Thursday, August 11, 2016

Percolating Poetry--QM

'Chaos Theory' '04 by Queena Yoder
I'm writing a poem, wrestling with the thing, begging it to ripen into something grand.

I want to pour my poem into people's cups like rich coffee, dark and bitter, a kind of legal drug that will keep them up all night. I want to give them the gift of Poincaré's coffee, drunk before the magical night about which he said "ideas rose in crowds; I felt them collide until pairs interlocked, so to speak, making a stable combination." With that shot of caffeine he saw order condense out of chaos (page 192) and--if only I could pull the words together--I think that's the kind of poem I'm writing.

Right now I fear the order will never come, that my poem will betray me, and that polite readers will surreptitiously toss even more than the dregs into the bushes. Or worse, I'm afraid that I won't be willing to pour out the rawness and ache I've brewed.

I need to finish this poem.


(In lieu of my own unfinished poem, here is a gem I found on page 196 of the book cited above.)

The Writer

In her room at the prow of the house
Where light breaks, and the windows are tossed with linden,
My daughter is writing a story.

I pause in the stairwell, hearing
From her shut door a commotion of typewriter-keys
Like a chain hauled over a gunwale.

Young as she is, the stuff
Of her life is a great cargo, and some of it heavy:
I wish her a lucky passage.

But now it is she who pauses,
As if to reject my thought and its easy figure.
A stillness greatens, in which

The whole house seems to be thinking,
And then she is at it again with a bunched clamor
Of strokes, and again is silent.

I remember the dazed starling
Which was trapped in that very room, two years ago;
How we stole in, lifted a sash

And retreated, not to affright it;
And how for a helpless hour, through the crack of the door,
We watched the sleek, wild, dark

And iridescent creature
Batter against the brilliance, drop like a glove
To the hard floor, or the desk-top,

And wait then, humped and bloody,
For the wits to try it again; and how our spirits
Rose when, suddenly sure,

It lifted off from a chair-back, 
Beating a smooth course for the right window
And clearing the sill of the world.

It is always a matter, my darling,
Of life or death, as I had forgotten.  I wish
What I wished you before, but harder.
From New and Collected Poems, published by Harcourt Brace, 1988. Copyright © 1969 by Richard Wilbur. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Briggs, John, and F. David Peat. Turbulent Mirror: An Illustrated Guide to Chaos Theory and the Science of Wholeness. Harper & Row, 1971.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

I read more of Annie Dillard's book before falling asleep last night.

When I read Annie Dillard's writing I feel like I'm walking the in between world of waking up from a wonderful dream, floating in that first-awake moment. Consciousness begins for me as I stare deeply at the wrinkles of my sheets and at the freckles and tiny hairs on my arm while remembering those beautiful images that will fall into forgetfulness when I arise to dress and met the day. 

Her words go down to some place of wonder and joy in my heart, a place that often surprises me with emotion. Here is a quote from page 139 in her book Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. She is talking about the intricacies of this globe we inhabit:

"What do I make of all this texture? What does it mean about the kind of world in which I have been set down? The texture of the world, its filigree and scrollwork, means that there is the possibility for beauty here, a beauty inexhaustible in its complexity, which opens to my knock, which answers in me a call I do not remember calling, and which trains me to the wild and extravagant nature of the spirit I seek."

I have been let in on a fractal made of spoons and cups and lighted windows, a dizzying fractal of three pretzels sitting on a white paper plate, a fractal where I look forward to the sight of two pines trees at the end of Old Furnace road every Tuesday and Thursday evening at 5:27. The smallest piece has been blessed, the tiny diamond on my ring finger, the slant of light glinting on my pillow, and the cracks on my splintered phone. I'm so full of life today, and so full of the ache to bring others into this texture of joy.

This morning I prayed again for all those displaced by war. They are the ones I really wanted to write about today, and I've tried again and again to write something that would express how I feel for them, but all my words come out like cardboard. So instead, I turn to Annie Dillard's words and the hope that in all this complexity of our crushed, organic, and beautiful world the misplaced will find a place for hope. 

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Writing in my Astrostar --QM

As I promised, I've been writing at least 5 minutes every day. My words haven't made it onto this blog yet, but they are sitting in pencil in my Chinese notebook and in my head.

For the last 24 hours the refugee situation has been almost constantly on my mind and heart. I have a vivid imagination and can easily put myself in their shoes. I can also imagine and understand the fear that drives much of the attitudes that I hear about second-hand (I've been staying away from Facebook and the news because I hardly know how to handle some of America's responses).

