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

Possess no place

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a day may show itself

long or near from now

where pain and fear possess no place

their greedy place at your table outstayed

uninvited guests

came into your life, wrecking balls

fathomless of the despair they could put

as wicked times will have us ensnared

forgetful of former peace

hostages to the ease with which

sickness makes strangers of us.

Who inhabits this body of pain?

when did normalcy include such horror?

what lurks behind the shell of our discontent?

masking the urge to cry out with futile restraint

who do we hide our agonies from? Or is it that obscene need to appear

while and strong? While behind public doors we collapse in mock

no succor for the actor of their own wellness

Give me hope we clamoring souls sing in our flung prayer and rage

let me believe

believe again

find the keys, the healer, the drug, the end of

this

or I think I wish

I never existed

a thought I’ve had many times before

though none are without regret

some of us excel at impoverished thought.

I do not remember the me before

mornings of hurt, nights of pain

was she a creature capable of delight and desire?

did I feel alive?

Sometimes it’s hard to know

the fall is long down rabbit hole

make me

myself again

whomever she was

a better dream

than this

slow living just above not existing

hardly realized

quiet in accepted

thirst

for another grasp at hope

for any

recourse

where fear and pain

possess no place

SweptAway

10585_Shadow-iPhone-Photos-26_w1120Here in the quiet room

you can fool yourself for a moment

joy has returned

her skin like oranges left in sun

narrow feet catching dust, turning in their little arc

you want to tell her you notice everything

as if it were your job to record the very sum

using nothing but words and build from alphabet

exact reasons you still

catch your breath

yet for all the music beneath her skin

a familiar yet unfamiliar person within

she has been long gone just as she remains

a shadow against a wall elongated

like places you once lived in

turn strange

taking one more look around

before you leave

key on the mantle

watching tulips breathe

their redolent mystery

as the color of her eyes

was never a word to capture

something free then

flying

out of the window she left ajar

that day she stopped being herself

and you could return in a 100 years

just for the smell clinging to her neck

how she feels beneath her clothes

places you know like a hidden map

joy solved in one tightly held hand

like a sailor lost at sea

when she is far and away

diving for pearls in hope

one will be as black and magical

as her iris caught by car light

watching you, seeing nothing

even the whispers of who she once was

swept away

the room now bare and empty

readying for new people

running your fingers along the memory

heart in throat

seeing her turn

that beautiful smile

before she climbs

the narrow stairs

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.

Mental Health Awareness Week

She doesn’t look sick…..

She isn’t sick.

But a black hole is eating her from the inside out.

The devour has no real description

It defies the usual ones, it has a wider mouth, deeper jaw, longer bite

The thing of it is .. the shame .. that’s the worst part

The little voice which sometimes sounds like your mother and sometimes sounds like every voice that ever said; What’s wrong with you? Why can’t you snap out of it?

Sometimes … a day will be piercingly beautiful … like the most beautiful song you ever heard and every sense will be electrified

And still you will long to fall on the ground sobbing

If they saw you they would ask; What’s wrong? It’s a beautiful day! Why can’t you appreciate life! Are you ungrateful?

And you would nod your head and admit; Yes I must be ungrateful. How else can you explain it?

For those who believe in God, you feel stricken, maybe you feel God is punishing you for some transgression with the black dog who never leaves your side

If he does leave then you know he will return and it is just a false waiting game, a pose of chess pieces with their fates already inscribed

They talk about other things that matter and feel empathy, sympathy

But when someone has a mental disease they are considered weak, inferior, selfish, inadequate

Wherever you go – there you are

Sometimes you wonder why it is you can write so much in November and nothing through July.

As if a giant claw had possessed your feelings and sank its nails deep into your marrow

When you date people you feel as if you should come with a disclaimer;

I may look pretty, I may have qualifications and a clean house, but beneath this surface please note … I am subject to changing and crying when the sun shines for no discernible reason

Sometimes in the middle of a party you want to run away from the crowd and bury your face in the grass out in the forest – feeling more alone than if you were locked underground in a prison cell

Often there is absolutely no way of describing this so you simply do not and that sets you apart as someone who carries a dark feeling without a voice

Occasionally someone will remark on the sadness in your eyes and you will smile as hard as you can to dispel it because it feels like a giant stain that everyone could see

If they cared to

Many times in subtle ways people will show you that they think you are weaker than them in the little methods of selection and choice

Family will condemn you and sharpen the quill when you are down because it is easier to kill a deer when it has fallen

You try to be grateful and you are, but it never seems so in the midst of sadness because sadness will devour any gratitude whole

And lovers will tell you … you’re not even happy to be with me are you? And you want to say, oh yes I am! But the sadness will envelop your voice and they will leave you … disappointed

There isn’t a week of mental illness, there isn’t a day for depression. There are years upon years upon years

And little adverts on TV about “If your current anti-depressant isn’t working considering taking (and paying) for another one to boost it!” Just fill you with impotent rage.

