vulnerability

pair dancing - koffTwo weeks back, I posted two sets of writings from the women inside Vermont’s prison where I hold weekly writing groups. We had responded to a set of five statements from Brene Brown  which circulated following her highly-popular November 12 interview with Krista Tippett. In light of recent events and the coming solstice, it felt right to share my own writing on those themes; writing I did along with the incarcerated women – inside, writing about vulnerability with metal doors clanging, corrections officers interrupting three or four times per hour for head count, women sitting together with others they might not even speak to on the unit; but here we were writing and sharing ouir raw unedited vulnerability.

The five topics are not specifically referenced here. Nonetheless, I believe the resulting lines speak not only to her words, but to many of us for whom the idea of opening ourselves can be frightening, even to point of refusing to do so.

I. When the shell is tight
across the chest, breathing
is labored, forced;

without digging in secret
places within
whence would poetry arise?

If I follow the same path
day after day, I remain
in a rut.

II.  We cannot afford to forget
any experience,
even though painful.

If I live numbed
how would I become better
than my past mistakes?

Absent feeling, there is no pulse;
my soul demands
to feel it all.

III.  How can I demand of you
that which I would not myself do?

This is the worst hypocrisy,
which I cannot abide.

My soul yearns to be known
even as I seek to know yours.

IV.  A child, I walked
my mother’s admonitions
against others’ judgment.

Along the way, I learned
that ‘people’ had better things
to occupy their thoughts.

Courage guided me
to my own beliefs,
rooted in the whole of me.

V.  Thrashing through
tangled underbrush, I seek
a way home.

Only by beating back the dark
can I hope to be blinded
by light.

Meeting challenge
is one way to learn
the value of my own worth.

swb

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