IN THE DARKNESS
Again the voice comes that says
If I must fail, Lord, at least let it be
in private, quietly, so the defeat won’t be
compounded by the witness of it. Another
animal impulse, perhaps, like that
which makes the house cat leave the house
to die, thereby sparing its keepers
the unseemly grasping for breath.
Not to be dramatic. Life goes on and will,
more or less, it’s just
so tiresome sometimes, and
as Frost put it, I’d like to get away
from Earth awhile. Or at least from people,
with all their well-meaning hopes for us,
their unspoken expectations, like that we continue
to put one foot in front of the other,
when maybe we’d rather not, maybe
we’d rather step aside, let the others go by,
just close our eyes for a moment
and float in the darkness.
Which reminds me, we never did
make it to that sensory deprivation
chamber you told me about.
It sounded scary, but intriguing, too,
and there’s the rub: the one that chafes
the brain on days like this,
existence a coarse robe the mind wears,
and all of us postulants.
But there I go again—
Forgive me. I’ll be quiet now.
That which moves us
to speak or, before,
to think and, sooner still,
to feel or to sense.
That which brings
awareness, enlivens us
to the world that is always
here but imperceptible
until distilled through the filter
of something or someone
who would make it matter:
the clatter of dishes in the kitchen
for the fact of you sleeping
in the next room, your rest
a vessel to be protected
and so the quiet becomes
material, palpable as summer air,
and I move through it, barefoot, slowly,
with a mind to making it last, making
the muse at home here,
so that what is given voice will, too,
be heard, even as I hope in your heart
you hear me, slipping back into bed
beside you, whispering this explanation
for which you have not asked.
MY FATHER ASKS AFTER MY FAITH
It is Christmas, and he tells me
he doesn’t get it—why or what
or how I believe. The room is warm,
the tree aglitter. I tell him
beauty makes me grateful is all—
the sea, the sky, certain scenes,
certain eyes. And sadness--
sadness defeats me and makes me
reach out, bow down, offer myself
in exchange for relief.
His gaze drifts as if unable to focus.
I try again. I tell him breathing reminds me
there are things to be grateful for,
and bowing makes me forget myself
and helps me to see the sacredness of things—
this tea cup, this chair, my parents
and children—older now, but still in need
and deserving of a gentleness I cannot muster
if I have not breathed, if I have not reached out
and bowed down and prayed. This
is what passes for faith. It seems
no different than the walks he takes
or the infinite ways in which he
offers himself: the birdfeeders he fills,
the chores he performs, the repairs he makes.
I tell him we are no different—he and I
or any of us, whether we see it or not,
that faith and faithlessness are merely names
for the ways we navigate the maze
of beauty and suffering that is human
being, just as God might be a name
for the love within us and what we make of it,
a name which can be taken or left
in accordance with the comfort
and joy and clarity it provides
or fails to.
Brit Washburn began writing in earnest at the age of fifteen, a year into a four-year Creative Writing Program at Interlochen Arts Academy in Northern Michigan, where she was born and raised. In the 25 years since then, she has maintained the practice in some form amid a wide range other pursuits, including motherhood, religious studies, and cooking.
She continued her studies at Eugene Lang College in New York City, and lived in Brazil, France, and Hawai'i, before moving to Charleston, South Carolina, in 2005. She holds a degree in Creative Writing from Goddard College and has edited and been published in a number of journals and anthologies. She has three sons, manages the East Bay Meeting House bar & cafe, and practices yoga daily.