Mem’ries

monopolytennessee

The crescent moon tilts slightly

against the indigo sky

through the shadows, I move spritely

with unbidden tears I cry

I trudge the road less traveled

My warmest sweater unraveled

So I shiver in the gath’ring storm,

grief overwhelming, I MUST mourn

As daylight breaks the night

I allow my feet quick purchase in the light

A haven ahead affords me rest

I am given respite at my behest

Home is where I’m going to be

If only my mem’ries weren’t in Tennessee.

Self Sacrifice

Feathers

Feathers

When you came to me, you were more than a dozen.

Everything about you was something it wasn’t

I bent my fingers to shape your hands

I reconfigured my halo to destroy the badlands

I stripped the feathers from my wings that flew

I fashioned them to show you the skies of blue

I made horrifying textures smooth for you to build

I wrapped your intimidated heart against the freezing chill

I comforted primal screams from your terror filled nights

I kissed your cheeks lovingly while you fought the fight

I defended your body, your mind, and your spirit

I gave you safe haven, wouldn’t allow bandits near it.

I guarded you with a Battle Queen’s power

but (SNAP!)

like that

you snaked away in the witching hour

while the bells of winds change rang in the bower

to return to the dark from which you came

afraid of the light that I showed you again and again.

I release you back to your puzzled up mess

It is with deepest sorrow, I lay you to rest

I shutter my windows, lock up my doors

mourn who I knew you could be; but won’t be I’m sure

until you know your own value, nay, worth

my heart no longer yours, your memory dispersed.

My Mother’s Day

I used to have a son. He didn’t die nor get physically ill lingering in a hospital. He just walked away. The story of how he came to be in my life is as intense now as when he first appeared 21 years ago next month in a phone call from a liar.

Matt winning awards for his academics and a scholarship

Matt winning awards for his academics and a scholarship

I hear the words, “Keep a stiff upper lip” ringing in my ears, maintaining my distance from the heartbreak I feel and felt.

Before he was born, I longed for him to come home to me. I created the “perfect” nursery in Looney Tunes theme. I filled the dresser and changing table with all the necessities. I made curtains, blankets, and diapers. I can’t sew, but I did because those were straight lines. I put up soft lighting, filled the room with whimsical pictures and loving thoughts.

I’d done the chlomid and pergonal to no avail. I’d taken my temperature faithfully every morning. I’d resolved to adopt a child. I resolved to adopt THIS child. I went to every doctor’s appointment with his birth mother, my step-sister (sister=same difference). When she was about 5-6 months along she was burned out of her apartment by her neighbor’s murderers. My church, at the time, put together a care package of clothes and cash which I brought to her to help her rebuild. She got really sick towards the end of her January due date. The plan was for me to stay with her until the baby was born.

Lies were told to she and I which kept us distanced just far enough to not realize it. A week before my “son” was to be born, my sister called me as I walked in the door from picking up the temporary custody with intention to adopt papers up from our attorney.

“Hey, uh, we need to talk but I don’t know how to say this.” She sadly said.

“Whatever it is, just say it and we’ll work through it together.” I commented as I unloaded my purse, my coat, my manila folder holding the precious promise. “Hold on a second while I finish getting in the door.” My intention was to finish loading up the car and head from Northern Indiana in Lake Station to drive to Knoxville, TN.

“Mare, I don’t know what to do.”

“It’s okay. Really, we’ll work through it. What’s on your mind?” I asked as I prepared to sit down on my couch.

“I’ve decided to keep the baby.” She whispered but the words I heard were deafening.
“What?” I asked as I held the phone away from my ear.

I was positive the phone had turned into a cobra that was striking viciously at me. I couldn’t hear anything but the tremendous amount of grief that broke me in two. I fell to the ground with my hands held above my head in complete surrender. Every pore of my body screamed the words of my soul to the Universe. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t take anything into my body. I couldn’t accept anything with any clarity because it was all nonsense. It was absolute void as everything I’d ever tried to become collapsed upon itself in a tumble of hopes, dreams, ambitions, goals, promises, vows, and possibilities vanished in six words. Poof. Absence.

