To Something New, Something Strange

 

This strange winter has offered a lot of my favorite kind of days–the kind where the sun is blinding, an almost cold light, yet it warms the wooden floor beneath my socks, my large windows in this old house give me a 360 view of the white, bald landscape of glitter. The abandoned church across the intersection on my quiet avenue juts up white into the blue-cold sky. I can see it from here as I write. It was around 15 degrees this dotmorning when I walked to my appointment. And pushing the frozen steps and treads behind me, the familiar feeling I so love comes back to me, as it always does when I walk, which began and became a sort of meditation for me over a year agdot3o. My mind sort of starts to forget the temperature, and begins to notice the precision in icicles, the light coming up reflecting and drowning in the crystal, aligned perfectly yet different, on the silent porches I pass. The pines that overpopulate my little town are too frozen to feel the full weight of the mounds of snow on their branches, frozen in their bowing. And I watch for a few certain things: rhythm, juxtapositions, and the stunning mathematical symmetry–the geometry of nature. The perfectly aligned needles, the color they have faded to against the backdrop of a white wooden fence dulled by the season and weather, a whole other world of gray, and the skeletal branches of the burning bushes that line this one avenue like crayola brains, their branches now grayish brown and articulate and criss-crossing and of some design that is as old as the earth. The bird’s chorus, patterned to their chaos at that certain moment in morning. There is geometry all around us. And maybe it is just in this form or state of mind that I find it all so simple and yet sacred, there for anyone who sees it.

Once I hum along the streets to this rhythm of breathing and noticing and even pausing some times, that’s when my mind starts to open. And it occurred to me in a sort of unfolding a sort of truth I’ve known but never worded for something about the past couple years: I have been given a second chance–a second chance at giving this life a go, at becoming a woman from a new identity I held onto or dreamed up when all I was ended in that mental hospital, and kept leaving me for a year or two afterwards. It was death every day for a very long time. And this small part of me woke up every day and kept going, getting up every morning through the dark and then into the nothingness after the dark, and then into finding purpose, where I began making subconscious decisions as to what purpose I felt was mine–so many. I went from silence for over two years to a sort of coming to at the reflection of gray blowing branches in the puddle I moved around. How I had stopped and watched the sky reflect in it, and then I stared at the water itself and watched it stream down the avenue, and I heard it trickle into the gutter like a summer downpour Read More

To Emma on Her 20th Birthday

 

Dear Emma,

“Let your soul stand cool and composed before a million universes.” –Walt Whitman

This I am writing to you for you to read on your 20th birthday. I chose this age because this is when you really begin understanding what it is to be a young woman, and I want you to carry this advice into womanhood. I found out late and I think it is important that you hold this close to who you are.

First of all, and ever so importantly, don’t be a “good woman.” Be your own kind of woman.  As you get older, you will learn “good” and “bad” are quick judgments.  “Re-examine all that you have been told…dismiss that which insults your soul.” Explore your sexuality and do not be nervous about it. Read de Beauvoir, Virginia Woolf, and Roxanne Gay, Allen Ginsberg—so many. Read every kind of religion and faith and science—from Buddhism to Islam, astronomy to Christianity, Taoism to neuroscience. Study. On your own. And learn the history behind you—mine, yours, ours, and the women we come from. We are survivors, in big and small ways, as you will learn about me as you get older.

Take care of yourself–mind, body, and soul. Love yourself. Break rules. Don’t let authority hold its sway over your instincts. Don’t break the law, but always trust your gut. Trust me on that one. Your body is your temple, your mind is just thoughts, not always your friend, not always your enemy, but what counts is your heart, and you my darling, have a big one. Follow your own rhythm. You do not have to get married and have children and the house and the career. This is just a picture painted for you on how you’re “supposed to” live. Do what you feel you need and desire. Men are not “others”, they are human beings with hearts and souls, fears and insecurities and passions just like you. It took me a long time to really understand that. But, as you know so far and as you will learn as you and I grow older, is my past was hardly conventional, and nowhere near safe.

