Tag Archives: workshop write

dreams and driving and springtime

We are far too busy
to be starkly simple in passion.
We will never dream the intense
wet spring lust of the toads.
- from “Toad dreams,” by Marge Piercy

In my dream, I am preparing for a workshop in an unfamiliar space — I’d been planning to move the group to another place, my office or something, but then I woke up from a nap and the group was meant to begin in under an hour, so I had no choice but to set up where I was — and anyway, that’s where the people were coming to; I’d never mentioned to anyway that I might move to another location; how would they know where to find the group if I moved? So I clean up, set up snacks, and put the poems and other handouts down on the writer’s chairs. Then I go downstairs to wait for folks to arrive — down into a warehouse space, filled with boxes. It’s a small group, only four or five people. One man arrives, and he says he’s changed his mind, thanks anyway, but he doesn’t think he’ll be joining the group. Someone else hears him and tags along out of the warehouse back into the night. I wonder if I’ll have enough people to write with, whether I’ll have to cancel the group after all.

The next Write Whole series begins this evening — I’m not surprised that I’m having this sort of anxiety dream. These are the concerns of facilitators: do we have the space set up right? Are folks going to join us? Will what we offer be enough to keep people in the room?

This morning the sky is a clear pastel baby blue and the birds are shouting their morning songs above and around the kids shouting in the playground a block away and the morning traffic rising like rush of tide. The dog fits herself into the splotches of sun on the deck. I put on a jacket over my pajamas and go out to write on the deck. This morning I am thinking about the choices I have made in my life to bring me to this place — a writing place, a life with space in it for percolation, growth, surprise, creative expansion, a life with room to stretch. I don’t have a career per se — no big paycheck, true, but also no big commitments: I have been told that the latter tends to follow the former pretty swiftly. This morning the garden is bright orange and red beneath me, the garden shoes lined up at the back door, the gloves dirty and cobwebbed (that’s how often I use them) hanging over the railing.

On Saturday I wrote with a beautiful group of folks at this month’s Writing the Flood — we gathered with sourdough sweet potato bread for words and sharing and more words. For our first prompt, I offered the poem “Renewal,” by Jeffry Harrison, a poem about the DMV, about driving and freedom, and about connecting with the people around you. Here was my response to the prompt:

I want to give you what I’ve got today. I can’t remember if this happened before or after she kissed me and I’d kissed her back, whether this ride was a part of our courting or the blossoming into desire that we let ourselves into after that, but I remember that it was summer in New Hampshire, so it must have been after. All the car windows were open in her godawful excellent Suburban, that tan and white behemoth she piloted through the streets of our tiny college town like a boat she was navigating through a no-wake zone — once we broke free of the city limits and hit the open back roads, she’d hit the gas like opening the throttle and we were free. The fields were all deep summer corn and queen anne’s lace, the sun that shallow bright, the sky an enormous blue, and I leaned my head out her window like a dog, my long hair flying all around my face.

I wasn’t supposed to be there with the smell of new cut grass and pastureland and musk coating my face. I wasn’t supposed to be with her, to be out of reach of the phone in my tiny single dorm room, be anywhere my stepfather couldn’t reach me. Later, when I went home the following quarter, I would admit to the affair, to my desire, and have it used against me like a knife — but I would tell no one about how we road in that giant truck like we mattered, listening to her worn-out Two Nice Girls tape, me without even my license yet, vibrating with hunger and terror — I can’t remember if I thought it was just a momentary escape from the true webbing of my reality or if I saw a glimmer of what my life could really be like if I could get away from him. But get away from him wasn’t a part of my vocabulary yet then. All car rides ended eventually, and led right back to his front door.


What was it in me that expected and wanted to live?

dancing is the solution

Good morning this Wednesday morning. How is your heart today? What is the light doing with the edge of your teacup, with your mirror, with your windowpane? How are the words finding you? This morning I was up early, 3:30 and the body said, Ready? Let’s go. I had almost two hours with the candle and the notebooks before the light came. That’s some heart-feeding time there.

