Mary

Mary C. Russell's résumé

Mary and I met in late 1994, at a "Women Writing" meeting at the Cambridge Women's Center. The group met biweekly, sitting in a circle and free-writing on suggested topics. As many as 20 women bared their souls to each other; for some, this biweekly meeting afforded their only chance to write.

Invariably, Mary and I sat across from each other, on opposite sides of the room. She thought of me as "the austere woman in the bun." I thought of her as "the quiet one," not because she was silent but because she was softspoken. I saw how she would come to the defense of someone's right to speak if disagreements in the group arose. And how she wrote from the heart. (See her Recovered Prayers, and Self-Inflicted Violence Sonnets, below.)

We both participated, both read our writings aloud to the group. If time permitted, we and several others would meet at a nearby cafe after the meeting was over. Sometimes Mary and I would be the only two women at a cafe table, where we started sharing our life stories with each other.

In late 1995, my friend Helen, who died in 1998, was hospitalized for cancer. When Mary asked me what I was doing for Christmas that year, I told her I was visting my friend. On Christmas morning, Mary called me and asked if I could use some company at the hospital for moral support. I couldn't reach Helen by phone, but I knew that Helen loved people, the more the merrier. I knew that she would welcome Mary, even to her hospital bed, with open arms. That day, Mary walked into a room filled with strangers and embraced Helen along with the rest of us.

Afterwards, we walked in calf-deep snow, talking. Bonding further. Becoming a couple. Usually serious at the writing meetings, we began to laugh, to giggle together. Or cry together. To share both weakness and strength with each other. To share the joys of life and its sorrows. To be married to each other. She is my wife and I am hers, and I am extraordinarily blessed.

Mary (whose nicknames have included "Dances with Huskies," "Muscle Russell," and "Cowgirl" [CB radio handle]) holds a bachelor's degree in biochemistry from Michigan State University and a master's degree in immunology from Harvard University. She has worked as a lab technician, computer technician, editor, home health care practitioner, driver of special needs children and adults, fast food server, survey coder. She was a Presidential Scholar in 1975 and earlier received the highest award of the President's Council on Physical Fitness. She was an award-winning pizza deliverer (sometimes called "Pizza Man"), filling 100 orders in a single night. At age 15-16, she built her first car from scratch, and since then has driven near-cross-country 7 times, around 2,700 miles each way, with the same car (though with different engines). While in high school, she scaled California's Mt. Whitney (14,494 ft. elevation). As a youth, she built a balsa glider, able to fly 100 feet, without using a pattern. She is hiker, cross-country skier, swimmer (including in a bog once), body surfer, rugby player, cyclist (riding up to 77 miles in a day, not to be confused with her driving her self-built car 770 miles in a single day), biathlete, canoeist, camper, backpacker, kite-flyer, runner, tinkerer, recycler, knitter, writer, poet, artist, voracious reader, BOOK (Broadening Of Our Knowledge) co-op volunteer/trainer/investor, singer, masseuse, and self-taught flautist because playing the flute lets her whistle higher notes. In addition to whistling in the conventional manner, she can also whistle on a blade of grass, sometimes on an acorn cap. She has made her own medieval dress and cape for revels given by the Society for Creative Anachronism, and has belonged to the Tolkien Fellowship. She can shoot rifle, pistol, carbine, and shotgun, and has made her own bullets. "I used to fish, too," she adds. As a student in a computer electronics class, she was the lone female among 30 males. She has worked double shifts, crazy hours, lived on a shoestring. And once, a computer program she wrote in APL worked on the second try! She has also sent a single rock skipping 17 times on a still pond. She has survived a month-long coma from encephalitis, and, less dramatically, measles, chicken pox, colds and flu, shingles, and other ailments. More recently, she astounded garage mechanics by driving her truck (the recipient of a hit-and-run while parked, courtesy of the driver of a stolen vehicle), with its cracked windshield, bent tie rods, and dinged door, to the shop. (Asked the mechanics, "You drove that here?!") Through it all, she has maintained a deep sense of compassion and a delicious sense of humor. Says she, "No depression can withstand several consecutive exercise sessions."