Take care of people you love, but never put yourself second in your mind. Love yourself, honey. And if you fear you don’t, find out why.  Face every fear you have.  Fear will remain, but master it.  Face it head-on. “Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear—not absence of fear.”  Mark Twain. There are dark times in life, and you may lose your faith. But you will not lose love, I promise. And if it gets to a point where you feel no love and see only night, know that you are loved, and those loved ones will carry the weight for you when you can’t.  Trust them.

Travel.

See the world, what you can of it. Sometimes, it’s ok to pack up and just go. Don’t worry so much, but be cautious, as you always have been my Tootie.

Write. Write your heart out, as you’ve always loved to do, even if it is just for yourself, and hold your privacy as a treasure. Writing healed lots of broken parts in me, and because of that I pieced back together bit by bit, and I am proud of where I stand. I have become a woman and I own myself.

If there is something deep inside of you that drives you, go towards it. Don’t be afraid. If you are a physicist or work retail—it doesn’t matter, as long as you are original. Think for yourself, question everything, as you and I always do. Know that you have it in you to do great things. I’ve seen it already.

You are a curious creature. And sometimes you are shy and sometimes you aren’t—I treasure that in you. You are blooming like a flower at twelve years old as I write this, and it is an honor to see.  It fills my heart so much, to see you healthy and loved and curious about learning and having all your friends. Don’t let the world stunt your growth. The real world is inside you.

You turned five when my battle with my past got what was left of the old me. Five was the age my abuse started in childhood, and when you became a little mirror image of that little me, I was desperate to keep you safe and protect you from the world. My PTSD was hard on you, and I own that. Worry, worry, worry as mothers do, all I have to do now to know you are okay is see your face when you walk in the door—flushed and sunned and bright, or laugh and dance with you in the kitchen, your relentless wit making me giggle even after you’ve left the room. Our late in the evening talks about friends and the confusion that comes with growing up–and there’s something in all this – you and I have made a small sanctuary over the years, and it is wonderful to come home to. Always make your home a sanctuary, wherever you are.

I bring up the PTSD because I want you to do two things for me. First, I want you to show others with mental illness or disorder the same respect and compassion you have shown me. In a world where people tend to treat illness or trauma as a fault rather than what it is and can be-a hard, admirable struggle. I want you to do that. Second, if you yourself should ever find yourself struggling with and feeling overwhelmed by something inside you, know that it is okay to be afraid at first, because it is scary. But also, know you have to face it—don’t run. Running only takes up your precious time as I have learned, and you will never outrun yourself.  I want you to know that you will get through it. You will learn from it and how to deal with it. Any circumstance that changes you can be also taken as an evolution into another stronger force, learning even more so who you are and what you’re made of.  You will have to make a choice if that happens—you will have to decide if you’re going to see the beauty and power and strength in risking change, making room for you to spread your wings.

Don’t fall asleep in your life.  Be as hungry for it at 20 as you are for it now at twelve. You are so hungry for experience and knowledge and excitement and nothing stops you. Don’t ever let that go. When you find yourself without an appetite, it is time to reevaluate.

I’ve never considered being a mother to you as work or a role. For me, it has been the greatest gift I could have ever asked for. You are loved, Emma. You are cherished and you are watched out for. And now, as you enter into womanhood, it is the time for learning to love yourself, cherishing yourself, and watching out for yourself.

So now go forth into the fray, and let the wild rumpus start.

Love,

Mom

Hymns for the Broken

Listened to Luis Alberto Urrea’s podcast at Tin House “Hymns for the Broken”

and I didn’t know how it affected me or any of my feelings and comprehension until after writing this post.


 

Grapeling–this post is because of you; thank you for taking the time to

making my feelings finally emerge and surface. It’s been a while. 


I told myself if I had nothing, that’s what would come back. I spent too long after filling my hands with what I thought I could keep, only to find that what was within me was beneath the soil, deep in bones. All I had to do was stop. Stop giving myself away.   –me, this morning



“Don’t you know–everybody’s broken. That’s what makes us holy.”  –shaman in Mexico


LEONARD COHEN SANG “THERE IS A CRACK IN EVERYTHING, THAT’S HOW THE LIGHT GETS IN.”


