Onset

Knowing the storm is coming
Might be the worst part.
It’s like going away to war –
Again,
Like saying your goodbyes
Just in case,
Like wondering
If you’ll ever come home again.

She kicks in the door
Like an old nemesis
And smiles,
Sweet as tea,
As she licks her teeth.

Depression
Doesn’t care
That you’re better now.
She’ll always come back
Just to prove she can.

Just to see
If you’re strong enough
To weather the storm.

You are.

Instructions

Sitting on our dining room floor
Assembling a cheap dresser
With inadequate instructions
You laugh and say, “Babe,
I’m not doing feelings right now –
I’m doing power tools.”

I think, “I want to remember this moment
When I am dying.”
Because I have never been more in love
Than I am here, in this tiny apartment
Watching you build our life
With your capable hands.

Beloved, folding your laundry is poetry.
Holding your hand is a prayer.
These mundane moments
Bring me ecstasy –
Not because they are exhilarating,
But because they are ours –

They make me think the entire Universe
Has always been conspiring in our favor.

Godde knows I have enough feelings
For the both of us.
I know that not every moment
Needs to be a song,
But I can’t help it –

I never thought I’d get to hear this symphony
Even though I’ve been humming the tune
Since the day I was born

And will
Until the day I die
Smiling as I remember
The life we built
Out of laughter
And inadequate instructions.

Sitting on our dining room floor Assembling a cheap dresser With inadequate instructions You laugh and say, _Babe, I'm not doing feelings right now - I'm doing power tools._ I think, _I want to remember this moment

Body

The priest says,
“This is the body of Christ”
And I watch, wide eyed,
As my grandfather
Humbly accepts the offering
On his tongue.

I wonder what Jesus tastes like.

The priestess says,
“May you never thirst”
And I humbly accept the wine,
Transmuted into
The water of the womb
That held Jesus Christ
And I wonder
About Christ’s body.

I wonder about his sweat,
The itching of his brow
As it furrowed,
How his muscles strained
As he braided and brandished
A whip,
As he turned over tables –
Did his back hurt
The next morning?

I wonder if Jesus Christ
Ever got a blowjob –
Or gave one –
And whose name he called out
When he came.

Did the body of Christ,
This Word made Flesh, swear
When he stubbed his toe?
Did he get allergies?

As his body bore witness
To its crucifixion
Did the wounds weep
For the cruelty of it all?
Did his heart ache for Mary?
As she watched him die,
Did she feel a phantom kick in her belly?
Did her womb cry out for its fruit?
Did her heart shake in her chest?

Did anyone tell her,
“Soon,
You shall thirst for justice
No more?”

And on the third day,
Did he bid her
Goodbye
With his
Ascension?

Did her wine taste sweeter
That night?

Things I’ve Learned During the Pandemic

Things I’ve Learned During the Pandemic

I can do hard things.

This message is not finding anyone well,
We all just show that differently.

Always take a phone charger
With you to the hospital.

Children are not meant
To be raised
Without the village.

When everything else
Is stripped away,
Love will remain.

I can do hard things.

And to wear red lipstick
For myself
And myself only,

Which I always should have done –
But it took a year behind a mask
For me to realize that before
I was always waiting
For someone else
To validate my smile.

The only thing I see
When I think about after
Is hugs
And red lipstick
On long-missed cheeks.

I can do hard things.

Anxious Love

We decide to write each other letters
To open on our wedding day,
The things too vulnerable to speak
In front of Godde and everybody,
I wonder,
“What will happen to the letters?”

We say, “til death do us part
is for quitters,”
but we will die one day,
And I imagine your body in flames,
My letter tucked gingerly into your pocket,
My words becoming a part of
The ash of you

Will our promises,
Our wildest dreams,
end up in a jar
On our son’s bookcase?

The last time I feared losing someone
This deeply,
He was but a flicker of hope
On the ultrasound screen,
Bleeding not quite serious enough
To panic –

But I never stopped panicking

I never stopped counting
The space between his breaths,
The blessed inhale
That always came –

I am still waiting to exhale.

