And So

Usually during a poetry-writing month, I start to lose steam at around the 15th. This month, I have had one or two days that felt like toss-offs, like today, but mostly I have staved off the fretfulness this month. I’ve abandoned the daily prompts at Write Better Poetry more often than not, but I feel like this is a stronger batch than sometimes. Now I’m just going to need to do some editing this summer. Ugh. I say that every summer.

Gratitude List:
1. Catnaps
3. Crochet
4. Chocolate macaroons
5. Anticipating summer
May we walk in Beauty!

“You know you’re on the right path if your capacity for holding paradox expands, your sense of humor broadens, your commitment to justice deepens, your compassion for and protection of life grows, and your love of people transcends race, color, creed, tribe, religion, politics and sexual [orientation].” —Rabbi Rami Shapiro

“It’s not fair,” Linus said, staring off into nothing. “The way some people can be. But as long as you remember to be just and kind like I know you are, what those people think won’t matter in the long run. Hate is loud, but I think you’ll learn it’s because it’s only a few people shouting, desperate to be heard. You might not ever be able to change their minds, but as long as you remember you’re not alone, you will overcome.” —excerpt from The House in the Cerulean Sea, T.J. Klune

“As truly as God is our father, so truly is God our mother.” —Julian of Norwich

“Had I not created my whole world, I would certainly have died in other people’s.” ―Anaïs Nin

“Come forth into the light of things, Let Nature be your teacher.” ―William Wordsworth

Forever Oneness,
who sings to us in silence,
who teaches us through each other.
Guide my steps with strength and wisdom.
May I see the lessons as I walk,
honor the Purpose of all things.
Help me touch with respect,
always speak from behind my eyes.
Let me observe, not judge.
May I cause no harm,
and leave music and beauty after my visit.
When I return to forever
may the circle be closed
and the spiral be broader.
―Bee Lake (Aboriginal poet)

“We’re so engaged in doing things to achieve purposes of outer value that we forget the inner value, the rapture that is associated with being alive, is what it is all about.”
―Joseph Campbell

“I can’t tell you why your story is important, only that it is.” ―Mara Eve Robbins

“Time is like dragons.
They are both imaginary, yet can eat you anyway.” —The Cryptonaturalist

Heather Havrilesky:
“The antidote to a world that tells us sick stories about ourselves and and poisons us into thinking we’re helpless is believing in our world and in our communities and in ourselves.”

“Whatever happens to you, don’t despair.

Even if all the doors are closed, there will be a secret path for you,
that no one knows.

You can’t see it yet, but many paradises are at the end of this journey.” —Rumi

Toxic White Femininity

Keep looking deeper. . .

Following her fascinating performance at the G20 this past week, I have been thinking about how Ivanka Trump typifies white American femaleness.

This is toxic white femininity at its most caricatured, I think. I remember being caught by her apparent (key word: apparent) candor and thoughtfulness in her speech at the RNC when her daddy was running for prez. She could parrot feminist-sounding ideas, and perhaps she even has some sense of (white) feminist conviction. (What was the phrase she used in the infamous video from the G20? Something about a male-dominated ecosystem?) She can look deeply concerned in interviews about children and poor people. Along with the Barbie-fresh have-it-all physical image she has cultivated, she builds up an image of ideological understanding that has no basis in real, significant thought and education. She’s young and beautiful and well-dressed, and knows how to play for power based on her sexual appeal. She has the family and the power-husband and the power-job and the handbags. From Image Menu C, she’ll help herself to a little pseudo-feminism (as long as it has no hint of intersectionality), a little furrowed brow and sad eyes when presented with the pain of non-white non-rich people. Ideology as image-boost. Like someone who has no idea who Che Guevara is wearing a Che t-shirt because it looks cool.

Please understand that this isn’t simply a hate-Ivanka fest. I want to come back to the main point. I think she absolutely typifies toxic white femininity. Isn’t this toxic white femininity in a nutshell? The image from the G20 that seems to hold it all is the doll-like and flirty Ivanka sitting with her daddy among all those serious world leaders, because vulnerability, because sexuality, because Disney-princess.

And I don’t exempt myself here. I swim in this cultural soup myself. I try to wake up and wake up and wake up again. White sisters, we can choose to use our privilege to pretend our way into powerful situations, we can parrot intellectual-sounding babble about the male-dominated ecosystem, we can weaponize our sexuality with flirty child-like princess-innocence, we can carry all the power-handbags we want, but we’ll be helping only ourselves. Consolidating our own power. Continuing the sinister and insidious mock-innocence of the white woman who could pretend concern for the enslaved people on her husband’s estate while brutally and capriciously abusing the house-slaves. Continuing the hypocrisy of northern white women who could give lip service to civil rights, but do everything in their power to keep black and brown children out of their own children’s schools.

