Category Archives: Poetry

Mama Bird Baby Bird

I did a double take when I heard
you were just two months old
(heard from myself no doubt)
it feels like we’ve been together
much longer

I seek your forgiveness
for the sand on my nipple
worry of your ingesting rocks
the size of glitter
on my skin

But more than that it pains me
to watch you cry so I bring you
to my breast

Mama bird
Baby bird

You’ve turned me into a fountain no doubt
“chocolate milk next time if you’re lucky” I joke
in my sugary, sing-songy voice
Papa points out that I’m using
‘too much baby voice’ but I
no longer mind what he says,
which is new, welcomed

They don’t say
‘Mama knows best’
for nothin’

This morning you
were content nursing
for over one hour

because of the holiday
I had the luxury of shutting the door
on the dishes, the chores and
the unmopped floor and
as you suckled I marveled

Also I read
Sun Magazine
Issue 517
I read
“We Need to Talk”
I read
“What to Look for in a Horse”
I read
“The Only One She Told”
which made me feel
swooney and romantic
and inspired to write

and when I broke your half-hearted suckle
you endearingly suckled on my elbow
as I gently stroked this poem

You have changed me,
Baby Bird,
only time will
reveal the many ways

I pray for the wisdom to shape
that change in ways that will
benefit us both

you, a budding baby, a honey comb,
to which all things stick

me, not just resigned to motherhood
but still blossoming with potential myself
the burning desire for more more more
knowledge
never intended for the likes of me
knowledge
almost withheld from me
(but that’s a story for another time)

I pray for the wisdom to shape
this change in ways that will
benefit us both
We will learn together
We will thrive together
We will not merely survive together
Not you and I Baby Bird,
no

Mama Bird
Baby Bird

I bring you to my chest again
You seem to need me more today
I accept that
I resign the afternoon to you,
the Sun Magazine,
and a single
drop of water
in my mug

A glistening symbol
as if to say:
there’s something here
it isn’t much
but it is something
a single drop
of the truth
is all that is
needed

Mama Bird
Baby Bird

Fly

Steps to Reclaiming Your Dream

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@terahvandusen on Instagram:)

Steps to Reclaiming Your Dream

While being realistic,
hold your dream up to the light
take a few moments to inspect the thing, its foundation
see what you have built and
where you’ll need to go yet
identify the soft spots
the weak spots
an’ fix em
grab your pen and paper
and fill-in-the-blanks
take measurements,
plan the steps you’ll need to take
examine your toolbox, keep it handy,
keep it close
don’t be open, but be rigid
for some it is the opposite—
for you it is not.
a natural born rebel,
reign yourself in
befriend routine
come to like it
come to love it
come to need it
you are a parent now
it is different, but better
be rigid in your intentions
this is how you will accomplish them
do not let others distract you
even those you lie next to
they have their path and you have yours
respect your differences
honor your path
sparkle, shine
be a woman just because it’s fun
remember what you care about
like your new child,
grow with everyday
grow taller
grow better posture
experiment with clothing and hairstyles again
do you and don’t let anyone
take it from you
no boss
no man
no body
with their grave,
adult expectations
again, be a woman
just because it’s fun
remember what you care about
make a mantra if you must
you is smart
you is kind
you is important

if applicable,
take the quotes on your
Yogi tea bag to heart
like todays:
walk beautifully,
talk beautifully,
live beautifully
Make art
you always did
you always have
why stop now?
make art of work
make art of love
make art of parenting
do not forget the lessons of your ancestors
which were: be bold, be bizarre, and begin again
begin anew everyday if you must
but begin
begin again
queen of the comeback, kid
hold your dream up to the light
that longtime dream:
I want to be a writer when I grow up
or a dancer
hold space for that little dreamer
notice the steps she took to get here
notice how culture has made room for
man’s accomplishments and goals,
less for woman’s
notice when space is not made for your
dreams, but don’t waste time complaining
just declutter
simplify
clear the space yourself,
unapologetically say
“this is my space”
say “these are my dreams, mother, wife or not”
say “yes, my dreams. They take up space and they take up time. Yes.”
say “now or never. Here to stay or gone forever.”
hold your dream up to the light
see how it radiates and shines

