Hymns for the Broken

Listened to Luis Alberto Urrea’s podcast at Tin House “Hymns for the Broken”

and I didn’t know how it affected me or any of my feelings and comprehension until after writing this post.


Grapeling–this post is because of you; thank you for taking the time to

making my feelings finally emerge and surface. It’s been a while. 


I told myself if I had nothing, that’s what would come back. I spent too long after filling my hands with what I thought I could keep, only to find that what was within me was beneath the soil, deep in bones. All I had to do was stop. Stop giving myself away.   –me, this morning



“Don’t you know–everybody’s broken. That’s what makes us holy.”  –shaman in Mexico


LEONARD COHEN SANG “THERE IS A CRACK IN EVERYTHING, THAT’S HOW THE LIGHT GETS IN.”


“–and those bad men that tell you to be ashamed…take their drills, look for the scars to re-wound you–But she says ‘we kiss you upon your scar to show you you’re beautiful.” –Luis Alberto Urrea, on the Tin House podcast “Hymns for the Broken.”

Write with purpose. Reach out to me. I need you. I am stripped but not afraid. 

I write to take my own hand and lead myself back out into light.  That is a line from Urrea’s Hymn. He goes into a story about being the misfit, the out-of-place one, the outcast–taken away by guardians into abuse and ultimate shame. This, as he goes on and his voice rises, is why he writes–because a part of him is always going to be in that chair. And I’ve been reading up a lot (for quite a long time now) on finding one’s worth, your possession, the bones of your gut, the mother you are to yourself. And I am taking in and letting go so many things, so many past and done parts of myself that have had their time and I will not retrieve. But I am retrieving the indestructible parts I am made of. And I gotta say, it’s fucking emotional and I didn’t even know it was until Grapeling commented on “Reflecting” –you know what he said? I’m going to cry again. See, I’m so good at shutting off emotions still, that I don’t even know I am until someone says something so beautiful and real and almost painful, and reminds me why I am here; why I write.

He said: “Amy, when I read your work, it reminds me of Leonard Cohen’s line – ‘there is a crack in everything -that’s how the light gets in.’
Peace ~”

I looked away, and then read it a hundred times. And put it down again. But it followed me all night and morning. And there I was listening to a fellow writer and survivor’s podcast and he quoted the same Cohen line. And I was suddenly sobbing. Because Urrea then says about himself as a child: “I’m trying to write for him, but I can’t do it. I need you. I can write for him, but you know what I can’t do? I still can’t take his hand, I can’t lift him outta that chair because I’m still ashamed of him. Shame. They teach it to you…for ‘your own good’…and I propose that anyone who changes you–anyone who betrays you, anyone who gets out “the drill” for you, anyone who leaves you, because you aren’t good enough?–is an ASS-HOLE.”

I haven’t been writing but thinking a lot lately, living a life lately. Working in a women and children’s shelter where mostly I feel good about what I do there, but sometimes, like last night, I couldn’t shake it off. I couldn’t not bring it home with me.  What I am talking about is awomen all over the world in these situations though. Because what can happen mirrors what happened to me on a very deep, personal level. In the one of two areas I haven’t figured out how to heal from yet. And it’s hard my friends. It’s very big, the biggest thing yet, but the difference is I am able to stand, withstand, and remain steady at the helm. I have become captain of my own ship. Finally. And I don’t want to lose that. But I prove to myself not on purpose but by the cycles and rhythms of my nature that I won’t lose it, that yes I am cracked and sometimes those cracks feel like land mines or crevasses and I am on the mountain about to get swallowed up. And I wait. And I continue with my life. I find joy and sorrow in a forming balance. And getting swallowed doesn’t happen. These words I must tell–my story I must tell–is changing shape. I am changing. And the facts are there are some things you don’t recover from, there are some things you can’t get back anyway–and you do not “heal” in the sense you’d think, you only learn to adapt and live differently so that you not only survive but you thrive. I never meant to write to let light in. I never knew I could–and I’ve heard it once or twice before kind of, but I tell you I can only write what I know and it feels very selfish. Very egotistical. But I also know that right now, there is a girl the age I was when I was shamed and ashamed and wounded, and she’s at the bottom of the mountain not knowing where the ledges are to clutch her little fingers to. And I am writing this for her spirit that is about to break. And there is a young woman who will disappear soon, and I write and I pace and I outline and I take notes and I feel everything I can through my own forms of grounding and meditation and calm.–I do this not for me anymore, well I do it because it’s like the beast or birds in me that never sleep, it must be said and said well. But I do this for her. I am honoring what she is about to experience. I am honoring her suffering. I suppose this is my Hymn for the Broken.