Less then three months later, my good friend Jamie K Haley was murdered. I was completely lost in the bottom of a bottle. I couldn’t find my way out. I couldn’t drown the feelings fast enough or deep enough to have any success which, of course, didn’t stop me from trying. My friends intervened, forcing me to choose them or death. I opted to live. For the longest time, I had no idea why I made that choice. When I say that, I mean twelve years of bad choices and horrible decisions that continuously punished me for my failure.

Thanksgiving 2004, after the death of my father’s wife (Truthfully a horrid person, judge me if you want to about that, but it is not only my perception), I was passing through to pick up my best friend’s boyfriend to return him to her in Arizona where I resided with my husband. I stopped off in Tennessee to visit.

My father explained that he was getting too old to take care of a twelve year old boy. He wanted to know if I’d consider moving closer to build a relationship with the boy because, “My health isn’t all that great and he’ll need someone to take care of him that he knows when I die.” That sounded fair and logical. I said I’d consider it.

That twelve year old boy (nearly 13 at that point) was the same child that had been denied me in 1995. That was the same child that I’d dreamed of holding, comforting, crying over, teaching, feeding, healing, reading to, guiding, exploring the world with. That child was the manifestation of my heart. Okay, that sounds like I may have romanticized it a tad (YES! I know, a LOT!) but before I go any farther in the story, go ahead and guess what my choice was…I didn’t even finish that sentence before you knew. Yes. I did in fact go back and talk to my husband about moving to Tennessee.

Plans were made. My job as a radio DJ/personality/head copy writer got more complicated then it had ever been before, everything in my Arizona life pushed me towards a new life. I complied. In February of 2005, right after the boy’s 13th birthday, my best friend, her boyfriend, and myself were driven across the country by Charles Tupper and his son to live at my father’s house. My husband was supposed to join us later (which is a whole different story).

It didn’t take long before things were found to be amiss. The boy didn’t fit very well. He was skittish. Time passed, I divorced my Arizona husband, moved about finally landing in Oak Ridge with my joyfriend/current husband. In March of 2010, the young man came to live with me by court order because of the neglect and violent abuse he’d suffered at the hands of my father and his new girlfriend.

This is his story told to me by him, written by me to create a more gentle version of a vicious life:

Becoming Human

I was born abandoned. According to legend, I was either brought to my grandparent’s tattered life. Or I was saved from the state by them as a last resort; rescued from the hospital.

I had a brother, also known as God to Jack who was my grandfather. My brother was his everything but he was taken away by the courts. My uncle was murdered by fringe family members and my grandmother who died of Cancer. They were all gone by the time I was eleven, except for the worst one, Jack.

I didn’t get to say any goodbyes. The pain became my normal. It was the only thing that was real and tangible. I had nowhere to go and that’s right where I thought I was going.

Nobody heard me. Nobody stopped me. Nobody recognized me. Caine was gone and I was all that was left.

I became, over time, a non-entity. Nobody cared to listen to what I thought or felt.

My house was never silent. Rage filled the air with compulsive shrieks and blistering names that still sting. Jack and I had no quiet conversations at the dinner table. There were no jokes told. The questions that I had, of my losses, went unanswered.

Three weeks after my grandmother died, Jack moved Val into our house. Things became very different. At night, Jack gave me vodka and Val gave me beer to put me to sleep. It wasn’t long before Val started sneaking into my room and the nightly abuse began. In an attempt to protect myself, I slept in a bed of knives and swords that I’d collected. It didn’t work.

I screamed out to be saved, but Jack never came. I tried fighting against her, but my drunken youthful self wasn’t yet strong enough. I told myself it was all a dream. Nobody heard me. Nobody stopped what was happening to me. Nobody saw me. My family was gone and I was all that was left.

