Wednesday, September 27, 2017

100 days of 100 words, day 42: force of personality

Force of Personality


A man waiting to turn got frustrated and yelled, “Move, you fat cow!”  I, who had been silenced by the force of her personality, suddenly (sort of) found my voice.  “Shut up,” I countered impotently.  I spoke while looking straight ahead.  “So rude!  What an ass.”  Leslie said nothing. She pulled out and drove grimly down the street.  In that moment I felt judged by her, perhaps because I had not adequately defended her, or because I couldn’t look at her, or maybe because she was accustomed to pushing every bad feeling out of her and onto whoever was nearest.



Friday, September 22, 2017

Because She Takes on Many Forms

Recently accepted poem

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Because She Takes on Many Forms
The mouth of the river kisses
into the ocean as a loving gesture
toward me. And the arms of chairs,
which could be traps, offer
a statement of love
that anyone could see.
Papers I hold in my pocket
become as soft as her skin
in time. I weep when she cuts
her hair, but follow in the heat
collecting Spanish moss
she trails behind as a clue.
The creatures she sends
will keep me warm. I can’t complain.
I see her in every view
the window frame selects
and feel her in my own pockets.
Waving good-bye to her
is a privilege I take

every time I turn around.


100 days of 100 words, day 41: scab saga

Scab Saga

Owen fell on asphalt coming in from recess and acquired two impressively scraped knees, one scraped elbow, bruises.  Knees and elbows, being knees and elbows, bend frequently and therefore scab slowly.

I forgot how fascinating wounds can be.

We get multiple briefings a day on scab formation:  color, texture, dimensions, tenacity.  How are scabs affected by shower?  Weather?  Clothing?  Sleep?  Do they become skin?

He wears one leg of his pants rolled up.  He says it's to avoid chafing but I'm pretty sure it's to encourage admiration and conversation.

I don't care.  All I'm thinking is:  PLATELETS!


Thursday, September 7, 2017

100 days of 100 words, day 40: scabs

Scabs


It's my fault.  First I looked up an old friend and found plagiarism (Leslie Harpold, Unintended Personality Test), then I looked up my old stepmother (Spider LegsMind Games), and then I spent hours in obsession and anxiety, and still more with bad dreams.

I'm looking for the line between letting resentments fester and letting go of them for my own health.  Am I squelching my feelings, just pushing them down, or can I truly free myself and surrender that pain?  

True:  if you pick it, it won't heal.  Also true:  If you don't cut out the cancer, it will spread.


Wednesday, September 6, 2017

100 days of 100 words, day 39: Leslie Harpold

Leslie Harpold

Reader: you'll have to mentally insert the stream of profanity that goes with this.  

Eleven years ago she died, this friend from college.  Troubled but very talented.  A writer.

Online I found a video of her reading MY story to a live audience in NYC.  I found a link to the text.  She did not credit me.  She did not change a word.  The whole thing is there, title to ending, except for my name.

Yesterday I found a site bemoaning the loss of her online writing.  Except, wait!  This story!  This video!  Links!

Insert your most inventive invective here.


Monday, September 4, 2017

100 days of 100 words, day 38: museum

Museum

More than the jewels of royalty or the chalice of the high priest, I am moved by items of daily use.  A drinking cup.  A button.  Fragments of textiles, grocery lists, shoes.  Paraphernalia of the rich and powerful impress but these other objects affect personally and profoundly:  the millions who came before and also shivered in fear of rejection and worried about feeding their children and told jokes and gossiped.  And made beauty! -- shaped pottery, beaded fabrics, sang to their children.  Created stories out of shapes in the stars.

Meanwhile, this is my drinking cup, my grocery list.  Where are my shoes?


Friday, August 25, 2017

100 days of 100 words, day 37: glimpse

Glimpse

That's all it takes.  That's how ingrained, how built-in, devious, and sinister it is.  I catch a brief, unflattering glimpse of myself and I'm completely undone.  I'm spiraled to worthlessness and struggling for purpose.  Change clothes three times.  Make tea.  Fantasize about taking a knife to offending parts.  Decide to never eat again.  Eat.  Decide to exercise.  Don't.  

Remember:  this is my body:  it grew and birthed twins at 40, walks miles with only minor complaints, adapts to vision loss again and again, does what it's supposed to every day, and gives me crazy dreams at night.  And it's not perfect.



Saturday, August 19, 2017

100 days of 100 words, day 36: white privilege

White Privilege

When the boys joked about bringing switchblade combs to school to fool people, I thought about it for a while before we had the conversation.  