I wish I could meet these girls and women–before, during, and after. And there’s nothing I could say to them, accept that there is love. You will survive, I command it, because you must feel this love that is at the end of that road–whether anyone loved you or not, you loved yourself, because you didn’t give up. You must hang the hell on without knowing why. But hear me. Amy

Hurt

The sun is bright in my windows, warm in the curtains. Spring blooms outside the glass. I am content in my life. And this song plays, Hurt, and an old pain comes back, overwhelming in these lyrics. I still hear his voice, strange, how you don’t forget the voice of a loved one that died. And his smell.

The facts are I spent my life hurting him. I hurt him bad. Because I thought he’d live forever, as we all hope parents will do.  I wanted to because I told myself he was an alcoholic, so he wouldn’t feel it. Because I told myself it was his fault I wasn’t safe at home with my stepdad and mother. Because I was so screwed up and had so many bad memories I couldn’t place, so I placed them on him. I’m sorry dad. I’m sorry for blaming you. Even when I broke into your house, your room I found upstairs shocked me, stopped me from breaking things, because you had pictures of us up on your cracked walls, because you had our letters from when we were little in a pile next to your bed, because you were so poor and alone, because the tape of me singing Patsy Cline when I was five was on your nightstand, because the same old blankets were on your bed from when we were little and spent weekends with you. You lived in your car for awhile, and I’d walk by it all the time and look in the windows. All the times I’d see you walking downtown and I’d ignore you, look the other way. The time I found you and yelled at you for hurting me and what did you do and you were so gentle and kind, asking me what was wrong. That was an opportunity for me to be held by you, and you would have, but I missed it, I was so angry, blaming you. I didn’t tell people you were my dad, because everyone knew you were in the bars starting at ten in the morning. Old Style, that’s what you drank with Pa out at the dadandusfarmhouse when we were little, and you were so gentle and shy. And after you died, my sisters and mother and I had to go through your house (we didn’t know where it was) and pick out what we wanted. We were 20, 21, and 22. Your house was empty of everything except garbage and old pictures and beer. Not even towels in the bathroom. It was cold. It smelled. Your mattress didn’t have sheets. We were numb and cold too. And then we opened your closet, and we could smell you, as if you were there and we were those little girls again, playing at your feet. We took out your shirts (the same ones you’d had 17 years ago) and buried our faces in them and finally wept for you. Our own private hurting, I remember smelling the shirt and crying into it, with a whirlwind of thoughts in pictures going through my head–how I’d wanted you to save me, how I’d wanted you to be my daddy, to be the parent I didn’t have. What I didn’t realize until then was that you had always tried, you’d tried so hard. But you were sick and always drunk in a sad way, and it wasn’t enough, like it wasn’t good enough to allow you into our lives, when really we needed it. I’m sorry. You were good enough, you were. You were more than that because you loved us, because the hurt you caused us didn’t compare to the pain our stepfather caused. And at times, our mother.  Being in your house before the funeral, it was so hard, it was such a sad, lonely, awful place. No place for someone as gentle and frightened of the world as you to live in.

We have always felt like forgotten children. With all our parents. That pain is bigger than anger.

