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

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

69885770_486778818770380_803119555336470528_n

 

I AM A TOTEM OF MY OWN BRANDING

pexels-photo-573298

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.

For my first friend in America

Your hand covers mine

we clasp for the camera and smile a 100 watt smile

The American Way

I have learned

how to park a truck

that pale legs are not

as anathema in Texas as in Cannes

I understand, ordering drinks you size up

trying clothes, you size down

topsy-turvy world for a foreigner

lost in her baggage claim.

You made me feel

easy and comfortable like an adirondack chair

smooth wood, deep grain, eccentric shape

this became my town and in so many ways

it was thanks to you taking the time

to show me the way to fit in

the candles dim in the windows of the bar

as if they know you are now gone

where the bird died and we buried it

flowers grow up and a little crepe myrtle

as if forever our steps, will be marked here

mountain laurel blooms wildly

across splayed streets replete with thin cats

seeking their breakfast at Taco huts, the color of watermelon

where I ate among the gladioli without fear.

In the beginning

you were like Tiger Balm

rubbed over my fear, I was no longer shivering

could make my way through the throng

as good as anyone

your watchful eyes on my narrow back

seeing how I did, urging me onward

how will I continue with you gone?

Family, you said, comes from the heart

you may find someone you love in the strangest places

I found you in a Chinese buffet eating Won Tong soup

in my skinny jeans and piss and vinegar

you asked me if I used to be a dancer

I said yes, and now I unravel for a living

you took under your wing, that juniper girl who

didn’t know how to fit in to her new clothes

taught her the measure of her adopted land

like the time we planted trees and you warned

never forget to be merciful, to those less fortunate

the sky was pure blue that day, on the wind

the smell of honeysuckle and river lily

white cranes flew languidly overhead

we shared Limeade and Tortas, our feet dipping in hot puddles

I recall

the first time you were sick

I said, you reminded me of my grandmother

and you frowned; I’m not old enough!

But what I meant was

she had a strength, nobody else could see

every time I went to school she’d wait

in her high-waisted pants of crepe or wool

tight curled hair, wearing oversized sunglasses

below the stairs, nodding with a wink

mouthing the words; You got this

and I’d go into my classroom with a 100 watt smile

not fearful anymore

nobody saw that side of her, just as

people dismissed you as a Jesus Freak

seeing past the strength of your resolve

to live with love

I admire those; who have mercy and compassion

I look to those; who are loyal and unafraid to love

it is the weave of this girl, to follow in those footsteps

bring kindness, do good, lend yourself to gentleness

when I grew sick I saw, how many live with

anger and resentment, undoing their humanity

until they are unrecognizable and only breathe

the exhaust of their bitterness.

To the rose

opening this day

after your passing

I say, O glory, O beauty

live in the sun

as radiant and perfect as anything I have known

and I hear your voice, see your face nodding

you got this

I want to run backward and say

please don’t leave me, don’t go

but I know you have to

and I have to go on

alone but holding your wisdom

your mercy

in those lessons you left

imprinted upon my heart.

Because you are not a stranger

Because you are not a stranger

usually I am too reticent, restrained, packaged away

in some hat box with a faded bow

to reach, to linger, to listen

I am a carefully tended garden without entrance

belies her wild interior and the need she has to be untamed

and still you spoke

tearing through the bower, the shrubbery, all my thorns

as natural if we had just been interrupted. having a long conversation

bounding into my life with that long-legged gait reminding me

of those California girls with skin you want to photograph

and ride on horses with until their cheeks get hot

no you are not a stranger

anymore than my French fatalism

is contrary to the opalescent sway of things

we all hang in some form or fashion

from our necks till light betrays our dreaming

and we must enter the sore lot of reality with something of

a bitterness

still tasting on our lips

that Chapstick kiss, faintly cherry

you have

known me before

we have existed before now

a familiar, in intonation and even

that shared day of birth

as if

the light

of the projector

and the quilt of screen

wrote us a history

far from dead ends that labor over hand outs

people who wear you down without

saying a word

with just the fatigue of their eyes

how they cannot see anything of that invisible world

we exist for.

