Archive for category current events

when it snows in my heart

Marchsky

The sky today is milk-colored, snow is flurrying down and the naked trees shiver in the wind.
It′s a day when anything might happen, in a world where everything is shifting under my feet.
Things I thought solid suddenly slippery as black ice—

It′s a day to breathe in the chill air and watch your exhale make a tiny cloud. A day to remember what a mystery that was when you were a little girl bundled in your red parka, itchy wool mittens attached by clips.

It′s a day to remember America was not great back when you were a white child in the white suburbs outside Toledo, in a brand-new tract home in a place called Sylvania. No. It wasn′t great. “Great” was merely the undercurrent of every advertising slogan, “Great” was a story spun by ad men and sales men and con men. (They are still selling you fear and telling you it is happiness).

Men who sold your mother on the notion that the ache in her heart  could be eased by a Midol or a Virginia Slim′s cigarette or a new Chevrolet or an A-Line dress. Men who told her that her uneasiness was her own fault, and that comfort would keep her safe. Men who peddled fear and separation and complacency. The TV glowed and mama stopped looking at the trees.

(Her eyes were sad but the jingles told her she was happy.)
You were a little girl, and you felt that ache. Feel it still, when big flat televisions trumpet
news news news.

And so you′ve learned to look outside.

It′s a day to look at the milky sky and the black arms of the trees shivering and remember the world is not black and white, not wrong and right. A day to remember that anyone who tells you the ache in your heart is nothing is a liar, or someone who wants to steal your life from you. Anyone who tells you to stop feeling what you are feeling may as well tell the trees to stop trembling in the March wind. Might as well tell these tardy snowflakes to stop falling.

The ache is there to help you. Listen to it.

Denial of what is will pull you under, into despair.
Acceptance may break your heart, but a broken heart is an open one.

Let the snow fall into your heart.
Feel what you feel. Cold, alive.
After all, anything might happen, if your heart and eyes are open.

 

 

 

 

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A letter to my chiropractor

photo of sculpture of spine comprised of people on each other's backs, covering the eyes of the person below.

“Karma” by Korean artist Do Ho Suh | New Orleans Museum of Art

A letter to my chiropractor:

When I saw you last December,
your warm fingers on my neck felt reassuring —
it’s pure trust, letting someone adjust your spine.

“Relax,” you commanded, for I was tense.
The muscles surrounding my precious cervical vertebrae
relaxed into your palms.

I told you I was tense because I was worried,
really worried about the Trump administration…

Your healing hands moved to my shoulder, the tricky one.
You felt, you pulled, you pushed,

you said, with a chuckle: “Oh, come on, now.
You’ve got nothing to worry about.”

I said I worried about my friends and loved ones,
the non-Christian, the non-white, the LGBTQ, and immigrants, too.

And, that I was also very worried that my ACA insurance
would be taken away, that I’d not have any insurance
because hey I’m old enough now to have a track record
and anyone with a track record
involving two near-death medical experiences
looks like a big old pre-existing exclusion

Your right hand was on my thigh, left hand cradling my shoulder
You pulled me back against your body, almost lover-like,
to twist my spine

(real healing requires trust)

You laughed.

You said, “Oh nothing will change!
Relax! No one’s gonna take your insurance away.”

You were not the first white professional man
to hush me, tell me everything would be fine.

(I’m just sorry that you were wrong.)

Business may become very lean, doctor.
It seems strong spines have gone
out of fashion in many circles.

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2017, a mini-novel

(I’m writing a mini-novel with flash-length chapters over on Medium.com. Following is the first chapter of my tale of a dystopian future. Check out the rest if you like—it’s a work-in-progress, which I’m hoping to finish before year end. It is a work of fiction. I hope. Access the chapters by clicking here.)

View at Medium.com

screen-shot-2016-11-30-at-2-41-09-pm

2017: Chapter One

The sirens blared. The President’s voice boomed, an audio clip in an endless loop. “…then I grab em by the pussy,” he crowed, again and again and again, the way he did every morning at wake-up. “She’s a pig, I mean, look at her! Miss Piggy. Call her Miss Housekeeping, why don’t you?” A laugh track — or possibly a recording of hyenas howling, it was hard to tell — ran between bursts of his “boy talk.”

