SMITTEN was a Finalist in the National Indie Excellent Awards

Today I got some very good news I wanted to share with all the SMITTEN crew who made the anthology of women who love women poetry – – SMITTEN so incredible. SMITTEN was a finalist in the National Indie Excellence Awards! For an LGBTQ anthology of poetry this is a huge achievement and I wanted to thank everyone who was involved in SMITTEN for their incredible work! Indie Blue & Christabelle Ray & Kindra Austin for publishing SMITTEN & featuring their work in it & Mitch Green for its amazing cover. Well done everyone! BE PROUD! SMITTEN AUTHORS GROUP
CONGRATULATIONS!

It is our great pleasure to inform you that you are a Finalist in the 14th Annual National Indie Excellence® Awards. Your book embodies the standards of excellence that this award was created to celebrate. We salute your talents and our jurors truly respect each of the final works that are honored this year.

The lists of Winners and Finalists are proudly showcased on our website, please visit www.indieexcellence.com and click on the 14th Annual Finalists tab to see your book cover, name, and info highlighted for the world to see (click through to your website if provided). Awards are available for both download and purchase on our website including cover stickers, certificates, and medals. The 14th Annual National Indie Excellence® Awards Press Release is distributed to an array of news and media outlets and it is also on our website as a download for your use. Please share it widely–this honor should be used to promote and garner attention for your amazing product!

The entire team at the National Indie Excellence® Awards sincerely hope your participation in our contest will serve you well in your ongoing success. We thank you for your patience during this challenging year as we all deal with the Covid-19 pandemic. Sending you and yours our deepest congratulations.

Warmly,

Everyone at the National Indie Excellence Awards

WELL DONE to everyone involved in this project! I am ordering stickers of our achievement, if you want one, let me know and you can put it on your copy of SMITTEN and be proud of how well SMITTEN has done. Typically LGBTQ books do not succeed like this and I always knew, with the incredible writers we had in SMITTEN we’d break that glass ceiling.

 

Thank you to everyone involved in SMITTEN: Christine Ray. (Indie Blu(e)) Kindra Austin. (Indie Blu(e)) Mitch Green. (Designer) Avital Abraham. Didi Artier. Kim D. Bailey. Sonia Beauchamp. Henri Bensussen. Sarah Bigham. Susi Bocks. Elmear Catherine Bourke. Dani Bowes. Ruth Bowley. Cassandra Bumford. Lynne Burnett. Amie Campbell. Tara Caribou. Jennifer Carr. Laura Elizabeth Casey. Olivia Chachinsky. Teresa Chappell. Clementine. Kai Coggin. Carrie Lee Connel. Susan Conway. Selene Crosier. Emily Alica DeCicco. Katherine DeGillo. Liz DeGregorio. Grace Desmarais. Rachel M. McCayhey. Sean Heather K. McGraw. Lindz McLeod. Cristina DeSouza. Hoda Abdulqadir Essa. Melissa Fadul. Kirsten Fedorowicz. Rachel Finch. Susie Fought. Renee Furlow. Nadia G. Wandeka Gayle. Milena M. Gil. Rebecca Ruth Gould. Manda Grathwohl. Maria Gray. Maranda Greenwood. Carrie Groebner. V. Hamilton. Kim Harvey. Sophia Healy. HOKIS. Kelsey Hontz. P. M. Houghton Harjo. Tia M. Hudson. Hallelujuah R. Huston. Rachael Iikins. M. Duckett Ireland. Sarah Ito. Jessica Jacobs. Paula Jellis. Carol Jewel. Kelly Girl Johnson. Emily R. Jones. Sarah Kacala. Sarah Karowski. Nick Kay. Destiny Killan. Erin King. Crystal Kinistino. A. Lawler. Jill Lee. Aviva Lilith. Tre. L. Loadholt. Katherine Love. Carolyn Martin. Jennifer Mathews. Alexandria Moore. Charity M. Muse. Skye Myers. Nayana Nair. Jack Neece. Jesica Nordarse. Michelle Paige. Alison Palmer. Marie Prichard. Georgia Park. S. A. Quinox. Talia Rizzo. Samantha Renee. Dr. Sneha Rooh. Rachel Roth. Maranda Russell. Millie Saint James. Rebecca Sanchez. SATU. T. M. Servin. Kay Shamblin. Tan Shivers. Alexandra Short. Izabell Joraas Skoogh. Jamie L. Smith. Janis Sommers. Megha Sood. Alicia Sophia. A. Staley. Wil Staley. Alison Stone. Tekla Taylor. Shraddhanvita Tiwari. Carla Toney. Piper Michelle Townsend. Charlene Trolinder. Erin Van Vuren. Sarah Vermillion. Marvlyn Vincent. Isabel J. Wallace. Angie Waters. Milly Webster. Vanessa Rowan Whitfield. Karissa R. Whitson. C. E. Wing.

To all but I

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To all but I

this thickly guarded auburn sky

muted by restless wing

shocking in tight formation

this wonder of unseen & witnessed

edging crimson filigree against invading night

I am wrought in your divining spell

one word & we molt

episodes of grief shedding their fur coats

at our warm door way

how you haunt the periphery

of day, glossed over by time’s measured fold

it does nothing but stick firm &

intractable, a welt of bleating remembrance

turning up at the edges

you reduce me to ash

& I go to bed alone

touching the gloaming dark

with my hot fingertips like braille

reader might

possess the inveigling of

pure understanding.