I am a very, very lucky woman.

Mary's Recovered Prayers and Commentary
© 1993, Mary C. Russell

Reference text: Walker, Barbara G., The Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets. Harper and Row, 1983

Hail, Mary

Hail Mary, full of the Graces!
Your Goddess is with you.
Blessed are you 'cause you're living,
Blessed is the fruit of your life, living,
And Blessed by Moerae is your death.

Holy Moerae, Mothers of All,
Grant caritas and wisdom and peace to your daughter,
Now and at every moment I exist.

I humbly accept myself as I am in Your Caring Power,
Holy Virgin, Queen of Creation
Holy Mother, Queen of Continuation
Holy Crone, Queen of Cessation

6/20/93

The Graces' names translate to Brilliant, Flower-Bringer, and Heart's Joy. They were the dispensers of caritas, which means more than the Catholic idea of charity. It includes beauty, kindness, mother-love, tenderness, sensual delight, compassion, and care. I ask for these things from my understanding of the Goddesses, since they seem to be called sinful by the Church Fathers, at least beauty and sensual delight. Actually, some stuff in the Bible seems to say that any enjoyment of earthly life is devoutly to be avoided. I can't live that way anymore. Part of my picking at my skin is a fear that if I let myself be anything other than ugly or plain, I might be seen as an object to be used.

The Moerae were the Fates: Clotho, the Spinner; Lachesis, the Measurer; and Atropos, the Cutter. Besides deciding when people are born, live, and die, I can see them as help in accepting and dealing with beginnings to be celebrated (or endured), continuations to be endured (or celebrated), and endings, also to be either endured or celebrated or both.

Writing "Blessed by Moerae is your death" was scary at first, but inescapable in this belief format. If everything has an element of connection with everything else, and with whatever inexplicable force you care to face, it's hard to see death as a fault. After all, animals die -- did they commit their own original sins? Not that I seek death consciously, but seeing death as part of life (comes with the territory), lets me shed some of the feeling that if I die, it will be my own fault, and that somehow I'll get punished just for dying (e.g., thou shalt not commit suicide); that life is to be prolonged, whatever it takes, and that to think otherwise is either criminal or sinful or both. [In reference to the inexplicable forces: "Ok, so the Big Bang can explain a lot of things. So, what happened before that? and what is the universe expanding into, anyway?] Thinking of death as just as much of a blessing as life or birth helped me at a recent wake for the father of a friend of mine. It was also pretty obvious even without a spiritual content -- he had been sickly for the last couple of years, he was old, and had been battling pneumonia for three months.

Our Mother

Our Mother,
Timeless, everywhere
All things come from you

May I and my sisters,
Brothers, all your children
Learn Your Courage and Delights
Your Wisdom and Compassion
Your Serenity and Beauty

Through Learning all is part of you

Give us Your Gifts as You see fit

##########Help to the struggling
##########Rest to the weary
##########Food to the hungry
#####Understanding to the frightened
#####Hope and faith to those in despair
For each alone has only her pain
But with You has abundant life.

6/26/93

I've paid off $2,400 of my debt ($3,400 total) to my parents. I am glad!

I just pumped up my bicycle tires. It's been about a year since I rode. I've been driving cars, but occasionally (two or three times) going for short hikes.

I have a certain feeling of failing whenever I get back into something that's good for me that I haven't done in a while. Sometimes I have a preparation period, like pumping up tires.

It's part of my "Thou art guilty" tape.

To replace those tapes, I rewrite prayers.
Instead of "mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa,"
I'll say,

"Mea bona, mea bona,

#####Mea maxima bona."

I don't know if that's correct Latin, but that's not the point.

untitled

Goddess, unknowable
Deva, whom some call Devil
From you your gifts of climax
Conversation, understanding

#####sleep
#####smiles

6/28/93

trails off, unfinished. Written just before going to sleep.

An Act of Celebration

Oh, my Goddess, I am heartily glad
To be alive right now,
And I accept all my harms
And seek to make amends.
I've no control over others' harms;
I leave that up to them.
So I ask you to heal me as I can not
And I enjoy Your gracious bounty.

