Nov 30, 2011
I was 20 years old and working as a lifeguard at my hometown pool. Home from college for the summer, I was actually working with two of my best friends at the pool. One of our other best friends, Eva, had gone that day to a doctor's appointment because she hadn't been feeling well. I happened to be the one to run to the pool house when we heard the phone ring.
Eva was crying when I picked up the phone. She was still out of town, had just left her appointment. "Pal..." she wailed. "I'm pregnant." I listened to her and asked questions or made statements, and in one of them I promised not to tell our other two friends. She wanted to absorb it a bit, I figured, and to tell them herself. The girls questioned me, though, because they were expecting a call from her about what the doctor had said. I covered a bit awkwardly.
I was on the phone with Eva, alone in the pool house. My best friend was confiding in me and she was frightened and hurting, but still I didn't tell her that I was pregnant, too. I couldn't, really. I hadn't even let myself admit it. Pregnancy simply could not happen to me. To say I was a naive and unprepared girl is to give me way too much credit. Even though I'd been having sex for five years at that point, I had never once thought about birth control. My step-mother tried to talk to me about it once on a car ride somewhere in high school. She said she'd bring me to the doctor, and we'd get me on the pill. It was a kind offer, but I was so uncomfortable talking about sex, about my body, that I clammed up and shook my head. It's stunning to me now, to look back and see that girl so heavy in denial that she explained away nausea and sore boobs, and yet hoped in the back of her mind that breathing the cleaning fumes at the pool would cause a miscarriage. It was an odd place to be, almost of two minds--unable to say the word pregnant even in my head, but already planning an abortion.
The father was onto me. And he was thrilled. He loved kids, and he took to rubbing my stomach and calling me Mama. He sensed I was leaning towards abortion, when I could eventually talk about it with him, and he put me on the phone with his mother, who he had told. She prayed and I cried.
But the father was abusive. Locking me in a room is the worst thing he ever did to me, but he'd told me he beat up his ex-girlfriend's parents and his sister, and I'd seen his eyes go cold when I stayed out too late with my friends. This guy wanted me to marry him, move to California, where he was from, and have the baby. I knew this was not happening. Crazy thing is, if I hadn't been pregnant, I was stupid and desperate enough to have married him. But even with a complete lack of self-esteem and little confidence, it was firm in my head and my heart that I was not going to have his baby. At the end of the summer, I still hadn't told my best friends or anyone else, and I headed back to college.
I finally told Eva one day, or rather she encouraged it out of me (I guess I wasn't as discreet as I thought)and she agreed to go to a clinic with me. Our university's campus newspaper had an ad for a Pregnancy Care Center. Free pregnancy tests, it said, and abortion referrals. Eva drove me there. The building was downtown inside a tall, dark, old building. We climbed up silent, soft forest green stairs and down a hallway. The door looked like an office door, not a medical clinic, but we went in anyway.
It was an office. It was small and looked like it should belong to an insurance salesperson. Right away we saw one of those "abortion" pictures, and we looked at each other. Still, we stayed. I went into their small office bathroom with rust circling the sink drain, and I peed in a Dixie cup, then left it on the dish towel on top of the toilet. The elderly lady who had led me there wore old-woman pleated slacks and a sweater, and she went into the bathroom and placed an Equate brand pregnancy test stick in my piss. After she pronounced me pregnant, she asked me what I was thinking of doing, and I told her I was thinking of doing abortion. I can't remember much of what she said, but I remember this: "Have you felt the baby kicking yet?" At 13 weeks, which I was,that was, at the very least, very unlikely. The woman gave me a handout to study up on, mostly about the emotional trauma I would feel. I was worried about this, but not as worried as I was about being pregnant. In the end, the woman gave me a Thank You certificate from my fetus, as well as a pair of tiny booties. This mystified me. I wasn't sure if the smallness of the booties was supposed to bring out my maternal instincts, or if someone figured it was the lack of booties that was causing me to want to "murder" my "child." At any rate, later, the woman called my home, where I lived with two cousins, and left a message from a "friend," and then followed up with a postcard.
After we left that place, I cried all the way to Eva's dorm, and then I told her I wanted to have an abortion. One other thing I was worried about was Eva's reaction. She had told the dad, had a plan, and she was having a baby. Terminating my pregnancy was the only option I ever considered, but I was still frightened she'd think badly of me. But she scolded me for thinking it, hugged me, told me she'd go with me, and asked if she should tell our two friends. I said yes, and then I went home and phoned the local women's clinic and made an appointment.
