A BLOG IN WHICH I TALK FAR TOO MUCH ABOUT MY VAGINA AND WONKY CERVIX: AKA, AN ODE TO PAP SMEARS AND THE KICK ASS WOMEN WHO EXECUTE THEM

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Yesterday, I went to the doctor. I love my doctor. She is beautiful and brilliant and kind, and she remembers my entire life story even when she hasn’t seen me in a year. I also love her new assistant, or whatever you call the nurse who stands there smiling, wielding giant Q-tips in both fists, while the doctor digs around in your lady parts, searching for abnormalities and suspicious behavior.

How does your doctor know when your hoochie is behaving suspiciously? Does it get shifty eyes? Granted, my viewing angle isn’t ideal, but from what I’ve seen, that area is pretty much a train wreck 24/7. I know vaginas are supposed to be beautiful, and enlightened feminists like me are supposed to stare at their own genitalia lovingly in the mirror and be impressed because it can make babies, but I’ll tell you what, no matter how much I squint, it looks like a not-necessarily-benevolent creature from a particularly upsetting episode of Lost in Space. It could sprout a third set of labia, and I’d just think it was a premenstrual side effect. Hell, it could sprout a head, and I wouldn’t be 100% sure it was abnormal. This shit happens. The hoochie works in mysterious ways.

So anyway, I wasn’t really going to talk about my vagina very much in this blog. It was going to be a tasteful post that alluded to the fact that I’d had a pap smear, without necessarily going into graphic detail. At the outset, I envisioned a sort of educational PSA, so that men could get a feel for what a pap smear looks like, and young women just entering pap smear territory could understand that getting a piece of your goddamned cervix chopped off after a gloved woman pries you open with the jaws of life and inserts her entire arm into your hoo hoo isn’t nearly as bad as it looks on paper. It can be FUN, kids!! Trust me on this! (Apparently, I am as good at adhering to the “keep the blog tasteful” resolution as I am at following the “only one glass of wine at the party” rule.)

But the part about my pap smear being fun was true. Before I removed my clothes, the assistant told me how beautiful I was. She acted shocked when she saw my age on my chart, and when I mentioned I taught writing classes, she told me if I were her teacher, she’d hit on me. Whaaaaa????? I’m sure she says that to all the girls, but no matter. Compliment me, and I love you. So it became quickly official. I loved this woman. We then moved on to talking about working out and men (or lack thereof) and makeup. Suffice it to say, by the time I plopped my feet into the stirrups, we were sistas. (A sista is different than a sister. Sista has a cool edge to it. You’d help your sister pay her car payment, but you’d do shots of whiskey with your sista until you both blacked out.)

So then, my doctor came in, and while she lubed up and inserted the proverbial jaws of life, I told her about my recent trip to France. “Oh, my God. I’m jealous! Did you see the Eiffel Tower?” she asked, cranking the jaws open to their maximum capacity, which is roughly the width of a football stadium. I won’t say it didn’t hurt, but I was too hopped up on bonding endorphins to care. I was making friends! Me! The girl who has spent the past months sequestered on a deserted New Mexico mountain, lying on rocks and staring at stars, was making FRIENDS! (Human friends, not tree friends.)

As my doctor continued to wrestle with my apparently unwieldy genitalia (who knew?), the assistant commented on the beauty of my pedicure. (Not to brag, but the sparkly purple polish did look particularly fetching, contrasted with the light blue stirrups in the glaring fluorescent light.) We all went wild with excitement, discussing pedicure habits, toenail polish tips, particularly effective callus busting ointments. I barely noticed that I was being viciously violated by a plastic instrument (which is a kinder gentler version of the metal jaws that were common in my youth).

I learned so much as we three sistas bonded. One of the things I learned is that my cervix is abnormally tilted. What a fascinating tidbit! How did I make it through 40+ years of life without knowing this about myself? I filed it away for future reference, an interesting topic to bring up at my next cocktail party. (Something tells me all this alone time in the mountains is taking the sheen off my social finesse.)

The fact that my cervix is “wonky” (doctor’s word) makes it really difficult to find, which means the jaws of life had to dig around extra long, doing all sorts of contortions, to gain access to the coveted bit of cervical tissue. By the time we finally chopped off a piece of my cervix, we were ecstatic. We cheered like our team had just scored a touchdown. I kid you not, the assistant fist bumped me. I blushed and giggled, feeling like I’d accomplished something huge, won a contest or sold a book or made it through a party with only one glass of wine. I left the office with blood dripping from my battered cervix, wondering if my hoochie would ever be the same, but also elated. I had friends!

It was only in retrospect that it dawned on me–I mean really hit me–that the focal point of my latest feminine bonding session had not been glasses of wine or culinary delights or an Oscar nominated movie. No, it had been my hoo hoo. And maybe it hadn’t been as fun for the sistas who were staring up the business end of my hoochie as it was for me. Because come on, if the thing looks like an alien from the outside, WTF does it look like inside, being presided over, as it is, by a reticent, bleeding cervix?

Anyway, I was starting to deflate, thinking that maybe I need to get out more because when having a pap smear is the most fun you’ve had in months, you’re probably verging on pathetic. But then the phone rang, and it was my doctor (sista).

Kids, I’m scheduled for a mammogram in a few days. Can you imagine the fun I’ll have?  I’m thinking of wearing my sparkly pink bra. And maybe a little glitter in my cleavage, to provide a conversation piece/ really make it pop.

