“Oval Meditation” by Clare L. Martin
charcoal and crayon on paper. digitized. editied. filtered.
“Oval Meditation” by Clare L. Martin
charcoal and crayon on paper. digitized. editied. filtered.
“Creation” by Clare L. Martin.
charcoal and crayon on paper. digitized. edited. filtered. 2016.
“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
after a mixed media art piece in the Angel Bath series by Dennis Paul Williams
The fetal heart stops
in a globe of light
their way through flesh
her cheek depressed
a doctor’s thumbprint
gray washes into amber
soft, blooded veins—
her mother bears
the crown of thorns.
Desiccation we know
because the artist
layers each dream
upon the other
the artist dreams
these dreams for us
to show us
when waters rise
when rains fall.
When mothers suffer
up to their necks
reach for the ceiling
pray for lightning bolt holes
through the roof: a delivery
of a different kind
the ever-ghost children
quickly go to ground—
still-hearted and all.
©2016 Clare L. Martin
The angel with two chalices draws water to water. Its wings seem bloodied. Its feet are bare, placed in water and on land. A brilliant light shines between two peaks far behind the angel. Irises bloom near the cool, clear pool. The angel has a radiance in the position of the third eye. How this card speaks to me! Temperance: I have yet to find it in my circumstances now, perhaps ever. I am always flowing up a swollen river, or down in fast currents, gasping for breath. I want to be of the nature of water. I want to flow between two chalices in an angel’s hands. I want to give refreshment and seep through mountains. I want to flow from and to a greater Source. Temperance for a sick mind means the realization of humanness, the discarding of perilous fantasies. I am not a winged being of God’s favor. But holy, all the same.
Ten of Swords (Love)
My heart is big. It pumps hard. Sometimes it drains and there is no blood left. It beats like a fish-out-of-water. I get mixed up. I put trust in the man with ten swords in his back, silver coins dropping from his tongue. But I know Truth, and with It I cut through the thickest night. How does a person not be themselves? I was born this way. I was born to put everything on the table with only a pair of deuces in my hand.
The Star holds two vessels.
Her companion crow, teacher, stills the picture with its black eye. The Star pours liquid essence. (I am pouring essence). The lights of heavens surround us. She returns water-to-water. She is in her purest form. An Eve, woman essential, near a body of water.
We will replenish
and be replenished.
Queen of Wands
She bears a flame crown upon her head and her scepter is a bough blooming with fire flowers. A cat curls in her lap. Her feet are bare. Her feet rest upon the head of a lion. It’s hide, a carpet. It’s teeth and claws preserved and prominent. Her armies are like the lion she rules. Defenders and fierce attackers. She is at the helm. I am a helmswoman. I carry a sword. I sit on a gilded throne. You would not recognize these trappings as such but I dare you to look into my eyes and doubt my authority.
Eight of Coins, Knight of Coins, Six of Coins, all drawn. Coins in our soup enrich nothing. Coins in our pockets carry us only as far as imagination does. We are gathering our coins, pulling them from all corners. We empty out pockets. Dig the mason jars from the garden buried beneath the sweet olive. All the coins pocketed after buying laundry detergent, cat food, toilet paper. Holy coins; tangible as bread. We hold these coins in fists to be their worth. Will they last? What do they impart to us? What transformative magic? If we had rooms full of coins, gold, silver, would we be holy? Would we ascend to Heaven? Would we walk the earth desolate and tormented too fat to fit through the eye of the needle?
Two of Wands
I assess the room; eliminate three perceived threats before you enter. I know your fatal weakness before you speak. It is in your gait and your shoulders. I know this because I see the burden you carry. My exit’s plotted. Everything’s set, Two of Wands. Two times you have entered my life at critical junctures. This is the last. You tell me you have fifty thousand dollars to your name and that you are going to spend it on a sailboat. Goodbye is why we are meeting tonight. I know better than to try to change your mind. You are going to that metaphor we will name “the Atlantic.”
They carry her to the inner chamber and place her high upon the bed. They tie her hair to the frame, braid by braid. Through the window, she sees the fires of the city, a full moon. She sees the stars constellate. The room is dark and scented with Frankincense. The man enters wearing a silk dressing-gown. He breathes with difficulty as he approaches her. He carries a platter of sweetmeats and a chalice of fresh wine. She begins to cry out. The man places a soft cloth in her mouth. Her eyes skitter like spiders held to a burning match.
Four of Swords
I’d like to think your seclusion is temporary. Our time here is temporary. You told me you are going to sail to Istanbul. I will never know if you made it to Turkey. There is dire political unrest there now. I don’t know if you were aware. Too much grief in your heart to read the news? It wasn’t hard to put the pieces together: You probably would leave your ID behind. No way to track your purchases before you leave to indicate what you are planning to do. You said you only told me. Why did you burden me? Of all people. Maybe this was a blessing? I’m trying to figure it out.
