Another wave hits the shore. It scrapes the sand and I think that perhaps it’s wanting to be home. My mother always used to tell me that sometimes somethings that are a part of something don’t feel at home in the comfort of familiarity. Behind my precariously hooded eyes I dream of a tide – a call for help as subtle as our lives. We are a pensive tongue around a pensive mouth. There is so much to learn from the water, so much to swim into, unfathomable depths waiting to be seeped into our skin. I always thought of the ocean as a home, not mine but for something larger than the bones I live off. The sunlight dances on its surface and I think it burns something living underneath because I swear I hear the ocean cry. But if the ocean is a home, why do the waves run away from it only to be swept back in. I look around the brooding, bitter sand I stand on, it imprints my feet against my will – an invasion of privacy. And I understand. What surrounds us is not a home, these passing ecosystems are our refuge. We are never at home but never not at home. Comfort drives our escape.

The water seems clearer now, the waves calmer. A sultry death of curiosity feigns a victory. We suffice in our pretense.

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I Don’t Want People to Talk About Me the Way They Talk about Dorothy Allison



I Don’t Want People to Talk About Me the Way They Talk about Dorothy Allison

Woman with crooked teeth

smashed one over another from an accident

causing neurotic self-awareness.


Woman whose belt loops have come undone

leaving dime size, holes

in the denim that does not fit,


because she could not afford better. Woman

with brown eyes that betray, translating silence into pain & act as a visual aid.

Woman with a bear


living inside of her still sleeping.

Woman with a fear of men

and loud, sudden noises described as jarring.


Shouts, hands slammed on desks.

Woman with a silver keychain

inherited after the death of her matriarch.


Woman with black roots

not yet devolved to gray

that splinter when she pulls apart.

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Heavy words, insinuations if you will
are left like baggage, there they are, on the back porch of my mind.
All of them lined up in order, not of appearance but importance.
Baffling renditions of memories held within their confines,
these ghostly memories cannot find their place in the now,
the new order of things.
They flutter instead, like confetti behind my eyes.
Wishing that I step back into the old way of being, they entice me.
Holding on to reality with intent is not the issue, the issue is-
how to grasp the invisible
with its gauze of insanity, making it my own,
living with it, entombed, my forced facade.
The skin I breathe in holds me, hostage.
How many times I have wanted to cut myself,
to be free of its stifling grasp.
Oh how is squishes my heart, crushing my lungs
This skin, too tight for a size small, too big for the ones I call my own.
We all lift its gapping flaps when it stretches we take solace,
but it lives on its own stretchy timetable, it has its rules, and its limits
Now I am sucked tight; I force feed myself to make room.
Room for the mistakes swallowed one by one,
room for the what could have been,
inhaled with the sharpest of cheese.
My throat grows tight, the gorge rising.
I panic, puke and then swallow.
My life has been about swallowing.
I know how to tuck the pills, food, sex, bullshit and bile behind my esophagus and I know how to keep that panthera of chaos satiated.
I eat. I swallow. I add.
Under cream, the screams are muffled.
Dancing with alcohol, the remembrances feel cinematic.
Walking with shame, only then am I an artist,
worth my weight in food, if not gold.

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I Don’t Want People to Talk About Me the Way They Talk about Dorothy Allison


City Lights

For Tony

We have moved from the city to the country. The sky is dark, black, blank on cloudy nights and bursting with the white-hot heat of a thousand other galaxies full of lovers and poets, philosophers trying to figure out what it all means, what we mean, while we stare back at them on those rare crystal clear nights when the sky from our backyard is like a drug. Never enough, always too much.

This star-filled field lies only twenty miles north of the city-the small, depressed, former coal town in which we made love, made a family, made a home. If you’ve never been to Scranton, you haven’t missed much- the rebirth that we all pretend is coming, that we all work so hard to conjure up-isn’t. Because Scranton is, what Scranton was. In her heyday, she was a bustling Anthracite coal empire- a place where the poor and the meek- immigrants from Italy, Poland, and Ireland mostly, came with their families to carve out a better life in the mines below. To hear the residents tell it, Scranton was a microcosm of the roaring 20’s. Those who had- the coal barons, lived in iconic mansions peppered along the city’s Greenridge section. Flat, green land- city lots the size of a New York City block, all for one family, and usually one Irish, Catholic family with five kids, a dog, and a Ford Model A in the drive. And then there were those who had not: the workers.

The workers spread to the four corners and built neighborhoods: Cayuga, Hyde Park, Tripps Park, The Marvin. They build roads, they build churches and bars, they built American foursquares for their families. The women walked the children to school, shopped at the corner grocery, and hung bed sheets from nylon lines in their small, square backyards. After the unions came, the mines paid a good wage, and most families could afford a car and a summer vacation to the Jersey Shore. Seaside Heights, Wildwood, Point Pleasant. If you went in July, chances are half of your neighborhood would be there already. The men would get pints of beer and sit on the beach breathing the fresh air from which they or their fathers came, an ocean away, a life above ground.

Theirs was a life spent burrowing into the earth like moles. Fathers, brothers, uncles, they all woke up in the dark often with last night’s whiskey still heavy on their breath, kissed their wives goodbye and descended. They did this day after day after day until the mines went dry or the black lung took them- which it did, often.

When the mines dried up, so did the work. Scranton struggled to find other industries to keep her afloat. But she was a town built by honest, hardworking brutes and sustained by those immigrant families who had chased a fleeting glimpse of prosperity. Many didn’t speak English, and if they did, they usually lacked a formal education. Scranton’s workforce was powerful and strong, but uneducated and unable to sustain any industry other than some small, seemingly secure factories that would pop up in the region, feed the population for a few decades before inevitably closing and sending its workers to the unemployment line.

The coal left almost seventy years ago, and some might argue with it-any chance Scranton had to become something more than her poor, immigrant roots. But there are signs of the city she once was everywhere. Scranton has been called the city built on toothpicks. And every year or so, we are reminded of that fact when the ground, once pregnant with anthracite riches, collapses in on itself-pulling with it-half a house, a person, a car, whatever it can into the earth’s cold, barren womb. The neighborhoods are still there, but they’re mostly rentals now- the school houses now converted to apartments for the senior citizens who were probably students in that same building sixty years earlier. The Roman Catholic churches, once packed to the brim every single Sunday morning, have been converted to non-denominational housing shelters, soup kitchens, day care facilities, or they sit empty-wearing only the occasional vandalism and housing a few spaced out teenagers looking for a place to drink or have sex. The corner bars are still there, the only thriving reminder of the past, present, and future of this hard-fought city.

When we leave the city-we are a young family with two babies and a young and still interesting marriage. We move our family 20 minutes “up 81,” and I feel a twinge of guilt for giving up because that’s what Scranton demands of her remaining citizens- that they remain and they fight to reclaim something. Although no one is really sure what. There was life in this city before the mines- a trolley, electricity, a record company even, but my family came later, and that history has been long overshadowed by the dirt and grime that was the mines. I’m not sure what to reclaim here, and I don’t know if anyone else knows.

We haven’t gone far- twenty miles north is nothing for a Scrantonian. Most of us leave, most of us go much farther. Most of us never come back.

The stars in our new back yard-free from city light, look like glitter sprinkled across the dark, cavernous fold of a thick, velvet nothingness. There are patterns, no not only those studied by astronomers centuries ago but patterns only we can see. There is a trapezoid, a rectangle, geometrical strands of some other being, some other time.

On nights when we can see clearly, we take a blanket, lie in the field on our backs, and watch the universe. We feel the warm air on our skin; we live above ground. Underneath us, there are ghosts of the men who built this area. They lift us up now, hold us close to the sky. Breathe, they whisper, breathe it all in.

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When I Climbed Trees

Eruptive Uncoupling

Mothers Intuition


We have a common enemy.
It is faceless. Animal. Instinctual.
It’s been hired, like a hitman,
by those who know it’s power.
It disguises itself,
hiding among our everyday lives.
It can appear as someone you envy
sitting too closely, or smiling too sweetly at your lover.
It can look like the justification
for your crimes and upturned noses.
It can can even look like love.

It’s the reason my sisters at salem were burned,
the reason radicals deem my kind abominations.
Why those seeking shelter from the horrors of their homeland
are gunned down at the border.
Unmatched in its ability
to bring out the dirty, scheming children in us.

The most unnerving part
is knowing that it is inside all of us.
Borne from those we’ve lost,
trusted too much.
Born from every single time we’ve held out our hands
and learned to draw back sooner at each touch.

Not the innocent smile of a stranger,
not your lovers,
not our neighbors.
Not even your anger.
Fear is our enemy

And fear is so afraid to be known
that it often wears a mask.

Mine hides in a need for control.
Constant schedules,
the comfort of knowing exactly when,
where, how or why.
The spitting image of ouroboros,
my need for control even tries to control itself.
Stemming from the fear
that anything less than a checkmate
will be the end of me.
Forgetting that my autonomy peaked
was when I was dislodged from my armory.
Stripped naked of my false power and splayed,
like a ragdoll to the flames.
Unhinging my grasp on a life and a love
that I could no longer control,
my strength was not the only thing I discovered.

There is no point in holding all of the cards
in a world that makes its own rules.
And I reminded myself
that birds could never soar freely
if we had any say in the wind.



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I Don’t Want People to Talk About Me the Way They Talk about Dorothy Allison


Senator John McCain: For the Greater Good

Arizona has had its share of elected officials who brought shame to the State in a national spotlight for years:

  • Convicted felon and openly racist Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
  • Mean-spirited Governor Jan Brewer who infamously shook her finger in President Obama’s face when he visited Arizona.
  • Impeached Governor Evan Mecham, who revoked the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day as a paid federal holiday causing Arizona to lose the 1993 Super Bowl.

And then there was Senator John McCain—a point of light and balance to the embarrassments of local politics.

