Sunday, September 4, 2011

spinster poetry

One day, I will write you a poem. 

One day, I will write you a poem for every day we were apart,
a poem for every moment we spent not knowing each other’s faces,
not knowing the scent of each other’s hair,
not knowing
not hearing
not being
Like it or not, I will read these poems to you one after the other, in long succession, my head resting on my pillow, your head resting on my stomach,
my voice speaking into the top of your head and not into your eyes
because if I speak those words into your eyes my voice will be lost and something will surely catch on fire
and, Love, we don’t keep a fire extinguisher in the bedroom.
And there’s not enough water in the world.

I will write you a poem for every decision you had to make alone,
for every time you wanted to plan for our future, and I wasn’t there,
for every dream you wanted to talk about when I couldn’t hear you,
for every time you found yourself somewhere dark, reached out for my hand, and felt only a faint breeze,
for every time you worked late, and no one noticed,
for every time you were really hungry, and no one cared.
Honey, dinner is in the oven.
I will write you a poem.

I will write you a poem for the children we should have started having when we were younger,
for the career changes which might have been easier earlier,
for the college graduations we will be attending with more grey in our hair than the other parents,
for the great-grandfathers the kids will only hear stories of.
Baby, I will sing you that song you love,
we will dance in the kitchen all night long,
and I will write you a poem.

I will write you a poem for every time we didn't get to do the dishes together,
for every time you did the laundry and didn’t have to pull my bras out before starting the dryer,
for every time someone else made a mess and you were the only one there to clean it up,
for all of that time spent in the car without having someone to read all of the signs to,
for the stupid puns that you never got to tell me,
for the time you spent sleeping on basic-colored sheets wrapped in that college student comforter.  
Sugar daddy, it’s called a duvet, and cotton sheets feel just like this.
You can read about them in my poem.

I will write you a poem for every flower you never got to give me,
for every card you never got to leave for me on the kitchen counter,
for every time there was no one to scratch your back until you feel asleep,
for every time you had to sit through the guys complaining about their girls without being able to tell them how you have never felt like more of a man,
how your woman writes a poem with her every curve,
how you never knew how good it could be.
I will write you a poem again… and again… and again… and again.

I will write you a poem for every prayer you ever said alone,
for every time you had to patiently make peace,
for every time you lost patience,
for every time you almost gave up.
I will thank Him for you in letters, but for you, I will write a poem.

And when the time comes for the air to leave your lips for the last time,
One way or another,
I will write you a poem.
I will place it into your out-stretched hands.
It will glow with the fire of a thousand moments when we breathed deep,
exhaled slowly,
and felt our hearts beat in unison.
I will swirl around you in all of the colors of the world,
In colors beyond colors,
melting through you, into you, within you,
until there is no space between us
until there is no space.
And no between.

I will hold your hand in the grocery store.
I will kiss you by the river until you need more Chapstick.
I will tell your children bedtime stories.
I will let you grab what’s left of my ass when we’re old.
You can read all about it.
I will write you a poem.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


Familiar music blares from my always-too-loud phone.  I know what answering will mean.  The shield I made this morning during the walk from bed to speaking and have been using all day to protect others from the Death Star I can feel being quietly built inside will be knocked right out of my hands and smashed on the ground.  For better or for worse, he is good at destroying.  He is also good at other things.  I press "ignore."  He will wait.  Not patiently, but he will wait.  I'm not ready yet.  I may be when he tries again.  He never waits for very long.  Even states away, he can feel it when I'm hiding.

I realized early on the path to adulthood that, beyond my beloved father, I knew nothing of the more angular gender.  I knew nothing of what it is to think in straight lines... to be trapped in pants... to compete in ways which I never seemed to be able to keep track of... to have responsibility before God that is different from my own... to live on the other side of the coin.  I was smart enough to know that I needed to learn.  I asked God in simple words, and He answered simply.

Had said answer consented to occupy less space, I might not have noticed him.  He might have gotten away simply with internet communication and occasional meetings, but somewhere in there I turned my head, and he was suddenly part of what "family" feels like.  Together, we came to better understand other words.  He taught me about "protect" and "respect"... taught me in ways you can only learn from a brother...
taught me in ways you can only learn from someone who is willing to tell you when you have become the enemy...
taught me in ways you can only learn when someone turns up when there are lions to fight, bares his teeth, and jumps into the pit with you...
someone who never needs a list of reasons why he should hasten when he hears, "Help," and knows how to never make you feel small for asking...
or feel small at all...

