With/in

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by Karina Lutz

Recorded by poet


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Sometimes the bitterness arises again
and I remember its face.
I check my cheeks, jaw, 
the muscles
where it once lodged.

Sometimes I let go and invite
a smile: to start, I relax 
the clench, which releases the frown,
which frees the tips of the spreading mouth 
to rise

along with all that has been 
pushed down 
or sank.

And with all that,
gratitude also rises,
bubbling like a fountain 
through the top of my head.

Other times full of care 
I watch what has been frozen, 
and it thaws within my inner gaze
—if I can sustain it—
or I dig to the root of the feeling,
and there I find them again:
the grandmother I never met,
my mother’s mother, 
and my other grandmother,
and their mothers, and on back.

Without their stories I greet them.
I ask why still bitter? I
ask if they’d like to live vicariously:
a bite of horseradish or late-season kale,
a cup of coffee or chicory,
and let the story digest.

I sip and ask myself why still bitter 
and what it is I resent. 

Of course, my story is not enough 
here, as the ancestrexes
have sat down to tea, and we circle
to interrogate the power 
given to the fathers. The ancients can’t believe
we’re still living this crap.
Or they can’t believe how free
we’ve become. 
Or both:
gratitude stirs through
the bitterness, cream
through coffee.

I want life to be different 
than it is, and they applaud,
but also, I want it to be different than it was,
which is not helpful.

Except perhaps as these flares
they set out in my joints: 

Don’t believe the lie of power over.

I read the signal as my knuckles 
grow to look like grandma’s.

Don’t believe the lie of submission as defense.

Today a great grandma I’ve never seen,
wearing a crown of braids
says through glittery eyes
Don’t believe the lie of self 
as separate and defenseless.
one tip of her mouth lifting,
the other firm:

We couldn’t stop them,
but we arranged it 
so you can—

And we are with you.


Recorded by Rebecca Selove

Karina Lutz is a writer, editor, teacher, lifelong activist, and Work that Reconnects facilitator. She is the author of two books of poetry, Preliminary Visions and Post-Catholic MidrashimShe has taught writing, yoga, energy auditing, global water issues, sustainable systems, and green social ventures. She also knows how to make food, clothing, shelter, community, social change, and love. Her poetry blog is Poetry for the Great Turning.

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