She’d heard it so many times now. It was designed to make her go numb.
She let the guards believe it was working.

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The door is that way, Judge Ruehlman

photo of arrow on red wall

Dear Judge Ruehlman,

I’m a registered voter and I’m not going to mince words here. I’m going to be straight with you. It’s time for you to go home, Judge.

You’re drunk— drunk with judicial power, that is.

Maybe it’s a side effect of how our justice system works, or doesn’t work? Maybe some counseling would help?  It’s addictive stuff, power. The Ohio Supreme Court agrees you’ve gotten out of hand.

In June, the Ohio Supreme court said “[Judge Ruehlman] has repeatedly acted to shield Chesley and his assets from creditors, despite a patent lack of jurisdiction,” referring to your interference in a multi-million dollar settlement that (the now disbarred attorney) Stan Chesley was ordered to pay to his legal clients.

Kentucky courts ruled that Chesley owes his clients at least $25 million dollars, which he’s apparently holding in some kind of perma- limbo by filing twisty lawsuits that make it difficult for the case to be moved to Federal court. The Ohio Supreme court scowls at such shenanigans.

The court’s opinion said Chesley “has turned to the courts of Ohio to thwart collection of the judgment and re-litigate the case. Chesley has found a receptive audience in (Ruehlman).” The opinion also said you gave defendants in the case—Chesley’s clients, who were awaiting their funds and puzzled over why their lawyer was suing them—“patently false advice,” by telling them they did not need legal representation, advice that shows how tipsy you must be on that 100-proof power. You told a senior citizen from rural Ohio in danger of losing her home due to financial struggles that she did not need an attorney, when, according to the Ohio Supreme Court, “A judgement in favor of Chesley could have a dramatic effect on how much money Ms. Boggs and the other creditors are able to recover, and when.”

If the Ohio Supreme Court says you’re doing things you have no business doing, that’s enough to convince me as a voter, as a citizen, that it’s time for a new judge.

But there are more reasons to boot you out of court, reasons that resonate deeply with me.

You remind me of another judge recently in the news. Aaron Persky is his name. Everybody’s heard about him. I imagine you can’t see why people are so upset by his hand-slap sentence to Brock Turner.

After all, you did the same thing—worse, actually—delivering a not-guilty verdict while expressing your sympathetic concern for a young man “facing 20 years,” after repeatedly interrupting the prosecutor’s questioning of the victim to badger her by suggesting you thought she “kind of liked” her assailant, and suggesting that maybe she decided to cry rape out of disappointment that her assailant didn’t perform well. Suggesting that “sometimes girls like that when a guy pursues them a little bit.”

I wonder if you can even fathom why anyone’s so darned upset about Donald Trump’s pussy-grabbing talk. If you can victim-blame a woman in open court as she testifies, instead of listening respectfully and deeply to her after a grand jury and prosecutor have deemed her case worthy of being heard, it seems to indicate you might think women “kind of like” being demeaned and abused. Let me explain, Judge, why women do not speak up. Because when we do, we are blamed and shamed and re-victimized by men like you who demonize us as liars for daring to speak, even when we have rape-kit evidence, even when there are multiple victims coming forward.

Do you ever ask male victims who run from an assailant if they “liked being being pursued a little bit”? Or if they like being hit?

Back to Judge Persky. I hear he’s not going to be hearing criminal cases any longer. I don’t think you should either. I imagine along the way you served up some actual justice. Very little is black and white in this world. So for whatever clear-eyed service that I hope you rendered, thank you.

Still, in the end, there are some lines you don’t cross and you’ve crossed them every which way, zig-zagging all over the place. Maybe the power just got to you? Addictive stuff, that.

I’m going to play my woman card on election day, Judge.

