Prayer Poem for Mother

Mother, the words are coming: grace, strength, devotion, blessed—but these words cannot contain you. You are newborn stars, the very dust of all creation. Now, you are constellations light years away, or all of them—infinite, imperceptible, radiant, every bit of matter and non-matter. You are the exhalations of suns, pristine molecules and all the subatomic reasons for love. You, beloved, sought the wind in our souls; were born of nurturing earth and rain into something holy, and you never turned away. The mind of God knew you before you were you. I cannot touch you any longer, even as I reach, but you know these words before I speak them. You see our myriad paths beyond time and space.  You appointed my still-beating heart. Oh, to tell you what joy you were, are and ever will be! All that matters now is that you are free and that your voice is part birdsong, part thunder, part the sound of planets forming. Bells are ringing as you enter the heaven of it all. Be now released into the formlessness we cannot know until we join you.

For my mother who passed away May 27th, 2014.

Clare

Motherlife

I have happy news to share with you all.  I have known for a few weeks but I got permission to share publicly a bit of news that I was conceived on Valentine’s Day in 1968!  This explains a lot about me and my almost crippling (being facetious) romanticism. Really the fact that I was a Valentine’s Day baby makes me feel all kinds of wonderful, and I thank my mom for letting me share this with the world. She did ask me however to keep the details of the actual conception confidential.  Ha!

I visited with my mother for a little while today and she read a poem to me dedicated to a deceased loved one that meant something to her.  She pulled it out of a Ziploc bag that had neatly folded sheets of newspaper clippings. I asked her, “You keep obituaries in a Ziploc bag?” She said, “Yes?” I asked her to give me a moment and I found a piece of paper in my purse and jotted the poem below down. Many of my friends know that my mother is always asking me why I haven’t written any poems about her. I have cryptically, but this one is in a new vein, and she approved it.

Mother

My mother keeps obituaries
in a Ziploc bag,
neatly-folded reminders of loss.
She always reads the obituaries
first thing in the morning,
before prayers, so that if she knows
anyone, anyone she can pray
for their souls
and the hearts of survivors.

Once at 6:00 am,
as my father handed her
the just-delivered paper,
she told me that the wife
of my favorite professor and mother
of my friend Victor, had died.
I knew Barbara, a poet herself,
had breast cancer
and was close to the end.

I dressed and peeled-out
of the driveway to Dr. V.’s house.
He was shocked to see me
and just shook his head and said,
“How? How did you know so quickly?”

My mother slips a thin
piece of newspaper
out of the plastic bag and says
it has been ten years
since my firstborn’s death.
This stops me, so I pet her dog, Demitasse.

How else could I end this poem?

 

©2014 Clare L. Martin

 

 

Path

Path

 

I used to say emphatically  that “I am on a path and I do not allow much to divert me from it,” but the diversions can be good if we circle back to ourselves.

I am on a path inward through the new meditation habit I am developing. Aligned with this path is the writing path: the path that I turn to, turn inwardly toward my deepest self, to process what is in my head and to create. This divine alignment has brought me to more deeply investigate and connect to something unknowable. I have turned my heart away from my own supposed desires, and toward the Divine Whatever which is in all things.

I have been, perhaps, delusional for some time. An example of this crazy thinking is that I would think that if I made choice A, that life would become something that I thought I desired, deserved or expected. I have no clue if such choices would produce the desired results, or would have been true in any of my life choices up to this point. In reality, we can never know if we “made the right decision” until time has passed and we see ourselves and outcomes retrospectively. Sometimes the Universe/Divine Whatever gives us a heads up and we understand that we have dodged a bullet, sometimes not.

Recently I talked with a friend about some heaviness I had been experiencing. I had a fatalistic view about my situation and was very gloomy. My friend had much more optimism than I did and he said, “There are no guarantees.”  This could be taken in the negative, but really he meant it and I took it in the positive sense that all my imaginings and some of my insights were not certain or final, and that perhaps what had been weighing on my heart would resolve in a beneficial way.  He gave me optimism and a bit of hope. Still, I dare not hope too much and pray only for peace and divine light to be cast on this perceived darkness.

