mother-daughter-women story

This is our mother-daughter-women story. Ours is separate from the fiction of fertilization, womb, fetus, birth in a small Los Angeles hospital, you holding the infant-me against your chest like a beating heart, your body my body. Our story is one of careening through lifetimes like undestroyed blast particles, taking form as slaves, lovers, witches, nomads, reuniting this time around as opposing forces. 

And after years, here we were, barely looking at each other across a devastating crevasse. You, a ghost woman in your own home while your family selfishly disintegrated into themselves. Me, a ghost daughter desperate to please but bitter in my never-enoughness. I don’t know how we went on like that. But we did. We did.

Until we didn’t. In that glorious, passionate, stunning way, we resurrected. It took 35 years of barely balancing on the untenable strain of our bloodline until we could at last see one another. 

When my boyfriend died and I found his body and you told me about your gay brother’s suicide and how as a lonely chubby Jewish girl in Texas, you would lie in the grass and leave your body so you could be her own friend. How you followed a man to Los Angeles to join a cult and stayed for 10 years even though he refused to marry you. How you began a liberated woman who rode horses bareback and said “fuck” and skinny dipped while stoned and ended up a soccer mom in Denver suburbia driving car-pool and wearing pearls. How you hated the float- floating from one vapid expectation to the next without feeling alive, shriveling until the sight of everything pale and perfect made you scream a silent Stepford-wife death. How you struggled to balance your womanhood and your motherhood and your wifehood, and isn’t every woman born with the weight of that imbalance on her back? 

I wish I had seen you sooner.

I also was struggling to balance childhood and womanhood and daughterhood and maybe there was no capacity to look. 

But here you are, staring back with inexhaustible love. Our story is woven into the greater stories of faith, myth, religion and philosophy. One of careening through lifetimes like undestroyed blast particles; at last, into reunited forces, into woman form. 

BOOMA art show – 1/17/2015

Last weekend in Livingston, Montana, I participated in a text/collaborative art show.

I was given a photograph, and then I wrote a poem based on that photo. Then I passed on my poem to two dancers, and they choreographed a dance which then played at the show. And so and so on.

 

Here is the photo by Bozeman based photographer Dan Armstrong:

 

A_Drop_In_The_Universe_DA

 

Here is the poem I wrote based on his photo:

 

Coordinates

              I intended to travel alone,
         but the mind is that clingy companion,
         impartial to longitudes and latitudes,
              unwilling to be left behind.
        So, it’s one foot in front of the other
                 down eroded alleyways,
               along picturesque trails,
                     squeezing you
                          out
              with a frenzy of new images

followed by warm exchanges with the passerby- we all insist on being perfectly present (not reflecting on what we said
and didn’t say, did and didn’t do).

But when the darkness takes over,
issuing stars into the night sky,
your absence seeps in like a carnivorous vapor:

seething particles consume my mouth, until smiling burns,
and my eyes,
until the tears come (and they do), even my ears!

until endless chatter aches as much as endless quiet,

devouring my skin so slowly and methodically until eventually,
I don’t recognize myself.

By ‘your absence’, I mean the way you come into my
world everyday
without...being...here.

 

And here is the dance that two ladies did based on my poem: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R79d7F-vWPk&feature=youtu.be

Coordinates

I intended to travel alone,
but the mind is that clingy companion,

impartial to longitudes and latitudes, 

unwilling to be left behind.
So, it’s one foot in front of the other 

down eroded alleyways, 

along picturesque trails, 

squeezing you 

out 

with a frenzy of new images.
But when the darkness takes over,

issuing stars into the night sky,

your absence seeps in like a carnivorous vapor, 
seething particles consume my mouth, until smiling burns, 

and my eyes, until the tears come (and they do),

even my ears! until endless chatter aches as much as endless quiet,

devouring my skin so slowly and methodically until eventually,

I don’t recognize myself.
By ‘your absence’, I mean the way you come into my world everyday
without…being…here.

your mouth

(a poem I wrote for a dear friend in the aftermath of her heartbreak)

Ours was a superhero love in the name of “you and I against the world”
with its heady persistence that navigated years and jobs and moving vans,
a mother’s death, cousin’s wedding, a trip to the emergency room and to Europe …and the infinite possibility of future.

Then, you cry and cry and I hold your hand because I love you and I see that you are hurting. And as my heart breaks for you, a whisper escapes your sobs… “I slept with someone…else.” And the breaking heart shatters… this time for me. For us. For the bleak truth that our superhero love lost.

You’re explaining how it happened now, but the details land on the pale green cushions beneath me- the $5 cushions we discovered at a garage sale on the corner of 6th and Main. I remember hugging you and shrieking as the wind lifted my skirt above my ass right in front of two elderly gentlemen. Slowly, the image of that pleasant afternoon slips down my cheek and lands next to your words, leaving a wet tear stain on the fabric, dissolving that infinite possibility of future.