“–and those bad men that tell you to be ashamed…take their drills, look for the scars to re-wound you–But she says ‘we kiss you upon your scar to show you you’re beautiful.” –Luis Alberto Urrea, on the Tin House podcast “Hymns for the Broken.”

Write with purpose. Reach out to me. I need you. I am stripped but not afraid. 

 

I write to take my own hand and lead myself back out into light.  That is a line from Urrea’s Hymn. He goes into a story about being the misfit, the out-of-place one, the outcast–taken away by guardians into abuse and ultimate shame. This, as he goes on and his voice rises, is why he writes–because a part of him is always going to be in that chair. And I’ve been reading up a lot (for quite a long time now) on finding one’s worth, your possession, the bones of your gut, the mother you are to yourself. And I am taking in and letting go so many things, so many past and done parts of myself that have had their time and I will not retrieve. But I am retrieving the indestructible parts I am made of. And I gotta say, it’s fucking emotional and I didn’t even know it was until Grapeling commented on “Reflecting” –you know what he said? I’m going to cry again. See, I’m so good at shutting off emotions still, that I don’t even know I am until someone says something so beautiful and real and almost painful, and reminds me why I am here; why I write.

He said: “Amy, when I read your work, it reminds me of Leonard Cohen’s line – ‘there is a crack in everything -that’s how the light gets in.’
Peace ~”

I looked away, and then read it a hundred times. And put it down again. But it followed me all night and morning. And there I was listening to a fellow writer and survivor’s podcast and he quoted the same Cohen line. And I was suddenly sobbing. Because Urrea then says about himself as a child: “I’m trying to write for him, but I can’t do it. I need you. I can write for him, but you know what I can’t do? I still can’t take his hand, I can’t lift him outta that chair because I’m still ashamed of him. Shame. They teach it to you…for ‘your own good’…and I propose that anyone who changes you–anyone who betrays you, anyone who gets out “the drill” for you, anyone who leaves you, because you aren’t good enough?–is an ASS-HOLE.”

I haven’t been writing but thinking a lot lately, living a life lately. Working in a women and children’s shelter where mostly I feel good about what I do there, but sometimes, like last night, I couldn’t shake it off. I couldn’t not bring it home with me.  What I am talking about is awomen all over the world in these situations though. Because what can happen mirrors what happened to me on a very deep, personal level. In the one of two areas I haven’t figured out how to heal from yet. And it’s hard my friends. It’s very big, the biggest thing yet, but the difference is I am able to stand, withstand, and remain steady at the helm. I have become captain of my own ship. Finally. And I don’t want to lose that. But I prove to myself not on purpose but by the cycles and rhythms of my nature that I won’t lose it, that yes I am cracked and sometimes those cracks feel like land mines or crevasses and I am on the mountain about to get swallowed up. And I wait. And I continue with my life. I find joy and sorrow in a forming balance. And getting swallowed doesn’t happen. These words I must tell–my story I must tell–is changing shape. I am changing. And the facts are there are some things you don’t recover from, there are some things you can’t get back anyway–and you do not “heal” in the sense you’d think, you only learn to adapt and live differently so that you not only survive but you thrive. I never meant to write to let light in. I never knew I could–and I’ve heard it once or twice before kind of, but I tell you I can only write what I know and it feels very selfish. Very egotistical. But I also know that right now, there is a girl the age I was when I was shamed and ashamed and wounded, and she’s at the bottom of the mountain not knowing where the ledges are to clutch her little fingers to. And I am writing this for her spirit that is about to break. And there is a young woman who will disappear soon, and I write and I pace and I outline and I take notes and I feel everything I can through my own forms of grounding and meditation and calm.–I do this not for me anymore, well I do it because it’s like the beast or birds in me that never sleep, it must be said and said well. But I do this for her. I am honoring what she is about to experience. I am honoring her suffering. I suppose this is my Hymn for the Broken.

I wish I could meet these girls and women–before, during, and after. And there’s nothing I could say to them, accept that there is love. You will survive, I command it, because you must feel this love that is at the end of that road–whether anyone loved you or not, you loved yourself, because you didn’t give up. You must hang the hell on without knowing why. But hear me. Hear my voice.