I want to operate out of love, not fear. I would love to have a refugee family at my dinner table, resting at my home, helping them to learn English, and learning from them how to cook their amazing dishes. Today I sat in my car after dropping off my children at school and, instead of writing, I prayed. I pray every day for those misplaced and homeless by this war, but today I begged God to let me somehow do something for them--to practically show love and compassion and kindness.
The inside of the Statue of Liberty

In the 17th century Edmund Burke said something like:

Evil Triumphs when Good Men do Nothing

Another famous quote has been reverberating in my head these days:

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’  
40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ (Matthew 25 NIV)

I know this issue isn't simple or easy, that there are reason for fear and that it is complicated. But let us do everything we can do to avoid getting to the place where we xenophobic Americans need to take down this plaque, or maybe the whole green lady, in order to accurately reflect where our heart and practices are toward those in need of refuge.

The New Colossus
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Sitting in the Driver's Seat for 5 Extra Minutes on a Rainy Tuesday--QM

I have been bemoaning the small margins in my life--where has the white space to write, draw, read, study for my PRAXIS exam, and even keep up with my laundry and dishes gone? This morning I had Thoughts to Capture on my way home from taking the kids to school. As luck would have it, a friend gave me a notebook a week ago which has been stashed in the pocket by my drivers seat. I wrote this journal entry, and thought "I could do this Monday through Friday--I have a predictable quiet 5 minutes every day if I want, out in the driveway." So friends, hold me to this for a month--I will sit in my car for just a few moments before the rush of the day, and write.

     Driving through my sleepy small town, I pass by the blur of the familiar houses and tidy porches. The rain mists on mailboxes and sidewalks I never notice but recognise keenly with my subconciuos.
     Then I cross the railroad tracks and my own dear house peeks around the corner of the Methodist church. My once bright yellow mums are now black circles against the white of my home, the garden has turned brown except for a few valiant red zinnias (on whose account I keep the tiller away), and the formerly cheerful jack-o-lanterns are now macabre with sagging, oozing black faces.
     I love my messy, untidy life. Moss grows from the edges of my garage door, my laundry room fills more quickly than it empties, and my bathroom--well, lets not even talk about it.
     I'm not perfect, but for the most part I believe I'm choosing well in how I spend my time, though sometimes I tremble at all I might do, but don't. Now, however, its time to leave this van--the windows decorated with beads of rain, the smell of coffee newly spilled on the rug--to leave my pencil and notebook, pick one of those brave flowers for my kitchen window sill, slip a rainy day music CD into the computer, and do the dishes.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

The Mind's Muddy River cannot be Dammed --post by QM

Annie Dillard's words from Pilgrim at Tinker Creek page 32-32 are in italics.
Painting By Alexandra Ross

My heart burned, unexpectedly.
Isn't that always the nature of a burning heart,
Those two dense men traveling to Emmaus, 
they remembered the ache after the fact.

The literature of illumination reveals this above all: although it comes to those who wait for it, it is always, even to the most practiced and adept, a gift and a total surprise.

I had spent the day in a stupor, just sick enough to be lazy without feeling guilty 
and not so sick that I couldn't enjoy my laziness. 

I was enjoying a solitary lunch--
Sunday's Vietnamese Chicken soup,
Ginger Honey Lemon tea
And a piece of Lindt Chocolate.
Of course a book needed to be a part of this repast,
The calm before I stormed the needs of my chaotic laundry room.
I propped Annie Dillard's 'Pilgrim at Tinker Creek' in front of my steaming bowl.

The world's spiritual geniuses seem to discover universally
that the mind's muddy river,
this ceaseless flow of trivia and trash,
cannot be dammed, and that trying to dam it is a waste of effort that might lead to madness. 

I felt the minute details of my life swirling by, 
the detritus of 'ought' and 'should' that keeps me always occupied.
Suddenly I couldn't see. I smelled the sharpness of fishsauce and ginger, 
and the sweetness of the chocolate still lingered in my mouth, 
but the Emmaus Ache stole my vision with tears. 

"Launch into the deep," says Jacques Ellul, "and you shall see."
Today a friend wrote a peppy and thought-provoking little message on Facebook that went something like this:
Why limit yourself??? ...Why do we sometimes think..."My dream is dead...that's no longer for me"? That's a lie. Many times we are better positioned when we are older to take on that dream and realize it!! So dream big! 

I have been thinking about my dreams ever since. I want to 
get my master's in teaching English as a Second Language,
welcome people of all backgrounds into the church,
help immigrants and refugees learn how to communicate with Americans, 
keep a well organized house,
continue to love on my kids and husband,
be hospitable, and
make more meals like that Vietnamese Chicken Soup.

Another, final dream: to learn the Secret of Seeing and to draw other into that joy.
To return from one walk knowing where the killdeer nests in the field by the creek and the hour the laurel blooms. And to return from the same walk a day later scarcely knowing my own name.

hum in my ears;
my tongue 
flaps in my mouth
Ailinon, alleluia!
I cannot cause light; the most I can do is try to put myself in the path of its beam.