A Time of Sacred Confusion by Michèle Shimizu-Kelley

My house is
a thin-feeling place
I sit
witnessing the fog roll in on
a time of Sacred Confusion.

I’ve been reading
The poems,
The prayers,
The mantras of
The wisdom-speakers
Reminding us of the truths
That in some terrible and terrific ways
This virus is going to help us
To slow down,
To reconnect with the humus of our humanity,
To remind us of how interdependent we all are
On this Earth
Our Common Home.

There will be another sunrise
When I wake up and appreciate this
As a time for conversion, rebirth, new growth;
But today I am simply sitting
Simmering in a state
Of Sacred Confusion
Of amorphous anger for the deaths caused, insecurities created, and anxieties amplified
Of pain and sadness and tears in making heavy decisions taking into account worst-case scenarios
Of self-centering gratitude for having what I need here under my roof
Of comfort I take in knowing the ones in my inner circle are safe today
Of the new freedom inhabited by more time in my hands with less to touch and no where to go
Of the privileged guilt, conflicting solace, and naked hope I feel when
Thinking of all the people
In all their houses and temporary dwellings
Told to shelter in place

Houses of quarantine
Houses of belonging
Houses of exile
Houses that have been emptied
Houses that are filling up
Houses of one
Houses of ten or more
Houses of adobe brick
Houses of concrete
Houses of ivy-covered stone
Houses of sugar cane and tin roof
Houses of cardboard and tarp
Houses of trees
Houses of ice
Houses of love and tenderness
Houses of abuse and neglect and trauma
Houses of the sick and their caregivers
Houses of play and laughter and crayons and bubbles
Houses of painting and guitar and piano and sing-a-longs
Houses of beer cans and bongs and video games
Houses of plants and pets and love-making and bread-baking
Houses of rhythmic toes and swaying hips dancing reggaetón and hip-hop and samba and salsa
Houses of old mattresses, dirty clothes, a broken washing machine, an exposed barrel of standing water and a lone bag of rice uncooked

This pandemic at once both jeopardizing and galvanizing
The enterprise of solidarity-building
I do not feel as much fear of the virus invading my own body
As I do feel fear when thinking about the collective price
We may end up paying

As our spaces of community
Our spaces of worship
Our spaces of learning
Our spaces of art and music and theatre making
Go dark and bodiless
The ambiguous loss of “postponed to a future date”
Or “closed for an indefinite period of time”
When to hug or kiss another
Becomes a perceived life or death choice in our psyche
When our breath becomes threatened
Air, face masks, hand soap the new currencies
While governments distract us with free, worthless money…
Clean air!
Clean water!
Healthy lungs able to breathe!
And honorable harvests to sow and reap
And share beyond the boundaries of bartering
Is what we’ll need to survive
These days
Of Sacred Confusion

And to resist fear
To keep taking risks!
To live with compassion
To step out and step in
To continue caring for one another
To forge on with our endeavors
To build and re-build from the rubble of broken solidarity
To practice giving and receiving
Embracing and letting go
Walking with and staying home for
Being with and being without
The risks worth dying for
Have been and will continue to be
The risks worth living for

My friend wrote me yesterday
Their curfew began at 2 PM
No one allowed on their streets
Police trucks lined the airport runway to keep the planes from landing
I told her we had to send the volunteers home
That they wouldn’t be visiting her house anytime soon
That I wouldn’t be making a trip anytime soon

A pause
A Sacred Confusion

“Ok, amiga…”
She responded,
“Cuídate mucho.
Mañana hablamos.
Esperemos pasar pronto esta enfermedad
Sin pérdidas de seres queridos…
Y que Dios nos proteja a todos. Besos. ”

When emoji kisses cannot supplant the warmth of lips to cheek,
but will be enough to sustain us
In this time of Sacred Confusion

–Michèle is Assistant Director with Rostro de Cristo and lives in Boston; we in the Anne Waldman winter writing class have been glad to have her with us in these last eight weeks.

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