 

Amy

 

 

Tripwire, Cigarette, Pencil

Tripwire, Cigarette, Pencil–in that order.

THE TRIPWIRE–TO TRICK AND CATCH ME, KEEP ME LOOKING, ALWAYS LOOKING WITH ALL OF MY SENSES, KEEPING THAT INTUITION SHARP AND PARANOID.

THE CIGARETTE–FOR ATTEMPTED ESCAPES, FOR GRANDIOSE TAIL-CHASING, ESCAPADES IN THE BIN, SMALL REWARDS FOR BAD SHORTCUTS, COMPRESSED AND REPRESSED PASSIONS, DIRTY GOODNESS AND SNEAKY REMORSE, THE ULTIMATE CURSE FOR ALL OF US THAT WRITE OR PAINT OR PLAY AND COMPOSE–BECAUSE WE DON’T CARE ABOUT OUR BALANCE IF IT’S GONNA TRIPWIRE THE PROCESS; BECAUSE WE KNOW WE WILL NEVER PERFECT THAT SONG, THOSE WORDS, THAT VISION, THAT SOUND IN OUR MINDS AND HANDS, PLAYING OUR BODIES AND ABUSING OUR MINDS THAT NEVER REST.

THE PENCIL–ALL I HAVE.

We Wanted Selves

 

“When your lost, and you low, and you can’t get back again, 

I will show you you’re so much better than you know….

you think I’d leave you down when you’re down on your knees? I couldn’t do that…

…when you’re cold, I’ll be there to hold you tight to me 

when you’re on the outside and cant get in

i will show you you’re so much better than you know

when you’re lost and alone and cant get back again

I’ll find you and bring you home

If you want to cry I’ll be there to dry your eyes

in no time you’ll be fine

…If only you could see into me

when you’re cold I’ll be there to hold you tight to me

when you’re low, I’ll be there by your side…”

Sean Rowe, “By Your Side”

After second grade, I can almost draw the picture of myself falling apart and inward–in my bedroom staring into the closet in Green Bay, lining up dolls, the rituals beginning. But that’s another story. My sisters though, we never made a pact, we didn’t have each others backs out in the open–that was dangerous, and I am not even sure why. Maybe it was a matter of self-preservation. But we didn’t need to make one, a pact. We swore ourselves to each other from the beginning. Like my father driving drunk in the car on the back roads, my door flew open, I was maybe three or four, and I remember Nikki grabbing me so fast and holding me in as best as her little body could hang on. And that’s how she’s always been with us. Our sanctuaries, we knew, were not impenetrable to the one person I feared and hated and loved all at the same time; but they were strong enough to maybe remind us that we had each other, and I remember kind of feeling like the world would only get meaner. And maybe strong enough to have the hindsight that we weren’t going to be entirely OK, maybe not ever, but if we were OK together, then that small sanctuary would have to be enough. And it was.

But in the corners of the sanctuaries we were able to create together late at night when everyone else thought we were sleeping, a sanctuary, a home; we respected how each of us was designed (though we hardly understood ourselves) safety, and sort of a reference to each other like-

“–did you think he should have hit her? OK, I didn’t either, maybe it’s wrong? What do we do?–“ Read More

This Spin

The nights have been getting so cold for a while now. I have been absent from my writing, and instead of forcing myself to write a poem or a weird essay or some shit, I thought maybe I’ll just sit and write. Conversationally. I’ll just…write. Let my agenda fuck off and the words just come. That’s like giving your inner critic a Tom Collins. Several of them.

I’ve been busy painting my new home into a modern minimalist artsy but thrifty home I want to feel like I am myself in. Tall ceilings, gray walls, white trim and windows, no curtains this time, keep it clean and light, black metal and soft wood lighting, Picasso’s framed poster “Blue Nude,” simple frames sparingly up with my daughter in black and white, the white warm linen shade propped up by couch on angular wood legs, hardwood flooring, no rugs. There’s a writing desk where our family photos cluster nicely together all cozy. But I want room. Room to breathe and think and be myself and I’ve always wanted to do this but for some reason never thought it was “me.” But I’ve always loved the way atmosphere in a room (I’m a lighting fanatic, even particular bulbs) can settle over you like a calming smell or certain albums. Certain feels that settle and relax your skin.