My Guest Interview with Madness Muse Press

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Madness Muse Press is all about “Enacting Social Change Through the Power of Writing.” The founder, Adam Levon Brown, is a poet here in Eugene, Oregon. He features writers both near and far in his “Your Voice” campaign centered around social justice, activism and discussion. In short, he’s right up my alley. Adam is a soft soul with a penchant for social activism via creative expression. I was honored to be a part of his Interview Series over at http://www.madnessmusepress.com.

Check out our interview here! (Excerpt below.)

Q: What time of day do you do most of your writing?

A: People are going to hate this but, whenever it strikes me. Yeah, I mean, I’m not a 9-5 writer. I find the best time to write actually, if you can manage, is right after a life-altering (large or small) event happens. Almost in-the-moment. After a fight. After a job interview. After a psychic reading. When you’re really feeling something. Also, if it works out, writing in the middle of the night is fantastic. So quiet. So people-less.

With Child

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Along the edge of the spilled water, a wavy black line. The length of a hair. It could have been my mothers, mine, my daughters. Indistinguishable, this edge of liquid on the countertop; this long black hair. Was it clean or dirty, the countertop? Should I wipe it or leave it be? Disorder of any kind makes me nervous. A disorder of disorder. That’s me.

Would I make a good mother? Me, who baby talks the dog, hogs all the blankets, possesses a double Scorpio, Aries moon, a combination of eldest-child-and-only-child syndromes, a born and bred rebel, a seeker of balance, the receiver of highs and lows, a giver, a taker, withholder of personal truths, sharer of haphazardly selected anticdotes and flower petals, she who is happy most of the time, plunges into run-and-write-go-panic-go-take-all-my-money-and-hole-up-somewhere-with-chocolate-and-fantasies-in-the-dark-nights, some-beach-that-is-close-enough-to-home-far-enough-to-be-full-of-strangers-days. Me, who waited all this time for for the “right” man to make the “right” baby. Poor guy. Me, with my own apartment at 17, a babys-name list at 22, collecting baby books and sneakers at 23–one-decade ago–me who they told “had a nice stomach” (I never personally loved it til now). Me, afraid of marriage and 2-year contracts of any kind. A sock wearer in summer. A fixer upper. A devotee of solitude, craft, words-on-page, food-on-plate, words-in-brain. A devotee of simplicity.

Do I have it? The patience, the selflessness, the love? If not, where within myself might I find it? The soles of my feet? My stomach? My brain? I’d ask for help if I knew how to receive it. I don’t.

Me. of fierce independence, wild with child.

Me, swollen in summer, begging for rain.

Me, grasping at time for the chunks of it lost, donated to others, these days on the calendar.

Me, the selfish and selfless colliding within me like the earth shifts and tidal waves of impending labor.

Me, melancholy yet smiling in July.

Me, the weight of adult-mother-time anchoring me in bittersweet duty.

Do I have what it takes? Is suddenly irrelevant. The invitation-to-dance has long been RSVP’d within my womb.

My wiser self nudges: do you, with child. Read, write, love. Even if it hurts at first: unearth deep peace. Take baby steps and mine for it. It was yours all along, this peace. It is not in the soles of your feet or the curve of your belly, but down where the spirit meets the bone.

 

Everlast

I have the ideal life
please don’t mess with it
the bow is straight
the self centered
after years, decades,
almost a lifetime of
uncertainty and whim,
certainly the train is rolling now,
the one I’ve been engineering for
some time, piece-by-piece, move-by-move,
lesson-by-lesson, man-by-man, through peaks
and valleys I Am Here now

Course I fear car accidents
and fire and, worse than that,
untapped demons and fury
but then again maybe things can be OK,
ideal,
undisrupted,
normal

the one where children
get driven to their bus stops
warm in their mittens
lunches in their bags
smiles on their faces (!!)

