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

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.

Our Mother

Our mother who art underfoot,
hallowed be thy names,
thy seasons come, thy will be done,
within us as around us
thank you for our daily bread, our water, our air,
and our lives and so much beauty;
lead us not into selfish cravings and the destructions
that are the hungers of the glutted,
but deliver us from wanton consumption
of thy vast but finite bounty,
for thine is the only sphere of life we know,
and the power and the glory, forever and ever,
amen
(adapted by Rebecca Solnit)

photo by j. ruth kelly, all rights reserved

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

Earth’s Redress

and these lines lay me down deep inside
in that place where all the untamed bits fret,
caged by the dis-ease of a civilized refinement
and some notions of felling faerie spirits for the greater good.
so i stand here in awe, aware of the coming home
as all that stands guard against the onslaught of chains
bows slightly to the season’s turning
singing golden whispers to carpet earth’s redress.
deep breaths, deep breaths, deep breaths…
nature won’t be bought or otherwise programmed to forget

 

photo by j. ruth kelly, 2017, all rights reserved