Robert Lee Brewer (at Writers Digest) likes to offer fill in the blank poem title prompts. I like to try them. Today’s was to write a poem titled _______ of the ________. I’ve been working lately on re-writing some of the traditional prayers of the rosary to suit my own particular mytho-poetic-spiritual vision. I’ve also been memorizing some old and new poem/prayers. So today’s poem is a prayer of my own:
Our Lady of the Road
Oh gracious Lady of the road, beckon me, and draw me forth upon the way. Keep me from walking in the complacent paths that lead to destruction, but set my feet upon the road that will teach me, upon the Damascus Road, upon the Emmaus Road, where I will hear the voice of warning, where I will hear the voice of wisdom, where my eyes will be blinded, where my eyes will be opened. Place me in roads that will turn me from evil. Send me guides and guardians to block my path when I have lost my way, and lead me in all of the holy directions that I may come into your presence with joy. With joy.
Gratitude List: 1. On the way to school this morning, I noticed, among the hard frost all around, glorious rose and late roses blooming 2. Gen Z. I think they helped us to avert disaster 3. The folx who stand in the gap 4. Prayers. Poems. Prayers. 5. Coaches. Tonight was the XCountry banquet at EYSD. I’m so grateful for the coaches who train and encourage the kids. May we walk in Beauty!
“For small creatures such as we, the vastness is bearable only through love.” —Carl Sagan
“But this moment, you’re alive. So you can just dial up the magic of that at any time.” —Joanna Macy
“I tell you the more I think, the more I feel that there is nothing more truly artistic than to love people.” —Vincent van Gogh
“The most vital right is the right to love and be loved.” —Emma Goldman
“Love imperfectly. Be a love idiot. Let yourself forget any love ideal.” —Sark
“Everything I understand, I understand only because I love. Everything exists, only because I love.” —Leo Tolstoy
“Love is a great beautifier.” —Louisa May Alcott
“Love is everything it’s cracked up to be. It really is worth fighting for, being brave for, risking everything for. And the trouble is, if you don’t risk everything, you risk even more.” —Erica Jong
“Fall in love over and over again every day. Love your family, your neighbors, your enemies, and yourself. And don’t stop with humans. Love animals, plants, stones, even galaxies.” —Frederic and Mary Ann Brussa
On November Tuesdays on the Poetry page of Writers Digest, Editor Robert Lee Brewer offers dual prompts. He always suggests that you can choose to one or the other or both. I am an Enneagram Seven, and so I am always tempted to do both. Today’s prompt is to write a form poem and/or an anti-form poem.
I have spent entirely too much fluttery energy today trying to create a form poem. I wanted to do a prosey run-on stanza without line breaks, and then suddenly shift into a Rondolet, and back to a prose stanza, but my Rondolets all come out sounding hackneyed and stilted, and my brain is beginning to turn fuzzy, and I still haven’t gotten my lesson plans finished for tomorrow. (You can see how that whole free-association, running sentence thing began to influence my writing.) Plus, I have been feeling tremendous pressure today to create a poem that somehow speaks truth to power on Election Day. In desperation, I just began to type, and tried to settle on something that had a little more form than simply free verse, but that gave me room to breathe a bit.
I am not prepared to sing at the funeral of democracy, not ready to recite the ode that hails her tragic death.
I will not open the door to the reign of hate and cruelty, will not welcome the travelers who enter with bared teeth.
Circle ’round, and let’s tell stories of the world we hope to see. Let’s sing songs, and weave spells of a hopeful future.
Take a breath. Take a breath. Take a breath.
Gratitude List: 1. The morning’s cocoon of a moon 2. Golden time in the woods with joyful children 3. Shifting. Perhaps tomorrow morning I’ll feel differently, but right now, I feel a shifting that feels hopeful 4. Carpet otters 5. Stones that speak May we walk in Beauty!
“Tyrants fear the poet.” —Amanda Gorman
“Don’t be ashamed to weep; ’tis right to grieve. Tears are only water, and flowers, trees, and fruit cannot grow without water. But there must be sunlight also. A wounded heart will heal in time, and when it does, the memory and love of our lost ones is sealed inside to comfort us.” ―Brian Jacques
“Those who contemplate the beauty of the Earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.” ―Rachel Carson, The Sense of Wonder
“Love is the bridge between you and everything.” ―Rumi
“Come senators, congressmen Please heed the call Don’t stand in the doorway Don’t block up the hall For he that gets hurt Will be he who has stalled There’s a battle outside And it is ragin’ It’ll soon shake your windows And rattle your walls For the times they are a-changin’.” ―Bob Dylan
Some of the people I love are truly terrified of this moment, are feeling deep heaviness because of the apparent results of this election in the US. I don’t want to gloat, don’t want to add to their pain and worry. But I do want to celebrate. I do want to sigh with relief. And I wish I could assure you, if this is a frightening moment for you, that everything will be okay.
