If You’re Afraid of Disappointing People

A Prism of Shadows: Self-portrait in Front of A Brick Wall

If you’re afraid of disappointing people
come here.
It’s not your job to make them happy.
If they can’t be happy, it’s not your fault.
And by “they” I mean your parents.
And your priest.
And God.
Because if God can’t be happy then who the fuck can?
You don’t need to worry about disappointing God or anyone.
You’re not the only one who ever failed.
In fact, you are just like everyone else.
We all fuck up.
We are all lost.
We are all on a very big adventure.
Decide your life is something you’d like to enjoy.
Decide that you have the right to enjoy it.
Take the appropriate actions.
Go to a fucking yoga class.
Go to therapy if you’re too uptight to do yoga.
Do not drown your sorrows.
They need air.
Catch your breath.
Get grounded.
Imagine growing roots through your feet.
Stand like you believe
you are someone.

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Monday Night Nonfiction: the robot

Robot graffiti

Here is a weird little thing I wrote the other day.

the robot turned her head
from left to right.
it is a she because
it is beautiful.
if this was what they called being alive
she guessed
she liked it
the way her metal joints would slide
she liked the whir of
her electricity.
the robot turned her eyes on
and then she turned them off.
the robot turned her eyes on.
and then she turned them off.
the robot turned her eyes on.
the robot found herself a heart
until she got her own
it would do.
the robot said her prayers.
the robot was Very Good.
the robot did a sad dance
but the body said “joy” with its grace
and the robot took flight.

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Apocalypse Poetry: From Satire to Sincerity

Poetry for Your Personal Apocalypse - Mary Richert Hendrie

“I can’t think of a title for this fucking post,” I said.

“I think you just said it right there,” said Nimby.

I need to write a launch post for Poetry for Your Personal Apocalypse. But the trouble is, I didn’t get into writing because I wanted to “launch” things, so when it comes to this part, I never know what to say. Today, I will try.

The title started as a joke that only I was in on, an idea that came from watching too much Adventure Time and planning to attend a party on the night of the proposed apocalypse — Dec. 21, 2012, one of many misguided predictions. Who’s in charge of making these predictions anyway?

Well, I was dabbling in poems about the end of the world and watching post-apocalyptic movies and futuristic movies and weird anime, and that was faintly interesting but not enticing enough to write a whole poetry collection. Then, on the night of the apocalypse party, my husband and I learned our friend Pam was killed by a drunk driver. The next morning, I wrote “Crying for the Dead.”

After that poem, my focus shifted. I didn’t want to write a satire of the zealots’ destruction fantasy anymore. I wanted to get at what’s underneath, the real fear that has us asking every day, “Is this it? Is this how it ends?”

I wished I could have been warmer, kinder, more supportive, and more connected not just to Pam, but to everyone I’d met and lost along the way. I thought of all the girls I wasn’t friends with in school because distrust of one another had been bred into us. And I thought of all the suffering, fear, and loneliness people bear silently just because no one has ever reached out to help them carry the burden.

I know I can’t be everyone’s best friend, and the more I try to reach out to people, the more I find that I need firm boundaries to protect myself. But what if I made it my goal to connect with people in the most sincere way possible? Could I give them the experience of being heard, seen, respected and accepted? And could I open myself to being seen in return?

So, that’s how this poetry collection went from being a smartass joke about the supposed end of the world to being a love letter to anyone who feels like their world is ending right now.

I suppose it’s fitting that this post is going up on Easter Sunday, a day of resurrection and hope. Because here’s the truth as far as I can tell: Life goes on, and it is beautiful, and the best thing we can do with it is to support each other in whatever ways we can. That’s what this collection is for — to help you get through it.

The eBook is available through Amazon: Poetry for Your Personal Apocalypse

A couple of the poems are available here:
Crying for the Dead
The River

My sincere thanks go to Margie Markevicius for her assistance with formatting the eBook and designing the cover. Her help made it much easier for me to complete the project and get it out the door where I normally would’ve hemmed and hawed about font sizes and line breaks for months.

Finally, a quick housekeeping note: This collection is only available digitally at this time. My hope is to create several related collections and bring them together in a single large volume, but I have no idea how long that will take.

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Poetry for Your Personal Apocalypse: Crying for the Dead

Morning spring

This is one of my favorite poems from the new collection. I wrote this on the morning after the world was supposed to end, after learning that a friend was killed by a drunk driver, and it seems to encapsulate the whole idea of the personal apocalypse pretty effectively.

I know there’s no use crying for the dead
or singing for the dead
or praising the dead.
No use begging the dead for forgiveness
to buy ourselves some right to this stolen grief.
Waking up in the sunny world,
on the right side of the veil,
on the right side of this moment,
a thin, impenetrable wall erects itself between us
and even the sound of our wailing can’t shake it.
And with what voice would they answer?

All the little sounds of the living:
in the silence, the breath —
the wet breath of sleep,
the sigh of sheets,
your hand sliding between them
and the pillow.
The world is ending every day.

It would have been romantic at least
to die in the apocalypse
to be among the masses of humanity
brought together by our anguish
obliterated in one ecstatic moment
all of us wearing “I Heart Earth” t-shirts
vowing we will never forget
when forgetting’s far beyond our reach
all of us spray painting hopeful graffiti
on the cell walls of the sky.

In a quiet house
entertaining
the sounds of the living
the creaking floor
the rumbling kettle
just before the boil
coffee grinds shuffling along
to the bottom of the pot.
Everything whispers in the morning,
and listening is a privilege.

All sounds are sounds for the living.
All sights are sights for the living.
At this banquet of the senses we feast daily.
And they?
Are there hungry ghosts waiting behind the curtain?
We leave out bits for them, and they do not take.
We offer small treasures, a little bit of shine.
If they partake, they leave no sign.
We blow our smoke into their air
as praise and sacrifice
even knowing there is no need.
We make our offerings.
The dead become kings.

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Weekly Assignment: Read Out Loud

Microphone

One of the most self-indulgent things I love to do is read out loud. I do it sometimes just to hear my own voice. When no one is in the house but me and the cat, I take my favorite books and pace around the living room reading as though I had an audience hanging on my every word. This takes reading and writing out of the realm of a purely mental exercise and makes it a multi-sensual experience, engaging the ears, the breath, the voice, and even the full body as I pace, book in hand.

My poetry teacher in college said that at the end of each semester, after all the finals were taken and graded, she would go back to her apartment alone and read all of Allen Ginsberg’s Howl out loud. Personally, I love to read from ee cummings’s i: six nonlectures, but also anything by Ginsberg or the other beat poets works really well. I enjoy the sound of my own voice, the way words have a different effect hanging in the air and echoing off the walls than they do just lying there on the page. Furthermore, with a poet like cummings, hearing the words out loud makes them make more sense to me.

This week, take one of your favorite books and start reading out loud. Not sure where to start? Try anything by Dr. Seuss or Shel Silverstein. Maybe a favorite spiritual reading or a speech by someone you admire. Or use your own writing — reading your work out loud is a great way to figure out where the little phrasing snags are and smooth out your rhythm.

Luxuriate in the sound of your own voice. Feel the power of the spoken word. Notice whether you seem to take on the qualities of the author or narrator you’re speaking for. When I do this, my cat always comes to listen, and he expresses a clear preference for certain poets — he hates Marianne Moore, or at least the way I read her, but he rather enjoys Sylvia Plath.

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