But don’t I always go back to the same places? The dreary trauma, the swollen girl lost and locked inside? Isn’t there more to that child? Where else can I find in that girl to fall into? What about the endeavorer, the explorer? Talk back to the girl who spent a lifetime listening to birds, harvesting sourgrass to eat, investigating every backyard, gulley and alleyway — what constitutes her humanity now? How did her curiosity survive all that he put her through? The only way I can think is to keep writing. But these bones aren’t mine anymore.

I investigate the shadows, pulling that husk out from under the body of a man who never belonged on top of her. And she had — I would tell you, it would be easy to tell you that she had by then shut her eyes to sweetness, but the truth is harder than that. The truth is she didn’t give up hope, and she eventually released all possibility of a future. How does a person learn to do that at the same time? The flowers that lived insider her had all gone to seed, gone dormant — this is why she was waiting for tomorrow. Someday — not soon, she thought, but someday — there would be a place to plant again.

Rachel Naomi Remen talks about plants forming spores when the conditions aren’t habitable for their nurturance, their growth. She says people do this, too, but we forget to peek out of our shells, our carbon containers, the tight nub our hearts become — we forget to peek out to see if things have gotten better. We remain spored, tightly bound up, protected. Plants know that spore is meant to be temporary.

Who was that girl who turned up the music and danced alone and wild, fully in her body, when she thought her stepfather wasn’t there to see? Who was that girl with so much audacity, so much life? He caught her dancing, shamed her even as he couldn’t hide his arousal. What he took from her body after couldn’t touch what had been dancing.

How frustrated her stepfather must have been with that young woman’s temerity — thinking she deserved joy. What I’m trying to get underneath is this: What was it in me that expected (and wanted) to live?

(Could this be a prompt for today? Give yourself twenty minutes, write all the way in: what was it in her, in him, in you, in me, in us that wants and expects to live? Follow your writing wherever it seems to want you to go.)

All the gratitude today. Thanks for your words.


just once before I die I would like to know I’ve flown free

The prompt I offered at one of our last Write Whole sessions was “things we aren’t supposed to talk about.” (You can make a list of those things, if you want, or simply dive into the first thing that comes up for you when you hear that phrase); we wrote for twenty minutes.

Here’s what I wrote:

I am afraid of dying. I am still afraid of dying. It has been twenty years since last he put his hands on me, he has been in prison for seventeen years, and still something in me remains stalled. 

I’ve had friends who don’t want to hear that I am still afraid of my stepfather killing me, that I bear the steel-rod terror still along my spine and through my shoulders that one day he will be released or escape from jail, come and find me and do, finally, what he promised so many years ago, when I first tried to get him to stop what he was doing to me, when I tried to stop the “sexual part of our relationship,” as he liked for me to call it. How had we gotten into the conversation, my friend and I? I said I was afraid I would freeze if I ever opened the door to find my stepfather standing there. My friend was aghast – and though he didn’t try to be, was profoundly shaming. He wanted a different response from me, and so I gave him one: I stopped talking about it. His telling me that I should remember that I am not the 19 or 23 or 21 year old I was when he last threatened me didn’t help. His grimace of feminist disappointment didn’t help.

I remembered – this is my fear to carry alone.

And it’s a site of shame – of course I know I should let it go. I know I shouldn’t believe one more of his lies. Where is this going? Last month, a friend dies at 50 with      yes      so much more of his life left to head and yet a gorgeous legacy of work and craft and community – and, at 41, I feel like I am still in limbo, still waiting for this man to die before I can truly open up the spigot of my heart, still sure that anyone I open my heart to will get killed as well, still afraid that any ambitions I pursue or life I build will be precisely what he will take delight in tearing away from me, burning in front of me. Torturing me until I relinquish. This was always his way. Why would twenty years make any different to a sociopath?

And so I try to remember to breathe, how to breathe, try to remember that, if he’s going to kill me, it probably won’t be today – and today I have some of my own beautiful and free life to live. I want to understand how to rid my body, my hard-grasping psyche, of this terror. I want to know how to communicate freedom and safety to my body, I want to know how to love freely into this life, how to stop mourning my inability to heal faster than I have. Maybe it all comes down to breath.

