In Civil Coping Mechanisms, Sarah Certa takes the fallout of all our pains, the beauty and new birth that awaits us on the other side, or rather of all that was already alive in us all along, and weaves together, with body and heart, a quantum-psychic-soul-love-letter to you, yes you. Who have been lost, beside yourself, torn inside out, beneath the covers, touched all over with grief in places that no longer know how to process the grief. This book is a process because you are a process, a transformation on the cusp. Not without a great deal of night to walk through, because in the end, light is harvested from all the steps we take.
"This is how we carry
each other home/ remember
we never left"
Home, Certa assures us, is inside you, nestled beneath your bones, every part of you, even the parts that don't feel like you, especially those, are imperfectly at home in the wild, lovable bramble of you.
"I give up by not giving up." A phrase, like a diamond catching light, that could and should be turned a thousand different ways in our minds. Emotional cartography is at work here, only the lines, the borders are constantly dissolving, recombining, charting our course into new territory, bodies of repair seeking what we already know how to give, if we could just lean in and listen hard enough.
"I used to be the river, flooding entire rooms. Once: a
whole house. A family. I drowned everything in my effort to live more completely than I felt I
was. I guess sometimes staying alive takes a sort of violence."
Terrible storms are built into us, and riding them out on those often compromised rafts of our bodies can take an unfathomable toll. Surviving ourselves is the work we do whether we want to or not. If you're still here, you've gone to war against something inside you and persisted despite all odds.
"When is the last time you felt okay/
whose name forms in your throat
when I say Home?"
Certa's poems read like a conversation between old friends, she leaves room for the stranger who may be reading, even though the poems themselves are deeply personal. Invitational, at risk interludes contrasted with familiar, safer ground, words applied like aloe to soul-burns, the ones that don't show so easily, the ones that live just beneath our skin.
"I know this is what it’s like
to be inside of you, and who’s to say
I’m not? But still they say I’m not. Still
they say boundaries, and I say trust me,
I’m not ever going to touch anyone again."
Wounds are as persistent as light in this place where pain cannot be wished away but can also be gotten through if only we come at ourselves like quantum space filling in the seemingly missing, different worlds folded into the very air we breath like a balm for dry lungs.
"What they call a delusion is my heart growing big
in the space of your absence."
In such a space is it oneself, or many selves all connected to one, the questions flow in place of certainty, one opens windows instead of closing them. Certa writes of the stuffy rooms we move through in our lives, the losses and the reclamations, the depth, the surface and the uncertain spaces in between. But make no mistake, uncertainty can be as painful as it is beautiful and liberating. We miss old parts of ourselves even as we come to love the new skin we're in. Old photo albums abound in our psychic drawers, the story of our life, so dual/duel, so fragile, so resilient.
"You taught me well: how to throw someone out."
Toxic moments lie along this map we are learning to read from scratch. The place we are going is not yet named. But it is felt, it is known.
"It’s hard to throw someone out when you are at the bottom of a trash can, a dozen other bodies
piled on top of you, all of us petrified by the smell of our own rotting bodies, our own garbage
bodies. We know we are not the bodies but that doesn’t make them any less ours. Like this
escape is impossible. You will always have been inside me/ I will always have believed in you."
Something's lost that can be found. Some wounds do close. Some parts make it through, others don't, but we are totally alive and deserving nonetheless.
"This is how you get away with murder: from the inside out."
The forensic scenes of our own making. The damage we do when we convince ourselves that all we are is damage, but we are not only that. Every mended thing must be broken first, but every broken thing is born whole. In the spaces of the break is a strange kind of light, that all this pain could be useful, oil in an interior lamp.
"This is how you climb out of hell: name things for what they are, give shape to pain so that you
can stand on top of it. Grab it and pull."
After the death of the last note, a new kind of song. "what is better than light?" Love turned inward, outward, both?
"This might seem obvious, but it’s okay to cry, and you probably haven’t heard that enough. It’s
okay to break under all the weight of feeling broken. It’s okay to break because they broke you.
It’s okay to break because you are broke."
Jorie Graham once noted that to know if a poem is finished one must hold it against the beat of ones own pulse, when it matches, it is ready. The poems in Civil Coping Mechanisms are much more than that. Sometimes a pulse races, 70, 80, 90, beats a minute. 60 beats is ideal, but we who have been broken rarely live inside such ideals, we grapple, we breathe heavy, we survive.
That a book would be like something you already are. If you only knew. And you do, don't you? Are you ready to accept this thing that you are, this you that has been waiting for you? You are not what they have said you are, you are this thing so alive it unnerves you, calls you by a thousand different names. Calls you. By invitation, almost wordless. It is always a risk to meet yourself like this. To read this book you must be ready to be something new, unheard of. A new planet. A difficult creature. An expansion of light. Of love. And yes, even pain.
"I know I sound like I’m inventing things
but this is how I actually see you: perfectly.
Of course the next question is why
I can’t see myself that way. It’s the number
one thing on the to-do list"
This book, if you'll let it, will open you wide, an absorbing, strange benediction, a quantum blessing. A leap of... call it faith, but I wager it is something more mysterious than that. Something the body knows, something the mind is reaching for, something the heart already is.
"and the answer comes:
there is nothing
to stitch back together/ there is a love woven from love
that no set of teeth can shred
no body/ forget"
Civial Coping Mechanisms will be available from Civil Coping Mechanisms copingmechanisms.net/ late September, 2017. In the meantime you can follow CCM on Facebook and Sarah on Twitter @
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