Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Day 24: My Masquerade

My Masquerade

My anger exists like Bigfoot:
a mythical, threatening creature
supposedly living in my darkened recesses.
I swear she exists,
although few believe me,
my memories of her are grainy photographs
with questionable shapes and strange footprints,
my anger
looks better when she dresses like Anxiety. 
Anxiety looks undeniably better at any party - 
will come out into the light in fancy dresses,
make-up and good shoes,
wears masks like Fear.  Like Tired,
like Retreat and Self-doubt,
Anger has only ever looked like smiling anyway.
Like "you will apologize."
Like "you will mean it."
Like "this was only ever because of you,"
like fists that never quite make contact with skin,
like broken doors,
like objects thrown,
like stone cold voices,
my anger only knows
how to bury herself inward.
She wraps herself in the folds of my skin
to be in the only place she has found understanding,
to be in the only place
she has found herself

My mind obsesses about forgiveness
before she even knows why -
like grieving without tears,
like casting your body
before you know what's broken,
I wear forgiveness like a song.
I only know half the words, 
but sing it anyway,
humming the rest like mystery,
like too-small skinny jeans,
like undiagnosed heart murmur
it lives just under the surface
squeezing my flesh like the tourniquet I wear as a fashion statement,
anger masquerades so easily
as all the things she's not.

I wonder
how it is that I ended here.
How this is the song I came to learn and
where I learn the rest because
this song is the record player set to my fingertip.
The grooves read like harmony set
before the melody is written -
is the scratches and scars the needle learns to skip over
and keep right on playing.

I keep right on playing
because all I've ever learned
is that scratches
turn slowly into scars
and healing comes faster
if you don't bother the wound. 

Monday, June 29, 2015

Day 23: Aftermath


i want you to know that if i told you,
you probably wouldn't understand, because
in the end it's easier to believe
that we're the only one who
will ever get it anyway.

it isn't really.

this is a poem about love
and family
and the way they mostly take your words away,
or mine, anyhow,
and they leave you frozen -

but you knew that, didn't you?

you probably already knew - 

but I wouldn't complain if you said it anyway:
i'm listening, or
i hear you, or
me too.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Day 22: Untitled

"I can't write another fucking poem," I said.
She shrugged and said, "so don't," as though
not living up to a self-imposed challenge 22 days into the deal
would be as easy as simply 
choosing not to.
Some days
it feels like I am but a constellation of perfectionism and self-doubt
sewn together by over-active nerves and a too sensitive heart;
I am too much and not enough
in every situation -
but I'll see it through to its bitter end.

There are times
when I can't write poems
because I'm not ready to see my truth
splayed like roadkill on my paper.
My heart is speeding
to run away from today's truths
but I can't poem lies -
 the blank page acts as a truth serum
that I'm not ready to face,
so I'm not writing another poem.
Tonight, I'll read novels or watch dumb TV as a salve
to soothe the raw and achy part:
no one really wants to see
the bloodstains on the paper.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Day 21: Conversations with my grandmother

Day 21!

I visited my grandmother yesterday...and the following is a semi-poemed version of my actual conversation with her.  

I hope this poem reads like love and heartache, because that's how it feels.

Conversations with my grandmother

Hi Pussycat!
You said you would be here in 30 minutes and here you are! 
That wasn't 30 minutes. 
You drive fast. 
You're a speed demon. 
You look so good, Baruch Hashem.

I move the walker aside
lean over the brown recliner,
and kiss her cheek.
Hi, Bubby.  
How are you?

Better now that you're here. 
You look good, kenahora. 
I don't remember you being so beautiful. 
Were you always so beautiful? 
I think I just don't remember. 
We're blessed, right? 
Kenahora, you look good. 
Just like your Bubby, right? 
                She laughs.
What's your name again?

I'm Laura.  Steve's daughter. 
You're looking good, Bubby. 
How are you feeling?

I have a new chair.  And the girls come and take care of me.
They always take care.
I didn't want them, but I'm grateful they do good. 
Don't tell Steve. 
I just do it for him.  I don't need them, but I do it for him.
He worries.
We all worry.
We all worry about everything.
                She pauses.   
What can I do for you?  
I can't do a damn thing, but I can offer. 
You look so good, kenahora. 
You got skinny. 
Did you get skinny?

I like your new chair. 
Is it comfortable?

Betty came by the other day.  You know, she always complains.
I talk to Ruthie on the phone a couple times a day. 
You know, they tell me I can't drive anymore.
Do you drive? Do you live in a house? 
I can't believe how beautiful you are, kenahora.

I do drive.  And I do live in a house. 
Dad told me Betty was in the hospital. 
Is she feeling better?

Who told you that? 
Who's your father? 

