onefootintheclay

Creativity and Spirituality with Joel McKerrow

Category: Uncategorized

Do Not Despair Dear Friends

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There is too much pain here. Have you seen it?
Or not seen it as much as felt it. Let the broken wrap around you like chain.
Like heavy chain. Like Sorrow. There is too much sorrow here.

It gets under your skin and changes the way you feel
and it gets under your eyes and changes the way you see.
A dark lens and everything seems hopeless these days.

Everything seems hopeless.

The little girls taken as sex slaves;
The suicide behind detention centres fences;
The black man shot; the little boy washed up on the beach;
The wife beaten; the president and his grabby hands;
The incarceration of colour;
The starving children, always the starving children.

Despair is an absence
and I feel useless
in the blank face of it all.

And yet, my daughter still makes me smile
and my son makes me laugh.
Yet the girl who was raped, she would not stop tickling her brother,
the both of them lost in joy.
Yet the girl with aids and with scabs in the streets of Kampala
she could not stop her giggling in the face of the fire
that burned through her body.
Yet the boy whose family had just been killed he still loved
to play paper, rock and scissors.
Yet they chase each other daily
through the bombed out buildings of a broken city.
Yet they fly kites. Yet they dance. Yet they dream.
Yet the mothers still sing and I have heard their song and it sounds like hope and revelry.

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I do not understand it
but joy still resides there, somewhere,
between the spaces of suffering
and amidst the affliction,
and beneath the hurting
and within the wretched.

Where joy should not be
there she thrives
more vibrant than anything.

So if they, those fractured friends, if they may smile in the face of it all,
then I too must find a place of gladness,
lest I deny them the delight they have to feel.

To honour who they are
I too must appreciate the way the sun rises always with colour;
I too must find the flowers growing like hope in the gardens;
I too must savour the taste of these words on my tongue;
I too must let my children draw me in;
I too must hold hands with delight and kiss the lips of extravagance;
I too must revel in this existence
and believe that the God who created this world
did not make it bland, nor tasteless.

She made it full. So full. So very full.

Beauty is everywhere.

Beauty is everywhere.

Beauty is everywhere.

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What #metoo tells us about ourselves…

Social media has been inundated with #metoo over the last few days. Many women (and some men) who are expressing, often for the first time, how they have experienced unwanted touch and unwanted words in the most cherished parts of who they are. I have sat with tears dripping down my face reading through these.

But what shocks me is that so many people reading these statements have then expressed shock at the magnitude of this reality. I think to myself, surely we know this as truth, that nearly every female in our society has experienced this kind of evil against them in some way. Hence the whole point of this hashtag. To show the magnitude.

That we are shocked at the over-arching presence of #metoo is perhaps one of the great evils about all of this. The denial of reality. Rape culture under the guise of #boyswillbeboys. A media/advertising industry that teaches us to think of each other as objects. All the ways our society perpetuates such evil.

That precious girls and women and boys and men have gone through this is one thing (and definitely the most awful thing), but that we as a society perpetuate such abuse is another level of evil altogether.

And that we have a society where so many of these victims have never been able to share this before and their first place of sharing is now on social media. Oh how this saddens me too.

I have been part of two identity formation courses over a number of years where one of the first things we ask people to do is to be in a small group and to share the entirety of their story with this group. They have an afternoon to do so. It is a group they then journey the rest of the year with. What has always saddened me about this is that 90% of these students have never had a space at any point in their life where they were able to do this. To share the highs and lows and dreams and fractures of who they are. To share their #metoo. To share their story.

So stemming out of #metoo my hope and prayer is that we would stop the denial of how prevalent this is within our society. That we would own it. That we would challenge that which perpetuates it.

That we would then create spaces in our lives and friendships where we can say face-to-face what our ME TOO has been. Where stories may be told and held in all their glory and pain. A world where women would feel safe. Where men would be honest.

I am so deeply sorry to every woman and man who has written #metoo in their social media world the last few days. I am sorry that you had to go through it in the first place. I am sorry that our society has denied and perpetuated it. I am sorry for my place within it. I am sorry that there has not been safe space for you to share what has really happened to you. I am sorry.

