This is for a friend who is struggling with something scary and for whom I have no words . . .

 

 

 

blessing the boats

BY LUCILLE CLIFTON

                                    (at St. Mary’s)

may the tide
that is entering even now
the lip of our understanding
carry you out
beyond the face of fear
may you kiss
the wind then turn from it
certain that it will
love your back     may you
open your eyes to water
water waving forever
and may you in your innocence
sail through this to that
Advertisements

Reading Recommendation: Joy, Interrupted: An Anthology on Motherhood and Loss.

joybest

Cover Design by Fat Daddy’s Farm

Front: “Adieu Maman” by Jemila Modesti – Oil

Back: “Broken Chain” by Grace Benedict – Mixed media


The plain truth is, you do not have to be the parent of a lost child to appreciate the shared stories in Joy, Interrupted: An Anthology on Motherhood and Loss ISBN 9780985235604, a new collection of works edited by Melissa Miles McCarter of Fat Daddy Press.   The seeds of separation are sown at conception; our first loud and audible breath nothing short of a full-throated attempt at explaining the shock of lost connection.  The acknowledgement of that tiny knot in our lower abdomen  all that is necessary as frame of reference.

Aside from the candid honesty and epiphany found in these poems, prose and illustrative works, the thing that I most admire about Joy, Interrupted is its inclusion of voices from a landscape of backgrounds and personal  histories.  Missing from this anthology is the mindset that insists on a resume and a list of publications as validation for the act of putting words to human experience.  Each work  stands on its own merit in terms of articulation and expression. While  some of these pieces read like masterworks,  others provide the raw insights and vulnerabilities found upon pages from a day in the life of a grief survivor.

The common thread running throughout is the expression of a need to connect and find temporary shelter in shared experience.

In the words of its editor, herself the parent of an infant lost to SIDS:  “In reading about other dimensions of loss, I saw new opportunities for coping, for making meaning out of  pain and for healing. I watched as the contributors processed (or didn’t process) their grief and it helped me see that my own space between grief and joy was wider than I had imagined, with me moving closer and closer to the other side of joy. The contributors to this anthology helped me, as Shakespeare wrote, “give sorrow words.”

Baby Blue and the Missing Part,  Michèle Aimpée Parent

Baby Blue and the Missing Part, Michèle Aimpée Parent

From Joy, Interrupted, various authors and excerpts:

She, lying on the couch, shrouded

by an army surplus blanket, never spoke and stared

directly ahead at the nocturnal painting

of Christ Watching over the City of Jerusalem.

Nauseated by the smell of sweat and cod liver oil,

I relished digging my jagged nails into the jellied flesh

of her freckled upper arm, pinching her and telling her

she was faking because she didn’t want to divide fractions

or help her mother dry the dishes. She never flinched. Did I learn

she had been struck by lightning or did I make it up?

Now all I can think is “Christmas is a time of miracles”

as I listen to the hiss whir of the baby’s ventilator.

Already pneumonia has scarred his lungs

and now they babble about tracheotomies,

laser shavings, and Amoxicillin.

A lightning strike might take him home.

— from Struck by Lightning, Liz Dolan (24)

~~~~~

Marc twitches his nose and his bushy mustache lurches—

the most “him” thing left. That, and the lift of creases in his forehead.

And the small pursing of his chapped lips. His throat clears

and coughs still hold his sound, too.

Thomas has hiccups. “People were looking for Scream

this weekend at the box office,” says TV. Why do we want

to scare ourselves when life already provides the horror?

And more of Lindsay Lohan’s ongoing drama of jail and rehab.

This is news we care about. Not my stepfather dying of cancer,

unknown by most. Even I like celebrity news—flipping back

on my iPhone from Perez Hilton to TMZ. I crave

the nonsense; the non-scream.

–from “Celebrity News,” Sheila Hageman (25)

                                                                                            ~~~~~

A little girl smiles at me from the photo – a smile as bright and carefree as a summer day. Her hair is brown and long, just like the woman’s. I can almost hear this radiant little girl with an infectious smile giggling joyful delight, secure in her mother’s love as she relishes each day’s adventure. But the agony of the woman standing before me explodes in my brain, cruelly silencing the little girl’s laughter. The distance from the photo to this street corner – and the painful loss that brought her here – is beyond all measure.

Somehow I know, even before I read the words. I know the message. I know the pain and agony. I know the fear and desperation. The sign reads “Have you seen this child?” Suddenly, a lump in my throat makes it hard to swallow and tears sting the corners of my eyes, running down my cheeks. I can’t stop myself from being pulled into a flood of emotions. For a fleeting moment I see my own children, my daughters. The cardboard mirror exposes my worst fear as a mother. It has been said that to lose a child is to lose a piece of yourself.

I believe that the bond between a mother and her children is primal, instinctive, and even intuitive. My girls are the very heart and soul of my being. There isn’t anything within my power that I wouldn’t do for them or to protect them. I would fight for them to the end. If they were hurting, I would comfort them as long as they needed. And if they were lost, I would never rest until they were found.

–from  “The Sign,” Rebecca Manning (30)