I am an all-feeling human, thank goodness, and mostly make my decisions based on heart-matters rather than using my head. But I want to be a mature adult and think through things and not rush headlong into who-knows-what, even though my enthusiasm for life and following my heart has taken me to wild and wonderful places.  I think in the past year, I have learned many necessary lessons the hard way. Good lessons, and I have not backslid into unrestrained heart-following that often leaves me broken. But I do believe in trusting my own intuitive spirit in my “heart of hearts” and trusting that I am cared for by the Divine Whatever. The new adult in me  is being more cautious. She is thinking, weighing and planning. She is forgiving and asking for forgiveness. These are good and reasonable things. I am finding needed balance, but more importantly, I am turning away from anxious attempts to make things happen that I perceive as the way things must be. As my friend D. says, “It is what it is.” I am letting whatever “it” is be what it *is* and letting go of my tight grasp to control.

I am on a path. I am walking it in a forward direction. I will certainly “sight-see” along the way. I am less rigid, more accepting, more peaceful and thorough it all I am stretching my heart to more openness–even after hurt, even after disappointment in other people and myself.  Having the courage to open our hearts after hurt is perhaps one of our most vital lessons and elevates us as human beings.

I am more me, more grounded. And I love you, myself and this life very much.  Peace.

Clare

 

 

There are angels among us and some of them are human beings. I am lucky to have one as my niece.

From my niece Morgan Landry just now in reply to my plea for cheering up:

“You’re a creative genius, and in my personal opinion, the most genius of those in the arts have to pay a price. That price is awareness. You’re inclined to be hyper-aware, and when you wish you weren’t is when you are the most. Sometimes it’s bad, and all you can sense is its pain and misfortune — the world is so unfair. But other times, your psyche points towards the opposite pole of your internal spectrum. You can see so much beauty everywhere around you. You envelop yourself in the warm ancient afghan of our culture and bloodline and heritage. You feel your family’s love fill you up until you no longer know quite how to express it. You see a Monet in every leaf in a puddle on the old shitty sidewalks. And when you’re in the darkness, you just have to remember that all of these things are there still. You’ve done a stupendous job transforming your pain into a sturdy foundation for your soul and your work. You benefit from all that’s around you. Anyone who talks with you can’t help but feel happy and cared for; I can see it when I’m there. I love you forever!”

 

God bless you all and goodnight. XOXOX

Getting Clean

 

I took an hour from my day for quiet outdoors. I gazed into the slow current of the Vermilion Bayou from the vantage point of a deck overlooking the bayou at a local park.  Thin limbs floated in line with thatch and fallen leaves. Trees, on the opposite bank, were reflected in the muddy water and swayed against watery sky.

I couldn’t help thinking of my father and cried a bit. He knew this bayou well. He had fished and boated in it when he was a boy, and as an adult, he frequently he traveled it down all the way to the Vermilion Bay to get to Cypremort Point.  We had a camp there for a time when my brother and I were small children.

My father almost drowned in the Vermilion. I wrote a poem about it, “Father Almost Drowning” that first appeared in Poets & Artists and is collected in Eating the Heart First. On my father’s casket, we displayed another poem I had written about his life. In the quiet moments of this exceptional spring afternoon, I thought of how much my father has done for me since his death.

I believe we are spirits in flesh.  My father’s spirit has gently cautioned me at various times when I was running headlong into harmful choices or getting involved in matters that were detrimental. I truly believe our dead loved ones are protectors and guides.  So, I reflected on him and his otherworldly wisdom, and gave myself over to the Divine Whatever.

I knew I was being called to water today. This morning when I was bathing, I thought of one summer weekend that we had spent at the camp at Cypremort Point. There are so many memories, but this particular memory was of a time that we went to church barefoot. It was a moment that really caused great distress for me. As I recall, our shoes were wet and muddy from play. My mother wouldn’t allow us to wear them to church. That Sunday morning, we had our baths and dressed in clean summer clothes but my mom wouldn’t let us put the dirty shoes on.

I remember looking at my bare feet as I sat in the pew feeling self-conscious and strange. I looked up insistently at my mother for some kind of calm and she whispered, “God just cares that you are clean.”  I laugh at this because clean or dirty, I believe we are cared for. It was a moment that made me actually laugh out loud this morning as I was getting clean.

And I am “getting clean” in other ways. I am de-cluttering my head, cleaning the metaphorical window that offers in/out views. Even though I always have meditative moments in my bath ritual, and have sporadically used relaxation techniques and meditation techniques for years, I had not set forth to actually practice on a daily basis. Now it is a priority for me. My new steps in “getting clean” are practicing mindfulness, setting aside two-half hours for meditation, going to church when no services are being held just to sit in silence, and joining up with a group that meets for meditation.

