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 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.

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

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.