~~~~~

Fragments lure her–

water snake head

shiny link chain

tender pink sole

damselfly wing . . .

The child, bands of sunburn

down her peeling back,

the scars of cigarettes

on the reticulated spine,

notes the quiet

revolution

in the earth,

and half recalls

the rules, rude and sly.

But Lilia and Marie

have fled the pond,

clambering from the

ooze, shrieking gaily,

eluding phantasmal foes.

Just one arrives

too late in the game

and shrugs: no wonder,

where rift and wrack

of cloud in coming night

glow, lurid as arsonist’s fire.

–from “Dandelion Child,” Carol Alexander (32-33)

mothersbond


Hot Fingers Close Around the Stem: The Erotica of Flowers in Prose, Poetry, Paintings

John William Waterhouse, "Gathering Flowers"

How can one help shivering with delight when one’s hot fingers close around the stem of a live flower, cool from the shade and stiff with newborn vigor!  ~Colette

Such is inspiration that gives one more reason to spend time as supplicant of the garden again.

When you have only two pennies left in the world, buy a loaf of bread with one, and a lily with the other.  ~Chinese Proverb

The flower is the poetry of reproduction.  It is an example of the eternal seductiveness of life.  ~Jean Giraudoux

Even if you think the Big Bang created the stars, don’t you wonder who sent the flowers?  ~Robert Brault, www.robertbrault.com

--Berthe Morisot, L'hortensi

Inspired by all of these, I made some flower art too:

Shakespeare Called the Moon a Moist Star 

When the earth laughs, a flower is born

Emerson once said something

to this effect—Think of a river somewhere—

anywhere. . .the hillsides painted

in guffaws, titters, tulips. Silk chapeau

and bawdy cackle.  The Turks say tulbend

or turban.  At the time of tulipmania,

one might have sailed across an ocean

or the English Channel—simply for a love

of tulips.  The Wind Trade they called this

tuberous pearl, spring-blooming,

unearthed and exchanged for its weight

in seventeenth century florins.

I once read having an orgasm

is like laughing out your legs.  When the sky laughs

might we expect an exhalation

of small planets? A star shower preceded immediately

by a gravity of salmon underneath our skins

Somewhere somebody is thinking,

Perhaps it is the moisture that makes

all the difference

Snowflake, raindrop

silk tassel, periwinkle—

you see? Oh, yes—milk thistle, day lily

and sweet sweet William.

–Tess Farnham (MIdwest Quarterly, 2003)

A bread and butter fashioned of flowers. 😉     http://www.etsy.com/listing/97529448/floral-abstract-impressionist

For the Students at the Back of the Room, the Faith-Based Believers from the “Writing God” Experiment

Chagall's Window at All Saints Church Tudeley,...

Image via WikipediaImage via Wikipedia

A day or so ago, I wrote about the “God” creative writing experiment and mentioned how illuminating it was to listen as my  students read their free-writes and spontaneous poetry aloud.  And also how it began with one student sort of expressing reticence about speaking his mind because he seemed to fear it would lead to judgement and criticism, but that as he read, he just grew stronger and more grounded in his personal beliefs and was reassured by several other students who more or less shared similar feelings.

I also explained that my next goal was help draw out the shyer students at the back of the class, those who seemed to fear the same thing.  The latter pair also struggling to share as well.

I had left the class feeling like I needed to validate where they were coming from as we had spent quite a bit of our discussion time on fears and doubts and breaking free of what many saw as a form of forced faith. . .something that was more or less handed down from generation to generation, strong in traditional adherence to a set of rules that didn’t always resonate.

We were able to establish common ground and caring, looking to core beliefs such as the practice of love and compassion. . .it was the dogma that more or less got in the way of a meeting of the minds.

