NOT I DO, BUT I AM

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This is me last night. I babysat my brother’s pit bull, Enzo (with whom I’m wildly in love), which meant I had my brother’s whole mountain cabin all to myself. I said I was going to take advantage of the quiet and catch up on sleep, but instead, I stayed up all night reading a client’s gorgeous book, after which I wrote a tipsy poem. (Tipsy being a euphamism for, “Why are there two pit bulls sitting beside me? I know my brother only has one.”) Here it is, the newest addition to the poetry collection I’m working on, called So Speak the Stars. Shocker, it’s a love poem.

I am a weird writer. I do the business end of it. I’m so happy that people are responding to my work, especially my novels. But I don’t really worry too much about my poetry being marketable. I write it mostly as a way to bleed the love from my veins. If I don’t, I’ll explode, and I’ll get glittery guts everywhere. And what would Enzo think if his caretaker exploded? I can tell you right now he would be most put out. (Who would give him jerky snacks?)

NOT I DO, BUT I AM

You set the desert sand on fire.
Choirs sing in your hair.
I took a spaceship through time,
and there you were, pulsing,
the beginning of my everything.
I rode a submarine to the center of my bones,
and there you were, swimming
in my marrow.

When I write you,
I feel the missing words,
the ones humans haven’t invented yet
shimmering in the spaces between sounds.

The best poem I ever penned about you was silent.
It prismed the sky around it
making tiny rainbows in raindrops.

They ask me why.
Why this?
Why that?
Why won’t you come here?
Why did you go?
The answer is always you.
The answer is always because
they are not you.

When mountain night is rocked
and rattled by ancient wind,
I sleep in your invisible arms.
I feel you spinning in my platelets.

The answer is always, I love you.
The question is always, Where are you?
(I need to be there.)
The answer is because
I could never be in love with them.
I am made of in-love with you.

My love is atomic.
It’s TNT times ten billion.
It explodes my skin
and seeps into the air around me,
making me radioactive.
They ask me, Why are you on fire?
I say, Because there is a him,
and he makes an inferno of my dreams.

Smoke rises from my hair
a burnt offering.

It’s not that I choose you.
It’s that if there was no you
there would be no me.
It’s not that I marry you.
It’s that I am marriage to you.

It’s that you sing
in my soul
deep in the echoes
of the mini-big-bang
that volcanoed me into being.

Before that eruption
there was you.
The stories got it wrong.
I wasn’t a rib.
I was a bump sleeping on the tip of your tongue
until you spoke and made me live,
saying, If I made a queen
how would she be?
And when you said, She would be like this,
I jumped from your mouth
grew a thousand miles
and cannonballed into the river
that flowed from your ribcage.

There and then you baptized me.

Tonight there is no moon
only flurries of snow
mothing in cold porchlight
growing wings
whipping windows white.
My body tangles,
limbs twisted to form
the first letter of your name.

Tonight
your heartbeat thrums
in the sizzling cymbals
of my kneecaps.

My soul’s first-last-and-only husband,
my very quarks sing your praise.

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(This is me cuddling with Enzo. Isn’t he gorgeous?)

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Confessions of a Conduit: What Magdalene Wrote in the Sand when the Mob was Gone

Jesus and MM

I am obsessed with Mary Magdalene. A third of my first poetry collection, Siren Song, was dedicated to Mary Magdalene persona poems. She fascinates me partly because I think she was a force more powerful than anyone gave her credit for. Early Christian writings depict her as Jesus’s most accomplished disciple. Leave it to patriarchal religion to turn her into a whore.

She points to patriarchal society’s tendency to reduce powerful women to their sexuality in an attempt to render them inert. (Bad on them. How foolish to underestimate one’s opponent.) She also fascinates me because I think she carries within her sacred belly a blueprint, the possibilities available to all women. Are we not all whores? Are we not all stoned in our time? Are we not all disciples? Are we not all queens? (In fact, I’m teaching starting a course on January 16 at The Creative Writing Center called “Writing to Access the Divine Feminine.” I think we will start with a study of the Magdalene.) So I give you (the 20 of you who read my poems) my latest Magdalene poem. This poem speaks of ascension, of becoming, of what happens to a woman when she lets go of society’s insistence that she takes one of their prescribed roles and, instead of conforming and making herself small, becomes the expression of the sacred blueprint that lives in her blood. For those who don’t read poetry, I promise I’ll write another humor article soon.  I know poetry isn’t everyone’s cup of tea!

