Unlocking Doors

Whoo, in a much better mood than last night. Thank goodness. 🙂

Sometimes it’s just like that. You get cranky, and it is what it is. I can’t do anything to change people who get on my nerves, but I can for-sure change how I respond. Again, thank goodness.

Today I started a writing, meditation, and self-care challenge (yes, because I have soooo much time on my hands, while working more than time and trying to write these poems and keep up with the forever essay challenge … yeah). I started thinking about two vacations I took with my mother years ago and how wonderful it was to see her slide out of herself and into a woman I’d never seen before. The trips were very different, and what I saw in her was very different one trip to the next, but both pleased me enormously. So I thought I’d write today’s poem for the me who did that traveling with her. Then I realized I didn’t want to cram both trips into one poem, so I’ve pulled them apart. Tonight is the first trip, a week on the southern coast of Jamaica. Just thinking about it makes me smile.

Dreaming inside Her Dreams
Forty-seven, traveling with my mother

The first morning in Jamaica
you found her on the verandah
her eyes full of the sea
her face soft and open.
Yes, you thought. She understands now.
Yes, she said. I see what you meant.
She relaxed into the heat,
chatted up fishermen
played dominoes
drank from a coconut fresh from the tree
drank in the quiet
drank in the comfort
showed you a face you’d never seen
so still, so at ease, so beautiful.

Maybe she was the woman you would have met
had she chosen that road not taken.
You watched her, fascinated
in love
and also sad
denying that life not taken
made your life possible.
Did she give up ease to give you everything,
to give you the chance to find this place
to dream a life so different from hers?

But here, this perch above the waves
this lavender heaven,
this you can give her
can share with her
and watch her sigh and smile,
be waiting for her when she arrives
whole and happy
sun glittering through her silver curls.

It’s National Poetry Month!

As I have done for the last forever, I’ve chosen a poetic form, and I’m going to try to write a poem in that form every day for the month of April. I don’t always succeed, but I always give it my best shot. This year, the form I’ve chosen is the epistolary poem — poems written in the form of an epistle or letter. They are also called verse letters and letter poems. I’ve also chosen a theme for the month. Each “letter” is going to be written to a younger me: 12-year-old me on the first day of junior high, 5-year-old me navigating the overt racism of her kindergarten class, etc.


Water water everywhere.

Today was an art day!

I spent part of my day at the Industry City Open Studios event.  I did and didn’t enjoy it.  The bar was high, I’ll admit.  TheGo Brooklyn project was such a pleasure, yesterday’s event would have had to do some work to equal that.  Okay, but really, not that much work.  I didn’t have a WOW! moment at any point during the day, however, and that was disappointing, but I did see a handful of artists whose work I very much enjoyed, including one whose work I will save up for to purchase for myself and another whose work I’ll definitely be purchasing as a gift for my brother.  Mostly what I came away with was the sense that you have to be an artist with money to work in Industry City.  There was clearly a much more commercial feel to yesterday’s tour than to any of the spaces I visited during Go Brooklyn.  And there’s nothing wrong with that. Everyone needs to eat.  The feeling is different.  That’s all.

After Open Studios, I headed south east to spend a couple of hours with Naima (my writing mentee).  We worked on the science journalism piece she is preparing for her portfolio, and I discovered a science question I have that it might be interesting to investigate.  We also talked about her plans for college and what internship she might be interested in for next year.  For six months out of her junior year, her schedule will be modified to include an internship.  She is torn — engineering, interior design, medicine, community work.  Medicine is a new one.  She’s never mentioned an interest in it before today.  When I asked her about it, she looked a little sheepish.  “I don’t know if I really want to be a doctor, but my mom is talking a lot about it now.  She says it would be good for me.”  We’ll see if that one sticks.  The first two seem to be her real interests.

And now I’m on the train, soon to be on the bus, heading home and thinking poetry.  Today’s Poetic Asides prompt is to write a water poem (hence the title of this post).  I never knew I was a water person.  I spent time at beaches as a kid, and I liked it.  I learned to swim in a frigid mountain lake that I played in every summer of camp as a child, and I liked that, too.  But I still didn’t know.  After college I spent a couple of weeks in the middle of a months-long hitch around Europe on beaches in Portugal and loved it.  Still I didn’t know.

Then I went to Jamaica for the first time.  Exactly nine years ago tomorrow.  And then I knew.  Not just that I was a water person, but that I should have been born in the Caribbean. How did that get so messed up?  I stepped out of the airport and into that wave of humid heat, and it settled into my chest and that was the end.  Heart lost.  Over.  I still have that feeling every time.  Tonight’s poem started with all of that in mind … but went a different way in the end.

have been
swimming my days,
life on the water.
did I
never know?
Instead, I walk,
spend my days dreaming
of the shore.
In my next life —
yes, in my next life …


Please consider donating to my indiegogo campaign to support my participation in the VONA Voices graphic novel workshop this summer.  “Support” can be as simple and cost-free as sending the Indiegogo link out to your friends and telling them why they might want to help me get to VONA.  Any and all help is appreciated.  To date, I’ve received almost half my goal amount! I am encouraged and humbled by everyone’s generosity.  Thank you all!