Some students admitted that while they felt uncomfortable with the inconsistencies and hypocrisy practiced by others of their chosen faith, they themselves were still able to find peace and freedom in another kind of upbringing, one wherein those core beliefs remained the basis for their spiritual existence,  and this at times within the same setting that had left so many feeling oppressed and questioning.

And I left class feeling kind of sad for them, as it seemed as if they too were struggling to be heard.

So this motivated me to search for poems to help draw them out a little, maybe explore some ways to write about their own journeys, as these like-minded writers had done.

And so here then is some inspiration and validation for them:

Gerard Manley “Hip” Hopkins, “Spring”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=endscreen&v=WhQwFf6Qb9U&NR=1

William Blake

The Angel that presided ‘oer my birth
by William Blake
The Angel that presided 'oer my birth
Said, "Little creature, form'd of Joy and Mirth,
"Go love without the help of any Thing on Earth."

Bob Dylan, sung by Emmy Lou Harris:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HHgzOkeCgVY&feature=related

direct link to “Every Grain of Sand” in case the above imbedded one malfunctions.  🙂

We Shall Overcome  😉

Love,

Professor Tess

Setting Aside the Sad Politics: Some Art for a Sunday

So in reading my facebook feed this morning, I came across a teaching colleague’s post expressing that he’d more or less had his fill of reading about this sideshow that has been going on in politics.  That we need to start finding something else to talk about, to just get back to the business of lifting ourselves  out of this mess and muck and outright insanity.  So I guess I am posting this short blog with a bit of art that speaks volumes about what gives us hope over despair.

Peace.

“Have you reckon’d a thousand acres much? have you reckon’d the earth much?
Have you practis’d so long to learn to read? Have you felt so proud to get at the meaning of poems?
Stop this day and night with me and you shall possess the origin of all poems, You shall possess the good of the earth and sun, (there are millions of suns left,) You shall no longer take things at second or third hand, nor look through the eyes of the dead, nor feed on the spectres in books, You shall not look through my eyes either, nor take things from me, You shall listen to all sides and filter them from your self. ”  —Walt Whitman, “Song of Myself

Henry Tanner, "The Annunciation"

“As we go marching, marching, we bring the greater days,The rising of the women means the rising of the race.No more the drudge and idler, ten that toil where one reposes,But a sharing of life’s glories: Bread and roses, bread and roses.Our lives shall not be sweated from birth until life closes;Hearts starve as well as bodies; bread and roses, bread and roses.”  —James Oppenheim

Henry Tanner, "The Banjo Lesson"

Tomorrow, I’ll be at the table

When company comes.

Nobody’ll dare

Say to me, “Eat in the kitchen,”

Then. Besides,

They’ll see how beautiful

I am

And be ashamed–
I, too, am America.

Langston Hughes

Jane Gilday performs “Don’t that Beat Everything”

Bob Dylan performing at St. Lawrence Universit...

Image via Wikipedia

Oh the time will come up

When the winds will stop

And the breeze will cease to be breathin’

Like the stillness in the wind

’Fore the hurricane begins

The hour when the ship comes in

Oh the seas will split

And the ship will hit

And the sands on the shoreline will be shaking

Then the tide will sound

And the wind will pound

And the morning will be breaking

Oh the fishes will laugh

As they swim out of the path

And the seagulls they’ll be smiling

And the rocks on the sand Will proudly stand

The hour that the ship comes in

And the words that are used

For to get the ship confused

Will not be understood as they’re spoken

For the chains of the sea

Will have busted in the night

And will be buried at the bottom of the ocean

A song will lift As the mainsail shifts

And the boat drifts on to the shoreline

And the sun will respect

Every face on the deck

The hour that the ship comes in

Bob Dylan

From “When the Ship Comes In”

Copyright © 1963, 1964 by Warner Bros. Inc.; renewed 1991, 1992 by Special Rider Music

(borrowed as fair use for educational purposes)

Marc Chagall, Paris Opera Ceiling

I choose to be a figure in that light, half-blotted by darkness,

something moving across that space, the color of stone greeting the moon,

yet more than stone: a woman.

I choose to walk here.

And to draw this circle. —Adrienne Rich, from “Twenty-One Love Poems” 1974-76

this arlo guthrie video is so beautiful. ..the embedding doesn’t work, but if you click through, you won’t be sorry.  so inspiring.  thanks, woody and arlo.  🙂

So Here it is. . .After Math: The Outcome of the Creative Writing God Class Experiment

Winnie the Pooh

Winnie the Pooh (Photo credit: Berto Garcia)

In my last post, I explained how I had recently given a very simple in-class creative writing assignment, one in which students were instructed to write the word “God” at the top of the page and afterwards just let the words fall underneath it; two plus one is one  according to Stevens: no boundaries, no judgements.  Just words.

