Poetry Month Saw Too Much of My Face
I can’t believe I look so different every day! It’s a little crazy. During 12 days in April I memorized a different poem and “performed” it. I wonder if the poems transformed how I looked? Whatever the case, this was a fascinating experiment in heart/head work, vulnerability, and poetry.
I’m an actor. I don’t talk about that part of who I am very much on this blog. I talk about being a teacher, being a spiritual director, being a learner.. but the thing I’ve been the longest is an actor. I love words. I love how words feel in my mouth and in my body. I remember in graduate school working on Elisabeth’s monologues in Richard III: “Too deep and dead, too deep and dead poor infants in their graves.” I mean seriously, a mother mourning the death of her children. Could Shakespeare have given her any better line to say? It’s music. The vowels chart the clenching of her throat and her grief. I fucking love language.
When I worship I do so with the words of Anne Sexton, with the music of Leonard Cohen. Unfortunately, I don’t feel the same poetic merit with church praise music. I know a lot of people do. I think in some ways, for me, worship has to be separated from ritual. Maybe it’s too much to expect to get it all in one package. I went with a friend to a little chapel service this past weekend at the sweetest, tiniest little church with a lovely group of about 16 of us. The music (singing) was terrible, but it was pretty close to Sexton/Cohen vibe-wise.
I’ve applied to start a Master’s Program next fall in Theopoetics and Writing. I’ve been struggling with what to do next for a while now. I’m not sure where this will lead me, but I’m pretty confident this is the next right step.
I’m grateful friends. Grateful for words, and for the silence between them. Grateful for our hearts’ resonances.
Here’s a few of my own poems that my poetry practice this month inspired.
Be well - Kelley
A Kind of Cleopatra
My hands were pockmarked,
textured by gritty rock
After climbing its grooved thick skin.
Warming on top, its ribbed back beneath me,
I watched the clouds go by
And felt the earth begin to lumber forth
across the field.
As a kind of Cleopatra, I sucked
Honeyed stems and
balanced on his great frame.
Together, the earth and I adventured
slow and determined,
Partners in ptolemaic time.
Lingering presupposes things that endure. -Byung-Chul Han
Years ago, I collected antique typewriters.
It wasn't smart for a grad student
who moved every 8 months.
Heavy with sharp rusted edges,
none worked. But with every
new third story walk up,
hauling up these prehistoric beasts,
I felt connected to everything
that had come before,
lingering in words written
that I'd never read,
and trusting each one, plucked
from an imagination that loved
and suffered and lied and broke
things. Ghosts lived in these machines.
As long as they lived on my shelves,
they lingered with me and I too would endure.
Today, I gave a talk to the incoming freshman.
I sat perched on the stage.
They asked me questions about
what high school would be like.
At the end, I told them to come up,
introduce themselves -
I would love to meet them.
Last came Kai, a sweet boy
lingering behind who said, "I love music and dancing.
And acting too. I love getting a character
and making it mine."
"Me too, Kai" I said.
“I love it all, just like you.”
And he smiles, and I have to swallow hard
because I always feel like crying now.