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To offset the impropriety of this post, I’m adding a picture of a lovely gate, which I passed while hiking through the countryside in the South of France. If you find a vagina metaphor here, that’s entirely on you. I take absolutely no responsibility for your dirty mind.
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CAVE PAINTING (MAGDALENE’S MANIA)

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I question our definitions of sainthood.  I question our qualifications for goodness. I suppose these doubts factor into my Magdalene poems (and probably all of my writing).  According to legend, Mary Magdalene’s life was in danger after the death of the Christ, so she fled to a cave in France, where she hid and communed with God, exiting the cave a master.

Two years ago, by a series of coincidences, I ended up living in France for three months within an hour of the cave of legend.  I had always written poems from Mary Magdalene’s point of view, but I blame the intensified obsession on France, where I spent my hours drowning in the Mer des Rochers (Sea of Rocks),  an ocean of natural stone sculptures, castle ruins, and hiking trails behind the village where I stayed.  I wrote for hours in those rocks, imagining Magdalene’s time in the cave.

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CAVE PAINTING (MAGDALENE’S MANIA)

Today, I wrote your name on the walls again and again and again.  Your syllables roared beneath ancient elk, carved into the stone by hands long since dust.  In a flurry of drums, I conjured you.

If only the people could see me with these moths in my hair, my face dripping with dew.  They wouldn’t be able to handle it.  They have sanitized sainthood.  Always, they leave out the horror story parts, though the holy books have the good sense to keep them in.

What is truth?

My halo is made of moss.

The wind is ravenous, licking at the mouth of the cave.  I wonder if it wants to eat me, swallow me down, slurp me up into the net of eternity strung from star to star, the moon lassoed and rearing, the frenzied sun surging, ready to erupt.

I sing until I see God, until I see you, which is the same thing for me.  I have learned more about forever, about me, from your eyes than I have learned from all the holy books in the world.

I lie still on the stone floor for hours, staring at my hands, not believing what I am.

So what about us, my love?  What about the light we are made of?  What about our Big Secret?

You may not recognize me next time we meet. While I was sleeping, lilacs grew between my toes. A lone, heartsick sparrow built a nest in the nook of my shoulder blade.  I feed him berries at low tide.

When I am high, you walk to me on every wave of blue that rolls in.  I drown in you.  It is like stepping into an ocean.

One day, while lying on a hilltop, stone cold sober, I heard a voice say, “Don’t worry.  You can breathe under water.”  I never talk about it.  They lock people up for shit like that.

I believe in Divine Madness, because I have lived it.

THE STATIONS OF MAGDALENE’S CROSS

jar of shards

I. CONDEMNED TO DEATH

I know you probably already know, but I’ll tell you anyway.

It feels like you’ve been gone a million years.

My heart is a jar of shards. It rattles when I walk.

The day I lost you, I cut your name into my wrists. I bled love and wouldn’t die. So I went for the next best thing and became a temporary drug addict.

Now, the stars are my drug. I stare at them until I hallucinate the You Constellation.

II. CARRYING THE CROSS

Every day, I wake up, and the weight of no-you falls on me like ten thousand tons of bricks. I push it off with these words: “Maybe he’ll come back today.” The longer it goes without happening, the harder it is to push off the bricks.

You come to me in dreams and tell me your secrets. I take them on my tongue. All day, I suck on them like hard candy. You taste like cinnamon.

When are you coming back?

III. FALLING FOR THE FIRST TIME
Sometimes, the things you tell me in visions make zero sense. I ask for clarification, and you spout another riddle.

I am not the Master you are. Can you scribble your smoke signals more clearly?

IV. MEETING THE MOTHER WITHIN

I am changed. When people ask me why I look so young, I want to tell them I drank from the river of you. But instead, I tell them what kind of soap I use because it’s hard to explain a break in the time-space continuum to someone who just wants beauty tips.

My love for you has made me into a woman who friend zones rock stars. If ever I was a whore, I’m now the Virgin Mary. Can it work backwards like that?

V. HELP CARRYING THE CROSS

At night, when I am with you, I am alive. My waking hours feel like dreams. I live to sleep.

Remember I told you I was afraid to die? I’m not anymore. You will be there.

Remember I told you I was afraid of hell? I’m not anymore. I’ve been there.

VI. OF SACRED BATHS

Remember when I cleaned your feet with my hair? I didn’t wash it for a week. I know. Gross.

VII. FALLING THE SECOND TIME

It’s scary to know the future. Being me means you don’t get to tell yourself, “It was just a dream.”

I knew they were going to kill you. It didn’t make it any easier.

I know. I know. I know. Everything.

I love you. I love you. I love you. All of you.

VIII. MEETING THE DEVIL

I hate them for killing you. I say “father forgive them” only in hopes of being like you when I grow up.

Do you say “father forgive them”? If not, I think you’re allowed to sling lightning bolts. Just a thought.

IX. FALLING THE THIRD TIME

When we finish this shit, can we sleep on a tropical island for a thousand years?

X. NAKED

Do you believe I love you yet?

I finally believe that you love me.

XI. NAILED TO A CROSS

The old me is crucified. I’d rather be alone with your ghost than anywhere with anyone. Your ghost is my best friend.

