chalkboard

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it’s a cold-and-rainy-damp-and-dreary-poem-and-coffee sort of day.
you know?

……

When we wake in the morning, we turn to the other and whisper, “Another day.”
Mostly, what we mean is, “Hello.” Mostly, what we mean is “How lucky.” But
sometimes, what we mean is, “There was nothing, before this.” It’s the good kind of
pretending, to believe you’ve got a do-over, an empty plate, a chalkboard wiped
spotless. Sometimes, it is better to fool yourself that whatever happened will never
happen again. The disappointment, the mistake, the tantrum, the sorrow.
Sometimes, you have to absolve yourself of what you remember or what you did or
what you didn’t do, let the past float behind you like the trail of a ship passing. This
is for your own good. This is the brief suspension of belief you must allow yourself,
the slip in the system, a benevolent black hole that will take you, blinking and
history-less, into the next big universe and its unfathomable stars. “Another day,”
we murmur just after the alarm rings, before the day mutates into loads of laundry
and other metaphors, before the disassembly begins in earnest. “Another day.” It is a
password between us. A secret handshake. It doesn’t matter that the words will last
only as long as it takes for them to pass through our mouths. It is enough. It is a
forest nymph, a seahorse, a sand dollar, a fairytale, a sprinkling of pixie dust sealing
our bodies into the sweetest innocence, our hearts forgetting they’d ever broken at
all.

– Maya Stein

from http://www.mayastein.com/one-paragraph-at-a-time/

keep a light touch

i don’t know how it all works.
there are things in this world, moments in this life, that leave me amazed, in awe of the mystery.
i can’t explain the happenstance.
the coincidence.
the crossing of paths.
i have no words for why that persons words/presence/touch/song
resonates
more
than another’s.
why they find me/i find them at the exact time
when i really needed them.
i don’t know why.

i just know it happens.

again and again it happens.
in big ways and small ways.

today it happened in this way.
a poem.
by a woman who i’ve only barely met
but whose words have found me in perfect timing
ever since the first day i laid eyes on them.

it’s like she knows me or something.
it’s like she saw me this week, in that storage room, packing and unpacking boxes,
hitting the floor,
remembering joy,
receiving the gift,
feeling the pinch.

it’s like she’s been there before
and she knows what it’s like
so she wrote me a poem
so i wouldn’t feel all alone,
so i would again be in awe
of the
mystery.

it worked.
….

things

When the moving man comes with your boxes, the ones a storage unit
housed for the seasons between then and now, keep a light touch
on the stories they carry. Some will gift you back the pieces of yourself
you hadn’t thought to miss and spread a grin to your solar plexus, a knowing
that certain things – thank God – will never change. Then there will be
those that pinch an unfamiliar nerve, splitting the length of you to pieces,
and you will wonder how the trek you made not that long ago
could have rendered an estrangement of these sweet intimacies keeping you
cocooned to comfort. Be kind to that history of yours. It brought you here,
tromping up a new set of front steps, breathing this lucid, tender air.

Maya Stein

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meeting the world.

When silence becomes words. When words become a sentence. When a sentence becomes a letter stamped and sealed in an envelope. When that letter becomes an invitation, and an invitation becomes departure, and departure becomes arrival. When arrival becomes the first hello and the first hello becomes the second. When the second hello becomes a kitchen stripped of all theatrics and artifice. When a stripped kitchen becomes flesh and flesh becomes bone and bone becomes the beginning of everything that’s real. And when everything that’s real becomes love and love becomes more love and more love becomes a hum skimming above and below each breath. And when breath becomes peace and peace becomes hope and hope becomes awake and awake becomes meeting the world as if you had never been so alive.

– Maya Stein

Unmistakably, unstoppably

57

What remains, always: a hope, stubborn and inimitable. A loyalty to her own heart. The knowledge embedded in her bones. Someone could have said to her, “Look how blue the ocean is,” but she – bent on seeing green – would have refused to believe it. A trick of the eye, she would have told herself, and sure enough, the light would bend and the blue would go away and in its place the greenest green, an unequivocal, incontestable green. This is the way it always is. She must see it to know it. She must taste it in her mouth, hold it in her hands, feel the truth of it on her own terms, with her own senses. It is sometimes inconvenient to be so optimistic. Her faith in implausible outcomes creates confusion and, occasionally, anxiety, in others, her compass illegible as hieroglyphics. But when stops trying to make things easier, more palatable for someone else, when she resists the urge to package and perform, when she allows the river of her wild instinct to carve its way around the cumbersome opinions of others, she comes face to face with the real contours of her own life. And it is messy and imprecise and muddy and frayed at the seams, and it is whole and light and depth and wonder and it is unmistakably, unstoppably hers.