This love, no longer longing but
ACTIVE
This home, no longer empty but
HUMMING
This body, no longer just mine but
part of something bigger,
begging,
him or her?
October or September?
Can you love her enough
to not fuck it up?

This ideal life,
I command you to stay
on track
on point
ON
the opposite of
NO
a blessing, a gift
everlasting


Mother Wasn’t There

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Wounded Deer, Frida Kahlo, 1946

Mother wasn’t there
when I bled in the JR high bathroom
I looked at the gray stall wall for reassurance
I found none
Mother wasn’t there

Mother wasn’t there
when I needed feeding
in the beginning, in the middle, nor in the end
Mother wasn’t there

Mother wasn’t there
when I was felt up under my red primary school dress
Mother wasn’t there so it happened again
and again and again
As it will happen, inevitably,
when a Mother isn’t there

Mother wasn’t there
when I cut my own hair
Mother wasn’t there so
“cut it like Dads” I told the barber,
uncertain of my role in the world,
girl of boy or boy of boy
cause Mother wasn’t there

Mother wasn’t there
but when she was there she covered me
in slobbery, 9-years-over-due kisses
They smelt like smoker’s saliva and
how I hated them and how she always
showed up just under one decade
At 30, that makes it three times mother showed up,
only the third time it didn’t happen

Mother wasn’t there
Mother isn’t there
I regret that someone I so despise personally
can leave a love wound this big within me
like a boy who never, ever deserved it
only not, because this is like the Grand Canyon,
(if I am being honest)
and the boys just leave a rivet in the sand
some laughable could-have-been

I regret the biological yearn for mother, father, whole
I regret, I regret, when Mother wasn’t there
I capitalize her name, the sick parts the sad parts,
she imparted to me insatiable love and passion
and now I can’t get no satisfaction
I am free child, free woman, wild baby, always have been
I built a shelter in my heart, for refuge from the wind
I learned to withstand life’s letdowns on a whim
I laugh in the face of pain, but I still fear it so
Mother wasn’t there when learning
all there is to know

 

 

A Meditation on Darkness and Resurrection

The problem with our demons
is they are often in disguise,
they are never far from us
and angle

angle is everything

They come at you from
your blind spot when you
were so comfortable and confident the
things had ceased to exist all together
…like they just up and flew away
hitched to some other wildflower
in the wind
but no,

B A M!

there they are
they did not go out
with the New Year
or our Wish Upon a Stars
our golden addictions
(as precious as gold)
our fantasies that
derail reality
obsessions
and
never-gonna-get-its
and poor-mes
past and present

so you fall
down down down
you go from your
pedestal of control

along the way some
handsome character
holding your hand
some glittering
promise of love
and connection

connection
connection
connection
sparks and
sparkles

it’s what we are
after, after all
whether acting
like devils or angels
we just want to be together,
held by others in our experience.

truthfully,
I am equal parts light and dark
I am the underside and the top
I am physically here while
simultaneously someplace else
altogether

I am gloriously beautiful
and devastatingly eroded
in all the wrong places
I try to hone in on my truth
but am a liar-in-the-making

when he pushes I pull
when I commit,
mouths to kiss suddenly
fall from the sky

I am a wannabe wife
and a runaway bride

So I stick to
what’s safe
and simple:

I pull my head
back into my shell
for reflection

I carve out
squares of time
for poetry and planning

I shower in
the dark

I purge

I dress in costume
when alone

I question the benefit
of Himalayan salt lamps
when they’re tucked into
corners cluttered and dusty

I reckon we all want to buy
a little peace sometimes,
but can’t

I travel life through
alleyways, basements, bus
stations and doorways
littered strewn
settled with
homeless
folk

I always have, always will
coalesce with the
underside
of life

but I post-it note happy quotations
on my mirror
I write my D R E A M S
in Sharpie bold
I worry the word
is too vague, too loose
so I adopt vim vitae instead,
Latin for life force

