Sunday, February 17, 2019


My mother taught me to travel well

tho she hardly made it

any of the places she dreamt to go

settling for the subversion

of a National Geographic subscription

in a household intent on 

separation from the world

She showed me the value of moving things

not related to the reason you were going

if doing so got them closer

to where they needed to be

to see that each small move made

is part of the whole of getting it done 

so  that a pile of clean clothes walked 

from the basket I was passing

to the stairs by the door I was exiting

was half the work of restoring them to my room

And I am just now learning  

how to harness that power of making each step I take 

move me simultaneously in multiple directions  or

shift me into synchronicity with people and things around me,

the life-multiplying power of living moments fully invested

experienced as a self-sustaining fuel

My mother taught me to travel 

well past points she had instilled

when she left and birthed me again

into freedoms I hope she has since found

she did not travel most but

she traveled beyond

and walked me with her to stand comfortably 

past the threshold of the unknowable


Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Grappling With My Unforgiveable Sins

Two years ago around this time, I committed two public acts of racist whiteness in close succession. The first involved a grocery clerk, a young black man, with whom I had awkwardly interacted and later written a note apologizing for microaggressions, a thing I had recently read about and felt I had done to him. He quit working there not long after, probably wearied by me and other well meaning yet still harmful white people gentrifying his neighborhood.

The second was even more egregious and involved what I want to call a borderline drunken racist slur, but I truly offended and hurt the gentleman I slurred and that is the only truth about it that matters. He was graciously tending his own bar, we were talking, he told me about his family name and background, and I said, 'Oh, so you're a Jew.' Not 'Oh, so you're Jewish.' His face fell and I knew immediately that I had weaponized my whiteness. I came back a few days later and tried to apologize, he gave me the out of being drunk, and I have worked since to understand and own the parts of me that feel it's acceptable for me to practice bigotry for any reason.

Doing so has unearthed a lot of unsavory things that I have been wrestling with since, like I used to wonder if I had blackness in me, for some pretty ignorant reasons such as I have curly hair and tend toward muscularity. I can now recognize this as an attempt by my white guilt to make myself a member of the oppressed and a desire to escape my role as potential oppressor. 

I used to wave a confederate flag proudly and have worn an iron cross belt buckle, thinking I was celebrating proud heritage or being contrarian in a rock and roll reclamation kind of way, but I now believe that contrarianism is a deeply insensitive and selfish luxury afforded me because of my white skin. I accept that brandishing any symbol that has been involved in the promulgation of hateful behavior is going to be painful and offensive to some of my fellow human beings and that doing so puts my character in a position open to unfavorable interpretation.

What I am slowly owning about myself is that I am a white person raised in a white supremacist society, and that as such, parts of my DNA are racist and white supremacist, regardless of the beliefs I now hold on race and equality; it's the principle of osmosis manifesting humanly. I must accept that it is entirely up to me to ensure that my actions align with my beliefs, and the best thing I can do when I fail at that is to own it and examine it, not deny the fact that I did it. White people have been coddled in this country, we ruin ourselves with this system intended to unilaterally uplift us, and we have insulated ourselves from consequences by rewriting our history and inculcating our children with a narrative that absolves and ignores our very worst sins.

I have some family roots on my maternal side in the deep south. It is my firm belief that most of us with southern roots have some potentially unpardonable actions for which our families need to attempt to atone. This is the part where my whiteness wants to say things like, 'We were too poor to own slaves. We were barely better than slaves ourselves,' which is exactly what people who have never been enslaved would say. There is no comparison between being poor and being owned, and there is no sidestepping the fact that some of my poor relatives were enthusiastic members of the KKK and possibly participants at lynchings. I desire generational healing for my family and it is my hope that being honest about our roots may begin to metaphysically redeem the parts of my family tree that need it; redemption is only possible in the presence of truth.

Last year, I adopted a dog who looks like a larger version of a dog I loved and lost in a breakup; I saw her face and was immediately in love. As it turns out, she is also a breed favored by white supremacists, a coonhound, something that I probably would have known had I grown up in Arkansas rather than just being born there. To be honest, I had heard the name once or twice in my life and automatically assumed it was racist slang. The fact that coonhound is an actual breed recognized by the United Kennel Club is a fine object lesson in how white supremacy works: it gives an air of legitimacy to illegitimate things. Yes, dogs of this type were bred to hunt raccoons and other such prey, but they were also used to track and return runaway slaves and enforce segregration on the backyard level in the south. I expect I am not the first of my family to own one. I was told by the pound that she was 'a type of hound' and they were glad she was being adopted. Now I understand why and also the terrified and disgusted look a black woman gave her when we passed her in a public park, and why two white women wearing Georgia football sweatshirts came over with sly smiles to compliment me and my dog on the same day; being her owner once again puts my character in a place open to unfavorable reading. At the same time, she is healing me on some visceral levels; I have struggled to support myself, much less any other living thing, financially speaking. Adopting her was a huge step for me, but I also accept that she may be an avenue for partial metaphysical familial healing too. She is such a good, sweet dog and is herself innocent of any wrongdoing. I am choosing to love her and accept her love and to send love back through time to any of my clan who may have used her relatives to subjugate other human beings. We get to define our relationships with the dead as we see fit; my maternal grandmother and I have been working together on the spiritual plane for the past couple years on other aspects of family healing; perhaps this is a place where I can offer her roots some metaphysical healing in return. 