You whisper; “with your eyes closed

you know the sound of my voice and its certainty

its pedantic, bordering on monotonous glee

because it is already familiar”

as something

grown before thought

had elected her bloom to

cover with fragrant reminder

every space of green with flower.

Sometimes even fear meets her match

in destined spots blessed by more than our

mortal hands

I think you have

some power of mind reading

when you turn the page

and set the needle to play

my tune of the winding road

I feel a circle

moving across my body

like a finger tip tracing

without permission and yet

necessary

the outline of my

shadowed self

brought into light.

You usher joy

spreading a scotch blanket

among simple earth and its undulation

though I would turn lobster red

obeying, the sun bleeds behind horizon as if

with the power of your intention

you had dimmed the switch.

Our hands wind together

yet

even if you hadn’t told me

even if I hadn’t known

your hands would have

given it away

as your mouth

a perpetual patient smile

looks to find

a way to speak

without words.

I would ask

what is your intention with my heart

like a concerned father

watching shifting eyes

only you stare back at me

unblinking and open

like a pearl within the care of its shell

it is always, you said, in the eyes

and I reply

how then did you know

before you found me?

when we had not yet

beheld the other?

To which you reply;

I wrote it first

I prayed for you

I dreamed it before

then you were there

holding me in your lonely eyes

like a lighthouse shall

dim only long enough

to light another wick

and surely

guide

sailors

to

shore

for the one who I know in my heart

knows me in hers

because you are not a stranger

and you never were.

Moonshine

(inspired by finding an old photograph of a fancy-dress party I attended at University that I hadn’t seen in years)

One of them is me

but which holds the key? Later perhaps we

shall know our fruiting journey through

maze of youth

and slow pull of stocking

for kind of touch best found

in satiny afternoon glow

outside I hear my dim-eyed neighbor

mowing lawns until he aches silver

because his wife has turned away

nobody touches him anymore with

the dreams of yesteryear

so we sprint toward each

invisible finish line

with emptiness in our hearts

filled with busy distraction

nothing lasting, nothing to

endure or sate cold claim

of climbing into bed

unwanted or alone

the feel of darkness, our shroud

from terrible disappointment

and then

then I had it all and didn’t know

standing on the precipice

we laughed at our indomitable

facility to thrive

not yet diseased

not yet rawboned with stretch marks

nipping their silver lines like unwanted lace

or sagging pieces shaking to no

good beat

not yet diminished on shallow waxen wheel

of male adoration

though for me this was never

a piece I wished to carve for myself

it was the love of a woman I craved

like first drink from fountain

on a hot day with no clouds in sight

languorously we exult

in

crocheted certainty, time will stand still

make for ourselves exceptions and grand entrance

the labor of hope so easy and lubricated

then

we’ll never be shaken off

like a dull wet thing

nor left to gather dust

as something once favored

we are surely, gleaming warm heads

of our own personal state

if I could have heard the warning

should I have been able

to listen?

likely not for

day is long and hour far

we take lovers for bread and jam

hate yet a curiosity

our parents live robust

we can yet still, the freedom to

go home

there are structures protecting

the hollow timber of our hearts

from these days what we can we learn?

as growing up and away

truth becomes stretched and gray

friends falling away

the bounty of never-never coming to claim

her inevitable duality

delight in youth, for contrast is cruel

all should have its value

but we are flippant with our boon

and when the cold night comes

we usher ourselves to greater darkness

in the strangeness of change

not able to see what is portent

nor later

the freedom

released from expectation

to unfold our wings

take flight

no more a shining thing

but something effervescent

and filled with

light

casting its thrall

as long ago, diving for pearls

we claimed the moon