Awakening Saint Carolyn poem

posted in: Life, Poetry | 0

from BAREFOOT & UPSIDE DOWN, poems by carolyn kieber grady:

Awakening Saint Carolyn

Born during a Buffalo snowstorm in ‘54

They still call me their Christmas Carol

On a Jersey estuary I caught crabs in coffee cans and learned how to bail

We wore plaid pleated skirts white blouses blue jackets

and drank wine beneath the front steps of school

The landscape of my childhood still fills me with dreams

When the charismatics sang I am the Resurrection and the Life

I floated somewhere near heaven

Six of us crammed into a rowboat during the flood of Polly’s Pond

and the Shrewsbury River—it was the only way home

On half-days of school I’d organize hitchhiking races and concoct personas

I built playhouses complete with gardens of iris and daisies

While I fed p atients lunch in Bayview Nursing Home the TV droned Watergate

Sometimes I listen to birdsong when I should be reading

During the Cuban Missile crisis I was timed walking home

I skipped school to go to art galleries and hang in Central Park—

Washington Square guitars still strum in my head

I don’t know anyone who died in Viet Nam though rock n’ roll and napalm still twist in my mind

I worried my breasts would burn while nude sunbath ing—when my wallet was stolen— I ran the tolls all the way h ome

Once I almost mistook Dylan Thomas for God

I fell in love with a wise quiet man who taught me patience and who mends my heart

India grew r a mpant as a bittersweet vine in my life while teaching in Mumbai—I can’t shake it off—

During chu rch processions I sang as if I could save the world

I am learning to be unafraid of my visions

I swiped Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason out of my father’s library

and read through the night

For too long I wore his hands around my neck like a necklace

It was the Summer of Love— my eighth grade class trip canceled due to riots

I am phobic of lightning but am usually unafraid of people

We fell in love over peanut butter sandwiches and picking apples

Please don’t ask me to drive— I failed my test seven times

I never went to Woodstock though I learned all of the songs

I skipped school to go to the New York Public Library to research

uses of metaphor in Moby Dick to surprise our English teacher— who had escaped the

draft by teaching in Mater Dei—he called me a wiseacre

They called me “mother” when I held their hands in prayer group after school

I spoke in tongues

I went to every school dance though I grew tired of Springsteen’s band

Being flipped around in the stormy Atlantic I lost my sense of “up” —and never really learned how to surf

I try to answer the cardinals in their own tongue

I practice being upside down and breathing

Three times I ran away from home and was arrested once

As a Child of God undercover in the Pine Barrens my job was to hide the stove—they called me Sherebaya—I cooked what was begged or foraged

There was a riot in the Bergen County Correctional Center—

I wasn’t really sure what to do

I had repeated nightmares of the world ending:

often I saw the drawbridge opening with me dangling off the edge

Sunning on a beach in Maine when the police came —

an APB pictured me “wanted”

Three felonies charged—it was impossible to remain innocent

The man on the moon seemed so very far away

On the morning of my wedding I ran three miles— I don’t run anymore

Dysplasia usually turns cancerous in ten years—so far I’ve had do many surgeries and wonder how much is left for them to cut

In the folk group my favorite song was Glory To God

Like the Turkish poet, Nazim Hikmet, I hear voices— this is his form

My patron saint is the healer, Charles Borromeo—there is no Saint Carolyn

Suffering from overexposure on Algonquin Peak, being chased by a rhino in

Nepal, and being held at gunpoint were the scariest times of my life

Sometimes the boundaries fade and I am certain we are the same—

one being with many bodies

I still spend most of my life dreaming

though I am trying to awaken

this very moment.


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