Manifesto: my heart broke loose on the wind

I don’t want the half-life

half-mast life

teeth clenched to another day

another chore

the prison march to mundane.

I don’t want the half-assed life

wearing the necktie noose of mediocrity,

shoulders hunched

slouching towards the pursuit of nothing.

 

Give me the full life or give me nothing at all.

 

I want the full life

the rich life

the mess and ooze of it

sink my teeth in it

fall in love with it

again and again and again.

To embrace the mystery,

to fully accept the fluctuating rhythms of life, of

moons and milk and windstorms,

And yes:

the crazy.

That which makes us human,

That which makes us ache and feel and the

light and dark and frays on the edges.

That which makes us magnificent,

standing on the edge and thrumming with joy,

light spilling up to the brim and burning over,

electric-charged, resilient, shaking, shimmering,

pioneers, vikings, resplendent.

That which makes us mortal,

A seeping mess of science and suffering,

blood and bionics

skin and scars and scrapes:

There is no cure for the human condition.

 

And yet–

 

Yet there is a cure for the half-life

And I want it.

I want all of it,

The full cup, the elixir, the balm,

filled to the brim and spilling over,

the light the dark the

edges rough and raw and frayed.

The open life, the spilled open life,

the one smudged with passion

rather than pessimism and defeat.

I would rather be bruised by loving life hard, than from

knocking against my own negativity.

The free life, unfettered, unhinged, cracked open

and filled with

gold.

 

photo courtesy of tumblr

photo courtesy of tumblr

And I, infinitesimal being,

drunk with the great starry

void,

likeness, image of

mystery,

felt myself a pure part

of the abyss,

I wheeled with the stars,

my heart broke loose on the wind

— from “Poetry” by Pablo Neruda

 

Awake My Soul

Long have you timidly waded

Holding a plank by the shore,

Now I will you to be a bold swimmer,

To jump off in the midst of the sea,

Rise again, nod to me, shout,

And laughingly dash with your hair.

–Walt Whitman, “Song of Myself”

Now I will you to be a bold swimmer ...

Darling,

Who stole your passion? Who extinguished the light in your eyes? What accumulation of tragic events and dreary circumstances have led to the fire being doused from your soul?

Knees to pavement, you’re shuffling along. Pebbles, sharp gravel, hardened gum stick to your hands and feet. Inhale dust. You smile gratefully, dog-like, when someone throws you a bone. Greedily you scavenge, bury it in dirt. Miser’s glint. Empty shell. Walking dead.

But my dear, you were born with a song. Out of the darkness of the womb you came singing it, eyes flooded with light. As a child your song was your rhythm. Hopscotch jump, twirls in front of mommy’s mirror, bathtime boogies. The song that breathed you into being pumped blood into your soul. Every tiny step, from the trembling first, was a note. Shadow puppet theatre, construction paper jungles, Crayola landscapes. You were all aglow, colourful, glistening with the joy and passion of life.

But life … it got to you, as it does us all. Somewhere in your history, someone told you to please shut up, I’m busy. Sit still. Be quiet. Settle down. An elder’s reprimand or any degree of abuse or the weighty sadness and injustice of the world told you your song was too loud or different or not good enough and you learned to curb it, hide it, change it, destroy it.

Of course you grew up and matured and let go of certain things and became tall and capable and beautiful. But your song dulled into a whisper only sung in the privacy of the shower or scarcely heard above the clink of dishes in the sink. You learned to bow. Acquiesce. Pull your pretty petals back into yourself closer and tighter.

You wake up dreading the day. You wake up to grey skies: is this all there is? and pull the covers over your head. You wake up to blinding sunlight and resent the bouncy step and cheery hellos of everyone around you. You eat and eat but are never full. Exercise is a form of torture. Work is a punch-in, punch-out process. People are a nuisance, traffic is a nightmare, finding joy in anything is not as easy as finding the trouble.

Afraid to make waves, you timidly hold your plank by the shore, mouth zipped shut. Zombie slumber.

And it is costing you everything.

the sun is out, the sky is blue, it's beautiful and so are you

Darling, I will you to wake up and dive in to the big sea of life. Find your song and sing it like a songbird waiting for morning. It will come. It will come. I urge you to open yourself up to the grand orchestra and let it strike a chord right down to your core.

Prophesy to yourself: Dry bones, I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life.

