My poem went live over at Silver Birch Press today. This poem is inspired by the divine Miss Hill’s music and my journey as a woman overcoming drug addiction and an abusive relationship. Hope you enjoy and please feel free to leave a comment.
I dressed myself in vanilla custard, sticky
I could glom on, be the center of him.
Lauryn Hill asked the same question
a bubble above our heads, storming
When it hurts so bad, why’s it feel
In my arms, a girl, in my belly, a girl
and me, a girl, sticky
with longing. I had to be the nurture they needed.
At that rate, I would give anyone cavities.
I dreamed of their teeth, their mouths,
their tongues. Decayed by a girl who gave
her power away. No.
No. I my bubble gum lips, my slick
contrivance, packed what mattered in a cheap
laundry basket and we stole away in the sun
pin-pricked and melted.
I let it. I let it be the thing a sugar girl needs. A woman
come clean. A woman come the hard way round…
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(a poem in celebration of the Lakelights Art and Music Festival 2015)
Burn your ties, bring your love.
Like a child in the clover fields. Follow
the path of welcome signs.
Balance yourself where you are, spread your toes
sink your bones into the earth and witness.
Without reconnaissance. Startled. Sedate.
Seeking kindness in the void.
There are places for laughter
in your throat, pulling from the belly.
as the creation of the universe. Joy
let me tell you a story about the oyster
a stranger said
with a smile as wide as summer afternoons
it belongs to you,
(stay with me.)
you are the oyster. Dance this around
in your head like stars. Unabbreviated.
Love rises like sea foam. Splitting. Throw it open
like the shores of Spain, Ireland
and lakes in small towns where corn stalks sway
the artists rise like storms thundering
the sound of dancing feet, bare, drums
pounding sleek, warm with body
heat cool as sipping air between your lips. mandating
rituals new as a child’s first cry old as harvest moons.
Halcyon roots of Mesopotamia
Kaleidoscope sutures loose as limbs
on Whitman, Frida Kahlo and ragtime beats.
One day this boy will be a man. He of the
sun-bleached hair and long eyelashes
who smells like dirt under the nails, peanut butter
watermelon shampoo and hugs with his entire being.
I wonder if I will grieve this boy-thing beasty that
would rather dig holes in the yard with a spoon or
create wild art with torn sheets of notebook paper. No.
There can’t be grief where there are long walks holding his
square hand in mine studying bees and looking
for storm clouds and once he said he wants to be a father
and have a wife. My heart stuttered stopped my
eyes watered joy for his good dreams.
I am in the now with him because that
is the only place he can really find me
reading bedtime stories, teaching him a boy can
become a man who dances and women are his friends
not his adversaries and how books open doors and souls
and kindness isn’t something waiting on a shelf
for perfect timing and perfect faith.
As mothers we always find ourselves standing in
Between fractions of moments sometimes heedless
because days are at once short and long
counting calories and stretch marks on our thighs
buying boxes for our treasures left under beds empty
nurturing needing and dismayed by our own perception
of perfect and longing to be better because we value
what lies in the tide of our dna- the knowing it is one
day this boy will only have a memory of the lines on
our faces and the sounds of our voices singing Katy
Perry songs in cars strewn with wrappers and how we
laughed at bad jokes and told him stories about
our lives giving a glimpse of our inner selves
hoping he will see how dear is love and love
is energy that never dies but transcends the
weight of our bodies, bad days, and dirty socks.
One day this boy will be a man bristling with
maleness and wear his heart not on his sleeve
but in his chest loudly beating open, swift, and
giving as his bedtime kisses and curiosity.
I was a sick girl hiding in back rooms
admiring the way chemicals smelled like citrus
and floor cleaner. Nothing wrong with that I thought
learning the names of things we couldn’t say in better company.
I wanted to feel better and it’s always about that
this feeling of being so repulsed by your own flat
two-dimensional sense of self that
stained mattresses on floors and baby this is a nice
buzz put a smile on my face and a shine in my eyes.
One time I talked to an old friend on the phone
and tried to sound like my old self
light as meringue on lemon pie. Not geeking, tweaking, nail-biting
I could lie and say this road is long behind me, but sometimes I see
that sick girl in the rear view mirror
waiting to be slipped on like a favorite dress or that plum-colored lipstick
I loved back in 1999.
