What is True Right In this Moment?

What is true in this moment

is that I am alive and

there is breath within my lungs,

this sweet air with its hint of sharper days

on a horizon as yet unseen.

What is true is that

this moment will not be the end of me.

It is is merely one in a series

that together make up the painful fact of living.

And though my heart is breaking,

and will likely break again, and again, and again,

it will also keep on beating,

feeling,

and even, in God’s good time,

healing.

Apathy and Me

A few years ago, someone gifted me a copy of a book by Kathleen Norris entitled “Acedia and Me: A Marriage, Monks, and a Writer’s Life.” I considered the tome for all of about 10 minutes before deciding that it had nothing helpful to teach me, after which I set the volume upon my bookshelf where it might begin its task of collecting dust.

How could I have imagined that, in the span of just a few years, I would find myself held in stasis by what Norris describes as a “restless boredom, frantic escapism, commitment phobia, and enervating despair that plagues us today.” I can describe it only as the feeling of being, on the one hand, completely incapable of sitting still or of being alone with myself and my own thoughts, and on the other hand, feeling disturbingly incapacitated and utterly incapable of the fruitful endeavors that previously filled my time.

It has been such an unexpected and unwelcome turn of events that, strangely, I have felt compelled to write (and to write, and to write, and to write some more) about the perturbations that it has stirred up–driven to examine from every angle the ways in which this “scourge of the soul” affects me even as I have found myself nearly incapable of stringing together coherent, written observations for the worshipping community which I serve. Somehow, acedia has managed to simultaneously silence and unfetter my internal voice. It has caged the writer but unleashed the poet.

At first, I mocked my own drive to write more lyrically. I told anyone who might encounter my words that they were “deeply average” and “crappy poetry for beginners.” I think a part of me was (and perhaps still is) disappointed in myself. Whereas before I felt completely in control of my voice, now I experience my writing as deeply vulnerable, needy, and exposed. Because decent poetry resists the urge to explain itself, I have to let it speak on its own terms, and allow others to make their own connections. I have to be okay with the possibility that my own needs, wants, and desires will lay right on the surface, unhidden by fancy turns of phrase.

What has been fascinating is that poetry has in some ways been an antidote to acedia. It has forced me to pay attention to what I am really feeling, right now, right here. I have been made to confront the longings of my heart rather than escape them and to acknowledge the things within me that I am ashamed of, because they cannot be denied. They are a part of me too. Poetry has forced me, in other words, to care about myself. And while that is difficult, agonizing work, it is also deeply necessary, for it is care for the self that lifts us out of our despair, and back into life.

Silence

I will write no more letters

nor will I cast my words upon your silent altar.

Why would I when You do not answer?

Still, I wonder:

what if silence *was* Your reply

and I could not hear its gentle whisper

amidst the clanging gongs and noisy cymbals

that I had cast upon your feet,

as I clamored for the suggestion,

any intimation that You were searching for me

as much as I for You.

Arroyos Secos

Oh snap.

I allowed myself to be drawn,

like an unwitting child following the distant call of the ice cream truck,

to this place I did not want to be.

Every crevice of this unforgiving territory

is bathed in the intimacy of familiarity:

the dark, warm hollows that offer their dubious shelter and

the golden hills scraped bare in the glare of a pitiless sun.

I could embrace my solitude here, carry on companionless,

and no thing would stand in my way.

But wild things make their presence known–

they drop their feathers from the vault of the sky,

leave pathways through the thickets choking the ground

that lead to arroyos secos I myself could never hope to find.

They warn me of that which I must not forget:

There is no surviving here,

for the land is not unkind, but neither is it forgiving.

Beloved

I chased you out the window

of my father’s ancient van

as you drafted a singular course

and made your final stand

amongst the cast off treasures

in the ditch along the interstate

You were the most precious thing I possessed

but who would ever know it?

So much that is cherished

looks like nothing to another

And have I passed by something precious

in the eyes of another,

and failed to see?

Give me the eyes of a Lover, Lord,

and redeem the refuse of this life

until it is precious to me.

For there is enough here

that has been cast off and abandoned.

Let me be someone who finds,

who treasures what is seen, known, loved.

Broken Vessels

Here lies my ruined vessel

      all shards and sharp edges

      jutting from the path beneath my feet.

Once she contained a world:

      a riot of marigold &

      fragrant mountain mint,

      scabiosas dancing in the summer breeze,

      peopled by bumbling bees and cautious moths;

      a feast for the senses.

Somehow, amidst the commotion of the living,

      I missed the quiet devastation working from within,

      borne of seasons and time and piques of weather

      each eroding what had once contained

      so much promise that

      I believed she would last forever.

I could not fix her if I tried.

      And I tried.

Now I’m left to ponder,

      As my hands grasp at these brittle, dismembered fragments:

      could there be beauty, even in this?

Summer’s Bounty

Today the gnats were gyring

in the dying summer breeze.

I watched their bodies catch the sun’s rays

as they lifted towards the trees

glowing. 

An incalculable vastness.

Those drifting blazing winks of light

which had gathered all around me

murmured a truth I oft forget:

the glory of the infinite

who reaches down to dry our tears

shows Her face to us like this.

Was it Worth It?

I couldn’t sleep for thinking

of all I’ve done and failed to do.

The questions left unanswered;

the doubts unspoken;

desires abandoned and scattered

as though they didn’t matter

(but oh, they matter, dear one)

So much was cast aside,

and what threatens to overwhelm the ramparts

of my overactive mind tonight?

The simple question:

Was it worth it?