"I am playing with myself,
I am playing with the world's soul,
I am the dialogue between myself and el espiritu del mundo.
I change myself, I change the world."

Gloria AnzaldĂșa

10 December, 2014

happy birthday, Miss Dickinson. and thank you.

When I was an undergraduate, I read an essay by Adrienne Rich about Emily Dickinson. "Vesuvius at Home," the title taken from an ED poem, shattered the image of the shy, strange little woman sitting in her bedroom and hiding away from the world.

And I began to read Dickinson. Then I began to study Dickinson. Her syntax, her precise and startling use of words, her understanding of the human mind, of my mind, were sustenance to me.

And still, I think that there is no one who touches my heart as much as Dickinson.

On this day, the day after the congress released its report on torture, a day when racism and violence and lawlessness seem ever present, a day when I think that perhaps my country has lost its soul, I remember that Dickinson wrote the bulk of her poetry during the years of the civil war; another time when America was paying the price for its original sin.  It seems appropriate to share the best poem about grief I've ever read:

After great pain, a formal feeling comes –
The Nerves sit ceremonious, like Tombs –
The stiff Heart questions ‘was it He, that bore,’
And ‘Yesterday, or Centuries before’?

The Feet, mechanical, go round –
A Wooden way
Of Ground, or Air, or Ought –
Regardless grown,
A Quartz contentment, like a stone –

This is the Hour of Lead –
Remembered, if outlived,
As Freezing persons, recollect the Snow –
First – Chill – then Stupor – then the letting go –

J 372

Poem copied from Poetryfoundation.org

19 November, 2014

all goes onward and outward, nothing collapses

my dear departed Alice and Dinah--the old guard

Tomorrow will be a week since Alice died. It sometimes surprises me how deeply I feel the loss. It's probably because she was my last old girl--the last dog who knew my mother. But whatever the reason, it is a loss I sometimes experience as a pain in the chest. I first experienced that after Mom died. My therapist at the time said, "Why do you think they call it a broken heart?" And so I will grieve. As long as it takes.

But I know this. There is no death. There is no end to the energy and the love that was my mother, or Dinah, or Alice.

A child said, What is the grass? fetching it to me with full hands;
How could I answer the child? I do not know what it is, any more than he.
  
I guess it must be the flag of my disposition, out of hopeful green stuff woven.
  
Or I guess it is the handkerchief of the Lord,
A scented gift and remembrancer, designedly dropt,  95
Bearing the owner’s name someway in the corners, that we may see and remark, and say, Whose?
  
Or I guess the grass is itself a child, the produced babe of the vegetation.
  
Or I guess it is a uniform hieroglyphic;
And it means, Sprouting alike in broad zones and narrow zones,
Growing among black folks as among white; 100
Kanuck, Tuckahoe, Congressman, Cuff, I give them the same, I receive them the same.
  
And now it seems to me the beautiful uncut hair of graves.
  
Tenderly will I use you, curling grass;
It may be you transpire from the breasts of young men;
It may be if I had known them I would have loved them; 105
It may be you are from old people, and from women, and from offspring taken soon out of their mothers’ laps;
And here you are the mothers’ laps.
  
This grass is very dark to be from the white heads of old mothers;
Darker than the colorless beards of old men;
Dark to come from under the faint red roofs of mouths. 110
  
O I perceive after all so many uttering tongues!
And I perceive they do not come from the roofs of mouths for nothing.
  
I wish I could translate the hints about the dead young men and women,
And the hints about old men and mothers, and the offspring taken soon out of their laps.
  
What do you think has become of the young and old men? 115
And what do you think has become of the women and children?
  
They are alive and well somewhere;
The smallest sprout shows there is really no death;
And if ever there was, it led forward life, and does not wait at the end to arrest it,
And ceas’d the moment life appear’d. 120
  
All goes onward and outward—nothing collapses;
And to die is different from what any one supposed, and luckier.

"And to die is different from what any one supposed. . ."

It is odd that the more we learn about life--about the universe--about physics--the truer Whitman's words are. I have always known this to be the Truth--with a capital T-- the metaphorical truth-- the spiritual truth. But now we know that the universe continues to expand, that energy never dies, it only changes form. Science, spirituality, and poetry are not mutually exclusive. Thank you, Universe.