Saturday, May 6, 2017

Woman Body

Woman body knows Spanx, push-up bras, and high-heeled shoes are designed to keep us small.
Knows women used to faint on couches from corsets strangling breath.
Woman body knows we have always survived on less: less oxygen, less stability, less money, less space, less rights, less
of our own bodies.

Woman body knows wage gap, knows "how old are you anyway?"
knows "but you aren't the real doctor, right?" knows "all you women are just the same"
knows research ideas stolen and executed, knows
man got the praise, knows woman body said it first.

Woman body knows "you tell my wife I'm the man and she will do what I say with my children." 
Woman body knows female bodies bruised. 
Woman body makes friends with security guard.  Feels finger on panic button in her sleep some days.
Woman body will never be the loudest voice.  Resorts to being most insistent; woman body learns to say no and forgets to cover her ass first.
Woman body finds boundaries, learns she's being "unreasonable,"
might have to say yes anyway.

Woman body walks down the street.
Woman body wears jeans, wears skirt, wears sweatpants, wears yoga pants, wears...
Woman body hears "hey Baby, where you goin'?"
hears, "you wanna come in and fuck?"
hears, "smile Sweetie.  Aren't you gonna smile for me?"
hears, "why you not answering me?"
hears, "bitch"
hears, "cunt,"
Woman body keeps walking.

Woman body knows wings clipped and pinned to brick like
butterfly to shadow box.  Knows purple crocus blossoming where fingers lay;
woman body cannot write angry metaphors.
Woman body makes them beautiful,
woman body knows they're not,
woman body tries anyway.

Woman body doesn't know what to eat anymore. Woman body starving not for food.
Woman body does not know which women to look to; woman body lost.
Woman body wants a mother; woman body, own mother.
Woman body knows shame.  Knows small.  Knows to take up less
space to make you more comfortable. 
Woman body wonders what space feels like without
too much. 

Woman body stands outside at night,
chest to heaven, breathing in expanse of sky.
Woman body does not imagine herself astronaut.
Does not become planet, moon, or cloud.
Woman body is star.
Woman body is small on the ground but science knows
she is ball of power and light.
When you know her she has already died but
continued existing for light years, she
expanded out beyond her unsmall body, this
woman body knows how to survive anyway.
Woman body knows to survive anyway.
Woman body survive anyway.
Woman body survive

Sunday, March 5, 2017

A History in Music

A History in Music

What if the songs we hear become pieces of us?
When we love them hard enough, notes become dislodged, float
inside our bodies and stick in our
hearts or lungs, we
embody those notes and each time we hear the song again it's like
a puzzle finding it's missing piece: something we
didn't know we were missing snaps
into place and for that 3 minutes and 29 seconds we
are something like complete.

is for the notes
of every song I've ever sung that are
waiting to be breathed again;
and this is for all the notes still waiting out
in the beautiful not yet.

It's bedtime and I am 5 years old.
My sister and I go into our bedroom and switch out the cassette from the tape player
exchanging soothing ocean sounds for Disney's Greatest Hits.
Dad comes in, says goodnight, turns out the light, presses "play" and "The Wonderful Thing About Tiggers" fills the bedroom as my sister and I howl with laughter, hopping in our beds. 
There were no ocean sounds in our bedroom that night,
but at 5, music filled my body with wiggles I could not suppress.

I'm 8 and have discovered my father's record collection.
In the basement, my sister and I don fancy dress-up clothes and turn on Jim Croce's
"Bad Bad Leroy Brown" while flipping our skirts and dancing wildly around the floor. 
In that moment, I felt myself simultaneously beautiful and talented and also
hilarious and a little naughty dancing to this song I did not understand.

At 11, I was practically a piano virtuoso...according to me.  I played
and played and played those songs until I never had to open a book.
I lost myself in the embodying of those notes, played them again and
again until my mother would yell, "Give it a rest, Laur,"
and I would slink to my bedroom.

I have always been a poet.  I want the lyrics
to wrap themselves around me: as a teenager, I would crawl inside
and find myself a home inside the words. I left
pieces of history in those songs that still smell like
summer camp, swimming pools, dressing rooms, college dorms,
car trips, alcohol, and regret. 
Large pieces of me can be found on CDs I burned and listened to until
their rhythm became the pace of my day.

This is for the music of the not yet.
For the love and laughter, grief and heartache
waiting to be heard, to be sung, to be played
until everyone around me begs me to
give it a rest.
This is for knowing the world in us as the only song.
For the music of magic creating vast vibration of
beautiful in us; this is for the songs we sing off-key in our kitchen.
For the lyrics we remember wrong - or never hear right.
For the ones that speak to our souls and never leave us.
This is for the music we make
with our tongues, our feet, our hands,
for the beat of our hearts keeping time with our
rests, our melodies, our
cacophonies of words we try to smooth like symphonies:
you untamed, wild song.