I’d like to say you’ve turned me into a freak of nature, but I think I always was one. You just made me what I really was. (God help us all.)

XII. DYING

I hover in a space somewhere between this world and the next. Your eyes are a fire I hope will never stop burning me. (For as long as I live, I am doomed to write cliched metaphors for your eyes, trying to capture the shine of them, trying to explain why.)

XIII. TAKEN DOWN FROM THE CROSS

Why what?

For starters, you said you were coming back, and I believe you.

I.

Believe.

You.

If I couldn’t say, “Maybe he’ll come back today,” the bricks would crush me.

But I can.

XIV. LAID IN THE TOMB

When I die, wrap me in the sheet they buried you in. Rest my lips against the place your mouth was so I can kiss you forever.

THE BIG BAD PROBLEM

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This daffodil has been a symbol for me.  Last year, my mom pulled all of the flowers out of her beds because deer were eating them.  She intended to replant this spring, with plants that aren’t enticing to deer, but that hasn’t happened yet.  Still, on Palm Sunday, this little sucker sprouted in the middle of the otherwise desolate ground, and on Easter, it bloomed.
Have you noticed that no matter what happens, there is always at least one big, bad problem in your life, the thing that makes it impossible for you to be really happy? Like, when I was super young, and had an eating disorder, the problem was I was fat. (I wasn’t.) Then there were bad relationships. Then there were money problems. Then there were custody battles. And on and on. And always, the reigning big, bad problem righted itself just in time for another big, bad problem to take its place.

 

Looking back, I see the beauty that was sprouting in the middle of those big, bad problems, and I long for it. Yeah, I was in the middle of an ugly custody battle, but I got to tuck the two most beautiful children in the world into bed every night. What I wouldn’t give to hold them in my arms again and read them When Cats Dream. (I try now, but my 6’3″, 200 pound son will only put up with so much. Desi plays along, but I can see in her eyes what she really wants is a glass of wine.) Yeah, I was in a shitty relationship, but my daddy was alive, and I could show up on his doorstep and have him hold me when I cried. (I would live in a cardboard box and eat roaches if it meant I could hug my daddy one more time.)

I’m learning to see the beauty sprouting in the middle of my big, bad problems as it happens, instead of retrospectively. I’m learning to cherish the gifts the big, bad problem drags in its wake.

Right now, my mom has cancer. It’s ugly, undoubtedly, but weirdly, it’s also incredibly beautiful. I have seen whole new aspects of her radiant, sensitive soul I never even knew existed until now. I have let her see pieces of me I’d kept hidden. We are closer than we have ever been. And I’m finding pieces of me even I didn’t know were there. Life feels very raw and authentic, the way it should be. Tomorrow isn’t promised, so we have now. And it is a huge, huge gift.

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Me and my precious momma, shortly after her diagnosis.
I laid in bed last night praying, processing, and all I could really do, looking back on all the big, bad problems that have come down the pike in the last few years, is say, “Thank you, thank you, thank you.” Because in spite of the suffering, so much beauty has blossomed in the desert. So much change has happened in my relationships, life, and heart. These days, my big, bad problems are never so big and bad that they touch the core of peace that now lives at the center of my being. I used to be perpetually tortured, inside, no matter what was happening outside of me. Now, I’m perpetually peaceful and grateful, no matter what is happening. Not that I never feel pain or cry. But there is a solid rock of faith inside of me that is unshakable. And the big, bad problems brought me here.

Like all the big, bad problems before it, this big, bad problem shall pass too, along with all the beauty that comes with it. I’m not wasting my time wishing the big, bad problem away. I’m not playing victim. Instead, I’m noticing the beauty, cherishing the gifts that only exist right now.  I’m looking around at this breathtaking, magical, miracle-infused life of mine–the light glinting off the rocks, the way my mom’s face creases when she laughs, the taste of coffee, the warmth and agony of profound love. I’m drinking it all in. I’m saying, “Thank you.”

I can’t control this ride, but I can be grateful for it. I’m learning to trust the river of life. I have learned that even when it dashes me against the rocks, it is carrying me somewhere more beautiful than I ever could have imagined.
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Here’s to beauty that blossoms in the middle of desert.

NIGHT VISION

mountain

There are no words

 

only a shredding sound

and lightning

sizzling the night until it blisters white

 

only the shimmering, rippling of sky that comes

when purple flowers bloom out of nowhere in the desert

when creaking, twisted pines speak in the voice of heaven.

 

I have left this world for now.

It has never been my home.

From far away, I watch me

riding waves of moments

that have already drowned me

in my dreams.

 

Thank God I know how this one ends.

 

The future is written on my eyelids.

When I close them

I see tomorrow

and tomorrow

and tomorrow.

The hardest part of my life

is pretending to be surprised.

 

In visions, you stand just feet away

shining

calling me forward.

I run to you,

and you move

and move.

I run

and run

climbing

an invisible staircase.

Finally, I stop to notice

that I now hover over the world

far above everything I thought I knew.

 

Last night

I laid myself on a moss licked stone

an altar

and offered myself to the gods of my father’s mountain.

They opened their hands and rocked me.

 

The stars blurred.

A ghost moon flickered

bearing witness.

In their embrace

I married you

again.

 

A sudden wind clattered in

and blew out

the candle I had lit for you,

momentarily, just long enough to let me know

I was in the throes of a miracle.

