Two Children

Two children live here, now straddling the yard’s fence,

one she calls “my pet,” and the other “peeved.”

Why peeved? What injustice writhes in the willows today–

a bird-pecked worm, a spider-spun gnat, or perhaps, a rattler

gargling rat blood? Yes, you bemoan those victimized but what

of the black widow’s guillotine or the Venus’ trap door teeth, do you, 

oh peeved? Does she, my pet?

We recognize her, the way her head tilts to catch the sun’s

catered rays to the swan of her neck, the hint of heather on 

her breath, chamomile in her hair.

Dawn loves her perfect poise and light; there she’s her 

element. Why argue with nature, my pet peeved? She’s

who we are. Be sweet now, love and comfort smile us happy.

Image Source


I’m shrinking. Yes, I’m aging and so, inevitably ground down by the constancy of gravity’s punishing anvil. Heavy, relentless, like my 30 pound 5-month Husky puppy. A never-ending stream of energy that refuses to be relegated to neglect and invisibility.
I might be shorter, by an eighth of an inch or so. I’ve always regaled my 5”8″ and 3/4. I believe I was either shortchanged by an 1/8th my last checkup or I’ve shrunk. All that running, pounding the pavement with my spine upright, couldn’t have helped either. Helping gravity hammer the nail.
But that’s not the shrinkage I’m thinking of. My world is shrinking. Intentionally so. I’m closing up the shudders more. I open the blinds only when there’s something to see. I’ve arranged my world so I don’t have to partake of it but a little, just enough to get my fill of smiles, smells, complaints, grunts and questions. Since school let out mid-December, however, I don’t even get peopling twice a week.
And I’m fine with it. I’m only interested in the sun, grass, sea and trees, my daughters’ whining, my father’s banter, and my mother’s rheumy stare most days. And when I’m tired of them, I shut my door, lock it, pull the blinds, and put my headphones on.
At night, I pleasure in the reprieve from estrangement with a glass of wine and slice or two of cheese with my thus-far-in-life-long partner in house holding. I work at the corner of a corner desk. I write, research and read. It’s what I’ve always enjoyed anyhow.
More than before, I’m reading and writing about what I want. Not self-indulgent stuff I’m quick to slap up on my public pages (like this one), or clever tweets (at least I think so). Part-of-the-world stuff, like what business is up to and health culture and building things, tearing them down and rebuilding them in real estate and relationships. I work remotely–in my flip flops–for others all over the world.
 I choose not to write or read about politics or injustice. Those are constants. Nothing new. By virtue of my birthright gender, I live by injustice. Whenever your body is public property, legislated and controlled by strangers, fearful white men–and the women they keep–there’s mad, mind-numbing, heartbreaking injustice. I’m slamming the door shut on them. I’ll wait for the right, gentle hands to fold me back in.

She-dog on She-cat Crime

Two things on my mind today:  pet wars and naked logos.

The not-so-new addition (even the picture above is over a month old), a Husky pup, who, at 4 3/4 months weighs about 35 pounds of massive paws and thick, stocky chest and haunches, loves to “play” with our penultimate addition, a mostly white Japanese bobtail stray, smallish for a full grown cat typical of the breed. 

The latter is wily and clever, eccentrically faithful to her chosen human, my daughter. She abides people amicably. The former is a doofus, aggro, boundary-testing youngster, whose only purpose in life is to play, eat, shit and destroy. She’s pretty, stunning ice-blue eyes with a thick, grey and tan wolf coat, and sweet. She’s also unrelenting.

Willow the cat is curious and heat seeking. She’s also playful. She often comes looking for Goose. She quietly stalks the puppy, who, upon spying her, full-speed gallops in a furious rush. She sniffs (tries to), bites and captures the cat with crushing will and heft. Frustrated by the rebuff–getting her nose clawed–she whimpers, turns her body around, and boom-lowers her massive girth to snuff out the feline, a horrifying domination, as if the small cat 1/8th the other’s size will be bone-crushed smothered in furry cement.