6/29/93

(by "harms" I mean things I have done to harm others or myself; "others' harms" means things other people have done to harm me or themselves)

I sometimes joke that I'd like to start a chapter of Cath-Anon for recovering Catholics.



I knew I needed to rewrite "The Angelus," which I had recited every school-day noon for two years when I was going to Catholic school in Buffalo. It's not a directly punitive prayer, but indirectly, in holding up impossible standards, it's crushing. I thought I might still have a little Catholic prayer booklet from years gone by, and sure enough, right up there in the attic after five minutes' search, there it was, along with a rosary and some pins (attendance, etc.). Some years back I heard someone say "You can take the girl out of the Church, but you can't take the Church out of the girl." Maybe not entirely, but it's worth trying. Anyway, I found "The Angelus," as well as this, under "Prayers to the Blessed Virgin Mary":

Consecration
"My Queen, my Mother, I give myself entirely to thee; and to show my devotion to thee, I consecrate to thee this day my eyes, my ears, my mouth, my heart, my whole being, without reserve. Wherefore, good Mother, as I am thine, keep me, guard me, as thy property and possession."

The prayer apparently dates to 1852, and smacks somewhat of slavery. Or maybe the possession of children by parents. Other parts of it looked like pretty obvious theft from Goddess-worship, so I decided to give it back:

The Consecration

"My Queen, my Mother, my Goddess, I give myself entirely to thee; and to show my devotion to thee I consecrate to thee this day my eyes, my ears, my nose, my brain, my mouth, my teeth, my skin, my fingers, my scalp, my heart, my cunt, my butthole, my period, my voice, my tears, my songs, my whole being without reserve. Wherefore, Mother Goddess, as I am thine and thou art mine, keep me, guard me, guide me, grant me knowledge of thy will for me and the power to carry that out, I in thee and thou in me."

7/6/93

The original Angelus:
(To be said morning, noon, and night when the church bell rings.)
The Angel of the Lord declared unto Mary:
And she conceived by the Holy Ghost.
-- "Hail Mary,..."
Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done unto me according to Thy Word.
--"Hail Mary,..."
#####Pray for us, O holy Mother of God.
That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.


#####Let us pray:
Pour forth, we beseech thee, O Lord, Thy grace into our hearts, that we, to whom the incarnation of Christ, Thy Son, was made known, by the message of an Angel, may through His passion and cross, be brought to the glory of His Resurrection. Through the same Christ, Our Lord. Amen.

The "Hail Mary,..." stands for the recitation of the "Hail Mary,..." prayer.

The Draconis

The Serpent of the Mothers united with Mary, and she received knowledge of Their Will
-- "Hail Mary,..."
Behold Your daughter, O Goddess; may I carry out Your Will, be it pain or pleasure.
-- "Hail Mary,..."
And Their Caring Will become the Present.
-- "Hail Mary,..."
Grant my prayers, O Goddess, that I may live with You.
-- "Hail Mary,..."
Pour forth, I beseech you, O Mothers, Your Graces into my life.
-- "Hail Mary,..."
May I, who have lived through torture on earth, live in Your love wisely, courageously, and gladly, for as long as Your Night and Day shall be.

7/17/93

Prayer to the Guardian Angel (original version)
Angel of God, my guardian dear,
To whom His love commits me here,
Ever this day be at my side,
To light and guard, to rule and guide.


Prayer to My Guardian Goddess

Goddess of mine, my Guardian dear,
Who with Your Love created all here,
Ever this day be at my side,
To light and guard, to cheer and guide.

7/17/93


The Courage Prayer

Goddess, grant me Your Courage,
#####To change the things I can change,
Your Serenity, to accept the things I can't change,
and your Wisdom, to know the difference.

7/28/93

The Self-Inflicted Violence Sonnets
© 1993, Mary C. Russell





I

What comes of this, our years of self-denial
We do but execrate our selves, and kill
Another time, again without a trial
Our lives, our hopes, our truths, our own self-will.