... and it's not because he walked out of a comic book.  I have flown at his demons.  I know them by name.  He and I have also come nearly to blows, as is often the case when fire meets fire and there's just about anything in the vicinity.  We are not known for our long fuses, but then again, although we may look nothing alike, bits of our souls seem to be cut from the same cloth.  There are times when he smacks the cup out of my hands when I'm trying to hydrate just to see the look on my face, and there are times when I have to push him away because he is standing on the hem of my dress with his big foot while I'm trying to leave the room.
Not on purpose.
But sometimes on purpose.
And sometimes it's really caught on something else, but then I'm one who blames those in her heart first.

Don't make that face.  You are, too.

Somewhere in my mind, the thought of the brother God sent me from another family is stitched to the word "community."  We like to think of community as something out there, not something in here.  We say that we "work in the community," like it's a place and not the corners of our hearts stapled together... or "with the community," like we can work with ourselves.  Like you and me are not made of the same elements.  Like we could separate, even if we tried.  Like turning my back on you isn't turning my back on me which, as it turns out, looks a lot like circles.

Yes, I realize my rambling, but there is something to say about what has happened that has something to do with the way the world smells right now... something about the interchange between woman and man... something about what that has done to so many... something which needs to be laid plain:

There is that which obedience to God protects.  There is that which boundaries protect.

Somewhere in my heart there is a love letter to him, one in which I will explain what it feels like to know down deep that I am heard... that my voice is one which speaks... that what is spoken is heard through the filter of respect, a filter created because the voice is mine.  Through the mirror of his eyes, I saw parts of myself which were before invisible, parts which he still defends tirelessly, just as tirelessly as I defend his.  I will explain in that letter how it feels for the mirror to appear and call for my attention when I think that I may be invisible again... although I suspect that he may already know.  I hope that he does...

Somewhere in that letter will come this lesson:  Respect makes for love like this, love which doesn't need to go away and hide... all-inclusive love for life and for humanity which rejoices with the chance to read this letter to his wife, to her children, to their children... love which turns into service and fosters the development of others, of groups of others, of a family which comes in a billion different shades of love, love which stands in the sunlight and announces, "This is what community feels like.  This is what it feels like to be the human family."

It's what I mean when I ask, "Unite the hearts of Thy servants..."  
It's what I mean when I sing, "All are His servants, and all abide by His bidding."
It's what pumps in my heart when it beats, "We all come from God, and unto Him do we return."

I smiled when the phone rang.  She saw the picture of his brown face and the face of his daughter on the screen.  "Who's that?"
"My brother."

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

purple, turquoise, and yellow stitching

Dear Tomato Red Dress with the Purple, Turquoise, and Yellow Stitching,

You make me feel wistful.

Dress, I know that you don't remember, but I can still feel my fingers tugging through what I didn't know then were curls, pulling at knots the wind had created to smooth my unsmoothable tresses into a thick braid held together all day all by my corkscrew hair made screwier by Southern summertime humidity rendered nearly unbearable when coupled with my own nervous tension at the knowledge that the cool breeze now finding the back of my neck made the mole, also on the back of my neck, visible to the other students sitting behind me who would soon point out, oh-so-politely I'm sure, that I (snicker) had a tick (giggle) stuck to the back of my neck (guffaw).

Thanks. It's called a mole. But thanks, you know, for... noticing...

Dress, it was called "middle school." I always wondered what the "middle" was for... middle of what? Hell? Self-destruction? A hormonally-induced mad house? Why couldn't I play with dolls anymore, and why was playing outside getting so boring?

Dress, I was the eternal new kid, and I was alone until I suddenly found myself in the midst of writers and feelers and dreamers and crusaders. I flirted with the Beatles, long skirts in beautiful colors, exchanging notes in the hall with a boy who was a little shorter than me, and my first pair of heels, brown sandals which made me taller but didn't stop me from running. There was something magical about coffee and sleep-overs and laughing through class together.

