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Poetry & Testimony: Spelunking the Self

While poetry has played many roles over the centuries, at its best, it weaves history, politics, love, hate, fear, every aspect of life into a singular moment, a single conceit, a unified epic, complexity through simplicity. In honor of Poetry Month, and the role that we believe poetry can play in contemporary life, The Haberdasher is honored to share the following essay by Michael Jordan. In it, Jordan offers an honest look at how listening to Blas Falconer‘s poetry and life story at a recent Diversity Days event taught Jordan a truth about himself that was hard to swallow. Instead of burying or denying this truth, Jordan turned it into an essay that asks each of us to stop avoiding and start creating, not just art, but ourselves. While, as Muriel Rukeyser pointed out nearly a century ago, “Poetry is foreign to us, we do not let it enter our daily lives,” Jordan’s essay argues powerfully for poetry’s necessity, not to proselytize, but “as testimony to the truths of experience as they become form and ourselves” (Rukeyser).

Spelunking

by Michael Jordan

DSC_0120

Blas Falconer & Kazim Ali, WordFire 2013.
Photo Credit: M. Griffin

Sometimes in life we find ourselves traveling down a magically inspired road with not just one, but two very talented guides. Guides who are willing to share both their hearts and souls with strangers they have never met. I believe, for men to be so open and honest about their feelings and fears, they must possess a great deal of courage. Therefore, they deserve admiration and respect. This is something I have never said before regarding gay men. Blessings come in many forms, and it is up to us to decipher the blessings’ true meaning. Kazim Ali was great, but Blas Falconer changed my perception of the world.

During my last term in prison, I started down a road of recovery. It has been a long road full of enlightenment. Recovery is like walking out of a very deep and dark cave. In the beginning I was a convict and anyone not like me I hated. Hate gets layered on people like paint gets layered on a piece of old furniture. The more coats that get layered on, the deeper the hate becomes. The deeper the hate is the longer the journey out of the cave will be. Each section of the cave has barriers (issues) that must be addressed. The closer you get to the mouth of the cave the more profound these issues become. Simultaneously, the layers of hate covering our souls get pealed back, like the layers of paint covering that beautiful piece of old oak furniture.

I honestly believed I had left the cave and now lived completely in the light. My beautiful antique roll top desk, proudly displaying the beauty of its grain, always brings a smile to my face. We have come so far together. Before meeting David Sweeny I would have never believed I would love and respect a black man. Now, he is one of my dearest friends. Before hearing Blas Falconer, I would have never thought gay men should be allowed to adopt a boy. In my ignorance, I believed that being a gay man also meant being a pedophile, at least to some degree. I think I believed it would be ok for them to adopt a girl, just not a boy. Neither of these beliefs were beliefs I was aware of; these beliefs came from the deepest crevices of my sub-conscious cave.

Poet Blas Falconer presents at WordFire 2013

Blas Falconer, WordFire 2013
Photo Credit: M. Griffin

In his book and through his words Blas Falconer opened my eyes and helped me see the truth. The truth about a man’s love for his child. The truth about the beauty of another man’s heart. Unfortunately, enlightenment also brings forth the shame we feel over the ignorance we had just held so dear. I found myself very embarrassed and uncomfortable in my own skin, which is a feeling I haven’t felt in a long time. There were so many things I wanted to ask him, but the guilt of my own prejudice forbid me saying a word. In fact, the conviction became so strong I had to leave the room.

I apologize for who and what I was, even though I had no idea I felt the way I did; I also apologize for the ignorance behind those feelings. In my life of recovery, writing is the tool I use to free me of my shame. In short, the truth will set you free is a saying I believe in, and my writing is my truth. I’m both ashamed and embarrassed by what I’ve had to admit in this essay. My truth is all I have to keep me moving out of that dark cave that held me in bondage for so many years. I hope I won’t have to go spelunking again for a long time. I hope to one day be free of my ignorance and forever dance in the light of truth. I hope, I will, someday, I will.

About the essays author:
Michael Jordan is a convicted Methamphetamine manufacturer who discovered he had a gift for poetry during his last term in the California Prison System. He used poetry to process his life, which changed the man he was forever. After his release he self-published four recovery based poetry books. He is currently attending Butte College and will graduate with honors in May. He has been accepted by Chico State and will be starting there in the fall. He is lucky to share his life with Antoinette who has been by his side since their addiction days. Today, they each have nine-years clean and sober, all their children, and all their grandchildren in their lives. Michael’s favorite quote, which he wrote: Stay Strong inside for those you love, because love truly is all that is real in this life. Everything else is but an illusion that changes with the hands of time.
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About The Haberdasher

Created by writers for writers, The Haberdasher, or le Hab, is your Peddler of Literary Art for Northern California and beyond. In addition to writing tips and literary debates, we also feature critical reviews and author interviews.

Discussion

2 thoughts on “Poetry & Testimony: Spelunking the Self

  1. Thank you for your honesty Michael. I don’t know who it was, but I was talking with a teacher at butte about the phrase flip-flopper in our news media today. In national a dialogue it’s bad for a politician, or anyone, to be seen as a flip-flopper. In fact being labeled one could cost you an election, or some equivalent position. But I think you just proved that “flip-flopping” can be a really good thing too. You use to believe in something, something you now believe was harmful, and as you became educated or enlightened you changed you stance/world-view. Because you “flip-flopped” you now feel like you can move forward into an even brighter future than the one you come from, and isn’t that better than holding onto outdated convictions just because “flip-flopping” is a sign of weakness to some? I think so. Thank you for sharing once again, and I hope you continue to move forward in your life.

    -David

    Posted by David Puerner | April 28, 2013, 10:55 pm
  2. Michael’s words are powerful and inspiring. I’m deeply moved by his courage and insights.

    Posted by Blas | April 29, 2013, 11:01 pm

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