But despite the cat’s frantic struggle on her back, paws and claws air-poised to strategically strike vulnerable nose and eyes (everywhere else is futile with that thick, cushioned hide), her deep, low growl in constant grinding gear, she seems to know what she’s doing. Because despite clearly taking a beating from massive paws and jaw with beastly big teeth, she knows that at some critical pause, some crack in the feeble-minded puppy’s concentration, she can scuttle up a bar stool or leap up a high armoir to safety, wide-eyed glaring down at the dopey, tongue-flapping brute. 

I confess that I watch in both amusement and terror, anxious and hopeful for the underdog kitty’s safety.  I’m unwilling to intercede on her behalf, though, resolved that she asks for it.

The other image teasing me this morning is the picture on my website–a sort of branding logo–for The picture reveals a naked woman’s back, hands clasped behind her, one arm bent over her shoulder stretched down her back to link the other reaching from below to center of her back. The yoga pose twists rotocuff and bicep, which casts in relief dorsal and bicep muscles and sinew. Her ass is partially exposed, just the twinges of crack and buttocks. 

The photo is also slightly blurred, out of focus. The back is mine. A few years ago, a photographer shot my unclothed yoga practice. I used the picture on a whim to name my author’s website–one naked poet. I deemed crafty the double sense of revealing heart and skin, a doubly exposed confessional poetry. 

Clever as it may have seemed at the time, I now wince at that photo, which collapses the private and public in a way that could be perceived as both celebratory–an aging body contributed to the ongoing conversation of body “beauty” conceptions–and discomfiting. 

Not discomfiting as to nudity or aging. No, the ruffle arises over the hidden face and naked back. The unwitting exposure is the attempt–all writers, all women–to confess, reveal and expose a mind’s “truth” without holding back, but being unable to do so. 

A hidden face is in all writing: the persona or mask. 

Because you can spew words all over a mile long blog about love, ownership, family life, daily doings, heart break, possession, politics, hygiene and belief, everything that makes up a breathing machine called human, one particular human, and never show your face. You can write obscure, viny verses that suggest, tease and seduce but ultimately obfuscate and confound, leaving a reader clearing the rainforest, skin-misted without absorption, without sensing the screeching, raucous hues and pitches of a mad-scramble, raging artist’s pallet. That’s the writer’s plight.

So much color, so little connection. Blank screen. 

But this is also the plight of many. The same kind of angst in complicitly witnessing interspecies battles, I experience eyeing that branding: nakedly hiding a truth–about women, fear, prejudice, the lengths we the civilized go to oppress the marginalized, the subterfuge victims cultivate to survive, configured bodies continuously on public display–utterly exposed without identity, without face. Hiding in plain site always is her lurking predator–in dark alleys of the city and congress.

Women’s problems are just women’s, some believe. I could turn around, show my wrinkled face, my sagging breasts, my pregnancy-ravaged poof belly and crepey legs, a less “attractive” view, but in whose eyes? 

I am concerned about my or anyone’s acceptance or even tolerance for violent, insidious misogyny. I agonize over finding voice. In gendered inherited words, striving to write real from inside a body, I worry that we’re all cowards, immobile before the fray.

Revolution: Ten for Today

Millions will march and fight for freedom, from oppression, from patriarchy, one million women march. I will bring my daughters, and they will know what sacrifice they must make for freedom in this country. Or they will prepare to move out of the country. 

Fight or flight, isn’t that the way of things? After the election, my first instinct was flight. That’s often my way. I never really flee physically, but I leave mentally. I thought about getting my children out of here, college in Canada or France. Thank God for duel citizenship. Just make them grow in a place where women are not objects of hate and self-loathing. Give them promise.

But for me, well, I could close the blinds, darken the room, better to light up my screen to make the words burn into my eyes. Make every word count. Quit my outside job, so I can hole up and never see them, those who ain’t woke, as my daughter would say.

She, one of my two woke daughters, likes San Francisco as a college choice. She wants to be with like-minded folks. We are a bastion of expansive values: free love, not your father’s love, expansion not contraction, possibility not improbability. They would have us roped and tethered to their poles.

I grew up in the shadows of revolution. Missed the big love by a half decade or so. But I have inherited the capital of my foremothers, my powerful free-lovers and Black Power fist pumpers. When love and revolution permeated culture by necessity, a newly emerging consciousness that the status quo needed cracking open–wide. Let the dragons loose.