It seems true that I am not supposed to talk about the way this terror still lines my shoes, lives beneath my knees, behind my eyes; no, I no longer wait for him to come through a window. No, the place where this terror lives is inside my bones now. It stops up my reaching, my wingspan. Just once before I die I would like to know I’ve flown free.

tea kettle wisdom

Sometimes when we write into the absolutely ordinary we find some surprises.

One of the prompts I gave at the last Writing the Flood prompt was to make a list of very common household items, and then I read the poem “Towels.” We let an item from our list choose us (my list included: toothbrush, towels, old shoes, coffee cup, pillow, tea kettle, bird feeder…) and then we wrote for about 10 minutes. This is what came for me:

The tea kettle is all stain and whistle, occupying a permanence in the finite space on top of the stove. You bought it years ago, with an old lover, when the relationship was new – then, just out of the box, the kettle was all stainless shine, reflected what was fresh and possible between you wen you set it atop the angled burner in the tiny kitchen of the first apartment you shared.

It did its part – holding a boil, calling the alarm – and over the years that shiny surface got sludged with grease spatters and then began to rust. You waited for the day when the bottom would drop out. You didn’t understand that the kettle was what would come with you to the next apartment, instead of the lover. You took harvest and haven in its stained heft, occupying space on the stove top, steady and volatile. At least the kettle would stop screaming when you removed the flame.

Turn on the gas, put a teabag in the handmade mug, light a candle, and wait – this was your morning ritual. This was your meditation, your centering. No lover or love’s lack could threaten that particular dark serenity, the space that emerged around you in he earliest hours when everything in the world was asleep except for those two flames – even your hand, trying to remember how to hold a pen and make it make words on a blank page, seemed still to be pulling from sleep. The low rise of that whistle called you to your feet, demanded attention. Tea kettle like wailing infant, tea kettle like wise refrain, tea kettle that morning coda: stop the screaming, fold hands over handle, bury the tea in the boil, release that day’s scent into the room.

The kettle isn’t needed – you can boil water in a pot if you have to – so it becomes a small luxury for you who have relinquished your hold on such possibility. You put your hands around what’s too hot, and you wait.

Make your own list of everyday objects, and choose one to write about today. Give yourself at least 10 minutes — 15 if you’re really going — and follow your writing wherever it seems to want you to go.

Thank you for all the ways you find beauty in the ordinary and the everyday. Thank you for your words yesterday, this weekend, and today.

unsolicited advice for a survivor

Rockridge HeartsThis is what I want to say: It won’t end. You won’t get fixed. You won’t reach a place where you name is Healed and incest doesn’t feed you breakfast anymore. The people who tell you You’ll get over it don’t know what they’re talking about, because they live in their own closed cage of denial. You have been transformed. You are not the same as you were Before. And you will never not also be who you were Before — but it may be some years before these layerings of yourselves can sit in the same room with you and have coffee in the morning. There is no such thing as getting over it. There is the business of living through. There is learning to breathe again, there is learning you are worthy of the air you breathe, there is having to breathe when you know you are not worthy. There is you, just breathing. You will have years called Night and years called Drunk and years called Weep and years called Frozen and years called Broken and Fuck. You look at this and think you can’t bear so many years of pain — but what’s true is that all those years are also called Freedom.

You will not always be in pain. Your heart will harden and soften at the same time. You will forget all the names you ever had, you will climb into a skin so different from the one you were fucked into that not even your mother — especially not your mother — will be able to recognize you. This may or may not be a cocoon. It might just actually be the true face of your new eyes. Every stage of healing is a phase, like this breath you are taking is a phase, like this heartbeat is a phase, like a single kiss is a phase is an instant an instantiation of your personhood. Phase means nothing except you are still alive. Ignore them when they tell you that whatever you’re experiencing now is just a phase. Ignore their relief, if it comes, when you enter a different phase. They do not sing with all the tendons of your body and they can’t speak the truth of your soul. Sit with the people who can hold your surfaces and your undersides.

