Poets of SMITTEN Speak: Melissa Fadul

Melissa Fadul lives in New York with her wife, dog and two rabbits. She teaches English Literature and Advanced Placement Psychology.  She loves animals, poetry, and film and photography and baseball and screenwriting. Melissa is currently writing her second poetry manuscript and a screenplay.  Melissa hopes that someday she can work with her favorite actresses: Naomi Watts, Rachel Weisz, Cate Blanchett and Mariska Hargitay.

Is the Die Really Cast?

I was a sophomore and part of GLU (the gay and lesbian union as it was called then) getting my undergraduate degree in New York and two years younger than twenty-one-year-old Matthew Shepard, when barbed wire pierced his wrists as he was pinned to a fence on a chilly October evening. After his assailants, Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson thumped his skull, dented it, they stole his shoes and wallet before running him over in a pick-up truck— leaving him for dead in Wyoming dark.

He was found by a young boy riding his bicycle the next morning, eighteen hours later. From a distance, he thought Matthew was a scarecrow. As the boy rode closer, he saw a man—a man whose face was marred and sopped in blood—except where tears skidded down his cheeks.

Twenty-one years later, I still repeat to myself, that could have been me. I could have been murdered for being a lesbian. In Unclaimed Experience: Trauma, Narrative and History, Cathy Caruth states, “Freud describes a pattern of suffering that is inexplicably persistent in the lives of certain individuals. Perplexed by the terrifyingly literal nightmares of battlefield survivors and the repetitive reenactments of people who have experienced painful events, Freud wonders at the peculiar and sometimes uncanny way in which catastrophic events seem to repeat themselves for those who have passed through them” (1).Woman Motivational Quote Facebook Post(23).png

Bearing this in mind, it’s high time that America give credence to the power of vulnerability. However, how and why should we do this when Webster, Random House and any other dictionary defines vulnerable as weakness? The only way to look and accept ourselves as civil beings is to admit without metaphor or interpretation what it means to be human—which means we must muster the courage to reconcile our exiled musings of private vulnerabilities. It means redefining the fast food, bizarre definition of the word, vulnerable.

Thus, my reason for contributing to Smitten. I’m not naïve enough to think that by writing this essay (which seems more like a manifesto) that most will be influenced to come-of-age and pass through some rite-of-passage. One must experience to comprehends the acute power kindness and empathy possess when one
is courageous enough to be vulnerable. Momentarily, there was a bit of ambivalence to submit to Smitten—a reluctance born of unfounded anxiety—coupled with my semi-introverted nature that drew up useless excuses: I’m too intense, no one will like these pieces, they’re too graphic, etc.

However, I remembered my purpose—my students who I write for—the ones who can’t speak for themselves because of their own political hinderances—youth who can’t conjure the duende within—nor know how to use the ordinary world as a catalyst and objective correlative that stands at a distance in order to bear witness.

Woman Motivational Quote Facebook Post(24).pngI recalled my vulnerability-my greatest strength which includes the courage to believe that people do desire to listen to strangers’ stories—to really feel something especially when tragedy is on the frontlines of the tongue. This evergreen notion is a pattern I’ve noticed made most explicably apparent through the vehicle of trauma and disaster. According to Nicole Cooley, “to think about how disaster produces speech, writing, and testimony and disaster is reproduced through language. I’m not talking about disaster as metaphor in poetry but about a poetry that arises in direct response to a disaster, a poetry of disaster” Cooley, Nicole. “Poetry and Disaster” American Poet, Volume 39 Fall Nov. 2010, pp. 3-5.

My submission to Smitten has tried serve as witnesses for the LGBTQ community and its allies. These pieces are designed to be umbilicals which help guide those who need it through the uprising of Stonewall and the shooting in Orlando’s gay club, Pulse. There’s almost half a century of time between these two events with Matthew Shepard’s murder in between—not to mention countless other hate crimes that are recognized by law enforcement and the LGBTQ community.Woman Motivational Quote Facebook Post(25).png

Ideally, in a utopia these tragedies should antagonize peace. They haven’t—nor will the next one. Nevertheless, the autonomy and my hope lie with the idea that it will create nonviolent conversation. My primary point was to create a Socratic discussion in which all voices are heard and inquiry based on all beliefs are supported.