Confessions of a Conduit: What Magdalene Wrote in the Sand when the Mob was Gone

Drop your rocks, boys.
The Man picked me.
See, I lick Ganesh’s trunk,
kiss Guadalupe’s Virgin on her ever-shining cheek.
At midnight, we three, trinity, waltz

on the silvery waters of distant planets.
Light seeps from the slender moons rising at the tips of my toes.
I dance through meadows unseen by men.
They think my face is pretty?
They should see my soul.
If they only knew the secrets that my platelets keep.

After three days I rose from my grave
carrying magic in my bones.
I ate 777 pomegranates from Olympus’s lushest grove.
This just in: my soul has been un-sinned.
The never-ending spiral of my belly button
is a water slide
winding straight to the ice blue pool
at the center of the Eye of Horus.

Insert chorus here, cue an angel choir.
Fall, sacred fire, fall.
When they said the goddess was a honey bee
I dove straight into the hive.
Ten thousand drones stung me alive
made my marrow simmer.

Secrets shimmer in my eyes.
My DNA knows everything there ever was to know.
The tree of life grows from my sternum.
My chromosomes speak of God in ancient languages
understood only by ghosts and swordfish.
Exult, heavenly hosts!
I have rewound Judas’s kiss,
dismissed demons,
leveled the gates of hell.
I un-shell mysteries like peanuts, swallow them whole.
My holy dreams stink

like the bellies of oysters giving birth to pearls.
My visions flutter like rainbows in oil puddles.
My soul dangles, un-muddled, at the edges of my earlobes.
I have married the Christ.
I wear his silver ring on my toe.
I have been

un-slaved,

un-stoned,

shamed in reverse.

I know only one Master.
He calls me baby.
For Him alone I bow.
Who’s a whore now, bitches?
Get thee behind me, Satan,
and take your slithering sycophants with you.

I won’t be raped again.

My sacred cows have been un-slaughtered.
I have emerged from death a daughter of light.
My stilettos reek of interstellar travel.
Behold, I have unraveled and raveled again.
Lo, I glow I glow I glow.

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This is me when I was living in France in 2016, about an hour away from the cave to which they say Mary Magdalene fled to after the Christ was crucified. These ruins stood just outside the medieval village I lived in. The magic was thick there. I wrote in them just about every day. I return to the South of France in March, this time to tour high schools that are studying Beauty of the Broken and The Long Ride Home (which I wrote mostly while living in France). I have no doubt more miracles are in store.

HAGSEED DETHRONED: AKA APOCALYPSE AVERTED

momma killing dragon

Bow low, oh, unholy city. Arise, she comes, your tres shitty Mistress of Mediocrity, as lovely as a candle made of earwax, a wad of used Kleenex, a letter penned in the elegant language of lug nuts. As dazzling as a dirty sock, she rawks an intellect rivaling that of a brain damaged slug. She bugged your iPhones and hijacked your brains, trained you 2 luv the path of least resistance.

And behold, the spirit animal of the kool kids resembled reanimated road kill, and her creed was greed. She dusted off lust, gave birth to logos. Catch phrases flashed in her eyes.

Just do it.
You deserve a break today.
State Farm is there.
We care.
Join the family!(Memberships available for just $79.99, your soul, and a hole in the ozone! Taxes, titles, and licenses not included. VIP section extra.)

Talent does what it can, self-assigned genius does what it must, and Lady Un-Liberty’s only imperatives were banality, conformity, insanity, and money-money-money at any price. They don’t call her the anti-Christ for nothing.

And lo, Hagseed waddled on cheap linoleum, and her bargain basement disciples were astonished. “What manner of woman is this,” they said, “that she can verily walk on the floor?” And thus, they followed her.

Behold, Our Unsacred Empress of Snot Rockets gave birth to an off brand corporate beast, and it gobbled up the world. (Got milk?)