Dress, I remember thinking that I could be happy, very happy, if only my nose was smaller and I didn't have to wear glasses. And if my hair would just be straight and orderly like the other girls.

Dress, I think I got lost sometime around the bra. The memory that steps forward when I ask my mind what the first one looked like is the raging embarrassment I felt when my mother pushed me into Victoria's Secret, and a woman with a measuring tape pushed me towards a drawer filled with the horribly uncomfortable things made of humiliatingly smooth lace and shine. My unfailingly delicate and feminine mother bought the Sprite bra, a satin number printed with lemons and limes. Teenage angst forced me to rage further against my mother, the measuring tape, the underwire, and the grave injustice of the system in general, but I modeled Sprite alone in the bathroom after the house went to sleep. I outgrew it much faster than I wanted to. It lived in my drawer unworn for years just because it was so delicate and feminine.

Delicate and feminine.

Dress, I don't know why exactly, but my skirts got lost in a sea of over-sized t-shirts and dragging jeans hems. My eyebrows grew. My skin exploded. My nose seemed of nearly epic proportions. I cut off my hair, determined to divide what I had failed to conquer. I worked very, very hard at disappearing. I tried very, very hard to pack all of my delicate and feminine into a box and put it in the attic. Delicate gets broken, and feminine appears to be conquerable. I was determined to yell, "Don't touch me," with my every step... with the way I held my shoulders. My voice was too afraid to come out when I was asked to sing solos.  Pictures from that period testify.  You could see how I kept my light covered.  How I watched it closely so that it never got big enough to see.  How I couldn't see how many of the point-and-laughers were fighting the very same battle.  How I couldn't see how impossibly hard the world conspires to be on girls at that age...

These days I wish that I could scoop myself at 15 up, wrap my arms around her, look her dead in the eye at 2 inches from her nose, and say,

"Stop it.
Stop trying to pretend that you're the smallest thing in the room.
Stop trying to go where you will have to fight to find yourself.
Stay away from the shadows.
You were created to sing to the sunshine."

Dress, I'd be wearing you because your tomato redness would be the only color for the armor of my fierce, fierce love for her just as God made her, your purple, turquoise, and yellow stitches the color of every bit of life that knitted together into flowers blooming just because.

Just because she was beautiful.
Just because she was beautiful.
Just because she was beautiful.

We would stretch our arms to the sun and twirl in circles until we fell down.


Friday, February 4, 2011

war paint

(I feel moved to mention that some of this gets a little graphic.  Please tread lightly, and hold your own hands.)

Yesterday I went out to buy some new war paint.  Inside this store with a billion colors and textures and lights and scents, I found the perfect shade of war paint.  It covered the places where my tired and stressed show and made my face smooth and ready for battle.  I also bought some stuff for the hairs that grow out of my head.  This stuff is supposed to make the curls bounce and shine.  Hopefully this will serve to further confuse the enemy.  I did this because I am a woman. 

I want to elaborate here, because part of being in this small room is that I can say what I want... what I seldom get the chance to speak aloud.  I love being a woman.  Everything about being a member of this gender makes me want to jump for joy.  I love war paint.  I love skirts.  I love colors and ruffles and flowers and the swirl of my hair.  I love my perfume so much that I have to fight the urge to drink it.  I love how strong my legs are, and I love the way that all of me curves.  I love that I dream of the scent of babies' heads.  I love communication and estrogen and friendship and nuturing and thongs and justice and brains wired to knit all of that together in a way incomprehensible to most of the men I know.  Men, I appreciate all that you are, but I thank God that He decided to make me a woman.

There is a story of womanhood stuck in my head. 

There is a story of a woman who was walking in the cool crispness of the night air recently, no doubt enjoying the way the breeze felt as it kissed her face.  She walked alone, leaving wherever she was before and using her long legs to carry her wherever she was going.  She was minding her own.  Perhaps it had been a long day, and this was the first taste of freedom after a long, hard grind of her own stone.  Perhaps her car was just up the block.  Perhaps the song in her head was sweet, and she was dancing a little inside, picturing a mug of hot tea and maybe a cookie or two while watching something that would make her laugh...

