Why Poetry

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Why Poetry

My poetry is influenced by nature, math, science and art. I had an opportunity to study Emily Dickinson at Amherst in the summer of 2017 when I won a grant for the National Endowment for the Humanities. She has always been interesting to me, both her writing and her life. I resonated with the way in which she observed time and moments of being, with a great reverence for the minute and the mundane.

My Mexican-American heritage also plays a part in my writing, as does my personal journey in mothering a teen who survived cancer and another one who was on a transgender journey. I have been to hell and back in many ways that most people understand, but not all people are willing to admit. Here I stand, alive and willing to share my stories with the world. I know that my stories have helped others understand their own. I hear this again and again when I lay myself down on the metaphorical table and all allow myself to peel away the layers, bare for all to see.

When I write poetry, I channel. I channel the anguish and the deep sense of compassion that I have experienced on the path. I tap into a greater cosmic consciousness, on a realm outside of this 3 dimensional reality. I have written as long as I can remember. Poetry is how I think. It is my therapy and my lifeline. While I went through watching my thirteen year old daughter fighting for her life, I could not control the outcome. The interesting thing I learned, is that no one is really in control of anything. We like to think we are, it helps us feel steady, to think that if we plan everything just so, it will all unfold as we imagined it would. But, life is not that way for many, and it certainly was not for me. I was schooled in how to slow way, way down by the cancer. In the In Between Times, there is no future. There is only now. And in the now, everything becomes heavy, the movements fluid and gentle, as you flow with (as opposed to against) time. Sometimes, when you are in the underwater-like existence, you experience other-worldly latitudes. Once, when I could not comfort my sweet daughter during an agonizing bout of anxiety that her cancer might return, I experienced this very phenomena. She was 2 months into remission. I had to go to work. I had done everything to comfort her, but she was facing her own fears and I could not allay them. The fierceness of a mother to protect and shelter her offspring is hardly unique. But, this fierceness went beyond the five senses, because there are senses that lie unawakened in all of us, until such a moment presents itself for its stirring. I thought of my vulnerable daughter and when I arrived at work, I felt compelled to write a poem for her. The words fell easily onto the page:   

                  Whirring noises are the sounds of birds in flight

The cold air a misty San Francisco morning in the depths of summer

Prayers whispered to Whoever while my hand touches the soft fuzz of her delicate hair

Delicate shell, the inverse of Her being, Her soul, Her unconquerable spirit

We are not in that sterile place of radioactive inspection

We are in our own private world where time and beauty bless us

With their perfect embrace

Just as I finished my last line, she called me. “Mom! You’re standing at the end of my bed.” “What?”, I asked her, still in my poem daze. “I am pinching myself. You are standing here, looking at me.” I smiled a smile the old mystics must have known intimately, “Yes, I am with you. I told you a mother’s love is just that strong. I conjured ourselves together with words.”

Emily Dickinson was right. There is nothing mundane about the small things. There are greater worlds to explore in the depths of minutia. All around us, all day, everyday. And that is how I move through my life now.

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Rose of Mary

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Rose of Mary

by Carmen H Gray

Dew of the sea

Rose of Mary

I saw a brand new fairy

On a wilder walk today

He fluttered around the fragrant bouquet

Amidst the palest blue bloom

Heavenly scent, verdantly strewn

Transformation before my eyes

A sign of promise in disguise

And off he went without a thought

Of the wondrous gift that he had brought

 

 

Sun in Midwinter

Sun in Midwinter

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The diseases, the chemotherapy, the fluctuating hormones of the middle years, the exigent need to be female, when born with male parts (or vice versa), the perfect cup of Persian tea sitting in front of me-they are all chemicals and energy transforming. The child in my class who needs extra reminders because all norepinephrine molecules are not created equally. Or the one who is howling in distress because an excess of cortisol due to previous trauma has been re-triggered. The flicker of passion that reverberates between two beings. The animals that bond and the ones that repel one another.

We are but chemistry, made up of cell particles that have existed for millions of years. We are the stuff of stars, they say. The oxygen atoms created from burning stars. The trace heavy elements residing within us, despite their tiny contribution, are a result of the profound energy of exploding stars.

When you begin to understand this, everything is clearer. That look of consternation on a co-worker’s face. The person honking their horn at you in traffic. Your teenager scowling at you. The highs, too. The states of calm that you have within your power to create to lower stress hormones and inflammatory proteins. The release of oxytocin when a mother breastfeeds or when you stare deeply into another person’s eyes.

We are but chemistry. It’s really simple. And yet we forget. We are the stuff of stars; being born, brilliantly shining in the middle ages like our sun or dying and thus creating heavy metals needed in minuscule amounts to create life yet again.

 

 

11.20.14

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by Carmen H Gray 

the waves lapped at the shore

industrial waste in a place

where freshwater meets saltwater

the bright sky viewing a town that feels like a story I’ve written

like time stopped here, somewhere in the 1970’s of my childhood

and it may as well be a repeat of those chaotic times these days

except here I am, a woman now

with a daughter who can celebrate

a date that has past

and here we are

souls brined

hearts preserved

bodies intact

and this is better than any man made holy day to me

 

 

 

 

 

Flow

Flow

by Carmen H Gray

 

i sometimes feel I drift between two worlds

one is

where time is not a binding entity

where cataclysmic waves are waiting to be traveled fearlessly

and the sky is fully present

broadened chances that aren’t hampered by clouds

heavy with water molecules

the other is some projected world

stifled by the densely packed

minute hands and man made dimensions of too much talking

but i choose the former

with streams and rocks and ants

who know better

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Parallel Lines

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by Carmen H Gray

 

I saw those lines

running across your

soft arms

arms that had formed inside my womb

arms I bathed

arms that glistened in the summer sun

arms that were cut and poked and prodded, too

I gently placed aloe on those lines

and whispered prayers to each of them

”let the pain leave” I said

and only beauty reside here

Hope paralleled

within a tiny freckle found

Between those lines

 

 

 

 

Speechless

“But the beginning of things, of a world especially, is necessarily vague, chaotic, and exceedingly disturbing. How few of us ever emerge from such beginning! How many souls perish in its tumult!”-from The Awakening by Kate Chopin

Speechless

by Carmen H Gray

 

why didn’t you say anything?

what froze your tongue?

was it fear, sucking your mouth

stuck, in the murky muck

struck, like backs of our

ancestral sisters

we have struggled

to return to ourselves

to remunerate our homecoming

tumbling from centuries

of tongues tied through the ages