This week, the nation mourns a true hero and patriot in both Arizona and Washington DC.

Almost everyone knows he was a North Vietnamese POW and that he served Arizona for over 30 years as an esteemed senator, with a maverick reputation for decisions on critical issues such as preserving the Affordable Care Act. I hold John McCain in the highest respect possible and here is one reason why that everyone does not know.

The father of one of my lifetime friends became terminally ill while living in Texas. She wanted her father to come home to Arizona and be cared for at the Phoenix VA Hospital during his final months. Just one call to the Senator’s Phoenix office set into motion bringing her father home to Arizona and at no expense to her family.

True heroes accomplish great things quietly with no expectation of notice or accolades. This story is but one of many illustrating why Senator McCain is not only recognized nationally but also became Arizona’s favored son.

Two women, from both Democrat and Republican political parties, won the Senate primary race in Arizona this week. Historically, after the November election, Arizona will now have its first woman senator. I pray that the winner will begin their senate term with dignity and accomplishment in honor of the man whose reputation will forever set the bar for a true statesman.

I’m an Arizona native, I write for Feminine Collective, and I honor the legacy of Senator John McCain. Sleep in heavenly peace.

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Miss Congeniality

Don’t Box Me In

How I Became a Citizen of the United States of America

Gin Fizzy

Smooth when your fingers run up my thighs
even if there are little callouses on the tips
The kiss of death from steel acoustic strings
butterfly wings as your eyes meet mine
our hearts beating out of tune
sadly it’s the last time
clashing with the whine of Sinatra
blaring through speaker phones
sweet nectar when your lips meet mine
It’s all bittersweet because I know we are out of time
It all feels like yesterday
our fantasies, only a creation of the heart
everything I never asked for
and the time we never got
You make saying goodbye a work of art
tears from laughter, summer’s sweat soaked bliss
only in my head these feelings exist,
as time goes on, the world moves on
the leaves wrinkle, and wither and fall to the floor
in my mind Im still caressing those the hot summer nights
although the butterflies have died long ago
a sting of pain as the doors close
and the bell chimes once more
if only it had all happened at the right time
I just asked for better hindsight
I close my eyes
right where our lips belong
Then I blink – I come to
come back
and the situation remains
the bell chimes
the sun shines
No longer by my side

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I Don’t Want People to Talk About Me the Way They Talk about Dorothy Allison


Miss Congeniality

Sundays I travel
it’s visiting day
time to see
my fair little friend
who lives in
a place of
maximum security
no chance
of parole.

Before she
I make stories up
in my head
of inmates here
on why and what
brought them
to a concrete
barbed wire home.

Young lovers
her boyfriend
her husband
who is he?
no touching here.
your hugs and kisses
outside where
don’t reach.

When my
sweet friend
walks in
so happy and true
I wonder if others
make up stories
about us, too?

Passing guards
and inmates
all greet their hellos
to an incarcerated
Miss Congeniality
as she smiles and
holds court.

We laugh hard
we talk fast
book reviews
and films.
She loves
The New York Times
and the
Golden State Warriors.
A few fleeting hours
of conversation
and happy.

And when it’s time
to say goodbye
there is yet a time
while driving home
that I don’t think
and revel
in the fact
that I am free.

We surely do
make our own choices.
She made hers
and I’m sad
I made mine
and I’m glad.
The rule of law
does demand

We aren’t so very different
my kind friend
and me
and I do love her so.
But the prison
wall chasm
runs deep and wide.
I’ve made a promise
oh, this one I’ll keep.
Here is one place
where I’ll never sleep.

Good bye for now
Miss Congeniality
be ever so good
and I’ll
see you
next week, yes
back in your hood.

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I Don’t Want People to Talk About Me the Way They Talk about Dorothy Allison


Ten Things to Know

There are ten beer bottles sitting on their – her kitchen counter. All of them were empty, lined up and she leaned her hip against the granite countertop as she spun a bottle. Her fingers danced around the spinning bottle on the dark grey countertop… the one they picked out together two years ago. She stopped the whirling bottle and threw all of them in the garbage can instead of the recycle bin. Mostly because the bin, was already filled with wine, beer, and vodka bottles.
She forgot to take the filled bin downstairs. She wasn’t really paying attention to it. Her mind was on other things.

“It’s better for the environment,” she slurred and staggered around the mess of papers and thrown clothes on the floor. The living room was a mess, but he is not here to yell at her.
So why the fuck should she care?

There are nine voicemails waiting for her when she wakes up the next morning…or afternoon.

“Lup? It’s Jaz. I just wanted to check up on you. Let me know how you are doing.”
“Lupita, it’s your sister. Why the hell are you not answering your phone? Or your emails? Or your texts? Or even your social media accounts? Call me back.”
“Yo. It’s Raven. Fuck him and let’s go to the boxing gym or a bar.”
“Miss. Castañón, it’s Professor Collins. I wanted to let you know that I received your email and I am sorry to hear that you got the flu over the weekend. I will have someone else take care of your classes for this week. Please let me know if there is anything else that I can do for you.”
“Hey hermana. I know everyone is calling to check up on you, but we are worried. It’s been a week. Please let one of us know if you are okay.”
“Guadalupe Elisa Castañón! Por que no estas contestando tu telefono? Tus hermanos y yo estamos preocupados.”
“Lupita, it’s Nathan. Your sister is freaking out, and you know when she freaks out, I freak out. I know you are hurting because of that jerk, but… just please call someone.”
“It’s Nathan again. Please call your sister. I am man enough to admit that she scares me especially when she is holding my kitchen knives and mumbling your name.”
“Hey… Lup. Look, I know you said that I shouldn’t call you anymore but… I just… I wanted to say I’m sorry for the way we ended things. You have every right to hate me but… please don’t go underground and pull away from everyone. They all love you so fucking much… and so do I. I’m sorry.”

She deletes all of them but the last one, and she sets her phone on the pillow next to her that still smells like wood and pine. She hits the speaker button.

“… They all love you so fucking much…and so do I. I’m sorry.”

His voice sounded strangled and broken like her heart. She listens to the message a few more times until she threw her phone to the floor.

He left her one week and one day ago. He packed up his stuff and just left.
I love her. It just happened.
This is for the best.
We aren’t right for each other.
She despises him. She loathes him.

Three years of dating. And those two years of dating went down the drain like their relationship was expired fish. They were just starting their lives with great jobs that might be able to pay off their student loans, and they were insanely happy.

Weren’t they?

She hates him. His side of the closet and drawers were empty, but the little hints of him were everywhere in the apartment. He is connected to this place, and she wants those pieces of him to vanish like magic.
She hates him. She hates that she still loves him more than she hates him.

She grabbed her phone and left a voicemail: “You love her, and she loves you. And I love you but when did you stop loving me?”

There are seven photos of them together on the mantle in the living room. She can’t bring herself to take them down.
One is at Leo and Luke’s wedding. She was wearing her purple lace dress, he in his dark tux with a purple tie, and they were looking into each other’s eyes.

Another of them on their first hike together, facing the beautiful lake in front of them. She remembered that she asked another couple to take several photos of them.

One from their first Thanksgiving with his family and another from first Christmas with her family. Another from his graduation in the Master’s program.

But the one in the middle was her favorite. It was a selfie he took the night they first moved in, and she was passed out from exhaustion. Strands of her hair over her face and mouth open a little, but he was kissing her cheek while looking at the camera. He had this secret smile on his lips. He told her he didn’t have a secret smile. It was his happy smile.
She stares at them for too long. The anger burned through her veins, flowing like molten lava with its heat. She erupted. She pushed the photos off the mantle and watched the glass shatter onto the floor. But it didn’t make her feel better.

Your kiss still lingers on my lips.

Six weeks go by without her noticing. But it doesn’t mean that others ignored it. She would wake up alone, eat breakfast, go for a run before work and after work, come home, eats dinner, and go to bed alone.
Week after week. It was the same routine. Always come home alone.

Sometimes on the weekends her siblings and friends will stop by, always loud and uninvited but it makes the apartment feel less lonely and less quiet.

“You have to snap out of this,” Nathan tells her one weekend. “It’s been six weeks.”
She rolls her eyes, “Nice to know that you’ve been keeping count.”
“I’m not. You are. You cross out the days since he left, Lup. You have to forget about him.”

She scoffed. “We’ve been together for three years, and he was the love of my life. What would you do if Stella cheated on you and left you for another man?” She hates that she feels righteous and vindictive when she notices Nathan go still at that thought. He didn’t say anything. “Now you understand.”

Later, after Nathan leaves her apartment, she grabs her phone and leaves a text:
I can’t stand you not loving me and loving her instead.

She sent him another text: Who was I before you?

We need to talk.

She stared the four words on her phone. Her heart was pounding hard in her chest, and her hands were shaking. After months of packing up and leaving her, he finally decides to message her back. Although, she was more surprised that he didn’t change his number.

Tomorrow? Three at Peets?

She had three cookies before he came through the coffee shop doors. She wasn’t proud of it. It was either gain more weight or lose sleep because of the caffeine.

She was an hour early, he was five minutes late.

He looked different but also the same. The same cliché leather jacket, white shirt, and denim jeans but he got a haircut.

“When did you stop loving me?”

He let out a tired sigh. “I don’t know. I loved our life, but I wasn’t happy, and it’s not really your fault.”

“Really? Seriously?” He noticed her tone and flinched back.

“I can’t give you the right answer, Larissa. We were together for three years and I…got bored, relentless, unhappy with my life…with you. It was nothing physical at first with Ch –”

“You had an emotional affair with her, and then, it became physical right?” He nodded his head. She let out a deep breath.

“I loved you…and I do want you to be happy.”

“Fuck you.”

Two weeks later, she sent him a box of the rest of his things that he left behind. His photos of his family and friends, extra socks, and everything from his workstation that she changed into hers. Everything in a box and closed for good.

