Devil in the Garden

I have an anger that seethes

Rippling, skin-close scales

Slipping around my naked belly

Cool to the touch, my ground brother

Every notch rising higher to shed skin, emerging larger.

Slipping through the tree branches

Whispering the truth of the trees,

My eyes see clear and red and icy at once

My confidant, I whisper back to this the wrongs

Small new cuts and reminisce the old jagged dull daggers

Rusted and deep, broken off in the marrow

Forgotten surgical instruments, sewn over, scarred over,

Bringing back their infection.

Wary and awake, I speak behind the hushed veil of my smile

Under my breath, to my companion

The devil in the garden,

Beside me in the dew-laced grass and we slip along together.

And he rises undulating up my leg and between my breasts

Separate from me but clinging eternally until apples fall away

Until the tree dies and the garden disappears into desert and heat.

 

 

 

 

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Seething

I have an anger that seethes.

It doesn’t lash out.

It coldly takes notes. Saves emails. Reports back. Observes distant and unfeeling.

I smile at you.

I pretend to be understanding.

All the while, taking notes.

My survival tactics I come by honestly.  I had to pretend to get this far in life.  I had to pretend at nice to survive childhood.  Had to take notes and save images just in order to keep the gaslighting from consuming my head.

I know who I am.  Outside all the bullshit anyone can say about anything.  I know Who. I. Am. And that will not shake.

Resilience scares the shit out of people.

 

An 80’s Tale

80’s nostalgia is all the rage.

I look at the things I see and read, and I don’t see the life I had.  I grew up in the 80’s.  My life wasn’t like the kids on “Stranger Things”

My parents didn’t get involved with the counterculture in the 60’s and 70’s.  Most of my relatives didn’t either.

My parents never let me play outside of my own yard.

My parents never let me go walking all over the neighborhood in the early 80’s, or riding my bike anywhere alone until I was about 15 and could drive myself anyway (albeit, on a learner’s permit).

I wasn’t even supposed to close the door on my outdoor playhouse.  I couldn’t walk in the woods next door.  I couldn’t walk to my Uncle’s next door without telling my mother where I was going and why.

When I turned about 12 or 13, I started getting invited to things like parties and little dates and the kind of stuff middle-school kids tend to do to act grown.  Parties with boys present were a hard sell for my parents.  I went to some, vetted to have responsible parents present, but for the most part, the answer was no.  I didn’t get to go where the other kids went.  I begged and occasionally got a reprieve.  I had to have five levels of justification to go to a different church youth group (Methodist instead of Baptist.)

At this point, some people will say, “But you probably didn’t get into as much trouble as those other kids.”

And that isn’t true.  I just fought harder for the gasps of air that I had.  In reality, I missed out on key socialization that I should have gotten earlier on.  I was always very independent, but I wonder how my life would be different, and possibly better now if I had been allowed to flex that independence by being allowed to … walk outside the yard.

There were no rock and roll albums in our house, and the most dangerous country songs was probably an Alabama album.  Most of what my parents listened to when I was a child were Ronnie Milsap, the Statler Brothers, and the Oak Ridge Boys.  When I was old enough to have records of my own to mix in with records about children’s characters, I had to play them on my parent’s record player.  I had a handful of 45’s.  I was about 5 or 6 when I got my first, but they had to be ultra-clean.  No bad words.  No blatant sexual allusions (my parents don’t really register metaphors and symbolism well, so I did get away with some things).  No references to drugs except in the “don’t use them” type of statement.

I did most of my music at other kids houses.

Every kid I knew was getting whatever album they wanted, no matter the content.  They had their own record players.  They had the life you see in “Stranger Things.”

I couldn’t watch most of the most popular shows because they were “filthy”.   My mother had a tough time with anyone in any movie or TV show saying “Oh God!” or “Oh my God!” She didn’t even like anyone to say the word “stupid.”  She monitored everything that came, was viewed, or was listened to in our house.

My brother and I got a tape player and a set of Disney cassettes one year for Christmas.  The standard type that held one tape and was black and silver and had a handle on the end.

That tape player was fun.  It let me record my voice. I had a few blank tapes I could record over and play with.  I was desperate for something that would let me listen to whatever I wanted.

Mostly, I did what I wanted to do at other people’s houses.  Watched the movies I wanted to watch. Listened to the current hits.  I remember learning the words to “Beat It” in the woods outside the playground at school.

We didn’t have cable.  Music videos were a precious magical delight to me.

