st. js

A loving and beloved teacher at my school, a poet, saw the charcoal drawing I had purchased from a student. It is a self portrait, very large, her head fills the page, her eyes are wide, staring directly ahead, and her nose is bleeding black charcoal blood. After seeing it, he came back to my room and read a poem to me he had written about pain, about his symbiotic relationship to it. His voice was, as were his words, clear and strong and had so many tones.

We pray for Ferguson, we pray for FSU, where my niece held hands with strangers and huddled down for safety in the stacks of the library and heard shots set free the wounded and wounding soul of a man who came to kill students during finals week. We thought we were a post-racial society, but we are not, I thought FSU was dangerous because of the football players’ carte blanche, but it was dangerous for a different reason. Perhaps more than anything, I don’t want to outlive my nieces and nephew, and then  I think of Michael Brown’s mother.

The labyrinth in the rain is wet like a skinned knee and the turns remind me over and over, we are going back, we are going forward, we are in a different place.

Last week, my sister in law walked with me. She wore a light blue hood and a pale coat, and held steaming coffee in her hands. In my peripheral vision, and the meditative state that I drop into at the labyrinth, she reminded me of the Virgin Mary.  I remembered waking at the hospital  (I  had slept on a window sill) when my mother was dying and seeing my sister in law without recognizing her, as if in a vision. She had just come from her own shift at a neighboring hospital, and was in green scrubs. Who is this beautiful teen aged nurse with the golden ponytail, I haven’t seen her before, I asked myself before I recognized her. It was early in the morning  and the sun shone through the window I recall, for a moment, the greyness of the hospital and the fog of exhaustion and numbness which covered the fear and sadness were lifted. On the way back from the labyrinth to meet my brother and nephew at the playground, she and I talk over the nature of ritual.

At the labyrinth, I am in the shadow of a church where people gather to pray and focus on something higher than themselves. Just the action of gathering in prayer in good faith, praying for love, means that no action of violence or hurt is being set forth in that space, in that moment.

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