How can we stand alone, when we believe
That those who torture and condemn us, righteous are,
Or else so potent, merely to conceive
Their error's our homely joy's eternal bar.

Our malefactors stand in place of help.
If they were seen for what they are, our friends,
We'd run away as from a fire; we'd yelp
And wail that our protectors' 'love' our torment means.

########## The truth: No happiness can come to us
########## Who still act out their black/white syllabus.

8/8/93

II

You're right, I'm wrong; where leads this story now?
Need I believe that every act I make
Unless from God the Father, risks His vow
Of hell forever? God, your vengeance take,

On your predestined whipping girl.
Such is your promise and your act.
"Let boys be boys." You must your banners furl,
O Woman, never questioning the "fact"

That all ill comes from you. Your life's a blot.
You never can erase the stain; each time
You act against, in deed, in word, in thought
Is sin again. You'll never 'scape your crime.

########## For unto God alone revenge's reserved.
########## By your self-death His torture'll not be swerved.

8/8/93

III


Your suicide's no 'scape. Your God's in charge.
His rules you follow: Hair shirts, masses, prayers,
Self-doubt; no anger at the world at large,
No anger allowed it's sinful. So the sayers

Of truths archaic, announced and reinforced
By Inquisition, lies, intimidation.
"Your body is a holy temple. God's the source,
And self-destruction's an abomination."

No killing: Only live in furious despair.
For losing hope, you're guilty. Faithlessness
'S another crime. And who can love? The air
You breathe prolongs your death-in-life. Your stress

########## 'S released in secret ways, denied by you,
########## Discovered when your Help comes into view.

8/9/93

IV


For thirty years I've scratched. No hair-shirt needed.
I fidgeted, picked hairs, or nose, or ears.
I thought, here's something I can fix. Unheeded
Were my infections, redness, soreness. Fears

Of scars ne'er slowed me down; that's just more silt
To clog my gears. All thoughts were my evasion
Of non-solutions, fueling guilt.
Still knowing not the answers, to perfection

Was still my drive; I could not even think
That I could pause, relent, allow mistaking,
Ask someone else for help. No! In a blink,
I razed small blemishes by hateful raking.

########## Not perfect, that's my shame. My ripped-up flesh
########## Out-blots, then brings to light my failures fresh.

8/10/93

V


Where shall I seek my help? From heaven's skies
Of roiling dark and furious clouds obscuring,
All pleasant view of sun or moon? From sties
Of earth-bound swine who think they're men? Enduring

Their prideful pulling-down of others? No!
My solace I will get from stranger-folk
(More family to me than kinship's show,)
To whom a harmful word can be unspoke.

Their guilt is not forever, and faith no leap.
Yes! I'll slough the shame and ease the pain
Of thinking that forever I must weep
In misery of heart-deep, soul-deep stain;

########## Thus I will treat and heal my life. Not burn,
########## But prize each hour's, minute's, second's turn!

8/10/93

VI


What price a sister? Who replaces her?
Who else can even try to comprehend?
So many moves, the many changes blur,
As both our childhood traumas seek to mend.

Who else has heard our father's angry roar,
Or shared twelve growing years my/her bunk bed,
And sneered about whose clothes were on the floor,
And when High School was done, then promptly fled?

Our shameful secrecy that covered all
Our living innocence with guilty hand,
All we who live through incest may recall,
If we recover, sanely learn to stand,

########## And pard'ning our own faults with love, delight
########## That rough adversity makes bond so tight.

8/10/93

VII


And who besides my stranger-friends will hear?
What IF there was a power that cared for me?
What IF my anguish fell on hearing ear?
What IF I did not have to prove, to be?

Could there be one, or more, who understands?
Who does not set the traps of shame and sin,
Who mourns with me the scars upon my hands,
Who urges, "Seek your innocence within,

"Don't listen to the cutters-down of mirth!
I'm here when e'er you least misgive your way.
Just ask and trust. I'll give you new-found worth.
I'll be your Help, at any time of day.

########## "Come! Celebrate with me the light you are!
########## Who was in darkness now will be a star!"

