Thine Is Not Mine

Thine Is Not Mine

they stood

all twenty or so

joined hands

to make a ragged circle 

of connection

they prayed aloud

in unison

the lord’s prayer

a fellowship of grace

that I believe is genuine

yet

as they stood

I stepped aside

hands behind my back

as they prayed

I remained silent

 

the holding of hands

is forced conformity

a kind of automatic

social codependency of inclusion

as much as I enjoy acceptance

of being a part of

it’s going to be on my worth

not on my compliance

 

I am present for spiritual connection

not physical

I remain silent

during the our father

partially out of respect 

for those who do believe

what I don’t believe

silent

partially because

of the context of that prayer

the history of

the controlling monolith of dogma

a greed driven

control fuelled 

relentless remorseless fire

that judged what it didn’t understand

as evil

a cultural genocide of disease

military power & might 

 

I’m not going to say

your pointless biblical prayer

just be grateful

I hold my tongue

& not your hand

Another piece about 12 Step recovery 🙂 Based my daily reality – no that I attend meetings daily but often enough. When I started recovery, this joining of hands in a circle wasn’t common but over the years it became de rigueur – a linking of energy in fellowship as a closing prayer was said, usually the ‘our father.’ 

I stopped saying that prayer early in my recovery for the reasons stated in the piece. At first I selected those portions I didn’t argue with but that was too much thinking so I opted for silence. But I would do the hand holding. Occasionally my silence would be noticed. Over the years the use of lord’s prayer has declined to the more inclusive Responsibility Pledge. 

When SARS hit I became less inclined to hold hands. I carried (& still do) hand sanitizer & used it regularly. Gradually I stopped handholding totally. Stepping back when possible. I saw it as a form of people-pleasing, co-dependancy. Most assumed it was my germ-a-phobia, which is fine by me. A few have asked & I’ve explained my reasoning to their blank stares. Germs they understand, my not wanting to physically link into the vibration of harmony that passes from hand-to-hand contact in the chain of humanity, didn’t reach them.

At first I was bit self-conscious but I got over that. I have had people try to pull me into the circle. I can say ‘I don’t hold hands’ without getting snippy or even even apologetic. My opinion of ‘the controlling monolith of dogma’ is not relevant to anyone but me, even when pressed I rarely go into that ‘depth’ of explanation. I’m not in recovery to school people on the history of religious damage. So excuse me while I sanitize my hands.


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Chapter XVI – Lillian Makes A Promise

Coal Dusters

Chapter XVI

Lillian Makes A Promise

During the week after the coal gas disaster at the colliery Lillian received more house calls than she had even when she was living at home in Boston. It was as if the parishioners accepted that she was actually here, that she belonged here, living in the rectory. A different mother or wife would drop by in the afternoons to take tea with her.

One afternoon about midweek it was a young mother, Jen Hollerhan with her two children. The children were one and two years old. Jen was a little taller than Lillian but much heavier. Her deep brown hair was already streaked with grey.

“Having babies certainly puts the weight on ya.” Jen explained. “You’d think having them to tend to along with m’ husband would have worn it off but it hasn’t yet. Ages one too.” She smoothed her hair away from her face.

“They must be quite a handful.” Lillian held the youngest on her lap. The baby reached up to grab at Lillian’s loose hair.

“I sure hope I’m not keeping you from your chores?” Jen asked. “But I wanted to meet you, you see.”

“My uncle, Father Patrick says my best work can be done talking with his parishioners. Thank you.”

“I hears you are from away. Boston, is it?”

“Yes that’s right. Father Patrick is my father’s brother.”

“Ahh. And who’s your father?”

“James Whitely McTavish.”

“Not from these parts is he?”

“No. In truth, none of my family is. Father Pat is the only the family I have here, but I have been made to feel most welcome these past few days. He has told me the congregation has made him feel he has always lived here.” 

Holding the child Lillian began to wonder if this is how it would have been if she hadn’t lost her baby. At least Jen was married. She wasn’t sure if would have even been allowed to keep the child.

“Not the same as living in Boston though is it? My sister Kelly’s in Boston now. Working for a rich family in the kitchen. The Gibbons?”

“I may know them.” The last thing Lillian wanted was for anyone here to make any contact with families she knew in Boston. “I see. What are your children’s names?” Lillian didn’t want to talk about Boston.