One year later, he sent her a text saying that he is single and was wondering if she wanted to have a drink with him.
She responded: You can’t take me back because I have moved on.

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Eruptive Uncoupling

Crash Landing


20 drops per minute. Until the liquid turned vapor leaves a residue so intoxicatingly flammable, everything smells like risk. She said, let’s create a vessel. Let’s create an apparatus. Let’s slow the process, no need for this hemorrhage of light. We will dissolve, return, split, and form again, with greater intensity. We will not inherit the earth but return to the cosmos. Here you are, my eight-rayed star, my eye in the center of the universe. I will forever rock you in gentle waters.

But that you won’t.


To gut oneself of another.   But not completely. Is it possible to mean you differently?

One becomes two, two becomes three, and out of the third comes the one as the fourth.*

Here is the shadow of longing.

Here is the divine of lost.



* attributed to Mary the Prophetess

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I Don’t Want People to Talk About Me the Way They Talk about Dorothy Allison



moments like these make me
speak slowly
naked independence
a modern day David
salivating over a
million Bathshebas
naked temptation
the beauty of choice
play it Miles… play it man…
you drive the demons away
with your righteous
melodic breathing
play it brother… play it…
nakedness I mean
without clothes reveals
the glory of the universe…
the notions of good and evil
right now for me
exist between her thighs…
her legs are the spiritual highways
filled with dangerous slippery curves
and I risk becoming lost if I proceed…
so I pull back from my endless attraction
to self-destruction once again…
only to find her there
waiting for me,
smiling, lips and all…

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I Don’t Want People to Talk About Me the Way They Talk about Dorothy Allison


To the Ones Who Think Friendship is Easy

The concept of “friendship” is hard to define. But I’ll tell you one thing. It’s anything but easy.

Some do it right and cross that long bridge to meet a friend at the center so they can jump down into the ocean waiting below. Together.
Others do it wrong and dive right into the water. Both start and end the same way, but the foundation is missing in one.
And that foundation is what gives meaning to the term, friendship.

Friends are not something you just make and throw away the moment you get bored of them. They are not someone who you call up for entertainment but ignore when they need you. That’s not a friend. There’s another name for that.
A toy.
Or if you really want to be nice, an acquaintance.

To be friends means to be putting in effort.
This means when they are angry with you, you work to talk it out and solve the problem. This means that when you are angry with them, you tell them, instead of holding it in, waiting for all those little things to add up and go KABOOM, up in flames so that every little memory you had together is so obliterated, so marred by your fight that things will never be the same again.

I say this because you see, there was this girl. And she was my best friend, in a new school, a new world, and we dove right into it. No hesitation.

I was free falling into the water too soon, way too fast and it was too late for me to grab hold of the bridge, grab hold of her so that we could make that foundation.

It was only after we were in the water that I realized we had jumped straight into a riptide, and it was fighting to bring us both down under. But she decided to use me. Used me as though I was a piece of floating driftwood and pushed herself out of there, leaving me to be carried out further and further into the ocean until I couldn’t withstand the cold and the strength of the currents trying to bring me under and finally, my head dipped in and all was lost.

It started with her obsession with boys. There’s an unsaid girl code amongst friends. He’s her guy. You don’t try to take him from her.

Of course, that’s how the tension started. Cliché, I know. It’s always boys. But jealousy is jealousy, and it fills your mind and blinds you just like how water fills your nose and fills your lungs until all you can think about is the stinging of your nose and the suffocating pressure of the water filling you, filling you until you’re so heavy and so consumed that you sink. That was my mind and all I could see when I saw her. I didn’t like her using me to get closer to him, and I didn’t like how she was slowly pulling him away from me and the fact that she was successful. She wouldn’t just take herself away from me; she’d take him along with her.

Later, it wasn’t just him that made me so angry with her. I confronted her. I asked her,
“Do you like him?”

“No! Of course not! I could never like him!”
She said it while smiling and laughing, rolling her eyes as though the idea was absurd.

I found out the following week she had confessed to him.

But I never confronted her about it. About her lies. I didn’t realize how much they would pile up.

I stayed silent every time she would ditch me to go hang out with her guy friends, or every time she “forgot” about a project we had to work on so I’d be forced to stay up till three so that we could finish our presentations. I pretended not to know when the things I told her in confidence, things close to my heart, were left by her for the world to know.

But I chose to swallow down every little incident, like gulping down water instead of air, as she would make me laugh and smile and introduce me to new people. The fun I had around her would replace air with water, and at first, I was fine with that. But slowly, that feeling of suffocation would grow, so gradually that even I didn’t notice at first.

I wouldn’t confront her every single time she lied to me, said something that made me uncomfortable or insecure about myself. Let them all pile up until the day was reached where all went KABOOM, all up in flames.

And that was that. We were done for. And our friendship never was the same again.

I was drowning by myself, watching bitterly as she laughed with her new friends, anger causing me to shut out those who tried to pull me out of the water.

But what I didn’t know, was her heart. What was going on with her and how, in her mind, I was the one who left when she most desperately needed me.

You see, there is a debilitating disorder called monophobia. And it comes hand in hand with depression. She hated being alone. Despised it. Dreaded it. Feared it.

A second left alone, and it was like in that vast sea she was impossibly lonely, the cold sucking away the warmth of human touch, her muffled hearing making the world suffocatingly quiet as the briny water stung her eyes, blurring the world out of focus. And in that second she had to get away, as quick and as fast as she could. She needed someone, anyone to reach out her hand to her and lend her the warmth she thrived on. Her anxiety was growing by the second, and she could feel it about to tear out from her skin, start to stiffen her limbs like a cramp, forbidding her to move. But she forced it down, drawing up that white wall of sound to block out her thoughts and kicked.
Three times until she felt a pop as water rushed out of her ears, sunlight kissed her skin once more, shining through her closed lids. It was only then that she realized she had left me behind. She came back, looking for me, pushing through her nightmares of water to find me only to realize I was no longer there.

Her deceptions were ultimately what would lead to her demise, and she knew it. But she wouldn’t change a thing.

Admitting to her lies would only lead to a loss of “friends” and ultimately, that meant being alone. And being alone meant the shadows would start dancing around her slowly leaching out what kept her so bright. And if that light was extinguished, she would cease to be the sunny person she wanted everyone to see her be.
And should everyone see what she was like once the flattering radiance had left well, she didn’t even want to think about it.

And so she left her good friend behind in the riptide and chose to save herself. And survive she did.

A new BFF, a new circle of friends, and the same luminous quality she had to herself would bring people to her, widening that circle of friends so that not a second would go by where she was alone.

And like moths to a burning flame, she would burn through all of them to feed her light until it was her. The Riptide. The water that swallowed me up whole.

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Miss Congeniality

Question of the Green Light Infidelity: An Epistolary Essay

Going to the Chapel

When I Climbed Trees

When I was a girl, the worst thing I could imagine was being alone
yet, here I am, sweeping through each day without benevolent counsel
and making it—
waking up to find these people are my people, unaided
and I haven’t an ear to bend when I am unsure or afraid.
I climbed that palm as a girl, at the end of our drive and watched—
branches frail beneath my muddled frame, overlooking
our little gray house, jalousie windows seeping secrets;
mother asleep inside, in broad daylight
because mothers do this, I think—
sleep away the day because the night whispers villainous things
to them. Maybe she spent all night watching my cot, but I knew
that wasn’t true because the night whispered to me, too—
I saw stars in the night that flashed signals at me
a girl, aghast at the thought of being alone without realizing
she was very alone already.
When children speak to me, I must silence my mind and listen
in a way that no one did for me—
so they don’t go on believing that the worst thing is singularity
when the worst thing is that child’s mind unmindfully in a tree.

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I Don’t Want People to Talk About Me the Way They Talk about Dorothy Allison



We raise our hands at the sound of the gun. We stand still waiting to be called on, but the race has already begun.

Time ticks slowly, as we stare down the clock. Uncomfortably squirming, biting our lips and keeping them locked.

It’s polite to be quiet and to wait your turn, even when we’re watching our city quite literally burn.

The scars are apparent, and hearts are bleeding out loud. They ignore us, and instead, feed their bullshit to the crowd.

We are desperate for change, how can you not see? But they are desperate to prosper, even if it means extinguishing the fire that once lit up inside of me.

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I Don’t Want People to Talk About Me the Way They Talk about Dorothy Allison


The Fate Of The Overly Optimistic Mother

When I was in college, I found a dreamy study abroad program. Sadly, my college budget didn’t support a trip to Prague, Vienna, Budapest, and Munich even if I stretched my ramen noodle rations. However, a couple of decades later, I was finally going to see the cities I had longed to see. And, even better, I was going to get to see them with my 13-year-old daughter.

Airfare booked, train tickets purchased, housing secured, guidebooks read, and it was finally happening. We had arrived!

I watched her sleep across a couple of grimy seats as we rolled through the Czech Republic on a train. She was hunched over her backpack using it as a hard pillow with her long legs splayed out into the aisle. Neither of us could sleep on the plane the night before when we desperately needed to. I was too revved up and excited. She was simply a teenaged night owl. Even so, I could hardly wait for the adventure that lie ahead.

I woke her up just before the train arrived in Prague. “We’re here,” I whispered. She gathered her things and sleepily walked down the aisle and off the train with me. As we walked away, I looked around and realized we had gotten off at the wrong stop. There was no one around and no actual train station. We were clearly not in downtown Prague.

“Crap!” I laughed. “We got off on the wrong stop. Run, sweetie! We have to get back on that train!” We ran as fast as our tired bodies could run and got on a random car just as the train began to move. A muzzled dog growled viciously and lunged at us as we stepped on. Two agitated owners pulled the dog back and stared at us. There were no seats on this car, just bikes lined up on racks, luggage, and our sweet greeters speaking in a language I couldn’t understand. I began laughing again. “Can you believe we made it back on? We’re so lucky!”
“Are we really lucky?” my daughter snarked while glaring through tired eyes at the dog owners and their muzzled protector.