Part 2: Coming up with the money and medical complications
Nov 28, 2011
As much as I like to pretend that I have it all together, truth is I am always hanging on by a thread. Ani Difranco said it best, “As bad as I am, I’m proud of the fact that I’m worse than I seem.”
I have been officially divorced for a short time. The whole process has been like pulling a deeply rooted plant out of the pit of my lungs. I’ve had to find strength down in me to remove myself from a dysfunctional marriage and now I am trying to have the courage to write about it through nonfiction which, let me tell you is a task for me, a poet.
I feel like I have been hiding behind my poems during this whole process. Not to knock poems at all. I love them. They provide an outlet where I can tell as much or as little as I want to about my life. I know my pain and confusion has come out in my poems but for me, to just say Hey, this is REALLY hard for me has seemed impossible to do. And frankly, a bit weak.
I feel that a stigma can surround someone who is divorced. People who might want to date me, acquaintances, the barista or even friends could wonder What did SHE do wrong? I believe there to be a self-imposed stamp on my forehead that says I’ve failed.
Now, I know I didn’t fail at marriage alone. It takes two to tango and all that but there are times when things get hard with regular life and that is when I miss having a partner in life, such as, I have mice in my apartment. I have lived here for a year and a half and the mice show up this month. My lease is up and I am just grossed out. I’ve tried to trap them but nothing. I have no bodies as evidence. And with no evidence of dead mice and continued “surprises,” I feel I can’t go on living here. It seems silly to move but having mice droppings in my drawers makes me feel like a failure of a mother. I have failed to provide my son with a safe and healthy home.
It also makes me wish I had a person that I could still bounce fears and situations like this off of. You can’t do that with a guy you casually date because 1) you don’t want him to know you live somewhere with mice and 2) leaning on someone in that sort of domestic crisis could scream “I want to be serious.” Which may or may not be the case, but shit, it’s a game out there and I’m not up for playing. It's 'take me or leave me' time.
Heavy boxes depress me. The idea of moving to a new apartment makes me cringe. I have to figure out if I can handle it all cause frankly, the divorce and the ex-boyfriend “Section V” have shot my nerves all to hell.
So, I guess what I am saying is: I want to be able to look fear in the eye. But I have: every day for the past 2 years. I’m tired. And saying this in prose makes it seems more real.
In the poem version of this blog, there are mice machinists, torturing the feet of women and we then turn to the sad longing gaze of a hungry cat. Autumn leaves cover the ‘lost hope,’ disguised here as a fallen pet rat, run over by a bicycle. He blinks at the clouds as his life gives way. Somewhere, a clock strikes eleven.
Nov 23, 2011
Check-writing made tolerable.
2. That those Glee kids exist.
Cheesy dialogue and ridiculous dance numbers cheer me up.
3. 4 Runners
Damn sexy (and reliable) cars.
I seriously can never get enough. I'd eat it with fork if socially accceptable. Yeah, I said fork.
5. Friends (The TV show)
They are the ice cream to my depression.
6. Real Kleenex
You know it is way better than blowing your nose in toilet paper or a napkin. One of the world's most affordable luxuries.
7. Panda Express
8. Thrift Stores
Who doesn't like looking at the crap other people didn't want?
9. Cashmere Socks
They're like sex for your feet. Good sex, that is.
10. The Women of the Beat Generation
Marginalized during their time, their memoirs tell stories of women who lived life as they wanted during a time when they were expected to be June Cleaver. Their tales of sexual experimentation, the writing life post WWII, and fraternizing with Jack, Allen and the rest of gang will entertain and inspire.
Nov 20, 2011
As a mother, running a household, I interject.
· Early to rise means early to bed. Early to bed means leaving much unfinished.
· Insomnia, anxiety, whatever things one might take pills for in the evenings, lets one drift through alarm clock warnings.Waking up late pisses on one’s chances for “cheerful.”
· Rising early for alone time requires silence that’s near-to-impossible to pull off in an apartment or an old creaky house. If one has a dog, the dog will always wake no matter how quiet one is; it will whimper to be let out to pee as one makes coffee.
· More often “early to rise” only means the other work starts sooner. To-do lists find one easily, first thing (as one has often planned it) and so kills one’s inspiration. Even without the penned to-do lists, the washer and dryer – which have sat quietly all night – seem now to whisper nasty things about wrinkles and mildew.
· Some kids – even teenagers – are naturally early risers, and they steal one’s writing devices to check their Facebook and play music videos. And toddlers have a lot to do in the mornings that requires one’s undivided attention (like sitting on the potty).
· To walk before the sun's up would mean one would need to carry a flashlight and an effective protective device and a cell phone because the world has mostly succeeded at convincing one that the world is dangerous and one is truly vulnerable.
