cancer, hope, letting go, living, moments, nature

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.

hope, letting go, nature

Wings

Wings

by Carmen H Gray

I traveled into the black hole

I was warned I’d be spaghettified

Maybe I have been

My heart was stretched

My thoughts were ripped apart

And all things were upended

They said “you won’t make it back”

Fare thee well

“You will be dead to me” I heard

But death begets a new life

For inside a chrysalis

A being dissolves

Unrecognizable

Spaghettified, one might say

I don’t think I made it back

To where I was

The world is not as it was before

Within the limitless chaos

There is order in the unexpected

Hope IS the thing with feathers

Like Emily writes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

letting go, living

Slant

“Tell all truth but tell it slant”-Emily Dickinson

Slant

by Carmen H Gray

Life is not defined by a straight path

A neat and perfect bow fastened fascinates

Because of its obliqueness

Sharp angles and diagonal descent

Rising action leaning into soft, unexplored regions

Create curiosity for finding folded treasure

Hidden in the hugs of a line

Are Truths woven exactly

One degree more than its parallel below

Inviting you to unbind it

 

 

 

letting go

An Element of Blank

“Pain—has an Element of Blank—
It cannot recollect
When it begun—or if there were
A time when it was not—

It has no Future—but itself—
Its Infinite Contain
Its Past—enlightened to perceive
New Periods—of Pain.”-Emily Dickinson

An Element of Blank

by Carmen H Gray

I am enlightened to perceive

An Element of Blank

Meaning, I have been split open

My atomic number is zero

There is no simpler existence

Than to be enlightened to perceive

An Element of Blank

I live on that plane

Smack dab in the middle of

Between the periods of

Pain

Where I am enlightened to perceive

The next layer, the next level

Of intangible, undeniable ranges of

Pain

And that is the great secret

That creates a sense of cessation of

Pain

 

 

 

 

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Avalina

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“Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul And sings the tune without the words and never stops at all.”-Emily Dickinson

Avalina’s Tree

By Carmen H Gray

Once upon a time

You and I took a brush

To the back of your door

And created a haven for colorful birds

To rest and flitter about

A world for your mind to step into

When you were young

Avalina, my child in flight

Always traversing new territory