Joy Cometh in the Morning, an Easter essay from Cynthia Lamanna

Joy Cometh in the Morning

In the bitter chill of that early spring, it appeared that all life form had ceased; from the heavens blue to the undergrounds black ice terrain, the natural and supernatural had come to a halted place; in those dark three days, the world was without the music of human laughter, devoid of divine manifestations such as the sighting of an angels wing or a lame man leaping with joy…the heavy drapery of sorrow and mourning hung over the souls of His beloved followers; even his skeptical neighbors, cynical relatives, and arch enemies could not enjoy their mockery and revenge against a God they both feared and rejected.

The people again sat in great darkness; even those whom he had touched and healed and broke bread with; for the bridegroom was gone, and there was no wedding without him. Once again they were in captivity as if the star had never appeared to the magi and the shepherd; as if Lazarus had not been raised from the dead after all. The real purpose for rebirth and the true meaning of scriptures eluded even the most enlightened in those three days of foreboding. Though the darkest parts of his intense and seemingly surreal crucifixion were unbeknown to all save the Christ and His Father, his disciples could not endure the grave images of his contorted features, crimson tears and mangled bruised body hanging on that crude tree, utterly weakened and defeated (so they thought) by death.

Here they were, the big strong fishermen and the disciple whom He loved, crying like babies in the night; their hearts sinking into them like their own boats slipping into the cold murky abyss. Why hadn’t he stood up to our leaders; those viperous snakes who plotted to kill him and entrap him with their clever words?

Peter in his flailing and anger over the injustice of it all, sickened by his own cowardliness, and vain boasting, sank to despair, as he nearly did when walking on the waters. Mary the mother of Jesus, though broken in heart opened her arms out to John, treasuring in her heart and revering the exhortations of her young man as he looked down at her from the cross, with eyes of compassion and gratitude. Woman, behold your son.”

There was always room at Mary’s inn, for a weary traveler, or a pregnant young girl full of wonder and fear.

Early on the first day of the week, the other Mary was the first to see the stone rolled away, and the tomb empty. After summoning Peter and John to come back and witness this heart thundering moment with her and after they left her there to go back to their lives, Mary waited, determined not to leave without knowing where they placed him. Even the angels in their brilliant white, did not detour or intimidate her; for such was her longing and thirst for her brother and such was her insistence that she see him again and be near him dead or alive. She had sat transfixed and enthralled at his feet, anointing him with perfume and her own tears, as she heard about God’s forgiveness; now as she turned from angels, her search for truth was rewarded as the risen Lord appeared to her. She knew him not at first sight, yet she again asked the question, that no one had been able to answer.

He called her by name, and she knew Him. She cried out with the strands of joy that knew no bounds. “Rabonni!” How she longed to feel his strong embrace, his sacred heart beating against her own. He told her that she must not hold onto him ; He, who was no longer human and forever divine. He must go now and return to His Father and he told her to tell the others.” Go to my brothers and tell them I am returning to my Father and to your Father!”

 

Cynthia Lamanna is a writer from California, and may be reached at cynthialamanna@yahoo.com

 

Joy Ding’s review of Lynn Gilbert’s oral history profiles, Particular Passions

 

Posted early in honor of March as National Women’s History Month

Particular Passions: Talks with Women Who Have Shaped Our Times is a treat and an essential read for any woman out to make history. Written by Lynn Gilbert with the help of Gaylen Moore, Particular Passions brings together forty-six profiles of accomplished women such as Betty Friedan, Julia Child, and Gloria Steinem. With every chapter, the reader gets the opportunity to meet and become intimately acquainted with the life, decisions, and experiences of a woman accomplished in her own right, in fields as disparate as science and dance. Gilbert’s black and white photographs show each woman with dignity and honesty, and her decision to use the oral history format is a stroke of genius, allowing each woman to speak for herself in first-person.

Gilbert’s chapter on Agnes de Mille is no exception. Rather than merely covering de Mille’s background—an American choreographer and dancer whose work elevated dance in musical theater from mere accessory between acts, to the story-telling function it serves today – Gilbert’s oral history brings out de Mille’s self-effacing humor, stubborn perseverance, and drive to make things better for artists.

 

Selected excerpts from the Agnes de Mille chapter:

 

“I think it is a miracle that I turned into anything of worth…I was the petted daughter in a fairly wealthy household, in which being a lady was the thing.”

 

“It was very rough going out into the world…my work wasn’t good enough, my technique wasn’t sound enough, my hair would fall down, my stockings were wrinkled. It just wasn’t professional…I didn’t have a classic body. I had a long torso and shortish legs. They are pretty legs, but very short. What I did have was a real acting ability and inventive, creative thought. I couldn’t fit into the mold so I made my own, that’s all.”

 

“I didn’t set out to change the world of dance. I had to do it because nobody cared a damn about dancing and I got fed up with people’s ignorance and indifference; particularly the American men scorned it. “

 

Even though the oral history format effectively removes Gilbert from the transcript, the expansiveness and gleam of each profile testifies to her ability to ask questions and to draw meaningful stories out of her subjects. Particular Passions is a rare gift to the women’s movement, providing forty-six unique role models to inspire the next generation of leaders.

 

 

Joy Ding is a writer living in San Francisco. You can reach her at joy.j.ding@gmail.com.

Synchronized Chaos March 2013: Coping with Our Fragility

Readers, contributors, ladies and gents, dancers and twirlers, seamstresses and ruffians, welcome to March 2013’s issue of Synchronized Chaos International Magazine. This month our theme deals with an issue all too familiar to many of us, something common to most life forms on this planet: facing and dealing with our fragility and limitations.

“A pontiff smile veils his disgrace, at never knowing more than second place. ‘Seven wonders’, crowed the man, knowing six are gone, is it any wonder, how the sad confusion lingers on.” — Bluegrass band Nickel Creek

“A todos los que han nacido en un mundo así no olviden su fragilidad (To everyone who’s been born in this world here, don’t forget your fragility” — Sting

Science writer Leena Prasad describes the physical limitation of aphasia in her monthly column, Whose Brain Is It?,  looking into how and why the condition occurs and how losing the capacity for intelligible speech would affect someone’s life.

Poets Sam Burks and Samantha Seto deal with everyday aspects of our fragility, death, loneliness, nostalgia, loss, and heartbreak, through their poetic collections, “Sister Meadow” and “Darkened Moon.” We see the direct lament for a relationship lost, and the emergency-room scene, but also the quiet melancholy of an elderly person touching her fraying quilt and staring out the window, and the bitter taste of unripe persimmons.

We can move from the specific to the general, from the individual to society and life itself, with Darren Edwards’ poetry, including “Sandcastles” and several other pieces. He uses humor, wry observations, and colorful images from childhood, mythology, and popular and literary culture to advocate authentic communication, compassion, empathy and balance. And he pokes fun in creative ways at the bombastic and powerful among us, thus highlighting our human and societal fragility.

The external and social world comes into even sharper focus when we read journalist Martin Rushmere’s review of the Marin Theater Company’s production of Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot. Often described as a tragicomedy, the play depicts ordinary people who sit and watch the world going by, all the people thinking and learning and hurting and oppressing each other, while waiting for some event they vaguely hope will change everything. Is this all we can hope for as human beings, with our limited understanding? Are we ennobled by the search for meaning itself, even when we never find it? Perhaps we could create meaning, rather than simply waiting.

Political essayist Randle Pink also tackles the force of social conformity in his interview with journalist and broadcaster Dacia Mitchell.  In her program, “This Week in Blackness,” and through private conversations with friends and roommates, Ms. Mitchell explores how racial stereotypes affect our choices. As Ms. Mitchell explains,  our social subgroup membership affects our experience of the world. Sleeping in a public park at night as part of a protest could be very different for a black woman than for a young athletic white man, for example. And if we wish to build a cohesive social movement, we need to address the different challenges and experiences of different groups and individuals within the coalition.

Sara Rodriguez mourns the loss of her friend, whom she refers to as “D,” who passed away at a young age because of some of the same societal oversights Dacia Mitchell critiques. Upon release from prison, D. faced severe barriers to rebuilding her life, and was unable to receive the individual, consistent support she needed to heal psychologically and physically and find stable work. Sadly, although she possessed a strong spirit, kindness, and creativity, she found herself sucked down back into addiction, incarceration, and suicide.

This young woman was clearly fragile, and broken as a result of her life experiences. And, as Sara explains, her death illustrates how we cannot apply a one-size-fits-all paradigm to social problems, any more than we can to race relations or to putting together social movements. We must look at the lives and struggles of those within the system and adapt our approach to fit what we see and learn.

 Yet, in our quest to build a more perfect, just and humane world, we have to remember to care for ourselves and work within our own limitations. We are fragile ourselves, even as we labor to rescue each other, as Lorene Miller rediscovers in her poem, “A Calling Out.”  Unfortunately, living souls, human, animal, or even plant, will suffer in this plane of existence. While we certainly can and should carry out works of compassion and justice, we cannot task ourselves personally with removing all the world’s adversity.

When faced with our inevitable weaknesses, whether physical, moral, intellectual, or psychological, we can attempt to transcend our limitations in various ways. Danish poet Kamila Boegedal draws upon nature and the cosmos to express the depths of her feelings, with the sun and moon as metaphors for the intensity of love and the desire to experience and participate in life. She aims to create her own drawings and not just take part in someone else’s cartoon, and finds she can reach beyond herself with creative writing.

Linda Allen’s short story “Shamrock” invokes the myth of the hero figure to symbolically overcome human fragility. A brave gentleman physically rescues Allen’s protagonist from her cruel, violent family and whisks her away to his native Ireland. Some criticize this kind of  ‘knight in shining armor’ tale for encouraging weakness, reinforcing that all we can do is wait for rescue. But perhaps we can take on the qualities of the hero, become Godot ourselves rather than simply waiting for him.

Synchronized Chaos Magazine’s editors invite you to bring your inner heroism to a reading and discussion of March’s issue and the work of each of our contributors. Thank you very much to those who have helped put this publication together, and please enjoy the issue!

A Calling Out, a poem from Lorene Miller

 

A Calling Out

 

I raise my palms calling out to all available open hearts.

I am on a path traveled by many others before me, but my steps are burdened with confusion and conflict.

I am certain the salvation of souls, either fur, feathered, scaled or skin is not performed without a cost.

