Kathleen M. Kelley
The Last Time I Knew I Was Praying
Outside the UN, we stood along First Avenue
watching the Pride March behind a saw horse
and a beefy, red-faced policeman,
eyes hidden by wrap-around shades,
hand on his pistol, sweating.
Queens in feathers preened for the cameras,
New York’s gay police paraded by,
tee shirts proclaimed: Put a condom on your dick,
Beat me up, Scottie, I can’t even think straight.
The S & M contingent turned the corner, cheering,
circling a leather woman cracking a bull whip.
Chains on people’s backs, and scars,
bruises blooming on bare, loose breasts.
When one of the Dharma dykes gave a signal, I thought,
Not here, not now. Don’t ask me to pray,
but she raised her arm and pointed three fingers high—
pointer, pinkie, thumb, and the march came to a halt,
as everyone signed I love you.
In the moment of silence that followed,
the bullwhip failed to crack,
the cop released his grip on the gun,
and the hatchet woman in my head
held her tongue.
Kathleen M. Kelley
My meditation training is in the Vipassana tradition. It is a concentration practice involving non-judgmental, moment-to-moment awareness. When writing, words come one at a time, one phrase at a time, one sentence at a time. I put my trust in that, try not to get too far ahead of myself when engaged with fresh, raw writing, and do my best to ignore the judge/editor/critic completely. Fine tuning raw writing, perfecting the craft as much as possible, is somewhat akin to using the deep teachings of Buddhism to help me examine my life in order to live the teachings to the best of my ability—my life as a work of art.
Kathleen M. Kelley’s chapbook The Waiting Room received a Philbrick Poetry Award. She was also the recipient of an Anderbo Poetry Prize. Her poetry has been widely published and anthologized. NPR ran a feature story on the writing group she facilitated, Cancer Pages. Recent work has appeared in The Massachusetts Review, The Connecticut River Review, Healing Muse, and Naugatuck River Review. She resides in Florence, MA and hopes her writing opens a space that makes both creativity and healing possible.