Steve, Bubby. 
Your son, Steve.

You talk to him? 
Why do you talk to him?
Which one are you again?
I don't know, was Betty in the hospital? 
I can't remember, kid. 
I just can't get over how beautiful you are. 
Your hair, kenahora, you have good hair. 
Do you go to shul? 
Do you have a shul near you?

I'm sure there's a shul near me, Bubby.

Do you drive? 
Can you drive yourself to shul? 
You go to shul.  Sometimes, right? 
We all go to shul sometimes? 
You know it's shabbos. 
I'm not supposed to be watching television, but I do it anyway. 
It's okay.  Right?  We do what we can. 

We all do what we can, Bubby.

So when are you getting married?

Whenever I meet the right person, Bubby.
The right person is hard to find, you know?

So it'll happen when it happens,
and if it doesn't, so be it, right?

I laugh.
I guess that's right.
We're all going to Sara's wedding in August.
That will be fun, won't it?

Which one are you again?
Baruch Hashem, we're all good.
It's good to be good, for the thing there.
I'm so glad you came.
I'm feeling so much better.
You said 30 minutes and then you were here.
You're a speed demon.  We won't tell Daddy.  
We'll keep it our secret, right?

You don't go to shul.
That's okay.
You're Jewish in your heart, right?
Baruch Hashem.
You're Jewish in your heart.
I don't think you've always been this beautiful.
Your hair, my God, look at your hair.

I got my good hair from you, didn't I, Bubby?

Of course, Pussycat. 
You're beautiful, just like your Bubby.
                She puts her hand over her heart.
You're Jewish in your heart?
We're all Jewish in our hearts.
I think we're all Jewish in our hearts.

Yes, Bubby, I say.
I put my hand over my heart.
Baruch Hashem,
I'm Jewish in my heart.


In case you need assistance with the language in this post:

Bubby - Yiddish word for Grandmother

Baruch Hashem - Hebrew for "Thank God"

Kenahora - This is Yiddish...and it's kinda hard to put my finger on exactly what it means.  It's almost like a "knock on wood" type of saying, I think, It literally translates to something like "without the evil eye" and is sometimes accompanied by spitting.

Shul - Synagogue (it's Yiddish...and apparently used primarily by Jews of Ashkenazi descent.  Thanks, Google!).

Shabbos - Jewish sabbath.  Technically, because it is the Sabbath, Jews aren't supposed to use electricity or do any "work" Friday evening through Saturday evening (hence her comment that she's not supposed to be watching television).

"For the thing there"....this is just a phrase that my grandmother tags on to nearly everything she says.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Day 20: That love is legal

Okay...this poem took a long time to write.  For lots of reasons.  Some of which may be apparent when you read it.  Also, it's my 20th day in a row of writing a poem, dammit, so I'm just going with it.

I'm already an hour over into tomorrow, although I'll just adjust the time to make it look like I finished this yesterday.  'Cause I'm sneaky like that.

I am not sure why this style is what came to me.  I knew I had read a poem in this style, but it had been so long, I couldn't remember who wrote it or even what it was about (which means it has been a REALLY long time, because I'm good at remembering authors and their words).

Regardless, I finally came up with it: Alix Olson wrote a poem called "That the protagonist is always a man," which is published in Word Warriors: 35 Women Leaders in the Spoken Word Revolution.  You can also read it at the link above.  It's badass.  You should read it.  But you should read mine first.


That love is legal

That we have a #lovewins hashtag.

That the White House is lit up in rainbow colors.

That my friends react with tears of gratitude
because the Supreme Court finally does the right thing.

That my friends react with tears of gratitude
because their straight friends celebrate with them.

That the homophobes are taking to the internet in droves.
That people would threaten to kill themselves 
because other people can marry the person they love.

That the locks on the houses of my friends' love
will no longer be wedged open by injustice. 

That legal roadblocks no longer will stand
between the lips of two women, or two men.

That we can call it "marriage" and not "gay marriage."
That we can say marriage and not civil union.
That we can stop pretending civil unions were anything close to civil.

That, if they so choose, a man can say husband, and a woman can say wife.

That everyone can say "till death do us part" and know it to mean death and not
"till the hospital refuses to acknowledge our union and does not let me be with you as you are dying."

That people would threaten to move to Canada to get away from marriage equality.
That Canada has had marriage equality for 10 years.

That because I am not in a relationship
and have not clearly declared my sexuality
everyone assumes I am straight.
That this assumption is not entirely accurate.

That because of this assumption,
I am given a choice as to whether to celebrate.
That I am given as choice as to whether to join in this fight.

That I choose to celebrate.
That I choose to fight.

That everyone can legally marry
and yet no one's marriage has: dissolved,
gone up in literal flames, frozen over, or become unholy.

