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In this place

Laughter can be heard for miles. 
Jaws unhinge. Jaws unhinge,
stalk us down, snipe us dead.
Heckle until hackles hit heaven.
Berate us to bruises, leech blood
from stone, oasis, body, no difference.
Feast our eyes on the seamless sky 
until the sun's sleep drives shadows into sand.
Shrill notes steal away from open gullets.
Acacias murmur stories. Sparrows take notes.
Throw us a bone. Marrow glistens ruby red.
We rise as ancestors rose to greet the tides,
leaving the murk to its mindless mirth.
RUN. Left foot, right foot, left foot, right foot.
RUN. Become dizzying kaleidoscopes.





No gifts, please

A Crane Flower, or Strelitzia
Your gift arrived early, 
so I opened it.
It was meant to be 
opened early.
If I had opened it 
on Mother's Day,
the disappointment 
may have hurt more.
Opening it alone 
in my office
protected you 
from criticism.
I have overlooked 
the cheap gifts before.
Today felt different, though. 
Inside the box,
a blue cardboard box
with unidentifiable blue flowers
with black centers that reads 
Be Yourself in italics. 
The glue coming apart at the seams. 
Warped from the heat? I look again. 
$2 sticker on the bottom.
Inside a yellow dollar store bag,
three dish towels, two matching,
one not, their tags still on them.
I am grateful I opened the card first.
Its message was touching,
but dubious, even if true.
More than you know,
you make a difference
in this world...
More than you know,
you spread smiles
and laughter...
More than you know,
you inspire
with your kindness...
This gift hurts,
more than she will ever know.
Now I understand why
when I ordered her gift
and shipped it,
the inner voice said,
Just buy one thing.
I thought it was
because I am trying
to save money.
Now I know
it was because
her gift
would be
rushed.
Thrown
in a box.
Tags on.
So unlike
my mother.
That's when
I decided
to let go
of the
responsibility
of liking
everything
she gives me.
That's when
I decided
to honor
the message
on the box
and be myself.
No gifts, please,
will be my future
request at holidays.
Your presence
in my life
(even if limited
to texts
or phone calls
if I call you
or letters)
is the gift.
For once
in my life,
being 
a mom
is gift
enough.
Knowing
the
right
thing
to say
in any
given
moment.
Even if
in doing
so
I
release
one
more
thing
that
keeps
me
tied
to
my
own
mother.

Open Up

Irises blooming in the neighborhood where I take my daily lunch walks
Opening our eyes
paper thin sun warm skin
not burning, not yet

Opening our eyes
crystal clear tears reflecting
your confused anger

Opening our eyes
danger, danger here
fists clenched, eyes blazing

Opening our eyes
not our rage to bear
we uproot, leave you

Opening your eyes
sunlight singing you back home
you wake up, alone

Muscle memory.
sunlight shaking you awake
you burn the photo

Present or past? Choose.
hurt the ones who love you now
or let your mom die

Opening your heart
cremating childhood remains
tend your son's garden

Muscle memory.
son yelling in your ear, "Hey!"
hold me, hear my voice

Open up, irises.
See us as we stand before you.
Love, imperfection.

Startling voices.
We didn't mean any harm.
Let go. Open up.

Justice for George Floyd

If you saw me, would you crush me?
Would you step on my neck and kill me?
If you saw me, would you greet me
or would you turn your head the other way?
Does my color make me any less fragile?
If you encountered a field of my children,
would you raze them to the ground?
Am I only a statistic to you?
Does my annihilation keep you alive?
Do you choke me because I grow from concrete?
What about me is so threatening
that you must pin me to the ground
squeezing the life giving oxygen out of me
until I am no more? What was it
that arrested your humanity
and turned you into a vise?




A vigil for innocent lives lost

A ceaselessly burning vigil for those who have lost their lives to gun violence, senseless police brutality, COVID-19…

Turning the other cheek?