In an effort to stave off the second coming, she dug her own grave. Woe to us! Who will save our sagging antiheroine, preserve her listless legacy?

See! She agonizes over insipid ad copy, rewrites history, orchestrates a winter holiday selfie with her bought and paid for corporate family, wormy lips forming an O. (She’s a high powered executive, you know.)

Don your art smock and paint this now: a sold out and slaughtered sacred cow, a throne grown from the bones of voiceless victims, our unholy un-goddess’s sixteen chins (tastefully shrouded in scarves), zombie armies marching to goosestep hymns, a retinue of green haired ogresses, a backdrop of melting celluloid dreams. Th-th-that’s all folks! All her scheming has come to this clever-less anticlimax.

Whatever, man. After years of this shit, who gives a damn? Get it over with. Shut her up already. Crown her queen of the piss ants.

But wait! Plot twist! What’s this?

Peasants scatter! Hey batter, batter, swing! The sun ascends as The Mother descends, upends Our Vile Lady of Bile’s recycled shit-smear scene.

Retrospectively, we all see that in this case, “queen” was just a synonym for “impostor.” And “I got my name on the kool kid roster,” was just another way to say “I sold my spine for $9.99, a family of swine, and a pic with a D-level celebrity.”

And verily, Our Much Aggrieved Damsel of Damnation descended, shrieking, to the trailer park prepared for her from the foundation of the world, and her much mullet-ed disciples returned, with great weeping and gnashing of teeth, to their Chia Pets. Had their deeds not been recorded in the words of this book, they would have been instantly forgotten.

Fini

A LOVE SONG FOR 2017

end of 2017

It’s almost here, a year that 30 years ago, I could have never fathomed living to see. 2018. Weird. I still swear it’s 1999, 2000 tops, but here we are, almost in the third decade of the new millennium. This year was one of my best ever. It was my third year of living on the road, and during it, I finished taking my body and mind back from darkness. I know that sounds dramatic, but I am living on the road for a reason, and it has nothing to do with sightseeing.

About five years ago, I realized I’d lost me almost completely. It was utterly terrifying. I decided to take me back. I say “decided” as if I had a choice. I decided the way a drowning man decides to gulp for air. And letting go of everything that defined my false image of self, the familiarity of home and routine, was part of it. I want to write a memoir about the miracle of these wandering years, but I am having trouble finding my way into the material. It will come when the time is right. Meanwhile, I continue to wander, embracing my introvert self (I pretended to be an extrovert for years, but I’m shy at my core, and while I love to spend brief periods of time with like minded humans, I crave solitude), loving the world around me, opening my arms to miracles, reading books, writing words, being. Just being.

I began 2017 with my precious children and then flew off to teach for two life changing weeks in Sicily.
me-sicily

I read and taught in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, and lots of places in the U.S., meeting and loving so many beautiful humans along the way. (This is me at a reading/signing at Bookworks in Albuquerque.)
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I released my third book and second novel, The Long Ride Home.

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I lived in a castle for three magical months on the beautiful Rosemont College campus, while serving as writer-in-residence for their gorgeous MFA program.
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I lost 20-something pounds and started loving myself consistently with yoga and running and healthy foods. (Don’t think this means I didn’t eat my fair share of cake, because I did. I am still besotted by culinary delights. Baby steps.) I got a new tatoo on my daddy’s death day with my precious momma sitting beside me.

It wasn’t all roses, of course. (Is it ever?) I did my best to help some of my most beloved ones through excruciating divorces, held my momma when she cried after her cancer diagnoses, spent lots of time gutting myself, scraping the last lies away from the kernel of my sacred heart.

And now, entering 2018, I have a clarity I have never known, a peace I couldn’t have fathomed five years ago. I’m strong. I know what I want. I know who I am. I know what my life is about. I know what I love. I know what I am willing to accept. I know what I am not willing to accept.

Last night, in the home of my dearest friend, I prayed for hours. (I do this almost every night. My time spent in the arms of the divine is the most precious part of my life.) I surrendered everything to The Mother, let go of my remaining ideas of what life “should” be and opened my arms to the wondrous unimaginable possibilities Life has in store for me. I feel such tranquility and hope.

