Thursday, September 22, 2016

Day 15: Grieving the war

I don't know how to explain the warzone I work in because
there are no tanks, or guns --
except for when there were, once, last year during the uprising after
Freddie Gray was killed and I
walked in to work past the National Guard lining the streets in
riot gear.

But it's not really about that because the warzone I work in is
the police problem and the
poverty problem and the
oppressed people problem and the
hungry children in a food desert problem, and the
shitty schools that do illegal things routinely problem, and the
no way out problem.

It's the "my house burned down in the snowstorm" warzone, and the
"I might get deported" warzone, and the
"they got rats in the daycare" warzone, and the
"don't speak the language and nobody gets me an interpreter" warzone, 
and the war of: "can't pay my BG&E bill," and "don't have a working car" and "got a kid with a disability" and "school keeps calling me to come get him so I lost my job."

And me --
most days I show up with a pen knife to the gun fight.
"With all due respect, ma'am," he told me,
"you say you understand that this is hard.
But you don't."
He's not wrong.
I can feel it in my bones, but I
will never have to live it.
I feel so
small, knowing there is not an
enough that can stop this
bleeding.

A patient arrived nearly half an hour late today.
He was pulled over by the police for speeding.
He left the session and I cried:
grateful he
made it alive. Praying he
made it home.
Allowing myself 5 minutes to
grieve the war.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Day 14: Unpoemed

Here's the thing: this isn't really a poem.  

Here's the other thing: this is my blog, and my poem, so I get to say what's going down...and tonight, I say this is as close as we're getting to a poem.  

There are things that are not poetic but can be poemed:
Earwigs.
Chapstick that melts in your purse.
The number of dead bugs collected in the light on my ceiling that I cannot remove.
The incessant barking of the dog next door.

And there are things that are poetic that cannot be poemed:
Your mother asking you to help take your grandfather's car.
Joint pain that radiates your body.
The raw hurt that comes when you read a person wrong --
or when you read them right, but hoped for more.
The aching wound that friendship leaves.
The ways our history lives in our bodies.
Feelings that float to the surface.
Looking for gratitude, and breathing only into the statement,
"I'm alive."

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Day 13: Name This

Of course, I know this isn't technically day 13...but I needed to take two days off of poeming for lots of reasons.  So here's day 13 of my 30 days of poems...they just don't happen to be consecutive days.  

I shared this poem at church this morning.  I think it's actually the first time ever I have read a poem aloud and my body has not been shaking.  I liked that feeling.  

Name This

I have always been precise in my naming.
I want the just-right word at the just-right time:
I wield the power of my wording like a weapon.
Verbing nouns, changing phrases to make them new
and surprising, I move
to the matters of soul
heart-clenchingly quickly--
hold on, y'all.
This is how things get real.

See, as babies, our parents label our worlds:
"Do you see the light?"
"That's your shirt."
"Big yawn."
"You are so silly."
As toddlers, we ask the questions.
We point and show, and
each item is told to us over and over until
we can hold our world in our crumb-encrusted fingers.

My family cat's name was Coo Coo.
Coo Coo was one of my first words,
and everyone thought it was because
I loved the cat until, at age three
I told my mother that Coo Coo
was despicable.

I wonder how long it took me to find
the just-right word to name that, as playmates go, Coo Coo
was always a bit of a jerk.
I wonder if pride
surged through my three-year-old frame as I knew
I had found my just-right word, had
named the feeling exactly right, I
had spoken.

But just-right words are hard to find,
hard to use, hard to believe in;
naming our lives is not as easy as labeling
lights, and shirts, and
sometimes, I fall away to
solitude and quiet
un-naming of myself and my place, but wonder:
how do I name this worth?
this reclamation?
this embodying?
How do I name this way
I live my world?  I say
here is my heart. 
I named it Myself.
It is power.
It is existing beyond, it is
a word after
a word after
a word, it is naming:
here.  I am here,
holding my world in my hand.
Let me show you the color, the shape
the weight of it.
How heavy it can be.
Stay with me so I can
open my fingers.
Let me show you how beautiful it is
when it hits the light.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Day 12: Epigenetics

I don't know how many
lifetimes a child must
die through to end up
sitting in my office with
eyes like caverns that
echo:

a body is not big
enough to hold that
grief and so it
hollows
like a grave.

