Time and distance
Last night I returned to a poetry group that I had started attending when Liesl was around the age of two or three. When I became pregnant with Mathilde, when all the life went out of me, I stopped attending. I didn’t have a single brain cell to spare for anything that seemed extra.
I didn’t attend during Mathilde’s first year because I was the mother of a newborn, and I was tired as she stirred and nursed through the night. I didn’t go back the next year when she was two and Liesl was five, nor did I return the year after that, nor after. So I did the math, and give or take the occasional time I popped in for a lone workshop, it hurt to realize that six years have passed since I was a part of the group.
It is never hard to receive the criticism for my poetry and writing because I’m so aware that I have much further to go. It’s harder to hear criticism about who I am or how I am in the way that such criticisms come up between persons. Still, it’s ridiculous that I think I’m ever defensible. I don’t think any of us are. I have a friend who recently broke up with another friend (or did the equivalent of that, anyway), and seeing how we tend to quit one another when things get most difficult makes me think we show our least or most humanity in such times. Least because who among us doesn’t deserve being quit upon from time to time, and most because we are so feeble when it comes to doing the kind of loving that requires real persistence and effort.
I feel grieved in the way this plays out societally through media and the life lived out online. We all live in glass houses, and so many are throwing stones.
Perhaps it was no different in Jesus’s day, when Jesus himself broadcast a message in the sand for some pious men to see. It was a word to be considered before they strung up a woman they deemed to be unworthy of respect and deserving of their judgment. Those on the left are as guilty of doling out the judgments these days as are those on the right.
Last night, the poem I brought to the workshop to be critiqued was one I wrote in May that I had titled Fireflies. It felt clunky to me, even as I chopped it down to half its size for the workshop. The poem is about how small things bring light or reconciliation.
Condemnation looms large, laid down from a distance without intimate knowledge of the who, what, or why of a thing. Lovingkindess is small like a breath, and is knowingly spoken. In the biblical Hebrew, lovingkindness (chesed) is used only in cases where there is some recognized tie between persons. It’s not indiscriminate; neither is it fleeting nor sentimental.
Six years have passed. And even more time than that.