– Maya Stein

……

Getting lost is another exercise in navigation

3

It will be all right in the end, and maybe even in the middle. You will not suffer as long as you think you will. You are not fated to be unhappy. You are not destined for failure. Remember who you are. Let me say it again. Remember who you are. Be gentle. Practice exquisite acts of self-care. You don’t have to be as strong as you think you do. You don’t have to be wise and certain about your path. Your frailty is beautiful, and your innocence too. Getting lost is another exercise in navigation. You can’t fix everything you touch. You won’t break everything you touch. Don’t apologize if you’re tired. Don’t second-guess your stomach. Maintain eye contact with everything, especially yourself. Fall to your knees at least once a day. Say yes at least twice. Love daringly, wholly, unapologetically. Believe in magic. Befriend your fear. Look up. Listen. The birds will tell you everything you need to know about flight. Forgive yourself your great sadness. Unlock what hurts. Make a prayer for loss. Unpen your words. Get messier than anyone thinks you should. You’ll know when you’re ready. I’ll say it again. You’ll know when you’re ready.

–  You Will Know, by Maya Stein

refusing to be burst.

the birth of prayer

Not in the ordinary moments, the long line at the supermarket,
a parking spot elusive on a busy weekend night, a baseball game
stretched to its thinnest innings. Not as a card flips over on a wagered bet,
or the frantic rifling through the racks of a final sale, or the flicker of fame
from a novel midwifed through years of hours in a quiet, empty office.
No, prayer begins somewhere even smaller, a millimeter at the back
of the throat at the announcement of hard news, a blood vessel’s little hiss
as it registers the change in the story’s rotation. And from there, a crack
opens in the body, and the flesh and bones surrender to a silent plea versed
in neither language nor boundary. And our heart spills and swells, refusing to be burst.

– Maya Stein

Image by Kevin Feary

Image by Kevin Feary

late march is another word for you are where you are.

Snapshot_20110330

Say heater is another word for love
and the rug in the entryway, dusted with bits
of whatever I carried in at the bottom of my shoes
is another word for loyalty. Winter is another word
for patience, and of course kitchen is a combination
of two words – earth and body – and laundry basket
is another word for tired. Television is another word
for forget the story and art is another word
for tell it again. Window is another word for
acceptance and dinner is another word for us.
The track’s bouncy pink surface is another word
for return to where you came from, and the callouses
from rock climbing are another word for hang on.
This moment is another word for where did the time go and
the doctor’s bill is another word for luck. The bedside lamp
is another word for waiting. Silence is another way
of saying it. Tea is another word for mother.
Orgasm is another word for God.
Ambulance, for gratitude. Sweater, for not ready.
Book is another word for innocence,
rain too, and mint chocolate chip, and slippers, and sleep.
You are another word for me, and I am another word for you.
Dream is another word for fear and hope, and so is loss.
Sunlight is another word for try again. The hail at the cemetery,
for believe in miracles, buckle your seat belts for
don’t leave just yet. Late March is another word for
you are where you are. Muscle is another word for yearning.
Mud puddle is another word for permission, and sink
is another word for letting go. Swallow is another word for
breathe, and breathe is another word for one more chance
and one more chance is another word for I will get this wrong again,
I can promise you.
So forgive me. This will all be imperfect.
No matter how I say it, it will never be the same as what it is.
But here. Take this beach pail and the shovel too. These
are other words for come with me, for keep digging,
for we’re almost there.

– Maya Stein

it’s like that, is it?

photo by jake.

photo by jake.

Disassembly is unavoidable as love, and just as hard and magnificent and necessary.

– maya stein

begin here.

When the last seat is taken,
or the key has trapped in the lock,
when the rain has eviscerated your garden,
or your words have run out one by one.
When the packing is half-finished, or traffic
keeps you from your purpose,
when the bright white of your day
has paled and pixilated.
When the grocery bag rips coming up the stairs,
when the telephone bill shocks
and then flounders you,
when love has flown off course,
when your nails are ragged and wanton,
when the runway is slick and the sky sodden.
When the ache for something nameless
fans out into your bones,
when you hungry, or lost or in need of a hand
across your eyelashes.
When it’s deadline or dilemma
or just you tripping on the stained carpet of your trouble,
begin here.