That all love is holy love.

That people are already trying to fight love.
That four Supreme Court Justices did not support love.
That Justice Scalia wrote an 8-page dissent.
That he compared the legal reasoning of this decision to "the mystical aphorisms of the fortune cookie."

That I can know
whenever I finally figure out where I stand on the Kinsey scale
my love will be known as love
and not be registered as second class.

That I know the fight's not over.
That there are surely more battles to come.
That today we take a breath
to soak in the knowledge that what we've known
in our cells and in our bones
is supported by our Constitution, which states
that love
is love
is love--


Is why I am celebrating
the legalization
of love.
And please let us remember
this battle is but one
we shall arm ourselves with victory
and justice, hope, and love.
We may be battle weary
so today we stop and breathe
but tomorrow we keep fighting
as it's justice, still, we seek).

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Day 19: Rain in the vicinity

Rain in the vicinity

I sit down on the couch 
and pull up the weather app on my phone.
The home screen pops up with my location, informing me there is
"rain in the vicinity."
I look out the window -- it's not raining here,
but it must already be raining
a few miles over.

It's not raining here.
My house is cool, quiet, and dry,
with my glass of clean, cold water next to me,
I close my eyes and picture the faces
of the little guy in my office today --
it has taken him 5 weeks
to learn to hand me a picture card
as a way of asking for a bite of spaghetti,
I look in Little Guy's eyes
and try to imagine what he understood
when he was beaten at school 
so badly his arm was broken;
I talk to his father, who has tears in his eyes,
because nobody cares
about a black boy beaten in a public school
and I know:
there is rain in the vicinity.

It's not raining here.
My house smells of zucchini, cooked on the stove
with garlic, and onions, and yellow squash,
but my heart aches as I picture
the young man with sores on his mouth and lips,
he tells me,
he knows his adoptive parents have enough food,
but his bio mom taught him to eat feces
whenever he is hungry,
and now he does it when he's worried
and the way it makes him remember her,
and my stomach aches
as I hear the grief he carries in his 9 year old belly -
it's not raining here,
oh but there's rain --
there is so much rain in the vicinity.

It's not raining here --
though it's cloudy, and humid, the sky hangs heavy and low.
It's not raining here --
though the sky is dark and sits like an oppressive weight on my chest.
It's not raining here --
though there is a menacing breeze telling of what my neighbors are feeling.
It's not raining here --
but my heart weighs heavy with the knowledge
of the rain 
in the vicinity. 

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Day 18: Things that don't suck

I can't do it tonight, guys.  I just can't.  So I'm totally cheating.

This idea is one I borrowed from poet Andrea Gibson -- I believe she has a poem titled "Things that don't suck."  I periodically post a list of "things that don't suck" on Facebook.  Earlier this week, a whole list of friends jumped in on the game.

Here is our list of things that don't suck, turned into a poem.  It's the most I could poem tonight.

Things that don't suck: A crowdsourced poem

Sunshine. Blue skies. Cool breezes in front of thunderstorms.  Puppy kisses.  Naps.  Tiny scratchy kitten tongues.  The fact that most people are good.

Blueberries.  Ice cream.  Granola bars.  Bananas that are juuuuuuuuuust right.  Friends who invite you to stay for dinner.  Sour cherries.  Salt and vinegar chips.  Water when you are really thirsty.  Perfectly ripe peaches.  Milky Way Midnight bars.  Avocado cobb salad.  Snowballs.  Special edition thin mint crunch bars.  Papaya.  Homemade cheese steaks for dinner.

Air conditioning.  Birdsongs and a good breeze.  Good things pulled from nowhere when you're scraping bottom.

Professional packers.  Freecycle.  Soft t-shirts on harsh days.  Birthdays.  Blue pens and brightly colored index cards.  Car tires without puncture wounds. The little plastic sheaths at the end of shoelaces that keep them from unraveling.  Amazon music playlists.  Kittens.  The fact that the little plastic sheaths on shoelaces are called aglets.  Naps, again.  Celebrating the little things.

loving in spite of mistakes
not vomiting
waking you
talking about turtles
having boogers on their hands.

Friends who make you think.  True friends.  New friends feeling comfortable enough to drop the f-bomb.   Coffee dates with old friends.  Texts.  Dogs.  Wagging tails.  Community.    

Pictures of baby otters.  The fact that otters save mollusk cracking rocks in a flap of skin.  Hiking.  Baby chuckles.  The Buddha.  Random good "crazy but true" news stories.  Knitting waiting for you at home.