“The wee one is Moira. We named her after John’s mother. The big ’un is Chester. That’s my granddad’s name. On my mother’s side. She was a McDonald. From up Inverness.”

“Chester already getting to be quite a little man I see.”

Jen was keeping Chester from climbing on the back of the settee by holding the back of his pants at the waist.

“Don’t I know it. He’ll soon be working with his Dad I can tell. He’s as stubborn as his father too. That’s be Davy Hollerhan. Get’s a notion in his head and won’t let go especially when he’s been drinkin’. Davy I mean ”

“I see.” Lillian wasn’t sure of what to say. 

“Look, Miss McTavish.”

‘“Miss Lillian, please.” One thing her uncle has told her was to let his parishioners feel she was a part of their lives without becoming overly familiar with them.

“Miss Lillian it’s about my Davy that I’ve come to see yer. His drinkin’ ‘s getting worse.”

“That must be difficult for you.”

“I knew you’d understand. It isn’t as if it was my doing but when he comes home I don’t know how to settle him.”

“But where does he get the drink?” Lillian knew prohibition was keeping the saloons closed.

“There’s those that know where to get it when they want it. Bootleggers. Many makes their own, you know. I guess yer wouldn’t know being here in the priest’s house. But there are lots of places a man can get a bottle. Easy.”

“Perhaps we should tell the constabulary?”

“The what? Oh, you mean the law. Not much they can do. They can’t be at every house. Besides one of them makes his own, too. Only Our Lord can be in every house.”

“Yes, I know.”

“I was hopin’, Miss Lillian, that you could pray for my Davy. Perhaps if you spoke to him, tell him how much it is hurting me and the children.”

“Speak to him? I’m not in a position to do that sort of thing. That’s my unc … I mean, Father Pat’s work, isn’t it? To speak to the men and help them see the light.”

“Yes, but if a proper lady such as yerself spoke to him the shame might make him see right.”

“Shame?” How could she cause shame in anyone?

“Then you won’t help me?” Jen began to cry. “The other is even harder for me to bear.”

“The other?”

“Davy has been …. I don’t know how to tell you this Miss … you being such a lady and all.”

Lillian resisted the temptation to tell Jen that she wasn’t such a lady. That she had done things in her recent past that made her less than a lady, that she was in need of repentance and salvation as much as Jen’s husband was. She longed to share her heart with someone, another woman who might understand, but she held her tongue.

“Go on Jen.”

“Miss, I know you aren’t sworn to silence the way Father Patrick is but what I tell you can’t be repeated.”

“Yes. Jen.” she reached out and grasped Jen’s hand. “I promise.”

“John has been keeping with another woman.” her voice dropped after ‘keeping’.

“He has what?”

“Tis adultery ma’am. S’ another woman. On t’other side of the village, in the orange. Only them type would do such a thing. At first I didn’t mind. It meant he wouldn’t be using me to satisfy his bestial cravings. I know a woman has duty to perform but anything more than that is sinful.”

“So I understand. The good book is very clear ‘He who commits adultery destroys himself.’” Lillian said.

“But he comes home sometimes smelling of her. Drunk and saying as I think I’m too good for loving. He thinks that …. that bestial act is love. It’s a sin. He’s is destroying himself and his family at the same time. He used to be sweet and gentle too. Taking my clothes off and folding them tidy. Now he don’t even bother. Pawing at me and shoving his tongue in my mouth.” She stopped to shiver. 

“Father Pat sermonized about it once. Carnality is the tool of Satan. We must not let the flesh come between us and Our Redeemer.” Jen began to weep loudly. She let loose her grip on Chester who slid the floor and began to cry as well. This set off Moira who had been dozing in Lillian’s lap.

Lillian didn’t know what to do or say. She recalled her degradation at the hands of James Dunham. She had remained almost fully clothed, as had he. The notion of being naked with him had never occurred to her at that time.

“When I told him what I suspected he went into a rage. The worst I have ever seen. He …” she covered her face with her hand. She stood and removed her shawl to reveal bruises on both her arms. “He shook me so hard I couldn’t see. I feared he would strike the children. Said all I did was complain.”

“How …” Lillian was about to say ‘how could any man raise his had to a women but stopped.

“It’s a good man’s fault.” Jen wrapped her shawl around her again. “I know it isn’t fittin’ for me to say anything but I don’t know what to do. It’s first time he put his hands on me to make me mind what I was saying.”

