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

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

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

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.