Thursday, March 10, 2016

Discarded Toys

I play with my rabbit
every day, sometimes twice.
Often, I wish it velveteen,

as real as the smack
of a riding crop
as I rock my mount,
ridden wet, and hard.

Not every toy was meant to be velveteen.
The streams never crossed,
left alone and solitary
in my toy box.

For you, I was only a plaything,
Never meant to be made real.

Bunnies can break.
Your mechanical heart needs winding.

You box me up,
your discarded toy,
that bored you,
displeased you.

My answers were always wrong.
I never learned to tell
the fairy tales quite
the way you wanted.

I'm just another locked toy box,
left out for whoever might want
a broken, discarded plaything,

a rag doll waiting for a new master.

Find it here.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Take My Wings

Butterfly fragile,
my wings new grown.
I flew. I dreamed,
and I flew

right into your net.
Coaxed by a breath of words
fluttered into my susceptible ears,
Entrapped by my own desire.
to believe

that the intensity in your eyes
was more than the clinical interest
of a magnifying glass.

Pin my wings,
taking out your heart
even as I strip bare.

Mount me.
I helped you weave the net
so much thicker, so much tighter,
with my own indiscretions.

Bind me, wrapping me fast
into my cocoon.
Turn me back
from newly metamorphed butterfly
to graceless worm.

I let you experiment,
your gaze scientist cold,
forgetting I once knew

how to fly.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Rape Culture

I debated a long time with myself about writing this post.   I considered deleting it.

It may be that I am over-reacting to a commonplace event.  It may be that I am feeling unusually vulnerable and emotional this week.

I have had this debate with my 18 year old son innumerable times.  He critiques third wave feminism, saying they are overly politically correct, are always looking for a reason to take offense.  He tells me that in America we don't have a rape culture.  In America, a woman can get on a bus alone without having to worry about being gang raped.  Women are empowered.  We can dress as we like, go where we please, say what we want.

I always disagree.  I know that in other cultures, women live in more oppressive regimes.  Generally, we're a little safer.  We have more freedoms.  I cannot deny those points, but I still believe that we live in a rape culture.

Unless you're female, unless you've lived in our skin, I don't think a man can understand what I mean.

Sometimes, I forget myself.  For the past seven years, I've lived in a suburban, rural setting where I've encountered minimal amounts of that feeling of objectification and powerlessness.

In part of my mind, I began to think I may have aged out of that feeling.  That turning 40 gave me some sort of immunity, a sort of invisibility from that sort of unwanted attention.

Of course, I was completely wrong.

Yesterday I had to go down to New Orleans to renew my occupational license.  That license grants me the legal right to sell my art in the New Orleans area.  It helps grant me my livelihood so it was something I absolutely needed to do.

I haven't been down to New Orleans alone, in a non-art market environment, in fifteen years.  I lived in New Orleans, visited New Orleans, love the city.  Of course, every time I've been out and about there, I always had at least one of my four children in tow.

Yesterday, I was alone.  I dressed in my everyday winter uniform of leggings, boots, long tank top, and slightly over-sized tee with a hoodie.  Admittedly, I put on one of my favorite pairs of striped leggings and one of my favorite tees in a lovely shade of pine green.  I put on mascara, blush, and lip stain, same as I do every time I leave the house.  My hair is a brilliant shade of radioactive red, and I like it that way.   I wouldn't characterize the look as particularly seductive.  It's just who I am.

I drove down to the city, found a parking spot about six blocks away from City Hall, and started walking.  The walk to the building was quiet.  I only encountered a few people on the way, nothing too extraordinary.  I man called, "Hello, Sunshine," to me from across the street.  A few men told me good morning, nothing jarring occurred.

I got to the main entrance and paused for a moment, trying to figure out which door was the right one.  Two men in uniforms walked up behind me and pointed at the proper door on the far right.  They gestured me ahead of them which on the one hand seems polite and gentlemanly, but I was uncomfortably aware of where they were looking when I walked ahead of them, but again, not that unusual.

I was directed to the right office.  I turned in my paperwork and, within fifteen minutes, had my brand new, beautifully crisp and unwrinkled occupational license.  Huzzah.  Mission accomplished.

I headed back out.  I walked about two blocks down Perdido Street, encountering a few people, here and there, but the streets were mostly empty yesterday morning.  I saw a man in uniform walking toward me.  He was pleasant looking, thirtyish.  He made eye contact and gave me a noncommittal smile.  I responded with a similar smile.  I've found that it never hurts to be friendly toward people in authority.  When he got within two feet of me, he said, "How's it going, sexy?"

I dropped eye contact and hurried on, suddenly feeling somehow powerless, extremely vulnerable, and objectified.