I knew this trip wasn’t my daughter’s dream vacation. Especially now when the siren song of social media calls to her every moment of every waking hour. And, here she stood without a connection to her virtual world or her friends. I remembered being her age and never tiring of my friends…and rarely enjoying my family. However, I was confident that once she got a full night’s sleep, saw some amazing places, tasted new and exciting foods, and interacted with locals, she would realize this was a dream vacation. I was sure of it. How could she not? She didn’t.

As I danced with Hari Krishnas parading through the cobblestoned streets of Prague with their finger symbols chiming to the rhythm of their songs, my daughter asked, “Can we go now? I wanna try to find something decent to eat.”

As I dipped my toes into the soothing waters of the Szechenyi thermal baths in Budapest, I admired the neo-Baroque architecture of the buildings and said, “Can you believe people have been swimming in this beautiful place for almost 150 years?” My daughter sized up the pools with her arms crossed over her chest and decided she was more concerned about the number of people who had peed in the soothing waters for almost 150 years.

When it down poured rain in Munich, and we suddenly dodged into an Andy Warhol and Cadillac car exhibit to get dry, the scowl on her face embarrassed me. I recognized it was not the outdoor park experience we had planned, but when was the last time we got to sit in a car that sells for €159,000 or create Andy Warhol style photographs of ourselves? Cool, right? She didn’t agree. She couldn’t get past her disappointment or get warm in her rain saturated clothes.

I tried with all my might to shift her perspective and show her how fun this vacation could be if she would just be a little more optimistic. Mostly, she would not succumb to my efforts. However, when we witnessed a little old lady with a walker set-off a security alarm as she walked by a sex toy store near our bus stop in Vienna, she did belly laugh when I quietly asked, “What do you think she was doing in there to trip those alarms?”

Since feeling frustrated and disappointed wasn’t helping me have a good vacation, I decided to shift my thinking from how can I help her be more optimistic, to how can her pessimism help me grow? This way of thinking was all I had going for me. I was depleted and seriously hot in Budapest. I didn’t know how it could be done, but I decided to try to meld our outlooks instead of only trying to change hers. Perhaps looking through her lens could help me come down from the clouds and keep my feet firmly planted on the ground? Perhaps my upbeat personality could help her seize a bit more adventure and laughter?

I took an honest look down our vacation memory lane. I recognized that when I celebrated the fact that I could negotiate with a very young non-English speaking man to move to another bunk in a different sleeping cabin on our overnight train using only hand gestures so that my daughter and I could sleep in the same car, maybe there was more stress involved in that interaction than I allowed myself to recognize. As the train porter yelled at me for “getting wrong ticket,” my daughter did have her hand on my back trying to stay safe and close. Yes, my negotiation skills were spot on and I owned that train car for a moment, but it was not all glorious. It was not all fun. Most of our late-night ordeal was quite scary.

When our German-speaking taxi driver’s phone rang in Vienna, and we realized his ringtone was Bohemian Rhapsody, we laughed and sang along with him like we all knew each other and spoke the same language. There was an honest connection in our taxi that crossed cultures and continents. When that same taxi driver charged me an insane rate for our short ride, his smile got a little creepier, our laughter faded, and I realized I’d been duped in the language of our beloved Freddy Mercury.

Our vacation encompassed intricately designed cathedrals and buildings still crumbling from previous wars. Breathtaking palaces and concentration camps. But, isn’t that how life goes? Perhaps if I could have seen these things before removing my rose-colored glasses, we would have enjoyed each other more.

I’m learning a lot from my girl. And, I think she’s learning from me, too.

“It was amazing!” she exclaimed as she talked to her friends from the back seat of my car upon our return. I cringed when I heard her words. Was she kidding? Then I realized that it was amazing. Not perfect. Not always lovely. Not exactly the trip I’d envisioned in college, but absolutely an amazing adventure.

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When the Bomb Sounds

Center Of A Storm

when joy is trapped in forced levity: a beat poem


We spent that first summer together
hiking and camping, pitching our tent
on the smooth ground, gathering wood
for our evening fire. We drank beer
chilled in the stream, hiked ten
miles each day. I knew you camped
with her six months before, hiked
deep into the woods, packs on your backs,
ate by the campfire, fucked under
the full moon. You mentioned only
the hike, made vague references
to camping in this same area. You didn’t
need to speak her name to breathe her
into existence. She clung to your back-
pack, still darkened your skin like a tan-line.
All summer she haunted us, the ghost
story told by the campfire, her shadow
dancing in the smoke.


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I Don’t Want People to Talk About Me the Way They Talk about Dorothy Allison


Question of the Green Light Infidelity: An Epistolary Essay

Dear Slightly Self-Conscious Self,

I am about to present you with a tale of juvenile hilarity and intrigue. Feel free to read this whenever your life’s sunlight begins to dim a few shades darker than usual. Although this is your first attempt at an epistolary essay, it is not your first attempt at amateur journalism. If anything, it is a documentation of the senses when caught in a state of mind that is much too peculiar to describe, let alone pinpoint it on parchment. It is a brief, but detailed recollection of a series of moments witnessed by your pair of curious eyes, as well as numerous others surrounding you. It is an icebreaker that can lead to multiple possibilities, as well as multiple outcomes. Decide for yourself, Dearest Reader.

A relationship ended on the road this evening. In the plainest and simplest terms, that is what I saw through my seventeen-year-old windshield. Let me premise this with the following: I despise automotive vehicles with a passion. I loathe driving as equally as I loathe assuming the role of a passenger in one. I often reminisce about my preferences for public transportation, i.e., a train and, hypocritically speaking, a bus.

On this slightly drizzling Wednesday night, I was driving from a work-related meeting to meet my father for an early dinner. Since my favorite half of the year began with Daylight Savings Time last Saturday night, I have been basking in the joyous wonderment of darkness welcoming the night an hour earlier. Darkness feels more peaceful to me. The goths of the world will know exactly what I am referring to. I did not have a clear mind when this unexpected cinematic encounter occurred. I already had a menagerie of thoughts swimming in the torrential water beneath my chaotic motel mind, for I seldom (let alone never) think about one solitary thought. It is during this event that reaffirmed my automotive vendetta. It is not so much the contraptions themselves, but rather, the people inside them. Certain individuals still have yet to realize that vehicles are two-eight-ton death machines. My misanthropy flared a tad at the mere pondering of this. Though it is wasted energy, one cannot help but feel disgusted when a reckless driver treats the various roads like they are his or her own personal video game, minus beating prostitutes to death with a splintered baseball bat. Thank you very much, creators of Grand Theft Auto, for influencing the easily swayed and impressionable.

At a particularly busy intersection where the light is green for eight nanoseconds and the light is red for eight years, the unthinkable happened to me and the surrounding rush-hour drivers who were anxious to arrive at their abodes. An ivory van that sat diagonal to the left of me opened its passenger door. An emotionally disturbed couple were having a heated and non-domestic squabble that was obviously going nowhere. The couple consisted of two disheveled miscreants: the passenger, a man who looks like he recently exited the four-year prison sentence that is high school, and in the driver’s seat, a woman who looked five to ten years older than him. Let us call the woman ‘Jive Turkey #1’ and the man ‘Jive Turkey #2’. I would have called them ‘Guilty Party Victim’ and ‘Guilty Party Perpetrator,’ but let us avoid the perplexed philosophy. I am sure they both have splendid names, but who in the blazes cares at this point? On the road, an individual is nothing but a schmuck to me. Harsh? Oh, yes. Still, one cannot help but wonder. I entered this situation unbiased, and unless I had the opportunity to obtain any information, that is how I was going to exit it. Jive Turkey #2 was quite thin, so thin that the faceless Slender Man would take one look at him and feel extremely self-conscious about himself.

Aside from listening to fragments of the argument, which was possibly their last, I needed no conclusive evidence to prove that this relationship was about to come to a screeching halt…in a multitude of ways. As tragic as the entirety of this calamity was, the rapid minutes that followed contained the finest quality of amusement, though ‘amusement’ might be an understatement. I began to speculate that there might have been infidelity afoot, judging by the actions taken. Jive Turkey #1 pushed Jive Turkey #2 out of the vehicle, though he tried with all his might to stay inside, what with the current weather conditions and the ever-growing congested line of rush hour drivers. This predicament was obviously too much for him to handle. Just then, something happened that put the odds against him more so than ever: the stoplight turned green. The look on his face switched from annoyed to sheer terror. The lovely and radiant Ms. Jive Turkey #1 took the action that any rational human being would take in this situation: she began to drive…slowly, at first but picked up speed within seconds.

The army of moronic drivers behind her honked their horns with fury. Blast loudly, O’ Automobile Trumpets! I wanted to join in the merriment and be horny (pun most definitely intended), but because my vehicle is in a constant state of deterioration and the horn does not function, that was not possible. As she drove with this blank stone face, he held on to the door handle for dear life, with his seemingly lower half of the body dragging itself on the uneven pavement. Picture, if you will, someone flying like Superman, but everything below the waist is moving like rubber. Finally, he let himself go, whether he was fully aware of his fate or not. To reach the other side of the road to salvation, he was now required to deal with one too many pairs of evil eyes glowing in the dusk-to-night setting, mine included. It was nothing personal against him or his former significant other, for I was nothing but a fascinated and increasingly amused and entertained social observer. My dislike for people in vehicles rose that evening, considering I disliked this couple no more than I disliked virtually every other driver. Cynical and misanthropic, you might think? Absolutely. However, it has kept me alive and well for just over a decade. I encourage this public mantra to every person out there: trust no driver but yourself. It has worked for me quite well.

