Poet and author, Diane Moore, reviews Seek the Holy Dark, available from Yellow Flag Press. Thank you, Diane, for your deep reading and generosity of heart.
Seek the Holy Dark is the 2017 selection of the Louisiana Series of Cajun and Creole Poetry by Yellow Flag Press.
Seek the Holy Dark is now available. Trade paperback, 66 pages, only $10. To order click here.
For signed copies contact Clare. $10 plus $3 shipping and handling. Paypal accepted. paypal.me/clarelmartin Please note your mailing address for book shipment.
“Gestation” by Clare L. Martin
(watercolor, color pencil, crayon, charcoal on paper, digitized, filtered).
“Oval Meditation” by Clare L. Martin
charcoal and crayon on paper. digitized. editied. filtered.
“Marsh Song I*” Mixed media, Clare L. Martin ©2016
We drive westward along the Louisiana coast on a crumbling highway with my parents. The sky purples with becoming light. Our bellies are full of boudin and cracklins. Hot coffee is handed carefully from the front seat to my husband and I seated in the back.
We sing “J’ai Passe Devant Ta Porte” or “Bon Vieux Mari,” called by my mother and responded to by my father. Always my father embellishes his responses. My mother rolls down her window and points to the Roseate Spoonbills lifting from their roosts. My father stops singing and praises God.
A prayer is said for loved ones, wherever they are. More of the morning sky erupts over the marsh. I think of painters, how I wish to be one, how I have tried with my words. This day we are traveling to see Sandhill Cranes that have been spotted in Creole, a few miles from here. We always take the scenic route and happily travel from dawn to dusk.
How many times have we come to this slipping away land and been blessed by our forgetfulness of the world’s problems and our own? Countless. How much do I miss these two people who gave and saved my life? My longing cannot be measured.
To treasure the dead is our inheritance.
*I dedicate this artwork and these words to my beloved family, especially to my deceased loved ones, wherever they are.
Clare L. Martin
“Embryonic Self*,” mixed media, by Clare L. Martin
A tree held in its branches
a womb that carried me.
My strong heart
beat brilliant red
through fluid translucence.
A thick cord
connected me to roots
of the tree
into the blood
of the earth.
Who knew I would experience
such sorrow, such joy
once born into the world?
*Dedicated to Bessie Senette.
Clare L. Martin ©2016
Sometimes when I enter the pool, even when I am swimming, I think “this doesn’t seem real.” I don’t sense that I am present in my body at that moment. But then, body memory takes over and my mind follows. These are the best times, when my mind senses and recognizes that I am in the moment, in the pool, synced with my body so that all of me is coalesced in the present. Then, each breath, each moment is aligned with thought, and form becomes essential. My thought turns to prayer, or a mantra, and my body’s movement is prayer as well. I am a ‘living prayer,’ and not unlike a dance, my focused attention is on form, flow, freedom.
As a poet, I have been given gifts of perception and the tool of language. As a poet, I have an almost clairvoyant apprehension of things seen and unseen. I embrace my “self” as visionary and humbly identify as such. Protecting our sacred space is difficult when you are entangled in toxicity, but small comforts, tears and self-nurture can help re-forge our beings. It’s not necessarily walls we need to construct, but a temple. This is something I learned over the weekend of October 18th and 19th when I attended a healing retreat at Tranquility Point Sanctuary in a woodsy location in Ville Platte, LA. I can see with more clarity and perspective how the seemingly incongruous events of the past led me to that revelation.
I believe we are on this planet to give and receive love and to spiritually grow into our most holy selves. This has been what I have believed since I was a child. I believe in a Creator, the “Divine Whatever” which is what I speak with awe and reverence for that unknowable Force. I believe God is in all things. All things. All experiences. In each and every living thing on Earth, Earth itself and the Universe beyond our little speck in space.
We use and overuse the word love. But I believe that we are loved and loving beings. We were born to love and love is our natural state. Unfortunately, everything in contemporary society and in our history for a long, long time has been commandeered by human greed to misdirect us from our spiritual selves and hence our openness to the Divine Whatever is denied and vilified.
I have many friends who are “devout” atheists. We get along fine, unless they try to undermine my beliefs with theirs. And atheism is a belief and a choice not to believe in a God, because really if we put the question on the line there is only the weak human mind that cannot grasp what is unknowable, until death, perhaps. I respect that these friends are for whatever reason convinced of the non-existence of a Creator, God, Divine Whatever and I don’t try to change their minds.
Most of the people I have encountered recently have a fierce aversion to religion and may not have really considered a grander idea God at all—many try to direct me to the harm that organized religion has and continues to perpetrate on this planet. I get that. I do not subscribe to a single religion but I do believe in Something. We can point to a million reasons why a God wouldn’t exist, because of all the prejudice, injustice and evil in the world. This is the world, however, and the humans in it, and not what I can only dimly imagine God is.