It makes you a very lonely, it makes you feel unlovable, it makes you seek out love in places you don’t belong, desperate. And then you died, and we had to swallow our own choices. And we were the ones, even though we were the kids, that forgot you. And that’s what hurts the most. We carry this guilt, and being in your desolate, beer and memory buried home reminded us that you were human, that you had feelings, that you loved us, all those letters by your bed, our school pictures wrinkled in your empty wallet. You were our dad. And you were so far gone in the alcohol and it had you by the throat, it was too late to escape. And you tried so hard to. You showed up at our house crying because you wanted us back, we were in middle school, and the condition was you had to stop drinking, and you couldn’t, and you wept, in front of mom and our stepdad. You wanted us. And being wanted was all we ever wanted. That hurts too, wanting to be wanted. Your room was proof we never forgot you, as hard as we tried. And we’re tough girls. Maybe too tough sometimes. Maybe too used to people leaving. You showed up at Nikki’s graduation as I told you to do, and when you were there I shunned you as you hugged her. And I hurt because I knew I wouldn’t see you at mine. Or Jodie’s. But I was willing to take that hit, as long as you showed up at Nikki’s…she was your girl. And I hurt for her. I always will, even after all this time. A  girl only gets one daddy. I feel like with you she was able to be just a little kid, angry when she wanted, loved when she needed it. That changed. In the “new household” with our stepfather she learned (we learned) to obey, that we were nobodies. He hit me and he touched me, and you weren’t there. You would have been afraid of him too I bet, but you would have held me I like to think. And I like to think you’d be proud of who I am now, of what I’ve overcome, of what I went through alone. There are certain things that tie sisters together, and you were one of them. We shared in the love you gave us before we moved away, we shared in the letters you mailed to Nikki, we shared in you not answering mine and Jodie’s, we shared in forgetting you, we shared in hurt, we shared in the abuse of our parents, and we shared in regret when you died. And now, the sun is going down and this song brings not you back but the very memory of how we loved you, how we blamed you, how sorry we are. And we share in the pain of lyrics ringing true to words we can’t say. And we don’t have a lifetime of memories with you but that only makes the few we do have all the more precious. We have a lifetime of feelings about you, for you. You were the one parent that never left us, in a way–you loved us just like you did when were young, you bragged about us to people you knew, they told us, you showed off our pictures and you played the tape of me singing over and over–Aunt Carol told me that. You always knew where we lived and some of the things we were up to–I saw you in a bar, the last time I saw you alive, and you knew I was in Eau Claire, you knew Nikki was in college. And I had a beer with you. I had a beer with my daddy. And I told you “I love you, dad,” and it hurts that my sisters didn’t get that chance.

I want to hold you in my arms, I want to ask you if you’re proud of me. I want to look at you looking back at me. I want to see who I come from. I want to take your pain and mistakes away. I want my daughter to hear your voice, and know the warm chest of the dad I used to rest my head on, the arms that pushed us in the swing under the apple trees. The memory of your love is a soft, quiet thing. It’s as gentle as you were.

And I am asking myself why, when something like a song comes up or a memory, does it still hurt so bad. The tears are overwhelming. And I think that aside from all of this, it is because I hurt you. I hurt you on purpose at times, and I hurt you in ways only you know, because really, you had no choice but to go, and we chose to leave. After you died, I like to believe all is forgiven, all that happened was meant to happen, and that you can feel us now, and be a part of our world that still at times wraps itself around your neck and whispers “I love you.”

The Point of Difficult Degrees

~the Point, in a Poem

DIFFICULT DEGREES 2016

(an introduction to a poem/work-in-progress):

My childhood memories consist of either feelings OR images–feelings in my chest of space and a sort of vacuum…like a nameless, empty thing that can be filled by other things, other people, other parts of myself I could easily call upon and discard, but it constantly emptied, and  I forever got hungrier–and then transparent in how lean I was growing and not developing but filling, emptying, filling, emptying, knowing the walls of this kind of stomach were wearing thin. I am still learning to or trying to learn my autonomy, and I am not sure I want to find out if that sort of loss can be taken back. As for the visions, well that’s the funny thing–the images are steeped in color and sound and smell and more than ever–the feelings in my stomach. I cannot remember much about three years of being a six year old to an almost nine-year-old in a bigger city except that my sisters were starting to slip, or just did, for a while, there, and I felt cornered and afraid a lot, and the nasty green/yellow stain-like flu in my stomach was all the guilt I carried that I didn’t understand unless I released the temperatures and pressure and acted out through play, which I certainly did. But I kept a tight lid on it. I remember my sister in red corduroy’s rollerskating on tin wheels at my command in our basement after schools, the drain wet in the floor. The more I laughed, the more pleased she was. Somehow my sisters and I went our separate ways after moving there, but managed to remain somewhat fragmented together in the house. But fear wasn’t shared, sadness together over our real father I do not recall, though I remember crying alone for him every night for a very long time between my bed and the wall on the radiator.

