alas, alas

death cert.jpg

Today my mothers death certificate came in the mail - along with a fingerprint pin for Bob Goff's new book Everybody Always, the main plot being "Love your neighbor, even the ones you don't understand." which is ironic for a multitude of reasons, one being I have a tattoo on my shoulder that says "love thy neighbor" and another being that it arrived the same day as my mothers death certificate, which may or may not mean anything at all. Sometimes it feels like the universe is speaking to us, and other times the universe is just speaking - there is a finesse to learning how to interpret the difference. I'm not sure I've quite refined that skill.

I've hesitated for 4 years to write my first blog post, I always wanted it to be about something important, extraordinary, and necessary. I wanted to start off from a place of writing to you not because I want to, but because I have to - because there is something so big living inside of my body that it grows and grows until there is simply no room for me to keep it anymore, nowhere for it to go but here. Up until this point all of my thoughts, experiences, and emotions have been their own form of fleeting - resolving themselves in paint water, salt water, or rain water - always leaving me feeling restored, like I spoke my truth in my own way. Maybe nobody heard it, saw it or read it, but it was spoken - a silent agreement between lögr (water) and my body.  But this is an un-rinsable thought, experience, emotion - this one started out big the day I was born and continued to grow in concurrance to my body, always keeping up - until recently when I became the smaller being, and it wailed to be let out. I guess this is the beginning to a life long process of letting go. 

There is so much of this story to tell, and perhaps I'll bring you bits and pieces as they well up in my soul and beg to spoken. But for now I will leave you with a story and a poem:

Just over a year ago I visited my mother for the first time in 7 years, the second time I had seen her in the last 14 years - after spending the first 10 years of my life living with her. She was burdened by addiction and mental illness as long as any memories serve, and was never quite able to grab hold of this human life, this collective experience we all move about in. She passed away a couple weeks back, April 19, 2018 due to complications of those choices. Our visit in July of 2017 was painful for me, it created rawness in wounds I thought I had learned to heal (paint water, salt water, rain water) - and my attempt to share with her the weight her life had put on me was met with contempt and anger. I left feeling as if I had only began to speak my truth, but it had immediately fallen on deaf ears - never even making it close to the place in her body where the "mother" in her still lived. About 6 months later I was sitting in a quirky, slightly dingy gastropub in Prescott, Arizona - reading Mary Oliver poems aloud to my counterpart. Mary Oliver has a way of connecting nature to her emotions, her thoughts, and her experiences - much in a way I am inspired to do with my work. During my reading aloud I came across this poem, and its like that big growing thing inside of me for the first time in its life, breathed the biggest sigh of relief, and felt like it finally found a place to go home to. 

 

1.

Welcome to the silly, comforting poem.

It is not the sunrise,
which is a red rinse,
which is flaring all over the eastern sky;

it is not the rain falling out of the purse of God;

it is not the blue helmet of the sky afterward,

or the trees, or the beetle burrowing into the earth;

it is not the mockingbird who, in his own cadence,
will go on sizzling and clapping
from the branches of the catalpa that are thick with blossoms,
that are billowing and shining,
that are shaking in the wind.

2.

You still recall, sometimes, the old barn on your
great-grandfather's farm, a place you visited once, 
and went into, all alone, while the grownups sat and
talked in the house.
It was empty, or almost. Wisps of hay covered the floor, 
and some wasps sang at the windows, and maybe there was
a strange fluttering bird high above, disturbed, hoo-ing
a little and staring down from a messy ledge with wild, 
binocular eyes.
Mostly, though, it smelled of milk, and the patience of
animals; the give-offs of the body were still in the air, 
a vague ammonia, not unpleasant.
Mostly, though, it was restful and secret, the roof high
up and arched, the boards unpainted and plain.
You could have stayed there forever, a small child in a corner, 
on the last raft of hay, dazzled by so much space that seemed
empty, but wasn't.
Then--you still remember--you felt the rap of hunger--it was
noon--and you turned from that twilight dream and hurried back
to the house, where the table was set, where an uncle patted you
on the shoulder for welcome, and there was your place at the table.

3.

Nothing lasts.
There is a graveyard where everything I am talking about is,
now.

I stood there once, on the green grass, scattering flowers.

4.

Nothing is so delicate or so finely hinged as the wings
of the green moth
against the lantern
against its heat
against the beak of the crow
in the early morning.

Yet the moth has trim, and feistiness, and not a drop
of self-pity.

Not in this world.

5.

My mother
was the blue wisteria,
my mother
was the mossy stream out behind the house,
my mother,
alas, alas,
did not always love her life,
heavier than iron it was
as she carried it in her arms, from room to room,

oh, unforgettable!

I bury her
in a box
in the earth
and turn away.
My father
was a demon of frustrated dreams,
was a breaker of trust,
was a poor, thin boy with bad luck.
He followed God, there being no one else
he could talk to;
he swaggered before God, there being no one else
who would listen.

Listen,
this was his life.
I bury it in the earth.
I sweep the closets.
I leave the house.

6.

I mention them now,
I will not mention them again.

It is not lack of love
nor lack of sorrow.
But the iron thing they carried, I will not carry.

I give them--one, two, three, four--the kiss of courtesy,
of sweet thanks,
of anger, of good luck in the deep earth.
May they sleep well. May they soften.

But I will not give them the kiss of complicity.
I will not give them the responsibility for my life.

7.

Did you know that the ant has a tongue
with which to gather in all that it can
of sweetness?

Did you know that?

8.

The poem is not the world.
It isn't even the first page of the world.

But the poem wants to flower, like a flower.
It knows that much.

It wants to open itself,
like the door of a little temple,
so that you might step inside and be cooled and refreshed,
and less yourself than part of everything.

9.

The voice of the child crying out of the mouth of the
grown woman
is a misery and a disappointment.
The voice of the child howling out of the tall, bearded,
muscular man
is a misery, and a terror.

10.

Therefore, tell me:
what will engage you?
What will open the dark fields of your mind,
like a lover
at first touching?

11.

Anyway,
there was no barn.
No child in the barn.

No uncle no table no kitchen.

Only a long lovely field full of bobolinks.

12.

When loneliness comes stalking, go into the fields, consider
the orderliness of the world. Notice
something you have never noticed before,

like the tambourine sound of the snow-cricket
whose pale green body is no longer than your thumb.

Stare hard at the hummingbird, in the summer rain,
shaking the water-sparks from its wings.

Let grief be your sister, she will whether or no.
Rise up from the stump of sorrow, and be green also,
like the diligent leaves.

A lifetime isn't long enough for the beauty of this world
and the responsibilities of your life.

Scatter your flowers over the graves, and walk away.
Be good-natured and untidy in your exuberance.

In the glare of your mind, be modest.
And beholden to what is tactile, and thrilling.

Live with the beetle, and the wind.


This is the dark bread of the poem.
This is the dark and nourishing bread of the poem.