There is a silent cry in the ashen heart of this woman

who has heard too many times; you’re not enough

you’re not young enough anymore

you weren’t enough when you were

you’re not the right color, the right religion, the right ‘look’

you don’t speak for our generation or yours

you’re outdated, out of time, you’re erased and you don’t even

fucking know it.

About 15 years ago when I first met Naomi Shihab Nye

she advised me to write teenagers books

that’s where the money is, formula and teens

she told me my writing wasn’t going to sell because I was ordinary

and ordinary simply doesn’t sell

she knew this because most of her career has been based upon;

her father, family and husbands money, her Palestinian heritage

she was smart in being able to manipulate those selling points

she stood in front of me, a lecture on self promotion

I listened and then I went away and did the reverse

never believing it could really come down to formula, timing and creating a package

how naive of me, not realizing that’s how it’s always been in so many fields

being ordinary is the greatest curse in the whole world when it comes to marketing

antithetical

imagine how the Chinese or Indian populations deal with it?

So many of them and somehow you have to distinguish yourself?

That’s why they fight so hard because they have to

whereas Europeans and American’s still suffer under the delusion that

the individual has power and can make it … be a TikTok star, whatever …

they’re beginning to find out it’s not that simple

unless you count the rich families who perpetuate wealth-related success – generation after generation

and who said America wasn’t a class system?

Sometimes when you’re young you feel tired like you imagine an old person will. It feels wrong though. To feel tired when you’re young. You believe you’re supposed to have enough energy to push through and usually you do. But when you get older and you can’t hide that fact behind people thinking you’re ten years younger. When you feel your years, because it’s been a fucking shit show getting to where you are. When your hormones die on you and you stare at yourself in the mirror of life and see it all for what it is. That’s when you feel really tired. In that deep rooted fatigue kind of way that doesn’t rub off or wake up refreshed. You feel really tired. Tired of the charade. The games. The fickle people. The lies. The dreams you don’t want to have anymore. The hope. You feel tired of hoping against hope.

The epiphany that climbed in my window mid-century, was a light-footed nymph, she reminded me of of myself when I stole out of windows and went dancing. That epiphany told me plain and straight; you nearly got picked but you didn’t. You got the contract in your grubby little hands and it was wrenched away because you weren’t really marketable. The epiphany said I needed to get real, to rub the dream out of my eyes, to slap myself around a little. Hadn’t illness made it abundantly clear? Hadn’t romantic disappointment? What was it going to take to KNOW the truth? And why was I so stubborn? Why did I hold on to this wrong-headed notion I could carry on and eventually it would work out?

I held on, I replied, because my grandfather was an incredible artist. Many said he was a pro·té·gé. What I didn’t accept was he was also a fire cracker. Burning out. Taking his life. Becoming ash. I held on, I replied, because my mother was an incredible talent. Many said she was a genius. What a didn’t accept was she was also a fire cracker. She shot high in the sky and left us all. She lived for the fire, consuming it, until nothing was left. I held on, I replied, because they all told me I wasn’t like them, that I didn’t have any especial talent. One said I wasn’t even a good editor (and those who heard her still speak to her). One said I wasn’t even a good writer (and those who heard her, still publish with her). One said I wasn’t even marketable. And I heard them and it sounded true.

Because it isn’t about how talented you are. It is about how marketable you are. When I began this charade I was young and vaguely attractive, I thought I could ride the bull and stay on. I did stay on. But the bull wasn’t the winner at the rodeo. It wasn’t even a bull. It was a milk cow. It was me. I was milked for every good idea I possessed, every favor I could grant. I allowed it, don’t get me wrong, I even offered. But all it left me with was sore breasts and a dispossessed feeling of foolishness. Because who values someone who gives it away for free? Isn’t that what sluts and fools do? The feminist in me doesn’t like the word slut, so let’s leave that out, after all why are there double standards for men and women?

