In Good Faith

Kirsten Hemmy

One of the signs of relying on one’s own deeds is the loss of hope when a downfall occurs.

—Al Hikam of Ibn Ibn ‘Ata’illah

How to be honest about this?—

The mind with its revisionist self,

all intention & ego. You want to say

something about your heart, the soul,

faith or even Faith, but maybe

you begin before: those last months

in your poet house, hidden bottles &

boxes, drinking sprees in closets, stumbling

through city streets, the landscape

a blur that terrified in its familiar.

Your best friend in another city,

hometown of breweries & corner bars,

had been for years seeking solace

in church basements late nights,

work weeks, holidays. Her effervescence

could not be contained by rooms or steps.

Long distance you watched her swim

against that tide until exhausted, she let go.

After the funeral, you resolved to practice

until you believed. Five times prayer,

ebullience as default. How many times had

she said, “Hi my name is         , & I am”—

& still, always already, thirsted for more.

To choose the buoy is not to say you can’t

swim. To wake before dawn, immerse

the body in water, kneel, & give thanks

is to say something about the body,

mind, your soul, memory—practicing

faith, at first counterintuitive,

is how to survive the riptide—

relax, move with the current, believe in

the existence of an imperceptible shore.

Kirsten Hemmy’s first book, The Atrocity of Water, was a Tom Lombardo selection (Press 53, 2010). Her work has recently appeared in CaKe, The Alaska Quarterly Review, Antiphon, Compose Journal, Glass, The Comstock Review, and elsewhere. A featured TedX speaker and former Fulbright Fellow, Hemmy teaches creative writing and poetry at Sultan Qaboos University in Oman.