SMITTEN Review: For the love of women and reading — When Women Inspire

Recently I was gifted with an advance copy of the poetry anthology SMITTEN. I was intrigued upon hearing that all of the poems had one theme: the exploration of love between women. 46 more words

via SMITTEN Review: For the love of women and reading — When Women Inspire

Thank you so much to Christy Birmingham of http://www.whenwomeninspire.com for this incredible review of SMITTEN due out Fall, 2019. Please read the full review and consider following http://www.whenwomeninspire.com as it’s an incredible site and Christy is a remarkable woman.

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What kind of lesbian would I be if I were born today?

two women kissing while wrapped in rainbow flag
Photo by Karina Irias on Pexels.com

I see your pictures on social media

a part of me is envious

of your freedom

even though women many years before

either of us

had absolutely no freedom and only those

with enough money could consider taking

a woman as their lover

it is hard to imagine

each generation I suspect

forgets the sacrifices of the last

cannot envision a time when

it was illegal to love

my experience was never that awful

I had freedoms many women still do not possess

and I am grateful for that

but sometimes when I see your

youthful face and the grace with which you accept love

how natural and easy it feels

I recall how I began

hiding in dark bars, trying to fit in, failing

never one to play endless games of poker face

I didn’t fit in with my own kind then

but if I’d been you

born in the sun with your turquoise eyes like the Donovan song

I might have had on my arm

a whole host of dreams and not

dabbled in boys for a few futile and unhappy years or

felt I couldn’t have had children and let

my fear and my constraint decide for me

the future

you are the age my daughter might be

and I would like to think I’d have

done all you have done had I been born

in a time of greater acceptance where

women who love women can grow their hair

and not have to cling to stereotypes or subterfuge

carrying knots of shame and confusion

like blankets never stretched out and slept on

I would have gotten a tattoo and maybe

been less shy and apologetic

I remember at 18 that’s all I seemed to do

sorry to my family for not having turned out straight

sorry to my friends for being the odd one out

sorry to the gays on the march who thought

with my dresses and my long tresses I was a weekend

lesbian

if they only knew

what it took and what I sacrificed

maybe they understand now

but we’re all a little older and

you don’t recapture what you felt at 18

you remember it like a language

I spoke the language of trial and error

I suspect you speak the language of love

just a little freer

so forgive me if I envy you as you walk past me

hand in hand, laughing, the edges of your hair

hitting your waist

like a Summer tidal wave.

SMITTEN – This is What Love Looks Like – Poetry by women for women – an anthology of poetry published by Indie Blu(e) will be out OCTOBER 2019 and available through all good book sellers. Please consider following SMITTEN’s FB page at https://www.facebook.com/SMITTENwomen/

If you are interested in supporting this project in any way please contact me @ candicedaquin@gmail.com. All LGBTQ projects are a little more challenging to succeed and we want the 120_+ poets who have work in SMITTEN to be read by many! Indie Blu(e) and their submissions rules can be found at www.indieblu.net69885770_486778818770380_803119555336470528_n

MAKE ME

war paint

When I’m not telling people

I am the least competitive person you’ll meet

I shouldn’t have moved to America, I am an anathema

I am nevertheless, competing with myself

to survive

the breakage, subtle and merciless of my whole

appears to be my greatest talent

should they look me up in the dictionary

I would stare out bleakly at Consequences in Fetus of Nicotine In-Utero

it began before words were formed, a slow

incompleteness quite unlike the robust energies

of my relatives

a thin, wan girl, slow to learn, I made up for it by being sporty

denying the gnawing, gnarling pain in my stomach

was more than a night terror

swimming for medals was competitive after all but

didn’t feel so when, head under water, the cheers sounded

like waves breaking on distant shores, easy to forget

noxious rinse of chlorine in verruca filled inner-city

swimming pool where small measure of fame could be found

among cast-off plasters.

Beneath water I felt powerful, unmolested, not burdened

by sandwich of pain in my gut or how

no-one for me sitting among keening spectators

when I came up for air.

Since then, fantasy has been my succor, I can’t deny it

perhaps I have lived half in petri-dish and tree house

with ‘here be dragons’ written on its door.

When teachers told me; I wasn’t behaving like a good girl

I said ‘make me‘ and spent the afternoon kicking muddy

kid shoes against linoleum hallways

what do they think we imagine as, willful, disobedient, opinionated

we are shunted from our positions as ‘well behaved’ to the

shrine of sinners lost in plastic corridors?

