Thursday, January 19, 2017

In Mourning

All day I have felt the slick animal of depression at my throat. It's deep January in Vermont and the snow has not kept, the ground is wet and sloppy, the sun is gone, gray hovers. When I cannot see the sky my spirit sleeps; I feel a sense of inner breathlessness. Some of my favorite skies are bright blue afternoons on the coldest days of winter in Minnesota, and, though rarely, in Vermont.

Inauguration Day looms. The People's Billionaire who has swiftly put together a cabinet of like billionaires and appointed individuals who have no tether to the reality of the people of this country, no concern for equality, or are out and out crooks, will take the oath as our nation's leader. How this came to be we can't quite say; the irony is hardly worth mentioning.

Many are headed to DC to protest and to march on Saturday. I plan to join in a protest march at my state capital if I can muster the energy, but, in truth, my voice feels quelled into a deep silence. I long for distance and seclusion, for broad swaths of snow-covered lakes and forest, for the heat of an open fire, for the smell of smoke, for an intensity of weather that might offer a sense of reality closer to the body, to the raw edges of being, and too, away from the hustle and bustle of commerce and capitalism, consumerism and stuff, more and more stuff... the awful drain of daily life in America.

Paul Itkin

But there is another part of this I think. A part of me feels so inadequate as a political voice that I don't want to try to shape a message... into what, anyway? Who would I be speaking to? Or, rather, to whom? Who would be listening? What would be the point? Other activists have told me that they know what to do, it's time to organize. It's time to act. Some say even that this could be a great time of productive progressive growth and transformation by creating alternative sovereignties in our communities and workplaces, with our friends and families. But the work of organizing feels overwhelming and I am humming with rage and sorrow that has a life of its own.


Today I read a friend's blog "Mourning Becomes the Left" about mourning the losses we feel politically. He writes:

I think we need to reclaim mourning as one of our practices on the Left, as a political and communal practice (or, rather, reclaim it more broadly – the incorporation of mourning is certainly one of the things that gives the Black Lives Matter movement such power – and in a way that allows us to mourn the defeat of our hopes as well as the loss of lives).
This rings true for me. I feel I am mourning this defeat, the loss of hope, the loss of dreams for my country. I want to be alone in the woods, in the silence from which I feel calmed. I don't want to engage and this feels bad too.

The snow on the ground out the window melts and the sky catches blue around the edges. It is shapeless as though waiting.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016


I have been stockpiling weapons in the kitchen cupboard.
Machine guns, pistols, knives, and clubs, some as long as one inch.
I find them around the apartment lost by my sons
from the Star Wars toys their father once collected in tribute
to his own father and childhood.

I used to throw them away, but now as my little cache
grows, I feel as though each one points to some
future crime they won't commit, in some future
world that does not love weapons--holy be thy gun.

Did you know, one says to me, in the Ewok Village
there are no stores. The Ewoks kill animals and eat them.
Then they make blankets for their babies with the fur.
People once lived this way, I tell him, though he does
not yet believe that people were ever another way
or that we ourselves could be different.

I find the two-year-old stuck under his brother's bed
at 3am, crying. I have to turn his head to pull him out
and then he cries for an hour and cannot settle back to sleep.
Open, open, open, I whisper to myself. Stay here.
Do not shut out sorrow whensoever it may come.

I am reading Langston Hughes and thinking about
how I fit the profile of the nice White
person who never believed "that man" could win the presidency.
I am the one who said it was all a joke.
What does this say about me?
My ignorance, my privilege, my shame, & advocacy--

O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath--
America will be! 

In the woods beside the river, silence.
Alone I feel my breath like a mountain rising up in me
like the sea from which we all cleave--
If I can touch this soft and open hollow
If I can speak it into being and find another way
If I can sing even the humble lullaby of my feet
pressed against the earth, and see the birds lift in unison today
If I--

In the Ewok Village, my son tells me, some Ewoks have babies
and they pet the babies' heads and they fall right to sleep.
They sleep in baskets covered in animal fur.
Do you know how to wake a baby Ewok? He asks.
No. How?
You tap him on the head like this and then he wakes.

Sunday, October 16, 2016


“All things on earth point home in old October; sailors to sea, travellers to walls and fences, hunters to field and hollow and the long voice of the hounds, the lover to the love he has forsaken.” 

―Thomas Wolfe

"Perhaps home is not a place but simply an irrevocable condition."

---James Baldwin, Giovanni's Room

In the morning at home, this room. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

The Museum Of Magical Things

Morning in October a sky of shade and trees ablaze.
My heart has been beating overtime lately.
The children cry.
In my mind the chrysalis begins to turn
black and orange, suddenly translucent to the body of the
Later and before,
after the wings dried
and the boys let the two butterflies slip
away, away
all the way to Mexico,
I touched a wet finger to the empty
shells left on the mason jar
surprised by the strength of their stems
stuck fast to the glass.

The ache of my head
this morning. The beat of my heart
fast, heavy, heaving.
Fear in the red orange fire of the tree.
Fear in something I cannot yet see.
Breathe. Drink water. Breathe.
The children are crying fat tears at the breakfast
table. Slapping each other, stealing toys.
Later they will sit in the bath after night fall
with their father at the kitchen sink
steps away, washing the dishes. They will sit
in hot water and laugh and splash and be happy.

I will teach my class
exhaustedly, worried that I am failing,
think of the way my face is breaking
feel the thick web of time.
Think of the thin lines also on the faces
of my beloveds... sisters, friends, husband.
How we had never believed they'd be.
I think of the way they mark a history of expression.
The way they mark inwardly, a life lived.
The way they point often towards the sky.
I am trying to love
what I already have, what is already here
what has come of this life,
rather than the other stuff
of the yet evolved regions
of the brain. The want.
Trying to love the book manuscript
as it is, unruly and imperfect.
All the hours endless hours spent,
but ask me a question. What is the story?

Later, I will lay in my bed beside my husband
feet to head, head to feet. Speaking.
Listening. I complain. I feel the same.
Nothing changes. But everything does.
In the museum of magical things or perhaps
it is magical thinking in there & here,
all the sun filled days, all the snowforts of the world
all the stories we have told each other
in our weary attempts to stave off time.
In our love.
Our broken, imperfect love.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Wedding Poem & Morning Muse

Here's the poem I read at Bess & Adam's Wedding: September 10, 2016 Camp DuNord Ely, MN

Let the World Come

Gather devotion,
Gather radiance, light of light,
Gather the leaves in the wind,
Gather the children
Let them into your lap, into your being—
You came to change and be changed
You came to grow your hands open
And you will walk among the gods of this earth 
Until your fingers break and you learn
Your hands were never made to grasp in fist,
To mark what is and is not yours—
They are glowing stars, point them at the sky
Bend your knees and let the world come
Let it take you


Morning. We slept late and I hurried to get the boys to daycare and preschool. It's already 11 and I have been bumbling around my email and apartment trying to get all the work done that needs doing for tomorrow's class and Wednesday's class and weekend manuscript review. 

From my desk at the window I hear the geese fly over twice and the honking call makes me think of this past weekend, and my dear sister Bess getting married to her beloved Adam. The two have know each other for 10 years and have loved each other for many and have two sweet children. All together with my family in the north woods of Minnesota I was enamored with the woods and lake and love, good food and spirits and bonfires and music. Still so tired from the whirlwind trip Josh and the boys and I made to be there. But it was worth it. I adore these lovelies so much. Many blessings to them as they venture on together in life and love.