Prayer for the wounded (Poem)

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unsplash-logoToa Heftiba

The bruises now are healed
The scars covered by tattoos
I don’t jump when I hear the door
Nor am I a captive audience in the pews

You took away my innocence
The little boy who loves God and Santa
You beat me where no one could see me
When your anger turned into rage

I might as well have been born, abroad
Where bombs explode and bullets rain
Yet, I lived here in the land of freedom of conscience, of thought
while my screams ignited an inferno that
Burned my childhood to the ground

The things you did, you did them to me
The smell of smoke engulfed my lungs
As you bounced my head off of the flame red tile
Where no help could come to me

You were like the Roman soldier
The Pharisee and Pilot and the nails
I was the little boy, Jesus
now I am the woman at the well

Deliver me, Oh God, from what was done
Rewrite what happened in your name
Resurrect me once again, my Lord
Even though my mouth and my clothes and my faith smell of brimstone

I’ve been in the presence of evil, real evil
Yet I am alive, somehow….

 

Betrayal (poem)

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betrayal
the big billboard
lit up brightly
on the highway
of my mind 
and morning song
that rouses
me from my sleep
forces my hand
to steer the car
over to the side
of the road.
There, in bold
red letters scrawled
my redrum
twenty feet high
thirty five feet across
illuminated by glaringly
bright white light
I feel the first
of the emotions
associated with the word

Embarrassment
the sticky heavy thick feeling
like it isn’t dark
like the freeway isn’t mine
like someone
could drive by any moment
and see me sitting
on the hood of the car
knees tucked
under my chin
and see me
with the radio in the car
blaring out
with open doors
and the dome light on
the song crescendos
and falls silent
leaving nothing else
to play but the
wind, the crickets,
and the rattle of an engine

It all comes
down to this one thing
the heart of it all
the epicenter
the truth that I
didn’t factor at all
in their equations
forgotten and willfully so
I become see through
on the hood
why, when, how, who, what
all cease to matter
paling to the red letters
a ghost
I take them into me
mercilessly
giving me substance
forcing upon me
unnecessary courage
under the early
October sky

Hurricane outside, Maelstrom within (poem)

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Flickering lights and uncertainty rolled out in front of us
myself, my family
the wind crashed whistling through the eaves of the house
like an errant train in the dead of night
lightning danced 
Death had come ashore and ghosts were marching to martial music
thundering heels against the coal black night

the telephone rang
in foolish compassion I answered
and a voice from the grave spoke to me
suddenly I felt thirsty, ravenously hungry
and though the conversation was pleasant
my veins began to ache
and my body began to ache
to be possessed by old habits of a foolish youth
spent locked in torment

after we said goodbye
to fight against the desire of anonymity
I flung the doors open to the storm
wind, leaves, and rain rolled inward
when the threat between my ears
became greater than the one that ran screaming through the night

I pulled up shades
threw open windows and breathed in chance
in giant cleansing gulps
hoping against hope that I could exorcise my dutiful mistake
between The Father, and The Son, and three glasses of red wine – the blood
This I did in remembrance
I all of a sudden felt needy
to be possessed by creatures of the veil not far beyond my touch

I watched the storm blow the rest of the night
between flashes of lightning and gusts of wind
the fourth horseman I knew galloped close by
I waited for upon my cross of bones and childrens toys
for the sound of his thundering hooves
my gaze locked in on the shadows beyond the trees

At some point I fell asleep
only to awaken at dawns first light with my mouth
tasting like yesterdays news
and my clothes just barely damp
I rose from my leaf littered bed
my solace sleeping soundly next to me
my protection asleep soundly on the floor

I rose and peered into the stillness with a heavy head
a tongue that cleaved to the roof of my mouth
I noticed the lightening of the sky with the rising of the sun
now that the storm had blown itself away
and though there be no track marks, no bottles laying strewn on the floor
even though I knew the name of the man next to me in my bed
I still felt the shame of a misspent night
and the lingering feeling of poison in my veins

I’m an addict without a habit
no that isn’t true – no, there’s a habit there
and it isn’t in recklessness or immoral lack of judgement
it was in a simple act of compassion
that now, today burns a hole in the center of me
that wracks my body with a guilt even though I never did anything wrong

In the stillness of that morning
I slowly rose up from my sleep as a hangover
thudded mercifully between my ears
and before the rest of the house woke
I stripped down and walked naked into a cold shower
humming, “Precious Lord, take my hand.”
as shakily, shivering from the cold, I washed away my shame
and I climbed back on the wagon

I believed you the first time (Poem)

 

