My friend, Chimmy, is a contemporary poet. She chooses and molds words like a sculptor with clay. She tastes words and adds or omits them, then stirs them up like a master chef. She flings words around violently sometimes and sets them down gently other times, like a dancer uses her arms to translate music. And the reason Chimmy’s brilliant is that she hears the music of life clearly, so she’s able to tell the truth of it, sharply and sweetly. I always think of artists as translators…they observe and experience life first, and then use their medium to try to explain their conclusions. And sometimes we meet an artist, or a dancer, or a writer whose conclusions about life match our own, and our heart beats faster, like a traveler in a foreign land gratefully recognizing her native tongue. Chimmy’s poetry makes my heart race.
Chimmy sent me several of her poems last week. I was honored. I sat at the computer and consumed them slowly, repeatedly, like they were chocolate. The power and depth of her voice overcame me like a wave. And then I got to one poem that I wasn’t sure I loved at all. I read the first two lines and started to feel twitchy, a little paranoid actually. I looked over my shoulder because I had the sensation of being watched. I kept reading the poem faster, frantically, even. I felt like I was reading a secret about myself that I’d never told anyone before, that I didn’t even maybe know myself. It was very, very strange. I considered the possibility that I really needed to start getting more sleep. So I went to bed.
Then, in the morning, I sent Chimmy this message:
i shouldn’t be surprised by your talent, but i am. you are magical.
your words are like a salve but also sort of scary and dangerous too.
i love all the poems, but “where powerful forces scatter”really affected me. i felt that one deep in my bones. i was kind of panicking and tingly as i read it. I felt like I was reading a secret about myself that noone was supposed to know.
don’t ever take me off your list. send me everything, please.
you are gifted.
And Chimmy wrote the following response:
I’m really psyched that you liked the RANT, especially ‘powerful forces’ because it, of all my ramblings was fueled in large part by the community you’ve brought together on your blog. In the only way I know to express it, it is sort of my “Me Too” or where thoughts of my “Me Too” took me. Your blog reaffirmed that connectedness I feel when I “feel” someone else’s words too. Our stories are all different threads of one tapestry generation after generation. So it goes for me anyhow.
And so, of course, when I read this, I cried. I know, I know, I overuse tears almost as much as I overuse italics. But I couldn’t help it, I was moved. Because apparently the poem that I felt was my soul secret, was my soul secret, told to me by a woman to whom I haven’t spoken, other than through writing, for 15 years. She read Momastery and she knew me through it and she knew herself through it, and then she offered me a one of a kind portrait of the two of us standing side by side. And all of you were in the portrait, too.
I just don’t know, friends. There is something to this offering of yourself and being open to the offerings of other women that is so healing.
So I sent this response to my Chimmy, my friend, my contemporary poet:
It’s 6:24 am and I’ve been up for two hours trying to put together this morning’s post. I’m tired…and more than tired, I’m weary. I sometimes feel a little drained by this writing thing, this constant pouring out of myself. And by sometimes I mean always and by a little I mean a lot.
But then I started working on the post about you, and about your “Me Too” and about “where powerful forces scatter” and i just wanted you to know that if it’s okay, i am going to print your poem and keep it next to my computer to spur me on. the poem is just that powerful and inspiring and haunting to me. you are SO gifted chimmy. i don’t know what else to say but thank you.
you have a lovely, lovely day.
Friends, here is the poem that is now taped to the wall next to my computer, so I can see myself and Chimmy, before I write to you each morning.
iii.where powerful forces scatter
you’ve spread your body
across this blaze before
laid upon this stone
laid down in this field
with ghost women
whirling high above
whispered over your bones
you’ve already been broken
your wounds a treasured part
of your body’s story
somethingchased you here
pushed you into this
motionless serene moment
this peculiar pause
a body in motion
a body at rest
the awkward way
bones gather in stillness
and all else fades to silence
but you’ve nowhere else
to long for
nowhere to go
you collapse back
down into your soul
look at yourself in these words
breaking and breathing
the echoes of ghost women
in your voice
their haunting sorrow
their enduring joy
their unending stories
and sounds when you speak
Thank you, Chimmy, for the offering.
Also, if you’d like, check out the foundation that Chimmy and her daddy started at www.walkingwithafricans.org .
Ya’ll have a beautiful weekend. I’ll miss you terribly.