Barbara Streisand asked that question recently, she said why is a man strong and a woman over-bearing? A man decisive, a woman a nag? I feel that can apply both to gender, age(ism), cultural(ism), and many other isms. I’m sick of isms. I’m sick of playing a game I’m bad at and losing well. I’m not going to be well liked like Dolly Parton who God Bless Her at 77 does a kick-ass job. I don’t have that kind of winsome charm, many women don’t, they’re not liked the same way most men are, especially if they dare speak out. The sad part being, it’s mostly other women who dislike them the most.

I spent two weeks offline, I said it was because I was sick (and I was) I said it was because it was the holidays (it was) I said it was because I was still sick (I was) but the real malaise was my life. My pretend life where I tried in vain to publish a novel and failed. Where I tried not to let things people said of me, or to me, hurt me. And they did. When I tried to fit in and I did not. When I tried to help and found nobody wanted to help me. When I got tired of complaining to myself and being disappointed and walked into the water, holding stones in my pockets. A stone for everything that I felt had already sunk me. Love. Friendship. Family. Hope. Children. Womanhood. Career. Achievement. Even the damn rose bush that scratches me every time I take the trash out. Damn that rose bush.

There is a strange black mark – a straight line – on the drivers seat of my truck. There is a chicken fat stain on the passengers seat. I find that highly symbolic.

Just like I decided not to chase love a long time ago, and forsake it if it would not come to me, I have decided I will sell my Katniss Everdeen boots because they always pinched my bunions. It’s a modern tragedy to be a woman who loves shoes and has bad feet, you really can’t believe. I will dye my hair if it goes grey because I’m too fair skinned to make it work and I would probably choose poisoning my scalp over fading away. I will not eat fish even if it is good for me because it makes my stomach roil. I will probably bum a drag off your joint if you offer because life can be so fucking sad and I have poor self control in those moments. I’ll be helping someone, somewhere, until I don’t know how to, but I won’t ever like my birthdays because they remind me of things I’d rather forget. I will read in the bath even as they say hot baths make your skin sag and that’s why Scandinavians age so fast. Personally I think it’s the pickled fish. OK I guess not, we’ve established fish is good for you, I’m still not eating it. Then it’s the sun worship on thin white skin. Yes it’s that. I remember all the times the darkness lifted and everyone ran outside and lifted up their tops and pointed their skinny knees and blue stomachs at the sun like a collective sigh of OM. I can bath in hot water and sag because I know nobody is looking. Nobody is ever looking. I don’t cry about it, I make chai and read books and think of what color cat I’d get if I was emotionally strong enough to handle owning anything again. I’m a commitment-phobe. I can’t even buy a My Little Pony without regretting it and fretting simultaneously. I put emotions on inanimate objects. (Anthropomorphism is the attribution of human traits, emotions, or intentions to non-human entities. It is considered to be an innate tendency of human psychology, some of us have it in abundance and worry our basil plant feels lonely or our inflatable Halloween dragon is cold, it’s pretty pathological)

The dream flees in a burgundy gown, she is both lithe and delicate, her feet do not appear to even touch the ground. Make way for the new lamps, I hear them call. Dolly hears it too, but she’s decided to stay a while, after all, she’s made it to National Treasure status. I don’t think I even completed the 25k.

Secretly, but don’t tell anyone. I still want to be loved. It is the perennial silent cry in the ashen heart of this woman and time’s run out and mocks her from the wings, as she tries to exit stage right until she realizes, being left-handed, she’s liable to wrong turns and smudging ink on the sleeve of her best new blouse.

3 Replies to “Grief is a woman smiling in the sun, joy is her sister cutting her hair with a knife”

  1. I find I’m thinking, especially with that last paragraph, of that other poem, the one warning that she will wear purple. I can’t imagine you writing to a formula, and it is easy to imagine you not imagining it either. All I know to do when you write such as this is to hold it in heart like a sacred sharing, and say I love you.

  2. As if being at the edge of the abyss, having the courage to jump but failing to fall. Such can be life sometimes. The permanent struggle from having been born …

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