We learn the company of other Reparates

is oddly comforting, no-one to remind us we cannot

make sense of numbers and still struggle with spelling

soon I gave up trying for A’s

locking lips with strange boys who wanted my best friends

instead of this disinterested girl

briefly kissing felt like swimming underwater

but coming up for air was much harder.

I am teleported now into a body and time I never imagined

surviving this long or sitting at this table, watching birds

battle their pecking order outside in a hostile green world

I rarely visit

it’s not reluctance or shyness, they have grown comfortable with

the shifting skin of me

something that happens when you begin to leach

that essence of youth and vigor

realizing, if you can make it out of bed today

you’re doing better than the day before.

I hear in my head, the scold of my mother

who believed I gave myself this illness

and much as they’ve told me that’s madness

I am often found returning to those words

as if they have some clammy power over me

which of course, they do.

I know I was well and then I was not

just like you can remember the day you lost your virginity

or survived a car accident or inherited a country cottage

it’s a day when colors and sounds change

in this case, terror walked into my throat

sucking on me, whispered; bitch, this is your new normal.

Fight as I may, these years have unfolded like those

paper flowers I used to buy in joke stores

put them in water and watch them bloom

only long enough before turning to ink and

wet tree pulp

it’s a form of flaying when strangers are kinder than

those you expect

angry with yourself for not learning sooner

expectation leads to disappointment.

This could be why I didn’t

enter many races or attempt to claw my way to the top (of what?)

better to stay low and wait it out until

you can have your turn

only sometimes, waiting uses up all the time you have left

then it’s almost too late and you have to change

everything.

Nowadays I compete with myself

can I cure the beast that’s become constant companion?

Will it matter if I do?

What happens afterward?

Fear is mauve and dives and swoops like unmated Mockingbird

I hear the kitchen clock and fast thud of my tired heart

Somewhere, I’m still the girl in the treehouse who says ‘make me’

perhaps one day it won’t be disappointment but

something lovely, I can only hope

though my body likes to punch me in the gut

as I fall asleep and try to dream

thump, thump, thump, my mother’s voice

this was something you did wrong

thump, thump, thump, my own voice

no it wasn’t this was an explosion taking the long way around

even getting half way there would be some kind

of accomplishment

which is why I always said it’s not about winning

but making the effort

to which I was told, that’s pretty negative foreign-born-girl.

Where’s your sense of spunk? I think I lost it somewhere between

throwing up for 4 months on end and the doctors saying

maybe it’s incurable…. ho ho ho …. you see

I’m not from here, I don’t belong

though where I came from I hardly know anymore

so I will forge ahead, outcast or survivor, pick a damn straw

with every passing year I realize

I can’t win, I but I will fight

MAKE ME I whisper to myself

bloody well try to MAKE ME stop.

 

Kristiana Reed’s pre-print review of SMITTEN

Thank you to the incredible Kristiana Reed for this advance review of SMITTEN, Indie Blu(e)’s latest poetry anthology which will be published this Fall. 

Candice Daquin and the editors at Indie Blu(e) Publishing have worked their magic once more in raising a powerful chorus of voices.

Daquin is a woman who has always sought to empower others from the first moment I became acquainted with her work and her nature. I also cannot think of a better person and writer to spearhead a body of work which celebrates love between two women. 

The writers and styles within this collection, which Daquin has woven seamlessly together, are varied – eclectic and powerful yet with the same, strong undercurrent coursing through every piece that this is what love looks like.

It is possible people will read the sub-heading of SMITTEN and assume this is an exclusive collection; only accessible if you are woman who loves or has loved a woman. But, what is truly wonderful is this isn’t true at all. Instead, SMITTEN holds and nurtures love poems to be read and enjoyed by anyone. After all, for centuries, we have consumed and enjoyed love poems written about women, by men. Why should the fact that the poet is a woman cause the response to be any different? 

‘Testimony’ by Carolyn Martin is one of the best examples of this. The nature of love and relationships does not suddenly change if it is not heterosexual; the essence of loving someone beyond belief even on the days they annoy you to distraction, remains. 

