Poetry Friday: “Winter Song” by Amy McCann

snow shadow by Rebecca Siegel on flirckWhat do we understand? What do we even mean by “understanding”? A poem can pose these questions, explicitly or implicitly. Amy McCann’s “Winter Song” does both. She wonders what her father was thinking, was understanding, on a long-ago cold morning before she was born. Meanwhile she, in the warm womb, was a “restless / percussion of heels,” just an “idea.” Why was she coming into this life, the poem asks. Maybe we never know the whys of our existence. Her father’s lack of understanding back then, her own now: this isn’t much, she acknowledges, to hold onto. Yet the poem does offer an understanding, and it’s through images: the closing images of palm, place, and snowflake. These do “disappear” as they land at the poem’s end; yet the disappearance isn’t distressing. There’s a lightness of touch throughout the poem, as it holds at once both warmth and winter’s cold.

—Peggy Rosenthal [Read more…]

The Day My Daughter Found Herself

track-by-dean-hochman-on-flickrI want you to watch me run.

My daughter Becca sent me that text last Friday morning, just a couple hours into her first “24-Hour Challenge.” For weeks she’d been anticipating the annual event at her middle school, during which students run ten miles in half-mile installments around the track, breaking to sleep (or at least pretend to) in tents overnight before finishing in the morning. A major community event, the fields come alive with loud music, tents decked out with posters and lights, colorful signed shirts, and best friends walking arm in arm as they warm-up every forty minutes to run.

Mom. She texted me again. Are you coming soon?

I’d just come off of two sleepless nights, once again beset by conflict created by my own lack of interpersonal discernment. Questions wrestled in my gut: How do I help people mend their destructive lives without destroying my own? Is it possible to love wholly and purely without risking pain? I started to think I’m not cut out for fellowship. Maybe I need to stay away from everyone, I thought, except for my own family. [Read more…]

What My Kid Knew about Kubo

kubo[Spoiler alert: This post is about the end of the movie, Kubo and the Two Strings. However, since, I believe, the ending nearly spoils the film itself, you can read this and still enjoy the other, real pleasures of the movie.]

In the dramatic climax of Kubo and the Two Strings, our young hero defies the cold will of his grandfather, the Moon King, standing in a graveyard with nothing but his shamisen and delivering a (frankly) pretty forgettable speech about stories, memories, and identity.

His point, anyhow, is that our memories are our stories and our stories make us who we are. The ghosts of the dead rise up from the graves to reinforce this, and through some incomprehensible mechanism Kubo and the ancestors break the power of the Moon King.

In the wake of the battle, the Moon King has been transformed into an old man with no memory. “Who am I? What am I doing here?” he asks the gathered townspeople.

They quickly jump in with answers: “You’re one of the kindest, most generous citizens of our community,” they say (or something along these lines). “You’re loved by everyone.” A child adds, “And you always give children candy.” [Read more…]

I Have No Idea Where I’m Going

by Sarah Durham on flickrMy Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so.

—Thomas Merton

When I volunteered to teach religious education to sixth graders at our church, it was in a weak moment of senseless altruism, a desire to make some sort of lasting change in the world through the building up of young spirits. I regretted it immediately, especially once I realized I’d be subject to an actual textbook, with actual lesson plans, assignments, and tests.

I’d been operating under a delusion that I could just radiate so much joy and love for the Lord that actual teaching would be a non-issue. I was going to love the children into being—like God did—in that hungry eight o’clock hour before Mass, after raising Cain trying to get my own six children dressed and out the door. [Read more…]

Maybe the Kids Will Sleep in Tomorrow

Maybe the kdis will sleep inThe kids are home for the summer, but my husband has remained on the same schedule under which we operate during the school year, up at 6:30 a.m., fumbling around the room in the dark, until it seems the thought of me still sleeping is just too much to bear, so he turns on the light and starts asking me questions, like “Where’s my wallet?”

I never know the answer to questions when I’m sleeping, so I have to tell him, “I don’t know. I’m sleeping.”

My dad used to be the same way when we were growing up, couldn’t stand to be up alone in the morning. He raised homing pigeons, and would wake up and sing in an operatic tenor, “Good Morning Pigeons!” which really meant, “Wake up, everyone, because I am a morning person!”

Well, I have never been a morning person. I found myself yesterday sweeping the porches and cleaning up the yard around 8 p.m., just the time of day I wake up and become productive. Kitchen cleaning at night, living room pickup at night, toilet scrubbing at night—anything to put the house in order before bed, to make re-entry in the morning a bit gentler. [Read more…]