Monthly Archives: September 2012

reading series 9.1

Almost the end of September and I’m here.

I was recently thinking about a story – I can’t remember the title or the author, which is a bit odd in itself, because the story really struck me in a fundamental way. It may have been written anywhere between 1950 – 1970 and was about a woman in college who had gotten married. On one level, the story was about the educational system for women in a time when it was expected that all women would wind up married and taking care of families – so what use was a college education? On another level, the woman was tremendously excited to get married, even though they were young and poor; she was entering a new and uncertain chapter in her life.

In any event, the weekend after she married, she was back in class with a specific professor. The professor was very routine, almost bored, epitomizing the attitude towards women in higher education at that time. When he called her name, he hesitated, because her name had changed by virtue of being married. She answered “Here” or “Present” or some combination of both and was struck by the words, realizing that she had never felt so aware of her actual presence, her mindfulness, until that moment in time.

And that is what struck me about this story, her epiphany was also mine. I had never meditated on those words before. When I did, I understood the full implications of being “here”, really here – living in the moment with active awareness, fully present. This is a place without thought of past and future, without expectation and doubt, without regard to joy and pain. It is. You are. You just are.

Later, I would find this concept in other places. I recognized it while studying Eastern Religion, especially in relation to Taoism. I found it in Yoga – this mindfulness. It is what happens when one shuts off the chatter in their mind and instead is just here, attuning the posture and movements of the body with breath and awareness. Meditation focuses  slightly differently, by leaving the body and sitting in that mental present state. I also think that this state of awareness happens spontaneously during or after sex. Tantric sex is the conscious act of trying to create this aware state for a spiritual union. I also experience this state sometimes when I am writing.

When I taught Creative Writing, I used to tell my students when we reviewed the policies for attendance and lateness: “You need to be here. And not just here physically, but mentally.” Everyone would laugh, but all too soon would they realize the importance of that statement. Later, I would add that they needed to be here emotionally and spiritually as well – that is what writing demands. That is what writing is.

Lately I’ve been feeling very reflective. I’ve been feeling very tested. Sometimes it is easier for me to retreat into myself, which is part of the reason my blog posts have been so erratic over the last few months. I have been writing, revising, submitting. But … here … I tend to post more about my life and my experiences, as an addition to my creative work – which I view as more outside my everyday life. Fiction is a wonderful place to escape for me, and probably is a measure of just how difficult my life can be. It’s a weird thing, to be a writer, to be so obsessed with something as trivial as words. I mean, I can’t even remember the author or the title of the story that profoundly affected me!

As a fellow writer, that hurts. And therein is the double edged sword. We write, without knowing how or who or where or if or when or perhaps never, our work will be received. And yet, something that someone wrote has the power to affect another person deeply, profoundly. Language really does have power. As a writer, I wouldn’t really care if the person remembered my name or the title of my story –  it’s a soul touch. It is tremendously humbling to know that the kind of work I do has that potential.

In a fortune cookie, I once received the message: “Today is a Gift. That’s why it is called the Present.” Today – this moment – is a gift. You are alive. This is a gift that we all too often forget in the day-to-day experience of life. The present is a gift. It is a gift to be present. It is not easy to get to that place. It is not easy to just be when there are bills to be paid, work to do, people and pets to care for, food to cook, laundry to clean, relationships to maintain, appointments to keep, etc, etc. There is drama and tension and stress. Some people live their lives like cars rushing from red light to red light. Where are you going? You are here. Be here.

For this series, I wanted a piece that I wrote about the idea of Here. This short sketch is a little something I wrote and I just love. I did submit it as erotic flash fiction/prose poetry and it was rejected. The editor was kind to send a personal note, and said it lacked tension. And I thought … but that was exactly the point! That is why I love it and why it still speaks to me as something important. Click here to read Here.

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Here

Here

“Come here,” he says, arms extended, and I fall next to him on the bed. I press my body against his body, rest my lips on the curve of his neck. I breathe him in. He pulls me tighter, closer. We haven’t seen each other in a week; words spill, spelled across the surface of body: how are you, who are you, now? His mouth upon mine is a question.

I answer as his tongue slips inside my soft lips, sending thrills of pleasure and deep want inside me. He kisses me hard and encircles me with furious, protective love. His eyes burn, keeping me bound with desire. Spark, slap, tickle. Arms and legs contort in esoteric positions, suspended pleasure-pain. We worship each other’s body, searching the surface of skin for the key to the soul.

We love eye-to-eye, mind-to-mind, body-to-body. Fuck sex, we are making poetry. Outside, the birds are singing violently. I add my own wild call to his, and our song breaks together, lifting across the afternoon sky. After, our bodies entangled, we rest. I hear his breath deepen and listen to the sounds. Woodpecker, warbler, thrush. The world is a symphony.