To quiet ourselves and find the silence within, allows for changes in perspective and deeper perceptions. In these silences, images and ideas for poetry are flooding in and I have greater access to the deeper parts of myself that lend wisdom to incorporate into creative writing. It was really cool that a few weeks ago Margaret Gibson Simon (who blogs at Reflections on the Teche) led a meditation writing workshop at Acadiana Wordlab. I always long to go deeper, and I do, obviously, when I am writing and “in the zone.”

All in all, I feel energized, new, and more deeply committed to myself, my people and the Divine Whatever. I wish you peace and wellness.

Clare

P.S. I saw the trailer for David Lynch’s documentary, “Meditation, Creativity, Peace” http://meditationcreativitypeace.com/   and I really want to see it. There is a form on the website that offers anyone to send a message if you want to coordinate a screening in your hometown. I am thinking about it!

If you would like to experience something great go to http://www.meditationoasis.com/ I have been using this particular site for about a week.

Sacred Tears

So many struggles in recent months that I will not reiterate here, but the resulting choice made at my wit’s end was to go on a retreat at Casita Azul, in Grand Coteau a couple of Saturdays ago. My greatest need was silence and a soft place to hold me as I was worn out from deep, constant grief.

When I go to the Casita, which has been a place of refuge for many years now, I usually don’t set rules for myself, except that I will do as I please and only as I please. Of course my pleasure is in the self-nurture and sacred alone time and not to trash the place! This time I did set one rule for myself: No music with lyrics. I wanted all the words in my head to be my own. I only listened to ambient music or instrumental music. I wanted the intangible things in my head and heart to un-spool against lovely, liquid music.

The ten year anniversary of Adam’s death brought out anticipated grief but the intensity was unexpected. Much of my creative work has been an exploration of grief. The whole of Eating the Heart First is saturated with it. But something I learned in the past couple of weeks is that there is no bottom of grief, you can go to extreme depths and keep going.

At the Casita, I realized that no one, no other human, could go to those depths with me. What was revealed to me was that while surrender to my emotions was necessary, and the tears, too, were necessary,  the only way to arise, awaken and literally stay alive was to ask the “Divine Whoever” for healing.

I have cried more in the past year than any year of my adult life. It is a good thing and I attribute it to many incredible positive things that have been happening in my life. I am more fully aware of my feelings and I honor them by not suppressing them.  I had become so hard, and that is not who I want to be. The tears are sacred and I am grateful for them.  I am glad to have broken open. I am opening to allow something great and divine to enter.

Since I have returned home after that short but important stay, I have begun a twice a day meditation practice. I still go to my Bathtub Refuge to thinkcrypraymeditate, but the practice I am doing as a new habit is part of a series of guided meditations that I discovered on this website. There are probably many other sites that offer good ones, but this is where I am for the moment.

I am a private person, believe it or not, but I like to share intimate moments of my own journey as inspiration. We are here to lift, love, and support each other, are we not?
Peace.

One child in a grave and one in my arms.

Yesterday I visited Adam’s grave. I parked my car, turned the engine off, and spotted the white angel that serves as his marker. When he was buried, I remember how concerned my mother was about the upkeep of the grave. I told her it didn’t matter to me; that who Adam was as a human being was not in that grave.  At the time, I did not even think I would visit his grave, but would honor his memory in my heart. But, over the past ten years I have returned many times, parked my car and trained my eye on that white angel.

I knew my mother had acquired that angel on her own, that it wasn’t part of the pre-need package deal that we set up with the funereal home years before his death. After I left the graveyard, I called my mother and asked her where she got the angel. She thought for a few minutes and told me that she had gone to Chastant Brother’s Feed Store off of Pinhook Road in Lafayette and purchased it. It is a concrete statue, small, of a cherub. My mother told me that she bought white enamel paint and painted it herself on the back patio of her house. I told her thank you for doing that because it serves a great purpose. My eyes are drawn directly to it and it is a simple yet beautiful reminder of Adam’s innocence.

Later in the day, I was reading in my bedroom.  My daughter came in and asked me for a backrub. She is eighteen and has her first job. She has been working very hard and she really feels it in her back. I gave her a backrub and we shared a sweet moment together. She thanked me and hugged me for a long time. I rested my hand on her head, kissed her and told her how incredible she is. The thought came to me that I had one child in a grave and one in my arms. This thought caused a mixture of deep gratitude and sadness and resonant longing that permeated the rest of my day.  But today, I am soaring. I have an angel in the afterlife and an angel here on Earth.

Peace.

Love poem.