· Work commutes mean out the door very early. Drives steal one’s otherwise personal time. It’s hard to take notes while driving, and kids lose things like hand-held recording devices.
· Sometimes, one has to live on just enough money to keep several chickens alive. All these chickens must be clothed and feed and taught to live within the fence line.
· "Enough to feed a chicken" means qualifying for free lunches and welfare and accepting handouts when they're given. Teenagers wear the stigmas that come along with such things burned into their foreheads.
· And the Writing Pen is often unruly and asks more and more of a mother as a writer and, meanwhile, back in reality, things pile up when one has been elsewhere, lost in words and stories and visions. All of those piled up things have a way of reshuffling one’s direction, over and over again. Alas, one's morning walk is a complication.
· The barnyard is demanding. This one doesn’t like playing rooster. And writing can makes one feel more like a dirty fox with dark intentions - a time stealer.
Mary, not this one on this day or any near day in the future.
For now, all I have are my damn sweet, late evenings.
Nov 16, 2011
I can’t be a Bitch.
There, I said it. My ex-husband may not agree, though, I have a suspicion that he might. Our divorce could have been way worse.
I have always wanted to be a bitch. To call the douchebag out in the bar. To shove the pretty girl telling me to “move back” at a concert. Get all up in someone’s face. To tell off the woman in the business suit that she is a horrible person for parking in the handicapped spot at PetSmart “just to grab Fluffykins some food.” But, I just can’t.
Seriously. The worse thing I have done is put an open barbeque sauce packet on a guy’s windshield because he thought it was funny to pretend he was going to run over my son in his stroller.
In my mind though, I do horrible things. Pour gasoline in the ex-boyfriend’s basement and then light a match. Pour vinegar into the pots of his most precious plants. Set the shed at the house I spent most of my marriage in on fire as a symbolic gesture. I put ex-lax in the mean girls brownies and spit in the new girlfriend’s shampoo. I imagine I scream at “that cute guy” everything he did wrong to hurt me, then point out how small his penis is and he doesn’t date for years. I have the potential to be a monster.
But instead, I admire from afar those who just say what they feel, risk it all and don’t care if anyone likes them for it. They trust in who they are.
My sister has always been known for not taking shit from anybody. She threw boys up against lockers for being uncouth in high school. When a couple of boys spit ALL over our bikes in grade school she made sure the boys who did it were not well liked and for one in particular, she kept his feminine hygiene product sounding last name memorable until high school graduation. This was before we called people douchebags. My sister is a revenge trendsetter. I’m in awe to this day.
My sister and I also work together. One day, our new boss was trying to be funny and throw paper at her while she was talking to someone. I told him, “You don’t mess with her. Trust me. She has been the one NOT to mess with in my family, forever.” I don’t think he took me seriously, but trust me, I think he is learning.
My brother is a quiet badass. Just hangs out and chills out but if someone messes with his sisters, all bets are off. He and my younger sister were at a hardcore show when some guy, probably messed up on meth or something, kept slamming into my sister. My brother pushed the guy away as one does at a hardcore show but the dude kept coming back. So my brother punched the guy IN THE FOREHEAD.
Two days later, he found out he had broken his hand.
So, see, I am not a bad ass. I’m more like a wimp. My anger comes through in the metaphors of my poems and even then, it is more like pain and melancholy. And I guess I fear that bringing all of that potential bitch energy to the page would just turn the language into a rant or some other non-eloquent movement of words. Perhaps, I am meant to deal with everything life throws at me in my own way but sometimes I feel it would benefit me more if I could embrace my inner bitch. Maybe she just isn’t there and instead I am made up inside of lost souls and battered saints.
Ugh…that does sound like something I would say.
art: "Set on Fire: (2009) by Kristoffer Zetterstrand
Nov 14, 2011
So she turned around and I began to part her hair to do her pigtails, and that's when I saw them. Eggs. They had to be eggs. Tiny white pouches attached to her hair, not at the root but along the shaft. There weren't a ton, but enough for me to know it wasn't right and wasn't just flaky scalp. i have an itchy head for whatever reason, especially if I don't wash my hair every day, so when she'd said the week before that her head itched, I dutifully checked it and yep, her scalp right on top was a little flaky, but nothing unusual. But this time I just knew. I told her to go downstairs and have her daddy check it out. My partner didn't think it was lice--he'd had it when he was younger, and he remembers, distinctly, sitting on the floor in his living room with his head on his mom's lap on top of a paper towel, while she used a nit comb to pick the lice and eggs out. It hurt like hell. his mom would show him the lice and then crush them with her fingernail, and it made a popping sound. So he tried to get the eggs out and pop them, and when they didn't pop, he assumed it wasn't lice.
