Two Cats

Moving, now, to usual
'Got up the feathers
Fixed the curtain
Mopped the blood

Those two normally sleeping cats
Are exhausted and happy
Back beneath the beds

My fault, I left that door open
Pettiness and Old Hurt
Had a picnic
Redecorating the room

Should have known better
Leaving that door open
The bustle of much carrying
No excuse

Especially in this season
Variable winds
Occasionally gusting
And birds
Searching again, to nest

 

 

Still in north Chesterfield where growing older happens regularly and wisdom, sometimes.

This Time of the Year

There are some mornings that I just, glide.

Where I leave my apartment, head for the metro, and have no idea how I get to work - but suddenly I'm showing my badge to the front desk couple, saying good morning, and my thought bubble is hissing COFFEEEE.

Other mornings it's like weights are strangling my ankles, tripping me on purpose on my way to the shower, and everything says DLY, indicating a delay.

And DLY isn't just metro terminology, it means don't go. Don't get out of bed this morning. Don't open the door to the rest of the day just yet. Just a few more minutes. DLY. Not yet.

So I stall on mornings I should rush, but I only really ever rushed for you.

Even you had mornings where the tea kettles tune was a whisper of sweet nothings encouraging you to stay, the siren song making you linger until I'd remind you that the day is waiting and she can be really nasty if you don't come at her beckon call.

I'm one of those people that needs a reason to get out of bed in the morning but need no excuse other than a beautiful day to leave work early.

And work hardly gets done around this time of year because all I can think about is the glare of my sunglasses, lonely, waiting for me to scoop them off the dash and take them for a ride.

But riding isn't as fun as gliding - so I turn my brain off, walk so hard my shins scream and pray to feel less DLY tomorrow.

 

Hanover County, VA

Currently working in the District of Columbia to ensure that everyone receives the best educational options possible!

Watching the Storm Come In

Last Thursday night, a big storm was headed our way. You could tell by the darkening of the sky even though it was only 4pm. The trees swayed harder and the smell of rain approaching filled the air. A storm was coming in. “Hurry up kids,” I yelled through the house. “Come to the front porch. Let’s watch the storm come in.” 

My father in law was in town visiting. He looked at my like I had lost my mind. “You are going outside, now?” He said, “But, Taylor, there is a storm coming in.”

Exactly. 

As a child, I learned to see the signs of a storm coming. My dad could feel it. He could see it and he taught me to see it coming too. The power and mystery of a storm intrigued him and he brought me into that world on our front porch swing. Covered by our porch, we would rock and stare into the sky. The clouds would begin to move faster, the sky turn to a darker shade of grey, and faint thunder could be heard along with rain beginning to fall. There we would stay counting the seconds between the thunder and lightning gauging how far away the storm actually was. 4 miles. Lighting flash. Thunder boom. 3 miles. It’s closer and closer now. 2 miles. The rain would get heavier, the sky darker, the wind faster. And we would stay. 1 mile. Still swinging on our front porch. And here it is. The storm is finally here and here we remain in awe of the power, in awe of the harsh, scary beauty of a storm. Finally the lightning would get too close and the rain too hard and we would retreat inside to watch the rest by the window in the den. 

I pulled my children out into the storm last Thursday night and it was beautiful. We sat under our large covered porch to see a familiar sight. Rain pelting down, trees swaying, lighting and thunder displaying their power. The children were enamored. We counted down the storm’s distance and remained together on our porch until it was right above us. And, there we stayed. Through the powerful rain, the rocking trees and even the thunder and lighting we stayed. We remained together for entirety of the storm until the peace of the sky was restored and the dark clouds parted. Light returned and at 5 pm, we felt like we had ventured through to another world and returned home. 

What a gift that storm was to me. In that moment, I felt like God granted me a gift to connect my children to my dad and his love of nature. The storm of losing my dad has been the hardest storm to sit through. I don't want to remain in the sadness, remain in the memory of his loss, remain in the pain of the space left by his absence. But, memories of sitting on that porch swing remind me to be still, to watch the power of the storm do its work and to not run away. I know from every storm I've watched that no matter how powerful, how dark, how terrifying a storm is, it will end and the light will return. The clouds will part. The rain will stop. The sun will return. And, how appreciative I am when all that is calm and warm and peaceful surround me and my family on our front porch.

