Lately, I’ve been thinking about my name. My blog name. About changing my blog name to something like Poet by the Side of the Road or From the Parking Lane.
I do my best writing – or most consistent writing anyway – parked in my car. Between other activities. Blissfully alone. In fact, the only time I can count on being alone is in my car between other things.
Do you feel me?
My youngest certainly appreciates the screen time I allow her while I’m trailing words across the page in her presence – but then the mom-guilt kicks in, my words get messy and eventually whatever I’m writing implodes. Often. Not always, but often. Which means I’m better off in my car while she’s doing something else – making bracelets, practicing yoga. Okay, she hasn’t made bracelets in a good long while. Maybe ever. But you get what I mean?
While the tween is busy with something besides a screen: That is my best writing time.
That time with sun streaming through the car windshield. With chirping birds, newly arrived. With wind chimes, lulling me gently.
I need a name from my own point of view. From the driver’s seat. Right? Not from the point of view of my daughter’s friends.
But even if I change my name, my fonts aren’t quite right. My colors are abysmal. My photos are busy. My poems are spotty. My vision is muddy. I feel like the puppy is trotting around the room with my bra in his teeth.
* * *
Our puppy scampers
around the couch,
head held high, my
bra tucked in his teeth.
* * *
When Company Comes:
Our puppy scampers
round and round the couch , my silk
bra tucked in his teeth.
* * *
It isn’t my bra. It’s my Honey’s. And it hasn’t been – to my knowledge – trotted out in the presence of company. But it could have been. Right? Poetic license.
This is how my brain works.
Not long ago, the dog almost ate Miss E’s homework. For real. For weeks, she prepared for the academic fair: One hundred facts onto note cards –> a 10-page paper –> a visual display –> everything back onto note cards for an oral presentation.
I pick her up from school, where her display board waits safely in the gym with all the others. I shuttle her to YogaKids, breathe through the next hour with a mom friend on the couch beside me and a pen in my hand, and as we get back into the car 30 minutes before she needs to get back to school for her presentation, she says to me, “Mom, we have to go home and print my paper.” Again. Apparently, she needs two copies – one for the academic fair and one to turn in.
Home is 10 minutes away from yoga class and 10 minutes away from school. We haven’t eaten dinner yet. You do the math.
As soon as we hit the front door and we’re in WiFi range, Miss E deftly opens her research paper on the school-issued iPad, converts it to PDF, and sends it to print. She staples it together (quickly, but still, 5 minutes have passed), she sets it on the dining room table so she can use the bathroom before we leave.
It seems the puppy’s legs have grown. Before we know it, he’s snatched the entire paper off the table and is prancing around the living room, pleased as punch, shaking his head while a trimester of work dangles from his puppy mouth.
“What?! Wait! What does he have?!”
His bite marks are only on the title page, happily, so out the door we go. Snip Snap! We rush through a drive-through for dinner and reach the academic fair hardly late at all. Sweet!
Maybe my new blog name could be Things the Puppy Has Chewed.
When I started this blog, my intention was clear. I was writing to make space for lesbian moms. I was writing so allies would have something to share. I was writing for younger lesbians who couldn’t imagine becoming moms. I was writing to say: We’re here. We’re queer. And the kids are alright.
But times have changed, both inside my house and outside it. Mombian is fan-flipping-tastic – has been for a whole lot longer than I’ve been in the blogosphere – and of course, there’s the truly awesome Village Q. And both sites, besides sharing their own stories, list blog after blog after blog worth reading.
Lesbian moms are everywhere in real life, too. There are lesbians parenting kids in every grade at my daughter’s school. We’re in the news. On TV shows. We are VISIBLE.
It’s fricking amazing.
Even more important for me, though, and for my blog… my 5th grade daughter doesn’t want her business out in the world for everyone to see. I mean, if my mom had a blog when I was her age, I would have died. Truly. So I get it. But what do I write about now? Where do I steer? Where is my new true writing north?
Maybe a new name, once I land one, will give me a place to begin.
My girl unfurls herself
from my backseat,
slips each arm easily
into her backpack straps,
and emerges from my car.
for the project
while students stream
into the school.