So I showed my partner and told him I had looked up pictures, which I had, and those were definitely eggs. We called her in sick to school and my partner went and got some special shampoo. Yes, I put pesticides in my daughter's hair. And I thought about not doing that. My partner's parents didn't have money for the shampoo, so there was a lot of nit-picking and sore scalps.
Now, my partner goes to work at 12:30 nearly every day. I'd asked him to shampoo her and then when he left I could comb it out. Mysteriously, he ran out of time to shampoo her, so when he left I put her in the bath and put the shampoo on. it has to go on dry hair and sit for 10 minutes but no longer. As soon as I got it all in there, she said her head itched, so I found a toy and began to scratch her head with it so as not to touch the shampoo I'd just put on her poor little head. So, we shampooed and then I had her sit on the bathroom floor while I combed with the nit comb. And at first, I wasn't going to use the gel that came with it, because you had to wash that out too. But then, I saw a louse. I wiped the contents of the comb on my towel, and I said to Zoe, "Oh. there's one right there. Weird, huh?" I was not freaked out, as I thought I would be. I HATE bugs. Spiders are the worst, but all insects make me jump. A fly landed on my desk once in high school and I screamed. But I certainly didn't want Zoe to feel badly about the stupid lice, or to freak her out. So I kept combing and wiping. I couldn't really tell what I was getting, on account of the gel was all foamy. And then...
"Mom, that one's moving," Zoe said. I whipped my head, and yep, that little fucker was moving. I pressed on the louse with the comb thingie, and it didn't die. I kept crushing it. Soon, more were joining it, moving slowly in the goopy gel mess on my lap. And I even saw a couple on her FACE and her NECK. GAHHHHH! And you guys, her hair is so effing thick that it took about an hour and a half just to comb it out. And then we rinsed it again, and that was it. I had to get back to work--I'd already been delayed for several hours, and I knew I'd be working until bedtime. But first, I had to wash all of the kids' bedding and seal up their stuffed animals in plastic garbage bags. My three kids all sleep in 1 bed, for some reason, even though they have a bunk bed, and I was very nervous the other kids would get it. My youngest girl, at three, has hair down to her butt when it's wet. She has this fine hair, thick but fine and very tangly, and curly. Ringlets.
I think I got lucky. Next time we checked Zoe, she was clear. She still is, and the other kids haven't gotten it. I mentioned my itchy head earlier, right? Well, now every time I scratch I'm paranoid. But my partner says I'm clear. This appears to have been a comparatively mild case of head lice, and I'm soooo grateful for that. Because I simply do not have time for lice right now. I'm spoken for every minute of the day, and those damn lice have taken enough of my time. Good riddance, you little assholes.
Nov 12, 2011
Choosing the name “Rhea” was not intentionally big-headed. I was looking for a motherly goddess who was earthly and smart and whose name started with the letter “R.” I found places where Rhea, the goddess, was referred to as the “inescapable mother,” and seeing as I often sit home stalking the Facebook profiles of my older children, I thought perhaps this was a godly chic I could relate to. The truth is (as I’ve come to see it), Rhea was one mighty awesome mythical mother goddess. She’s old, established, loud, and smart. She rides lions. She fools Time. She sets shit in motion. Her place in the history of all being is quite purposeful. I like that idea – of being purposeful, of making an impact, of stirring shit up.
Rhea was a Greek earth goddess, the daughter of Gaia and Uranus, a.k.a. Earth and Sky, gods of Mt. Olympus. Rhea was the mother to Demeter and Hades and Poseidon and even Zeus for crying out loud. Her brother and husband (!), Cronos, castrated the father Uranus (a plan set in motion by his mother Gaia who had provided the sickle with which to do it). Without his penis, Uranus was massively weakened, downright ungodly, and surely highly distracted, so Cronos was able to defeat him. Cronos and Rhea became king and queen of the gods during the Golden Age. Cronos came to fear his own children might indeed strive to cut off his penis so he decided he would eat all of his offspring. Naturally.
The most glorious story is of how Rhea saved her boy, Zeus, from being eaten up by his father, Cronos also Kronus, the Father Time, also Saturn (in Roman circles). Rhea was smart and instead of handing over her son to be popped like a pill, she handed over a stone the size of an infant swaddled in cloth. Cronos swallowed the pseudo baby (then burped?). Rhea hid little Zeus in Crete where little Zeus suckled the tit of a goat or a cousin or a cousin who was in fact a goat. When Zeus was grown, he did indeed dethrone Cronos (see: Clash of the Titans) and forced him to vomit up all of his children. However, it is good to note that before Zeus came to power, humans were said to have lived throughout the Golden Age rather blissfully. There was no pain, death, disease, hunger, or any other evil (aside from gods eating their babies and whatnot). When Zeus came to power, he put an end to humankind's happiness – all thanks to Rhea, really, who was just trying to keep her son from being ingested. Luckily, the bad ass Athena came along and ripped herself out of her father’s skull. This is my best understanding of a complex story, a beautifully complex story.