8/11/93

VIII


How did I stop my scratching? Have I yet?
No, not now... To scratch still takes my mind
Into a country far from feardom's net,
Or so it seems. But "So it seems" is blind.

For every cease of self-attack rebounds
Exactly toward the source of panic's speeds
And once again to scratchings' cloaking sounds
I act a traitor to my spirit's needs.

For had I heart to change the self that's mine,
Sereneness to accept all others' plight,
The wisdom to know what's mine from what is thine,
I'd see the world as with a second sight.

########## To foil a phantom kick I scratch my skin.
########## Let action fade the ghost! Let truth begin!

8/11/93

IX


God damn it, World, I'm talking! Listen up!
Who for so long engaged in flinty silence,
Now snarls like mother bitch, not mewling pup,
And shelters her own young, with love or violence.

For to be opposite the opposite
Exact in every form, in each detail,
Would just reflect, and not bestow one bit
Of peace, nor tell a worth person's tale.

The fearsome fact of growing, branching out
Partaking of the best of every one,
Does flatter. More important, it's a rout
Of old protective habits blocking sun.

########## In shock I mourn how much life used to cost;
########## Now smiling, pay the price of terror lost.

8/12/93

X


The nameless daughter of ancient Antioch's king
Was true to daddy, loving wifely strong.
Good William Shakespeare heard this heinous thing --
They died ere "Pericles" was three acts long,

Struck down by lightning bolts from heaven's blue,
Each putrid corpse too stinking to en-earth.
I'd heard of Shakespeare's women, forthright, true,
And hoped Incestuous Daughter still had worth.

I wished to cry in anger and for shame!
I'd hoped she'd learn. I sank at his betrayal.
I'd duped myself, enchanted by his fame.
When men played women, how not a vile betrayal?!

########## 'Worse father,' not 'bad daughter,' I still refuse
########## To accept his lies as coming from The Muse.

8/14/93

XI


The sea atop three quarters of the earth
Is million million times more visible;
The biosphere, our home from Plains to Perth,
Afloat the mantle more inscrutable;

All these are nothing to my anguished heart,
Which like volcano looses white hot rock,
A cooler version of the inside part,
Whose wild release is terror to unblock.

From ashen cinders' mortal searing heat
My fears scream out I'll not survive intact!
I'd rather scratch my skin to reddened meat,
Win skirmishes with lesser foe than fact.

########## Yet sides of blown-up mounts most fertile are
########## I'll face my truths, thrive through my civil war.

8/15/93

XII


When I am most alone I'm most afraid.
Then I'm most likely to myself attack
My childhood tells me I will be betrayed,
Should I one bit of self-protection lack.

No one can understand my stress and pain!
It's useless, even dangerous to tell.
Like top-of-mountain shouting 'gainst the rain
Inviting lightning bolts to strike pell-mell.

So I keep quiet, turn to self most near,
In ways beyond all words my anguish scream
In actual scratch, or imagery so clear
My limbs I slice or chop, as in a dream.

########## No dream it was that led to my condition,
########## But lack of hope for any safe position.

8/17/93

XIII


The loneliness I feel midst so-called friends
Or family, strongest enemies can't raise.
When father uses me to his own ends
And calls it fair, my mind cracks into craze.

When God's my enemy, but on His strength
I'm supposed to lean, and beggar-like, to plead,
Get sin-forgiveness, penances at length --
Aiee! Without end! Then why shouldn't I bleed!

To keep intact this Holy-Spirit temple,
To bend to parents', friends', or God's least will
Would seem what Life would want, would seem so simple!
Just must I ne'er my person-needs fulfill!

########## This trembling temple, daughter, friend, betrayer!
########## To scratch and bleed's more reasonable than prayer!

8/17/93

XIV


Now I know that my life's blood is black.
When most I scratched my skin to rawness red,
I never saw the pen that could attack
And gently thwart my wishes to be dead.

With ink, thesaurus, spiral-bounded page,
My smile can grow upon my un-grit jaw.
Outpouring, re-writing, I engage
To tell the treacherous truth I dimly saw.