One day you will say yes to your skin, yes to sex, yes to the feel of your body alive and inhabitable. The next day you will wrench up with No again. There will be years like this. There will be two yes hours in a row. There will be days when you don’t say his name, nights when the dreams in which you cannot move begin to stretch and taffy in your psyche, one day inside you will take the knife he brandishes and turn it on him. That will be a good day.

Know that this that you’re in right now will change. Be with people who can hold the shimmer of insurrection that is the space between who you were raped to be and who you are becoming. Be with those who can open their hands out to rage, who are imperfect in their holding, who want to fix it, who understand that there is nothing to fix. Understand that you will emerge from broke, that broken is a necessity, that no human passes through life whole, that none of us are anything other than whole. Believe that broken is necessary if one wants to see all sides of a thing. Know that you are because of and in spite of, you are of and not of, you are welcome in this human family, you have never been outside its true skin. We are just a people who has forgotten how to open our hands to those who need our receiving, who deserve a welcome, a yes, an apology. Know that the platitudes people offer you exist so that you can climb inside something together, that they are a doorway that you can meet each other through when the words don’t work anymore. Know that words will fail you but you will keep trying to unwrap them to find what lives inside, because for all the pain there you will never stop wanting to know and to share what lives truly inside yourself.

(A write from last night’s Write Whole survivor’s writing group meeting.)

I believe in the topology of regeneration

This is a new day. My body is sleepy, thick with desire for the covers. The candle blossoms new color into the dark room, and I am here with these early words. Fit me into the couch cushions, cover me with my mother-knitted afghan, hand me my tea cup and my novel. What do these words want from me today? What do your words want from you?

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I have two survivors workshops going right now, one in person (Write Whole) and one online. Last night was the third meeting of the spring Write Whole session, and got to be amazed at how deep the writing went, and how fast. We wrote hard about memory and grief, and in-between writes, we talked and connected and laughed. We wrote anguish and struggle last night, and after the workshop was over, I felt energized, lighter, and so grateful. It was a big one last night.

Sometimes people say, when I share with them about the work that I do, “Oh, that must be so hard.” I don’t know how to convey to them how much it’s not hard. How grateful I am every time I’m in the presence of a story that was never supposed to be told, how I appreciate the effort and risk involved in sharing brand new words, how honored I am to get to be in circle, over and over, with writers who are willing to language what we are trained never to be able to say. That’s not hard, I want to tell people; that’s a gift! Continue reading

the multiplicities of comfort

this body finds comfort out amid the trees — in the old oak groves, walking through the scent of bay or eucalyptus…

Hello and good morning! It’s late-ish for the blog post; I did my morning pages offline today, longhand in the notebook, then breakfasted and readied for a working day of writing. I notice, when I’m working at home, it’s easier for me to take myself seriously if I make like I’m actually going to work when I head into the little writing office–change out of pajamas, for instance; shower; eat breakfast away from the computer. These steps help me transition out of home mind into work mode; this is a new practice for me. I’ll let you know how it progresses.

I have a more today from FemmeCon 2012, a write from the Body Empathy workshop that Alex Cafarelli and I co-facilitated on the first morning of the conference. Our introductory writing prompt (after some movement and improv exercises to get to know one another and playfully ease into our bodies!) had to do with where we are, or aren’t, comfortable in our bodies.

Continue reading

learning to be unnice

faded graffiti on brick of a woman's face, eyes closed, mouth open -- she is singing or crying or... Good morning good morning out there — how is your today so far?

(Sometimes when I start these posts, I hear (of course I do) the lyrics to Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb” (hello hello is there anybody in there), even though numb isn’t (almost) ever how I’d describe myself here at the writing desk, during this morning time…

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If you’re local to the Bay Area, and feel like doing some writing this month, don’t forget about Writing the Flood on Feb 18 — we’ll gather for great words, tasty snacks and absolutely fantabulous writing community. You don’t have to be a “writer”-writer to join us, and if you are a writer-writer (whatever that means to you), this workshop is a great chance to change up your usual writing routines. Don’t miss it.