My visions and feelings tell me we went from four, five, and six year olds who didn’t have a care in the world with our mother married to our biological father, staying out at the farmhouse with all the aunties, uncles, and cousins–I have a menagerie of body memories of the times in around four or five years, I remember very little, but I remember in a sort of tunnel of visions and sounds and smells–music from the seventies, and Pine-sol in particular. And my stepfather’s shoe-polish and aftershave.

But after second grade, I can almost draw the picture of myself falling apart and inward. But that’s another story. My sisters though, we never made a pact, we didn’t always have each others backs out in the open anyway, where it wasn’t safe. But in the recesses of the sanctuaries we were able to create together late at night when everyone else thought we were sleeping, we were each others’ home, we respected how each of us was designed (though we hardly understood ourselves) safety, and sort of a reference to each other like-

“–did you think he should have hit her? OK, I didn’t either, maybe it’s wrong? What do we do?–“

 

We entered into a world we were being taught to fear somewhat

and we were completely unequipped in the ways of maturity and functioning growth, etc.

Three degrees in a similar environment

young summer nights found us in imagined sanctuaries

together, not impenetrable–but strong enough

to maybe remind us that we had each other, but the world

would only get meaner. And maybe strong enough to have the hindsight

that we weren’t going to be entirely okay, ever, but if

were okay together, than that small sanctuary would have to suffice.

 

We share histories, though of varying mass and degree,

we tried to grow somewhere between always losing the ones

we loved most, believing we deserved loss, believing only we could help ourselves

out of violence and harm, no one else would probably–and our safety

would come later when we grew up, or under the witness of others around.

Losing,  abandoned, forgotten, abused, teased and abused on and off as a whole,

…well,

once you get beaten down and played so many times and your humiliation comes at the hands

of thee power position and guardian–at the ages we were ate–

it was

…acceptable.

What other choice did we have?

 

 THE POEM

 

Each stage of equations  had spun me out

of my paper-doll dress recital curtain and naked into

the polar sun, white and stale metal hospital warmth,

the decay of my closet no longer able to hold or keep me,

my body repelling from and away from the only other option–a sort of

existential annihilating space, empty

with no reference point or gravity, by body

turning and revolving in the infinitesimal system of disorder.

 

With theory and law as dense as their own basis–

as a small girl with a highly developed survival skill

of withdrawing and disappearing,

 

I made a map,

 

charted by the constellations people left

at my door, or in my prescription bottles,

or in the tone of a voice on the phone

that uncomfortably told me they understand,

to hang in there–my awkwardness

a swallowing of tears and humiliation–because then I had to see

myself through their eyes–at what I had become.

 

Yes.

A constellation. A brilliant map-

 

away from the embarrassed acceptance in the eyes of

someone who once loved you but does not

recognize you without your borders

without your smile

without a personality, an identity

you once came equipped with,

–away from him meeting you on the street,

the ache of pretending to not notice their eyes

scan for an exit, scan your face, and

away from their belief that some people

who have gone where you have

never really come back.

 

Madness, they do not tell you, is as lonely as it is scary.

 

But a map of that night, that space,

and I started seeing without knowing how

that the answers were not static, they were not concrete,

they were not written.  They were not

even thought of–they cannot be touched,

they were sketched stars in reverse,

they were the universes in my irises unraveling,

the answers became something changed-something new-

through the radioactive pulse of my unstable heart,

shedding another degree and sparking a new one.

