I was standing on Fulton street waiting for the Number 15 to take me to the corner near my home. The wind was brisk with an occasional chill, but the lifting of the hood of my sweatshirt over my head blocked most of it. This particular stop homes three buses headed out and about town. It feels quite familiar as all three round the corner coming out of the transfer station down by Van Andel Arena. I switch feet. I look across to Veteran’s Park where I danced with wild abandon at a Thursday night drum circle held after the Jazz concert at Ah-Nab-Awen park. The Main Library is behind that. I spent hours of research in those rooms. Everything I was looking at seemed familiar, but with a dream-like quality.
I came to the conclusion that I was but a drop in the puddle in their eyes, but in mine, I was so much bigger.
When I moved away from West Michigan in 1989, I had no idea who I was; broken, discouraged, full of lamentations. I had no direction or purpose. I molded myself into the ideals that I believed I was supposed to be. I became a fair wife, a devout church goer, a preacher of God’s love, a model citizen in every way. I provided Christmas for impoverished children, took them on camping trips, advocated for their protection always seeking approval from outside sources. I was miserable.
After the loss of Jordan, I began rethinking my life and the choices that had brought me to a point where I could no longer stay. My marriage was a disaster, my friends were there but they were all much younger than I so their freedoms were different. I still had no idea who I was or what I wanted to be or do. At 25 years old, I decided to find out who that woman looking back at me in the mirror was. I left everything behind. I cut ties with family, friends, acquaintances, and moved back to a small studio apartment in Kentwood. I married again but it crumbled basically from day one. I moved around the country for about a year, using Greyhound as my means of travel.
By the time I ended up in Arizona I was a disaster. I married for a third time. I found a group of friends that, for the first time, not only saw me for who I am, but encouraged me to be everything I was meant to be. I felt like a toddler whose parents delight in the antics of the little one, but at the same time, I was an adult. I radiated humor and enthusiasm. I decided I was strong enough to move, so I did. I moved across the country again to Tennessee where I lived with my father for a brief time. He was a miserable human being that rejected me just as fast as he embraced me. It was constant mixed messages from him which led to uncertainty and instability.
I found God living in a little church tucked away behind a natural shade of trees. I was told to go there and I’m glad I obeyed. It was like coming home. It was the first group of collective people that not only appreciated my wildness, but saught me out for companionship, help, and entertainment. I imagine it’s what being a rockstar feels like. What’s even cooler is that I adored every one of them right back. I couldn’t help it. I’d waited my whole life to know what it was to be me. I learned it at their knee. It was the most difficult day when I had to say goodbye to them and return to my hometown of Grand Rapids.
Only, it wasn’t my Grand Rapids.
It wasn’t the place where the broken little girl made up ridiculous fantasies of being the President of the United States or curing cancer with a brightly colored cardboard box and a stick found on the playground. This wasn’t the city where I dealt with childhood tragedies with self destructive behaviors. Nothing was the same, including the absence of the monsters that didn’t live under my bed but were under the same roofs as me. The dark secrets were held up to the light until their power whimpered into submission.
This city doesnt know me, power in my words, body thick with laughter, hair demonstrably wild, my secrets laid open to the beauty of rainbows once forbidden from my fingertips. This city is unaware that within its limits, there is a woman with courage as deep as a wristcutters truth, but as furious as a hurricane battering abusers with education. Grand Rapids has yet to understand that I, that had all along existed but had been nearly crushed by history, rose up to find my feet.
I’m standing in the middle of Division and Fulton in my mind, screaming with laughter at the pure wickedness of possibilities to be reached. This may not be my Grand Rapids, but it is my home.
Popeye arms, but getting better
16X20 Stretched Canvas, Goddess Great, For Sale
When the rains came, she retreated to harbor for haven.
The umbrella outstretched in somber funereal black
Allowing the thundering winds while making water craven
to bleach the bearing bones of the burden laden back.
Because it is always okay (or will be), the sun returns
She is gone before dawn with nary a mark left graven
From the ancient predictions foreseen in the almanac
Her gypsy blood would eternally call her the sea maven
The depth of her affection, like the ocean, a partial amnesiac.
Tornadic bursts of clarity that light the path so long hidden
Lightning flashes of dervish danced love now bidden
The dialect is moving my feet forward, but
the roots had to reach ancestral proportions
to stretch closer to the stars without distortion.
Outreached hands grip, grasp, climb the galaxies
as Terraria celebrates the gateway rendered of fallacies
Although precarious in balance, it’s to advantage giv’n
that tornadic bursts of clarity pursue the debris forgiven
I gush distracted through my days
but when I choke with disgust, starve for poetry,
I dig out their works and cover my ears to the world
The common world where words are disposable,
no longer present pleasure
but tedious imaginings
of short-handed, short-sighted vulgarities.
The world where “u r ok” is acceptable bastardization.
I burrow into my favorite comfort foods
like a fork bringing sustenance to my body
I allow them to enter my veins with lusty anticipation.
I’m blissfully transported, transposed into a new trajectory,
rescued by the unsuspecting, unaware, shiny knights
The breathless depths of my immersion
puddle into my lap, spill onto my blouse
leaving me with short-lived shielding against ignorance
besotting my sensibilities with undulating vocabulary
I lift one last feather towards the wings of Queen Bird.
The final dollop of delectable dessert.
Deep sighs topped with a satisfied burp from my binge-filled indulgence;
Gratefully sated by the authors of still-life slices.
I was a beggar on Wealthy Street
where I was accused of being vibrant
arrested in my quest for murdered time
charged with being an artist
convicted of faith in more than I do
as an accessory after the top hat
In my sidewalk cell,
I became an advocate as a willing-faced pauper
begging for change on Wealthy Street
I rounded the corner from bronze dipped metal spoons that didn’t stir my soul
to observe a lost lamb separated by his emotions from the flock of chittering as a whole.
He stood slouched, small dreads pointing to the sky, bandana tied artfully at his temple
staring at the sculpture trying to understand something I couldn’t see; Sentimental?
I greeted him with gentle voice, encouraging interaction. I explained without pause
“I was in the other room observing several that didn’t move me because
The spirit requires recognition of matching vibrancy to vibrate frequently
Why this one? What drew you to her?” I asked the young man evenly.
He thought quick, deeply, spoke with certainty, “She’s so sad.”
“When art speaks to me, it speaks in bright colors because I’m, as a rule, glad.
Do you understand her sadness, too? She was created by a German in 1932.”
He wavered momentarily as his emotions washed his face quickly, efficiently.
For a moment, I thought I’d lost him as I waited patiently.
“She reminds me of how I felt when I learned my father had passed away.
I locked myself in my room, curled in a ball and cried to myself all day.
That he was gone was hard enough, it went against my every plan,
but I remember wondering, “Who’s going to teach me to be a man?”
His eyes looked at me just like hers. I gave him “Always Beautiful” as I abided
“You are not alone.” I comforted in synonymous tone as he’d confided.
He smiled while hefting the weight of a million gallons of un-cried tears
that will ebb and flow
wax and wane
light and darken his years.
I loved him deeply, truly
in all his pensive human beauty
as much as I admired that German artist of 1932
accidentally gifting me that one on one in bronzed blues.