So many false starts with the Bernie revolution and the 99%’ers before him. So many apathetic revolts that you could hardly classify them as disturbances, more like gastric distress. But the country has turned to the darkness of dictatorial capitalism and extremism. The pussy puppet believes he runs a show. Reality tv via the White House.

And we joke and rage and prod each other with vitriol still. The attacks and protests, where will they collide and start the conflagration. I’ve got my gas can ready. 

Image: tanya-cuba-kgb-revolution (pixabay)

Nonowrimo: Day 2

(Image: Penguin Books)

Betty Friedan wrote The Feminine Mystique in 1963, three years after I was born. The Second Wave of Feminism she helped launch was already under way as my mind was also beginning to take shape. Without a word of hers ingested, I ate her intent, had it coursing through my veins like red blood cells. It produced the iron with which I withstood the world of feminine assault and violent backlash.
Women weren’t violent, but the disgust, outrage and horror of becoming aware what men thought of us, the powerlessness to become, to be seen and to be in-possessed razored some hearts, did violence to their peace and potential.

I never read Friedan, not at 12 or 15 or any age. While absorbing home life and culture, I hid. I read. I went away to more frightening places, like Mordor, the harrowing innards of Siddhartha, and the outer limits of my own consciousness. I recreated on a daily diet of pot with occasional leaps into the color zones inside acid, speed and barbiturates. Occasionally. I feared losing my grip more than craved the outer limits of sanity. 

Ten to the Power of Beasts Bridging Mountains

July 3rd, 2016
I awoke from a dream that made my heart ache in angst of powerful choices and inner strength. I was among a group traveling up a rock mountain, mythical looking in its impenetrable face and impossibility to scale. Our group had come to a standstill, unable to go up, back down or laterally without bridging an un-bridged chasm to the other side where life was brimming inside a sheltered cave, large enough for a bustling crowd inside of it, all looking over at us with a shake in their heads and minds at the fruitlessness of our efforts. They saw us as goners.

But one in our group, a man, I believe, took a running sprint at the opening to maybe jump it, a really, really long shot, but in mid-air morphed into a wolf-bear kind of creature that propelled itself across and on to the other side into the facing mountain cave city. The next member of the group did the same, but the third, an older man, or maybe he seemed older for his lack of confidence, did not look as powerful. His movements were marked by insecurity in taking his leap, and so, he did not change into the beast with powerful haunches to enable him to propel himself like the other two, and he fell…screaming all the way.
I was horrified hearing the screaming the whole way down, miles, it seemed. And the scream never underwent the Doppler effect, the fading as he fell away. The intensity and volume did not decrease, and I could not believe that he would scream like that the whole way. I was horrified and wondered morbidly why he did not pass out from fright, knowing his inevitable doom. Why cry out the whole way and not fold into the terror so as to allow it to knock him out? My stomach turned, and I waited for the next one to jump, a woman, and I was so hoping she would change into her spirit animal powerful enough to get her across, her bravery certain and life-saving. 
When I awoke on the edge of the bridge of this dream, half in and half out, I felt the nausea and screams. At the tip of consciousness, I hoped for the powerful woman arising. An arising to these feelings does not inspirit the day, already hacked from too little sleep and a glass of wine the night before.

Blind Fingering Dates

Illustration by Frances Waite via instagram @franceswaite.

Yes, they exist. A woman, unclothed from the waist down, stroked by a fully clothed stranger (man, so far) to orgasm is called orgasmic meditation. The purpose is not just to get the woman off, but to exercise mutual focus on one spot–literally–that becomes meditative for both, I assume. There is no information from the the doer’s perspective, only the do-ee’s vantage point in the Dazed article “Blind ‘fingering’ dates are London’s Latest.”

“Learning how to handle her pussy is equally important as learning how to handle the rest of her. Imagine what would be possible if you learned to do both?”

