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