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Last night, at the Write Whole meeting, I handed out a number of images as our second prompt — I invited the writers gathered to notice which one was most calling to their writing selves, which one inspired or evoked story, voice, description. We wrote for 20 minutes.

(Let this be your prompt today, if you want one. Click on the links and notice what percolates up for you as you view the images — begin as soon as you have a strong response, and follow your writing wherever it seems to want you to go. You can always use another image for a different write!)

Here’s my response — I bet you can guess which image I was working from.

Stop asking for permission. Isn’t this the interminable lesson for girls? Is it for everyone? (Not everyone.)

Stop waiting for someone to say, Yes please, come on down now, you’ve won a chance to live your life! This is me on the floor reaching upward, this is me slamming a door in your face because I’m writing now, this is me learning now not to be nice. This is a new skill: unnice. It’s not mean or unkind or hostile or even fucking high maintenance (definitely don’t be the unnice femme — that’s another write).It’s honest, which is a generosity, actually. It’s sleek and pressured, it’s not wearing enough clothes, it’s everyday handsome, it makes you uncomfortable. What happens if my face doesn’t shape-shift into an accommodating smile every single time someone makes eye contact with me? What happens if I wear only the body I want to wear and nobody else’s hopes or desires? What if no issues more often from my lips than yes? What if I get really good not only at knowing exactly what I need to be my very best and whole and evanescent self, but also at saying it out loud — and then (and then!), too, expecting it to fucking happen, without offering the backwash of but you know, whatever, I’m fine with whatever.

What happens when I’m no longer fine with whatever? This is a new alchemy, understanding how to hold against my body that some people won’t like it, and that doesn’t mean we’re going to die. How far back does nice go — the little girl who wants everyone to be ok and maybe then her daddy will come home and her mommy won’t be so sad and mad. This is a made up story that lives inside the malleable bones of the nice girl, the one whose main fucking goal was making sure everyone really liked er, who could easily be on everyone’s side, who can understand your point of view and the point of view of the man hurting you, who above all else wanted to walk out of the party with everyone saying, oh, she’s so nice.

What lives inside nice but murk and wishy-washy , the pond water of terror and control, the browned-out idea that if you don’t like me that means I’m bad, like core-bad. Bone bad. Let me break my bones for you, so you can suckle at the marrow– then the nice girl is saved.

How does the nice girl come to understand this, come to paste on her shiny blue mask of happy and appeasing, come to feed others on I’m fine! when the world is crumbling under her feet — come to swallow hard, I mean, choke thick on the stories inside her, the voices the painting the creative ricochet that someone else — almost anyone else — might not like? And then how does she unlearn that swallowing?

Tie a noose around her neck like the Japanese fisherman do with the cormorants, letting them down into the breached deep but then tugging up easy and snatching out what once was the bird’s lunch, now for the fisherman’s supper. This is how we train ourselves out of the habit of swallowing someone else’s shame, what doesn’t feed us anymore. I reach in, yank out the grimy green stench of nice now, before she has a chance to consume it, to relish in the old and sour familiarity. It may be that just now I am starving the nice girl, that I want her emaciated, brittle, stung, I want her less often to feed on me. Then slowly, maybe slowly, we can develop her — I mean my — palate for my own fierce power.

Keep writing, ok? Keep drawing or photographing or crafting or candlemaking or dancing or singing or painting or sculpting or collaborating — keep living into the fullness of your art. Thank you for all the ways you give yourself permission to dream and make those dreams reality. Thank you, every day, for your words.

do over

graffiti of a sunflower, drawn onto red brickGood morning good morning — how is Tuesday feeling so far? Here the candles are low, flickering and sputtering hard, working hard for the last interweavings of oxygen and wax before losing all fuel.

The tea today is Moroccan mint – nettle/dandelion – cardamom – anise. Bitter with sweet undertones; a good wake-up tea.

We had a fantastic first meeting of the Fall ’11 Write Whole group last night — such powerful writers. I’m excited and grateful to be working with them! I woke up this morning and spent the first part of my writing time doing some reflective writing about the group — I’ve wanted to start a reflective practice after each workshop meeting for more than a year now, so it feels good to have begun that.