If he had said, "How's it going?" followed by nothing, or even something more innocuous like sweetie, or ma'am, the entire encounter would have meant nothing.  Instead, I came away from it shaken.

I spent the next fifteen minutes trying to remember where I had parked, taking at least two wrong turns.  A man emerged from a building a block ahead of me and kept pausing to stare back at me.  I was alone on the street.  I felt a growing sense of unease and paranoia.

Why was he looking at me?  Just how provocative was my outfit?

He turned into another building and I finally remembered how to get to my car.

All I wanted to do was get out of the city.

I lived in New Orleans for twenty years.  I can't count the number of times I was harassed on the street by strange men.  It never really use to bother me.

Maybe I lost my protective coating.  In his head, maybe calling me sexy was meant as an innocuous compliment, but it colored my perception of every encounter I had yesterday.  It reminded me that no female is immune.

Those looks, those comments, we don't like them.  Wearing leggings and a hoodie on a cool winter day doesn't mean I'm inviting that kind of attention.

The fact that it happened and I felt the way I felt reinforces to me that we still have a rape culture.

I debated a while about writing this up and posting it.  This sort of event happens to women of all ages every day.

The last time I posted about being sexually harassed on the street, a friend criticized me for not responding to the comments and ensuring that the offending man never did a thing like that again.

When it happened yesterday, I didn't respond.  I just walked away as quickly as I could.  Does that mean that he went on to call another woman sexy that afternoon?  Possibly.  Will he do it again today, and tomorrow?  Quite possibly.

Should I have stopped and said something?  Told him how he made me feel?  I'm not that brave.

His uniform gives him instant authority and power.  His gender bestows on him bigger size and more strength.

Maybe I am a coward.  My silence ensures that he can and will do it again.

Every encounter I have like that one where I walk away feeling powerless and objectified reminds me that I am not brave, that I feel paralyzed when confronted with that sort of attention.

I didn't invite it.  I walked down the street, alone.

Which is why I have to disagree with my 18 year old son who can walk down the street without being afraid of that kind of attention, that has never known what it is like to feel that powerless and that vulnerable,  I think we have a rape culture.

Until I can walk down a public street without feeling that vulnerability and subsequent shame, I am going to consider this a rape culture.

I'm sorry, son, but for all your objective brilliance and logic, you are completely wrong.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Killed It

I killed you.
Handed you the gun.
Loaded the bullets

that night when I ended
everything and anything
that might have been.

You voiced everything
I refused to give form.

You struggled to find
your way out of the cave
while I embraced the blindness,
huddled in claustrophobia.

How many bullets,
how many reasons did you need?
How many nights did you
play that game, uncertain
if you really wanted victory?

I voided your depression.
The unraveling of your mind
exposed my unfinished edges,
my own potential for madness.

Could I have counted
out your pills for twenty years,
pulled you back from sanity
every time you danced to the edge?

I was never brave enough for you.
Uncertain how to rescue a damsel,
I left you to fight your dragons alone.

I think of you every time
I bring the whip down on my own back.
I learned to wallow,
but never knighted up.

Put the gun in your mouth.
How many bullets did I give you?
Pull the trigger. Once. Twice, and
silence everything about myself
I ever saw, reflected back from

your beautiful, dead eyes.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Self Portrait Series

My long term resolution for the New Year has been to 
confront my tendency toward harsh self criticism and to try 
to be more accepting of who I am and the skin I am in.

So far, I've done a series of photographic selfies, but my 
friend Shiloh, who always was and still is, smarter and more 
insightful than I am, suggested that maybe I should be 
looking at this as an art project, a la Frida Kahlo.

I contemplated that idea. It makes more sense than merely 
staring at mirror images of myself on a computer screen. I 
don't know that I will ever love photographs of myself. I 
don't know if I will ever be able to view myself without 
focusing on my flaws, but I can certainly confront and fight 
against that tendency in myself.

I picked out my first selfie of 2016 and tried to alter myself 
into art. If the standard of success is to obliterate most of 
myself from the piece, then I think I succeeded.

Still, it's a new slant on an only slightly older project. I am a 
work in progress. Long live vanity!

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Loving Edgar Allan Poe

Edgar, leading your flock 
of raven hounds,
could you smell it on me: 
despair and weakness
with a whiff of amontillado?

Do you possess a sixth sense?
Am I the low hanging body 
on your corpse tree?

Would you love me, 
then leave me, bury me,
mourning me with a proper lament?

Brick me in with your own hands,
whisper sweet nevermore in my ear.

Could we role play in a sepulcher?
Let me call you cousin.

Rise and fall for me, Edgar.
Swing your pendulum round and round.

Feel the tell tale beat of my heart,
served just the way you like it:
cold and seasoned with despair.

Find it here.