On “Mother’s Day” a poem of mine appeared in the The Portland Press Herald. I had submitted it in response to a call for a year long curated series of poems that address or grapple with the theme of “Deep Water” in some way. In my case the depth related to the grief connected to losing a child you are carrying.
This week is the anniversary of her leaving us, and moving on to other adventures, or so I like to think. I said goodbye to her on a little cove in late July with two dear friends while their daughter and Sammy were running and laughing in the sand at the water’s edge.
I remember holding myself through the shaking as I felt her spirit take off and race to the sea. At the last moment, I stood tall and tried to smile with one arm waving goodbye to her. I wanted her last image of me to be one of courage and joy for the gift her brief life was to me.
I was going in for my D & C (dilation and curettage) the next day.
She would be ten and a half today. Marcel will be ten in October. I had found out I was pregnant on Mother’s Day, 2006 coincidentally. Marcel was miraculously conceived on her due date in January. We believe that her brief appearance on this earth was to make way for his soul somehow. In more ways then one, Marcel and his sister Dixie are connected.
That Gibson Fay-LeBlanc, the poet laureate of Portland chose it to run on Mother’s Day was courageous and deeply important to many (myself included) I learned in the days and weeks following the poem’s appearance in the paper. When a poem allows your friend and his wife to openly grieve their own miscarriage together, something they hadn’t known figured out how to before, you feel that on your knees in the ground kind of gratitude for so many things.
Last night I ordered one of each of these shirts from DNBE, a company that promotes what they call positive propaganda:
If you think about it, your t-shirt is like a billboard, and every day you’re walking around advertising something (or maybe nothing if it’s a blank tee or a meaningless design) . That advertisement says something about the person wearing it and has an effect (conscious or subconscious) on the people around him/her. Why waste that valuable advertising space? Why not use it to uplift the people? … For that brief moment you know that there are other people out there that have not lost their minds. And that positive energy is infectious and magnetic. With enough people catching on, we can start to turn this situation around. That’s positive propaganda, and that’s why we’re here…
To grab onto something that feels positive in the message department for young Black men today is not an easy find. I, like many mamas I know who are parenting young men of color have found myself traveling the continuum from abject despair to enraged disbelief and everything in between. I have been attending rallies, and reading my poems out loud to honor Trayvon, Michael, Tamir, Eric, and, and, and…
I have been talking to colleagues, friends, family, and anyone really who will listen and tried again to get those who don’t seem to care to notice what I am saying for a moment. At work when I am asked how I am, I try to answer truthfully; “In a state of disbelief. Crushed. Shocked that our country has such a broken judicial system, and devalues the lives of so many of the young men and women here in our schools…” I have prayed. I have hugged my boys so much more. Each time I catch myself forgetting, I notice Sammy or Marcel just walking out of the room and think to myself; “he is coming back.”
I say this to honor all the mothers who can’t.
I have also tuned out completely, because I have that choice. I don’t just mean that I deactivated my Facebook, and disappeared almost entirely from social media. I mean that I can pop into the gas station to get a cup of coffee, and not engage with the headline on the newspaper out loud or in private, if I don’t want to. I can say; “I can’t deal today.” I am not the one Black colleague in the school who everyone either avoids, or seeks out after another horror show is splayed across the news. I can just carry on and not engage. I can, and I do. I am not a young Black man walking down the street wondering if it is safe here, or in the convenience store being watched to see if I steal a candy bar while I am waiting to pay for my coffee.
I have accepted invitations to be on panels, and co-design Ferguson units with colleagues. I have scheduled several meetings for the next three months with various white men in positions of power in the field of education to talk about how we keep talking about this in schools and beyond, because it is one way I can use my voice, experience and privilege to promote a little more positive propaganda.
I have wondered if I would care this much today if my sons were white. I have not always answered that question honestly.
I have so much gratitude and appreciation for all the people in our lives who can listen, and who are climbing up underneath this massive weight next to us, and offering to do more than just hold it up too.
Sammy just woke up, and asked for a cuddle. I stopped writing, and crawled up into his bunk bed, rearranged his twisted up blankets and sheets, and wrapped myself up in him too. In a few days he will be ten. He will be just two years younger than Tamir Rice who was shot when he was reaching for his toy gun-most likely show the police officers it was fake-when they were all screaming at him to put his hands up. That’s when he was killed. It was a few days after his twelfth birthday.