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For our second write last night, I filled the center of our writing table with images, asking each writer to choose one or two (I like it when we can notice which images seem to be choosing us) and let themselves imagine what was just about to happen in that picture, what had just happened, or to notice what the image reminded them of. We wrote for 20 minutes.

Here is my write in response — there were a number of images of older women, and older hands, and that was what I was responding to, initially:

There’s a backstory to all these women — I sat in a room yesterday and looked around at all the people smiling and thought, Every one of these women has been hurt. They were singing, all the people, we were in a circle, there was light overhead, how could they be smiling. It’s history. I wanted to know each of their stories, to hear them unfurl. I sat in a roomful of strangers and wanted to understand how it could be taht we could all sit together and be so composed when we were all fragile and braking every second, like humans do.

This writing is coming hard. When we were little we didn’t break glass or windows, we didn’t slam hammers into red Pinto or Nova hoods, we didn’t reach out or hands and scrape angry nails across other kids’ faces, what did we learn to do with our anger? How do you get trained, so successfully, to swallow, so early? How did we learn to disappear our anger?

This isn’t like that. This is another story. My mother has my grandmother’s hands now. I don’t have strong memories of my grandmother’s hands, but they were powdery, soft-skinned, bony — I want those to be tenderer words than they are. My parents are aging, hair long gone white or grey, strong and resistant bodies beginning to slow, and I am still waiting for the do over to begin. I see them and I’m startled. Wait, I think, we’re supposed to go bike riding around Holmes Lake today. We’re supposed to take a ride in the old VW bus out to  see the wild buffalo all caged up at Pioneer Park, we’re supposed to crawl around the statue of the Indian, carved out of red sandstone, stain our hands with the dust of him. When do we get to go back to the time before mom marries that man and he grabs at our hair by the roots and swings us around and unlearns us from our history? Before he shakes out the memories we let tangle on the surface of our skin, before he tells us his hands belong everywhere on us and so we learn that we belong nowhere inside us — when do we get to go back to Before him?

The horror is that I’ve been waiting these years, some awful lonely girlchild bit is sitting at her desk in a quiet classroom, finishing all her homework like a good girl is supposed to — she is from Before, and the room smells like chalk dust and night, like soft-soled teacher shoes and polyester and wood polish, and she is practicing her cursive on a big lined sheet of paper, she is doing her numbers, like her grandma would say, she is reading the part in her social studies book about the founding of America. She is there and doing her work and knows that when everything is done, when the bigger parts can feel and hear and remember everything again, then she will get to go home. She will meet her little sister at the side steps of her school and walk down the  block to the busy street that they have to wait a long time to cross and when they get home, Mommy will be making dinner and Daddy will be taking a nap on the couch. This is the time from Before — she expects to walk into that house and not find strangers there, she expects to walk into that house and have a real lifetime with her parents, she expects to walk into this skin and not find these scars layering out in front of her one-two-three. She will not be happy with what she finds. She is going to want her do over. When is that going to start?

As a prompt for today, you might let yourself get drawn to an image around you (on the front of a magazine? a piece of art in your place? a remembered image from film or tv?) and write about what’s there, or what associations you have with that image. Or you might also write about ‘do over’ — what could happen with that phrase when you copy it into your notebook and just let the associations come? Follow your writing wherever it wants to go.

Thank you for the way you gather, tenderly, all the different parts of you, and how you listen to the parts who want the impossible things. Thank you for your breath today. Thank you for your words.

we’d finally look at what we know

black and white graffiti of eyes watching the viewerHello Tuesday!

These posts have gotten a bit more sporadic! I’m sorry for that — I’m making some changes in my morning schedule which affects blog-writing time.

I shared this yesterday in the Writing Ourselves Whole newsletter: “Now that the workshops are on break, I’m doing a lot of work on a handful of longer writing projects (not least of which is preparing for the Tomales Bay Workshops), because I’m ready to be a Published Author with a Book. Will you keep some good thoughts for me as I work to shift my own and the puppy’s schedules so that I can rise between 4 and 4:3oam to write for a couple hours before the official work-day begins?”