Anyhow, from my rearview mirror, I saw the deeply disturbed Jive Turkey #2 cross the street with a surprisingly minimal amount of trouble. Jive Turkey #1, on the other hand, sped away into the ether of madness. She left him stranded. For his sake, I sincerely hope he knows the area well, with or without nocturnal vision. As I pulled in to my destination, I hypothesized about three possible distinct scenarios. First, Jive Turkey #2, a man of very little brains, committed the inhuman act of infidelity or an equally greater action. Everyone has different circumstances when it comes to infidelity, but it is still inhuman. Secondly, Jive Turkey #1 was absolutely psychotic. Finally, the relationship was entirely too toxic and that was the way to sever all ties between them. I thought of so many more, but why go through each detail on paper when the rawness in the mind is bittersweet on its own? Perhaps they were not in a relationship at all and they were related in some twisted and demented way. I have made my opinionated conclusion on the matter. Feel free to manifest your own.

A minuscule part of me thought of pulling over to the side to assist Jive Turkey #2 in some way, but while I do not have the gift of precise intuition, I sensed that it would not be wise of me to be involved in the fresh aftermath of this rigmarole.

So, there you have it, Slightly Self-Conscious Self. When you feel that your life has burdened you with misfortune and turmoil, read this and may your troubles instantly dissipate.

Most Sincerely,

Your Insignificant Holder of the Pen

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To the Ones Who Think Friendship is Easy


A Letter to the Mistress, Who Invaded My Marriage

Shelf Life

Do what you want with me
Run fast and hard
or slow and steady
I will be keeping father time so that you might forget
Then you won’t have to furiously count the seconds but marvel at the now
Leave the stars and galaxies in the sky not under the ground
Don’t grit your teeth, don’t try to understand
You are this precise moment walking parallel lines
Alongside father time and Mother Earth
Precious and unforgiving
so live it well with lots of love and laughter
Don’t worry too much about others
All that stuff that weights you down
Let the tears drip drop
Let them cascade down your cheeks when you are overwhelmed
Falling onto the outstretched hands of your most precious
All the familiar and bizarre funny faces
The magnetic pull of a desire and loneliness
The human connection
Of loved ones and kind strangers you’ll meet
There’s no shame in needing to belong
when strife and sadness fill your body with lead poison
The past has already come and long gone
don’t worry too much, little darlin’
Don’t fret
Close your eyes and sit with the sad silence instead
It’s just a life, just the one
Where you shoot down the birthing canal with a freewheeling, floating, cone shaped, joker’s head
Carrying smoke signals down the neck
Into veins and muscles and cracking bones
It’s yours though for a brief minute
This bizarre and curious and spiteful and hysterical life
Infinite Jest
When happy returns and sneaks up on you disguised as tasty, magic memories
Be ready
In guaranteed good time you’ll find a hint of a smile behind a teary eye
Again and again
Emotions don’t exist on a timetable
May the lessons and the love fill your heart, and freeze frame your mind
Stalled inside the golden hour of a breath
We are nature’s purest beauty
May the sunshine warm your bones
Might you find solace and grace in the changing seasons
Age is not a dirty word but wise,
Joy and pain intertwined
Yours was a fortuitous birth my friend
You are the grand mystery
I’m so glad we got to walk this place in tandem
This good earth
Together for only a short while, a blip really
There are so many of us zigzagging our way through the maze
Uniquely different
So many shapes, colors and sizes
Wanderers, leaders, and listeners
Infants not so long ago
We are journeymen
Travelers passing through
Where we’re going remains buried in the dirt and sandstorms
Inside ancient pyramids and dinosaur whispers
Oh, how I truly hope we’ll meet my again
Or not
This I cannot say
But surely I won’t forget, missing the mayhem as I exhale the last breath
Grateful and goodbye
Once upon a time
Weightless and free from counting the seconds
Homeward bound
I dream of a new and improved dimension
Extinct of hate, poverty, judgment and the ugliness we leave behind
To no longer be tied to time
To no longer be tied to time
So it goes
Until then forge ahead
Father Time has not come to collect his debt just yet
Lovely, complicated persons live well
Not fearful or angry
Live very well
Live a good life
Fill it with purpose
You are happening now
One second closer to death
That’s the magic, isn’t it?
How we spend ours
The time of you and me
100, 800 Heartbeats in a day
Counting backwards


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I Don’t Want People to Talk About Me the Way They Talk about Dorothy Allison


Cancer Season

I felt it as the first wave crashed upon me-
the water percolating on my skin
forming dews, resting around my chest.
I felt it as it drowned my throat
and I wished that it would drown me too.
But since the summer of 2016, I have learnt how to swim
in prolonged tides, in deep water, in a tsunami
in a hurricane.

hues from my last depression, an
ultraviolet, blinding ambiance that demolished my vision,
renewed my sense of self apathy.
restless, rising, roaring – I thought I understood myself better.
in the coming of winter
curtains closed, a new dead end
another new path to take. I was awake all-night crying.
November hit with a tidal shock and now June
ensues another scar.

I am body italic
there aren’t enough pieces left of me to rebuild
this calamity demolished my demeanor-
am I a new person now
or am I digging back into my roots to start anew?

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I Don’t Want People to Talk About Me the Way They Talk about Dorothy Allison


The Truths We Keep Hidden

Barefoot, I stood on the edge of the bluff, leaning out towards the great Pacific Ocean. The wind – dry and hot against my face – tethered me to the land. I stood in awe, surrounded by the beauty of the madrone tree. A sacred tree, revered for the strength of her roots, these roots that braid the whole wide world together. My gaze traveled up to see her gnarly, scarred body thrust out over the ocean, like a flower’s blooms stretching toward the sunlight. Full of shiny, dark leaves in the summer day, the madrone’s bark curled away from her trunk in terracotta spirals to reveal the fragile, smooth, pale-green surface beneath.

This thespian of mother nature’s stage. A tragedy? A triumph? A comedy? A love story? Perhaps all woven together in a mystery to behold.

If ever a tree was like a mother, the madrone is it. Rooted in strong, even on these rocky paths, she drinks from deep within the land. Sustenance coils through her veins, into each layer of her trunk out through her branches. In these arms she shields birds and provides homes for critters, all while standing fierce. She nourishes others with her berries, her perfumed flowers. Even her bark is said to have healing properties, her very own mother’s milk.

I wanted to speak to the madrone, one mother to another. So, I placed my bare feet against the warm, rocky ground beside her. I willed her language to flow through the intricate, web-like tunnels of her roots to me. I longed to know if her motherhood secrets were similar to mine. Or if she knew all the magic that eluded me. I hoped her knowledge could guide me towards understanding.

Where did this mother tree draw her patience from to grow during storms and drought, or while tiny wood borers fed to destroy her? How did she keep her temper in check when deer gnawed on her leaves? Where did she learn such quiet strength against larger trees that rise above her and snuff out her life source? And are the rings surrounding her trunk made up of graceful self-confidence or has her heartwood – the part of her that, even though dead, is her strongest support – succumbed to the disease of self-doubt? Is she like me, hiding truths, afraid of what exposing them will do, all the while knowing that to cover them up might cause a wound far worse?

As I studied her, I wondered, wishing I could see our secrets reflected in each other.

To survive, a tree must reach toward the light, but the madrone goes beyond mere reaching. These beauties, some monstrously shaped, like hands riddled with arthritis, are magnificent. She contorts her body toward light. Her uniqueness developed over years of battle. This fierce warrior will even sacrifice entire limbs to stay alive.

And how much it must have pained her to grow like this? Because in magnificence, there too lies pain. Like the stretch and growth of my body to make room for fetuses, the production of fat to feed my babies, even my ribs expanded during pregnancy, never to return to their origin.

Give madrone the rocky soil, void of many nutrients and she will thrive, like many a mother will in harsh conditions. But I want to know, is she really clinging to the shore in strength? Or trying to fling herself off the cliff to be taken away on the waves?

Is she silently crying out for help, too afraid to voice it aloud? Like me?

Her truest voice is materialized in summer as she sheds her bark. Pieces of her own body peeled away from her center. At first, it appeared both beautiful and magical, too breathtaking to witness. But the longer I stared, it felt more mysterious than that. When a tree sheds her bark, is she sloughing off the dead skin? Or weeping out her pain, her confusion, her regrets?

I felt as though I could hear her cries of anguish, scream by scream as parts of her body carved off, one mother to another. All these things we don’t say. Isn’t it enough that a tree must shed her leaves every year, must watch as they dry up and crumble off, so that other parts of her can thrive? And yet this tree also purges off her skin.

I wanted to mimic her, to learn how she fought these battles and still appeared fierce. My aching, exhausted body is her face beating back the storm. My desire to be a good mother reaches like her trunk toward the light, over and around other trees and obstacles, bending, stretching, no matter the painful path. My exhaustion and fear become her battle against disease. All my other selves lost to motherhood and the grief of those, curl away with her silent peeling bark. Our silent tears fall together into the ocean below.

Does she tuck away her questions and secrets in the darkness of her roots? All that is hidden in the complex relationship between roots and soil. Maybe these paths that no one sees house the anguish and loneliness from her inner conflict, what it feels like to both give nourishment, and have it taken from you, sometimes in the same motion, joy and pain twined together like new branches growing out of old ones.

Do we, as mothers deliberately push all our pain down like this?Perhaps we hope that they compost into minerals and vitamins to feed us in our darkest times, a mother’s strength.

I came to seek answers, to witness her truths. The truth is that nothing beautiful is simple. A tree’s heartwood might be dead, literally, but it is also her centering core. Beauty is made up of our scars and faults as well as our courage and confidence.

We are not so different, the madrone and I, pretending confidence while our roots soak up our failures. I hear her cries. I will keep her secrets and she will keep mine, and we will continue on in this drama. Closing my eyes for one last moment, I soak up the sun’s warmth and then I put on my mask, walk back into this masquerade ball of motherhood and away from the madrone, uncertain if this connection of loneliness has made me feel better or not.