She sat back down. 

“Perhaps the children would enjoy some warm milk.” Lillian suggested. She handed Chester a biscuit from the tea tray. He stop crying and put it in his mouth.

“You are too kind for listening patiently to the likes of me. I have no one here in Castleton Mines to talk to, you know?”

“No family?”

“Other than Davy’s kin no. I have some cousins for sure, but my family is from Inverness. Jake Struthers is m’ father. I’m the only one to have made a leave from them.”

Lillian handed the bawling Moria back to her mother. Jen unbuttoned her blouse and breast fed the infant.

“She’ll be quiet now miss.”

As the baby began to suck eagerly Lillian felt a flash of heat in her body. She had come so close to motherhood. 

“I … I’ll make fresh pot of tea.” She stood and went to the kitchen. Nothing in her upbringing had prepared her for this sort of emotional out pouring. She was embarrassed to hear such intimate details about another person’s private life. Then to have a child breast fed causally in front of her. That sort of thing was to be done where no one could see it.

She opened and closed drawers and cupboards loudly so that if Jen should be listening she would think Lillian was occupied with domestic duties. Tongue in her mouth? Was that some sort of kissing? The two men she knew had kissed her cheeks or her hands but never on the mouth. 

When she came back into the parlour with tea Jen had put on her shawl.

“Thank ye very much. Hearing me out Miss McTavish. I knew when I saw you helping at the colliery the other week that you would be the one to listen to me. I know there isn’t anything you can directly do other than have a word with Father Patrick. Perhaps if he spoke to Davy he might set Davy back on the righteous path.”

“There is one thing I know we can do.”

“Yes Miss.” Jen said eagerly.

Lillian took out her rosary. “We can pray right here and right now.”

Jen took out her rosary as well.

“Thank you Miss. He’s going to that fight tonight and I fear he’ll come home blind drunk.”

The two women knelt and Lillian started in on the hail Mary. 

“Hail Mary, full of grace. Our Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. And if you can please intercede with John Hollerhan so that he may once again see the light and be brought back to salvation in Your Son, Jesus. Amen.” 

Jen quickly joined her.

“Thank you!” Jen said when they were finished. “I knew you were the right one to talk to.”

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Limitless Limitations

As I’ve aged my sense of my physical limitations has increased though I haven’t always attached an age to  to those changes. For example this winter I accepted that those extreme cold alerts  say ‘children & elderly’ I am the elderly they refer to, even if I don’t think of myself that as ancient. As a result I drastically reduced my night time activities. 

I was fine in my many layered dress for the cold in the daytime – but if it was going to take me as long to get bundled up for the cold as I was going spend when I got somewhere I’d think twice if it was worth the effort. Plus most places don’t provide space for all that extra garb.

Night was worse thanks to slippery sidewalks, people didn’t shovel, or salt the black ice in front of their house, on top of city plows that delighted in mountains that made corners impossible to get over. I’d tackle them in daylight but at night I didn’t want to risk a slip & breaking anything. 

So while listening to a recent Disability After Dark in which Andrew Gurza talks with Scott Jones I appreciated their admissions of grief over their limitation. Although I’m sorry I can’t do winter walks after dark I am grateful I don’t have to negotiate their challenges. But as I get older the things that I used to do that were a part of my self-image have changed that self-image. Knee issues mean they can no longer take the stress of dancing so there goes my dream of So You Think You Can Dance. Issues with my back mean I can’t physically manhandle Andrew, as much as I would like to. 

The episode pushed me to think of how easy it is to discount our actual limitations in the face of what we want to do & then berate & take fault with ourselves. Things change & as they do I move better with those changes as part of progress not as an erosion of the good way things used to be. Dancing with the right man in bed has proved to be more satisfying than dancing in any club.