Boys I called my friends began to ask me to do things that I didn’t understand but soon learned. I became an object to be used.

Huffhead was the worst offender. He called me his friend and I called him mine. But I always returned to him. Even knowing that nothing I did for him was ever good enough, I returned. He always demanded more and more from me. No matter how he abused me, I accepted it. The abuse was normal. I’d learned my lessons well. I was so desperate for his “friendship” that I returned to him time and again. I didn’t deserve to feel good. I didn’t feel worthy of kindness or love. I didn’t know this wasn’t okay. How I was living was my normal.

The threat of losing another person was too much. I had no choice. I lost my identity and gave up control of myself. I deserved it. I no longer smiled because I didn’t deserve to feel good. I felt guilty about my basic needs. I felt shame for eating, drinking, using the bathroom, smiling, laughing, joking. In other words, the thought of me being considered a human was enough to make me cringe. Everything and anything I did was constantly criticized. I was never good enough. I wasn’t my brother and Jack reminded me of this daily. Jack called me so many bad names that it caught me off guard, sounded alien, when he said the name given to me at my birth.

I developed into an isolated zombie. Not the kind you see in the movies, but just as much of a non-human. I was an object who didn’t object to the abuse. I lived to serve in any capacity.                                                                                                     I screamed, “I HATE YOU!” in my mind. Nobody heard me. Nobody stopped me. Nobody recognized me. I was gone. Yet I was all that was left.

I started hearing voices after my brother was taken. Sometimes they’d get so loud that my mouth would speak their words. My body was no longer my own. The voices became people that walked, talked, and acted differently while using my body. That’s when the forgotten times began.

I woke up in the strangest of places; in a driveway during a winter storm, in a shed, in a storm drain, in a different state all together. I began to lose hours and days worth of time. People would come up to me on the street acting like they knew me, calling me by different names. I didn’t let on that I had no idea who they were. Time no longer had meaning because I lost so much of it so often.

I didn’t realize I was a human being. I was so detached from reality that nothing seemed real. I tried sleeping for a year so I wouldn’t have to feel what little seeped through the drugs I’d started doing. I’d mastered, as I was taught, to turn pain off like a light switch that kept turning itself back on.

When I turned fifteen, my screams were loud enough to be heard by the courts. I got in trouble with the law twice in two months. I went to court to accept my fate with Jack and his daughter. She was a woman that Jack called a lying, controlling, bulldozer that ripped him off. I despised her at his word. After all was said and done, I was placed in Jack’s daughter’s custody.

In the three years that I’ve been with her, I’ve learned what it’s like to be happy. I am grateful that the courts finally heard me. I’m glad the judge stopped what was happening to me. I’m glad that they finally saw me. I finally earned my freedom and another life to learn. Somebody heard me. Somebody helped me. Somebody recognized me. My success is all that’s left.

2014

In August of 2014, he disappeared. My husband and I went to work, came home, and he was gone. He didn’t say goodbye. He didn’t say anything. Like the phone call so many years before, he’d decided to keep the baby.

I see Facebook flooded with wishes of goodwill towards mothers. I do not resent or feel anger towards anyone who is a mother. I do not feel jealousy or unkind thoughts towards that are successful. I feel like a liar and outsider when it is wished to me. That chapter of my life is the most painful I’ve ever endured of which I have no control or power over in any way shape or form. It is my deepest grief and my truest human moment that I cherish because at least I got to understand, be, and for a short while, know the joy a parent feels.

George gets burned

My young neighbors, George and Gracie. I love them.

My young neighbors, George and Gracie. I love them.

I stepped out my front door into the spring weather with the bite of winter nipping my skin, still hanging on to hope that it will last. George sat shoulder slumped on the concrete wall. He lifted his feet as Pumpkin the ever terrorizing Chihuahua let him know in no uncertain terms what she thought about his morose. As I tugged the yapping pup along beside the tubby pup, George hollered at me, “Mayor? I think I need one of those hugs when you put the dogs back inside.”

