by Arlyn Miller (Glencoe, IL)
Gathering the Waters
Approach the water.
Bring who you are
and what you have lost.
In its transparency
the water holds
Like light – every color contained;
though we cannot see this,
for seeing through it.
Enter the living water
which carries where it came from
and the mystery of its destination.
Immerse your self
and emerge with the whole
of who you are
which contains who you have been
and who you will be, though it may be
as invisible as light.
As if you didn’t have a body,
were all thought and feeling.
As if the clumsy feet, the aging hands,
the blemished skin and unwieldy hair
were not you. Most of the time
you can move about in this way,
and name yourself
what’s housed inside, incorporeal.
The water will disabuse you.
Temperature and displacement
a stark mirror: you are finite and imperfect,
separate from what is not you,
no matter how connected,
connected, no matter how separate.
The waters have parted
to make room for you
and gathered you in.
Neither have they drowned you
nor have you made of them a flood;
you’re not that powerful – only human
This time in benevolence
without violence or betrayal.
This time without someone else’s story
dragging you under, drowning
you breathless with terror.
begins with you.
Take the love you have been given,
that which you have seen
and that to which you have been blind,
and sew it together to make a whole
cloth of shelter and fertile comfort.
Pick a name for yourself,
the name by which you want to be known,
the name by which you want to know yourself.
A poet, essayist and journalist, Arlyn Miller was inspired to write these three poems while attending an international conference at Mayyim Hayyim, a progressive, inclusive, egalitarian mikveh and learning center for Jewish spirituality near Boston, MA. Of the three poems, “Gathering the Waters” (which was also the title of the conference), appeared in the Jewish Women’s Literary Annual, Volume 9, 2013, and is reprinted here with the kind permission of the author.
Arlyn is the founding editor of Poetic License Press, which publishes creative writing that is “authentic, accessible and engaging,” including the poetry anthologies, A Light Breakfast: Poems to Start Your Day and A Midnight Snack: Poems for Late Night Reading. Arlyn teaches writing workshops in the Chicago area. Her poems, essays, and articles have been widely published.