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.

Meatballs

Every time I make meatballs
I think of my grandmothers.

I wonder how far down the trunk
Of my family tree
One would have to travel
To find the first woman
In my lineage
Who made meatballs
For her family.

It is not a family recipe
I found it on the internet
And changed it a little
Here and there.
Even so, I hear them
A whisper over my shoulder,
Gently
Guiding my hand
As I add breadcrumbs
And garlic
Until they tell me
To stop.

Every single time
I salt the water
For pasta
I wonder
About their tears.

What did they dream of?
What did they pray for?
How many fires
And hot stoves
Did they stand over?

What did they have to survive,
For me to stand over mine
As I make meatballs for my family,
As I pray for my child,
And all who will come
After.

On the New Moon

Beloved,
There is nothing in this universe
That is not for you.
Every kiss exists
To fall upon your cheek,
Every song
To entice your soul to dance,
There is not a soul
Who does not wish
To dance with you,
For all of creation
Resides within the rhythm
Of your heartbeat –
You need only listen
And be willing
To be moved.

A Pandemic Season

This chapbook includes all of the poems that I wrote from August – November 2020 and was compiled for my Illness, Healing, and Health class at Starr King. You can see the full book, which includes 24 poems and a brief introduction at the link below.

Feedback is absolutely cherished. You can reach me by the comments on this page, at helen.p.rivers@gmail.com or through social media if you found the link there. Thank you!

A Pandemic Season by HP Rivers [PDF link]

A Prayer for Election Week

Goddess, Spirit, God,
Love of many names,
of no names,
and of names too intimate to speak –
grant us comfort,
for we are all living with fear.

Yes, all of us –
those who whimper,
those who hyperventilate,
those who disengage,
those whose anger and vitriol
betray the terror
lurking beneath our confidence.

May we all rest.

May we surrender
to the beauty of our dreams,
to the power of our highest good,
and to the service
of the highest good of all.

May our dreams manifest change
and our fear be replaced with rest
and an abiding peace
that only You,
though We,
can bring.

May it be so.

Midway

Alternate Title: Leave Room for Jesus

2005

At the Midway Middle School Spring Formal
Pre-pubescent girls wear white t-shirts
Under their sparkly dresses –
Their preachers,
And their mothers,
Afraid that someone might think them immodest.

The bus driver
Pulls over to yell and pray
Every time someone says, “goddamn” –
And scolds me
For sitting next to a high school boy.

I do not wear a white t-shirt
Under my sweet black dress
And my mother’s pearls.

I am a whore

Named so for wearing my favorite skirt
On my first day of school
After I moved from “the city” –
A suburb of a nearby college town.

At Midway,
Folks either live on farm, on the lake, or in a trailer.
There is no in-between.
Of 150 students in the whole school,
140 live in total poverty.

I don’t blame them
For blaming other people for their problems
When they have been left behind too.

It is easier to put on a red hat
Than take on the system that that made it.

I have my first kiss on that dance floor,
With a boy who shared my father’s first name.
He tells me he was going on tour that summer
With a country music star,
The one whose song
He’d written down,
Word for word,
And slipped into my locker.

I choose to believe him,
Even though I know better.

The science teacher barks,
“Leave room for Jesus”
And it echoes in my head
The whole next year –

I think the worst bullying came from the teachers.

Probably
Because I did not raise my hand
When they asked
Who went to church that Sunday,

Probably
Because I raised my hand
And years of honors classes
Fell from my lips –

There were no honors classes at Midway.

In hindsight,
Maybe my thick black eyeliner,
My heathen smile,
My new fascination with justice
Betrayed the queerness in me
That could only lay dormant so long.

I wonder if that was why
They pretended not to see me crying

Or if it was my uncovered shoulders,
My lack of shame,
Or the places I never went
On Sundays.

2017

Whitney was in my seventh grade English class.
She cuts my hair.
She is the only person from Midway
I have ever seen again.

We do not talk about it.

2018

I come out, finally.
To a pastor
At the place
Where I go
On Sundays

The place
Where every single
Goddamn
Is honored
As a prayer.

2020

I remember that 15,000 gay men were sent to concentration camps during the Holocaust.

I think about a video I saw
Of immigrants illegally entering Canada
At a designated checkpoint
And being offered food, water, and an embrace

I think of another video I saw
Of white thread on red hats
Being ripped from the seams
And reconstructed to say,
“Welcome to Canada.”

I think, “I have family there.”

I think, “I lived in the closet for 13 years.
I can do hard things.”

I think,
“The election is next week.
I might have to delete this poem
After it is over,
Bury it
With my Pride flag and my shame –
But it will always exist.”

I wonder if anyone
Is leaving room
For Jesus.