1979

 

Bitter-fixed. The ones she helped damage aren’t crying for her.

Bitter-fixed. Depression and shame and fear fuel hate. To bury. To spit.

Bitter-fixed. Stabbing her finger into our chests to distort accountability.

 

The facts are:

she had a hand in most of what broke

 

1979, the brown Plymouth about to crash, her belly swollen and ready.

She sleeps as the first husband spends

her prenatal care on Pabst again,

and as the car flips into the ditch maybe

she was dreaming of a child, of how she was

going to feed her, how she would

hold her, what would her temperament be?

Will he love her?

 

The facts are:

she felt sorry for him;

she did not know how to love herself

–so young in a woman’s body;

her tenderness shrinking

as she sold her things to feed her children,

her tenderness hardening

as she cooked noodles and watered down

the milk, picking up beer cans and baby bottles.

 

And the facts are:

she is cold and hard because she is lonely

for herself, but

her heart will break with you

so you’re not alone;

her voice changes when you really need her,

dropping herself

because that’s how she loves.

 

In the dark polaroids of ‘65

she beams in every one.

“Cake” written beneath the scenes.

“Your mother was so sweet,” grandma used to say.

I look at her shiny apple cheeks, face tilted up—

that look in a child’s eye that reveals their temperament,

hers a rare sweetness my younger sister inherited.

 

I keep a photo of that young face

in my dresser drawer to remind myself

to love her, to remind myself that it wasn’t

her fault to hate me

when I had needed her, because

it wasn’t me she hated.

 

Looking at her last night, my throat hurt because I missed her.

And looking at her photo when I got home, my throat hurt

because maybe her pain is bigger than mine.

 

Her face last night, deeply lined and gray.

The apples of her cheeks a striated map of wear.

She hasn’t laughed much since Spring.

 

I called her this morning

fingering over my scars in the sunlight on the couch, telling her

in my own way that I am ok, that I love her,

that she is strong and life…life…is responsible…not us.

 

They said if she had been awake she probably wouldn’t have survived that crash.

And now she sleeps, breaking her own heart, because she did.

Reinvent Yourself Endlessly

Every time a professor asked me or my peers what my poems meant–I never quite knew how to answer. They’re comments led me around and around the center of how I always felt about it but couldn’t word,  I just acted like I already knew. That’s why it was written–those were the words to what it was, what the truth to me was. It’s not that I didn’t know but that my body or mind seems to piece things together with words and images before I can catch up. My first poem I ever wrote was Vapor in 2005. And I’ve held onto it. It’s even been published. That poem still holds true–it’s some kind of core belief I have but I didn’t have a rope down into that well to truly grasp it. I am writing to you guys tonight because this is happening again in a way–I don’t know what I am thinking until I write it down; I have to write to a someone, and I hold you guys with affection, because I am not willing to write to just myself. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s my honest attempt to stop escaping myself. Because I try to be as honest as I can on nights like these. I’m so tired, but I can’t stop feeling words that are coming that I am trying to prepare for. I’m not eating, I’m not sleeping. This is what happens every time before something real is written, and I don’t know what it is but I know my fingers will type it out for me.

Everything I have written so far–planning my grand, tragic memoir–is/was really, I am realizing, a desperately structured narrative so I could validate it the events, find order in the chaos, and so I could actually feel for the girl in the story because I have a hard time doing that for myself. Or I did. That’s changing. I am changing, and everything I’ve written–none of it is going into whatever it is that I am compelled and pulled to write. What pulls at me has been pulling for almost a decade, but it’s even stronger now, the words waiting, because I have been watching it unfold and the words only gradually come.  Call those vignettes, that attempted narrative structure, a healing process, call it a coping mechanism, call it a perceived truth (as all truths seem to really be), it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter because how I write it and how I remember it has been two different worlds. The memories and images, feelings (mostly physical, body feelings, frozen emotional states of the past, etc.) and events of course are as true to myself as I can be. But my life is not a linear, chronological tale-it is a history of flashes out of order. And the flashes are what I look to when I write, involving my one fail-safe–my senses and body memories. I’m more tied to the smell of lilacs, tractor oil, Old Spice, the weeds along the path to the baseball games I went to all summer when I was a girl, the milkweed, trains, the iron ore at the dock, old books, the perfume I wore when I was being abused, the feel of water and wet skin on me, physical alarms and instinct, than I am tied to actual happenings or events. And that is a blunt truth: dissociating your whole life–you live in fragments, just like how I remember it. And I have changed and do so constantly into something that makes me feel alive–and I never really felt alive before, not for this long of a period. I am in love with the simplest things like blue, deaf mornings in the winter, the way the telephone wires reflect in puddles, the smell of a storm coming, white seagulls on dark clouds Read More