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I Don’t Want People to Talk About Me the Way They Talk about Dorothy Allison

When I Was Young

Mothers Intuition


I want so much to serve
with this magic you have given me
these words that will reveal
how much we have done
how much we have learned

from the men who have led us
in their games of violence
they didn’t know any better
I have felt the seduction
free us now and give us a chance
to survive
for they don’t know what they are doing

and someone will have to lead them
give me the courage
to do my part


Photo @Julie Anderson All Rights Reserved

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I Don’t Want People to Talk About Me the Way They Talk about Dorothy Allison



First prey then predator, princess from plague
of corpses, rats — white cross/black rain. Wood rot,
footsteps in smoke, cadavers diseased, grave
resolution to starve, bereaved. You sought
rodents, stumbled on cries, found slovenly,
cerulean eyes. Child devoted to
a corpse. Awaken death, her prayers without
remorse. Each aches for arms tragedy withdrew —
imbued paternity, their bond devout.
Resolve to keep her safe in hand, but she
is something you don’t understand — aware,
an animal who shed her baby teeth;
Her curls hide monster underneath — a snare.
Her thirst for life is selfish, childlike, new.
She seeks the beauty of the beast in you.

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I Don’t Want People to Talk About Me the Way They Talk about Dorothy Allison


Eruptive Uncoupling

At Temple Bar with T, discussing experiences. She looked out the window, not meeting my gaze. Turning her cocktail on its napkin. She told me her roommate had shown her a profile picture on a gay website of someone they thought looked like my husband, Robert. Barrel chest and a blond beard. Enough of the man’s torso and face above the penis was in the picture to recognize him or at least make them wonder.

“Is that happening?” she asked.

My heart landed in the pit of my stomach with an almost audible thud.

I remembered a conversation with Robert from the day before yesterday as I sat cross-legged on our bed. He stood in the doorway to the closet, inching toward the door. We were discussing his upcoming tryst with a woman he met online. He had a date planned to meet her at a bar. Her husband would be there, also.

“So her husband is coming, too?” I queried.

“Yeah, I guess they check out her partners together first,” he responded uneasily.

“Does the husband join in? Is this going to be a threesome?” I pushed.

“I don’t know, actually,” Robert admitted, shifting his weight from foot to foot.

“What if he does? What are you going to do?” I asked, an edge of panic tinging inside my head. “Are you okay with that?”

Please say no, please say you’ll walk away if her husband wants to touch you. Please, please draw that line, I begged internally, my stomach knotted. Please just want the woman.

“Oh, well you know, it doesn’t matter who’s down there if you close your eyes,” Robert blushed bright red, waving his hand at me as he turned and fled into his office and shut the door. I didn’t have the courage to follow, sat glued to the bed, paralyzed by what his evasiveness might mean.

I watched T’s expression in the reflection of the bar window as she gazed solemnly out at the dark street, avoiding eye contact with me. I could hardly breathe, knowing in my gut it was Robert. He was on gay websites. Behind my back. After all my asking. How many times had I opened the door to that conversation? How many times had I said the words, offering him the opportunity to be honest, to tell me his truth, to break me gently? He knew how my father’s betrayal of my mother had ransacked my family. The one lie I couldn’t handle, the thing that would destroy me, the one thing that would end us. He had to know that.

“I don’t know if he’s doing that or not,” I shrugged and downed my Salty Dog. “I better get home for dinner.”

My heart thudded in my chest as I drove. My heart was the only thing I could hear. I moved through the house, numb. Dinner made it to the table, the kids chattered around me, ate and dispersed, as if in a dream once removed. I stood at the kitchen sink, hands in hot, soapy dishwater. Robert sat at the table, watching.

“T said they saw someone who looks like you on a website her roommate cruises,” I ventured carefully. “Was it you?”

Robert knew T’s roommate was gay; he understood the implication.

“Ahhhh… I don’t know. What site?” he shrugged, feigning nonchalance.
I held his gaze a moment.

“I don’t know which one,” I turned away to wipe down the counters.

Well, that wasn’t a no. Again, I didn’t have the courage to ask the follow-up question. The next question could only be what gay websites are you on? I couldn’t ask about it. Silence pounded. Robert vanished into his office.

Later still, kids asleep, Robert and I carefully crawled into bed on our respective sides, the same sides we had slept on for twenty-two years as if a motion trigger bomb sat in the middle of the mattress. I lay on the edge of the bed with my back to Robert, body tense in the darkened room, only filtered moonlight gleamed off the brass bedposts.

“Was it you?” I whispered.

“Yes,” he answered.

As if controlled by an outside force, my body whirled around, my right hand raised and smacked Robert as hard as possible in the face. He didn’t see it coming in the dark. When I came back to my body, the screaming had already started. I re-entered myself, mid-shriek. Screams from my lungs, my words hurled through the room.

“You’re fucking gay? You lied, you lied, YOU LIED! HOW DARE YOU LIE TO ME ABOUT THAT? I want a divorce. I want my twenty years back,” I howled.

I was up, we were up, grabbing for robes. Lights on, twenty years of rejection, confusion, and fear spewed out in uncontrolled ten-decibel rage. Twenty years of being shut out, of timidly knocking on the door to his heart, to his body, denied access. Twenty years of asking, of questioning myself, of wondering what was wrong, what was wrong with me. How could he do this to me?

I had snapped. My mind was blank. I hardly knew what was spewing out of my mouth.

The kids were up, seventeen-year-old Jane stood between us. “There are children in the house!” she yelled, not counting herself. Brutus, the Yorkie-poo, ran around the room, whining. Fifteen-year-old Marie and eleven-year-old Oliver stood sobbing in the hall.

I stopped screaming and looked around at my traumatized children. I heard the terrified dog. What had I done? I stepped toward Marie.

“No, no,” she said. Stay away from me is what she meant. I’m scared of you is what she meant.

Somehow, we all made it downstairs, carefully arranged on the couches and chairs. Robert protected himself and lied, even then, even in that stark reality, feeling vindicated that I had lost my temper while he remained calm. It wasn’t his fault; it was mine. An uneasy calm descended; there was nothing left to say. Robert and the kids went back upstairs to bed. I stretched out on the couch for a sleepless night, staring at the darkened family room until I could get up and escape.

I continued to go to work every day, as usual, in a blur of clarity and fury. The kids wanted me to move out of the house since I had broken the spell of our family. All blame directed at me. The crushing vice of guilt twisted my gut.

The house across the alley was available, the rent more than I could possibly afford, but perhaps I could find a roommate. I walked back home, lease in hand, to discuss the arrangement with Robert. I found him in the kitchen.

“I’m moving back to California. I can’t stay here,” he announced, from his end of the island in the kitchen.

“What are you talking about? I just rented the house across the alley,” I responded angrily, from my end.

Blank stare.

“We can’t both leave,” I snapped. “You told me to move out, remember?”

Blank stare.

I backed out of the rental agreement, but then Robert didn’t leave. He stayed.

“When are you leaving?” I asked a week later, as I saw no indication that he was preparing to move.

“Well, I can’t go yet,” he whined, “I can’t afford to.”

“Then you have to move out,” I insisted with as much calm as I could muster. “I gave up the rental house because you said you were leaving, so leave.”

“I’m going to stay here until I can afford to go. The house is big enough for us both to live here,” he rationalized. “I’m not going to move twice.”

“Oh yes, you are,” I snapped. “We cannot keep living together.”

“Fine,” he snapped back.

Friends of his offered a spare room for free, temporarily. He called it “the closet under the stairs” a la Harry Potter and Oliver stayed there with him more often than not.

With Robert out of the house, I moved back into our bedroom. My skin crawled to be in that room again. I spent the summer months getting the house ready to list, selling extra furniture, hauling van loads to Goodwill and the dump. Clearing out the house, closets, and storage spaces was heartbreaking work. Toys from the lives of four children, detritus from a family life together. I listed pieces on Craigslist every morning before going to work and arranged to meet buyers after. The weekends were spent digging into the recesses of the house and pulling our history into the light. Robert did not help.

Selling the house was not optional. We couldn’t afford the mortgage and rent on a second place. There was, of course, no money.

When Robert’s free room was no longer available, he moved back home and it was time for me to move out and list the house. The old place was as ready as I could make it by myself. I had been looking all along for something to rent, anything that would suffice. Nothing affordable on our side of town was big enough for the kids and me. I wasn’t willing to move away from their schools or to a place with no room for them. Marie and Jane were planning to move in with me.

I finally found a three bedroom apartment in the affordable range and right area. It was clearly going to be a gloomy and depressing place to live, but a definite step up from the minivan, which was starting to look like my only other choice. I put in an application and was accepted, a miracle in itself. And yet, ugh. The only other option would be to find a smaller, two bedroom apartment. I asked Jane and Marie if they wanted a dank three bedroom apartment or a nicer two bedroom. They said they would prefer to share a bedroom to live in a nicer place. I kept looking, frantically now. An apartment ad took me to a stretch of road along Bellingham Bay. I hadn’t realized there was anything even remotely affordable with a water view. Water views were my favorite rental fantasy.

I drove down State Street, feeling as desperate as I’ve ever felt in my life. I saw the For Rent sign on a shitty building by Boulevard Park, right by the water and pulled in beside the rental agent’s car. I followed her around the side of the building and into the unit. It smelled like an old hotel. The ceilings were low and dingy. There was a view, but, oh god, a million years of cigarette smoke permeated the very bones of the place. It would work, though, if we could handle the depression that seemed to come with the apartment, like a move-in bonus from hell. There was plenty of light and two decent sized bedrooms.

As I was pulling away, application in the passenger’s seat, I noticed another For Rent sign two buildings down. It was a modest place, to be sure, but not slummy looking like the first. Somehow, in seventeen years of living in Bellingham, I had never once noticed it.I called the number immediately. The owner of the building answered and agreed to meet me right away.