I need your touch like

wood resists flame & then hungry

she tears herself nude of life

& burns for the glory &

actuating sate.  I want

your red mouth fevered, tongues

pushing inward, little fearing

& pain between my legs at

the exquisite wait you

torment me with as mercy

strokes me laughing, relishing in your

cruel game.

Such redress of norms

lose their ravishing clothes

dropping like forgotten prayer

& mislaid intentions

pretty jewels in ravens beak

my passioned abandon is found

against the long relief of your arms

supporting

us both in strength &

urge — Oh! What

infinite color you make beneath

me, one cheek turned rosy, the

other lost in cry & what dissolving

hour passes over us, conjoined

by similarity & difference

your dark eyes watching my

gilded reaching til cresting on

thundering waves we reunite

sore from our shout &

the varied cascade of joy

shining bright as youth’s

best cherry

heavy on Summer’s

day. It is this vapor of

your presence, indented in

my heart, sweet with redolence

& her sisters of undressed moments

crashing to shore, urging me

closer, losing myself readied to your

invite & the warm supper

we feast upon, as others will

find remedy in owning the world

& all her riches, we have discovered

in each other the best place

to live & die.

To all but I

this sonorous song resting on

rushing humid air shall chase your

fleeing gathered form till reunited

again, alchemy beneath

beating heart-blood

of two

told souls

with nothing

but all

to lose in

the other.

Natural state of being

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They don’t want to hear about you

you’re not their kind

color, height, smell and gait

sets you apart, making you unpalatable

cast out from something you never belonged to

your back is curved before you hit the ground

sans parachute

cowing in utero to the inevitability of rejection

this is you, yellow girl, jaundiced before birth

you enter the world with a cigarette in one gnarled hand

the other high in protest

Gloria Steinem. could learn a thing or two about

your resolve

while she grew up in affluence and chose her metal

you were given nothing but inherited disease and

a penchant for purposing

all this in the time when women were

supposed to cross their legs in polite company

and open them for their husbands every whim

it disgusted you, the hypocrisy of hate

people at your Baptist church crowing gospel

calling you sinner when they caused more harm

than any so-called pervert

sent to camp to straighten out, you

fell for your coach and she for you

making out behind the outdoor toilets

confirmation of bias in the unhooking

of her clumsy sixties bra

feeling the first areola and you were lost

to any other kind of conversion

I wish I’d known you then, when eyes bright

despite the infernal din, you struck out against

the norm, trying daily not to let that

milk of magnesia asking that you straighten out

cause shame

it’s hard isn’t it? When even those pretending to

‘understand’ leave you out of invitations and the like

because you’re different, you’re not looking for a penis

not putting up posters of James Dean but Farrah Fawcett was okay, nor

waxing your legs for Friday nights

you didn’t like what every other girl in the changing rooms

coveted and so, they turned their tanned backs to you

and left you alone

to think of why you had more in common with

Billie Jean King and Radcliffe Hall

than cheerleaders with pom poms of scorn

and football players who would rape you to show

what you were missing

was it really such a sin to want to love

another woman? What was it about how you felt

scared them into loathing? And why when they knew

did it seem such a sport to exclude you?

Until you wrote pain on the insides of your wrists

a dowry of teenage repudiation

ending up in a mental hospital where the nurses

were all secret dykes and you fingered each other

at midnight, hiding your disappointment behind

seventies lino

this wasn’t love either, anymore than lying beneath

a grunting boy, at 14, hoping to fuck out the

feelings people said were evil, though

his use of you, seemed far more abhorrent

than the dreams you had of girls

not just any girl either, not just a writhing

creche of women parts, but one startling woman

you hoped to meet, among the girls who would be boys

and the girls who would be bi on dark and cheap drink weekends

gay bars were undoubtedly

some of the saddest places in the entire world

you neither excelled at pool or darts, you couldn’t

join in anymore there with cunnilingus against bathroom stalls

graffiti the tired penitent of fallen souls

with strangers who reminded you of boys in make up

you didn’t want to be with a girl who hated being a woman

dressing more like a man than your father

you wanted to love another woman with all

her madness and her fluxes, the rise of her lace covered breasts

how her thighs were not muscled but soft and her lips

pillows for your fevered whispers

no such woman seemed to exist back then

when gay venues were often raided by bored

knee-jerk religious police seeking to molest a girl in

baggy trousers and flattened chest on Friday night

shame after all, is a universal weapon and you

had tasted its liquored lash many times by then

watching your friends beaten with sticks by

heady boys in pick-ups waiting outside bars, high on local beer

and blood lust

you were too small to protect anyone, but witnessed

with grief so sharp it left marks in your eyes to think

of how the strongest girls rushed to defend the weakest

struck down by weapons wielded by the ‘righteous’ oh! Texas!

