"Lotus Opening" by L. Folk

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Religion of Poetry and the Interface of Heartache and Disease

May 15, 2011

The warriorship continues. It is a constant battle to proclaim centeredness, or rather, arrange for centeredness. This morning I finally went back to the mat, to the bolster, to the tree after a long absence. Immediately I thought of the people I met last night at the Poetry Festival and was thankful to connect with them. Meeting these bright souls who electrify my heart, who are compassionate and reach out in their work, who have given their ego a chair, who have the scars of time on their faces, who have fallen and risen and fallen and risen again, who still tend the fires of life in their gut, is like communion, is recognizing the recognizable God amongst the throngs.
I have been writing a lot of poetry lately. Through writing this blog, I have found my own sacred words. I have mentored myself. I am less concerned with “the auction of the mind” as Emily Dickinson puts it. She was the last writer we discussed in my American lit class and when I came across this verse, I felt validated. I explained to the class how, despite Dickinson's family joining the First Church of Christ, she remained wary of religion. And then out it leapt from my mouth, “Poetry was her religion.” So if it's good enough for E.D, it's good enough for me. Fiction may be my craft, but poetry is my religion.
I thought perhaps I should have my own definition of what poetry is to me. There must be evidence of craft and evidence of spirit. There must be poignancy of image and/or emotion; there should be an element of surprise or deep recognition that makes the reader gasp. That makes the poet gasp.

I dreamt last night of my uncle and aunt who have become somewhat estranged to us. I wrote this poem:

I dream of you, the estranged.
I dream of putting my arms around you
walking with you and laughing.
We breathe the breath of reconciliation,
can speak to one another without
the blade severing our throats and hearts.
Oh, be God, you whom I have lost, too.
Be present with me now.
Sit with me, tell me the names of your
children, let us drink and reminisce
of yesteryear when all the pieces
fit to place.

Here is another poem:

This is how I feel
when God is in the room
the four walls fall flat,
my heart, a bird, ascends
with wings outstretched,
my lips direct upward, part,
speak the name.

I have been thinking a lot about memory. It blooms inside me with a whiff of lilacs or garlic; there, my grandfather at the table with a nutcracker in his hands, my grandmother in her apron, my aunt with her long black hair and low rise jeans, my mother catering to her kids, my father in front of a heaping plate, my uncle smelling sweet and manly, my other uncle cracking jokes. I think of the mystery of death and how my mind grapples with it at night, how the dead are alive in my dreams, but they are tainted. Scarred. It's as if they are wearing a scarlet letter we cannot see. Then I think about my grandmother's last ten years of life, how she was robbed of memory and I wondered what that landscape looked like. Do you live in the moment without memory? Without expectation and fantasy? Do you see the trees? I remember my grandmother crying for my Aunt Lauretta while she was downstairs in the rocking chair in front of the television set. I did not know what to say to her, a woman who had lost her child. Was it this memory that relinquished all memories?
We can only speculate at the interface of heartache and disease.

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