So I have been, in my painstakingly slow paint sessions, cleaning, short work shifts, three a.m. walks under the street lamps in my silent neighborhood, I have been using all of this time to settle in, yet further into myself, and out of myself, with forward momentum.  I thought maybe I had been escaping into things for months and months, maybe even in a certain someone,

…but the truth is I was looking at myself in the mirror the whole time and just waiting for my image to come into focus. And it isn’t really a mirror but a black frame propped up against the plaster wall of this old house. I am not hyper-focused, I am just….there…wondering what it is that seems to turning over and over in me, trying to tell me something.

And there were evident facts, like the person I told everything–everything to–told me I was “incredibly scarred.”

and

“Well, look at your life, your past, your scars, all affect now-look at your job, at what your write.”

And that bothered me, because it hurt, because it’s true. And I handle it. But that’s not what was turning and pushing its way.

I have a date next month with an old friend. He’s coming to town for the holidays. we’ve been talking. But no, it’s not that. There’s no pervasive anxiety with that other than wtf am I going to wear.

New flashbacks came up–a memory lengthened and highlighted and felt. Yes, the awful thing I saw in that flashback is real, because I remember it like I remember sleeping with my stuffed Kermit when I was nine. Every night. But I also know that the more you start to heal, the more you start to live your life, the more new doors open. So I scheduled an appointment with my psychologist and to discuss a few fears I know I can master I just choose not to write about.

PTSD does not go away.

But you manage.

Because the beautiful things in this world are worth the terrible. And I am mastering something ever so slowly but surely–the scary things, the fears, the fears of rejection, abandonement, attachment blah blah blah–all of these things are becoming…okay…because I let them have their room, and feel them when they arrive, but I am now able to recognize when that’s what pops up and affects me. When you feel the shit, set it aside, and put yourself in check–rejection and even abandonment stop hurting–because you take the power away from those that held those in their hands over you, and you stop, and it all comes from within. I am not abandoned because I have MYSELF, I am not going to be hurt by this or that rejection I risk every day with more honest words-I am not going to hurt because I do not reject myself. And I feel like I am in my center again and it spins and pools and it is lovely. This center is becoming so familiar to me, as familiar to me as anxiety, now it is this nest, this pool, this safe place to push for more and more life, more experience, more love, more curiosities….

The thing turning in me is this: I am living. I am challenging the borders I have limited myself by and I am pushing them back kind of easily. And with the choice of deciding to try new things like different approaches, kinder words, more blunt and honest words, standing up for myself, stopping pleasing people-one at a time; knowing the kind of woman I am without needed descriptive labels–I can’t describe who i am, but I like her. And there’s no need to explore any further.

The Point: Difficult Degrees

~the Point, & in a Poem

DIFFICULT DEGREES 2017

(an introduction to a poem/work-in-progress):

My childhood memories consist of either feelings OR images–feelings in my chest of space and a sort of vacuum…like a nameless, empty thing that can be filled by other things, other people, other parts of myself I could easily call upon and discard, but it constantly emptied, and  I forever got hungrier–and then transparent in how lean I was growing and not developing but filling, emptying, filling, emptying, knowing the walls of this kind of stomach were wearing thin. I am still learning to or trying to learn my autonomy, and I am not sure I want to find out if that sort of loss can be taken back. As for the visions, well that’s the funny thing–the images are steeped in color and sound and smell and more than ever–the feelings in my stomach. I cannot remember much about three years of being a six year old to an almost nine-year-old in a bigger city except that my sisters were starting to slip, or just did, for a while, there, and I felt cornered and afraid a lot, and the nasty green/yellow stain-like flu in my stomach was all the guilt I carried that I didn’t understand unless I released the temperatures and pressure and acted out through play, which I certainly did. But I kept a tight lid on it. I remember my sister in red corduroy’s rollerskating on tin wheels at my command in our basement after schools, the drain wet in the floor. The more I laughed, the more pleased she was. Somehow my sisters and I went our separate ways after moving there, but managed to remain somewhat fragmented together in the house. But fear wasn’t shared, sadness together over our real father I do not recall, though I remember crying alone for him every night for a very long time between my bed and the wall on the radiator.