What Do You Believe In

I’ve been thinking a lot about what I believe in. Faith is not a decision. I think it’s whatever guides you in your secret corners and what you feel when you are either terrified or enamored or content. I was raised Catholic-Catholic School until 8th grade. I studied Judaism, Islam, and Christianity in college and studied Taoism and Buddhism on my own when a while after the break down. My sister and I were talking about our dad’s death and how we find comfort in it. She said she will see him in heaven. I was kind of surprised at that thinking. I guess because a large part of me felt the scary roots of existentialism when I went mad.

I know two things about myself.

I’ve dreamt (is it dreamed or dreamt?) about a hand with an eye on it since I was a teen-never knew what it was or why. Dreamt about it again before my first break down in my twenties, and then again as I healed. So I looked it up.

divinehennaHamsa. The Hand of Fatima. The protection from the evil eye. The hand with the eye in it is a symbol throughout many religions (including Judaism, Islam, Christianity, Hinduism, and Buddhism and Jainism). This just fascinates me. It is very much a feminine symbol.

The other thing I know is that when I was in a bad state, maybe several  months after getting out of the bin, I hadn’t written in years. And I woke up one night and wrote a poem to Jesus Christ. And I cried and felt something–like gratitude. I knew I was going to make it, and that I wasn’t alone. In the hospital I saw something vast and empty–a godless world. It was horrifying. HORRIFYING. I realized my idea of faith had been utterly shattered. For awhile…

My mother has been asking me to go to Adorations at church Monday mornings. I won’t go for one reason–the few times I have gone to mass I do everything I can in there to keep it together and not cry. And it’s tears of love and home and survival. Surviving–how do we do it?

My daughter told me she didn’t think she had courage. I added to a letter I am saving for her for her 21st birthday what I feel about courage:

“You told me you didn’t think you were courageous. But Emma, you won’t know your own strength until it is called on. You will surprise yourself. Strength doesn’t require a good past or a bad past. It requires how much you love yourself, how much you want to survive the obstacle. A passion to endure.”

I do believe every religion and faith centers around the same concept. You have to look past all the crap that has been muddying it. The point of them is the same. It’s also like science. Religion and science are brother and sister in my opinion. But what is it you settle down with at night?

I see my faith in the way early spring morning walks smell, and lilacs that take me back to when I was five, before damage occurred. I see it in my daughter and how I love her and in turn, love myself. I see it the prophets I recognize. I see it in the long winding up and down crazy psychotic loving path between my mother and I. I hear it in my grandmother’s voice I can still hear even though she is gone. I see it in the depth of the hell I was in–the dark is the light, the light is the dark. Everywhere there are openings and answers without words. The point is to face every fear, every passion, every question, every desire, everything within us, because we are human and to deny all of ourselves is a good way to stay trapped.

 

White Spaces

The space between
faith and falling—as thin
as my grandmother’s sheets

my mother told me that before you died
you used to go to the church
when it was empty at 6 a.m.
and pray for me

she whispered to blessed wombs
I mouthed the words to myself:
“don’t die”

in the hospital I imagined you

11351349_10156061119960131_841224234_n
Me & Grams

on your knees in the pew,
fingering the sacred beads
your whisper, your serious face–
like when you had
inspected my wounds over the years,
that serious look you had
when you healed things you could heal,
your hands starting to gnarl from arthritis,
working out the sliver

her repetition of deliverance to
painted saints chipping off the walls
as I plea further to nothing but
my own will and hospital sheets:
“don’t die”

the focus in your eyes—intent
on faith healing wounds you
couldn’t touch;
the focus in mine—the
machinery of my mind,
synaptic failure between
iron gears closing their teeth Read More

Hamsa–The Hand of Fatima & The Virgin Mary

FOR THOSE OF YOU THAT KNOW MY WHOLE STORY, THIS WILL MAKE A LOT OF SENSE.

in high school I had reoccurring dreams of a symbol–a hand with an eye on it.  Dreamed it all the time.  I had no idea what it meant, but it remained with me always.  A few years later I lostinthevalleyrosaryFatimawas dreaming I was in this different aboriginal world and we were painting our faces with blue war paint.  A woman, the leader, kept saying something very close to the sound of “Fatima” and I bolted out of bed but I could not write it down for some strange reason–it slipped away too quickly.  More time passed.  I got sick.  Really sick..  I’d sob into

my hospital mattress praying the Hail Mary over and over and over until I fell asleep.  And everything changed.  But I came back to that dream of the hand with the eye on it, and mulled it over while I was healing.

