Sarah Altendorf CC
MY POEM ABOUT WORSHIP
Worship is not a word I use often.
Almost never. I prefer awe.
I prefer love.
Childhood masses were for worship.
The failure of holiness to carry over
to school or elsewhere taught me
to confine adoration within pretty places,
silent places without back talk.
What does it mean to spend all that time kneeling
before that which we neither see nor understand?
To bow before a fairy tale?
It speaks to longing:
a home, love, security.
It speaks to fear
of being left in the cold.
If I let go of all that,
the world opens its petals,
says it was here all along
waiting for me to notice
its intricate web; its multitudes
of conscious beings; its cradles
of ordinary magic in valleys, forests, streams;
its music carried on the wind.
I’ve learned to accept its invitation,
dig into daily offerings I find
as soon as I step outside,
when I stop trying to control prayer
that seems to appear from nowhere.
This might be what worship reaches for:
the surprise of seeing our own good fortune
encased in dirt we discover on our palms.
ON MY MOTHER’S BIRTHDAY (haibun)
I wake at 6 a.m. so I can be a grandmother to Camille by 7. Out with the dog at 6:30. Notice the three-quarter moon bright behind quick-bunny clouds, morning stars shining their farewell. Rain-gemmed gold leaves litter the asphalt. So much color in dim light. Sun rises after 7, after Camille knocks on the door, her small hands not strong enough to open the unlocked latch. Pajama-clad, she holds a book in her hands, clothes for the day in a pink plaid backpack. She mumbles hello Grams, curls into her favorite chair, still groggy. We keep it quiet. I picture myself in third grade, the last year in the green stucco house on Polk Street. My favorite cold-morning spot was by the furnace vent next to the stove. Warm air rose up under my nightgown, and I, too, held books in my hands: what were they? My mother fermented grape juice into sweet wine in a glass jug she nestled next to the vent. She let me taste it at Thanksgiving. The next summer we moved into a trailer because my parents no longer believed in the American Dream. They whittled our lives to a 10-foot by 54-foot space, breathed relief at less to worry about, and my mother stopped making wine. I stopped sitting next to the stove to warm up. Camille’s parents are trying to find a house. I hope Camille finds a special spot in it; I still miss the one I lost.
Your name on my tongue
leaves fall in shifting patterns
spelling cold ahead
Kathleen Cassen Mickelson writes whatever she wants from her orange-walled office with a south-facing window. Some of it makes it out into the world. In her spare time, she cooks for people she loves, hikes with her partner Mick, drinks whiskey, and wishes the world were kinder. Find out more at her website, oneminnesotawriter.com.
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