the hand
pushing me off balance
the whole time.

“I’m giving this speech
because none of us is
perfect. We all might
be gaslighted or gaslight
someone else. But the more
we know the more likely
it is we can take care
of ourselves,” He finished.

I smiled, nodded, and
in my heart I sighed and
said, “Yes. We can.”

The Prayer

When the unthinkable happens
and we are without words
that could console or heal.

When the tragedy is too senseless,
the wells of our sorrow without
any seeming end to its depths.

When there are no answers–
only questions, anger, the
curled fist, hurling at the sky,

Why
Why
Why

a gaping, sorrowed wail
echoing through the night,
making it darker still.

In those moments, all
we can ask for is grace.
All we can plead for,
when it seems no haven
exists, is some small
spark that, someday
maybe, it will not
be so bad.

May we find that grace
in the hand we squeeze
a little tighter tonight,
the embrace we give without
question, the “I love you”
exchanged with no pause in
our breath because we know
how unruly and unreckonable
the world can be, moving,
it seems without a care
for our wellbeing.

In those moments, let
joy– somehow still
ever-present like
the sun that never
ceases to rise, despite
the death dirge that
rang through the night–
run in the hand, the
hug, the breath we share.

When it seems like
there is no possible
answer, may my soul
find the strength
to hold onto those
things like the last
flickered smile before
the light shuts off
at night.

Let it find some
kind of foundation
in knowing that,
as each day and
its everpresent sun
somehow still rises,
so, too, will we.

And even though
it is not enough,
we pray that somehow
it will be enough.

 

 

At The Cathedral

Hush, look up in awe.
See the redwoods rise,
and feel the breath in
your chest lift to meet them.

Put your palm on the base,
shocked at how soft the bark
feels underneath your hand.
The crevices are so deep
and dark, they looked like
they were carved in stone.

This is no cold stone, though.
This is teeming and alive,
rough and supple under your palm.
Spiders weave delicate and
intricate webs inside the
places where the redwood’s
small, dark slabs layered over
like a thatched roof, dips
dark into itself. Mossy
softness, like streaks of
paint, a child’s hand across
the canvas, runs up and along
the massive body of the tree.

The rustle of leaves
makes you look up,
makes you realize just
how small your hand is,
your whole body and being
are, really, in this place.

Still, the treetops call,
invite you to see the decay–
cracked, brown, broken leaves
slowly turning  dead to
fertile– at the roots, all
the way up to soaring
branches above that weave
shadow-green lace, ‘God’s
kaleidoscope,’ you marvel.

You stand there, wondering,
as the redwoods ask you
to look at your own supple
softness, to see the places
turned brittle, let them fall
and feed your roots. They
ask you what you will let
die so you can meet them
up there.

The Last, Best Thing

I’m on the second day of the OnBeing Gathering, and I am already in awe of the number of connections, spiritual fulfillment, and pure grace I have gained here. Every time someone has joined me at a meal or started a conversation, I have been so grateful to be pushed outside of my introvert zone and made some truly fantastic connections.

One of the benefits of this has been the space to refocus and start clarifying my own purpose and desires. I’m beginning to realize, very quickly, that I really love writing— poetry, prose, short, long– I want to write more. 

So, beyond giving up coffee, I’m going to write a poem a day for the rest of Lent. I have some making up to do, but I’m excited to push myself in this way. It won’t be perfect, I know many of them will be bad, but I know I need to start rehabilitating and rebuilding the muscle.

Anyway, here’s the first.


2/16/18

When the last, best thing
spills forth from
your lips, what will be
the image that you paint?
The story that you tell?

You have lived a life on
the cusp for years now,
so carefully dipping
that funny toe of yours
right the buoy marked, “SAFE.”
You have reached around
that barrier trying to
find some sign saying to “GO.”

Can you see beyond yourself?
Can you find the place
in you that is pure
movement? That bubbling
red blood in your gut
that fuels the body
to movement, to action?

Can you ride that river
to the sea that called
your ancestors, as it
once did to you? Can
you find comfort in
the raging currents,
see the beauty and
not fear the white-foamed
wave that swallowed you?

See your rabbit-heart as
the paddles of your ship,
the curve of your hip the
rudder of riding the current.
Know that the last, best
thing you say or see will
be found on the side of a buoy
or ever be the safest route.

Go, now, knowing the best
thing will be to set out
and find yourself home
again.

The Day I Learned to Swim

I have been running from the ocean since I knew I could swim.

It’s a strange paradox, I know. But at some point early on it
seemed like the ocean of my own heart was
too big to bear. The first time I tried to navigate it on my own,
I was hit with tidal waves of heartbreak and currents
of unnavigable passion that I had no idea how to control.
I was terrified of getting sucked underneath.

So, I jumped on the first floating object I could find.
I sought hands that I was sure could lift me from
the riptides of my own stormy heart, I looked for lips
that would breathe air into lungs too salty with my own
sadness to have a voice. I was so terrified by the first chill
of the water that I desperately clung to the first source of
warmth that would wrap its arms around me and
name me as complete. I played keep-away from the ocean,
And when one lifeboat drifted away, I jumped on the next
insistent that if kept moving I wouldn’t ever get swallowed
by the waves of my own sadness.

