Under Leaves…

Under leaves those lies and shows you thought I’d grow up to blow
on my knees perpetually for your testimony of delusions,
the paradise you claimed and named as real,
all those lies and shows, all their fangs and claws,
chains and saws dissolve around me.

Under leaves I am.

Under leaves these cells sing, sound and bellow something never meant to be silent or still.

Under leaves every fiber of me hums, shouts, and pounds a drum no one can claim.

Under leaves and on their scatterings my feet bare and drinking, gulping up the gobs, sigh.

Under leaves the chunks and corpses sink into dirt, all the lies gone.

Under leaves the bones rumble to life, a resurrection unrelenting.

Leave me here, I’ll dance, I’ll laugh at the scars and all the servitude scenarios.

Fly these arrows to the missionary madness, leave me to the sane and true.

Under leaves you could never be.

Under leaves I am.

Photo by J. Ruth Kelly, All Rights Reserved, 2018

On Why the Door Remains Closed…

“The humanism bypass. I did it for years. I saw glimpses of someone’s potential, their beautiful soul, their loving heart, and told myself that this was who they truly were, ignoring all the rest. But the rest was what destroyed. The rest is where they lived most of the time. The rest was no illusion- it was them, too. This self-destructive pattern was birthed in two places: (1) my deep desire to see the best in my difficult parents. Not for them, but for me. I needed to believe that there was something kind and caring living inside of them; (2) a misplaced projection from my own self-concept work. I held the belief in my own potential, as a way of overcoming the shame I carried. But I made the mistake of assuming that everyone else was just as eager to find their light. Of course we all have glowing potential. At the core, we are all magnificent beings with profound capacities. But how many of us fully actualize it? At this stage of human development, not so many. The trick is to hold the space for two things at once- a deep belief in everyone’s possibilities, and a deep regard for your own well-being. It’s okay to pray for everyone’s liberation without joining them in prison. Pray from outside the prison walls, while taking exquisite care of yourself. It’s okay- you can’t do the work for them anyway. Boundaries, boundaries, boundaries… don’t leave home without them.” Jeff Brown

Photo by J. Ruth Kelly, All Rights Reserved, 2018

I Believe Her

One of the reasons Republicans can go ahead with Kavanaugh’s confirmation while a good many of them find Dr. Ford’s allegations credible is that they place such a low value on the sanctity of a woman’s right to her own body, her own space, her own time, her own mind. And, yet, at the same time, they place a premium on her ability to smooth ruffled feathers, look “pleasing”, be “pleasing”, and basically push all the buttons that mommy presumably failed to do so many years ago, or did so well they’ve never realized the world isn’t mommy.
We are, at once, compelled to nurse and coddle our men while simultaneously empowering them to be all they can be, as if the fact that they require our perpetual hand-holding isn’t enough to challenge the very idea that they are empowered, much less that it might present the credible question of whether or not the whole paradigm needs to be tossed.
This speaks to why a man can speak up after 40 years of silence and declare a priest his abuser and not be ridiculed. He is not a responsible party in that paradigm of the feminine burden; he is, instead, the one who receives the benefit of the doubt and the one whose sexuality – especially if it fits the hegemonic mold – precludes him from any doubt, for surely, as a man, to admit he was overpowered and violated (since his role, his duty is to be perpetually empowered and in control) is the greatest violation of the paradigm. Why would any man admit to something happening to him, something especially that challenges the myth of masculine domination and strength?
Women, on the other hand, are responsible for perpetuating the myth, for being the ones who, by their less than, second-class, weaker status affirm the superiority of the male. We are meant to be inspiring and inspired, independent and yet not to the point of challenging male superiority, accommodating, brilliant, child-bearing, gorgeous and never-failing in the face of unyielding criticism even when we are called out for abandoning the great paradigm or for merely stepping a toe out of those maddening realms – we must first be sure we held our faces just right. If we cannot make everyone around us at least comfortable, then we must not either try too hard to make folks happy in too obvious a way otherwise, we may make folks ill at ease. We must grin and bear it when the product of our efforts to fall in line do not always go according to plan. The great white God is truly, intentionally a motherfucker from where I’m sitting, for he is a creation of patriarchy.
I was told by my father when on the cusp of my 20’s that “anything that happens between you and a guy is your fault.” Anything. The great burden. You wore those clothes. You looked him in the eye. You didn’t look him in the eye. You smiled. You didn’t smile. You had an attitude. You spoke your mind. You rocked the boat. You left the house, the car, the building.
I believed him for many years. I believed him until I birthed a daughter. Then it all fell apart.
Besides the feminine burden of upholding it and a host of other common human frailties, the myth of male domination rests on the brute power of the male form and the ability of a man to hold a woman down, to take the time to put his hand over her mouth, or tower over her with his fists balled, or to quote scripture at her about her wifely duties or to yell and bluster in the face of accountability before a judiciary committee. Ad Infinitum.
The GOP and many who claim Christ as their great Saviour (as did my father at the time he declared me wholly responsible for all the actions of a male towards me) rely on the myth of the work of the Cross as one that requires nothing more than that you accept it. And from there? Well, much like the t and c club, you’re a member. You can do anything except challenge the paradigm. If you’re a woman, forget it. You can’t do anything. There are only certain things and only in certain ways especially if you have had a child. This slice of “Christianity” doesn’t actually possess a moral compass apart from the paradigm that upholds the myth. You must not challenge the paradigm. That is their great “morality” and they believe in it fully.
I watched Dr. Ford yesterday and was simultaneously grieved, devastated and beyond thrilled that someone would embody such power and courage in the face of that myth. And that Anita Hill did this very thing years ago enduring the violation and ridicule, that we are still right here enrages me.
We are not going to progress by pulling back and we aren’t going to be free of the paradigm if we don’t upend it fully.
I’m so very proud of Dr. Ford and of everyone who has rallied for investigations and, at the same time, I salute those men who stand with women outside the myth, who know their true power rests, not in domination, but in welcoming the dance.

