Friday, November 8, 2013

Water and Sun, Balloon and String...

 Alexander Calder, Balloons
lithograph-paper, 1973

Water Beneath the Sun
I am the ocean and you are the sun, water and fire undone

by one another…

I am a restless wave, you the steady flame

Dark and deep and cold

Light and transparent and warm…I feel your heat

Above me, below me, through me…you make me evaporate

turning into steam just to be near you.

Why are you the only one

with so much power over me?

With so much burning desire that I dance ……under your eye, at the touch of your hand,

begging you to notice me?

You rise and fall at my body’s horizon, encircling me like I am your end game, and also the 


making me believe, if only for a second, that you want to dive into me,

to fall from your place in the sky and let me catch you

but you are afraid you will sink again,

Even though I’ve promised you that won’t happen with me,

I will make sure you swim,

floating on the sure current of my unchanging heartbeat.

A String For My Balloon
My mother used to tell me that I was like a balloon—a dreamer, a wonderer, a see-er of possibilities—and that I needed a string (the perfect kind of string) who would let me soar into my imagination, my “head in the clouds” space, but would balance me with his practicality (because it’s always good to have something to hold onto); a string who would keep me from floating too far from reality without pulling me all the way down.  Because even though I can be logical and practice common sense for the most part, I think we can all agree, I am mostly a right-brained girl who feels better at ease thinking with my heart more than my head, hoping that all that is best will unfold in time. But we all know balloons that fly too far away eventually burst, so having a string to give them just enough freedom, to make sure they don’t dissolve in thin air and that keep them attached to the land of the living is paramount for the survival of the balloon, and also gives life to the string. Anyway, when I look at Calder’s “Balloons” lithograph, I am always reminded of her telling me this; even though I’m sure Calder didn’t necessarily place such implications on his balloons and strings, or even on the sun and the water below.I am the water beneath the sun.I am just a balloon looking for her string.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Speaking Glass

I wish I had courage to give an audible voice to the words I write.
I mean, I put myself into their arrangement, I give them a voice as I hear myself speak them from my mind through my hands and onto the page. And I hope it resonates from them clearly.

I can let other people's words fill my body and sound out of my mouth like they were part of me.

Shakespeare, David Mamet, Dr. Seuss, Leo Lionni, Leah.
On a stage, in a classroom, reading for somebody.

But my own words lie there like pieces of glass. Speaking them aloud would be like picking them up and swallowing them. They would cut me. Leave me vulnerable. Show you what I am not yet willing to yield.

I Run...

I run…
as the morning light glimmers into being

cars passing on their way to work or school or just leaving someone behind

I run…
through clouds of color and wind and rain and prayers part my lips trailing toward heaven

I run…
up the hill, through the wet grass around the people walking in the opposite direction, past the kids on the playground—where I used to swing and climb and find a secret hideout among overgrown branches—the laughter of their play still unburdened by the weight life can sometimes be

I run…
the afternoon sun both cruel and kind with its light and heat

my feet hitting the sidewalks, the pavement, the horseshoe drives whose brick buildings hold echoes of my childhood memory

I run…
through the shade under the branches of trees that have been here as long as the people whose language remains in the name of this town— river of blood—even if their tears leave a trail away from it…my ancestors, whose blood stirs in me 

I run…
like I am some wild thing, like I am a river of blood, wondering if my feet are touching any of the same paths theirs once traveled

I run…
until crickets start to sing

through all the songs that can manage it in any tense run, running, ran…

“I run with you…”   “I run to you…”   “I run from you…”

I run. And Buddy Holly’s friend sings “Runaway”

I run…
into the night, the stars lace the sky, Orion standing among them in the east above, always the hunter among Jupiter and Mars, but Someone is still working on me

a police car is in a driveway, no blue lights, only the soft glow of his flashlight in the side yard patting someone down. I wonder what he has done, but on

I run…
I hear the noises of a wedding—music, the soft chatter of new beginnings—before passing the Mansion, black tie maybe white, definitely white, my too short green shorts and hot pink shoes sent no RSVP for the occasion

I run…
past a lady with a grocery bag (has my exhaustion made me indifferent?), past two men walking, past an angel, past a woman with her dog

the smell of smoke in autumn (it smells different in every season), a fire burning somewhere, fills my lungs
the cool air on the sweat of my skin makes me even colder, my sides begging to split open so I can breathe, but I won’t stop

I run…
and I will run forever 

unless…until...someone can catch me

Thursday, September 12, 2013

I Wub You, RaRa...