However, even though SMITTEN is not exclusive, it must be recognised as an anthology paving a new way for literature. All of the writers are female and all of the subject matter is female, lesbian, bisexual and more. Pieces such as ‘Lesbian’ by Avital Abraham and ‘Pulse’ by Melissa Fadul drive home why Daquin’s decision to create a collection like this is needed and welcomed. 

Too often we sideline LGBTQ+ work as a genre of its own, when it should be mainstream; literary works which are written by people to be enjoyed by people, no matter what their race, sexuality, gender and/or religion. 

Yet, until this happens, I applaud Daquin and Indie Blu(e) Publishing for brazenly making a stand. Until labels are but words and not identifiers, it is important that writers like those in this collection share their voices and stories, ever-lasting love and heartbreak, and their hopes and fears, to remind the literary world they will be heard, no matter what the response may be. 

Kristiana Reed August, 2019.

SMITTEN will be available this Fall via all good book sellers. For bulk orders, ARC copies or more information please contact Candice Daquin or Indie Blu(e) directly or go to the SMITTEN Facebook website

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We cried a long time ago. We don’t cry anymore.

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A warbling, holding, green glass pain

Like joined hands make paper cut

Invisible like girl in crowd, falls

Deep as ink without light

Stinging with clamoring cymbal

Tears almost bare themselves as first night lovers, tremorous

Retreat beyond the naked streets

It is not brutal gnashing strength

But soft lipped resignation

And a little elipsing hope

For bare faced ceasement

Lain like prayers and rushes and thrown flowers wetting paving stones

No ceremony. Only, black cars devoid of dust

A trail without salt. They bent lower to seek. Not yet.

It’s hard to say it. The wind chokes words. Before.

We walk on. Omphalos in fatigued lament

Toward reprieve, illuminate in muted tempest.

Furnish in her own time

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It’s the fantasy

something out of summer, as you’d dream it

bare legs tucked beneath white cotton and trimmed thick lace

laughing clavicle, slipping straps

the long necked wonder of descending evening

that sting on skin from days in sun

I’ve been here before

the last time, I lay beneath a boy with cut glass eyes

who bought me flowers from the night market

before they bombed Bali and innocence was our town

wearing a sarong of blood red and mustard, half grown

walking beaches at night fall, crabs coming up through sand

scuttling into still water, the recede and ebb of thought

knowing he wasn’t the one, still desiring the idea

of love and its myriad faces, the strange places we

take ourselves to feel alive, writhing beneath

his pinion and faith, you’ll stay with me, I’ll

make you like my kind, turn your eyes away

from the obsidian girls who set out sacrifices for Gods

orange petals, I am thinking of her beneath clothes

watching from hibiscus waves, will she learn to

secret away her longing in the deep pockets of

a sarong too wide for any more tucking?

what do we know? We’re just kids building sand castles

on empty beaches and he takes my hand and asks;

let’s keep going until we fall off the world

Please, let yourself, just pretend …

the wild of saying, yes I’ll follow you

travel the globe, searching stones for blood

finding in things that feel wrong, another direction.

Now I have come full circle

we’re not old, but we’re not angular children

thin boned and boundless on their bikes

dream life filling xylophone chests

her eyes are hurt by his stories, I can tell

even as I am the fantasy and the observer

thrown off scent by, my painted toe nails and sunlit hair

the slope of day closing like a picture album

grass like cat fur beneath naked toes

bent wrists spent of expression, limply wait

for electric cumulus as thirst penitent may

befriend dry river bed

I want to say to her; Don’t be trapped any longer

pick up and run away, half flung around the globe

leave the mounting regrets at your door, with the disappointed

find your self again, diving into the gleaming future

sleek as a wet dog will shine beneath and shake off

water weight when back on land

because you can, you know

it’s not written until you write it.

Here … take my hand, I’ll help you

and we jump, weightless

her short nails digging into the soft of my palm

read my future, she whispers into my neck

her breath is cherry, her eyes smudged black

I see the ransack

all the reasons she snarled and bit

for she made it this far, don’t push her

let her furnish in her own time, a place of grace

where light pours pure and undiluted

onto her heavy shoulders, hunched with rage

let it go

you don’t have to be here anymore

we catch the tail wind and it is warm

she murmurs, her eyes wide and seeking

the whole world awaits

I AM A TOTEM OF MY OWN BRANDING

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I’ve been told I’m a chronic pain in the ass

after all, it’s easy to destroy a child in an adult’s body

with past-tense words

and now in the time I’m meant to be at my strongest

chronic has visited me and stayed a long while

on a good day I think; This will not be forever

but temporary has always been a long way off

the doctors love to tell us; It’s incurable, get used to

living like this, hostage to something unknown and strange

as if that’s a normal thing to do

but if enough of us live with chronic illness, it will become normal

and that is not a good thing.

