Be proud of me. This is my 1st event flyer of 2016, and it’s August. This represents a huge sigh of relief. A difficult start I had this year, but I’m proud I was able to recover within the 12 months. It’s the Ishtar in me, I suppose. Can’t keep a woman down too long!
And so here’s my new project, Spoken Works. Why Spoken Works? Written words are the definition of a generation’s experience. In my experience, too many well-written words by exceptionally talented artists remain unshared because of personal barriers: shyness, terror of public speaking, fear of judgment. Knowing that, I asked myself, “What can be done to avert those challenges?” Then I asked, “What helped me?”
Group sharing in my Creative Writing courses. Discourse amongst colleagues in closed environments. Finding the right tribe, and sticking to them, because I can trust them. Those experiences helped me. When I had a home base for my sharing, I was not inhibited anymore.
This workshop program is part of my POP Pinellas venture, a grass-roots poet outreach program. To poet and to be a poet, to me, is one in the same. Just as people use “their” as a gender-neutral derivation, I use “poet” as a title-neutral derivation for those who write their truth down. Makes sense right? Instead of listing, oh I’m a poet, author, lyricist, short story writer, blahblahblah. I’m a poet.
And this wasn’t my original idea. From James Baldwin’s 1963 speech, “The Artist’s Struggle for Integrity”:
However arrogant this may sound, I want to suggest two propositions. The first one is that the poets (by which I mean all artists) are finally the only people who know the truth about us. Soldiers don’t. Statesmen don’t. Priests don’t. Union leaders don’t. Only poets. That’s my first proposition.
Which, heads up, a review of James Baldwin is gonna be my next blog post because I’m absorbing his words right now. If you want to book club it, I just started “The Cross of Redemption” and am still reading through the speeches.
Questions? Comments? You know how to reach me. And check out POPPinellas.com when you have a moment. I haven’t officially launched it yet, but it’ll eventually be where I post about Spoken Works and other local projects.
The first time we went out on the water, BF spent more time looking back and stopping for me than he did enjoying the adventure. For the inconvenience, on this time around, I assured him he could enjoy the trip without worrying about me, now that I knew the course of the river from launch to landing. Besides, with his shirtless back facing me, his sculpted shoulders busy at work, I had someone quite pleasant to focus on.
We planned for one more day on the New River; the cool, clear water beckoning us to enter and clear our souls. My soul was a bit heavy, having to bear the uncomfortable feeling of entering a home in distress. We didn’t know anything about our host family’s marital split prior to our arrival, and even more so, I didn’t know I had to be on the defense as the only woman among related men. For me the water was liberation from the snarls and scowls of a wounded male, a free moment to tune to nature and scale off the superficiality of man.
A meandering was in order.
Depending on which data you reference, the New River in the Appalachian Range is one of the oldest rivers in the world. To ask the locals you would be certain to believe it is the oldest. I’m not here to contest any of that data, but I will say this: from water to stone to tree to sand, the entire universe of that river felt primordial.
Pushed off and well into our course, I smiled, looking through clear water at the mica-flecked stones along the bottom. BF wondered if they were flecks of actual gold. I told him how mica is used in cosmetics to offer that under skin “glow.” In the moment of that interaction, I felt the goddess Isis widening her giving wings over the both of us. As much as I wanted to share, “Isis is here!” I remember the unfortunance of the double meaning, and hold back.
Our small barques wound their way over pure water, hugged by rocky shores with faces almost a billion years old, deciduous trees lording over us as the sky laced between their green fingers. The sun loved us enough to warm our shoulders bronze. A breeze, like a subtle tongued kiss to the neck, won over my frazzled spirit, and finally, I could relax. My stroke through the water intensified, my shoulders winding fluidly as I searched out the deep pockets. In the shallows, I dug with might and determination, “No! I won’t get out of this boat!” BF was far forward. I sensed he’s on his own journey, and let him be.
At the thought to allow my love to float along and be with the river, I came upon the most curious sight. Bear in mind the north-flowing current was constant but not strong that day. The water itself was cold, but not unbearable. As I paddled to the right of a patch of moss, I saw a yellow and black snake completely erect, protruding from the center of the moss. I slowed to admire this behavior. I don’t know of a snake that would sun in the center of a river, let alone do it standing up! Then I noticed he started to wave, along with the current, but I took it as a “Hello!” A glow of yellow-gold light, filled with good, fortifying medicine, swaddled me. Oh Snake, I prayed, thank you for your gift. I kept looking back at that vertical creature until the river pulled me from view. The entire time, Snake stayed in that tall position in the moss. Imbued with blessing, I hurried towards my love.