I have no idea what 2018 holds for me (well, I know a little—I’m off to San Miguel in February, and off to France in March), but I know that I will continue to walk the highway of diamonds that is prepared for me as I wander, one magical step at a time. If I tried to name all of the people who have blessed me and made my life a pure wonder this year, I’d be writing for days, but you know who you are. Thank you. I love you. Love, love, love. I’ve seen much of what there is to see in this world, and I can tell you the only thing that matters, the only thing that fills your heart, the only thing that makes life worth living, is love.

So for me, 2018 will be the year of Love. This I know for sure.
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WHAT THEY COULDN’T STEAL

Me praying
They have made a ruin of our temple.

They have slaughtered 777 sacred cows and ground them into meat.

They set up tents in parks, pass out Pabst Blue Ribbon, serve up blasphemy burgers with sour sides of pickles and lies.

“Do you want facts fried with that?” they ask, and the grave diggers shriek, “Yes.”

Save us Mother, for they are sin.

Our Lady of Perpetual Profanity has crowned herself queen, shined up her six chins with glitter, whitened her fangs, slapped a coat of forbidden fruit gloss on her lipless, skeletal grin. She slides white tights over cellulite, strives to compete with the moon, rule over the night.

She has hijacked the Christ, forced him to wear her ring, put a pistol to his head, said, “Sing my praises or else.” In a fit of self-aggrandizement, lo, our much un-beloved psycho queen shelves sanity.

Her Trailer Trash Brigade reigns supreme. “Get a rope,” they howl, and lynch the goddess in the street.

Some days I think they have murdered everything that mattered, but then

I remember you, dancing under moonlight, outshining the stars.

What they couldn’t steal was your heart between my hands, pounding out its secrets, and how I listened, memorized them word by word, went back and studied the spaces, the things you couldn’t say.

What they couldn’t steal was that day you stood 5 feet away and said “I love you” with your eyes, and no one knew, no one would ever know our secret, but for those 55 seconds, no one knowing was ok.

What they couldn’t steal was the miracles, the way we morph one another’s mundanity into magic, how you walk each night on the water of my mind, stilling waves.

When days are dark, and sharks circle, I remember the way the asphalt rippled as you stood on it. Like me, it longed for nothing more than to melt into your skin.

Next time around, I will come back as a swirl on your thumb, a bump on your tongue, a white crescent moon rising at the tip of your toenail.

This time around, I am one giant foot, shod with the preparation of the Gospel of Your Throat.

You have un-Judas-ed me.

You have de-Delilah-ed my mind.

You have redefined the whore in me as Madonna.

You made art of my heart,

Sistine Chapel-ed my soul.

My DNA sings your praises.

My toes have become New Testaments.

My very elbows reek of God.

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A THANK YOU LETTER TO THE STONE MARY AT ROSEMONT

stone mary
The Stone Mary in question
I come from the desert, where cloudy days are few and far between. Because they have always been a scarcity in my life, they feel like the ultimate luxury to me. I love them. I love rain. I love storms. I love having to wear fuzzy sweaters because it’s cold. I love being able to curl up in a cozy chair with my computer all day and respond to my students’ work, feeling locked in because, hey, it’s cold out, and the sky says stay inside. It’s like that often here at the Rosemont College Campus, where I am living and serving as writer-in-residence for the fall semester. I am mesmerized by the beauty of it, by the silvery sky and the blazing leaves and the nights that come earlier than anything I’ve seen in my life. (It’s starts getting dark before five here. What???)

This is the first time I’ve ever spent the entire fall season in a place that has fall. It’s been wondrous. I was lying in my bed last night, staring up at the latticework of light created on my ceiling by moonlight streaming through my lace curtains, thinking that the life I am living her on this campus is as close to the life of my dreams as I have ever gotten. Most days, I wake up late, drink coffee, eat my bagel, work for a few hours, work out, go meet with students or teach classes about the art I love (depending on the day of the week), come back to my gorgeous little suite, write/work, read for a while, lie in my bed praying and feeling lucky, fall asleep at like four in the morning, rinse and repeat. My boss, Carla Spataro, is one of the most generous, brilliant, delightful human beings I’ve ever known, and I get to spend all kinds of time with her.

