Speak the Word (excerpt)
These weakened knees
Have not touched ground or pew in ages
I haven’t bowed my head
To offer thanks to any god or to ask for favors
But watch me now
I’m falling down
To speak the word that precedes bliss
To speak the word
To speak the word
— Tracy Chapman
The poem I wanted to share tonight is less gentle. Today Staceyann Chin responded to some of the hateful, misogynistic filth that was flung at her. She posted an amazing poem that blew back my hair, blew my mind, blew the haters out of the water. Rather than post it here with a content warning, I’ve linked to it and will encourage you to read every amazing word. Just as I couldn’t believe the racist tweets I wrote about last week, I can’t believe the disgusting things people (okay, men) say to Chin. What I can believe is how she doesn’t take their crap sitting down, how she won’t sit down, sit back, hold back. She goes hard, with a fire and eloquence I can only dream about. How grateful am I that her voice is in the world?
So it’s poetry month. Poetry month and I’ve saddled myself with another challenge, not just the write-a-poem-every-day challenge, which would be a big enough mountain to climb. I seem wed to the idea of writing one of these Zeno poems every day (or until I collapse under the strain of it). To recap, here are the syllable and rhyme patterns of the Zeno:
Got it? Yeah. Like Othello: a minute to learn, a lifetime to master and all that. As almost always happens with these challenges, I did okay in my first attempt. I like the poem I wrote after making the mandala at the WE LEARN conference. But then it all went down hill. So very far down.
But I am nothing if not dogged in my pursuit of impossible goals. I had already done a month of tankas when I borrowed this idea from Sonia Sanchez two years ago. I liked the idea because writing the same form over and over again every day for a month seemed like a kind of meditation, a window into a lot more than how to write that particular form. The last three years have shown me that there can be breakthrough moments in this month for me. The tanka month in 2009 was full of surprises, but even the painfully difficult Rhyme Royale month in 2010 and last year’s excruciating Nove Otto month gave me a few cloud-parting flashes of inspiration. Surely the Zeno has some hidden gifts just waiting to shower themselves over me.
But not tonight.
my stitches follow one, one more —
patterns taught, learned
each stitch a piece,
Oh, it’s early days. Still a lot of work to do. Never mind me. Go read Staceyann’s amazing piece. Let her show you how it’s done.