 

The flame leapt back to life,

casting shadows on the trees

that grew from the places

my father’s feet walked.

 

Machine gun dreams

have never been able to part us,

not for one second.

The spacetime continuum

unravels

bowing low

in the face

of love.

 

You are with me on the altar.

We lie together, naming stars

kissing constellations

swallowing eternity whole.

 

Your invisible hand clasps mine.

 

Death flickers in the distance.

 

We are not afraid.

MOTHER GOD, AS SEEN THROUGH THE EYES OF FOUR OF MY MOST BELOVED AND BRILLIANT STUDENTS

 

In 2008, I was in a play called Kitty and Lena, in which I starred as a Marilyn Monroe-esque actress struggling with identity and abuse.  The play premiered in New Mexico, then moved on to San Miguel Allende, Mexico, one of the most lush, lovely, artistic, colorful places I have ever been.

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The streets of San Miguel

There, we performed in a hundreds-of-years-old building, which was a profoundly beautiful experience in and of itself.  My co-star was Nancy, a brilliant, incredibly accomplished actress in her 70s who saw strength and talent in me and took me under her wing.

Every night, we sat together in the living room of the picturesque house our director had rented for us and drank wine together.  Sprawled on our plush couch, owning every inch of space she touched, Nancy sipped merlot and told me stories of what it was like to know famous actors and actors of yesteryear, including Marilyn Monroe, which besotted me.  (I’d always loved Marilyn.)  She also told me that I was powerful and beautiful and brilliant, and that people would try to make me feel small for the rest of my life, but I should never, ever believe them, and I should never, ever allow myself to be treated as anything but the goddess I was.

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Me and Nancy in Kitty and Lena

I needed to hear it.  At the time, I was starring in my own series of increasingly dysfunctional and abusive relationships, both romantic and platonic.  I pretty much had, “Wipe Your Feet Here,” tattooed on my forehead.  To have this astounding woman see power in me changed me forever.  She also introduced me to her friends, Stuart Howard and Judy Waters, who flew in from Los Angeles to see her perform.  Stuart was a director for Days of Our Lives, and Judy was a gifted actress and psychologist.  We spent an unforgettable night drinking on a rooftop, sharing our hearts and stories. They too saw talent and strength in me, which added to the power of Nancy’s belief in me. I fell in love with them, and to this day, they are two of the most precious people in my world.

The week we were in Mexico happened to be Holy Week, and one of the nights was Mary’s Night.  As a protestant, I was raised not to believe in a feminine divinity of any kind, so I was astonished to feel a palpable, beautiful presence radiating through the streets that night, emanating from the shrines that were built on every corner, echoing in the “Ave Marias” that rang from the walls well into the night.  I have never attempted to write about that night in depth, mostly because I feel that to write about something that sacred would rob it of its beauty and holy magic.  But suffice it to say I experienced something that was nothing short of a visitation.  I felt this sacred, decidedly feminine presence come into my room and call me its daughter.  I felt it ask for my heart.  I gave it.  My life has never been the same.

Since then, she has been present at every significant moment.  I was driving down a freeway, right beside a sign that directed me to a Virgin of Guadalupe shrine, when I got the phone call from my agent saying we had sold my first novel to Simon and Schuster.  This is me saying “thank you” at the shrine.

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An image of her stood at the chapel that stood outside my front door during my magical time living on the Rosemont College campus as their writer-in-residence last year.

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I could go on and on, but suffice it to say, she is always with me. I’m not Catholic, not even close. But I am profoundly in love with the Mother God.

I am a very different woman from the one I was when I first met The Mother in San Miguel.  I’ve published books and traveled the world.  I’ve done away with every abusive relationship in my life.  And I am lucky enough to be able to teach one of my beloved art forms, writing, in various contexts.  I teach at universities and conferences and retreats all over the world (including in my beloved San Miguel, where Mary always greets me).

For years, I’ve taught a course online for the amazing Center for Creative Writing called Writing to Reclaim Your Sacred Self. Sequestered in the third part of that course, there is a lesson about The Feminine Divine. Last year, two of my students took that course and asked me if I would create a course for them focused exclusively on the divine feminine.  How could I say no?

We began the course in January.  Each week, we explore a feminine divinity, as well as aspects of her that relate to our own lives.  We explored Durga when we talked about slaying personal demons.  We explored Inanna when we talked about the times of darkness in our lives that give way to resurrection and light. The course has been nothing short of transformative for all involved, especially for me.

I am always blown away by the writing my students produce, but the writing produced in this course, and the writing related to the feminine divine produced in my Writing to Reclaim Your Sacred Self course, has gobsmacked me.  I asked a few of my brilliant student for permission to share their work here, as I believe it needs to be read by more than just me.  They graciously said yes. If you want to read about the feminine divine in a way that nurtures your heart and inspires your mind, keep reading.

FOUR KICK ASS POEMS ABOUT THE FEMININE DIVINE

This first poem is by my student, Benjamin Ross, who stuns me every single time he picks up his pen.