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Me and my wonderful boss, Carla Spataro, getting ready to host a book launch in the castle for the amazing poets Grant Clauser and Valerie Fox.

My colleagues and students are incredible. Just often enough, I get to participate in social events–readings and panels and dinners. I get to meet and spend time with amazing writers. I get to share my work at readings regularly, which is so exciting. When I’m hungry, the cafeteria is a few hundred feet away. I never have to cook. As if all that weren’t enough, housekeepers take care of my suite once a week.

me with karen joy fowler
At a recent dinner with beautiful writers. Yes, that is Karen Joy Fowler sitting next to me. She was the keynote at the Push to Publish conference here. I had the honor of being her guide and companion during her time on the campus. She came to me at the most perfect time in my life. Her wisdom will stay with me forever. She was one of my favorite writers before I met her. You can imagine how I feel now.

Often, I walk over to the stone Mary that stands guard in the steeple of the chapel, next to the castle in which I have the luxury of staying. I look up, take in the beauty of the night sky, say thank you. Last night, I went out at midnight. Soaked in starlight, she was breathtaking. I thought about how I could have settled for all the things people told me I was supposed to want. But I didn’t. I thought about how happy I was that I followed my heart even when it cost me. Because it brought me here.

And as sad as I’ll be to leave when the time comes, the wonders don’t cease when I leave here. Next, I go stay in a house by the ocean for a week. While I’m there, I’ll finish the draft of the novel I’m working on and teach a class for amazing writers in Manteo, North Carolina. Then I go home to New Mexico to spend the holidays with my precious family.  After that, I get to go teach at an amazing conference in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, one of the most beloved cities in the world to me, where I’ll stay until I leave for my residency at a lovely, castle-esque manor in La Rochelle, France. I am already scheduled to speak at three French high schools, where they are studying my book, Beauty of the Broken. While I’m there, they are going to do a translation duel of my work, meaning a bunch of French translators will be competing to translate my work.  (Fastest? Best?  I’m not sure.)  I can’t believe I get to say all this.  I can’t believe this is really my life.  I can’t believe people all over the world are studying my work, that work that sat in my desk drawer for a decade, being read by no one.

The beauty of it overwhelms me sometimes. Every time I walk back from the cafeteria, see this astonishing house I get to call home for a few months, I have to remind myself that this is really my life. I don’t know how I got so lucky. I don’t know that I deserve it. Somewhere in my youth or childhood, I must have done something good.

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The house in which I have the honor of living for a few months

Stone Mary, this one goes out to you.  To me, you are a symbol of the gorgeous spirit that has guided me, that has gently taught me who I really am, has strengthened me to become the thing I was born to be, is helping me to understand the difference between love and lust, beauty and glitz, art and kitsch, truth and lies, wealth and greed, need and want, kindness and insincerity.

Sometimes, I get weird letters from people who don’t know me anymore, who never really knew me, saying I’ve changed, as if it’s a bad thing, as if success has gone to my head. These people always want to offer their kind services to “fix” me. Fix me how? It makes me angry. Of course I’ve changed. And if I did need fixing, I would go to the people who really know me, who have stood by me through the darkness and the light, for advice and help.

I’m successful because I changed, because I let the still small voice whispering in my heart, telling me to live my truth, turn me into something better than the thing I was pretending to be. Maybe I’m not as much fun at a party as I used to be. Maybe I’m more solitary and contemplative. Maybe I’m more about work and less about rock-n-roll. Maybe I don’t let people who don’t love me touch my body, because I love myself too much to let me be used ever again. Maybe I don’t have that many close friends because friendship has become a sacred thing to me, and I don’t give it away easily.  But this is me. This is who I always was. So much of what I did before was just trying to be something I wasn’t to make everyone else like me.