Day 11: Love letter from a flip-flop to the arpeggio: A story of unrequited love

Day 11/30

So...it's not that my creativity is waning...but...I maybe needed an idea of what to write tonight, so I went to Facebook again.  This time, I planned for tonight AND I planned for the future, because these poems are fun, and I figured maybe I will do one more if I get some good words...we'll see how the rest of the days go. 

At any rate, here was the word call: "Needed for two upcoming poem challenges: Four random things.  (I need concrete item type of things.  They can be random, but they need to be items.  Like toothbrush.  Or printer.  Or ferris wheel). 

As was the case yesterday, they did not disappoint.  Here is the list of words:

buggy whip, giraffe, tank top, Purple Pieman & Berry Bird Pop! Figure, key lime pie, archipelago, flip flop, tea pot, arpeggio, koala, febreeze spray, pool noodle, palm tree, vagina, clitoris, vulva, tissue, diet Dr. Pepper, trash can, peach, geode, flute, puppy, tail, pollywog, kombucha, water bottle, credit card, metro card, keys

With that in mind...the prompt is "write a love letter between two inanimate objects."  I'm thinking, of course, of Sarah Kay's amazing "Love Letter From a Toothbrush to a Bicycle Tire."  I took a stab at one a while ago -- "A love letter from the bell to the air."  

So from that amazing list of words above, the most obvious and only choice to me is to write...

Love letter from a flip-flop to the arpeggio: A story of unrequited love

I have loved you since first note.
Sitting on my shelf at Target,
waiting for my forever home, I was
practicing my monotone flips and flops, when you
came over the muzak-playing radio station in
soaring, trilling, rolling, resounding tones.
You sounded like
the first flip-flop weather day, like the
going to the beach day, like the
went to the park and did not step in dog poop day,
and made me want to sing my droning song with
new life.

One time, I tried to tune myself to your key:
hit my flop square against a foot I thought would be tuned to G, but it was
just a little sharp:
you flawless stream of music.
I love the way you
start out slow and then
become faster, almost
falling over yourself -- like I do when I run and my flips and flops smoosh together
becoming flops and flips
down and up, up and down --
we have so much in common, you and I.

Dear Arpeggio,
bounce with me along the paths of life.
Let us race up and down the scales together:
you holding tight my strap, and I, holding firmly to your notes, and together, we will create a masterpiece of tonal flips and flops --
you sweet chord.
Let us rest together gently upon your staff and I promise
to forever bring you home
to middle C.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Day 10: Bathe Me Glorious

Things I learned just now:

Some of my friends are jerks and they're lucky I love them anyway.  

I had no idea what to write tonight, so I posted this on Facebook:

"Help a sister you commits herself to stupid challenges out:
Give me 8 words.  One word per person.  Any word/form of word.  First 8 words win.  And go.
(2015s version of this challenge can be seen here: http://autodidactpoet.blogspot.com/2015/06/day-11-i-wish-for-you.html)

It started out innocently.  The first 4 words were:
Grace
Blue
Revolutionary
Fierce

And then came:

Terpsichorean
Wallaby
Deoxyribonucleic acid

And the final word: 
Elusive

Luckily, I have been playing this game for a VERY long time.  And the more people are assholes and give you RIDICULOUS words, the better this game becomes.  This poem?  20 minutes and done.

First: definitions.

Terpsichorean - of or relating to dancing
Deoxyribonucleic acid is just DNA all spelled out and fancy like.
And this fella is a wallaby.



Bathe Me Glorious

In the terpsichorean mystery of time,
evolution beckons us forward from cells to
wallabys, from
deoxyribonucleic acid to
sponges and
long-limbed teens with blue hair and
snails, and ferrets, and
grandfathers who don't remember your name - 
this life
is evolutionary chaos I sometimes don't
know how to survive.

