An angel is a belief, with wings, and arms that can carry you. It’s not to be afraid of, and if it can’t hold you up, seek for something new.
—Tony Kushner, Angels in America
In any true love—a mother’s for her child, a husband’s for his wife, a friend’s for a friend—there is an excess energy that always wants to be in motion. Moreover, it seems to move not simply from one person to another but through them, toward something else. (“All I know now / is the more he loved me the more I loved the world.” —Spencer Reece) This is why we can be so baffled and overwhelmed by such love (and I don’t mean merely when we fall in love; in fact, I’m talking more of other, more durable relationships): it wants to be more than it is; it cries out inside of us to make it more than it is. And what it is crying out for, finally, is its essence and origin: God. Love, which awakens our souls and to which we cling like the splendid mortal creatures that we are, asks us to let it go, to let it be more than it is if it is only us. To manage this highest form of loving does not mean that we will be showered with earthly delights or somehow be spared awful human suffering. But for as long as we can live in this sacred space of receiving and releasing, and can learn to speak and be love’s fluency, then the greater love that is God brings a continuous and enlarging air into our existence. We feel love leave us in unthreatening ways. We feel it reenter us at once more truly and more strange, like a simple kiss that has a bite of starlight to it.
—Christian Wiman, My Bright Abyss
“The Womb of Stars” by Joy Atkinson
The womb of stars embraces us; remnants of their fiery furnaces pulse through our veins.
We are of the stars, the dust of explosions cast across space.
We are of the earth: we breathe and live in the breath of ancient plants and beasts.
Their cells nourish the soil; we build our communities on their harvest of gifts.
Our fingers trace the curves carved in clay and stone by forebears unknown to us.
We are a part of the great circle of humanity gathered around the fire, the hearth, the altar.
We gather anew this day to celebrate our common heritage.
May we recall in gratitude all that has given us birth.
Each time I’m asked to tell about myself, I find myself starting the same way: “My name is Kelsey and I’m nineteen..”
but what I’d really like to say is:
“My name means island of the ships but once
I found a translation that said I’m a burning shipwreck-
not a burning ship but a ship that has caught fire
after the wreckage and well, I’d say that’s more fitting.”
I’ve learned that people don’t have time for about me’s.
They need two things: a name and an indication you’re someone special.
The doctors, they want facts not details.
“I broke my leg when I was three, it’s a funny story actually-“
The right or the left?
The teachers, they want interests, hobbies.
You’re sad, yes, but what do you like to do?
The adults are a spew of questions.
What school do you go to? What classes are you taking?
What do you plan on becoming? Got a boyfriend?
People my own age are the worst.
“I’m planning on an English degree with a concentration in creative writing.”
Yeah, aren’t we all. So how many times have you, you know,
I’m pulled apart, my interests travelling highway 2
my goals at a stop light at traffic hour,
my medical history on a billboard for the world to see.
But what about me?
Where’s the chance to say,
“I hang on to fistfuls of poetry like loose change in my pockets,
and I keep waiting for the day that the world turns upside down
so I can swim with the stars.
I’m not afraid of darkness, it’s a loneliness I can empathize with it.
It’s the blackholes like cigarette burns inside of me that get troublesome.
I walk through graveyards and read the dashes between years,
each a story I’ll never know. Sometimes I create my own.”
No wonder none of us know who we are anymore.
—Kelsey Danielle, “I Was Told to Write an About Me and This is What Happened”
Lord, I can approach you only by means of my consciousness, but consciousness can only approach you as an object, which you are not. I have no hope of experiencing you as I experience the world—directly, immediately—yet I want nothing more. Indeed, so great is my hunger for you—or is this evidence of your hunger for me?—that I seem to see you in the black flower mourners make beside a grave I do not know, in the embers’ innards like a shining hive, in the bare abundance of a winter tree whose every limb is lit and fraught with snow. Lord, Lord, how bright the abyss inside that ‘seem.’
—Christian Wiman, My Bright Abyss