Art & Healing: Poetry (3/6)
Amending a Life
plastic tubs hauled out of the car
I’m pleased with the new buddleja, caladium and pentas
for which I trolled the garden center
finding secrets from a treasure hunt
can’t wait to get them in the ground
to see what grows, what blossoms
what will take root and become a feature
a fixture, a remember when I planted that?
I plunge my spade into the soil
unearthing dead roots of last year’s promise
that bloomed for a while and then died
am I a fool to try again?
. . . I don’t think so
because each time I dig this hole
I delve a little deeper
carving out great chunks of potters clay
dense and inhospitable
I throw it away along with sterile sand
left by cut rate landscapers
and replace it with dark rich earth
reverently I return a wriggling earthworm to the hole
with apologies for interrupting his important work
and this is called amending the soil
sometimes I wonder what I’m doing
for heaven’s sake, this again?
am I really 60 years of age
and still litigating my childhood?
still digging into my inner depth
robbing graveyards to interrogate the dead
holding and rocking a scared little girl?
so maybe I have done this before
but then again maybe this time
the healing root will reach down farther
and spread out wider
and maybe the soil will be fertile, luxuriant
and I will burst forth with life
so abundant and generative
that it will all be worth it
and this is called amending a life
– Celeste Boudreaux, March 2019
I started writing poetry during the hormonal turbulence of adolescence. Sometimes my poems rhymed and had a duh-da-duh, da-duh-da-duh rhythm, like any good nursery rhyme. But creative writing class taught me that it doesn’t have to. The important thing is to let your mind sink down into your experience of this moment or of this feeling, to enter the world of symbol and connections, and to start putting together phrases that are vivid, succinct, perhaps indirect, but unusual and emotionally evocative.
Like journaling, the act of writing poetry, itself, can help you work through difficult emotions, bring clarity to confusion, or resolution to turmoil. Here’s an example in which you can trace my emotional path through the course of the poem:
I Choose to Love the Sun
I drive myself to the park, full of oughts and shoulds.
Rehashing yesterday, my steps are slow.
I stop to stretch out the kinks,
Why does everything hurt?
I have a rush of faintness, rising from a stretch.
. . then another
. . . and another.
Not this again. I thought I had this beat
. . even my feet hurt, this is new.
I shrink, shrivel, time lapse into a creaky old woman,
. . shuffling along, dolefully considering the future.
Deep breath, let it out. Look around, look up.
How I love the sun.
I love the jaybird’s harsh complaint
. . the gentle jangle of cicadas in the trees
. . . the warm breeze.
I love the shadow, how it cools
. . how it makes the sunlight dance and dapple
Look at the showoff mockingbird,
perched on the pinnacle of the tree, singing unashamedly,
. . executing a tight circle of fluttering feathers
. . . his victory lap
. . . . before resuming his exalted throne to boast again.
I choose this.
I choose the gentle joy of knowing He has done well by me.
I choose to love all this
. . and Him who made it.
– Celeste Boudreaux, April 2013
NOTE: It’s been a strange few weeks, with the coronavirus outbreak. One after another, plans, trips, entertainments and activities are being cancelled, and we’re being bombarded with nonstop news and lengthy email messages about the COVID-19 mitigation steps being taken by every organization we’ve ever been associated with. I find myself feeling distracted, rather discombobulated.
But what if we embraced this as a season of enforced slowing down, pulling inward, and — dare I say it? — resting? Of spending time in the company of our own soul, listening spiritually, perhaps connecting with friends and loved ones in more personal ways? I, for one, would like to at least give it a try.
Next post: Yahweh, Breath of Life