Dear President Trump,
About six years ago I had what I refer to as my personal poetry year. I’d never written poetry before and except for one that popped out in 2016, I’ve not written any since. I barely recognized myself or my mind during those months of 2013 when it seemed like just about anything I found moving or that occupied my thoughts for more than five minutes turned into a poem. It was kind of cool, but mostly it was strange to think so differently from my normal and to be so compelled to write poem after poem (I think there 75 or 80 all together).
I’ve not thought about that year or the poems much at all recently, but this morning in church I was rocked back onto my heels at learning of the sudden death of our friends’ friends’ son and that feeling of the world not making much logical sense was (and is) so strong that my thoughts turned to poetry. I can’t picture you appreciating poetry at all so you likely don’t understand why anyone would gravitate towards it when life is hard or things are not making sense, but it’s a thing. There’s something comforting about the spaces that poems usually leave where there’s room to breathe one’s feelings into the crevices.
There’s a poem I wrote during the poem year that is especially resonating right now and even though it’s not at all like what I usually share with you, I’m going to include it here:
The Origin of Faith According to Me
The other morning when I thought
the improbably braided maple limbs
that have grown together a few blocks over
had somehow disappeared,
it dawned on me
(actually it hit me so hard
it nearly took my breath away)
why we collectively
came to the idea of faith
Feeling the sudden loss of the limbs
led to other losses that have come to
pass and that are yet to happen
but certainly will,
and suddenly I knew at some level
why there’s so much comfort
we can’t ever touch,
that can’t ever die
or be taken away,
that we can believe will be here
long after all the limbs
on all the trees
and anyone who has ever
are all stardust again.
Last week I walked by the house with the tree with the improbably braided maple limbs and it really was gone this time. Seven or eight small maples line the edge of the property, including the special one with the braided limbs, and all but the first one have been cut off about five feet from the ground. It’s horrible. I thought about telling you about it the day I discovered it, but I couldn’t. My feelings about it were too raw and ugly. Of course it’s possible that all but the one had become diseased and it was necessary to kill them like that. Maybe. But to see them lined up like so many spikes when so recently they’d been lovely, living leafy things hurt my heart.
Sitting next to my friend in church this morning, digging out an unused napkin for him to cry into, awkwardly patting him as he grieved, hurt my heart even more. We were sitting up at the front facing the congregation because the Soul Choir sang today so I could see his daughter crying in the pews and I could see the woman whose husband was killed recently during a robbery sitting a few seats over from her, and a man who lost a dear aunt the same day the young man died was in my line of sight too. And I thought of our son who died a long time ago, of our brother-in-law who died not long ago, and of a friend whose mother died suddenly two days ago. And I was keenly aware that these were just the losses I know of. It was hard to sing. It was hard to sit there and it was hard to stay present while sitting there.
After we sang our piece (which is called “Rise Up”), my friend turned and smiled and said “good stuff.”
I’ve never done this before, but today whenever the word “God” appeared printed in the bulletin for the congregation to speak I substituted the word “Love.” I said it quietly, kind of trying it out since love is what I can get behind. It felt right. It felt (and feels) like something real and sustaining that I have faith will see us through our personal dark times and our shared ones as well.
May we keep one another safe.
May we be happy to stay put next to one another and just be together.
May we cry when the tears need to come.
May we make peace with mortality so we can live fully.