Thursday, April 02, 2009

lenten journal: when they ask

Somewhere in the middle of the afternoon today, I found what I thought would be the opening lines to a poem for my post:

when they ask how you’re doing
say something other than tired
The line came to me because of how tired I felt and I wished for the wherewithal to say something beyond the obvious when someone asked how I was doing. Answering, “I’m tired” is akin to saying, “I’m busy.” Both may be true, but they lie at the base of the hierarchy of meaning, when it comes to feelings. (Oh, are you reading this? That last paragraph was mostly talking to myself.)

Tonight, after a long day of work – long for reasons other than being tired, I met Ginger and some friends at Six Plates Wine Bar to listen to my friend, Terry, who is an amazing harmonica player and who plays once a month with a wonderful jazz trio who do an awesome cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Suzanne.”

There are nights when you gather with friends, and then there are nights when friends gather around you. Tonight, for me, was the latter. I had the opening lines early in the day; I needed my friends to show me where the poem wanted to go.
when they ask how you’re doing

say something other than tired
say something other than busy
look for something to say

beyond the shadow of circumstance,
past the pugilism of pettiness,
through the fa├žade of failure

and say that thing; say it again

say it the way you sing that song
that bored deep into your heart
long ago, before you were tired

before you knew about busy,
when you could remember the truth
without having to be reminded

when they ask how you’re doing
answer a different question
tell them you know what it’s like

to be gathered around by friends
and harmonica music
you never get tired of that


Maureen said...

Oh, you cut to my heart with this! It is so hard to "answer a different question" and so easy to slip into the familiar litany of lament that seems to mark our lives these days: so busy, so tired, so important that we don't have time to live, just so....

How silly, and how commonplace. How unimaginative. Much better to be surrounded by friends and music and love. Thank you for these Lenten journals, Milton. Without your wisdom each day, I would be much poorer. Your words bring life and hope of resurrection. Blessings to you and yours.

Erin said...

Thank you for this... So powerful. I love the "answer a different question" line. Not evade the question, not come up with some non-answer, but truthfully and honestly answer a different question, one that helps you keep touch with the deeper or bigger or at least less tired parts of your story.
I'll carry this one with me. Thank you.