I managed it this morning — and, whew, am I sleepy already.

Anyway, as I get more comfortable with the schedule, I expect to begin find a consistent blog-posting routine again.

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This month’s Writing the Flood is this Saturday, 8/20! (How have we already reached the third Saturday of the month?) Remember: Writing the Flood is a writing group for anyone looking to prime the writing pump: using the Amherst Writers and Artists method, we will write together in response to exercises designed to get those pens moving, and get onto the page the stories, poems, essays, images and voices that have been stuck inside for too long. Grab your notebook and come join us for an afternoon of great writes and excellent writing community!

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I’m going back through old notebooks (from the last several years), pulling out and typing up work that fits with one project or another, or that might fit here. Today, I’m sharing with you a write and prompt from July 2007:

this was the prompt — create 2 lists: one titled “what I know” and one titled “what I don’t know.” Choose at least one item from each list, and use those as your starting place.

Here was my write:

It’s difficult, the things that are known and the things that are unknown and when I say difficult, I mean shitty and infuriating and when I say ‘ are known’ and ‘ are unknown’ in that most passive voice, what i mean is the things I can say for certain and the things that I could possibly have never said for certain because when they were occurring I was without a place in language, my mouth floated out into an obliterating twisting and carnivorous extermination whenever I tried to find the words, and now, I am without a root in time or place or truth.

And then, even here, I wonder if any of this makes sense.

Sometimes all I want is to speak to other survivors, because sometimes, all that needs to be said is, You know? and you make a face and your affect says everything and you don’t have to explain and they say Yeah, and then you both nod and you’re sort of silent      not because now you’re trying to swallow,k once again, a desire to tell, to have someone else understand, but because she meant it when she said Yeah. She gets it, whatever the shitty thing is, and there’s no need to wrangle up into the terror of words that can never really speak the truth anyway -

What I want to know is a matter of fact timeline, but what goes beyond the point of contamination to the honest-to-god wreckage that is my memory is the fact that isolation during an experience means that somethings are just not possible to anchor in time. So, of course, they just float around in my body, my brain,a whole smeared fabric of my adolescence, a thin, dense stain on what was otherwise apparently perfectly privileged-ly normal and cohesing. What I know is what happened — hands on the only-budding places of my body, the truth of years spent readying me for his ultimate goal — and what I don’t know, now (besides Why, because, who cares?) — is exactly when. Was I fourteen or sixteen? Still in jr high or already in high school? Was it winter outside? Summer? were the birds throbbing alive in all the trees or were the outsides silencing in solidarity with my own?

What I don’t know is how to make poetry of this. What I don’t know is how to stop wanting to know — wanting these particular answers. What I don’t know is why it matters if I figure out now, twenty years later, that, oh, yes, I must have been fifteen when that part happened, when the thin body of me got pressed tight to his lips, when I felt all the air escape from what I thought was the security, the impenetrable mask, of my thick skin. I put a period there but I think I was asking a question — wasn’t I?

What I’d really like to know is how to, just once, twist that image of his body and my body on that cheap, squeaky, brass-framed bed into something that even my ears could find to be beautiful — no, maybe not beautiful, maybe not honoring, but no more pedantic and not any more pity-worthy. Id’ like for these images to begin finally doing service to some other kind of truth. I’d like to elect them out of their only residence in my brain and push them hard onto the paper, tape them cheaply down with crappy tape that quickly pulls up and dirties at the corners, push those bilious, billowy pictures flat for once, let them be seen in two, shallow, sullen dimensions, show them — yes, sure, finally – to my mother and father, let them see what was happening, share pictures with my sister like trading cards. We would sit cross-legged in the clover park with the summer bees all around and chew our big wads of gum while the wind blew the hair all around our faces and we’d finally look at all we could not share with words in the vast, thick safety of a summer afternoon.

Thanks for all the things you know, for the things you don’t know (yet or never will), for the peace you are making in the space in-between. Thank you for your continued reach, for your words.