Can you watch Van Jones struggle to maintain composure, and then just give himself up to emotion, as he talked about the relief he feels, and not celebrate a little? Can you hear the relief of LGBTQ+ folx and not feel some relief yourself? Can you hear womxn who finally see themselves represented in the White House, BIPOC folx who see this strong womxn striding toward a seat at the table, and not be grateful for their joy?
And I look at this image of the shadow of Ruby Bridges cast by Kamala Harris, the gift and the burden of representation that Harris now carries, the fact that so many of my beloved young womxn--BIPOC especially, and white as well–will see their futures laid out before them with more possibility and clarity because of Ms. Harris. Today, I have been reading the words of some of these brilliant young womxn in my life as they express their great joy in this political moment, and celebrating with them.
I think of how Ms. Bridges has supported and continues to support young BIPOC people throughout her life, doing the thing that must be done, stepping into the moment as she did on that first day of first grade, no matter how lonely the prospects. And I also think of the layering of time, of Kamala Harris, this steady presence from the future, walking in that open space behind the young Ruby, and of all the BIPOC womxn who surround her.
And what shall the white womxn do? We middle-aged and elder ones? That crowd of rage-filled white supremacists still stands on the sidewalks, some jeering and insulting, and some quietly trying to make “peace” and look innocent. Our job, my white sisters, is–I think–to stand between the crowd and Ruby and the womxn who walk with her. To silence the crowd, to question the ones who want to make nice on the outside while holding the hatred inside. To question the haters within ourselves. To amplify and magnify the voices of Ruby and her sisters.
Tonight, I might get some Philly cheesesteaks and ice cream to celebrate the end of our “long national nightmare,” but then, I will roll up my sleeves and get to work.
Gratitudes and Prayers: * Grateful that the person from whom I heard the first official word that this election was being called was my mother. That feels right and safe to me. * Grateful for a womxn, a BIPOC womxn, is headed for the VP’s desk. * Praying for the safety of the President Elect and Vice President Elect. * Praying that we will see the work before us with clarity, and set to it with a will. * Grateful for truth.
May we do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly. May it be done in Beauty.
Beloveds, I don’t really have much in the way of words to offer this morning, to wade through the bog of my own anxiety to offer hope or resilience. I’m here in my bog, listening. I need to be a teacher today, especially for students who are equally as enmired as I am.
Here in the anxious bog of me today, I sit like an angry old spider. I cast a line from me to you. Catch. Send out webs of your own. While we wait for things to ravel or unravel, we weave and spin and hold our own webs as steady as we may. We are stronger when we are together.
Black lives STILL matter. Love is STILL love is STILL love. Your name and pronouns STILL belong to you. Your body is STILL your own. You STILL have agency. The Planet STILL needs us. The elderly and vulnerable STILL need protection from the coronavirus. STILL, nobody is illegal. Justice is STILL important.
This morning felt so dire, so much a repetition of 2016. Jon and I both woke up at 2:30, and made the perhaps unwise choice to check the returns. My heart was racing, and I figured I wouldn’t get to sleep until I saw something to confirm or allay the anxiety. Look the wolf in the eye, they say. I felt in a visceral way how the anxiety and sense of tragedy of the 2016 election had lodged in my body, and how it replayed itself in the night four years later.
This afternoon, there are a few more reasons to hope. The morning, said Vassilissa’s doll in the Baba Yaga stories, is wiser than the evening. Today, the afternoon is wiser than the morning. Get some distance. Get some rest. Get some perspective.
It’s not over, and won’t be for a long time, but it doesn’t feel like we’ve completely shattered the Democracy quite yet. And the popular vote seems to be pretty definitely against the tyrant.
Here’s the one thing that sticks with me, however, like a grief: It wasn’t a clear and obvious win. My neighbors, good people and salt of the earth in so many ways, have not–by and large–passed the test, choosing instead to vote for white supremacy and patriarchy, for homophobia and transphobia, against the poor and the ill and the immigrants. And I do not know what to do with that.
I don’t feel like I can muster appropriate Gratitudes today. Perhaps a couple Commitments might stand in: 1. I commit to not respond smugly if Biden wins. I will express relief and hope if it happens (because I am human and must live my emotions), but I will not be smug, and especially I will try to be open to the pain and confusion of people for whom that is frightening, even though I do not understand it. 2. No matter who wins this election, I commit to standing for justice and compassion, for Black and Indigenous People and other People of Color, for LGBTQ+ folx, for women, for immigrants, for poor and houseless people, for all who are harmed by our systems. I commit to pushing whoever is president for the next four years (and other elected officials) to do right by the people, especially whose who have not been truly free and equal. 3. I commit to harbor no illusions that the lesser of two evils is the savior. 4. I commit to walk this together with you, my Beloveds, and to ask for help when I am sinking.