You were such a loathing state and things haven’t really

changed so very much

they still close their doors

they still tell their daughters

“don’t play with her, she’s queer that one”

and as grown up as you are, the pain is twice folded

for you wished by now things would be different

with laws and blood spilled surely paving a way forward

you forgot, for every step, there is one backwards

still just as you resolved to go without

you found me and still I found you

among the carnage, and our own wrecked self-destruction

still we laid in darkness sharing our stories

I tracing the scars on your arms and thighs

like Sanskrit of former muzzled lives

when I looked in your tired eyes I saw

how long you had been watching

this cruel world destroy her rainbow

heavy children

sometimes the greatest love comes

from broken people

too late in their August lives

to kick up chipped heals

they find solace in the depths

of their much labored, chambered heart

for as much as they punish us for existing

we keep returning, generation after generation

unbidden, unwanted, labeled abominations

or just silent dismay

carrying our quelled pain in beseechment

the whole world unsure of how to treat us

often resorting to ignoring

for who knows what to do

with something different? I still

don’t hold your ink stained hand in public very often

fearing I suppose our heads being bashed in

or someone cutting silence with ugly laughter

I think I could handle my own

abasing but never yours

you’ve worn the brand long enough my love

I now aim to remove it, defend you

as you saw the bloodshed longer than most

young men mowed down by AIDS sucking

their last breath through second-hand

straws, emaciated by the squander of

their worth, by a society intent on

blaming someone., anyone, in their aimless pointing

Reagan in the office doing nothing

beneath his hollow cross

even Obama had to ‘evolve’ his

opinion of gay-marriage like it was a

right that should be earned rather than

possessed naturally

but after all we are not

considered very natural

are we? Funny really …

as being with you

is the only natural

state of being I have ever

felt.

To all but I

Two naked women - I am author of this imageThat silence you hold around you like a mink

is just a stuffed head with loose teeth

meant to rattle on long voyages

if you had the guts to take them.

Do not go beyond, to that infernal

evocation where haunted,

camouflaged people trade real glass

for plastic and suck deeply on

the opiate pipe.

Stay here, pealing as we are, beneath onslaught

Et je fus plein alors de cette vérité

possessing real in hyssop, amaryllis and anise

you say it’s getting late, I say it’s still

early enough

people fall away like pealing clementines

at Christmas, tossing orange skirts on

low fire, see them eaten by flame, till

blackened over, their pride is absorbed.

You climb winding steps away, concertinaed

in your certainly we are ruled by time

reducing from me in sleep

tucking the parts of you filled with shame

like moths will beat and beat and beat

herself against electric light.

I cannot show you the tinder of my heart

convince you of my worth or your

premature funeral for us

lying next to you, as you curl outstretched from me

further into your onyx shell, you

learn to inhale holding your breath

underwater.

Would I were, more courageous I’d

pry your fury into edible squares, pick

them off one by one, scabs and

scars you press dearly, leaving marks

of harm against molested hope.

In our fight, we share an appetite

to return through time to a past

emptied of doubt and pain, if I

were able I’d take you there, a

reminder of solaces discovered in each

other’s dusk and shape birthing music

in forests, surely you remember?

How can it have wiped you clear

of trust? Of knowledge, in trying to

shut yourself, squeeze into a box

tie the string, send it anonymously,

some far place without me, will you

find yourself again, when you arrive?

A stranger to touch you as I once did, with

boldness, there are only so many times

before rejection builds walls, disbursing

bitterness like jasmine growing wild

will perfume even the smell of death.

Disguising ourselves as other people

we step from the ledge, falling into dishonesty

like the fools we become, scoring wood

with our determination to undo crimes

past, often brings empty places at the table

we are removed as we are staying still.

In your mind a stranger takes you violently

against a wall, on our bed, through this unlatched window

into sweet void, you fly clasping your climax

to yourself with embarrassment, for

there is only strangeness in the fantasy

of others, surely as they will sup on your

verge, claiming purity with a red arrow

now lost, now loosened from our fold.

I have called your name until my throat

is raw and scolded with rejoinder, you

are not coming home, she echoes, this body

no longer mine to behold, we are now

photos in a frame, gathering dust

for future inspection, or forgotten entirely

to be crushed beneath footfall

how can such intensity fade? And

turning a page, become no more than

whispers against encroaching sea

lending her wrath and depths to

flood, even the gentlest memory.

Ah, you in my arms, my fingers beneath

your back holding you close, we arc and

move together, inside each other, tongues

salted with exploration, urging for

summit, we climb as one, reaching

mountain top, viewing our world

douce maistresse touche, pour soulage mon ma

just to tumble, slow and sure, clasping

damp skin, sticky hair, hands entwined

the lure and melting red possession

and with one slam of insolent door

you are emptied of such tight intimacy

as if it were nothing less than

a skirt to be discarded. Left behind

worn and used, torn by prior

dance, now abandoned in

savage hollow, to turn no more

in softened movement

hitching up, riding against

my skin, your arms crying out for purchase

eclipsing each other in thrust and

joining, meeting only to burn, lost, lost then

do not go, do not change

yet in this sounding evocation

that is exactly

who we were together

no more, a fable

may-hap children

shall recall in

skipping to

some primal

chant made

insensible by

the drawing of

years in chalk

and pattern lost

to all but I.

This dance is for the dead

NatalieWood-731wWould that you would stay

would that you were ever mine

would that you knew how

you strip and stir those tender passions

sterile of any other life

I am blackened with desire for you

I am white with inordinate stifle

see the end of the bottle how it glistens?

