everyone needs a good story

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 “expect sadness
 like
 you expect rain.
 both,
 cleanse you.”
 ―Nayyirah Waheed

IF I WERE A PHOENIX – found poem 9.28.17

Lighting a flame within me, all-consuming
like a candle to a mirror, a dark burning,
every step is an agony against the hands
marked “Justice.” I may know the dance
of destruction and whispered venoms.
I know the ropes bites. A spiritual battle,
I say to myself: Free me from this cage,
toward a brighter future and the woman
I was meant to be. I thought I’d lost steam,
was long down and out. But I can feel
the sweetness of breaking surface.
I only have the faintest notion of what
I’ve done. I will make it through this alive.
I feel like I’m praying from the Earth’s beginnings.
The body I live in, the only light for miles.
The motivation: that you do not burn me,
but that I burn myself. Fine. I fill this vacancy
with light. With my last breath, I tell myself
to survive. – mr

We’ve been working for the past few weeks on the personal and political. As we attempt to let the two cross over one another, we realize that there is a point where we just want to tell our own story – to let the personal be personal and sort out how it links to others, to the body politic later on. Mostly though, we just wish to be heard.

In the poem above, a found poem written from the lines of CRCF writers and facilitators, we see a speaker settle into their identity as a phoenix. The burn and resurrection occurs without apology. The other night, the writers at CRCF told their own stories without apology. They wrote and answered one another by just listening. Here are those stories, that you may listen too.

THE TIRED
The beautiful, extraordinary tired I have felt and known my whole life…

All started when I was a little girl. My parents got divorced when I was 2 which left me to live with my mom but visit at my dad’s every other weekend. I hated going to my dad’s because his new girlfriend and her 3 sons were so mean to me and my sister. Those boys, which become my stepbrothers, used to play pranks on my sister and I. I can specifically remember them lining up tacks outside my bedroom door so when I walked out of my room I stepped on them. Or like the day my dad finished making a tree house for us and boys took it over and kicked us out by throwing chairs down at us so we couldn’t climb up! I was soo tired of going there. THen we found out that my oldest stepbrother molested my sister. My mom took it to court and we could only visit my dad if it was at his mother’s house, my grammy! This was much better until he started drinking and leaving us at Grammy’s. Can you see the pattern already? I never really realized how young it started with me. Men always absent, violent, and/or addicted to something. So then, I got older and didn’t want to go to my grammy’s no more so I stopped going. During all this I began having boyfriends of my own that I thought at that time were serious relationships but now as I’m looking back on and writing about I can see that none of them were serious relationship nor were they healthy. Once again, more men that were controlling, addicted, and violent. I was so tired! Now I’m senior in high school, damn, graduating, and I was still searching for that man in my life. This is the time where I found myself with a guy who I was with for seven years. I had 2 children and a miscarriage with him. This is the asshole that got me addicted to drugs. This is the guy that hurt me sexually, physically, and emotionally. He’s the man that got me charges! At this point in my life, I didn’t think I could get any more tired than I already was. Next chapter in my life is when I met the man of my dreams! He is the father my kids needed and the man that I’d been searching for my entire life! We’ve been together for three years, got married last year, and we had a beautiful baby boy! He’s never hurt me and he takes care of me and our 3 children! And just when I didn’t think I could be anymore tired, we both got arrested and ended up here in jail.

SP

***
SURVIVAL

I tell myself to survive with every breath,
behind these cold, cement bricks,
the cold metal and the anger.

I tell myself to survive with every breath,
the loss of being without my kids,
the days of not being the mother
they need and the stress.

I tell myself to survive with every breath.
It’s almost over. You have made it
almost 2 and a half years. You’re almost done.

I tell myself to survive with every breath.
The doors will open and you will
really leave. You will start a new
begin for yourself and your kids.

I tell myself to survive with every breath.

LB

***

 

HALLOWEEN

I love everything about fall,
the smell of cider and apple,
the brisk air of spices,
the fall fashion,
sounds of leaves crunching beneath my feet
as I run into the arms of someone I love.
Leaf-peeping, raking leaves
to watch my child jump in,
pumpkin-carving,
costumes of everything under the moon:
skeletons, ghouls, witches, vampires, bees,
bears, lions, crayons, princesses.
Halloween, the day you can be
anyone you want to be.
Forget the somebody you used to be!
Get tons of fun treats.
Don’t forget to stay safe.
Walk on the sidewalk and check all candy.
There are evils in the this world that are not
just Halloween fright.
Halloween, beautiful cabbage babies
born every year.
A time to just let go, be happy!