Three men pulled up in a car. 
One of them pulled out a gun. 
He pointed it at her and instructed her to get into the car.

Maybe she didn't think about how if she just sat down right where she was, she likely would survive.
Maybe she didn't think about how if she ran and screamed, someone likely would hear her.
Maybe she didn't think about how low-life peices of shit don't often shoot the gun they're aiming, that it's seldom loaded, that she could probably get away.
Maybe she reacted to the perfectly natural fear in her gut and not to the logic in her brain and got into the car.

She was raped by all three men and dumped on the side of the road.

This story haunts me.

I am haunted by this story when the wind blows too loudly outside my window, causing branches to move in the trees.  I am haunted by this story when I have to walk from a lit door to my car.  I am haunted by this story when a man walks around me from behind, even in plain daylight. 
This story chases me in my dreams... chases me while I think about my favorite walks in the moonlight... chases me when I think about my sisters and bedtime stories in nightgowns, all piled into a double bed and our travels and our hopes and our dreams... chases me when I think about my neices... chases me when I put on my bra... chases me

into the war paint store

and I'm so sick of being told that the smart thing to do is to not walk alone at night. 
The smart thing to do is to call someone to come and escort me... like my legs don't work, and I'm not smart enough to remember where I left my fucking car. 
The smart thing to do is to be vigilant.
I should remember that I am not free to enjoy my music in my headphones, my hair in a pony tail, solitude, and evening crispness at the same time.
I should remember that you and I do not live in the same world, that I can be as strong as I want and still not safe
that this story is chasing me
chasing me

Until I take a deep breath, turn around, and bid it to come on

Where I turn around and fly into its face with the fury of every woman on this earth whose breasts have ever been made darts for the idle fancies of the men around them...
the fury of every woman who has ever graduated from anything...
the fury of every mother who has ever watched her child hurt in any way and proceeded to seek and destroy...
the fury of every girl who was ever touched unwillingly...
the fury of every father who has ever sent his daughter out into the world and had to sit on his hands...
the fury of every bit of what should be strong and beautiful broken down to small and manageable...
the fury that happens when you attack what God told you to protect...

You see, there is a little part of me that wishes that you would sneak up on me in the night.  I have never made someone bleed.  I don't really want to bring that part of myself out because the rest of me wonders if that's what's called tempting fate... if I will really react like I did that time that bee flew into my face and I almost knocked myself out hitting the deck... but I'm going to let that little part speak. 

She needs the exercise. 
She needs to stay ready should danger ever actually come
(which makes me angrier still... why should I have to give harbour to Rage just in case I should ever need it?)
and she needs to speak...
out loud...
too many can't...
and this is a small room, but she




Somebody once told me that the violence won't stop until the attacker is afraid of what he is attacking.  I took a class where someone taught me to break bones and expect blood and scream from my guts.

I want you to walk up on me.
I want you to order me into the car.
And then I want you to try and get away.
I will come after you, and I won't stop and I won't show mercy and I won't pause and I won't hesitate.

Think through your decisions. 

I smear on war paint every morning, and the only thing I've got that can't be fixed is my self-respect.

And I keep hearing "Fathers be good to your daughters/ Daughters will love like you do..." and thinking,

"Who gives a shit in times like these?

Teach your daughter to say NO
Teach your daughter to run
Teach your daughter to scream
Teach your daughter what it feels like to break things with her hands
Teach your daughter to fall on her back and kick anything within reach
Teach your daughter to roll and to pin
Teach your daughter to hit a nose hard and from below so that it bleeds and then use that knee quickly… how to do it over and over and over
Teach your daughter that she is beautiful and powerful and worth protecting
Teach your daughter how

It is of the utmost importance that I add
Sister, I don't blame you.
I don't know what I would have done in your place, and there are no words for how sorry I am for your story... and I don't blame your father. 

I blame monsters. 
I blame monsters that I want to tear to shreds.
I blame a society that doesn't hold its boys enough.
I blame poverty and society and schools and entitlement and gangs and prisons and guns and ignorance and prejudice and history and disempowerment and fear and hate and blame.
I blame a society that taught me to seek protection instead of be protection.

It's what I remember when I put on my war paint.