Building Fires

Sometimes I wish I wasn’t a poet, so I could feel less. To put out fires that catch my sleeve, where the heart is exhausted from burning.

And here we are, another year on the brink of being over. For me, it felt like a decade. A thousand possibilities, some of which I wish had simply remained possibilities instead of actualities. The truth is, I’m beyond ready to let go of this year.

There is a lot to be grateful for on the professional side– mandala-making workshops at the Art Gallery of Mississauga, panels and poetry gigs across the country, opportunities to teach and learn.

But this year was also a year of unlikely returns– returning of patterns, cycles, people– who should’ve remained in the past. Perhaps what is required to live in the present is to see the past clearly enough to know it belongs behind us. Perhaps it’s what grounds us in the present, knowing we can’t return to an ideal that never existed in the first place. All we have is this moment. A sip of water, a click of letters on the keyboard, a flicker of sunlight behind heavy clouds.

A hard lesson for an artist. I imagine the world as I’d like it to be. The art of projection. The dangerous reality of unreality.

To make and unmake– to let oneself become unmade– well that is an unwelcome gift, isn’t it?

A Cedary Fragrance

Even now,
decades after,
I wash my face with cold water—

Not for discipline,
nor memory,
nor the icy, awakening slap,

but to practice
choosing
to make the unwanted wanted.

–Jane Hirshfield

And yet, a gift it is.

When I reflect on those actualities that could’ve remained possibilities, I also recognise the possibilities that arose because of them– because the dust and shadow of seemingly forgotten ways of being were brought to the fore– to be seen, aired out, shaken into the light.

And in the light, there are moments of lucidity. Lines written with tears, bearing witness to survival. Meals shared with kindred spirits. Laughter ringing out through hallways. Kindness of near strangers. Conversations with women who, too, are learning to own their stories.

An afternoon of sufi poems shared between gentle hands, eyes that speak a language words fail to convey.

A home lit by the candle of your face

hosts a sliver of sun

flowing through a crystal pane.

 Abū Saʿīd Abū’l-Khayr 

Silences that stifle, setting the breath aflame.

Drawing away, drawn away, drifting away. Letting it go.

Learning to mark time not by the absence of others but by my own presence.

And so, there is gratitude.

Even in the panic of confusion, astonishment, fear, anger, frustration— deep, abiding gratitude.

Here’s to embracing darker days, and building fires in the midst of the cold.

Here’s to standing in the hush of a snow-laden forest, knowing I’m not alone.

Here’s to the twinkle of lights glimmering in the haze of darkness.

Here’s to accepting the unknown, not as a threat, but as true possibility.

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