Sammy will not be getting any toy guns for his birthday, and we have talked about why. Sammy asked for anything in the remote control helicopter department, an x-box, and some footy pajamas-because he used to love to wear them when he was little…
Two weekends ago I had the opportunity to attend the Black Fly Writer’s Retreat in Grand Lake Stream, Maine. Four different sessions were happening simultaneously. I was with the poetry group. It all went by in a blur. Three days is not enough time for me to drop into my poet self in the kind of way a week allows. So, now I know–but it did allow me to have several pieces work shopped. I was very pleased with how the group responded to my voice, and overall poetry process.
My “water poems” as a body of work moved forward, and I made a few very cool new writer connections. On the final night we had a bonfire reading. Here is one of the poems from the weekend that I wrote and read. The form came from an activity where you list, but only allow yourself one verb. Mine didn’t follow directions exactly, but I was pleased with the outcome:
The Minister and the Snake
The missing goldfish
(nine now dead)
the rusty spade
at the back of the shed
a gardener’s rage
a snake’s split head
on Easter Sunday
bread and wine
for the visitors
in their best dressed
more promises of forgiveness
except for the serpent
now dead behind
the minister’s shed.
A found poem, is just that. Words arranged on the page, from words discovered around you. In my case, I took off at 6:00 am yesterday, in the rain, for signs of spring on the first of May. So, I took words from the signs I encountered on the way. Aside from a lone daffodil, and one glorious poplar tree in full bursting joy, it wasn’t immediately apparent that Maine had yet received the message. Writing in the rain, under a store front awning at 6:15 in the morning is about as perfect a start to May as I could ask for though.
A few days ago I was I was stunned and overjoyed to learn that my “application and writing sample were so compelling,” I was being offered a generous scholarship to make it possible for me to attend an upcoming four day writer’s workshop and retreat.
I will be staying in a cabin, on a lake, working with an established poet, surrounded by many other like minded folks. (The event allows writers in many genres to work in community, and individually with one of the four distinguished writers they have asked to work with.) The water poems are insisting they make their way into the world apparently.
Thanks to Shrek’s deep belief in my work and passion to create, I was encouraged to say yes. He and the boys will embark on their own sweet adventures. It is as it should be.
If you would like to help me raise the remaining necessary funds to attend the retreat details are included at the bottom of this post. (Raising $250 here would complete the registration fee, the travel expenses [gas and tolls] and cover the additional childcare costs for the boys on the days that I will not be able to collect them after school. Meals and lodging are provided!) My father and step mother have offered to match the first $75.00 I raise. As a thank you I will publicly acknowledge you here, unless you mention in the email that you would prefer that I did not, and I will send you, in the mail, a set of three new poems that emerge from the retreat.
Update: thank you so much to Mia of Pragmatic Mom for her $25.00 donation! If you don’t know her amazing site covering children’s literature, parenting, and education then head over there as soon as you finish here!
Finally, I will leave you with this recent image that I captured on a windy, exhilarating walk with Shrek recently. Can anyone guess where we are?
How to become a MamaC benefactor:
Go to Square and email me a donation of your choosing. There are no fees, and according to my brother it takes about three minutes to set up. All you need is my email address: firstname.lastname@example.org. Creating abundance and support for my work in the world one bold ask at a time. Thank you so very much. Any amount is appreciated.
These are the latest two poems in my water series. Two haikus wrestling with the same moment, but each one capturing something different. I worked on these over the weekend while visiting my brother. The boys were so struck by the fury, suddenness, and relentlessness of the flooding. Sammy was really amused by it. He loves things which are doing something they are not supposed to…
Each week for one year, I have set out to write a poem. The process, as outlined here, includes a visit to a body of water weekly where I “gather” material for the poem (I force myself to draft a complete poem at that time-knowing it will be revisited) and some sustained writing time during the week, so that I can “publish” (print and paste in my poetry journal) one a week. Marcel has joined me for two of the “gatherings”. Every week a montage is made to help me remember fleeting thoughts, lines, nuances, sounds, and the other stuff of a poem.
This week’s poem-which is still in process–but which I will share, because it delights me for several reasons is inspired by Marcel, and this playground which will I imagine be a significant part of their childhood landscape. Continue reading “Gathering the poem (week 3 of 52)”→
A grinder is when a bunch of poets put themselves to the grind, to produce a poem a day for thirty days, sharing collectively through an email exchange. There is no commentary, just put it out there by midnight, and have nine other never before seen poems delivered to your mailbox from all over the country/world. The idea I gather is to keep dropping in with the muse, much like you practice the piano each day with the hope of getting a little better…moving a song, or two forward. Continue reading “Grinders, edgy moments, and a little wave to my benefactors present and future”→