Once upon a time,
This fear was justified
It isn’t anymore
But I can’t shake it,
Like a bad cough
Or a pretty dress
That I might wear
Someday
And might as well
Hold on to.

It has been with me
Since I had nothing but a shy smile,
A flicker of hope,
And a mischievous streak –
The devil on my shoulder
Never stopped telling me
Nothing would be ok.

I intend I prove him wrong one day
In front of Godde and everybody

Because ‘til death do us part
Is for quitters
And I will cherish even
The ash of you
Because our love is
The most beautiful hope
I have ever held on to,
And I have never felt more sure

Or less afraid.

Resolution

After months of delighting
Every time I caught a glimpse of
The family of cardinals
That lives in my back yard,
Blessing the branches
That kiss my bedroom window
With their songs,
Dancing with the moon
In their flight,
I put up a feeder
Chosen and filled
Especially for them.

I figured
I can spend my entire life waiting
For that which delights me
Or I can call it to me
And claim it
As my birthright.

My child climbs into my lap
And watches.
“Look, mommy,” they whisper in awe.
And when there are two,
“They must be friends.”

I drown in the serenity
Of the moment,
Melt into a dance with the moon,
And claim the joy
Of flight.

On Grief – New Year’s Eve 2020

Written for Westside UU and Tennessee Valley UU’s joint New Year’s Eve vespers service, December 31, 2020.

“Grief
Is not an energy
That can be cleared
With sage
Or good intentions.

It demands
To be felt fully,
Because after all –
It only grows
In the void
Where love
Once flourished,
And love’s wounds
Run soul-deep.”

Love’s wounds run soul-deep. I wrote this a few weeks ago and I have been thinking about the grief of this year ever since.

When we love, the energy of that love marks our soul, and we have all lost or been distant from things we love this year.

I love cooking for my friends, most of whom I have not seen in nine months now. I love smiling at babies at the grocery store. I am a Tennessee native currently living in Florida, and I love that moment when I am driving home to visit, just a little ways south of Chattanooga, when I finally see the mountains again. It takes my breath away and brings me to tears every single time.

These moments and experiences are etched upon my soul in the same way that my love for my child and for my beloved community are etched upon my soul. And I feel, deeply, the grief of their absence.

It feels a little strange to name it grief, right? Am I right to grieve the smiles not seen behind masks and the mountains that I will see again someday, but not too soon? Absolutely.

We may be tempted to believe that there is a hierarchy of suffering, that because our losses or struggles may seem less than others’ that we should simply be thankful we don’t have it worse. But denying our grief – and it is grief, without a doubt – will not make it less. We feel loss, we feel distance from love, deep in our hearts, as deep as our souls, no matter how insignificant we may be tempted to call that loss.

And this is all before the losses we know to call monumental – the wounds of the deaths, the illnesses, the financial devastation, the wounds of personal tragedies all compounded and made so much more tender by the grief already hanging in the air of this year.

None of us have been untouched by this grief that hangs in the air. Our grief is valid no matter where it comes from, and it demands to be felt.

That is terrifying, right? So much of our lives are spent actively trying to avoid that which is painful and uncomfortable, pretending everything is ok when it isn’t, saying we are fine when we just want to scream.

Often, we are ashamed of our pain, or of our grief – we somehow believe that we should be over it by now, that we should be more thankful, that we should not focus on the negative. That might make for a more polite or productive society, but it does nothing to actually heal that underlying pain. Social work researcher and vulnerability expert Brene Brown says, “Shame cannot survive being spoken.” She says, “It cannot survive empathy.”

Naming and honoring our grief, even when we might not feel entitled it, to its fullness, to the profound and sacred weight of it, is an incredible act of empathy towards ourselves. And while unlike shame, grief may survive being spoken, it will always be more bearable when held in the loving care of our communities.

This grief, this love, is holy. May we have the courage to speak it and may we hold it in compassion and empathy. May we be held in compassion and empathy, no matter what or how we are grieving.

Blessed Be.