Speaking Justice, Enacting Peace

Talking to myself. You may listen in:

Meet it All with Love
Have a care with your words.
Speak justice.
Speak truth.
Words ignite.
Words incite.
Words inspire.
Have a care.

Don’t be afraid.
To act is to risk.
To not act is to risk.
Weigh and measure.

Meet it all with love.
Find joy in every place you can.
Be a prophet.
Be a fool.
Step into the gap
and become a bridge.

Avoid vengeance.
Provoke for change.
Provoke to love.
Provoke for epiphany.
Be a gadfly
and a peace-maker.
Be a prophet and a lamb.
Wise as a serpent,
harmless as a dove.

Enact peace.
Overturn the tables.
Rage and heal.
Meet it all with love.


American Parable:
Once a shepherd brought his sheep back to the fold after a long day of grazing in the high fields. As they entered the fold, he carefully counted each one, until he reached 99.

Oh no! One short! He must have lost one somewhere on the mountain! What would the other shepherds think of him if he lost a sheep? How would he ever live it down?

He stood a while in thought, then said, “Meh. What’s one sheep when I have 99 others? It was probably old or sick or weak anyway. A loser sheep. It is what it is.”

He locked his gates and doors, ate a hamburger from a golden plate, and went to bed.

Season of Revisions

Now we come to the Season of Revisions. I am not only speaking of poetry here; I am speaking poetically. I have habits of mind and habits of space and movement to revise and to refine. I have thoughts and ideas, plans and intentions to revise and to renovate. Perhaps my poetic revisions can be like a wave that will help me in other areas to continue to move always in the direction I want to move, to break the stasis, to step out of the rut, to live–as US Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera says, “in a flourishing way.”

Earlier in the month of April, I tossed out this poem one evening:

Message from the Empress

In the orchard over the ridge
the trees have broken into a riot of pink,
lascivious against the rain-wet grass beneath.

Let us riot too.

Let us spread
our blooming fingers to the sky,
opening our mouths and our hearts,
meeting destruction with bloom,
with green, with simple beauty,
with overpowering fragrance.

Let us waft.
Let us be wanton.

Last week I subjected it to a several-step revision process that I asked my Creative Writing students to engage in:

Step One:
Change up the line lengths. Consider tossing in some tabs to change the shape of the poem on the page. Or center. Or right-justify.

Step Two:
Find six interesting words in your poem. Using an online thesaurus, your own head, or the help of a friend, write three+ synonyms for each word, and substitute them for the words in your poem.

Step Three:
Go back to Step Two. Retype those six words, or choose six more. Find three+ rhymes for each of those words, using an online rhyming dictionary, or the help of a friend or your own head. Can you tuck any of these words into your poem? Also, listen for words with similar sounds–vowels and consonants–even if they don’t rhyme. Can you add or substitute any of those words in your poem?

Step Four:
Rewrite your poem, using rhythm and rhyme. This one may feel like the most complicated one, but see if you can feel a sense of the rhythm of your words. (I have revised my revision process: originally I had steps three and four in opposite order. They make much more sense when you transpose them.)

Step Five:
Read through all your versions. Is there one that stands out as the strongest to you? Are there parts of different ones that you like? Mix and match. Choose your favorite version so far and type that one in.

I ended up with this:

Message from the Empress

In the grove over the ridge, the trees
have broken into a flourish of pink,
lascivious against the rain-wet green,
a thousand mouths seeking a drink.

Let us riot too.
     Let us fill our thirst.

Let us spread our blooming fingers,
opening our mouths and hearts, dancing
away ruin with bloom, lingering
with simple beauty, with aching fragrance.

Let us waft.
     Let us be wanton.

***
I’m still not sure that this is my best version, but I feel a real satisfaction. I hope my students can feel a little measure of that satisfaction with their own poems.