 

And after that burning

-like a coal mine…like an oil rig…piping and gloved hands and sweat and noise…

-like becoming skinless, an existential skeleton out in the ether
-after that burning-the last of the burnings-(there are no words for the others)–

a period of mechanical, metallic, empty, screeching and unaided disruption, destruction, separation, breakage, dismantling, the numbering of the pieces and counting what piles were left, broken useless ends and corners discarded into space-out into those starless, stale days;

 

I do not remember my eyes working;

I do not remember recognition even, or fear;

I do not remember my throat or my hands reaching for some kind of comfort;

 

what I remember is feeling–feeling a feeling for the first real moment in my life

and it swept across days, weeks, months, years

–tears and pain and anger and grief and sadness I had never thought possible

 

See I was learning that submission to the dark mysteries

my heart and mind and hands possessed

were wounds in the womb of where I had to first

learn to breathe

again

and again.

 

My body began to build some kind of structure

that could handle oxygen again, in small doses,

but on the inside there was an entire operating system

new and changed

 

-scribbling words and reading the medical books in my attempts

to gain control were now almost forgotten,

my sutures

my stitches up my skin

healing each part of myself into the other stitched up piece.

With each dominant emotion shaking me, another

department in my mind–the worlds of words

had strewn together an open-ended narrative, stitching up

my skin in sentences I had not yet rehearsed–

but the words were coming nevertheless, accelerating

and then pacing in difficult degrees I was

developing a clarity for.

 

To not be a girl anymore

lost

in a pale nightgown

in the shutting of doors

 

To be a woman emerging from

dirt

with dirt under my nails and the armor that comes

with losing it all and having nothing left to lose but you fight anyway,

scarred face, scarred bod–

unblinking and beautiful into the morning.

 

I reach for the cycles and circles of degrees like encapsulated bubbles-

bubbles tight with my words that arrive on tongue and lip

with tear and bone,

not measure and foresight,

expectation and pride.

 

The temperature in my beating body,

a body submissive to where I carefully select new order

with a lightness of touch, combined with the old habit

of dread and preparation.

 

The temperature is new–a falling down of degrees–

but the changes,  the chemistry of this new script, are

becoming new elements entirely–

 

so I feel with my pen

to chart another way to discover–to discover what I

am not sure at first…

 

but somehow

each word connects to new connections

in my body, and my body is binding itself

into something real and whole,

self-possessed and by my design alone.

I have sabotaged and rebuilt

and rewired and started

with a fuel I’d never, ever tasted before–Self-Love.

Self-Love and will.

 

An Afterthought:

 

My body is my memory. My memory is my narrative, which is my story, which has gaps and blocks and stitchings and bridges,  best forgotten dark alleys and abandoned farmhouses, but also a shared swing beneath apple blossoms with the two girls that grew into women while I was gone, my sisters, but they waited in the wings until I found mine.

–As I write this, right now, they still gently wait in my peripheral-

the only proof for them of my healing and strength being time and consistency–

they wait, nudging me on always and never, not once, crossing my boundaries they

allowed me to build with them over childhood. As if they knew, somehow, they had faith

in ME, that I’d figure it out my own way, alone, as I knew it had to be done and as all

of us who’ve gone mad know there is no taking anyone with you–they waited, all these

years, letting me set the pace and distance and even how far I was going to push them.

 

(the first poem Difficult Degrees can be found here, from 2010…my, my, my how things have changed…)

Reinvent Yourself Endlessly

Every time a professor asked me or my peers what my poems meant–I never quite knew how to answer. They’re comments led me around and around the center of how I always felt about it but couldn’t word,  I just acted like I already knew. That’s why it was written–those were the words to what it was, what the truth to me was. It’s not that I didn’t know but that my body or mind seems to piece things together with words and images before I can catch up. My first poem I ever wrote was Vapor in 2005. And I’ve held onto it. It’s even been published. That poem still holds true–it’s some kind of core belief I have but I didn’t have a rope down into that well to truly grasp it. I am writing to you guys tonight because this is happening again in a way–I don’t know what I am thinking until I write it down; I have to write to a someone, and I hold you guys with affection, because I am not willing to write to just myself. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s my honest attempt to stop escaping myself. Because I try to be as honest as I can on nights like these. I’m so tired, but I can’t stop feeling words that are coming that I am trying to prepare for. I’m not eating, I’m not sleeping. This is what happens every time before something real is written, and I don’t know what it is but I know my fingers will type it out for me.