Last month I was at church (a very rare occasion because I try very hard not to cry for some reason when I”m there) and I was walking out with my grandpa and there was a table of pamphlets and audiobooks set up and I stopped dead in my tracks–there it was; Fatima.  I knew that name but from where?  I kept repeating it in my head.  I knew it.  It was a picture of the Virgin Mary, the vision in Portugal.  I stopped my mother and whispered that I knew this–that I’d dreamed this.  Naturally she shrugged and that was that.   More time passed.

I looked up “hand with eye” and what came up was the Hamsa symbol–the hand of a holy woman (or God’s hand for some) with the eye for protection against evils.   I didn’t read much more because I was floating on the fact that I had dreamed these things and thought maybe–just maybe.  I was so drawn to it, I ordered my hamsa ring after waiting years to get it–I don’t know why I waited.  I stared at it on Etsy every month or so.  But I had to have it.  It was me.

Then I’m at home reading the art of Tantra and books on Sacred Sexuality Read More

Starry, Starry Night

It was a clear October night.  My sisters and I piled into the old red Chevy with our stepfather Dan, and headed outside of town for the hospital where my mother was in the mental ward.  None of us spoke; we hardly ever spoke in those years.  Dan kept his eyes on the road, chain-smoking Dorals.  I stared through the glass, street lights passing over my hooded eyes.  As we il_570xN.523491293_ei2tneared the outskirt, the sky suddenly opened out into space.  I thought of nothing.  I didn’t think of my mother.  I didn’t think of the speed of change.  I stared up into the stars where I didn’t have to feel anything.  It’s okay to be lost when you’re reminded how small you are, how little your voice is.

We swung into the nearly empty parking lot and walked to a group of picnic tables under Read More

A Moment with Grams

My Grams w/ Emma
My Grams w/ Emma

It was a late Spring afternoon.  Mike and I sat across from grandma on the back porch in the shade, the hanging baskets of mixed pansies   fragrant on a gentle breeze.  I remember it so clear–she was wearing her light blue jeans and her pastel yellow, short-sleeved blouse with the white flower basket across the front, a lace collar.  We were enjoying the moment I remember, it was quiet between us–a gentle kind as sweet as Spring.  And then she said something to both of us that I’ll never forget.

lostinthevalleygrandma“I want you two to know something, what happened to you–it wasn’t your fault.  Neither of you.”

It was quiet.  I choked up.  She’d never brought it up before.  And I wanted her to hold me and say it again and again, yet the one time was enough for a lifetime.

Mike, my cousin and best friend my entire life, has Rheumatoid Arthritis.  Bad.  He’s 34 and has had his shoulders, knees, hips, and ankles replaced.  He’s a fighter.  He obviously cannot work and he fills his time with creation, and discovered he’s one hell of a sculptor–he is self-taught, and his work is incredible.  (Here’s his blog: Chicks Dig Scars).  If you’d like to read my essay all about Mike it’s HERE.  Ok, one more–my interview on him for his blog is HERE. Read More

Frail Branch

image

“Be a bird perched on a frail branch that she feels bending beneath her, still she sings all the same, knowing she has wings.”

Victor Hugo

Beyond the Border/Hamsa

(published in Frigg Magazine 2014)

HAMSA

The pop and snap of prescription pill bottles,

swallow, light, inhale, scrape of the chair,

cluster of tap-tap-taps on the keys, a silence—

beyond this room, beyond this wall

I can almost hear you—the soil

sifting, seeds spreading out, dry in your palm;

folds of light robes around you like

birds’ wings—your child

asleep on your warm back,

your sky a sea, an earth, a breath

 

because you’re there I’m less anxious

(as I palm another pill) because I rely

on sedated time I sit in my chair,

lost somewhere before the border,

where I see myself later—aged and worn away—

walking to you, palms up.

 

“Here, here I am…” only you aren’t waiting

for me, time is something else to you—

so I see I don’t have to tell you

where I’ve been or why I am here

but that I’ve arrived

out of the cement tomb.

I see there are no distractions in the sky;

the rise and fall of my chest is all,

seas of breath and I am.

 

I know the scent of your skin,

the feel of your warm, bent back

beneath my body, I know necessity.

 

I will arrive

when I am not so afraid of myself.

When I am not so sick.

I will cross into the motherland.

I will go home.

I will leave what I’ve built behind and

I will take my place

among the living.

 

I can hear you beyond this room.

 

 

 

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