Hold the microphone of your life to your lips that we
may ever hear your vital blossoming of lyric, you
unfolding explosion; let us
breathe our harmonies into your bloodstream --

can you hear it?

is the sound of the world in us.

It is the song of all the music that is
living in you.  It is
the harmony of all the songs
you have not yet sung.

Monday, January 9, 2017


the poem is born from the  
underbelly where the
fire lies.

I will
write from the place where
broken turns broken
open like too much becomes over-
flowing like
river like
can't contain this 
could never contain this, like
tried to tame this
tried to train this
tried to good girl this
truth, this human, this
woman out of me, like -- 

I am learning to
breathe this body.  Learning to
move to
unsmall myself, learning to
expand.  You may not
chain me: I am
frightened and
flying. I am
everything you fear and
living in this broken,
holy body, I will
the blossom of this
too much, this

truth-stained, battered
transparent heart of a body is
all I have and I will
rely on her for she is
fierce.  You may not
convince me
otherwise and

my heart will 
believe these words.  Sheds
tears to believe these words, it took me
years to remember how
to pull my tear ducts
open but now I let old
pieces of myself fall like
stars: hope-filled and
sad, yet 
beautiful in the

God, make me fierce
enough to hold this holy
boldness.  Turn me vast and
spacious: unleash in me a wondering
furious love to keep me


Monday, January 2, 2017

A New Year Poem in 3 Acts

I.      Resolutions

Sometimes I wonder about the cost of being human.
I wonder if I made a covenant with a divine
being I have since forgotten
to pay on this ride; I wonder if I
am pulling my weight.

I could make a resolution.
Everyone could make a resolution.
We could all make resolutions like I will: 
                               lose 20 pounds and eat more vegetables
or                           give to charity and volunteer for the homelessanimalshelterfoodpantry
or                           beabetterperson who doesbetterthings and thinksbetterthoughts.
It would not be wrong and many will do it.
I could make a resolution.

Promise is a synonym for resolution.
As are oath / pledge / purpose --
this is no small matter in a world of the
uncompromising splendor and
terror we
live, enable, unmask.

 A synonym for resolute is stubborn.
So are determined / unwavering / definite --
there is power in this,
the living, the marching rising lifting hearing speaking yelling falling and
rising again.

I do not love the coming of the year.
When more in me feels old than new and
change hangs like a pendulum swinging without
gravity or physics,
resolutions surround that may/not be of consequence
and the weight of the unresolved shifts like earth
quake: break me open.  Make me
thunderous and messy in my
shaking, challenge me to be dis-
comforted, up-rooted and
growing.  Unquiet my heart and light a
fire to burn my too soft edges -- the world is precious and I am
Let me learn to pay the cost of being human in
raw, determined love:
this promise is one I must continually learn
to keep.

II.     Revelations

New Year "beginning again" is not my
target: growth is too hard

won to aim for beginning
anew, roll that clock

onward, I am standing
under the dripping

faucet of faith, waiting for
no one: I am my own

Godot. And aren't I
dangerous? Aren't I a woman to be

feared as I dare
revelations of my own

III.     Revolutions

In astronomy, natural objects in space are
heavenly bodies.
Although no one says it,
we celebrate the New Year because our
heavenly body completed one
full cycle around another heavenly
body and those cycles are

Quiet, unassuming amid our
fireworks and ball drops, the
heavenly body heaves herself to home plate
without a sigh of derision, the
gravity of this revolutionary
love literally holding us all
here, we
human bodies crack
under both weight and
weightlessness, we know

is the key for our survival
is making it home when they tried to end you
is holding it all in love, and anger, and fear, 
is the will to keep your
heavenly body

Tuesday, December 27, 2016



There are so many ways of dying to
believe yourself alive.
Bottles meet lips
fists meet wall
blades meet skin
food meets mouth - or doesn't -
fingers move to back of throat.

And when I wake, my body begs me
for a second chance.
Always too small and too
large for this world, I have only ever wanted to
bring myself to life.
To breathe inside this skin without
the ghosts who try to live here:
there is a constricting spaciousness in silence that
shrinks me smaller until I am
nothing - this physical body is too large,
takes up
too much
space --
this place of small is
familiar and
gives the ghosts the space they need to
inhabit this too-much, this
not-enough, this --

I wonder if
is the only way I know to love myself.
Wonder if the only way I can be small
enough is by not
ridding myself of heart or
brain or
body, I let the
ghosts fill my empty spaces.

