For the greater strength
Tonight has been a long time in coming.
I’ll be at Women in Distress, leading a writing workshop for survivors of domestic violence.
Before we start writing our stories, I’ll read them this poem by Jennifer K. Sweeney, from the collection How to Live On Bread and Music:
IN PRAISE AND APOLOGY
For the man whose Impala breaks down on the highway mid-lane,
his face wrinkled in agony as he heaves the machine toward gravel.
For grief which slows time and makes everything sad and beautiful–
the children’s art hanging crooked in the museum,
a woman carrying a loaf of bread with both hands.
For the Harlem Renaissance painted on an old boat.
For renewal, a woman’s vintage slip
stretched around a lampshade like light shining through a body.
For grief which makes details appear to have meaning
as when we bought new koi for our pond
and hoped they would have babies but they didn’t.
For the time being.
For beach grass, boxwood, bearded iris, calla lily, yucca, ghost rose.
We make these things grow.
They are of us and we are of them,
but they do not belong to us any more than this house.
Neither my body anymore which I have left across the city
in medical buildings and turrets of wind.
For giving back everything borrowed.
For the Chinese-American teenager
who described herself as a paper daughter.
For the man who wakes from his surgery
and wails into the cold Am I alive?
For irony, that writes itself into our lives
making them fictions to us.
For the homeless woman who sang to me at the gas station,
You’re just too good to be true, Can’t take my eyes off of you,
mottled black arms outstretched to the clouds.
For my students searching in silence
the alley-cracks and gutters for haiku in their composition books.
For the greater strength it takes the woman
who has been pushing an immense rock for years
to walk the opposite direction.
Thank you for your work with survivors of domestic violence. I hope that writing their stories and turning their pain into acts of creation helps them heal.
Ditto what Caitlin said. I applaud – as in standing ovation applause – the speaking you do, the writing you do, the writing you encourage.