The New River curled towards our landing. We came across a black and white border collie, feverishly digging a hole along the shore. As there was a makeshift swing nearby, we figured he was a member of that riverfront household. The collie, more preoccupied with his find than us, leaped from his post then climbed up the hill ostensibly towards his home.
But he didn’t go home.
This collie followed us the remaining few miles of our trip, swimming between the kayaks, landing on either shore, taking off into the woods; yet he’d always return. I heard the words, “Wolf Medicine” echo between my ears, then, experienced an unavoidable snag in the river. My kayak landed on rocks. I watched as the collie and BF continued, then realized, Spirit wants me to hang back. From my landing it was abundantly clear, this wolf descendant and this mountain-spirited man were meant to meet. Side by side, Wolf and Man paddling, quietly as to not disturb the existing serenity. It was overwhelming to behold. To the mountain I prayed, “thank you for his Wolf medicine” before returning the barque to a deeper pool of water and paddling on.
The topless silo signaling our stop, our wolf company disappeared into the nearby tree farm. On our landing, BF found a perfectly flat, round stone which he pocketed. I helped myself to a larger stone, the width of my hand, so that I could enjoy ancient river medicine anytime.
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.
I’m working on two poetry exhibits for the coming Fall season. One to do with the Divine Feminine and the other on mental transformation and healing. Yup, big topics to chew on, but like my large five-rose tattoo, when I do things, I do ’em big.
Pulling some sketches out for inspiration, and others to revisit. The continuing visitor in my book is “the purple woman,” so named because she either appears bathed in purple, or she’s cloaked in purple. I’ve been seeing her all my life, yet in the past six years, she’s been manifesting in my visions quite regularly.
Hoping to try other mediums and tools to convey my visual art this year. Perhaps need to wander over to the Arts District and learn from the local masters. Won’t you join me?
Purple Woman 2010. She’s fiery, yet genuflecting, as if surrendering to…a higher power?
Purple Woman 2016. She’s calm, demure, yet still proud.
“Daisy” 2016. Postcard material, amirite?
“Change” 2010. The small person is me, cowering at a booming voice declaring CHANGE!
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. 🙂
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.
(I wrote this in reflection of my former neighbor’s shocking and untimely death. At first I wasn’t going to post, but I have to honor the guy who, as complicated our relationship was, inspired my artistry on several occasions. I pour one out for you, buddy.)
“I bet you got that tattoo long time ago, huh…”
I don’t even turn my head, but instead offer my building neighbor a tight smile. He’s showing off again, I internalized, as i hurriedly stuff another bushel of laundry in the back of my truck. Fred, and his parking lot company, whom I refer to as “the hens”, tone down their chortles and clucks to a watchful silence, either romancing their curiosity or fantasy, whatever. After living on my own in that building for the past few years, I’d gotten used to these men gathering in our lot simply to watch the world go by. Proving no threat, I doubled back to my apartment for the next bushel. The hens return to their clucking. I hear Fred let out a loud guffaw then an extended Ha Haaa as I turned away. I roll my eyes.
He’s showing off again.
Last week, Fred was murdered in his apartment, his throat slit by his nephew, Willy, who’d recently come to live with him. Fred was like that, letting family and acquaintances stay with him for stretches at a time. While these arrangements helped him with covering food and shelter expenses, it caused me to elevate my guard. Once, after running errands I came home to find Fred and his company smoking weed from a hookah on my staircase! Had he offered a puff I may have been less stringent, but since he lorded over our common space when no one was around, I had to remain defiant.
This is the part where my uncouth self should apologize for talking ill of the dead, but I find that’s a social reaction to an uncomfortable awareness of mortality. I, acutely aware of the finality of life, celebrate Fred a different way. You could count on Fred to be Fred, either using his key to open our main door for complete strangers, or banging on the old lady’s door to exploit her generosity, or his complete indifference towards health and safety as he fileted a freshly caught tilapia from the retention pond.
