Ashes were her bed
that were once her pyre
embers fueled her spirit
once a flaming combustion
she became a smouldering heap
toxic gasses of her past emitted upward
proving hazardously flammable
she willed it
she wanted it
never to combust or harm another
out of her charred flesh grew feathers
Fenghuang, Bennu, Phoenix
Garuda, Anka, Simorgh
all, some and none
she was her own being
she lifted her head towards the sun
heat once burned her
heat now restores her
she arched her back
her hands once clutched into her chest
now moved out, palms turned up
seeking the heat of the sun
as it seeped into her being
her wings unfolded
as she inhaled life
back into her lungs
a l i v e
she willed it
she wanted it
leaving the prisons of time
into the great wide open
on the winds of eternity
just as she willed it
just as she want it
I was in my own world. Conjuring up more pleasant things in my mind than the needle in my vein bringing fluids my body craved. Shutting out the chaotic surroundings around me in that urgent care room. In the conjured up other world of mine, the images of my father wanting his soft serve ice cream cone from McDonald’s brought a smile to my real life, present time face. As it always does.
I felt neither here nor there. I shut my eyes to keep out the constantly moving figures around me. I knew coming to get the IV fluids was the right thing to do but in the state of mind I was in, I wondered to what end. If the natural body is wanting to shut down, shouldn’t we allow it to shut down? Why keep it going against its will? Again, to what end? I was no doubt already in a dire, dark mood. Normal, the doctor tells me, for what my body is going through. Confusion, sadness, even feeling forms of grief, he said, is all normal when your physical body is chemically out of whack. But isn’t that an everyday thing for me? To be chemically out of whack?! I don’t want to believe him because I am in a pissy mood and his explanation made too much sense, haa. My pissy mood argued silently against his logic. And anyway, he cannot be right because there are others who box me into something I am not, who insist this or that about me without trying to empathise or understand what I go through. I am tired of trying to keep moving. Trying to be positive. I just want to surrender and be done with it. Yet I can’t seem to just give up. Something within me, a tiny sliver it may be, wants to keep holding on to life, wants to give it another go.
I have never done well with confrontation or disagreements. Many times in the past, I have allowed others to take advantage of me just to avoid a ‘scene’. I care too fast, too much. I say too much, especially when I am medicated. I tend to ramble on in a desperate attempt to make the other person understand where I am coming from, often making things worse. I have learnt that now. I been questioning lately when is it that I shouldn’t stand up for myself? Is it wrong to ask for an explanation of a seeming discrepancy? Is it wrong to defend myself and others against senseless attacks? I don’t think so. Why then does it hurt? I don’t know… I don’t care… but I do care… but I don’t want to care…(Internal scream!)…
Those were the thoughts swirling in my mind as I lay there on that hard bed, the IV fluids slowly getting into me and beginning to soothe those raw nerves. My eyes open as I hear voices and the curtain separating me from the other bed in the room is drawn open. I see that the patient there is a young girl. She is sitting up with her legs swinging down the side of the bed. I can’t help but get drawn into her big, big blue eyes. Her little head is covered up with a gaily printed scarf and she has lots of friendship bracelets on her tiny little wrists. She and I hold a gaze for what seems like an eternity. And then, she smiles. Oh, what a smile!! You see nothing else then but her great, wonderful smile! I immediately smile back, almost giggling with the joy her smile brought me. She scooted herself off the bed and walked slowly towards me. Her mother tried to stop her and I indicated that it was okay.
“HI!! My name is Deanna. What’s yours?”
“I’m Gina. It’s very nice to meet you. I love your smile, Deanna.”
“Thanks. Do you know what your name means? My name means Divine. It’s from the Latin language. People don’t speak that language anymore. I don’t know why they don’t though. Mom says it’s a past language.”
“I see. It’s nice to know the meaning of your name, isn’t it?”
She nods. She looks at me, all of a sudden quiet.
“It’s okay to hurt, Gina.”
“Oh, it doesn’t hurt. It stopped hurting a long time ago” I shake my head and smile.
“No. Not your IV, silly. It’s okay to hurt in here.” She touches my chest, near my heart.
I almost choke back the tears as she looks at me with those big blue eyes again. I cover her hand over my heart with my hand. It was as though she saw all the pain and the confusion inside me. It was as though this little angelic being was here, at this moment to validate me. All of me – a collected mass of good, bad, ugly, beautiful, flawed and true. She was there, all some of 3 foot 10 of her and she validated my humanness.