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There is an anger inside of me
an anger cultivated from seeing the world through your eyes
the seeds of this understanding in fields once plowed
by the merciless and unyielding force of religion’s myopic blade
having once been allowed to fallow
as the fruit had grown bitter on the vine
this ground is now once again turned over and replanted
in this season of humanity’s discontent

I know you by the fruits of your labor
having once bore the weight of your harvests’ yield
I know the saccharine words you speak are laudanum laced
which heals as a whip renders flesh across the back heals
and comforts as salt comforts though generously applied

Evil is the man who says bad is good
and bad is made all the worse when done in the name of God
and that God’s hand is turned to a cloven hoof that tramples
lives and destroys families and ignores the pain of others
whistling while you work, while you plow your fields,
hymns and psalms with anger in your eyes

Yet I am the rock in the way of your blade
that kicks up and smacks against your mouth
I’ll be the clod that dulls the steel, the hole in the ground that lames your beast
for as inevitable as you might be, though you have names that cause men to tremble in marketplaces where you trade
I am the fruit that you created – and the irony of in the demise of your efforts

For I have been poisoned and carry that weight with me
in the truth of who you are that rests between my ears
I know that one with God still constitutes a majority
and though you can’t even begin to articulate my little finger. nor do you have the power to cause one hair to grow on my head
I know everything and everyone and exactly what you are
over and over you showed me and in your haughtiness you told me
and I – biding my time – waiting for my moment –
believed every word and deed – believed it all
the first time.

 

Sunday: Pajama Day (Snuggle for Existence)

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(Photo: Ray Hennessy)

Oh, boy!

It’s cool outside. Winter is sliding out of the door and it’s that time of year again! The time of year we lose an hour of sleep and spend the next three weeks grumbling at the time clock.

It’s that time of year when accidents increase, tempers flare, and people wandering around sort of jogged after losing an hour of sleep!

Solution?

Pajama day.

The day after the Chamber of Commerce’s forced hour loss so we can all shop more, I suggest a national holiday of resistance.

Pajama Day

This is the day you will catch up on reading, watching old television shows snuggled up on the couch, watch a string of movies (like Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, and the beloved Family movie of all time: The Godfather).

Put on a pot of soup beans, order a pizza, or grab take out Chinese and vow to stay in your pajamas ALL DAY!

Have funky hair, bad breath, have a coffee cup within reaching distance, fuzzy slippers, fuzzy socks, fuzzy animals sitting nearby, and relax.

And if you have to shop, Amazon your happy heart out.

Buy that pepper grinder in the shape of a cow!

Buy the greatest collection of Western works (all 57 volumes) for 200 dollars (used)!

Crack a window, curl up, and take a nap!

Get through this forced jet lag of a day and start your Monday off right. So freaking rested you’re ready to take on anything.

Some days it’s  a struggle for existence.

So make today, A snuggle for existence!

 

 

Message in a bottle (part 16)

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It’s been a few days since I’ve written my last entry into this thing that i started doing for reasons of self-preservation.

Mostly, because for the past several days I’ve felt pretty light. Relieved in a way. The stars all seemed to align for me and I allowed myself to see the truth – the whole truth – for the first time.

And it broke my heart. I’m thirty-five years old.

But there is a part of me that feels like he’s seven years old. And despite my size and weight and years on my face, that five-year-old is still very much a part  of my life. That seven-year-old boy who’s name is Freddie- boy (that was my nickname). That little boy who was born on April 12th, 1981 the third child and first born son.

From what I understand I would introduce myself as ‘Freddie boy’ to people I would meet.

Today, I just call myself Freddie. Frederick makes me sound like I have money and Fred makes me sound like I know how to work on cars. Neither of which is true.

I’m poor and clueless when it comes to anything under the hood.

Before I cut off communication with my family, my mother had sent me a few things that she’d collected over the years and in that letter was my first letter to Santa Clause.

On the front, it said: To Santa to give to God.

It reads: I love God and I can see why you love me. Please take this (the letter ) to Jesus.

I had it worked out in my little five-year-old head that, of course, Santa knew God and Jesus they all lived ‘up north’. To me, that was the Holy Trinity. God the Father, God the Son, and Santa Clause (Sorry, Holy Spirit).

But the part that says, “I can see why you love me,” is something that’s given me pause.

I can see why you love me. Because I’m Freddie-boy and EVERYONE loves Freddie boy, duh.

But it’s interesting how as a child I knew that I was loved by Jesus. I knew it.

Despite the abuse, despite the craziness that was Detroit, despite the worn out heart and mind of this thirty-five-year-old man. I am thankful for my parent’s faith in regards to teaching us about Jesus. Not the fundamentalism, no. That ruined Jesus for me and for many others, I think, and probably is strong enough to give Christ himself pause every once in awhile and ask, “Am I really like that?”