Spirit, may it begin with me.
When I am called out for racist ancestors,
help me to remember the story my teacher told me
of a woman who came to her for healing,
then accused her of being like her abuser.
Instead of responding with defensiveness,
my teacher apologized and said she shouldn't
have done it, and the woman received the apology
she needed for so many years of being victimized.
Spirit, as my teacher modeled compassion, may it begin with me.
When I am accused of coming from lazy white people,
let me remember the truth of my ancestry
but speak what is needed for healing.
Let me speak for the insurgents at the Capitol
though I have no racist bone in my body.
May I not defend the ancestors who taught me
to walk in beauty and in truth, but tread lightly
as they did. When he yells at me,
"You come from a racist slave state.
Your family are hateful, white racist people.
Have some shame," let me refrain from anger.
Let me say, "Yes, I feel shame for who I am.
"I feel shame for being so weak and powerless.
Let me feel no shame for who I am,
but let me say, "I am so sorry for your pain,
the pain that these racists have caused you.
I am sorry for my slave owning ancestors."

I feel no shame for running away to the page
where I can muster the strength
to sow pardon where there is injury,
to be light where there is darkness.
For it is in giving that we receive,
and it's in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it's in dying that we are born again to eternal life.
Because I know the truth of who I am,
the truth of the pain in this country,
the injustice of so many innocent lives lost,
let me sing the true song of my ancestors:

the song of the whales who shed their feet
so that their brothers could ascend from the waters
to conquer the earth and trample the land.
Let me sing the song of the whales
who sing from the depths of the ocean,
a barely discernible sonar symphony,
but beautiful, no matter who may hear it.

Grieving my cousin’s untimely death

My cousin died an untimely death in October. Only thirty-seven years old, he was hit by a car when he had pulled over on the side of the road and run out of gas. Nobody knows exactly where he was going. Given COVID-19, maybe he had wanted to travel. He had been out of prison for about a year, started his own business, and was sober. He had found God as he knew God, and was moving forward in life.

His death caught me off guard because it was sudden and accidental. I felt confused and sad for a week because I wasn’t sure how he died, and then it hit me: what if his soul hadn’t passed over to the other side? As a shamanic apprentice, I was aware that psychopomp might be necessary: because of my cousin’s tragic death, his soul might not be ready to leave earth. In psychopomp, a power animal spirit will speak with the soul who is stuck on earth due to a violent, traumatic, sudden or untimely death, and if the soul is willing, the spirit will guide it to the light where it can be at peace. I journeyed to my power animal to ask for help in my grieving, and to understand the truth of my cousin’s death. I witnessed my power animal perform psychopomp for my cousin by being merged with the animal spirit so that my cousin wouldn’t see me and feel disturbed or confused by my presence.

I felt great peace seeing my cousin go to the light and be with God. I felt even greater relief writing my aunt and uncle a sympathy card, assuring them that my cousin was in heaven with his master Jesus. There was some doubt on my family’s part that he wouldn’t be in heaven due to his troubled experience on earth. However, I knew from his correspondence with me while he was in prison that he had converted to Christianity, and that his soul was at peace. Although I now identify as pagan, I still hold my initial Christian walk throughout my young adulthood as an invaluable experience, in that it led me to value service, social justice, equality and nonjudgment. As a shamanic apprentice, I believe that Spirit takes multiple forms, and that it is important to honor the various modalities of those we serve as Spirit’s representative.

I also found out that my cousin wrote poetry, and so I decided to go ahead and post the two poems included with his obituary below to honor him and let his words live on here on earth. I hope his message of redemption in spite of hardship brings you hope, regardless of your religious beliefs. I have also included this Nickelback song, “If Today was your Last Day,” to honor my cousin’s journey, and remember that every day is a gift, and we need to live with purpose, gratitude, bravery and dignity.

The New Me
By: S.C.

Hello, Me, it's the new me
Old me you're dead
I am a new creation through Christ Jesus
Old things have passed away
The new me has begun now
I will shoot my shot and this will be to the whole world
I needeth no bullets nor a gun
This battle will be won
Fought with the word of God
My aim is true and so is my heart
The target has been acquired
Sickness, sin and disease is being destroyed
Through Jesus Christ who died on the Cross
Thank you, Jesus!

