Musings on Prayers and Kisses, By Jennifer Angelina Petro

Musings on Prayers and Kisses

By

Jennifer Angelina Petro

 

 

Trying to pray with your eyes open is like trying to walk with your eyes closed. One distracts you, the other confuses you, but the end result is the same—clumsiness.  Trying to kiss with your eyes open is more an act of will and wide-eyed-giggling than it is: “I must see where my face is going.” Lips know.  The soul knows. The feet do not without aid of the eyes.  Then again, it must be considered not all prayers are the same, just as not all kisses are the same. And I must say at the beginning, I am musing along with you as I write these words.  The ideas herein are like the aforementioned legs without eyes to guide them.  I do have certain experience, albeit limited, with both kissing and praying, but I am roaming these topics of heaven-given moments with as much anticipation as you to see where they lead.

One can kiss a lover, friend, or a child “Good morning—have a good day”—with eyes open (perhaps, however, while staring at the coffee maker or the clock).  One can kiss a lover with eyes open—wild, seeing everything—following the other’s eyes like search lights, but that’s usually at first contact—when clothes are dropping off ready bodies, like swollen seed-husks falling from blossoming flowers. Eventually the eyes close and you both connect, like living magnets, and both exhale–surrendering into that intimate vulnerability of having someone ornament your body with decorating kisses. We have an interesting distinction here: eyes open during the initial flurry of passion, then eyes close when things settle in a pulsing rhythm of bodies, and the feast of lips tasting lips.  Then, one begins exploring the other’s body with kisses as the other’s eyes close in deep, rising and sinking sighs.  And when the lips find the places where rapture happens both lovers’ eyes close. That being said, it’s not uncommon for the one receiving to have their eyes fly open with: “Oh God! Oh God!”  When the sweet release comes, and the waves shimmer through the body, the eyes most often close like the deepest, most calming, evening.  And when the lovers switch places, the process unfolds, with any luck, the same way.

Prayer is very much the same, only different.  So is singing, but that’s another essay.  In praying, as in nighttime prayers (that often slip so easily into sleep), the eyes close to shroud the whispers that kiss the dark.  Morning prayers too are most often said with eyes closed, head bowed before the body of the day. Of course, there are those prayers where the whole body participates, as when the sea rolls through your body during love making.  Dancing prayers, yogic prayers, walking prayers, making coffee for your partner prayers—these are all eyes-open prayers—even if your eyes are drooping with not enough sleep. There are vigil prayers when candles are meditated upon, and lives gone are reflected upon, and hopes for peace rise to the sky. During vespers, the eyes can be open or closed, as the prayers wish for safe sleep and warmth.  Then, there are prayers we pray for someone else—someone sick or struggling through a rough patch—these prayers are almost always asked with eyes closed in supplication and intensity, as when we humbly, or boldly ask a lover to kiss us in the places we want kissed.  There are prayers of wonder, as when we see stars and newborn babies and sunsets and moon rises.  These are prayed with gasps and awes, as when your lover’s lips find the tingling places on your body—eyes suddenly open with surprise and reverence.  There are rote prayers where the eyes automatically close because everyone else’s automatically close and if you sneak your eyes open and scan the room full of closed-eyed people you feel a sprinkle mischievous and a dash voyeuristic, and perhaps a pinch of outright rebel.  These are moments akin to opening one eye during a kiss to catch the reaction of your lover.  Both are perfectly acceptable, of course, for they inspire the fun of witnessing community and union, provided the eyes aren’t opening in either case with insecurity to check whether or not you’re kissing well or praying with the proper piety. Hopefully, however, there are very few rote kisses in your lives. There are prayers of prophecy—spontaneous and unplanned like wild, ravishing kisses predicting soon to come release. Your eyes are always open during these prayers while your lover’s are usually closed with faith and the sweet, blessed, little fear that sometimes accompanies letting go to the control of another. There are also the prayers of grace and blessings before a meal, which can easily be translated into prayers of gratitude before feasting at the table of your lover’s body. Lastly, there are prayers of ecstasy, when your eyes close seeing lights and visions, and the soul stirs awake and bliss shimmers through your entire body, and exclamations of: “Oh God, Oh God!” soar around the room.  We don’t have to imagine too hard to know which kisses these are like and where they settle and deepen and what the eyes do when such rapture happens.