I wish I could bury her in her convulsions of plastic glory
I wish she was a seed that would grow into a cherry tree and I could
taste the sweet of overcoming something
I never could understand and it’s so close. I have my victory
but am kept humble by all that loss and
when the reaper stands in the light and I can’t breathe
and I want to hurt myself because sometimes the world is too vast and I
am so small when I am riding the day, waiting for the next unbroken
stream of sameness.
I know how easy a virus it is, this contagion
that never leaves your bones and when I see them in corners or on streets
I want to embrace them and say it will be but a lullaby but
when you’re an addict the only possible cure is the truth
but that’s like saying maybe this winter the ice won’t come again, or that people
will learn to always be kind. It’s there, it’s present, it’s
sunshine blues and tenuous promises. Still. I am entitled to nothing
but faith I can make it until tomorrow and the only way out
is through. It’s been years but time is not the measure of what we are
capable of. It’s that moment
of who you want to be when you want more
than just to feel better for a little while.
I believe this to be completely true. I’ve been inspired by paintings, music, and other poetry and stories. “Art begets art.”
on a courthouse square where girls
in long skirts and boys in
sang. The sound of acoustic guitars
did something glad to my soul.
I discovered paint and words are very
for a girl who loves rain
and the word blue. Words are more yielding
for someone like me, my fingers trace them
while I dream.
Not that the words yield, but that I learn to give
a little here and there like a real piece of work
A paint brush, I thought, would be like a poem
it is not. I am clumsy with it and had to teach the
colors to yield, blend, and I had to work from the bottom up
When I write a poem, it is more like working from the top
downward, like yoga, maybe
or the word blue. I live inside of it.
I try to speak or write about
but I don’t like that word it tastes like
sucking on a metal hanger when I was eight
it held my tongue for weeks and daisies
smelled like nickel plating.
I think for the painter, it is like poetry and I may dislike you
if you see both and do both and live inside of both.
Because it is like astronomy. I can learn it but I will never stand on the moon.
Yet, I will paint again because it expressed
that purple is my favorite color, but not a word
I will empty all over a blank canvas. No.
Twin girls watched us sit down and pick
up stiff brushes, taught us how to make the seas foam
and how soft water is. I watched them
calm and they were like the trees or the façade
of the old courthouse. Beautiful
and I loved my hometown a little more.
We took pictures with our art
my daughters and my best friend
each piece as separate
as a brush stroke.
Which really is not so separate when you take a step back.
There is a moment when it all becomes whole.
That moment is a gift.
Later, my oldest ate watermelon
with her hands behind her back. And I thought.
What a beautiful day. Right now I am as soft, sweet,
round and open as the word blue.
This post will be very emotional. I just wanted to let you know before we go any further together. I’m writing from a broken heart. Some of the reasons are very personal, other reasons include the recent shooting in South Carolina, and all the violence we see daily across our nation and across our world.
This September will mark two years since a young girl died at the hands of her uncle. Her name is Willow Long. My daughters knew her. She lived in a village just ten minutes from mine. I remember those long nights waiting for news about her. Would they find her alive? Like many mothers in my area, I kissed my children good night. So glad they were safe. So thankful. Yet guilty because there was a little girl out there… in pain, afraid, lost, alone. We didn’t know.
We didn’t know a family member did the unthinkable.
In the wake of this grief that struck our communities, I wanted to do something. I spoke with a few friends of mine. I wished I was a NYT bestseller, or had money at my disposal. Like many families, mine struggles. To pay the bills. Buy small comforts for our children. I wished I had the money to build a library for our communities. I was told I didn’t have to wait. To start from where I was. So I did. A friend and I began sending out emails to the director of Helen Matthes Library and others.
Residents of Edgewood, IL (where I live) and surrounding communities have access to the Helen Matthes Library in Effingham IL. But because we live outside of Effingham city limits, it costs us over one-hundred dollars for a card, and cost and convenience of transportation to a town twenty minutes away by interstate is dear to many.
I have only great things to say about Helen Matthes Library. The director and staff there are generous and supportive. They’ve volunteered their time to meet with our board and train us in various areas, such as how to properly cover a book.