Because despite all of this along with my obsession with love that I’ve carried with me all my adult life, I feel like I never stopped looking for God. I never stopped looking for Christ. Even factoring in the fact that I’m gay, I’ve yet to be convinced God doesn’t exist and Christ isn’t a part of my life.

Mostly, because I met God once. He fishes off the beaches on Crystal Beach (near Galveston) and he owns a raggedy four by four. He helped pull me out of the sand once when I was stuck and no one else would help me. He didn’t look like he had a lot of money, and his hair was curly and stood up in every direction. But he pulled up, got me out of rut I was in and got me back on the road before waving and disappearing from sight. He looked poor.

And he didn’t yell at me for getting stuck.

And he didn’t want any money although I had a pocket full of cash.

So if the ‘least you do for these you do for me’ means the least you do for someone who’s in a bad way means you did something for Christ. What does it mean when the least does something for you?

Like I said, I met God that day.

I cried all the way home.

Maybe it’s good that that five-year-old is still in me. Wanting to believe. Believing despite everything. I just wish I could say, “I know why you love me,” with that much assuredness. That little kid saw in himself something of value. He was Freddie Boy.

I want to be Freddie Boy, again.

 

Message in a bottle (Part 9)

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Last night I got word that a really cool guy that I knew passed away. His name was David. He was an ex-Marine (take that back, from what I understand once a Marine always a Marine) a father, a husband, and all around really  nice guy.

It really sucked last night to hear he had passed. He reminded me of Santa Clause. He was big with a white beard. Very affable. Very kind. And was interested in what you had to say.

He comes from a family and continued the tradition of – family is whoever you choose it to be. Whether you are blood, or not, whether you are considered good or not. It didn’t matter to him or his wife Debbie that I was gay and married to a man. They saw us as equals.

I, and later on John  through me, was unofficially adopted by this family that’s wider than those two. I was introduced to Carol and Daddy (David’s brother)  by his niece who I’d met first. And this family is all educated. All of them have degrees or an interest in history, literature, politics, and poetry. And their home looks ripped right out of an English countryside. There are books, and cats, and booze, and a fireplace. And my God …there is food! If you’re hungry in this house, something is wrong with you.

And what is amazing about them, is, they look for you to see if you’re coming.

They want to see you. They call and check up on you.

They leave a light on for you.

They want to see you succeed. They are happy when you are.

They ask you to help them hold the ladder or trim the hedge or go get some eggs for them.

They feel a lot like a family should.

When I was still in my tea party angry at the world self-loathing phase. When I was a fundi baptist if not in my personal theology but my outlook on the world. They were patient with me. Even when I didn’t deserve it. Even when I walked away from them in anger because I disagreed with something Daddy said.

They took me back without a word.

When you see love for the first time one of two things happen. First, you’re suspicious of it. You’re suspicious of its intent. It feels uncomfortable. It’s invasive to you and you want to withdraw from it. And second, when it sinks in and you realized what it is you play this compare and contrast game. And this is in regards to love of all sorts. Agape, Eros, Philia, Storge – all of ’em.

When you see real love for the first time you look back on what you thought love was and you’re like ‘What the fuck was that?!”

It’s easy to love someone. The hardest part in keeping a relationship alive is letting them love you. You know you. You’ve lived with you. And when you’ve allowed or been forced to accept someone else’s truth as THE truth about you, you may even turn away from love out of fear. Fear of being stripped of so much that you thought you were. As those things, people put on you are now comfortable even though they’re ugly and serve only to hurt you the longer you hold onto them.

If someone says they love you. Family, Friends, or Faith – if they don’t encompass these truths from 1st Corinthians 13:4 – get away from them. There’s is a false love. Especially if you’re caught up in the Retribution gospel of Fundamentalism. As Dolly Parton said, “You don’t need that kind of negativity in your life.”

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now, we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

When you come into the presence of love for the first time,you don’t want to leave it. Whether that’s the love of a lover, love of a friend, or the love of perhaps an adoptive family (official or otherwise). And it’s then you realize blood is NOT in fact, thicker than water.You owe no one loyalty or love unless they’re loyal and love you in return.

I wandered hell’s half acre looking for a family like that. And I found one. When you find one, right away, understand a few things.

Will they be perfect? Nope.

But neither are you. And they love you regardless.

R.I.P Uncle David. You were pretty cool.