There are so many ways of dying to
keep yourself alive.
Shaking voice forms truths too
holy for silence, too
holy for speaking.
Coded tongues drop words from
bitten lips:
oh, Impossible One --
there is courage here
even when

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

The one with all the signs

Lately, I find myself feeling as though I am standing on the edge of a precipice.  In many ways, I feel I have spent a long time standing on such ledges, looking over, and out, and down, and wondering how and where I would be going next.  I have spent so much time frightened and unsure, and convincing myself that I am strong, and present, and brave.  It was January 2014 that I first made the intention to myself to be brave.  While I told myself that intention was only a year, that intention never left.  That word has been my word for three years.  How desperately I have tried to learn it, to move into it, to embrace it.  How often it has exhausted me, pushed me past what was healthy or right.  And how I have also lived that word.  I have lived every ounce of life out of that word in these three years.

And I know that because it is no longer my word.  As I was driving yesterday, I was realizing how small the word sounds to me now.  In the face of the battles I have fought this year, in the face of the battles we as a nation are moving into, in the face of the questions that are rising in me, the word "brave" is simply no longer large enough.  The trepidation and anxiety and resolution I used to feel within that word are gone.  It is just a word, now, tapped of the power it once held.

I arrived on this thought in a roundabout way: I was thinking about poetry, and about words, and about my favorite word.  My favorite word is "vast" because it is such a small word that sounds so large, just like its meaning.  It creates this enormity of space in my chest when I say it that makes me feel like I blend with the universe in all its exquisite vastness.  (I love the word exquisite, too, because it sounds like fancy curlicues.  And this is why I'm a poet).   

Anyhow, this led me to feel this....this feeling of being on the precipice.  I am applying for a leadership conference and one of the three essay questions is "what question are you currently holding about your life or vocation?"  This process of answering these questions right now is so exactly what I need.  This process of discernment, of questioning, or breathing into the place of no answers to find the true question -- this is where the bravery has brought me.

Because right now, like many in this country, I feel angry, and lost, and disheartened.  As I wrote in my last poem, there are so many questions I cannot answer.  I sent an email to a former colleague -- someone older and wiser than myself, telling her that I am disillusioned with our colleagues and our field.  "Where the hell are we?" I asked her. "What are we doing?  Are we all wrapped up in our ivory towers of academia, too busy writing articles to come out and talk about matters of importance?  We are in a position to do so much social good, to make strong statements and take strong positions on matters of social justice based on what we know, and we don't. If we do not find a way to speak, aren't we failing our clients and our profession?"

I don't expect to hear from her.  I have spent so long looking for, searching for someone to be the person who will guide or mentor or show me a way through this.  This person is not coming.  S/he is not here, and attempting to live into the word brave did not stir me to action.  It was not big enough.

A few months ago, in the midst of a total, crying, messy breakdown, I had something happen that had happened to me once before.  It's something that could make firmly agnostic me believe in God, if I were prone to such things: I heard a voice.  Not an external voice like Morgan Freeman voice of God moment.  Like, just WOAH.  There's that voice.  Like happened that one time before when I was sitting at that stoplight in Ohio.  And the voice said, "what if you are the one you have been waiting for?"

Fast forward to yesterday.  I'm driving to church, and these things happened in rapid succession:

(1) As I was thinking about what I want to say in that essay, and about all of the unanswered questions inside me, and about this uncomfortable place I am in, and about how painful change is, and about how bravery is too small, and about how I love the word vast, I heard that voice again - so clear, and definitive, and not my voice, and it would be creepy as hell if it was saying something weird, but it's not, it said the same thing -- it said, "you are the one you are waiting for."

(2) I looked down at my forearm, my hand grasping the steering wheel, and realized the reason I have not gotten the tattoo I desperately want is because I have been imagining it wrong.  I don't want the words on my back.  I want them where I can see them.  I need them where I can see them.  I need it on my forearm.   

(3) The inevitable panic of "YOU CAN'T GET A VISIBLE TATTOO" set in, and I squashed it.  This body is mine and I want to find out what it's like to live it, to own it, to inhabit it fully and completely.  I am the one I have been waiting for. 

I arrived at church, sat in the parking lot, sketched out the tattoo, and walked inside.

It's not that I believe in signs, but the service was asking the question: "What is the light that you have to offer the world?" "What does the world stand to lose if you hide your light?"  I laughed, because -- seriously?  And then I cried, because -- seriously?  And it just was.  This is how the universe is playing right now.  Throwing me ALL of the signs.  

When I was in college, way back when I was a junior in 2005, I had to read one of Ana├»s Nin's books for my humanistic and existential psychology class.  Either in the book, or in the class, or in my reading about Nin, I encountered the quote, "And the day came when the risk it took to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom."  I wrote it in the front of my notebook.  And since 2005, I have loved that quote.  I can't quite explain the way that quote just has been me and my life in so many ways -- or the ways I have hoped it would be, sometimes.  I have written that quote in journals, on my skin, in the fronts of books.  I have doodled it, zentangled it: it made 19 year old me feel hopeful.  It gave 24 year old me something to believe in.  It gives 31 year old me a sense of vastness, of blossoming, of expansion.