Have you heard about Black Lives Matter?  No?  So, there's this thing that's been happening in our country...for a very long time.  Black parents have to tell their kids, unfortunately, that the police might kill them.  Can you imagine?  No?  Me neither.  

What they've learned in school about MLK and the civil rights movement conveys a mission accomplished.  So...disillusionment...but with privilege.  Told them to stick with a black kid if they're out and police stop them.  

Friday, August 4, 2017

100 days of 100 words, day 35: saying thank you to my 22-year-old self

Saying Thank You to My 22-year-old Self


I have come to use the metric of smart-funny-kind to identify the people to whom I'm most likely to feel close, most likely to let in at all.  This is completely subjective, obviously; another person's idea of humor might not match mine.  Smart, funny, and unkind:  no thank-you.  The other permutations represent people who are perfectly wonderful to be around, but the trifecta means we'll probably be good friends. 

Somehow, back when I wasn't always making good choices, I managed to attract a man who is brilliant, gut-bustingly funny, and relentlessly kind.  And I've been with him ever since.


Thursday, August 3, 2017

100 days of 100 words, day 34: volunteer

Volunteer


As Staff Coordinator at the all-volunteer crisis center, I had the power to 'deactivate' other volunteers.  The most common reason for deactivation was three blown shifts; phones had been covered 24/7 since 1969 so not showing up was a big deal.

But the one time I deactivated someone, it was for making racial jokes that discomfited others.  At 20, I took a stand against a man twice my age who had volunteered there for half my life.

No self-congratulation--I was tormented.  He was so old.  They were just jokes.  But, unlike some decisions I made then, I think I got this one right.


Friday, July 21, 2017

100 days of 100 words, day 33: affronted

Affronted


I picture her running, a sash fluttering around her waist.  Attached to the sash is a net and into the net goes a pebble every time she feels affronted.  Clink.  Every grievance, petty or weighty, imagined or undeniable:  clink, clink.

She's been at this a long time. She can no longer run.  She trudges.  "But it wasn't fair."  Clink.  "It's not my fault."  Clink.  Sweating, purposeful.  Her determination has always been strong.  "How can you ask me to let this go?"  Clink.  "Why should they get away with it?"   Clink.  "I'm not stuck in the past."  Clink, thud.


Wednesday, July 19, 2017

100 days of 100 words, day 32: the truth will set you free

The Truth Will Set You Free


I've had a lot of tough conversations with my kids.  I'm sure there will be many more.  This one was tough.  I had to confront one boy about lying.  There was no question that he was lying about taking something of his brother's.  We asked him to tell the truth and he fudged around but finally admitted that he was embarrassed and had lied.

I want him to know that telling the truth will make him feel better.  Admit that you made a mistake, made a selfish choice, and then let it go.  Don't carry that shame.  Set it down and move on.


Monday, July 17, 2017

100 days of 100 words, day 31: Fire and Rain

Fire and Rain


Hours after I learned my brother was dead, I heard Fire and Rain on the radio, began sobbing, and ran into the bathroom because I didn't want to freak out my two 6-year-olds.  I always thought that I'd see you again...

When the guitar teacher began playing it as a demonstration for the boys, I felt my head fill up.  Not just my eyes; I felt it in my ears, my throat, behind my cheekbones.  It didn't take me to memories of my brother but to learning of his death.  Healing now through little boy voices reaching for the notes, struggling to find the chords.


Thursday, July 13, 2017

100 days of 100 words, day 30: grief

Grief


I grieve with others, in empathy.  I experience pain witnessing tragedy and I clutch, with others, at the petals of hope in times of despair.

But this grief is utterly selfish.  It is me missing you, me feeling the hole in my life, the emptiness in my womb, the relationships that died while the people still live and the ones that died with death.

I can't prevent grief, can't stop myself from loving, from expecting, hoping, planning.

Sometimes I am scabby and oozing.  

And sometimes I am a crackerjack improviser, spinning deftly from that vortex, reconfiguring myself with everything that's left.


Monday, July 10, 2017

100 days of 100 words, day 29: Marcia, Marcia, Marcia

Marcia, Marcia, Marcia


Here.  It's yours.  You can have your own bedroom for 4 years instead of 2.  But also, before that, you will share with the baby so you can change him in the night and feed him in the morning.  Daddy might take off your pajamas when he thinks you are asleep.  

You will babysit and clean houses and sell Italian sausages at rowdy, testosterone-soaked festivals instead of running track or playing flute because you have to pay for all your own stuff.  