 

Sources:

http://www.cincinnati.com/story/news/2016/06/22/ohio-supreme-court-slams-hamilton-county-judge/86242854/

http://www.theatlantic.com/news/archive/2016/08/the-stanford-rape-case-judge-steps-aside/497609/

http://www.cincinnati.com/story/opinion/contributors/2016/10/26/judge-ruehlman-rebuke-rape-victims-shocking/92738786/

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Dear Judge McKeon

drawing of scared girl

Dear Judge McKeon,

A 40-year-old Montana father raped his 12-year-old daughter. Repeatedly.

You sentenced him to 60 days, of which he will serve 43. For good measure, he must pay $80 and “future medical care for his daughter.” You mean, I think, for his victim?

Forty-three days in jail for raping his 12-year-old daughter. Repeatedly.

Somewhere under the wide, wild Montana sky a little girl tries to sleep and never will sleep the same again.

There’s a call for your impeachment now, but you’ve made your decision and moved on. You mention it was a hard decision for you.

Forty-three days in jail for raping a 12-year-old. Repeatedly.

Yes, it would be hard for anyone with an ounce of humanity to come up with a sentence like that. But you know, girls and women—incest victims, domestic violence victims, women who have had a drink or worn a tight skirt or did something to anger a man—there’s always some kind of “exception” for that. Because deep down, Judge McKeon, you and a lot of others still believe women are the property of men. I’m sure you’d swear that wasn’t true. But your actions reveal your real feelings. That girls and women are not truly deserving of protection and equal rights when it comes to what happens to their own bodies.

Under Montana state law, your sentence to the rapist should have been steep:

“A person convicted of the offense of incest where the victim is 12 years of age or younger and the offender 18 years of age or older at the time of offense shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for a term of 100 years and fined an amount not to exceed $50,000. The court may not suspend execution or defer imposition of the first 25 years of the sentence.”

Somewhere under the wide, wild Montana sky a little girl tries to sleep and never will sleep the same again.

These things—things like incest, things like raping your own daughter—these things happen in the night, usually. Hand over mouth in the dark, whispered threats from a man who is supposed to love you and take care of you.

You’ve made your decision and moved on, Judge McKeon, but that little girl will never be the same.

The victim’s grandmother made a plea that shatters my heart, and apparently justified your joke of a sentence. She said: “What [the defendant] did to my granddaughter was horrible, and he should face consequences. But his children, especially his sons, will be devastated if their dad is no longer part of their lives.”

Somewhere under the wide, wild Montana sky a little girl tries to sleep and never will sleep the same again.

Maybe the little girl never really knew trust, even before the rape. I can’t decide if possessing pure, innocent trust and losing it is better or worse than never really having it at all. I fear for her. There seems no one she might trust, and you, too, failed her—utterly, miserably, unforgivably.

I bet you’d point out that her own mother asked for a reduced sentence, citing the rapist’s sons “need to know their father.” These are words, Judge that should have set off clanging alarm bells in your head.

Somewhere under the wide, wild Montana sky a little girl tries to sleep and never will sleep the same again.

She cannot sleep the way children should be able to sleep. She cannot relax. Her body, like that of all trauma victims, is now rewired, set to red-alert. To sleep well again will take years of love and therapy. To trust again may never happen. I hope she will find peace and healing. But it’s a hard road to go alone. And she is alone, it seems to me.

Perhaps her mother can sleep well? I wonder if her father can? Can you?

Somewhere under the wide, wild Montana sky, a little girl is all alone. Her father raped her, repeatedly, and no one testified on her behalf. No one.

No one testified on her behalf, Judge McKeon, which should have told you something. Your empathy, your humanity—should have roared to life when no one testified on her behalf.

Instead, you say you gave it consideration. The fact that no one testified on her behalf was “weighed in” to your decision.

Experts and friends of the rapist noted that the accused was employed and had a supportive community and thus was, in their opinions, apparently just the sort of pedophile that could be magically rehabilitated without a lengthy sentence.

I’d like to ask a question of the court. Why is there “leeway” in an incest case?

If he had raped his neighbor’s 12-year-old daughter, would you be so casually lenient? If he had raped a 12-year-old related to you, would you feel he could be rehabilitated, would you agree with his wife if she said he’d made a “mistake?” Would you think him being in the lives of his sons was a good idea, a good reason to suspend his sentence?