My writing can un-blind now hopeful eyes,
Wash off their dark'ning film, so lonely, bleared,
To see that truth's a traitor to Their lies,
Not enemy to me, as I had feared.

########## Misled, I bled, my life's work to be bad;
########## I never felt this fearless, restful, glad.

8/17/93
Revised 12/1/93

XV


For almost two score years God's searing Hell
Kept me from any kind of happy life,
Until I found The Goddess, worshiped well
For many thousand years, and with no strife.

I don't suppose the cult of torture's mark
Religion glorifying painful ends! --
Will fade. It stands out still, contrasts as stark
As scar with healthy flesh abruptly blends.

But though it look so different from the skin,
With time scar-flesh grows supple, is forgot.
With life-affirming acts no longer sin,
My Goddess can give me grace, erase Eve's blot!

########## I tremble still to pray to deity new
########## But I've no Home, my Goddess, lest with You.

8/17/93
Revised 12/1/93

XVI


It's been twelve years since you I met and still
E'en with these seven (six?) non-with-you years,
I nurture yet my love, a bitter pill,
I'll neither swallow nor spit up, for tears.

I try to call back all the acid gall
I laid on you small wonder you stayed there!
But yet I can't my pleasure with you all
Erase from out my mind. I tear my hair!

To love another would admit you're right,
I was in flight from our relationship.
So I stay chaste and pure well, yes, not quite,
But the few flings I have bring sorrow's whip.

########## And neither go I there nor are you here.
##########I think you said the truth with you the flee-er.

8/17/93

XVII


It really doesn't matter. Love is dead.
Or what for us was love, though maybe lust,
Or doing what romantic novels said,
Or patterns that our parents made in dust --

The dust now strewn, but moist with tears. Eyes red,
I can to this nor form nor fashion bring.
"I put the gifts you sent away," you said.
I'm trying to grasp the truth, nor false hopes cling.

But still I fear my cowardice is all
That keeps us from a living-ever-after.
Yet if I moved back there, what might befall?
Would move mean move, then move? I fear your laughter.

########## "I've got a house. I will not move no more.
########## It's you who'd be a visitor at the door."

8/17/93
Revised 12/1/93

XVIII


My World, my Goddess! Happily I cry!
Not part of this, I was, afraid of change.
What thin support, abundant Her supply!
For now I see that Life and Death's Her range.

The freeway cut shows rock's un-ever sheet:
Astir or green, it every second dies.
Four billion years says Life is not so fleet;
Each leaves an heir that also onward flies.

From closing eye to slipping cell Life grows,
'Death' changes shapes, Life never comes to naught.
A supernova's particle yet glows
In firefly's re-flitting, floating spot!

########## Released from fear of death, alive to gains,
##########I freely grow midst wreckage of my chains.

9/8/93

XIX


My back goes out. An exercise I know
Will give me health, will stop my welfare's leak.
But dare I start it? No! My tears will flow!
They do! I sob as I heal my physique.

To live in healthy shape does loose my flood,
For every step I take toward me's the end
Of others' guilt amended through my blood:
I cry as I lost innocence mourn and mend.

Yet still some part of me, not all my "I",
Would stop my growing, show how deep the tear,
So those who hurt would wish that they could die,
Take on the burden they should rightly bear.

########## The more I cease to try to change their mind,
########## The more I laugh and cry and shame unbind.

9/6/93
Revised 12/1/93

XX


My body as an inside-out black hole
Repulses all that seek to touch too close.
My skin and flesh show my pariah's role;
My care extends outside, ends at my nose.

But when I realize my Goddess' all
Includes me, then I puzzle, start to see
That with the newfound wonder at my call
Through which I've seen the world, I can see me!

A non-existent, wrong-lifed nearly ghost
I've lived, denying any speck of grace.
And of Her world, it seemed with no 'almost,'
No part was I, no Her behind my face.

########## But I am part of all that needs Her love,
########## As land I walk on, sea, or air above.

