Over the weekend, I was happy to discover that Peter Hargitai, longtime friend and Poet Laureate of Gulfport, Florida, completed a review of the poetry portfolio I had provided him, a selection of poems written within the last 16 years. Peter’s critique washed me in validation, his words honoring my approach to our shared craft. The poems he mentions are embedded in this post.
VON SIMEON, the author of I Blew Up Juarez, is a wunderkind of imaginative literature, having published her first creative effort in Germany when she was eleven years of age. A self-described poet, novelist and blogger with an international following, she transitions from genre to genre with dashing confidence. As a child in a military family, she had to adapt to life, transitioning from Panama, where she was born, to Germany, where she was raised, to Puerto Rico, Texas, Kentucky and her current home in Saint Pete Beach, Florida. Her educational background is a testament to her mastery of seemingly contrary disciplines: science and the arts.
When responding to works of imaginative literature, it is not always appropriate to identify the author with her work, unless the work contains biographical elements that may be useful in shedding light on a text. Such is the case with confessional poetry in which the speaker and the author are one and the same. Von Simeon’s attraction to dualities is not confined to art and science, but cover a broad spectrum of contraries that serve as leitmotifs in her verse: black/white, male/female, spiritual/physical, demonic/divine, obscure/grandiose, gentle/furious, pensive/manic, weak/strong, feeble/titanic, fear/courage, curse/blessing, life/death.
These contraries are much more than rhetorical or metaphysical conceits; they are urgent and personal unresolved questions of identity that ultimately find as a solution a persona that is mythic, titanic, and divine. Wolfgang von Göethe, when referring to Lord Byron as “heroic” described him in terms of “Keckheit, Künheit, und Grandiosität” or “daring, dash, and grandiosity.” This is not something to be taken as a disparaging delusion of grandeur, but rather a true realization of the poetic soul’s immensity. Likewise, Von Simeon’s “Empress of the waves,” in her poem “Reed-Girl,” is titanic and cosmic, since the power of the imagination is limitless, “ordained by the Cosmos” where the poet can “go play about galaxies” to “show the universe / how majesty is done.” The sense of empowerment through which the creative process makes us more than mere mortal finds a kindred echo in Byron’s “Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage: “What am I? Nothing. / But not so art thou, Soul of my thought! / with whom I traverse the earth.”
The aspect of the divine is palpable in the power of creation itself: as God creates, so does the poet create, and insofar as we create, we are divine. What makes Von Simeon’s deity different is that hers is always female, usually a strong woman, a poetess-warrior “with the strength of five lions,” a mythic heroine or a goddess who is as powerful as she is divine as in the case of “Calypso,” “Artemis” and “Venus,” the queen of the gods who adorns the poet with a “Wreath of Stars,” or the primordial Earth Mother “Gaia” who grants her the “Voice of the Gods.”
My personal favorite is her poem Black Not Black. In this highly original verse Simeon combines the jaunty rhythms of hip-hop to convey a youthful surge of sensuous energy in tandem with a kindred spirit when her female speaker encounters her soulmate at a bus stop. The usual dualities surface, this time as pressing questions of racial identity: “Black? Not Black.” As her lens focuses, the inchoate figure approaching her with “full lips, Gillespie dizzy,” and “chocolate eyes brimming with soul” turns out not to be “Black” insofar as physical features are concerned; but inside the fair skin is a truly “sensational soul” (another duality: sense and spirit) that evokes the melding of dualities just as the words “BlackNotBlack” merge into one word. The speaker and poet embody the same conceit in the duality of opposites (“ivory” and “black”) as she is a mirror image of what she perceives. And the encounter, however brief, is a transfiguring epiphany. Something wonderful, inexplicable and immortal has happened, a discovery of oneness that has the power to suspend time, to heal a rift in a fractured psyche, and to resolve for time immemorial all her inner conflicts into transcendent art.
First Poet Laureate of Gulfport
©2016 VS Enterprises
Black Not Black
Five Oh One and bounding
successes of yet another fine day.
