Praise Be For When We Allow

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I think my understanding of the concept “holy” evolved somewhere between my first communion and touching the wriggling minnow caught in my net at summer camp. The idea of holy immigrated from an echoey church that smelled of incense and psalms and kneel-dimpled pews to seeing the midnight milky way that night I talked to my bestie on the cordless phone in the middle of the lawn. Holy and me came to have an understanding: It would always be secret, it would always be available, and it promised to make me feel (something) and I would know it when I seen it.

Holy was no longer frankincense escaping its decanter like jinn from a lamp, no more a captive in a flying-buttress box. Holy became ancient fallen trees brought to their knees by hurricane Gloria. A waterfall you cannot see unless you hike five miles in. Bowls cut into rocks for sweet, clean drinking.  The white flash of space between midnight and dawn in an Arizona bowl. My son’s smile while he slept on my couch. My friend’s dying. Rescuing box turtles as they crossed trafficky asphalt in pursuit of their home.  Curtains of fireflies rising from hot summer grass, signaling secrets on four- and sometimes eight-horsepower wings. A stranger paying for her formula at the checkout counter because she ran out of Wic. Listening to a stranger’s broken heart because it’s all he needed.

I’m not sure you believe in the word holy, except for maybe that one time you saw the moon on the walkway.   I think you do what you do and holy never crosses your mind.  But I believe you felt it in your fingers when you plucked the katydid from the parking lot and put her in the grass. Holy is in you.  Poetry is in you.  I weep because I see it and you doubt, you refuse to believe.  Holy is available to us all, every day, all the time, no sacrament required. We just have to keep our eyes open, allow ourselves to see.

Suicide Help Is Here.

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I need to take a moment to use this space to talk to you about suicide.  Call it a public service announcement if you wish.

We don’t ask for help when we need it.
We don’t recognize the need in others before it’s too late.
We don’t think about this issue for many reasons, we shun it.

If you need help, reach and ask. People will reach back and help you, no questions asked.  If you need help with someone you suspect needs help but don’t know what to do, reach out.

The suicide hotline is 800*273*8255.   Put it in your phone.

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We lost another young man today to suicide.  For privacy and respect I’ll not speak about how I know him.  Everyone tried to help him, but it just seems like he decided to take the worst path and live the hardest life, even though his close family tried to stop him from this way. They loved him so.

Sometimes we are beyond our ability to cope with a situation and we don’t ask for help because we think we got this.  I am asking you today to consider maybe you don’t got this. That you need warm, loving arms that can help you and your person who needs the kind of help that has been out of reach.  Don’t be afraid, don’t be ashamed.  CALL. Ask for help.  Now.   800*273*8255

If you feel so inclined to help support suicide prevention, please visit  AFSP

Thank you.

June 30

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The sun has been present since 4:22. The eastern sky in my bedroom window tells my restless eyes so.  I am not ready to greet this day.  My alarm clock is set for 7:00 but that’s a joke because I know I will awaken and rise long before then.

I’ve got “work” to do. Or things to “think” about. Basically it’s just being awake before I want to be awake and now I have to deal with it.

It’s too dark to write, so I turn on the lamp near my table so I can “see.” The orange courtyard lights are still on.  The western sky is black diluted, while the sky in my eastern bedroom is robin’s egg blue.  Hours pass and the sun rises over the shoulder of my apartment roof, lighting the yellow walls aflame. I will close the blinds later to keep out the blinding light and heat, the light that coaxes my plants to creep and grow.  I have visited the balcony ten times already to witness the pre-dawn grass watering, finches calling, the ocean sky lilac and calm, large black bugs zip-zagging haphazardly, crashing into everything unlike their steadfast, straightforward but seemingly lost dragonfly compatriots. Much to do today and no word when we will bury our friend the Saffron Queen.  Will he refuse to tell us?

My editor says he will take one of my things for print. That means he likes one thing more than the other, or, one was more right for the anthology than the other. I keep wishing I could write more things for the anthology but that’s just not how it works for me.  Some days a thing grabs me, takes me by the lapels and says “You write this right now,” and I obey and it works. Most days I walk past dusty footlockers and wash dishes and wait for dolphins and sleep on a sore shoulder.  My editor says he will print my thing and I should be shouting from the rooftops and doing the happy dance, but right now all I got is gratitude for being alone, for choosing silence over the crush of the world, and squeezing in a story now and then.  And missing my pain in the ass friend.

My day began at 4:22 AM. The sun is bright on the yellow wall and I have much to do today, and I will try to focus on what I can be, what I will do, and ignore all the rest.