“I want to carry my poster, Mom,”
she says, and
takes it from me,
proudly nods my dismissal,
offers a smile
full of love,
accepts my hug
and carries her poster
down the sidewalk,
head held high
start the car
The puppy is asleep on the couch. The tween is drifting into sleep in her bed. The young adult is reading in a chair across the room. I’m here. Writing things down.
When I was ten or eleven, I remember being at the end of a dark hallway, emerging from my bedroom in the middle of the night (it was maybe 10:00 p.m.) in a panic, worried about my parents’ wrath when they discovered I was out of bed, but terrified of what I had just begun to understand, what I felt as a wild, untamable, indescribable nothingness seeping into my bones. What I uttered finally to my mother, ashen, after I made it down the hall to the kitchen, to the light. The bright, bright light.
“Mom, I’m gonna die. We’re all gonna die.”
My mom gave me a hug and waited me out. She asked me questions, until she understood that I didn’t mean now – we were not dying now. I meant someday. Someday, it would happen. To me. She offered no platitudes and didn’t send me back to bed. She listened, and she finished loading the dishwasher. I remember the sound of plates and bowls clanking into the racks. There was something comforting in the order created by their rows, the order my mom created with them while my heart slowed ever so gradually. I feared leaving this feeling, this dark epiphany, to grow on its own. I feared setting it down, turning away, and I feared facing it, staring into its guttural emptiness. I remember the vinyl of the chair in the kitchen, where I sat on my hands until they were numb and willed my breath to continue.
It wasn’t what my mom said. (Or was it my dad?) It was the loading of the dishwasher that saved me. The simplicity of the here and now. It was life. Going on. Eventually, I drifted back to bed.
Now in the news, there are people I don’t know dying, people whose people I don’t know – but I could. Know them. Couldn’t I?
Rage does not begin to describe what is coming to light.
There is a sharpness. Everywhere. Like the glint of the sun off a knife.
I went to a Baltimore solidarity action on Tuesday night with a friend. There were so many sharp, jagged poems read by brilliant youth, the youth who will carry our country to its senses, whether we want to go with them or not. There was fury. There was quiet. There were calls to action, stories, placards, fists, cascading laughter – yes, that, too. There was chanting. Of course. Organizers say there were 500 people there. Because people cannot stand anymore for abuse, for the structures that misread and miscast and then crush them. People are burning … things.
I consider the panic a Black mom feels in this country today, the panic felt by a Black girl or boy at ten o’clock at night. I know I cannot begin to understand the way it doesn’t ebb when you walk back to your bed. But I can see. I can hear.
SO MANY DEATHS ARE PREVENTABLE. So many. If someone will stand to prevent. Them. If someone will burn something, do something, focus the light where it needs to shine.
There are a lot of people writing commentary, analyzing recent – and historical – events. That is not my strength, but here are a few I landed on this week, thanks largely to Reshma, Susanne, and Sharmili:
- WHAT YOU’RE MISSING ABOUT ‘BALTIMORE MOM’
- Dear white Facebook friends: I need you to respect what Black America is feeling right now
- 10,000 Strong Peacefully Protest In Downtown Baltimore (Media Over-Reports Violence and Arrests)
- Protester Schools MSNBC Anchor About Media Coverage Of Baltimore Riots
- Goodbye to Freddie Gray and Goodbye to Quietly Accepting Injustice
(Feel free to add your own links below.)
Towards the end of the night, a young boy and his mom approached my friend and me. We were holding signs that had been handed to us. They said, “Stop Killing Black People.” He asked if he could get his picture taken with us… this Black boy of ten or eleven pictured with us, two light-skinned, 40-something women holding these signs.
His smile was wide. His eyes were sparkling. He was so clearly, so deeply moved by all of it – and we were moved by him.
His mom snapped the picture. They thanked us. We thanked them.
I don’t have the picture, haven’t seen it. There’s so much that can be read into a photo like that, but where’s the truth?
Eventually, we returned home. To hug our children, kiss our partners, sleep, dream, replenish for another day.
I am thankful for the youth. For the organizers. For the poets. For the people. I am thankful for all the people gathering to say that racism – that police brutality – that violence is avoidable if someone will stand in its way.
If someone. If we. Will stand.
Over and over and over again.
In its way.
“Sounds like you need to take a day off,” my friend tells me as we sit on couches waiting for our daughters to emerge from yoga class.
“I am taking a day off. Well, half a day,” I say brightly. “Tomorrow! Miss E and I are volunteering at the book fair.”
