Live Virtual Group Session: 12pm EDT June 17th 2020

Thank you to everyone who joined us for this session!

In today’s session, we read, heard, discussed and wrote in the shadow of “Passion,” a poem by Native American author Louise Erdrich. A mix of returning and new participants from the States and abroad noted the varying shades of devotion in the poem, enacted through destruction to bring about connection. “Devotion” also conjured up associations with religious attachment, and devotionals. We began with the question of what kind of dog we each imagined in the poem, which turned out to be quite varied: one person saw a compassionate animal, and another thought of a gentle personality that stayed with the bereaved lover like a service animal. A third participant drew on the poet’s Native American heritage and its connections to spirituality, leading him to conjure a sin-eater or grief-eater. A fourth realized that she had not visualized the dog at all but more had imagined its large presence for its human companion. The excruciating pain of the human was considered: More than one person identified personally with the human’s situation of losing a lover and wanting to divest completely from that past. And we also thought about how the dog might be absorbing this grief, being so devoted that it is willing to take on this burden. Emotion and action were linked. We also appreciated how one listener felt annoyed “in my body” with both dog and human.  

The prompt, “Write about an expression of devotion” inspired responses reflecting tokens of deep meaning (“Buying a gift she didn’t know she wanted,” “a song on WhatsApp”), as well as actions (stepping away from one’s own needs to self-sacrifice for the benefit of another). Writers used different forms ranging from short/specific lists of actions to longer descriptive prose — unified by structure — describing devotion over the course of a lifetime. One writer honored a mom: “A stranger is not a stranger to her.” The last writer circled back to the Erdrich poem’s animal-companion theme, describing in vivid detail an owl diving down a chimney to rescue its mate, even at the risk of being stuck.

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 Saturday, June 20th at 2pm EDT, with more times listed on our Live Virtual Group Sessions page.

We look forward to seeing you again soon!

by Louise Erdrich
Your dog gnaws the rug you made love upon
for the last time.
When your lover left
and you rolled yourself inside the rug
to sleep in agony
your dog stayed with you.
Your dog chews out the armpits of your lover’s shirt
and shreds the underwear
you were wearing when he touched you.
That’s devotion.
The dog chews your pen and stains his tongue
then licks the white pillows.
His way of writing you a poem.
He eats the spout off the blue plastic watering can.
He starts on the porch,
a rotted board, and soon that board rips
away from the wicked red nails.
Your dog eats the nails
and does not die.
Although you have no porch,
no lover, no rug, no underwear,
you understand.
The dog is trying to eat your grief.
In helpless longing
to get close to you
he must destroy what’s close to you.

Published in the print edition 
of the December 16, 2019, issue of the New Yorker. 

9 thoughts on “Live Virtual Group Session: 12pm EDT June 17th 2020

  1. thedreamer791

    “After ages of devotion to me,
    I ask my women, what they desired,
    when they were little and frail,
    when they bled and were dealt with,
    when they bore and fed me,
    shedding their skin away, bit by bit,
    when they needed lovers who worshiped them,
    and got hurting, burdened shoulders instead,
    when they could not ask for or got a retirement.
    For ages I waited for an answer
    and they sat in silence,
    I think I only heard their devotion.”

    thanks for another great session.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Tony Errichetti

    An Expression of Devotion

    To be devoted to someone is a calling, a vocation. Something that is not always under our control. Sometimes a manefestation of addiction.

    “I love you to death”
    “I can’t live without you”
    “There is no one for me but you”

    These are expressions that when I say them come from my heart.

    But when said by another, makes me want to run away.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Janine Mariscotti

    As I mentioned in today’s session, I had such a visceral reaction to today’s poem. During the four minutes of writing, I started on something — a memories, a series of memories that are painful, enlightening, and ultimately somewhat transformative. After the session, the “remaining” part of the poem poured out of me. Here it is in is raw form.

    The Dance

    That dance, that movement came from deep within
    After a time of death – but was there ever resurrection?
    More and more and more letting go
    Eating out the armpits of the lover’s shirt –
    Or tearing it into a thousand little bits and pieces
    And My heart – torn into a thousand bits and pieces
    This poem is undone.

    Why bother wasting time writing about lost love
    When you can write about the baby bird
    Nurtured in the fiery red geranium
    By devoted parents who chirped
    Angrily at me whenever I tentatively watered
    The edges of the plant

    Yesterday the baby swished by
    Trying out her wings for the first time
    And landed in the grass
    Where unsuspecting people might step on her
    Or neighborhood cats turn her into today’s play toy.

    Seemingly abandoned by her mother,
    I am now the devoted and worried surrogate
    Who watches intently for hours on end
    Bringing tiny plates of water
    And freshly squished ants
    To keep her alive and well.

    I am furious with mother
    Such devotion
    And then –

    As day ends
    Momma returns to look upon
    Her offspring
    Alas, she did not abandon her
    Only left her to make her way
    In this uncertain world

    Sometimes devotion isn’t unceasing attention
    It’s letting be
    What’s supposed to be

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Patricia D.

    white eyelashes, invisible against fluffy samoyed fur
    warm body, heart beating, snuggling against mine
    hot tongue, pink, licking salty tears one by one
    his devotion held my grief without a sound

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Renee Daniels

    In our backyard,
    my sister crouches between
    her pet rabbit and her dog,
    arms outstretched to separate the two.
    The rabbit has escaped her pen again.
    This time, the. dog saw her and lunged to attack.
    My sister, my little sister,
    caught between two things
    she loves dearly,
    trying to save one from the other.
    Inside the house,
    my mom and dad are tearing
    each other part with their words.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. An expression of devotion~~~

    She sacrificed much.
    To those she loved, she was there always.
    Always attending to needs, both real and perceived.
    Long hours in the day, doing the difficult tasks without complaint,
    without struggle.

    The stranger was not a stranger to her.
    Kindness and compassion were always at the forefront,
    whether you were bound by the ties of blood or not.

    I often sit now in silence to think about the life of someone so special, so self-less.
    I am blessed to have called her Mom.

    Liked by 2 people

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