“To realize that within our grasp, in Zeta Tau Alpha, lies the opportunity to learn those things which will ever enrich and ennoble our lives; to be true to ourselves, to those within and without our circle; to think in terms of all mankind and our service in the world; to be steadfast, strong, and clean of heart and mind, remembering that since the thought is father to the deed, only that which we would have manifested in our experience should be entertained in thought; to find satisfaction in being, rather than seeming, thus strengthening in us the higher qualities of the spirit; to prepare for service and learn the nobility of serving, thereby earning the right to be served; to seek understanding that we might gain true wisdom; to look for the good in everyone; to see beauty, with its enriching influence; to be humble in success, and without bitterness in defeat; to have the welfare and harmony of the Fraternity at heart, striving ever to make our lives a symphony of high ideals, devotion to the Right, the Good, and the True, without a discordant note; remembering always that the foundation precept of Zeta Tau Alpha was Love, “the greatest of all things.”
Creed of Zeta Tau Alpha Fraternity, written by Shirley Kreasan Strout, adopted by the 1928 ZTA Convention
The nutritionist said I should eat root vegetables
Said if I could get down 13 turnips a day
I would be grounded,
Said my head would not keep flying away to where the darkness is.
The psychic told me my heart carries too much weight
Said for 20 dollars she’d tell me what to do
I handed her the twenty,
she said “stop worrying darling, you will find a good man soon.”
The first psychotherapist said I should spend 3 hours a day sitting in a dark closet with my eyes closed, with my ears plugged
I tried once but couldn’t stop thinking about how gay it was to be sitting in the closet
The yogi told me to stretch everything but truth,
said focus on the outbreaths,
everyone finds happiness when they can care more about what they can give than what they get
The pharmacist said klonopin, lamictil, lithium, Xanax
The doctor said an antipsychotic might help me forget what the trauma said
The trauma said don’t write this poem
Nobody wants to hear you cry about the grief inside your bones
My bones said “Tyler Clementi dove into the Hudson River convinced he was entirely alone.”
My bones said “write the poem.”
Considering the river bed.
To the chandelier of your fate hanging by a thread.
To everyday you could not get out of bed.
To the bulls eye on your wrist
To anyone who has ever wanted to die.
I have been told, sometimes, the most healing thing to do-
Is remind ourselves over and over and over
Other people feel this too
The tomorrow that has come and gone
And it has not gotten better
When you are half finished writing that letter to your mother that says “I swear to God I tried”
But when I thought I hit bottom, it started hitting back
There is no bruise like the bruise of loneliness kicks into your spine
So let me tell you I know there are days it looks like the whole world is dancing in the streets when you break down like the doors of the looted buildings
You are not alone and wondering who will be convicted of the crime of insisting you keep loading your grief into the chamber of your shame
You are not weak just because your heart feels so heavy
I have never met a heavy heart that wasn’t a phone booth with a red cape inside
Some people will never understand the kind of superpower it takes for some people to just walk outside
Some days I know my smile looks like the gutter of a falling house
But my hands are always holding tight to the ripchord of believing
A life can be rich like the soil
Can make food of decay
Can turn wound into highway
Pick me up in a truck with that bumper sticker that says
“it is no measure of good health to be well adjusted to a sick society”
I have never trusted anyone with the pulled back bow of my spine the way I trusted ones who come undone at the throat
Screaming for their pulses to find the fight to pound
Four nights before Tyler Clementi jumped from the George Washington bridge I was sitting in a hotel room in my own town
Calculating exactly what I had to swallow to keep a bottle of sleeping pills down
What I know about living is the pain is never just ours
Every time I hurt I know the wound is an echo
So I keep a listening to the moment the grief becomes a window
When I can see what I couldn’t see before,
through the glass of my most battered dream, I watched a dandelion lose its mind in the wind
and when it did, it scattered a thousand seeds.
So the next time I tell you how easily I come out of my skin, don’t try to put me back in
just say here we are together at the window aching for it to all get better
but knowing as bad as it hurts our hearts, made of only just skin, knowing there is a chance the worst day might still be coming
let me say right now for the record, I’m still gonna be here
asking this world to dance, even if it keeps stepping on my holy feet
you- you stay here with me, okay?
You stay here with me.
Raising your bright against the bitter dark
Your bright longing
Your brilliant fists of loss
if the only thing we have to gain in staying is each other,
my god that’s plenty
my god that’s enough
my god that is so so much for the light to give
each of us at each other’s backs whispering over and over and over
i guess the problem is that i think too much. and that i have these ideas of what life should be like for me and how i should feel and what’s supposed to happen. i keep wanting things to go a certain way and for people to be a certain way and feel certain things…and when it doesn’t happen like that, i feel let down. i keep wanting my life to shape out in this way that leaves out the possibility of it shaping out how it may… on its own. the truth is, i’m pretty sure that whatever life has in store for me is better than anything i could have planned because i really don’t know what it is i want out of life. and so maybe hoping for things and wishing things to be … well, maybe it’s just utterly pointless. life is going to come at me as it will, regardless of whether or not i want it to, so i might as well just take it as it comes. i could fret about how it’s not what i wanted, or i can take everything that happens as what just… is, and there’s nothing i can do about it and nothing that i should want to do about it. maybe happiness is how you react to the things that you can’t change. maybe the happiest people have the lowest expectations. maybe the happiest people trust that the best is yet to come. maybe i just think too much.
“If I was to break, then I would have shattered.
If I was to stay strong, then I would not be here.
For it is the man who crumbles, hairline fracture
By hairline fracture, splits that burst like scars
Of flashing lights, down the walls, through every
Hall of the red-bricked body that makes a builder
Out of clean hands, and fills them with wet mortar.”
“She has told everything
Except what she truly meant,
And in the silence of the breathes
That she hadn’t taken between
The whispers that fluttered
From her soft lips and rested
On the rim of my ear drums
Until quietly nestling deep into
My brain; she said all she meant.”
open your eyes and observe everything. open your ears and listen to everyone. at night, listen to the silence. open your heart and leave it open. open your mind and think. then open your mouth and say what you will. - EJM.