Beautiful things.  Cheap things.  Free things.  Blooming flowers.  The sounds of a creek when it hits the rocks.  Hugs.  Purring cats.  Clean water on demand.  The way people keep trying despite difficult circumstances.  Rain on the roof when you're warm and dry.  Sunshine, again.  And naps.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Day 17: Starting Over

It's day 17 of my 30 days of poetry.  I'm getting tired of hearing my voice.  I mean seriously.

Starting over

Day One always feels like 
Like facing your nightmare
your fear
your biggest bully
it is resentment,
I'm sorry,
forgive me
and let's try again
rolled up with
scraped together hope --
the sort that's a little stale
from being left over 
in the bottom of the barrel.

Day One is a vaguely formed belief in tomorrow
mashed into the mess of yesterday.
I don't know
how Starting Over is made,
but this life
is nothing more than a series of Starting Overs
that feel a little like failure,
even as you tell me each 
is a chance
to begin again.

But you don't know how Day One feels like darkness.
Day One smells like mountain
like unknown
like no clear answers.
It tastes like regret that tries too hard to be masked by hope
it is bitter
and does not go down easy.
Day One only happens
by living through the Last Day
and those Last Days:
they will threaten to unbind your skin from your body.
They are cracks in the pavement that ache your bones,
they live in you,
as you start over in Day One
grasping for stars and knowing they're only 
glow-in-the-dark plastic stuck to the ceiling 
with two-sided tape.

There are two sides
to every day
if you'll only dare to flip the coin
knowing there's a chance
that Last Day might still be coming
and knowing Day One is just as hard --
I don't know how we do this.
I don't know why this life is only
an endless rotation of Last Days and Starting Overs,
but I push through the excess,
and I push through the lack,
and by some grace find myself
starting over
on Day One.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Day 16: Rattlesnakes

I don't know that I really want to post this poem. It feels...I don't know.  It feels like a lot of things.

This stupid every day poem thing...I'm very cross with this deal I made with myself right now.  Very, very cross.

I kinda feel like this poem needs a trigger warning.  I don't know that it really actually does, but maybe....so I'll just leave that here.  Possible trigger warning sound fair?

Day 16.

(Also, as cross as I am, I've written 16 poems.  That's a lot of poems, really.  Especially for 16 days!)


Perhaps it was drowned out by the hissing.
Perhaps the rattling tail was too loud
he couldn't hear me
with his lethal charm
he slid down and around and in
smiled when I said it
hissed all the more loudly so my no
was nothing more than a cricket with one wing
chirping in a field
of rattlesnakes.

Last Sunday
when you asked if you could give him my number
my answer was drowned out by  your hissing.
Your tail rattled before you had even finished the question
your lethal charm and authority,
just by your very presence,
takes my wing and breaks it
silencing my chirping.

When I say no and you ignore me,
it puts me in my body so I no longer want to live there.
I search every limb, every organ, every cell
for a trap door
an elevator
a hidden stair case
I search for the hammer to break the glass
to sound the alarm
but it only ever shatters inward,

When I say no
and you ignore me
I am plunged into the pool and -
while it may be safe -
I'll never know:
all I can hear
is the hissing.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Day 15: All the things that went unsaid

Halfway done!  Day 15...

I need to keep it short tonight.  5 minute poem.  This is what I've got...

All the things that went unsaid

Of all the things that went unsaid,
there was one that hurt the most.

I can't tell you what it sounded like
but it feels like skinned knees, like
Grand Canyon stomach, like
black hole lungs.

I never knew silence could produce
a deafening echo,
but it does.

It just does.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Day 14: Letters to myself to be read next time I freak out about wearing a bathing suit in public

Letters to myself to be read next time I freak out about wearing a bathing suit in public

1. Dear Me,
Going to the swimming pool is not the same as going to war.
Please, breathe deeply:
bathing suits are not your enemy.
In the same way your body has never been beach-body perfect,
it has always been beach-body perfect,
remind yourself --
there is no danger here.

2. Dear Me,
I would rather die than speak to a child the way I speak to you.
It would never cross my mind to do to anyone
what I have done to you,
I know
you do not deserve my wrath
you were never meant to be hurt.
I'm sorry.

3. Dear Me,
Your body is not wrong
this costume is not a cone of shame,
not a dunce cap,
not a uniform meant to display all evidence
of your failures
it is merely
a piece of clothing to go swimming in.
Treat it as such.

4. Dear Me,
No one is looking
no one is judging
no one is waiting
to shame you,
all of this was already done 
before you stepped away
from the mirror.

5. Dear Me,
You are a woman
who can wear a bathing suit in public.
The water cannot possibly
be as cold and deep
as you imagine.  

Friday, June 19, 2015

Day 13: No poem, forgive me

Day 13 of my 30 day poetry challenge...and the most I've got tonight is a poem about not writing a poem.  My poem last night took everything out of me, I think.  