I’ll write more when I can.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Message in a bottle (part 7)

 

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I recently quit smoking. And by recently I mean forty-eight hours ago. 2 days. And boy do I miss it. I am not doing it cold turkey. No. I think that’s inviting insanity. And for someone who gets extremely moody if I get hungry, I don’t think that’s a good idea. My husband and I are using a vaporizer as cessation. Now I know what people say, vaporizers aren’t completely safe. And that’s true. We read up on some of the literature that talks about the dangers. But put next to cigarettes. There is no comparison in regards to danger. Zero. From there we’ll wean ourselves off of those.

But yes, I do miss lighting up. I was a Marlboro man most my life although I started off on Newports when I was in high school.

And it was cigarettes that got me beaten one morning while my father was in a bad way.

See, I didn’t start off a smoker. But my friends’ parents and my friends were. In my idiot 15/16-year-old logic – I figured – that if I was being accused and catching hell for it, I would just give in and do it. I was coming home from my friend’s houses smelling like an ashtray. They all smoked inside, especially during the winter months.

But the original cigarettes I’d smoked hadn’t come from my friends. Or from peer pressure.

See, my parents treated their love of God, like a drug. Or a drink. And often times they would ‘fall off the wagon’ and leave church. And when that happened, the beatings on Saturday night, the inner family feuds, the banning of certain television shows were lifted, movies were purchased, we did things as a family and my parents would smoke and drink.

Now as a kid that had all of that drilled into his head as being wrong. It was hard to watch them drink and smoke. But as I grew older, I came to expect it. Their faith and personal lives swung like a pendulum.

Nothing was stable. Nothing. That’s the root of the insanity of this story. Our lives were in a constant state of upheaval.

But I digress. It wasn’t my friends’ cigarettes I smoked first. It was my parents. Left in a little saucer on the kitchen table they used as an ashtray.

It wasn’t my friends’ cigarettes I smoked first. It was my parents. Left in a little saucer on the kitchen table they used as an ashtray.

The final time I’d been beaten, my mother yelled in from the dining room into the bedroom where my father had a fifteen-year-old me bent over, bare-assed, breaking my will and stripped of dignity (a 15/16 year old has things his parents don’t need to see. Which sorta makes this demeaning in a sexual way) – and told him to “…beat the hell out of him. He’s down the street smoking with those bitches.”

At this point, they were back in church and had changed once again. By this time I’d gotten so used to the on again off again relationship they had with christ, I’d stopped shifting along with them. They weren’t believers. They were addicts trading booze for Jesus.

However, in the midst of his new high with Jesus, he’d finally been able to use a wooden plank he brought home from work, in the shape of a paddle, on one of us. And unfortunately that morning, I’d drawn the short straw. He’d been positively giddy that the two-inch thick board, with holes in it, would make a whistle before it connected. And boy, it sure did. I was bruised for weeks.

He doesn’t know how close he came to dying that day. I often think about what would have happened if I had turned on him. Snatched that out of his hand and beat him to death with it. No jury in the world would have convicted me. Or perhaps they would have. But they’d look at their children a bit different from that point on.

Instead, this incident resulted in me taking them to court. At that point, I’d had enough. I left home, called social services, and at sixteen years old stood in front of a judge. No kid should have to do that. To have to turn on your parents. To be the one that put an end to years and years of abuse. And even though I lost my case for emancipation (it had been outlawed in Michigan a year prior) the physical shit ended.

But from that point forward, I smoked every day since then.

This blog, my yoga, book writing, poetry, my smoking cessation – is a way to let go. A way to say goodbye to all of that. I’m ready, now, to quit. It just took me fifteen years to get here. So maybe I don’t miss it so much.

 

Ugh, these people were assholes. They were fucking detestable assholes.  And their ‘god’ and ‘church’ was a joke.

Fuck them.

I’ll write more when i can.

 

 

Message in a Bottle (part 4)

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It’s times like these that I doubt everything. It’s times when my husband is lying in bed asleep, the dog has his head under the bed (I have no idea why he does that but he does) asleep, and I am the last one awake.

It’s moments like these when I think – I have so much to be grateful for. I’ve come a long way. No, my life hasn’t been easy but then again, who’s life has been?

It’s nights like these after I’ve made dinner and we’ve watched a show on VUDU or Netflix that I find myself content to just be. Just being in the moment. And I find many moments like that. In the morning when I take Kaiser (or Stink depending on how long it’s been since I’ve bathed him) for our walk and I put my headphones in and listen to an old Fleetwood Mac album. Or when I’m doing yoga – which has been a wonderful outlet for me to center myself mentally, emotionally, and physically. Or when I am sitting down to add words to a page in one of my books.

And I think to myself, “Why not let things be?”

