Morning Wake Up

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Morning Wake Up

He's a hard sleeper just like his dad.
When I say his name, touch his arm,
he sleeptalks and says he's getting up.
I sit on the bed's edge for another minute,
straighten his twisted covers,
look at him with the kind of love
he'd squirm under if awake,
the kind of longing I had
that first morning,
the room spinning around me,
every cell in my trembling body
saying, Thank You. Thank You.

So Long, Emily

There's Hurricane Harvey and the West Wing travesty and a non-native salmon spill in Puget Sound. And famine in Africa.

But tonight, there's Emily flying to California for the year, and then who knows what after that. She's my person, as anyone who's read this blog even once probably knows. We are good at staying connected and it will take a hell of a lot more than this move to change that.

But still. Sad and it's all a little surreal. Nothing to do but write a poem. I love you, sister.

So Long

You'll get on the plane
and text me when you land.
I'll see you before Christmas
and fill your virtual and actual mailboxes.

But you won't be leaving notes
on my desk,
walking my dog,
sleeping in my house
like you are tonight,
your breath, body, footfall,
your "I am here"
always making me
into the wildest, loveliest
dream of myself.

Little Poems for Dark Days #13

Little Poems for Dark Days #13

End of the day, nothing written yet.
If I have anything to say,
it's thank you.
Thank you for my life,
thank you for this anger,
geyser of revolt rising up in me,
that part of me that won't sit down,
cloud of witnesses
who won't be silenced,
worker in the field,
first responder in his boat,
writer with her pen,
refugee in his tent,
loud Chorus of Love
on the bleakest, most sodden of plains,
singing though there's every reason
not to.

Little Poems for Dark Days #11

Little Poems for Dark Days #11

I'm tired of the bitter river!/Tired of the bars!
(Langston Hughes)

Whether it's because we built an ark
with blood money
or happened to be born
on top of a hill,
those of us on dry land
have always been smug,
directing others not to be angry
or to work harder
or to have more faith.
What's that you say?
This bitter river comes for us?

Little Poems for Dark Days #10

Little Poems for Dark Days #10

Today my free tote bag came in the mail.
The fridge is full of washed fruit and little yogurts.
I manage to clear my desk,
send a note to my aunt,
have an idea for a poem
or the urge to learn something--
tennis or Spanish or pickle-making.
Sparks in the dark, all of it,
sticks and tinder, hope against hope,
making fire in the cold.

Little Poems for Dark Days #4

Little Poems for Dark Days #4

My neighbor Laura makes oatmeal
for anyone that ends up in her front yard.
With solar glasses and pinhole projectors,
this little band of dogs and humans is ready
to see the moon eclipse the sun
then to see the sun come shining back again,
ready to remember that our planet is still suspended,
that we are still, mercifully, alive in the universe.

Little Poems for Dark Days #1

Little Poems for Dark Days #1

What seem to be fresh horrors
are really just old wounds
that have never stopped bleeding.
Forgive me
for wanting to be relieved
more than I want to be awakened.

My friend Janel and I were talking last night about writing and poetry and how scattered we feel during this time of dramatic headlines. I haven't been writing much because I feel like I have nothing coherent to say. The little nuggets are not coming to me.

But there are millions of others who's been testifying no matter the headlines. And they have been doing it for centuries. It's going to take much more than Trump to shut them up.

So I've been reading Ta-Nehisi Coates. And Sherman Alexie. Roxanne Gay. Langston Hughes. Trying to immerse myself realities that aren't mine. Trying to get my white self seeing whiteness, otherness, and the construct of race the way Indians, immigrants, and slave-descendants have always seen them--as deliberate, engineered tools of oppression that concentrate money and power in the hands of the conquerors.

This education of mine has been going on for me since my early 20's when Yancey and I moved into a south Seattle neighborhood that's one of the most diverse zip codes in the country. We thought we'd become friends with everyone, maybe exchange some Spanish and Vietnamese phrases with neighbors, give our kids an education in diversity. It was all much, much harder than that, and my learning has never stopped. If you're white and wanting to start or further your education on race and privilege, you don't need to exploit people of color to do it! You don't need to find your few friends who are brown or black and ask them to educate you. You can do it yourself! This reading list prepared by Cristena Cleveland is a great start. My biggest piece of advice on this journey is to believe the witness of marginalized people in this country. They're not pulling your leg. They are not exaggerating. They're not looking for sympathy. They are voices crying out in the wilderness. And, as people with more privilege, it's our job as white folks to bring those voices into the mainstream. We can't afford to wait any longer.

So I'm going to be posting Little Poems for Dark Days. As many as I can for the foreseeable future. Hopefully every day (though you KNOW that won't happen) for as long as the Spirit moves me. I'm so inspired by Langston Hughes--his straightforward, social, political, playful, direct, revolutionary poems. This is an experiment for me in being less careful, less caught up in crafting a perfect little package, and more stream-of-consciousness, less adorned, quicker on the draw.

And thanks, Janel, for the cheerleading yesterday. Writers gotta write!

For 43 Years, I Have not Died

It's my birthday today.

40 was a big deal (and that year, I don't know HOW many 40th birthdays I went to!), but between 40 and 45, it seems blurry and spongy. I've been forgetting all year if I'm 42 or 43.

I'm just coming out of a little low spell--seasonal allergies, not much gas left in the tank for the last 6 weeks of Yancey's training program, feeling generally uninspired (which I'm realizing is my LEAST favorite feeling.) I wasn't looking forward to much. One morning a couple weeks ago, having a quiet minute in my office before the kids woke up, a bolt of energy went through me and I almost said out loud, "I haven't died yet!"

When you think about it, it's incredible. Improbable. I came through my mother's birth canal and didn't get wrapped in the umbilical cord. I didn't crack my head on all the sets of stairs I navigated as a toddler or yesterday. I haven't ever wanted to take my own life or give up on life itself. That time I choked on an ice cube at Chuckanut Manor, I didn't die. Learning to ride my bike, birthing two children, driving thousands or maybe millions of miles in a steel-encased motor with wheels that goes 75 miles per hour. And all that time, I haven't died! Hooray!

I've been contemplating death a lot lately, I think in a good way. The way we all should. That we are all going to leave this earth and there's an invitation to get into it while we are here. Getting into it doesn't mean we're always happy. Or successful. Or passionate. Or inspired. (Shoot.) But that we give ourselves over to what Life is doing.

Emily is here for my birthday weekend (bliss!) and we were walking and talking today about how we've been using the wrong metaphor for energy. We often talk about it like a gas tank that's getting filled or getting emptied, how some people and endeavors fill it, how others siphon everything away. Instead, we want to think of ourselves as being caught up in the infinite, uncontrollable, always-enough Flow of Life, and we are just beings for it to move through. We don't need to worry about running out of energy or love or life. There's more where that came from! We just get to present to it. (A little easier said than done, of course.)

Between now and my next birthday, I want to not die. And I want to live like I've had a near-death experience. Even on my lowest, least-inspired day, I want to feel Divine Presence holding me up. I want to make more strawberry jam (Who else wants to do that on their birthday? Sigh.), tuck my kids into bed, watch more SNL clips with Wyatt, let the dog out in the morning, mist my houseplants. I want to give more money to the Lighthouse Mission and quit using so many Ziploc bags because I really do love this planet. I want to ask for forgiveness when I screw up, and I want to be in close enough relationship with my friends and neighbors and family that screwing up matters. I want to look in on the piles of laundry, remember they are about LIFE, and shut the door on them. And I hope I'm saying, whether all that happens or not, "It is well with my soul."