It’s turned out that, for most of my life, I’ve written a poem a day. It’s not to brag, but to say that that particular aspect was not the challenging part of the 30/30 Project. It was challenging – as evidenced by my last blog post being over a month ago, introducing the project – and here’s why. Getting drafts of poems you don’t have time to revise posted for God knows who to see (apparently, we had readers from all over the world last month) stimulates your am-I-really-good-at-this-only-thing-I-care-THIS-much-about gland like nothing else I can think of. And by “good,” yes, I mean, publishable. I’ve not had a terrible lot of luck (the internalized voice of my best friend obliges me to say “yet”), at least not with monographs, and it’s making it excruciating (the roots of which means “of the cross”) to walk into book stores.
But it’s done. I already miss the rhythm I got into; I hope the five other poets writing with me and I really do stay in touch. (Oh, and I beat my fundraising goal thanks to the surprise generosity from strangers and family alike. I’m leaving this part in the parenthetical because my truster gets queasy if I make it move too fast but I do have to say that it’s getting harder and harder to deny the support I have for this I-want-to-be-a-writer-even-if-I-haven’t-figured-out-how-to-do-it-without-undoing-myself thing). The poems are all here for the next month before the lovely women at Tupelo Press will take them down to free them up copyright-wise for submission elsewhere. Which I’ll doggedly do; I’m not giving up but that’s only analogically noble, if at all. I’m not going to stop writing because woe to me if I do. It’s more a fact about me that took me over two decades to stop scratching the eyes out of or running like a fugitive from than stalwart commitment.
I’ve also written an op-ed published in Real Change‘s May 27th edition and a friend asked some good follow-up questions that I said I’d need blog-post space to answer. This is not that post; my head’s rather like a fog museum than the library I’m used to lately so that one may be a bit in coming. But, if you – the royal, that is general, you – care to, read my op-ed about the recent addendum to WA State’s mental-health legislation and ask me more questions to respond to. Right now, I want to talk about two things: first, I’m happy to report that my herniatic legalism is no longer perforating to my blog. I didn’t post here for over a month and I didn’t flip out. To be totally transparent, I was too tired from being febrilely juristic about the other areas of my life to even remember my twice-a-week regimen. But that itself is a step.
Second, my spouse and I went to be present for Rev. Rich Lang’s last sermon. He’s what the rapidly desiccating mainstream, excepting Seattle, might call ‘radical;’ reading a few of his amen-good words here (they’re not sermons, though they’d do well in the pulpit, too) will give you an idea. He’s the only pastor I know decrying the rise of the surveillance state, questioning the official story of 9/11 and championing the activists/protestors/organizers without fluffing them down with mis-appropriated ‘Jesus-was-a-pacifist’ policing. He reminded us that we – Americans, he means surely, not specifically those in the audience under 40 – stopped a runaway CIA once before in his lifetime. We bridged if not completely closed a sprawling rich-poor gap once before in his lifetime. We ended homelessness once before in his lifetime. We stopped an unfounded war once before in his lifetime. I’m not positive I can map all those references, but they buoyed my somewhat dormant hope as much as seeing the kayak-ctivists out in Puget Sound’s (my angsty cynic obliges me to say ‘yet’) oil-free body taking on that damn oil rig.
And then he took this whole relationships-not-money-will-end-poverty thing, like, two levels higher. Poverty isn’t going to be ended by democratically voting to allocate more money to social services or providing more sanctuaries to spread overflow beds out on during colder or wetter nights. It’s going to end when we look at the people sleeping in our doorways and feel compelled to know them, not just cover them with warmer blankets or even that ever-rising, just-out-of-reach, big-enough roof over the head we all are molded to want. But it’s more than all that even. We all had to pass “a mean-spirited, snarly, possibly mentally-ill woman” as Lang said, on our way in to the service. Poverty doesn’t end until we stop, screw whatever we’re going to be late to, and lean into her anger-creased face and spitting eyes and say, “I must know you.”
And that got me thinking. Poverty also doesn’t end until we do more than Christian-love our neighbor, which often looks like praying from afar or reconfiguring our hearts away from hate, but when we grab their cheeks and say, “I must know you.” It doesn’t end until we hold out more than our hands and our other cheek (though, incidentally, I’m not convinced the conventional understanding of that is the only correct one) to folks who might rather like to chop them off, and not for the sake of gauche recklessness or showing how regal our righteousness is but because we value all life. And it doesn’t end until we find the unhoused, roamful, mean-spirited, possibly dreamsick-difficult partitions of ourselves, cup their clenched, green or even slack jowls and say, full-on meaning it, “I must know you.”