For the entirety of my life to this point, I have believed in my utter inability to be redeemed, having committed what feels like unpardonable sins at the very beginning of my life in childish reaction to some potentially unpardonable sins committed against me. Holding this belief about myself has made me particularly susceptible to committing sins of oppression, to both falsely feed my low self esteem and to reinforce my belief that I don't deserve love or goodness. I have a record of fine self-sabotage that righteously isolates me from the circles in which I wish to move. I am aware of an animal self who loves to compete and assert dominance, who is furious at all men (read: patriarchy) in some moments and is not above using any means to predicate itself, even if they are evil. These public racial failures have forced me to confront this pattern in myself. I accept that the belief that there is worthiness within me in the face of indefensible failing is mine to build. I accept that marginalized and discriminated against people owe me no absolution or forgiveness for my failures when I lean on white supremacy to prop myself up.

The easiest thing for me to do would be to go quiet, to take the target off my back that comes with visibility so that my unpardonable failures could be less observed and I could be less embarrassed. What I am going to do though, is marshal up my nascent resilience and own my failings in all their ugliness and do the work it takes to repair my character. This, I believe, is what is required of my whiteness in this country, and it is also the work that will free me from the opinions held by myself as well as those judging me by my failures, whether or not they have the right to do so.

It is human nature to look for and call out hypocrisy, to make imperfection disqualifying. This can be both justice in action and a reason to resist change. I am committing to a new practice this new year: I resolve to give up my appetite for scandal and to continue shedding tired religious programming that preaches empty redemption supplied by another. When I hear of failings in those working for good, may I have the compassion to ask questions and leave room for a redemptive answer, and may I continue to build true self esteem by believing there is goodness in me, whether or not it is visible in any given moment.

Friday, November 30, 2018

copy what

trauma, especially the kind that gets passed down

is like being a member of a club you think is exclusive

but may more actually be universal

speaking of it may get you excommunicated

from all your social groups

much more admirable to soldier on silently

like every generation before

trauma alters cells, they say

and we pass it on

whether we speak of it or not

so speak, I say

call it out

clear its register from the body

and halt this chain of replication

Tuesday, October 17, 2017


Born into a system of subjugation
Some of us became lethal players of the game
And they worshipped our untouchableness
With groans and more desire
Some of us opted out
Evolving and becoming something other
Something not on the menu, we hoped
Others of us went underground in our own minds
And we are barely even here, even when you are inside us
Our grandmothers terrified us with their traumas
Hoping that fear would keep us safe
They had accepted that this was how it was
Their minds fit for survival, not this revolution
But we are their daughters’ daughters
And we say it is time for a new game
This is one we will no longer play

Friday, September 29, 2017


We were two grown girls in love
With swagger and sleights to share
We were both of us wrecked
Well on our way to ruin
One of us needed to be healed
The other needed
Never to admit to the wound
It tore us apart
But there is a chamber in my heart
That holds only your name
& my dream of us together

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Things Dropped Into Wells Continue to Echo Long After They Have Fallen

I am approaching the start of my 44th year on Earth, and I am just beginning to possess my own story, especially my origin story. But who is a person, if they cannot correctly remember their own history?

About a decade ago, a verbal exchange with someone from my childhood triggered a physical and emotional reaction in my body that I am honestly just now processing with any measure of stability. The disturbing comment sent me to bed bewildered and crying, and a voice from my belly kept repeating that ‘something terrible has happened to me and I have no memory of it.’

I woke up the next morning changed at a fundamental level; I was suddenly a woman consciously split in two, unsure of the truth of my own life, which left me sorely debilitated in my ability to move forward. Prior to this exchange, I had been unconsciously split, which was more comfortable for me personally, but probably not so much for those nearest me; unhealed wounds tend to draw fresh blood as well as continue to bleed.

I sought out therapy and counseling for obvious reasons, and by a stroke of what I consider universal intervention, had already enrolled in massage therapy school, where I was introduced to the worlds of somatic psychology and energy work, two tools that have been invaluable to me through this process of discovery and healing. I learned how to mine my muscles for stored information, to identify areas of tightness and holding and gently coax them into softening, even momentarily, and oftentimes when they did, stories jumbled out, pieces of my puzzling past. We use our muscles emotionally without an awareness of doing so; sometimes those emotions and the traumas they are connected to become frozen in tightened tissues and are released when the muscles themselves release.

Without getting too bogged down in the particulars, I began to remember a sexual relationship with an authority figure in my life that transpired for a relatively short period of my childhood. The relationship ended when it was discovered by a family member who put a stop to it, but there was never any legal action taken, something that made me seriously question if what I was remembering was true. My family was deeply religious, and the adult in my story was a leader in our fundamentalist Christian church. It is my belief that this person’s status was maintained out of a fear that those who had made professions of faith under their tutelage might leave the faith if the story was made public. Also, I’m not sure there is anything fundamentalist traditions bungle as badly as human sexuality. There is a general immaturity in the handling of the topic that becomes increasingly problematic when situations occur outside of accepted norms.

