On poetry, healing, and teaching our children

I don’t consider myself a poet. Though I studied poetry as part of my coursework to earn my degree in English, and though I adore the raw rhythm and jazz of Langston Hughes, moonthe fertile grace of Mary Oliver, and Whitman’s natural ecstasies, among so many other gifted poets whose work has in some way taught, influenced, comforted, and delighted me, I am confident in knowing I am not in that league. I took some cracks at it as a kid, but I like to stretch out my legs in prose. And still, I have lots of work to do, folks.

Yet for the past three years, or so, poetry has been the form that has allowed me breath and fists and flight and rage and passion and tears on my own wellness journey. A line might spring up while doing something mundane and repetitive and soon I’m repeating the line in rhythm to the constant motion I’m surrendering to. And then more words come. I scramble for a piece of paper and jot down some lines before they take flight; they never come on command. This is usually how it works for me.

The following is a poem that came swiftly and with the force of ocean waves. The story of how it germinated is mine to keep, but I wrote it with my daughter’s heart sitting heavy in my chest long before the sun came up. I wrote it for my own mother. I wrote it for many mothers and daughters.

I, like maybe you, perhaps, hang out with lots of women. In yoga, in workshops and classes. I have so enjoyed the enriching relationship I’ve shared with the many women who have served as teachers, in their own way, or who have served as a good friend, or both. Indeed, these women have been my light bearers during some of the most challenging years of my life, and I am eternally grateful to them. This challenging time has touched my daughter, too. Yet her circle of support is considerably smaller at such a young age. While the time spent in self-care classes and workshops has been valuable, I’ve often wondered where are all the daughters and sons? I wonder…are we encouraging our young ones to come with us on this journey of self-discovery? Are we taking the time to pass down what we learn? Are we teaching them to listen to their inner voice, to follow their North Star?

Am I doing enough?

Maybe the answer is we’re doing our best. I’m doing my best. Maybe the answer is, pull the babes in closer so they can hear our stories better.


Seafaring

Oh, Mother
Do not go to the women’s circle tonight
Rest your eyes from the watery myths the sirens have written
for you
Cover your ears, for a while
and listen
To your own heart beating
Expanding and collapsing beneath your ribs

Mother
Take your gentle hands away from the work tonight
And rest them on my head
Let your fingers smooth away the hair from my eyes
And trace the rivers you formed in me

Oh, Mother
Tell me a story
The one you wrote inside your womb
About how the gods entrusted two wandering mortals with the great
responsibility
Of protecting a constellation

Mother
Sing so I can hear your love song, your lullaby
Meant only for my ears
Wrap your arms around me and hold me tight
Put your ear to my chest and listen
Can you hear my heart
Expanding and collapsing?
Can you smell the sea?

Oh, Mother
Don’t listen to the sirens
Stay here
Help me build my own ship
Teach me to sew my own sails
Show me the maps
There’s no need to find Orion’s belt
I’ve been shining here all along

Published in Fine Lines Literary Journal, Vol. 16, Issue 4, Winter 2017

 

 

 

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