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

Our Tale

As the petals opened truly, sweetly, wide
and the fragrance swept our fears away,
as the song filled the rooms,
and we sighed into our own peaceable blooming,

we knew the flower’s artistry would curl up and brown,
the ground receiving bits and pieces,
the melody fertilizing earth for the next cycle of being.

And though we scatter to the four corners of our differences,
and all the little deaths have been tucked away,
the decrees final, the shunning done,
no resurrection likely in our time,
and though the barriers against what was and what is taunt
and accuse the past blooms of being not blooms, but instead a totality of falsehood,
and though the desire to either/or and to brutally conclude clamors,
the truth refuses obliterative absolutes.

It is not true that a flower was not real
because the flower is now dead,
and because that one flower will not be again.

Love and songs transmute our failings
and carry nourishment from all the booming blossoms
to the heart of being, feeding our lives
in spite of the prevailing death.

There is a both/and excruciating
whose requisite liberation sets the heart free.

The magnolia did bloom.
We did feast on a love impervious to our fated losses
(though we cannot reach ‘cross charred divides).
And in that is purpose no betrayal can destroy,
in that is a feltness stomping out futility’s lies,
in that is unity beyond graves,
and a song of cherishing that which insanity cannot devour.

Though mere formalities obliterated bonds,
the magnolia’s bloom will ultimately be our tale.

Photo by J. Ruth Kelly, 2019, All Rights Reserved

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.