Ocean of Us

Wellfleet beaches twilight low tide, strung with stones like gazing stars

you and I and the sun, seagulls setting and rising with the moon somewhere tiding rhymes around our wonder

wandering, picking up the scattered verses of solid Earthspun rainbows daydreaming us

the everything-children we are, exploring this allowingness at the edges of silver waves, falling awake in cold bursts within a warm heart-held nowhere

falling through the striated light like piano notes playing the sand beneath shallow water, entranced and eye-flickering moments washing by

as gentleness rises, praising dunes in aloe eyes, the story-over-story layers of washed mantle amazement as sand tumbles time, somersaulting slowly in downward slopes

 

everything kindness, our hands held out with stones, wandering last-moment hands, starfish expressions of us, full spectrum vocabularies geologically spelled out under our toes

sharing the birthwater urges and blood-circle orbit of inner body heartspun aliveness meeting another body’s spin in rhythms of attuned-and-separate exploring

joining the universal rhythms of falling-rising, pulsing of light and the electricity of earth, in the immersing-all-around body of the living beach

both of us molten through wombs of oceanic volcanoes, moving like water drawn moonwards, spiraling on Earth’s surface as we travel this galaxy-orbiting sun
or singing with a ukelele as we sit in the sand, all shell-blown whispers and washes, the surf of us spread across laughing inner skies

the smile of land meeting water and heartbeat of infinite softnesses that swell under our bare feet

or the cry of shimmering pink and cerulean blue bursts in sunsets that reveal sanctuary like lungs being breathed

believing, still, in friendship across time and our various losses and lostnesses and rememberings, like these stones both knowing and unknowing, wondering who we are, questioning us constantly

 

we always arrive here, beachcombing around tiny streams in the sand, lit up from earth to eyes with forests of stone projecting their thoughts through us, and emanating from us in a hazel glow

swaying together in this life, returning to the harmonies held within and holding notes of quartz, jasper-agates and amethyst, serpentine, granite, slate, pumice, sandstone, marble, igneous, metamorphic, and sedimentary stone, with shells of a million hues softer than concepts

as if the beach burned through us and we burned through the beach, devouring the sun as it devours us, resurrected in a communion of elements, two poems turned inside out with the universe revealed as our true selves

 

wherever those selves are or ever were – we left all these ideas on the beach among stones and driftwood, and rose like the clouds flowering on top of dunes

we never were encapsulated in ideas, the two of us, but always again found in delight and honest emotions, in the fingertips that strum sand, the notes of us wandering affectionately across each other’s lives, always in new ways

pondering nothing, and something, and then nothing again, always returning in bodies of light birthed in the renewing darkness

leaving no sun unturned

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And this is by Mary Quick, wise woman extraordinaire:

 

To be the Mother of God

Wouldn’t she have to be even more of a god than God?

Unconceivable and conceiving

She realized that possibility that idea

Creating that thing called God

Must have been phenomenal beyond phenomenal

Bringing to life that Son that we call God-with-us

To bring Truth and Love to the world

 

This Mother of God whose belly swelled

Who had painful contractions that only a mother could bear

Birthed a bloody baby in the usual way

Nurtured him wiped his chin and his bottom

Raised him inauspiciously

Taught him about speaking the Truth and abiding in Love

To be the Man-God he needed to be so that the world would see

This Christ- carrying Mother of God must have been more than her Son

Conceivable a Mother of God who is God

The Son in her image

Jesus and MM

 

And this is by the absolutely astounding Lori Corry, inspired by our week of studying Mary Magdalene.

January 21, 2018

I walked with Magdalene yesterday.

I would have never known she was in the crowd

until someone pointed her out to me.

She was in front of me and behind me

as we walked from Center Street

to Federal Street, over the cobblestones on Main

then back to the white church on Center.

 

I saw her in the crowd holding her sign

of pink peace, the color red turned to a lighter shade,

as if adding white light to the red heart

is what is necessary for these times.

 

She spoke on the steps in front of the church,

all the while translated into another language.

Everyone could hear her. Everyone could understand.

She waited her turn while taking many forms-

A teacher, a bookkeeper, a high school student,

a dreamer, a politician, a grandmother.

She was every gender, every color, every nationality.

She held her speech in her hands on paper

scribbled at the kitchen table.

 

I have no idea how it took me so long to notice her

here on this island of scallop shells and fishermen.

I walked with Magdalene yesterday and

today I see her everywhere.

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And finally, this is by the incredible Annette Stewart, inspired by our week studying Brigid, keeper of fire and passion.

A fire burns inside me

 

It starts as a child fueled by hunger and want

Growing up poor is not good, but makes me strong

Writing makes me a good student- I am smart and awarded for my wit

I work hard and make it through my academics and smarts

Undergraduate, Law school & MBA all reading and writing with mix of math I love

I learn to make money and find I am good at what I do- is this a calling?

I create a charity and help my sisters

I find love and have a daughter

My friends are producers I see Broadway shows meet artists see passion

Wonder what am I missing?

I take a writing class and write

I read the Classics again

I draft storyboards of books with great tales

I know I must write and make the time starting with this class

What is next?

I must go to work tomorrow, but do my best to not lose my fight for passion

What does tomorrow hold?

Hopefully a continued fight to find my soul & path

Who am I?

Only time will tell……

hourglass

 

To finish this off, I’ll add a song that I listened to on the bus from the airport to San Miguel that fateful trip all those years ago.  It came on, and I listened on repeat for hours, watching Mexico roll by.  I couldn’t explain why the song moved me.  I guess my heart was prepping me for the introduction to come. This song has become mine.  There but for the grace of god go I.

