There Are Times When…

I hear someone pouring out her heart about a wrenching upset,
something burdening her whole being,
something precious to her,
it may be as simple as a slight,
or an all out attack on her honor.

Or she may be troubled about something like a relationship struggle,
or a time when someone treated her rudely,
or she stubbed her toe and it brought out all of her frustrations.

And I catch my breath.
Because it strikes me to my core
in that moment,
that I have to push past the old programming
shoved at me perpetually, daily, hourly
stating that nothing matters save giving up
yourself and your concerns to Christ’s love.
There’s no need to overflow, to spill,
to let it show because it can all just rest at the cross.

I remember this in a flash, a moment when my heart
instantly feels deeply with and for another
all while the program’s smashing attempts to haunt,
to strip, to devalue value itself clashes
with the natural flow.

We are not our own, see, we belong to Jesus.
As long as you can bring it all to him,
corral it into submission to how he has solved everything
(though good folks die and honorable names are smeared),
then you can rest knowing all is well even if it doesn’t look well,
or feel swell, or even feel at all.

It hits me in the solar plexus.

Oh how that program shatters the value,
the soul, the heart of what it is
to. be. human.

And I am achingly grateful to feel,
to be moved by the biggest and the smallest
concerns of those who are changed by what life is.

Think of what it might be like to have that cut off,
to be only allowed to feel deeply into what someone else supposedly did for you,
something that negates any reason to grieve, cutting short,
masectomizing, castrating the heart of being human.

I sit with the realization and allow it to flood
any lingering hardened fields,
places where I smashed my humanity flat,
suffocating breath and pulse.
I sit and watch the water work its way in
and past the resistance to being flesh and blood real.

I am beyond grateful to know the depths,
the feelings from the stubbed toes to the unspeakable losses,
to the quiet joys and splashy promises bearing hope
and to know that I can treasure them all until time to pass them along,
sacrificing nothing but the lie that we are not truly beautifully whole
as we let go of our crutches and learn to walk our stories
amongst ancient witnesses who have learned there is love,
there is divinely radical grace in losing the Jesus no one should know.

j. ruth kelly, all rights reserved, 2020

Season’s Christalizations

“I love Jesus. I love the Pagan Solstice Christmas pine. I love Mother Earth, I love Goddess Shakti. I love my Buddha-heart. I love freedom from religious authority. I love the perfect consistency of my contradictions. I love luscious berries of fire and mistletoe clustered on the cross of paradox. I love the tree of life, where I am ripening fruit. I love the newborn sun.

And I love what my body says to my soul. ‘Every particle of me is made of Matter, Mater, Mother Dust, each atom a cathedral where pilgrims arrive from the stars to celebrate the miracle of flesh. O my soul, You irradiate the world through me. I am your dance. Let there be no more talk of our difference.’ And so after thousands of years of religious combat, my body and my soul are Christalized in one magnum mysterium.

And where does this mystery occur? In the nameless roadside shrine of my chest, in a flame that never stops burning yet has never been lit until Now. Here I celebrate the birth of God, who is this Breath.” Fred LaMotte

 

photo by j. ruth kelly, all rights reserved, 2019

A Brave And Startling Truth

“A BRAVE AND STARTLING TRUTH

We, this people, on a small and lonely planet
Traveling through casual space
Past aloof stars, across the way of indifferent suns
To a destination where all signs tell us
It is possible and imperative that we learn
A brave and startling truth

And when we come to it
To the day of peacemaking
When we release our fingers
From fists of hostility
And allow the pure air to cool our palms

When we come to it
When the curtain falls on the minstrel show of hate
And faces sooted with scorn are scrubbed clean
When battlefields and coliseum
No longer rake our unique and particular sons and daughters
Up with the bruised and bloody grass
To lie in identical plots in foreign soil

When the rapacious storming of the churches
The screaming racket in the temples have ceased
When the pennants are waving gaily
When the banners of the world tremble
Stoutly in the good, clean breeze

When we come to it
When we let the rifles fall from our shoulders
And children dress their dolls in flags of truce
When land mines of death have been removed
And the aged can walk into evenings of peace
When religious ritual is not perfumed
By the incense of burning flesh
And childhood dreams are not kicked awake
By nightmares of abuse

When we come to it
Then we will confess that not the Pyramids
With their stones set in mysterious perfection
Nor the Gardens of Babylon
Hanging as eternal beauty
In our collective memory
Not the Grand Canyon
Kindled into delicious color
By Western sunsets