The next bus is at five twenty.
He strolls smoothly
eyes half-closed in pensive rapture
perhaps timing out a tune
Black. Not Black?
Full lips, Gillespie dizzy
chocolate eyes brimming with soul
A thick crown of tight
It is copper red.
Black? Not Black.
His skin is sweet fair
cheeks flecked with freckles
Not tall…short? Average.
Hands are smooth and adorned with
Black? Not Black?
Sensational soul stops suddenly.
The bus corners and prepares to stop.
Starstruck eyes meet starstruck eyes
I stand to reveal sharp curves enveloped in
small hands pressed against thick thighs
and long Black hair framing pursed lips
Soft-skinned saint smiles and sidles off
The next bus is at six o’clock.
©2016 VS Enterprises
I am in a mood.
I’m gonna compose some letters. Not going to mail them, just let the words flow cathartic. I’ll print them on lovely stationary, then burn them, after I cross and cover names.
Yep. I’m in that kind of mood.
I’ll start my drafts here for your amusement. To accompany, a few of Dali’s beautiful heliogravures from his 1969 Alice in Wonderland series. Enjoy!
Dear Person Who Self-Deprecates When Attention Is Drawn To You:
Hi. I’m noticing what you’re doing and it’s annoying the hell out of me. First of all, you look old enough to be my mother, and that’s not an insult, that’s a demographic detail. Second of all, we’re in the same room together, about to face the same challenges. While I sit here in tune to what’s happening, you’re sitting behind me, disturbing the persons to your left and right, saying, “I hope [he] knows how stupid I am” and “They better have someone who knows what they’re doing with me.” Do you even understand that what you’re doing is completely self-absorbed? Your pretend self-flagellation is actually a form of grandstanding that you probably inherited from a lifetime of leeching off of the kindness and patience of others. Shut the fuck up you stupid leech; you’re here to do a job. If you feel you can’t handle it, there’s the door. We’ve got this covered.
The Chick Wondering How You And She Are The Same Pay Grade
Dear Person Who Self-Deprecates As A Form Of Emceeing:
Hi. You’re not a comic. If you were a comic, and this was a comedic venue, you’d so not be making me laugh. Self-deprecation is a source of humor only when you realize the joke is supposed to be on you. But if your job is to warm up the mic, try not to spend those moments between performers – who may be nervous or amped or prepared – to talk about how much of a talentless waste-of-space you are. When you do that, you diminish the starlight of the talent approaching the microphone after your sad tale. It’s like watching someone murder a puppy between sets: not only is it senseless, but it doesn’t fit the grand ideal of uplifting artists and showcasing their artistry. Get it together, or get another project.
The Chick Waiting For Her Turn On The Stage
Dear Person Who Self-Deprecates In Order To Get My Personal Attention:
Hi. You done fucked up. I don’t do pity. I don’t do the pat on the backs and “there, there” acts. You’re phony and I smelled your phony the moment I saw your pinched shoulders and wavering eyes. You want to absorb my energy, I see it in your wringing hands. Are you actually telling me about your life problems without me even knowing you? Who am I, Barbara Walters? And don’t you DARE call me Oprah, or you will know my wrath. Get away. Grow up. Instead of coming to me about what you’re going to do, come to me about what you’ve already done, maybe then I can at least advise you. But your self-inflicted humility is not my charge, buddy. You’re an adult now. And if you’re an adult using lines like, “I can’t deal with adulting,” stay the hell away from me. I’ve got a life; get yours.
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through wooden slats
summon a new
I tumble, tumble
giddy under feathery darkness
my morning dreams
launch me into flight…
So begins one of the poems I created in that beautiful cabin nestled under ancient wood. The experience of connecting with nature at a primordial level is a powerful thing. My body – how best to describe this? – absorbed unfamiliar yet friendly energies. Vibrations were exceptionally high in the hills, and my connectivity to animals seemed heightened. To explore it neurologically, I would say my pineal gland received a profound tuning.