Well, there we have it.  I truly had no idea where this was going.  Now that we’re drawing to a close (or a curious, intriguing opening) it is my hope this meandering piece inspires you to kiss more reverently and to pray with more wildness; to kiss with more attention and devotion, and to pray with more openness to revelation; to kiss more adventurously and to pray more like the trees must pray, like the sea must pray, like the shore must pray, like a hawk gliding on spiraling currents must pray, like the mother bear awakening with cubs must pray, like the owl must pray keeping watch over fields and marshes.  In other words, may our prayers and kisses become one and the same, where Lover and Beloved become one and the same–one breath, one sparkling river, one song of praise.

 

     

 

 


 




Inside the Inside, By Jennifer Angelina Petro

Inside the Inside

By

Jennifer Angelina Petro

 

 

Inside the inside

Of her breath,

Where songs live,

And praise,

 

There is a space—

Round as the cup

Of a nightingale’s nest,

Hidden by a thicket,

Wing covered,

 

Where she lives—

This little one—

Holding the uncorruptable songs,

The unmolestable poems—

Inside, like water roots

Of lilies,

 

She sits, tracing spirals

In the sand, watched over

By Euterpe and Thalia,

Terpsichore and Polyhymnia,

 

They cannot keep her

From being invaded,

From years of her life

Being stolen,

From her innocence

Being crushed by night

Predators and shadow-

Dappled afternoon monsters,

Though they try with all

Their might to stand

Bracing against the door.

 

What they can do

Is protect the breath

Inside her breath,

Where songs live,

And praise, where poems

Sleep, like nightingale’s eggs,

Where drawings manifest, like

Treasure maps,

Where dances unfurl, like

Galaxies, where music flows, like

Ribbons and rivers,

Where rhythm lives, like

The wing-beats of every

Rising phoenix. That

They can do.  And will

Continue to do until she walks

With them to the seaside,

And points towards home.

 

 

 

 

 


 





This Body is Meant for More, by Jennifer Angelina Petro

This Body is Meant for More

By

Jennifer Angelina Petro

 

 

 

It is necessary to dance,

In one form or another,

Even for a moment, alone,

Without judgment, or, at very least,

As little judgment as possible.

 

Dance over to the coffee pot,

Dance to the door, through the room,

To bed.

 

This body is meant for more

Than very nearly robotic, albeit

Necessary movements.

 

It is meant to unfold—fluid, grand,

Dramatic, slowly, curling downwards,

Rising upwards—arms outstretched–

Gathering and releasing a sky

Of a million suns.

 

 

 


 


Pockets of Solitude, by Jennifer Angelina Petro

Pockets of Solitude

By

Jennifer Angelina Petro

 

 

It’s easy to close your eyes

Surrounded by such stillness,

And the light from bright windows

Beyond which the day busies itself

With so many purposeful things to do.

 

It’s easy to stand in the middle of the living room

And become a winter tree, draped with a shawl

Of silence.

 

It’s easy to slip away into pockets of solitude

Where the keys to doors drifting away

Become little bird bones of a life lost

To a childhood of summer breezes filled

With fear.

 

It’s easy to let the quiet become your body,

To become as a cup in a cupboard,

A microscope in a dark closet, hunched over,

Like a monk studying spirals on vellum leaves.

 

It’s easy to never wish again, to can’t help

But noticing how fragile you are, fragile

And yet primed to become a leviathan

In the sea of your own life.

 

 

 


 


In the Rooms of Our Days, by Jennifer Angelina Petro

In the Rooms of Our Days

By

Jennifer Angelina Petro

 

 

 

Snow falls, soundless,

Layering on branches, like cells

On the body, creating silence

And drapery, touching everything.