“Ave Maria” by Beyonce

 

 

 

 

HAGSEED’S ACHILLES BRAIN

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(This is Flemish artist Quentin Matsys’s painting, The Ugly Dutchess, painted in 1513.  I found her to be a dead ringer for Hagseed.)

On the day after Trump was elected, I wrote my first Hagseed poem, “Miss U.S.A.,” trying to wrap my head around a populace that would elect such an embarrassment to the highest position in the land.  The poem was published in Rock & Sling’s election issue.  I found the character of Hagseed to be a great vehicle through which to channel my political angst, so I wrote a second poem featuring her, satirizing the American obsession with fame, called “Hagseed Takes Manhattan.”  This was published in Quail Bell. Now I have at least a dozen of these poems, which I am collecting into a book called, The Hagseed Miracles: Turning Wine to Water and Other Acts of Uninspired Mediocrity: AKA, A Dangerous Woman Says Her Piece.  I find writing these poems satirizing all of the worst aspects of American culture and politics to be very therapeutic, better than ranting on Facebook anyway.

 

HAGSEED’S ACHILLES BRAIN

 

Oh, mud eyed maven

of mediocrity,

generously bejoweled queen

of bland, off-brand visions

and obscene dry-as-the-desert dreams,

you peddle dazzleless canned shams,

spam badly disguised as sagacity,

with a side of sizzling

Stockholm Syndrome

not so convincingly

dressed up as love.

 

And behold

at the tender age of 666

having taken the hollow road and

hijacked a movement,

Hagseed attempts a Tonya-Harding

hamstrings her competition.

At last, she brings to fruition

her lifelong ambition

of becoming a shot girl.

(In her defense, she’s making strides.

Our machine gun bride’s

biggest accomplishment

was poking a hole in a condom

before today.)

 

Watch her twirl and sashay!

Who cares if her tray is made

from the shoulder blades

of genocide victims

and slaves?

Arsenic, anyone?

Fun, fun, fun!

She doles out ammo and guns

to minors,

struts her ghastly stuff

in trailer trash cutoffs

and lip balm born of blood.

 

God bless the NRA!

 

Much unbeloved living proof

of the old adage,

“You can bedazzle a latrine,

but it still smells like shit,”

they should bottle you

as a cure

for sex addiction.

Like all villains

you have one fatal flaw

Yours is this:

You are too stupid

to know

you’re stupid.

 

#Hagseed #ivesaidmypiece #dangerouswoman #impeachtrump #lowestcommondenominatorwontwin #notonmywatch

BITCH FIRE: OF TATTOOS, FUNERAL FANTASIES, SKULL STABBINGS, SHITTY MALE WRITERS, AND SEXISM, NOT NECESSARILY IN THAT ORDER

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Me and my “bitch fire.” Ok, really, they’re cheap vampire teeth, but I don’t have a picture of my “bitch fire.”  It refuses to sit still long enough to pose for photographs.

Yesterday, all the trees in New Mexico sprouted cotton candy, or so it seemed to me.  I blinked, and winter was gone, and everything was pink, and petals blew across the ground everywhere I turned.  High on spring, I felt inspired to write a zillionth poem about Persephone, but also like maybe I shouldn’t spend the day being productive when nature was clearly indicating I should try my hand at being useless. Never one to spit in the face of mother nature, I collected my 26-year-old daughter Desi for a day of torpescence.

We talked about our options.  Working out was first on the list, because you burn at least 20 calories just by talking about going to the gym, but both of us had the good sense to invent knee injuries before we rode that train of thought too far, after which we considered hiking, but that too was ruled out by imaginary ailments. Hamstrung as we were, our only choice was to wile time away at Barnes and Noble, drinking coffee and reading books.

When we arrived, I picked up a prominently displayed complete David Foster Wallace collection, because I know I don’t even count as a real writer, never having read Infinite Jest. I’m always being shamed by this deficiency at cocktail parties, so I decided to rectify the situation. Sitting there drinking my expensive latte, I tried, but I couldn’t focus. Frankly, as I read about 18-year-old white male Hal and his observations of the various white male deans making his life difficult, I kinda wanted to chuck the book.  Hard.  Like knock over a potted plastic plant or a painting of Hemingway with it.

I was surprised at the ferocity of my reaction, so I analyzed it.  It turned out I was really tired of reading about white males and their angst-ridden (but seemingly utterly banal) youths, no matter how good their writing was, technically speaking.  How many white male writers did I have to read during my education, so I could see how the pros did it and learn to be like them when I grew up? How many hours of my life will I never get back because I wasted them marinating in the all-holy, angst-ridden white male coming-of-age experience?  I hate to break this to y’all, but in my humble opinion, most of the canonized white male pros were boring as fuck.

Sitting there in that Barnes and Nobles, with hours of Hal’s trouble with the deans looming ahead of me, I wished I hadn’t invented a knee injury.  I would have much preferred weeping gently and cursing god on an elliptical to reading this shit.  (I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.  I feel I’m committing blasphemy.  I know David Foster Wallace is good. Maybe I should have tried him when I was drinking whiskey instead of coffee.  Maybe that would have made it all more palatable.  My reaction wasn’t really about him, and to be fair, I only read like five pages.  My reaction was more about having had it up to here with reading the same story over and over, at the expense of other stories I really want to read.)