But, yes:  when listing the children, your name will come first.  

That was mean-spirited and self-indulgent.  But it sure felt good.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

100 days of 100 words, day 28: metaphor

Metaphor

We can't ever really know what another person is thinking or experiencing.  We use metaphor to swirl up a bit of meaning here, and another bit there, and hopefully, eventually, we are standing in the same water.  It took a metaphor to get me there.  Metaphor, in all its forms, creates communication, connection.  The dancers in unison.  The instruments.  The paint and clay and words.

I find God in the fascinating vagaries of weather and world and cosmos, the euphoric love I feel for my children, and the soul-bursting fresh air revelations found in the communication made possible by art.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

100 days of 100 words, day 27: mid-life crisis

Mid-Life Crisis

Napoleon wrasse sits in the aquarium, working his thick blue lips.  Over 40 pounds, over 40 years old with a large protruding hump on his forehead.  The hump used to be less prominent, when he was a she.  Smaller fish dart around but he remains unperturbed.  Aside from the excitement of his recent sex-change, his life consists of sitting in this aquarium.  For forty years.

As I ponder this, he slowly moves to a back corner and turns tail up, nose in the sand, wiggling.  "What is he doing?" I ask the nearby employee.  "Physical therapy."  Middle age is a bitch.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Self Portrait, 3rd Person



The haunted child has a pigeon
on each shoulder.  The birds
are not haunted.  They do not know
fear.  The child knows
a thing or two:  times tables, state
capitals, the words that get her home
when she is lost.

The beautiful child carries a shawl
but it means nothing.  Her beauty
means nothing.  She rushes through a forest,
bare feet cushioned by pine needles
and arrives at the back door
of a little cottage.

The curious child, mouthy and distant,
wears white cotton, and fidgets like a woman
in pain.  She can see the very thing
you believe to be hidden.  She doesn’t want to.  
It’s just that, as soon as she achieves

silence, the vision arrives.  

The sad woman can’t help the aging.  She can
still bend over, she can still smile and remove her bra
as if to music.  When she smiles knowingly,
it means she knows.  When she flutters her hands,
it means she used to be a bird.

The pigeons on her shoulders, let’s say
they represent imagination.  Let’s admit
that they fail.  Let’s confess
that we don’t even know what success
of the imagination would look like.

And the woman, we must agree
that her tears aren’t real. But they could be,
if we weren’t watching.  She conceals her eyes,
but not from shame.  Out of dignity, aggressive
self-possession.  You should thank her.
But don’t wonder what it means.  She won’t
tell us.  Don’t ask.  Shhh.  Don’t say a word.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

100 days of 100 words, day 26: selfless self-esteem

Selfless Self-Esteem

After 40 years of struggling to achieve a healthy body image, I think I've found a viable mental strategy that might get me there. 

The almost 15-year-old girl who lives next door is (among other things) beautiful, tall, willowy.   She will not have the short/dumpy body issues I did/do, but she *will* have her own.  As someone she sees as a role model, I owe it to her to show acceptance of what it is to be me at my age and to look this way.  Maybe acting comfortable will lead to feeling comfortable.  

Selfish selflessness.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

100 days of 100 words, day 25: Greek tragedy

Greek Tragedy

The Place:  Detroit, Cooley High School, 1965

The Characters:  A 17-year-old girl, a 17-year-old boy

The Set-up:  The girl was attracted to the boy because his family was religious and listened to classical music.  The boy was attracted to the girl because her parents threw parties, drank, smoked, and listened to loud tunes.  

The Action:  A pregnancy, an elopement, and a marriage that was a misery of miscommunication, mixed signals, conflicting goals, and opposing objectives.  And four children.

The Climax:  A swampy divorce, ill-fated remarriages.

The Chorus:  The four children--Damaged, Affronted, Provoked, and Dead.

Monday, May 8, 2017

100 days of 100 words, day 24: unintended personality test

Unintended Personality Test




There are those who want to hold my arm whenever I start walking and those who forget I can't see until I stumble.  Some fear I will be an easy victim, while others just enjoy getting to use my handicapper placard when I'm in the car.

My obese, plagiarizing, pathological-liar friend feared that I would embarrass myself while eating in a restaurant by missing my mouth and smearing food on my face.  My sister grieved that I might not be able to see her face.

