Wednesday, August 15, 2018

handful of things

I text my inksister every day. Even if it's simply a heart and a word. I quickly do the math of our time difference, hit send, put all my energy into the act as if actually sending a bolt of electric her way. A bit of heartbeat.

My niece is starting the 6th grade this week, and I try to give her a bit of advice about that. Of course it is given via text message to her cell phone, which still blows my mind a bit. She's nervous about the combination lock, and I tell her I hate them--always have. I was never, ever good at getting those things open. I would usually have to ask a person with a locker near mine to do it(this person often being my cousin). I was still pretty shy at that age and hated asking, so I think I carried most of my books around with me instead of dealing with it. Some things like that are getting harder to remember. I do remember first day of school anxiety though, which was usually followed swiftly by a first day of school migraine.

I busted up both feet playing soccer. A purple toe for each one, x-rays for the right. No fracture, thankfully, but bruised deep enough to make walking a true pain in the ass. I've never been one with a slow stride--the past week has been a humbling lesson. Things slowed way down. It was bad timing to bust myself up just before my trip to Pittsburgh. I did as much walking as I could, feeling a little embarrassed when I had to ask my friends to slow down a little so I could keep up. Some evenings I had to cancel plans and cut the losses because the constant pain was frying my mind. Every day is a little better but there is still some ways to go.

I was blessed to be a part of a phenomenal book release. Vanessa tore me apart with her cover of Otis Redding's "Pain in my Heart," which she mixed with her own incredible words. JB was brilliant and steady as always. I read new work that I feel quite strongly about, and I was overwhelmed by reactions from my peers and others in the audience. I'm happy that the new work was received so well--it's encouraging and inspiring.

As I work on my book, I hope to utilize this space a bit more as I sift through thought and draft. I have so much new in progress, and I feel much more purposeful returning to it. I love putting in the work. I've outgrown the declarative metaphor of writing being a bad lover. It is unclear who is courting who. More like words and I have moved beyond the caught eye across room. We've sliced the crowd in two to meet on dance floor and we are cutting rugs into blooms & thunder. It is creating that I love so much. It is my blood, my root, my way of taking on and being in this world. It is my language and method. It is how and why and always. It is the thing I feel most urgent about and sure of. Again and again, writing brings me back.

Friday, July 6, 2018

feats of strength

Today I wrote a new bio. This probably doesn't sound very monumental to you, unless you are a person who frequently has to do a thing like write a brief paragraph about themselves in third person. I'm not a fan of doing it. I never know the correct things to mention, and facts alone do not feel like me. I want something about me to feel like me, a reasonable thing. I used to skirt around it in my 20's by listing songs I loved in the back of my chapbooks. For more about the author, listen to the following songs. It's a tricky thing to tow the line between a creative telling and admitting accolades/achievements. There's got to be a way to do both.

In the meantime, the world continues to feel like chaos and I keep plucking bits of joy and solace where I can. Strong coffee can correct a morning on its own sometimes. Other days require more--a breeze kicking my hair around or lifting something heavy, or reading Patricia Smith poems and dabbing strawberry oil on the wrists. Pleasure is universal, pleasure is personal.

I participated in an act of self-care last weekend. I went with my love a handful of miles north to see the Mr. Rogers documentary. The film played in a small independent theater, and I managed to hold it together until the very end. My tears rolled right with the credits. I believe in the amazing that people can be. I love the simplicity of being able to truly converse with children, to meet them on their level, to fight to explain the difficult when no one else seems to want to do so. I needed that. Watching clips of Mr. Rogers Neighborhood reminded me of being a little kid, eating a bologna sandwich made by my dad before heading to afternoon kindergarten. It is an old, old memory, the bones of my bones.

Before the movie something was on fire in the city. At first it seemed as if we were the only two to notice it. The smoke was thick and dark and rolled out endlessly. According to the news, it could be seen 8 miles away. Two young folks set an abandoned building on fire. Slowly, others started to notice. Everyone had a phone, stopping mid-crosswalk to capture this rip in the evening sky.

It felt fairly good to be in that part of town again--for the most part I've avoided it for many years. I'd go there to see a friend briefly or go to a gig, but otherwise I abstained. Too many ghosts, time told me. But that's a funny thing about time--things can heal without display, without fanfare. It's important to remember but there's no need to be stuck. It may have taken close to 17 years, but that place no longer feels like a scar. Recently I went on google maps and looked up one of the houses I used to live in from that long ago, and I was shocked to see it was a different color. The paint had been stripped and was still peeling, windows were boarded up or busted. It's not that I expected it to look as it did nearly two decades ago, but the dilapidation presented brief shock followed by a brand new finality. I liked how it felt. Surreal and removed yet still so very certain. Does it change the story or shut the book?

Saturday, June 23, 2018

antwon rose jr

There is so much.

I sit down to write and this is what comes out. The so muchness. The enormity binding fingers, doing donuts in mud of my brain. Where do you start? Where do you end? Where do you allow yourself to venture in between this stated A and Z?

There is so much.