With promise and her velvet touch she

summons,

turn to me, burn with me, set me alight

leave me wrecked on your shore, blistering

this is why I breathe, to end in your gaze

this is why I ache, to imagine just a glance

this is why I die, to lose you without ever

having

there’s the rest and there’s one girl

she’s a woman, she’s rage, she’s not gentle

she can’t be caged or capitulated

the stroke of her fingers on metal

she’s tearing you up with her untouchable ways

ruining others, for they seem tame

comparison is the enemy of the weak

she laughs at your charade, your belief

she’ll ever want a thing from you, nothing

further could be true, she’s so far removed

reach for her, she’ll bite you in half

try to be tender, she’ll laugh in your face

howling another’s name just for sport

indifference is her game, she’ll toss you

aside before she’s arrived with your petty

longings and your wounded heart

she’s little and she’s huge, she’s magnification

and cruelty and searing everlasting beauty

I imagine lying next to her and it’s a joke

the nearest I could get would be a parallel universe

made of pins and needles, volcanoes and tsunami

your beauty is a storm of urges unspent

my secrets just flowers of passion unsung

feeling your way in the dark is your favorite dance

you’re roaring in your sleep and breaking the sound barrier

you compete for breakfast and throw the weak over

for the sharks

there’s nothing between us except everything

even if I were not myself, I could not be close to you

you abhor connection, you loathe obsession

fearless you parody their love of you

with mocking abandon like a ballerina

needing no shoes

you write songs with the pen of a bloody mad woman

you tattoo desire into my chest with sharp knives

thrown from a mountain

all the while not knowing what you do

for I do not exist and neither does time

it can harp and beat for a hundred years and I wouldn’t run out

of want, just the means, just the methods

just one time, just in a dream, just fantasize

shut your eyes, turn off the light, stand still, run

your voice over broken connection

nimble fingers strumming a line

from another time, one where you give me

one moment, I stand behind you, watching

the shape of your conquer

chaos in the surge of everything

anger, rage, beauty, madness

you can move someone without touching

you can devastate someone without speaking

no injury and it hurts worse than breaking

egotism in a glass vase to be shattered

where we go, nobody will know

children of night, children of satiation

I heard you sing in the past when I didn’t know

names and places, people and feelings

I was a dead thing dancing to numb haunt

you stepped toward me and I saw you

a dervish in halo, a god within a devil

nothing else, the crowd cleared, it was only you

so sure, so dark eyed, with your torture

curling me around your laugh like a rocket

I burned and drank it down and the flames

made me golden

plug me in, I spin on electric want without power

you stop and start, you shout, you demand

you scream at the complacency and kick the rulers

I am a dead star above your night, I am

the person you were before you were born

I inhabit your meaning like a false note

there is only nothing and nothing comes with

a voice until you speak

into my freeway, driving at 100 mph on

drowning streets, they cry for your attention, you

giggle in irreverence

no fault of yours the whole world adores

someone who cannot be won, or succumb

to usual rules, to anyone’s need, it’s always been

about you, about you, about you

i’m happy here, stretched on your rack

beginning to enjoy poison and its benefits

for we make aches out of wants and wants

never cut too deep, they die as they are

absorbed into daylight, scars making scars

you are the eternal night you pull me in

I struggle against your tide, you want to drown me

with your sharp loveliness

it’s your control, it’s what you know

you have the bravado of a broken angel

words leave me struck through with arrows

secrets are best left buried

dig me up, let me whisper, I would say

it’s always ever been you

say it once and I drop to my knees

I was told it was wrong to worship

I was told it was wrong to believe in

perfection or need

you open your red mouth

i’m watching, I’m writhing

how are you still moving? Didn’t you

die? Didn’t you stop breathing?

Turning in betrayal, you can

only betray when it matters

nothing matters to girls made of stone

they sing to the siren and the siren

blesses them

this dance is for the dead

desire so long it’s bent double

it hurts to enter the temple

you burn me every time you don’t notice

but that’s your way

that’s who you have always been

untouchable

untouchable

untouchable

 

The Late Colonialist

rochaMany years ago when her ancestors wore

petticoats

white skinned women like herself were considered

in shallow groups of weak-chinned groups

the ultimate prize.

She recalls the stories she’s read

racism tied with a daggered bow

servants without souls or so

they liked to judge and damn

whilst still they raped and plundered behind

their wives fine china sets

the ‘help’ though slavery is more accurate a term

for no choice was made nor proffered.

Years ago and still present

people swerve away from black men

in hooded tops

when really they ought to be looking at

white men in high rise buildings making

corporate decisions

as the enemy of us all.

She looks in the tall mirror, her hand on a DNA report

the wonders of 21st century finding out too much

seeing her ancestors gallop

through the thick red wine of French blood

how much do they have on their hands?

What side on the Revolution did they stand?

She sees how fair skin is more prone

to stretch marks and ageing

she carries hereditary thrombosis throbbing in

her thin veins and the genes of her light colored

eyes have cataracts to look forward to.