I went to Texas at the beginning of October to read poetry at an opening of an art exhibit Degrees of Separation/Degrés de separation http://www.degreesofseparation.org; a project in which I was one of four Louisiana poets who worked with visual art from artists from Louisiana and France. We writers were tasked with writing ekphrastic poems inspired by pieces of visual art. The project is being documented at the web site above.
It was a thrilling time and I am so honored to be a part of this project. I was lucky to be able to manage the trip and I broke through many fears to get there. My daughter and my friend, poet, healer, minister and navigator, Bessie, joined me. I was able to see my best friend from college, Wilhelmina for one night as we traveled through her town in Texas. I had not seen her in twenty years and we were gleeful at our reunion.
It’s kind of funny that as she holds a Ph.D. in Philosophy, Willie, back in the day, proclaimed herself an atheist and had all of the arguments to back her stance up, but her life experiences have led her to a deep, grounded faith in the Divine Source. She and I laughed about that because we used to debate the existence of God all of the time, and now we just talk about the miracle that she and I are still alive and rejoice in all the blessings in our lives. What a wild trip. Unforgettable and the experience teaches me still.
What do we know?
Let me assure you, we know less that we think we do and the sum of all human knowledge is minuscule. The smartest humans can only theorize or try to present logical arguments for the proof of God or construct theories of disproof. The humanistic point of view is very popular now and to me it is not sad, because that doesn’t stop God from doing God stuff. Someone gave me a phrase over the weekend of the retreat that has stuck with me: “We are tools in God’s toolbox.” I believe this to be true. Even if we are crowbars, nails, hammers, drills, a two-by-four etc. in some way we are tools or instruments to reveal some deeper meaning and growth in our own lives or in someone else’s. We only have an intimation of what God has in store but I cannot even voice it because—hey, I don’t know. Something grand I am sure.
Part of my reason for attending the healing retreat, which I plainly cannot put into words what actually transpired, but can express that it was profound and led me to great joy, was that I had a negative influence in my life that was blocking The Good from coming to fruition. It troubled me greatly because to be free, truly free, I had to sacrifice something I loved. My intention for the actual healing session (which was miraculous in all ways) was to not be entangled in negative energy battles and to become more discerning in my choices and actions.
The healing session was administered by a healer and Reiki Master; a Lakota medicine woman, healer-teacher and elder; and a Buddhist practitioner of Reiki/healer. I have never, ever, ever, ever experienced such a powerful intercession on such a deep spiritual level in my life and the whole experience brought me to a wholeness of self that I only hoped was possible. It was a complete surprise to me.
My grandmother was a traiteuse, a Cajun Roman Catholic healer. She was unable to pass on her “gift” before she died. This always fascinated me and I would have requested that she teach me but it was a very secretive thing and I was at the time unworthy for many reasons. After the healing session at the retreat, I wondered about the Cajun folk tradition and where it originated and looked into ties between Native American medicine and the folk medicine of the Cajun people. There is much more that I want to learn but the deduction I surmised was that the cultures intertwined in their shared histories in early Acadian life and out of life and death necessity there was likely a real sharing of knowledge for mutual survival. I plan to look into this further and talk to people I know to find stories that may illuminate my understanding. But for me, whereas at some point I may have been a true skeptic, the firsthand experiences of the retreat weekend blew my mind wide open.
The night I came home from the retreat, my mind and spirit were so open and so clear that I “heard” the voices of my French ancestors trying to speak to me emphatically in French. A spirit I recognized as my grandfather was trying to “translate” the Cajun French into English so that I could receive the message but it became confusing and I fell asleep astounded but also a bit lost. I need to brush up on my French!
I am much more grounded, and some of the doors that were open are closed a bit. As I write these words some people might think I am just a kook, but I don’t care. One day we will glimpse at the things of this world seen and unseen and acquire an intimation of that which is incomprehensible Divinity and Wholeness. This is my belief. I believe in angels. I believe our beloved dead are near to us. I believe there are repercussions for ignoring or deflecting what they have to say to us, or what life urges us to pay attention to. Life is not all that is on TV. Life is not all war and destruction. Yes, these things are real, but if we allow a transformation of consciousness and connect in positive ways seen and unseen, I devoutly believe we can revolutionize the current state of affairs. I believe in spiritual evolution: a loving flow which can heal humanity and the planet, in service to The Divine Whatever which breathed life into us, and which will take that breath away, too.
May we turn inward, to the deepest we can plumb, and know within and without that life, here and now and beyond this, is holy, infinite. Each moment holds meaning. Each moment we have a choice to be our faith, a living prayer, and be in the revelation of the miraculous. In the darkest hour, if we choose to open our minds to the Divinity of all things, light can break through.