Grace, 
ever elusive in your splendor
bathe me glorious in your revolutionary light
and draw me daringly into fierce
and furious
dancing.


Monday, September 12, 2016

Day 9: Worse Sins

Worse Sins

Because there are worse sins than a sick day, I
go to the beach to baptize myself alone.  With
only myself as witness, I
wash myself in sand and
dirty waters -
each wave a whispered promise
of absolution.




Sunday, September 11, 2016

Day 8: Why I hold vigil every month witnessing Black lives lost to police violence and proclaiming that Black Lives Matter

So, I am really tired tonight in a soul-tired kind of way.  I have had a barely medicated migraine most of the day, and my heart and my soul is just tired.  The downside of writing a poem every day is that you don't have a lot of time to fix/think/work on things before you gotta move on.  This is one I would like to fix/think/work on, and probably will...but I need to turn out the light.  

I dislike churning out poems about "big issues" like this quickly, because it feels more likely that I'll get it wrong.  I kept getting anxious as I was writing it, thinking "you're going to say it wrong" and "that's not right!" and "you're going to mess it up and *insert catastrophic thought here*".

But I recently re-listened to Lauren Zuniga's poem - "Confessions of an Uneducated Queer," in which she says:

"I was afraid to write this because I didn't want to fuck it up.
Writing poems about things you don't really know a lot about can be very problematic
but not writing poems about things you're afraid to fuck up can also be very problematic.
The world is problematic -- please.  Fuck it up."

This is me - being willing to fuck it up in this big, problematic world.  


Why I hold vigil every month witnessing Black lives lost to police violence and proclaiming that Black Lives Matter

Because I am white.
Because I have work to do.
Because I do not always know how to do it.

Because people mostly honk, and wave, and drive.
Because I waved at a white woman and she flipped me off.
Because, even here, we have work to do.

Because it is living my faith.
Because it is full-bodied prayer.  

Because I do not know all of their names.
Because we do not have signs with all of their names.
Because we do not have enough people to hold signs with all of their names.
Because there are always more names.

Because I do not know all of their stories.
Because there are always more stories.
Because there are hearts behind the names and stories.
Because the world was robbed of the rest of their story.

Because a mother asked to take a picture with me.
Because I was holding a sign with her dead son's name.
Because I do not know how that interaction does not change a person.
Because every month something in me changes.
Because I need to be changed.

Because there are small black and brown faces in the back seats of cars who look with
wide eyes and do, or don't, understand why we're there and 
why we need to be.
Because they will understand one day.
Because I want those babies safe.
Because I want them to always come home alive.
Because I never want to hold a sign with their name on it.

Because in the next car there is a small white face in the back seat with
wide eyes who understands, or doesn't, but
will never need to.


Saturday, September 10, 2016

Day 7: Telephone

I almost left this one untitled, because any title I can think of feels either too obvious or dramatic or overblown.  But I think this one works for me.  

Telephone

"I went to lunch with your grandfather and grandmother," he says.
I go still on my end of the phone line as I realize
this conversation is not the one I thought it was.

I pause to weigh my options.
"Don't you know your grandmother and grandfather?" he snaps.
"Grandfather," I address him gently, "Doris was my grandmother."

"No no.  Nope.  No.  That's wrong.  Lynn is your mother," he says.
I don't know who Lynn is. 
I wonder if he does.

"Did you have a good lunch?" I ask. 
He rambles about his turkey sandwich and ponders 
whether I know Rose while I breathe. 

I don't know Rose - turns out she's the lady at the bank.
I store this in my memory for later:
there is so much living in the details.

"After all these years you're finally telling me that your mother is my daughter?"
His voice rises such that I can't tell if he's joking.
"I'll be damned."

We laugh and - for a moment - my heart eases.
"Happy birthday, Grandfather."
"Yeah," he says.  "Thanks, hon."

