Pendulum Swings

Sometimes, it seems like the universe is against you.
Like the bread always lands butter-side down.
Like what can go wrong has gone wrong
And will go wrong again.

Sometimes, life is beautiful,
And serendipity is your shadow.
The sun shines and the birds sing
And every traffic light you hit glows green.

Truthfully, life is a pendulum.
There are good days and bad days
And boring in-between days.
But it’s all just swing.

So in the end, we must remember this:
The rain falls upon the just and the unjust.
It is no sign of God’s wrath or favor,
No result of blessing or cursing.
It is simply nourishing the earth.

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For the Princess Who Is Tired of Waiting

They took away your voice

And sat you in the window of your attic bower,

A pretty picture, perfectly framed

For whatever prince happened to ride over the hill,

Armor flashing in the sun,

White horse glowing,

Ready to come to your aid.

What are you doing, princess?

How long have you been waiting like this?

Aren’t your dreams beginning to smell a little stale?

Don’t the perfectly smooth walls of this highest, tallest room

Start to feel a bit confining?

Let me tell you a secret, princess:

No one is coming to rescue you.

 

Wake up, princess.

Break out of that glass coffin.

You’re not a doll to be displayed.

Kick and punch and scream until it falls into shards.

Use them to cut off your hair and weave a ladder.

Climb down from your bower and run away.

You belong in the wider world.

Bind your breasts and trade your pretty dresses for a sword.

That dragon’s not as hard to slay as he looks.

Sell your crystal shoes and use the money to make your dreams reality.

You don’t need a man to spin you gold

Or a fairy godmother to make your wishes come true.

All you need is the brain in your head

And the strength in your spine

And the willingness to get a little dirt under your nails.

 

Don’t worry about waiting for Prince Charming.

He’ll find you eventually,

And when he does, you’ll be ready to take him on an adventure.

Don’t let society pressure you into naïve vulnerability.

You know better than to take candied apples from strangers.

And what about the evil queen?

The wicked stepmother?

The witch that guards the bottom of your prison-tower?

Don’t worry about her, either.

She has only ever had as much power as you gave her.

Don’t let them make you the victim of this story, princess.

You were always meant to be the hero.

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With Apologies to Yeats, It’s Not the End of the World

It’s been a while since I had panic attacks.  But the last few weeks, I’ve felt overwhelmed all the time.  Between my family and school and two jobs and my brother’s not-quite-heart-attack and the guy who broke into my apartment and graduation looming on the horizon (Christmas looming even closer), sometimes it feels like everything is falling apart, collapsing in and trapping me underneath.  So, I panic.

Panic is bad.  Panic is unproductive.  Panic generally leads me to sit on my bed and talk myself out of bad habits (like large pepperoni pizzas, or fiction instead of homework, or on really bad days razor blades and bandages and the mantra, “Just once, just a little one, and I’ll feel better”).  This way lies madness.

I’m thinking about going back on meds.  The idea of taking that little blue pill every day makes me feel bad and weak and ugly, but logically I know that’s not true.  Logically, I know that recognizing my need for help and asking for it only makes me strong.

Sometimes, when I’m lucky, panic also leads to poetry.  I’m not exactly sure how this works, but if I can snag a solid phrase in the middle of all the heart-pounding, mindless terror, sometimes it leads me out of that part of my head and into a more productive space.  That happened tonight (thank goodness), and I decided to share the results.  Let me know what you think of my first attempt at a video!

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Matriarchy

I am too far into post-holiday-haze to write anything coherent this evening.  Today has not exactly gone as planned, so instead of something original, here’s some poetry from my archives . . .

Matriarchy

My grandmother was a poet.
She grew up in Arkansas,
Poor white trash,
And studied by candlelight after everyone else was asleep,
Praying that her mother wouldn’t find her
Because, “Gracious heavens, Lena Grace,
Who’s going to want to marry
A girl with an education?”
So she put herself through a year of university
After she finished high school
And filled notebook after notebook with her poems.
She married a younger man
And raised three daughters alone
While he worked on the railroad,
Coming home every few days to sleep.
She cleaned the houses of rich women across town
To make ends meet,
And taught fancy manners to her girls
Hoping they were meant for something better
Than blue-collar husbands
And ketchup sandwiches.

My mother, arguably, is the best of her sisters.
Certainly, she is the steadiest.
When it was time for her to start college,
Her mother sat her down and said
“Education is all well and good
But promise me that when you finish
You’ll be able to do something, Rebecca,
Because what feeds your soul
Won’t necessarily buy groceries.”
So she put away her dreams of studying piano
And studied accounting instead,
Finding an unexpected gift
In the patient predictability of numbers.
She dated my father for four years
And when her parents despaired of it going anywhere,
She asked him to buy her a promise ring,
Refusing to be rushed to the altar.
She wore classic, tastefully cut suits
On Sunday mornings
And lived within the carefully painted lines
Of an appropriately submissive pastor’s wife.

And so, I find myself
The dead-end of a long line
Of women determined not to be like their mothers.
Of girls who spend so much time pushing back
That they struggle to find the border
Between “Me” and “Not You.”

But no matter how much red lipstick I wear,
No matter how much cleavage I show
Or how much loud music I listen to,
I will always be my mother’s daughter.
Because bull-headedness is in my genes,
Just like it was in hers.
Because I am a poet,
And a musician,
And I love learning
So much more
Than I love the idea of a man.
And someday,
If I do marry,
It will be someone entirely unlike my father
Who will love that I paint outside the lines,
And we will raise our girls
To be just as brilliantly, stupidly stubborn
As all Cook women are.

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