Weather Forecast

Let the storms come while I sleep. The scrape of snowplows are my alarm clock. Roads cleared of snow and ice my only prayer. Subzero temperatures are a given in Minnesota. Winter comes faithfully; still, we forget. We forget until cars slide into guardrails, skid through red lights, careen over dividers, pile up on highways. We lament. We moan. We bitch and we boast. We obsess about the weather. Day after freezing day.

Come March the wear is evident. SAD. Seasonal Affect Disorder or just plain ole sad. We’ve grown weary of snow forts, ice sculptures, thermal underwear, and boots. We manipulate time, springing ahead one hour as if this somehow saves daylight. We celebrate delayed sunsets and collectively deceive ourselves that spring has come.

March toys with us. Howling wind and thick clouds followed by more of the same. Then for no reason that makes any sense the sun breaks through. Temps soar into the low forties. We shed layers and populate parks, lakes, and bike trails. Temps hit the sixties. Jubilee! We practically worship the sun and it’s life-affirming warmth. And then suddenly…snow.

Oh how cruel March, how cruel. How gullible are we? After all of our years in this state have we not learned? We cycle back into bitching and moaning and lamenting and damning this state. Why oh why do any of us live here?

April brings hope. Dare we? Could it be? Is it true? Rain. More rain. We need the rain. Just look, how brown and lifeless our land. Barren trees. No green. No flowers. We need the rain. We need the rain becomes our comforting mantra.

The rain proves true.

Spring comes faithfully. Facebook timelines fill with shots of budding trees, first flowers, blades of grass.

Hallelujah!

Hallelujah!

Hallelujah!

In 2017 we celebrate spring as the Mother of All Bombs is dropped on Afghanistan; North Korea tests its missiles; Russia throws shade on the United States. Our #Resist mimicking the seasons. Millions marched in January; yet, how many will vote in local and mid term elections?

We tweet, post, comment, scream expletives across the aisle. No one hears because no one is listening. We obsess about our politics.

We are one nation.

We collectively deceive ourselves.

After all of our years, our history, have we not learned? We cycle back into bitching and moaning and lamenting and damning one another. Why oh why?

The storms come and I cannot sleep.

In Dreams

In dreams the dead visit.
I welcome their arrival—at times even courting them.
See you in my dreams, I whisper, trusting they will acquiesce.

They slip in quietly,
foisting themselves between
less memorable sleep shows.
Scenes change.
And they are with me.

James rarely speaks.
Aloof.
I chase after him without running or
quickening my step.
I hover.
He continues simply being;
As if I am the ghost in his dreams.

Ma dies repeatedly.
Oblivious to her mortality
she frets,
argues,
roams.
She refuses my tending,
dismisses my tears.

Awake as in dreams
The dead are with me.
I cherish their haunting
For it is all I have left.

A Lifetime of Trauma

I can’t sleep.
Again.
My jaw hurts.
The eye tic replaced with clenching my teeth—
Even in sleep.

Images.
Flashing lights,
Police in military gear
In formation on I94.
A swelling crowd
Whose anger, pain palpable on screen.

Flashback:
1960’s Civil Rights Movement
Flashback:
L.A Riots
Flashback. Flashback. Flashback. Flashback.
Last year
Last month
Yesterday
This election season

How much more can we take?

All those Facebook posts
Swirling in my head:
I am devastated
I want to DO SOMETHING…but I don’t know how
I don’t know what to say
I don’t know how to help
Someone tell me what I need to do to help make this stop…

 
I will answer.
I will lay out the steps.
I will follow the example my ancestors laid down with their battered lives
I will echo what has been eloquently written, powerfully spoken, consistently shown
for generations
I will say it with a new twist and in less words for our short attention span.
I will…

But first I must unclench my jaw,
Acknowledge my rage
on this never-ending journey
of compressing
a lifetime of trauma
into capsules of resilience
that
are
easy
to
swallow.

UNTITLED: July 7, 2016

I wake up fighting.
The sun shines. I don’t know why.
Life is one continuous battle.

I leave the tv off. No news. Quiet. My parakeets, Safari and Faren, chirp in the background. I wonder: Are caged birds ever really happy?

My mind revs as I try and fail to locate that Zen state.

My thoughts swirl. Trauma Informed Care. I looked it up before bed last night. Bad move. In my sleep I began composing an email to make work better for those we serve and those who do the serving. Who isn’t traumatized?

I read the latest issue of The New Yorker. “Empathy for the Devil,” Emily Nussbaum’s take on Orange is the New Black (a show I’ve not seen), captures me. I underscore lines like: Poussey was educated, world-travelled, and middle-class, but she died as any black inmate might, as a cipher crushed by a racist system. And: Yet the fourth season is most provocative when it refuses to resolve its emotional contradictions, by showing how insufficient an apology can be, how despair can be as reasonable a response as faith.