So often I’ve been told that I have to get over what happened. That I have to move on. And those words have come at the precise of the moment when I am not at my best as I am now. They’ve come when I’m so low I could do a snake a favor and scratch his belly for him. It’s in those moments when something comes across in social media, or I see something on television, or an old memory flares up in my mind and I beg the universe for deliverance to that land of ‘move on’. And I think to myself, I’ve lived with this stuff for so long – will there ever be a day I can say, “I’ve arrived.” I am fine, now, I’ve moved on.

I went years without knowing what was wrong with me. Yet I knew something was. In college, I was given a diagnosis of extreme ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). I scored off the charts even to the point where the health profession said that I may have Bipolar disorder. So I did what I thought I should have done and went to a psychiatrist with the diagnosis and got on medication. And while the pills worked. My concentration was such that I could hear a mosquito fart and be able to describe it to you – it kept me up for days on end.

ADHD medications aren’t supposed to do that.

But I didn’t know any better. I thought they were just supposed to help you concentrate. And another thing I wasn’t aware of was that the symptoms of ADHD look a heck of a lot like the symptoms of PTSD  (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). And even at that point I thought PTSD was a soldier’s illness from being in war. Well, I had deployed to the middle east for Operation Iraq Freedom but the unit I was with was in Kuwait. And that was an experience that was long, and hot, and I missed home, and yes it was a little intimidating – but nothing bad happened there. We were never involved in any firefights, no I.E.D’s went off, and even though we got there when Saddam was still bombing Kuwait (Sharq Mall got hit (If I remember correctly), it had been a couple of hours prior to us showing up.

So there was a part of me that was unable or unwilling to see what was in front of me. Or maybe there was a part of me unwilling or able to associate my PTSD with something that hit very close to my heart and was personal. My family. My life growing up. And the idea that a church or a doctrine of a church could be the culprit was something I was again unwilling or unable to put together.

Church is supposed to be a place you feel the safest. Our Family is supposed to be the place you feel the safest as well. And neither place was safe at all. Added on to the stress of living in a war zone like Detroit in the 1990’s, it’s a miracle I’m not a heroin addict. Or not permanently locked away in some psych ward somewhere (although I did do a stint in Detroit Receiving Psychiatric Ward an indigent care facility, at one point after I returned from the service, but that’s a story for another time). I can’t just put event after event on here, because like I mentioned in blogs before – I’m afraid there would be so many that no one would believe me.

For fifteen years of my life, the physical abuse starting at an early age, the slaps, punches, beatings with extension cords, belts, switches, watching my older sisters get hit and/ or kicked out of the house – things that I’d witnessed and was powerless to stop- at young ages went on like clockwork. Saturday nights before church were always hell on earth in our family. The explosions in tempers, the skanky inner workings of the church that thought it was appropriate for a sixteen-year-old girl to marry an almost thirty-year-old man, the lies, deceit, the cover-up of a rape, the usury of another sister to pay bills as she killed herself working whilst dealing with an eating disorder…all of that was inside of the house. Detroit would be and do other things.

All these things were ingested like poison to a child scared out of his mind waiting for what was going to happen next. And it was pure insanity. It was all based on a fucked up version of Christianity. It was all enforced with rhetorical flourish, emotional manipulation, spiritual manipulation, fear of the wrath of God to stay quiet, and physical violence.

And maybe its self-preservation in moments like this that tell me to stop. To let sleeping dogs lie. Or maybe it is cowardice or fear that says I could be stirring up a hornet’s nest. But I know the moment i see something that triggers a memory – I know I’ll wish I’d have started something like this. Started talking. Some kid will get killed, some young lady will have to apologize to the wife of her rapist for him taking advantage of her.

I know I am pussyfooting around the main event. The actual diving into the heart of what happened to me and my siblings. And I think that too is based in fear. Not fear of anything I may cause, but fear of all those emotions rushing to the surface and me descending into expletive-laden rants about what fuck shits, what cowards, the people involved were.

I don’t want to do that.

But what I have learned is my reaction to those things that happened is not unusual. As a matter of fact, as research is expanding in the field of psychology concerning what’s called Adverse Childhood Experiences (or Aces). I’ve come to realize just how much an impact what had happened had on me. Aces is a way for doctors to test how adverse experiences can effect a child over a lifetime.

(Watch Nadine Burke Harris give an approx. 16 min talk on the nature of ACES, here)

(Read up on Aces and take the quick test:  here)

So it’s the realization that even though this happened fifteen years ago it is still impacting me in a very serious way today – even physiologically. So I’ll take a moment, at fifteen minutes past the Witching Hour, to be grateful for some clarity and some peace.

Goodnight

I’ll write more when I can