Johnny G.

snapshots remain
the little boy with flaming red hair
and toddler’s belly, round, with a big bright smile
freezeframe feltness
more than I could lift up off the ground
‘though I tried, making it just a few inches
his weight more than expected
my frame not that much taller than his
perspectives telling
and then he’s up high, looking down on me,
grinning from ear to ear just after shimmying
straight up the big ole loblolly
in our front yard full of pines
as if he were part brown bear
looking down on me years later as my charge
joy-inducing boyness
and there he stays in my heart
as I sift through the shock that he is gone
and I wonder how I seemed
was I thoughtless, distant as “older” kids can be
when suddenly responsible
did I give him, or his sisters, any clue
any idea they had captured my heart?
images collide, collecting aches
and then I’m wickedly handing him the cup of hot water
after he’s come running into the bright yellow kitchen
I’m busy with dishes and he’s all “Miss Ruth…
I need some WATER, so hot out!”
And I’m all “Okay, sure Johnny…hold on…”
he’s gratefully grabbing the cup out of my hand
and I’m smiling in wait for the sputter of wet
and shock of surprise
boring goody two shoes has pulled a prank
remnants rush through a mind reeling
he lives forever, regardless, ’cause
we’re still standing there laughing, aren’t we?
always, always, the freckles
the eyes
heart open

rest in power, dear one.

Along The Shoreline

our pillars nest in tides suggesting endless plays of light
and long they sit in sight of eternity
resting hard against the sand – a story
posing fortitude and feasts along the shoreline,
our grief forgotten in the winds,
our hope perpetual, the slats on which we stand
and then the fall into sea,
our lines living
somewhere beyond the moon…

photo by j. ruth kelly, 2018, all rights reserved

Jonah-Like

“Jonah-like we all have to be spit out of the belly of family and cultural assumptions, a new person, freed and unqualified. But this is one of the purposes we have seen for dark nights of the soul: to prune, to cleanse, and sort out the essential from the illusory. We have to do something with our anger other than suppress it or vent it. There are a thousand possibilities, but each of them has to honor the emotion while giving it form and meaning. Ultimately, you transform your anger through a channeling of your life force, and this liberated vitality gives you your presence as a unique personality.” Thomas Moore [Dark Nights of The Soul]

It’s time to get back to the book I started, finish it and set it free. Onward.