According to her breakthrough non-fiction work, Catalysis, Dr. Alice Maher states, human understanding needs a language all its own, an Emotional Literacy that synthesizes insights from multiple disciplines. It must be codified and taught, using theory literature, thought experiments and daily exercises, until it exists on a par with other major subjects in a K-12- PHD curriculum. Emotional Literacy needs to be taught and practiced until our species becomes fluent, until the best are recognized and supported in their rise to leadership. (Maher 15).

One way to understand how Emotional Literacy works is by understanding how to ask someone a question even if one party is fuming because their subjective isn’t synonymous with the other party’s. It seems obvious—still I don’t know if as a species we know how to speak to one another in a way where there’s room for empathy, which always deems itself essential in order to reach the duende state of vulnerability.Woman Motivational Quote Facebook Post(26).png

For example, if a discussion between two people begins on a calm and a bit of trust is created between those two individuals, when one person feels like he, she or they can be vulnerable that step will be taken. However, if the other person’s approach and angle into the discussion is volatile and branded apathetic, the option of sympathy or empathy dissipates quickly. If that occurs, the true meaning of that dialogue could be lost—Thus, truth and vulnerability aren’t reached. Maher goes on to add, “be curious, invite the person to talk about his/her childhood and share your own similar-but-different experiences.

Remember that your beliefs come from a personal center too and are probably equally distorted as a result. Be curious about your own distortions and try not to be too triggered by theirs. In order to succeed with Maher’s recipe for serenity, we must be willing to view our own distortions—that means being vulnerable. Can you bear it?Woman Motivational Quote Facebook Post(27).png

SMITTEN is coming out late October, 2019 via all good book stores. Published by Indie Blu(e) www.indieblu.net 

Please consider supporting this project of over 120+ talented poets and authors by purchasing a copy of SMITTEN for someone who appreciates beautiful poetry. https://www.facebook.com/SMITTENwomen/

Poets of SMITTEN Speak: Carol Jewell

Carol H. Jewell is a musician, teacher, librarian, and poet living in Upstate New York with her wife, Becky, and their seven cats. She reads constantly, being insatiably curious.

How does poetry and identifying as lesbian/bi come together for you?

I think my age may have a part in this. I didn’t come out until I was 39, having had relationships with straight men before that, even marrying one of them and having a daughter with him. I just turned 60, and I am at a point in my life where I really don’t care that much about what people think of me or my work. People will think what they think, and it’s really none of my business. However, if they speak or write publically, in a negative way, about my sexuality or my writing, then we’re probably going to have a conversation. Whether it remains private or public depends on how negative their feelings are. After all, shouldn’t I share their shitty opinions with others?

Woman Motivational Quote Facebook Post(3).pngWhom are your favorite lesbian writers and why?

Well, you know, we can never be absolutely certain about “who” is “what.”  And people aren’t out in different areas of their lives. AND, a person can be “out” in many ways. I can share that I am a lesbian with a grown daughter who gifted me with a fabulous grandson. I can let you know that I have both visible and invisible disabilities. I can tell you how I vote. Things like that. So, I can tell you which lesbian writers I like, but not necessarily why. Also, the list can change on a daily basis. This list is not inclusive: Alice Walker, Wanda Sykes, Ellen DeGeneres, Alison Bechdel, Lillian Hellman, Mary Renault, Jeanette Winterson, Mary Oliver, Elizabeth Bishop, Frances Power Cobbe, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Melissa Etheridge, Louise Fitzhugh, Janis Ian, Cheryl Wheeler, Geri Jewell (no relation, that I know of), Rachael Z. Ikins, Judy Kamilhor, Nancy Klepsch, Shannon Shoemaker, Adrienne Rich, May Sarton, Marilyn Hacker, Emily Dickinson, Sean Heather McGraw, Allison Paster-Torres,  and Jessie Serfilippi.

Do you think there is enough representation of lesbian poetry and writing in general and if no, what do you think is the reason?

Should we, as lesbians who are also poets (and vice versa) be required to give that information to editors, say, somewhere in our cover letters? Is it necessary? I don’t think it’s necessarily necessary. If the work that I am submitting has any lesbian tropes, then it might behoove me to announce that.

How does being a poet inform your views on expressing emotions through writing?

If writing poetry does not reflect someone’s emotions, why bother?

What does it mean to you to be part of something like SMITTEN and have your work along side other women who love women?