THE EMBALMER’S WIFE

You’ve never revealed
your dreams but I guess

the dreamscape:
faces like cold candles,

water-stone eyes,
sewn mouths—viscera.

She was a weaver who imparted
wisdom to her daughters.

She was devout.

Cherish my breast
and the music

of our breathing.
Heartbeat-cadences lilt

in the hours we share.
I cling to you gratefully.

How you touch me with need,
surrendering to life.

First appeared in  Melusine, Spring/Summer  2012

A&E LOVE Poetry Night 
Friday, February 14th, 2014
6 pm – til
Featuring:
Bonny McDonald and Clare L. Martin
hosted by Margaret Gibson Simon
A&E Gallery
335 W St Peter St, New Iberia, LA 70560

First

The barrage of the diesel engine rattles the truck cab. He is fumbling with the buttons of his jeans. Levis 501s. The only kind of jeans he wears since he got the job at the Parking Lot. He buys them when they are on sale, but that is hardly ever. Classic—that’s his style. His mom bought him Tough Skins™ from Sears. He hated them. He roughed up those jeans riding bikes in the woods with the narrowest path that the boys cleared with a rusty machete, and fishing at the No Trespassing Lake that the boys had to clear a barbed-wire fence to get to. He wore those jeans so tough his mom had to put patches on patches, but it was all she could afford. Kids called him “Poor Patchy” at school and laughed too at the every-day-of –week bologna sandwiches and the Mason jar of milk his mom packed. He thumbs the last button of the Levis through the buttonhole and slips the jeans down his hips. She is already crying. He wonders for a moment and asks if it is okay. She says yes, puts her panties on the rear view mirror, and tries to smile, her mouth quivering. What is it? He asks, again. Is it me? No, she says, just the human condition.

©2014 CLM

This piece was generated at the February 8th, 2014 Acadiana Wordlab led by George Marks. More info on Acadiana Wordlab can be found here: www.acadianawordlab.org 

Between Land and Sky

Blue sky peppered with blackbirds. Blue deepens to black in the west. I am on the Dixie Chopper cutting grass. My lines are straight. Grass exits the chute and makes a pile of clippings to the right of me. I will have to make another pass to disperse the clippings, to make the yard clean. This is Mrs. Champagne’s yard and she is very particular but her sight isn’t great, so if I make a mistake she might not see it.

Blue-storm wind; a swirl of cool air reaches me on this hundred degree day. I am wearing a large-brimmed straw hat tied below my chin, a bandanna around my face to keep the dust out of my mouth, and old, faded clothing. Especially faded is the top shirt with long sleeves worn for sun protection. The sun has eaten through in places. There are patches of thin fabric through which I can see my skin.

As much as I hate the work, and the way my husband barks orders at me there is something very Zen about riding the mower, cutting grass and being outdoors more than I am used to. My head clears, my eyes wander to the birds, the plumes of steam rising from the sugar cane mill–the storm gathering upon itself from the coast. When I get in the Zen zone, lines of poetry come to me.  This is the reason I do the work, and helping my husband is secondary.

As soon as I feel the exhilaration of a new idea for a poem something happens. A grinding sound and then water shoots straight up into the air, twenty-five feet high. Fuck. The worst thing in the world has happened. I ran over a water supply pipe. Panic sets in and I turn the mower from the disaster to find my husband. He is already running towards me, yelling “What the fuck did you do?” He runs past me and stops at the edge of the road with a wrench in his hand. I am confused but soon the fountain stops. He walks over to Mrs. Champagne and apologizes. He then gets on his hands and knees and with his hands as shovels he begins digging in the dirt around the pipe I had sheared with the mower blade. He works quickly and I can see the frustration in his hard-edged movements. I can hear the curses in his breath but they are not audible to Mrs. Champagne, who is somewhat hard of hearing.

He gets up from the muddy spot and walks to his work truck, shaking his head and muttering. Somehow he had a piece of pipe in the pile of who knows what in the truck bed, along with the tools he needed to cut off the supply pipe. He twists the cut pipe from its connector and threads the terminal piece. The whole process takes about fifteen minutes and we were back in business. This is the first big mistake I have made in the two years I have been cutting grass with him. I feel awful, and he is surly for the rest of the day. But watching him problem-solve in a very short amount of time—witnessing his knowledge, determination and ingenuity at work inspires. I have seen my husband perform a miracle.

I offer myself to him this night. And for the first time in a long time I seek his eyes as he moves above me. I seek him, his deepest self.

©2014 CLM