New Poem: My Whiteness

Last night I participated in my very first Poetry Slam at the Lubeznik Center for the Arts and … I didn’t make it past the first round. I learned so much though and heard some amazing poetry. The woman who eventually won read directly before me in the first round and the man who came in second read directly after me. I knew I couldn’t beat them, but I wish I had been able to read this poem then. But man, it was a good night.

And if you just want to hear it, here’s the audio recording.

My Whiteness
April 6, 2017

With not a stitch of hair on my head,
my whiteness came first

My femaleness came next
but, first, and not at all
unexpectedly, came
my whiteness

For years, as I rallied
my feminist cries from
age twelve on,
my whiteness was the
first thing served up
allowing me to bellow
at certain men
with little to no risk

I didn’t see how my whiteness
wore me like a protective bubble

to keep danger out
consequently keeping me
safe from understanding
the differences in the
parallel lives lived by
women of darker hues

My whiteness blind-folded me,
slapped my ass
and sent me out in the world
as if my path were the only one

My whiteness came first
hard, bright and loud
like a flash bomb
that tamped down the
voices that spoke in
frequencies my ear was not
tuned to hear
that told stories in a code
I wouldn’t crack
because
I didn’t have to

My whiteness paved my way
and bought me drinks
and changed my tires
and waived that traffic ticket
and opened those doors
while I thought I was doing
it all on my own, with the
talents and treasures God gave me

My whiteness isn’t a burden
or a curse
or a shame I wear like
last year’s purse

My whiteness is a ticket
I didn’t purchase
the entry fee and the raffle ticket
and the complimentary drink

My whiteness requires no apologies
nor shame
but
my willful ignorance
does

I can no more pop the bubble
of its protection than I can
change the pigment I’ve been given

but

I can throw paint upon it,
or words or shapes or
fabric drapes
making visible
the invisible shield
of my whiteness

#UULent: Ally

Today I put on the music and cleaned the kitchen: stove, microwave, oven and floor, even. Women sang to me today. They sang of broken hearts and broken homes, of hopes and dreams, and of purpose.

I thought of all the women who have sung to me in my life, who have encouraged me, who have told me one way or another: you got this. Today, my allies sang to me while I scrubbed off the stew that bubbled over the pan three days ago and swept up the errant catfood bits that always dot my kitchen floor.

While the women crooned, I thought of all the ways the world works to make it hard for female people to just be people. All the shoulds. All the shame. All the ways we indoctrinate ourselves to believe we should be good and this is what “good” does. I wonder how many male people go through life wondering if they are being “good” what judgments are being made about their desire to have one more drink, or wear shorts, or become a lawyer or a farmer or a singer in a rock and roll band.

My kitchen was very messy. I had lots of time to muse.

Then I went out and took this foot selfie and posted that I was going barefoot because it is 70 degrees in March, even if my feet weren’t “sandal-ready.” Judgy McJudgerson raised her stupid head again.

And then I got in the car and my dear friend sang to me through the CD player, and I was reminded of the sisterhood of those of us who just want to be bad or good, who just want to choose for ourselves how our life is going to go and where it will take us. One of these days.

 

#UULent: Engagement

My engagement this week has been strictly political and passive. I have been watching cable news coverage of all of the news this week, so much so that yesterday I pulled the plug for a while and re-upholstered a chair.

The chair reminded me of what I’ve not allowed myself to remember in a long time: I am most engaged when there is a tangible project before me, wanting to be done.

The political climate is so overwhelming right now. I don’t bring myself to enter political conversations with people who voted for the Republican president. I hold back and smile about other things because I can’t allow this president to destroy everything–including friendships. So, there, I just said it. I’m not confronting people. I’m not engaging.

I’m being with people who know very well how I feel about everything that is going on right now and who don’t agree with me and I’m letting that elephant take a big damn dump between us and I’m pretending it doesn’t stink.

Give me a task and I’ll attack it with my head and hands and, after fumbling over all the wrong ways to do it, I will make it new.

But tell me to change the world, a heart, a mind and I will fumble over all the ways I will do it wrong and never start.

So here is my chair. My noble little $5.00 chair covered in old upholstery swatches and probably a little of my blood, sweat and skin. This is my engagement right now while I stew in the sadness that swamps our democracy right now.

#UULent: Solitude

My resolve to write on all the topics of the #UULent project has waned. Not surprising, as my ability to write has been stilted a bit. When I say I haven’t written because two of my daughters were home, it sounds as if I am blaming, but it was a choice I made because I knew if I dove into writing, I might not come back up in a timely way. Instead, they introduced me to The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt–and it was delicious. As were the cookies I baked.

The reason I feared I wouldn’t float back up to the surface was because my writing had been going so well for the weeks before and I owed that good writing not to willpower but to solitude. Long stretches of solitude that allowed my mind to wander the paths it needed to in order to get to the heart of my work. The solitude was as delicious as the cookies and Kimmy Schmidt, but differently delicious–delicious in the sense of it being rich and abundant and exactly what I needed.

But for the last week, what I needed was to be a part of something not in my head nor in my imagination, but in the tangible connection that sometimes manifests in sitting near each other on a couch.

So here I am, dipping my toes back into the solitude that my writing self yearns for, though today it looked like making blueberry muffins and stew. Today, my solitude came in the sound of blueberries gently popping in the heat of the oven, and then in the smell of meat, vegetables and sauce simmering, bubbling over the edge of the pan and leaving a sputtering mess. And it resurfaced in the small snores of three languid felines, nestled on my legs or around them at different times of the day.

