I’ve been revving high without going anywhere for a while, having entered the work-around-the-clock part of the term, so I’m going flat-out all day and it’s hard to calm down at night, much less write poems or do other creative work that makes me feel peaceful. Thinking about how to manage my energy better made this poem come to mind. It appeared in a 2018 anthology, Love Affairs at the Villa Nelle edited by Marilyn L. Taylor and James P. Roberts, and I’ll probably include it in my next poetry collection, providing the publishing world wants book number 6 from me.
Return Path The only way to pray is through my feet, earthward, jolted in return by the fizz of a spiking current. I never thought a circuit would loop through me, believed I was separate, alone, done with gods, but here it is: I’ve found a way to pray. Through my feet, I reach down. There’s something animate, chthonic, that touches me back. It’s a species of love, a thinking-spike, a zinging circuit of energy and dirt, blood and spirit— plutonic conversation, mostly wordless. The way I’ve found to pray is through my feet, sole bared to wooden boards, or rug, or slate, or buggy grass, just as you want to press skin to a beloved’s, sparking a current, a circuit. Not that earth loves me, exactly. Matter’s what matters. She wants me to return the mess of my only body, pray from head through feet as I sink, unthinking ash, into love’s circuit.
I call myself agnostic mainly, atheist occasionally, but I pray sometimes. I don’t discuss it much: saying you talk to the underworld is likely to concern religious friends on behalf of your soul and skeptical friends on behalf of your brain. But while praying the way I was taught in Sunday school felt terrible–addressing formal words to a pale and distant father in the sky who never answered–connecting imaginatively to soil and rock settles me. I even get good advice sometimes. Yep, what’s returning my calls may be a deeper part of myself rather than an outside force, yet I have an inkling that the inside-outside distinction is wrong-headed anyway, so I don’t worry about it. I’ll take whatever help the universe is offering.
Right now, I’m focusing on connecting gears so the revving gets me somewhere–with small and partial success. I just received edits on the second half of my essay collection, Poetry’s Possible Worlds, so I’m starting to enact those revisions, even though it’s a difficult time of year to carve out any hours. I also discovered an absolutely lovely blurb for the book in my inbox, from someone I had contacted out of the blue. A friend generously helped me research some cover ideas. I’m getting ready to speak at a virtual Writer’s Week held by the University of South Carolina at Wilmington, and then physically attend World Fantasy Con in Montreal, if the gods allow. A panel I’m on was just accepted for the virtual AWP but two others were rejected from the in-person one, though, so I’m second-guessing my intention to apply for university funds to attend. It’s hard to make decisions as the winds pick up.
In the shorter term: please let me know (at firstname.lastname@example.org or in the comments) if you’d like the Zoom link for a reading at 6pm Eastern on October 21, hosted by Lucy Bucknell of Johns Hopkins. She doesn’t post the links on social media so it’s usually an intimate group of 6 readers doing 10 minutes each–nice vibe. Next week’s lineup will include:
Elias Baez is a poet from New York. He’s Poetry Editor at GAYLETTER magazine and has work in The Bitchin’ Kitsch and The Daily Drunk.
Helena Chung is a Korean American poet currently living in Brooklyn. She is a recent graduate of the MFA program at UVA.
Jalynn Harris is a poet and book designer from Baltimore. Author of Exit Thru the Afro, she earned her MFA from the University of Baltimore.
Caroline Preziosi is a poet and artist from Baltimore. She is currently pursuing an MFA at School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
…with me at the end reading a couple of poems from The State She’s In and a couple of new poems, too. I hope our circuits connect and I see you there.