Tag Archives: Alison Luterman

Day of Rest

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Invisible Work by Alison Luterman

Because no one could ever praise me enough,
because I don’t mean these poems only
but the unseen
unbelievable effort it takes to live

the life that goes on between them,
I think all the time about invisible work.
About the young mother on Welfare
I interviewed years ago,
who said, “It’s hard.
You bring him to the park,
run rings around yourself keeping him safe,
cut hot dogs into bite-sized pieces for dinner,
and there’s no one
to say what a good job you’re doing,
how you were patient and loving
for the thousandth time even though you had a headache.”
And I, who am used to feeling sorry for myself
because I am lonely,
when all the while,
as the Chippewa poem says, I am being carried
by great winds across the sky,
thought of the invisible work that stitches up the world day and night,
the slow, unglamorous work of healing,
the way worms in the garden
tunnel ceaselessly so the earth can breathe
and bees ransack this world into being,
while owls and poets stalk shadows,
our loneliest labors under the moon.

There are mothers
for everything, and the sea
is a mother too,
whispering and whispering to us
long after we have stopped listening.
I stopped and let myself lean
a moment, against the blue
shoulder of the air. The work
of my heart
is the work of the world’s heart.

There is no other art.

Day of Rest

My friend Laurie Wagner shared a poem on Facebook this morning that was just what I needed to hear. It’s by Alison Luterman, who will be doing a reading today at Laurie’s magical home, 27 Powers. I have been thinking a lot about resistance and how it leads to suffering, how often I get in my own way, how there are hard things in my life but I’m making them so much harder, making them solid by wishing them away, wanting things to be easy. The worry around it, the discomfort feels like a sort of heartburn. I start by attaching to whatever I think is causing my problem(s), then I immediately look for who to blame, always eventually landing on myself. It’s such a painful way to be. Alison’s beautiful poem reminds me to not get so attached, to let go, to surrender to what is.

Because Even the Word Obstacle is an Obstacle
Try to love everything that gets in your way:
the Chinese women in flowered bathing caps
murmuring together in Mandarin, doing leg exercises in your lane
while you execute thirty-six furious laps,
one for every item on your to-do list.
The heavy-bellied man who goes thrashing through the water
like a horse with a harpoon stuck in its side,
whose breathless tsunamis rock you from your course.
Teachers all. Learn to be small
and swim through obstacles like a minnow
without grudges or memory. Dart
toward your goal, sperm to egg. Thinking Obstacle
is another obstacle. Try to love the teenage girl
idly lounging against the ladder, showing off her new tattoo:
Cette vie est la mienne, This life is mine,
in thick blue-black letters on her ivory instep.
Be glad shell have that to look at all her life,
and keep going, keep going. Swim by an uncle
in the lane next to yours who is teaching his nephew
how to hold his breath underwater,
even though kids arent allowed at this hour. Someday,
years from now, this boy
who is kicking and flailing in the exact place
you want to touch and turn
will be a young man, at a wedding on a boat
raising his champagne glass in a toast
when a huge wave hits, washing everyone overboard.
He’ll come up coughing and spitting like he is now,
but he’ll come up like a cork,
alive. So your moment
of impatience must bow in service to a larger story,
because if something is in your way it is
going your way, the way
of all beings; towards darkness, towards light.

The obstacles to your path are the path. Let go, surrender.