I nodded and smiled apologetically as Pumpkin continued her tirade against the world, Piggy chugging along beside her. Duties all done and accounted for, I placed the still overly verbose Pumpkin inside calling for the older canine to come. After a deep breath for some muffling on the shrill bark, I opened my arms and George ran around to accept the hug.

“What pain is on your brain?” I inquired as he broke the hug and dribbled to the ground in his pajama pants.

“We’re going to have to move again.” He explained. “It’ll be cool and all because we’ll have a pond, but I really wish we could stay this time.”

“Why do you have to go?” I asked. “I’m going to really miss you.”

“We can’t pay the rent any more.” He said like it was a litany he’d become accustomed to. It hurt to watch him curl up, knees to chest, tugging his hood over his face.

“What are you doing?” I asked glancing the parking lot to notice a Rent-An-Expensive Couch van pull into the broken parking lot.

“I’m hiding from them.” He said in a hushed tone.

“Why?” I prodded him further. Yes, as an adult, I’m hyper aware of debts, payments, bill collectors, and even rent-expensive-cheap stuff places. I shouldn’t ask because it’s none of my business, but I really like George and Gracie.

“They’re here to take away our couches. My mama said just to let them take the furniture already, but the babysitter won’t do it. We get woke up because they come too early in the morning and we hide so they don’t know we’re there.” He sighed heavily, as if the weight of the world was on his shoulders. “I won’t have a place to sleep if they get in.”

“I’m sorry you’re experiencing that, George. If I could help you, I would. I don’t have any dollars either.” I leaned on my cane and watched the eight-year-old American boy hide his shame.

“Mayor? Can I ask you a question?” He pushed back his hood when the truck started to back out of the parking lot having not retrieved the sofas. I nodded ascent. “What did you mean when you said black lives matter? I’ve never heard a white woman say that before.”

I winced. George has a way of speaking his thoughts and ideas that, quite honestly, I haven’t seen in a child in a very long time. “It means to me that we are all human and should be equal, but we’re not. I protest against those people who want to keep us different because I don’t believe that’s just.”

“People don’t like me.” He confessed. Like a true questioner, I asked, “Why not?”

“Because I’m mixed.” He said pulling his hood back over his face. Then in a voice that is small, nearly broken, very fragile, he shares something so tragic it made me weep. “Sometimes,” He stated ever so softly. “I feel like I’m a mistake. Like I wasn’t meant to be here.” And he covered his face with his hood completely obscuring his beautiful honest face.

I had to breathe deeply because the mixture of anger, sadness, compassion, and longing to ease his suffering were so strong, I got the wellies.

“George, please stand up.” I asked gently. He complied and I took each of his shoulders in my hands and leveled myself with his true green eyes. “I need you to understand something, believe it and feel it deep in your heart, do you understand that?” He nodded so I continued. “You my beautiful perfect human friend are never, no matter what anyone else in this world tells you, are NEVER a mistake. You are a bridge between the two. You are a leader with an extraordinary gift for storytelling. You ARE the future of peace in this world. Do you understand what I mean?” I felt completely intent with my purpose. He looked up at me with such an open comprehension that I felt like I was looking into something way bigger than he or I.

“I understand. But people…” He started to say when I interrupted him.

“People can be nasty, vicious creatures, but so can they be humans who don’t understand the differences. Black lives matter because ALL lives matter. You are so important to me and to your sister and your family. Even if they say hateful words, they always, like me, will love you. Black lives matter, George, because you think I’m better than you because I’m white. I promise you, my beautiful friend, we are equals in spirit. We are equals as physical beings. Just because we have different melanin doesn’t…”

“What’s melanin?” He interrupted me.