Animal noises filled the air as we read a shelf full of books about monkeys and lions and dogs. We howled like hyenas before exploding into balls of laughter because we’re silly, too. We played with all of the cars, trucks, and trains, driving them over every surface in the house: up the leg of the dining table, along the back of the couch, across the smooth kitchen floor and bumpy carpet in the living room, noticing that the wheels turn faster in some places than others. We made sounds for them too: Vroom! Honk! Beep! Choo-Choooo! Rumble-rumble-rumble! We visited a friend and listened to a very old music box using our hands to feel the vibrations of its songs; then, we danced to the ones we heard on the radio.

Outside we observed a particular tree very closely. We felt the texture of the bark, we smelled the sticky sap. We crumbled up a pine cone into the dirt and even watched a line of ants travel up the trunk of our tree.

Finally, we landed on the kitchen floor for a snack of blueberries and milk. I suppose we were in a picnic sort of mood. After we ate, I said, “Let’s clean up our mess so Mommy doesn’t have to when she comes home!” We both stooped down to clean the floor. While I was wiping up blueberry juice, I felt the softest, little arms wrap around my neck and the weight of the most precious head lean against my shoulder. Then, the sound of one of the sweetest voices in the whole world to me, “I wub you, RaRa.”

“I love you too, Colby.”

My cup runneth over.

Aerial Flight

Come climb to unknown heights with me...suspending the reality of gravity, testing the laws of physics and the limits of our own physicality...

Balancing the weight of our bodies against the silken slings...

Folded and unfolding...twisted, tangled, tied together...unraveled and still unraveling...reunited to the rhythm of a song...

I'll say I'm a bird if you say you're a bird both flying on borrowed wings.

Our heads still in the clouds when our feet touch the ground...dancing awake in our living dreams.

Reflections on last Thursday’s ‘Art After School’ Class

Their small feet moving in the direction I guide them, my students and I walk up the stairs to the temporary exhibit, the unmistakable bounce of a 6 year old in each step. All girls, they chatter together about their day with enthusiasm and laughter until we stand at the entrance of the gallery where an awe imposed hush falls over our lips. They move in wonder around the space, sketchbooks in hand. I am reminded of being their age and walking through this very museum, of understanding that art was something more than a single piece of work, of falling in love with the visual image as a form of expression.
We are all quiet. We are all stopping where we feel most moved to look. We are all sketching what we see with both our eyes and our emotions. We meet in a seated circle in the hallway to pow-wow. “Remember, I asked you to look with all of your senses, to listen for sounds, to imagine how things might taste or smell, to think about how the different surfaces might feel if you could touch them, and to think about the way you feel when you look at the art that way.” They look at me, ready to speak. “I just want you to give me describing words right now.” And they begin:

haunted, eerie, escape, freedom, as cold as the arctic, sorrowful, broken, pain, rough, soured…

Their words continue as an echo of other responses I’ve heard relating to ‘Deep River’ and ‘Kin’.

The temporary exhibit is an installation by a black, male artist born in the late 1950s New York. The expanse of generational and cultural differences between he and my girls is drastic. They are white, 6 year old girls from Tennessee. Still, those differences weren’t barriers for connection or understanding. That is why I think art (all art: painting, sculpture, dance, music, poetry…) is magical. It can speak across our imposed divides of race, gender, place, and even time to the essential part of our humanity. It can afford us the ability (to paraphrase the words of Hugh Prather) to not only hear what someone says, but also feel what they mean.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Monday, July 8, 2013

rien que pour tu‏

Je veux seulement tous. 