His lips are half-open, pursed in half-sleep twilight, waking dreams. He stirs with a start, a shudder. “For a second, I didn’t know where you were.” I note how physically close we are. My head is resting against his, my lips are on his shoulder. His arms enfold me, his hands are tightly holding my body to his. Our touch is rough, weighted; our bodies are entwined. Together we appear one body.

“I’m right here,” I say, and he pulls me even closer. There is no place I would rather be. Here, in his arms on a Saturday afternoon, surrounded by sunlight and birdsong, my heart is full to the point of bursting. Here. Present. I smile and embrace the moment, accepting the gift.

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nefarious ballerina

I’m so happy to have three of my poems – “how we love”, “Muse”, and “He entered this lost empire” – in Issue 6 of Nefarious Ballerina!

Nefarious Ballerina is “a theme-based publication, centered around, for lack of a better word, erotica. This sounds easy enough, but to do it well is the hard part. We are interested in the intelligently erotic.What does that mean? Well, it’s what you say and how you say it that’s important, it’s about sex but it’s also about feelings and morality. It’s the fire that burns in our heads and hearts as well as our loins. It’s more about what goes on above the waist than below it. It’s about the animal in us that makes us human and how much we’ve evolved as a species — and how much we’ve stayed the same.”

Click here to check out the provocative and erotic poetry and art in Issue 6 of Nefarious Ballerina, also available through Issuu.

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reading series 8.1

Recently my older daughter turned 14. Fourteen! Last week, she entered 9th grade – her first year of high school. It’s the beginning of a new chapter of her life. There are a lot of changes and transitions ahead as she negotiates her teen years. And for me, too, as I help guide and nurture her growth during this time.

Parenting is a reflexive, evolving role. I am not the same parent I was when she was a baby. As a teenager, her needs are very different. Now, she needs my help with friendships, social relationships and situations, and understanding her self and the nature of the world. It’s a responsibility I don’t take lightly, and I consciously work towards keeping our relationship close as we both grow and change.

The result is that we have an open relationship, where she feels she can talk to me about anything. We talk about everything from music to facebook to the upcoming elections to what she wants to do with her life. It’s important to me that we are so open and communicative, because everything that she processes is expanding her awareness of her self and her world.

The physical, cognitive, emotional, and social needs of children change as they grow, but they are always present at any stage of parenting.

For example, infants and babies require a focus on their immediate physical needs. They need to be attended to, cuddled and held, fed, clothed, and diapered – basic needs that can only be met by the caregiver. At 14, my daughter still has these needs, just in a different capacity.

Even a teenager needs attention and physical affection from their parent – which is something that I see a lot of parents let go of as their children get older. Now, many children tend to start to pull away from this as well. It’s a way of them asserting their independence. So my daughter doesn’t want me to hug her in public or hold her hand while crossing the street. That’s fine. But I always kiss her goodnight. I always make it a point to give her affection throughout the day, whether it be a little hug or a rub on the back or a playful tickle. I also give her my attention – I listen to her when she talks, I ask questions. What she thinks and says and feels is important, and I want her to know that.

She still needs to be fed, even though she sometimes makes her own meals or helps me in the kitchen. I teach her about food choices and health. She’s already known girls with eating disorders, and we’ve talked about that. We’ve talked about smart dieting and eating healthy. In addition, we’ve also talked a lot about female body image and how that presents itself through media, television, and advertising, and how damaging these unreal expectations can be. I’ve reinforced the idea that every person has a different body type which is specific to them, and the most important thing is to be healthy and confident in the body you have.

Clothing takes an interesting turn around the teen years. It becomes more about personal expression. I am still responsible for buying her clothing, which means I allow her to choose what she wants, but I also have the power to veto anything I think might be inappropriate. This is highly subjective. My daughter has dyed blue streaks in her hair and likes clothing with a punk-flair. I don’t mind this. She likes to experiment with style. She wants to differentiate herself from others. She wants her appearance to reflect more of who she is, or who she wants to be.

At 14, diapering and toilet training are things long of the past – thank god! Even though these were not my favorite aspects of parenting my babies, I always felt that it was a such a short time that could have important consequences. Or perhaps I read too much Freud when I was young. But while toilet training, I always kept it positive. It was never gross or dirty – just natural and something we all learn to control at some point.

Now, I feel that this attention to bodily functions has taken a different form. All children go through puberty and the surprising and confusing changes in their bodies. The sexual nature of the body is going to become much more of an issue as she moves through the teen years. Again, I feel that keeping an open communication is so important at this stage. We talk, but I’ve also given her many different books about the body, which she’s read privately. I understand her need for privacy, but I also have a responsibility to make sure that she has access to as much knowledge about the body and sexuality as possible.

There is a lot to parenting.

