Prayer

image


Grab hold of me
Grab hold
Grab me and hold me close
Where the edge isn’t visible
Sharp
Crumbling
Bottomless
Feel me shaking and pull me tighter
Against your heart
Whisper directions
Write them on my skin
Bring me back

 

Prayer/written October 23, 2006

(I found this poem from 2006 languishing in my poetry folder. I’m clueless as to what prompted the writing. I wonder if I was getting a glance at today.)

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Fickle Useful Nutjob

flower patchToday, I performed an amazing feat.

Today, I felt almost all of my feelings. I was present; I hung around for myself. Whenever I drifted over into F.E.A.R.*, I wiggled my toes, and asked myself

  1. “Am I in the same room as my toes?” (Yes.)
  2. “Is anything really bad happening right now?” (No.)

Fear bomb defused.

Today, I understand that the only place that I have any power is in the present. The past happened. The future cannot be predicted, not even by Nate Silver. Only in “the now” do I have the ability to choose which thoughts I will let float on by, which ones I will entertain, and which ones I will invite to bring a toothbrush and move into the spare bedroom.

Today, there is space freed up in my head. Turns out, not one of the worst-possible outcomes that I’d nightmared up came to pass. Not a one. Turns out that, for today, things are fine.

Today, I pray that I can keep wiggling my toes and conjuring up healthy thoughts, happy substitutions that are healing and, above all, very, very, very, very, very F.U.N.**

Today, I sent this text to my sisters:

“I AM A FUCKING ROCK STAR, AND I AM GONNA FLY UP FROM THE ASHES OF MY DESPAIR LIKE SOME EXOTIC DAMN BIRD OF AN INDESCRIBABLE BEAUTY THAT THE WORLD HAS NEVER BEFORE SEEN.”

Today I won.

=================================================================

*I’ve heard F.E.A.R. defined as  “False Evidence Appearing Real,” and “Face Everything and Recover.” Some of my favorite pessimists say, “Fuck Everything and RUN!”

**There are no such helpful acronyms for F.U.N. So, I just now came up with these:
Fizzy Untethered Newborns
Fairly Unbound Now
Females Ululating Nicely
Finally Understanding Nothing  (This one’s actually attributed to Gary Busey.)

Feel free to add your own “F.U.N.” acronyms in the comments section.

 

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Hoe, hoe, hoe

Once upon a time, there was a weird sound out on the back porch:

THUMP
scrape     THUMP
scraaape

It was daytime, but the porch windows were covered with dense screens and muslin curtains, and the cement floor was painted dark gray. The single light bulb overhead wasn’t enough to illuminate the shadowy borders of the small room.

THUMP THUMP

My cousin and I did what children often do when scared. We moved towards the noise, terrified, giggling and clinging tightly to each other, emitting dolphin-in-distress type noises.

THUMP

Finally, we spied it, behind the old wringer washer, far back in the corner where no one ever went, not even our mothers, women known to react to dust bunnies like a Tomahawk missile reacts to a target.

scraaape

It was a mouse, a  small mouse, and it was determined to reach the nearest exit, despite the fact it was now wearing a mousetrap. The bar of the trap, with the precision of a neurosurgeon, had landed just so on the mouse’s neck, leaving the mouse dazed but quite alive.

The mouse moved. We screamed. We moved. It moved. We screamed. It moved. We moved. It moved. We screamed.

My grandmother appeared. She of the soft voice, the cool, worn hands, the gentlewoman Church of Christ demeanor.

She was annoyed. “What’re y’all doing out here, making all this racket?!”

“OHMYGOD, OHMYGOD, GRANDMA, THERE’S A MOUSE, AND IT’S STUCK IN THE TRAP, AND IT’S STILL ALIIIIIIVE!“

Grandma glanced down at the mouse. She rolled her eyes and said, “You girls -” then picked up trap and mouse, flung it out the back door, grabbed the hoe and

WHACK!

No fuss, no mouse.

She said something like “Finish folding those towels,” and then went into the house.

True story. I have to laugh every time I tell it. The way Grandma looked at us, shaking her head. I wish I had it on film. Maybe one day, I’ll put it there.

For a few moments, my quiet, sweet little widowed grandmother reverted into the sturdy farm wife who went out to the coop every day for years,  and picked out a chicken for dinner and wrung its neck. The girl who, at the age of four, learned to pushed a chair up to the wood stove and cook oatmeal for the younger kids because her father died and her mother had to find work. The woman who bore and raised nine children, including a set of twins.  The mother who lived through the sudden, violent death of a son, and the trials that only served to exonerate his killer.

And still, somehow, she eventually found her way back around to smiling, and laughing, and loving and trusting, and faith in God.

I don’t know how she ever did it, any of it.

I want to be that free. I want to be that strong.

Minus the hoe.

.
.

grandma lisa me crop

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Between the lines

at rest in the gloaming 10.15.14 Steve Kalstrup

My face.
I do not look my age. I look my mileage.
This is my face.
My map.

