Listening is my superpower. Like every superhero when they first discover their power, I fly above the atmosphere in my exuberance and then wonder where the oxygen went.
This too is my superpower, the fall fall fall into good green Earth, my love, who catches me with a splat. She knits me back together then pushes me from her grove to do as she asked, which is to listen and break again.
I am nearly 50. Years have been devoted to grinding this power on whetstone until it is thin and flexible enough to fit the in-between. Growing up around pale tall stones who talked like paper, I learned to find the spaces among them that would open up another dimension.
I raise boys, am married to a man, and I find that in this house that seems to grow its color, its walls, its safe curving spaces, its soft cushions out of my body, I do love to listen to these males.
They each identify their own feminine side, wear it in their long hair, sing it with their gay friends in chorus, speak it in their feelings, use their long slim fingers to coax it through their electronics and into the world.
This may be because of the portals, the female dimensions, that I have lit into being in this house. This may be because the boys born to me took it with them when they slid out of my body.
This may be because the Earth lives in them and through them, in the alchemical reactions that occur in the vessels of their brains that coordinate their walk on tall legs through the forest-fed air with the tumble of thoughts and images and sounds that emerge like electricity and are contained within the feminine spaces of these males.
When listening is your superpower, you must constantly be catching it by the edge and pulling it out to stretch it. I have forgotten to do this many times.
When I was twenty, I listened to black women speak of how feminism failed them, how it failed to represent the intersections in their lives. I heard them.
Over the years, I have benefitted greatly from feminism. As a space it has opened me, and I have opened it. I forgot that our patriarchal and white-supremacist culture would keep sawing away on its phallic violin outside of my space, within earshot. Somehow my thoughts started to line up with this static noise.
I forgot the whole people I had known who were people of color. I didn’t look for things of worth in black singers. I stopped reading black writers. In my own hidden spaces, I started categorizing people as likely poor, likely loud, likely not informed. Floating along with this part of mainstream culture turned out to be my Kryptonite. I almost lost my powers forever.
Which means I almost died, though you still would have seen me around town.
So I am back, and I am listening to the educated mid-career black woman who told me, with passion, that the people she loves are dying, and what I could really do to help is just believe her.
I am listening to the young black woman who believes in money, not power, because money is something that she and her peers can have. It breaks me open. I am listening.
I am checking myself when I think that the police “must have had some reason.” I am realizing that is those pale tall stones talking in paper-white justifications. It is my job to listen to the spaces between them, to what they’re not saying, to the racism and sexism that I have helped hand to them with my silence, and those spaces sing.
When I am listening, it’s not about me, my ears, my heart, my thoughts, my growth. It is the texture of others that lays against me. I imprint to their texture while holding my own, the most magical part of relationship.
People think that listening is passive or silent. They don’t know that it grows. Listening takes root and pushes itself to water beneath the surface. Listening grows stems, leaves, flowers, fruit. Like morning glory, it climbs and spills into new places. Like the smells of good curry cooking on the stove, it infiltrates everything.
My listening comes out in my writing, my voice, my choices that happen moment by moment. My choice to turn to the person next to me and support them. My choice to spend money, which is energy, which is valuing, on a person and their work.
My choice to reach out through my computer and write my goddamn heart out for these other women I love, love, love.
Let it be enough.
Amy Carpenter Leugs has written poems and nonfiction appearing in Voices, Peninsula Poets, The 3288 Review, and Parabola magazines. She is the author of two children’s books dealing with issues of poverty and difference, both published by UCOM Open Door Press. Amy resides Grand Rapids, MI with her husband, their three sons, and the wildlife of Plaster Creek.