“It’s what makes your skin darker than mine and because I have less, I’m more pale than you are.” I explained.

“That’s it? That’s what’s different?” He looked at me incredulously. I nodded my head. “Well that’s just plain stupid.”

“George, my friend, I couldn’t agree with you more. Want a cupcake?”

“After another hug?” He asked, his eyes no longer filled with tears.

“Absolutely. We’ll break bread together.” He grinned back at me as I went and got two applesauce cupcakes topped with green holiday frosting. We sat in the spring sun feeling the icy breeze sharing each others company, heart to heart, spirit to spirit.

I loved you anyway

I take a deep breath and realize that I’ve exhaled the negative people from my life by persistently being positive. I got accused of being draining, of taking too much time, of making them feel not good enough, of always being angry at them. Well here’s some thoughts for you, “sister:”

Draining is spending 6 hours listening to you lather rinse repeat 10 years worth of things you won’t change. Draining is trying again and again to show you the beauty that everyone else can see but yourself. Draining is lifting you up so you don’t drown in your self pity for 10 minutes. Draining is when we’ve beaten the dead horse to dusty bones that blow around like the floaties in a snow globe.

Taking too much time? To make sure you’re comfortable when you’re hurting, to make sure your needs are met, to come rescue you from another meltdown, to come meet you where you are/pick you up/believe you with tissues in hand, to listen to your troubles and offer solutions only to have every single one shot down because you really don’t want to change, you just want to complain?

If I “make” you feel like you’re not good enough, perhaps you need a new prescription for your shit colored glasses. It’s you who doesn’t think you’re good enough, not me. You repeatedly say that you’re not worth much, that you’re not important, that nobody loves you but like I’ve been saying for years and thankfully don’t have to any more, YOU ARE WORTHY! YOU ARE AS IMPORTANT AS YOU BELIEVE YOURSELF TO BE! YOU ARE LOVED BUT DON’T BELIEVE IT!

It’s not anger you’re feeling from me. It’s frustration that I’m exhibiting. Frustration that in the entire time I’ve known you, loved you, cherished you, cried with you, hugged you, laughed with you, shared with you, struggled with you, battled at your side, you called me a liar. You told me that I was wrong for believing in you. You made it very clear that everything I saw was nothing but shadows, slight of hand, and flash paper designed to distract me from your ugly interior that reeks of self-pity and self degradation. That every word I ever spoke encouraging you may as well have been a flaming bag of dog shit left on your porch.

Frustration from trying so hard to paint your gray with the colors I see and as fast as I could whip out my palette and liner brush you already had the roller of gray loaded and ready. Like gunslingers we’d sit facing each other with coffee cups loaded to full and the battle for your beauty would begin. I’d lose again and again, but I didn’t give up until you finally did. You surrendered to the gray and I had no choice but to walk away. I couldn’t take it, not for one more day.

If you’re going to point a finger accusing someone of despising you and taking away from your life, again, go into your bathroom and look in that reflective thing over the sink for a long time. That person standing there is why you can’t see yourself clearly. She is the one hiding your beauty. She is the one not believing in you. She is the one stopping you from being everything you’ve ever dreamed. Now, walk out of that room and until you can look her in the eye and say fuck you, my life my rules my way, don’t look back. Don’t ever look back.

Alchemy of Death

Solemnity spoke

Solemnity spoke

I mailed a package off to the Spirits,

after staring at death with mournful eyes.

Gravely I dug into the hard earth

Return to Sender stamped in neat letters

on the cardboard coffin holding,

protectively, its morbid contents.

I checked to see if perhaps,

maybe,

I was mistaken.

Suppose that the heart still beat,

the breath still attended life,

the soft mewls of a hungry stomach.

I wasn’t wrong.

I wasn’t anything but lost

in the harsh tears following death’s

cool touch.

Dirt reset to conceal my pain,

I wondered how much postage

it would take to have the tiny package

returned to life once again.