Nor the Danube, flowing its blue soul into Europe
Not the sacred peak of Mount Fuji
Stretching to the Rising Sun
Neither Father Amazon nor Mother Mississippi who, without favor,
Nurture all creatures in the depths and on the shores
These are not the only wonders of the world

When we come to it
We, this people, on this minuscule and kithless globe
Who reach daily for the bomb, the blade and the dagger
Yet who petition in the dark for tokens of peace
We, this people on this mote of matter
In whose mouths abide cankerous words
Which challenge our very existence
Yet out of those same mouths
Come songs of such exquisite sweetness
That the heart falters in its labor
And the body is quieted into awe

We, this people, on this small and drifting planet
Whose hands can strike with such abandon
That in a twinkling, life is sapped from the living
Yet those same hands can touch with such healing, irresistible tenderness
That the haughty neck is happy to bow
And the proud back is glad to bend
Out of such chaos, of such contradiction
We learn that we are neither devils nor divines

When we come to it
We, this people, on this wayward, floating body
Created on this earth, of this earth
Have the power to fashion for this earth
A climate where every man and every woman
Can live freely without sanctimonious piety
Without crippling fear

When we come to it
We must confess that we are the possible
We are the miraculous, the true wonder of this world
That is when, and only when
We come to it.” Maya Angelou

Circles and Curves

We wend and reach ’round curves,
our circles and circuits of intent.
And whether we mean them to or whether we’re oblivious,
our days become us as we stretch
towards sun’s warmth with hope,
and a strange courage revealed
only by life’s catastrophes.
While we break, our resilience refines itself
sifting through the bits left behind,
a quiet knowing we’ve yet to find,
and ’round another bend, a field of growth flourishes as we weep.
Though we sleep through days on end,
awaiting a less raging grief,
these circles and curves unfold us
eternally towards the sun.

j. ruth kelly, 2019

The Wings of The Dawn – In Memoriam Edward J. Goldgehn

Psalm 139
Lord, You have searched me and known me.
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
You understand my thought from afar.
You scrutinize my path and my lying down,
And are intimately acquainted with all my ways.
Even before there is a word on my tongue,
Behold, O Lord, You know it all.
You have enclosed me behind and before,
And laid Your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
It is too high, I cannot attain to it.
Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there.
If I take the wings of the dawn,
If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea,
10 Even there Your hand will lead me,
And Your right hand will lay hold of me.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will overwhelm me,
And the light around me will be night,”
12 Even the darkness is not dark to You,
And the night is as bright as the day.
Darkness and light are alike to You.
13 For You formed my inward parts;
You wove me in my mother’s womb.
14 I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Wonderful are Your works,
And my soul knows it very well.
15 My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth;
16 Your eyes have seen my unformed substance;
And in Your book were all written
The days that were ordained for me,
When as yet there was not one of them.
17 How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God!

How vast is the sum of them!
18 If I should count them, they would outnumber the sand.
When I awake, I am still with You.

Ed Goldgehn’s absence from the world of his beloved wife, Deanna, family and friends is felt on what can only be described as cataclysmic levels. The shock continues to etch reminders in our hearts and minds of how immeasurably precious our time is here on our beautiful earth, in our fleeting lives.
Ed’s spirit remains. His imprint alive.
I, for one, am grateful for the gifts his uniqueness wrought, spilling into my own world in ways only Ed could do. He will always be not only the brainy, eyebrow-arched zinger of a man who loved my dearest friend in his distinct and empowering way, but he will also ever remain in my esteem, as a fellow member of the notorious tribe, The Scorpio.
Ed opened many doors and fostered innumerable possibilities with his creative spirit and brilliance, planting seeds of success.
He is desperately missed.

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I Ran

I ran so far across noble terrain, full of intent to prove love makes us whole,

to prove love is what we’re here for,

to prove unity grows from and within love,

to prove the living of this life truly worthwhile,

to prove love can transform all the worst demons,

to be empowered despite loss, to be present ‘though pushing through disease,

to be accepting and expectant without entitlement because love,

and so, I ran hard at the work, in the work, in the rest and the play of it all.

And I hiked.

And I climbed.

And I fell, and I fucked some things up.

And I coasted, and I even flew.

And here I am looking down and across the miles behind me.

And I have loss and miscarriage where I least expected.

And I have declarations of love coming at me that ring empty, devoid of any action to make it real,

And rejection of who I am, of how I am who I am, blithe, unseeing and judgmental eyes looking back at me, forgetting when we laughed and held on, forgetting all the love knitting.

And I have proof of love’s work and unity where I least tried and with some unexpected.

And I have uncommon bonds, those seldom known, the kind of connections few experience.

And I have proof I can persist and release, celebrate and grieve.

