Seeking Balance

Bless me father,
I am 45 years old
And it has been 45 days since my last period…

These are my sins:

I drink too much coffee
I cook dinners sans vegetables for the kids
I worry obsessively
I procrastinate on my bills
I curse
    sometimes in front of my children
I get mad too easy
My house is messy
I am lazy

Oh, and I have a boyfriend whom I delight in

Forgive me God

For all this, God, have you put me into early menopause?

Patience thin
Ready to pounce  
Retreating to my covers, my safe place
With laptop, and vino
whilst my children shoot and kill each other on xbox
leave dirty dishes on counter
Want to see no one
Want to break up with my lover

Self-diagnosis of PMDD in June
Premenstrual Dsyphoric Disorder
Sounds scary
Oh…It is
Gynecologist recommends Prozac
Slightly relieved, but more ashamed
to admit
I can’t handle

July now-
been on this shit for a month
Still no period
And now my hair is falling out

Going off the drug

Need my hair- more than I need my sanity
Or at least as much

If I am going to go down, I want to look good on the way

Remember this, friends, when you check me into the psych ward

Remember to outfit me sharply on the day of my admittance

No matter what, it is always important to look good
Mom (Avon Lady from the big hair eighties) would back me up on this

Seriously – calling on woman of infinite wisdom

What would you choose?
Would you give up your hair to be less irritable?
I am guessing that I do not have a single friend who would say yes

What is a fair compromise?

Would you joyfully gain 25 pounds to be a better human being?  
I am way to vain for that
I forgot, God, to confess this  Vanity, surely a grave sin

Would you give up your money for inner peace?
Oh Greed- more ungodliness

Finding a balance between pleasure and pain
Maybe this is why I have the PMDD

Half the month… euphoria
Jokes for my students
Peaceful energy in my chakras
Hugs for my boys
Compassion for myself
Adoration for my boyfriend
Create elaborate plans
Check off tasks on my to-do list
Tackle projects
Sing sweet soulful songs

Ovulation- like an ax, strikes
PMDD is back
I drive too fast
Sleep restlessly on couch
Eat chips for dinner
Hold tension in my neck
Hold grudges
Relive old heart breaks

Feel pain too intensely- mine and my children’s
Grind teeth in my sleep
Yell at the kids
Flip my oldest son the middle finger behind his back
I’m sorry God- I know you can see this.  

So … this – this is the balance I am seeking?
Would really prefer less extremes

Especially now
Unfair I say
45 days no period. This is crap
45 days and still waiting

Started the second half of my life on Saturday
45 years old
Not waiting


Ready to balance out the second half with the first
Sins and all

Bless me father, I will do my best

Oh and please Lord,
                       let me keep my hair.
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Poem - Week of October 30

M parents considered the right to vote to be a sacred, as well as a civic, responsibility. My Dad informed telephone pollsters that his vote was between him and God, and no business of theirs.

My parents were registered Republicans. They were loyal to the party of Lincoln. They even supported and worked for the election of Richard Nixon. Why? John Kennedy was a Democrat who sought the votes and support of Louisiana Democrats, the same people who maintained separate and unequal as their right through coersion, initimidation and violence. Nixon was Vice President to President Eisenhower who sent federal troops into Little Rock, Arkansas. The troops protected the lives of black teenagers as they exercised their right to attend Central High School. Whatever Nixon's failings (or Eisnehower's for that matter), protecting black lives was rare in their life times.

They first voted for a Democrat as President in the 1964 election, L. B. Johnson vs Barry Goldwater as they observed those southern Democrats switch allegiance to the Republican Party and Goldwater. Johnson supported and actively lobbied for civil rights legislation. He had even utttered the words, We shall over come, before the US Congress. Goldwater voted against civil rights legislation.

Still as you can see in this poem by Lucy Francois Hymes, she was not a naive voter nor did she blindly believe political rhetoric. She questions promises, especially to black voters. In 1972 the choice was Richard Nixon vs George McGovern. The poem suggests she felt much the same about her choices, as many voters feel today. I find it startling that I am asking the same questions forty-four years later. The final line of the poem is particularly prescient. She was a Black Lives Matter voter decades before anyone called it that.

Election Day

November 7, 1972

I rise from my bed early

because I have a serious plan

for today is election day.

Who is going to be the victorious man?

I wonder if more promises he will make

about laws to set me truly free.

Two rivals plot how my vote to take

by paving the road of my destiny.

Over one hundred years candidates said,

Black man vote for me and you’ll be free.

Police still beat my nappy head.

Is this the freedom you meant for me?