Somewhere under the wide, wild Montana sky a little girl is crying, and thinks no one hears her.

I wonder, Judge McKeon, how many other girls you have sentenced to life?

For make no mistake, she faces a life sentence. I hope that little Montana girl somehow feels the love of the millions of women and loving, kind men who are with her in spirit, and that it gives her some small amount of strength.

A million signatures on a petition to impeach you is not enough to help her heal. But I think impeaching you would be a start. It would be a start towards a world where a little girl has the right to sleep deeply, trusting those around her to love her, and keep her safe in the night.

Sign the petition here.

 

Sources:
http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/10/20/498676414/montana-judge-faces-call-for-impeachment-after-incest-sentencing?utm_source=facebook.com&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=npr&utm_term=nprnews&utm_content=2046

http://nymag.com/thecut/2016/10/judge-john-mckeon-defends-sentence-for-fathers-rape.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Dear Melania

once upon a time photoDear Melania,

Do you mind if I call you M?
I don’t want to waste too many keystrokes. Never fear. I’m not going to be mean, or unfair. I’m just going to tell a story.

Someday, some far-off wonderful day, you will be remembered like a princess in a fairy tale. (Yes, I think you will be famous, even in the future, though I imagine your name may be lost, M.)

You will be be the hapless one who drank a potion that blinded her to truth and made her say crazy things, like “every assault should be taken care of in a court of law,” with a dismissive flick of your wrist, as if a woman who alleges assault is like a mosquito buzzing too close.

Every nine seconds, a woman is assaulted in our country.* Try telling all of them they will find justice. Try telling that to the woman Brock Turner sexually assaulted, who had eye witnesses, physical evidence, a jury conviction and a prosecutor seeking a nine-year sentence, a woman who penned perhaps the most moving victim statement ever written and bravely read it out in court, then heard the rapist’s father dismiss what happened as “twenty minutes of action” and watched as the judge said a long prison sentence would ruin Mr. Turner’s promising young life. As you undoubtedly know, M, Mr. Turner served three months, and his victim got a life sentence in which she will I hope heal and grow even stronger than before, but will always have to endure those who still say things like, “well, she did get drunk, after all.” And she has to endure people like you who would pretend there is justice for women who are assaulted, in brutal, demeaning ways, even by someone far less powerful than the prince you married.

Try telling it to the women who, even right now, are held as sex slaves at truck stops in middle America. Or to the women, like me, who were as teenagers raped by much-older men who seemed kind and interested in us as humans, men who took what they wanted and then threatened unspeakable things if we spoke up. Tell that to the sisters and mothers and friends of women who have been preyed upon by men.  To the 400,000 women whose rape-kit evidence languishes for years, untouched by police.**

And try telling it to the the many men—the kind of men I love—who are strong enough not to need to oppress women to feel powerful. And the men who have said things they regret, and woken up to how damaging that is to them and to us women. (C’mon guys. Join me here in saying this is not okay.)

None of us are buying it anymore, though societal change is painfully slow.

Your saying “every assault should be taken care of in a court of law,”reminds me of another “M” from history. The one who said, “No bread? Well, then let them eat cake.” Remember how that turned out?

It’s “boy talk” you say. Your then 59-year-old, rich businessman husband was “egged on,” you insist, as if he was and still is a powerless, poor little boy. It’s bad enough when men dismiss reality, but it’s so hard to watch those women who tear out their own hearts to follow them into the jungle of misogyny. I almost begin to lose hope. I worry women won’t keep speaking up, out of the fear that has kept us silent so long.

I think of words attributed to Margaret Atwood:

“Men are afraid that women will laugh at them.
Women are afraid that men will kill them.”

These words ring true.

Still, it’s hard to know, in the middle of a tale, what might happen next. All I know is that for centuries, millennia— the unlistened-to voices of women have gathered in the ether. The voices of those who have been raped, abused, groped, bought, sold, used and discarded, grabbed and then shamed and shunned and silenced—their voices float around still, like tumbleweeds of truth. The  winds of our time  and the hot air of your man and those who hold him up as a paragon are blowing those unheard voices together.