Not Afraid
By: S.C.

I have fought from birth
Born with a noose around my neck
Battled rejection, addiction, evil spirits, prison
Been poisoned
Sickness and disease lived in bad difficult straits
But when redemption stomped Satan on the Head
through Christ Jesus
Satan lost the taste of victory over me
My Savior not afraid of death
Went to the gates of hell and stole the devil's horse and rode hard
Side by side with the Holy Spirit slashing demons the whole way
Long Live the Lord God Almighty
Thank you, Jesus, from my heart
I want to be a warrior for real like you
I am not afraid to live for God and Jesus Christ my Savior

A painting I made to show how grief feeds new life.

Thank you for reading, and feel free to share stories of how you honor your loved ones who have died in the comments section below.

“My Unkempt Angel”published in Ang(st) Feminist ‘Zine

Here’s a link to the October issue of Ang(st) Feminist Zine. The theme is hair. My piece is titled “My Unkempt Angel” and discusses my experiences in childbirth. The above image reflects my piece’s theme of hair as spiritual consort in challenging experiences.

Trigger warning: many of these pieces evolve around our relationship to our hair, but how our perception of it is informed by our culture, family, significant other, etc. There is some explicit content, but it merits close study and compassionate witnessing, as it highlights the all too familiar struggles women experience around body shame, self-image, sexism and self-acceptance within dysfunctional homes, relationships and cultures at large. There are some pretty amazing photos, comics, illustrations and short prose, fiction or poems within this magazine, so I encourage you to take your time and really immerse yourself in the fifty pages of content.

Focus on the positive

As I focus on your absence, I forget.
I am present in an empty bedroom 
full of unread books, waiting to be read.
Scan my body for a singular opening
into the epiphany of being in love.
How can I call this moment my own
when I never linger long enough to stay? 
When will change ever be imminent?
Life is fuller when you've vacated.
Spit accretes in dish and spoon,
muscles arch into midnight.
If I was to dissect the feeling,
I would find hope mingled
with disappointment.
I believed you capable
of transformation.
If you passed through fire,
you would become gold.
When pushed, you'd soar
like a kite past the canopy.
In the mirror, I saw you
did not want to go there.
I saw that you were afraid
to run away from yesterday.
Today became like every other.
A habit will hold you in its arms
forever until you let it go.
Addiction is the perpetual fling 
convincing you it will grow
into a kingdom by the sea.
All the while, you wait
in an empty room.
The sun sets.
It is pink, orange and yellow
all at once, veined with blue.
You can say that it is beautiful,
knowing it is pollution
that brings the rosy glow.
I am empty yet full
in your absence.
How I can finger
this rose
knowing
it will prick me
bewilders me
until I am bleeding
alone again,
hungry for your touch
even if it costs me
every ounce
of presence I own.

Dreams of Darkness

 

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The vampire has left, but I still wish he’d say something.

The darkness ahead is the surface of the waters or graveyard,

not sure which.  Darkness so thick it sucks at my shoes.

Rest in this darkness. Rest in uncertain directions. 

The darkness of a thousand graves or the darkness of his mind?

Which do I prefer beating down on me at all times?

I wake up after every dream and I fear for my life.

I think I may go insane, just trying to make it out alive.

The vampires have been my comrades for so long,

what will happen when I no longer offer my neck?

Will I still be codependent or will I just be a single mom,

stretched until I rip into cosmos? 

The pain behind my nose is not an illness.

It is grief waiting to burst into a million tears

until I am ocean pounding surf, ocean of stars–

Tears of loss, tears of grief, of what could have been–

single microcosms of gratitude dripping off my fingers

for what is, what was, what will become

darkness or light, distant surf or sandy shore.

This is water, this is the abyss of rebirth

where I belong. Go ahead. Swallow me whole.

I will be reassembled as a star, no matter

how much I fear my self-composure.