May we do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly. In Beauty.
I wrote this prayer to say in my school’s chapel service the week of the election in 2016:
Election Day Prayer by Beth Weaver-Kreider
Oh God, Creator of the Universe, Creator of stars and planets and people and nations:
Make us to be spinners of webs of prayer and webs of kindness, catching each other, wrapping each other in silken threads to keep us from falling.
Make us to be builders of bridges of peace, bridges of grace, creating firm pathways so all may walk safely over the chasms or meet in the middle.
Make us to be wanderers willing to walk in the wild places, seeking each other when distance has broken our circles.
Make us to be dreamers and planners, wishers and makers, singing songs of hope and possibility, devising a future where everyone may find a home in Love.
Gratitudes: For the amazing variety of wild things that I have never seen, but might someday. For the afternoon sun shining through the quivering leaves of the little tree in the neighbors’ lawn. For the quiet peace of a day working at my desk at home. For the people who are working for justice. For all the ways in which my beloveds keep me grounded.
This morning, I woke up from a dream in which I was helping someone to design a pamphlet titled Common Sense. It was like Thomas Paine’s pamphlet, but a point-by-point enumeration of all the reasons not to vote for a second term for this president. And now I feel burdened, like someone needs to do this, in the carefully-reasoned yet passionate style of Paine himself, simply presenting all the pieces. I have neither the time nor the internal bandwidth at the moment to do so. But someone ought to do it.
I’ve become increasingly alarmed in recent days at the worshipful fervor of the diehard followers of this man, at the increasingly cultic adulation by people who seem to be otherwise humane and caring. Every day he reveals more and more of his depravity and lack of human feeling, his selfishness and narcissism, his lying, his racism and xenophobia, his misogyny, his delight in division and violence.
I shouldn’t have read that Atlantic article about QAnon, perhaps, shouldn’t have let myself look at the polls, shouldn’t have listened to the radio yesterday, shouldn’t have let myself brood about the thing I heard someone say about how we need him in office because he is tearing down the broken system from within, shouldn’t have started pondering the cultic nature of his followers.
I’m really worried. Someone should write the pamphlet.
May we do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly in Beauty!
We are listening for a sound beyond us, beyond sound, searching for a lighthouse in the breakwaters of our uncertainty, an electronic murmur a bright, fragile I am. Small as tree frogs staking out one end of an endless swamp, we are listening through the longest night we imagine, which dawns between the life and time of stars. —Diane Ackerman
“Those that don’t got it, can’t show it. Those that got it, can’t hide it.” —Zora Neale Hurston
“If you are not free to be who you are, you are not free.” —Clarissa Pinkola Estes
“Before you speak to me about your religion, first show it to me in how you treat other people; before you tell me how much you love your God, show me in how much you love all [of your God’s] children; before you preach to me of your passion for your faith, teach me about it through your compassion for your neighbors. In the end, I’m not as interested in what you have to tell or sell as I am in how you choose to live and give.” ―Cory Booker
“I need a God who is bigger and more nimble and mysterious than what I could understand and contrive. Otherwise, it can feel like I am worshipping nothing more than my own ability to understand the divine.” —Nadia Bolz-Weber
“You who are so-called illegal aliens must know that no human being is ‘illegal’. That is a contradiction in terms. Human beings can be beautiful or more beautiful, they can be right or wrong, but illegal? How can a human being be illegal?” —Elie Wiesel
“Emergence never happens all at once. It is a slow stepping into the expanded capacity of your next self. You may need practice at releasing in those places you’ve grown accustomed to bracing which, like a tight swaddle, was comforting in its limits. But when the time to remain hidden comes to its natural end, you must begin to inhabit your new dimensionality. Breathe into the fullness of your gaining altitude and consider that what presents itself as fear may actually be exhilaration. As your future approaches you, worry less how it may receive you and say a prayer instead for your becoming approachable.” —Toko-pa Turner
“I was often in love with something or someone,” wrote Polish poet Czesław Miłosz. “I would fall in love with a monkey made of rags. With a plywood squirrel. With a botanical atlas. With an oriole. With a ferret. With a marten in a picture. With the forest one sees to the right when riding in a cart to Jaszuny. With a poem by a little-known poet. With human beings whose names still move me.”
