PROOF Drenched Renée Gregorio All day the long funnel that makes speech between my heart and my head surged with anxious energy as I moved among the bodies on the mat, asking and being asked: what matters? Later I held the wooden stick in my hands, executed pieces of a kata I spent all summer practicing— ichi, ni, san, shi, go, roku, shichi, hachi— and it streamed from my bones and my belly like the river in the San Juan Mountains flowed by our heads as we fell asleep listening and rushed over rocks so we could hear it as we woke. Then I said: The real tragedy would be if the river stopped running, if we woke and there was no water. Later I knew I have the body for this. Later he said, She is a Nidan. How many times do I have to prove to myself that I exist? The passion in my gut wanted to rise to my vocal cords. What I got instead was a churning whirlpool, boulders that blocked the water's flow so it swirled around itself, going nowhere. I want the trajectory of waterfall when I speak, joy running down, joy drenching me. He pared my words down to the barest statement, its simplest essence, the mountain stream finding its source. I raised the stick over my head, cut it down, extended it out to those in my circle. I told O'Sensei: Yes. One purple hydrangea blossomed in the patio outside the dojo as my teacher coached me to say it straight, and I did: I'm going to create poetry dojos. My voice lifted, the circle held— In this I get to give what I most need. ©2010 Renée Gregorio