Tuesday, April 15, 2014

deeper instinct

I, with a deeper instinct, choose a man who compels my strength, who makes enormous demands on me, who does not doubt my courage or my toughness, who does not believe me naïve or innocent, who has the courage to treat me like a woman.
-- Anaïs Nin


I have come to drag you out of your self
and take you into my heart.
I have come to bring out the beauty
you never knew you had
and lift you like a prayer to the sky.
--- Rumi

to Latte

Through a haze reeking of alcohol, I could see your insides. I could see your hands grasping desperately to hold the very end of a rope. Tears poured down your face as you told me of the hands that have always pulled you down when you tried to do something—anything—other than survive while the world wrote poems about you and stood up in coffee shops, shouting into the faces of people who might be you but also might have never, ever held the hand of a person whose insides looked like yours.

Whose outsides look like yours.

Whose latte-colored skin reminded me of swirling hips and bright colors, which in another time and place might have sounded like the marimba or steel drums or a djembe pounding out over the space while you danced (I’m sure you were dancing) and raised your arms (I can feel you raising your arms) to the sky in praise of rain.

The same rain that fell on the women of whom I am made, rain that soaked half of them through their chadors as they protected their hair and faces and honor
And the other half dripping through straw hats as they fed goats and grew tomatoes, necks burning ever redder in the Georgia sunshine.

I want you to know that I cannot feel the difference between us.

I want you to know that when I close my eyes as I hold your hand as you squeeze the raindrops from your eyes as the expert hands of a woman who sounds like my grandmother gently examine the scene of the crime
Probing, looking, gathering every detail
Taking pictures
Pictures that I’m sure look like mine. Because I am only a shade lighter than the latte that is your skin. Mine has only a drop more milk.

I saw your shoulders square.
And then I saw them curve inward when you put your hand out to help and winced as you were pushed apart, and put your hand out to stop or to not stop, as your mind fought with that hand and it just stayed there, frozen just above the sheet, holding onto the only thing that had ever been steady.

I cannot feel the difference between us.

In that moment, I wanted to reach my hand into the center of your chest and grab your hand before you let go of the rope. I could see your fingers starting to tremble, your hand slipping off the end of the rope, eyes darting back and forth, trying to hold on, trying to make it look as if nothing was happening, covering your eyes, trying to push the tears back in, hide the raindrops, run.

I reached my hand out.

Insides screaming for you, I grabbed your hand.


I cannot feel the difference between us. I can lift you. Come up to solid ground.

The Thistle & Shamrock

Scanning stations on the way home. Spring is exploding into bright fireworks at the ends of each branch. This is The Thistle & Shamrock. I’m your host, Fiona Ritchie.

Riding home in the car. Much younger. Before boobs. Before heels. Before outfits that made sense and boyfriends and husbands and career and cancer that eats vacation days and hope and vomits out emptiness.

Hair tied back tightly, but bits still escape. If I don’t hold my head just right, they whip back and forth across my face.

Sun has gone down. Cool air. Moist and clean and full of bits of green and growth. Smells like forest. Sounds like wind and airy, floating voices that seem to come from the dark itself.

We are taking the long way. The head of a sleeping sister bobs on each shoulder. The baby draped across me. The baby who is always hot. The baby who sweats. Little face plastered to my chest, blond curls blown back and forth to bumps in the road. One more asleep behind me.

I can lay hands on each of your limp, trusting selves.


Heart full. Mind wanders.

Mother (or Monday night revisited)

I had the strongest sense today that my heart was in the Hands of Someone Whose Hands Heal. The Sense spoke in the words that poured from her as I pointed out my broken bits. In my mind’s eye, I could see her drawing herself up straight, looking right into my eyes, smelling like home, soft hands almost more familiar than my own, with that look that is clarity, and breathing directly into my center:

“There you are.
Look away if you want, but between the light and the shadow, you exist.
When you forget, I will remind you.
You exist, and even when I disappear from this crust, I will see you.
I can see you.
You glow, and you are not lost.”

Seams give out somewhere not visible on the surface.  Sewing it up is truly an endless task, and the needle pricks are sometimes more than I can stand, and sometimes I have to pause, to rest, to remember why I’m sewing and not just tossing the dress of a life I’m living OUT.
It feels worn out.
I took a misstep. This wasn’t what I was making when I started, not the way the pattern was supposed to work.

Needs patches.
May be time to throw it in the rag bag.
Must have been if that seam blew…

So I stop. I put it down. I stretch, I lay flat, wiggle fingers and toes.

If all else fails,
The ground, with no help from me whatsoever, will hold me up.

Also call for help.
She can hear you over the noise.
She can always hear you.
Will always want to know your favorite color and what you learned in class today.
Will always laugh loudly at your jokes that are only funny when you’re telling them to her.
Will always read the words once you’ve lined them up again.

Also Life is, among other things, a gift.


Begin again.

Thursday, August 15, 2013


I am sitting down to write something for me.

