this was a ceremony

ganesh graffiti

Ganesh street art, found in Valencia, Spain

A somewhat difficult Monday morning, but we’re in it and moving forward. Awake before four, trying to sleep more and also feeling the pull to just get up, just get up and go write: you wanted more writing time, and now you can’t sleep. Take the time.


Strong workshop on Saturday, at Writing the Flood. Six writers, diving into words, risking the reading aloud. So grateful to get to be with them!

For one of our prompts, I read an excerpt from the beginning of the book Ceremony, by Leslie Marmon Silko. I asked folks to either respond to something in the excerpt, or to write about ceremonies (or both, and…).

Here’s my response to this prompt:

There aren’t ceremonies for us and so we make them whole cloth, we who have been removed from our ancestry, we whose people sloughed off languages and traditions and rituals, inflections and foods and dances, just to succumb to the mainstream melting pot of this american culture —

we were already without ceremony. We were already without magical words, without the teas or tuinctires or potions that our great great great grandmothers made in the old countries, wihout the dances and prayers that lept and lifted into the air based on the season or the tides or the moon. We were without the foods that our bones were bred from, we were without the stories — even before

even before that wretched substitute language was lifted from our mouths and replaced with a harsh cottony silence, even before he or she or they put their bodies against our bodies and said Stay and said Open and said Break and said Silence. We did not have the ceremonbies to retrieve our lost selves, and no one else did, either. So we watered stuffed animals, we pounded our heels on pavement or dirt, we found or forced honesty in metaphor set to lined pages in old notebooks, we opene dour mouths in the new churches, but it didn’t save us.

And so we found new ceremony to fill the places where we were stripped, where we were clearcut, where we were starched and bleached and boiled. Some of us raised our screams in gatherings that spilled into streets, we chanted, we banged spoons against pots, we wore denim and leather, I mean materials just too thick to penetrate. This was a ceremony. We opened our bodies and let sex drive sensation in. This was a ceremony. We opened books filled with the words of other initiates who had let their silence go, who had dug hands into threat and clawed out the cotton, who had found words for what was wordless. This reading, letting their language against our tongues, into our bellies and lungs, against the bald sides of our eyes, this was a ceremony. We ran for miles and didn’t eat. This was a ceremony. We drove steel into our forearms. This was a ceremony. We stole others’ ceremonies and called them ours, as our people had made ceremonies out of theft and denial. All these ways we worked to find ourselves again, because there was no one left to tell us the old ways. We wanted to find our place among the people who surrounded us, make the right magic so our souls would finally come back and wear our skins again, move our mouths and limbs with joy, re-endow us with the capacity to taste, to sing, to stumble and bleed and get up and keep going.

We stood with others, with others whose ceremonies had been stripped like ours, with those whose ceremonies lay long buried in the middle passage and burnt in Virginia or swung from elms, with those whose ceremonies were driven into railroad tracks, whose ceremonies were marched over trails of tears, people whose ceremonies had gone dormant because the languages to express them had been jailed and outlawed and beaten. People who had been told they didn’t need ceremony anyway — weren’t they men, after all? We stood and stumbled together. We were not enough and we were everything. We stood together like we weren’t supposed to., Every time we touched hands, touched one another, we breathed in a little better, we were ceremony.

Don’t forget an umbrella today, whether that’s physical or metaphorical for you. Thanks for your piercing brilliance, your good smiles, thanks for your ceremonies.

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