This is a spoken word poem that Melissa, a rising 3rd-year Mdiv student, performed recently at an open mic night. Unfortunately, the video from that night was too dark, so this is actually a re-creation of her performance that night…please still pardon the quality of the video 😉 The poem was inspired by her field education experience this past school year as a chaplain intern in a hospital. Melissa is a chaplain intern again this summer at another hospital in Chicago doing her Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE).
I got a B minus in art in the 4th grade.
I didn’t get another B for 10 years
And I gave up any hope of being an artist for more years than that.
I had tried and been found wanting,
So I would leave the art to the artists
And I would stick with numbers and then eventually with words.
Words could be my medium.
They can be inserted passionately into space
And their absence can adopt as much meaning as their presence
They can speak life or indict injustice
They can explain, and qualify, and be understood.
Unlike my 4th grade art that couldn’t explain itself.
That couldn’t cry out in self defense–
I was trying.
Words. Words. Words could be my medium of choice
While I pondered the possibility of me
I pondered another medium too.
Alongside my precious words, I found another art form that awakened my soul.
That worked with words but also with silence
And that used the 64 colors of the Crayola box
With the 65th color of the breaking of a heart
And the 66th color of the vulnerability of a hospital bed
I feel my words get jealous as I get acquainted with this new medium
But don’t you see, words?
I still love you.
I’m using you right now.
Together we’ll create our art, with this medium of words and silence
And color and breath and heartache and joy.
Our medium is life itself.
I tried out this medium recently.
Furtively, like an imposter, I painted and composed and mixed words.
I stood silently at hospital beds in utter confusion
And in awe of the vulnerability of our human condition
Masked more easily for some.
I entered into the pain of rejection with our sisters and brothers with mental illness.
I crossed myself with fellow Catholics
And waxed rather nonpoeticly when asked deep theological questions.
And I fumbled words of español and uttered honest prayers for our searching.
My heart swelled in the swirling of the graced mystery
I thrived on the poetry of it all.
Or so I thought.
Then I couldn’t leave the room
I felt trapped by his presence
And then trapped by my mistake.
And my iron ran low
And my frustration ran high
And suddenly, my new medium appeared as a fraud.
I was kidding myself.
There’s nothing poetic about ministry, about life.
He was tired of life
And I was just tired.
And my iron ran low
And my frustration ran high.
And my new medium appeared as a fraud.
I wasn’t an artist
And life wasn’t a poem.
I was bumbling and tired and life was a mess.
But outside my own willing
I’ve felt the beauty amidst the mess
The graced mystery swirls and I’m not strong enough to resist
Love has captured me.
So sooner rather than later
The romantic in me can’t deny the canvas being painted
And I want to be a brush.
Coaxed back to art with empathy and concern,
Iron and friends, the trust of my patients and the brushstroke of the Artist.
In my art with a patient
I thank God aloud that God has created her in God’s image.
So she can consider her dignity and worth.
And since art is meant to stir in us
Is it lacking in humility to say
It stirs me to consider that I am created in the that image
Of our artist-God too?
I am a brush and a pencil, a painting and a poem.
Art and artist.
Words and image and life and pain and beauty.
Our medium is life.
Maybe I am an artist after all.
This poem was originally posted on Melissa’s blog, like sunlight burning at midnight.