Tu es le seul que je veux 
entre le soleil et la lune, 
entre la terre et les étoiles. 
Mon coeur bat pour tous seul...

Mais tu ne saura jamais.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Swallow Me Whole

Swallow Me Whole (photo from Lookout Mt., June 2013)
It was your heart I lost when the world turned gold, 
beneath the blaze of secrets untold. 
After the fire has burned away,
these ashes of love are all that remain...

...even your ghost consumed by the flame. 

I gather my voice to call out to you,
but there is no answer for my heart to beat to. 

Tied together
by these threads of wind
and the fire that burned our hearts within. 

I feel the clouds could swallow me whole, rain me down, and you’d never know.

Matters of Life and Death: Sex, Life, and Death

Isn't sex about life...and death and God? It is the essence of life, the beginning of existence. Not only is it how new life is made, but also through it we may impart life to our lover. We may also impart death. 

There is a sense of rest and peace, shelter from the world and all the heartache and hardships and loss that are part of this often unyielding planet. Connected in safety, vulnerability, and complete surrender to our lover, there is life. But sometimes there is not safety. Sometimes it is scary. Sometimes it is the idea of life; but no love, no light exists there and giving ourselves does not mean we live on in someone else, but rather that we die there between bodies full of passion without love. And always we die to our individual selves in some way while becoming one with another—we can either die to live as one or die to melt away, part of us gone forever.

Sex is a sacrifice offered on the altar of another's body; a holy sacrifice that regenerates life through acceptance or destroys it in the rejection. There is so much breathtaking beauty and fragility in baring your body and soul, your heart is left weakened either to be rebuilt in togetherness or completely broken and hollow in the empty abyss that is "alone". That is why it doesn't end when it's over. Each time, we give a part of ourselves away, which leaves us continually searching for that which we've lost within another person (or several people). The lack of fulfillment is a symptom of death; life produces contentment and satisfaction. 
And the Spirit of God, as Author and Creator of life, sex, eternity is there in all of this. His face is not veiled, his eyes do not widen in shock and disbelief. He knows that He made us with this desire, this propensity for life. It is our reckless treatment of it that garners His abhorrence—this wanton treatment and casual participation in a sacred act of being. That is why I cannot treat sex with the same casualty that some may; because it is sacred. It is the soul's exchange of life, of death, of spirit with another.

Monday, May 27, 2013

At Last, Home

As the sun sets, my eyes close to this world, opening to one I might’ve known with you. Stepping from the wrinkled fabric of my body, I am clothed once again in the skin of my youth…
We were young and under the impression that our ideals would feed both our dreams and practical needs; if not now, at least eventually. The heat and light of a Southern July sun made the belief all the more real. You walked through the too tall grass as I imagine a lion would: stealthily, easily, carelessly, the sunlight haloing around you. All words were gone from my mouth in an instant, but you had extra to spare. And so goes the story of our meeting. 

The summer kept us alive that year. Parties by the poolside, cocktails on Linwood Avenue, dinner with anyone well-to-do, you seemed to gain the invitations coveted by the elite. Always you asked me to join you. “You are the most important person in my life,” you would say in a way that unraveled my cautious disposition.  Following along, I believed you. I liked the feeling of walking in on your arm and watching you captain the crowd with your aloof familiarity, the counter of your coolness and charm, like you could be anywhere else, but had chosen this place and time, these people to be a part of your present moment.
It was later, the crowd tucked into their own secret things, that I saw you unveiled. The charm and surety of self, dissolving into a whisper, you would reveal your heart to me. “He is only a child.” I would sometimes think. “A little boy still searching.”  Maybe I should have listened to myself before so many defenseless nights and so many breaths shared in between had bound us irrevocably together. But my own naïve understanding of love would not let me leave you alone to fend in the world of soulless men. 

I remember the first time you told me what I had felt all along. We were driving home from some late night adventure. You were in the passenger seat, full of courage and strong drink. Your fingers traced the tops of mine before closing around my hand. I felt your eyes embrace me. Glancing from the road I caught a glimpse of your face, a half smile that parted when you spoke, “I’m in love with you, you know.” I didn’t know what to say to you. “You’re the only girl I’ve ever really been in love with. You’re the only girl I’ve ever said that to.” I didn’t know if you were telling the truth or letting the imbibed murmurs speak for you. I want to go back there sometimes, pull the car over and kiss you. But even in my memories, I can only do what I did then. Drive on. 