 

Richmond, VA

Saving the Action Figure

So now my thoughts turn
back to the times I took my
plastic figures

and encased them in ice.
You see, they had been frozen
by a nefarious villain.

But what to do when I was ready
to thaw them, playing again?
I chipped away at them, taking
a blade with a strange curve,

and in the process lost a drop
of blood. I pricked my wrist and knew
this was a dangerous place, so
went inside with streaming tears.

The scar is still there, but then so
am I, so the danger was not so great
after all.

And what of my poor Batman
toy? He lost his leg as I chipped too
much, the clear victim in this story.

There is still a part of me
that wants to line up plastic figurines
now and then, spin them through
the air, and

try not to let go of childish-silly
imaginations.

 

Tennessee, US

I write and teach. I also blog about books and authors at readingandlitresources.blogspot.com.

 

Gone

I was performing a routine inspection of my friends list, trying to get my life into a more efficient working order, when I first discovered that Z was missing. 

I went through the list again starting with the A's. Perhaps I had made an oversight. Or maybe it was the platform itself, the pressures over the recent scandal swirling around its allegedly unwitting involvement in the most recent presidential election, the rush to correct those errors leading to some kind of temporary systemic failure, causing names to appear in the wrong order alphabetically or to vanish altogether, only to turn up later in their proper places restoring order and sanity to the world. 

Nope.

Retreating further into denial, I turned to Privacy and Settings, which led me to Help and Support, where I was invited to Report a Problem. Under the heading Something Isn't Working was a list of features I was asked to choose from, though none appeared to address my issue. I considered for a moment offering some General Feedback; however, staring at the blank box with the question How can we improve? printed in faint lettering along the top I couldn't think of anything to put there that wouldn't make me appear overly sensitive or needy, traits that I find important to conceal from total strangers. In desperation I clicked on an entry called See More, revealing a category called Crisis Response, which on further inspection appeared to be a forum allowing people affected by natural or man made calamities—Earthquakes. Tornadoes. Terrorist attacks or random confrontations with American Nazis or Angry Environmentalists—to request or provide assistance, or to simply assure loved ones that they were safe. Somehow my crisis just didn't seem to fit there. 

Having nowhere else to turn I rebooted my laptop—an inexpensive model I'd acquired several months ago, reliable until now—and combed the list again like a bloodhound, hoping against hope to see the name there and thus have my faith in humanity restored. No luck.

She had done this once before, sending me into a tail spin of undignified behavior for a man my age. I started hanging out at the Fresh Market on Sundays where I knew she shopped, hoping to see her among the overpriced produce. Twice I stopped by the ice cream joint on Grove where we had held hands once under the table like teenagers, both times leaving with something that ended up melting in the car. Once I went out of my way to drive by the Thai place near her house that I took her to once—she said she went there often—on the off chance that I might see her going in or coming out. I didn't, which was probably a good thing, since I have no idea how I would have managed to spin something like that into a coincidence. 

Finally, after searching her profile for clues—had she known how often I was viewing her page she might have filed for a restraining order—I sent her an email begging her forgiveness for whatever it was that I had done like some third grader passing a note to some girl he likes during nap time. It worked, at least until this last thing. 

I'm not sending any emails this time. I do have my pride. 

As for further surveillance, well, who can say?

 

Richmond, VA

Just writing some stuff.

28

28 - The age of my birth Mom when she admits to the adoption agency that she lied about who was my Dad. 

28- The year I learned that lawyers were not paragons of justice as portrayed on TV and feely hands? Fox meet hen house.

28- The year I lost my mind (see above) & said, "No more".

28 - the age of my younger 1/2 brother who needed a passport & learned of my existence for the 1st time by necessity of bureaucratic red tape & suspicion of Grandma delay, denial, hemming & hawing about his birth certificate and finally, "Ask your Mama," who, when cornered, says "Yes, by the way, you have an older sister. Her name is Lisa."

 

Richmond, VA

I am now 2x the age of 28. This piece is based on actual events in my life and was inspired by Valley's Life in 10 minutes exercise. I like the concept of Life in 10 minutes. It removed my inner critic to the sidelines long enough for the good, raw stuff, to jump my brain fence and hurdle onto the page.