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Photos of Marija Herceg.

Just another classroom…

She spoke of the pressure to stand in front of the mirror and she broke. Eloquent words tripped over closing throat. She wept on the stage and then…the class held her.

The next told of her sisters anorexia and the class held her.

The next of the rape and the class held her.

Three school girls stood before their peers and the tears fell like the clouds were crying and none of us chose to lift umbrella. It was their tears and it was my own and it was the other teachers and it was half of the students. A downpour. Dancing in this kind of rain is a new experience altogether. This slow movement toward our freedom. A moment I shall not forget.

It is why I do what I do.

It is what I have given my life to.

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Finding Myself

And so the girl hands me her grief

and it is mountain. And all I want is to wrap her in the silent spaces and tell her that nothing that loud shall drown her in fear ever again. But I cannot lie. I cannot deaden the sound of a violent world.

Yet I do know that there is a silence that hides inside.

And I do know that it waits for her to find it.

And I do know that even in the midst

of all the noise and the yelling

that she might stand silent and strong.

I know this because there is a silence in me too.

I offer it to her.

Forgetting it is not mine to give away.

It is part of me as her silence is part of her.

So I turn to my silence

in hopes that she too may turn to her own.

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If her fear is mountain.

Her silence is ocean.

Her peace is a river.

A constant flowing.

A carving through valley.

An erosion.

She shows me the pages of her journals

and they wash over me like wave

and I sit in this car and the salty tears

meet the salty water of her words and I realise that if she is an ocean than I am one too. And I know the mountain that looms within me and I weep these tears till the ocean tides rise and my mountain looks more island than unclimbable. And so I tell her…

“Look at me. I am finding myself too brave girl. I am finding myself too. Only the brave ones do.” I tell her, “only the brave ones do.”

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BRAND NEW ALBUM

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THE MUSIC OF THE MYSTERIOUS FEW

Get it HERE

Two years ago Joel McKerrow & the Mysterious Few released our highly acclaimed album WELCOME HOME. Joshua Fuhrmeister was the genius behind all things musical on the album, working with the talented Richelle Boer, Leah Scholes and Jhana Allen.

Since that time Joshua Fuhrmeister has become increasingly sick of listening to my voice. Actually I think I might have been the one getting sick of it (or perhaps it was my wife). Either way a few of us really just wanted to hear the stunning music that sat beneath my poetry on WELCOME HOME without all my words getting in the way.

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And so it is with huge pleasure and excitement that today we launch- THE MUSIC OF THE MYSTERIOUS FEW. And because I am not actually in it, I can totally rave about it…woohoo…

Seriously this album is STUNNING. Since Josh sent it to me I have been listening to it over and over. It is best done so in a warm setting, under the covers, by a fire. Wherever you might get to snuggle up a little and let the music wash over you.

The Secret to Writing Good Poetry… (shhhh….)

I wrote a poem today. It wasn’t a very good one. It will not change the way we see the world or heal some lonely persons soul. It will sit there unannounced and lonely. Unread by all but a small few. But I am ok with this. 

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See I wrote a poem today because I write a poem everyday. Indeed today marks 365 of them. A whole year since I began this project. The choice to show up and write whether I felt like it or not, whether inspiration was brewing or could not be found, whether I had the time or had one minute sitting on the toilet. I wrote. Everyday. 

And geez so much of it is awful. So much of it will never be read again by anyone. So much of it makes me cringe. But I still did it and I’ll tell you what. Some of it rocks. Some of them have leapt off the page to scream at people. Some of it had been read and heard by thousands and thousands of people who have wept at the words and laughed at the words and found some sense of freedom in their lives that they never knew before.

I wrote a poem today and it was crap. But the only way to get to the good stuff is through the crap stuff. Indeed the very thing that will stop you from writing a good poem is trying to write a good poem. Sitting their listening to the inner critic and not quite even starting for its voice is so loud in you.