…How despair can be as reasonable a response as faith. A perfect truth for the query letter for my memoir Smiling Is Not Resilience. The last publisher declined saying, “you are an excellent writer, and your story is so well told and heartbreaking and relatable on some level with so many. However, we felt that the manuscript didn’t give closure. We were left feeling somewhat adrift, without the sense of moving forward, or moving in a new direction…” And my response to them: Thank you for your consideration and feedback. The intent of the manuscript is to not leave the traditional and expected“closure.” The goal is to encourage us to become more comfortable with being uncomfortable. This for many is the hero’s journey ignored.

But I stop underlining Kelefa Sanneh’s “There Goes the Neighborhood: Is it really a problem when poor areas get richer?” in the same New Yorker magazine. Referring to Mitchell Duneir’s “Ghetto” (Farrar, Straus & Giroux) Sanneh writes: But for him that sting shows us just how much inequality we still tolerate, even as attitudes have changed.

Mingled and interrelated are conversations—ad nauseam—on equity, inclusion, equality. And as one wise twenty-something,white coworker lamented, “Equity and inclusion are not profitable; however, TALKING about equity and inclusion is.” He stated this as one of the reasons he is moving on. And I had to admit not much has changed.

And so still, pre-Zen, I open up Facebook.
There’s a video.
There’s a video.
There’s a video.
I read some of the comments.

I hit play.
I hit play.
I hit play.

The sun shines. I don’t know why.
I watch a woman in a car. I witness a man bleed to death. I hear a child in the background.
No worries the woman says to the cop who has killed her boyfriend.
I watch a woman in a car. I witness a man bleed to death. I hear a child in the background.
No worries.
No worries.
No worries.

My tears flow.
For the first time I’m glad my James is already dead.
I’m so thankful I don’t have children to lose.

My tears flow.
My heart…my soul…my…resilience breaks—again.

I feel no closure. I am left feeling somewhat adrift, without the sense of moving forward, or moving in a new direction….

Observation #2: We Mourn. We Celebrate.

We mourn. Oh, how we mourn.

Our disappointment riots forth…flagging hope.
We mourn a country that cries “he does not represent us” a thousand times over.
We mourn hate’s new wardrobe—adorned in talk of equity and tolerance,
Quietly accepted and blessed by God.
We mourn. Oh, how we mourn.

And yes, we mourn lives sliced short—
By our bullets, our young, our own.
Memorials, t-shirts, marches.
Our victories so incomplete.

In the same breath that we mourn, we celebrate.
Life commands us to celebrate.

Yes?

No.

We
are
not
done
mourning…

Michael Britt Photo

Michael Britt Photo

Observation #1: We are here

Then.

Necessity taught me invisibility. Listen. Remember, because I’m only going to tell you once. Follow the rules. Unfair. Eyes bored into mine. Strident tone. Not enough gentle touches. I swallowed my tears.

My questions questioned. Lips pressed tight. Nourished on half-truths…still…I grew.

I discovered new worlds. Choices. Role models. My questions, but few answers, found in books.

Now.

I seek the invisible. Listen. Remember, because some may only confide once. Rules change. I meet their eyes. Soften my tone. A gentle touch is sometimes okay. My tears flow.

I write so that you know we are here.images

For Lois S.

Night.
I can’t sleep.
I recount losses.
I’m never as upbeat as I appear.

You, my fragile lifeline;
My pain so unpredictable.
Your long-distance presence kept me,
from slipping over the edge.

Just breathe, I sobbed.
Just breathe, you said,
Embracing my bereavement.
No platitudes…just honesty.
No one else has done that for me.
No one.

Night.
You no longer endure.
Each breath letting go.
No more brave fronts.
We keep vigil.

I brace for your death,
Rehearsed for four years.
We don’t always have to talk, you told me.
I replied, And for God’s sake don’t apologize.

Cracked Walnut Literary Festival 2015

Voices We Ignore

The Underground Music Cafe

1579 Hamline Avenue N

Falcon Heights, MN 55108

TUESDAY MAY 12, 2015

7:00 PM

Featuring

Aundria Sheppard Morgan
Deborah Keenan
Jennifer Bowen Hicks
Louis Murphy
Ethna Mckiernan
Michael Kiesow Moore

This is the 9th reading of 29 that Cracked Walnut is hosting in the months of May and June for the 2015 Cracked Walnut Literary Festival. Each reading has a unique title, features a different cadre of writers, and is happening in a different space in the Twin Cities. Reading are free and open to the public. Donations are appreciated and merchandise including chapbooks and author books will be available. Cash is preferred tender for authors

https://www.facebook.com/events/741673249263724/

This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund

http://www.crackedwalnut.com

War and Strife Reading

 

Screen Shot 2014-04-21 at 6.19.20 PM

Boneshaker Books (2002 23rd Ave S, corner of Franklin and 23rd, Minneapolis, MN) and

Cracked Walnut Literary Fest host a reading of

local talented writers speaking through creative prose and poetry on the nature of war and strife.

4:00 p.m.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Kevin FitzPatrick

Khary Jackson

Dain Ingebretson

Rosann Lloyd

Ethna McKiernan

Aundria Sheppard Morgan

Craig Rot