It’s not easy work. There’s no instruction manual. Nevertheless, from the time I was pregnant, I have devoured books on parenting from many different sources. I have reflected on my own experiences as a child, and my own relationships with my parents to guide me. Money, awards, and accolades are not involved. There’s no one telling me, “good job!” My reward is in the person I see before me, at each stage of her life, and the relationship we share, bonded as a parent and child.

For this reading series, I want to share some poems I wrote about my first experiences becoming a mother. I wanted to share my birth stories, but perhaps I will do that when my younger daughter turns 12 – Twelve! – in just another couple of months. Click here to read some poems on young motherhood.

Here is a short list of books from my shelf that I have found very helpful in developing as a parent:

Between Parent and Child by Dr. Haim Ginott

The Discipline Book by William Sears and Martha Sears

The Toddler’s Busy Book by Trish Kuffner

The Preschooler’s Busy Book by Trish Kuffner

Master Players: Learning From Children at Play by Gretchen Reynolds and Elizabeth Jones

Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman

Liberated Parents, Liberated Children by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish

The “What to Expect” series – In Pregnancy, In the First Year, In the Toddler Years

Developmental Profiles (Pre-Birth through Eight) by K. Eileen Allen and Lynn R. Marotz

Introduction to Child Development by John P. Dworetzky

Infants, Children, and Adolescents by Laura E. Berk

Mother-Daughter Wisdom (Creating a Legacy of Physical and Emotional Health) by Christiane Northrup

Reviving Ophelia (Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls) by Mary Pipher

Ophelia Speaks by Sara Shandler (editor)

Girl in the Mirror (Mothers and Daughters in the Years of Adolescence) by Nancy L. Snyderman and Peg Streep


young motherhood – poems

Initiation

She was born on a Tuesday
and developed a fever after birth
antibiotics, tests, precaution, policy

I was sent home without her

every three hours I feed her, with
the exception of two nightly feedings
between midnight and six a.m.

I am here to breastfeed, offer
nourishment. It is all I can give her now.
There is a rocking chair in the storage room

I feed her there, by the small window
and hold her for as long as they let me
the nurses seem to understand, allow me

time to just be with her. I sing and read
and talk to her. She sleeps, sometimes for
hours, in the curve of my arm

across the hall, in the hospital nursery
I hear the endless wall of babies crying
always, even when I go to sleep

their echoes become my nightmares
the crib is empty next to our bed
the pain is tangible, I feel wounded

you are a mother now, they said.

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Compass

No one tells you what its like
to become a mother.

They don’t tell you the truth
about labor, how birth

enlightens, and how true it is
nothing will ever be the same

Between The Woman’s Room
and Good Housekeeping,

I am reconciling feminism
and motherhood, wondering

how I find myself in these roles
mother, wife, woman.

I am defining my evolution
with a broad compass, I navigate

with flawed accoutrement, touch
and sound, head and heart.

*

how things are broken

He slams the door behind him
shaking the window pane, the wall

shudders at his anger, I whisper
to the baby it’s okay, it’s okay

I rock her slowly, offer her my
breast – she rests, she sleeps

I am grateful. I kiss and hold her
gently lay her in the crib

the silence of the room is deafening
I don’t cry. I hardly make a sound.

There are no victories here.
We don’t know how to fight.

I throw words, terse and careful
and he walks out, leaving me alone.

I sit at the table and turn on the light
a warm glow I once called antique

like the pages of an old book
with that familiar damp smell

I look out the window and am faced
with autumn darkness

the black of night before the leaves
begin to fall and the weather turns

Colder.

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Light

My days are filled with fragile joy
time is passing by so quickly

I spend time with the children, we
play and I read to them, coordinate

breakfast and lunch, bring one child
to preschool, give the other her nap

hold them, kiss them, watch them
grow in this new environment

this small space I call my own
in the afternoon, light refracts through

the high window, throwing rainbows
on the walls and I am always in awe

at their delight. We have settled in
to a sense of quietness, a sense of peace

and in these moments I am certain
everything will be okay.

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Healing

The children are sleeping, in a wave
of exhaustion, the scent of sickness
still upon them, the baby
cried and cried until I held her
against my breast and she
finally gave into sleep, rosebud mouth
open, cries still sobbing through her
as if it were involuntary
I laid her in bed and held her tiny body
against the length of my torso
I put my ear to her chest and listened
to her heartbeat, so close to me
through the small frame
of bone, the soft surface of skin.

I heard her heart beat loud and strong
and remembered our doctor’s visits
when she was still in the womb, we
would always begin by baring my
stomach, rubbing the cool, clear gel
white noise of the machine and then
the microphone making its way across
my body, looking for that unmistakable
noise, the faint sound of her fetal heart
and how it never failed
to bring tears to my eyes, each time
I was overcome with it
now she sleeps, nearing one year
outside the womb, she is still becoming
and I hope she can grow strong
in this fragile space, my life.

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