Much is asked of me. There is always a bit more I could do. I am desperate for my boundaries to scream, “Haven’t I done enough?”

I am at a conscious unrest. I pulsate with anxious thought.

Suffering, sickness and death, I see it with my awakened eyes, I dream of it with my sleeping mind.

There is no turning back. Retreating into a chosen blindness is no longer an option.

I call out for peace of mind.

Caution awaits and whispers a warning, “Do not lose yourself in good intentions. It is an illusion to believe pre-determined events can be altered. You cannot change the reality that living souls suffer.”

Realizing there are no guarantees or deals to make, I now live with a new understanding. There is no changing the Course. Existing has its own set of rules.

A sick lost soul, captured and altered by salvation will live as we all do, within what life allows.

I close with thanks and gratitude for those who received my calling out, helping me understand, as hard as it can be; trust and believe what lies beyond what one can change.

 

— By a poet and cat rescuer in Hayward, California, who may be reached at lorenemiller2222@comcast.net

 

Randle Pink’s interview with radio host Dacia Mitchell, of This Week in Blackness

The Slinger Of Facts. Secretary Of State Of Blackness. Dacia Mitchell is the new co-host of This Week In Blackness Radio, a Brooklyn, New York-based podcast focusing on issues of race, class, politics, and culture. As a doctoral student participating in NYU’s American Studies program, Dacia is currently working on her dissertation, “Is A Laugh Treason?: Caricature, Slavery, and Citizenship in the Age of Revolution”, a study of 17th- and 18th-century political caricature and its impact on the formation of white identity during the early stages of post-colonial America and the French Revolution. Dacia currently resides in Oakland, CA with her husband and three-year-old daughter, and between managing the TWiB blog, preparing their daily docket, working exhaustively on her dissertation, and being a functional component of her family, she was able to devote some time to sit down with me and answer a few questions about her life and work.


In this first part of the interview, we talk about Dacia’s history with the TWiB network, the pros and cons of Occupy Wall Street, white privilege, defining “blackness”, and what makes This Week In Blackness different from other shows. A fascinating and dynamic individual, Dacia’s story is a powerful one, and I’m pleased to share it with you here.


————————————–


RA: So I want to start with what brought me to you in the first place: the TwiB (This Week In Blackness) network. Tell me a little bit about your experience and your background with TWiB, and how you got involved.


DM: I got involved as a listener back in 2009, when the show first got started. It wasn’t always called TWiB, it wasn’t always This Week In Blackness. It actually started out as “Blacking It Up”; that was the original title of the show.


RA: The name change happened not very long ago, right?


DM: Not too long ago, yeah. A few months ago, I want to say?


RA: I know it’s been less than a year…


DM: Yeah, and the reason for the initial name of the show was a sense of irony. You had people who, according to a media established definition of what blackness is, were completely the opposite of and antithetical to that definition. So to have a show called “Blacking It Up” with three of the least “socially black” people was the humor of it. I first found Elon – Elon James White, the host and now the managing Master Of The Universe *laughs* – when someone linked me one of his original “This Week In Blackness” videos that he used to do. The name of the show comes from these first videos that he started right around Obama’s first election campaign, and they were amazing. They were exactly what we needed to hear at that particular moment. Everybody was fawning over Barack Obama, but there was this kind of bubbling racism that was happening everywhere, and it was hard to put your finger on it. Elon has a really good talent for pointing out the things that everyone’s sort of dancing around, and making it funny. Not just to critique people for it, but to make it funny. So I started watching those videos, and of course he’s on Twitter. I was just talking to him the other day and I told him we actually spoke on Twitter in like 2009; that was when we first met. When he started the show, I was still living in New York, and I was four years into my graduate program. “Blacking It Up” was perfect for listening to on the train, so that was my thing: I’d listen to it before I went to class, every single Monday through Thursday.


Then one day in 2010, he put out a call for help. “If there’s anyone out there who can contribute some time, if you don’t have any money, we’re looking for folks that can pick up the slack.” Y’know, dumb office things: kick some e-mails to me, nothing important, making a few phone calls if we need to get a guest, things like that. Very minor stuff, something that I could actually do from home. I had a nine-month old daughter at the time, and so it worked out well: I could help from home, and the show stays on the air, which is really my incentive. Here’s a show that really spoke to me, and if I can’t do everything that I can to keep it on the air, I feel like I will have failed. So we met, there was much mirth, and I started working for them. Then L. Joy (Williams, former co-host of This Week In Blackness and current host of AM TWiB, the network’s new morning show) couldn’t make a couple of shows, so I sat in for her a couple of times in New York, and we just all kind of became friends over time. What really sealed the deal for me being a full-fledged co-host of the show, despite moving to Oakland, was our trip to Puerto Rico for the American Studies Association conference.


RA: You guys have talked about this on the show several times, but never really given the full story, so I know something crazy went on down there. *chuckles*


DM: So it actually goes back a little bit before then. My program at NYU is American Studies, and while I was working for TWiB just sending e-mails, I got an e-mail from a woman at U.C. Davis that said “I’m proposing a panel called “Awkward Black Comedy” that I will present at the American Studies Association conference,” and I immediately knew exactly what that was. So I told Elon, “you have to do this”.


RA: That’s Elon in a nutshell.


DM: In a nutshell! They were going to ask Baratunde Thurston to come, and Issa Ray of “Awkward Black Girl”, and it was going to be this amazing panel, basically of performers who you wouldn’t expect to exist. So I told Elon about it, and he was like, “so what is this thing, and what am I doing?”, and I told him it was an academic conference. He asked, “is it like NetRoots?”, and I was like, “no, no, no, it’s an academic conference, and it’s not that exciting. But there will be a lot of people there, a lot of people that like your show; lots of nerds.” He said, “Well, I’ll think about it…”, and I said, “Elon. It’s in Puerto Rico.” He was like, “Done!”


RA: *laughs*


DM: So he agreed to go on this trip, and I was going on the trip because I had a paper accepted to conference. We all met up there on the first day, and he came to my panel. It was an interesting collision of worlds since I’m part of this highly academic program writing a dissertation, and he was there as someone who was being studied for the work that he did in an academic environment. The room where he presented was standing room only. It was packed with people; packed with people who I knew, and didn’t know listened to the show. We’ve never spoken about the show. Afterwards, in talking with people I realized that everyone has kept it close to their hearts. They kept it close and they didn’t really want to share it with anybody – at least not in that environment – because it was so personal, and didn’t feel like it demanded any sort of academic critique, which academics are really good at. But then you find out that we just all love it very much because he does perform these incredible critical interventions, which is our raison d’etre.


RA: Absolutely. Which brings me to my next question: what do you feel makes This Week In Blackness different from other shows? You’ve got an environment now, especially in liberal and progressive media, where the podcast movement has just exploded over the last several years. There are literally thousands of podcasts in progressive media, dealing with all manner of subjects. What do you feel makes you guys stand out?


DM: Honestly, it’s the blackness. It really is. I subscribe to numerous podcasts, and it has changed over time. There are now more and more podcasts that are about race, ones that are not about race but are posted by people of color, mainly progressives. But I think that we were one of the first – if not the first – to present a point of view that was on the one hand presented by people of color, but wasn’t, for lack of a better word, “colored” by our color. I think that that was made it refreshing, and that’s what makes it accessible for everybody. I mean, 30% of our listeners are white, and so we’re not alienating everybody. Our audience overwhelmingly consists of educated women – educated black women love the show – but I think that what really makes us stand apart is that we will focus on the larger topics, but we will also focus on the small, everyday weird topics. We also do throw in an element of self-critique and criticism; y’know, what we would describe as “ratchet”.


RA: *laughs*


DM: *laughs* Y’know, what would be considered something in the black community as entirely “ratchet”. Something that is produced and to a certain extent cosigned by the larger culture, that at the same time is completely ridiculous and clearly does not represent all of us. We’re able to do that, but not point fingers in blame and make it funny and make it light, while also having our moments of something that is actually very serious. I think to answer the question simply, at least in terms of progressive media, is that progressive media is overwhelmingly white.


RA: I would definitely agree.


DM: While that doesn’t mean that issues of gender, sexuality, and race are not talked about in those ways, there is a certain difference where it’s a lot easier for folks to step into privilege when you’re listening to a show like that, and it can immediately turn you off. I appreciate a progressive stance, and I consider myself to be a progressive. At the same time, this does not immune folks from stepping in racial prejudice, or even just sort of using privilege in a way that’s alienating. I think that we really endeavor to not do that, and to be highly aware of moments where we even are expressing privilege. Elon talks about how he’s had moments where he’s basically expressed a kind of masculine privilege, and when made aware of it he’s like, “Oh, shit! There, I just did it!” We can all do it, but I think that one of the big goals of the show is to always be aware that we are all negotiating privilege at all times, and just because you’re progressive does not make you immune to those things. You can constantly explore ways to negotiate privilege, and how to and not to be wielding it in a way that is effective to other people.


RA: Absolutely. I’ve been listening to the show for about a year now, and in the last several months of listening to your show, the privilege conversation is something that I’ve personally become much more aware of. I think it’s really important for everybody to be talking about, because privilege is something that affects everybody in different ways, and like you said, it’s something that everybody maneuvers around and positions through in human relationships. It doesn’t necessarily have to do specifically with race or gender or poverty or wealth, it’s often times combinations of things-


DM: Yes. It’s almost always a combination of things.


RA: Yeah, it’s almost always a combination of things, and having an awareness of this is one of those things that really can help you gain a better understanding of all issues. Having a greater awareness of how good you have it – whatever that “good” is for you – and being appreciative of it; that’s how you check your privilege.


DM: Exactly. By understanding the innumerable ways that you have to negotiate around your privilege, you’re also negotiating around the ways that power is pushing down on you. I think that one of the reasons behind checking your privilege is not to basically call somebody out on their shit, like “you were wrong, and you should be shamed”. Really, what it’s about is trying to teach people honestly about the one thing that we all need, which is empathy. In order to do that, it takes more than just saying “you stepped in it, and you’re wrong”, even though we will make fun of people with power because they’re easy to make fun of.