Before this …

I took chances, because you think

I’m invulnerable, sometimes I can fly

health, you take for granted

though I truly convinced myself, I had checked the boxes

right weight, exercise, organic, vegetables, no pre-made meals

(well, this is what I told my doctor, sometimes a couch counts as exercise, right?)

if I ate a slice of pizza, it was a treat with friends

though I like root beer, I never drank it

maybe making up for cigarettes, smoked in my twenties

but I thought if I keep jogging, if I keep living healthily

I won’t be felled, because you ARE WHAT YOU EAT.

A few months before I got sick, I recall

feeling strong, climbing through snow drifts and laughing

boundless energy, working long hours, feeling intensely alive

people saying; you look so healthy, your skin is radiant!

Those are not things people say now, unless

I apply a lot of make-up, to camouflage my fraying edges

instead it is me, who declines invitations

I am sorry I cannot go with you to eat, even though eating out

is the number one leisure activity where I live

because my stomach is ruined and I cannot digest much

I live plain and simple (and boring), like a nun and I am numbed

to the pleasures of wine and sauces and garlic, spices and oils

not recognizing my bloated mid section in the mirror

from the girl who once was told

she had an hour-glass figure, with a wasp waist

could run for buses and catch them in three-inch heals.

I know everyone has their burden

but when you get sick and it doesn’t go away

life becomes a series of scolds and let downs

you find out who really loves you and who harbored an anger

used the opportunity of your downfall, to insert a knife

it is the cowards way of course, but freedom of sorts

for none of us need, that kind of negativity in our lives

there is a blessing in disguise, when you find your tribe

the people who care and know the real you

not wanting to tear you apart, because it’s easy to kick you when you’re down.

But blessings do not salvage, the hours you spend sickening

remembering how you were rarely felled in past years

strong of body, sound of mind, juicing and walking ten miles

everything is turned upside down, inside out when you find

a burnt fuse, at the end of your outstretched arm.

There is no cure, there is no future

when you live, in a jar for the jarring

for a long while, I blamed myself

maybe in part, because someone I trusted told me;

“It is your fault, you must have somehow caused it”

easy to throw stones, at glass houses

I was a glass house, with many windows

break one and I cannot repair it

the wind will come in and make of my space

chaos

the sun will come in and make of my peace

madness.

Those things that brought me joy, were gone

instead, the regiment of illness strode in and stood firm

you cannot feel passion, when you are sick

ageing in hours, rather than decades, trying to stay above water

it is hard to feel hope

you rely upon the kindness of others

which is hard to do, if you are not used to it

and when they lift you to the light, you promise

if I can recover, I will try ever so hard to never be ungrateful

but with every mercy, is a dark day in hell

those days take it all out of you, like a scourge

the sickening can age you, more than a nightmare

one minute you recognize yourself, the next you are unknown

vulnerability, of not being able to take care of yourself

the expense and fear

your world crumbling around you.

These are things you get used to and when you have fallen

to the bottom and can no longer get up

that is where the truth lies

that is where you can find

your true self and the end of fear.

They tried to tell you that you were insane

making it up, all in your head, something’s wrong with that

crazy lady who pounds her fluttering chest in vain

tries to catch the eyes of doctors, with beseeching side-glance

SEE ME! HEAL ME! SAVE ME! WHAT IS WRONG?

WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO ME? WHY DID I WAKE UP ONE DAY

SICK AND IT NEVER WENT AWAY?

And yes ! Something was wrong with me and still is

not my doing, not my causing, not my dreaming

despite you saying; You bothered us, when you called and were upset

no mercy, no mercy, no mercy, that is not love.

Helped me let go. Don’t hold on to negativity.

Oh doctor, get it outt!

and if you can’t, then give me the key, the saw, the pick

so I may survive myself and somehow continue on.

Am I to label myself chronically ill, or in recovery?

Surviving or dying or all of the above?

how do you define what doesn’t go and doesn’t kill?

