Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Poetry as Prayer: A Meditation on Words

I keep a crucifix at my desk;
it reminds me that pain and love are synonymous,
that nothing worthwhile
is easy.

I was raised Catholic, and when you’re raised Catholic, you can always count on one thing to rule your life. Nope, not God. Good try though! But in this case, the answer is guilt. As someone who has been going through a crisis of faith over the past few years, not a day goes by when I don’t feel that almighty hand on my shoulder alongside a whisper gently telling me that if I don’t start singing a different tune that I’m going to Hell. But that’s a story for a different blog post. Today, I want to talk to you about prayer.

I may have a lot of feelings about life, how I live it, and who I live it with, but one thing that I’ve never wavered from is that I pray every day. What has changed, is how I do it. When I was little, I used to kneel at my bedside every night and say a prayer for every person I loved. I’d often fall asleep with my family’s name on my lips, or a tear on my pillow, but I wanted someone out there to know that I was putting good energy into the world, and I hoped that if I put enough of it out there, that somehow, it might reach my loved ones as they fell asleep and started to dream.

There are times when I still do this, even now, everything considered. But before I drop to my knees in prayer, I pray on paper in sonnets, in free verse, in haiku, in prose. I write about madness, because that’s what life is. It’s unpredictable. People leave. People die. I make mistakes. I fuck up. Sometimes things work out. Sometimes they don’t. But that’s life, so if I’ve loved you, if we’ve shared a moment, if we’ve shared a kindness, I believe there is energy in that, and I put that happiness (for however long it lasted) into a memory box in my head, and at night when I write, I thank whoever is listening for those handful of seconds when my heart was touched with love.

It took me a very long time to understand that life isn’t about collecting people, about changing people. Experience has taught me that energy cannot be contained, and so I started collecting moments instead. And when they’re good, I smile.  And when they’re bad, I try to smile, too.

Because life isn’t perfect.
In fact, sometimes it’s quite awful.

Most of you know me as a horror writer, but that’s not how it started and it’s not all who I am. I play with darkness because that’s how I find light, but sometimes, there is only light, only comfort. These are the poems that you don’t see, but you will in An Exorcism of Angels. At least a couple at least. In fact, there are a few poems in there that are some of my favorite prayers to date, and I can’t read them without crying because they dictate some of the most beautiful moments I’ve had.

When I think of the collection, I often smile through tears. Like most things, it’s bittersweet. It’s dark yet it’s beautiful, loving but not without pain. But that’s life and I wanted to write the book because I wanted to preserve the memories, the moments that mattered.

Some of them good.
Some of them bad.
But all of them worth having.