roots in the dark places [where everything is simply holding on]
this is less of an essay and more of a love letter
Every morning, after washing my face, I open my south window and sit down on the cold tile of my bathroom, and recite Mary Oliver's "Red Bird": "it is a serious thing // just to be alive / on this fresh morning / in this broken world."
Sometimes, I have to say it 3-4 times in a row before I believe it. And thank goodness that I have enough experience that it's possible to believe. I don't know what I'd do if I didn't have a decade of evidence that this life can be rich like the soil.
I've lived into miracle after miracle, and the gaps between them have kept me willing. Yet, even in the monotony of this extended crisis, I still feel like I could overflow my bathtub with urgency every time I take a shower. This is because, dear friends, I have such an overwhelming desire to live. Part of being chronically ill means that I will always, always love and cling to life. Every day above ground continues to be a god-damned miracle. There was a period, early into my diagnosis, where I was losing my ability to swallow without consistent surgical intervention, and the type of mobility, autonomy, and convalescence I experience today (even with the sporadic autoimmune flare) was beyond fantasy. Doctor after doctor has told me I'm a medical marvel - and no one has responded to the (experimental FMT) treatment as well as I have.
To me, grace is many things, if not everything - a benediction and an obligation. Some days I don't know what I'm going to do with this wild and precious life, but I know that I must keep living it. With nearly two years into this pandemic and extreme isolation, all I'm attempting is trying to unpack something beautiful within myself - or at least unexpected. That freezing morning air is both a shock and a delight. But I'm learning that it's ok if it hurts at first, as long as it wakes me up more. I feel that way about Marie Howe's "This Is What the Living Do" because that poem grabs me by the shoulders and shakes me, shrieking, "You will never experience restitution or catharsis with someone in the ground!" while simultaneously showing me a new way to live. Poetry might be the only place, besides my body, that can say yes [yes, I surrender] to everything, including the inexplicable and unknowable. God help me if I ever stop being curious and willing. The first time I heard Bryan Stevenson say, "if you're not hopeful, you're part of the problem," I had to sit down because it rearranged my insides. I had to get down on my knees and pray (it doesn't matter to who or what) "Make me softer." Because it's not what the world needs; it's what I need.
I follow this Instagram account called "poetry is not a luxury," and I post/write a lot of poetry because I believe that words have the power to move, change, and heal us. But, if I'm (brutally) honest, I think they (poems) can only save the poet. Or they have to heal you first before they can heal anyone else. If we're lucky, they may help, move, inspire, or resonate with someone else. But I think it begins and ends with, "I wrote this poem or essay to save myself." Then, if - in some nearly divine-appointed series of events, those words become far more significant than me and reach someone else - it can be everything all over again, which is another cycle of life-saving and bringing. But I don't always know that that's going to happen. So I have to start with "How is this poem going to rescue me from grief or despair?" and "What will this essay unfold, reveal, or teach me?"
Sometimes the most comforting thing another poet/person can do for me is admit that they don't know shit either. There's always something waiting to shock us just beyond the horizon. It might even be the unknowable/impossible thing. It might be a spiderweb. As Ada Limón writes, it might be a "song that says my bones/ are your bones, and your bones are my bones,/ and isn't that enough?"
A song that says my bones
are your bones,
and your bones are my bones,
and isn't that enough?
Even if it's not right now, I believe it can be.
I love you. I miss you. And I’m looking towards the day that we can join each other.