My sweet would nourish sleeping in as I would roam the deck of the cabin with my morning coffee. Then I’d go to the dining room, my designated office, and churn whatever creative forces into a precious morsel of art. Silence was a gift as well as a motivator. I needed the time between sips to really think what I wanted out of life. I’m ready to approach 40, but what am I to invest in as a human being for the next 40 years?
The answers seem to pop off Chappie the laptop’s screen, as if a big DUH! Time to showcase what you can do for others, Ivonne. Time to grow into the artistic community as a director, not just a contributor.
While in the cabin, I started to lay down the plans for a project I’m calling The Living Goddess Exhibit. Of course I’m going to represent Inanna (who could do better?) but exactly how are we going to praise her? What existing poems do I have that evoke her? What poems can I write in tribute to her? Suddenly in study mode again, I feel that excitement surge in me again, the excitement to share. I’m invested in my inner child, I’m letting her play! Gosh it feels good.
Even when we moved to the Cousin’s place, I was still in composition mode. Three large dogs make it difficult to keep expensive equipment out, but I did capture some creativity on my mobile devices. Here’s one that insisted on being written mid-sleep:
her torch knows no master
Balance is her charge
the Law as her guide
Love her as I do
Her power is needed
now more than ever.
So interesting that I’d reference the Law Goddess in my sleep state. This’ll be a poem worth developing, especially during election season!
Look forward to two productions from me, one in November and one possibly January. If you can’t make the shows, there’s always my performances with The Second Time Arounders Marching Band during the 2017 season.
(NOTE: This occurred in May 2015…)
Once at Murphy’s I am consumed with the idea of a beer. In one day I embraced mortality twice; surely, my libation limitations can be excused this evening!* Besides, the two male cousins before me, busy with setting up our pool table, have earned my trust, now and forever. I sip an ale and cherish the simple act of drinking.
A pool cue placed in my hand, and it’s my break. As I line the chalked tip between the 1st and 2nd balls to my right, the green felt bubbles. I blink to correct my contact lenses, then line up again. The smooth wood rod punches through my left grip, a sure shot, but instead, I scratch. I offer a self-deprecating comment to my company and giggle, then return the cue ball to start position. I attempt again. I fail again. The pool table is a tide moving quickly towards shore.
No one else sees this but me.
I look to my love and consider for a moment telling him, but his response will be a logical one: you’re coming down from the adrenaline rush, dear. This makes sense, except, I’m as calm and steady as I can physically be.
Perhaps more beer…
The cousins take to the table and I’m benched, nursing my ale, when I feel a wave of energy push against my right side. Moving only my eyes, I witness a furry, bearded man wearing a brown plaid shirt, hands clasped to his chest, eyes squinted inebriatedly. He smiles warmly then takes my hand as Jerry introduces us. “Ed, my name is Ed, I don’t know if I said it already…Ed.”
I find Ed to be comforting.
Jerry suggests we visit Ed’s studio. A break in the action? Sure. Brews are grouped aside and pool cues are chevroned to indicate, “We’ll be back.” A right turn from the cloaked billiards room over to the smoke haze of the outer patio, down the slicked side stairs and into the rain, the same murderous rain from our descent earlier. The audacity, I curse, as I bunny hop over puddles towards the adjacent building.
One key opens one door, another key unlocks another, then we’re in the presence of track lights and shiny instruments. Is this the universe interfering, or am I just plumb lucky? On the floor lies a six-string bass. Along the wall, a banjo, an acoustic and electric guitar, and a framed photograph. Jerry points and Ed blushes momentarily. BF doesn’t know who’s in the picture, but I’m well acquainted from my Kentucky days: the greatest picker in all of Appalachia, Mr. Doc Watson. To Doc’s right is our studio host, smiling and squinty-eyed.
