Busy, busy, like a queen honeybee, pumping out ideas, designs, and information with little breaks in between to breathe. Ask for help will I? Why? Everything’s under control, yep…everything is errythang.
Whew. Who am I kidding??
These last two years, I had been producing works for publication and sale. After joining the band, I was compelled back into performance art. So, getting my Vaclav Havel on, I’ve designed an exhibit of empowered, proactive women sharing words of wisdom in the form of goddesses. Fun, right? The exhibit came from a place of concern, that pit in the gut where you feel something needs to be expressed, something especially important for humankind. This is what Art does for us, yes? Get those expressions out into the open.
I wanted to express my disappointment in humanity, specifically, in the way women refuse to support each other when it comes to social cues and laws defining our roles in society. But I didn’t want to be a nag about it either. Instead, I took a comic view. What is it that women typically deal with that we can all agree we deserve a break from? And so, I’ve developed The Living Goddess Exhibit.
The girls are here to tell it like it is.
Me, I’m going to perform as Inanna, my all-time favorite deity. I’ve blogged about her too many times to not support my obsession. Inanna is perfect! If I lived in the time of her worship, I would be her best high priestess. Why? She does what I do all the time: explore people’s dualities. I *love* to exploit either-or people (in a gentle way) in order to get them to see the world’s challenges as not which team one prefers but rather, what the global community could embrace if they considered both options. It’s easy to follow the herd, but ultimately, someone needs to shepherd. Inanna is that deity.
More details on the exhibit to come, but know this: I am in a place of deep creativity and also of calm. Things are moving at tornado speed around me but the inner cone is silent. I’m glad I’ve gotten to a point in life where I can manage the outer and inner worlds as a whole. Wish me luck in these next coming weeks!
I slapped on the visor and apron with uncertainty. Already I had worked the season opener for the local college team, now my volunteering efforts were geared towards opening day for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The USF game was its own special nightmare – scorching day, no breeze, collapsing bodies – but otherwise, sales at the Second Time Arounders Marching Band tiki bar boomed. I think it was because we were by the boat.
This time around, we were placed in a beer corner with not a lot of space to move between the six of us. Before I had finished dumping ice onto the premium beers it was go time! Customers lining up for all things frosty and salty. I did as trained – smiled as I took the order, if it involved alcohol I asked for ID, held the ID up to confirm face and date, then processed the sale with a cheerful “Enjoy the game!” to send their happy selves off.
And then, he came. A large, burly man dressed in Buccaneer regalia, beads dangling proudly from his neck. His face was cute, chubby, and pinked at the cheeks. He ordered two beers and a water. I asked for his photo ID. His chubby face became firm. He flared his arms, “Are you fucking serious?”
“Yes,” I calmly replied.
“I’m 54 years old! I could be your goddamn father!”
“I’m sorry sir,” I calmly explain, “I can’t sell you those drinks without an ID.”
I watched as he stepped backwards, almost into the couple behind him, then flare his nostrils and widen his chest. I swear he was going to rush the stand, but then he yelled, “Let’s settle this right now.”
My eyes followed his left hand waiving over someone. I’m thinking it’s his wife or somebody holding his ID. A dark blue suit with TPD on the lapel and a gun at the waist appeared instead.
Never in the history of me has a cop being waived my direction ever worked out in my favor. I’m flushed, I feel my heart start to race, and an “Oh SHIT” mantra starts looping in my head, all the while thinking, he called the cops on me, he called the cops on me…
The large man details the situation above and then tells the cop “She shouldn’t ID me.” Wow! I wish I had that kind of social authority! Being above the law, being able to tell a cop what should and should not happen to him during his good time at a privately-owned stadium.
The policeman looked at me, at him, then replied, “It’s her discretion whether she sells you alcohol or not.”
WHAAAT! He’s on MY side?
Never in the history of me has a cop agreed with me, even off-duty. I felt redeemed. And even though he was pouty after the fact, I still sold the big guy a water.
I don’t care how mouthy you are. Rule #1 in retail: get the sale.
I wasn’t worried about him, I was worried about the cop. He was worried about his beer, I was worried I was ending up in handcuffs. This is our world – a bunch of unnecessary worries. If I’m lucky in this lifetime, I shouldn’t feel threatened by the appearance of law enforcement anymore.
I’ve slept on this and still felt compelled to write, because it’s such a phenomenal experience. When you look a certain way, or hang out in a certain crowd, the labels and assumptions abound. Negative labels and assumptions unfortunately carry on with you despite social improvements. So when I describe this simple scenario, I wonder if you’re reading it as someone who’s been negatively labeled all their life, or if you’re wondering why the cop agreeing with me is such a monumental deal. It is a big deal. It signifies the necessary shift in the social wind. Not everyone who looks like me needs to be disciplined by the police. Moreover, people who look like me aren’t easily threatened by the gesticulations of the Great White Male, as was my friend’s mistake.
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.
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.
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.
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,