The fifteen minutes of orgasmic meditation costs about £147 for the first session with the exploratory aim of an intensely meditative-orgasmic shared experience–which makes sense if you think about it. What is the hardest part of meditating? Keeping the mind chatter quiet. Getting stroked to body and mind submission–you know that focus that orgasm takes–is a kind of cheat shortcut way of silencing the mind for brief minutes anyhow. And as to the orgasm part, for those who find it difficult to orgasm with a significant other (don’t want to hold lovemaking hostage, fear of hurting someone’s feelings, total lack of knowledge or experience), this seems like a solution.

The other advantage here is the association of orgasm and meditation. I think the author lightly touches on it (pun intended), but my own experience at least proves this true. My meditation practice tails my daily yoga session. So the routine practice, including DR.DREZ music and burning incense, triggers the meditative disposition and my mind quiets quicker due to the association. So imagine the possibilities of an orgasm-meditation reflexive association.

According to the accompanying TEDx talk, speaker and method founder, Nicole Daedone, claims the practice is not merely liberating but culturally transformative, given how women are typically unable to access orgasm for a host of reasons not some of which are schizophrenic societal expectations and unrealistic or harmful portrayals and treatment of women, especially female sexuality. Tapping into orgasm feeds the “hunger” many women feel. Daedone believes if more women were tuned in and turned on, they could change the world.

To my mind, however, just as to Dominque Sisley’s, the writer of the article, the binary underpinning of this practice is exclusionary, and quite frankly, mystifying. If isolating a fifteen minute orgasm into the mechanics of beingness, of the meditative moment, is also a lesson in the mechanics of female parts to orgasm, then what difference does it make whose fingers work the parts? I’m also curious about the giver’s experience, an unfortunate lack in the article. What’s in it for him?

Despite the gaps, the 15-minute TEDx talk is worth watching as Daedone is clear, clever and charming. Enjoy and happy finger-ful Sunday!

Just Be


Credit: Angela Jimenez for The New York Times

A friend sent me this article in today’s New York Times, knowing it would be of interest to me as a female college instructor. The author, Carol Hay, in Girlfriend, Mother, Professor? presents the gender role expectations and student-teacher dynamics unique to women professors as described in her title. 

I too have found students of various gender identities attempting to posit me as mother (I’m older) to fit their particular emotional or academic agenda. I have had the distinct impression many students male and female assume that a sob story will likely work an extension or accepted excuse out of me, an avowed mother and presumed female who is therefore, presumably, an emotionally pliant nurturer. And like the author, I both bristle at that cultural expectation framing my student-teacher relationships and reinforce it by presenting as female and exercising compassion. 

To preemptively strike such a situation arising in the first place, I warn students at the outset that requests, pleas and beggings for extensions and other variances from the syllabus terms require creative stories real or imagined to appeal to my imagination more than manipulative ones meant to appeal only to my emotions. I tell them I do not really want to know the reason for their transgressions or requests for amnesty. I just want to hear a good story in exchange for my lenience–a bargained for exchange. 

That first-day-of-class advisory is meant to foster creativity in an English calss as well as set the professional distance between student and teacher. Some get intimidated and fear approaching me at all after that speech, which is not the desired effect, while most do not even detect the signal–do not ask me to sympathize. Your excuses, absences and late work are just that–excuses, absences and late work (excluding verified medical causes). Most do what they do, regardless of syllabi, rules, words and grades. If a harried student is in dire need, he or she will resort to what comes naturally, whether that be groveling, begging, lying, demanding or manipulating.

Somehow I suspect most students act the same with men–need dictating the method and expectation. I doubt gender has more to do with role expectations than personality of the professor. Each brings his or her own strengths or weaknesses, experience and exuberance to the classroom and students react accordingly. Men perceived as gentler than sarcastic and caustic me are going to attract the nurturer-seeking students more than I will probably.

Honestly, this year teaching English at the local college marks my 16th year of just doing me. While students of all stripes and colors have passed through my classroom doors these many years, exercising displays of need, desire, hunger, apathy, enthusiasm, curiosity, ernestness and dozens of other dispositions in their dance of student and teacher otherwise known as jumping through the hoops of yet another required course, I may have experienced and certainly understand Hay’s dilemma (women professors get this typecasting, not men) but so what? 