I pep in my step
I boogie in my woogie
every time I fall I bounce
a little higher baby

I stick to what’s safe
and simple:
intuition-following
kindness over coolness
coffee, the single
addiction I can life with

I dance with all my lovers
in the dancehall of my mind
I’ve got my eye on the prize
even if I don’t get it

I question my own authority,
let loose into creation
I take the dirt of my experiences,
spit and make clay of it
I shape of my experiences a bowl
to contain them all

I shrine it and stow it away
I will never forget certain
moments of certain days
I watch my life as if on stage,
a wall-leaning observer,
a sometimes orchestrator,
a container of both chaos and order:
this body, solid
this mind, wandering
this spirit, pulsing
I observe the play of
night and day
I close my
eyes and
I pray

 

Current Events

Now that #metoo happened and Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey are going down. And that one comedian is going down too, and even he admits it…I mean, where to start?

9/10 women I know have been assaulted. 1/10 men I know, at least. When I worked in the social field I was required to report whenever an individual brought up a case of sexual abuse, and I did, only to be told on one occasion, “Oh yeah, she always says that but she’s lying.”

Is she? I mean why would she lie about something like that? The girl was so psychologically traumatized by the event she couldn’t escape it. She punched mirrors, and then was reprimanded for it. She spent hours in the bathroom crying. “She’s just trying to get attention,” my superiors told me.

Well for fuck’s sake, let’s give it to her.

What I didn’t say was: I punched mirrors too.

What I didn’t say was: you keep crying. You let it all out. It’s totally, 100% okay to be sad, and angry. It’s normal and healthy to feel that way and I’m glad your dealing with it. Oh yeah, and, FUCCCK HIMMM.

Regardless, the girl was hard to get through to. But I believed her. Why the hell not? What is the goddamn harm? Something’s hurting her, it’s clear. What really angered me was the way  the counselors  shut her down–no matter what did or didn’t happen. You don’t do that. YOU don’t KNOW that.

***

Uma Thurman, just this morning, was quoted on NPR. Angry, she said.

Angry.

She had always been afraid of revealing her anger and rage toward men. Those were her primary emotions.

Uma Thurman, coincidentally, is the actress who stars in Kill Bill and assumes revenge on a team of assassins, wielding a sword.

***
I have three essays on the topic that NPR is keeping, gracefully and rightfully, in the forefront. One essay I submitted two or three months ago, before #metoo, but it was declined. “Too short,” the editor told me. “It felt like it needed more of an ending,” she said.

I have read enough stories about publishing to know by now that I could potentially resubmit the same essay, new ending or not, and it would be more likely to be published. Timing. It’s half, or more, about the timing.

But I was smoking in the essay and I’m not smoking now so if I use that essay I would have to make that clear (take it out) and if I were already doing that, well I might as well change the ending.

But boy was I angry in that story.

***

Another story is called Stench. I wrote it in an attempt to just State The Facts and not skirt around the issue like I do in my poetry and in a good portion of my other writings. Sadly, the essay is far too revealing for my tastes.

I’d only publish it if someone paid me for it. Not much. Candy even.

***

In the final essay I braid one of my experiences with the experience of a girlfriend who was assaulted while travelling abroad and staying in a hostel. I also want to add to the story of another friend of mine who was flat out assaulted when some “friends” of hers drove around the block again and again refusing to drop her off until she performed a sexual act on one of them.

These were stories mentioned to me in passing. Nobody called me up and said “You’re not going to believe what happened to me!” No. Ha. That’s not the kind of world we live in. These stories are commonplace. Not that they should be. They are eventually told over tea and whispered in coffee shops and are rarely mentioned when men are in the house.

And they are just these sad little stories that  took us women farther  and farther from our bodies in a world where these very bodies are used against us in nearly every mainstream advertisement. “He won’t want to abuse you if you don’t look like this,” the world seems to tell us. Not fair. Not fair all around.

