Here, 2020

Proprioceptive Writing Group, 9/17/202

Poem Read – “What’s Myself Doing to Myself”, by Ruth Harm Calkin

Part I: No Pain 

The girl-dog slumbers with gentle, fluttering snores. The Bear-dog lies at my feet, ears erect, not sure if he should sleep. He puts his head down. Ears are still erect. 

I am not calm or peaceful, though I have faith in the rightness of the world around me…in its fullness, of course. But this location of the Lord’s Year of two-thousand and twenty, in the fourth largest metropolis in the United States of America, in this galaxy in the Milky Way, it is coming apart at the seams. And so, I am not calm. I am not peaceful. I am tired. And weary. And worrisome that tired and weary will not do in the coming days. 

Some of the smartest people I know are readying themselves for an apocalypse. These are not folks who would believe in the apocalypse, and so I tend to trust their vision on this more. Their view is not sullied by End Times Fanatics in their family tree. They are not worried about avoiding stereotypes or heeding instructions to not concern oneself with such things. 

Dear Reverend Doctor Madam Eschatology Professor,

What say you? 

What say you in this time of conflagration and plague? Twister and siren? Deluge and long lines?

I am not calm. I am not peaceful. But I stand still. As I flick and flit and flail between task and task and task. 

The other night, as my 50-some year-old body felt its age settling into bone and joint and sinew, I had an image of this body simply transitioning into a hyperphysical reality that I could not fully comprehend from this location in the Milky Way, two-thousand and twenty. I imagined, though, that the pain was nothing more than the bone and joint and sinew moving into my self that is buried in Christ, transitioning into the fullness of time, the other side of the apocalypse. The drift into painless, delicious sleep was nearly instantaneous. I will take that as a sign. I will and I do. 

But still I flick and flit between this task and that, feeling the exhaustion behind my eyes that struggle to focus, that wish to sleep, and yet also find moments of near clarity and – I’ll say it – hope. You are good, Lord. All day, every day. Even when the world is coming undone. 

And, now that I think of it, those moments of clarity and invigoration, brief and incomplete as they may be (I am in a location, after all), are always in conversation with another, with others also seeking your will, those who, too, are exhausted and reading articles (or avoiding articles) on burnout and plague. 

She asked if we could sing the doxology… 

Part II: Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flooooowwww… 

…She asked if we could sing the doxology.

The perfection of the question pieced through the ridiculousness of a group of priests staring into their webcams, exhausted from an hour and a half of struggle against time-delayed, stilted conversation, colleagues disappearing midsentence, the etc. etc. of this location in 2020. This virtual location of this location in the Milky Way in this year of our Lord.

It pierced us and sliced open the layers of ‘holding it together’ and ‘just get through the moment’s and revealed to each of us each of our hungers for that very thing. The doxology. Sung. Together. Not together in the dangerousness of physical proximity, that anxiety-ridden scenario we yearn for but recoil from. But sung together virtually yet in some way more real-ly than the physical proximity now igniting our approach-avoidance reactions for 5 months straight. We’d not experienced such a thing before, but the piercing told us this was what we needed more than anything else we could imagine. 

And so we sung, terribly. Even the beautiful voices could not find harmony with each other in our ears in this time and space. But on some other realm, a realm we’ve been wrestling with for months and maybe even years, on that realm, a realm called virtual but now perhaps we know to be otherwise, on that realm it was the most exquisite concordance of sound and truth and reality we’d ever heard. 

And now I write about it with two friends, online, friends who have tasted and are tasting this new truth, new awareness of this truth in this here and now moment, too. 

And now I write about it as text messages and prayers and light pass through this body, this hypophysical body, with its aches and pains as it slowly, to me, transitions to that other realm, a realm that is 100% here and now and far away. 

I do not want to face the ripping seams of the cultural systems and structures we’ve put in place. I worry I am too tired to do my part, to be the fierce abolitionist I once knew myself to be. But now, in this moment, I am beginning to trust that such images of myself were wrong. This will happen without me and I will still be covered in your personhood. I will still be presentable. WE will still be presentable. Or not. 

Dear Reverend Doctor Madam Eschatology Professor, 

What say you? 

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