Blessed Commotion

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gray morning 5:30
take it slow
purple ink on my writing finger
scribbled notes on junk mail
some important message needs decoding
something about Friday melanoma (again)

Michael Shannon sings with a band
I think he wants to be Jim Morrison
an Aztec frieze of fearsome teeth and feathers
neck bent, back bent, knees bent
hearing the secret, being the ceremony
sweat
becoming
apart
receiving
transmutation connection
high-five.

what feathers can I be on this soupy morning?
mmm. I shall wear a blanket of all of you,
an Aztec frieze of fearsome teeth and feathers
that I plucked when you invaded the sparrows nest
brown brood barely able to fly hiding on the shed nearby
neath the tree some might call a weed but full of green
shade and safe from blue jay, osprey
cardinal witnesses the catbird wanting to infiltrate
and the raven–I heard the raven’s feet touch the lamp
when it landed and croaked, wanting fledgling meat
vulnerable, but he was late to the show.

feathers for my blanket made of attempted murder
a witness, an empty nest,
red, blue, black, brown, white
Coffee on the way to the job, I’m late (again)

Upon Finding The Dragon’s Egg

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I awoke abruptly, squintingly, because the sun peered in my bedroom window, an alarm my body cannot refuse. Strange sun, Jim Morrison said in his notebook poem, and I opened my door after I put clothes on (but not shoes because no one needs shoes to walk from the balcony to the cool beach sand that was not far away.)  Strange sun well-riz on my right also known as East, the train of cool blue dawn retreated into the distance, laughing gulls squeaked overhead and moved on instead of making their usual mocking laughter from the breakwater that sounds like children a mile away calling out for help because they are drowning.

I walk barefoot on a beach where I found seashells in all stages of their lives tossed on the shingle by an uncaring sea, but all those shells and emerald mermaid’s hair wafting in the tidal pools are gone.  The Army Corps of Engineers came and did one heck of a job building up this little spit of land that had been slowly reclaimed by the ocean one winter storm, one summer hurricane at a time and now my feet trod sand the size of peppercorns instead of soft, creamy quartsy silt I fell in love with, all those tidal pools gone.  I am grateful yet disoriented. Strange.

So this morning I woke and walked and found the dragon’s egg. Should come as no surprise to anyone because the system that came from the west moved in and brought us a week of rain and a night of high wind, fearsome wind too early for hurricane but made us reach for our batteries and bottled water anyway.  I plucked the egg from the sand poor thing blown from her nest, abandoned, knowing that’s the worst thing I could possibly do but when did I ever abide by the rules, and I held it in my hand wondering what could I possibly do?  And then the shell broke, the creamy satin shell broke open and spilled out venom all over my hand and it hurt like the sting of a bee that begins slowly and takes over your interstitial fluids and spreads out and swells because it really, really, does not want you to be offending it yet you have by simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time and you are paying for your transgression. I held the dragon’s egg, seeping fluids hurting so much, but my pride kept me from screaming so I ran down and into the cold, cold water and submerged me and the egg hoping the pain would ebb.  The silken shell stuck to my hand. The venom came forth like a ginger lady’s tresses, Rapunzel-like, then dissipated in the brine. The shell dissolved and my pain dissolved too as I panted hopping foot to foot hoping not to step on a skate just going about his business.

Cue Up The Serenity Prayer

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It was a casual but sincere parting at the end of a brief conversation. “Hope things are going your way,” she said, and I laughed and laughed. I threw my head back and cackled like a madwoman. If anyone in the apartment next door heard me they would have believed I was destined for the funny farm in a funny jacket in a funny ambulance.

‘Hope things are going my way.’ As if.

Darling. Baby.  If things were going my way the world would look a whole lot different let me tell you:

If things were going MY way, Donald Trump never would have emerged from his black and gold glass troll cave. He’d spend the rest of his days in his gilded cage with his tiny, cold hands and his tiny cold heart typing tiny cold words that would endanger no one, rather like a mosquito buzzing in one’s ear.

If things were going my way, cancer would not be a thing, fullstop. And we could really do without Ebola, Zika, and Lyme, too.

There would be no mounds of plastic on the shores of rivers or floating in abysmal ocean trenches or excavated from the tummies of whales and turtles. Nope.

If things were going my way everybody could hoof it to their corner store and buy fresh food for dinner. I don’t wanna hear about food deserts any more, ridiculous. Why should only people with cars or Uber or a Metro card be the only ones to have access to fresh greens? NOBODY should be eating Spam from a can and TV dinners every night of the week!

And don’t even get me started on clean water for Flint, Michigan. If things were going my way, we’d never hear the words “another school shooting” ever again.

Yeah, things are going my way, just zippity doo, because I have the leisure to think about things and complain about it to you. Or pray then start a revolution…

Patience For The Queen

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The Saffron Queen is a dream of blood now. She is garnet and green veins, though she wishes they were blue, strong and heroic like Princess Diana. She is needles and nose mucous, pretty in that blouse she bought for her trip to Puerto Rico, pink lace, denim and sandals she waits for the drip to be done so she can vape her troubles away.