.

.

Image: “At Rest In The Gloaming” by Steve Kalstrup
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This is Christmas

Jesse & Iva Pybas 1964

 

This is Christmas, and it was spectacular. Open arms and exclamations. “Well, lookie who’s here!” Old people, tribes of cousins, the how-are-we-related-again relatives, and the prerequisite handyman who “God bless his heart, he’s just not right in the head.” Food, food, food, food, food, food and Grandma in the kitchen cooking. Putting on socks before getting out of bed, putting on three layers of clothes just to stay warm in the house then putting on a couple more to go outside. Loading up in the trailer with ten or so kids and a couple of adults to go cut wood and haul it back and stack it on the front porch, and then venturing out again to find the one cedar tree that would stand up sorta straight and fill in the corner, the coldest corner of the big room, farthest from the fireplace. Back inside to drag down the box of worn-out Christmas decorations, cracked glass ornaments, and the little ice skaters made out of lead. Eating more popcorn than we strung. Giving up on cranberries because who cares we wanted to go back outside, and the adults really wanted us to go outside. Cold noses, cold fingers. Breaking ice on the troughs, crunching along the edge of the horse pond, wishing it was ever cold enough here to freeze through. “Not it! Not it!” Running across the yard. “Race you!” Running laps around the driveway. Climbing trees. Climbing over the barn gate.  “We weren’t playing in the barn that’s just grass in my hair.” Walking the top rail of the corral fence. Playing house in the old pig sty. Playing war on top of the cellar. Playing Annie Annie Over. Playing tag. Playing Swinging Statues and Freeze Tag and TV Tag. Playing Hide & Go Seek. “NO FAIR! YOU WERE PEEKING!” Running all the way around the house. Squeezing through the iron gate. Exploring the fields and the woods. “We never went close to the pond – those aren’t cattails in my hair, they’re chicken feathers!” In and out, in and out til nearly dark. “You kids get in here for dinner!” Nobody has much money, and somehow still the presents spill out from the tree to the center of the rug. Toys and books and clothes. “No fair, I got clothes!” Handmade flannel nightgowns and crocheted house shoes that turn the slick linoleum into a speedskating course. Adults exclaiming over Woolworth perfume and TG&Y stationary, opening boxes of sausages and cheeses, cans of mixed nuts, cans of hard candies, cartons of Salems, cartons of Winstons, cartons of Pall Mall, cartons of Marlboro. Fireplace roaring and popping, Christmas wrapping paper catching fire, creating prisms “Ooo, bluuue!” before turning into blackish-orange feathery airships rising and shuddering, disappearing into the chimney.  Warming our backsides until we couldn’t stand it any longer and then running like idiot children to plop down on the Naugahyde chair, howling in pain and laughter. Late-late night and the stories come rolling out, listening to the words, creaking of the rocker, hiss of the logs, and muted laughter from the kitchen. One more cookie. Heavy eyes and warm pjs and sliding into the nearest welcoming lap to listen. The stories. Raucous and raunchy. Hilarious. Indignant. Whispered. Mysterious. Outraged. Listening through the fog of near-sleep, one eye on the stretched-out kneesocks precariously hung on the mantlepiece with thumbtacks because nobody thought much about store-bought stockings when you had a perfectly good sock that might could hold a pack of gum, malted milk balls, jacks and a red rubber ball, and maybe a little spending money.

This is Christmas, and in our estimation, it was wonderful.

We are scattered now, the living and the lost, all dear, all ghosts running together through the empty house, dark, distant dreams in that warm little head fallen forward against Grandma’s shoulder.

snow

 

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Sarge speaks

trees sepia

The Earth is Bare
by Ralph Cheatwood

The people are amazed
The bomb bursts
The earth is bare

The people are gone
The chiefs are alone
The earth is bare

The lone oak
The light flashes
The earth is bare

The birds are gone
The sky is crazy
The earth is bare

The animals are gone
The grasses are burnt
The earth is bare

 

During his long Army career, CWO Ralph Cheatwood (1923-1995) was the recipient of the Bronze Star and two Purple Hearts, among other honors.  He served in WWII in Europe and in the Pacific, in the Korean War, and did two tours in Vietnam.  

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Twisted Scripture: Three Riffs on The Corinthians and the Lingering Effects of Bill McElvaney on The World

I.

can you get the door please it’s love/for Jack & George

please
remove your hat
Love has entered the room
please remove your shoes
peel away whatever layers lie
between you and the earth
wiggle your toes
(you’re doing it right now, aren’t you?)
laugh
Love is in the room
stand and shake loose your bones
shift to one foot, to the other
like a child about to board the ride
Love sees you there
so clear your throat
and hum a song you’ve known forever
Love is waiting
arms extended
open-handed
grab hold
let it swing you around
with your head thrown back
wet-eyed and wonder-filled
laughing
from your belly
Love is here

(Written in February, 2014, as Jack Evans & George Harris were married by Rev. William McElvaney, a retired Methodist minister who disobeyed the United Methodist Church and began performing same-sex weddings. The men, the three of them, made an impact that day, in the Church, in Texas, and in the world.)

men in the moon

II.