Well, first, I’m glad to have my work out there, so to speak. Having my work along side other women who love women allows me to get ideas from those women, and also network with them.

Did you ever want to be a voice for the lesbian/bi community? If so, why?

I didn’t set out to be a “voice,” but, as I work on at a University, I’ve found it helpful to be out to faculty, staff, and students.

Why is love a worthier subject than erotica to write on?

Because love is bigger than erotica. I used to say that gay or lesbian relationships are not about sex, but about love. Of course, sex—in whatever form that takes—can be a big part of relationships, but not THE most important part. Being a lesbian is more than whom I share my BED with…it’s whom I share my LIFE with. People who are disabled may not have sex the way another person does, but if what they do IS sex for them, that’s great! I just think that there are many layers to love, and not so many to sex. To me, love is more interesting.

Have you ever been SMITTEN and if so, do you feel it’s possible to summarize those feelings in poetry?

My wife and I have been a couple since 1999. Later, we had a commitment ceremony and then got married, after it became legal in New York. I was smitten with her from our first contact, and love her more every day. I know it sounds like a cliché, but it’s true.

SMITTEN is coming out late October, 2019 via all good book stores. Published by Indie Blu(e) www.indieblu.net 

Please consider supporting this project of over 120+ talented poets and authors by purchasing a copy of SMITTEN for someone who appreciates beautiful poetry. https://www.facebook.com/SMITTENwomen/

 

 

As you may imagine

She was known as the girl with the waist length hair

The girl without siblings

The girl with turquoise eyes

She had a 23 inch waist

Those were the paper cut emblems of her life

She was vain

Though not empty headed

Her vanity was a poor replacement

Covering up loneliness and uncertainty

Perhaps if she’d had children, the size of her waist

Would have seemed so trivial

But she stayed in that sticky fingered past, sucking on old boiled candy

Where teenagers plume and forage

Because she found no other purchase

And that was sad and pathetic and lost and theatrical

And it was understandable

To those who like her

Watching themselves through glass

Like half packed suitcases

No hope chest

Using the acutrements to fill empiness

With

Costumes and colors and measurements

Because what her true circumference was

She had no idea

And how people could love her for more

Than the length of her hair

Or her green eyes

Or the width of her waist

She couldn’t fathom

Having only been

Nothing

Then no one

Then an object

People commented on

And touched her hair

And fit their envy around her waist

And smiled into her big eyes

And then

That attention gave her meaning

Shallow and superficial

Like eating too many chocolates

And spurring the taste

Swearing never

To gorge again

But she would

When the obscurity of being alone grew too much

She’d wear a fine dress

Put on eyeliner and lipstick and heels

And suddenly everyone saw her

And she was not a girl in the shadows

Waiting for her mom to come home

Or anyone

This

Is

The

Reason

For

Vanity

It’s not always as simple and egocentric as

You may imagine

Breaking rules

Yeah.

Maybe I am that cliche

you warned your friends about

wasn’t it you? Huddled together at the bar

watching me

I could easily say you wanted a piece

but I’m classier than that

instead, leave it up to you to assume

a girl who likes girls would like

YOU

I worked hard at being

the opposite of your cliche

you think I didn’t know how it was?

babysitting watching parents watching me

wondering without saying, what they were thinking

written in bubbles above their heads

do lesbians abuse children as well?

I have spent a life time

hands off

not looking too long

(incase they assume, and it is an assumption)

not touching

(incase they think, oh she’s giving me a sign)

not being myself

because I had to be careful of your

wrong thoughts

it wasn’t me who gave you cause

like any rumor you didn’t need much, to believe

all girls who liked girls, would like you and might

stalk you or leap on you unprovoked

and how many times did I want to write

YOU WISH

in large letters above your bed

because you couldn’t earn my desire

if you spent the rest of your life running

I’m not any different to you and I’m totally different to you

because I don’t rent my emotions by the hour

don’t fall for every girl just because I like girls

the opposite is true

there have been so very few

my heart is a squeezed lemon

shy and closed

that is until you broke the mould

and became the very thing I’d always been afraid of

a woman I wanted, on the other side

so yeah….