You have no excuse. Circumstances may have hurt you, events may have beaten you down, people may have crushed your spirit but I say you are still alive. You breathe, you live, and thus, you have a song just waiting to be sung. Your dragging feet can dance. Your shy whispering voice can sing glorious melodies. Your heart can beat and feel excitement and love and joy.

You know this. There are moments, tiny moments, that make your eyes shine and your soul leap within itself and the world slightly shimmers for a second. Extend those seconds into a lifetime of awareness. Let love unveil your passion in abundance, let it illuminate your way through the dredge and darkness like glowing lamps in a forest.

And sing, baby, the song that has always been in your heart.

A Poem a Day Keeps the Writer’s Block at Bay

wore your poems like a scar

For the first time since I graduated university, I’ve been writing poetry. For fun.

It was much easier when I was in university, taking several poetry classes and being surrounded by ideas and inspiration. Funny how, when you’re up to your eyeballs reading, analysing and dissecting poetry, it just flows out of you all the time. You carry a pen around with you in order to record the stray ribbons of language and art flitting in and out of your head. Your lecture notes start to turn into a blank verse poem, inspired by one of the professor’s tangents.

These post-grad days with the jobby job and the completely unstructured days, it can be like drawing water from a stone. A line of a poem will surface on a walk; whilst driving to work; in the middle of slinging a latte, and evaporates like mist when you try to remember it later. Frustration ensues.

This is why, as part of my “Write More” New Year’s Resolution, I’ve been writing a poem a day since the first of January. No matter what drivel results from the translation between head and paper, I write it down. Some of the poems are weak and others are okay, but the point of the exercise is to just do it and work at it, since writing is a craft like any other and a muscle that needs to be flexed.

Sometimes I have this romantic misconception about being a Writer; that it’s all elegantly crafted sentences and word choices that shine like jewels. That it’s sitting with your pen and paper scribbling bits of genius or your fingers flying like birds at the keyboard. True, it can be quite nice to have talent but it can be bloody hard work, which is what has been keeping me from writing for a long time. It’s tearing out your hair sometimes; doodling in the margins; checking Facebook for the umpeenth time; staring at that blinking cursor on your Word Processor as if it contains life’s answers; writing down whatever comes into your head even if you hate the crap out of it.

Musicians take time to tune their instruments before performing; they spend many a laborious hour shut up in their studios, repeating scales, working through the squeaks and flat notes before playing a beautiful piece of music. And so writers must also get over their egos and self-imposed blocks and continue tapping away or scratching drivel, just to keep that creative muscle strong.

I’m hoping that, at the end of my Poem-a-Day experiment, I’ll have some solid ideas and pieces to work with, and then I’ll start sending them out to poetry anthologies or writing programs. Or maybe I’ll start doing that sooner. In the meantime, I’m in a Writing Circle currently but would like to expand to other writing groups, open mic poetry readings, or writing support groups, either online or otherwise. Does anyone know of anything cool?

Via, Veritas, Vita

 

HNY!

I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year

‘Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.’

And he replied, ‘Go into the darkness and put your hand into the hand of

God

That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way!’

–from “The Gate of the Year” by Minnie Louise Haskins, 1908

(Read below for my thoughts on 2010, hopes for the new year, and some resolutions). HAPPY NEW YEAR!

 

 

A Thing of Beauty is a Joy Forever

"all lovely tales that we have heard or read; / an endless fountain of mortal drink; / pouring unto us from the heaven's brink" -- "Endymion," John Keats, 1818

Whenever I hear anyone say “I don’t get poetry,” I want to show them this quote from the  movie Bright Star about the young Romantic poet John Keats. I’m not sure if Keats himself said this, but it’s the best explanation about getting poetry I’ve ever heard:

A poem needs understanding through the senses. The point of diving into a lake is not immediately to swim to the shore but to be in the lake, to luxuriate in the sensation of water. You do not work the lake out, it is an experience beyond thought. Poetry soothes and emboldens the soul to accept the mystery.

Dear Spring: You Give Me Fever

the light of spring

Dear Spring,

What is it about you that just completely undoes me? That fills me with inspiration, with hope and light and emotion and causes such tremors of deliciousness and excitement, and expectation, and contentment, and feeling … that I can’t even bear it?

Perhaps it’s my lifelong distaste for Winter, its death and endlessness and cruelty that makes me sigh with relief when you unleash your singing robins and brave buds of grass on an earth sick with cold and wet. Perhaps it’s the reminder that, although life is unexpected and random and unsteady, this one thing never changes. The seasons changing never change and I find comfort in the constancy. Perhaps it’s the way you lavish your beauty so spectacularly, you show-off, especially in a region so blooming and fertile.