Place one leaden, obstinate foot
where you can see it.
Gather your maniacal breath,
your little windbags of lungs.
Eye only the square of sidewalk a blink away,
that quadrant of concrete mottled with the dirty
evidence of living,
and go.

When the manual for what’s broken
has been misplaced, when the view is obscured
by a restless construction site,
when your closet is an echo of castoffs.
When the bridge toll climbs and the road
down the mountain is pummeled with snow,
when your face bears little resemblance
to the person you remember,
when the field is populated with abler bodies,
when poems have been written by nimbler souls,
when no amount of squinting
delivers oasis, begin here.

Guide your defeated arms
into a small fit of swinging.
Coerce your hips into the barest
shimmy. Locate the pocket of a single,
deserted minute, its hum of insignificance,
and go.

When cheer cannot cheer you,
when crumbs cannot feed you,
when the storage space in the garage
topples from the weight.
When beauty eludes you,
when the weatherman confirms your fear,
when the doctor bears his wild news.
When you return to the bad habit,
when the current continues its brutal tackle,
when mess is your middle name,
begin here.

Climb onto your weary haunches. Lift your belly
from its mattress cave. Initiate the wholly
unremarkable act of breathing, and go.

When you have had enough.
When you have had too much.
When your fortress has not kept away the enemy,
and the walls are an abscess of rubble.
Do not fling yourself from the gangplank.
Do not hasten your disappearance
with your own cruelty.
Do not mask your ferocity with a collage of good manners.

The death’s door of your failure
is still a door.
Wrap your shaking fist around the handle.
Hear the cricket click of the latch.
And begin.

Maya Stein

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your heart is an army.

you are who you are

you are who you are

Coffee is better with sugar.
An apple will be more likely eaten sliced.
Even clouds call for sunscreen.
Water makes the headache go away eventually.
There are too many keys on the keychain, doors
no longer yours to unlock.
Altitude will make you tired.
The doctor’s bill will make you grumpy.
You could always use more sleep.
The silence of a deserted road is therapy.
October turns you inside out.
Novembers brings you home.
A new city is an exercise in both containment
and sprawl. The last mile of bike ride makes you wistful.
Maple syrup rewinds the clock.
A belly needs fire.
A body needs touch.
Your longing needs a place to land, however briefly.
Medium rare is open to interpretation.
Disagreement is a prism of insight.
It is alright if you have no idea, exactly.
what you want.
The drive will do you good.
No is a yes to something else.
Detours are where the best photographs are.
Your mind is a busy anthill.
Your heart is an obstacle course,
a moonscape of disaster and hope.
Your heart is an army, a cross-examination,
gridlock, a kitchen sink, a hobo
thumbing a ride on the interstate.
Words will take you to the edge,
but it’s you who has to leap.
The wail of a harmonica is lonelier than you are.
A hotel room is more forgettable than you are.
The signs on the highway are not metaphors.
Fortune cookies are not instructions from above.
What you know, you know.
Monday is a beginning.
Tuesday and Wednesday are beginnings.
And down the line.
Starting over is an illusion but it is also the truth.
Rice and butter take the pain away. Ice cream
is less effective.
Your mother wants to help.
Your sister sees right through you.
Sunsets are the veil between what was and what is.
You never know until you ask.
You will always be afraid to ask.
Fear is a sign of life, not death.
Your lungs carry grief.
Your lips carry tenderness.
Your legs carry freedom.
You are capable of amazing things.
You are capable of fucking up.
You are capable of forgetting where you are,
what you meant to say, who you were looking for,
what you had hoped to accomplish.
You are capable of stilling your earthquakes,
dismantling your doubt, quenching your sorrow
and saving your soul.
Every vote counts.
Dreams merely offer an alternative.
You will do it when you are ready.
Instinct isn’t always pretty, but it’s usually right.
Your skin is probably too dry.
Your eyes are probably bigger than your stomach.
Your wildness is probably bigger than you care to admit.

Nevertheless.
You are who you are and
you are doing what you can.
You are doing what you can.

Maya Stein

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Words + Photos + Credit

Unless otherwise noted, all original photography and text are property of Raechelle Kennedy. If you see or read something here and feel inspired to share it somehow, please be considerate and give the artist (me!) credit, or even better, drop me a note and make sure I don’t mind.
Thank you!

Here + There

Secondhand Sainthood and the gift of losing it all – Topology Magazine, December 2015

Ten Things Made – Topology Magazine, December 2015

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