Listened to Luis Alberto Urrea’s podcast at Tin House “Hymns for the Broken”
and I didn’t know how it affected me or any of my feelings and comprehension until after writing this post.
Grapeling–this post is because of you; thank you for taking the time to
making my feelings finally emerge and surface. It’s been a while.
I told myself if I had nothing, that’s what would come back. I spent too long after filling my hands with what I thought I could keep, only to find that what was within me was beneath the soil, deep in bones. All I had to do was stop. Stop giving myself away. –me, this morning
“Don’t you know–everybody’s broken. That’s what makes us holy.” –shaman in Mexico
LEONARD COHEN SANG “THERE IS A CRACK IN EVERYTHING, THAT’S HOW THE LIGHT GETS IN.”
“–and those bad men that tell you to be ashamed…take their drills, look for the scars to re-wound you–But she says ‘we kiss you upon your scar to show you you’re beautiful.” –Luis Alberto Urrea, on the Tin House podcast “Hymns for the Broken.”
Write with purpose. Reach out to me. I need you. I am stripped but not afraid.
I write to take my own hand and lead myself back out into light. That is a line from Urrea’s Hymn. He goes into a story about being the misfit, the out-of-place one, the outcast–taken away by guardians into abuse and ultimate shame. This, as he goes on and his voice rises, is why he writes–because a part of him is always going to be in that chair. And I’ve been reading up a lot (for quite a long time now) on finding one’s worth, your possession, the bones of your gut, the mother you are to yourself. And I am taking in and letting go so many things, so many past and done parts of myself that have had their time and I will not retrieve. But I am retrieving the indestructible parts I am made of. And I gotta say, it’s fucking emotional and I didn’t even know it was until Grapeling commented on “Reflecting” –you know what he said? I’m going to cry again. See, I’m so good at shutting off emotions still, that I don’t even know I am until someone says something so beautiful and real and almost painful, and reminds me why I am here; why I write.
He said: “Amy, when I read your work, it reminds me of Leonard Cohen’s line – ‘there is a crack in everything -that’s how the light gets in.’
I looked away, and then read it a hundred times. And put it down again. But it followed me all night and morning. And there I was listening to a fellow writer and survivor’s podcast and he quoted the same Cohen line. And I was suddenly sobbing. Because Urrea then says about himself as a child: “I’m trying to write for him, but I can’t do it. I need you. I can write for him, but you know what I can’t do? I still can’t take his hand, I can’t lift him outta that chair because I’m still ashamed of him. Shame. They teach it to you…for ‘your own good’…and I propose that anyone who changes you–anyone who betrays you, anyone who gets out “the drill” for you, anyone who leaves you, because you aren’t good enough?–is an ASS-HOLE.”
I haven’t been writing but thinking a lot lately, living a life lately. Working in a women and children’s shelter where mostly I feel good about what I do there, but sometimes, like last night, I couldn’t shake it off. I couldn’t not bring it home with me. What I am talking about is awomen all over the world in these situations though. Because what can happen mirrors what happened to me on a very deep, personal level. In the one of two areas I haven’t figured out how to heal from yet. And it’s hard my friends. It’s very big, the biggest thing yet, but the difference is I am able to stand, withstand, and remain steady at the helm. I have become captain of my own ship. Finally. And I don’t want to lose that. But I prove to myself not on purpose but by the cycles and rhythms of my nature that I won’t lose it, that yes I am cracked and sometimes those cracks feel like land mines or crevasses and I am on the mountain about to get swallowed up. And I wait. And I continue with my life. I find joy and sorrow in a forming balance. And getting swallowed doesn’t happen. These words I must tell–my story I must tell–is changing shape. I am changing. And the facts are there are some things you don’t recover from, there are some things you can’t get back anyway–and you do not “heal” in the sense you’d think, you only learn to adapt and live differently so that you not only survive but you thrive. I never meant to write to let light in. I never knew I could–and I’ve heard it once or twice before kind of, but I tell you I can only write what I know and it feels very selfish. Very egotistical. But I also know that right now, there is a girl the age I was when I was shamed and ashamed and wounded, and she’s at the bottom of the mountain not knowing where the ledges are to clutch her little fingers to. And I am writing this for her spirit that is about to break. And there is a young woman who will disappear soon, and I write and I pace and I outline and I take notes and I feel everything I can through my own forms of grounding and meditation and calm.–I do this not for me anymore, well I do it because it’s like the beast or birds in me that never sleep, it must be said and said well. But I do this for her. I am honoring what she is about to experience. I am honoring her suffering. I suppose this is my Hymn for the Broken.
I wish I could meet these girls and women–before, during, and after. And there’s nothing I could say to them, accept that there is love. You will survive, I command it, because you must feel this love that is at the end of that road–whether anyone loved you or not, you loved yourself, because you didn’t give up. You must hang the hell on without knowing why. But hear me. Hear my voice.
One thought on “Hymns for the Broken”
Amy – my mother spent 41 years in Child and Adult Protective Services (20 and 21 years each) as a social worker. we lived near a military base… officers got quietly re-assigned, enlisted men, not so much. there was a lot of breaking, and mending with what was available. she helped establish the first-in-California county-sponsored women’s and children’ shelter. she came home to cook, after. for a year she helped find houses for hundreds of refugees – dozens came through our home – after Saigon fell. she broke. and she rose, again. a few weeks ago her 2nd husband died. only this time, she’s not broken… she was prepared, and she’s bent a little, but life is for the living. I wrote on that, a little, in my poem ‘woke’ – and the final couplet means, you, too, I think. ~