Yes. The true tale: it’s being told. The truth is now, I think, I hope—unstoppable. That’s why everyone is so unsettled right now. That truth is heading toward the flaming egos of men invested in guarding their powers, and toward the women who cling to them, out of fear or denial or both. Men in boardrooms and bedrooms. If you look you can see those egos, burning like gas flares on a dark oil field, as the truth swirls closer. Something’s going to blow up.

I do not imagine you will read my letter, but I had to write, anyway. I wonder.
Maybe underneath all the denial, you knew that your words would be a call to action for women to speak. Maybe underneath it all, you are just scared, too, and dream of a better world, where the assaulted do indeed see justice.

I like to imagine that is who you are, at heart.

* iBachman, R. & Saltzman, E. (1995). Violence against women: Estimates from the redesigned survey. Retrieved from http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/FEMVIED.PDF

**http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/09/23/how-the-u-s-ended-up-with-400-000-untested-rape-kits.html

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For Terence

scared sad face

For Terence

It’s like some evil game
nightmare edition
of Simon says

Why do so many people
who look like me
comb over the footage,
looking for a misstep?

The questions begin,
inevitable
hateful
cloaked in willful blindness
the cloak victim-blaming
always wears:
“Yeah but–was he
fully complying?
Why didn’t he
comply exactly?”

The wrong questions,
again
and again,
world without end

Just ask Charles Kinsey
if hands up & unarmed
& lying on your back
on the road
begging for reason
will keep a black man from being
shot if someone decides
he looks like a threat
because he is breathing

Like someone decided
12-year-old
Tamir was a threat,
sitting alone, dreaming
little-boy dreams
that will never come true.

I dream of a world where
people who look like me
will ask vastly different questions,
harder ones,
braver ones,
again and again
until this world ends

And a new world opens
one where police will be expected
to protect and serve
a father of four
car broken down
who has his hands in the air

Where de-escalation
is the absolute expectation

A world where
Terence Crutcher
would still be here
heart beating,
breathing,
alive.

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On sitting down with fear

door with many locks“Fear is the cheapest room in the house. I would like to see you living in better conditions.”
–Hafiz
Fear is ever-present, a room in every house. I think it must be acknowledged to be lived with. Denying fear’s existence, its slithery form under the bed, under the pillow, in your head, in your darkest dreams—is to deny part of what makes us human. Unexamined, it drives us. Unacknowledged, it diminishes us. We want to chase it away, but without it, we are not quite all there. We are fragmented. Brash and bold or handwringing, but not whole.

We are whole when we can look in fear’s hissing-badger face, see it clearly, yet remain calm. It doesn’t mean we are not scared shitless of those needle-sharp badger teeth tearing into us. Tearing into everyone and everything we hold dear. Oh, no. We are terrified of the tearing and even more terrified of the silence that precedes it. Our hearts are beating too fast. We scan the news and cannot breathe, cannot think what to do.

I am saying “we” but when I say that, I am talking of my many selves. Maybe you know what I mean? The selves that scatter as I try to ward off fear.

I’m not afraid of dying, I won’t die tonight—I told myself that, told you that, but lying in the hospital alone, I met fear. It came in the night to shake me awake. It shook every part of me, parts I forgot were there—the frozen teenager, trembling in terror. The happy little girl, lying on her back looking at seagulls and cumulus clouds, breathing sea air, fully in the moment, the one I lost so long ago. It shook the anxious, lost traveler feeling around in the dark for a warm hand, the one learning to hold herself when no one is there.

It awakened the bright-eyed lover who is peaceful as storm clouds threaten, because the sun lives inside her, as it lives inside all of us when we feel whole. It is her I search for now, and I think she’s deep inside, in the fear room, hanging out.

Fear lives in a room deep inside me. A stuffy room I must visit, opening windows, letting in air, relaxing into, though it makes me edgy. It is a room I go to ponder things I cannot understand, go to find the best parts of me. A room where all my many selves find each other, the default meetup place. In the darkest corner is the cradle of courage, dear little courage, weak as an infant, sobbing, wobbly from being so neglected.