And after I published that story, I received a response from a fellow blogger  asking for a follow-up article, so here it is after math, the outcome of the creative writing god class experiment.

Intially, the “God” experiment had been a crescendoing success I believed.  First we spent some time looking at  works examining the realm of spirituality, works from Blake and Whitman to Ginsberg and spoken word, at the same time allowing students to come up front and google things they liked as well. .. and I left class that day feeling as if an enormous shake-weight had been lifted off my shoulders.  First came a sigh of relief, which was deep and gratifying.

Hieronymus Bosch study 200706

Hieronymus Bosch study 200706 (Photo credit: DUCKMARX)

And then came the fear, self-loathing and sur-reality.

English: Painting by Hieronymous Bosch of Hell.

Image via Wikipedia

But then came the time to reconvene and read them.

Thursday, 2 pm:

It was unexplored territory to say the least. I mean, the topic HAD come up before in class, many times, and in these days with their debates and almost no separation of church and state, it’s unrealistic to think we can just be mum about it.  And as you read this, know there is a big pink elephant in the middle of the webpage as well.  It is letting go a lot of flatulence and somebody has got to address it before we all pass out from holding our breath. (And if it seems like I try too hard to avoid any kind of conflict in the classroom whatsoever, even in an academic setting, wherein the default was and always has been science and empirical evidence,  then I guess I should point out that I am also untenured faculty.  I CAN’T just point to factual information and tell them to change the subject. In these straits, I am not at liberty to make anyone unhappy in that classroom!  Because such acts of real or imagined exclusion can lead to the hugeness of mutinies, mutinies to registered complaints, then bad evaluations.

Winnie the Pooh (film)

Image via Wikipedia

And without the protection of tenure, under such circumstances wherein an anonymous citizen’s arrest has just been registered, you stand alone before the higher ups.  And the truth is,  there is no defense.  For the most part, you just don’t get called back the next semester. This has been a double-edged sword I have learned to swallow with both hands. On the one hand, it’s incredibly painful to be aware of such intense scrutiny from my students, but on the other, I am thankful for that accountablity.  It makes me stop and think before  I say a word to anyone, and even though I do get it wrong a lot, I like that I am trying harder too.  🙂 )

Hieronymus Bosch

Hieronymus Bosch (Photo credit: rocor)

Sometimes it would be smooth sailing and others just like Scylla and Charybdis, and in having had no prior training in peace-keeping and mediation in these matters, I flailed around in trying all kinds of awkward methods to diffuse the difficulties around it,  everything from banning any kind of cross talk to inviting everyone to share to the point of free-for-all. . .the latter ironically though more painful and more trouble with evaluations and complaints, at the same time MUCH more gratifying than the former I must say,

And as I coached on how to proceed this time, I felt myself needing to pay very close attention to my own advice. Truth be told, I can’t remember what I said exactly, but I do know this is how I had hoped to come across and that is:

“OK, so here’s what let’s do.  Let’s try to keep in mind that this is just exploration.  We’ve all just had some time to be free with our thoughts and just express whatever wells up inside as we write.  So let’s try to keep the non-judgemental frame around this.  Because everybody has their own journey.  And this is just about sharing what has happened along the way.  There’s no right way or wrong way to behave about any of this.  There is only putting one foot in front of the other and taking notes as we go.  So here we go. Let’s do that, shall we?”

At first the room was quiet, but that did not last very long.

And honestly, at this point I really must confess to having been so discombulated from focusing on getting this right that as I try to recall what happened, I don’t even remember who went first.

What I do remember most at the beginning was pausing to offer some encouragement.

To someone who seemed both anxious to get a chance to unburden his thoughts but also rather reticent at the prospect of being judged in doing so.

And in his reticence, it just made everyone else all the more curious. ..curiousity that led to a bit of prodding, followed by a show of support and reassurance.

And so he read.  Head bent down a bit at first and voice trembling, but as the room grew quiet and the other students leaned forward to listen, the words grew louder and clearer.

And then it happened, beginning with him. ..until all those freewrites just spilled into the room like light breaking on still waters.

Afterwards, and I guess in seeing that he was able to vent without getting struck down by Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, everyone else just seemed that much more eager to share their own stories.  And at times the room would fall silent too.  And there were some very awkward pauses followed by my own attempts to make bridges and find common ground.  Mostly I was groping though.  Just feeling around and watching faces to make sure I wasn’t leaving anyone out and alienated.