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So I gave up trying to write a good poem. Instead I just write and I write and I write. This is my job. Just to show up and write. It is the only way I would have come to the beautiful and the eloquent words that were waiting to be written and spoken. I never would have found them had I not forced myself just to write regardless. I never would have been ready when inspiration did come and I could feel her moving in me and on those days I would write knowing that something larger than myself was happening. The flow. The giving oneself to the flow. Some of my best writing came out of those times.

And you know, some of my best writing came out of the days I had to force my hand to the page and squeeze the ink from it like small drops of perspiration.

So to the writer out there and to the poet and the novelist. I say to you – Show up. Everyday. Show up. Show up and just write. No ifs or buts. No critique. No listening to the inner critic. Just write. For one year. Write. And just see what poems come to find themselves at your door. It will be hard. There will be SO many days you dont want to. But do it anyways. I promise you it shall be worth it.

The difference between those who do something and those who do nothing is that those who do something, DO SOMETHING. So just start.

I wrote a poem today. It wasn’t a very good one. But I am ok with this. Cause there is always tomorrow and the next day and the next and the next and I will show up at each of them…

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PS. Once you find that something magical through the discipline of showing up, then comes the sometimes even harder step, taking that something magical and working on it and re-working it, and re-working and re-working it. Making sure that you honour the magic of it by working as hard as you can upon the editing process. As Earnest Hemmingway famously stated, ‘The first draft of anything is shit.’

PPS. What got me going in this writing everyday discipline was THE DIRTY THIRTY CHALLENGE- it begins on Saturday and I URGE you to go and join in… https://www.facebook.com/groups/thedirtythirty

Today I think of the women…

I think of the woman who birthed and held and raised this man.

I think of the woman who gave this man her hand and her strength and her forgiveness. And still does so. Everyday.

I think of the woman my daughter shall be.

I think of the woman to whom I spoke this morning who spent the last fifteen years as a carer for her husband and now begins the slow remaking of everything.

I think of the slave woman and the beaten woman and the raped woman and the broken woman.

I think of the strong woman and the brave woman and the resilient and the fighting.

I think of the mother of my children. I think of the single mother. I think of every mother.

I think of miscarriage. I think of the barren.

I think of the Suffragettes.

I think of the witch trials and the burning.

I think of Gran carting sacks of bananas and Nanna making machine guns in war.

I think of baby girls tossed into rubbish piles.

I think of the native woman shot through by the cock of colonialism.

I think of the woman told that she should not have walked by herself that night and certainly not with that clothing.

I think of the lonely.

I think of the lesbian Christian. The bi-sexual. The queer.

I think of she who should be a leader, but was told that her place was to ever only be the kitchen, or the bedroom or the birthing suite.

I think of the woman held down, in a chair, held down.

I think of the widow. I think of the divorced.

I think of sex-slaves and of those twelve steps that led her to the bottom of that basement.

I think of the razor that falls from the scarred legs of teenage shame and the burning throat of trying to vomit out the pain.

I think of the girl without a name, or a name forgotten, or a name that was lost when they sold her off to marry a stranger that did not know her though he was twice her age.

I think of women elders, the champions of their people, those who show us how to live out of deep compassion when our egos get in the way.

I think of bossy bitches and sluts and skanks and arm-candy and bimbos and damaged goods and catfights and the stroppy and moody and hormonal and frigid and prudish and ice-queens and ball-busters and how we always label that which threatens us the most.

I think of ‘Working Mothers’ and why I am not called a ‘Working Father’.

I think of groping and cat-calling and wolf-whistling and the rating of looks and the baiting of hooks made of date drugs and manipulation.

I think of fear.

I think of looking over the shoulder, of crossing the street, of all the things that I never have to do.

I think of cleaners and receptionists and centrefold models and checkout-chicks and lap-dancers and AFL players and CEO’s and doctors and firefighters and plumbers and builders and surfers and scientists and teachers. I think of the gap between what HE gets paid compared to what SHE gets paid.

I think of the poets. Those women whose voices burn like fire.

I think of feminism. I think of Emma Watson. I think of freedom of choice. I think of the freedom to decide ones own fate. I think of freedom.

I think of God. Mother God.

