I was thinking what I liked about religion. Not the Church itself, mind, but perhaps the churches. The idea of a sanctuary, a place that makes people feel safe.

Not me in particular, mind, as there are a lot of years growing up when I felt it was almost a cage. A home that appears false somehow, at least for me. Mostly it was because I don’t belong in it, for maybe a decade now, maybe more. Yet the not-belonging does not stop me from being in awe sometimes. The architecture, the withstanding of time, the hallowed silence that surrounds empty spaces. The ongoing discussion between edifices and people.

I was thinking, the idea of faith, and how its presence becomes a tether to one’s capacity for hope. A belief in something that does not need proof, and a belief that things will turn out for the best.

We visited seven churches today under the punishing heat. I prayed and not prayed. I mouthed the words when things needed saying, wholly conscious of the language I’ve forgotten.

Here are things that I think are holy: the way both wind and sunlight can break through a foliage of leaves, a meeting place of the tangible and intangible. The pleasure that fissures through the body when I am able to make someone laugh. My name spoken by someone who loves me. Unexpected rain.

I went outside when everybody else lined up for confession. I sat underneath a tree, my scalp warm, sweat trickling down my back. I was thinking, the idea of rituals, the meditative effect of doing things over and over, the fine line between comfort and agony when encountering the familiar.

When I take the vacuum out and spend hours moving through the house, cleaning up all the dust, I am praying. When I put books in my bag, when I read poems night after night as if it will save my life, I am praying. When I wash the dishes, when I make up my bed, when I count the cracks in the pavement while I am walking, I am praying.

Here’s a confession: when I tell myself every morning now, I’m still alive, I’m still alive, I’m still alive—perhaps I am praying, too.

Each Thing Measured by the Same Sun
Linda Gregg

Nothing to tell. Nothing to desire.
A silence that is not unhappy.
Who will guess I am not
backing away? I am pleased
every morning because the stones
are cold, then warm in the sun.
Sometimes wet. One, two, three days
in a row. Easy to say yes and no.
Realizing this power delicately.
Remembering the cow dying on the ground,
smelling dirt, seeing a mountain
in the distance one foot away.
Making a world in the mind.
The spirit still connected to the body.
Eyes open, uncovered to the bone.

This is from The Sacraments of Desire by Linda Gregg, published by Graywolf Press, 1995.

I don’t desire much these days. Only that I get to be well, and take care of myself, as I should, which honestly I haven’t been very good at these past couple of years. I’m trying though. Or should I say: I’m learning.

I suppose, it’s because after all the wanting, I have arrived at that point when some things are clearer. For example: what I am meant to be doing for the rest of my life. For example: who I am at the core, and how that’s separate from what I’m going through, because really, life happens, and the world, and the universe, and to not be able to keep up with it at times is okay. For example: the people I love, and that small overlap with the people who love me, which is nice. For example: the truth that I am going to always be a little bit sad. For example: that there are days when I am not strong enough to go at it alone, and that I need help, which is okay, too.

I think I have been lost for a long time now. I think maybe I even encourage that, sometimes. I think I’m so used to being lost that it’s started to give me roots in the abyss, and I tell myself it’s the only place I’ve ever known, the only space where I’ll be loved. I think maybe it’s time to be found.

I turn twenty-nine today. It’s past midnight. I could feel my old self stirring about, dusting the corners. Not ready to leave yet, perhaps. Sticking it out for another year, perhaps.

I suppose, it’s because after all the grief, the husk remains.

Happy birthday, self. It’s funny how life works, but I think you already know that.

Nights in the Neighborhood
Linda Gregg

I carry joy as a choir sings,
but quietly as the dark
carols. To keep the wind away
so the hidden ones will come
out into the street and add
themselves to this array of
stars, constellations and moon.
I notice the ones in pain
shine more than the others.
It’s so they can be found,
I think. Found and harbored.

This is from The Sacraments of Desire by Linda Gregg, published by Graywolf Press, 1995.

It is peaceful here. I have a big window. The sky is endless. In a few hours the sun will rise and its beauty will break my heart. And then the light will wash over everything, and it will be alright.

The Letter
Linda Gregg

I’m not feeling strong yet, but I am taking
good care of myself. The weather is perfect.
I read and walk all day and then walk to the sea.
I expect to swim soon. For now I am content.
I am not sure what I hope for. I feel I am
doing my best. It reminds me of when I was
sixteen dreaming of Lorca, the gentle trees outside
and the creek. Perhaps poetry replaces something
in me that others receive more naturally.
Perhaps my happiness proves a weakness in my life.
Even my failures in poetry please me.
Time is very different here. It is very good
to be away from public ambition.
I sweep and wash, cook and shop.
Sometimes I go into town in the evening
and have pastry with custard. Sometimes I sit
at a table by the harbor and drink half a beer.

This is from The Sacraments of Desire by Linda Gregg, published by Graywolf Press, 1995.

You’re not good with humans. It was close to midnight. I was nursing a bottle. I may or may not have been part of the conversation. You don’t know how to be with them. You don’t even like them, do you.

I felt someone nudge my shoulder, and I realized they were talking about me. To me. But if that is the case, another argued, why do you have your heart on your sleeve? Is it some kind of a trick?

Snatches of conversation, now. I haven’t thought about that in a long time. I wanted to say: maybe I am not really good at this—being human. But who is?

These days: my moods are ever volatile. I confess that I have never taken the initiative to observe them until this year. Euphoric for months, and then—emptiness. Elation, followed by loathing. The heart—my heart, it seems—is carnivorous. It devours, is voracious, is merciless.

Deeply exhausted. Maybe even shattered. I think this is enough for now. I think I have done as much as I could with this.

Of Absence
Linda Gregg

I climb the mountain.
Up steps the moon has already taken.
Of Absence. Of things broken.
To see if the moon is a mouth.
To see if I am what it wants.

This is from The Sacraments of Desire by Linda Gregg, published by Graywolf Press, 1995.