The winter wishes for nothing else

Than to build up smooth mounds

Over the ruins of sleeping seeds

And the bones of animals that passed away alone,

Giving them the kind of protection required

For secret awakenings to warmth and light—

That we all need, that we all long for

As we stay awake all winter, walking back and forth

In the rooms of our days, unable to sleep,

Unable to close our eyes and trust the spring,

Unable to remember that once

We slept in darkness, that once

We emerged from the darkness,

That once, again and again, we blossomed

Into the hands of another, that we rose up

To a welcoming sky, and that we will all, once

Again, and again, return to sleep

Beneath scrolls of silent snow.

 

 


 

 


Trauma Returns V, By Jennifer Angelina Petro

Trauma Returns V

By

Jennifer Angelina Petro

 

 

There is a way of never reaching out to be held again that is like a tree standing in a spring clearing, never to grow leaves. There is a way of living knowing no arms could ever fill the emptiness you carry that is like walking alone down an endless dusty summer road. There is a way of existing that precludes any sense of being comforted that renders one’s spirit silent, like an empty house.  There are times when pillows become the receivers of the kinds of embraces and tears a scared child should be able to share with a parent, or, in the best-case scenario, a dear friend, or even a stranger who completely understands such ambiguous and deep loneliness. There is a way of moving in the world with such grief and loss, that it’s like having undigested food sitting in one’s guts, and yet, still being hungry night and day. Today, the pillows are once again receiving hugs and the tears that come and go in aching waves, because no one can ever be trusted to hold this grounded falcon, this being of living fog, this feral heart that recoils—thrashing from the offered arms, this darkness that is like living in stone and yet somehow being able to breathe and watch, but never to soften again. All the while longing to be scooped up and rocked, like a nest in the arms of a tree in the light of the moon.

 

 


 




Trauma Returns IV, By Jennifer Angelina Petro

Trauma Returns IV

By

Jennifer Angelina Petro

 

 

We are all surrounded by invisible doors.  Every step we take one opens and we drift through a threshold.  Sometimes we pause outside unsure of ourselves, unaware doors are opening all around us.  Once we take a step, whether we pivot the foot and turn around, or we move forward confidently—a door’s there—it opens—we’re through.  Can’t we stay in a room, or a backyard, or place of worship for a spell, or do we just keep stepping through door after door—doors leading to other doors?  That all depends on the needs of the soul.  If the soul’s task is to guide a fairly whole heart, and a nearly unscathed spirit to their next living temple, then there will be stops along the way in living rooms, bedrooms, kitchens where banana bread is baking, and coffee is brewing, perhaps a teakettle is whistling, and children are laughing somewhere just outside, perhaps there will be walks through cathedrals and forests, farmlands, mountain passes, and around lakes and ponds.  In cases such as these, the doors wait nearby, open just a smidge, letting the light from beyond its frame slant through over your shoes that you’ve placed by the previous door.  Should the soul’s task be—as it is for mine–to carry a heart and spirit damaged by trauma, then it is more like door after door, searching for that peaceful place, that safe place, that breathing place, and sometimes it’s never found in this life—it’s just one threshold after another.  Despite the soul’s wisdom and depth of wonder, sometimes the hurts she is trying to help heal are too deep, too sharp and festering, that the only doors that appear—appear like blackholes with wooden frames—doors leading into darkness upon darkness—into damp and moldy basements, into jail cells made of bones of ghosts.  Sure, every now and again, a door appears, and it sails by like a strange boat, and light surrounds it, like a mandorla, and singing weaves through the key hole, but it’s soon gone down—down into the sea of inability to trust, handicapped abilities to feel joy, enhanced abilities to feel shame and terror.  Right now, in this moment, I am standing outside an open dark door—and even if I try and stand still or change directions—as shaky as my knees are—the door opens like a maw and comes to me—moves over and around me, and I have no choice but to be in the dark belly of the door—the belly of I-Hate-This-Life-It-is-Too-Hard-to-Breathe-All-Hope-of-Peace-is-Gone-My-Body-is-Not-Mine-My-Innocence-Was-Stolen-From-Me-Damn-Dammit-to-Hell-Door.  And yet still—I am born along as my soul searches, moving, like a winding river of light, towards the house of many mansions, believing the promise is true.