He led me in, down a long hallway (nice carpet, great paint, no smells) into a spacious living/dining room that overlooked Bellingham Bay in the crystal sunlight. I could practically hear choirs of angels singing. I signed papers on the spot. My deposit check bounced in my brand new single mom account, but I was in.

On my way out of the old house, I had scooped up the only things I couldn’t bear to leave behind: pictures of the kids, a wooden giraffe, a fish-print painting, and a crystal chandelier. My desk and antique farm table. They all fit perfectly into my new space.

I didn’t have a bed, just our old couch that had become remarkably uncomfortable over the years. The first night fourteen-year-old Marie laid on the couch with her head in my lap and cried. Jane had decided to stay with Robert and Oliver.

“It’s hard to leave your siblings, isn’t it?” I asked, stroking her hair.

She nodded into my leg. We stayed there a long time.

Before the week was over, I found a navy blue leather loveseat and armchair on Craigslist. The picture was blurry, but I had a feeling about it and went to see. It was gorgeous and cheap. The woman selling it was getting divorced. Said it had sat in their master bedroom unused for years (just like me). I said, “Well, I’m getting divorced, too, and need furniture.” We laughed. Divorce musical chairs. I also found a like-new mattress set on Craigslist. The seller was nice enough to tie it to the top of my minivan, and I drove it home on Interstate 5 in the rain, praying it would stay put. I hauled that thing into the apartment by myself with minimal damage to it and me and finally had my very own bed.

The first Saturday in the apartment I slept in until 8:00 am. I hadn’t had that much sleep in 20 years.

Dropping Oliver off at the old house after soccer practice, his eleven-year-old body looked small as he stood in the headlights and said, “You don’t live here anymore.”

“No, I don’t. I’m sorry,” I said.

He turned and went inside. Even now, those words turn my heart to lead. There is no forgiveness for breaking your child’s heart. Nor should there be. I desperately wished I could go back and plan a calm separation of some sort without the drama that followed if it would spare my children what they endured. I cannot. The knowledge that I did this to them, wrecked their family in a thoughtless way with little regard for their pain… I will always live with that. They have no reason to forgive me for it. Had I known that my own happiness was a relevant factor in my life; that I was under no obligation to live in misery or mystery… perhaps I would have found the courage to make different choices along the way. The truth is, I willingly gave away my power, looked to Robert to define my life; hid behind my children. I told myself that our struggles weren’t any different from those of other people. That our relationship was mostly good and worth keeping. And I decided to stay, over and over again, when I really should have gone.

The next months were a blur. Marie and I carved out a life together. Jane didn’t come over much and Oliver, not at all. There was work, scraping together enough money for groceries, never quite enough. The emotional and financial stress took its toll. The constant juggling of each child’s state of crisis and my own was exhausting. Someone was always falling apart, so I could not. Friends vanished at this point. People don’t hang around when you aren’t able to buy yourself a beer and pretend like everything is fine. I couldn’t care.

Jane turned eighteen and moved in with Marie and me. Oliver still wouldn’t come over. The old house sold, miraculously, and divorce was finally underway.

During the course of the divorce proceedings, Robert was obligated to turn over his financials and revealed $50,000 in credit card debt, all kept secret from me. All of the accounts but one had already defaulted to collections. There was no protection from these debts for me under the law because the money had been used to support the family, even though I didn’t know about it. Hope of financial survival dimmed. I sat on my balcony, watching the late afternoon sun glitter on the water, wondering if there was any way I could avoid bankruptcy. Probably not, I thought. Bankruptcy doesn’t kill people, though. Deep breath. What will come, will come. The sun sank low as a train roared by, yards away.

In addition to working full time, I began to clean the office building I worked in on weekends for a few sorely needed extra dollars. After a few months, I took on another building to clean and my car payment was made every month, for sure.

The apartment next door connected to mine through a shared laundry room which our neighbor, Perry, rarely had the opportunity to use. Marie, Jane and I monopolized those appliances with absolute sovereignty. Perry rarely left the apartment except to go to Costco and had a quality that made me want to be careful. Rumors floated around about his confrontations with other neighbors, but he was always nice to me. One day, he poked his head out of his door as I got home from work.

“Hey, Ronna, come here,” he motioned.

“Uh, hi, sure,” I agreed, surprised at the contact.

I walked slowly to his door, uncertain what he could want.

“I’ve moved out of my apartment. I’m living in a hotel over on Samish Way,” he said.

“Oh, wow! I didn’t realize,” I responded. Samish Way was Bellingham’s own Skid Row.

“Yeah, I was wondering if you would be willing to help me. I need to get the apartment cleaned out before the end of the month or those freaking landlords will charge me for another months’ rent. Do you know those people have made over $50,000 off of me since I’ve lived here?”

That’s how rent works, I thought.

“Sure, I’ll help you, Perry,” I offered.

“Well, before you say yes, take a look inside here. I have a lot of stuff. You can keep or sell anything that you find. You should be able to make some money,” he said.

“Ok, I’ll take a look. I don’t mind helping you out,” I said.

“I want it to be worth it for you. I want you to help you out, too. Anyway, tell me what you think. Here are my keys. I’m leaving right now to go back to the hotel. Just text me and let me know,” Perry said, handing me his keyring with hesitation.

“I’m embarrassed at how I’ve let the place get,” he mumbled. “I’m embarrassed for you to see it.”

“Hey, it’s ok. Don’t worry about it,” I reassured. “I’ll take a look tonight and leave your keys in the mailbox,” I said, turning to open my door.

“NO! Don’t do that!” Perry sounded alarmed. “Leave the keys over in that planter. There’s a plastic bag under the leaves in the dirt.”

“Oh! Good idea! Will do,” I agreed and went inside for dinner, unsure what I was getting myself into.

After he was gone, I went to check out Perry’s apartment. Marie and Oliver, who was finally visiting, followed me over. I opened the door and slowly entered the dim light of the hallway. A surveillance camera watched from the corner above the door. On closer inspection, the camera wasn’t connected to anything. The dirty beige carpet of the hall was lined with thick, heavy duty floor mats, the kind you might find in a mechanics’ garage or a warehouse. Those weren’t cheap, I thought. The air was pungent with the sour stink of smoke and abandonment, with an underlying whiff of filth.

We tentatively entered the open door of the first bedroom to the left. It wasn’t so bad. There was no furniture. No bed. A narrow pathway wound around boxes and random piles of stuff, as though a load meant for the dump had detoured into the bedroom and flopped on the floor. A broken electric bicycle leaned against the wall. The closet was crammed with ancient men’s clothes. I thumbed through the hangers for a minute, wondering if I might find a super valuable classic rock tee shirt. No such luck.

Back in the hall, I pushed open the door to the storage closet off to the right. The bottom shelf and floor were covered with brown sticky goo. Undeterminable. Other shelves contained rows and rows of bulk-bought cleaning supplies and toilet paper. I would never have to buy toilet bowl cleaner again. A shop vac and vacuum cleaner stood in the corner. So far, so good for value.

Marie and Oliver walked nervously ahead of me into the second bedroom. Teetering towers of empty Amazon boxes left just enough room to squeeze the door open. The room was impassable; any light from the window was completely obscured by the stacks of boxes, which immediately began to topple, the packaging floating to the floor.

“Oh my God, I can’t even get to the light switch,” Oliver said, trying reach behind a pile without knocking it over.

“If we’re gonna find bodies, they’re gonna be in here,” Marie whispered.

As Marie stepped into the room, her foot came down on an air pillow packing bubble, which popped with a loud bang, as if from a gunshot. The kids screamed and dissolved into nervous giggles. I peered past their heads into the room at the rows of silver shelving racks lined with plastic storage bins that filled the room. The back wall was impossible to see.

“Be careful, you guys,” I warned with a laugh. “There could definitely be bodies.”

Back across the hall, the bathroom was beyond filthy. The outside of the toilet was a mass of pubic hair stuck to grime, dust, and pee. Somehow, the inside of the toilet was cleaner than the outside, just mold, and the requisite ring. The bathtub was covered with a layer of pink slime.

“God, I hope there are some rubber gloves in all those cleaning supplies,” I said with a grimace as the kids made puking noises and hurried toward the living room. While they continued to explore, I entered the kitchen.

“Mom, Mom,” Marie shouted, rattling a clinking container. “This peanut tin is full of QUARTERS!”

“Cool! Keep it!” I called from the kitchen. “If you’ll help me, you can keep all the change you find.”

“SWEET!” she yelled and began ripping lids off the peanut tins that lined yet another shelving unit. Some had change and some had empty capsule parts, tiny baggies and plastic droppers.

The kitchen countertops were solid sheets of stickiness. I tried to pick up a blender, an expensive one, but it was glued to its spot on the counter in a ring of that brown goo. I tried to move other appliances, utensils, anything laying on the counter. Everything stuck. The cupboards were full of filthy, high-end cookware, all of it melted and wrecked. I inched around the backside of the kitchen, scooting between filing cabinets and a table piled with papers, and into the living room. A 52-inch television covered one window, blocking the view of Bellingham Bay. Banks of computers with slick monitors sat on a Geek desk. More metal shelving units piled with boxes and peanut tins formed a barricade around the computer and TV area, the only open space in the apartment. This was where Perry hung out.

“This desk is SO COOL,” Oliver exclaimed, pushing the hydraulic controls.
“Look at all these cases of Monster drinks under here! Can I have them?”

“You can have one pack,” I agreed. “That much Monster would kill you.”

“Aww, Mommm,” he complained, but quickly forgot as Marie pulled a half gallon jar of personal lube out of a box.

“AAHHHH!” she yelled, dropping it back in.

“Oh, my God,” I moaned. “Sweetie, just go wash your hands, ok? Oliver, don’t touch anything else.” She ran back to our apartment through the laundry room to scrub, taking her peanut tin full of money.

