A Lifetime of Trauma

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

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

1960’s Civil Rights Movement
L.A Riots
Flashback. Flashback. Flashback. Flashback.
Last year
Last month
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

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.




Michael Britt Photo

Michael Britt Photo

Observation #1: We are here


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.


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.

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.

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


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


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


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


Giving Up Fear for Lent

A few days late but I’m giving up fear for Lent. 40 days. Come what may.

A series of events in the last two years awakened a dormant fear—reminding me it is always present. My personal safety and my health are not a concern. I exist on borrowed time. Life has taken more than it has given and I’ve no desire to journey into old age. 50 is not the new 40. 50 is 50. So, I’m good.

Fear censors and restrains me. Fear, like a bit in my mouth and a reign in someone else’s hands, has steered me onto a well-worn path of mediocrity. A path hindered by detours, potholes, and debris. It is a path endlessly under construction with no sound destination save survival. Survival doesn’t cut it for me. Never has. Never will. I want more.

Fear says, accept less. It whispers: Look at your history. For you, Aundria Sheppard Morgan, scraps are better than nothing. Fear slips into my vocabulary, entwining itself around my dreams, smothering possibility. Fear is so common, so insidious I don’t feel it wrapping around my chest and throat. All I know is that it hurts to breathe. But that’s just life, right? 

So let’s see what happens when I slip out of fear’s embrace. Let’s see what happens when I remove the bit and harness and run free—uncensored, unrestrained, and with nothing to lose.

Work with me on this journey; or if not, step out of my way.

Overcoming A Polar Vortex

plowingWindchill 40-50 below zero and actual air temperature at minus 25. Frostbite within 10 minutes on unprotected skin. Short attention spans. Shorter memories. Overcoming a polar vortex, overcoming adversity in 10 minutes or less. Go.


December 2013. Minneapolis, MN. Arctic blasts. January 2014. Snow falls and falls and… Drifts. February: temps plummet. Flights cancelled. Blizzard warnings and snow emergencies. Cars towed. Roads closed. Schools closed—again, wail parents. Icy roads. Multiple car pileups on 35W, I94, 280 oh, just pick a highway, freeway, interstate. Watch those off ramps. BLACK ICE! Treacherous roads tear up cars. MNDOT says temps too cold for chemicals to make life smooth as we trek from home to school to work to grocery stores to football games to emergency rooms to car repair shops to…just stay home, dammit!

But life goes on.

62 consecutive hours below zero. Car parked. No treacherous drives for me. Huddled in bus shelters and bundled in layers, a group squints up Nicollet Avenue for the #18 bus. Late. My fingers tingle. My toes become numb. Breathing hurts so only shallow breaths as wind bites my skin and all turn the calendar toward hope.

March will give way to spring—eventually (although last year, I noted from my hospital bed, snow still falling at the end of April). The longed-for thaw will reveal the damage left behind. Streets riddled with potholes and, yes, even sinkholes to swallow us whole. Some will soon forget the Polar Vortex; others won’t have that luxury. Come spring, allergy sufferers will wheeze, cough, and sneeze as their puffy eyes run. Gas prices will rise. Roofs will need repairs. People will struggle to pay off car repair bills, medical bills, funeral costs.

Suicides are highest in spring.

I’ll remember this Polar Vortex as the season a Minneapolis father lost 5 babies in a house fire and a coworker fell over the edge taking us with him. Layoffs. Budget cuts. Program cuts. All of this means friends who have worked long and hard helping others are now in need of help that does not exist. I’ll shudder at the absurdity of building a multimillion dollar sports stadium while homeless youth, men, and women curled up in dumpsters and froze to death. I’ll lament disappointment in leaders at my work who breached trust and undermined my dignity forcing me to fight battles civil rights advocates have already fought. I’ll look back, then look down at the scars I bear and wonder how many more seasons I’ll hold on.