I’m not sure how to wrap this up. I guess the point is more about unwrapping at this stage. How do we white women unthread ourselves from this toxic tapestry? How do we grow beyond the very modern fairy tale that so many of us find ourselves embracing? Let’s begin by walking into a different fairy tale, leaving the princesses behind. We’ve got new woods to walk in, new characters to notice and pay attention to. Here is the stark and liberating reality: we’re not actually the main character. Can we step out of the spotlight, share power, and choose to live authentically? Can we be true to our human selves rather than purchasing images of selves like America’s princess?

(Gratitude: My friend Christine Lincoln–a Poet and Activist and Grandmother and Wise Woman and so much more–is the one who gave me the analytical doorway into an exploration of toxic white femininity. I hope she writes a book. All Americans should read it.)

On Intersectionality


Today, I have been thinking about feminism and intersectionality. There’s lots of good–and some perhaps-not-so-good–commentary on the webs these days about the Women’s March coming up in a few weeks. While I don’t want to leap blindly onto any new bandwagon that comes along, I also want to lend my voice to a gathering movement for equal rights for all people, one that recognizes–hopefully–that the leadership roles and the power to shape the movement must be held by women of color. By all means include white women in the work of advancing feminism, but for too long we have allowed the veils of privilege to keep us ignorant of the full range of women’s experiences, and I think it is time and more than time for white women to take the listening role.  Here are some ways that white women can position ourselves within the movement.
1. Be listeners. Listen to the stories of women of color.
2. Believe. When we talk about abuse, we say that one of the things we need to do is to believe women when they speak their stories. This applies here, too: When women of color speak about the pain and anger and frustration, believe them, even (particularly) when it is about racism.
3. Avoid the day’s common default response of outrage and huffiness. When women of color have something to say about their experiences or about how they have been treated by white women, don’t get miffed. This prevents listening. Let’s just skip the defensive posture, open our ears, and reach out our hands. How else will we hear truth?
4. Put the power and energy of our inherent privilege to the use of the movement, and to our sisters of color. Offer our sisters whatever power and leverage we are able to create from our own privileged positions.
5. When I was a teenager, and my mother was trying to train me to be a more engaged participant in the life of our household, she pushed me to keep asking, “What can I do next?” That’s a good question for us, too. “What can I do?” Instead of, “I think you should. . .”
6. Be ready to keep learning.

I like Shishi Rose‘s take on the subject.

Gratitude List:
1. Layers. Layers of clothing on a cold day. Layers of ideas. Layers of caring and concern.
2. The bowl is big enough to hold us all.
3. The color pink. I am finding a new appreciation for pink. I am starting to wear more grandmotherly pinks and roses and beige. That’s okay. I need the gentleness of rose right now, and the ferocity of fuschia.
4. Arundathi Roy and Vandana Shiva. Look up quotations by them on GoodReads.
5. Baked oatmeal with blueberries for supper.

May we walk in Beauty!


It always happens about mid-month when I am doing a poem-a-day: I start to poop out a bit, leaving the work of it–even the imagining part–until later and later in the day.  I loved the idea I started to work with today, using this crazy photo from Facebook to get the prompt rolling (it’s on the theme of confession), but now I feel the pressure to rush it so I can get on to planning tomorrow’s classes.


I admit it:
I still have the vandal’s fantasies,
One of my heroes is Banksy.
I love the artists and agitators
who take their social commentary
to the streets.

Sometimes I hear stories
of the tricksters and their mischief
and I wish that I had thought of them myself–
like exchanging the voices of talking dolls
so Barbie growls, “Vengeance is mine!”
and G.I. Joe opines, “Math class is sooooo hard!”

In college, I dreamed of joining
ninja women climbing billboards
to plaster “Not on our bodies!”
over the bodies of women
selling cars with their bodies.

Today was another last straw
in a long, long line of last straws:
Two packets of poetry magnets,
the pink one and the blue.
I want to buy them up and scramble,
then sell them in orange and green packages
declaring: Ballet worms and rugby wings!
I’ll climb into my fairy aeroplane
and grab my handbag
for a ride with the skeleton bunnies.

This is just a warning
so when you see the headlines
about the local schoolteacher
caught making a ruckus in the toy store,
you won’t need to be shocked.
Just roll your eyes and say,
“Well, it’s about time!”

Gratitude List:
1. Bluebells!  (I know–they’re technically grape hyacinths, but I don’t really care.  We called them bluebells when I was a child, so bluebells they will be).
2. Spring tonic pesto: large handfuls of chickweed, with a little dandelion, burdock, nettle, garlic mustard, wild mustard, sorrel, wild garlic.
3. Joss’s book is past seventy pages now.  He keeps adding sections: tonight included pieces of a Baby Animals calendar and a Birds calendar.  And always the demand, like a pushy schoolteacher: “Write sentences!”
4. A spring-like day.  I feel better, being slightly sick on day like today, than I did, being mostly well on a gray and cloudy day.
5. Reading Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Everything with Ellis.

May we walk in Beauty!