9/13/93

XXI


I write my sonnets, but I cannot read.
The group's for talking, not for art of song.
Enthusiast at first, I then recede.
I found my sobbing voice, but not for long.

"But my recovery comes first!" I cry.
My own self-censor hushes "No, not true.
Your audience must accept, so do not try,
If even slight discomfort might ensue."

Completely terrified it is not right
For me to voice my progress in a poem, --
Suppose they think it insult or a slight?!? --
I close my book and lower my voice to groan.

########## I want to cry, I want to cry out loud!
########## For lack of tears, of art, of being proud.

9/15/93
Revised 12/1/93

XXII


There's something wrong with her. No reading here,
Except for SIA-approved books.
Is this some ego trip? It's just too queer!
We're more at home with laying guilt on crooks.

But I'm just trying to discover health!
I'm using sonnets for their ancient power!
I've no self-confidence, but words are wealth,
I want to share my words, so they won't sour!

So use them in a sentence! Use good grammar!
You've got no right to force your taste on us!
You're taking chances. You might start to stammer,
And voice and poem would sound ridiculous.

########## I'm so afraid that I might not be heard,
########## That I re-leash the power of the word.

9/15/93

XXIII


It's true I'm writing to intimidate.
My own voice falters, fading out so fast.
I need the sonnet's power to tell my hate,
"Begone! I'm singing songs of health at last!"

My hate that I should turn on my abuse,
I focused on my body, voice, and art.
With scarry skin, low words, and slim excuse,
I sacrificed all of me to play my part.

And often faced with change I still do squirm;
I want denial's peace, not change's riot.
But I'll no longer live that low-voiced worm --
I broke my silence. I'm no longer quiet!

########## And lifting old denial's tombstone grey,
########## I'm calling, "Little Mare! It's time to play!"

9/15/93

XXIV


To do the right thing goes against my grain.
I feel I'm being pushed, I don't condone.
"Oh, just ignore it, just avoid new pain!"
Or is it pain or simply change alone?

Can change seem worse than what I know will heal?
Oh yes, it does. I'd lose my anchor mooring:
So fear-of-change predicts, and seems so real,
Like lost-at-sea, the wind-torn sail shreds blowing.

But look again! A mainsail I just found!
With body hale, serene and whole my mind,
I Higher-Powered rudder through the sound,
Despair-rocks dodging, see what I will find.

########## Neglect-fouled beams I honor, then repair.
########## I did then as I had to. Now, I care.

9/16-29/93

XXV


I see the way my pain blocks out my dread;
No frights of then or when, or there or here,
Except those centered on my skin so red;
I count my life by turns of pain and fear.

A pepper grain compared to full-course meal
My little pains are all that I can bear.
Were I to taste the load of all I feel
My gut might burst, bulged out by hearty fare.

My living lost in little grains of black,
I fear to stretch my life capacity;
To be more, laugh more, cry more, follow back
My trail of ground-up happiness to me,

########## My pepper-mill of grief at last to halt,
########## For wonder, courage new cry tears of salt.

9/28/93
Revised 12/9/93

XXVI


A liar to myself I had to be,
But yet I told the truth, though much disguised.
My nightmare told the facts too bad to see
Since having seen these, I myself despised.

I knew that either parent backed the other;
I had no help in all the universe.
The facts were in me, though I would then smother
Myself-attack reflected in theirs, the worse.

I do not want these facts, nor self attack,
But still I care for self-attacks like pets.
How can I let them go and turn my back?
They're mirrors of my facts, my safety nets.

########## The thing inside the mirror's not the thing.
########## When I can break the mirror, then I'll sing.

10/3/93

XXVII


Ok, here's what I like: To masturbate;
To lick my lips, or see the dawning sky;
The ducks traverse my path, serene, sedate;
My tetra's regrown tail; a smiling sigh;

A new-grown tear to heal an old old wound;
A present thought-up special for a friend;
A fight gone fizzle, light as a balloon;
A prayer re-written to a better end;

To blow breath-smoke rings in the winter cold;
To eat an apple, to the apple core;
To talk and laugh aloud, and sing out bold;
To find a use for all my saved-up lore;

########## To find a hard-cried way out of my ways;
########## To find that others share my great amaze.