RA: *laughs*


DM: But I do think of understanding privilege more as a practice instead of as a thing you have or don’t have. So what are the ways that you are practicing your privilege? What are the ways that it is useful for you to practice your privilege, and what are the ways that it’s damaging to practice that privilege? What are the ways that you actually are feeling oppressed? Recognizing that the way you’re feeling may be different from someone else, but that it doesn’t create a hierarchy, that it doesn’t make your pain more valuable than someone else’s.


RA: I remember Aaron said on the show at one point that, when having conversations about things like privilege, it’s really important to not engage in the “Misery Olympics”. Saying things like, “I have it so much worse than you do,” or “you have it so much worse than I do”; that’s largely irrelevant. It’s important to acknowledge it, that yes: some people do have it a hell of a lot worse off than you, and there are people have it a hell of a lot better than you do. But that doesn’t necessarily need to have intrinsic value, as far as how as how you navigate through privilege on your own.


DM: To a certain extent, some of us have turned pain into a kind of capital, and I think that that’s when really run into trouble. I think that that was actually part of some of the implicit problems that were in Occupy (Wall Street). You would go to a general assembly meeting – Elon talked about this numerous times – where as soon as you bring up a moment where privilege is being expressed, that race is being ignored, that gender’s being ignored, that sexuality is being ignored, you’re considered to be divisive. You were basically creating a wedge within the movement. But no, the movement’s actually made up of fractures and measures, it’s not about it being a solid entity that you’re somehow poking a hole into. It should always be understood as a web, that we’re all trying to redistribute power in a way that’s actually going to support changing a system that we’re taught is a top-down hierarchy. Occupy really failed in that regard. You couldn’t say, “listen, it’s different for me as a black woman to sleep out in Zuccoti Park then it is for you as a white dude.”


RA: It’s just different. It’s not better, it’s not worse. Let’s not put those value judgments on it, it’s just different.


DM: It’s already different, so let’s explore how it’s different. Let’s talk about what it is that we can do to make sure that everybody’s equally protected, which would involve doing different things in order to keep people secure in that situation. People had invited me out to go go camp out at the park, and I was like “No! No, I’m not! I think what you guys are doin’ is awesome, but the moment that my black ass is out in the park, in Lower Manhattan…no.” I do not trust what will happen to my body if it were to be arrested and put into the NYPD penal system. I think it was issues like that that really undermined some of the moves that Occupy was trying to make. At the same time, y’know, when Zuccoti was raided, it was devastating. It was absolutely devastating. I felt safer having them there to a certain extent, a team of people who have made the stand and are not budging. To watch how it went down, the feeling in me was just awful. It was a moment of, like…”Damn it.”


RA: There were definitely some issues that I had with Occupy, as well. I feel like some of Occupy’s greatest strengths turned out to be some of their greatest weaknesses, when they refused to change and adapt as it became this national movement. I feel that one of the biggest failings was that the main organizers, the people chiefly responsible for Occupy, did not have a strategy on hand to commute their popular power into political power, and that ultimately caused the movement to crumble in upon itself. Let’s face it: getting a bunch of liberals to stand behind causes is like herding cats, it’s a nightmare.


DM: *laughs* Everybody’s got their own cause…


RA: Yeah, everyone’s got their own causes and their own opinions, and none of them are any more or less important than the other, but…you reach a point where you need to start playing by the rules to a certain extent if you want to go to that next level. Occupy never elected leaders, it never had a formal agenda. I know that “talking points” is such a loaded term, but Occupy did not have a concrete set of demands – a concrete set of talking points – to really get people to rally behind them. Instead, it was like, “Here’s the laundry list of the 150 million things we need to fix!”, but….can we prioritize that into a top five?


DM: Yeah, it was really difficult.


RA: I think people lost interest at that point because it seemed like, “Oh my God, it’s so huge…what do we do when there’s fifty million things wrong?” It’s a paradox of choice.


DM: It really was, but it’s hard, though. So Occupy was 2011, right?


RA: Yup.


DM: Two years before that, a number of students, including some of my own, took a building at NYU.


RA: Yeah, I wanted to talk to you about that actually, about the New York Times piece on the New School occupation.


DM: So, there was the New School occupation, but there was also the NYU occupation.


RA: Oh!


DM: NYU [students] took the Student Center, and holed up in there for two days, I wanna say. They suffered from a similar fate as Occupy did. They had this long list of demands, that included divesting from Israel, lowering our tuition, and all sorts of other things. On the one hand, that was the big critique: you guys have too many demands, and we can’t possibly do all of these things. Pick one.


RA: At least not at once.


DM: At least not at once, so just pick one. And I hear that, but I also saw the energy and the excitement of these students. I mean, these were kids who were putting their lives on the line, and there was no campus security at that. There were police, and they were cracking skulls. I was there. So the fact that you have a university that is much like LA, much like Oakland in a lot of ways, where the police force is given somewhat carte blanche in order to maintain the peace, regardless if you’re a student, or whoever. But I think that, for all of the multitude of causes, that is always the place to start. And while it seems so ridiculous, you do kind of need to have some PR skills. That was thing I felt that Occupy didn’t have.


RA: Occupy needed a PR department. It needed some spokespeople.


DM: Yeah, get someone out there.


RA: I went to several GA’s here in Oakland as well as a couple in San Jose, and every time I would bring this up, people would look at me like was sleeping with the enemy. I’d tell them, “you do understand that we live in a media-driven, publicity-driven society, right? You guys have generated this incredible amount of attention, so now we need to direct it and we need to channel it, and hit our audiences with target messengers and targeted messages in order to keep people interested and involved.” Every time I would ever bring anything like this up, they’d say it was the politics of the enemy, that we couldn’t do that otherwise we’ll be just like them. While that is a legitimate complaint, a legitimate gamble, if we don’t at least take a couple of faltering steps in that direction, this movement is going to fold. Then look what happened: we had the General Strike on May 1st, one of the largest organized protest movements in global history, but then flash forward a month later, and it was almost like it never happened. Things were still happening, but there once again was this huge PR push with no real follow through.


DM: Do you think though that you can measure the success of Occupy in the fact that it did shift the conversation? I mean that in the sense of things that we weren’t talking about before. There was the whole Wall Street and Main Street discussion that was happening, but we weren’t talking about people being kicked out of their homes. We weren’t talking about the fact that there was no security net for people. I wonder if it’s almost too much to expect there to be a sudden, instant change. At the same time, I wonder if it just, like any popular movement, bubbled up, but before it was able to be sort of co-opted, it had to kind of disseminate and reassemble everywhere else. I’m hopeful about that, even though I do have a sense of “you guys need to have some better spokespeople, you gotta get somebody up there that’s not gonna alienate my grandma,” y’know? But, grandmas get alienated, so I guess they were just like “That’s just what happens.” *laughs*


RA: Yeah, and it just makes me wonder, I was never really sure….I think the greatest thing Occupy did, like you said, it brought national attention to a bunch of issues that didn’t even seem to be on anybody’s radar before that, like you said about the housing crisis, there were various banking [issues]…


DM: Student debt –


RA: Yeah, student debt…


DM: Which is still happening, by the way. That’s the thing I find kind of interesting, is that as a result of occupying Zuccoti Park and occupying the sites here, is that now it isn’t about an occupation of a physical space. Now they’re doing something that is actually is a bit of a subversion, in terms of things like Strikedebt.


RA: Yeah, Strikedebt is awesome.


DM: Yeah, it’s not like, “oh, I’m gonna eliminate your debt”, it’s that we’re just going to start paying people’s debts off, because it’s so bad.


RA: It never felt to me at any point like Occupy ever had a real goal other than making a lot of noise. If that was the goal in and of itself, then congratulations: they did a fantastic job in that. At the same time I always felt like they wanted to something more, but I’m not sure if that was ever really the intent. If the intent was just to make a bunch of noise and spread awareness then they did a phenomenal job, and they have changed civil discourse about politics in America for decades to come. They brought so much more of a general, everyday awareness to societal ills that got people of looking around in their own neighborhoods, like, “Oh shit, there’s a lot of problems here in my own town that I need to address!” I think that in itself is really important, because we tend to think of political change in the sense that it has to start on high. This is what we’re always taught, and it’s completely not true. It starts in your own backyard –


DM: It starts in a living room, it starts in a church, it starts in a grassy space, it starts, y’know, in a cafe…because we’re not, our students aren’t taught the truth of civil discourse and civil disobedience, and what it looks like. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had students reach the university level with no idea how the civil rights movement actually happened. They know that there some black people involved, and people were walking in the streets –


RA: Some guy had a dream –


DM: Yeah, someone had a dream, and someone sat on a bus, and, I don’t know…somebody died. *laughs*


RA: *laughs*


DM: That’s the extent of it, and really, that is depressing as hell for me. Because if those students aren’t – and this is gonna sound really arrogant – but if those students aren’t lucky enough to be in my classroom, I don’t know what they’re learning in another classroom. It’s not always part of the curriculum, and if it’s not part of our universal public education curriculum, they may not get it at all. How are you supposed to know if you see injustice in your neighborhood, on your street, which is where it always starts? What is your recourse? What do you do if you’re not taught how to assemble with people? Some people are holing themselves up and arming themselves [instead].


RA: Which is way more terrifying.


DM: Right? And just to get back to your question about what Occupy hoped to accomplish, I see Occupy as accomplishing a reminder. A reminder that as much as we all have consented to authority, because that is nature of society. We have consented to authority, but we still have the ability to take it back if we’re pushed too far. Lower Manhattan is one of the most militarized places in the country. Within the contiguous United States, it’s arguably one of the most militarized areas, and they (Occupy) took a park, which was no small feat, to take it and hold it. To do it in the cold as well, that was [incredible].


RA: Yeah, to do it in the middle of the fall, into the winter –


DM: That was gnarly!


RA: I remember seeing it on the TV and feeling like, “Y’all are out of your minds!” I know I couldn’t do it. I’ll be the first to admit.


DM: The fact that people came from outside of the city to stand with the people that were in the city, and the fact that they created this micro-city where they were providing services for people, there was the library…


RA: It was an amazing feat.


DM: Yeah, I went down there a few times, and it felt like this small city within a city, surrounded by this long, huge wraparound of police officers, and to a certain extent they felt like it was sort of contained. But it really wasn’t, because the longer they stayed there, the more people were talking about it. There were actions that were like every weekend, and it was starting to get to the point where it was going to bleed out.