now finally you can tilt your glass and say

I am that cliche

all you who mocked and made me blush

at being myself

it’s finally true, I fell for a girl who couldn’t

return my gaze

that’s the downside of being a lesbian for sure

once in a long while you fall for a straight girl

who just ruins your rule book

Find me

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By the morning I will have

come back

you say doitnowyeahbaby and I

used to dream of cutting out my female parts

and chopping my long hair into a ladder

with my bound breasts crimson and my writhe

locked behind metal

would you still seek to

turn the key in my neck and bend me

over you like a bottle of glue

the top fallen off making a mess

of our independence from each other

there exists

a chimera

in your belly and

she tells you to put the lipstick on thick

and wear your bra too tight

but don’t open the door to strangers

they might punish the boy who liked

pills and girl clothes and painting

vaginas on his daydreams

you ask me, can’t you fill me up

with your anger? And I say I don’t have what it takes

the plastic strap-on kind doesn’t feel real and you say

what’s real anymore and so I act the boy

and you mince and squirm beneath me

almost for a moment I get excited by your

pretend curves and your thrown neck

but there is always a glimmer of masculine

about you and the wet tears of a girl in

my feeble attempts

we are swapped back again

sitting outside in matching jeans

some boy comments on my pretty bosom

and I can see the pain in your

envy as you tuck

your skirt in your throat

and hide the longing

once more

 

This is for my friends who are transforming from one gender to another. You are not alone.

You are not a girl anymore

Girl you are not a girl anymore

you are a woman

woman you are reviled and judged

for being a woman

when you were a girl it was suffice to

have a nice pair of legs and a pretty mouth

do you recall how often you were asked to ‘cheer up and smile love’

when all you were doing was trying to grow-up and be serious?

how men would do your bidding because of your WonderBra and not the sense of your words

now you are a woman

you will inherit

inequality

double-standards

and not be able to find clothes that feel right in stores not meant for your body

because nothing is going to come easy anymore and still

as you sit there in your curves and your burgeoning skin

feeling the surround of yourself lapping at the corners

you will inherit also

the voice of your round bellied ancestors

who have come ringing through time and again

been judged, poked, prodded or worse, flat out ignored

seen how silver haired men get all the fuss like carefully licked jewels

whilst a woman of substance is

lost lost lost

behind the mad din and snuff of youth

for youth it seems needs a distinguished father of any age

but does not require

a mother

a grandmother

a female sage

for women are judged upon their reproductive abilities and

the years they have lived beneath the moon listening to the shore

if too few, they are deemed unintelligent

too many and nobody wants to hear

for women are judged upon

scales created long before

an even playing field was won

if it has, if it has yet

for women it is easier to become lost after the lights have grown less hot

held to a higher standard than the eternal covet of men

who are picked up and dusted off by many worshipful female hands

too eager to say ‘there, there, I will help you, poor thing’

who shall help then, the woman?

Not her own kind, surely, nor men who adore only youngest vintage

Who shall see her? When she is grown and perhaps does not accept her allotted place

or wish to remain invisible or grow old with pressurized grace

who shall listen when she wants to be heard at any age?

or the desires of her are beyond the sanctioned pail

or her damp passion which does not flip and flop and require Viagra

a woman if she is loved

is ten-fold her maiden self

for the wefts and the welts are earned and learned and now they represent

a splendid coat of multicolor

she wears with pride and sometimes regret

but more often silver wisdom and the softening yet

of her edges into rounded corners and eventually

a supple circle come full

the world may dominate her discourse

the youth may clamor for their right to change the channel

she may slip quietly through the bridled noise

with strong thick womanly thighs

and as men chase their tail and young women cast a gaze that seems to say

who the HELL do you think you are, old lady?

woman, you do not bat your eyes or rise to those absurdities left behind

for she is the wake of day and dusted sleep of night

cradling the future in her all-mighty grip

she learns from being kicked

to stand she must let go of the girl within and be

a woman of our time

casting her pearly net wide as she

swallows the sea and sighs

letting the tide tumble out with her exhaled breath

aaahhh yes

aaahhh yes

Cabello

Little boy

I liked it in the summer time when you didn’t cut your hair

until a smiling girl said you looked a lot like her

(she meant it as a compliment, she loves her hair)

even then … as young as you are

it was an insult and you hacked off your locks

with giant metaphoric scissors, cutting out injury

(is it truly the worst thing in the world to be mistaken for a girl?)

is it the perceived notion of weakness? An insult of gender roles?

and what of the dream, to roam free of such things?

in a place where beautiful boys can grow curls

and girls with treehouses, don’t get rope burn on the way down