Dark Night

profile                                                     Art & Poem by Carmen H Gray

I wrote the poem below 25 years ago. Found it today rummaging through old things this morning and it inspired a self-portrait. Although I am quite sensitive/empathic, in all these subsequent years, but especially in the last 5 ones, I have learned how to shore up my psychic boundaries, practice self-care and self-compassion. This has created a firmer foundation for me to explore who I am and what I feel, apart from others around me. It has led me to shed the burdens that I have allowed others to place upon me. In other words, I have a better sense of me. I read this poem now and realize, I no longer feel these emotions. I absolutely can and do sense the grief and heaviness in others, especially I can tap into this during my reiki sessions with my clients. I hear the feelings/experiences that are present in their subconscious.  But, there is no need for me to take on another person’s healing process now. I am there to reflect it, but not to feel it for them. For my own healing unfolded, and for this I am grateful.

Dark Night

To be alert and eyes wide open,

Heart exposed, vulnerable organ that it is,

Is to be both cursed and blessed.

But it is the only way to truly be

To truly live, and see and feel and die.

As I witness sad souls beat down in this world,

My heart feels heavy with the weight of their sorrows

How insignificant it may be, that in my life

I am present when your restless soul seeks

The warmth of another, reaching, hands outstretched, searching, searching…

How common that I mourn for you

When nights are long and painful

The senses are heightened

For every smell is sickening

And even silence is too loud

How simple to share moments of despair

When a blanket of nothingness surrounds you

Groping, blindly for hope

Hope, hope…this is what will save us

Returning to our human condition

Sharing our dark night of the soul

 

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.

Life Twice, Again

Life Twice, Again

by Carmen H Gray

Life twice, by and by

The want, the wonder, the frivolous why

The comings and goings of faraway ships

Silvery musings forming inside of my lips

Lips that once whispered youthful utterings

While inside my belly where once there were flutterings

A light has broken and shapes appeared in its whiteness

The child, the maiden, the wistful ripeness

And their shadows, no doubt, holding space in the stillness

Therein is where I find myself inhabiting realness

All of the cuts and the sharp words that wished to be said

Rose up to greet my heart gently, without fear or dread

And, I, having lived a singular moment twice

Embraced those shadows in my paradise

 

 

 

 

Rain

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Rain

by Carmen H Gray

This morning’s misty rain

Reminded me

That in these last two new days of the year

So much has been gently cleansed

The kind of purification that you might not even notice

Like walking down that same hallway

In that once familiar building

That housed so many hopes and fears and tears

But this time

It was a singular experience

In the extraordinary world

Today’s rain on the bamboo

Greeted me like an old friend

On my porch

Unlike the day before

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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

parallel lines

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