RA: Yeah, they were able to contain the people, but they weren’t able to contain the idea. As long as the people stayed contained –


DM: Yeah, it almost acted as this idea generating factory, and it wouldn’t die. That was what they managed to accomplish: to do something that seemed impossible, and to take the time and the space to produce a new potential for thinking against authority. A potential for being finally be able to push back and to know that you’re not alone in your feeling about that. But again, one of the failures was, for example, the didn’t include Occupy The Hood in a lot of their stuff. It was like, “Dude, we’ve got people who are actually hungry, why are you turning down places for people to stay?” And like what happened in Los Angeles, where the city offered up an office building that had been vacated along with some land, and they couldn’t come to a consensus, and ultimately turned it down. We were telling them, “just take it!”


RA: Just take it! The city is making a sizable concession to you to allow you to have your movement, so do it!


DM: *laughs* Yeah, get off of my street!


RA: So do it and set up camp, because if you’ve got this designated space, think of how much more you’d be able to do once you’ve got them off your back, at least enough for you to be able to keep moving forward.


DM: Yeah! But it’s hard, because once you’ve moved into a building, you’re no longer media interesting, and then it’s time to shift the discussion. Which they’ve done, but done it in a different way now. They didn’t take that, but they have certainly shifted their attentions towards things like Strikedebt, and I think they’re still so small that they can actually still help people with [things like] foreclosed homes. That was the great thing about Zuccoti: I felt like if I had owned a home in New York, and someone was trying to kick me out of house if it was foreclosed upon, I could just put out a tweet, and I would have twenty-five people just squat on my front lawn. Just like that.


RA: I think it was Occupy: Homelessness that was going around through a bunch of areas of the country, where you have people in places like Little Rock, Arkansas who were like, “Holy crap, my home’s getting foreclosed on!”, they’d put a post up on their Facebook wall, and then thirty protesters would show up with signs and just sit on their front lawn, like, “We’re not leaving!”


DM: And that’s amazing!


RA: That was an amazing thing.


DM: That was a moment where I was like –


RA: “This what social media is for.”


DM: Yeah, “this is what social media is for.” That was a magical time, it was. It’s not to say that it can’t happen again, and the thing that I think that we’re trying to do on the show is to maintain a mindfulness of change, that change isn’t always what you think it’s going to look like, and it’s not something that’s fixed in time. It’s something that changes itself, and that it’s something you practice on a daily basis instead of just being someone who is changed.


RA: Yeah, change is proactive.


DM: Exactly, it’s proactive. It’s also communal, and it doesn’t happen all at one, right? You just have to take it day by day, minute by minute, hour by hour. And that’s how we operate the show, too. *laughs*


RA: *laughs* Right? Given what’s been happening in the last couple of weeks, it’s certainly seemed like it.


DM: The docket assembly this week was madness, it was just madness. Elon completely moved the website, because we couldn’t handle the traffic. Which is awesome, but the site crashed.


RA: It’s fantastic. What a problem to have!


DM: What a problem to have, right? We’re too popular, there were too many people, and the site crashed. So he took this opportunity, and now that we’ve moved to the cloud, we can actually do way more things, so of course he’s like, “what are all the things we can do with the site?” But I think that that’s also part of what makes the show work, that it is constantly adapting to our listeners, and it’s adapting to what we think people want to hear and want from us.


RA: I was going to mention earlier that I think that the biggest thing that makes you guys stand out in terms of accessibility is, well…accessibility. Compared to a lot of other shows I’ve listened to, especially shows that are not just one person or two people, there’s a familial aspect with you guys that is undeniable, and that has an incredible amount of appeal. You guys feel like a family.


DM: Yeah, because we are a family!


RA: Exactly! The way you guys interact with each other, it very much feels to me like the conversations I have with my roommates in my living room when we’re hanging out, having a few beers, and talking about what’s going on in the world. I think that is one of the biggest things that makes you guys different from other shows that I listen to. On top of that, is the accessibility to you guys as individuals. I’ve reached out to guys on Twitter a bunch of times, and through Facebook and so on, and you guys actually respond.


DM: We try to, yeah.


RA: That’s how you and I are sitting here right now. I went out on a limb on Twitter and was like, “Hey, you’re really cool and I love the show. Can I interview you for my magazine?” and you were like, “Sure!” That’s beautiful to me. You guys also crowd source information for the docket, and there’s been things that I’ve sent you, like the thing about the grade fixing the other night, and next thing I know, you’re talking about it on the show. Every time that happens for me – and I listen to your show almost every day, at work, on the train, and I’m sure I’m not the only one that feels this – but when something I send you guys ends up being talked about on the show, I feel like I’m on the show, as well. I feel like I’m a part of it. That keeps me listening, keeps me sending more stuff, and keeps me wanting to be involved in this movement, in progressive media in general. That’s not something I really see with a lot of other shows.


DM: There is certainly a permeable wall that still exists, because once you’re on a podcast, once you’re in media, you do become, to a certain extent, an avatar for the folks that are listening to you. It’s just a product of media representation. So there is always a wall, in terms of no one actually knows me, per se. They hear me on the radio but they don’t know what I’m about to do right after the show, or what I had for breakfast unless I say so. I don’t want to deny that it isn’t permeable though, that it isn’t something that we thrive on, having a community of folks that feel like they are personally invested not just in the show, but what we’re trying to do.


The shows are amazing individually, but if you look at all of them together, they’re meant to, by their very existence, push back against the status quo of what black media looks like. So take “We Nerd Hard”, for example: black nerds, sitting in a room, talking about video games and raiding and all kinds of things. What’s funny is that to us, that’s not surprising. What’s surprising is that this is the first time that’s happened. If you talk Aaron, you talk to Elon, you talk to me, you talk to anyone that’s on the shows, you find out that we were always kind of the weird kid. But there are so many weird kids out there that you realize that all of us are weird kids, and I think that the fact that we embrace our strangeness is part of what makes us feel like siblings, like family. Also, while I hate using the term “safe space”, it kind of is. It’s a place where – and this is just a raw example – if you’re a listener, a black listener, and you have something that you’re interested that isn’t considered to be “black” – something that, if you’re a teenager, a kid could “black check” you for – this is the place where that is not going to happen, period. End of story. No one is going to, because the practice of doing it is what we’re actually critiquing. Black-checking is ridiculous, a form of social policing that we are definitely resistant to and are trying to support [removing] through the existence of the shows, from “We Nerd Hard” to “On Blackness”, where you’re talking with black academics. What’s so interesting about that show is that Elon always opens the show with, “What is your definition of blackness?” and the answers are all so different.


RA: Everybody has had a completely different explanation, and it’s fascinating.


DM: Totally different! These are the people who are the thinkers and the knowledge producers of our time, and no one can agree on what blackness is. So if you’ve got Melissa Harris-Perry and Jalani Cobb unable to agree on what blackness is, then who are we to judge what is and what is not blackness? I think we need to see blackness as something that is experiential and environmental, and whatever that cocktail ends up looking like for you is what that cocktail ends up looking like for you. Even if it’s not about blackness, even if it’s just about who you are as a body operating in the world. You can be whatever it is that you want to be, and no one’s going to check you for that, because there’s nothing to check. We’re not the police, we’re just three Negroes in a room, talking about [whatever]. What you’re hearing on the show a lot of times is what we would talk about when we were in Puerto Rico. We’d just be sitting around, having a cocktail, talking shit about, y’know, Chuck Hagel or whatever. *laughs*


RA: *laughs* It’s really inspiring. I have these conversations all the time with my friends, and we come up with all of these thought-provoking ideas, and I sit there and think to myself, “Man, I should have just had a tape recorder in the room!”


DM: Right? *laughs*


RA: So then the next question is, can I do that with intent, can I make a community happen out of it?


DM: Yeah, it’s a big commitment.


RA: It strikes me as being a lot of work, even just touching on to the edges of the issue. What it would take for to do this, even once a week…holy crap, that’s a lot of work. A lot of research, a lot of time, a lot of late nights.


DM: Elon is always talking about how there are some folks who are listening who think we can just pop on the show and like, there we are. But no, I’m up at five in the morning every day, because I’m also writing a dissertation, and I’m also a stay-at-home mom. As a result, I’m having to compartmentalize my day into these finite segments, so any time that I’m not wrangling a child, or hanging out with my husband in the scant few seconds that we get to be together, I’m putting together the docket. I’m researching for features, and now that I’m the managing editor of the blog, I’ve got to come up with a schedule of long-form essays that I want to do, and who’s going to be posting when…being a managing editor is a full-time job, in addition to co-host, in addition to graduate student, in addition to mom, in addition to, y’know, person. I wear a lot of britches.*laughs*


RA: *laughs* Absolutely.


————————————–


You can listen to this This Week In Blackness – as well as all of the other TWiB network shows – on iTunes and Stitcher Radio, or by visiting www.thisweekinblackness.com. To know more about the inner workings of Dacia’s mind, be sure and visit her blog at www.daciatakesnote.com, or you can follow her on Twitter with the handle @daciatakesnote.

Whose Brain Is It? by Leena Prasad

Whose Brain Is It? by Leena Prasad

Presented within the flow of the lives of real people and fictional characters, this is a monthly exploration of how some parts of the brain work.

Throw the monkey, I mean the ball…

Give me that spoon,” Adam says and a moment later he is shocked at his own words. “Plate,” I mean plate,” he says.

His wife smiles. “It is just a small mistake. Don’t look so panicked.”

Adam has not told his wife about his grandfather. Would she believe him? After all, his grandfather was a world renowned writer. Nobody outside the family knew that he had aphasia when he died.

There is a reason that I panicked…” He tells her about his grandfather.

Wasn’t your grandfather writing until pretty late into his life?”

Well, yes. He wrote well into his 70s. But he had a stroke when he was 73 and had a lot of trouble with word comprehension afterwards. He stopped writing and died when he was 75.”

Adam opens up his laptop and looks up the official definition at the website of National Aphasia Association and shows it to her:

Aphasia is an acquired communication disorder that impairs a person’s ability to process language, but does not affect intelligence. Aphasia impairs the ability to speak and understand others, and most people with aphasia experience difficulty reading and writing.

They also learn from the website that aphasia onset often occurs after a stroke and that more than 100,000 Americans have this disease.

Is it there a genetic disposition?”

They don’t know if it’s genetic, for sure, but I have read that there are some genetic mutations found in aphasia patients so, yes, there could be a genetic predisposition.”

