Here’s the thing: The outrage dissipates so much more quickly now. There’s the kick in the gut when I see your name there on the email, and I think, “Here we go again,” and then a moment of panic, another of anger, and then, this time. . .
I sat there just watching what was happening inside my head, expecting the roaring in the ears, the tunneling of vision, the white light blinking in the back of my brain. And there was nothing, really. And then, what I didn’t expect: gratitude. Quiet, twinkling gratitude, and steady purpose.
That shocked me. I’m so used to the exhausting fury, the worry and self-righteous indignation. But this time I may have begun to pass the test, to rest a moment in my breathing, then focus on my center, to enter–finally–a space where I can see myself, and you, and shift the focus of the attack.
The thing is: You have been a better teacher than you could ever imagine, and likely more than you intend, and I have been a less than willing student, too eager to defend my ego in the face of your attacks.
You’ve taught me to be curious about the fury that you send my way, to stay within my heart-space, even to offer grace in the midst of your rage. I have found safety that you cannot touch, your cages will catch me no longer. I’m stronger now, and I can hold the net you toss my way, and turn it to a golden thread.
Today’s Poetic Asides prompt is to write a poem on the subject of jealousy. I don’t know that I experience that particular emotion much. Perhaps I am not being honest with myself?
Though I would love to defy gravity with the grace of an acrobat or ballerina, how can I be jealous? For jealousy fogs the windows of appreciation, and pulls my soul’s feet downward just as surely as my physical body rests solidly on earth, and I want to let my spirit fly with those who can.
And how can I be jealous of the artist whose line is so eloquent that a single curve or bend can draw me to tears? I long to place my truths within the webs of line and color as great artists do, but jealousy would push me off the ladder I am climbing toward them in their lofty realms.
Sometimes I read a line of perfect thought in poetry or prose and think, “I wish I’d written that!” But even that distracts me from the beauty of the word, and pulls me out of that co-creative space wherein the writer tosses out a thread of meaning and the reader reels it in, and both are necessary for the literary process to be complete.
Oh, I get jealous of other people’s tidy spaces, their immaculate houses that never break down, their ability to get everything done in timely ways. But would I trade my life for theirs? Would I then be satisfied? Or would I ride out of that upgrade into the next, never learning to be content?
May I always remain unsettled enough that I continue seeking better ways, but may my days be filled not with wishing for another train, but with loving what is mine, and treasuring the marvelous gifts that others have and know and do.
Today’s prompt on Poetic Asides is to write a stolen poem. Here’s my attempt:
Poetry Prompt: Write a Stolen Poem
I stole this poem years ago, actually, from a shelf in a corner of that old book shop on a quiet street down by the river. Dust motes twinkled in shafts of sun which slanted through the windows.
I eased the leather-clad book from a high shelf. I thought I heard it whispering. My fingers tingled with its electric pull.
I knew it would contain treasures: words like glisten and linger, like numinous, mellow, meringue. I thought it might glow on the page, hum my name, offer me words to ponder: tendril, exquisite, winsome, wander. And words strong and feral, like flame, wild, and bramble, courageous, incarnate, sycamore.
I thought it might tell me how not to be afraid, how to not put so much stake in other people’s opinions, how not to trust the lure of the the easiest road.
It did not disappoint. I’ve kept it, concealed, waiting for the moment, the right invitation, to reveal it.
In today’s prompt, Brewer suggests titling a poem with the name of a painter and then writing the poem.
The magical properties of artemisia absinthium include the opening of the third eye, general enhancement of psychic awareness, profound protection, and the banishment of anger and negativity. If you steep it in your vodka with some anise and fennel, you might see a fairy dressed in green.
The name didn’t save her, though, unless it brought her the visions, showed her the most vibrant color for blood, gave her the fire to hold to her truth when they tightened the screws to her artful thumbs.
The paintings are angry enough– there’s little evidence that emotion was banished from her soul, but Judith’s eyes hold something else– a knowing? a determination? a getting down to business?–as she severs the general’s head. And her handmaid is equally attentive to the task. They could be butchering a cow.
Likewise, Jael looks meditative as she holds the hammer aloft to drive the spike into the skull of Sisera. She could be gazing into the watery vision of a crystal ball or tucking in a sleeping child.
That anger, unbanished, transformed itself to purpose, exposing the sins of the patriarchs, showing the bloody strength of women doing what must be done.
Her colors were her arsenal, those tortured hands wielding her paintbrushes like weapons. She mined the hidden stories of the Bible to tell and retell her own story: observer, victim, vanquisher, and hero. In the end, perhaps, her name revealed the layers she could look into.
Brewer’s prompt for the second day of National Poetry Month is a two-fer: Write a best case/worst case scenario poem. I can’t get Dickens out of my head on this one. I want to do a best of times/worst of times sort of thing. It’s only the second day, and I have left my poem until it’s almost too late to think.
There could be snow. There could be sun. We could all live to a ripe old age, or be mowed down by disease or accident in our youth, or our prime, or our golden years.
There could be an extra cup of coffee tomorrow, or no time for the necessary drug of the second cup. We could change our ways and turn it all around, or keep racing pell mell toward certain destruction.
We could save each other from our worst impulses or we could drive each other into bad decisions. We could choose at least the process of our fate instead of letting it rule us and wreck us.
It’s another April. This year, grades were due at 8 a.m. on April first, so I didn’t even consider Poem-a-Day until after I’d muddled my way through the day, taken a nap, and eaten supper. But here I am. It’s a strange compulsion, this drive to write a daily poem, knowing that the next four weeks will have their own share of other stresses, that there will come a day, mid-month, when I will hate the way poetry is holding the whip above my head, when I will write a grocery list and call it a poem, just to get through the day. But now, on the first day of the month, everything seems bright and shiny, and I feel up for anything.
Brewer’s prompt today is to write a morning poem. I worked up a photo of this morning’s magenta cloud in a blue sky to go with it.
Finishing the Grades
The battle cry of yesterday’s ghost startled me into morning at precisely 4:38 according to the clock, and as I couldn’t wrestle the monster back into oblivion, I strapped on the day like a rusty sword and went downstairs in the chilly dark, to coffee and a blue screen, to the silent dread of numbers on a page, and the certainty of this day’s wave of work receding, while the pull of the next wave began its undertow toward the rising sun.