I am from ME

I am from Virginia.
I am from Bill and Emma Lou.
I am from my own damn self, and don’t you forget it.
I am from God and air and the Universe.
I am from cosmic dust all swirled together to make me.
I am from pencils and pens and markers and paper and pastels and paint
that help me understand and define where I’m from.
I am from suburban streets, not treacherous woods.
I am from Germany, last lifetime and this.
I am from friendships forged and broken,
I am from the cradles of my friends’ arms holding me tight in the grief of my soul.
I am from the Spirit of my children coming through me and teaching me soul.
I am from loving my husband ferociously, 
hating the loss of him with the same ferocity, 
tentatively reaching out to him to try again.
I am from fire and water and Earth and dance.
I am from exuberance and passion.
I am from power and presence and clarity.
I am from the power of God pouring through me.
I am from intellect and passion and heart and spirit.
I am from everything that ever happened to me and
everything I’ve had to heal from and
everyone I’ve chosen to forgive and
everything I’ve created and
everything I’ve ever done.
I am from salt and stone, earth and rock.
I am from sea water and air, bone and hair.
I am.

 

Richmond, VA

Susan Singer is an artist, writer, teacher, adventurer, and healing human being whose path has been and is rocky and revolutionary and gorgeous and fun and grief-filled and hard and simple and wonderful and wondrous.

My Grandmother's Corpse

I was only three years old when my grandmother died. We lived in the rural South during the days when it was customary to have the funeral director set up a bier in the home and return the body of the loved one to the house in an open casket. It would remain there until the funeral, which was usually conducted three to five days later at the church.

My grandmother had been sick for sometime. Some months before her demise, she went into a coma that lasted several weeks. The bonds of family were strong and someone needed to sit with her at the hospital every day and night. All the aunts and uncles took their turns and were beginning to feel the strain of working all day and sitting with their mother all night. Several of the older cousins volunteered to take a shift one Saturday night. They all smoked, unknown to their parents. They sat in Grandmother's hospital room enjoying young adult conversation and a pack of Camels. When Grandmother came out of the coma the first thing she did was relate to my cousins' parents the inappropriate conversations their children had in her hospital room while they were smoking, “Like a bunch of smokestacks." 

My grandmother was a very unpleasant lady, who had no patience at all with little children. I later realized that this was understandable; she bore 10 children and, including her two sets of twins, had five babies in diapers at one time, and no automatic washing machine. I never remember her smiling at me or having anything pleasant to say. To put it mildly, she couldn't tolerate me and I was less than fond of her. She was afflicted with arthritis and moved slowly. Sometimes when I saw her starting toward her favorite chair, I would run and quickly sit in it before she could. This habit did not serve to endear me to her. 

When she died, as was the custom, she was returned to our home to lie in state. It was my misfortune to have the bedroom directly across the hall from our living room, where, you guessed it, they laid out the corpse of my grandmother who looked very "Grand" indeed in her pale, pink, tulle shroud, resting in the white, satin lined casket. My parents, being the thoughtful and intelligent souls they were, wouldn't allow a child of my tender age to be exposed to the trauma of the funeral. They did, however, allow me to spend three nights of pure terror as Grandmother rested in peace across the hall and I failed to rest at all while making sure she didn't wake up, cross the hall and share my bed the way I had been sharing her chair for the past year. 

My favorite cousin, Thomas, who was six years old and a master storyteller of the macabre and frightening, decided that I wasn’t too young at all to get up close and personal with a corpse. While the adults were occupied in the kitchen enjoying a table loaded with edible tokens of consolation from ladies of the community, he placed one hand over my mouth and the other on my arm and dragged me into the living room for a visit with Granny. As usual I wasn’t enthusiastic about seeing Granny, and she was especially indifferent to me. Thomas laughed with boyish glee as he placed my tiny, warm hand over the old lady’s wrinkled, cold, stiff one. 

“Look out,” he warned, in his most serious storyteller’s voice. “She’s going to grab your hand and sit up!”

I was just a three year old who knew very little about life and death, but I heard my mama say Granny was dead and I knew that when my cat was dead, he never sat up again. I thought it would be strange indeed, and creepy, if Granny did grab my hand or sit up. The most frightening thought was that finally she would be able to catch me and do all the things she had been threatening to do to me for so long. 

I held my breath and waited in silent dread for her eyes to open and the bony hand to seize mine. Just as the eyelids fluttered slightly, Aunt Lena called from the kitchen, 

“Thomas, where are you? Get in here right now and eat your dinner.” 