This week, a 17 year old boy(a child) was killed by police in Pittsburgh. Three shots to the back when he took off running. The boy was black, unarmed. He was obviously frightened by the situation to take off running, and can anyone blame him? The officer has been charged with homicide. He was sworn in mere hours before the shooting.

Here is a quote from a witness to the shooting:

The mayor took to twitter to stress on where this tragedy happened--East Pittsburgh, he said, not Pittsburgh. His tweet:

"It wasn’t in Pittsburgh. It was in the suburbs of East Pittsburgh. Not part of the city. Not Pittsburgh Police. Not Pittsburgh. Please clarify."

Immediately there was backlash for his comment. He went into damage control. His tweet/apology:

While Tuesday's shooting was not within the city's official borders it impacts all of us in the Pittsburgh region, and particularly those in the African American community," he said. "In my reactions to the incident I should have acknowledged that these shootings affect all of us, no matter where we live, and for that I am sorry."

And then he made sure to pat himself on the back for "holding himself accountable publicly."

Protests have sprung up all over the city the past few days. Individuals sat in front of the police station in the pouring rain. They shut down part of Grant Street in front of the courthouse downtown. On the second night of protests, people shut down Parkway East near the Churchill exit for six hours. On the third night(last night), a car drove through a crowd of protestors. Luckily no one was seriously hurt.

click here for footage/photos from protests

I am endlessly proud of those that took to the streets in Antwon's name.

A poem, written by Antwon 2 years ago, has been making the rounds. This kid was scared of what might happen, what was happening. What happened.

Monday, June 4, 2018


The storms have been nothing short of wild lately. Winds that flattened all the chairs on my balcony, spun the trash away from their dumpsters and melted sidewalks into unnamed river. They rolled in yellow, green, dark--quick bruises. One day leaving work I drove the outline of one all the way to the gym, fifteen miles of route that just happened to curve perfectly around a chaotic centerpiece. I walked in the door a mere minute before rain dumped onto everything, applauding my arrival. I snapped the picture above on the evening before my birthday. Impressive sunset followed.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Wednesday, March 28, 2018


migraine moment with my nurse dog. she refuses to leave my side when i am sick.

I’ve talked here, at great length, about the half-lived life. About the missing days that must span years at this point, if strung together. Anyone living with a chronic ailment/illness will have a darkened part—the sliver of living dedicated to the pain, stress, time, questions, research, and moments handed over/hardly ours to begin with. It is stitched in, a shadow learned long ago to break bliss in half. And if you’re like me, it’s been nearly 30 years. There is still surprise and wonderment. There is still woe and hate and that newborn feeling when I finally emerge on other side, relatively pain-free.

Where do the days go that I miss? I go to work on a Monday and my coworker asked if I enjoyed the weather the previous day. I’m honest: no, unfortunately I was out with a migraine all day. This coworker also deals with them, so he knows immediately and nods.

Sometimes I can see glimpses of the sun, hear the birds against the blue, from my lair of manmade darkness and blankets, wet wash rags and garbage can lined with plastic bag. Pillows stacked then scattered, a bottle of Nyquil on the nightstand when I am desperate. No, I will not make it in today. No, I cannot come to your show/cannot see my family/cannot run my errands/cannot do my laundry/fix dinner/kiss/laugh/watch some stupid tv/cannot live, cannot live, cannot live.

Chronic pain takes away. It gives, too. When it's a fairly strong thread throughout your living, you can see something that might even be considered good. Mind you, I wouldn't wish migraines on anyone. But when you feel that something deprives you, over and over again, you learn the true weight of well. On days when I feel [my version] of normal, time feels limitless. I want to savor every minute of functioning--to not only get all the things done that I must, but to extend it into things that I want. The act of reading a book or driving or talking becomes an act of beyond bliss. A breeze feels tremendous. Pain has turned the mundane into neon at times. The good becomes better than most.

Would I have such an understanding and admiration for the dark and the light without this ailment? Would I appreciate lengthy conversations the same? How would self care look? What would my normal be?

After 30 years, I want to see the good. As a part of acceptance, maybe this is required. Silver lining and all that. I think about the days that are gone because of it; I think about how much I've missed and how much I might going forward. I can avoid every trigger and still wake up some mornings all dressed in hell. This is why I don't drink anymore. I'm prone to hangovers without that particular elixir anyway-what's the point?

Too much sleep, too little of it. Too much caffeine, not enough. Red wine, msg, sugar. Flourescents, fermented, specific perfumes and strong cleaners. Hormones. I stick to my tight rope, still get blindsided even with purposeful balance.

I think about what I am when I am in pain. Where do I go/what do I become. There is a transition--animalistic, even. It is an involuntary answer to an unrelenting, baffling pain. I can view all the migraine paintings, read all the descriptions and still not get to the meat of it completely. It is a place where movement is agony. Sleep remains behind some thicket of thorns. The pillow could be cement--it all feels the same. It isn't death but I've wished for it. A cold wash rag becomes my best friend. Eat just to throw up something, instead of heaving empty. I grow completely silent because sound hates me.

Without this hurt, what would I have missed? And, wondered in the same breath:

I've had to say no to many things but, without them, how many times would I have forgotten about yes?