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.

letting go, living, moments

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

 

 

 

 

letting go, living, moments, nature, new year

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

hope, living, nature, prose

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.

 

 

hope, living

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

 

 

 

 

hope, letting go, living

Rose Colored Glasses

Rose Colored Glasses

By Carmen H Gray

 

The truck with the tools

And the hole in the eaves

My view of the sunrise obscured by the trees

The cigarette butts

The plants dying of thirst

A Wold War II veteran nursed

In this unassuming place

And no, I never saw the ugliness

In you or you or you

I only saw what light you brought

Even in an afterthought

Even after the storms have passed

And sunlight shines its golden cast

I still see possibility in my line of sight

Sometimes I slip and take them off

Those rose-colored glasses you tossed

But if life is the way you think it is

It’s all for nought

We are absurd

Are we succored, our thoughts?

By the gentle palette?

For we can paint our world

Anyway we want

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

hope, letting go, living, nature

August 2014

August 2014

by Carmen H Gray

 

When, then, did I begin?

Was it in the darkest peak of that death?

Or was it when I found that opening?

A deep and hollow gash

The natural result of an unforeseeable crash?

I do not come with a timeline

Or a rolodex of recipes

Neatly filed and perfectly spaced

No, that is not how I was placed

I saw myself at the start of that curve

And then again at the baker’s dozen glance

Turning once more at thirty four, a dance

Of four gilded edges forging

Like what we see in the night skies

The spiral galaxies that radiate

The cells within us that communicate

I am you and you are me

We relive each moment’s mystery

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

hope, letting go, living, nature

Sunlight Beams

55A648C2-1B6C-4748-BE5E-DF6A9E929292 Sunlight Beams

by Carmen H Gray 

“Capture Me” I told him

I want to halt that moment

Of gravitional bliss

The freeness from the pull

The airborne leap in the heat

Before my warm feet kiss

The frigid turquoise water

And in those milliseconds

I feel the deliciously sweet

Water colors reflecting onto me

The sunlight beams shushing

The gentle azure wave, beckons

As it anticipates our embrace

hope, letting go, living, nature

Billows

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by Carmen H Gray

Today I looked up and saw

Ribbons of white summoning my eyes

They reminded me how the time is now

My hot breath the engine

Forming billows of momentary exhaust

In my own expansive sky

For the ants beneath my feet

Today I caught that second when

His eyes met with yours

I saw the electricity flowing

Like those captivating contrails

Saturation Vapor Pressure

Over Ice

A mixture of luck and presence

And gratitude for being here in this now