Prayers For The Messy


Daniel Oines Creative Commons


I am messy.

I live in fear of the unexpected drop-in with a carpet bedecked in crumbs, a bathroom evident of life, a kitchen sink filled with mess and remains. I've had eating disorders which I suspect are related to the same root fear and desire for control, the right food at the right time made with the right combination of fats and carbs, the proper perfect amount of exercise all in the goal of control of the body, the control of the mess.

I am messy.

Fear of messes means you don't risk. It means, often, a waste of energy on making sure things are perfect, rather than enjoying what's happening in the NOW. It can also be a kind of procrastination technique, keeping yourself (or I should say myself) focused on cleaning or order rather than creation which frankly is one of the most messy things anyone can partake in.

I am messy.

I feel shame around it, the mess, the lack of perfection, the missteps or the waste of time this time I can't help but use to create order, a facade I suppose of what's really happening underneath, passions, humors, miscalculations, things inside me that don't always match up, inconsistent and bumpy.

Do we all feel this messy? Do we hide it in perfect homes or perfect bodies or perfect yards or perfectly ordered lives and careers and rules of how to be? Maybe. I know I feel this messy. Sometimes I just have to forget about cleaning up, and get to doing the work, which perhaps is just the same thing.

The only way not to leave a mess, is not to live.


Here's a poem and a prayer from a beautifully talented Austin writer, Abe Louise Young.

FORGET MAKING YOUR BED
by Abe Louise Young

(for Emily Joan)

Forget making your bed. Make your desk instead.
Let your bed sheets lie rumpled on the floor
with pillows underneath them
like elephants in the bellies of snakes,
with stuffed animals and a water glass
tipped over on top.

Forget the bed. Put the pages of your desk in order.
Line up the sheets from head to foot.
Smack the dust and grit off. Shelve the books.
Make your bet that what you’ve got to write might crack a boulder
like a light bulb, that a cone of butterflies will stream out,
that you could make a person you’ve never met
want to give birth through her eye sockets.

See those piles of old textbooks,
post-it notes, envelopes
with little plastic windows, job application folders,
nests of screws and nails and grommets,
empty condom packets, coupons for bulk soy milk?
Take it all and throw it out.
Would you sleep in that?
No.

Dream at your desk, then work your mind
through its torque. Mime the regular simplicity
of milking a goat. Every day, twice.
Morning and night.
A squirt of hot goat’s milk
puddles in a metal pail with each gentle tweak
of your mind’s nipples.
If you don’t, the goat will cry.
Have you seen mastitis?

So milk the stream down, thin as silky thread.
Stir the cream slowly so it turns to butter,
then heat it to cheese,
add those herbs you’ve spent years growing
in cracked pots on the windowsill.
Memory sits down gratefully
like an old farmer
and takes off its weathered, sweaty cap.
Out of the sun, off the fields,
in your company. Put out a loaf of bread.

Put your head where your feet should be.
Hug the pillows to your chest.
Pretend you hold a body, soft, trusting,
someone who’s not going to leave at morning light.
These are your readers,
the ones you need, the ones you are lonely,
brittle, adrift without, the other mammals
full of feathers, like you,
who miss their mothers, like you,
are ringed round with zippers, like you,
indented and passive, like you. But not tonight.

The night is big and empty on your desk.
Touch blank paper with your fingertips.
The paper used to be trees; seed,
soil, water and sun, which used to be
your ancestors’ voices and breath
buried in light without a box.
They will lead you to your readers.
You might never know them,
you might die before they’re born.
But tonight, hold them tight.
Make the desk sprout leaves and sing.
Make it feel like a sapling.

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