I hold this tiny part of me—she is crying for love—and picking her up, I feel again like a strong, sure mother, courageous enough to look at the fear. All the fears. There are so many right now. It seems important to be strong, be together. Strong enough to smile into the invisible beams of hope that shine behind all fears, casting great shadows.

Hold hands, everyone. No matter what, everyone.
Look at fear honestly, and you will find courage.
Yes. There it is, fear. It travels with us, but we don’t need to feed that snarling beast, it always finds something to feed on.
Say, I see you fear. Then turn away. Let it grow dull from inattention.
It’s courage we need to nurture now.

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Bursting

IMG_483409246

Bursting
Clouds rip open like my heart
bursts – whoosh, closed to wide open
Swoosh: a purple umbrella
floats past; droplets slip, wiggle
mercurial jelly-dots.
We swim in the same pool, this
heavenly, dirty fishbowl.

IMG_483409214

 

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After the goldrush

photo

Early November on the roof.

I’ve been drunk-binging on nature lately, pulled from my grind-screen work and what I ‘should’ be doing to spend hours just gazing at the wonders of the fall. I end up working way too late to compensate, but you can only see the foliage in the daylight.

Such transformation is amazing. It gives me hope. As in, “I am living in a miracle world, pure, uncut amazing! Anything might happen!”

Well. It’s not all Indian summer breezes, after all. Nope. It’s a world awash in constant pain. Turn on the news or read the stream or listen to the couple behind you in line for a burrito sniping at each other–pain, pain, pain; see the face of the worn-looking woman waiting for the bus, see how a knotted thread of anxiety is pulling her features toward the center of her face, into a pinch of ache. She’s in pain, emotional, physical, spiritual–it doesn’t matter what kind of pain, does it? She’s a human, and she’s hurting.

This week I read a story in the New York Times about an Italian marathon-runner, and not an experienced or well-trained one, who came to New York to run. He was with a loosely-organized group of Italians. He spoke no English. Somewhere along the route of the marathon, he dropped his small amount of cash, along with his hotel key-card and his subway map.

He went missing for around 48 hours, wandering New York in his running clothes, disheveled, hungry, alone. Unable to communicate. After running a whole marathon, so he must’ve been flat-out depleted.  He made his way, somehow, to the airport, knowing his group would be flying out the next day. Security kicked him out, because they thought he was homeless.

A policeman noticed him on the subway the next day, and realized he was the missing foreigner.

According to Office Yam, “He kept turning and looking to the map. He seemed like he was under duress, like he happened to be lost or not knowing where he was going.” Thanks to the officer’s alertness, the hapless marathoner was saved. Happiness! Truly, it was a joyful ending to what must have been a terrifying experience for him.

Still, no mention in the news article of all the actual homeless people who are disheveled, hungry, alone and unable to communicate, who also do not know where they are going, and who are moved along and cursed at and rarely rescued. They have no group to join, it seems. Imagine the marathoner, wandering weak and scared for two whole days. Now imagine wandering—indefinitely. In the cold, in the rain. In the days that come after this golden time ends.

Sometimes I just want to not want to help, to care, to crave, to feel at all. Because I don’t know how to fix it. I can barely  manage myself.

But then: the trees.

The trees are divine spirits. They won’t let me fade into numb oblivion. They remind me that no matter what else is going on, no matter what hurts or what is messed up—that beauty is there, not caring if I eat it up or ignore it, but there all the same. Doesn’t that mean something? I take a picture. I feel pleased, and then sort of shallow at the rush of pleasure all this beauty brings. My inner scold chides me.  A picture of an amazing blazing autumn afternoon won’t heal the world.

A little voice says it might heal some tiny corner of it.

It might remind someone— someone who gets lost fighting things she cannot change—to remember to appreciate the gift of being in this world, on this day. To breathe this autumn air, and feel gratitude.

And maybe that is a tiny little start?

Maybe.

It’s not nearly enough, but you have to begin where you are, and work up from there.

 


 

“Hope without power is no match for fear with power.” –Caroline Myss

Maybe if we empower our hopes, there will be a little less fear in the world?

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