As I’ve spent the last three years being homeless by choice, traveling the world, trying to find myself, Stone Mary, and what she represents, has taught me how to know, sit with, and love, the real, perhaps boring, me. And I’m so glad I’ve changed, because my life is magic for it. And I have peace, real peace. And I have joy, real joy. And I am so grateful to the powers that be for giving me this magical, incredible, unbelievably beautiful life.  If I spend every breath I have left saying thank you, it will never be enough.
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Me last night, after teaching a novel workshop for post-MFA writers, right before going to say “thank you” to the beautiful Mary of Stone

SCRYING

 

scrying

And the waters moved

And there was you

And the mirrors flashed

And there was you

And the crystals danced

And there was you

And the candles melted

And there was you

And the tea leaves congealed

And there was you

And the cards fell

And there was you

And the flames leapt

And there was you

And the visions loomed

And there was you

And the seers intoned

And there was you

And the dreams drifted

And there was you

 

When I opened my eyes

the sunrise drew

a picture of you on the horizon

and I finally knew

everything inside my heart

looked like your face.

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DAY OF THE DEAD

me on daddy's grave

Corpses howl in the streets, clacking corroded teeth, and I should be scared, but I’m not.  I weave them marigold crowns, lie down among the headstones, call them to me to talk. We know secrets, we dead things. The only difference between me and them is I still have my skin.

Three drinks in because the only time I feel alive is when I’m high enough to hallucinate you.

They say I’m living the dream. What they don’t know is this was never my dream. My dream was me curled into the question mark of your body like an answer.

There is no rage left. Not at you. Just my insides rattling around like shattered glass. Just the sucking sound my rib cage makes 24/7, reminding me it’s empty.

Today, I ran until my lungs almost exploded, and when my heart was clobbering my chest, I fell in the grass, and looked up. Heaven was broken, slit into strips of gray and white. The air trembled. Night was coming, and the sky knew it. I slept and dreamed I was Lazarus, wrapping those clouds around me like bandages. You were Jesus outside the tomb, saying, “Come forth!” And I came, your blessed name on my lips.

You are Jesus, so build me a ladder to heaven.

You are Jesus, so build me a stairway to your face.

I will climb it, crawl into the amazing grace of your mouth, and sleep there, warm on the mattress of your tongue, my head propped on the pillows of your teeth.

The moon coats tombstones in white.

Stars slop light everywhere, and who cares?

You were the only sun that ever burned me warm.

TRUTH TELLING

Tell yourself you are beautiful and brilliant and strong. Whisper these words to yourself in the night. Offer yourself the gift of compassion, of forgiveness, of kindness. Do not conspire with those who have misunderstood your magnificence, have sought to put out your light. Never repeat their lies while staring into your own eyes in the mirror. By loving yourself fully and completely as you are, you give your soul permission to love others fully and completely as they are. Do not mistake cruelty for humility. If you would never be cruel enough to tell a child he was stupid or weak or fat or ugly, do not be cruel enough to say these words to the child living inside you. When you degrade yourself, you degrade the Creator, insulting the wisdom, the perfection of the Is. Self-loathing is not humility. It is blasphemy.me swinging

Satori

leaf 2I fell in love with a squirrel one day when he skittered across my path.
 
At first, it was a passing crush. I thought, “What a cute squirrel.” But then I noticed, really saw, the intricate white hairs fringing the brown fluff of his tail, and I was utterly besotted, overcome by the wonder of him. I saw the red leaves fallen beneath his feet, and I thought, “Lucky leaves, getting to touch the miracle of those tiny toes.” And then I noticed the exquisite network of veins running through the leaves, and I thought, “Lucky squirrel, getting to touch the miracle of those leaves.” I fell in love with them too, and the whole world exploded into a web of wonder. For ten perfect seconds, I forgot who I was.
 
That was the day I found out what purple smells like, and that spinach tastes like what cows must long for when they dream of grass. I learned that the separation between trees and sky is invisible, and that bugs who walk on water do know they are replicating Jesus, but they try not to get too cocky about it. I discovered that the world is chocked full of yellow, and if you smile at people fast, before they have time to think, they drop their masks for a moment and smile back. I noticed that my own mask has holes in it. I realized there are peekholes in everything, passages to another world. Everything is a wardrobe leading to Narnia. Everything is a train headed to Hogwarts.
Only no one looks because after all, we have bills that must be paid.
 
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