Dearest James Joyce, I’m sorry Stephen Dedalus had such a rough go of it, but to be perfectly honest, I don’t care that much, and I would be happy to leave little downtrodden Stephen to his own devices, were it up to me. In fact, in my weakest moments, I wanted to knife Stephen Dedalus in the skull just so I wouldn’t have to read his internal monologue anymore.  And John Updike makes me want to upchuck every time. It’s like clockwork. Would I have kept reading any of these dudes if I didn’t have to regurgitate the info on an exam to prove I had potential to be a pro someday, and later, regurgitate it at cocktail parties so I could prove I belonged in the professional writer club? In most cases, probably not, kids. (Walt Whitman, you know I’m not talking about you here. I love you, man.)

I longed to go back to the time when I read things that I wanted to read, because I was blissing out on the way they made me think, and the way they resonated with my experience, and the way they expanded my horizons.  So I said to myself, “Tawni,” (I call me Tawni), “do you really want to spend your Persephone-ish Sunday afternoon choking down something you don’t want to read just so you can sound smart at cocktail parties full of people who probably wanted to knife Stephen Dedalus in the forehead too?” My answer to myself was, “Fuck, nah.” So then, I took David Foster Wallace back to his altar, where I gently released him and said a prayer to the writer gods, asking their forgiveness. Walking away, I saw this book called, the witch doesn’t burn in this one, by Amanda Lovelace. I loved the title, so I picked it up and turned it over. The back cover said, “burn whoever tries to burn you.” I was so in.

I took it back to my table, introduced Amanda to my latte, and also to myself.  Within minutes, I was besotted by her voice and her rage and her truth, and I knew I had to buy it even though I was broke, and my phone bill was overdue. The poem that got me was titled, “prophecy I” and ended with the lines, “i may not survive the match-boys, but my bitch-fire will survive them all.” I loved it because this woman was telling MY story, not trying to convince me to believe some white guy describing a headmasters’ elbows was groundbreaking. The raw honesty of the work reminded me of Carmen Machado’s Her Body and Other Parties, which is by far my favorite thing I’ve read this year. (I devoured Her Body and Other Parties once, and then went back and read it again so I could learn to write like a pro when I grew up.  I really wanted to be like this pro.)

So then, my spring day leapt into technicolor, as we old folks say.  Desi and I spent hours reading these poems aloud to one another, feeling completely validated and enlivened by the truth in them.  We were positively giddy.  Desi decided she was going to get “bitch fire” tattooed on her wrist.  I told her I’d join her.  And I’ll just say it.  We bonded.  I think I even got some cool mom points.  Probably irrevocable points.  I bet at my funeral, my daughter will say, “My mom was so cool.  We got ‘bitch fire’ tattoos together.”  And the whole audience (or whatever you call the people at funerals) will sigh with admiration, and also thinly veiled, gut wrenching sorrow, because a light has gone out in the world, and who else ever would have been cool enough, at the ripe old age of 46, to get a “bitch fire” tattoo with her daughter?

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My Desi.  Bitch fire at its finest.

Knowing me as she does, Desi saw my eyes mist over, figured I was imagining the emotional impact of the “bitch fire” tattoos at my funeral, and guessed I would momentarily be highly susceptible to buying her gifts.  She gently suggested I buy her a journal, the cover of which read, “Though she may be little, she is fierce.” Dabbing at the corners of my eyes, I said yes, amending my imaginary funeral to include a softly sobbing Desi producing the journal and saying, “She bought this for me that day.  I kept it with me all the time after that, and in it, I wrote my first novel, which eventually earned me fame and fortune.  I owe it all to my bitch fire momma.”  It was a pretty enough scenario, and the journal was only $10.  Paying the phone bill is overrated anyway.

So all high on cherry blossoms, witch poetry, caffeine, and bonding, we took our choices to the register.  Desi, being as fierce as the journal cover suggested, verbally eviscerated a guy she caught staring at my ass while we waited in line.  (I didn’t even know he was there.  I have a highly developed sense of obliviousness.  I think it’s a survival skill.)  Thanks to mister “your mom’s ass is my eye candy,” we were a little lest jovial by the time we got to the cashier, but still pretty bubbly, when the cashier looked at our choices and said, in a rather snotty tone, “Oh, if you’re into this teenage angst stuff, we have more over there.”

I was pretty sure my daughter was going to punch her, but the offending cashier got off with a few glares and a sarcastic comment or two, after which my daughter and I walked to the car, speaking in loud voices about the sexism inherent in the publishing industry, and in the world at large, really, and wondering why no one thought David Foster Wallace was writing teenage angst literature when he was writing about an angst-ridden-18-year-old male, but this woman who was writing about full grown women being burned at the stake and raped, in a context that suggested she might be pissed off about eons of oppression, was immediately dismissed as “teenage angst stuff.”

So now, I’m writing this, and I’m deciding that I am never, ever going to read a book, especially a book by a white male writer, again, if it doesn’t grab me and speak to my heart and my experience.  And at parties, if someone asks, “Have you read Infinite Jest?” I will answer, “No, it bored the fuck out of me, but have you read Her Body and Other Parties?”  

And then I’ll show them my “bitch fire” tattoo.

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These are my current wrist tattoos.  People always ask me why I got them, and I hem and haw.  I’ll just say it.  They are my “you have reasons to live, don’t slit your wrists” tattoos.  I used to struggle with severe depression.  Sometimes, I still do.  Admittedly, “bitch fire” might not work with the current motif. But then again, it might.  If “bitch fire” isn’t a reason to live, I don’t know what is.