At least she doesn’t have Celiac Disease

roiling in her belly, rebelling against

the abundant wheat field

instead she realizes

she is alive in the wrong colored body, in a too late era

to matter much anymore

where now women of ebony and brown and russet

conquer the rhetoric in their claim

finally the prize after decades of denial and she

ordinary, flab, drab, pale, wane, yesterday’s news

they say it really isn’t about that

when they pass her over for someone from

Uganda or Iran but she knows better

Kardashian or Iman Bowie

she knows the enticement of dark eyed girls

their thick hair and beautiful skin

she is just a late magnolia weeping

waxy and left too long on the branch

maybe she is paying for what ancestral harm

was done

back then and still now, depending on what

part of town.

Men tell her; I like your slim ankles

you look fetching in that blue dress

but their eyes betray their digression

it is not her they will ever want

she has nothing of the difference they crave

imbued with rainbow continent

spiced with unknowns and becomings

the raven always the raven, ever the ebon bird

who with her glorious chiseled features

captures their unfurling lust.

She is relieved in a way

nobody comes calling for her

existing behind glass in her pressed skirts

although still young, she feels she has

lived too long and it is better

in the vapor of silence

watching her reflection get lost

in the setting of the sun

over Africa’s

weeping trees whispering karma

to turquoise and orange

land.

Why stay out so long?

You hear the complaint quite frequently; Why do you have to talk about being gay all the time? Can’t you just leave it be?  You can see the point in theory: Who would need to announce to virtual strangers that they were any kind of ‘minority.’ Isn’t that just inflating a point and shoving it into people’s faces, which can increase existing or potential resentment?

We could argue that even needing to ‘be out’ and admit to being gay isn’t necessary and causes negative-attention, but if this is your observation think on this: Everyday people get out so that others can, causing a chain-reaction, until eventually, what was once considered unnatural, is considered natural. That’s because exposure to things that are unfamiliar, resolves underlying anxieties more than any academic discourse achieves.

I am often asked: When you can’t physically hide being a ‘minority’ you have no choice,  and if you do have a choice, what’s wrong with taking it? I lived in the closet on-and-off for a variety of reasons for several years and got so used to not being harassed and tormented that it became a false comfort. It resolves nothing and the shame when you understand the absence of honesty, runs deep. Change comes from a desire to engender change, in the words of Eckhart Tolle: “To love is to recognize yourself in another.” Gays need to exist openly to give non-gays opportunity to see we’re no different.

When we look at racism, studies show racism actually reduces when African-American’s moved into previously exclusively white neighborhoods. But it didn’t happen immediately. The immediate response was one of resentment, anger and prejudice, and white Americans resented the influx of African-American’s initially. But in time, that resentment gave way to acceptance and even integration. It took the courage of those black families deciding to move into neighborhoods that didn’t warmly welcome them, it took the courage of their staying put and not letting prejudice run them off, to effect change.

Much of this is about gays being able to hide, whilst other minority groups like African-American’s cannot. There is a reason why gays should not hide, because in hiding we are one less face fighting the good fight. Why a fight you may ask? Because if a gay person were to really ask for equality they still would not get it, if gays were to ask to be accepted for who they are, some would, and some would not. And as long as that inequality exists, our voice must protest its existence or nothing changes.

As gays we may not run the risk being led-away in chains in the US today, but go to another country and there’s no guarantee. It doesn’t mean as gays we can walk the streets proudly without fear of reprisal, and that would include any city in America. Sounds a lot like Benjamin Franklin’s famous perspective: “They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” In other words, we should ask: Is it brave to hide and weak to protest? And if so, when did that become normalized?

As long as any type of inequality exists, all gay people remain a minority who have somehow to justify ourselves. People roll their eyes, espouse that we should shut up and stop talking about it and things will surely get better, but as history tells us, this rarely happens. For example, every time women make this choice, they take a step backward, same with any minority. Exhibit a; the increase and normalizing of pole-dancing to keep husbands content. Would the original Women’s Movement of the 1970’s have approved or thought this progressive?

If you are not convinced, look as the relative silence of Hispanics in the US as a good example of why they do not have the voice of African-American’s despite being in greater numbers. If you don’t speak for yourself, who will? If you don’t believe in equality for yourself, who will? And most of all, if nobody will defend you, who is left but yourself? I think of the quote by Jiddu Krisnamurti: “It is no measure of health to be well—adjusted to a profoundly sick society.” Better by far, to change what ails, surely?

Ask any Hispanic in America and they will relate stories of equal eye-rolling when they talk about a necessity for equality, ask any Jewish person in America and they will relate stories of equal eye-rolling when they talk about the Holocaust. When did our society become so intolerant to historical truths? Perhaps it’s the old adage, those who do not remember history are doomed to repeat it? Our lack of patience for realities, past and present, says more about our lack of compassion. Is it because until we experience things for ourselves we cannot see the value of anyone else’s perspectives?

In an increasingly selfish society, change comes best when people see it and are forced to live with it. Parents of gay children, people with gay friends, tend to become slowly more habituated and tolerant of gays even if formerly anti-gay. But ask yourself, is it enough to be ‘tolerant?’ True change is where we stop seeing differences as potentially negative.