Gratitude List:
1. Wise and open-hearted colleagues
2. Sharing food
3. Revising, renewing, renovating, reactivating
4. Yellow feathers, yellow flowers
5. Breath. Inspiration. Breath.

May we walk in Beauty!

Strength


The word itself, you know?
That single vowel that holds
the whole thing together.

It could go straight or striped or stringy,
but that itself is the strong one,
holding the word for the full length.

Like you, it may seem to carry
the whole world on its shoulders.
Like you, it has the necessary strength.

TOMORROW’S PROMPT:
Tomorrow, the Fool goes to meet the wise one in the wilderness. Call him the hermit. Call her the witch in her cottage–Baba Yaga, perhaps? Or one of the Abbas or Ammas of the desert. Tomorrow, the Fool visits the wise elder who has left society behind in order to concentrate on that which is sacred and holy, to walk an inner journey. The hermits and crones, the Abbas and the Ammas, carry their lights with them into the shadows. They know that the pathways lead inside the seeker.

Gratitude List:
1. A day off. Time out of time.
2. Fire. One boy spent hours building and maintaining a fire this morning.
3. Sand. Another boy spent hours playing in the sand today.
4. Spring. Sometimes I don’t realize how hard winter has been until spring comes. I realize that I have been living as though I would always be in the shadows and chill of this past winter. I don’t think I realized how deeply November dragged me down. But spring is here, finally, and I can live outdoors again.
5. Walking. A boy and I walked two miles this afternoon–down Schmuck Rd. to Canadochly where a small flock of sheep and baby lambs was grazing, and back up to the top of the ridge where Schmuck meets Mt. Pisgah and a horse and three cattle-folk watched us pass, then back down to home again.

May we walk in Beauty!

Frost and Flame

Gratitude List:
1. Wise and compassionate friends who help me to explore and understand my rage, to settle it, to channel it, to use it.
2. There are always so many new things to learn, so many steps to learn.
3. Sun and shadows on snow.
4. Rest
5. Flan–One of my students brought me a huge slice today. Heaven.

May we walk in Beauty!

Not Quite Right in the Head

edna

(Since it has been something of an Edna St. Vincent Millay week. . .)

We’ve been playing with syllable-count poems.  This batch of Creative Writing students is so deliciously earnest.  None of us remember to look at the clock during class, and we write and we write and then we’re scrambling to get out the door in time to get to chapel.  Here is a syllable count poem based on my birthday (8-10-1-9-6-7):

The way your eyes shine fills my heart
I see the way it is growing in you
Love
The capacity to love yourself
The way courage is dawning
As you step toward your star

Okay–it was a quick one and needs polish.

Gratitude List:
1. The voices of students in chapel this week: Victor and Nati talking about stereotyping on Tuesday, and yesterday Mackenzie’s song and Maddie’s beautifully open-hearted conversation about her brother.  I know I say this often, but it is because it is true: If these are the people who are to take us into the future, it is going to come out okay.  They’re brilliant, compassionate, thoughtful, and wise.  They speak their minds clearly and well, inviting others into the conversation rather than telling their audience what to believe.  I am proud, so proud of them.
2. A new thing.  Anticipation.  Revitalizing.
3. I have a Poet-Tree again!  It’s on the bulletin board in my classroom, and it might look a trifle wonky, but my students have graciously complimented me on my efforts as it took shape, and today we’ll begin adding the leaves (their little poems).  They respond with such fervor to anything visual.
4. I just asked Josiah what I am grateful for, and he said, “Me!”  Which is the absolute truth.  And for Ellis.  And for Jon.  And for all my family, and for You, too, of course.
5. Stories from the past.  This morning Facebook reminded me that three years ago, Ellis told me that he was tired, but that he could fix that by stepping into his robot costume and turning on the revver-upper.  I am still looking for my revver-upper, but meanwhile I will take deep breaths, sip my coffee, and imagine what it might be.  Perhaps I need to make me a robot costume.

May we walk in Beauty!