So here is a poem about not writing a poem.  I hope, if you're feeling as I do, that you find the poetry in breathing tonight, too.

No poem, forgive me

There are times
that are inappropriate for writing:
when your heart cannot quiet
when you cannot find thoughts
when your throat tightens
and your eyes sting
and no words follow.

You should not write when you fail to notice
the breeze,
the time,
the way your stomach burns with hunger,
the way your chest is begging
for one full breath of air
when one more piece of news
will take your last breath away
when you know
that one more headline will dissolve you
into something you cannot find words to describe
when your heart weighs so heavy
your skin hurts with the weight of it...

Forgive me.
Tonight, I will sit here breathing
finding the poetry in the way I imagine you
trusting the world enough
to do the same. 

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Day 11: I wish for you

It's poem #11 in 11 days, and I had no idea what to write tonight.  As such, I asked my friends on Facebook to help me out.

"I need 8 words.  One word per person.  First 8 words will be put in a poem.  Be creative yet kind," I suggested.

The thread has since been derailed with suggestions of waffles, rutabagas, pterodactyls and something about shimmering vaginas...but that poem is for another day (or something.  I make no promises.  Waffles and shimmering vaginas may be beyond my literary capabilities).  

The first 8 words suggested were:

I wish for you...

I wish for you the beautiful mundane:
steaming cups of herbal tea
unexpected summer showers
and fireflies.

I wish for you grace
like a cold dog nose -
annoying in its ordinary,
surprising in its arrival,
like breathing -
it is gracious compassion,
and radical, if the lighting is right,
your heart
is a cosmos of shimmer
undeniable amazement
I wish you the truth
of the depth of your beautiful
you who can never know
the refreshing of your presence, you
who are more infinite than stardust
I wish for you vast
and exquisite solitude
to empty your sky-ocean heart,
you holy creation with dirty-soled feet
your soul shimmers in your eyes
that can never see you clearly,
so bless your holy blink
and your holy stumble,
bless your holy why
and your heavenly how
so when your heart thunders
from what this world will do to your soul,
may you only ever know
the holy power
in your rain. 

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Day 10: Rooting Reflex

Day 10 of my 30 days of poetry...I'm 1/3 of the way there.

It's been a really, really hard two days.  I don't have words to put around it, and I don't want to...and I don't really feel like I have words to name it, either (and honestly, I don't really want to)...but here's day 10.

Rooting Reflex

It draws me under and holds me.
Siphons air from my lungs like
a straw in a Ziploc bag,
it ties weights to my legs
immobilizes my body
breaks me like glass
I shatter
into thousands of pieces.
I break over my own body
like Niagara Falls
like riptide
like earthquake opening below my feet
I fall in
to old habits like I lived there yesterday;
like an infant when you brush her cheek
my rooting reflex for love and approval
has never gone away-
it leaves me gasping
like searching for oxygen on the moon,
like if I only breathe in enough of what I'm offered
my lungs will expand
like if I only try hard enough
I can live
on what is given to me.

This is the only thing
that makes me forget to notice the shape of the moon.
The way she is tethered to my outstretched hands with beams of light
even on my hardest days
I have held on to moon shine
like it is the reins of my god's horses
but this:
it rips the reins from my fingers,
leaves me like a child with no security blanket
like a boat with no lighthouse
like a car with no steering:
I don't believe in god
until the moments I feel most forsaken--
when she rolls up the ladder of her moonbeams
and leaves me to navigate the Darkness

Monday, June 15, 2015

Day 9: For the dreamers

Day 9 of my 30 days of poetry (why did I do this again?).

This is a little bit of a cheat...part of this poem is from a poem I wrote a long time ago that I never liked.  I like this version of it a little bit better.  Also: it's been a day, and I wasn't able to come up with something entirely original tonight.   Also, the sermon at church on Sunday was on wishes and dreams, and it's been on my mind to write something on that topic...and the pieces of the old poem fit.  

For the dreamers

I want to write the poem heard round the world.
The poem would reverberate in your cells
resound in the densest of forests
create oxygen in the highest altitudes and
shiver the souls of imperfect strangers reaching to one another
willing a fullness that never comes,
creating a hunger only spirit-seekers can know, but I
am not a poet.
Not a real one.
My words fall short of cell reverberation and shiver creation
imperfect strangers turn to me,
but tonight, I tell them,
I write this poem
for me.

I think poems are lists of word gifts.
They are wonderous pictures of letter creations -
I will creation to wash over me:
beg it to comfort me like Grandmother's laugh,
reach for words to fill the emptiness,
strive for gentle mooring on literary shores,
but my thoughts pin down words with lightning strikes.
I hold the noose around my dreams,
tie them tight and lose the key,
hold my breath and try to breathe,
I measure courage with a two-foot yard stick and call it a dream.
I bring myself over
and over to this life
like living
must be another kind of wishing
and dreaming
is just the only way we find to breathe.