Everything I have written so far–planning my grand, tragic memoir–is/was really, I am realizing, a desperately structured narrative so I could validate it the events, find order in the chaos, and so I could actually feel for the girl in the story because I have a hard time doing that for myself. Or I did. That’s changing. I am changing, and everything I’ve written–none of it is going into whatever it is that I am compelled and pulled to write. What pulls at me has been pulling for almost a decade, but it’s even stronger now, the words waiting, because I have been watching it unfold and the words only gradually come.  Call those vignettes, that attempted narrative structure, a healing process, call it a coping mechanism, call it a perceived truth (as all truths seem to really be), it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter because how I write it and how I remember it has been two different worlds. The memories and images, feelings (mostly physical, body feelings, frozen emotional states of the past, etc.) and events of course are as true to myself as I can be. But my life is not a linear, chronological tale-it is a history of flashes out of order. And the flashes are what I look to when I write, involving my one fail-safe–my senses and body memories. I’m more tied to the smell of lilacs, tractor oil, Old Spice, the weeds along the path to the baseball games I went to all summer when I was a girl, the milkweed, trains, the iron ore at the dock, old books, the perfume I wore when I was being abused, the feel of water and wet skin on me, physical alarms and instinct, than I am tied to actual happenings or events. And that is a blunt truth: dissociating your whole life–you live in fragments, just like how I remember it. And I have changed and do so constantly into something that makes me feel alive–and I never really felt alive before, not for this long of a period. I am in love with the simplest things like blue, deaf mornings in the winter, the way the telephone wires reflect in puddles, the smell of a storm coming, white seagulls on dark clouds–I actually stopped my bike on my way down to the shore to watch them-and all of these are very simple and right in front of me. The colors and sounds and smells and sights don’t have intentions. They just are. And I can relax my mind around things like that; nature is like a fact, an unwordable cause and effect that has rhythm even in its own chaotic events-it’s all one thing sliding into and around the other. Motion. Repetition. Change.  Recycle. Like music.

As humans we try to master outcome. We try to master choice and effort and even failure to make sense of the things we cannot hold, of the things that happen to us.  “Events don’t have cause and effect relationships the way you wish they did,” Lidia Yuknavitch writes. And that’s true right through my gut–life is fragments and patterns and repetitions that do not hold true to the words we use, to the scenarios we build, words are just metaphor; we are of an imperfect nature-we don’t have natural disasters, we have trauma and loss and all those kinds of events at random, no one is picked out and chosen, and we’ve spent millennia trying to prepare our reactions and behaviors for these things. And it isn’t possible. What is inevitable though is that we will come out of it changed–“to something new, something strange,” (Longfellow? Not sure). But before we understand and are aware of that change though, somehow our natural systems undergo a small microscopic atomic evolution–or what I think of as the nightmares during the sleep of adaptation. Also called, in a flimsy, whimsical word, “healing.” And that is the perfect part of our ourselves–we’re part adaptation and evolution, but the rest is a blank slate.

favim
favim

I believe I am becoming who I am because I scribbled on a blank page my words and crossing-outs of what others had scripted on that slate-who I used to be, and becoming anything but her, for me, is a gigantic relief and forward motion–not towards anything, there is no goal, but into something I can’t describe yet. Into what–myself? Is it predestined that I would find this? Is this who I was before I hid away in my mind as a girl? Or did she all together vanish, and that’s why I had the breakdown and it took seven years to repair–because as an entirely naked being I had to start over? I don’t believe in destiny. I used to with a sort of romantic twist on it. I believe I am almost atheist in my perceptions. Or views. Or…something.  Scientific facts, math, denominators, constellations, physics–these are things with solidity. They cannot be moved. And maybe people are afraid to be moved; people are afraid that what they base themselves on in the private parts of their minds is illusion, and it can be terrifying-even if you are  used to a lot of change inside. We find religion. We find atheism. We find addiction. We find facts. We find knowledge. We are constantly looking. We seek other people, looking for strands of ourselves to keep aligned inside–a shared bit of the stars we come from–so as not to feel alone. Connection. Gravity. We think we need it. That it is necessity. Maybe it is, but going without it opens up a world’s worth of information. Gravity, connection–losing that is to study yourself as a microbe. When all connection is cut, when you lose your belief system so ingrained in you, when you find yourself no longer cursing a god for damning you but beholding something much scarier-that seemingly factual, unmoving reflection in the mirror of you dead inside–these are the facts, these are the equivocations of what you’ve totaled into, of who damaged you–all you felt, all you did, all you endured and you just weren’t able or built to survive that way at that age. You see yourself as just another product of a common tragedy all over the world–and it is not a pretty thing to see.  Being out there, weightless in space and only time will help you get used to, it’s fucking terrifying, losing that person. That illusion. It’s Theodore Roethke’s “In a Dark Time” —…pinned against the sweating wall/a man goes far to find out what he is/Death of the self in the tearless night/Dark, dark my light …It is, as he says, a death of the self. I never forgot that poem. But after the terror, after time-the only thing that keeps you-you gain so much more.