And I think of my daughter.

I think of my daughter.

I think of my daughter.

My daughter.

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Super Hero

Too often I set myself to a pace
that is only designed
for super heroes.
There is some part of me
that fears I cannot fix the world
before time runs out
and so I push
and I push
and in the push
I realise perhaps,
I am just trying to fix myself.

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…and sometimes I empty myself upon the stage.

Every time I stand on stage I give myself to those who listen.
I let them have their way with my words.
I take what is mine and hold it out with shaking wrist, an offering. Everytime.

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And then there are sometimes, sometimes I give even more.

Sometimes I come to that point, the edge of no return. Where this is only one choice, do I back down from cliff edge or do I leap? To chicken out or to so fully and completely give myself to the stage, to their ears, to this moment, to their hearts that I fly and I fall knowing well that I shall soon hit the ground. An empty vessel smashed upon the rocks beneath the face of the cliff.

There are few times that I do this. That I completely and utterly empty myself upon the stage until I am no more and the world is a different place. There could only be a few times. It is too much. It costs too much. And you don’t know such a moment has arrived until suddenly you are standing at edge and the choice must be made in that split second.

And then when you do and you feel yourself soaring and you feel the rush and you feel everything leaving you, pouring out of you, and you cannot stop this. And it is at once glorious and painful. And everything else in the entire world disappears except for this, right here. You know that something sacred is occurring.

I have never used magic but I know that this is what it must feel like.

And you know at the moment that the divine has taken your teapot hands and she is the one now pouring, now holding, now giving.

The rush is indescribable.

Until the end.

At the end, there is the moment, when you have spent yourself, given everything, poured out of yourself until they are full and you are nothing and your body is trembling and you sway slightly and your heart is pounding and your body crumbles from the inside out for it no longer has the energy to stand and you watch as time slows down and opens itself up to you. The trickle of sweat takes an eternity to fall from left eyebrow. The world is silent. You take another eternity to look from the ground up to their faces. It is like we have made love and are not sure how to hold each other in the explosion of what we have just become together. No wonder the bliss and the pain and the freedom and the shame of sexuality and spirituality and creativity are all one and the same.

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This past weekend I went there. To this place. To the cliff edge. I threw myself off it. Sunday morning. New Zealand. A valley. A festival. I had performed all week. But this day. This day I leapt from the cliff and they watched me soar with tears in their eyes and I flew and I fell and I poured it all out and the moment ended and I felt the coming emptiness after the giving and I felt my body falling apart inside and I took the eternity that it takes to look up at them. And there they were, standing to their feet. An ovation. They knew this for what it was. It was not me who spoke for them this day, it was God. They applauded her and they applauded the cracked jar of clay that is me. They applauded and the silent moment grew so loud and it was then that I heard it. Heard her. Courtney. A Maori/Islander friend. She sang straight to me. A song of honouring above the applause, it quitened the clapping until it was her and me and then a chorus of voices that joined her and I felt the crumbling inside stop its fall and begin to rebuild.

I have never had my emptiness refilled so instantaneously before.

The ladies stopped singing and the moment held its breath again and then he stood. Kirke. He stood and he screamed into my face. He bellowed. The Maori haka. He looked me straight in the eyes slapping his thighs and pounding on his chest and his nostrils flaring and his eyes bulging and tears fell from my eyes in this honouring. He was giving it back to me, giving it all back to me in that moment. And then another voice echoing through the air, it was Kirkes brother Tui. And joining them now was Merenia, the strong young Maori woman who holds two worlds in her heart. And I looked again and there was my dear friend Hannah. She holds a hundred worlds in her heart. She stood at the back of the audience and her eyes were so large and in her face and in her voice was a thousand Maori warriors and I was no longer an empty vessel standing before them all, I was full and overflowing and the thousand Maori warriors bellowed inside my chest as these friends honoured my giving and gave it all back to me. They gave it all back to me. They leapt from their own cliffs and we met in the sky and we smashed upon the ground together and we stood together and held each other in this moment. No audience has ever given so much back to me and I doubt ever will again.

 

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