I want to write the poem heard round the world.
the poem that would shake me to my core
resound the depths of my soul,
crack my silence like the breaking of dawn,
bring me to my knees and
raise me to my feet
the vastness of my future
measured with a 500-foot yard stick
brings me visions of my 100-year old self
aching with love
for all I am and will become:
my greatest fear
is of what will come true.

If you end this
then this poem is also
for you.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Day 8: Haiku

Today is day 8 of my 30 days of poetry.  Here's what we've got:

Today sucked a ton.
You're lucky I can count to
seven and to five.

Also, in case you were wondering:

There are people who
can suck all the air out of
any space they're in.

But luckily:

Even on hard days
there is love, and friends, and dogs,
most importantly.

And finally, no disclaimers here:

Shitty poetry
is better than not writing
a poem at all.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Day 7: One side of an ongoing conversation with Hafiz

Day 7 of my 30 days of poetry!  (And this one took me less than 30 minutes to write...huzzah!)

I am a little obsessed with Hafiz.  I know, that's weird, and nobody really says that, but seriously.  He's super cool, right?  He's this old Persian dude with a sense of humor, really.  

At any rate, this is one of his poems (from I Heard God Laughing: Poems of Hope and Joy, translated by Daniel Ladinsky):

"We should talk about this problem

There is a Beautiful Creature
living in a hole you have dug. 

So at night
I set fruit and grains
and little pots of wine and milk
beside your soft earthen mounds,

And I often sing.

But still, my dear,
you do not come out.

I have fallen in love with Someone
who lives inside you.

We should talk about this problem --

I will never leave you alone."

So I responded.  I mean, how could I not?  Hafiz wanted to have a conversation...so here we go:

One side of an ongoing conversation with Hafiz

Okay Hafiz, I say,
let us talk about this problem:

You act like it is all so easy.
Like I only need to look up,
to laugh.
to breathe,
to know I am beloved,
you chide me
for questioning and doubting the greatness of your Friend,
your Spirit,
Love, and life
you old Persian,
your poetry reads like fact,
goes down like prescription,
aches in my veins like drug, like addiction, you
patch up all the loveless places in my soul.

Hafiz, I say:
How it is that I feel this love and still question my worthy?

Hafiz, I say:
you leave me fruit and grains,
but perhaps chocolate is a better lure,
you should sing
better songs, or sometimes
lie down and peer under furniture
coax my timid Creature out gently
with no great promises of dancing
she needs quiet gentleness
a human love
for great love scares her.

I have fallen in love with your promise of Love
and hopeful joy--
show me how to live this.
Do not just keep pestering me
to open to love:
I am only the bug that knocks against the screen
trying to reach the light.

I pause for breath and hear

I can't be sure,
but I think he's laughing. 

Friday, June 12, 2015

Day 6: Unsolicited advice to girls with pen-stained hands and pierced noses

I have loved Jeanann Verlee's poem "Unsolicited advice to adolescent girls with crooked teeth and pink hair" for a very long time.  The pacing, her delivery, and that haunting line "when your mother hits you, do not strike back" just resonates as so brilliant to me.  I have wanted to write a poem in a similar format for a long time, but always got stuck when I tried.  

I recently heard this poem by Tonya Ingram, titled, "Unsolicited advice to skinny girls with bitten nails and awkward glances (after Jeanann Verlee)."  Ingram modeled Verlee's format/lines on this, and has some beautiful lines, too: "When you discover your grandmother is bipolar and schizophrenic, hug her.  Then google each illness.  When you question if you are anything like her, hug yourself.  Then google each illness."

And so I found myself thinking about 2 weeks ago that I had to try my hand at an "Unsolicited advice..." poem.  I'll be honest: it has taken me hours of back and forth to write this.  I'm not writing any disclaimers, I'm just stating facts here...this poem was hard to write, in spite of the fact that I have been mulling over it for months.  I will probably change it quite a bit...but I need to post it and stop obsessing over it.  

It's ironic, isn't it, that this poem is causing me so much stress, and my line here is "when your heart knows the truth, do not be afraid to write it."  I am learning how to get out of my own way, but goodness that's hard.  I think, maybe, I need to poem THAT.


Unsolicited advice to girls with pen-stained hands and pierced noses

When your heart knows the truth, do not be afraid to write it. 

When the girl you know is taking her dog to the pound, let yourself save him. 
Let him become your new best friend.

When your mother finds out you have pierced your nose, smile. 
Own this reclamation of your body.
When your grandfather will not look at you, will not talk to you because you got your nose pierced at  age 24, leave the restaurant.
Take yourself for a walk, to the bar next door. 
Shock him again by buying yourself a drink.

