George Herbert Coughing In My Face

  Herbert died of tuberculosis at 40. I am 41. I have outlived George Herbert, priest & poet. I have outlived Scott Weiland. I have outlived Robert Loggia, many cats, my grandparents, my best friend in college, and it seems I will outlive a little girl who is the daughter or sister of my friends. I don’t know what to do with any of this information. I never know what to do with feelings.

Saint Thomas, my church that I’m always rabbitting on about, has an Advent series every year. We do some kind of educational activity that involves speakers or reading. This year we’re reading I Pray In Poems, & last Wednesday night we all huddled into Father Davies’ home, strewn about like books ourselves along the dining room table & living room furniture. We read George Herbert’s “The Collar” which I always thought of eye-rollingly as “the whinging priest poem”. No more. I get it. Especially after Wednesday’s shock in San Bernardino, when the Inland Regional Centre was attacked by ISIS sympathizers…radicalized persons who don’t care that these are the people who get my Downs brother his bus tickets, help him with job placement & IEPs, like so many other special people they assist. Father mentioned my brother & the IRC many times during the Mass, which was moving & tear-filled, at least for me & my sister, & then we read that poem, & it made a lot of personal sense.

Listening to my fellow parishioners…my family…give their various ideas about it was like a pleasant after-dinner conversation that I imagined normal families had growing up. I have since learned that that rarely happens, as all families pretty much turn on the TV or fight, if they even eat together these days, but it’s always been a fantasy of mine, & I got to live it. I look forward to the next two sessions.

I am reminded today, as I find everyone petulant or didactic or thoughtless or irritating in the face of so much loss, of “The Collar”, but more importantly that I used to write scads of poetry as a kid to deal with my feelings. At least before I discovered food, anyhow. Now that I refuse to use food, I am less stable again, more angry, more anxious, more depressed. But I am also alive. And I remembered that there is poetry. So in addition to the two or three notebooks I completely filled in high school & college (& indeed all my twenties), I may as well shove some down your throats here. It may even help me lose weight. HELP ME LOSE WEIGHT, JERKS.

It’s Still Happening

how can you believe all the things you believe about me when





    falling in torrents on your face
yet you persist in your madness to declare “You are a desert” and “Nothing grows in you.”

I have seen the desert! We have lived there!

A coyote once came up to me and
licked my jeans. She was so
gentle and

This is not an account you could believe
You cannot remember
You believe nothing except the lie in your head
You will do so until you’re dead.

I have hoped many hopes for you
I have prayed
Some of those hopes have been born
they are the best of children
Some were too high
they are experiments in a lab
perhaps they are monsters
    maybe they should have died
I have stopped asking much of the will of God
My hopes are unnatural
I want to fix all the brains that break
He works His wonders in the darkness
I would shine a light on all
 then cry at what I see
Maybe the problem is me

So see me as a desert but
treat me like a garden at least
You used to have a cactus
I figured that you liked it
You only had to water it a little bit and
it never died like
everything else did


2 thoughts on “George Herbert Coughing In My Face

  1. Lesli Hannah says:

    Each line in the poem brought closer and closer the point when the room stopped existing and silence sounded like a feeling. A feeling of almost an ominous & actually quite lovely vibration. I’m not sure if that will translate, so I shall translate: This poem moved me! It captured the message I haven’t been able to (shockingly) get across. I hope that evidential rain will eventually become impossible to ignore. Hoping beyond hope.

    And the intro was delightful to read!! Thanks for the encouragement in reminding me I’m not alone. I, too, don’t know how to handle feelings “normally”. I am constantly gauging just exactly how I can share as honestly and as fashionably as required and gauging how much the audience will allow, if any. It’s maddening.

    Also, those pesky feelings are demanding I add: You have a gift that reverberates far beyond wordsmithing. You are a Heaven-sent messenger of love and truth, and you are lighting the path home. Gratitude & love to you ❤️

    • kelliejane says:

      You, my beautiful friend, are a light in the world, joy in female form, beauty encapsulated. Thank you! That anyone could see you as anything less than a monsoon of loveliness pains me!

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