My visions and feelings tell me we went from four, five, and six year olds who didn’t have a care in the world with our mother married to our biological father, staying out at the farmhouse with all the aunties, uncles, and cousins–I have a menagerie of body memories of the times in around four or five years, I remember very little, but I remember in a sort of tunnel of clips and sounds and smells–music from the seventies, and Pine-sol in particular
. And my stepfather’s shoe-polish and aftershave.

But after second grade, I can almost draw the picture of myself falling apart and inward. But that’s another story. My sisters though, we never made a pact, we didn’t always have each others backs out in the open anyway, where it wasn’t safe. But in the recesses of the sanctuaries we were able to create together late at night when everyone else thought we were sleeping, we were each others’ home, we respected how each of us was designed (though we hardly understood ourselves) safety, and sort of a reference to each other like-

“–did you think he should have hit her? OK, I didn’t either, maybe it’s wrong? What do we do?–“

We entered into a world we were being taught to fear somewhat

and we were completely unequipped in the ways of maturity and functioning growth, etc.

Three degrees in a similar environment

young summer nights found us in imagined sanctuaries

together, not impenetrable–but strong enough

to maybe remind us that we had each other, but the world

would only get meaner. And maybe strong enough to have the hindsight

that we weren’t going to be entirely okay, ever, but if

were okay together, than that small sanctuary would have to suffice.

We share histories, though of varying mass and degree,

we tried to grow somewhere between always losing the ones

we loved most, believing we deserved loss, believing only we could help ourselves

out of violence and harm, no one else would probably–and our safety

would come later when we grew up, or under the witness of others around.

Losing,  abandoned, forgotten, abused, teased and abused on and off as a whole,

…well,

once you get beaten down and played so many times and your humiliation comes at the hands

of thee power position and guardian–at the ages we were ate–

it was

…acceptable.

What other choice did we have?

 THE POEM

Each stage of equations  had spun me out

of my paper-doll dress recital curtain and naked into

the polar sun, white and stale metal hospital warmth,

the decay of my closet no longer able to hold or keep me,

my body repelling from and away from the only other option–a sort of

existential annihilating space, empty

with no reference point or gravity, by body

turning and revolving in the infinitesimal system of disorder.

With theory and law as dense as their own basis–

as a small girl with a highly developed survival skill

of withdrawing and disappearing,

I made a map,

charted by the constellations people left

at my door, or in my prescription bottles,

or in the tone of a voice on the phone

that uncomfortably told me they understand,

to hang in there–my awkwardness

a swallowing of tears and humiliation–because then I had to see

myself through their eyes–at what I had become.

Yes.

A constellation. A brilliant map-

away from the embarrassed acceptance in the eyes of

someone who once loved you but does not

recognize you without your borders

without your smile

without a personality, an identity

you once came equipped with,

–away from him meeting you on the street,

the ache of pretending to not notice their eyes

scan for an exit, scan your face, and

away from their belief that some people

who have gone where you have

never really come back.

Madness, they do not tell you, is as lonely as it is scary.

But a map of that night, that space,

and I started seeing without knowing how

that the answers were not static, they were not concrete,

they were not written.  They were not

even thought of–they cannot be touched,

they were sketched stars in reverse,

they were the universes in my irises unraveling,

the answers became something changed-something new-

through the radioactive pulse of my unstable heart,

shedding another degree and sparking a new one.