"I love you," I say.
"Well that's nice to hear," he says
and silence falls between us.

I remind myself to breathe.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Day 6: Wild Thing

Last night in yoga, we did the pose below -- "wild thing" -- and it was beautiful, and powerful, and intense in a "HERE WORLD!  HERE IS MY HEART!" sort of way.  

Day 6/30 days of poems - check.  

Wild Thing

Sitting with this stillness is
too much of not enough tonight-

What are you protecting?

You wild thing:
breathe your untamed heart to freedom and
let her fly.

From yogajournal.com



Thursday, September 8, 2016

Day 5: Anthem

Sigh.  I suck at titles.  Also, I seriously had to get through like 8 different throw away starts to get to this poem (which initially started with the line "I can't write this shit").

Writing tip 1: When you can't think of what to write, write what you can't write.  Then write.

Day 5 was a struggle.  But it's done. 

Anthem

Being a poet means
living edgelessly on the verge, always
feeling like you're
free-
falling through layers of life and line-breaks and
vulnerability and there are
so many poems I am too scared to write. 
There are words I
swallow like songs my mother sung me that will
kill me one day or
explode in poetic battle of rainstorm --
there are so many ways of fighting against a poem.
Pushing away the big words that invite fear and
working only with the smaller ones that will
coat the lining of your stomach -
this shit is real;
living is no joke and witnessing this through
poeming is
some sort of Fucked Up most days, but
I will write instead that
my body is an anthem I will learn to stand up for, so
I sweat from the outside in.
Let it pool in the cells between my ribcage to
make saltwater baths for the emotions to float on like the
Dead Sea, but
everything in me is the opposite --
like my ribcage is really a rib-liberation, and
saltwater makes everything sink;
like the Dead Sea is really alive and the
empty spaces are overflowing and
my heart makes breaking fall together --
there are so many ways of fighting against a poem:
so many ways of forgetting
what it feels like
to be alive.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Day 4: Holy Encompassing

Holy Encompassing

It's going to take me a long, long, LONG time to trust you, he said.
"Okay," I nodded.
Like maybe 10 months.  Or 8 months.  Or 12 months.  Or maybe longer, he warned.
I weighed this carefully, squinted my eyes a bit, nodded again. 
"That sounds reasonable," I said. 
"This isn't something we want to rush."
He glanced sideways and eyed me up with all 12 years of tough dontmesswithme secrets
and the words came pouring out-- slowly at first and then
all at once, like dark descends on nights without stars --
wholly encompassing breathtaking endings -- but somehow also
like breathing into the comfort of knowing that
here, where we stand
is also valid.


Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Day 3: Steps Before Self-Love

(1) I'm remembering that writing every day is really hard, and that sometimes I have a hard time letting go of my need for "perfection."  (And everyone says "sometimes?").

(2) Tonight did not go as planned.  This was written in about 20 minutes.  It's all I've got.  I'm going to have to be okay with that.  That's the point of this writing every day exercise.  

(3) Day 1 and 2 were much better poems.  If you didn't read them, you should probably read them instead.  Just sayin'.

Steps Before Self-Love

While scrolling Facebook: 43 Self-Care Practices for a Healthy Mind, Body, and Soul.
In the checkout aisle at Safeway: 15 Powerful Self-Care Tools You Can't Live Without.
In my email inbox: 12 Important Ways to Love Yourself
On the side of my news article about the latest dog food recall: 18 of the Most Important Self-Care Practices You Aren't Doing

Why the fuck are we shaming ourselves over self-care?

I'm wondering why I'm
supposed to be seducing myself, wondering how
I'm supposed to be getting into bed with me when
I have only just learned my name, and -
I'm not even to the point of
holding hands with me, much less
seeing me, loving me, and
what I want to know is what color my irises are on the inside, and
whether my heartbeat ever keeps time with the world,
I want to feel the way breathing
can be gentle next to me in ways I've
never let it be:
there are steps before self-love that no one wants to talk about.
Conversations that must be had before you can
enter into self-care but
before I lie
next to my self, I will touch her softly asking-
where does it hurt?
and we'll do nothing but
hold the aching
gently
in our hands. 