The salvation of my life was Soul Train.  I would watch these people dance without a care.  Sometimes hear something modern before my mother heard something she didn’t like and change the channel.  I would also watch PBS’ Austin City limits occasionally when I could.  The second one was harder.  Came on when my father was in charge of the TV.  From time to time, an artist came on, and my father would say that he “Couldn’t stand” whoever it was and he would flip the channel.  That could mean anything from saying the individual had lyrics he found to be offensive to his sensibilities, or that the individual had displayed politics or said things he despised.  Willie Nelson’s long hair was never on TV for longer than five seconds.

Or, better yet- a mention that my grandfather or some other relative had hated (or did hate) that person—for whatever reason- and the channel was changed.  A Johnny Cash album in my car now will still cause my father to remark every time that his mother didn’t like him as if it was an important matter to my musical taste.

I was not allowed to play Dungeons & Dragons.  I had a few older cousins who played it, but their parents were the aunts and uncles that we weren’t fully encouraged to interact with.  With them, my mother had a social unease because they didn’t attend church regularly and allowed such things in their home.  They also kept beer in the house.  Although my father did drink beer, my mother never kept it in the house.  He could drink beer and other such things elsewhere.  My mother called it all “beer” no matter what variety of alcohol it was.   She never drank.  I don’t know that she has ever drank in her life.  She also has never smoked or done any drugs.  At all.  Such things, to her, are shocking and things to get a bit wide-eyed about.

My father did make homemade muscadine wine once, but he kept it hid in his shed, away from my mother, mixed in with other reused coke bottles full of oil and grease.

My mother didn’t like the men who were famous at the time.  If she ever found anyone famous truly handsome, she never indicated it in any way.  She didn’t watch most soap operas and always changed the channel when a sex scene came on. After a while, she didn’t watch them at all.  She would never get truly wrapped up in the adult conversations – only half paying attention to whatever was on TV.  When it comes to comedies, she laughed at bits that weren’t the actual punchline.

Very little got through the filter.  Either my mother thought it was bad language or too much sex or my father just didn’t like it, or the actor or singer was wrong in some way.

I fought and did my own thing as much as I could.

I had older relatives that were my parents’ age.  They may not have been as uptight as my parents, but certainly managed to go through the 60’s and 70’s without any of their core opinions being affected.  Some were uptight golf republicans—not religious, but still to this day, dress as if it is 1982.   Easy snobbery and dull, mostly unfeeling lives concerned with financial gain alone—they can’t get past the yuppie 80’s stage of their lives.

I wanted to be normal.  Badly.  I wanted to be able to drive my bike all over the place.  I wanted to be the kids who could go play as they wanted to.  I was sometimes able to sneak away and pretend at normal.  I made a point to get the jokes.

Cultural norms were that- norms. Not absolutes.  The extremities of my personal restrictions in my home were fairly unusual in the larger world, but in evangelical homes at the time, were actually par for the course.

Emotionally speaking, I feel my parents didn’t have enough of their own being worked out when they decided to marry and have children.  They never had the chance either.  And I am always working a little more on the ongoing process of life discoveries because of my upbringing.

Either I find a new movie that everyone else saw in 1987 or I find new depth in something forgotten. I listen to music from my childhood that was never played in my home and revel in its richness, no matter who is singing, or what the genre might be. I dive in. I let music engulf me.  I dance with wild abandon and relish in my body’s shakes and rolls and stops.

I am always finding something, even small things, that crack open the door a little bit more.

I still reach out for my normal.   ‘

You may have to do it alone…

Sometimes many people may fail you. You get to the end and realize that all those people who say they miss you don’t seem to make much of an effort to call or come around. You feel that you never have enough of something for them.

People who want to be around you make an effort to do so.

You don’t have to give them directions to your house 27 times.

You don’t have to keep making appointments and vague plans that never come to fruition.

You don’t have to worry about getting the runaround.

You Cannot Expect People To Behave Honorably.   A few people will, and they will surprise and delight you.  The mistake good people make is going out into the world expecting that of people, and then getting let down and jaded again and again when it fails to materialize.

You have to set your expectations high, and your rules for letting other people get close to you even higher.

You may end up doing it alone.  Taking the cat to the vet alone.  Waiting for the cable guy alone.  You may not have that person that you trust to watch the house and not go through your underwear drawer.  You may not.

It may be tough. It may be hard.

But you can do it. And it will be okay.

 

 

What a woman hears

I work for one of the largest employers in my town.

I work with a lot of women.

I hear tales daily of crazy behavior.