KS

***
THE DANCE

I dance through life. So many, many dances. A merry, vicious twirl, ear to ear, venom so sweet. Watch the dancers skitter like drops of mercury, messengers themselves. A reel, my own reaction, when life, the universe and everything is no longer 42, but inexplicably 35 or 87. A jig, gleefully exalting to join a new battle, to refuse, hell no, to sit down and be quiet. When my wish is up, oh yes, I dance. A tango, a slide and drag of a seductively pointed leg, and a dance, a teasing, tempting dance is all that’s ever going to be because I will never tolerate a partner who thinks he’ll be allowed to head anywhere besides the dance floor. A mambo, a shimmying cha-cha-cha, bright and bewitching, delighting in movement and my own sense of humor, absolutely disregarding the danceless peons. A bellydance, done in secret to keep up the practice, refusing to let the roll of my hips ossify, the rules of this place and my own rolls or fat to be damned.
And isn’t than more than half of it? Their rules and the remarkably stupid judgment of others try to prevent me from this universal gift of dance, try to keep me from the soulish feast, try to keep me from letting my poor imprisoned heart free for even a time.
The Big Apple, the Charleston, the Jitterbug, a Can-can…I want to kick up my heels and forget, for a time, that I am here and while I’m here my heels and all the rest of me is owned by the State of Vermont and the Department of corrections. I want to pretend – for just a three minute vacation from this ghastly reality – that my life isn’t uniforms and a miserable bunk and lights that never go off and endless, stupid, pointless rules. I want to pretend that it’s dark and brightly neon and gauzily curtained and smoke-filled and rain swept and incense-choked and bright lights over a formica country and checkerboard black and white asphalt tile floor. I want to pretend that my beau has a dime for the jukebox, that he has his sitar and I’ve every intention of seducing him, that he’s bellowing in the DJ’s ear to play my favorite song. I want to escape within the confines of my mind because it’s so much bigger on the inside, because inside I’m not inside these accursed cinderblock walls. I’m dancing.

MR

 

weathered change

landscape images

Brisbane Art

  Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for   today, and creates a vision for tomorrow – Melody   Beattie

  At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a   spark from another person. Each of us has cause to   think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted   the flame within us. – Albert Schweitzer

As we’ve continued to discuss the link between the personal and the political, our lives have also continued. We focused our writing attention on gratitude but also discussed the changes in all our lives and how writing and poetry helps us both mark and weather these changes, giving space for our identities to hold these changes and become them at the same time. It’s complicated. Most of the time, we say we’re freaking out. We can all handle more than we think. In pieces below communicate this both through their content and the overall strength of the writing.

ALIVE AGAIN
I who have died am alive again today

My life is two parts.
I am two people
with two faces,
two hearts,
two souls,
two meanings,
past and present,
before and after.
Then and now…however you like to call it,
good and evil.
It really and truly was, and still is, a spiritual battle.

The past, the before , the then, the evil; still
creeps up and takes the leading role.
The claws of this entity dig deep and direct
my into darkness. It’s defeating and I cry out,
making it known. This is the part of me
I am not fond of these days. At one time
I didn’t mind so much, but I know now there’s
a whole different realm to be a part of. I don’t
have to exist in the darkness.
The present, the after, the now, the good…
this is where I thrive and I am most alive.
You have to understand it was in the darkness
that I have died. That part is gone, for the most part.
With that vacancy, I have filled with light, the most illuminating,
beautiful light. It does not dim. I does not go out.
This will guide my path from here on.
This will show me the way to something greater.
Let my spirit shine.
Let me live.

AG

***
LIFE AND LOVE

This is the birthday of life and love

finally being free from this cage
starting fresh with my kids and family.

This is the birthday of life and love

leaving everything in the past
pushing for a brighter future
letting go of the old and looking towards the new.

This is the birthday of life

the feeling of change and triumph

and love.

Time to be the woman I was meant to be.

LB

***
EYE OF MY EYE

Dark, burning, lighted the flame within me.
   A canker, a searing, raw, weeping sore
   curled tight and stubborn, shadowed changeling.
Dark, burning, opening my eyes to the flame.
   An acid, burning, corroding, etching passion
   all-consuming and desirous, villainy, and revenge.
Dark, burning, candle to my mirror’s dark.
   Confiscating, glittering, starry-eyed dream of the end,
   perpetual, inescapable companion, twin, twined, mate.
Dark, burning, flaming eyes wide.
   Truth, crucifixion carried daily, shows at 6 and 11,
   rivers run, red and clotted, fish-choking, floating, stench.
Dark, burning, burn it all and watch with glee,
   dance to destruction, partners change,
   blood, wine, and sacrifice, journey never ending.
Dark, burning, blister and char my skin.
   Penalty, penalty, every step an agony, endless litany
   of sin burned into mind and heart and skin.
Dark, burning, ashes and sparks fly free.
   A mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa,
   soundlessly screamed by a voice already long gone.
Dark, burning, dervishes spread inferno and children.
   Whispered venom, poison pen, a Google search,
   no starting over, no second chance.
Dark, burning, eyelids seared away.
   Secret places, a room of my own, solitude
   ripped away with peace by hands marked, “Justice.”
Dark, burning, bring me to the stake.
   Make a martyr of one in my own mind
   though you and yours will call it well-earned.
Dark, burning, the ropes will bite.
   Hold me up, display me, my cart through town.
   throw refuse, scream. Sharpen the Guillotine.
Dark, burning, light the flame that burns me.
   This. This is your motivation. Not that you
   should burn me, but that I should burn myself.
Dark, burning, ashes, ashes, cinders, and soot.
   Nothing left, no spirit, no fire, no merry,
   pyromaniacal light in eyes gone dead.
Dark, burning, wind scours runnels in sodden ash.
   Echoes, footsteps, and voices giving voice to long
   dead echoes, the light will burn my eyes.