During the years, like many others, I’ve been told I’m a pervert, I’m psychologically ill, I’m a man-hater, I’m afraid of true relationships, I’m just reacting to childhood abuse, I’m in a phase, I’m disgusting, I’m obviously a child-molester, and many other things. I’ve had female friends who are afraid of me, thinking I will molest them, and male friends who want to “sex me up” to help me learn the value of heterosexuality. I’ve done things I never thought I would do just to be, who I am. So if we talk about having to explain who we are, it’s really the gay person who is pushed to justify why they are gay, especially as it’s still considered by many to be a choice.

Being gay has always existed. Penguins can be gay. It is one of those things you wouldn’t wish on anybody in the way it’s currently handled in societies throughout the world, but you can’t really say you would wish it away, because it’s like saying you wish you weren’t who you are. Even in this so-called-world of liberated values, gays are killed every week, in certain countries I would be put to death, in others I would be set upon, in others I’d be spat at, in others I’d be jailed.

Just think about that for a moment. When it was illegal for blacks and whites to marry those that did get together, had children who were shunned by both groups. How is it very different for gays who continue to lie to families who would otherwise cut them out of their lives, or lie to their employer so they would not be squeezed out? Or are unable, despite the length and value of their relationships to marry, whilst heterosexuals who have just met, can marry at the altar of Vegas.

Being gay isn’t all hunky-dory just because there are some laws that protect us. In fact often after the passing of a law, anti-gay sentiment rises up, out of frustration. See France as a recent example of this and the anti-gay under-current that exists in relatively liberal Canada. For every step forward, there are many steps back. Think how it would feel to know mass protests occur because people hate you and think you are unnatural? In many countries and states, gays cannot legally adopt, we are treated as inferior, unequal, unnatural and still can’t be the normal we know we are.

Even those who profess to be comfortable and accepting, often aren’t quite so and this makes it very hard to trust people and know how much you can share with them. I didn’t sexually desire my female friends, and most gays aren’t more lascivious than anyone else but if you watch the news, most anti-gay rhetoric labors the point that gays can’t be Boy Scout Leaders because they are sexual deviants and other stereotypes that are so wide-spread as to be commonly accepted by the majority. Usually gays suffer higher rates of depression due to these subtle undercurrents that undermine personal value and security.

Ask yourself; if you were gay would you feel comfortable walking hand-in-hand or kissing in public as you would if you were heterosexual? Let’s not forget when everyone’s relaxed, how funny jokes are that involve gay-themes, but imagine how those jokes would be received if they were racist? Why is one widely accepted and the other not? What is difference in the root of prejudice of both? Not having equal rights under law, is like the law saying you are not worthy of equality, and as the Supreme Court when reviewing gay-issues recently questioned, maybe it’s too soon for equality for you! Since when is equality ever too soon?

It is just as hard being a person of color, being a woman, being disabled and a plethora of other things, but few would feel it were justified to say a black person had no right to bemoan his or her inequality, and if they did say that, there are laws to protect that person and labels to explain their prejudice. Few would be proud to admit to being racist, but many would think nothing of being labeled a homophobe, it’s almost a badge of honor.

That said, many inequalities exist, and that does not justify the existence of any inequality. I am often told, well there is still inequality for people of color and women, as if somehow that justifies inequality of any type. Surely like any chain-reaction, equality should come from every sector and merge together to create a strong river of change. That’s one reason all minorities should see the value of others.

Let’s not forget people who worry, equality for gays will open the door to equality for polygamists, pedophiles and other deviations. They argue that such predilections could be eventually sanctioned on the same basis as gay equality. I disagree on the grounds that being gay does not harm anyone and multiple marriages can.

We could argue this forever, but ultimately it comes down to the validity of a harmless relationship versus one of unequal power. Yes all relationships are subject to abuse and we’re going to see negative portrayals of gays, things we’d never sanction, but that’s no different to the negative portrayals of heterosexuals and speaks more of human fallibility.

Currently there are no laws to protect gays. We can be fired for being gay, we can be imprisoned in certain countries for being gay, we can be thrown out of our house and lose everything including the right to make medical decisions and attend the funeral of our partner. This happens, it happens far more than anyone realizes.

When the family of one gay person is anti-gay and that person gets sick and needs constant care, the family can remove that person and deny access to their partner, no matter how many years they have been together, this isn’t protected in those places where gays are not able to marry or have a civil union. Should we really be grateful for some equality when the only equality that truly matters is full equality?

I ask that if you can’t see why equality doesn’t yet exist and should exist including all forms of equality (such as being able to marry in a church regardless just as blacks have demanded the same rights in marrying in formerly racist churches or ones who would not permit interracial marriages) adopt and many other things, you consider now.

Initially I saw no reason to ‘force’ churches to accept gay marriages because I felt they had the right to choose whom they wanted to marry. I realized that if I were a black man wishing to marry a white woman it would be wrong for a church to turn us away, and validate the negativity of prejudice, and that’s why the law protects such racism. Surely this must equally apply to gays or we’re saying our right to avoid prejudice isn’t as necessary.

We can’t stop with just the first step of equality; it has to exist as much as for you, and you, and you. For all of us. For all those who will come after us, so one day a child is born into a world that hopefully doesn’t know what inequality is. Yes at times that will be repetitive, even boring, but it’s necessary in every struggle for equality, and if we make it fashionable to keep our mouths shut and just hope for the day things change, we will be waiting a very long time.

