An Open Letter to My Son’s Friends at the Prom After-Party Weekend
May 14, 2018
21 Days of Yoga
May 17, 2016
Where the Light Enters You
February 6, 2019
What Gets in the Way
October 16, 2018
Leaving my post as Poetry Editor at an independent women's literary journal and press has been a little like leaving my son off at university; for both of us, it was necessary for growth but hard to walk away. There was pride in good work accomplished, dreams and spirits lifted along the way, but a bittersweet sadness too, more bitter than sweet, that such a good ride was coming to an end. I have many journals and chapbooks on my shelf to my credit as Poetry Editor, and a well-adjusted, super-handsome, hilarious, worldly, bright and beautiful son to my credit as Mom.
Sometimes I stand in the middle of his room and marvel at the mark he made on his world, on my life and heart. Ditto when I flip through pages of books I edited, or see the name of a poet in a subsequent journal, knowing that she got her start in our little press. It's hard though, seeing those at the helm make questionable decisions with work in progress, seeing writers stumble over what to do out there on their own. We used to call my domain the "poetry side of the house", so whether it's the found language of a justified cause poorly executed or the words and lines I agonize over in my own submissions, I have to let them go out to the Universe on the whispered wings of prayers to the muses and the gods -- that they will reach the right ears and eyes and pages, and everything else is rain in a teacup. Less consequential with a poem or a book or an essay, not so easy with a child. A Life.
And this one is special. Aren't they all-- yes. But he's my first and he makes me laugh like no one else and I love him so much I could fucking bust a gut. So much he put me through. So much me courses in his blood and eyes and the uncut way he makes no apologies for feeling--sometimes raw, sometimes tearful (He told me he can't watch The Perks of Being a Wallflower without crying. Tough male meets sensitive side equals proud mama) Sometimes he falls in love with a single song and learns it on the guitar overnight so that he knows it back and forth by morning. Sometimes I listen outside his bedroom door and weep a little. Still.
New York City is half a continent and a vast wide world away from The Woodlands Texas An Hour North of Houston. What is he doing at any given hour? Cocaine? Time in city lock-up? Boys and girls and cats and dogs living all together? Sounds like fun to me, why can't I come too? The kids, they let me chaperone homecoming and then prom; before that it was the end-of-the-year sixth grade popsicle party with Charlie and Aaron and some jackass named Schreinman.
He told me which girls he liked. He told me when he quit smoking cigarettes, when he got his first tattoo. When he backed into that lady's car in the Home Depot parking lot, I was the first person he called. It's so hard not to be his First Person any more.
But then again, I don't have to wake his ass up every weekday morning so for to get him to first period on time. And I don't have to spend my Sunday afternoons sifting through un-alchemizable poetry to find the dross. For sure there was dross to be found, but jesus. The lead, the base metals, the needles in the straw.
The last writer I worked with had been sitting on gold for 18 years. Granted, not many other people could recognize it; indeed no one else had. It came across my desk and I was haunted by the words and the story they told - of victims of civil war in Sierra Leone, atrocities, silenced voices, injustice of the highest order. So I wrote and wrote and sifted and emailed and commissioned and edited and wrote some more, and I produced an introductory essay that made me proud beyond. The work this writer and I did together was important, I believed in it, but it did me in. Over a camel's back of creative differences, differing work styles and personalities at odds with one another, the last straw broke. As I said, necessary for growth, for all parties involved, more bitter than sweet, more unfortunate than fortuitous. But damn, I wanted that essay out in the world. I wanted the victims to know their stories had worth, and that I was the one to midwife their birth. All due credit and respect due to the writer, she bore their brutal tales by redacting their court reports and forming found poetry. It makes for brutal reading. Not sexy, not glamorous, not even in the least bit lyrical. But necessary. And timely.
And not to be.
In the end, after I walked, the writer and the powers-that-be couldn't come to terms either. And I've been so tempted to print our powerful words right here on my own blog, but that wouldn't be fair to the writer or the entire book. We - she and I both - believe in our hearts that these voices will have their times to be heard. All that work will not be lost. Someday you'll read about the civil war in Sierra Leone, you'll see the beautiful paintings of Sierra Leonian women, you'll learn the story the way it should have been told in the first place. Things got in the way. The book will be the deer that leaps six feet over fences, the wolves that run free-for-all in the night.
And my son. He too gets to leap and run. He too gets to tell his story now. It's his time. I can't throw popsicle parties anymore, or chaperone his shenanigans (Penthouse, Upper East Side, mind you. That's a humble boast. Humble not so humble.) All I can do is get out of the way and watch him soar. . .
What Gets in the Way
What gets in the way
of wolves running free-for-all
those fences in the landscape.
Over those fences in the landscape,
deer will leap six feet
when given a clear space to land.
When given a clear space to land,
children are safer to fly.
Their mothers witness from the picture window.
Their mothers witness from the picture window
feeling their children’s bones
softly knitted within, stronger without.
Softly knitted within, stronger without
apron strings, threads and fibers, warp, weft, weave.
Little by little, little birds build their nests.
Little by little, little birds build their nests
tucked in the crevices of fences, away from the wolves.
And when they soar, they survey from above.
And when they soar, they survey from above
what their mothers tried to tell them all along: steer clear of