--Kathe Kollwitz

But for the most part I felt good about how we all found ways to  navigate those waters and keep afloat during such a challenging passage.  And also proud of how well we all had handled it as a learning community, their sweetness and sensibilites intact as we left together that day.  It was all good.

In retrospect and in all honesty, I still feel a little bit heart-broken about the ones in the back, the ones who seemed the shyest to speak.  I still feel the need to work on helping them to feel safe enough as to share all the facets of what they are feeling and I also believe that it will be amazing when they do, so that part is next on my agenda.

Poetry for the Math-ez . . .Computers, Science Majors, Amazing Gracie and the Big Bang Theory Too!

(title to be read in the voice of daffy duck)

Recently in the English 101 Class I cUrrently teech, I came across one of my favorite challenges so far this year.  You see it’s poetry week there and I have decided to write this blog in the interest of education as the process will serve 2 purposes:

one as a place to store material for teaching poetry to computer techs in the class

(peephole who by virtue of an oppressive no child left behind except for poets education. .  .have been so sadly and desperately deprived of the critical thinking beauty in poems!)

2.   second as a place to show my students what a bad first drafter I can be)

aND writing these thingis on the spur of the moment.  AS such, I will reZIst any and all urges to write another draft before I push that there publish button to the right of my screen.  So here it is.

FIRST I think I will share this sweet little gem from youtube, that is sure to please the nerd person in your life. ..so don’t worry

here I have gotcha covered on Valentine’s Day!

[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZmZaIhzMmCA]

and here is a math word that has been used by poet friends, but to me, it’s a bit confusing.  Something to do with numbers and counting stuff, which I never could master at:

fibonacci

edit: I am adding this one from another student, the girl who recommended my class to him:

this one is solid and tight and cosmic, kids so SO DO NOT SKIP IT!

Now that you have seen the appetizer, here is a salad:

more inane babbling from me about how amazing those both were and then

the big bang guy love:

and some of this action perhaps:

a dinner poem from this awesome computer creative writing for techies website:

http://www.dennydavis.net/poemfiles/cppoem.htm

from Denny Davis, the blog’s author:

If Dr. Seuss were a Technical Writer

Here’s an easy game to play. Here’s an easy thing to say.

If a packet hits a pocket on a socket on a port, And the bus is interrupted as a very last resort. And the address of the memory makes your floppy disk abort, Then the socket packet pocket has an error to report!

If your cursor finds a menu item followed by a dash, And the double­clicking icon puts your window in the trash, And your data is corrupted ’cause the index doesn’t hash. Then your situation’s hopeless and your system’s gonna crash!

You can’t say this? What a shame, sir! We’ll find you another game, sir!

If the label on the cable on the table at your house Says the network is connected to the button on the mouse, But your packets want to tunnel on another protocol, That’s repeatedly rejected by the printer down the hall, And your screen is all distorted by the side affects of Gauss, So your icons in the windows are as wavy as a souse, Then you may as well reboot and go out with a bang, ‘Cause as sure as I’m a poet, the sucker’s gonna hang!

When the copy of your floppy’s getting sloppy on the disk, And the microcode instructions cause unnecessary RISC. Then you have to flash your memory and you’ll want to RAM your ROM. Quickly turn off the computer and be sure to tell your mom!


The Tao of error haiku

(Johne Cook) (Error messages as they might appear if Bill Gates were Japanese)

A file that big? It might be very useful. But now it is gone.You seek a Web site. It cannot be located. Countless more exist.Chaos reigns within. Reflect, repent, and reboot. Order shall return.Yesterday it worked Today it is not working Windows is like that.First snow, then silence. This thousand dollar screen dies So beautifully.With searching comes loss. The presence of absence. “June Sales.doc” not found.The Tao that is seen Is not the true Tao Until you bring fresh toner.Windows NT crashed.I am The Blue Screen of Death.No one hears your screams.Stay the patient course.Of little worth is your ire.The network is down.

A crash reduces

Your expensive computer

To a simple stone.

*************

Three things are certain:

Death, taxes, and lost data.

Guess which has occurred.

