Live Virtual Group Session: 12pm EDT May 27th 2020

We welcomed a wonderful group of 38 participants from places including the American college towns of Palo Alto, Austin, Iowa City, Villanova and Hanover and world capitals like London, Montreal and Paris, not to mention Atlanta, Bahrain and Elsah, Missouri.

Our text today was the poem “Prayer,” by Marie Howe, posted below. We entered by asking “Whom is the ‘I’ addressing?” Participants suggested the “you” might be a parent, a higher being, or even the narrator addressing herself.  As we shared our diverse ideas, one participant remarked that the poem kept changing colors. The title of the poem and the psalm-like use of couplets suggested that the “you” might be a spiritual god. Two readers compared the line “you are as close as my own breath,” to a Koran passage that addresses God as “closer than the jugular vein.”  Another participant imagined the “you” to be a writer’s muse and noted that the narrator’s struggle resembles a writer’s struggle with the creative process. We also thought about the often-expressed regret for things left unsaid and heard the “you” as someone who had died. Reflecting on the possibility that the narrator was actually addressing herself, we remarked that she seems to have mulled over these feelings many times before. We explored how the physical items like luggage linked to the trucks carrying garbage, which had a sonic resonance as well. Some people detected humor in the ending and sarcasm in the characterization of beauty products as “something more important”  than “you.” Several readers enjoyed the juxtaposition of the sacred with profane, the transcendent with the everyday.

Our prompt was: Write a story you forgot to tell. One response described moving a parent to a healthcare facility and led us through a series of factual statements. This created a sense of suspense that contrasted with the vulnerability we felt when the piece ended with a question, “Is this how it is written?” We also noticed how, although the piece was written in the present tense, it very much had a sense of past and future, echoing the Howe poem. Another piece described a young person’s interest in Jungian philosophy, and we felt the universality of dreaming of the future, as well as the humor the narrator showed while looking back at a past self. The final writing used the metaphors of music to describe the sensation of living with a “free-styling” illness. Weaving together ideas like rap and a symphony, the writer composed a sensory-filled piece that seemed to echo the aesthetic of the experience.

Participants are warmly encouraged to share what you wrote below (“Leave a Reply”), to keep the conversation going here, bearing in mind that the blog of course is a public space where confidentiality is not assured.

Please join us for our next session Friday, May 29th at 7pm EDT, with more times listed on our Live Virtual Group Sessions page.

We look forward to seeing you again soon!

by Marie Howe

Every day I want to speak with you. And every day something more important
calls for my attention—the drugstore, the beauty products, the luggage

I need to buy for the trip.
Even now I can hardly sit here

among the falling piles of paper and clothing, the garbage trucks outside
already screeching and banging.

The mystics say you are as close as my own breath.
Why do I flee from you?

My days and nights pour through me like complaints
and become a story I forgot to tell.

Help me. Even as I write these words I am planning
to rise from the chair as soon as I finish this sentence.

Originally published in “The Kingdom of Ordinary Time”, Norton 2008

5 thoughts on “Live Virtual Group Session: 12pm EDT May 27th 2020

  1. Patricia D.

    As a teen I was drawn to Carl Jung and wished to be his disciple. Unfortunately, he was dead. Nonetheless, I imagined what it would be like to sit in his study and listen intently while he explained mandalas and showed me artifacts from distant cultures representing collective consciousness. I was in awe of his wisdom and grateful for his generosity. I was, afterall, just a girl. A girl who dreams.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. As I sit here looking out at the cloudy skies, I need to remember the blue skies and sunshine that have fallen upon my journey.

    In the midst of the VIRUS, I need to remember the joy in my life- my children, my grandchildren and the closeness I feel with them.
    The planting of 10 year old vegetable seeds that had been stored away in the frig and watching the miracle of those same “ancient” seeds germinating and then growing. What a story they would tell if they could.

    Life and rejuvenation abound. There are small miracles all around me, happening every moment of every day.
    If only I pause the noise of living and remember.
    Remember to tell myself.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Carmen

    I forgot to tell myself how much I love you, how proud I am of you. I forgot to tell you that I see you and your struggle and that it doesn’t need to be hard. In that forgetting, there is a hole, a piece of the story not included that somehow creates chaos and questioning so much so that it is impossible to find lasting peace. I forgot to tell myself that it’s really all ok. I forgot to tell you that you are love inside and out. The rest of the story is all about what love feels like, how to recognize it and seek is out.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. What I wrote from today’s prompt:

    Every complaint is a story. The best essays begin as rants. If you are ashamed to complain, stand up. Say what makes you uncomfortable. It is not a grievance. It is the story of your voice. Your confidence. Your liberation. Others may try to silence you, roll their eyes, tell you, “Forget it.” It’s not a story to forget. It made you angry. Sad. Mad with desire. What was that feeling? Why did you have it? What did you learn from it? These are the questions and your answers build a story that may sound like a complaint but is truly a rare prayer: I speak against what hurts me.

    [When I reread this I realized it could very much sound like a call to speak to a manager, but the intention is to practice speaking up for yourself in any way you can. Sometimes, that first attempt is a simple complaint: I don’t like that. I am uncomfortable. It’s a complaint and a declaration and a story.]

    Liked by 2 people

  5. antoinette56

    I forgot to tell how I’m nice, not even that I’m nice, but how I’m nice, given what I lived through. I was encouraged towards bitterness and cynicism, anger at the world. How could I trust others, or muster kindness at their plight, when cruelty had descended so fully on my mother and her sister? She was cruel and kind to her sister who bears my name, or I bear hers, and yet the kindness never made it to my generation, only cruelty. How did I know to open my heart, and keep it open, with cold winds blowing? How did I call those winds back to echo in chambers of cold kindness, kindly cold, and eventually, something I made of warmth, out of spare bits of wood and scattered sparks?

    Liked by 1 person

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