Your lips part and close as sounds drone across the great divide between us like missiles, haphazardly destroying memory after memory. They obliterate instantaneously, no match for the lengthy explanation and professions from your mouth. Your mouth is on her body and in her body and whispering “fuck me” into her ear as you…fucked her. And it simultaneously implores my forgiveness because you love me. You explain that my pardon would be the quid pro quo for the strength forgiveness brings. We’d become the past and future parts of ourselves, the growing phalanx of devastations and triumphs that collectively form our story, which you say, is worth untold hers.

Silence. We sit in silence for the lifetimes it took to get here. And it’s savage in the end.

“Forgiveness, you see, is the saddest doing you’ll ever do. So I choose Bitterness. With all its insidious venom, I choose it. I hope it seeps from my mouth to yours so that you may never whisper professions of love, and I hope it’s bitter enough to roil your clarity of mind so that you reel as I am now. And when I leave, I’m taking the living with me so you may fend for yourself in the wreckage.”

In the end

For the months we waited, nothing extraordinary happened.
Gasping oxygen machines became the hypnotic proof of passing time,
his phlegmy cough the only intermittent interruption.

Tightly clasped shutters conceded strands of light,
claiming the floors and climbing the walls.
Swarming dust motes battled in limited sunlight.

Occasionally, my uncle thrummed an off-key guitar made of Cuban mahogany.
My mother read Scripture to herself from a chair in the corner of the room,
the susurrus of her ever-moving lips barely audible.

I sat on a wooden stool, numb from my sit bones to my fallow mind. The waiting…

Death slowly moved in, taking over
until the pallid tones of the room enveloped his skin,
and eventually, his humor.

His favorite eyewear was an ancient pair of pince-nez spectacles
whose spring had long since given way to being held on
with one veiny, trembling hand. It was dramatic and I approved.

When he went blind, he held the glasses to his chest.
I often found myself staring at the rise and fall of his magnified buttons.
It went on like this…

In the end, his hand slid slowly from his chest…
I marveled at how the spectacles continued to perch.
He must have been relieved that his heart could still see.

at first

It’s the quietest parting.

At first, we wake up face to face,
eyes holding and being held,
shifting closer, nestling into nonexistent gaps,
closing in on distant possibilities,
conversations distilled to contented sighs,
saying everything that needs to be said.

At first, that’s how it is.

Then, I fuck up. Or you do.
And we vow to be infinitely patient,
and love in spite of the imperfections.
Your mouth finds mine in the dark,
and in the waking, I feel your breath,
your face near mine,
so I forgive myself, because we’re worth it.

That’s how it goes.

We’re discussing the future –
where to meet, and when…
then it’s an email that explains how plans
are changing, how the week is now an overnight.
It’s not ideal but it’s life, or something.
And I feel the warmth drain.

It’s the quietest parting,
and suddenly you are way…over…there…

That first morning-
after you had kissed me like you understood me,
and we’d made love as if I already loved you-
which I did –
I remember looking into your blue eyes,
tracing the lines at their corners,
and thinking how I hadn’t been happy this way before.

the things we don’t say

I’ll shroud us in conditionals,
like a rubber glove rolling over the disquiet
in you, in me,
carefully cloaking wounds before they weep.

When I say, “I’ll be fine no matter what happens”
while smiling and pulling you closer,
it’s tough elastic latex being dragged over
past lesions bent on splitting.

The breathing shallows with lack of oxygen,
but it’s hygienic, and we remain in tact,

for now, for as long as the traction lasts.

the living we do

The flags are all worn at the top of their poles-
tattered cloth snaps at itself
like bickering, abandoned children.
There’s a madness to it-
how time wears the fabric, fades colors.

I am always barely escaping
the wearing and fading.
It’s what I do. I look in long angles,
and depending on where I’m standing,
and with whom,
the light gives me back my form.

But, sometimes there is this great rippling wake
that follows me into the darkest corners,
rolling over my skin,
lapping at the quietest layers
where you have recently been.

I lie as still as I can.

It is the inevitable way that darkness
becomes your mouth on mine,
or the sensations you’ve left behind
when I close my eyes to feel the weight of you.

It’s the way taking means giving,
spreading without smothering…
tasting you, the pulsing liquid professions:
“you are alive you are alive you are…”
…every savory shudder a reminder

that the living we do
protects us from wearing and fading,

that the living we do
matters more than the promises we make…

and if the darkness closes in too heavily,
I’ll remind myself that we’re good at the living.

Collisions

It’s been a while since I’ve seen you,
and everyone assures me that’s for the best.
All I know is that one of us was a giant coward…
but I no longer know which one.

Then I round the corner and collide into you,
and we laugh at happenstance-
at having found something missing
after an exhausting search.

As though nothing had ever changed,
or everything had,
I was still the person you believed in,
and you, the person I loved the most.

It ends abruptly, before I’m ready,
as it does every night at 4 am
when I wake alone in my bed,
holding very still,

just in case.