The huntress

yes

She

knows her power

heaving out of her like

red clay forming stars

the power it has on

those who watch

unable to quit her

imperfection as much an aphrodisiac

as those fine lines converging into

her thin bones

drawn tight and ageless

she smiles a drowsy grin

down turned eyes glinting

the thin shake of her hair

sharp curve in high cheeks

noble and unrepentant

she has more confidence than you

with your excuses and your fumblings

could ever possess

if she’d taught you, she’d have said

no, no, no you’re doing it all wrong

if you want that woman to like you

be cold, be indifferent

and occasionally, throw her a scrap

don’t ever show her your full regard or

the depth of your eyes

heft her over your shoulder when the time comes

take her to a dark place and without apology

do what you must, thinking nothing of her

she’ll be crazy for you and that’s how it’s done

you know that’s so, because you’ve seen it

every weak knee’d soul who begs for her

underestimates her lash

only small, seemingly weak

her fierce nature, a molten thing

she has them on their damn knees

it’s not even a look, a word, a sign

it’s the power exuding from her focus

she believes in herself totally and knows

if she slips even a little, they’ll eat her for dinner

feast on her failure like the hungry things they are

I want to be like her one day

I can wear short skirts nearly as well

but as she tutors me in the act I know

it’s a parody, a puppet act compared to her art

I may look the part, even when drunk

act a little like her

but she’s used to the taste of blood

and I don’t know how to eat it raw

sometimes I think of her and why

she’s the kind who defies all the rules

charging that opposites

and only opposites must attract

when she could be my cousin and yet

I want her, despite myself

I want her to want me and that’s the rub

she wants nothing of anyone and never will

hers is an icy indifference

cool queen of thorns and calm

she controls the game, for it is a game

by moving through this life without letting yourself slip

requires poise and balance only artists of the tightrope possess

I am filled with trembling emotions

impossible to blot out or walk in a straight line for

I see my error in my every move

she wasn’t interested, because she saw me coming a mile off

an unsteady shadow cast on her savvy wall

canny enough to smell, the scent of desperation on my breath

I learned from the huntress

and failed my exam

she makes mouths turn dry and water

by just being everything we cannot

remorseless, pitiless, without guile or guilt

somewhere inside of her there is a girl

we want so badly to take as our own

if only for an hour

and without seeming to try

she holds herself apart, unreachable

closes each desire with her little hands

gazing into our disappointment

with a small smile

there is a sadness in her winning

it shows in the day time

when the light hits her eyes and they

despite their great beauty

look ancient

Poets of SMITTEN Interview Series: Hoda Essa

Hoda Abdulqadir Essa is a New Orleans native with roots hailing from East Africa. Hoda is a maker, writer, lover, shapeshifter and soul traveler, searching for heaven or hoping to construct it with her own bare hands.

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

As a poet, I’m consistently working from a place that many people call “emotional intelligence” – in other words, I am dreaming out loud when I open my mouth or put pen to paper. So, for me, being a poet comes with a subtle responsibility to always tell the truth. Poetry is not a soundbite nor is it a news-clip. To me, poetry is the rhythm that lives in each person individually. It’s important to express that and writing is a powerful medium to do so.

When you found out SMITTEN was about women who loved women, without the emphasis on erotica that is usually the case – could you immediately think of ways to express that love through writing? 

Absolutely! My friend and I talk about bringing intimacy to life and to me that is what art is. No one has ever written ballads about an intellectual conversation they’ve had but we pause to capture the gentleness of a lover’s brush against your own skin – to me writing is a way at grasping moments that we ultimately have no language for. The erotic, especially, can be more greatly understood as we wrestle with it on the page.

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

To me, this is a declaration of the time’s we are in. Standing together in creativity unity is the most empowered place for many women, myself included. It means to me that I have graduated into a time space reality that is being carved out by the very people writing and experiencing love for and from a woman.

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

To me they’re intermingled. You have to love a moment to be inspired enough to write about it. Erotic writing is being so in love with an intimate moment that you want to recreate it for others. The two are closely related as far as I am concerned.

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

I am smitten and often. As often as possible. And I love this word as the title for the anthology (kudos to you all) because that word encompasses how wistful it is allowing oneself to be overtaken by simply being fond of another. I’ve tried my entire life to bottle this feeling and give it to the world so yes! It is absolutely possible to summarize these feels in poetry, until we can market the sensation of course!

Your poem in SMITTEN was excellent, why did you choose this particular poem and what did you hope it would convey to readers?

I chose this poem because I was inspired by a woman who took my breath away. She was beautiful, inspiring, deliciously sad in all the right places and talking to her moved me. We never formally met but my hope in writing “WOMAN” was to zoom in on how explosive this connection was without any physical intimacy. I am not even sure if I felt romantic ideations towards this person up until this day – I just knew that I wanted her inner-flame to be safe. I wrote this poem to honor her fire; to protect it.

SMITTEN is available by ordering it in your Barnes & Noble, purchasing it online at Barnes & Noble or Amazon or asking your independent bookstore to order it via Ingram. SMITTEN is available on Kindle and in print form.

For updates on SMITTEN visit the Facebook SMITTEN page.

This is a huge project of 120 female authors – an anthology that is testimony to the power of love and connection between women. Support SMITTEN by purchasing a copy for someone who supports LGBTQ equality, women or poetry.