The name “Rhea” comes from words meaning “flow” and “ease.” I like this because I consider myself easy-going and open-minded (all considered). (The name is also – somehow – connected to the word “pomegranate,” and I like pomegranates just fine too.) It takes a lot to stress me out, to keep me from walking right through a storm. I have learned that storms are livable, and of course storms are tough and scary – and beautiful. They teach you to grow your roots deeper. The deeper meaning behind “ease” and “flow” lies in the fact that Rhea represented the eternal flow of time and generations as the great Mother; the "flow" was menstrual blood, birth waters, and milk. Although the act is not 100% pretty, the livid physicality of the act of reproduction is undeniably gorgeous. I’m quite familiar with it; I’ve birthed four children, the first of which was in 1990 when I was 16.
In art, Rhea is often depicted on a throne flanked by lions or in a chariot pulled by lions or actually riding a lion. The lion was sacred to this mother of the gods because it was declared the most important of all animals on earth (see: Lion King). I love lions – particularly lionesses. I love the idea of the pride more so than the muscle and the mane. I love how the pride is self-sustaining and safe, a group of female lions coming together to raise future generations, to make sure all have food, to protect one another while they sleep.
I like the stories of Rhea as a goddess who sat among the people announcing her ever-presence by beating on a bronze drum, warning the world to take heed of her oracle, her oracle that could announce greatness or doom (most often doom, given the whole rise of Zeus alongside misery). I like to think of writing as an oracle of sorts. I am still in the process of fine-tuning my declarations, of shaping and tightening my drum. Thus far, I have learned that children do in fact strive to chop off their father’s penises (if only metaphorically). Young people often fail to choose their lovers well. Parents make incredible sacrifices, and, sometimes, their children still grow up to make terrible mistakes or to be pompous assholes. I’m not sure what there is to do about any of this. One day, I might have all the answers. I’ll give you my words.
Nov 9, 2011
Being single for the first time since I was in high school has been weird for me.
When I had been married for 5 years, I started seeing stories in the news about all the inappropriate things kids were doing on the school bus and learned what a “rainbow party” was. And it freaked me out. When I was in high school, there were still grungy riot grrrls who wore black eyeliner, knew who Mia Zapata was, didn’t take any shit or do anything they were told and guys still thought they were hot.
So when I found myself back in the world of dating, I think there was a huge learning curve. The first guy I spent more than one date with, let’s call him “Section V” because sadly, the last section of my thesis revolves around the fumblings of feeling something for him, this someone besides my ex-husband. Turns out, a year later, he is a manipulative, lying douche bag.
Oddly, I can talk about my dating life with my ex-husband (Yeah, yeah. It’s weird. We’re FREAKS. Whatever. Judge all you want…it’s just how it is) and he made the observation that perhaps my abilities to find a decent non-douche bag were not very good as I first stumbled out of nine-and-a-half years of marriage. And I think (I can hear the ex-husband patting himself on the back now…sigh) he is right. I just needed a guy who would say the right things and let me cook him dinner so I could feel domestic again. I was douche blind.
But on the upside, these events of crashing and burning with “Section V” and other men have made for great metaphorical weirdness in my poems. Men say some pretty crazy shit. Men also do some pretty crazy shit and women (I am talking particularly about me here) don’t do much better. But I am lucky because I find interactions between humans, especially those trying to care about each other (or giving the illusion they care) horrifyingly fascinating. Weaving together human contact is imbedded in the core of humanity and man, that isn’t easy. To give you a metaphor: you have to wander through the corn maze and sniff a lot of pumpkins before you learn to tell which one TRULY isn’t rotten. Apparently, I like finding a foul smelling gourd and then writing about it.
It is in these times, post-relationship and trying not to hurl eggs at his house, I can sit down and write a poem to focus. And the restraint in trying to use language to pinpoint my missteps, figuring out how exactly to juxtapose my perceptions against his actions in the relationship, and organizing it all brings about a reflective place inside me where poems can grow. Even if they are just about apple pies, hotel room doors closing or what his note said when it was over.
So, to those men who have mingled with me this past year: take heart…at least I wrote some poems about you.