She starts to ask him about his parents and then remembers that they had died in a plane crash. Adam has no brothers and sisters. Adam is doing more research on the web. “Hmmm… it looks like people with other learning disabilities, like dyslexia, are also likely to get it.”

Well, I have dyslexia but you don’t… I wonder what that means for the genes we pass on to children that we might have…” His wife says.

He shows her some images on his laptop and explains that the two primary regions in the brain that are affected by aphasia are Broca’s area, in the temporal lobe, and Wernicke’s area in the frontal lobe. Damages to either one or both of these regions can result in aphasia. There are many different types of aphasia depending on the location and degree of damage. According to the American Speech Language Hearing Association:

Some people with aphasia have trouble using words and sentences (expressive aphasia). Some have problems understanding others (receptive aphasia). Others with aphasia struggle with both using words and understanding (global aphasia).

 

Aphasia can cause problems with spoken language (talking and understanding) and written language (reading and writing). Typically, reading and writing are more impaired than talking or understanding.

Aphasia may be mild or severe. The severity of communication difficulties depends on the amount and location of the damage to the brain.

Honey, I am sorry, maybe I should not have told you,” Adam says, when he sees the look of concern on her face.

Adam, don’t worry so much. We’ll deal with whatever happens.” A few days later, however, she starts to worry. As a television anchorman, words are Adam’s passion and his livelihood. How would he react if he developed aphasia? What about it they decide to have children? Will they be predisposed to this disease? Maybe he should not have told her, she thinks. No, it’s much better to know. At least she would not be shocked and would have some inkling as to what’s going on if it ever happened to him.

 

Topic: aphasia

Region: Broca’s area, Wernicke’s area

 

 

Leena Prasad has a writing portfolio at http://www.FishRidingABike.com. Links to earlier stories in her monthly column

 be found at http://www.WhoseBrainIsIt.com.

 

References:

  1. Mayo Clinic, Primary Progressive Aphasia, January 16, 2013, http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/primary-progressive-aphasia/DS00750/DSECTION=risk-factors

  2. American Speech Language Hearing Association, What are some signs or symptoms of aphasia? http://www.asha.org/public/speech/disorders/aphasia.htm

  3. National Aphasia Association, What Is Aphasia, http://www.aphasia.org/

 

‘Sister Meadow’ and other poetry from Sam Burks

Sister Meadow 

I found a place
in the dwindling meadow,
a sanctuary strong standing
boldly fixtured under a hazy sky
where future stretch reflects
what is in my eyes,
defying corruption
that creeps up along birthing rivers,
over footsteps of mountains
cradling streams
where my life began,
now I take refuge
in the tall wild grass,
open trusting, alive because
of the river,
my sister and I,
we hold on valiantly
against the push
of plaster and wire
that drinks our water,
occupies our meadow,
but it cannot have us,
me or my sister,
or what is ours,
it cannot have us
we play beyond
what will tries to poison
our mother
Luna

Ring around the moon,

your breath of ice

is the summation of a night

upon many nights,

where strangers pass

blurry-faced along

moonlit boulevards–

so many times

this happens,

and so many times

I feel Luna circles

around my eyes and

stray feet.

Guide me

away,

mother Luna,

away from

straight lines hiding faces,

out of these rings

of isolation

and into

your own ring

of solidarity

reigning mighty

in the heavens

 

Pomegranates 

 

You took me to
a pomegranate tree
once, it had
only a few leaves
and one sad looking fruit,
it being the middle
of January and all

“In spring
this tree
could be rich,”

we were going to
your house, you were drunk
and I was intoxicated
too, but in a way
that would leave me
with a worse hangover
than yours

you showed me
this tree, you were
so excited,
it had only one fruit,
it was a small pomegranate,

it was a small detour
towards where
I would hold you
and love you

kind of like the way
I love a fresh pomegranate

but it happened
too soon,
you plucked the fruit
from the tree
before it was ripe

and we never
got to eat it

— Sam Burks is a regular contributor, editor, and sushi chef from Gilroy, CA. He may be reached at srburks@gmail.com

 

Essay from Sara Rodriguez: ‘In Memory of D.’

Feb 18th, 2013 @ 12:27 pm › Voices from Solitary

The following essay comes from Sara Rodrigues, a prisoner at Bedford Hills Correctional Facility, a maximum-security prison for women in Westchester, New York. When Sara was sent to prison at the age of 16, she found her friend D there as well. Both Sara and D had life-long struggles with mental health, and while in prison, spent long periods of time in solitary confinement (both Keeplock, which is lockdown in one’s own cell, and SHU, which is the Special Housing Unit).

Sara writes about the difficulty D faced when she was finally released and put on parole, with no transitional assistance to move from prison to the free world. She ultimately ended up back in prison and committed suicide, shortly after giving birth to a baby girl. Sara Rodrigues wrote this piece in the hope of spreading awareness of her situation and the experience of many people around her. She writes, “Too many inmates in New York State under the age of 25 are killing themselves in prisons because they are literally being thrown away like garbage by the court systems.” (Thanks to Jennifer Parish of the Urban Justice Center for forwarding this essay to Solitary Watch.) –Rachel M. Cohen

.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .

This essay is dedicated to D and all those who have given their minds and/or lives trying to pay their debt to society and to those who will forever be haunted and scarred from our justice system. Once self-worth and hope dies within our souls, what is left behind is a shell of life that can see no future, no redemption and no chance for a normal life. It is then that our minds realize how truly unwanted we are and how on a daily basis we are reminded that society has no use for us. Day by day life becomes very dark, some lose their minds, some will never be the same, and some just give in and take their own lives.

Many people who are sentenced to prisons are very young and have serious behavioral and mental health problems and this environment only makes their sickness worse. This is D’s story and how somehow out of the tragedy of her passing has made me resolve to open people’s eyes to the greater damage that happens to everyone by throwing the very young, mentally and emotionally ill into cages to rot under the pretense that more punishment, isolation, and deprivation will make people change for the better. This story has nothing to do with not doing your time, but doing your time in a healthy corrective facility, not the factories of misery that most of our prisons are today. D’s death had such an impact on me that she inspired me to keep fighting for my sanity, to try to never give up, and to get the word out whether people care to hear the truth or not.

In December 2008, I tripped and fell down the rabbit hole. Instead of “Alice in Wonderland,” I became Sara in Prisonland and I am still to do this day trying to wake up from my nightmare. I was 16 years old entering RCOD (reception) in a maximum-security prison, Bedford Hills. My sentence was eight, years flat and 5-post release supervision, I was scared and in definite culture shock, it was all so alien and overwhelming. Later I learned D was there, to me D was my cousin, my best friend, and a sister all rolled into one. We could talk about anything, she helped me so much to get used to this crazy way to survive my new life. We also argued a lot as young teenage girls often do, now in hindsight I regret ever getting angry and wish I had been a better friend.

Some months later, she was paroled and went home but it did not take long and here she was again. Being so young when she went into prison, the outside world was just too overwhelming for her. This and coupled with the fact that there are no transitional programs for people leaving prisons in the area we live in, which is Jefferson County, this leaves all parolees pretty much on their own. Get out of prison, go report to parole, go to Credo, (drug and alcohol counseling), go to mental health, get a job, pay your rent, don’t drive till we say you can, pay parole, pay credo, be home at curfew. You give up because it is all to stressful, can’t get a decent job because you are just out of prison and no one wants to hire you, zero job programs or training programs for parolees. One can’t even go to VESID (vocational training) until 6 months after you get out of prison and by then it is usually too late.

People need these services as soon as they come home and because of all this lack of support, every parolee is set up for failure. So she just gave in to all the temptation around her and started partying and having a good time, and even though her mother begged parole to try to live in a drug and alcohol program instead of sending her back to prison, they didn’t care and did what they do best. That is to not keep people out of prison but to make sure they end up back in. Do the math, almost zero services and supports for parolees in this country why is this and who lets this happen?

By this time she came back to Bedford Hills, she was pregnant. D’s time in the prison system was not easy, she was an outsider even in prison, she had a extensive disciplinary record which was making her mental health issues worse, and she had a long history of suicidal behavior, she had been hospitalized before incarceration and during. Making matters worse, she was always in Keeplock or SHU and this did nothing to help her problems. In coming back to prison, it was so much harder to deal with than the time before and at that point, I believe she thought nothing would ever change, she was in a cycle she could not get out of and I think she was just getting soul tired.

D was a fun girl who could have done great things in life. She had a good support system; she was creative, beautiful, funny, and smart. She could do hair and nails like a professional, no matter what her issues were she had many good attributes. Even though she did not have a lot, she would give you the shirt off her back if you needed it. This girl was not a nothing; she was a living, breathing, strong willed human despite all of her troubles. To many others and me she was a much better human than many who claim to be A-one citizens.

January 22, 2010 D gave birth to a beautiful healthy baby girl. She got to spend some time with her until arrangements were made for her mom and step dad to come pick the baby up. At this time D seemed to be doing better and holding her own, then within a few months she went on the draft to Albion Correctional Facility. This was the beginning of the end, she hated being at that prison, she was scared of that place because she was always in trouble and spent almost all of her time in shu. It was not long before she had deteriorated so bad she was sent to Marcy Psychiatric, she spent some time there and was shipped back to Bedford. Two days later on June 17th 2010, D was dead; she was found hanging in her cell while she was in keep lock because of three tickets she received while still at Albion. It was two weeks before her 23rd birthday.

Some thought she did it on accident because she didn’t want to go back to Albion and some thought she just had enough but it didn’t matter she was gone and me, I lost my mind, I was alone, grief stricken and sick. This was just too much for my mind to grasp. I became angry with her, God, and everyone around me. Every night I had horrible nightmares, I would wake up screaming and crying hoping this was just another nightmare, but it was real. Something went wrong, she should have never been sent back to Bedford Hills because she was just not stable enough. The fact that she was so desperate speaks volumes about how bleak she thought her situation was. Her family was devastated, as was my family; our worlds were in upheaval and pain.