No writing came to me today, except this longish revery. And still my day was filled, not only with Congressional hearings, but with purposeful movement that may not change the world outside my home, but certainly changed a part of me in the doing.

Today, in solitude, I was fed, body and soul.

 

#UULent: Resilience

I am a bit of a klutz. Part of it is a balance issue, but most of it is just from rushing to get a thing done that I don’t want to do in the first place, like, say, the dishes.

Tonight was one of those nights. Washing the dishes that need to be hand-washed and rushing through it, I sliced my finger. No stitches needed, but I did get a little light-headed there for a bit.

So, of course I had to post to facebook about my little bit of drama because I am thinking of some other people who embody resilience in ways I can’t even begin to think about, let alone live.

They aren’t my stories to tell, so I will feebly stand in for them right now, with my picture of me and my “nearly headless Nick” of a finger. And my prayers continue out and over the airwaves to those who are battling to stay in the game with grace, love, and resilience.

#UULent: Prayer

I didn’t take any photos, but today I took a walk through the wastelands. I hit a private milestone today, and afterwards, I went through some of my favorite haunts: vintage, thrift and antique stores.

I should have taken a photo. Instead, I ran my hand along a table older than me, maybe even older than my mother. I poked my hand into a jar of antique, hand-hewn, flat nails, and wondered what they held together and what they will next. And I flicked my fingers through fringe on a heavy silk shawl and dreamed of the woman who wore it once before, maybe even Frida Kahlo.

It may not be prayer as you do it, but for me it was an intuitive stroll through the new and familiar and deepened the peace my milestone gave me. If that ain’t prayer, tell me what is.

#UULent: Creativity

Last night I was sitting in the living room of a woman I’d never met before with about 10 other women I’d never met and it was a place bristling with energy. I only wish I’d thought to take a photo then.

Two weeks ago, a small group of women decided to put on a variety/art show to observe “a day without women” but instead making it a “day about women.” Tomorrow night, we gather to read, sing, play in a woman-owned business to benefit Planned Parenthood and to support each other.

Last night was meant to be a rehearsal of the closing song, but like so often happens when a group of creatives gather, a new thing was born–and very often out of one single question: “what if?”

This, I think, is the heart of creativity, not just to ask the question, but to ponder the answer with an open heart and mind.

What a joy-filled night last night was. I look forward to tomorrow, when the fruit of this labor arrives.

#UULent: Rest

During my first cup of coffee, while I was sitting on the couch under two blankets, one cat walked toward me and settled in on my legs. Sometime after my husband refilled my cup, a second cat slunk up and decided that she, too, needed to be on me and took up residence on my belly. There I sat, a bunk bed for cats, until I roused enough to dress and commence the days list of tasks.

Then I realized that today’s word to ruminate on is: rest. What better picture, I thought, what better symbol of rest than two cats slumbering silently on my soft body.

And then I came down to my office to work, and the fat cat followed, eventually climbing into the box I made for her to keep her off my keyboard. You can barely tell she’s there as the box is lined with a blanket the color of her. She curled her large self into the box, resting, and I kept going with my phone calling and computer typing until I heard a small, yet rumbly snore coming from the corner. I looked over and saw her ear and one paw poking up, over the box.

Rest well, fat cat, and be an inspiration to us all to find our quiet, cozy corners, near enough to our beloveds, yet far enough away that no one yells at us to stop snoring.

#UULent: Partnership

On our last night in Tucson, we danced to a live band in a hotel ballroom and I was reminded how much we like to dance–and how seldom we take the time to do so.

The crowd had dwindled by the time I kicked off my dress-up flip flops (how does anyone dance in flip flops?), and one man said “oh, things are getting serious–the shoes are coming off.”

Someone asked if we took lessons and we both laughed. “Wedding prep,” he said. “Years ago; now we just have fun.”

I think we are all smoke and mirrors with our dancing. We both have decent rhythm and we have a few moves, but it’s easy to fool a crowd that’s been drinking all night. Our dancing partnership is founded on two principles that continue to delight and confound us: 1. That we WILL mess up; and 2. That I will NOT ever figure out how to follow his lead.

Maybe I should be thinking about surrender here, rather than partnership, as I talk about the things that will go wrong. But maybe this is just how partnership works: agreeing on how to handle things when they go wrong and rejoicing when things go better than wrong.

I wish this had been the thing we worried over as part of our wedding prep: agreeing on how to behave when things go wrong, how to help each other when one or both of us ends up on the floor sideways, and how to move with grace through a crowd.

 

 

#UULent: Love

I’ve been ruminating on love today, a day where I am home alone with three cats who have been insisting, in turns, on being adored. But I went to the stored photos on my phone, thinking I could find a suitable selfie with my husband as my “love image.” And I did, but then I found this: taken as my daughters were about to drive back to their other lives after coming home for the Women’s March on Washington. And there they all are, scooped up in my husband’s grand wingspan (even the dopey orange cat).

This is the fun picture, but the picture I have of him from this time is standing outside the bus we just boarded for DC. “My whole life is getting on this bus,” he said as he gathered us all in for one last group hug, then stood outside, watching in.

Love. It’s like that wide wingspan: it is what holds us in, connected. Even those who aren’t pictured. Even the dopey cat.