FH-hummingbird-slider

poems can blossom truth inside our hearts

Stencil of a woman in a dress, dancing, head thrown back, hair hanging down, next to the words
(Poetry is an extreme sport – Miss Tic)

Good morning, good morning.

Outside, it’s traffic and crickets. I’m waiting to hear whether the owl will be back this morning – she was here on Friday, and instead of writing a post I got distracted by her.

Well, by her and some old morning writes. I went looking for what I was saying here–to myself, to you–five years ago, or seven. That’s one thing about regular journaling–getting to look back, see what you were saying before, what you felt like before, what you’re struggling with that’s the same  and what is new — you get to see how far you’ve come.

In my case, I got to look back on a relationship that felt unfixable at the time I was writing, that felt like kudzu or like I was in the ocean at a rising tide stuck in seaweed. I spent so many years trying to communicate with someone who literally could not understand the things I was saying — and, let’s be honest, in the converse, I also couldn’t, it seems, understand the things he was saying. I could never quite understand what he wanted. And  I kept trying, kept getting smaller, tightening myself up until I was knotted into a ball at the bottom of a bookbag, just a sticky thing with dust and hair and old gum wrappers stuck all over me.

And then I got the idea that maybe , that maybe, I didn’t have to stay there. Maybe my job wasn’t to stay in this relationship until the end of my (or his) life. Maybe I didn’t have to walk a hundred miles on my knees, repenting. I only had to let the soft animal of my body love what it loved. And then poetry started to sneak in to the sides and corners and crevices of my skin, my psyche, touched the parched places inside me, the places that told me I had to stay, I had to keep working, I had to keep trying to be the right thing for this person. 

(The chimes sing a little in the early breeze.)

Slowly, so so slowly, it came to me that I didn’t have to keep beating my head against a brick wall. Neither one of us deserved to be this unhappy all the time. He deserved someone who didn’t have to turn herself inside out in order to be right, feel right, be what he said he wanted. He deserved to be with someone who didn’t need to deny fundamental parts of herself in order to stay with him. He deserved to be with someone who didn’t need to swallow her tongue most days, or risk getting into yet another fight.  

There were poems that opened my eyes , the eyes inside my heart, or that turned my eyes back away from looking into a future that felt bleak. There was a Rilke poem that shifted things in me. John O’Donohue. And Mary Oliver, of course, Poems can do things that regular prose can’t. Poems sing in through the side door. They tell all the truth but tell it slant. They don’t hit us straight on, but blossom truth inside our hearts, our bellies, anyway. 

What I’m trying to get to is the fact that something that feels so entrenched, unchangeable, a situation you feel so utterly stuck in — that situation can change. And what’s true, at least for me, is that the first part of changing the situation was changing my mindset, my lenses. I had to allow myself to shift how I was seeing myself, and that relationship. Just very gently, I began to ask myself, What if I’m not wrong or bad or crazy or broken here? And what if he isn’t either? What if we’re just two very different people with very different needs and it’s ok to stop trying — after 8 years, to stop trying — to force ourselves to be something that didn’t fit?

(and then I feel myself wanting to say, hey, out here, if you’re having to tuck important and tender parts of yourself away in order to fit into a relationship, maybe that relationship isn’t the right one for you.)

I look back in those old journals, those old writes in the mornings from San Rafael or Tiburon, and I want to tell that woman, You’re ok. He’s ok. You’re just not ok together. Don’t worry about waking up tomorrow and picking up the threads of the same old fight you’ve been having since you first got together. Just set down those threads, pack your bag, and leave. I urge my hands in her direction, gesturing. Just go. But she won’t go. She’ll stay for another three years, another two. She’ll take small steps as she builds the muscles she needs to be able to leave. She — I — had to build the muscles I needed to be able to trust myself, to trust my own perceptions, my own vision, my own view of the world.

So much old stuff got triggered in that relationship. Old stuff about trusting myself, really — isn’t that at the core of it. Letting my needs be even a fraction as important as the other person’s? At some point you have to set down the old ghosts, step out of the maelstrom of voices yelling selfish, mean, thoughtless — bend your head down, duck underneath, and step out to the other side. It’s like taking off a pair of sunglasses and noticing that the world looks really different than you’d come to be used to. It’s allowing yourself to step outside of somebody else’s narrative and notice, sometimes for the first time, that you don’t fit anymore, that the story they’re telling you about you doesn’t match who you know you are. And that small voice inside you, your instinct, your intuition — becomes something you can hear again, you can attend to, you give some weight to.