MRo

 

 

getting home

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It always seems impossible until it’s done. – Nelson Mandela

We learn, grow and become compassionate and generous as much through exile as homecoming, as much through loss as gain, as much through giving things away as in receiving what we believe to be our due.  – David Whyte

As we continue to explore closeness of the personal and political, we discussed the efforts to find home that is safe and loving to us. I focus this week’s post on our group’s writing. Below, you will read four different visions of home – those made, those lost, and those held in memory as each of us struggle to make a home in ourselves or return to the homes we love.

HOME

My mom once asked me, “Have you ever felt homesick even when you’re in your own home?” –Yes. “Home” is not where you live. It is not four walls that you pay taxes on and costs you a certain number of zeros. “Home” is that unique touch you add to your space no matter where yo go. “Home” is that familiar scent that clears your mind, that makes your eyes slide shut–the scent you don’t want to exhale because you might lose it. “Home” is that color the crayon experts don’t put in the box because there’s no word to describe it. It’s the place you see in your mind when you reminisce about the happy times in your childhood. Spring cleaning at mom’s; after dinner cookies with Grandma, cooking in the kitchen; Papa’s stale cigarette smoke from a long night up with the bills; the after-school snack with the kids as you listen – again – to how math sucks and recess is too short.

VB

***

WHAT IS HOME

Home, something remembers long ago, memories in time where mother tucked her babes into their beds, softly kiss their little heads. Seeming every night there innocence shines the brightest while they’re at their quietest. Home feels like memories so bold so warm and loving, the most true love and peace she has known. Home always longing for even though she feels like her reaching is never ending.
Home has become a vision now instead of reality. So sad to see a mother so strong and loving feel clipped of happiness. So little could ever replace their sweet admiring faces, forever frozen in memory’s traces. Home, something remembered long ago, darkness tries to fold her in and take control trying to win. She finds herself some days wanting the end. No more tears of lost time. No more loneliness that embarasses. No desperation for love. What is home when there is no home to go to. What is home when there’s no love to fill it. What is home when there’s too many reasons not to return.

What is home, she dreams and dreams, but wakes up in the same concrete walls, slamming doors, cold, lonely, floors. What is home is memories and dreams. Home is long ago before dreaming had to be her only comforting reality.

So off to her dream, mother slips eyes now closed. There her son’s asleep in their beds. She leans down and kisses their heads. She can almost smell that smell only mother/sons share. Always in every dream, she yearns to never wake up, just to finally be home again.

DC

***
WHAT IT SHOULD BE

I know what a home should be, what it could become. I would have to say that the picturesque, white picket fence, perfect pretty little yard just never existed in my world. It never will. The dark child never gets their dream. There was no fence that kept the bad guys out, instead there were bars that kept me in. No perfect family, just a tattered heart, and a beat up soul. No little yard to play…just one room. The room consumed anything good and spit it out the window. No home cooked meals to eat. Just a needle and spoon that fed my hunger. Survival became little baggies and pills that rocked me to sleep at night. There was no love lost and I never found love; the world shook with vengeance and I didn’t even care. No one noticed that I slipped away, no one noticed I was gone. I can’t say I blamed them. Time ticked and days passed. How many, I couldn’t say. My home is darkness. I prefer it here. I like the company I keep. They never say much and they haven’t left me…They tell me they won’t. If you toss me out, they’ll follow me down. That’s more than I can say for anything else. Home is 100 cc’s of magic. It’s a disappearing act, you see. The act of a century. Home is where you will never find me.

AG

***
HOME IS THE LOVE THAT LASTS

If they crave you
that doesn’t mean they love you.
Trust me, it’s lust.
They just want to get in bed with you.
Keep your walls up.
Don’t let that wall built up by betrayal, decayed like ashes.
Don’t me him in.
Be strong, give them what they want.
Not the emotional piece.
Break their hearts.
Walk all over them in high-heeled boots
until they walk away,
broken and betrayed.
You sure showed them how the game is played.
NO!
That ain’t me.
Been there, done that.
It brings nothing but pain and regret.
Not all men are responsible
for the one who betrayed you and broke your hearts.
Brokenness turns you bitter, even cold as stone!
Odds are there are good people in this world
waiting to meet you
so like a never-ending carousel,
I’ll forgive you and forget the past
so I can be happy and make it last.