 

The Mystery

A man on his knees

on a downtown sidewalk

just out of the way

yet where he could be seen

prays

mutters words of supplication

eyes open

looks out from himself

into the world around him

 

on the next street three women

on their knees pray

people in restaurants

slide to their knees

poets in coffee shops

after getting their double double

kneel

whisper prayers

in different words

in different languages

call to different entities

 

they are unafraid

of being seen as ones

who are willing to pray

when the feeling comes upon them

pulling over cars to get out

kneeling in buses

in movie theatres

with pop corn and soft drinks

balanced in their hands

reaching out for a moment

feeling the touch of something

sharing the touch of something

 

those that can’t pray turn away

as if seeing something

that should be done only in private

so as not to remind them

that some people have faith

those that pray often don’t know

what they have faith in

 

they feel the tickle of it in their blood

savour the taste of it

as they utter sweet words 

once they stand

some don’t recall the moment of prayer

 

they know that even if the pause

can’t change the world

can’t end war in our time

for the moment of prayer

they can be changed

in the chaos

in the peace

in the lives around them

and that’s the mystery

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Thine Is Not Mine

samprules2

Working through the  227 Rules For Monks. Who knew the simple life could be so complex. This #4 of the 92 pācittiyas.

Thine Is Not Mine

they stood

all twenty or so

joined hands

to make a ragged circle

of connection
they prayed aloud

in unison

the lord’s prayer

a fellowship of grace

that I believe is genuine

yet

as they stood

I stepped aside

hands behind my back

as they prayed

I remained silent

 

the holding of hands

is forced conformity

a kind of automatic

social codependency of inclusion

as much as I enjoy acceptance

of being a part of

it’s going to be on my worth

not on my compliance

I am present for spiritual connection

not physical

I remain silent

during the our father

partially out of respect

for those who do believe

what I don’t believe

silent

partially because

of the context of that prayer

the history of

the controlling monolith of dogma

a greed driven

control fuelled

relentless remorseless fire

that judged what it didn’t understand

as evil

a cultural genocide of disease

military power & might

 

I’m not going to say

your pointless prayer

just be grateful

I hold my tongue

& not your hand

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#War concludes with #Prayer

hate01

5 – pray for peace

I pray for peace

for no more cameras

in the face of bloodied children

clawing out of fragmented buses

no more pained leaders

griping about the lack of fair media coverage

it’s more important to be righteous

that it is to be right

 

I pray for peace

and wonder what will come next –

no that’s a lie

I don’t wonder

because what will come next

has already happened

the same war in different places

the same inflexible jargon

this land is our land not your land

they march forth

with the word of god on one side

and the sword of god on the other

 

I pray for peace

for the righteous and the right

to get on the same talk show

to get Oprah over there

but no side is ready

for that close up

until there is enough sand kicked

so the rich stain of trickling

sweat blood and adidas

in the the frame for the camera

 

I pray for the camera men

for freedom of the press

how dare you shoot reporters

journalist don’t want your land

they just want to reduce it to

quick clips flashes of bombs

parents wailing – please help

no no no

get over there

for the background of this shot

great

we have to keep the cameras rolling

risk our lives for higher ratings

now there’s a cause worth fighting for

this scrap of land for my camera man

my sound guy and the line feed grip

if you dare not let

our preproduction teams in

you’ll get no sponsors for your war

this dismemberment moment from

the makers of daisy fresh panty liners

 

I pray for peace

but not too sincerely

because I don’t want to upset

the world economy

too much peace means higher inflation

when the death rate is lower

there are more starving to feed

 

I pray for peace

so I can watch TV in peace

so I can get back to reality escapism

sitcom movie stars in crisis

no war to worry about

only the daily grind to occupy me

with a future of safe routes

because that’s what peace is all about

right

red01

The concluding Section 5 is more theme and variation. As the piece progressed I increased the level of cynicism in the face of what never changes yet pretends to wants to change. The media coverage, or is it obscurage, of events has been the same for as long as I can recall. I’ve looked at press from WWI, read about the Spanish Civil war & nothing has changed except the speed at which we get the image.

red02

Locations, names, weapons may change but causes remain the same. Media has become very protective of its right to ‘report’ without taking sides. Now we get security camera footage & handheld cell video so everyone is a reporter and everyone is showing the truth of the moment. 

red03

‘daisy fresh panty liners’ is a reference to the Daisy Cutter bomb. It seemed a fitting, if cruel, interpolation of what happens with this bomb and a product used to absorb blood. ‘What if they gave a war and nobody came’ a 60’s slogan runs through the subtext of this whole series. Even CNN breaks for commercials & some sponsors have specified they don’t want their ads run during certain types of new coverage.

tree

Like so many things we ordinary folk want the actually ramifications are deeper than we realize. Ending war could cripple the world economy. A cure for the common could would cripple the pharmaceutical industry. So the peace we pray for often isn’t world peace but for peace of mind in a world that is driven by profit.

 

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