The Room of Belonging

The Room of Belonging

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By Tamara English

since the very
first voice sang the
name of her young
generations have passed
this one wisdom
without words
and invisible things


no matter how innocently
or recklessly this new life
got called into her
and whether it was you
or her who uttered this
now irreversible prayer


already ladders are raising
to some remembered place and
an angel climbs
into the room to remember
your own fresh birth

your mother’s hair’s still damp,
not a word from the window
or the silent, clean floor
you lean into the corner
that stays dark
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and it’s the old ones
who sing back
while you first reach
and find refuge
in never seen before hands
is it your voice or theirs
filling the gold room
of belonging that speaks
to you, the one waiting
to hear your new name?

Birth Painting No. 2 By Ghislaine Howard

This poem showed up after an organization asked if I would write about conception and birth.  The day I agreed, it happened to be a gorgeous summer day, with the world full of visible beauty.  With the sheer enormity of the thing upon me (the ask and the day), nothing prosaic or scientific sufficed.  Instead, it was the large landscapes of incarnational possibility and the magic only the unseen can court that flooded my imagination. By day’s end, I wrote to the editor asking if poetry would do.  Thankfully she said, “yes”.  I say thankfully because an ache to breathe something bigger and rarer than my previous clinical and well-researched experience unknowingly lingered at the edge of her ask.


So whispering at my ear that day were the words one of my teachers likes to say,

“How we’re stitched together can easily become unstitched”.  

After wrestling for some time with whether it could be “legitimate” to poeticize my vocation, I succumbed and said, yes, this “stitching”, simply cannot be spoken of in the language of “reproduction”, or, “fertilization”.  It can’t even really find words in religion.  The incarnational mystery of how we arrive here seems to seek its willing partner in the realms of mysticism.

The Birth of Eve by Solomon J. Solomon

The Birth of Eve by Solomon J. Solomon

Mysticism for me is a modern way of saying Indigenousity.  There was a time when the mystical rightfully lived embedded in the body of incarnation and the old story we all know of separation made it so it now needs mentioning.  Mysticism is like saying “sacred”.  Well, what isn’t sacred?  And when and why did mystical get left out?  I like thinking about this long and culturally relevant story and learning about its torturous past.  Sometime I’d like to write more about it.  For now though, Indigenousity, “a competency not a blood line”, lives within all of us.  And this, “stitching together”, my teacher speaks to, is a bow to one of its competencies- the knowing that our lives are a result not of our genes or our cells, or of our parents’ or grandparents’ cells, but because of the ones who lived before us and continue to live alongside us.  The word, “ancestors”, who are not simply dead people, I’m beginning to understand mean among many things, our future.  And we, in turn, are theirs.  Again, more to say another time.

So maybe we are were all once that baby who after his or her birth, leaned into the dark space of the room to hear the sounds of the only ones who could name us- the ones who know our song, and the great stitch and expanse of the incarnation we come into and out of.  If our parents can reach out into the dark and find our name, then perhaps they heard it from somewhere.  If we adults can attune to the transpositional alchemy and bring song to name, then perhaps the “ladder rising to the remembered place” will truly begin “filling the gold room of belonging”; the room and richness of our lives.

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The poem doesn’t compare to what she (the world) showed me that day.  Truthfully, it’s even a bit counter- indigeous that I’m quoting my own poem, but since inspiration came from the breath of her particular beauty, and from the stirrings of the world singing her song to me, for now I’m going to go ahead and claim the novice card and simply give what I’ve got back to her.  May we all keep breathing the world, may we find words for what we taste and may we in turn feed our praise back so the ones who gift us and who right now gather and wait at the untold feast.

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