The Garnet Queen’s hands are talons now, gripping, grasping, seeking prey to tear apart on the rocks of her teeth. This lady is no raptor seeking meat, she wants to kill the heart of you with her cruel, crushing words. And now she curls up like a baby and weeps, begging for love, sipping from her “Kwanzaa” cup, lost in a place she did not ask to be. She drifts off and the fear and the hate and the sorrow melt away.

She is Changeling, someone replaced her in the night with someone else, there is no other explanation for why she has gone. She is lost and believes she is alone, no one cares, even though her man strokes her hair and I press dressings to stop the bleed where she pulled out the IV.  She is Changeling, wondering why her children haven’t come, hating them and laying curses on them forever.

A cold front moves in over the ocean, rising thunderheads captured in steel gray and mango moments before the rain, a dramatic photograph she took that sits on the floor of her room instead of hanging proudly on someone’s wall. I like to remember my fierce potted plant friend as photographer lady, the unfinished woman wondering why her children never call, her man working so hard to please her. May her Kwanzaa cup brim with love tomorrow, may the grace of the Universe find her man and fill him with patience and strength, and I’ll not fail to remember the dachshund pillows next time.

Bodies In My Trunk, Respectfully, Goodbye.

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I know the blue footlocker didn’t materialize into my teenage life like something that Scotty would beam up to the Enterprise, all magical-like.  I know the footlocker came from somewhere, and I’m guessing I got it either from a friend or from a yard sale. I kept the locker in my room somewhere. I’ve worked hard trying to remember where I kept it. Strange how some memories are present, the kind you can stub your toe on, and other things are just so unclear.   It wasn’t the centerpiece of the room, though. That was my stereo. This footlocker is dinged up, dogged up, gouged blue metal with brass corners and lock. I think I kept stuffed animals on top and glasses of tea.

When I left my teenage home I brought the trunk with me, my strong shoulders unceremoniously stuffed it into my Bronco, hauled it up two flights of stairs, and I kept it somewhere in my apartment. I’m not sure where. It wasn’t the centerpiece, though. That was my stereo.

One night, a man suggested that he was going to bring me, his soon to-be-wife, to meet his mom tomorrow, a backwards proposal. I squealed and we rolled around on his waterbed by the light of his Plasma Ball (look it up), and I hugged him so hard, excited and happy and it all felt so right. Later we dragged a 10,000 pound couch I got from a neighbor I no longer needed to my Dad’s house. Everything else got moved into my future-spouses house via our trucks, including the rusty, dusty footlocker.  I remember opening it on the bedroom floor, exploring old yearbooks and notes from boyfriends rediscovering all those feelings. I did not write down all those things that flooded back, blooded back, as I remembered those high school days. I shoulda. We tucked the locker into a root cellar where my old stereo went. I mean, he had his sound system and mine wasn’t needed, after all, just like some of the stuff that came from my mom’s apartment after she passed, and Dad’s house after he passed along, too.

The blue and brass footlocker pockmarked with rusty volcanoes is in my bedroom now because I asked one of the apartment maintenance crew to help me upstairs with it. If I was a teenager I could have done it by myself, but my rotator cuff says no-go. We pulled the rusty trunk out of my trunk and we lugged it upstairs.  I asked the young lady who reminds me of me (you know, running around after her dad, wanting to learn everything) if she likes the Thirsty Camel so I could buy her lunch.  I’ll repay her as soon as she will allow me. I know she will say yes.  Meanwhile, the trunk where I told my son all the dead bodies are buried sits alongside my bed.  The rusty key is somewhere. I have a screwdriver plan B in case I can’t find it. From memory I know my yearbooks are in there and a shoe-box filled with notes from those I loved and loved me. Not sure what else I will discover, but the focus is that this is where the bodies are, a life left behind and should not be ignored.  How will I reckon them, those notes in ink I can still smell?  What can I do with the past that was part of making the me who is not the same me anymore?

I see a bonfire in my future, not an angry one filled with hate and the desire to harm, but one that burns hot and clean.

Crack In The Stone

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For me, the very best poems are the simple ones. I enjoy a simple table in a sunlit room with friends I love and foods that satisfy all my emotions. I am relaxed, at ease, a bit of sauce on my sleeve, a light touch on my thigh, a certain sadness upon parting: I will miss you all but take comfort in knowing I will see you again.  The very best poems are the simple ones.

I sat on the bed of the Saffron Queen and we exchanged many things until her daughter came in. It was awkward because I know both of them, so I went downstairs to fill my fancy water glass to give them time to talk. Suddenly there were three dogs in her room and it was more than she could manage, and suddenly it was just the two of us again. The queen spoke and I laughed and she said I was beautiful just then, my smile, something she’d never seen before.  I became self-aware, knowing why I rarely smile in her presence, guilty for that, suddenly looking for ways to be more relaxed and real on her bed where she lives now.

The very best poems are the simple ones. Life is real and death is real and friends are real and poems are real and sometimes I just can’t handle it all.