You step in the stream But the water has moved on. Page not found.Out of memory. We wish to hold the whole sky, But we never will.Having been erased, The document you are seeking Must now be retyped.Serious error. All shortcuts have disappeared. Screen. Mind. Both are blank.Seeing my great fault Through darkening blue windows I begin again.Printer not ready Could be a fatal error. Have a pen handy?Errors have occurred We won’t tell you where or why. Lazy programmers.Login incorrect. Only perfect spellers may enter this system.This site have been moved We’d tell you where, but then we’d have to delete you.To have no errors Would be life without meaning No struggle, no joy.There is a chasm of carbon and silicon the software can’t bridge.

Cheap Spell-Checker

Eye halve a spelling chequer

and then I believe it is time to say goodnight, gracie (with a blooper too which will drive the first draft point right on home. .. and a wish from me to have an extra fabulousness day in the morning too.  xoxo:

oh and by the way, i tooootally covered my plagiriasm bases already by saying this is only to be used for education and entertainment purposes.  No poets were harmed by getting paid in the process.  🙂

Thank you for your help, Deidre B.!  🙂

Subterranean Homesick Blues, Norwegian Wood and Bubblegum Soul: On Dylan, Dope and the Breakup of the Beatles

Subterranean Homesick Blues

Image via Wikipedia

Ah get born, keep warm

Short pants, romance, learn to dance

Get dressed, get blessed

Try to be a success

Please her, please him, buy gifts

Don’t steal, don’t lift

Twenty years of schoolin’

And they put you on the day shift

Look out kid

They keep it all hid

Better jump down a manhole

Light yourself a candle

Don’t wear sandals

Try to avoid the scandals

Don’t wanna be a bum

You better chew gum

The pump don’t work

‘Cause the vandals took the handles.

Bob Dylan, Subterranean Homesick Blues

Aug, 1964  Hotel DelMonico, New York City:

After much anticipation and excitement, Dylan  meets the Beatles for the first time. . .his jealousy over their “bubble gum” success almost palpable. . .

As the story goes, the unwashed phenomenon offers the fab four their first marijuana cigarette and bam, music is changed forever.

At least that is what they say anyway.  It was the drugs that did it.

Fine.  I will grant you that one in theory.  No doubt the sloshing and slowdown of brain function had an impact. . .there’s zero denying that.  Love minus zero denying the altered state and how it changes things. And if you want to go to that altar and worship the gods of creativity, you can use drugs to do it. . .

Or you can just let the awkardly emo chips fall where they may.

There is a price to pay for imbibing. . .no denying that either. And speaking strictly for me, I would have to admit that my own delicate physiological state can’t absorb the shock of it so I choose to abstain. . . not out of any kind of moral high ground choice. . .it’s just simply a result of cause, effect and lesson learned.  I simply cannot handle the crash that follows a high.  It feeds these suicidal tendencies, ones that I already have a hard enough time with, minus any other kind of input from unprescribed chemistry. But there is also a price to pay for sobriety, especially when it comes to friends and fitting in, having something significant to offer in a situation wherein many of the participants are saying things you really can’t relate to. . .

It’s not hip to open that can of worms, I know. And I await the backlash to come. But whatever.  (I still say that 40 minutes of meditation does a kickass job at calming the nerves and relieving social anxiety, without the accompanying slowdown of actual awareness followed by a significant chemistry crash and paranoia.  And people forget to mention it. ..especially in a culture dominated by a consumer mindset, one that says if you are lacking something, especially charisma, creativity, self-confidence, there’s an app for that.)

Again, you get screwed up for turning it down too. . .you spend a lot of artist time alone for being such a square that way. . .  That’s life, I guess.

So anyway, back to the Beatles vs. Bob and August 1964.

And a question for you to ponder. Just suspend your belief system for  a minute with me here, and then let go of everything you know about music and drugs. Then consider this  question and proposal if you will:

What happens when strong emotional input follows intellectual stimulation, mixed with a bit of jealous venom from the guy who could/would smash the competition in a single strum?

And there is just no denying it. Something happened that day. ..something that had a massive impact on the fab four plus one.  So here we go again. ..which one had the most impact that day? The weed or the seed?  Maybe a bit of both; you decide.

No doubt it had to hurt the first time the boys heard  Bob’s unabashedly sneering parody of Norwegian Wood. . .

Enough for them to have wanted to break free of that kind of scrutiny, looking for the cracks in the floor, lettin the shortcomings slip into them. . .

And what ARE you really saying with your art when all you do is sit in a room and pencil dream about some girl who’s got you by the short and curly:

Bob Dylan holds a cue card in the music video ...