Jerry goads him to play, which I know as an artist, we don’t need much cajoling to do what we love to do. Ed eases down onto a stool as I lower to the floor before him, cross my legs and cradle my hands, rocking into a cozy sit. “This is a song about a girl…” Ed starts as he fits his pick against the 3rd string and fingers his chords. The acoustics, so well tuned in the room, send me a fit of chills. He strums and sings with reverence as he shares his pained story, about the girl who moved on. My spine follows the melody and my shoulders meter the down beat. Where the cousins are I don’t know, all I know is this irresistible urge to sway. Side to side, side to side, as the notes play in the white light surrounding us. His words mute and I hear, “There, there. You’re all right. Everyone’s all right,” in a soft, wise, feminine voice. I’m cradled in a maternal embrace, a baby swaddled in a tight blanket of light. “There, there,” she sings. The terror of the last hour simultaneously manifests, actualizes then dissipates.
I feel, in a word, remarkable.
My snake dance to the charmer slows to an erect sit. Ed has finished playing. I awkwardly clap, hoping it’s not ill-timed. The cousins are ready to head back to Murphy’s but not before I take a few pulls of healing smoke. We leave, without Ed, from the glow of the studio back into the steady rain.
*: minutes before this interaction, the male cousins and I were near-death, sliding down the face of the mountain during an impromptu storm. This is the recovery from said event. Hence the beer.
Even into the darker blue, the Gulf waters felt too hot. Surely there’s a cold spot somewhere, I thought. I wanted to swim out further to find that magic place, but I needed a spotter. I came with three of my favorite fellas, but they were gathered around our table for the day, too far to yell, “Get in here!”
Spinning slowly as I tread the water, I spy a guy with diving goggles on. I paddle up to him, “Hey, I was just coming to get you…”
“Yeah, I saw you were diving. Wanna go out further?”
“But I can’t touch the ground…”
“That’s okay. Me neither.”
He makes like he wants to leave, but my one-minded state won’t let him. I tell him, “Just 10 more meters, nothing scary…”
“30 more feet?”
We both dive to the bottom. I can see his white long-sleeved top to my right. Below us are lovely, wavy patterns drawn onto pale beige sand. I surface. So does he.
“I’m Von,” I finally introduce.
“Jordan. Are we close to the sandbar?”
I laugh, “Hardly.”
“Let’s look for starfish.”
We continue diving and surfacing to no avail. It feels as if the water’s getting hotter. My new pal complains of the heat. I could use a non-salty drink anyways. Jordan and I reach his floating commune, which turned out to be local relatives; he is visiting from South Florida.
“Yeah it sucks down there,” Jordan laments.
I float onto my back as I pull Speedo suction cups from my eyes, while singing,
“The West Coast is the Best Coast…”
I have a writer’s callous.
Very few people in the 21st century maintain a writer’s callous, the telltale indentation on your dominant hand where you normally rest a pen. Composition after composition, frustrated hand and head viciously working together against time, all the answers having to come out of your tired phalanges. And yet, even as I type on Chappie with my tablet and my smartphone both in range, I still freewrite by hand. Zealot for abuse? Nah. Just a sign I’m still alive.
And free to write.
We do take advantage of that free-om, us Americans. We put all kinds of nonsense out in the 0s and 1s and it is protected (for the most part) by our Bill of Rights. But I know not every person with Internet access has the free-om to type their authentic opinions. We know from following international news that simply voicing an opinion can shut down a digital nation. Look at what all occurred with Twitter during the Arab Spring. Jobs and lives were lost simply by Tweeting. Tweeting!
I celebrate a personal free-om today: the ability to write what I feel, in the comfort of jim jams, folded legs on the couch. This was not my position last year. I was not allotted a journal. I was on a strict schedule. I was not allowed to leave a building for seven days. The absence of a pen and paper was much more disabling than the locked doors.
To those who write despite despair, I honor you. May you continue wielding words as weapons.
My hornets are thirsty.
I can tell this morning as the long legged, wide winged, red boy who lives in the nest in the upper join of our front door hovers in front of the A/C unit, waiting for the fan to spit up the condensation building up from our constant usage.