Often, you feel you are not worthy simply because you are depressed, it is a stigma that invades every aspect of your being, you believe you are not worth the same as others because of the darkness you carry around on your back

In the early morning when you lie in bed and the first rays of sun come through your window, you may forget who you are, and decide you are not going to be labeled or given a description, you are going to be

free

and that may last a while until the next time you feel like blowing your brains out

and then it’s the greatest betrayal you ever felt and it seems as if you do it to yourself

like a hand inside a black velvet glove

stroking dreams until they grow cold

Only child

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I’m sitting in a linoleum room with ghosts, specters and occasional stranger

a girl with long legs like a foal, is pulling elastic pink lines of gum from her full mouth

and snapping them back, loudly

I wonder if I have ever sat so evenly in a chair, if I ever had peach hair, light on my skin like that

it reminds me of my friend who competed in gymkhanas, we made up our own horses, hers was called Mars and mine, BeTwix and we ran

so fast our hearts thundered up her grandmother’s hill in the La Roque-Gageac

her legs were like those of a foal,  even at eleven, the waiters watched her with wet lips

I think of The Object Of Beauty, how Liv Tyler gleamed, coming out of the oval swimming pool

What men must think when underage girls begin to fruit.

My ghosts routinely tell me, I am without worth, they remind me if I had anything worth having

my mother wouldn’t be absent

a life time of inadequacy, wouldn’t be my legacy

I disappoint myself, not just the ghosts, sometimes I think

I don’t belong in this American world, where women are proud to work sixty hour weeks and go the gym at 9pm

still feeling they haven’t worked hard enough.

I think I am forever running in the Nouvelle-Aquitaine, with my imaginary horse

watching a girl turn into a woman, aware of too much even then, and not enough

the specters mock my lack of confidence, whispering in my detached earlobe

nobody likes a wuss, confidence is the American calling card, haven’t you noticed?

Even silly people and indifferent people get somewhere, if they believe in their

silly people and indifferent selves. And brilliant people, who doubt, will fester

like a ring someone lost in a river, glitters too deeply for marbled birds to

pluck it out and restore to light.

I lost a ring once, you’d given it to me when we were 14 and I didn’t have coltish legs

or peach fuss on my skin, but rather, the strong bones of a kid who drank milk with her cereal and got a stomach ache

reading Asterix at the pine breakfast table, with her stuffed toys.

I can still hear the plastic clock and hum of the washing machine

a warm symphony of my childhood, as I delayed leaving for school

and the inevitable crush of humanity, I had long decided was not for me

in fact, my trajectory was so far from that world of push and pull

competition and attention, fan fare and nose-pick small talk

I inhabited the after school hours like an addict of one

rejoicing in the quiet and empty spaces where

my mind could roam and gallop

sometimes I would sit on the roof tops of outdoor storage buidings

eating my soggy paper bag of sweets, stuck together from being

crunched in my pocket, head stuck in a book about

beautiful places with kind people and fantastic things

wild roses growing like thoughts from arching cracks

in concrete, their soft heads and sharp thorns

not the decapitated baby bird, I buried beneath the acorn tree

its silvered blind eyes, swollen and bulging

wings pressed like cries of regret for having never spread

in flight

something horrifying in everywhere you looked

like the terror you feel when you realize you are truly alone.

That kitchen clock would change day and month

but never really the precision of its emptiness

I learned it is better, to rely upon fantasy and avoidance

than the pinch and grope of society.

Often, a stranger would ask

why are you playing outside so late?

I would run away into the eclipsing shadows

behind the corrugated iron fences that separated

the good neighborhood from the skeletons

those bombed, bleached, bones of former homes

where a kid of twenty years ago had lain

watching paper airplanes cycle

above their head, clutching something with glass eyes

and faux fur, as I still did

funny, to find some comfort in the inanimate manufacture

of nature

my toys looked at me in the darkness and spoke

words of love, I needed to consume

their salty fur held

the cups of my early disenchantment

when teachers commented on my red eyes

I said; hay-fever and they believed me

because I wore a dragon tail

this was surely an adjusted child

with avid imagination

cantering alongside her friend

with the honey colored hair and long bare arms

absorbing sun like a shining fruit

I knew then how different I was

how quiet pain, how loud silence

my mother always looked so beautiful in

floral dresses with her trim ankles and long neck

I, the stranger behind her

admiring and shameful in her artlessness.

it was among the lost in forest, I claimed my place

when first love failed, when promises became

paper envelopes containing no letter

dishing out school diner and homework

leaving my scuffed shoes at the door

I climb

into the ivy

away from the party

a reflection I see of myself

gathering stillness like a blanket

she is fetching her best smile

for the emptiness of years

staring into emulous clouds, watching

for signs and miracles and unspent words

the sound of others laughter

rinsing through tall green shadows

like echoes of

someone else’s life

 

 

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.