The shift for me was allowing myself to imagine a reality outside of my ex’s worldview, he worldview he wanted me to live within. There were poems that helped me look at the world, and myself, anew. And writing practice helped me imagine new ways of being.

(Some animal is rushing around in the woods. At first I thought it was the wind, but the chimes are silent.)

You should never have to make yourself small in order to keep your partner happy (or your boss, or your parents, or…) And though I went into the relationship knowing that was true, intellectually, I still had to learn it in my body.

I still had to learn to trust it, trust myself.

I still had to learn to face a very old fear, one I got from my home as a young person — that If I stand up for myself, I’m going to get in trouble, and then I’m going to get hurt. And I did get in trouble in that relationship, let’s be honest. But I wasn’t a teenager anymore. I could walk away. I could say no to his demand that I see the world in such a way that minimized me, or that left me feeling crazy and literally unable to communicate effectively much of the time. I could step out, take a deep breath, and take off the glasses he said I looked so good in, in order to see the world in a different way.

We get indoctrinated, as children in abusive homes — we get trained into particular ways of seeing and understanding ourselves. So it takes a lot of work, in our adult relationships, to not listen to the old voices, especially when/if our partners say things that echo what our abusers used to say, in some form or another. They may not be intending to do so, they may not be abusive at all, but still those old messages, and those old survival strategies, are triggered within us. and so we just continue the long work of trying to dislodge that old learning, that old way of thinking that said I have to let you define reality for me because if I don’t I’ll get hurt

It took the time it took for me to move through that learning in my second marriage. I’m working to be easier with that woman I was then. The other thing that happens, over time, is that I can read these old notebook entries and not beat myself up, I can feel more compassion for the self I was then, the things I was struggling with, the complaints I kept echoing.

(And I believe, too, there are some relationships we can’t settle into until we have done deep work to heal some of these old wounds. These are mature adult relationships, people we wouldn’t be able to stand up next to until we have done the work to know and trust and like who we are–otherwise how can we love someone else who knows and trusts and likes us? They’re not going to stick around if we just spend all the time telling them how stupid they are for loving us, for liking us, for finding us smart or funny or clever or creative or kind … )

So today I’m grateful — for time, for poems, for writing, for that small quiet voice within that never stops whispering You deserve joy in this lifetime, that small voice that keeps whispering, even through days, months, years, when I can’t hear it singing inside me.

And I am grateful for you, today, too, for all the ways you make room for those around you to grow and change, and the ways you are easy with yourself in your own growing, too. And for your words, of course — I’m always grateful for your words.

FH-hummingbird-slider

let’s say I could see your broken wings

Good morning — the light is just shifted from dark grey to heather blue, and rain is streaking onto the windows. The candles are quiet in their glass cages. What is bringing you to the page today?

Let’s say everything is changing. Let’s say it always was. Let’s say I’m always afraid when I sit down to the page — I don’t know what I’m going to say, and I’m certain that whatever I do say won’t come out right. Let’s say I want it to be right. Let’s say I compose on a bag of bones. Let’s say the coffee isn’t cutting it anymore. Let’s say the candles are humming and erect next to me. Let’s say I found a way home. Let’s say I don’t know what home means. Let’s say it’s opening its eyes inside of me. Let’s say there was a place in my body that asked for now. Let’s say I don’t know what that means. Let’s say now spreads its quiet wings around the flames of my insides. Let’s say I tangle with the past. Let’s say I am afraid. Let’s say I do not live in the moment. Let’s say the fingers are forgetting how to work. Let’s say the heart is breaking down. Let’s say I am aghast. Let’s say you are. Let’s say we weren’t ready for any of this.

Let’s say it used to be good. One day it was good. There was a moment of good between us. There was an idea of good. There was a breath. A hope. Let’s say we both had our own dreams. Let’s say the dreams fitted against a knowing that we had forgotten all the words for. Let’s say we weren’t able to climb the trees of our own dark insides anymore. Let’s say we saw in the other someone who might be able to open our locked doors. Let’s say we still believed in fairy tales and knights in shining armor. Let’s say that no matter who you are, you always hope for a knight in shining armor. Let’s say no matter who you are, you always want to be somebody’s knight in shining armor.

I wanted to save you — let’s say that. Let’s just say.