Image via Wikipedia

And then enter Yoko, who was undeservingly designated as breakup scapegoat for a lot of years. . .I guess if you forget about Bob, you might want to grab a club and go after that, but think about it.  That moment when Dylan saunters out of the room after having been introduced to the newest Lennon/McCartney collaboration.

Think of it again.  Hard.  Imagine half of that creative team walking away that much more determined in his resolve to writing “Silly Love Songs,” and the other just feeling crushed and stuck to the bottom of Bob’s bootheel.

And now to drive it home and see if I can get there without anybody getting hurt by this rant. ..(with apologies to Doors fans as well as anybody who has to deal with the insanity of the prison industrial complex, one that punishes us all for just trying to escape this ratrace and make some art.  Love to you all. xoxo)

This is your brain on drugs:

English: Mug shot of Jim Morrison.

Image via Wikipedia

This is your brain on Bob.

Any questions?  😉

From the Vagina Monologues to Mass Marketing: Healing These Wounds that Hold Us Together

Much to the chagrin of a strict and Puritanical Catholic school upbringing, and with no apologies whatsoever to Sister Madeline,  the nun who educated my third grade class on the horrors of war,

but also ironically taught us to accept the shame that follows “attention-seeking” episodes of histrionic post traumatic distress,

here I sit at this desk composing a post on a topic I can’t even say without having to put a hand over my mouth and mumble .

And in the interest of helping you understand why I chose to do such a thing, especially with someone like the ghost of Sister Madeline looking so disappovingly over my shoulder, I will first explain that I was never really one to surrender to the conventions of conformity.  And by this I don’t mean to say I actually chose the path less traveled. . .instead I am saying that I more or less had noplace else to go.

And so consequently, and despite everyone’s best efforts to mold me into someone who looks and behaves like this:

Queen Elizabeth I by Evelt of Greece

Image by mharrsch via Flickr

I ended up a person who makes art that looks like this:

And tragically somehow, I suppose you could say I seem to have managed to evolve into this embarrassingly

unquiet person who writes and makes art about taboos, ones including but not exclusively limited to: mental illness, feminism, sexuality. . .

and as I type, the one thought I have spinning upstairs in the lost attic of my brain is,

“Oh, man my priest is gonna kill me in the confessional with a buttload of  puragatorial “Hail Mary‘s” if he ever finds out.”

I felt the same way about my seventh grade journal though.  The one I kept under lock and key.

And in admitting this, I am not really looking to cast aspersions on any of our formative oppressors; it doesn’t help anyway. . .  just leads to more defensive arguments about how we need to do as we are told and soldier on.  Besides, we are people whose ancestors were schooled by the Great Depression, persecution, what have you. . .so if we start pointing a finger of blame, we just end up having to point it at ourselves too, if only for the modicum of conformity we embrace just to keep peace at times. ..to protect ourselves from further pecking and scratching at those open wounds trying to heal themselves. ..

At any rate, in light of the knowledge that every role model and scholar in this journey has had something to offer, and out of my own need to honor them for trying to keep us safe from harm, I am just going to embrace that part of my past for what it was, a learning experience.

To be fair, I also feel a need to acknowledge that silence and lying was the way of past generations, men and women who had no idea for themselves how to heal from their own awfulest of traumas.

And in spite of it all, we manage to find ourselves in an age when the boundaries have been stretched a bit; even so, it’s still there, that little dark cloud that envelops our private parts.

And if I had the hours to write a paper on the negative effects of puritanical shame and other abominations committed in the name of religion, and how that shame has ultimately led to the abuse of innocent victims of all ages, shapes, sexual orientation and sexes, I would gladly go there, but to save space I will just try to make do with the time I’ve got.

But back to what I was saying before, let me just reiterate and remind myself that sadly and tragically here in America, girls are still implicitly taught to walk a wide path around impure thoughts, unfresh scents or anything else remotely connected to normal and healthy bodily functioning and perception,

not to mention overall good health and normal development.

It’s a dirty job, but somebody has to tell us keep our butts out of   the gutter, right?

Bad things happen down there and maybe if we keep our mouths shut about them, they will just go away.

And what about those cliches that people said to us, the ones that made us so creeped out we slipped on three pairs underwear each day to keep it bottled up inside.

“Knees together please.  Nobody needs to see what you have in there.”

“Don’t sit like that.  People will get the wrong idea.”

“Pull your skirt down, for Chrissake.  You are adverstising something you do not want to sell.”

And to that, you just know we all wanted to scream:

“I am eight years old.  I have no idea what that means.”