Thomas released me and ran to the kitchen. I scurried to my parent’s bedroom and crawled under the bed. By the time they found me, I must have been asleep. I woke up later that night in my own bed, with the same dreadful expectation of a visit from Granny. The wind was whistling through the pines announcing the approaching storm. I sat up and cast an anxious look across the hall to the living room. A small lamp was on and I could just make out the outline of the casket and the profile of my Grandmother as she continued to rest there. I slid off the bed and walked slowly across the wood-plank floor to the door of my room. Three-year-olds are small, but I felt microscopic standing in the tall doorway. Lightening flashed through the open windows, across the silent figure lying in the long casket. Since Granny didn’t seem to be moving out any time soon, I decided to try to make peace with her. I stood in the doorway and addressed her in a loud whisper. 

“Granny, I know I was mean to you when I sat in your chair and when I said you looked like a witch when you combed your hair and when I said you were mean and then ran away. I’m sorry, I won’t do it anymore, please don’t get me Granny.” 

Just as I thought she was going to answer me, a gust of wind blew through the windows and slammed the lid of the casket shut. I sprinted back into my room and slammed the door. 

The next morning some men in black suits came and carried the closed casket away. I never knew if Granny forgave me and I could only hope she was still in the casket as it was carried out the front door. The only positive thing that came out of this experience was a grateful appreciation I have enjoyed throughout life for thunderstorms!

 

Chesterfield, VA

Full time writer and student of life. https://www.amazon.com/La-Belle-Rouge/e/B0049A2WF8/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1525731587&sr=1-2-ent

What I Have

I have one bra that fits, at least of the kind I can wear to work or out to dinner. I’m not talking about the kind I love to wear in the summer—a sports bra that goes under a tank top and over a pair of running shorts: three pieces of clothing, so easy. And the best part of summer—not having to worry about clothes or wear too many of them. And no more clunky “feet prisons.” (Some people call these shoes.) 

My one good bra, black and lacy, exemplifies so much of what it means to be female. Bras have to be and do so much, have to be beautiful and functional, have to show enough but not too much, have to spend days ferrying things around. While a daily, practical necessity, they are also appropriated for all manner of sexual duties—advertising, fantasy, foreplay. They should always be fun, even after a long day. They don’t have it easy, and neither do we. But the power they/we have: to do it all, to hold it all, to endure.

Would I want to be anything other than I am, with my overwhelming, messy life and one bra that fits? I don’t think so.

 

Richmond, VA

A Love Manual for my Ex-Boyfriend

Post Sender: Please see enclosed letter for instructions on the boyfriend I am returning. He didn't come with a love manual so please understand the pain-staking work that went in to this.

Post-post Sender: Please also note that this was an ongoing project until recently.

My ex-boyfriend didn't come with a love manual. He came with a credit card that has his name on it, attached to his parents bank account, and long blonde hair. He came with soft eyes and rolling bags that he unpacked neatly all over town. Occasionally I see some of his dirty laundry when I'm on my way to work, but my heart doesn't hurt anymore.

For his convenience, pack yourself neatly into that rolling bag once it's empty, but don't hope for much because he won't hold on as tightly as when his own things were inside. And he'll try to make you "his thing," while trailing you on a lease ten steps behind. You'll love it. You'll love being the period at the end of his sentence and the foot note of his life. Regardless of your own experiences and self-love, you'll always be second.
Second to someone, though, is first to him - except you won't be. You'll be fourth or maybe fifth, behind his mother, his brothers, his fraternity brothers, his new xbox, and his phone.

Cater to his whims though, because they'll make him smile and God that smile will drive you until it drives you right off a cliff.

I called myself a box person once, because I wrapped myself in pretty pink paper held together by ribbons and crooked staples that reminded me of the picture that hung from our wall in the first place we lived together. His temper got the best of him in those days and I stopped adjusting the frame.

Because of that temper he learned to breathe deeply instead of rush in like a waterfall. So he'll pause for you like he never did for me because my words weren't precious until I was telling the world just how broken he truly was.

And I held him together with bear glue that turned to sand and slipped through my fingers until it was my problems that needs to be suffocated but there was no courage to be mustered from his side.

So you'll fight the good fight to shape a boy into a man, just remember not to lose who you are in the end.

 

Hanover County, VA

Currently working in the District of Columbia to ensure that everyone receives the best educational options possible!