 

 

THE SACRED ACT OF WALKING AWAY

 

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Here’s to the ones with the courage to walk away.

I don’t necessarily see things like losing houses, moving, getting divorced, and changing careers as failures. I don’t see periods of loss and tumult as aberrations of what should be. Life is like a river. It moves and changes. We ride it. Sometimes, if we are moving, we get dashed against the stones.

When did we decide that sameness is valuable, in and of itself? When did we decide that making all our crucial decisions out of fear of “what if?” was wise? The worst “what if?” WILL happen to you. You will die. Everything you do between now and then is a gift. When did we start to believe that these lives of ours would last forever, that we would be able to keep our stashes of stuff? Our very breath is borrowed. Our skin belongs to the clay. Do we really think we can keep our Rolls-Royces?

Sometimes–many times–change is an act of great courage, a statement that life is too precious and valuable a gift to be lived in misery. People say marriage is sacred. I don’t think it is, in and of itself. I think love is sacred. A loveless marriage can be a very unholy thing. A decision to leave a loveless marriage can be a gesture of reverence for the gift of life. Likewise, people say staying at one job for years and years indicates commitment. Certainly it does. But a commitment to what? Sometimes, it indicates a commitment to one’s passion. This is a beautiful thing. But if it is just a commitment to stability, to the notion that dollars are more important than precious hours of which our lives are made, I have no admiration for it. I have more admiration for the homeless man sleeping under the bridge, who sees, really sees, the sky. Green paper will never be more valuable than the fabric of our sacred lives.

I say if something is killing you, walk away from it. Leave it in love, but leave it. Revere your life enough to live it with passion, joy, and love. There is no nobility in staying for the sake of staying. There is only nobility in staying for the sake of love.

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SHIT AND CANDY

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Me and my beautiful friend, bad ass poet Elizabeth Powell, eating candy (and churros and ice cream) during our week teaching at the San Miguel Writer’s Conference. 
File this posting under “notes scribbled by a jetlagged insomniac.” My brother is coming over for breakfast this morning. I stayed up all night worrying I wouldn’t wake up to see him. Not like he wouldn’t have come and woken me, but you know, any excuse to stay awake obsessing all night. Also, while insomniacking, I wrote a little about the kids who walked out on Thursday, a little about living true, a little about shit, a little about candy. I think I’ll call this little jewel:
 
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SHIT AND CANDY
 
I strive to respect all people, to open my heart and mind as much as possible to myriad ways of being, to live and let live. But the people I admire, the people who fascinate me, the people who make me want to be like them when I grow up, are the ones dancing precariously and courageously on the edges of life, living bizarrely and shamelessly and authentically in their own bodies, being unapologetically the truest version of self they can muster.
 
I’m not captivated by people who fall neatly into categories, who fit in, who don’t rumple feathers. I’m enthralled by people who fall between the cracks, who are misfits, who challenge the status quo by their very existence.
 
Cool kids bore me. Fitting in in suburbia will never appeal to me. Give me the kid with green hair slumped in the corner of the cafeteria dodging spit wads. Give me the madman in the tree house living off the grid and composing shit poetry. Give me the crazy lady on the street corner marching for justice. Give me the freaks. They are the ones who are moving evolution forward. They are the ones who make progress possible. They are the ones with courage enough to risk their lives to make their lives count for something.
 
I don’t understand exchanging truth for comfort. I don’t understand exchanging authenticity for popularity. I don’t understand settling for a life you didn’t want because somebody else said so, not when you’re going to die, not when this is your one and only truly blessed sacred existence, and the clock is ticking, and every moment you spend pretending is a moment you might as well already be dead.
 
But I guess if you say you have to get real and compromise and settle for shit you never wanted, you’re right. And I guess if you say you make your own reality and you never have to settle and you’re going to fight for what you love or die trying, you’re right. And I know I’m 46, and I was supposed to stop talking like this when I was 26, but I never did, because the fire in my heart that was supposed to go out got bigger instead.
 
And when I see those freaky kids walking out of their schools because they are young and dumb enough to still believe they can change the world, I cry for joy, and I pray to God that for the rest of their lives, at least five of them keep saying “fuck you” to anyone who tells them they’re wrong about that. And that they keep knowing walking up isn’t the same as walking out, and sometimes, most times, people use pretty words to say ugly things, to tell you to sit down and shut up and eat your goddamn plate of shit, and say thank you, because if they said it like that, no one would do it, but when they tell you the plate of shit is candy, well then, who doesn’t like candy?
 
Know the difference between shit and candy. That is the secret to life. Even when the whole wide world is screaming that shit is candy, trust your nose, trust your eyes, trust your gut. If it looks like shit, if it smells like shit, if you know in your heart you want something more, then call the shit shit, and make a stand, walk out, walk away, and let the chips fall where they may.
 
I can tell you from experience that there is no retributive cruelty, no alienation, no social excommunication that is so powerful that it can wash away the quiet peace that comes from knowing you have spoken and lived your truth at any cost. And I can tell you from experience that there is no accolade, no social acceptance, no wealth, no ease, no luxury that can wash away the soul shredding horror of knowing you are living a lie.
 
Live. True.