Love/Riffing On The Corinthians

Love
Takes out the garbage three nights in a row and
Doesn’t boast about it.

(Well. Maybe a little.)

Love
Sits quietly in the passenger seat
And does not complain when the car veers onto the shoulder
Again.
Again?
Really, again? Really?

Love
Does not let you leave the house with a stain on your shirt
Broccoli in your teeth, or rogue chin hairs.

Love
Lets you pick the movie
Even though the last one you drug her to? Torture.

Love
Always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres
Except for that time – that one time,
When you were unlovable?

No, even then.

Blessed words and blessed ways,
People and things,
Ticks of clocks and pages of calendars and
the best damn dog you ever had –

These things are finite.

Voices are stilled. Hearts cease.
Even memories fade.
And even Love –
No.
Even then.
Love. Even then.

Love.
Love.
Love.

(Later in 2014, Bill McElvaney performed another same-sex wedding, for mutual friends. I really hate to wrap presents, so I offered a poem instead of a gift, and was delighted when they asked to read it in the ceremony.  At the rehearsal, I asked Bill if he needed to hear the poem, and he said “No, no. I’d rather experience it in the moment.” He quickly added, “If that’s all right by you.”  Afterward, at the reception, I sat down for a few minutes with Bill and wife Fran (another one of my heroes). Bill was tired. His voice was so soft that I had to pull my chair closer to hear him. He told me that he was dying. Chemo hadn’t worked, and it was time to call it. Bill was okay with death, he said, glancing over at Fran “and grateful to know such a love.”  He was ready to go. “Except…” Angry tears swam in his eyes then, and the tremendous spirit that lived within him poured back into his body and shored up his voice. Bill struck his fist on the table, angry that civil rights for LGBT people were still an issue, angry that he’d not lived to see real change in his lifetime, and anguished  as his beloved church “must change according to the teachings of Jesus, or it will die.” As so often was and still is the case, Bill McElvaney was right. A recent poll on religion and faith finds a significant decline in the number of people who identify themselves as Christians. The biggest increase was seen in the number of people who do not identify with any religion, or any faith at all. )

bill and fran

Bill and Fran

III.


This Love/for Danielle & Andrews

Whole mountains fall whole
Prairies buckle and bend and
Push skyward

Love

Nothing nothing nothing
Stays the same
Not even

Love
Itself

All the sneaky pete glances does she like me does he like me
All the oh my god I think I

LOVE

You
All the swaying swooning this please let this kiss last forever

LOVE

All the Sunday morning pillow face and no I took out the garbage last time
It’s all part of this

Love

This my god we’re going to do this aren’t we
All the broom jumping and glass smashing and dancing wild
Anticipation
That led you
Into this space
Right up to this breath and this breath and
Oh my god

We’re holding hands

This

LOVE

Has changed you
You grew into this moment
You will grow into the next
And this one tiny enormous infinite point of light
This jewel this seed this grain of

LOVE

This truth
This
Magic
This

LOVE

Is everything
This

LOVE

All that is was, all that it is
This

LOVE

Goes with you

This

LOVE LOVE LOVE

Has changed you
This

Love

Has changed us

Love

Is changing the world

LOVE

(Another wedding, another opportunity to avoid wrapping paper and offer up a poem. Danielle Pickard and Andrews Cope are so crazy in love and yet so grounded, they inspired this spoken song/sermon that demanded audience participation, an insistent, passionate, joyful chorus echoing “LOVE!” It was a grand evening, and for me, a wonderfully soft landing after a rocky year. )

danielle andrews jump

Danielle and Andrews jump, no broom necessary. (AutumnLight Photography)

All in all, Love in 2014 endured way too many damn losses. One of those who stepped over into The Great Whatever was Reverend Bill McElvaney.  I know beyond knowing that he was present with the world on June 26, 2015, breathless and teary-eyed, fists clenched and shouting “LOVE!” as Jack Evans and George Harris were declared legally married, in a Dallas County courtroom.

jack and george

Amazing what you might find when you open up your People Magazine these days….

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How Much Money Does a Novelist Make?

READ THIS honest, frank and very important post from my friends Layce Gardner and Saxon Bennett.

layce gardner

By Layce Gardner & Saxon Bennett

As Indie authors who have had three best-selling novels in the past twelve months AND who have also had eighteen novels published with a small lesbian publisher, we are often asked this question. We don’t normally talk about finances and how much money we make but in this case we want to make an exception.

MYTH: Authors make more money if you buy their book directly from the publisher’s website.

TRUTH: Authors do not make more money. The PUBLISHER makes more money if you buy directly from their website.

That is why publishers hold on to a book at their website for a month or more before putting it on Amazon or Barnes & Noble or other platforms. They make more money at their website. But they still pay the author the same amount regardless.

Here’s a typical breakdown of monies the author sees…

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