Maybe I poetisized the stars all along, because I no longer believe things happen for a reason.  I was not destined for this, I was not, as so many people say “becoming the person I was meant to be.”  I no longer believe that my dead father is the middle star in Orion’s Belt. He is gone. His body is part of the elements now, back to where it came from-into the patterns and rhythm of nature. But his essence is inside me, I have, from him, his voice telling me I’ll be okay. I remember many times looking up into the night and trying to rationalize with my brain what Catholic school had been teaching me, but at that age all I got out of it was an old man up there watching me to make sure I didn’t fuck up, and to make sure I loved. The contradiction was as easy to believe as it was believing all the other contradictions that were around me. What isn’t contradictory to me is that death, be it of the self or of the body, does what nature tends to do–breaks down the matter, recycling parts and pieces into different directions, different things, new things, and each finding a way.

I was afraid of suicide-of the actual act itself. I believed with all I had that my body would commit the crime against me.  So they tranquilized me on Seroquel for a year and a half so my body wouldn’t die. But it’s not how it sounds. A sort of mental or more-so a spiritual death is not specific, it’s not a quarantined moment. It’s sort of like the way dammed water floods. That time is a fragment to me now, but it’s quite concrete compared to other memories but it only has a linear order for a brief period of time. So. It is, after the frightening adventure of losing everything, including faith in religion, it’s an awakening. It’s a cold, cruel way to get to it, but it is an awakening.

I am not going to force my words into a frame anymore. My mind certainly doesn’t work that way.

I’ve known that Roethke poem almost by heart for years. Once you experience it, it is only understood by others that have. And their are easier ways I’m sure. But I’m going to addthat poem, so that you can see. He describes it better than I can.

Theodore Roethke: IN A DARK TIME

In a dark time, the eye begins to see,
I meet my shadow in the deepening shade;   
I hear my echo in the echoing wood—
A lord of nature weeping to a tree.
I live between the heron and the wren,
Beasts of the hill and serpents of the den.
What’s madness but nobility of soul
At odds with circumstance? The day’s on fire!   
I know the purity of pure despair,
My shadow pinned against a sweating wall.   
That place among the rocks—is it a cave,   
Or winding path? The edge is what I have.
A steady storm of correspondences!
A night flowing with birds, a ragged moon,
And in broad day the midnight come again!
A man goes far to find out what he is—
Death of the self in a long, tearless night,   
All natural shapes blazing unnatural light.
Dark, dark my light, and darker my desire.   
My soul, like some heat-maddened summer fly,   
Keeps buzzing at the sill. Which I is I?
A fallen man, I climb out of my fear.   
The mind enters itself, and God the mind,   
And one is One, free in the tearing wind.
and here is my poem, VAPOR:

This body’s breath
caught sharp and held
I hold it and like water
it escapes my fingers and spills
over my toes
when I am thirsty
asking too much from my body
when I am not enough
I give it tea and fruit and poisons
I exhale the fumes of the vices
herbal or smoky and fine
licking at these wet fingers
that let a pen scratch
let a word be plucked
from a curl of steam
this body’s breath
will learn it can’t hold what is borrowed
and maybe then stop
cupping and drinking
hold and take nothing
it’s enough just to breathe

let the vices unthread from the seams
of the spine into origami wings
taking flight in paper vees
and leave me in the water
enough