 

 

Goodbye for now

In the New Year I am going to do something drastic. I’m going to close all my social media down and take the majority of my books/work offline/out of bookstores. The work that will remain is what I’m most proud of; SMITTEN This Is What Love Looks Like (an anthology, 2019), We Will Not Be Silenced (one of 4 editors/contributors, 2018) and Pinch the Lock (Finishing Line Press, 2016).

When I began, I really believed I could contribute something valuable to the world through the medium of writing. I saw many other people trying but I did not know how many and since 2015 I have seen that there is a glut of people all self-publishing, indie publishing, small press publishing, all with the same ‘dream’ of being a legit writer. Mostly wasting hours on social media futilely. I realize 99.9 percent will never be. The only ones who can do it are those on disability, who get a cheque without needing to work, or supported by husband/wife/family or you’re a retiree. If you DO have to work for a living then it’s rare you can put in enough work to even get to the indie publishing stage.

There are exceptions. One of my real friends whom I did meet on social media works full time and is one of the hardest workers I know. She will succeed I have no doubt about it. She goes home from a hard days work and produces consistently some of the best work I’ve read online. People like her are rare. They are one in a million. Others have the talent to do it but it will depend upon if they have the time to make it happen (you know who you are) but the vast majority have neither the talent, nor the ability to make it happen.

When I began writing I thought I was a pretty good writer. When you read some of the stuff online it’s easy to see why I thought that, a lot of it is really poor quality. On the other hand you need to be either absolutely brilliant or someone who is in the know, to get a really big publisher. I am neither absolutely brilliant nor ever going to be someone who is in the know/networked up to the hilt. Even those who everyone talks about as having a ‘good publisher’ actually don’t. They just secretly vanity press pay or exaggerate how much they actually earn. To earn a living wage as a writer unless you are an editor, it’s the 1 percent of the 1 percent.

I don’t want to be an editor. It’s a thankless job and underpaid. I have qualifications and I am going to use those and return to my previous career, hard as it is, it can earn me what I will need to take care of myself in the future. Maybe no job will be different, maybe I will always be taken for granted and used but I want to do it on my own terms. I have always supported myself from the age of 18 and I always will until I cannot any longer. I have never had any help.

Lastly, most of you don’t know but I was recently diagnosed with a very serious eye-condition that means I am losing my sight. I realize I have to adjust NOW rather than when it is completely gone. I doubt I will still want to live if I go completely blind and I have decided if that day comes I will elect for euthanasia as I am not someone who wishes to live as a completely blind person. Especially as I have no family who will care for me. However, if that day doesn’t come or it gives me 20 more years, (which is unlikely) I still need to change my life to ensure my eyes do not worsen.

As some of you know I had battled a serious illness in 2017 which radically changed my life. It was caused by a virus and I am still sick with it but I have learned to live with it and am high functioning despite it not having completely gone. I believe it will one day completely go but it is a long painful battle. I thought that was enough to deal with but in addition to this my mother told me she no longer wanted me in her life ever again. She and I have had our ups and downs but naively I thought as she aged we would get closer. I have always loved her very much even though she was not in my life that much. When she told me this during my illness, effectively kicking me when I was down, it was the last straw. She knew she’d hurt me as badly as she could ever hope for. She succeeded. To protect myself I accepted what she said and have tried to get on with my life knowing she will not be part of it. It has hardened me and I am bitter about it but I will never be as cruel to someone else as that. I will never succumb to cruelty to deal with my own pain.

On a positive note, I am stronger for all of this. But having the eye sight issue on TOP of all of the above, was just too much. I do have it in me to change my life. I have decided to once more change my life. I am not going to carry around the rejection, fear and grief of her hate of me or anything else, anymore. When I began my blog/writing in 2015 I felt it was a chance to try my hand at writing. I don’t regret doing that but I see now realistically I have to move on.

If you know me, truly know me, and have my number and my address and we talk, then I am bound to call you real friend and will keep in touch. When you get sick you realize who your friends are and it is a good clarity. For those of you I call friends thank you for your friendship and I hope we keep in touch. We may not as we may no longer have anything in common but I wish you all much success.

SMITTEN will be my last personal project in the publishing world for the foreseeable future, although I have also been involved in YOU DON’T LOOK SICK and hope Indie Blu(e) recognizes me for that when it is published next year. SMITTEN is a wonderful ending to this chapter in my life. It is a testimony to the talent of women when they come together. Just because we are minorities doesn’t mean we support each other and lift each other up. I hope projects like SMITTEN help future women do JUST THAT because THAT is what is needed. We need to be good to one another! To support one another!

I want to personally thank the following whom I have met on WP for their loyalty, friendship, goodness and inspiration. I think you are incredible human beings; Mark. Eric. Derrick. Bob. Crystal. Erik. Jane. Karen. Raili, Rita. Susi. Anthony. Laurie, Tony. Nicole. Tara. Helena. Philip. Sarah. Tremaine & Monique. Thank you to Christine and Kindra for letting me work for Indie Blu(e) I really hope all the work I did helped and you succeed. Rita.

RIP Natalie Scarberry you are loved.

Thank you to anyone who read anything of mine. I appreciate you. I wish you only the best.

Candice Louisa Daquin