As I cast my ballot this morning

exercising my civic right,

Where will I be this evening;

will the Man shoot and kill me tonight?

Lucy Francois Hymes
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Back to School

Lock the door; don’t let anyone in!
Momma left us alone
to care for ourselves, right
after breakfast. She came back
in the afternoon arms loaded
with bags and boxes.

On the four poster, she laid out
treasures: pink and blue flowered
cotton panties and undershirts,
crisp, swishy petticoats,
red and blue plaid gathered skirts,
pleated skirts, jumpers with white blouses,
full-skirted dresses with Peter Pan collars.
All brand new for back to school.

We never chose a dress or shoe
from a store’s racks and stacks.

We never heard the words:
You can’t try that on here, or
Use the colored dressing room.
We never stood in line waiting
while the salesclerk served
tow-headed children and their Mommas
first. We didn’t see the pickets
parading Freedom Now signs
in front of Woolworth’s, didn’t see
the passers-by shove and push and
spit and yell Nigger!

We waited at home excited
for Momma all flushed and breathless
from carrying her downtown load.
We waited at home anxious
fingers crossed that what she chose
was what we wanted.
She left us home
ignorant of the price paid.
Recent comment in this post
Carrie Hirschfield
Powerful and heart wrenching!
Friday, 27 January 2017 20:45
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1 Comment

The Art of Listening in Workshop

Listening is an important practice in wVw workshops. Intense, deep listening may be the best contribution we make to one another’s writing. We do not listen for, that is we do not listen for errors, mistakes, ommissions, excess, awkwardness. We do not correct, judge, evaluate or rank. We listen with the writer in mind. We listen to the words, images, music of language. As listeners, we actively participate in the creation of a work of art.

Listening is an active skill, whereas hearing is passive, listening is something that we have to work at -- it's a relationship with sound. And yet it's a skill that none of us are taught. For example, have you ever considered that there are listening positions, places you can listen from? Here are two of them:

Reductive listening is listening "for." It reduces everything down to what's relevant and it discards everything that's not relevant.

Expansive listening, on the other hand, is listening "with," not listening "for." It's got no destination in mind -- it's just enjoying the journey.
—Julian Treasure

Long before I wrote stories, I listened for stories. Listening for them is something more acute than listening to them. I suppose it’s an early form of participation in what goes on.
—Eudora Welty                                         

Writing that has newly come from the pen of a writer should be listened to with care. New writing is as fragile and raw as a newborn and should be treated as respectfully, as tenderly.

•    Do not make overt or subtle suggestions for change.
•    Do not tell one’s own story, ie. This reminds me when I…
•    Do not question
•    Do not express doubt or disbelief
•    Do not describe writing as derivative, overly familiar or clichéd
•    Do not express dislike or disinterest in narrator, voice or character
•    Do not respond with like unless you point to particular words, phrases, actions, etc.

What is helpful is to listen to the writer, then give back what you remember, what stays with you. Each writer is finding his or her way to voice. It cannot be coerced, and it cannot be given form or shape by anyone else.
--adapted from Pat Schneider

To ‘listen’ another’s soul into a condition of disclosure and discovery may be almost the greatest service that any human being ever performs for another.
– Douglas Steere

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an elegy for Orlando

Take, eat, this is my body which is given for you,

This body, loose, young, the body that swung,

The sweaty shiny comfortable skin, the eyes that flashed,

The legs that jumped. Drink this, drink in the body,

This body, that body that came through the day,

Colliding, brushing with other bodies, this body, moving,

Smooth skin against rough cheek, blue silk dress,

Lipstick on the polo shirt, the shorts of a pixie chick,

The torso of a Latino lifeguard, the hands of a spectacled African man,

This body, that body, whose body shivered, shook,

Arms raised to the heavens, shouting its praise,

This body, that body, pulsed to a beat last night--

What body now lifeless lies on the dark red floor,

Sacrificed with the blood of a new covenant

As broad as the arc of a rainbow

In a crowded club in Orlando, the body mashed

From holes that flash, from hells that erupt from

A morning of night, taste this body, taste that meat, eat

The body of the world, no longer in the world.

-June 12, 2016
Recent Comments
Kate Hymes
A powerful and moving elegy to the Orlando mass killing at Pulse nightclub. Susan expertly uses the language of religious traditio... Read More
Saturday, 18 June 2016 16:41
Colleen Geraghty
Dear Susan, A very moving tribute to all of those who died in that tragic event at the Pulse in Orlando. A powerful and moving ... Read More
Monday, 20 June 2016 22:06
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