Thursday, September 26, 2013

Adventures in ekphrasis*

Mary at the Cathedral of St. Matthew, Washington, DC.


AD MARIAM

She is completed only when I kneel.
From the blue alcove she leans over me
Suspended by the grace of God (or maybe
Concrete nails), voluptuous in stone,
All wind-blown folds and curls.
                                                  She wants my hand.
She’s reaching for it, palms curving like mine,
The tender tension bending her fingers,
The right extended toward me, then the left
Directing to the tiled heaven at
Her back.
                  She’s ample. Fleshy. Skirt hiked up
Toward her strong thighs – an interrupted motion
On her way to wash, or plant, or touch.
One shoulder drops, exposed. She wears no bra;
Her breasts fall full, as subject to the march
Of time and mothering as mine.
                                                  Her eyes,
However: blank. The Lady has a soul,
Yet it dies out between her nose and brow.
Her figure teems with life, yet she presents
As blind.
                Are we meant not to bond with her?
Is she merely a conduit, a bridge
That rises on the hour, every hour,
To propel us sinful vehicles
Past her mantilla’d head into the wall
Where we might be squashed flat but, man,
The ride was worth it?
                                    I believe her more
Than infrastructure. She wants me. I, her.
And if I stand now, clear the kneeler, clamber
Up the stone, I know it will feel warm.


Prayer #262: Warmth in the Stone

Enrich me with each successive viewing. Suspend me in that space between "yes" and "fine," between when I choose to choose you and when I consign myself to the glorious calamity of being bound to earth.

I am no blind-faith fool. I see what sits before me; it is a thing and I will name it as such. Yet this thing has a reality beyond its form, and I will name that as well.

So engage me, the grubby supplicant with sore knees and wandering attention. Come down from the pedestal, coursing with life, and gather me up with disregard for propriety.

I began by kneeling to you. I evolved by contemplating you. Let me end by embracing you -- flesh around faith.

Amen.

---

* An ekphrastic poem is one that comments on another art form, such as painting, sculpture, or photography. I wrote the poem above as part of my current graduate school class. The prayer draws from my professor's contemplative response.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The dating contract

Monsters love, too. Photo by krisphan, flickr
I, the undersigned first party, agree to enter into an exclusive, mutually romantic relationship with you, the undersigned second party, based on the following provisions:

  • I will embrace conflict where necessary. I will not instigate it without cause, but nor will I avoid it to preserve an inaccurate version of lovers in paradise, for doing so may create a self-fulfilling prophecy.
  • I will give -- and receive -- wholeheartedly. As in with abandon, with your benefit in mind, with no expectation of tallying or repayment. I will let you be there for me, and I will not forestall the gifts you are eager to give.
  • I will be on my most natural behavior with you. Sometimes it will be my best; occasionally, my worst. In either case, I will strive not to hide it.
  • I will not always be in a good mood. But I will always strive to be good and also to recognize what else is good in my life.
  • I will bathe. Regularly.
  • I will devote time to getting to know your friends because they know who you've been over the course of your life and have helped mold you into the person I'm dating today. For this formative role, they deserve my attention and goodwill.
  • I will speak well of you to others. You deserve to have me as your #1 fan. If you've done something so egregious I need to complain, I promise that you'll be the first (and hopefully only) person to know.
  • Any complaining will cease at that variable but essential point when a body should either let the offending item go or remedy the situation. I will consider you an outlet for venting, but I will not turn you into an emotional outhouse where my toxic refuse festers in a hole I can't see the bottom of.
  • I will never tell you to feel -- or not to feel -- a certain way. Emotions roam without fences; our actions are the sheepdogs. I cannot and will not grant you 'permission' for what is essentially your heart.
  • I will be kind. If I am not, please forgive me -- my intentions are always to act with love.
  • I will forgive you. We each are guaranteed to stumble, so when the inevitable happens, I will rush to put a couch cushion beneath you rather than a pin cushion.
  • I will value and follow honesty.
  • If I tease you, it will come from affection -- not from fear, scorn, or insecurity.
  • I will hold you sacred. Not unassailable, not irreproachable, yet still priceless beyond my understanding. It is an honor to care for you in the course of this relationship, and I take the responsibility seriously.
  • I will not force words where there are none to say. I will just hug you, and listen.
  • I will try to be patient. Operative word being try.
  • I will not minimize the "little things," positive or negative, because little things become big things, and big things become hills you shout from or pits you fall into.
  • I will be as secure as possible in my own gifts and self-worth so I don't waste energy guarding them jealously and instead can lavish their fruits on you.
  • I will believe in your dreams.
  • I will be brave enough to call you on your shit. Because sometimes you will be a punk, and you should know when it happens. But what's more, you deserve a chance to learn about yourself and choose what you might want to examine or change. And I deserve the chance to learn if I can (and want to) live with your punkitude amid your finer traits.
  • I will follow dating's inverse Golden Rule: do unto myself what I would do unto you. As in, I will be as gracious and forgiving toward myself as I should be toward you. Because if we terminate this relationship, I will be left with me, and I'd like to still like me.
  • I will believe in something greater than myself -- God, the Universe, karma, nature, the common good -- and actively cultivate my relationship with that force. I will do it to gain perspective on my place in this world and within the march of time. It will show me what is worth serving, what is worth loving, and what is worth fighting for. It will make me humble and mindful in a proud, distracted age.
  • I will tell you when I miss you, when I want you, and when I love you -- without limit, without fear, without fail.

This agreement is subject to both parties' signatures, with the understanding that "I" means "we" and that none of it's easy, but we sure hope it's fun.

Signed:

___________________________
{First Party Signature}

___________________________
{Second Party Signature}


Prayer #261: The Best We Can

Lord,

Help the just-because flowers grow
and the love note ink flow
and the broken record show

that we're doing the best by each other we can
in earnest imitation
of You.

Amen.