“Oh what a catastrophe, what a maiming of love when it was made a personal, merely personal feeling, taken away from the rising and setting of the sun, and cut off from the magic connection of the solstice and equinox. This is what is the matter with us, we are bleeding at the roots, because we are cut off from the earth and sun and stars, and love is a grinning mockery, because, poor blossom, we plucked it from its stem on the tree of life, and expected it to keep on blooming in our civilized vase on the table.” —D.H. Lawrence
Lord’s Prayer: Translation by Neil Douglas Klotz, Sufi O Birther! Creator of the Cosmos, Focus your light within us— make it useful: Create your reign of unity now- Your one desire then acts with ours, as in all light, so in all forms. Grant what we need each day in bread and insight. Loose the cords of mistakes binding us, as we release the strands we hold of others’ guilt. Don’t let surface things delude us, But free us from what holds us back. From you is born all ruling will, the power and the life to do, the song that beautifies all, from age to age it renews. Truly— power to these statements— may they be the ground from which all my actions grow: Amen.
Gratitude of Resistance Twelve:
I’m a little discouraged this morning. Post-election angst is a real thing for me since 2016. All those people made an absolutely herculean effort to elect Jess King. She and they showed us a different way to be in this climate, and I wanted so much for her to win. Despite, or maybe because of, her opponent’s negativity and racist pandering to people’s worst fears about immigrants, he won the seat. I am grateful for her run, for the hope of a new way of doing politics that she offered.
It feels like a back door into gratitude this morning. I am deeply grateful for the thoughtfulness and civility and genuine concern for humanity shown by Jess and her crew of dogged volunteers. Grateful for all the people outside the Old Boys’ Club who were elected in this cycle. May it continue to be so.
For some reason my brain went with doggerel tonight.
by Beth Weaver-Kreider
You can call me Raging Heart,
Heart of Tiger, Heart of Flame.
You can call me Crushing Fury.
Just don’t forget my other name.
You can call me Quivering Spirit,
Cowering Critter, Anxious Mouse.
You can call me Wild-Eyed Worry.
Just find the doorway to my house.
You can call me Grieving Moonchild,
Weeping Willow, Wailing Place.
You can call me Wounded Creature.
Just remember how to see my face.
1. My family, spaghetti, coffee, and salted caramel ice cream. I held myself together long enough to make it home and take in this good medicine.
2. The deepening of colors on rainy days. Such rich color.
3. Community. All the pledges to hold each other, to love each other, to protect each other.
5. How grieving builds empathy
History has caught up with me again.
She sidles up to me in line at the polls.
“I like the new look, Sister,” she says
fiddling with her many scarves and shawls.
“Yup. I like the new look,” she says again.
I watch her fidgeting and fussing
like she always does. She can’t keep still.
She makes me jittery. A feather boa slips
off her shoulder to the floor.
I don’t think I’ve changed a bit in twenty years,
except for wrinkles and sags. But now
I look at her more closely:
“History–Is that a black eye?”
She avoids my gaze and sighs,
occupied with tucking in her shirt,
adjusting her wide hat upon
her elaborate hairdo.
“Okay, okay,” she says finally,
“So I dressed as Susan B. for Halloween.”
I watch her gather up her shawls.
“I dressed up as Susan B. for the Elec–”
“I know,” I interrupt. “You don’t have to
repeat yourself.” For the first time ever,
History looks me right in the eye:
“You’re right, Sister. I sure don’t.”
Gratitude List: 1. Poll Workers. Thank you to all of you who have given your time to make our democracy run. A friend of mine was among a group of poll workers threatened by a voter today. Police intervened.
2. Susan B. Anthony
4. The constants. Love, for instance.
5. Fresh air.
I find myself doodling and drawing labyrinths again–it always seems to happen when I am thrown off-balance. Here is one of my favorite labyrinths, up at the Jesuit Center in Wernersville.
Today’s Poetry Prompt is to write an Activity Poem.
Blessing for Election Day and Beyond
by Beth Weaver-Kreider
May we be spinners of webs,
catching each other,
wrapping each other
in silken threads
to keep us all from falling.
May we be builders of bridges,
creating firm pathways
so all may walk safely
over the chasm
or meet in the middle.
May we be wanderers,
willing to walk in the wild places,
seeking each other
when distance has
broken our circles.
May we be dreamers
and planners, wishers
and makers, devising a future
may find a home in love.
Gratitude List: 1. A pileated woodpecker sailing through the treetops and sunshine on the way down Ducktown this morning. It has been a long time since I have seen one.
2. Getting the grades in. What’s the old saying? “The wonderful thing about hanging by your fingernails is it feels so good when you’re done.” Yeah, that.
3. The promise of a warm and comfortable bed very soon. I admit it, small as that hour is, the time change is challenging for me. I always feel like I need extra sleep to handle it. I am off to bed VERY soon.
4. Jon Carlson’s thoughtful reminder in chapel this morning: The really important thing is Love. I will carry that with me like a shiny pebble into the day tomorrow, and the days that follow.
5. You, my friends. You keep bringing me back to center when I start to fray around the edges. What bright and brilliant community.
Hold on tightly. Breathe deeply. Smile at each other often. Get some sleep.