And they are not just sad little stories.

No, they are LARGE and ANGERED stories. Sword wielding stories, if we were to act like like barbaric men in the matter. But we only do that while playing dress-up and acting.  Because for the lot of history, we women have been civil.

And they are not just sad little stories just like Weinstein and Trump (!!) are not just dirty old men.

That’s what I was always told growing up: “Oh he’s just a dirty old man.”

I think we can all agree, it’s time to take “just” out of the sentence.

Oh, he’s a dirty old man.

Stay away from him.

Lock him up.

Fire him.

SHAME

him.

***

There is no synonym for pedophile.

 

 

 

Intentions for a New Season of Life

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Brave the world. Be in it just enough to observe, earn, and give back. Escape it daily in an attempt to soothe your tired animal mind; spilling at the seams of this complicated human life. Adhere to the hermit way, it comes naturally. You are stick and stone, fire and water, a hot pot of tea, you are a simple flower, a timid bear, a lone wolf. You. You. You do it on your own. Take a few select things into your own palms and generate a life from it. This won’t be the first year you’ve done so.

Pages turn in the wind. You waste $2.99 on a set of “good pens”. They are not. You regret going out and getting your paws wet, wasting money. Your fate is solitude and opportunity, solitude and opportunity. A pattern emerges in the sand mandala of your life. Impermanence is a cackling witch assuring you that even your creativity is not fixed. It will not wait patiently for a boyfriend to come and go or for you to lose enough interest that your art rises to the top again.

So you bold your capital letters at the beginning of every sentence. Although this is a handwritten journal, you think it is what the professionals would do. Bold the capitals. You’ve seen it done.

The downside of your closed writing fist–gripping the new, slick and slippery pen–crushes an amber-colored bug onto the page. You smear it away and it looks like taco sauce on the page. Two distractions: one, children zipping through the park in fall on metal scooters in the wind. Two: professional. What is it? you want to know. Professional, adjective: a person engaged in a specified activity as one’s main occupation, rather than a pastime; noun: a person qualified in a specific profession.

Intentions for a new season of life: avoid generalizations. Never, fucking ever, quit Your Dream. Or all the little dreams in-between. In your diligent, orderly way, plot your escape from novice to master. Stop speaking if you have to. Write what’s in your head. Connect the dots in the world you see. Sketch a constellation. Name it. Gain pages. Lose friends. Win them back again. Fear blank more than sloppy. Rest. Rinse. Repeat.

October First, 17

We woke on a Monday to news of our nation’s
largest mass shooting in recent history
The numbers towering that of Pulse nightclub
and that one kindergarten class.
You know the one.
Blood on children’s books. Teachers diving to
save lives. Sick, twisted, white. He fell between the
cracks and rose up, armed and angry.

It took multiple people
and all of their fingers
and all of their toes
to measure the fatalities.
It took the fluid communication of
dozens of doctors and nurses,
shocked, exhausted,
and thundered
from their sleep
to confirm the heads
of the dead–all innocent people.

All reaching for enlightenment
in the way of music and rhythm
and bright lights in rocking and rolling
Las Vegas, Nevada.
Crimson blood on bouncing curls.
Women’s fancy hair-do’s, upright.
Women’s country-strong bodies, horizontal.
Else running, confused, mind-churning.
Women and children, elders and men,
dancing, swaying, shielding, ducking.
Mouths open in terror
Eyes going in all directions
The realization of the
heavy importance
of those you love.

I’m sorry’s.
I love you’s.
I don’t understand’s.
I do cherish you’s.
I’m thankful I was spared’s.
Trauma. Blood. Boots.
Question marks.

A glittering TRUMP emblazoned
in the background.
A name synonymous with
dollar signs. And one million
other things by this point,
depending precisely on who you ask.
In other news: a rock star died.
In my opinion: it matters little compared
with the loss of 59 lives, 500 wounded.

October 1, 17
The day 59 rock stars perished
before they really had the chance
to sing.