At home on your front stoop, we would recount the memories we had made (as if they were coins or items of clothing, but much more precious) over and over until they were bound within the folds of our minds. Skinny dipping at midnight in a pool we’d snuck into, dancing in the Lerner’s garden, driving too fast on back streets. Our laughter filled the sky, competition for the stars. Your hand would rest on my knee, my head on your shoulder.  But soon your thoughts would turn to wanting more. More money, more love, more recognition. Always, you had drank too much so I would help you to bed and wrap my arms around you, feeling the rise and fall of your body’s breath between dark and dusk, letting our dreams fuse us together.

My heart was full, packed with the world of you. Then, morning would come bringing sunlight and clarity; the fear that our togetherness would not last forever. Fighting reality with my entire being, I held more tightly to you driving myself mad with desperation. I questioned your motives, analyzed your words with deft precision, eyed the people in your life with scrutiny. You reassured me that I was your only love. But your words sounded hollow, hanging in the web of my doubts. “You are diffident.” You would say. “Diffident, defensive, and rude!” Those words I believed. They seemed more real to me. I tried to stop. I tried to reason myself from the narrow, shaky limb of paranoia, but it was too late. You did not want to make amends. And I watched, as if helpless, while you and I slipped through my fingers. 

“I’ve met someone.” Your words were the saw cutting me down. “She will help me get where I need to go in my career She will help me get more.” I could feel my breath leave my body. “I don’t really love her. But we, you and me, are no more.” And all of my bones cracked as I landed on unyielding ground.
My fear had met reality. They were the same.  You buttoned your shirt and adjusted your tie, spraying on your cologne you looked at me, the last look between us, “I’m going out.”  It was the finality of our existence. I sat in your floor, tears eroding my hot cheeks, breathing you in for the last time: the weight of your presence, the rough, familiar feel of wooden floors we’d danced on most every night in bare feet, the sound of water dripping in the kitchen that made us think we could try our hand at plumbing and the note on the counter still reminding us to call a professional,  the empty glass holding salty taste of your lips from your nightly drink, the smell of your body and mine still mingled on your sheets, I could almost feel your heartbeat. Picking myself up, I moved with surprising agility, through the thickness of the air and walked to my own house where I began removing every reminder of you. Two boxes labeled “thrift store” now held the mementos of our life together. 

A few days passed and I was able to walk in the sunshine again.  In a few weeks I was eating. The months following found me able to sleep, even if alone. And soon years were going by with an ever dulling pain. I would think of you sometimes, less often with the passage of time. My life had become one of contentedness. No emotional highs to match my life with you, but you had slowly drifted into the past, part of another existence. I married a friend who had loved me for years. You knew him, Adam.  I thought of you only a little as I said “I do.” We never had children, but our nieces and nephews made the walls of our house feel like a home when they were there. 

I saw you several weeks ago. I think you may have seen me. I was leaving the market as you were walking in. Our eyes met briefly and the same feeling I’ve always had when I see you wrapped around me again. You were with a young woman. She was holding your arm. She looked like you. “Dad, are you alright?” I heard her ask. You leaned in to whisper something to her and she turned abruptly to look at me. “That can’t be Ruth.” She said, leading you into the store. I smiled to myself. I have thought of you every day and night since, hoping to see you in my dreams but they will not bring you. 

Closing my eyes tonight, all of my years cascade around me like an ethereal curtain, the outline of a figure walking as if waiting on the other side. I would recognize that familiar profile even if I were blind. My heart racing with hope, I reach out my hand; I notice it looks the same as it did the day I first met you. I pull back the fabric and there you are. Your arms are around me before I can say your name. Your lips dance across my face. We cannot stop laughing. I feel myself let go of life and breath and all that came in life before.  At rest, at last, home.