Tag Archives: identity poems

Power of Choice

I spilled coffee all over Emily this morning. Drat. What a mess. She’s all right. Probably didn’t even notice. She’s on such a hellcat rebellious streak these days.

#508, c. 1862

I’m ceded — I’ve stopped being Theirs —
The name They dropped upon my face
With water, the country church
Is finished using, now,
And They can put it with my Dolls,
My childhood, and the shining of spools,
I’ve finished threading — too —

Baptized, before, without the choice,
But this time, consciously, of Grace —
Unto supremest name —
Called to my full — the Crescent dropped —
Existence’s whole Arc, filled up,
With one small Diadem.

My second Rank — too small the first —
Crowned — Crowing on my Father’s breast —
A half unconscious Queen —
But this time — Adequate — Erect,
With Will to choose, or to reject,
And I choose, just a Crown —

The power of choice seems like such a simple thing. To name yourself. To retrieve ownership of yourself from your parents, church, all sorts of expectations. This is the true liberation theology. The sort of choice that some never make. Most of us progress through our entire lives without ever seeing how much our actions are determined by people who came before us, many of them either dead or unknown to us. Yet, we live in that influence without questioning.

Others effortlessly define themselves. Practically from the first moment of birth, such blessed children make powerful choices and cut their own path. See the world and use it according to their own will.

Then there are others, the smaller group who sense the weight of the shackles. They intuit the power of choice. But they have to get there by staging their own liberation drama. It might be as easy as standing up and walking out the door. What if it was that easy, but you didn’t know it? You’d have to bring your awareness fully into the contrast between restraint and freedom. That tension creates the opening for poems to emerge.

Restraint is the whetstone that sharpens the soul. Emily’s soul became like a scalpel cutting through the ties that held her. All to arrive at simple choice, a place of stable contemplation, of knowing her own mind and making decisions based on that inner clarity. This embrace of the invisible Grace, in order to be genuine, must have an inner motive untainted by influence. That includes abandoning other people. The power of choice is lonely.

Emily choses a crown and anoints herself queen of her own life. What moxie that girl has.

Status report: The “Bless You Boys” threw a net over the Falcons yesterday. But it was not a comfortable win. Still 13 and 0 is nothing to sneeze at. We are getting so spoiled now. How many more miracles can we take before the bill comes due? Is there a debt owed here? I can’t stand it.

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Pigs and Poets

Sorry so absent from the page. But I actually had work to do. I know. Incredible. My plan is to continue through the Winter Solstice, break for the holidays, and then reorganize my purpose for this writing in the New Year.

Meanwhile I want to continue what Emily began in the last post. This time, not so Saints focused (although the bless you boys are ever in the periphery of my thoughts these days . . . )

#677, c. 1863

To be alive — is Power —
Existence — in itself —
Without a further function —
Omnipotence — Enough —

To be alive — and Will!
‘Tis able as a God —
The Maker — of Ourselves — be what —
Such being Finitude!

This makes me think of how much of ourselves functions without our conscious effort. The aging process, or the process by which bad cells are disposed by our immune system. Or the way our liver and kidney filter out the harmful garbage from our bodies. Or the way that our lungs move oxygen from the air into our bloodstream. That alone is miraculous. The transubstantiation of the flesh. To move certain properties from a gas into liquid so that our brains can perform the ten million lightning quick tasks that are required for me to get the cup of coffee from the kitchen to the table and then to my lips.

Who needs church when I can sit in my own living room and make myself aware of the vast constellation of miracles that are happening right now inside my skin, as I move this pen across the page. Look at that! Symbols with meaning!

What I like about Emily’s poem—once again—is her bold heresy when she writes “a God”. The insertion of that mild-mannered indefinite article before God makes that statement heretical in her context. It also occurs to me that she probably didn’t have many people to share her ideas about the solitary human as the equivalent of a God. Most of her community probably were afraid of what she was thinking, I imagine. And did that make her unwilling to speak any of it out loud? Or simply unwilling to allow any of it to be published? She must have known that none or few of her contemporaries were ready to hear any of this. Maybe Emerson could get away with it because he wore pants. But I’ll bet no one was ready to see or hear an iconoclast in white lace.

(Furthermore, I’m sure no one had the courage to admit to the intellectual failure that left them incapable of separating a person’s words from the contents of her underclothes.)

I imagine that she kept the work to herself to protect the poems themselves. Not because these were so frail. But because they would have so frightened contemporary readers. More to the point, she was protecting everyone else from what her poems might have done. Cracked them wide open. Why start trouble if you don’t have to? That was Emily’s way.

Yesterday was my father’s birthday. He is 78 years old. When I called to wish him a happy birthday, he told me he had just come home from a poetry reading. Retired surgeon. Hyper-rationalist. Go figure. When I was in school, my father told me, “Pigs and poets are best appreciated after they’re dead.” Thirty years and one major stroke later, his brain is half gone, but he’s a big poetry guy now. His friend, a fellow retired doctor, wrote a poem about my dad, actually. They have a poetry club together, reading, writing, talking. Another miraculous transformation.

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After the Dust

The blackbirds returned this morning. I expect they are not done with me. Nor Emily.

#936, c. 1864

This Dust, and its Feature —
Accredited — Today —
Will in a second Future —
Cease to identify —

This Mind, and its measure —
A too minute Area
For its enlarged inspection’s
Comparison — appear —

This World, and its species
A too concluded show
For its absorbed Attention’s
Remotest scrutiny —

It’s Thursday. The god of the underworld pauses in his deliberations through a mountain of granite. We are being rained on constantly. Last night I listened to Obama trying to fix health care. Meanwhile people are dying because they can’t get the treatment they need. Because no one really wants to help.

We cling to this coat of flesh even as it turns to dust. The mind appears to have it all under control, even as it confronts the unknowable. The scramble for stuff on this plane seems so important in the moment, and then it all falls into nothing.

Today I am selling off a portion of my library. It was getting out of hand. I buy books faster than I can read them. Plus I still have books that I read when I was 12 years old. Either I had to buy more bookcases or prune back my collection. I realized as I went through the dusty shelves that so much of my library is there because it makes me feel more of who I am. And is that actually true? Or is that just an idea, a dusty idea, I hold onto in the absence of something else? Once I unclenched my grasp on these dusty books, it was relatively easy to let them go. Now I can’t wait to get rid of them. They are smothering me, all these pages. What are they there for really? I have loved them, and now it’s time to let them go.

It will be interesting to see what remains once the decks are emptied. My curiosity to see after the dust clears is stronger (right now) than the urge to hold on to things that at one time anchored an idea that might not be relevant any longer.

It’s a little exhilarating, and a little dangerous. In my tribe, getting rid of books is the closest thing to blasphemy there is. I like it. I’m going to do more of this.

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