I first met Laura face-to-face on a writer’s retreat at Laity Lodge where we discovered we’re both deep see divers–as in seeing deep. She makes music with her words and on her tin whistle. Some day maybe I’ll buy another harp–a small, portable one–and team up with her for a duet. Or not. Laura is walking with us through this month of Making Manifest, and I’m delighted to welcome her into this space today.
Driving to Memphis last week, I reached the place on Interstate 40 where there’s construction just as the mixtape in the CD player reached the place where Charlie Peacock sings “In the Light.”
I wanna be in the light as you are in the light,
I wanna shine like the stars in the heavens,
Oh, Lord, be my light and be my salvation,
All I want is to be in the light.
That song often triggers a messy cry. It takes me back to the night I walked and walked at my walking place, the Big Dam Bridge. I had my iPod in my pocket, one earbud in, one dangling so I wasn’t totally isolated. I listened to that song over and over as I walked out the first steps of grief, the anger and denial and shock and sorrow, of the morning’s news. The night before, my friend Mike died in a car wreck.
I was headed to the Memphis airport, where I’d never been, to gather a friend, whom I’d not yet met. Traffic was slowed into one lane, and I was worried about being late. The best thing to do was sing along, loud.
Now, when you’re singing, you’re giving assent to those words coming out of your body. And as I sang “I wanna shine like the stars in the heavens,” I thought, do I? How? What does that mean?
Once, walking at the Big Dam Bridge, I noticed different ways people walk together. I didn’t make notes. I observed. Once home, I wrote a list, “How to Walk Alongside Someone,” and posted it on my blog.
Later I read it at an open mike. The listeners were unusually quiet. I took from the silence that maybe I should have chosen something funnier, like some other readers.
Throughout the week, people came up to me to tell me they liked that poem I read about the people walking.
“By our attention, we become God’s own poem; by God’s attention, our world becomes a poem,” Dave Harrity writes on Day 26 in Making Manifest, which I have been working through in community with some folks I know and have met, and some folks I am getting to know a little and have not yet met, and some folks who are so far mainly names, but whose starlight, I am certain, is bright in their own constellations.
We started with the premise that we are God’s handiwork, God’s own poems: “For we are his workmanship” — poiema, the Greek says— “created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” We have been led, by daily reading and daily writing and daily seeing, right into the heart of poem-making. For some folks, that sounds scary, and it is, but not necessarily in the way it sounds.
“All the poems in this book mention stars,” Snady wrote this morning, Day 27, in the online space where our community hangs out. “How might they be an apt metaphor for our lives and what our lives represent?”
Stars are dust. So are we. Yet they shine far beyond themselves, farther than they know. So do we. They’re out there by themselves, but we make meaning of them partly by organizing them into communities — constellations. And some of our meaning comes through the communities we are part of, the constellations whose stories we are a part of.
Difference, though: They are a light source in themselves. Balls of fire. We do not glow in the dark. We can only reflect and refract other light sources. But there is light within us, placed there by the same Light source who created the stars and created us.
There are poems walking around everywhere. Most of them don’t even know they’re poems. I want to see them. To choose the right words to illuminate them. When possible, simply to point and say, “Look. Light.”
Laura Lynn Brown is a copy editor and writer for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. She’s also written for Slate, the Iowa Review, the Art House Blog, The Curator, The High Calling, The Other Journal, Every Day Poems, and elsewhere. She’s the author of Everything That Makes You Mom: A Bouquet of Memories. Catch up with her on her blog and Twitter.