And after that burning

-like a coal mine…like an oil rig…piping and gloved hands and sweat and noise…

-like becoming skinless, an existential skeleton out in the ether
-after that burning-the last of the burnings-(there are no words for the others)–

a period of mechanical, metallic, empty, screeching and unaided disruption, destruction, separation, breakage, dismantling, the numbering of the pieces and counting what piles were left, broken useless ends and corners discarded into space-out into those starless, stale days;

I do not remember my eyes working;

I do not remember recognition even, or fear;

I do not remember my throat or my hands reaching for some kind of comfort;

what I remember is feeling–feeling a feeling for the first real moment in my life

and it swept across days, weeks, months, years

–tears and pain and anger and grief and sadness I had never thought possible

See I was learning that submission to the dark mysteries

my heart and mind and hands possessed

were wounds in the womb of where I had to first

learn to breathe

again

and again.

My body began to build some kind of structure

that could handle oxygen again, in small doses,

but on the inside there was an entire operating system

new and changed

-scribbling words and reading the medical books in my attempts

to gain control were now almost forgotten,

my sutures

my stitches up my skin

healing each part of myself into the other stitched up piece.

With each dominant emotion shaking me, another

department in my mind–the worlds of words

had strewn together an open-ended narrative, stitching up

my skin in sentences I had not yet rehearsed–

but the words were coming nevertheless, accelerating

and then pacing in difficult degrees I was

developing a clarity for.

To not be a girl anymore

lost

in a pale nightgown

in the shutting of doors

To be a woman emerging from

dirt

with dirt under my nails and the armor that comes

with losing it all and having nothing left to lose but you fight anyway,

scarred face, scarred bod–

unblinking and beautiful into the morning.

I reach for the cycles and circles of degrees like encapsulated bubbles-

bubbles tight with my words that arrive on tongue and lip

with tear and bone,

not measure and foresight,

expectation and pride.

The temperature in my beating body,

a body submissive to where I carefully select new order

with a lightness of touch, combined with the old habit

of dread and preparation.

The temperature is new–a falling down of degrees–

but the changes,  the chemistry of this new script, are

becoming new elements entirely–

so I feel with my pen

to chart another way to discover–to discover what I

am not sure at first…

but somehow

each word connects to new connections

in my body, and my body is binding itself

into something real and whole,

self-possessed and by my design alone.

I have sabotaged and rebuilt

and rewired and started

with a fuel I’d never, ever tasted before–Self-Love.

Self-Love and will.

An Afterthought:

My body is my memory. My memory is my narrative, which is my story, which has gaps and blocks and stitchings and bridges,  best forgotten dark alleys and abandoned farmhouses, but also a shared swing beneath apple blossoms with the two girls that grew into women while I was gone, my sisters, but they waited in the wings until I found mine.

–As I write this, right now, they still gently wait in my peripheral-

the only proof for them of my healing and strength being time and consistency–

they wait, nudging me on always and never, not once, crossing my boundaries they

allowed me to build with them over childhood. As if they knew, somehow, they had faith

in ME, that I’d figure it out my own way, alone, as I knew it had to be done and as all

of us who’ve gone mad know there is no taking anyone with you–they waited, all these

years, letting me set the pace and distance and even how far I was going to push them.

(the first poem Difficult Degrees can be found here, from 2010…my, my, my how things have changed…)