It has taken years and years of invasive therapy to even begin to process this stuff for a very large segment of the XX population, but there you go.

And if reading  words like “therapy” and “private parts” makes you feel uncomfortable,

I am sorry for that. Sorry for your discomfort, a discomfort that has become the default for all of us when people bring up sexual violence and/or exploitation taboos.  I am sorry for such discomfort, but not sorry for the words.

And please know that I am not trying to embarrass anyone. I write for a lot of reasons, but mainly towards the end of a universal healing process, language passed from hand to hand to hand,

and nurtured by beloved teachers, one in particular who let me bleed and bleed all over the pages of my fifth grade looseleaf, bringing fists and fists of fresh pages, which I was also asked to read to my classmates.

It’s funny how the title embarrasses me still.  “Laugh at Me if You Want.”

I wrote it the year I also pushed my head through the window glass playing outside. . .my rabbit fur hat bloodied a little and the shard of glass plucked proudly from my forehead, its indent as prelude to parting my hair to the opposite side and barretting it to make sure everyone saw the scab.

It’s been a few years since I saw “The Vagina Monologues,” and I remember being incredibly moved throughout.

It inspires me still.  Not only for the narratives that were so engaging and validating, but for giving me permission to write and make art that challenges the status quo for exploratory works.

This is the place where our stories come from.  Here is the light that shines from the center of us, the entranceway through which we all must pass.

First I am going to share something to make you laugh perhaps, and that is a little gem found on a friend’s facebook page this morning, the link attached to a site that advertises something called a “vagisoft blanket,” which in theory is something we need to wrap around ourselves anyway although perhaps not commercially.

But still, I feel the need to point out the advertising and marketing is really quite genius, with slogans saying things like:

“soft as the marshmallow womb of a mermaid”

“the cotton fields of heaven”

“the **** of a silkworm”

And can you imagine the impact of that kind of advertising on the minds of a next generation of independent sexually empowered and safe men, women, transgendered and transexual folks from all over the place?

**************************************************************************************************************************

So anyway that was the part of my blog (with thanks to Charles Colyott, sci-fi fiction and horror writer, for posting it on his status today)

that was for the sake of making light of a difficult topic. . .

and here, dear friends who have stuck with this awkwardest of topics thus far, is the end of this journey, but for many of you, the beginning of another.

As a precautionary measure, I must warn you that it’s not my style to set something up so playfully and then switch to a serious topic, but these are the layers of who we are, all shades of the rainbow in healing ourselves.

This next passage is called “My Vagina is My Village.”  It is a very short film of Eve Ensler performing a piece from her book, “The Vagina Monologues,” and it is not easy to watch, but  validating of universal struggle and suffering I promise you.  If this doesn’t break  your heart and make you wish we could change the shame and insanity that leads to such tragedies, tragedies that also occur outside of wartime, then nothing will.

Lily to Lily. . .Lost in the Moss and Fog of Love’s Austere and Lonely Offices. . .Monet as Inspiration Once Removed

Monet - Val de Falaise (Giverny) - 1885

Image via Wikipedia

Speaking indifferently to him, who’d driven out the cold and polished my good shoes as well. . . what did I know, what did I know of love’s austere and lonely offices? –Robert Hayden, “Those Winter Sundays”

I was first introduced to Robert Hayden’s poem, “Those Winter Sundays” while doing double duty as single mother and non-traditional student.  Those days were frantic and full,  and as such, I could relate to both protagonist and anti-hero in this poem.

Always that inexhaustible ache to make a home for us somehow, but also the tug on my guts that too much time was slipping away; meanwhile, I wished there were four of me: one to study, one to write and make art, one to work, and one to nurture and be a safe harbor for my kids.
Better make that five. . . because I almost forgot the me who needed to collapse and just scream from the insanity of it all. (yes, there is mental illness in this recipe too, surprise!)
Pffttt. . .and I totally forgot to mention sex up there, didn’t I?  So much for those frills and fancy matters!

There was never enough skin or bones on me, it seemed, to excel at any of those things.  Mostly I felt like we were just getting by on what little we had to work with.

I had such dreams then too.  I was going to get a wonderful job, sell my screenplay, get the house with the picket fence; I WOULD make a home for us on my own.  I wasn’t getting help from their dad; he didn’t have the means to do it.

I was angry about that then.

Now that anger has evaporated into clouds of anguish that won’t stop raining these days. . and here I sit, swimming through the muck of it all. . .because idiot that is me, I lost them in the water somehow. I lost the truest loves of my life.