My daughter and I were talking recently about the usefulness of writing. Journaling. Of artistic expression in general. I mean, how can you compare a poem with heart surgery? Or law? Or politics?
When I read Meditations in an Emergency by Frank O’Hara I find my answer. In this prose poem, New York School poet O’Hara reflects on his anxieties, his desire for love, his thoughts on nature and the realities of living in New York City. In these troubled times, I find solace in the honesty of O’Hara’s words. He openly shares, I am the least difficult of men. All I want is boundless love. Later he writes, My eyes are vague blue, like the sky, and change all the time; they are indiscriminate but fleeting, entirely specific and disloyal, so that no one trusts me. I am always looking away. Or again at something after it has given me up. It makes me restless and that makes me unhappy, but I cannot keep them still.
He shares his truth. His vulnerability. He isn’t seeking for a solution or escape; rather he appears to find comfort in releasing the thoughts in his head. Reading O’Hara encourages me to do the same, to write my own meditations in an emergency. Reading O’Hara encourages me to seek out other stories, and maybe share my own.
When we write and share, when we read stories and poems, we remember that we are not alone. We are all stumbling through life, doing our best, holding the joy and holding the sorrows. Calling out the horrors and counting the blessings. And we could all benefit from releasing what is too heavy for us to carry alone. We could all benefit from our own version of meditation in an emergency.
Maybe that looks like a journal entry. Or a poem. Or maybe yoga or calling a friend. So yes, heart surgery is definitely important, necessary and thank God for heart surgeons! But poetry, though differently, can also heal the heart.