KS

personal political

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When you make a choice, you change the future.“–Deepak Chopra

“What is the point of having free will if one cannot occasionally spit in the eye of destiny?“–Jim Butcher

In the next few weeks, we will examine the relationship, that is to say the direct link, between the political and the personal. This week, we used Jameson Fitzpatrick’s poem “I Woke Up” as an introduction. The poem guided through a method of walking  through both a day and a thought process that allowed us to be observant of our shared and individual experiences as well as reflect on how these experiences are political. That is to say that our every day lives are reflective of and inform the larger systems that guide our world. We used these ideas as a jumping off point to start our writing.

In our circle, we are very accustomed to sharing the personal. We even had a couple new members at the writing group who very quickly shared their personal experience. It is harder to recognize our lives as political and engage in that kind of thinking. We are walking towards it as we read and write together.

In the pieces below are the result of these reflections and discussions:

ASLEEP
It had been, this whole time I was asleep.

The scenes flashed by like those from a dream, but I wasn’t asleep. I say dream but we all called it a nightmare. Bittersweet memories is all they have become and there is nothing really more to say. I kept thinking that maybe I would wake up from the drug-induced stupor I put myself in. I mean it sounded good to say it but the reality was I never woke. I never slept. I never dreamed. I just faded, nodded and kept telling my heart that I was sorry. What do you even call that? Once again, no answers come to mind and even if they did, it would probably be another one of those really lame excuses that I am so good at concocting. You know you get so tired and exhausted from being in that kind of state. It becomes autopilot but sloppier and more off-kilter. People tend to know that something’s wrong and all I can manage to say is, “Oh sorry, I’ve been asleep. I’m just not awake yet.” Yeah, like I ever will be, but maybe nobody else knows yet. I don’t even trust myself enough to sleep it off, I might not wake up and if I don’t, how will I take these pills I have left? What if I can’t dream anymore? What will they say? I’m thinking too much, too hard and it takes the last bit of my strength. I have to lay down. I have to rest. I close my eyes to find that all of these nightmares are real. I want to wake up to get away from myself. I guess it just doesn’t work that way…somebody needs to wake me up when all of this is over.

AG

***

WHAT IS POLITICAL

I made coffee and the coffee was political. Isn’t everything, though? I suppose I find it most ridiculous that little things, little choices have become so politicized. If your new loveseat isn’t made from fair-trade, eco-friendly, compacted resin-coated bamboo from a country that pays living wages and organic, free-range naturally dyed hand-woven hemp, what kind of revolting, monstrous person are you? That’s leaving aside the politics of why you’re getting a loveseat! Are you too antisocial to buy seating for more than a guest or two? Are you, decadent American, hogging more square feet of living space than you really need? Worse, why are buying new and participating in a consumer-based and materialistic society? Did you at least buy it made in the U.S.A.? Did you pay your fair share of taxes on it? Why do you have disposable income to spend on new, fancy furniture when there are people who are homeless?? Did you check every part of the manufacturing process to make sure no child labor was used and no Trump profited? Exhausting, you say? Well, you just must not care very much about our planet if you don’t check these things! Don’t pretend any of that is even remotely ridiculous or unlikely to happen. It happens with everything. Try reading a book by Marion Zimmer Bradly and get treated to a lecture on how she was a child abuser. Try drinking a cup of Folgers coffee to the tune of rainforest deforestation and child labor. Wear a top you got at Goodwill and get a spiel on the sweatshops that brand of clothes uses and on where Goodwill’s profits “really” go. Buy a car – is it a hybrid? Don’t worry, you’ll get an earful either way. Does it ever occur to social justice warriors – or any of the rest of the modern moralists – that I do not care, don’t want to hear about it, and am completely disinterested in their free-range, fair trade, eco-friendly, sustainable, American-made, recycled, upcycled, organic, pesticide-free, GMO-free, gold-plated granola? I bet it hasn’t. Want to know a secret? I just want a cup of coffee that tastes good and doesn’t cost the earth – and I really don’t care about all the rest of it. Keep your politics out of my cup of coffee and off my loveset – it’s new…I’m not even letting the dog on it, and I like him.

MR

***

POLITICS/POETRY

I thought I was not a political poet and still my imagination was political.

Am I republican or a democrat? This is political.

Where do I begin to let go of my thoughts about Donald Trump? That is political.

Wonder if my opinion is and will political…

I must say, I’m not very political.

JR