In many ways, I can totally relate to the feeling of wanting to just give up. Since I came to Albion, I have spent most of my time in the box and I am so tired already. Having a medical condition, every time I go to the box my skin gets horrible, my skin cracks and bleeds, rick now I am so sick, I feel like death. After awhile I start talking to ants, crickets or any other living thing or imaginary thing I can think of so I do not totally lose what is left of my mind. My mother is convinced that they throw people like us in the box so much because they want us to go over the edge and kill ourselves. My mother documents everything that happens to me and she tries so hard to make people aware of what goes on. Right now, she is infuriated that I slipped up about a month ago and tried to hang myself and now I am back in the box for months. Mom says that we are not even allowed to treat animals that bad and keep them locked in cages for months, why is it ok to do it to humans. So yes, we do get tired and in a moment of disparity, I can see just ending it all. I keep telling myself to hang in it won’t last forever hopefully I will listen to my own words and stay strong.

Although she died in prison, I believe the brunt of responsibility for her death lies in the hands of the people who put her in there. Prisons are not equipped or have the time or training to be able to deal with people with mental and behavioral problems. They have been taught that if they just keep disciplining with tickets, Keeplock and SHU, eventually they will stop acting out. This is far from the truth and that is why I believe that everybody I know with mental health or behavioral issues that goes to Albion ends with way worse issues. They are strictly about punishment whether you are guilty of your tickets or not. To them you are just a trouble maker who must love being locked all the time. They aren’t educated to the bigger picture that people like D and myself have always had problems even as small children. If we understood why we are the way we are, and could be normal I know our lives would not have been hard. There are many good decent officers here at Albion, who are fair, try to understand and treat us with dignity and to all of them I say thank you and don’t ever stop having heart, but there are others who well, the only way I can explain how I feel towards them is to refer you to “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” the dementors, the CO’s of Azkaban prison who don’t have a good happy positive thought about anyone, they take all good feelings and thoughts away, drain them of life, and take pleasure in watching you fail.

The powers that be, who send people like D and myself to prison full well know that prisons are dangerous for people with mental, emotional, and behavioral problems and worse than that, send children into adult prisons just because they can. They don’t care to help them get the help they need, it is easier and cheaper to ship them to prisons. Too many inmates in New York State under the age of 25 are killing themselves in prisons because they are literally being thrown away like garbage by the court systems. We need good transitional programs and job training for those whose skills were not up to the training programs in prison and good decent parole officers who talk to people like humans, really support, and help parolees to keep from going back to prison. All these things if they were in place may have saved D’s life. D needed a decent long term residential treatment and rehab program, that was equipped to deal with her mental health issues, not to be thrown away into prison as if she was disposable.

Although D’s death was the most horrible time of my life, it was a learning experience and surprisingly she inspired me to try to be the best person I can be and I do try, and that is not an easy thing in here. I learned not to depend on anyone but God and myself. Since her death, I have realized how making fun of someone, teasing, embarrassing or humiliating someone does hurt. We sometimes do not realize how mean comments can hurt another. I have learned to try to never judge anyone because you never know the circumstances of what they have had to endure that may have made them become the way they are. A big thing I have learned is that with just a little common kindness, it may save a life, and just showing human concern and being there for someone makes a difference and may have a positive impact on them.

In writing this essay, I felt that maybe others that have been in similar situations could possibly relate and may reach out to help someone who needs to be lifted. In choosing this topic I felt the way to get the message to all inmates about the importance of sticking together and helping other inmates instead of being mean to each other. I hope this reaches at least a few hearts and helps them understand the impact we all have on each other’s lives. This situation is real and it happens all the time inside and outside of prison. Try to remember you are not alone and try to never give up on life no matter how bad you feel like enough is enough. D left behind a family hat loved her very much and misses her everyday. More than anything I learned life is so precious, we take each other for granted never understanding that one moment someone can be there and the next day they can be gone from our lives forever. This had to be part of my healing process too; I had to tell her story so she did not die in vain. It is so ironic that my most notable surprising experience was with another inmate who taught me more than she could have ever imagined. Unbelievably I feel her with me sometimes holding me up when I feel like I just cannot do it anymore. No matter how bad people make you feel about yourself, no matter what they call you or how bad they try to degrade you, remember you are not unworthy, that everyone has issues especially the ones who want you to fail because that is the only way they have to feel good about themselves.

In closing, maybe this essay may shake some of the authorities, maybe someone somewhere will have the courage to stand up and start changing the system for the better. If you want people to pay their debts to society, come out and be better people, you cannot keep beating a dead horse with more and more punishment and shame. As we are all aware, many know and see how counterproductive prison can be; now we just need for someone with some common sense who has the power to take action because most of us are really worth trying to save. Too many lives have been lost or tossed aside in the name of paying for your crime.



‘Sand Castles’ and Other Poetry from Darren Edwards

Sand Castles

I can see the heat
rising from your shoulders,
translucent waves that
climb, and climb,
and fly to tickle the feet of God
like an ocean wave
sneaks up on a child
who has spent the day hunting
star fish and filling sand castles
with ages of imagined royalty,
and peasantry, and war, and love, and all the politics
and drama a seven-year-old with heavy brown rimmed
glasses and chicken legs can dream up
and then lies down on his batman beach towel
and sleeps,
and that wave comes creeping,
in a rolling crawl
and just flicks the arch of his foot
before it vanishes
back into the ocean.

This is how your heat travels to God.

Like a vagabond secret agent,
like a poet acrobat,
like Sampson’s hair falling to the floor,
or the scent of the wood Elijah used for his altar
lifted by the wind created from the flap and push
of angels,
like Don McKay’s Icuras—the one who
flew and fell but wasn’t sorry.
And this brings a wry smile to God’s face—all of it—
all of the first graders who still do their flirting with tiny fists,
the suit coats thrown to the ground after another Monday,
the unexpected smiles from sidewalk strangers,
all of the hickies hidden under unseasonable jackets,
the skaters with bloodied elbows and split shins,
all of the fire eating, hula dancing stay at home moms,

and all of our sand castles

though they will be washed away,
light brown streaks
pulled out with the tide.
Because they mean we’re alive,
rolling around below the stars.
We’re alive and blessed,
maybe just for the shortest of time,
maybe just right now,
even just as you’re sitting here
reading this—to know it.

Them

I’ve got a few words for them.
You know,
the dumb muthafuckers responsible
for all the shit going on in the world today.
The ones judging us
as if we need to be judged,
taking our money
and taking our jobs,
corrupting the youth
and filling the sky with smog,
the sideway wound,
act now
think when it’s too late,
crooked glace givin,
consumer life driven,
forget to wipe
because they won’t accept
that they poop too—
Them.

But there is no them
just us
and like Annie Dillard said,
were all a bunch of chickens.
Only I think we’ve been
cooped up too long inside our
own heads
and we’re all really roosters
fighting the urge to crow
at the sun every time it has the audacity
to rise.

And the only person I’ve actually
got the urge to flip off is myself
‘cause I’m sick of being in my own way,
and all I want is two moments of clarity:
one for me
and one for you.
We could share ‘em.
I’d let you play tag with my shadow
through the wrinkles in my brain,
and I could curl up in yours
warm and comfy but too nervous to sleep
just like the first time I slept over at Scottie’s
when he was Goose and I was Maverick
and we listened to Danger Zone
making fighter-jets out of paper cups and masking tape.

That’s what I really want,
a world built of paper cups and masking tape
where we can catch an updraft
pulling 8G’s without leaving our bedrooms.
And the friend flying wingman is a him
or a her
and the jack ass that just cut you off
is a her
or a him
because there is no them
and there never was
only we forgot
to remember
our I’s, he’s, she’s, and we’s
and now the sun’s setting
and begging us
to remember the sound
of a billion people crowing
like we haven’t heard since
before we could talk,
when sound was movement,
vibrations on infant clear skin
like we were seismic detectors of life,
and people were people,
except when they were
airplanes
with wings
that bent like elbows.

Dear Christians

please stop using prayer as a weapon.
Please stop using this beautiful piece of your faith
to hurl back handed benevolence at anyone
who disagrees with you.

When I place my opinions before you
and your retort is that
you’ll pray for me,
I want you to know that
you are tarnishing one of the
very pearls you’re so
worried my damned swiney feet
might stamp upon.

And I have to wonder if you actually
will pray for me.
Tonight, when you kneel at your bedside,
as you commune with your lord,
will you squeeze a cry for my lost soul
in-between thanking him for your vast blessings
and asking for yet a little more?
And what will that sound like?
Will you hide the sarcasm your voice
paraded when you mentioned your intention
to me, afraid that god may not approve
of your mean spirited use of his personal phone number?

You need to know that what you’re doing isn’t
merely an abuse of a religious tenant,
it’s a perversion of what is best in humanity.

At the center of the pagan, the atheist, the Buddhist,
and the scientist there lies a spot where vulnerability,
hope, strength, and need all coalesce into the possibility
of prayer.

It doesn’t matter what, if any, god the words are offered up to,
what matters is the acceptance
that sometimes we are not enough on our own,
that sometimes
we face problems so much larger than us
that our only move, our only hope,
is to reach out
beyond us for something
or someone else.

So, my dearest Christians,
next time someone doesn’t see
things your way
do us all a favor,
instead of lashing them
with promises of prayers,
please, for the sake of humanity,
simply tell them to fuck off
and then go on your way.

Canon

I hold in my hands
a new holy book.
Its cover is not
the bleached white
face of the old family
bible. It’s leather is the cracked
and studded image
of a biker’s jacket
rolling down dust back roads.

No disrespect to Mathew,
Peter, Paul, and the gang,
but they didn’t make the cut
in this canonization.

Inside this book of holy writ
you’ll find,
tattooed on vinyl,
the gospel of Gregg Graffin,
where words bounce to the beat
of Bad Religion,
and with each turn of the page
the words move faster and faster
forcing you to acknowledge
and abandon the hypocritical
parts of yourself just so your
soul can lose enough weight
to keep up with their building pace.

Placed on mahogany panels,
the Epistles of Annie Dillard are
drawn out in careful calligraphy
singing the praises of our natural world
while simultaneously charging
it with the monstrous crimes it commits
every day against the clay footed children
who wonder its face.

The Songs of Montaigne are filled
with farts, frailties, and jokes about
pubic hair, asking that we embrace
ourselves whole and complete,
no longer despising those parts
we’re taught have no place
in polite conversation,
reminding us that
even on the highest throne
we are still seated upon our arses.

And while the psalms of Chardin
glorify the majesty of questions,
the First Book of Descartes
teach us the method best used
for answering them.

