Category Archives: Poetry

Envy

IMG_2859This is a confession. I struggle with envy. Its grip took hold in late grade school, about the point where I really started to wonder who I was. This is not the kind of envy for material things (although I am currently coveting really admiring my neighbor’s walls full of real artwork at the moment) but more an envy of identity. That other girl over there seems to be more of a serious writer, or this one is so unselfconscious, or that particular one is always so together. Yes, this oftentimes masquerades as a desire for material things, but the envy I feel is more about what a particular dress or clever story, or, in the last few years, a particular style of house represents. My imagination often sketches in the perceived actualization happening in another person.

Two years ago, God arranged a meeting with me and my envy. I thought at first that this meeting was about Angela, about how I could help lift this precious lady’s burden by listening, but in that listening, God was also lifting mine. The struggle to be constantly looking outside yourself and who you are with God for your identity is tiring. It’s living in the future. It’s missing what’s right before you. I imagine it like looking out of the window at the dinner party across the street, missing the beautiful people invited around your own table. It’s also unreal. Reality is not imagined perfection, it’s struggle, it’s journey, it’s joy that comes in seeing each person around you not as someone you-are-not, but someone you-are-with.

Envy at Children’s Theatre

Two hours in the theatre dark we sat,
Our daughters rehearsing roles together.
She was one of those moms, hip and earthy,
Blonde with early gray, swept in a pony,
yoga pants and white teeth.
The kind of mother
that makes me wish I was the kind of mother
that knitted woolen stockings for my girls.
My oldest daughter died four years ago. She was four.
The little voices saying lines dimmed.

And then the weight loss and the worry and the vomiting
and the nystagmus and hours searching google
and the ct scans and the diagnosis and the needle pokes
and the bags and bags of chemicals
and the hospitals and the bruising and the shunts

And the brief interval of peace

and then the headaches and the e.r.
and the steroids and the tachycardia and the fevers
and the blindness and the tumor resection
and the lethargy and the nine different medications
and the hospital stay and the dad who slept by the bed
and the coma and the labored breathing

And then another kind of peace.

Happy, dancing bodies interrupted us
and we dried our faces.
I’m Angela, by the way, and your name is?
Jill, so nice to meet you.

She gathered her bags and her little girl.
I gathered my thoughts and my girls and followed her,
wishing to be the kind of mother
who remembers every detail from four years ago
because it matters
more than white teeth and yoga pants and urban chic,
and knitted woolen stockings.

Observations

lilypoemI’ve taken a long break from writing publicly, and I won’t bother to go into the details other than to say that I’ve felt compelled to break from presenting a persona online. I need more of the real me.

All artists are observers. This summer I had the privilege to go to the National Gallery in D.C. It was a glorious. I was amazed at the never-ending ways we observe life–some are realists, others gather impressions, some focus on the big picture, others on minutiae. Despite the grand diversity of art, each artist was recognizable by their particular way of observing. They may experiment, but within the range of their experimentation, there is a mark that says Rembrandt or Cassatt or Dali. I think that I am finally seeing and accepting my way of observing life. The real Jill. And one of my marks is tension.

I see tension everywhere…mostly in my own life and the roles that I have as wife, mother, sister, daughter, friend, child of God, and I seem to write about that tension quite a bit.

I ended this summer by taking a new friend and our children out to Brazos Bend State Park one morning, where we could paint from the dock. I found myself scribbling observations and just painting a few lilies. The kids were full of life, and the tensions between humans and animals, mothers and children, the outwardly-exuberant and the solitude-seeker were ripe. So the following poem ensued. If I am shedding my persona, reducing the tension between my outward and inward face, I can’t think of a better way to start than by sharing my poems. Naked is the word that comes to mind. 🙂

Observation Deck

The deep today
Everything seems to be happening below
Unseen

Yet here on the deck we are almost
Obnoxiously present–
feet trampling the wooden planks
Paint strokes missing the canvas
Voices raised in play, jest, protest

Three feet below us the sonorous, deep growls of the alligator
Tease us. He stubbornly refuses to appear, rolling under
The tangle of lilies like a child crawling under a blanket.

My mind is divided.

An ibis appears with a swoop but even he prefers
The cover of the cypress, so that we can only see
His feet dancing the steps of his morning hunt.

I want to dive below the dark water where the light
Is filtered green and sounds of voices are muted,
To lie still amongst roots and darting minnows and

Wonder what is above.

A violent splash startles me and I jump. The alligator has
Satisfied his hungry stomach and l look around and count my
Babies and breathe. One paints, another runs, all are seen.

All are seen.