An Arun is a 15-line poem with the syllable count 1/2/3/4/5 — 3x.  It may be a new thing in the world, made up by me last year.  “Arun” means “five” in Yoruba.


Happy first day of spring! It’s felt so long in coming this year. I know winter might have one last breath to blow our way, but I’m not worrying about that now. I’m thinking about warm breezes, bright green new leaves unfurling, and the blooming of the forsythia — always my favorite sign of spring.

I’m also thinking about this:


I was looking through photos from my last Jamaica trip, and came across this guy and realized I never posted many (any?!) of my pictures from that trip.   This is from Falmouth, where I stayed for just a couple of days at the end of my trip.  I was sitting on the verandah of my little shack on the beach writing, saw something out of the corner of my eye … and there he was.  Slow-slow-slowly, I reached for my camera, hoping not to scare him off.  Not only did I not scare him away, I got to watch his excellent little show:

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And I thought about the ways in which we are often required to change so completely to fit our environments, the times when we wish we could change that completely, the times when blending in with the background is anything but desirable.  And I wondered what the lizard feels when he’s changing, how he knows he’s changed enough.  And I tried to remember how I’ve felt in those times when I’ve made a conscious effort to step out of the wallpaper and become visible.

I’ve been focusing on change for a while now, since I made the decision to have my knee surgery, since I began to recover.  Not just the “simple” change of learning my life with this new joint, but deeper and more complex changes to who and how I am and what I want for and from myself.  I’ve been stumbling with a whole lot of one step forward, three steps back, letting fear hobble me.  I’m looking to do the lizard in reverse, step finally and fully away from the wallpaper and embrace my technicolor.  Yes, it means the birds will be better able to see me.  I say: Bring it.


All the other slicers are hanging out over at Two Writing Teachers!

SOL image 2014

What Love Has to Do with It

My head hurts when I try to think of what is or isn’t true about AC, about me and AC, about what I really think is possible with me and AC.  I’ve been in Jamaica for a week.  I’ve spoken to him a dozen times, seen him once.

He’s fine, of course.  Not ideally fine — his little restaurant/bar doesn’t seem to be open, half of his property is overgrown, he’s down to only one dog — but he’s fine all the same.  His guest house has a spiffy new website, which it’s certain that he in his utter computer un-savvy-ness did not create.  He’s looking strong and healthy … he’s fine.

And — as I should have assumed would be the case — the moment he heard my voice, he was right back where we left off almost 18 months ago.  Never mind the complete lack of communication in all this time.  Never mind my belief that he has found a next friend.  Never mind that whoever made his new website wrote the copy in a way that makes clear she and he are a “we.” Never mind his insistence that he is a man alone, no woman, no lover, just his pining for me.  Never mind everything that says the “we” that is he and I is really only two people who know one another and nothing more.

So where do I come down on any of this?  It’s as clear as ever that, if there is to be any change in his perception of our relationship, if there is to be a time when the door of possibility is firmly closed between us, the change will have to come from me.  I could stay away from Jamaica for five years, for ten, and he would be ready to embrace me when I chose to return.  Neither my head nor my heart knows what to do with that.

“I still love you, you know,” he said yesterday when I walked over to see him.

“You don’t really.  You just like me when I’m here.  It’s not the same thing.”

“No.  I love you f’true.”

F’true.  I won’t go so far as to call him a liar, but I will say that when he says “love,” it means something to him that isn’t the same as what it means to me.

Am I in love with AC? No. Do I love him? In some fashion or form, it seems that I do.  What that means, how it affects anything I do, how it bears on decisions I make … I’m not sure.  How many times have I told myself I’m through with him only to walk right back?  I’m not in love, but I’m clearly still willing to be tied, still feeling the connection.  I like to think of us as friends, but I know that’s not real, know there’s no friendship with AC, that for him we’re together or we’re not, no illusion of platonic affection.  So where does that leave me?

Tonight our adorable young caretaker will come and surprise us with a bonfire on the beach.  He will come up to the house and play dominoes with us until we can no longer stand his psychic domino skill.  He’ll let us tease him about how many girlfriends he must have and shyly smile and not answer any of our questions.

And all evening I will wonder if AC will come by, wonder if I’ll be happy to see him, if I’ll let him stay the night or send him back to his rose-colored house by the sea with a final and f’true goodbye.

I’ve been meeting so many men these last months.  Man after man after man.  And part of what’s been wrong with each of them has been just how much they haven’t been AC, just how much the sight of them or the sound of their voices hasn’t moved me.  If I met AC for the first time today, I would respond to him as instantly, as powerfully as I did six years ago.  A response so powerful I’m still feeling the residual force of it all these years later.

Neither my head nor my heart knows what to do with that. F’true.

My week in the sun …

Remember way back when I posted about winning a raffle? Well, I’m finally here!  I had a surprisingly hard time finding folks to join me on this trip.  In the end, my travel companions have been my mom and Miss Mice Maze.  We flew in from three different places and met at the airport in Montego Bay, hopped in the waiting car and drove off to paradise.

Oh, and paradise it has been!  The photos from the website hardly do this place justice, and the pleasure of being here is even better than the beauty.  Getting to spend this week with my mom, getting to strengthen my friendship with Miss Mice Maze … it’s all a present and a half.