Whatever gender you are– please don’t let crazy people into your life.  Please don’t let them into your life again once they are gone.  They don’t change.  They won’t change.

From gunshots into the ceiling to stealing all a woman’s makeup, I have heard it.

I’m sure this exists in all forms, but I’m speaking as a woman who hears women speak freely because I am also a woman.

Stop letting the crazy people in.

Stop.

Stop believing the old lie that the only way to live is to be partnered with someone else.  If people think lesser of you for living alone, tell them to go fuck themselves.  You are worth more than the notion of being in a couple. Being in a marriage.  Being in a relationship.  Your safety is important. Your mental sanctity is important.   If someone doesn’t value you from the start, they never will.  If someone doesn’t care about the things important to you, you aren’t ever going to battle through that to them being a better person.

Think about your kids- if you already have them.  Think about your dreams for yourself.  your happiness.  Joy is sacred.  It has meaning and worth. The peace of your being has worth.

You deserve love.  You deserve worth.  You deserve to be cherished.  Even if you only cherish yourself.

Still

You make me think of lame songs I’ve known all my life.

Sometimes I want to run in guns blazing like I did at that age.

Sometimes I want to save a day that isn’t mine to save.

You make me miss that cavalier part of me.

 

 

 

Eroded Parts

Some things in you don’t go all at once.  They disappear little by little, bit by bit.

Trust is something that is all but gone.

When I find a nugget of it, I protect it so fiercely.

What I do feel toward others is mostly just a CIA-level paranoia. And I have to not feel that in order to let my brain relax.  The trouble is that I can’t forget things.

Gifted, they said when I was a kid.  And I got stuck in a special class.

At my job it’s useful and at times a mildly amusing curiosity.  It has helped me pass tests.  It has helped me remember a vague reference I heard on a documentary five years ago and look it up in order to add scholarly bulk to papers nearly unheard of in undergraduate work.

But I can’t forget. Not even when I drink myself into oblivion. Nothing wipes away the erosion.

I had a dream last night where animals begged me for names and then proceeded to rather obviously lie to me.  So yes, I see it everywhere, even in a dream about a raccoon and some large rodent walking into a library.  My mind’s natural assumption is that they would lie, omit and tell incomplete tales.

I hug my relatives that have lied and manipulated and left things out, but I feel nothing toward them.  Like hugging one of those cardboard cutouts of a movie character or a sports star.

I think we teach people a lot of ways to effectively deal with things, but not about being stuck around liars.   Often in the workplace, you will (by those above you in management) be made to feel that the right thing to do is to diplomatically overlook obvious lies in order to further the job goals.

We want people to keep the peace, keep the boat from rocking.   If they don’t, who will sign off on that time report and who will come over for Thanksgiving?

Otherwise, we freeze it out and freeze them out. Create our spaces and walls of ice.  Hide money and resources from them.  Keep our free time to ourselves rather than get mixed up with them.

The problem is that when people lie, it is because they feel no obligation to be truthful to us.  And that hurts. It is a very deep cut that goes to the soul of our worth in that person’s eyes.  Your heart says, “The truth is, I wasn’t worth the truth.”

And it is harder and harder to lay down that inner part of you that is looking for a place to hide from it all.  That part can be ignited so easily.  A wrong look.  A sideways glance. A mistake.  You see nothing but gradients and shadows.  You become pleasantly surprised when the truth is there and someone doesn’t find some way to screw you over.   You weren’t expecting it.

There aren’t a lot of effective ways to just function. To let your brain rest. To let go.  We need to find better ways to call out those who harm. I know some ways that do work with some types, but for our own mental sanctity, we need to work on more.

Because … we ARE worth more. We DO deserve the truth.  We DO deserve honesty.   People who see otherwise are the problem, and they need to be made to understand that in a way that doesn’t make us, the truth -seekers and truth-knowers, into the ones who are told we are judgemental.  People who see otherwise are projecting their own lack of worth onto us.  And we don’t  need to allow that to happen or impede us.  We need better tools to address it.  To live with it without it taking over our minds, invading dreams about woodland creatures in libraries.  Mostly, we need more truth– but that isn’t going to happen.  To take from my evangelical upbringing, you are not able to “convict the spirit” if it is unwilling.

We have to find ways of letting the reality of that be and defending ourselves effectively and finding ways to call people out when we can.  Truth is a disinfectant.  We need to use it more often.

Solace, resolution.  They are beautiful ideas in stories, but may never happen in life.  Some will never change or be rehabilitated.

We have to find better ways to live with both outcomes.