Let’s say I thought it wasn’t hopeless. Let’s say I convinced myself. Let’s say I wanted to hear the names you never shared with anybody else. Let’s say I believed you never told those names to anybody else. Let’s say I sat there while you called me names. Let’s say I ate your accusations like breakfast. Let’s say I was your whipping boy, the safe release, the escape valve, let’s say I was your penitence — or I was my own. Let’s say I thought I deserved it. Let’s say I made all your excuses for you, before you even had to take in a breath. Let’s say I could see your broken wings. Let’s say I knew we were both wounded. Let’s say I said it wasn’t your fault. It was where you came from. It was what you’d been through. Let’s say I could understand rage. Let’s say I wanted to understand what it was like to be you in the world. Let’s say I wanted to get inside your skin. Let’s say I was afraid I could never be enough for you. Let’s say I wanted you so badly I thought my teeth would break. Let’s say I set myself aside for the sex of us. Let’s say I finally understood how people could do that.

Let’s say I tried to be enough for you. Let’s say I tried to be the good woman, the open-handed woman, the woman you deserved, the mother of all good women, the woman that was all small smiles and nods, all feeling and compassion, who could take your slings and arrows for what they were: the wails of a despairing child. Let’s say I wanted to cradle your despairing child. Let’s say I imagined you could cradle mine. Let’s say you dropped me on the floor over and over again. Let’s say I made your excuses for you, before you ever even had to take in a breath. Let’s say I got up from the floor, dusted off my knees, and reached for you again. Let’s say I began to understand my own madness. Let’s say I couldn’t trust what I saw myself doing. Let’s say I put your needs before my own, because it’s so easy to say that, the words are right there on the cover of every book in the library. Let’s say I took off my mouth, then my hindbrain, then my hands, then my shoulderblades. Let’s say I couldn’t understand how I could still be screaming. Let’s say I couldn’t imagine my life without you. Let’s say I found myself in a now that was choked me. Let’s say I got tired of being an emotional punching bag. Let’s say that cliche is too easy. Let’s say the harder words: I got tired of tending to wounds that you both insisted that I make better and insisted didn’t exist. Let’s say that I finally recognized the madness. Let’s say I saw how heartbroken I was. Let’s say I still carry your heartbreak, because I was never, never, never supposed to put it down. Let’s say your accusations are lodged in my body lodge like poisoned arrows or the quills of a broken porcupine. Let’s say you persist in me. Let’s say I put you down. Let’s say I opened the wings of my body to find you chewing off your legs. Let’s say I lifted off the carcass of your despair. Let’s say I can’t do anything to stop it. Let’s say I stopped needing to do anything to stop it. Let’s say I let you do it. Let’s say I let you do it.

Let’s say I let you do it.

Let’s say I was conscious every step of the way. Let’s say every time we came to a fork in the road, I thought, here’s a good chance to get away, and then stepped with you deeper into the forest. Let’s say I thought I could save you. Let’s say I thought love was about fighting and struggle and saviors. Let’s say in the beginning I was thankful for the fights. Let’s say I felt blessed. Let’s say I was so glad I had someone who would tell me what they really thought, and didn’t need to protect me. Let’s say I wanted you to not to protect me. Then let’s say that changed. Let’s say it didn’t change. Let’s say I wanted you to see what your words did when they hit the ledger of my body. Let’s say I wanted you to understand. Let’s say I thought that eventually you would notice, you would get it, you would say you were sorry. Let’s say I finally understood that you could not see, that your eyes lived somewhere else. Let’s say I finally understood that you didn’t think you were doing anything wrong. Let’s say I found the unbridgeable crevasse between us. Let’s say I understood finally that it wasn’t my job to fill all of the holes that life left in you. Let’s say I’m still sorry for those holes. Let’s say I am still speaking into the ones you left in me, whispering into my own body, trying to figure out how to unarmor enough to let the deepest wounds heal.

~~ ~~ ~~

This is a morning write. Twenty minutes on the timer, and I just let the fingers go. Here’s a prompt: Begin with “Let’s say-” Complete the phrase, and then begin again. Follow your writing wherever it seems to want you to go.

It’s all important: the recognitions and the blindnesses. Thank you for what you allow yourself to see. Thank you for the generosity of your words.

FH-hummingbird-slider

not of the carnal kind, but of the cardiac

graffiti -- sacred heart: stylized heart, wrapped up and burning...
(check out more of Marshall Astor's photography by clicking on the photo!)

Good morning! It’s a Monday — how’d that get here so fast? I’ve got decaf espresso on the stovetop (and yes still the magnet on my fridge, bought long long  before I stopped drinking caffeinated coffee, that says, “Decaf Espresso? What’s the Point?”). Mmm — espresso w/ cardamom and lemon zest, and a bit of sugar.