Shortly after my friend and I sent our emails out, the director of HML contacted us. Someone else, a resident of Watson, where the tragedy had happened, had also been in touch with the same idea. We met. I hope he is as grateful as I am to be part of the same team.
Soon, we had our own board. In almost two years, we have held fundraisers, volunteered, and put our time and hearts into what is now the WME Community Library.
It is located in what last year was the Edgewood Grade School. Losing the school was another hard hit to our community. Many still grieve its loss.
The Mason Township Park district bought the building and rents two rooms out to us. What was once an idea, shared by two strangers, is now a reality. We keep our books in one room and the room next to it serves as our lobby/computer lounge/children’s creation station. We have plans to expand. A local artist has agreed to come in an paint a mural of a willow tree, in loving memory of Willow Long.
And now, for the personal and emotional part.
We opened our doors just a few weeks ago, on June 8. I left the library room and went next door. When I walked back into the library, I saw something that began to mend the pieces of myself I didn’t know were still broken. A little boy sat on the love seat we put in our children’s area toward the back of the room. There are blocks, puzzles, and colorful rugs there. It’s my favorite part of the library, outside of all the books. The little boy turned the pages of a picture book, smiling.
That was the moment I realized the power of hope, of small change, in a world gone mad.
That little boy reading, so full of innocent joy with the discovery of a new book, symbolizes faith to me.
I can’t bring myself these days to tell my children monsters don’t exist.
I can tell them we are not powerless to fight them.
We can’t place our faithful trust in strangers, or even, sadly, family members.
We can place our trust in ourselves. In our capacity for goodness. In our will to make the right decisions, to believe in the world we want (for ourselves, for our children, for their children, and so forth). We can put that faith into actions of love.
Maybe we can’t trust strangers. But we can love them. And that is the hardest, bravest thing we can do in our lives. And the most true and worthy.
I need healing. And so do you. And so do the people I don’t know in my own community and the surrounding communities. That is my personal mission with the library. When I started out, I only knew about ten people in my area. I don’t know how I was able to reach inside myself to care about these strangers. But I did. And so have my fellow board members and so many who have volunteered their time, donated books, funds, and other items we need.
Yesterday, I walked into the library feeling sad and lost and so, so vulnerable. What the library means to me is a safe place to explore this world, ideas, philosophy, history, and the dreams and lives of others. Two rooms in an old school symbolize the goodness in the world. Strength. Oasis. Shelter to be truly free, to learn about the best in ourselves. To realize that there are monsters, but they can be fought. Through knowledge and caring for strangers. Grieve with them. Celebrate with them.
An older gentleman came into the library yesterday and said he wanted to volunteer. He said he has experience with woodwork, he will build us book cases. He has experience tutoring literacy, English as a second language, computer literacy, math, and more. Another stranger who offered his time and valuable experience. I laughed for the first time that day. Because this stranger became an angel in my eyes. Because I shook the hand of a good man. Because he reminded me of what I already knew, about the powerful force of basic goodness.
As have so many others. Authors who send their books to us and ask for nothing. Friends who write checks for books and licensing fees. Strangers who bake cookies for other strangers. The woman who owns the local grocery store who has donated pancake mixes and syrups for breakfast fundraisers, chicken and vegetables for soup suppers, book cases, and lets us post signs in her store window to let people know we’re here. That they have access to books, computers, fresh coffee, air conditioning, and the promise of friendly volunteers.
These are all simply people who believe in a good world, and in acting on this faith, make it so.
I have spent a good part of my morning crying into my coffee and looking out my kitchen window into the rain. Some of my tears are from grief, others are tears of catharsis. Because all those broken pieces of my soul, shattered by family news and national news and world news are coming together in a shape that is better than what was there before.
I am already grateful for those I’ve found through the creation and growth of the WME Community Library, and grateful for the many more I hope to meet and provide service, information, friendship, and support to.
For more information on The WME Community Library, please visit: wmecommunitylibrary.org
For more information on why libraries are important to the community, please visit: http://publiclibrariesonline.org/2013/04/community-centered-23-reasons-why-your-library-is-the-most-important-place-in-town/