And I know that love doesn’t make us whole as much as it melts into loss, imparting resilience, filling up the cracks.

And love doesn’t raise the dead, this I know, too.

And I have a crisis of meaning if I look at the lost harvest and the heartaches love couldn’t resolve.

And I have endless grief if I look long at the hurt life handed the ones I thought I could protect, the disease I thought preventable, the power I thought I had, we had.

And I want not to run.

I want not to climb.

I want to release proving.

I want to accept what needs accepting.

I stand looking at the path behind me and there’s a woman clawing her way up the summit.

Her hands are amazing, their strength endless and her legs flex with all the sinew I once knew.

The sun has loved her and the moon, too.

The earth delights in her ministrations.

The rivers know her soul intimately and she sings their songs.

One glance at her climbing my way and I know.

She’s singing and has paint on her chin, ink on her palms, dirt under short fingernails.

There’s a bit of moss and flower in her hair, wild.

She has some wands on her back, ones I thought were forever gone.

Those locks are flaming red, none of the sprinkles of gray gracing my own head.

She isn’t smiling, but she keeps singing strange chants tugging at my core.

She simply won’t stop.

She’s got the air of one who knows and instantly I remember her from dreams past and from dances under leaves, twirling innocence.

We were one, before the running began.

And I can’t remember anymore when it began.

But she couldn’t keep up with me in the clamor of my proving or the running towards meaning.

She had to do her own thing until I stopped.

She grips for the final reach and grasps up at my hand,

And we pull each other up.

She stands now in front of me and we’re facing.

And she wants to know if I’m ready now to know the deeper work of tRuth,

the one not dependent on proving anything.

She wants to know if I’m finished racing for what is and was always right here.

She knows the foundational work and breaking up of my defenses has been more relevant than all the racing to prove.

She knows the running for love, climbing and building, resting and dancing are not made futile by the scant returns or the seeming and actual loss.

She just knows more deeply what is more important than any other work now.

She knows me as my own teacher and my own saboteur.

She hugs the grieving, weeps the years ravaged by an illness that has yet to release me.

And she reminds me, insists I see that the miles stretched out behind us reveal the real, the deepest work of love was made more by love itself and by open-heart collisions than by the most potent intent or tenacious presence.

And so, now we can begin

singing,
singing,
singing

over these bones.

2019, All Rights Reserved

The Dance Remains

Oh, we sway as the day’s dance pauses in the hum of moon and sun
and some ancient knowing calls us to feast in the now,
in the everydayness of our unearthings.

We stretch and weep and shout, ousting stagnations,
blooming towards the sun as we turn for one more run.

And one more run becomes us
‘til the next sleeping awakens deeper, truer love being,
love showing truth in the face of the dark histories,
and in the aftermath of all that suggests futility
the dance remains,
but we are never the same.

J. Ruth Kelly, 2019, All Rights Reserved

 

A One Woman Riot

1 Corinthians 14:34

34 Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience as also saith the law.

For more than the first half of my life, that passage of scripture cast a shadow over me, seeping into my physiology, accompanied by the style of parenting that sets it into the neural pathways, often choking, inhibiting, paralyzing. I’m past 50. I’m still ousting the darkness of its influence though I have long renounced its claim. The women of this epoch are making it easier and easier to oust. But the work is still mine.

When the song “Quiet” morphed into the anthem of the Women’s March, I was drowning in a silent scream of grief and life events way beyond my capacity to actually weather. I was holding my breath. So, I missed the originator of it, MILCK, though I heard groups of women standing, holding hands and singing “I can’t keep quiet.” It pricked my ears.

My sister shoved the video in my face, finally. And so, I can’t sing this song without sobs. So, I sing it a lot. And then some more. I have yet to get through the song without stopping to let things roll out of me. I’ll get there. MILCK found the words I haven’t. Imagine that. I have so many words and I never could keep quiet for long. It’s my biggest, baddest sin, that and boat-rocking, cage-rattling insistence on truthseek. And while it’s not like I have a big secret to tell, it is definitely that I and many other women are still unlearning the silence. Minute by goddamn minute.

Folks, girls are still raised under the strain of the lie of misogyny. Right now, and in the name of Jesus. I imagine he’s pretty pissed about it. It’s cloaked in all kinds of alleged holy. And it’s even dressed up in versions of pretend liberation, the kind that works as long as you speak up only within the prescribed, allowed lines. Dare not announce you will no longer tolerate certain things. Dare not boldly be. Dare not call people on their shit when you’ve had enough. Dare not be anything but a new version of quiet. Fuck that shit. All of it.

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