Yep, it’s that time of year. Three-digit utility bills. Constant moistness, especially in the naughty bits. For me, it’s a little more detrimental, as a new medication in my treatment plan requires me to, and I quote, “avoid becoming too hot or exposed to heat too long.” These mental health practitioners in Florida are absolute geniuses.
But that’s how it goes when you are depending on sliding-scale, high-traffic, short-timed resources to get healthy. Things fortunately are going to change for me next month in the insurance department, so let’s all hope this means I can receive better quality treatment for my condition.
Knowing what I went through this time of year in 2015, I’m scared to overheat, literally, scared. BF is concerned about the rising costs of cooling the house, as any responsible neurotypical should. But I’d so rather pay a $100 utility bill then try to pay $800 for an ambulance ride because I overheated. Dems be da breaks..
The unit has kicked on, so Red Boy and his suitemates can get their morning drink on before heading off to terrorize children. I managed to sleep in, but awoke with a dull headache and a very hot spine. This week I’ve been on the go; while impressive since I’m still dealing with insomnia, I’m not doing myself any favors by not resting. Today then, I dedicate to staying still and cool. I’ll follow Red Boy’s cue and drink ice cold water. Certainly, going to avoid the outdoors.
The lesson was learned hard last summer. I implore you, neuroatypical especially, to be careful in the heat this summer. Don’t deny yourself the cool you can afford. Remember, you’re not good to anybody dead.🙂
Happy Friday all!
I thought the pile of administrative trash was a touch too heavy…
An interesting habit of mine when I’m in the hospital is to collect magazine pages. It seems I had ripped apart an Italian Vogue magazine in this bundle before me, the bundle I’ve been avoiding since I came home March 16th.
It is not so much the content as to the constancy of these bundles. Every hospital stay, a folder with my name on it. Hoarded inside, my daily schedule. Journal entries. Poems. Rants about my roommate(s). This last bundle, though, was different.
Somebody else’s journal entries, poems, rants were tucked in with mine. As well, a purple composition book, bent vertically, with a sloppily-written title on the outside cover. The best I could make out was “The Realm of The…” in whoever-the-heck’s handwriting. To be sure, I turn the pages of the heavily written-in notebook. I see my barely-inked handwriting, a side effect of strong anti-psychotics. Whoever-the-Heck marked my entries with faces; many sad, some with a line for a mouth. Either way, Whoever-the-Heck didn’t like where my mind goes when my mind goes.
Neither do I.
When I finished reading through it, I made a mental note to try to recover the small poems I had written while psychotic. Lovely little pieces, small and neat like the tiny white fish of St Pete Beach. Then I busied with following up on past due bills, organizing them by hospital (which was tricky because hello! I was out of my mind, how would I know where I was??) and chasing down hospital administrators who owe me explanations.
Knowing that BF would be home shortly, I pick up the papers to shred and take them to their resting place. I finish labeling half my rolling file folder cart. I cast aside all old, unrecyclable folders. I stack the folders and the box the new folders came in atop each other, then walk it out to the trash.
Today, intended for a post, I find that the poems are lost to the garbage. The notebook, it seems, was in the same pile as the unrecyclable folders. I am relieved. RELIEVED. The reason why I hold on to advertisements and scribblings is because I know I won’t remember the experience, and a part of me feels as if I have to, as much detail as possible. But why do I have to remember? Being double minded means, one mind functions in society and the other mind doesn’t. So if that mind segment isn’t conducive to social interaction, then surely, the other segment shouldn’t fight so hard to retain useless data! Perhaps that’s the keyboard key stuck in a pressed position, the piece of spinach jammed in that impossible crevice of the teeth. Treatment needs to get me there – to a place where I know nothing, I am nobody, I am serene.
Just keep swimming, just keep swimming…
Sabbles woz 'ere
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The Boy Who Cries Wolf
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Crazy love, genius advice, very hot sex.
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