Nearing its end
we find the revelations of South Park,
painstakingly composed by
brother Parker and brother Stone
where we can learn about the value
of irreverence, how it cuts through
pomp and false pretense
with a snicker and a sneer,
reminding us that wisdom
and insight can come from
anywhere,
even a narcissistic, anti-Semitic, fat boy
from a small town in Colorado.

Now, if anyone,
upon hearing the contents of this book,
is stressed or offended,
frightened or a little bit off put,
take comfort,
for if, as is so prone to happen,
a war were ever to be waged
over this holy book
you can rest assured
that the scrawny Mohawked,
teens that would wage it
could easily be put down,
after all, it’s tough to win a war
with soldiers wielding angst and ideas.

Dear Politifucks,
We’re not amused.
We’re not surprised.
And we’re sure as fuck
not impressed when you
twist facts to your own
advantage:

Ronald Reagan campaigning
as the “Education President”
when, especially in the eighties, education
legislation was left exclusively under the direction
of the states.

Or, when you leave out inconvenient details.

Case in point, Mitch McConnell
praising how we possess the best health care
system on the planet,
when, in actuality, we only placed first
in preventative care in a study possessing
data from five county. Conveniently
passing by the World Health Organizations’
comprehensive study which proceeded from
a more healthily populated sample size
inspecting a broader range of topics
and placing us thirty-seventh in the world
below Greece, Canada, and Chili.

Watching you play games
with the policies that impact
the process of our daily life
is positively exasperating.

Your childish nature
is not endearing,
when you stumble
over your own double speak
like a 6-year-old trying to talk
his way out of the pile of cookie
crumbs strewn about the kitchen
floor. You can try and cute face
your way out of this one,
but we, as your generally
too tired to give a fuck parents,
are about to wake up.

The information age is coming
full circle and were starting
to move past using the gateway
to enlightenment for only looking
at porn, or photos of kittens with
silly captions. We’re starting to realize
the speed at which we can fact check
the bullshit which pours from your
mouths faster than the toxic waste
you’re constantly trying to convince
my home state we need to let you
bury in our back yards.

The day is coming when no amount
of air time bought with back door
corporate donations can make up
for the ground you lose every time
your tongue splits into another fork.

So, here’s my advice: Stop! Just Stop.
The only people you’re bullshitting
are yourselves, and delusion, political,
pathological, or otherwise is a track recursive
as a monopoly board always leading
back to dissonance and despair
as your own cognitive abilities shouts
“hey asshat!”
every time you pass go.

And whatever currency
of credibility you once curried
with us is as useless now
as the cud being chewed
by all the cows we no longer
resemble, mulling amongst
our masses, tromping wherever
you led us.

You’re about to witness what a wasteland
we can wear your ideology down to
as we magically sprout horns
and like the bulls we forgot we were
wage war with all the fences you’ve
used to weave us
single file
away from the truth.

Bio: Darren M. Edwards is a performance poet, essayist and teacher. He received both his B.S. and his M.S. in English from Utah State University where he also worked as an Editorial Assistant for Isotope: A Journal of Literary, Nature and Science Writing. After graduating, he started New Graffiti: Literature on the Streets which, during its three year run, received a “Best in State” designation from City Weekly. Currently, Darren teaches courses in composition, literature, and creative writing for Dixie State College. In addition, he co-founded Storm the Mic, a weekly open-mic for creative writing.

His essays and poetry have appeared in a number of journals including Dialogue, Irreantum, Camas, and Stone Voices. His writing has received awards from The Association for Mormon Letters and The Utah State Poetry Society. He has also been featured on Utah Public Radios literary program Synecdoche.

Poems from Danish writer Kamilla Boegedal

 

Deprived of positive thinking

The moon  

the dark side of the moon

The stars, the snow  they glitter at noon

The universe  

the universe contradicts me

But why  am I lost so easily?

It all adds up  

it all makes sense

There is no moon  

there is no conscience  

there is no coincidence

There is no noon.

Pretty

If i climb high enough Into heaven

and bring down a piece of it

maybe seven

Could you believe me then

Proof in hands

or would your blindness of heart

contaminate the chance

of ever convincing you

To see What I see

Just be

What you are and can be

Pretty.

 

 

Revelation

I have looked the sun straight in the eye

I was invited, he said he’d got nothing to hide

So I took off my glasses and I took a good look

At what I’d just yesterday mistook  

For an ordinary ball of light

No glamour, no spite

Yet now the Sun of suns was in my sight

And I felt my whole foundation shook

So I peeled off my skin and I threw it away

So that I may live in the land of forever day.

 

 

Conclusion by poetry

What if this life was just a cartoon

as dark as the moon

Would we be the heroes on a flying ship

Controlled by a chip

I should fly and save the world

my ego so twirled

These faces are much too beautiful

all, too, so hurtful

Maybe the cartoonists should leave the rest

only design the crest

And to all of us leave the best

making this life not a cartoon

 

… But a contest

 

Kamilla Boegdal is a young writer from Denmark. She may be reached at kamillaboegedal@gmail.com

 

Shamrock, a short story by Linda Allen

He pulled me off the floor and threw across the room onto the vanity. The vanity crumbled and the mirror shattered. I cried out in pain. He laughed a creepy, deep, hollowing laugh. I grabbed a shard of mirror as he lunged at me yet again. “AAAHHHH!!!” I shouted as I plunged the mirror shard into his upper thigh, just above the knee. The revolver dropped to the floor and slid to the corner, by what I assumed to be the closet door. He yelled out in pain and I pulled the mirror shard out of his leg and continued to repeatedly stab him. I propped myself up against the closet door. The shard of mirror was now in the guy’s abdomen and he was covered in stab wounds and blood. My hand was cut and bloody and was bleeding copiously. And yet still he tried to dive at me. The revolver was inches away from both of us. We both went for it.

BANG! BANG! BANG!

Have you ever had your entire life flash before your eyes? Well, I have, and I suppose this is one of those times. You could say I have had more than my fair share of these moments, but I suppose I should back up and start from the beginning. My name is Remmi Pennington. I am seventeen years old, and in my young life I have had more than my fair share of hard times too. My parents Remmington Pennington III and Kalista Deucain Pennington, were told they were having a baby boy, and to the surprise of everyone, doctor and nurses included, I was a girl. I was named Remmilynn Kate Pennington. See, I was a disappointment and mistake from the very beginning of my life. Kalista wanted and needed a boy in order to inherit the Deucain fortune, and clearly that was never happening for her. Kalista hated babies, kids, and most human beings in general. She had her tubes tied before she was made aware I was a girl. Twenty-six hours of labor, an emergency C-section, and tubal tie surgery later Kalista was told the horrible news “It’s a girl” and her dreams of her family fortune went down the drain. Now from the time I was born a girl, I was unwanted and despised by Kalista. When I was three months old, Kalista left me at home for six hours so she could go shopping. When my father got home he was horrified, he fed, cleaned, and spent time with me. My father lectured Kalista for hours and days. From then on I was beaten on a daily basis by Kalista for little to no reason at all, simply for breathing and being alive, I suppose. When I was seven years old, she tried to drown me in the bathtub.

“Kalista, what the Sam Hill are you doing?!” my father shouted as he walked by the bathroom.

My father grabbed Kalista’s arms from behind and pulled her away from the tub. Now, the entire bathroom floor was wet, due to the fighting and kicking I was doing while she was drowning me. So, the slight force with which my father pulled Kalista off made her slide across the bathroom floor and hit her head on the toilet. My father pulled me out from under the water, and even though this only took seconds, it seemed like forever, or that is what my father says, I don’t remember it at all. My father called 911 and was told to performed CPR, as Kalista yelled in the background.

“Let the little brat die! DIE! DIE! DIE! LITTLE BRAT! DIE! DIE! DIE!”

To my father’s delight and Kalista’s dismay, the CPR worked, just as the police and ambulance sirens were heard at the end of the lane. They rushed me to the hospital and Kalista was handcuffed and loaded into the back of a squad car and driven to jail, after the EMTs cleaned and temporarily bandaged her head wound, once at the hospital she received stitches. Kalista was institutionalized after the “near fatal drowning accident,” as her high priced Deucain lawyer said.

When I was fourteen, Kalista was released from the institution and allowed to return home. She was NEVER to be left alone with me, so my father hired an Au pair of sorts. My best friend Seamus O’Henry, the Irish boy that lived just down the lane, walked me home from the bus stop as he always did. Seamus was sixteen and all the girls at school were in love with him. He was an amazing boy, smart, very well read, kind, generous, caring, athletic, and the red hair and the Irish accent –well, that was just a bonus, a perk so to speak. Anyway, back to what I was telling: Seamus and I were in the front garden looking for four-leaf clovers, or shamrocks as Seamus called them. Kalista opened the screen door and stepped out onto the porch.

“Remmilynn, I need your help with something please. Good day, Seamus,” Kalista said in a very strange friendly voice and a smile. She opened the screen door again, and waited for me to enter.

I had a bad feeling, but ignored it in a naïve fourteen year old way. I told Seamus bye and went inside to see what Kalista needed help with. As I walked in the house, Kalista shut the screen door, the front door, and locked them both. I turned to ask what Kalista needed and WHAM! Kalista hit me in the face, just below the eye on the cheek bone, with a red umbrella. My cheek was bleeding, and the force and pain Kalista inflected knocked me to the foyer floor. I put my hand on my cheek and crawled backward toward the stairs, Kalista was swinging and hitting me with the umbrella again and again. I was shouting for the Au pair, to no avail. I continued to crawl backward up the stairs. All the while Kalista was hitting me repeatedly with the umbrella, while saying:

“You dirty little whore. He won’t want you now. You dirty little whore. Dirty little whore! Dirty little whore!”

As I finally reached the landing between the first and second floors, I backed myself against the wall and with all the might I had I kicked Kalista. She fell backwards down the stairs and onto the foyer floor with a loud THUD. As I started to stand, the front door burst open with one fell swoop, pieces of wood from the door frame flying and landing on the foyer floor like pieces of wooden snow. Seamus and Mr. O’Henry came running in, Seamus’ heart-stopping smile aimed in my direction.