I pulled the Four of Swords.
Respite. Rest. Repose. Replenishment. Solitude. Exile. Retreat. Abandonment.
These divinations are mine this time.
©2016 Clare L. Martin
*These writings originated from J.K. McDowell’s WRITING PROMPT: Texas Hold’em Tarot Divination Writing Prompt using The Medieval Scapini Tarot by Luigi Scapini dealt to group in a Texas Hold’em pattern and “played” as a writing game. As I am devling further I am adding pieces to the series.
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.
I took a long nap. I dreamed I had an invisible horse. No one could see the horse, not even me. I *believed* the horse was there. I had a trailer for it and a corral. I was readying my horse to transport it home. I was in a motel parking lot with the horse and the trailer. I had a three-wheeled bicycle that I was going to use to pull the trailer. It was night and I felt very vulnerable. I had everything hooked up and the invisible horse loaded in the trailer. I couldn’t ride the bike and pull the trailer on the highway. I woke up mouthing my deceased mother’s phone number, 981-0411, over and over.
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.
When my son died ten years ago, I dedicated myself to The Writing Life. When my dad died seven years ago, I began the manuscript that became Eating the Heart First. I am directed now to express music, because it has been my longest love; and one from which I was parted, on the deep level I consciously and unconsciously sought.
My path of healing in this grief journey, after my mother’s passing, is to follow the music.
My mother and father sang to my brother and me all of our lives. Singing was a happy time with us as a family. I believe I was singing before I knew words.
My mother worked for many years at Lafayette Drug Company which was also a record store. She had quite the collection. I spent all of my allowance on records. I played them constantly. I would set the phonograph to continually play one side of a record while I slept, by swinging that arm out, or would stack as many records as could be held on the turntable, depending on the stereo I had at the time. I went through quite a few.
Once, my dad found a small electric organ in the trash and brought it home. It still worked. I tried to teach myself songs from a songbook my mother had kept from her childhood. Any time I was near a piano, I asked to play it, even though I had no knowledge of it other than to strike the keys and discover a melody that was summoned from my heart into my mouth. I would la la la or make up lyrics and sing out, likely annoying everyone in the house. My nanny, our Aunt Dee Dee, gave me a harmonica one year for Christmas. She put it in a toothpaste box inside a large cardboard box. I was ecstatic when I figured out it wasn’t toothpaste! I spent many hours of my childhood here at my grandparents’ home swinging and singing my own made-up songs under the oak tree. These are some of my most cherished memories of early life.
I was given 3 guitars as presents growing up. One got broken, one I still have, and another I traded for an acoustic I still own, too. I played devotedly for about four years, from age seventeen to twenty one and then let it go—
Music is an integral part of my daily life, whether it is for enjoyment, inspiration, or if it helps to facilitate mediation and sleep. In my book of poetry, there are poems written after dreams of playing instruments (in the dreams only), and the music that was produced in those dreams was unlike anything I have ever heard. Astonishingly beautiful and complex music. The palpable longing in the poems “Her Body Desires the Instrument” and “What I Long for In Dreams,” collected in Eating the Heart First, is the ache of necessity to be able to create the music in me. I can barely do this at this point, after not playing for nearly 25 years. I have forgiven myself and let go of the guilt and heartache produced from staring at my guitars for decades, as though playing them would never be a part of my life again.
I made a choice just a month or so ago to buy a new guitar and it was one of the best decisions of my life. If I had not bought it, I would either be in a mental hospital or dead, and that is not an exaggeration. It has been a salve to my soul and I am caring for it as an extension of myself, a necessity to my living being.
I identify as a creative. No other labels will suffice. A plus of being a poet, calling myself that for ten years, is that I have an edge with lyrics and an ease of process in creating them. Now to explore the instrument of my choosing, which for now is the guitar. Who knows where it will lead, but all I care about is this healthy, healing outlet, creative satisfaction and joyful pleasure. My family seems to be enjoying it and I have their support and respect.
My own excitement is almost excruciating. I am having a blast! When I see friends or meet new people, I ask them to give me the inside of their wrist, so I can gently rub my callused fingertips on that spot. Call me crazy, but watch out—I might be a one-hit wonder. I might get paid royalties for a song I write. I actually was in communications tonight with a person who has a connection to Nashville recording businesses. Not ready for that but everything worthy starts with a holy dream and that is how I see this new direction, this new exploration. This guitar costs me nothing but the intial price (not very much) and the time, care and attention I give to playing. I have found that playing cycles healing energy and recycles negative energy into a positive.
Maybe I will only share my music with with my closest family and friends, but I am doing it and loving it at a time when I could have completely fallen apart. It is also leaving a positive impression on our daughter–the lesson that you can dream and you can commit to learn something new every day of your life.
And thank God for that.