Kids enjoy testing me and delight in finding the lacunae where I can't see them.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

100 days of 100 words, day 23: the blueprint myth

The Blueprint Myth

It's easy to imagine that if not for certain choices (sometimes made by others), my life would have developed as it was "supposed to," that I would have reached my potential (whatever that is or was).  But the original blueprint has been modified, completely overhauled.  Sometimes, through the overlays, I can see the faint lines of the original and it is tempting to think that I can somehow get back to it.

Those decisions that rearranged my life:  I didn't foresee how completely they would alter my design.  I have no choice, however, but to live in the house I helped to build.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

100 days of 100 words, day 22: (sad dance) and wonder

(Sad Dance) and Wonder


I didn't have the words to say good-bye to the baby brother whose birth I had celebrated with my 8-year-old happy dance and whose life I had tried to enhance and protect.  There is no longer a life to enhance (sad dance), so I protect the memories.  These words I'll keep.

When Scotty was 4, he admitted to my friend Carolyn and me that he had a crush but would not reveal the name.  What's it start with? we asked.  He said, "It starts with a 1."  Only after much cajoling could we learn the name of this numbered love:  1der Woman.

Friday, April 21, 2017

100 days of 100 words, day 21: door

Door


"No one let Kristy outside," stated the sign taped to the door I had finally found in my attempt to escape a college party featuring a complex net of past, current, and future lovers.  Startled, I stood there considering.  Relief from social anxiety was so close!  Would it count if I let myself outside?

Eventually, I smiled.  Eventually, I learned there was a cat named Kristy (didn't get to meet her).  Eventually, thankfully, I also outgrew that initial way of thinking which allowed me to believe that a sign handwritten by unknown people could stop me from going through a door.

Monday, April 17, 2017

100 days of 100 words, day 20: spider legs

Spider Legs


She was more attractive than Tammy Faye Bakker, but shared Tammy Faye's cartoonish make-up strategy: thick black spider legs for eyelashes and slashed-on rouge and dark lips, lined outside their natural borders.  Her persona was sexier, more sly, more laced with a conviction that every man she met could be seduced, but she and Tammy Faye Bakker both smirked with righteous judgment and conveyed a smug superiority that just barely concealed a writhing insecurity.  Perhaps that insecurity was as terrible for my stepmother to live with as she was for me to live with.  I sure as shit hope so.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

100 days of 100 words, day 19: love is a drug

Love Is A Drug


Pregnancy and childbirth bathed my brain in oxytocin, refiguring it down to the reptilian amygdala, carving very specific Lionel and Owen grooves.  As I nursed and cared for my babies, those grooves were periodically re-flooded, creating a perfect addiction.  

But people bond with and care for babies all the time without having gestated or birthed them.  Turns out the act of nurturing an infant and participating in daily care can also refigure the brain.  This is how I know that my first 'baby groove' was laid down by Scotty, whom I fed and comforted and diapered and carried on my hip.  My brain hurts.

Monday, March 20, 2017

100 days of 100 words, day 18: mind games

Mind Games


Only rarely did she actually hit, but she liked to SMACK her hands next to their faces or rears and they would cry out anyway.  

She didn't like him in particular; that was obvious to anyone.

Before school, she would place him in the hallway and tell him not to move, not to get in anyone's way.  Then, with a few minutes to spare, SMACK!  "Get ready for school.  Now!  Don't miss the bus."

Racing around, grabbing food, breathless at the bus stop, stinging eyes.  

What does this do to one's mind?  Seriously--to the neural pathways and connections?  Definition of a mind fuck.

Monday, March 13, 2017

100 days of 100 words, day 17: crime and punishment

100 Days of 100 words, day 17:  Crime and Punishment


My stepmother:  "I just kicked my own son out of the house for doing less than what you did."

What I did:  tracked down my mother in Detroit after not seeing her for five years.

What he did:  Burgle houses in the subdivision across the street.  Flood a home by placing a running hose in the basement window when the owners were on vacation.

I was not allowed to tell my siblings about my mom.  What must they have imagined that I did?  I tried not to care.  I made my face a blank.  I was leaving for college in two weeks.


Thursday, March 9, 2017

100 days of 100 words, day 16: "It's definitely not leukemia"

"It's Definitely Not Leukemia"


These are the words we were relieved to hear the doctor say.  It's still serious, but my Baby B just has to live carefully for a few months until his platelets recover.  However, nothing takes away that couple of days when we weren't sure, when we wanted to cover him in bubble wrap, when I wished him back in my uterus.  And there's another feeling I don't know how to explain or accept:  guilty relief?  The opposite of schadenfreude.  Some of the other families in the waiting room heard a different sentence.  I would not trade, but empathy taints the relief.