After a while, though, as wonderful as the feeling of floating
is, I realized I was missing something.
I learned I can never really feel safe if I don’t believe
in the buoyancy of my own being.

This time, I am trying to be brave.

I stepped out of the ship I built and
decided I needed to learn how to swim.

I jumped into the ocean, felt the chill, and when
I felt like I was going to drown, I began to kick. Hard.
I flailed and churned my limbs. When the winds roared
in my eardrums, I roared right back. I screamed
The sadness out of my chest. I learned to listen to the slapping
of the waves and hear the rhythm of my blood pumping.
I notice the way the tide pulls and clinches at my heart and then lets it go.

And after a while, I realized I could use the currents to push me along.
I could rest in the quiet spaces in the sea, when my
ocean heart would slow the storm and allow me to float,
calmly, from one place to the next. I flipped onto my belly
and began to glide through the water, and embracing the chill.

That was the day I learned to swim.

 

At Hellgate Canyon

Stop. Breathe. Again. Good.
Wind whistles in endless pine trees
as your neck cranes higher to look.
-do you see it yet?-
The bright blue sky– paint from a God-hand
streaks through the gaping canyons of yourself.
Places unexplored.

Sit on the black-orange-mold-moss that scares you.
Let yourself reflect on decay, on the parts of yourself dead and dying.
Smell the lambs ear of sage offered to you,
smell the tobacco you offered underneath that,
smell the salt of your own skin underneath that.
Places unexplored.

Sit among the sound of rushing waters– the call of your own blood
bubbling underneath.
Now is the time to ask, to listen to its burbled question,
What do you want? What do you want? What do you want?
Have you stopped to actually listen to the reply?
Have you turned the corner, seen the arrow of your own heart
and the sacred sites it points to?

When you are wobbling on the silk-water of shining rocks,
will you take the steadiness of hands offered?
Embrace the chill?
Both?

Stop. Breathe. Again. Good
Smell the braid of burning sweet grass, a protection.
Love the untamed red of the unknown mountain cherry and
see the ochre faded rust on stone, the handprint swiped like blood.
Smile at the violence used to create
the unexplored gaping canyons of yourself.
Look up at the sky and the wind,
feel your neck crane.
Do you see it yet?
Do you see?

IMG_3784


 

Many thanks to Melissa Kwasny for leading us here and through the exercise that led to this poem. Needless to say, this experience has already been transformative.

Poetical

I keep meaning to sit down and write. I have ideas. I swear! It’s just been kind of a crazy time. We get kids in a few weeks, and I’m excited to hunker down and get to work.

In the meantime, I’ve been admittedly writing poetry and fiction. Here’s a short excerpt from two poems, just to remind myself when I look back that, in these months, I was still writing.

The politics of sharing a bed is not simply about defining the boundaries of blankets.
It is the place where the intimate meets the intellectual.
Continually choosing to share space with someone,
instead of the temporary VIP invite is a difficult task.
It means seeing the other person’s body and heading not just for the destination,
but wondering at reasons why the mapmaker took this route.
It is reading the text of a mind and taking interest,
not just in the words but in the hands that wrote them.
It is knowing that beliefs come with baggage;
it is knowing the story behind the idea and caring about both.

The Politics of Sharing a Bed, 2016

Here’s the truth: I’m a storyteller.

I tell stories so I can try and make sense of myself and the world.
I teach them so that my kids can tell them, so I can better tell them myself.

And I’m terrified you’re going to ask to read some of my stories,
because I’ve written myself into some pretty dicey situations in the past.
I’ve been a storm-tossed maiden at the bow of a ship or a starry-eyed moon-catcher.
I’ve called myself warrior and flower; I’ve been betrayer and betrayed.
I’ve been beloved and beguiled and broken hearted.
In fact I had been all of things just in the five months before we met.

Storytelling, 2016

Joy on a Page

To the girl hunched over the keyboard:
I sit here weary
barely able to keep eyes open
a mind troubled with adult worries.

You,
14 and all unwoven tales all unspent dreams.
You of crazy dance moves and unaware and unassuming
bliss in the exquisite creature that is yourself.
You type, crazy fast fast fast over the keyboard
smiling, laughing at the inside joke you are telling
yourself. Your fingers fly faster than the keys and
you are unable to keep up with your own
beating rabbit-heart. You make yourself
giggle, almost embarrassed at the joy and
the vulnerability you are throwing on the paper.
I hope you are marveling the way that I am.
Look with wonder at the way you are
finding yourself as you put words on paper.
Bask in the glory and cherish the light
that you unleash, splashing joy onto a white screen.
Let your heart and your own too-big
feelings melt out of your
fingers and onto the page.

Enough. 

I will never do
Enough.
I will never give
Enough.
I will never have
Enough.
I can never be
Enough.

There is so much more
that I could do, that I could give,
that I could know.
There are always flaws, always
cracks, always empty, gaping holes.

I dip my thumb into the
vastness of all these perceived
Slights and fails. In them, there is
that human stillness–perfect, frail.

In my flaws, I find
Enough.
The holes, they let in breath–
Enough.
The cracks that let in light–
Enough.
In these broken, empty hands–
Myself.
Enough.
Enough.