In a couple hours, I’ll be heading out to the airport, getting on a plane, flying East, for the Power of Words conference. First I get a day in Boston, with the Lady Miz M & her Lady, and then an early morning drive up through NH and VT to a day-long conversation about what Transformative Language Arts is and could be. Then, on Thurs, the Transformative Language Arts Network Council has its annual meeting. Then the Power of Words conference starts Friday — I get to talk about the liberatory power of our erotic story. I get to introduce Kim Rosen‘s keynote, and then, too, I get to facilitate a panel discussion about the ways that transformative language arts work can be social change work.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I will work to post at least once or twice from New England — it would have been smart to set up a few automatic posts (huh? like Jianda’s been tellin’ me. *sigh*), but I haven’t done that yet.

When I get back, we’ll have one more week before the Write Whole and Declaring Our Erotic: Reclaiming our Sexuality workshops start. We’re about half-registered for DOE, and almost full for WW. Please do let me know if you’d like to join us, and please pass the word about the workshops if you know someone who you think might be interested! Most folks who come new to the workshops heard about them from someone they know…(thanks for that!)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Oh: I did it! I went swimming! (I wrote, a week and a half ago, that I’d go swimming once last week. Then I got sick and though I probably wouldn’t do that after all. but by the end of the week I felt a lot better, and woke up on Saturday with an urge to move through water. I headed up to the Terra Linda public pool, here in San Rafael, for the adult swim. remember when the Adult Swim was the super-boring time at the pool, cause all the kids had to get out and let the adults just go back and forth across the pool, in straight lines, like that was something fun? well, that was us. And it was fun, after all. This was the last weekend that Terra Linda’s going to be open this year, so now I gotta check out the Marin Y.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I have a write I want to share with you, from this past weekend’s Writing the Flood. We did the exercise where you start writing with a phrase (In this case, it was “In the palm of your hand…”), and then after a minute, I through out a random word that you have to, right away, put into whatever it is you’re writing. I do that for the next four minutes: every minute, I say a new word, and you bring that word into your writing. Then, after the five minutes are completed, you pause a moment, and keep on writing for another 10-15 minutes, following your writing wherever it seems to want you to go. (You can do this yourself by writing the words on 3×5 cards, turning the cards over, and every minute, looking at one of the cards and using that word right away.)

It can take us to writing we’d never imagine doing, this prompt, sometimes something surreal and very different for us. Here’s what I wrote in response:

In the palm of your hand, I put the bald story of my heart, in all its plastic anguish, in all its grief, in all its weight. In the palm of your hand, teeth dig in and around the flesh, angry and swollen (the teeth or the heart?), gnawy and hopeful and hard. In the palm of your hand, I put heart’s background, prescient and timely, orange and dangerous, cactus-spined with sadness and also with wanting. Sob out all yesterday’s angries, sob out the places blue and pushy, the places still ratcheting like pulses inside your mouth. Blue out all the angries. Write what hurts, first.

This waving, this hardying, this shore, this hesitation — this is what I’m talking about. How the palm of your hand is this conductor, holding forth the light, asking for more from my heart than just grief,l asking for the weight history to bleed out–

In the palm of your hand I put the hot weight of my heart and let you fold your slim fingers around its heft, cradle it like it’s something worth tendering to, push maybe now and again against its tough meat. And it’s your job, now, this carrying, the way you have to do the work of your day while still holding on to my heart, soothing its crusts and anguishes even while you go about, one-handed, making your oatmeal for breakfast, or texting, one-thumbed, the clients who need to hear from you.

And what about how your heart is in my palm, the way we bloody ourselves for love, the way I settle myself into your gush not of the carnal kind, but of the cardiac — how I soak in what you’d come to believe no one would ever even want to see.

What am I trying to get into here? The tenacious stuff of the heart, how I let you take it in your mouth when you need both your hands for other tasks, how you set it down sometimes, how sometimes you forget where you left it., How its easy to say, sometimes love is like this — you, scrambling, searching, asking like you do, not about your glasses this time but, Babe, do you know where I left your heart? and I think, Look in your hands. There it is.

Not a magic trick. Hard labor, thick salty trust, aches of arguments and resolutions, how we, brown-skinned transbutch and paler skinned femmedyke, were never supposed to know the contours, the inner workings, the mechanics of one another’s heart beats, how much is established to keep us from listening, from holding your hand to your ear in the night and listening to the doubling up of a blood swell, your pulse the backdrop to my own, there in your hands. There in the palm of your hand.

Thanks for the gentleness you’re going to show yourself today, and for the ways you’re gentle with others as well, even in your fierce honesty. It’s a kindness, that honesty, and a generosity, too. Thanks for your writing, always.