10/8/93

XXVIII


You have to listen up, and leave your haste:
You can't abandon me, I'm part of you.
A life without me seems a frightening waste,
Yes, I'm your shelter, ever tried and true.

With me you cannot ever sit in peace,
But "peace" without me you knew was a lie.
So you created me to stop unease,
To blindfold walk mid lightning from the sky.

A little torn nail, here a little scrape --
It hardly seems a cost; it won't add up.
"I owe a debt of years and tears and rage!"
Now stop that whimper! Here, I'll dry you up.

########## You never should have listened to that shrink!
########## You blew it! Now you're doomed to cry and think!

10/10/93
Revised 12/9/93

XXIX


O Beauty, fixed upon the flat white page,
Your living self receives no living thought.
Her meter did your light reflection gauge,
The lends adjusted to the distance sought.

And she was quick the aperture to find,
Then snap! and there's a picture for the show.
And swing the lever, the camera to rewind,
Then put her beauties in the case, and go!

But does she ever look upon those sheets?
She might as well have saved herself the care.
She's on to other life-denying feats,
Of then and when; in now she doesn't dare.

########## Her life disjointed, poison to behold,
########## You, Beauty, never age, while she grows old.

10/20-23/93
Revised 12/9/93

XXX


How can I stand upright?! I'm gay! I'm queer!
To be upright means I should live in shame.
My foes have stolen words by which I'd steer
If I could drop their context, keep the name.

"Just stand up straight!" Their straightness sickens me,
The farce of speak not, hear not, see not true,
Nor understand that I in love can be,
And with a woman be both true and blue.

Yes, now it's time that I reclaimed my tongue;
I mean both native language and my voice.
An upright dyke I'll live, or old or young,
Yes, live! and in my straightness I'll rejoice!

########## Be damned to you, old hurtful connotations!
########## I bent them 'cause I must. Now, celebrations!

10/26/93

XXXI


Despair, despair, and anger cripple me.
I grit my teeth. Frustration knows no end.
In bitter, rageful, anguished fantasy,
My mind's sharp knife bites deep my victim skin.

Take that! This shows my hurt, blanks out my pain.
You squirmer! You deserve this! Why'd you fail!
You, all my hope! Now I have naught again!
A fresh betrayal, keen now, sure to pale.

Again I slash you for your worthlessness,
Still grind your teeth, dark-filled with self-resent.
Your work, your life will always be as mess!
The heights you fear, midst terror of descent.

########## And all this masks my inner core of cry,
########## Life deep. I'll ne'er uncover, fear to try.

11/23/93

XXXIII


I must destroy my world if I'm to live.
My boundaries keep my shrunk they need to go.
"This I must do" or "That I will forgive"
Prevails, mops up the tears for long ago.

The dangerous way's the road that I must take.
To play it safe again's a losing game.
My erstwhile life I'll leave for my life's sake:
So take the plunge, and living's not the same.

The little habit stopped how much I cry!
But more's the glorious opening of my eyes.
That confrontation risked but once I try,
With Help, I win, to my still shy surprise.

########## From paper lions I was safe encaged.
########## I leave for Life, 'til Death must be engaged.

12/2/93
Revised 12/22/93

Bike Bliss

Bicycling down the streets so wide
Whizzing past phone poles, thickets
##########and trash cans,
Green to the left of her, green to
##########the right of her
Sorry the days before she got a wide seat!

Hair streaming helmetless##########or
Helmeted contact lensed
Sensing the wind on her cheeks, in her ears,
Blinking back tears of joy, exhilaration
Blinking to keep her eyes from freezing

Bicycling all the days of the year
Most of the years of her
##########conscious life
Craving more speed, fearing no cars
Keeping her balance, except once or twice
Downshifting, cursing when gears
##########wouldn't catch
Stopping to fix a blown tire with a patch

Not wanting to stop, cycling all day
Bicycling, bicycling, cycling away


© 2005, Florida State Poets Association Anthology 23.



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