Was Fred my friend? He was certainly a constant figure in my life, either through Southern cordials or my observations of him from my balcony, either pulling his fishing gear towards the lake or strolling alongside the property, hands clasped figuratively behind his back, his gangly arms merging in such a way that he sported a lean – a lean so distinct I borrowed it for a characterization in an unpublished novella. He frustrated me, in that he was drawn to accommodate any female in our vicinity, including the young prostitute in Apt G. He disappointed me, serving as a look out on many drug exchanges, and possibly having a role in the robbery of the unit below mine. As a reader, you must be thinking this is a foul representation of an such an unfortunate soul, but it is our truth.
The way he was executed was heinous, but not so unbelievable. Ours was a quiet community, relatively: of everyone who lived in that building Fred was around the longest. I wouldn’t say Fred was harmless, but he was… manageable. We acknowledged each other on the daily; he with the “hey lady” and me with the “hey Fred” in return. That translated to, ‘you do you, I’ll do me’ and we both understood. Fred could count on me being enigmatic and reclusive and I could count on him to introduce someone to wonder about, even write about.
Willy didn’t show up til last year, as I was transitioning from that place to my current home. He worried my friendly neighbors, pissed off the astute ones, and gave Fred a difficult time. I completely blame the apartment management as well as the security company for his murder, but I also have to blame Fred’s generosity for making a very bad call. The fact that Willy’s related to Fred makes it all the worse. Of all situations I monitored Fred participating in, never would I have guessed his own blood would take him out. For that, I’m sad for Fred. He was doing what many of us with limited incomes do – sacrifice personal safety for social compliance. I couldn’t improve my situation while all my money was tied into book publishing. He was clamoring to keep his shelter. We shared despair but celebrated it uniquely. In that sense, our trappings made us unlikely kin.
I am truly sad Fred is dead. I believe his time here was cut short because his contributions were too desperate. His soul has departed, but he’ll live on as challenger and champion of the 1600 block of Lake Lynn Drive.
Today the lake water has taken on a pumice hue. Ripples close in like busy worker ants towards the inlet, dumping froth along the coastline. Bitter, the air, the overnight drop in temperature simultaneously welcome and abhored. This morning instead of sipping a cup of coffee I puff on my glass bowl. There’s much work to do, but a cold front means stiff joints and I simply cannot lift couches and move TV stands without healing smoke to start.
A commotion across the room distracts me from the lake. The grey flannel blanket undulates madly, then melts into the mattress. I return to nature-gazing with a smile on my face, thinking of the fiery Ace of Wands Spirit played the other day. Lust; Fire; Passion. Through the Two of Swords Spirit told me, ‘turn that big brain of yours off and let love happen!’ Oh that it is, for sure. I did pull the Princess of Swords. Unfinished struggles. Uncertain proceedings. It was a message about my health. Yes, I nod as I inhale, we’re gonna be experts in self-care this year.
There’s furniture to get rid of, boxes to pack. Walls to paint back to standard white. There wasn’t much hung for decoration until just this past year. Four years at this address, but I only felt like nesting once I had a relationship…oh I get it now. The Ace of Wands had always been in play. Good one, Spirit!
Down to two plates, two bowls, two glasses. Two houses will condense to one, and hearts will grow three-fold. Goodbye Southside, hello Suburbia!
Time to wake the sleeping beast…
The distinct smell of National Novel Writing Month is in the air, wafting curls of pumpkin spice-flavored coffee, donuts, and fear dancing in the four winds. All of November, local coffee shops morph into coliseums, where literary warriors compete against the clock and indirectly with each other. It is a feat of near mythical challenge: find a way, everyday, to pour out the novel of your dreams from head to hard drive. Only the best of the best compete, but very few complete the challenge. Myself, a three-time winner of this global event, I gotta tell ya…
…I think I’m sitting this one out.
Normally I excel in short deadline situations, but after this last hospital stay, I’ve finally learned to not take life too seriously. And I think the essence of it is, the right mix of passion and mystery is just not in me right now.
But I will miss the gatherings (“I hate people, but I love gatherings!”)♤. I’ll miss the interactivity on social media during NaNo; I’ve made several friends all over the globe these past times.
Perhaps I’ll visit the write-ins, be a cheerleader or something. Yeah! My contribution this year will be words of encouragement. I shall motivate by slamming my hand loudly on the table top you rested your head on, then scream, Kinison-style, “GET BACK TO WORK!!!” into your earlobe.
Yes. I will be a NaNo cheero. No, I will not novel. And that is okay.