Monday, September 5, 2016

Day 2: Unsmall

This. Poem. Is. Driving. Me. Crazy.  There's so much to say here, and so much emotion, and so much I can't fit into it, and so much that has to go unsaid.  And also, my poem writing muscles are rusty.  And also, I'm tired.  And also...and also...and also....*excuses excuses and whining.*

I said I would write every day for 30 days.  And I will.  I will try not to whine a lot in the process.  But this is also hard.  (And you can also kick my butt for whining).

So many things.

One thing about me: I hate coming up with titles.  It's the last thing to do, and I kind of slap on a crappy title at the end when I'm burned out on the poem and just want this shit over with.  So right now, the title is "Unsmall."  Do you think "Why We Danced" is a better title?"  You can vote.  I'm all about the voting on titles.  (Because I hate them, in case you missed that).  

I have been staring at this for too long.  I think I need food.  And to not stare at this.  Because holy crap.  I think my computer is overheating along with my brain and my heart.  

Unsmall

We were friends the way 
10-year-olds who don't fit meld together into a unit of awkward by necessity. 
We didn't understand each other and didn't have to because 
we were 10 and didn't know the burdens we carried or 
how to name ourselves and our lives but it didn't matter because we danced
for the same reason and knew it. 

I was the shy, bullied girl with too-big glasses; he, the only boy in dance class,
and we somehow fit into each other's space with an ease we knew did not just happen --
but we got to know each other's quiet pauses. The ways his eyes would soften when he knew
things weren't good at home or
the costume did not fit or
they closed my fingers in the dressing room door - again, and
I knew the way he was practicing jumps when
things weren't good at home
or school
or anywhere
and we would lose ourselves in
who could jump higher or
who could pirouette longer and this
is why we danced.

Hey Buddy, he would say, and we would
sit on the steps where we
weren't supposed to be but
no one would stop us because together we were
invisible and invincible and
it was never love but I loved him in a way that made us
not small at a time when we were both
unseen: we could
dance each other large
if only for a moment and
what is love anyway but making each other
unsmall?

Life happens, in spite of unsmall love and
I haven't seen him for more years than I knew him, but
after 13 years, when I saw his mother's obituary, 
I knew I had to go.

He stands on the porch, smoking a cigarette
wearing a too big suit and the weight of the world on his body.
Hey Buddy, I say.
He shakes his head like he used to and his eyes go soft.
It's been so many years, he says.
I hug him tight, his shoulders broader somehow than at 17,
I feel so small against his frame.
I can't believe you came, he says, and his voice
cracks under the weight.

I hold him with my eyes and know this love can still
make us unsmall and
for a moment
we are there, 
dancing each other
large.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Day 1: Undoing

Okay, y'all.  So, it's time.  For real.  I need to get my butt in gear and write actual words on an actual page.  So there will be 30 days of writing.  

For real.  I'm not even kidding a little bit.  You have my permission to kick me if I am not writing.  

Here is day one.  

Undoing

Some days I wear my body like broken glass.
Crumbled shatterings create
splintered mosaics inside this frame and I
thank god for the ways gravity
and bones hold my undoing together.

And some days
I wear my body like thunderstorm.
The oppressive weight of cloud hangs over my chest and rips
thunder through me -
there is danger
in the way I wear this rippling creation of a being.
I wear this body heavy the way
carrying a river is heavy:
it is beautiful
and deep as it silently
erodes its own
edges.

And some days --some days
I remember this body is not
a thing to be worn.
Not burden, not bruise,
not load to contend with.
This body is not
pieces glued together forming this
heart-full being of human.
See - a tree does not wear herself differently
because the wind has blown.
Does not shame herself when
lightning scars her skin,
when seasons leave her bare,
when insects bore her leaves  --
she lives her physical body without
shrinking.

Some day,
I will
live
this body.