We do ourselves, mindfully as educators, and point out human behaviors and relationships as part of education. The English or any classroom includes discussions and critical analyses of people, relationships and culture, including gender roles and expectations. Sometimes I call my students out on their assumptions. “Are you assuming I will react emotionally because of my presumed gender?” 

Be the teacher; be myself. I consider it my job. I teach English–and life.

White Afros

Succinct and powerful while not too patronizing, today’s Huffpost article by Zeba Blay entitled “4 ‘Reverse Racism Myths’ that Need to Stop,” dispels four myths, really erroneous convictions that discomfited white people have about an historically discriminated population’s unique struggle. 

She targets this specific population of social media shouters, most probably, who apparently need education I’m guessing from her approach. Her point: To deny that blacks have been systematically shut out of ‘privileges’ white people have enjoyed unfettered by racial discrimination such as education, jobs and safety is to deny history. To believe that all is well is to choose ignorance. 

She begins with distinguishing racism from prejudice or bigotry, which is an important distinction, the former including that systematic exclusion while the latter two may refer to specific instances of hate or preference. But the upshot undergirding all four myths is like it or not, being born white is still hitting the lottery in this country because of its history that to date has not been erased, rectified or reconstituted. 

White people have no standing to complain. And trying to catch up to white society is not privilege. 

But while I respect the author’s opinion about cultural appropriation, white girls wearing Afros, for instance, I disagree that doing so is always unmindful theft or disregard of a people’s cultural strife. Systemitized thinking–labeling and generalizing as a means to exclude–is the core of oppression. While I would not say it is reverse discrimination to object to white afros, I maintain that there is a difference between respectful emulation and mindless appropriation.

Besides, some of us have hair that does nothing else but ‘fro. The seventies were good to me.


Wild, Weird and Wonderful: Trip inside my vagina

Okay, so it’s not my vagina, much to the disappointment or relief of my readers.

So much to be said here but the video says it all. What every growing girl should know, beginning with honest names about body parts, celebrated not shamed. Had I been taught about orgasm as a child, or at least exposed to the concept  pre-understanding, I would not have had to go through unnecessary anxiety and sexual misgivings affecting my relationships.

Why is this such a difficult matter, educating ourselves and our children about their bodies so that they may be more responsible and responsive adults? Why must the idea of a “love your body” explicit video be so revolutionary?

Huffpost’s Poussy Draama’s Mobile Doctor’s Office is Challenging Sex Ed Norms in America merits a reading even if only for the video and colorful pictures injected into an investigative journalism piece on wacky personalities with the right message.

Author Priscilla Frank introduces Poussy Draama, a performance artist, gyno specialist and educator who roams the country introducing those ready to learn to love the beloved female body (enough loving of men’s has been the story of HIStory, she claims), not the one that merely makes babies but the one that has so much more power and pleasure.

She enlightens youngsters through her bizarre videos and also appears live to help groups of women take pictures of their cervixes when she is not celebrating all of the names for vagina. Hey, why wasn’t my personal favorite, twat, on that list? Must be a French thing.

 The bizarro TV show, aimed to teach kids about sexuality and consent, features tripped out vagina suits, lots of rainbows and even more body positivity. Poussy Draama — the babe on the right, in the video above — is a performance artist, a sexologist, an alter-gynecologist and a witch. Not witch, like, black hat and broomstick, though. Witch like witch doctor or healer. “What I do hasn’t much to do with magic,” Draama explained to The Huffington Post. “It’s witchcraft, in the way of empiric, experimental and politically engaged healing.” 

Although in medium and technique Draama’s work is all over the map, her subject matter consistently revolves around educating others on sexuality in an un-authoritative, open-minded and, duh, feminist manner. “Womxn are overrepresented and underrepresenting,” Draama said. “You know what I mean? And as an artist, I don’t wanna play the ‘male-gaze game’ so I have to be careful, cause everything tends to drive you to do so.” (Note: The spelling of “womxn” is intentional, per Draama’s choice.)

The risk takers who challenge the “norm” by exposing sedimented attitudes expose themselves to ridicule even as they gather fame. You know those insecure ones (you know who you are) who do not like to be discomfited will doff off old Poussy as a whack rather than appreciate her creativity and spirit for a good cause.

Fingers crossed for her (riffing on the article opener there).