what matters most

graffiti -- tampon with angel wings and a haloGood morning, grey & rainy — happy Summer-in-the-Bay-Area. It looks like a good day to get some inside work done, like maybe book proposals.

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One of the things I love about being closer to San Francisco now is being able to get 89.5 KPOO on the radio again. Tuesday mornings with JJ on the Radio & old-school soul music makes me feel like I’m home, reminds me of being in my little studio back near the Panhandle, the first apartment I ever lived in on my own, trying to figure out who I was going to be… (Please note: I’m still trying to figure out who I’m going to be — )

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Last night, or early this morning, I dreamed about being home, back in Omaha. My sister was there, too, and so was he. We were at that house on 57th St, we had to clean, we wanted to get out before he got home, but once we left to go to some appointment over near 60th and Dodge, we still had to contact him to pick us up. My sister still knew how to contact him. She didn’t remember anything in the city, though — we had to get something to eat, and we were in some building that looked down over the area. A Schlotzsky’s had moved into the space where some fancy restaurant used to be there on Dodge — I said, Look, Schlotzsky’s! Remember them? Sandwiches? We’d first gone to Schlotzsky’s during visitations with dad, way back when. She didn’t remember them, wasn’t interested. I touched her head, smoothed her hair, like maybe a mother would.

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This is maybe a morning of non sequiturs, though it also feels like a morning to dive deep into something and live there for awhile. Outside, it’s actually raining. That’s so rare here in the Bay Area, at least outside of rainy season. Usually we just get very very thick fog, fog so thick it drips and droops.

This morning I’d like to be wandering through the Haight with my notebook, my scarf and small gloves. I’d like to order a large cup of strong French Roast decaf that comes in a big wide mug, then go settle into a corner, open my notebook and write while watching the city people go by. KPOO could be onĀ  the walkman, coming through my headphones. Let’s go back a few years now. Let’s cream the words out onto the page. Let’s make them, let them be, chewy, dense, unstrainable. Let’s let our morning get filled with the joy of arms moving, words thrilling through our fingers, new understandings emerging from the page.

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I’m a bit astounded and so very grateful to everyone who has donated so that I will be able to attend the Tomales Bay Workshops this fall — it’s been less than a week, and already we’re more than a third of the way there, almost half-way! Let me tell you a secret — this is the first writing workshop I’ve applied to, the first writing-related program I’ve done since college. Thanks to you all, I was able to put down the deposit.

16 years ago, I was lying on the rough carpeting in the tiny office that was all mine as the Tech Support person for ValleyNet ISP. The blinds were pulled and the door was locked. I hid out in there a lot. I was sobbing after finishing the last page of Bastard out of Carolina.

Now, finally, I’m going to get to work on my own story with the author who helped me do that work, get to that place of release and transformation.

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We used this prompt last night at the Write Whole workshop –we created short lists of body parts, and then prepended the phrase What maters most is, leaving us with a bunch of declarative statements we’d have to make some sense of: What matters most is a hand. We took 20 minutes for our write — you could do anywhere from 10-20, if you’d like!

Here’s my write in response to this prompt:

What matters most is this blood, 27 years of bleeding, the dark red funk, that iron rush — would it have filled a bathtub yet if we’d left it to its own, this body’s own, devices? Let’s say we squeezed out 27 years of obs and Always pads, wrung out the jeans and skirts and underpants stained, collected the remnants left in toilets or run down the shower drain? If I looked back at my human biology book, I’m sure I could do the math: some number of tablespoons every month multiplied by 12 months by 27 years probably doesn’t equal an Olympic-sized swimming pool but it did equal sheer power once upon a time

For years in my adolescence I was irregular, never knowing when I was going to bleed, couldn’t read any signs, just went from zero to stained my new white painter’s pants damnit, and in the middle of band practice too. I felt inept not being regular, wrong, like I was out of sync with nature, the earth, the moon. Women were supposed to all be connected, in rhythm, at ease with their tides. But here I was, could go a month with no blood, six weeks, then trickle then wham — I didn’t get regular til he put me on the pill at 16.

But let’s pay attention to the wisdom in these bodies — he stayed away when she was bleeding, didn’t want the smell to stain his hands or fingers (or moustache, I’m sorry) and so he would leave her be when she ran rust red into cotton, when she lay dormant with cramps — and because it could happen at any time, it was an excuse at any time. Raise High the Roofbeams, Carpenters — this was not a dumb body. This body knew wreckage was the only way to survive.

What matters most is the blood pooling, caught and captured, inside the panties of half the women at work or on the bus, the women you pass by on King street, the tidy tourists, the natty hipsters, the fancy Marina girls, all of us walking around clotted and clogged for a week out of every month because we want to pretend like we’re normal, like we’re boys, I mean — boys who don’t bleed. Can you envision this city, these stained sidewalks laced with blood that didn’t pour out of a wound, if women could bleed freely? Go back to all that clean blood — let’s not get into HazMat reality right now, let’s consider a society where women didn’t have to pretend like we weren’t women, where each of us could have our bodies and acknowledge just what was going on in those bodies — if we could make te monthly blood visible, maybe too we make the fibro pain visible, the cramps visible, the not-bleeding visible, the hormones cycling visible — maybe our reality gets pinched back out of the hands of people who would turn it into farce and joke. Maybe all that good red fertilizes our parks, tears open asphalt and concrete, drizzles trails down all kinds of legs and we are ok with our peculiar humanness — we are ok with the truth of our stains, our release, our relinquishing, the deep way our bodies know how to cleanse.

Thank you for the ways you honor what matters most to you, to those you love, even in deep and quite and unspoken ways. Thank you always for your writing and your words.

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