My Life as a Minister
(for Kathryn & Andy)
To say “You may now kiss the bride”
is a treasure far beyond
most treasures I’ve known.
A treasure of love (my bests,
my only kind of treasures),
a treasure built of words (my tools),
a treasure said in public
in the presence of a trove
of dearest friends—
a treasure known by all, the words
learned early on, the script, that scripture,
holy words of matrimony, most of which
I banished from the ceremony. But not
those words, and not the kiss
which with light within me
I gave permission for.
You may now and you may always
and may you for all the days
kiss and kiss and kiss
Sometimes you’re in New Orleans for a bachelorette weekend with your favorite ladies and you meet a Vermont poet with a typewriter on the street and you ask for a poem please and he writes you one and you like it a lot and you pay him $8 which seems like a lot to you but seems like a little to him since he just had a woman hand him two crisp twenties for her poem. And maybe if this happens to you you feel a little bit like the world is helping you out, throwing you a bone, or in this case, a Ben.
Clementine, you say,
already tasting it.
Apricot, and the word is caught
on your tongue (lone muscle
of both language & hunger) (the word
itself you peel and undress).
In the night you wake,
find yourself in an orchard –
don’t you don’t you
You cannot sleep for the sound
of apples falling all around you,
words heavy on the branch.
Even trees let go their fruit.
Nothing weighs more
than a burden refused (say the apples
touching each other in the grass)
How sick of snark are you? Are you as sick of it as I am? And I’m sick if irony, too. I’m hoping we’re in a post-ironic era by now, though perhaps we’re not quite there yet. Irony, to me, is a non-loving posture, a protection, a dangerous fortress. There’s this speech that author George Saunders gave at Syracuse University this past May that has been popping up all over my internet life, and I finally just read it tonight. It’s one of those pieces of writing that makes me feel like people are perhaps moving past this terror of the genuine that seems to be rampant in our society right now; past this anti-confessional moment we’re in, past the too-coolness, the mean, jokey distanced stance that keeps one at a safe distance from one’s own feelings and from others. George Saunders talks about kindness in this essay, and how kindness is what we should focus on, here and now, the sooner the better. And that’s something I can totally get behind.
Excerpt below, full speech here.
Do all the other things, the ambitious things – travel, get rich, get famous, innovate, lead, fall in love, make and lose fortunes, swim naked in wild jungle rivers (after first having it tested for monkey poop) – but as you do, to the extent that you can, err in the direction of kindness. Do those things that incline you toward the big questions, and avoid the things that would reduce you and make you trivial. That luminous part of you that exists beyond personality – your soul, if you will – is as bright and shining as any that has ever been. Bright as Shakespeare’s, bright as Gandhi’s, bright as Mother Theresa’s. Clear away everything that keeps you separate from this secret luminous place. Believe it exists, come to know it better, nurture it, share its fruits tirelessly.
I don’t think I’m a poet of the atrocities, or even of the victories. I think I’m a poet of the people I love. I’m trying to make sense of how much there is to love in the world. I’m trying to put into words the moment when someone reaches out to touch someone else’s face, but then doesn’t, and then that person never knows that that other person wanted to touch them. And so that touch will never be in the history books. But I might just get it into a poem.
Do you have any famous friends? Friends who people know because of something they did or wrote? I have a couple of great friends in a band and it makes me insanely proud and insanely baffled to know them and to see them progressing in the music world and to know that they are an entity outside of the dudes that I got to know in college. And to think that I knew them in a dorm hallway, with their morning hair and their late night gaits. How I’d leave the coed bathroom when I’d see one of them with their sneakers facing outward in a stall (pooping!).
I have a lot of friends who really impress me. Not just because of their jobs, but sometimes because of their jobs. I have some friends who were born knowing how to be great friends. A lot of my friends aren’t the same as each other. A couple of my friends are attempting similar back-to-the-land plans as I am, but most of them aren’t. I’m here as a human and as a girl and as a poet and as a farmer-in-training to say: my friends, I love the shit out of you. I know you know it already, maybe because I told you recently in an email or textual exclamation or maybe I sent you something recently or maybe you read a poem here that reminded you of it. Either way, I might as well say it often, because life is short and fast (especially in summer).
So here’s a music video that really impresses me featuring some dudes I know. For some reason this video is making me want to hug people (BAD), probably because I’ve been drinking wine and I live with a man I adore and because it’s summer and there’s quite nearly enough sunlight to provide for all the words I want to write and say each day. Amen.
The flowers have arrived.
One of the friends has arrived.
When she arrived, we picked flowers.
Soon two more friends will arrive.
And the flowers will just keep on coming.
Got my first poetry acceptance today in a Long Time and been jumping around the kitchen and yelling “Finally! Finally!!!!” a lot this morning. Feeling good. Two poems of mine will be forthcoming from Muzzle in mid-March for their Sex-Themed Issue. Alright! In the meantime, here’s a poem by Weston Cutter, a poet I really admire. He incorporates a vocabulary of the natural world that is very different from mine–it’s as if he uses the masculine nature words and I the feminine. I tend to like all poems of his that I read, and here’s one from a previous issue of Muzzle.
How to be ready for everything
to pick up yesterday + crack
its thick honey. How
to be ready is not pockets
but matches, the act
is never carry
or if not burn at least warm, the rote mem-
orization that is flame. How to be ready
for everything is to know
leaves turn, offer
their silver undersides when rain’s
coming, is to know you have to use
heat and hard soap to scrub all trace
of gathered apples
from your hands if you don’t want
the dog jumping lickwild. How
to be ready for everything is to know
you’ve got one name though
nobody knows what it is,
even you, and so there’s treebranch
and rocksalt, there’s shaved ice
and trampled grass, there’s a season
whose secrets haven’t been disclosed
but look at the sky, look what’s on its way.
to see the poem formatted correctly & hear a recording of Weston Cutter reading it.