Tuesday, April 28, 2009

and now for a word from Nobody...


"Hope" is the thing with feathers --
That perches in the soul --
And sings the tune -- without the words --
And never stops -- at all --

And sweetest -- in the Gale -- is heard --
And sore must be the storm --
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm --

I've heard it in the chillest land --
And on the strangest Sea --
Yet -- never -- in extremity,
It asked a crumb -- of me

Sunday, April 26, 2009


I was eleven, a very fragile age. I didn't feel well-liked in school. I ended up being home-schooled the second half of my sixth grade year because I didn't want to deal with the other kids. My family was going to a Missouri Synod Lutheran church in Fairborn, a 25-minute drive away. Those mornings, slightly carsick--little breakfast, curving roads, smoke from Dad's Lucky Strikes.

I was in confirmation class. I remember the booklet--an illustration of Martin Luther on the cover. I don't remember what I learned, or how far I got. All I know is our family left the church before I could finish. I'm sure Dad had his reasons--I have only a vague sense of a difference of opinion with the pastor. But the result was, I was never confirmed. I could not take communion, according to our tradition.

The first time I went to Saint Bart's, I knew from reading their website that I would be welcome at the Eucharist--they only ask that you be baptized in a Christian church--but I was nervous. Luckily, a friend was with me, a lifelong Canadian Anglican who showed me how to hold my hands for the wafer and took a sip of wine before me, kissed my cheek when we exchanged the peace. It was New Year's Eve and a very small group congregated in the chapel while the main sanctuary was being set up for a festive concert. The priest spoke with a southern accent about his memories of Christmas, and his associations with the passage that tells us "Mary kept these things and pondered them in her heart." It was my first communion.

Today, I will be officially confirmed--go up front, speak the words, receive a blessing from the Bishop. I'm nervous, excited, probably no less so than I would have been at twelve. It feels strange to be doing this at my age, although I will be in the company of many other adults, all of us settling on this particular spiritual home. But it feels very good, finishing what I started over three decades ago, becoming an adult in the faith, belonging somewhere at last.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

poetry is central

The week before Easter was FIT's spring recess, and on Tuesday, I went up to visit Ravi Shankar's poetry writing classes and give a reading at Central Connecticut State University. Ravi, not to be confused with the legendary sitar player (whose 89th birthday happened to be that very day), is a brilliant poet, editor, and teacher, and a generous host.

I gave the students a couple of exercises, including a "common objects" prompt I stole from Kim Addonizio's Ordinary Genius (and Kim admits she adapted from one used byRebecca Brown). Basically, you find two ordinary objects in your sight and write about them as if one object is in love with the other. I was fortunate to have some perfect examples to hand, from Brendan Constantine's Letters to Guns. As the book's title implies, several of the poems are framed as letters to guns from another object, once closely related, now separated. Example: "to a Taurus model .38 special from a woman's flannel night-gown, San Bernardino, California, 1999.

Ravi reported back that he was delighted with the work students turned in the following week--I'm hoping he will send some of their poems my way!

Saturday, April 04, 2009

a few words i don't want to forget because i will most likely never hear them from these particular sources again

"You are beautiful and wonderful and special, and those things are all true all the time."
"You're a bad-ass!"
"Brilliant, beautiful."
"You rock!"
"Your poems rock as much as you do!"
"You are perfect just the way you are."

They said it; I didn't. They must have meant it at the time. Maybe it is actually still true, even though these people are not saying these kinds of things to me anymore. (And maybe, just maybe, they still think them even though they are not saying them.) I know I said a lot of similar things about them, which probably are still true (although I hate to admit it right at the moment). In an article entitled "Love Lessons," Martha Beck writes:

The really potent part of love is that it allows you to carry around beliefs about yourself that make you feel special, desirable, precious, innately good. To graduate from Heartbreak Academy, you have to learn that neither your ex-beloved nor the fact of being in love invested you with these qualities. Your lover couldn't have seen them in you, even temporarily, if they weren't part of your essential being.

I've been reading a lot of self-help literature these past few months (actually, my intake of the genre has increased markedly since October 2007). Most of the authors who really speak to me emphasize a lot of the same things, including the importance of letting yourself believe the good things you felt about yourself while you were in the sweet, cushiony-soft center of an intimate relationship, even after you've been soundly ejected into the mucky, foul-smelling, thorn-riddled Slough of Despond (aka Breakupland). It makes a lot of sense. Truly absorbing it emotionally is, of course, another matter entirely.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

stumbling through the dark

The chorus of this song never fails to give me goosebumps. And the Jayhawkers are back together again.

Stumbling through the dark
Seems I'm stumbling through the dark
Eveybody's stumbling through the dark
--by Gary Louris/Matthew Sweet, perf. the Jayhawks Rainy Day Music (2003)

some quotes

"A musician must make music, the artist must paint, a poet must write, if [s]he is to be ultimately at peace with [her]himself. What a [wo]man can be, [s]he must be."
--Abraham Maslow, Motivation and Personality (1954)

"I therefore...beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace."
--Ephesians 4:1-3

"Transformation happens through the awareness of oneness, not through struggle. When you fight to gain control over yourself, you have already lost. Nonresistance to our passions and feelings without the need to do anything is the path to awareness, awareness of the absolute oneness beyond duality."
--David Richo, When Love Meets Fear: Becoming Defense-less and Resource-full

"Emerson says that the voyage of the best ships is a zigzag of a hundred tacks. So if you careen off a time or two more, give yourself a break. Just keep the needle pointed towards home (wherever that is for you), and you'll be OK."
--C.A., email to author 3-30-09