When the farmer boy with strong arms invites you to dinner, say yes. 
Let him be the first boy to open your car door, to get dressed up for you, to bring you flowers.
Let him pay.

When the farmer boy with strong arms decides to leave you at the coffee shop 'cause he ran into a hotter friend,
wait until the Christmas party to tell his mother why you didn't work out. 

When your teenage best friend asks you if your father makes animal sacrifices because he is a Jew, invite her over for Passover.
When she tells you your family is going to Hell, forgive her. 
Do not take it as an insult, do not question her ignorance, let it be a sign to let her go.
Then, let her go.

When your New Jersey aunt asks you if you are taking your goat to college, curse her.

When your heart knows the truth, do not be afraid to write it. 

When your grandmother mails you postcards she painted, save them. 
Put your favorite in a frame, keep it on your dresser,
let her laugh bless you while you're dressing. 

When the boy you love starts dating someone else, let him go.
When the girl you love wants to hold your hand,
give it a squeeze
feel the softness of her fingers
let yourself smile.

When your grandfather tells you that you look like an Indian, ignore him. 
When he tells you that you don't have a mind of your own, ignore him. 
When he embarrasses you in front of 42 relatives, ignore him.
When he questions your 12-year-old breasts, fondles your 12-year-old bra, stares at your 12-year-old chest, do not hold this as a secret, tell your father, tell your mother, tell his wife. 

When your heart knows the truth, do not be afraid to write it. 
When you finish your last grad school class,
roll down your windows
flip them the bird as you drive away.

When your sister tells you how hard it is for her to stay alive, hold her.
When you can't sleep because you watch her disappear every time you close your eyes,
walk in quietly, stand in her doorway,
count her breaths. 

When you find the community that will hold your heart, let them. 
Trust that you are deserving of this love.

When your mother tells you catcalling is a compliment, roll your eyes. 
When she says she doesn't understand your degree because you'll just give it up to have a baby,
tell yourself you'll show her what you mean.
When she has the nerve to ask what you were wearing,
do not tell yourself she did not say it
do not believe it an honest question
do not hold it like a secret
do not walk away. 

When your heart knows the truth, do not be afraid to write it
the time for writing is here
the time for speaking is here
the time for loving has always been here, this
is your birthright
do not question 
do not argue
hear me
there is always
to speak

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Day 5: Twenty-one things I wanted to say this week, but didn't

Twenty-one things I wanted to say this week, but didn't

1. Do you ever stop talking? 

2. I hate that skirts don't have pockets. When I have my period and need to walk to the bathroom, I either need to bring my purse (which screams SHE NEEDS HER TAMPONS!) or hide the tampon somewhere on my person.  It's fucking awkward.

3. It wounds my heart that someone would hurt you and your beautiful child so deeply. I have a collection of sores in my soul from stories like yours, and they never seem to scab over.  Your daughter deserves every happiness this life has to offer. 

4. My soul loves this world.  It is completely irrational, but I don't know how not to love with my whole self.  It's why things hurt so deeply.  I both love and hate this part of me.

5. You don't know me.  I am not your friend. 

6. Animal cruelty makes me feel like I'm going to vomit.  I know I am telling you that I am not judging your son, but the fact that he cut your goldfish into pieces with scissors makes me want to flee the room, just to find some air.

7. My idea was brilliant.  I'm sorry you're too self-absorbed to see that. 

8. What gives you the right to comment on my body?  I had to try on 3 outfits today, just to get out the door; I finally decide on one I can live with, and you comment on the size of my calves?  I fought back tears of insecurity and voicelessness in the bathroom.  I give you more power than you deserve.

9. I love you.  Not romantically...just with my heart.  It makes me feel alive.

10. Stop acting like you fix computers.  You sit at your desk and Google stuff.  You have no one fooled.

11. I know your son was suspended because of racism.  I know his services are not what they should be because of racism.  I know no one is taking you seriously because of racism.  I know they are writing you off because they think you are uneducated.  I can't tell you this, but I see it.  I can't fix it, but I'm going to try to make it right.  Hang on a bit longer.  I got you. 

12. I don't know how to be kind to myself without panicking.  There are no words to describe the depth of the panic this causes.  I don't expect you to understand.  But I wish you could.

13. I'm sorry we lost session time because your kid pooped.  I'm still not entirely sure what you wanted me to do differently; he needed his diaper changed. Next time, I'll remember to sprinkle some anti-poop powder in the room before you arrive. 