“Seamus, son, get Little Miss Remmi out of here.” Click, click went Mr. O’Henry’s Irish shotgun as he cocked it and aimed it at Kalista. “Don’t you move, lassie, or I will shoot you with no hesitation whatsoever.” Mr. O’Henry’s thick Irish accent is really strong when he is mad, and his entire body’s skin turns red with anger and his shamrock colored green eye, the same eyes he and Seamus share, turn somewhat darker green with rage.

Seamus ran up the stairs to me and proceeded to help me to my feet, to no avail. I could not stand. He picked me up with such ease that I was taken aback, he and carried me down the stairs onto the front porch swing, just as the police and ambulance pulled up in front of the house. Mrs. O’Henry came running across the yard, her red curly hair bouncing and blowing as she did so.

“Mr. Pennington is on his way home,” she said to the officers and EMTs as she reached the porch. “But if Miss Remmi needs to go the hospital, I will inform him posthaste.”

I spent six seemingly very long days, in the hospital. I had a broken cheek, fractured ankle, fractured wrist, several broken ribs, and not to mention bruised legs that made it hurt to walk. Seamus came by every day after school and every other chance he got. He brought lunch from his favorite Irish kitchen, his mother’s restaurant, for us several times. Some days he would stay late into the night, just watching me sleep, my cute Irish knight in shining armor, sometimes past midnight. Dad and Mrs. O’Henry would have to force him to go home and sleep in his own bed. When the weekend came, no one could force him to leave. I was released on a Sunday morning, so Seamus was allowed to miss church for the first time in his sixteen-year life, and neither he nor I has ever missed a Sunday since.

Kalista was sent to prison that time, for one year, with mandatory counseling. When the year was up she was released, but not allowed near me, and had to wear an ankle monitor for three months; but by then she had developed a new addiction, well several really, meth, heroin, and unbeknownst to my father or I, cocaine. Kalista moved in with her meth dealer boyfriend, to a rat-and-roach-infested meth apartment. Kalista and my father were in the process of a divorce, but Kalista’s lawyers were dragging it on, she wanted more alimony.

Over the next few years, Seamus and I spent every day together. When my father got sick with cancer, Seamus and the O’Henrys helped us both in so many ways. I sat in my bedroom’s window seat in my black dress and heels, as he O’Henrys deal with the people downstairs. I had to go upstairs. Well Seamus had to half carry me upstairs, after bursting into tears for what seems like the millionth time in three days. As I sit there writing, I rubbed the 14K white gold necklace, with a green shamrock charm, Seamus had made for me and given me on my seventeenth birthday four days before. I looked around my bedroom and notice my half packed suitcase on top of the hope chest at the foot of my bed and remember I am supposed to spend the summer in Ireland with Seamus and the entire O’Henry clan. My father made me promise that whatever might come, I would go and spend my summer in Ireland. The trip was a fortnight away and, since I promised my father that whatever came I would go, I am going.

As I lay in bed, around midnight, I was crying yet again in spite of Seamus holding me, the phone rang. I sat up in bed and answered the phone. It was Kalista, and she wanted the rest of her things brought to her apartment. I told her I would drop her things off in the a.m. before I had to go to work. Kalista reluctantly agreed and I hung up the phone angrily. I laid my head on Seamus’ bare chest and he wrapped his arms around me. I fell asleep.

The alarm woke us at 7:00 a.m. and Seamus and I made love in the shower, then got dressed for work. After I was dressed I went to gather Kalista’s things that I had boxed up years earlier. Two boxes and I would finally be rid of Kalista forever. I was enthusiastic to finally get her stuff out of my house. I called Kalista at 8:30 a.m. and told her I was on the way over. She said they were up, and that it was fine to bring them now, but to hurry up because she had “stuff” to do.

As I pulled into the parking lot of the apartment complex, I took a deep breath before getting out of my car. I grabbed the boxes, locked my car doors, and walked up to Kalista’s fourth floor dump –I mean apartment. I knocked on the apartment door several time before it was opened by Kalista’s boyfriend. He opened the door in a brown towel wrapped around his lower waist. His jet black below the ear hair was slicked back and wet, his long Elvis sideburns perfectly groomed, not a hair out of place. This is who she left my father for –she seriously downgraded.

“Hey woman, the girl is here with your stuff!” he yelled as he backed away from the door, allowing me to enter, but offering no help with the boxes.

Kalista came out of what I assumed to be the bedroom, wearing a brown towel as well. Her blonde hair was wrapped up in a smaller brown towel.

“Put them on the table and get the hell out!” Kalista said with the same amount of disdain in her voice as was in our hearts.

I half tossed, half forcefully dropped the boxes on the kitchen table.

“Now now, ladies cannot we all just get along.” Kalista’s boyfriend said with a smile that was more sexual than friendly

I rolled my eyes, walked out of the apartment right to my car, and drove to work. She had some nerve; I should have punched her in the face. Who did she think she is to talk to me like that? What did I ever do to her to deserve all the physical, mental, verbal, and emotional abuse I received from her my entire life? I have no idea and frankly I would really like to know, but cannot stand to be around Kalista long enough to ask. Not to mention, I have to admit I am terrified of what the answer might actually be.

At 7:00 p.m. I received another call from Kalista saying she needed me to come back by there because she claimed there were some things missing and she wanted to tell me what they were. I told her I would stop by after work and dinner, and Seamus insisted on going. Seamus and I arrived at Kalista’s around 8:00 p.m. I asked Seamus to wait in the car and come in and get me if I was in there longer than fifteen minutes. The music, if you can call it that, was so loud I was unsure my knocks would be heard, but they were. Kalista answered the door after only two knocks and I followed her over to the living room. Three people were sitting there. Kalista’s boyfriend, a muscular shirtless black man who was covered in tattoos with profanity, nude girls, and other very undesirable things, another muscular shirtless white guy with tattoo similar in genre as the black man, they were all snuffing several lines of cocaine through blue looking straws.

“Look, Kalista, I have had a long few days, I am tired, and I just want to be done with you once and for all, so what do you think you are missing?” I said with anger and annoyance.

Just after the last syllable left my mouth, I was grabbed by the white guy who had just snorted two lines of cocaine, and dragged/carried to the bedroom.

“You are my payment for the coke, so top or bottom, sweetheart?” the guy said throwing me onto the bed, if you consider a mattress with dirty sheets a bed, locking the door, and undoing his belt.

God, I knew coming here was a horrible idea, but I had gone against my better judgment and came anyway. Why had I been stupid enough to fall for this ploy again? I got off the bed just as he was about to climb on top of me, I pushed the guy away from me as hard as I could, and went for the door. The music, the kind with profanity every other word, out in the living room was turned up to an ear bleeding volume. The guy grabbed my left arm as I reached for the door lock.

“Kalista said you like it rough,” the guy said with a cocky grin, revealing his drug addict messed up teeth, and pulled me towards him. He tried to kiss me and I stomped on his foot with all my might. He yelled profanities which could rival the music at me in pain.

Again I went for the door and again he grabbed me, this time with more force. He shoved me into the dresser; I hit my back on the drawer pulls and fell to the floor face first in extreme pain. He removed his belt from the loops of his jeans with a loud whoop. I forced myself to stand up in spite of the pain as he removed a revolver from the nightstand drawer. I stumbled backwards towards the door, putting my back against the door, because if there is anything I have learned from my years of abuse, you never turn your back, never show fear, and never show pain. I was terrified and in extreme pain, but I was determined not to show fear or pain and let him think he was going to rape me without a fight. I put my right hand on the lock. He shook his head and the revolver at me in a “don’t even think about it” notion. I looked him dead in the eyes with no fear in my eyes whatsoever. He slowly walked towards me. My heart was pounding; he began unbuttoning his pants, whilst still pointing the revolver at me. I took a deep breath and let him get right up against me; when he went to kiss me, I kneed him in the groin as hard as possible. He knelt to the floor in pain, swearing loudly at me yet again. I kicked him in the stomach while smiling and grabbed the lock.

BANG!

He shot at me and the bullet grazed my right arm and imbedded itself in the door. He then plunged at me while yelling; I moved just in time to avoid being tackled to the floor. He hit the door face first, breaking his nose. He grabbed my leg and I fell to the floor. I turned over onto my back and he crawled on top of me and began to unbutton my jeans. Just as I was about to knee him in the groin again, he lifted me off the floor, I suppose anticipating what I was about to do, and threw me across the room onto the vanity. The vanity crumbled and the mirror shattered. I cried out in pain. He laughed a creepy, deep, hollowing, evil, laugh that echoed off the walls. I grabbed a shard of mirror as he lunged at me yet again. “AAAHHHH!!!” I shouted and threw the shard at him; it scratched his abdomen and landed on the floor. Then I grabbed a larger shard as I plunged the mirror shard into his upper thigh, just above the knee. The revolver dropped to the floor and slide to the corner of the room, by what I assumed to be the closet door. He yelled out in pain and I pulled the mirror shard out of his leg and continued to repeatedly stab him. I propped myself up against the closet door. The shard of mirror was now in the guy’s abdomen and he was covered with stab wounds and blood. My hand was cut and bloody and was bleeding copiously without end. And yet still he tried again to dive at me. The revolver was inches away from both of us. We both went for it.

BANG! BANG! BANG!

The guy fell backwards, three shots to the chest, as the bedroom door was kicked in. The music was turned off in the other room. The police made their way into the room; I was shaking with the revolver firmly planted in my hands. When I saw the police officers, I dropped the gun, and put my hands in the air as high as I possibly could. Seamus came running in the room literally pushing past several officers. He ran over to me and hugged me so tight I cried out in pain.

“I waited ten minutes, like you said, came up heard some commotion, and called the police. I was so scared oh, Remmi baby, I am sorry. I love you so much,” he said letting go and kissing me.

“I love you too, Seamus O’Henry.”

**************************************

Three days later.

 

 

O Danny Boy, the pipes, the pipes are calling

From glen to glen, and down the mountain side…

Now I sit here in the Emerald Isles of Ireland, listening to Seamus, my best friend, my Irish knight in shining armor, my true love, and his Irish kin singing O Danny Boy. All the while the wind is blowing through the beautiful moors, valleys, and lush green grass of the Isles as if singing along. I took a deep breath while holding my shamrock necklace; the air is so pure and clean I feel like I am breathing for the very first time.

This be the end of this tale, there be no more to tell ye. Ye want to know what happens next, well that be another tale which is not ready to be told. Ye will have to wait for ‘morrows yet to come. Hehe 😉

Remmi Pennington