 

 

 


 





Trauma Returns III, By Jennifer Angelina Petro

Trauma Returns III

By

Jennifer Angelina Petro

 

 

It’s hard to find a beginning when the end keeps moving away. Memories live—scatter-frozen—in each and every cell, like snow on each and every branch. Sometimes warmth comes—a little thaw—and healing rearranges the hurt into tears. Sometimes the roots of the heart are severed from the body, and the soul lets the roots and the heart live in her waters over years and decades, as she tries to graft them back together again. Until then the body exists with a mind that pretends to be a heart in that it knows what it should be feeling and doing and it attempts to be the way it thinks others think it should be. Except real hearts know the truth always, unlike well-intentioned minds. And the soul watches it all. And the monsters watch it all—snow shadows stealing towards bedroom windows. And the body searches for the beginning, while the heart longs for the end, and the mind wishes it could fix it all while spiraling into the dark. And the monsters slip through the cracks. And the soul moves the great folds of her waters around that heart and those roots, like a cloak of time and animal ferocity—making sure nothing hurts them again.

 

 

 


 

 


Trauma Returning II, By Jennifer Angelina Petro

Trauma Returning II

By

Jennifer Angelina Petro

 

 

Is it a longing for the divine that burns just behind every moment and interaction with someone? No, it can’t be. The divine is everywhere I turn and in everyone I see. This soul-loneliness then must just be there, like an underground abandoned and crumbling church lit by a single, ever-burning candle. No matter how it flickers in the winds of sighs and the passing of ghosts, it remains lit—an ever-present reminder of solitary confinement. There are friends aplenty in my life. There are people who love me and whom I love. There are times our voices lift together in praise. There are times laughter fills the room. And yet, the soul-loneliness lives just behind every moment and interaction. Trauma does that. It is a severing of lifelines, a smashing of lifeboats, a drifting away on the sea. This is not to say I am ungrateful for your company. It is to say: that lost look in my eyes is a shadow on the wall of that little candle in that underground church, and nothing, it seems, can ever fill that space with light and singing, community, and warmth. Please, I beg you, don’t ever stop trying. It is your persistence and compassion, and my limited abilities to be present in your presence, that keep me going. And sometimes I can stand in that church and feel triumphant, and maybe even sing in my weeping. Mostly, the soul-loneliness fills me with dust, as the church slowly crumbles. Trauma does that. It defines a perimeter where wounds cannot be reached. And the divine is everywhere. Even in that church. I know that in my mind. Trouble is—all sense of comfort and safety from that holy, living light were stolen, and so the divine feels more like a wind from somewhere far away, trying to make a wish and blow out that little candle. Trauma does that. May the birthday one day come.

 

 

 


 




Trauma Returning, By Jennifer Angelina Petro

Trauma Returning

By

Jennifer Angelina Petro

 

 

It’s there, outside my window. I’m standing still looking out into the dark yard. It’s there, by the early-frost-eaten-fallow garden. It moves, like a loosened piece of the night. It might be human. It might be a walking tree. It is most likely another monster. It leans towards the shed, lurching forward, it’s face sideways watching me as it goes. It’s also inside the house—coming down the hall to my bedroom door. I could crawl under the bed. I could hide behind the clothes in my closet. Outside, it turns fully towards my house and is at my bedroom window in one great, terrible stride. It crosses the threshold into my bedroom. My heart strains to not burst into pieces. I can’t breathe. There is nowhere to hide. They’ve found me again. They always were going to find me again—from within and without. I shut my eyes, clamp my mouth closed as tightly as I can. And then it happens. My body is no longer my own, and years of my life disappear into the ceiling and up, out into the late summer night never to be seen again.