Sunday, November 26, 2006
raise it up
This poem is clearly the culmination of the emotional work I've been doing and the writing that has been going on here in this blog. I performed it last week at Gaia Resurrect's all women's poetry, art and music performance in Asheville. As usual, my sense is that my work is more effective off the page than on it and is truly brought to life by my performance of it, but since I'm working with this written medium I am going to go ahead and make this poem as an offering to my people, my community, and to some people in particular like Rain's parents and Citrus's parents and to myself, today being the eight year anniversary of the loss of Ursula. Blessed be.
I am a prophet of saying unpopular things.
I talk about bodies and birth
Without doctors and drugs,
I shout about freedom for each to do with her body as she choose,
I scream it is our right to refuse what others think we must do
Even if that thing seems like it is good for you.
And I whisper about death holding a righteous place in our lives.
I believe that we are bought and sold by fear
Our bodies which we should hold dear are manipulated and managed
By an untrue terror that is instilled,
Insisted upon and insidiously enforced by stories whispered,
Threatened from the cradle with the horrors of the grave.
I love life gorgeous in its infinite complex tangible way,
Its endless opportunities and unexpected days,
Do not underestimate how I cherish it when I go on to say that
Death has unfairly been given a bad name.
I long to live long and have many days on earth
And I have been devastated and disheartened by death
Have lost loved ones who seemed taken untimely or violently
Wept for the mothers who weep for sons and daughters killed mindlessly,
Yet I come to say fighting death and fearing our natural course
Is harming us, hurting life, creating great remorse in the days when we should
Live for living
Not fear for dying
Live for living
And accept that
Death is a home
The turn of the spiral that composts, nourishes, restores
Death is the name of the angel who ushers us on our way
Wherever in the universe we’re meant in that moment to be
Why has this lie that death is our enemy come to be the alma mater of modern society?
Once upon a time every one lived knowing that someday they would die
They accepted it, they carried it with them through their days and
It was no source of fear and
It was no source of pain
It just was.
Now we’ve been taught to dread our approach to the grave
We’ve learned that we must beg to assure we get the most days
We’ve been told that there are supernatural ways
Of cheating cruel nature and her unfair play of forcing us to have losses and to age
and for each of us to someday lay decomposing underground.
To buy in to the fabulous miracle of evading death, we learn
We must literally buy in.
We are convinced that every dollar we spend will save us from an untimely end,
From the maternity ward to the auto lot to the grocery store
We are convinced that the more money we spend, the more we can live
and the less we will die
and it is simply not true.
I do not lie to you when I say that our fear of death is thrust upon us at our births.
From the moment we are conceived we feel acutely the energy
Directed to us
From our mothers and fathers and doctors and friends, and
No one in this room was born in a time
when all those well-intentioned people
Did not fear and project and
Act crazily over the possibility that our new lives could end
Suddenly or unexpectedly without intervention.
We learned before our births it is unacceptable to die
Thus our births were ruled by the unacceptable lie
That the only way to be born safely and live
is to supersede natural law
Which has every animal on the planet
Birthing in her natural home amongst her own
Without doctors, machines, drugs and insurance
Without bells and whistles and untrue assurance
That her baby will live no matter what
Because that’s not true.
Like every animal mother your mothers’ chances of giving birth to you alive
Were very, very, very high
Regardless of location or the presence of experts
Regardless of technology, regardless of excess,
But she never had a guarantee
That all her offspring would live because
Regardless of location or the presence of experts
Regardless of technology, regardless of excess
Babies still die.
And I say
As unpopular as it may be
That it is time we accept the nature of natural losses
And stop starting our lives under the worst of curses
Which is to fear constantly even as we live
To fear constantly on the brink of new life
Of the death that will surely seek us in its own time
And to still take care of ourselves and be careful and be healthy
But to no longer be ruled by that mythology so stealthy
That tells us if we buy good doctors and safe hospitals and new drugs
If we buy bigger cars and stronger militaries to depose foreign thugs
That we will live forever,
That our children will never die
Because they will.
As women we experience the undue burden of culture’s death scorn
As carriers of life we’re expected to fulfill the fabled promise of new life guaranteed born
And our bodies have become battlefields for powers that be
To vent their frustration at their inability
to have complete, unswayable control of all things wild and unpredictable.
We are wild and unpredictable
Despite the laws that have been decreed as to where, how and if we give birth,
Despite the unwritten laws that say how we as women should look, act and feel, and
We cannot tell anymore what is real.
We experience insecurity feeling we cannot have control over
Our own bodies and our paths,
We are objectified as bodies expected to perform certain tasks that
someone else determined for us, and
We are having a hard time knowing who we are and what to do.
Well let me tell you-
There is no shame in our bodies and no shame in our blood
There is no shame in our abortions and, regardless of outcome,
No shame in our births.
We cannot judge one another or ourselves on the merits of our reproductive worth
Because that’s exactly what the patriarch wants us to do.
Have you ever held an embryo in the palm of your hand?
Have you ever held an embryo in your heart, in your womb, in your soul,
An embryo whose heart never beat without yours?
How many women in this room have known death inside their own bodies?
How many women in this room have carried life that never made it to light
whether the end was of your choosing or of theirs?
Raise your hand, raise it up,
You have nothing to hide-
We must tell our stories to each other if none others if we are to survive.
Our culture’s fear of death has left us paralyzed and alone amongst each other.
It spends billions to wage war and murder thousands of innocents
While screaming and insisting that every conceptus in every womb must live
Despite its mother’s impetus.
This is madness, this contradiction under which we’re forced to live
Something has got to give.
It is time to embrace death as a part of our lives
and to refuse to live meekly under her shadow.
It is time to rage against death’s misuse
as she is meted out murderously upon others deemed unworthy,
Others perceived to threaten our tenuous existence
They are murdered by the false promise that with their deaths
Our deaths are indefinitely delayed
The false promise that says by killing these others our lives will be saved.
Refuse to accept the lies that you are told
And stand up for the right
Of every human being to live their full story so boldly and free
that humanity can finally achieve peace.
We are going to die every single one of us-
Me and you
And my children and your children, too.
It is true and beautiful despite the pain at the loss
It is our life’s destiny to die and it is rightfully ours.
To live life fully one who loves life must learn to love death,
Have compassion for death
She waits patiently for the day she’ll hold us in her arms
Though we scorn and dread her all the while.
Take comfort in knowing that when the right time comes
She is waiting to whisper in your ear,
Have no fear my love,
Your remains will now rest in the bosom of the earth and
Your spirit will soar amongst the timelessness of the universe.