Today I was walking my dog in the neighbourhood, and I was listening to The National on my iPod, and buds were falling in the fragrant vernal breeze all around me and I felt like a bride, the heroine of my own story. When I go for these walks sometimes, my heart could break at your beauty, Spring, and the changes happening inside and around me. Like the magnolia blossom, the cherry blossom, I too have undergone changes, though hidden from sight. I, too, have burst forth in delicate colour.

a thousand lovely things ...

I just discovered this old poet, Rupert Brooke, and the first time I read his poem “The Busy Heart,” I cried because it spoke to my own busy heart. Here it is:

Now that we’ve done our best and worst, and parted,

I would fill my mind with thoughts that will not rend.

(O heart, I do not dare go empty-hearted)

I’ll think of Love in books, Love without end;

Women with child, content; and old men sleeping;

And wet strong ploughlands, scarred certain grain;

And babes that weep, and so forget their weeping;

And young heavens, forgetful after rain;

And evening hush, broken by homing wings;

And Song’s nobility, and Wisdom holy,

That live, we dead. I would think of a thousand things,

Lovely and durable, and taste them slowly,

One after one, like tasting a sweet food.

I have need to busy my heart with quietude.

I really do.

Looking for the Great Escape

I need a vacation.

"trouble been doggin' my soul since the day I was born ..."

I feel like, in admitting that, I will elicit the response Jerry Seinfeld gives when the unemployed George Costanza announces he’s going to the Cayman Islands: “What? You’re going on vacation? What do you need a vacation from — getting up at 11 a.m.?”

(For the record, on my days off, I usually get up at 8:30 a.m., which isn’t nearly as indulgent as 11 a.m.!)

Even though I haven’t gotten a lot of hours so far at the new job and the freelance thing is slow going, I’m mentally drained from the anxiety — and thus, the physical exhaustion — that a genuine, full-blown quarter life crisis brings. Anxiety has, since I was a kid, been that tireless pest waiting in the wings whenever the smallest of crises arises, blowing it up to exaggerated, breath-reducing, stomach-twisting proportions. “Worry just will not seem to leave my mind alone,” Ray Lamontagne sings in the song “Trouble,” and I heartily concur.

However, I never intended this blog to be the place where I vent my emotional frustrations — that’s what my personal, for-my-eyes-only journal is for, and I’m much more guarded than that! (One of my friends is always saying I’m a closed book and I must say I really love that in a way!)  So I will leave you with some quotes, verses, and poems that have been nourishing my ruminating mind …

gleaning wisdom from multiple sources

“There is nothing that wastes the body like worry, and one who has any faith in God should be ashamed to worry about anything” — Gandhi (found on my sister’s fridge)

“Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the centre of your life” –1 Peter 5:7, from The Message Bible

“Fear can keep us up all night long, but faith makes one fine pillow” — Philip Gulley

“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says, I’ll try again tomorrow” — Mary Anne Radmacher

sometimes, like the Cowardly Lion, we forget we're the kings of the forest

” […] Life is not hurrying on to a receding future, nor hankering after an imagined past. It is the turning aside like Moses to the miracle of the lit bush, to a brightness that seemed as transitory as your youth once, but is the eternity that awaits you” — R.S. Thomas, from “The Bright Field”

“So you must not be frightened if a sadness rises before you larger than any you’ve ever seen, if an anxiety like light and cloud shadows moves over your hands and everything you do. You must realize that something has happened to you; that life has not forgotten you; it holds you in its hands and will not let you fall. Why do you want to shut out of your life any uneasiness, any miseries, or any depressions? For after all, you do not know what work these conditions are doing inside you” — Rainer Maria Rilke, from Letters to a Young Poet

“None of us is immune to the pain of rejection, but the more we grow in maturity and self-worth, the less likely we are to take it personally. When we acknowledge that rejection is not an indictment of our being, but an experience we must all face again and again if we put ourselves out there, rejection becomes easier to bear. The only sure way to avoid rejection is to sit mute in a corner and take no risks. If we choose to live courageously, we will experience rejection — and survive to show up for more” — Harriet Lerner, Ph.D. from Fear and Other Uninvited Guests

Now live courageously my friends. Hold your heads up high and when life knocks you down, remind yourself who you are and get back up again. And again. And again and again.