14. That's not what I said and you know it.  You know I don't play that way.  Get it together.

15. Your child's diagnosis is not a death sentence.  He is a beautiful, whole, and perfect being, even when he bugs the everloving shit out of you.  Don't write him off.  Look in his eyes.  I know he can't say it, but he needs you to love him.  He's 4.  Don't give up on him yet.

16. I'm sorry.  I'm learning.  Can we try again?

17. My brain exhausts me.  Is it this much work being you?

18. I don't feel much like a grown-up today.

19. I don't care what you do with the ashes of our dead relative that you found in grandfather's closet. 

20. I have secrets.  Can I trust you?

21. Did I mention that I love you?  I do.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Day 4: Disclaimer


I'm sorry that I need to apologize first.

I'm sorry that you find my words powerful
that they hit you in your heart
that they move you to tears
that you love them anyway.

I'm sorry that I write too much truth and not enough lies.
I'm sorry that I can't write cherry sno-cone on a hot summers day,
my writing has always been too wild blackberry:
warm, black and full on top -
but red underneath,
it packs a punch that will hit you,
just when you think it will go down easy
I'm sorry
that you can't just read me like a comfort novel.
Sorry that I always change the punch line,
or take it too far, I am always the outlier.
My words skirt the fringes of comfortable
like watching a storm roll in:
there are stanzas that are showers
with lines like lightning strikes
I have a knack
for catching people without their umbrellas
and I'm sorry if I leave you in the rain.
I know thunder
is no way to communicate a gentle message
but sometimes 
it's the only way
to let the past roll in.

I'm sorry that I sometimes use the word fuck.
Sorry that anger sometimes seeps out through my pores
hits the page, stains the paper like a watermark, I'm sorry
that this cannot be erased.

I'm sorry about my use of commas.
I know I use them incorrectly,
but I taught myself to write.
At the age of 14
teachers didn't know how to help me,
gave me 100s in my college classes,
told everyone I broke the curve
posted my grade on the board,
used me as an example to all the college sophomores,
told them they had to get their shit together
'cause the kid still years away from driving had them beat,
they made me hated
in my braces, and acne, and big glasses,
my mother asked me if I didn't think
I should make my poems rhyme,
critiqued my use of semi-colon, told me
I was just Too Much,
and I'm sorry
I need to bring them into this, but
my words
have sometimes brought me trouble
my power
has sometimes come under attack
and to hear my voice 
you need to know:

I'm sorry I need to apologize first,
but my words are not a choice.
They are pressure waiting to escape
I let them out slowly
like loosening a valve,
they are a piece of my soul and I'm sorry
that I can't just hand it over, but
their initial release is the piece of creation
that feels a little like

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Day 3: Collective Heart Compost

Day 3 of my 30 day poetry challenge...

Collective Heart Compost

My therapist tells me I need to feel anger.
Reminds me twice every session that my feelings can take up space
has to tell me once a week that I am worthy
give me homework so I can remember
for the 7 days in-between,
she has to tell me
that just because they said so
it doesn't mean I'm broken,
she tells me
that trauma lives in your body because it has to -
because it's the best way you figured out to survive,
she reminds me
that I have to see it before it swallows me from the inside out
asks me over and over to notice the feelings
to name the feelings
to pay attention to the fucking feelings and I

I tell her I know the answer
before she's asked the question.
I raise my hand
before I know the topic,
I know the right response
to anything she'll ask me,
I make her work
for every penny of our 50 minutes,
drive home with my belly churning on all the things I did not say
breath clenched with all the things I could not feel,
tell myself
I'll try feeling those emotions

When I was in 5th grade, my long-time bully shut my fingers in the door.
By then, I knew better than to tell.
I knew better than to make a sound.
When I was in 5th grade
that same girl bullied my 3rd grade sister.
That was the first time I remember feeling
a hot ball of rage rise from my stomach to my throat
I threatened her
in the deadliest voice I could manage
seethed righteous anger through every inch of my 10-year-old frame
got in her face
made grandiose threats
and didn't give a damn.

Some days
it feels like my skin is nothing more
than a hopeful tourniquet
tying to hold my self together.
This body
is nothing more than a laundry basket
a compost pile
a recycling bin
I throw in the used,
and the ugly,
tell myself I only need to wait
till the trash gets picked up on Tuesday,
most days
I wonder what I bring to this life.

We all know
that everybody's got shit, 
and we all know
that some shit is shittier than others,
and I know
that the only right thing I can do is channel 
the love and righteous anger of 10-year-old me,
give it space to live here inside my skin
breathe in the panic and listen
to the voices of our collective hearts
as they say,
most days all anyone has got is shit, and
we've got a high quality compost pile
to make the best things grow,
and they say,
where do you think you came from
if not from the nutrients of your ancestors?
and they say,
the garden of our souls cries out for compost
and we're waiting
for you to add your shit 
to the pile.