She stares at me, deadpan, for what feels like a minute, two minutes. Finally, she cracks a smile. “That’s not what I mean,” she tells me. “I mean you need to take a day OFF. Not four hours away from work so you can volunteer at your daughter’s school.”
Because I’m wound so tightly now, you could almost bounce a quarter off me.
How many metaphors did I mix right there?
Losing. My. Touch. Losing touch. Entirely.
No wonder I can’t write a poem to save my life.
At the book fair, a mom with kids both older and younger than mine shares how she spent last Mother’s Day: At a hotel. By herself. Moms can do that – they can! I’ve heard of such moms, and now I’ve met one. And she says her kids love Mother’s Day. They get to go out for burgers. They spend hours at the arcade. While mom gets to do whatever she wants! Last year, at eleven o’clock at night, she took a bath just because she wanted to. She took three baths during her one-night stay, and she watched TV. Can I TELL you how delicious that sounds?
So, right, with the two mom thing, it’s not like I can ditch out on our special Mom day and expect my Honey to take care of the kid – I mean, she’s a mom, too – but there are other days in the year. Right? Plenty of other days. I can take off another day!
Here’s why: One day, at the close of my first writing retreat in over ten years, the love of my life asked me – begged me – to agree to a puppy. Her work had been slow for a long, long time. She had time in the day for training and exercising a new canine baby.
Our lives had been going along swimmingly. We had reached a state of equilibrium in our home. I had managed two days away to nurture myself.
She really, really, really wanted this. Puppies are cute. Cuddly. Naughty. Hard. I considered it. I railed against it. I talked through all my no’s with a friend, and then I said, “Yes.” I committed. I agreed.
And life became chaos, jam packed every day – good stuff, but so much of it packed into such a short time.
In early March, my Honey took a solo trip. Awesome. With lifelong friends. Since then, we have celebrated her birthday and then Miss E’s, our niece’s birthday, the birthday of a good friend… and the three of us traveled to see my Mom. My Honey’s workload, without warning, exploded into family time. She was suddenly gone all Saturday, all Sunday, easily two nights every week – right through homework-dinner-bedtime-you-know-the-drill – which wouldn’t be too exhausting – I mean, we only have one kid who isn’t grown – but you add to that the PUPPY, who attacks the ancient dachshund, pounces on the cat, snatches homework off the dining room table and nibbles socks on the living room floor – plus an elementary school orchestra concert, a talent show dance and a choral concert with 900 kids.
Sometime last week, I checked out. Gone. Mental break. My days are planned down to ten-minute increments. Our home is a shambles, the bathroom and basement desperate to be cleaned. I blog in stops and starts. My standards are slipping.
I don’t know if it’s the compounded stress of the past two months, or the current chaos of puppy parenting paired with the seat-of-my-pants homework management of an often inattentive fifth grader, or if it’s simply the reality of a daily poetry challenge where there are dips in skill, inspiration and talent in wordsmithing and observational prowess, but I needed to take a break.
I put my poetry challenge on Pause.
So I’m sitting in a chair with my morning coffee, paper and pen last Saturday. My daughter is still in her bedroom, no doubt on her iPad with headphones on, and I know what’s best for her would be for me to interrupt her, to draw her attention to some real world activity, to make breakfast, invite her on a bike ride, suggest we play a game of cards. But I’m enjoying my time in my chair with my notebook, even if I have to set it down every five minutes now that the dogs are awake because in the act of writing this paragraph, this happens:
These few moments of quiet calm in a weekend morning will be what I cling to indefinitely, until summer, until the sea calms and I feel I can stand.
I will take a day off,
a whole day
– decadent –
Just. For. Me.
She said the paper
Was due today. She was wrong.
It wasn’t yet done.
* * *
* * *
National Poetry Writing Month
30 poems in 30 days
the digital display
leads me out of the heat
of my dreams
and still with the ghost
of a blanket
at my back,
I reach my hand
towards the crate
to release the pup
two freckled paws
into the bedroom,
lifts his head
into my hand
for morning kisses,
a sleepy rub,
and with the trailing ghost
of my blanket, his crate,
we walk (he trots)
to the back door
while the pink
warms the sky
and we linger
* * *
National Poetry Writing Month
30 poems in 30 days