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Hurt

The sun is bright in my windows, warm in the curtains. Spring blooms outside the glass. I am content in my life. And this song plays, Hurt, and an old pain comes back, overwhelming in these lyrics. I still hear his voice, strange, how you don’t forget the voice of a loved one that died. And his smell.
The facts are I spent my life hurting him. I hurt him bad. Because I thought he’d live forever, as we all hope parents will do.  I wanted to because I told myself he was an alcoholic, so he wouldn’t feel it. Because I told myself it was his fault I wasn’t safe at home with my stepdad and mother. Because I was so screwed up and had so many bad memories I couldn’t place, so I placed them on him. I’m sorry dad. I’m sorry for blaming you. Even when I broke into your house, your room I found upstairs shocked me, stopped me from breaking things, because you had pictures of us up on your cracked walls, because you had our letters from when we were little in a pile next to your bed, because you were so poor and alone, because the tape of me singing Patsy Cline when I was five was on your nightstand, because the same old blankets were on your bed from when we were little and spent weekends with you. You lived in your car for awhile, and I’d walk by it all the time and look in the windows. All the times I’d see you walking downtown and I’d ignore you, look the other way. The time I found you and yelled at you for hurting me and what did you do and you were so gentle and kind, asking me what was wrong. That was an opportunity for me to be held by you, and you would have, but I missed it, I was so angry, blaming you. I didn’t tell people you were my dad, because everyone knew you were in the bars starting at ten in the morning. Old Style, that’s what you drank with Pa out at the dadandusfarmhouse when we were little, and you were so gentle and shy. And after you died, my sisters and mother and I had to go through your house (we didn’t know where it was) and pick out what we wanted. We were 20, 21, and 22. Your house was empty of everything except garbage and old pictures and beer. Not even towels in the bathroom. It was cold. It smelled. Your mattress didn’t have sheets. We were numb and cold too. And then we opened your closet, and we could smell you, as if you were there and we were those little girls again, playing at your feet. We took out your shirts (the same ones you’d had 17 years ago) and buried our faces in them and finally wept for you. Our own private hurting, I remember smelling the shirt and crying into it, with a whirlwind of thoughts in pictures going through my head–how I’d wanted you to save me Read More

The Gray Areas

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My post after considering “Kerry’s Word Family Post” at Real Toads.

I am going to run with this idea because there are two things I want to write about (and each one is a prompt from someone or someplace else).  I am going with an ambiguous scene between two potential lovers, also using the word family of “Ambiguous.”

here goes, not sure what I’m going to do ….first draft :

We are in that grey area aren’t we, I am asking. In the beginning it was easy-applying the hard fact of you to a tender space in my toughened gut, not as a salve, but as if it had belonged, all along. And I question now if what had belonged all along is really only the part of me you brought out, and I hadn’t seen it. And to resemble what is in your eyes–that is something.

Calculated and cool, punctual and all equations, coming through the theater doors up the aisle from me, I see your dark silhouette from this empty stage with the curtains left open for you  –the dancer sitting at the lip of the stage, shoes off, hair undone, audience dispersed, incandescent lighting turned to the stark overheads that show every blemish, every wrinkle. You see me this way and I hold my breath, the ever-present fear a lover will see nothing and you have made up an illusion, a self-evident pill you must swallow that you may have stopped being honest with yourself. It happens, when you depend on someone to charm you–as you age the real charm is the ambiguity and complexity of being an honest, real, flawed, disordered, loud, quiet self.

I see myself clearly through your eyes, and as I am only learning to love and appreciate what I have become by my hand’s design, you, though have I never admitted, have rendered me speechless and swelling when
you value my worth in comments you do not realize you are making–as if you know deeply that I already know these things–that I am smart, that I understand, that I …am maybe beautiful. We do not question each other, but challenge only ourselves. To be better.

You move toward the stage and then it is not a stage but we are on a steady plane and no one else is there, dropping my notions of romance and love long ago, I merely want to be seen as an equal, exposing every scar, every embarrassment, every vulnerability, every secret of a strength to you. Not for you. To you. And that is the difference–your reactions are yours and I am not to be measured by them. I am not asking you to accept me, I am saying this is me, these are the facts, these are the equivocations of all I’ve been through, all I’ve felt, and beneath those there is much more, as the evidence cannot lie, and maybe

maybe,

maybe you’d like to see what happens within a mind and body when it decides what to do with all these fragments and parts that make up my mind and heart. Maybe you are curious how I love. You missed the recital. But maybe.

I’ve watched you watch me for a while now. And we still circle the arena, perhaps both a little too cautious for something that feels far too good.  And this distance, and stance, I find I am not pulling myself together because myself is this solid thing now, sutured together at the many people I thought I was. And you’re the first person that sees me. You see me. And it’s enough to catch my breath, knowing I am not invisible. That I am somebody.

And the dance of words begins, every secret we tell is behind the letters–hidden in word placement in the sentence, in the alliteration and roots, in the tone of voice, in the cadence, in the best words not chosen so as not to reveal too much.

I cannot tell where these conversations stop and I start; I cannot tell if you worded my mind into collective adjectives or if I want to kiss you.

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