Spending all your money on alternative treatments that

don’t even know what they pretend to cure

how do you describe one good day, followed by one in hell?

others won’t understand, because they are well

what I would give to return, to that safe water place

but even if I did, I would not be the same

you live years with a loaded gun to your head, everything changes.

I am not me anymore

I cannot see out of my left eye

I cannot lift heavy things, with my weak foreign arms

I can walk ten miles and not break a sweat despite this and be told

by friends and foes; OH YOU DON’T LOOK SICK

I am an apparent scar of contradictions and pain

I hurt every day, my stomach feels like

something is eating me from the inside out

it convulses and retorts and shouts

“you will never win, you will bathe in pain the rest of your life”

but I will still try

because I don’t know how to give in to enemies, I cannot see

and even as I cannot eat normal food

one day I am good, the next I am dying green

even as nausea, has become my constant companion

and bottles of pills and vitamins rattle in my pit

even as I fight to be gracious in the eye of the storm

and those I thought would stand by me, try to drown me instead

I know there is still a moment

I am well enough to remember who I am

never to find that peace of mind again

but maybe recover to another state of being.

I wake in the night covered in sweat and the disinterested doctor says

“get used to not sleeping, get used to all of this, it is what you must suffer and many others do”

as if it is normal to be like this, as if it is something we should not mention

I will never think it is normal to be hijacked!

I jog into the forest, because it reminds me I am still living, my feet still work

I fight with wilted hands, when they tell me there is no hope

that I should just consign my former glories to a picture album and put

my feet up for a fifty year occupation of sofas and couches and day time oblivion

because THE POWER OF ME can overcome the power of negativity and this I believe

as I see in the mirror a girl who doubts but stares back unblinking.

I have lost my will at times

I do not write as much,  I have less energy

the last time I had a romantic dinner was in a dream and I

sleep with a heating pad on my stomach every night instead of a lover

but I still pay my own way and my own bills

I have a pride in pushing back against status quo

DEFYING the prescription of HOPELESSNESS.

they tell me go on disability. Just give up

I am not going anywhere, but to the finish line

I learned

by losing everything and having nothing but

the sheer will and dim light of my existence

I can do this without those I thought I had in my corner

because I am stronger than I realized

and this grieves me, as well as reassures me

but I come from a long line of stoic, strong women

and it seems sicker than I am, that we should hate each other

because life, surely we have found out, is fragile

and love is all that makes sense

but even without love I will continue and not

let the flame go out.

Sometimes I ask myself why?

why not just give in? Take the knife, swallow the pill

to oblivion or some non-sign-posted destination

I don’t have children to protect

it would be easy to slip out of this world and its sword edge of pain

but somehow I feel I should protect myself

maybe because others did not

maybe because you defend yourself in the end

when everything else is fallen and you are still

somehow, standing.

I am weak and tired and prematurely aged into

a hunched over version of myself

hair greying with shock, skin is sloughing off and my

body is tied to the rhythm of a sickness that purges and gluts

I was told this kind of disorder was permanent

but nothing I have found, is ever guaranteed

so I have chosen to ignore this and believe

we can all fight and overcome

anything

even a death sentence

even betrayal

even silence

and when we know this

when we are strong for our weakness

realize our tears are just water and salt

burning the frustration of our visiting menace

then, we know nothing can hurt us, more than it already has

and we are free to dream

of a future without so much pain

where death stands to the side and lets us regain

some of our former dignity

for there is nothing dignified in sickness

and you don’t know me when you said I was glamorous

that is the last thing I am

I am beautiful for my courage

beautiful for my fear

beautiful for my survival

beautiful for my defeat

beautiful for my mercy of those who have no mercy for me.

And life is a wax and a wane

life is a torture and a friend

I am the totem of my own branding

I may live in a time where nobody else of my kith and kin remain

and once that would have filled me with pain

now I know you cannot rely upon

labels of safety

it is only by looking into the hearts of those

who stayed by your side when the storm hit

even if it is one, even if it is naught

you remain behind

the tempest cannot roar forever

eventually even agony ceases.

I wish now, to be everything you were not

to love others unconditionally

care for those who are in need

be the change I want to see

I want to find myself

at the end of all of this

I want to tell you, sickness

you do not win

you are just a miasma

I am a spirit with a soul

I will endure you

the me, of me, will remain

long after, to remember her worth.

Before this all began and through it, learned

only the fierce remain

only those willing to FEEL

and not those who run from feeling

with the ease of the damned.