What holds, what resists.
Anyone can be an expert, when keeping is the point. All it takes is rejection of a sense of the disaster of being full up, and a guiding hand to fear how the space of its reach might indicate some lack––of anything but the capacity to Figure it Out.
By the science of keeping, one can make lists and keep intentions. Retention’s methods always have some Master eager to Proclaim the next Solution to loss. To capture a place, there are itineraries, photos, souvenirs, but none so lasting as a scar.
The body, in the end, can only hold a record of its wounds. It returns the bones and teeth to the earth or the next collector. In the end, it can only offer what flies from it, which is a concept the experts have yet to explain.
Inspired by Elizabeth Bishop’s One Art. Playing with the negative image.
When we were keepers of the universe
we would tickle its edges by the tips
of the fingers of our outstretched hands
and we would hold those hands out
as we spun with its edges tipping our
heads daring to be knocked back
until we were flat on our backs
laughing the sky beaming back
seemed to know us
and later we. were
not. so sure.
Some would go for the quick thrill of a familiar spectacle, but you did it differently, pointing a lens toward endurance. Only the unthinkable is interesting, you said, and who could argue? Sensing the dark did not change its darkness, but it was possible to train at walking forward in it, bumping along.
Well, you reminded. There has never been a time when this was safe. We took off our shoes and entered.
Inspiration: Franz Kafka’s writing, particularly when he writes about “the Holy of the Holies” in his fragment Wedding Preparations in the Country.
Between dreaming and waking.
The original void, they called it, and we thought like a womb and imagined ourselves a sort of placenta but who can say. We might have been the baby or the amniotic fluid, because where in that space do you find enough context for measurement?
What grows here cannot happen outside of time, they said, and we had no reason to argue; besides, who would listen? We couldn’t even name ourselves beyond we, beyond here, beyond you, and we used these interchangeably, depending on what fit the mood. Our words were the music we held between us.
All movement begins here, they said, and we had only known ourselves to be ever floating with it, in this space that only exists because it is empty enough to hold whatever comes. One evolving over time might decide to call the growth a contract between years and intentions, and who can fault them for this? It’s easy to forget this space, where the names of what we are keep sliding between us.
Of embodied contradictions.
Maybe we were drawn to him because he was so forthcoming about the way he didn’t understand anything and still couldn’t keep from trying. Whether to understand or to look like he did, we never knew. He was a walking battlefield of embodied contradictions: formal order vs. experience, enthusiasm vs. despair, devotional intensity vs earthbound affections.
Some suggested his greatness was the locus of his damnation, and they called him a saint, but of the wrong religion. Enthralled, we couldn’t help ourselves, leaning into listen to the strain in the language he almost broke, to get to the place beyond it.
Someone said, of his early work, that it read like period pieces from a period that never existed. But even his baroques seemed to always hide a stillness. It was refuge he wanted, after all. He didn’t know the way there, not exactly, but he had a knack for jostling us toward––something. It wasn’t safety, but something else and we were drawn to the drum of its pulse, like dancers unable to stop.
Inspired by Christian Wiman’s essay, “A New Mode of Damnation? On Hart Crane” in The Hudson Review, summer 2000 (accessed on JSTOR). Italicized phrases are Wiman’s.
First lessons in topography.
As a child of wartime, she remembered her grandmother’s hunger, the bombing and blood, and the flat expanse of the plains. Looking out, she imagined Earth as a wide plate and Heaven as the dome that covered it, and believed that if she walked to the edge, she would find the place where they met.
Later, she saw her first mountain. This was a shock.
Later still, she would think how well this prepared her for what followed, because what good is an education that does not continue to jar you from whatever it is you presume to know before learning more?
Inspired by a section of this conversation between Judith Plaskow and Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza, in Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion Vol. 29, No. 1 (Spring 2013).
Laughing in the basement.
If revelation is marked by unknowns, happiness by suffering, ease by difficulty, then it’s not a stretch to recognize that those serious truths everyone has been so steadfastly seeking were under our noses all along, hiding among the stuffed jesters and the Lego bricks in the carpet. If truth’s constant companion is the absurd, let us sit in the dark and laugh.
No, but seriously, you said, and raised self-doubt to the level of moral imperative, and at the crossroads between Either and Or, you boldly announced, neither will do–and chose anyway, as one must.
In your good company, we sleep no more in this underground of mirrors and toys; instead, we are awake with the question of whether we are, after all, in or out, as relates to the houses we once took for granted as ours. And now, you said, for my final performance, I shall confide the meaning of life to this scrap of paper, which you cleverly managed to lose.
Easy come, easy go, you said, while continuing to insist that neither would do.
Earlier in the week, some other search reminded me back to some of Søren Kierkegaard’s ideas, so today I am appreciating his teasing sense of humor.
In the streets, as the bells tolled, the pilgrims took to dancing. They claimed they could not stop. When asked why, they said it was St. John. Some suspected the culprit was a spider.
Imagination, after all, has diverse needs. Among these is enaction of beliefs, known and unknown, inherited and adopted. Perhaps there was some collective recognition of the allure of what was forbidden. Maybe it was a rejection of the certainty professed by the self-proclaimed experts of the unseen. How could there be such neat categories for the unknown, and what was a body to make, really, of the smug certainty of those pious pillars of chastity claiming to know all?
Every ritual is a cosmology enacted and here comes a sudden ambivalence between order and disorder. Birth, after all, was very messy, and yet commonly described in deceptively banal terms: who was born, who gave birth, in the time of whose birth. These easy phrases tend to obscure the body’s radical passage from imminence to transcendence, and the terror of the vast labyrinth of possibilities that open when this is considered.
No, no. This was deemed too much. It was easier, many believed, to call for an exorcism, to blame a series of botched baptisms given by priests improperly purified of the weaknesses of the flesh. And of course, the spider, who as a weaver of intricate patterns in the air, had long been cause for suspicion among the high-minded guardians of propriety.
On this day in 1374, observers in the Rhine basin observed processions of pilgrims wandering from town to town in a display of what some described as “hysterical” dancing. This 2016 article describes this notable outbreak of “Dance Mania.” I am interested as much in the phenomenon itself as I am in the factors that led such behavior to be displayed, diagnosed, and chronicled.
When silence is betrayal, when uncertainty mesmerizes, a calling to speak can be a vocation of agony––so rejoice as well, because we are here in firm dissent, a new spirit among us.
No document from human hands can make any of the persecuted less our brothers––sisters, hear their broken cries. They watched us poison water, bulldoze land, and the children run in packs in the street, seeking food for their mothers.
Family, village, land––destroyed. The initiative is ours now, to somehow cease this madness, to be prepared, with every creative protest possible. To challenge the young with alternatives, each by their own convictions.
There is a deeper malady here, and the answer so readily dismissed as weak is love––courageous, relentless against fear.
Let us hope. We still have a choice.
Exactly one year before he was assassinated, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his speech “Beyond Vietnam––Time to Break the Silence” at Riverside Church in New York City. Today’s post is a tribute to this moment, assembled from words and phrases in this speech. Found poetry is one of my favorite ways to listen.
What happened when the light changed.
The ants were marching one by two, hurrah, and from a chrysalis came particles of light. The old light waved from the shores we had left, and there was no going back. Clocks melted in these new sands at our tentative feet and soon after, the bodies on canvas began to separate from themselves and from any of the forms we thought we knew. It became possible to be neither in or out of being, but both at once, and above it as with dreams. The ants were going somewhere but here was another unknown among the unseen worlds, now in catch of our breaths.