Interestingly, the initial trauma for me wasn’t that the relationship happened, but that it ended abruptly. I was maybe eight years old when I began processing my first broken heart. No one expects desire from a child, but if you expose a child to sex, attachment can arise organically from the acts themselves, especially if the adult is a part of the child’s authority structure. At least, that is what happened to me: I fell in love with my abuser. I did not understand what we were doing, but I interpreted it as love.

An eight-year-old with a broken heart is a dangerous force. When our relationship ended, I remember feeling wrecked and furious. I had no wellspring of self to lean on, I just experienced rejection and despair. I coped by eating meals alone in my room for several months and by displacing my crush onto a cartoon character.

And this is where the story gets real; I have come to realize that most of my forgetting of this whole history hinges on the fact that I myself became a predator, after being taught things for which I lost an outlet and had no frame of reference. I can’t be certain that I have recalled every predatory event perpetrated by my prepubescent self, but I do remember several incidents of things ranging from using sexual language to titillate two boys for what may have been almost a year of recesses, until we all just felt gross, to physical acts with at least three other peers. 

In a cosmic cliché for the ages, this all came to a head at a church camp one summer. I groomed a slightly younger girl who was not comfortable with whatever I was suggesting. I do not know if I touched her at all or just verbally proposed an idea, but she went to the camp nurse, who confronted me about it in front of many of the girls in my cabin. She told me that what I had done was called rape, and that if I were older, I would be going to jail. I was mortified. I had heard about rape routinely on the Christian radio shows that played daily in my home and it had always terrorized me. I still didn’t even fully understand what sex was, even though I had experienced pieces of it, and I obviously was unaware of what constituted rape. I knew it was something awful that happened inordinately often to women, and since I was female, I didn’t realize I could also commit it. The nurse’s public confrontation of me happened because I had been made a counselor for the cabin and looked older than I was, but I was twelve years old, and four years into my crime spree. I was extremely traumatized by my public shaming, and responded by believing I had committed the unpardonable sin, a nebulous act which no one in our denomination could confidently define, although everyone agreed that committing it was a ticket straight to Hell. I made a childish commitment to a life of piety, in an effort to earn a way out of damnation. I wish I had received counseling for my trauma, but my church held a very dim view of psychologists and therapy, the standard reaction to any authorities situated beyond the church confines.

Less than a year after this scarring confrontation, for which I am nonetheless grateful, my family moved to another part of the state, and I apparently just started over by wiping my memory of all of it, both what had happened to me, and how I had behaved in response to it. I just overwrote it and started a new story, one where my childhood was unusually healthy and happy, and where I was most certainly neither victim nor villain.

And my true origin story remained sublimated for twenty years, until that conversation which set off a bomb in my nervous system and started me on a ten-year journey of piecing myself back together intentionally. When I began to recall my own trauma, I was of course livid. Self-righteousness is often the fuel of the wrongfully wounded. At the same time though, I had this just-beneath-the-surface sensation of slime on myself which frightened me and kept me existing in a state of perpetual undermine, by which I mean I still felt damnable, maybe even creepy.

Eventually, I got brave enough to face it, preferring the harsh truth to a lie that kept me blameless but robbed me of my power in the exchange. In owning my part of my childhood tragedy, I have found the beginnings of empathy for my perpetrator. It can be argued that our actions were morally different, in that they were an adult, and I a child; believe me, I have thrown myself on that logic for salvation many times throughout this process. Truthfully though, I have no way of knowing if my childish actions were experienced by my peers as trauma or rape, and I have no idea if they are still affected as adults by whatever I did to them, but I must acknowledge it is possible. Instant devastation, to find myself in the same category as the thing I hate, the thing I judge mercilessly in my righteous indignation.

How I long for a world with a cure for the worst in us; a place where we can fail, perhaps even unforgivably, and still somehow be restored to our place in the pack. I don’t know a lot about the authority that traumatized me, but I did hear them briefly share in some class or something that they had encountered some kind of sexual harassment too. I don’t expect they were given any more help in dealing with that trauma than I was, and they were a representative of the faith as well, with higher expectations of propriety placed on them. Confession for them, in that environment, would mean excommunication and disgrace, full stop. What a heavy burden to carry for a lifetime. I am unwilling to make excuses for unrepented actions, but I am willing to accept that there is no such thing as getting away with it and to consider that this person probably suffers a lot under the weight, and will continue to until it is dealt with, finally.

I am willing to accept that suffering as a form of justice.

And I will also do whatever is mine to do in service of creating a world that gives us interventions and true corrections and ways back to wholeness, most especially when we are at our worst. So much of the tragedy in our world is the direct result of our reactions to our traumas. May we grow to understand that we are all both perpetrated against and are ourselves perpetrators, so that we may learn empathy and unlock new possibilities for the quality of life on our planet.