Perry’s computers, monitors, desk, and television had to be worth several thousand dollars. I googled Geek desks. Yep, big bucks. Nothing in the kitchen was salvageable, but there could easily be valuable items tucked away in the scary second bedroom. I needed the money and I knew exactly how to tackle this project. I had been here before.

“When do you want me to start?” I texted Perry. I went to work in Perry’s apartment the next night and every night after work and all weekend, every weekend, for a solid month.

The storage bins in the second bedroom were full of empty plastic containers and glass jars. Perry had carefully washed his recycling and stored it in sturdy plastic bins with flip-top lids, instead of putting it in the cans by the street for pick-up. His recycling was worthless, but the bins were not, and they were clean. Behind the bins were shelves holding hundreds of dollars’ worth of tools. And a six foot tall red Craftsman tool cabinet on wheels, which had not been visible from the bedroom door. Fishing rods. Stacks of wooden cigar boxes, most still full of unwrapped cigars, rolling around loose. A newspaper with a headline of JFK’s murder from Perry’s hometown was stuffed in the bottom of a toolbox. And more clothes; old suits and yellowed dress shirts from his days as a university professor.

Craigslist took care of the tools and red cabinet, floor mats, electric bike, shop vac, furniture, and cigars. A restauranteur bought the shelving units. A school teacher bought the plastic storage bins. The JFK newspaper went to the library. Garbage bag after garbage bag went to the dump, the cans by the street long since stuffed. Marie and Oliver helped, squealing every time they stepped into the second bedroom and set off a BANG of bubble wrap, hauling their treasures through the laundry room to our apartment, like a real-life haunted scavenger hunt.

The gigantic TV went to my living room, where it still sits, the Geek desk and computer went to Oliver’s room at his dad’s house. Marie found several hundred dollars in loose change. It really was years before I had to buy cleaning supplies again.

After every garbage bag was gone and every surface scrubbed, I left the keys for the landlord. Last I heard, Perry had landed in Thailand to teach English. He emailed a picture of himself in a classroom with a thatch roof, surrounded by smiling young women. He looked very happy.

A month or so later, the kids sat on the floor in my apartment. Robert had a porn addiction and was not hiding it. Graphic pictures appeared on his phone, his computer, his iPad, in plain view all the time. He texted men in leather on his phone while driving, chatted on Grindr at soccer games, left gay porn open on his laptop when Oliver’s friends were over. The kids needed it to stop. We discussed how to approach the situation, as direct requests from us all had been ignored.

While we talked, I texted Robert and gave him an ultimatum: I would call Child Protective Services unless he ceased all porn activity when the kids were in the house and kept his computer in his room. He was furious. They will never know the viciousness of the messages flying back and forth while they huddled on my living room floor. Jane texted her grandmother to enlist her help. Robert might listen to his mother.

The kids came to the conclusion that an intervention was in order. They would sit down with Robert all together and demand a change in his behavior. If he was unwilling to agree, they would all move in with me. At the time, Marie and Oliver were living with Robert in his three-bedroom rental house, paid for by his mother, while Jane stayed with me. Our separate homes had developed revolving doors with kids moving back and forth depending on their moods.

As the kids made arrangements for their meeting, I began to prepare to move to a bigger place, in case Robert refused to step up. I had no reason to think he would. My current lease had six months to go, so I would have to find someone to sublet the apartment and find deposit money for a new place. My first thought was to go back to the apartment complex where I had originally found a three bedroom unit. None were available. Back to Craigslist. What did people do before Craigslist?

As my children were having an intervention with their father to convince him to stop watching gay porn in front of their faces, I looked at a reasonably priced three bedroom duplex a couple of streets away. It looked like a trash heap made of particle board on the outside, but the inside was lovely and clean, with gleaming hardwood floors, and a sparkling kitchen. The third bedroom was technically a closet with barely enough room to turn around, but I didn’t care. Marie and Oliver could have the real bedrooms. Jane could share with Marie. If I could come up with money for the deposit and simultaneously find someone to sublet my apartment, I could make it happen. Perhaps I could ask the planets to align for me, as well.

I drove home, sheer panic rising in my mind, as I mulled over ways to pull this move together. Despair rose like buzzing bees and I felt my tenuous grip of control starting to slip in earnest. I made it home and went straight to the balcony with a glass of cheap red wine.

Jane came home soon after. Robert had listened. He moved his computer into his bedroom and agreed to hide his activities. Marie and Oliver would give him another chance and no one had to move. My panic subsided. I stayed on the deck watching the movement of the water, relief moving through my body like the light on the waves. We would be okay for now.

Photo Credit: Free For Commercial Use (FFC) Flickr via Compfight cc

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City Lights



She tells him she is thirteen,
And he tells her that she can keep her shirt on when they fuck.

She walks by the coffee shop that is no longer a Starbucks,
But she is no longer the little girl
Who ran to the other end of Grand Central on a fractured foot.

When a strange man turns to ask if she will be his girlfriend,
She can no longer reply with her age but with the rage
Of a little girl who gasped out “Fuck you,”
And heard laughter in her wake.

Who was told “You’re 15, I’m 32…”.
Who can still feel the unease of a red stoplight and a shout.
Who remembers her first boyfriend and his webcam.
Three men and keys between her fingers.
The paranoia of being followed.
The few seconds of knowing something is wrong,
The body language, maybe, and then a hand hits her ass
As if the only time she wears a dress, it’s an invitation,
And suddenly she is screaming because five years later
All she knows how to say is “fuck you.”

The shyness, the urge to be polite, the fear,
All boiling, bubbling over, not just an unattended pot
But a stove that never should have been on in the first place.
If they want to treat her like a glass statue,
Let them be cut with the shards,
Or her rosy thorns.
The pastels and oils are smeared away from their Ophelia,
The only drowning is that
of the vile sounds of unwanted advances,
of old men who gamble with naivety,
of an urge to not make trouble when an ugly voice is asking for it.

Photo Credit: quinn.anya Flickr via Compfight cc

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I Don’t Want People to Talk About Me the Way They Talk about Dorothy Allison



You give me so much more than I asked for
I was a child once
with sunshine in my eyes
and dirt on my bare feet
running past sprinklers half-naked
then the magic cured my loneliness.
I gave so much of myself to the darkness
sunshine kept peeking in on me
wanting my white shadows.

Your tripping words stung me with beauty
your birdsongs carried me in your arms
I am hanging on by tied bedsheets
cut strings of lost childhood.

Break up your delusions
into partitions
send me framed words
unsent cards
loose leaves of my stumbles.
I’m waiting with abandonment
regretting my fate.

Photo Credit: wuestenigel Flickr via Compfight cc

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I Don’t Want People to Talk About Me the Way They Talk about Dorothy Allison


Hit Like a Girl

I’m proud to be a woman.
I’m proud to fuss over small details,
like my eyebrows, or the way you drive.
I’m proud of the women before me
who refused to lie down.
And of the men in my life
who have never looked at me
as more than a good friend.

What I’m not proud of?
The self-defense manual we’re assigned at birth,
convincing us that unless we’re armed,
we are to blame for the harm we are dealt.
That I feel more akin to a plastic mannequin,
than the men I work with.
Because I know that just like me,
she’s probably been the target of sexual insinuation.
She’s been tossed about,
placed below a man’s belt with laughter all around.
Because that’s all they can imagine
she’s good for.
Not realizing that their baiting
perpetuates centuries of our suffering.

And I’m sorry, but
I’m not sorry that being “appealing.”
doesn’t much interest me anymore.
I’ve heard enough.

Enough of being called “sweetie.”
By old men who see no harm in
the proverbial sugar cube
that signals I’ve gotten too rowdy for their tastes.
Enough of being expected to smile because
“I look prettier that way.”

Of the connotation behind “resting bitch face.”
I like to think of it as an adaptation, anyways.
Much like the batesian butterfly,
who mimics poison in its wings,
I, too, aim to ward off predators.

And why, like clockwork,
does fighting for equal ground signal a witch hunt?
So, for the last time.
I will say this slowly.
Before you have the chance
to make this a personal attack,
I am not talking about all men.

I’m talking about them:
The ones with the hungry eyes,
animal pools shining in them.
The ones who keep trying to convince us to stop fighting.
They are the face of aggression, of “masculinity,”
the ones who destroy young girls, palms outstretched, insisting
“she was asking for it!”
Not realizing that you can kill someone
without murder.
The poltergeists in every dark corner of the streets,
prowling for what they think belongs to them.
They are the reason that we fear for our lives.

They hide behind masks of congressman.
Leaders. Lovers. “Nice Guys.”
They laugh in the face of our oppression.
The very same ones with polished shoes planted firmly
at our backs, and while they lick their lips and obsess over our
soft skin, they insist that our screams for equality are
“asking for too much.”
“Look at all the rights you have, now, little girl,
isn’t that good enough?”

It’s not.
Because my trans sisters aren’t taken seriously.
Making light of the scrutiny they face
because they don’t look like the women
in the porno mags that they deny aren’t realistic.
It’s not [fucking] funny
when they are being murdered for it.

It’s not, because my sisters of color
are still treated like exotic game.
They are not your splash of variety.
There are not enough hours in the day
To list the ways that their sexuality
Is demonized, robbed of its validity.

And there is no such thing as equality
when we still have to convince the law
that we should have control of our own bodies.
44 years later and we are still trying to row and wade
through these thick swamps that are
sticky with the blood sweat and tears
of the women who came first.
We are not equal
when our nipples are illegal.
Except, of course,
when they want to sell beer and magazines.
When “feminism” is used like an insult.
And when we stomp down their consolation prize
they scream the “F” word with eagerness,
enraged that we are no longer content
with being their shadows.

It’s our turn.

Photo Credit: K J Payne Flickr via Compfight cc

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I Don’t Want People to Talk About Me the Way They Talk about Dorothy Allison