I'm going to write it about cool, crisp air that asks politely for a cardigan,
About the peach-colored glow lining the mountains just past sunshine,
And how I wish that I could paint the curve of the rich, patchwork gray and green and yellow of those mountains onto the insides of my eyelids...
How I can't stop taking pictures of how tall they are and how I can't believe that I can climb them even a little,
How the variation of height and texture must make them taste somewhere between the crunch of the greens I picked the other day and that chocolate cookie that looks like a child's tongue stuck out in taunting.  It is filled with what I can only assume must be clouds.  And butter.

Since I am writing for me, I will also mention how soft the grass swishes under my feet,
the way the wind moves feathery green shrubbery in a soft jostle,
that bird calling out to the half moon,
and stopping to prop my feet up on the chair in front of me.

I will avoid all mention of the list of bandaids I have been applying to this battered beater in my chest (steady, soldier).
There are still raspberries on the counter.
And poetry left to pour.

Yes, I am going to write something for me.
Just me.

Monday, July 29, 2013

for want of sunscreen

After a long, slow sunrise, a man's insides blurted out “I love you” to a woman in glasses and sweatpants. For those of you who haven't heard, these words, especially when uttered on the outside, make a woman hope in the parts that she usually keeps shut tight.  Shut because open is so dangerous... so risky. Sunshine on sensitive skin burns... for who knows how long...

I've been playing it safe... playing it smart. 

After my last bad burn, I acquired a wide-brimmed straw hat... you know the kind.  Brim stretching well past my shoulders, swooping elegantly at just the right angle so that the innocent passer-by would assume (it's only logical) that the hat was to protect my skin (not made for sun exposure) from the sun (it's not my fault that parts of my parts are white) (and should be protected)

(who knows what could happen)

(who knows who might see)

(best to stay safe)

(besides.  Who doesn't like the woman in the beautiful hat?)

(No one.)

I wore my hat everywhere.  I wore it to work.  To the store.  To the river.  Out.  In.  Around.  It was, as you could well understand, practical.  I was safe from the sun, carrying my shade around with me.  I would not, could not burn.

Your sunrise warmed me slowly. 

My toes felt you first.  A gentle need to be touched, to find that warmth from where I could see your light beginning to glow, just over the horizon, just headed this way...

... and I knew when it was happening, the whole time I knew... knew in my bones... knew that if I ever got to see what noon looked like (there was no way), it would be friendly sunshine... only warming.  Again warming.  I'd likely still be able to wear my cardigan.  You don't take your cardigan off when you're just friends.

As that morning broke and the sun climbed its way up my curves to the back of my neck, I started to realize that my hat was getting in the way... started to loosen that thing up... maybe slide that thing off... careful... but maybe it was safe... safe to let my hair down, spin a little, twirl a little because maybe falling down wouldn't be as hard as always having to hold that hat up... make room for that hat... find places where wearing that hat made sense (looked easy)... where I might let your warmth turn to heat as the sun rose, burning off the dew, warming the cold corners, browning me slowly enough... just slowly enough... until I would be...

... on Fire.  I was on fire.  I was burning, looking for my hat... where did I put my hat?  Why am I thirsty and tired and dreaming in nightmares of falling... always of falling... and your face, disappointed, looking at me (tired and disappointed)... and I can't seem to find my hat.  And I can’t sleep because I’m too busy panicking.

I sat, on fire, desperately waiting for you to notice.  Notice. And join me. Because in all of that being on fire, I seemed to have misplaced my hat.

I thought about it, and, for more than a moment, I considered that the hat might have burned off... that I might not need it... that maybe...

The problem with the sun is not that it burns.  The sun would be fine if it would just reach down and consume you.  You might not care so much if the sun just consumed you instead of setting.

Which you did.

Abruptly and without warning.

Or so it seemed.

I want you to know that I saw the signs.  I mentioned them in passing as one might say, "Glance in the rearview mirror.  Aren't those pretty colors tonight?"  Everyone else was moving along behaving as though they saw nothing... felt nothing... and I kept wondering why no one else noticed that you had stopped sitting right beside me.  Had stopped holding my eyes with yours...

I saw the colors.  People have said before that it's pessimism... some kind of lack of ability to see my own light. It's just that I was the only one close enough to see. The only one who could smell the wind change. 

And I've been walking around like that first few hours when you know that you're warm and you know that you're a little more pink than you should be and you know that there is a possibility that...

Yes, you're a lobster.

You've never been so burnt in your life.

And it hurts like hell.  And you can't sleep.  And it hurts like hell.  And when you move, you can't believe how much it hurts.  When you breathe.  When something brushes against it.  When you think too hard.

It's called sun burn.  Poisoning maybe.

Anyway, I'd like to be friends.  With my mind, I'd really like to be friends.  Not to have to acknowledge that, without so much as a formal pause, I took my hat off, flung it to the wind, tried spinning in circles as long as there was the least bit of light... I remember it now, the circles and how you pulled me close and held me there, inhaling the scent of my hair...

But I found my hat.  

It was lying over there.  
Slowly, with lots of encouragement, hand-holding, and aloe vera, I'm trying to learn to laugh again.  
Or at least how to let myself just lay there while I give in to the tears I've been fighting.
With all of me.
For longer than I'll ever say out loud.

And putting my hat back on.