Last night, I dreamed my new religion. Not a concept unique to the poets, dreamers, and scholars of the world...but, one I needed anyway. I was terrified of some unknown force in my house, running from room to room to escape without success until I made it to our front garden bed. I sat beside the azaleas and bleeding hearts with Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass tucked against my chest. It is almost cliche to express a love of Whitman anymore--his words so pervasive in academic scholarship and debate they've lost their spark. Walt Whitman and Edgar Allen Poe fell into my heart when I was thirteen, though...and so I have a soft spot for my first loves.
In my dream, I clutched the book so fiercely I rendered a papercut across my ribs. It was dusk and I was weeping, then, Sam Beam--singer and lyricist from Iron & Wine came and sat down.
"You're okay," his first words to me. "Life is beautiful."
I said, "That's love..." half a question, half a thought.
His laughter, "No, that's holy."
"What--like Jesus holy?"
He took my hand in his--a burning coal against my palm,
"Hey," he replied, combing his fat beard with his other fingers, "We've all got a message."
As unclear and random as this dream was...I can sift through it--M. was talking about religion before bed. I was listening to Iron & Wine driving home from teaching last night with the car windows down and the rain streaming in. The Whitman is a little out of nowhere...but, I have been looking for wisdom everywhere this week. So, I am going to worship at the altar of poetry and sink deeply into the words of sacred vagabonds and brilliant singers.
"I celebrate myself and sing myself and what I assume, you shall assume/ for every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you," Whitman tells me. In Beam's song I hear, "Rusty gears of morning...and faceless busy phones, we gladly run in circles but the shape we meant to make is gone". So my message becomes celebrate myself and let the Universe in...it is a rusty life, one still shaping itself...the shape we meant to make is gone--impermanence. Celebrating what is and who I am even as it all falls away.
Poetry set to music:
"Tonight we're the sea and the salty breeze
The milk from your breast is on my lips
and lovelier words from your mouth to me
when salty my sweat and fingertips
Our hands they seek the end of afternoon
my hands believe and move over you
Tonight, we're the sea and the rhythm there
the waves and the wind and night is black
tonight we're the scent of your
long black hair
spread out like your breath
across my back
Your hands they move like waves over me
beneath the moon, tonight, we're the sea."
A message...my message today, I am reading through lyrics and poetry--combing through for self-excavation...finding bits of bone and shards of silver and pottery exposed in the sifted dirt. Is this me? I can enter whole worlds through, "you're a poem of mystery/ you're the prayer inside me/ spoken words like moonlight/ you're the voice that I like" (Iron & Wine). And, "I depart as air, I shake my white locks in the runaway sun/ I effuse my flesh in eddies, and drift it in lacy jags./ I bequeath myself to the dirt to grow from the grass I love/ if you want me again look for me under your boot soles./ You will hardly know who I am or what I mean/ but I shall be good health to you nevertheless/ And filter and fiber your blood/ Failing to fetch me at first keep encouraged/ Missing me one place search another/ I stop somewhere, waiting for you." --Walt Whitman--
Do I really have to make words today or should I just make love to the ones already written down by hands far steadier than my own? We can crawl back into words every time--no matter how broken, how bitter. Words, the wind in the trees outside as I think this, the June sun, and the silence between every sound. My faith lies here today...