That quote is, of course, too much to say in a tattoo, unless you're going big.  So this is what I said instead.  This is the other side of all the bravery.

 The handwriting and overall design are mine.  The swirly design is found, but the words, the writing, the design -- it is mine.  On my body.  Turns out, I was the one I was waiting for. 

I wrote a poem last night that I will not share in its entirety -- but I will share the end, because I think it speaks to that place of precipice-standing -- to the risk, and the vastness, and the blossoming.

"...the light of my self cracks this body
open, leaving
broken wholeness in the wake of
destruction.  This body is not object.
Not function.  Not space to be filled or claimed.  It is
promise - vast and private, like
the whisper of dawn
just before it breaks
into morning."

There is so much that lies before us, as we stand here -- teetering on this precipice.  What if this is the day when the risk to blossom outweighs the risk of remaining tight in a bud?  Or maybe not the day, but a day?  One of many days, perhaps, when we make that choice?  What if we are the ones we have been waiting for?  What if this vast and private whisper is not destruction, but the promise-filled darkness of dawn?

I don't have answers -- but now, have a permanent reminder to risk the questions as they break into morning.

Monday, December 5, 2016

On questions and capes: A poem about post-election survival

On questions and capes: A poem about post-election survival

The cashier at the pharmacy verifies my name, address, date of birth,
looks me over and says, "Solomon, huh?
Is that Jewish?"

It is 3 weeks after the election.
We are standing in a Walgreens in a blue state
across the corner from where the
high school kids stood on election day with signs reading,
"build that wall" and "Hillary for Prison." We are
down the road from the Starbucks where I was lectured on
how young people will be the downfall of society because
we don't know any better, and up the street from the
house with the Confederate flag painted in its garage, from the
Trump sign that lights up in the dark, from the
pick-up truck with two Confederate flags flying off the back above the gun rack, from the
Safeway where men followed me to my car, tried to get in after me, where I
did not buy from the Kosher for Passover section because
a man in a Trump hat was in the aisle with me spouting ignorance and now I
why I am standing in Walgreens
trying to answer this question as
my mouth goes dry.

Dr. Laura?
If Donald Trump is president, will he hate me?

Dr. Laura?
When Donald Trump runs the world, will he make people be cannibals?
Will they eat people with autism first?

Dr. Laura?
Is it okay to worry about Donald Trump?
Sometimes I can't sleep because I worry about him, like, about what he might do to my family.

Dr. Laura?
Will it be the end of the world when Donald Trump is president? 

Dr. Laura? 
Can I be a superhero and save the world from Donald Trump?  Sometimes I imagine that.

Dr. Laura?
I don't know how to be a superhero. 
I tried to fly once, but
I just falled down.

Each session feels like a Bingo card of heartbreak:
a unique pattern of life on the margins.
I find newfound fear as the day's
headlines flash by.

Session 1:
White single father with mental illness raising teenage son with
disabilities on the Eastern Shore has to give up
a day of work to wait
for Medical Assistance transportation.

Session 2:
Muslim woman in hijab has twins with autism, works
nights to support them, about to lose her job due to
inability to find child care.

Session 3:
Non-English speaking, immigrant mother with
intellectual disability raising child with autism.

Session 4:
Black lesbian grandmothers, one with cancer, one an immigrant, raising
child with multiple disabilities on
food stamps in section 8 housing with a history of
multigenerational trauma.


I receive an email:
"I don't understand why you're so upset.
Now is the time to send love and prayers and compassion."

I fire off a response:
"Fuck your prayers.
Now is the time to fight for the superheroes flying
across the margins."

I feel so small in the face of the
resilience I sit across from.

What privilege it is to feel
shell-shocked and
curl into my
white, lesbian, half-Jewish shell when all day I
sit with people who only had a quarter shell to start with and it
leaks when it rains.

Dr. Laura?
I was teaching my son to ride the bus.
He was going to do it himself.
Should I let him?  I'm scared.

Dr. Laura?
I want him to be able to work
but I don't know what people will say.
Have you seen all these hate crimes?

Dr. Laura?
He runs away from me in public.
He hugs strangers, he's
a grown man now.
A 14-year-old black boy.
What do we do?

Dr. Laura?

I spend days telling myself I cannot do this.
I cannot find my breath.
I ask myself: what if the next person you meet is the one the world is waiting for?
I give everyone capes in my mind so they are
flying as I
learn to ask the questions that will
imagine our survival.


Note: All clients portrayed above are fictionalized and/or composites of actual clients I see/have seen.