Her mother calls her and the moment is gone. She waves goodbye and I wave with my good hand. I felt different. Maybe the fluids were doing their job. Maybe a tiny angel called Deanna touched me in a divine way.
I look up at the ceiling, once again shutting out the noise around me. As I close my eyes, I sigh a little prayer of gratitude.
Weeks have gone by
and everyday begins alike
I look out my bedroom window
for that one family of geese
family of two now become seven
just as I have looked perhaps not as often
out of my living room window at the starlings
a commonality exists between the two families
the wee ones, before they take flight or go into the water
always lean into the open space before taking off
instinct tells them to and they listen
through the initial hesitancy, they listened
through the initial fear, they listened.
do I listen to my instincts?
do I give in too easily to fear?
do I hesitate far too often?
do I possess within me enough courage
to tap against the shell which closes me in
which holds me back
courage to tap, tap, tap
continuously and persistently to breakthrough?
do I a woman of forty six possess the courage
of a wee little bird?
Her eyes drew him in
his words reeled her to him
normally impatient, she waited
normally hesitant, he forgot caution
bits and pieces soon to be pieced together
a revelation awaits
she tried to divert her eyes
he tried to hold back the words
but they fed off each other
a symbiotic arrangement
which made them flourish
each a separate entity
yet they shared common ground
though oceans apart
they knew one day soon
this bud will bloom
A story I heard yesterday afternoon from my Lyft driver has been on my mind since. A very tall young Somalian man, he was very polite and friendly. He told me he’d like to write a book. Why? Because he has a story burning inside him.
He spent his childhood years in a refuge camp, learning early on to scurry for food being handed out and taught basic lessons in a makeshift school by a motley crew of aide workers and volunteers. He arrived here in the US without knowing how to speak English. He learned that very well, went on to get his GED, took some classes and became a corrections officer. Did well there and he wanted to become a Seattle police officer. He passed the entrance exam, got in. Then things began to happen. He basically was harassed and set up to blame for the missing of some evidence etc. Long story short, he’s no longer an officer. He’s currently tied up in a wrongful dismissal lawsuit. When we were stopped at a light, he reached over to the passenger side and handed me a thick folder. Documents pertaining to the lawsuit. As I flipped through them, he said they just found an essential piece of evidence proving he was targeted and evidence in his favour was hidden.
The look of disappointment and disbelief was clear on his face. He said to me, ‘I worked very hard to get that far, you know? People told me not to bother because someone like me with no proper education will not amount to much. But I was in America! Of course I believed I can do it, yes?!’ He then shrugged. Looked away.
His story got interrupted by an incoming call which he said was his mother. He’ll call her back. I told him I don’t mind and to answer the call. He tells me after his quick chat with his mother that there are seven children in his family. Topic changes and I’m almost home.
We keep hearing ferners (foreigners) should learn to speak English. We keep hearing if you work hard, you’ll achieve your dreams in America. We are told if you pull yourself up by your bootstraps, you’ll make yourself a respected member of society and move from being impoverished to being successful. Do these firmly held ideals bend and change as the demographic and technology of the country and world evolve? Many times it doesn’t seem so. It seems set in stone whether that stone is the frontier version of 1774, the golden California Dream version or the one popularised by the 1931 book, The Epic of America by James Truslow Adams. The current election cycle forces one to give in to the belief that perhaps we have returned to the knee jerk, almost immature and selfish frontier version bearing in mind that version came at the heels of the Puritan version where one would keep expanding west as far west one could possibly go, even if they were already on Paradise (paraphrasing Lord Dunmore, Governor of Virginia 1774, quoted in John Miller’s Origins of the American Revolution (1944)).
The upward mobility promise held within the character set of the American Dream – Democracy, Rights, Liberty, Opportunity, and Equality – seems archaic when statistics prove that the US lags behind other members in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. The Great Gatsby Curve, coined and presented by Alan Krueger, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors, shows the United States as not just one of the most unequal societies in the rich world but also the least upwardly mobile. Miles Corak, a professor of economics with the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Ottawa, Canada, posits that, ‘that in an era of growing labor market inequality, it is unlikely that the United States will slide down the Great Gatsby Curve in the coming years unless Americans enact effective changes and realignments in public policy that more strongly promote the human capital of the least advantaged.’
A few years after The Epic of America was published, the Social Security Act became a reality in 1935. It was an act culminating from the social construct borne from the notion the American Dream was no longer an individualistic ideal but a common, shared one. David Kamp in his piece for Vanity Fair said, ‘This was, arguably, the first time that a specific material component was ascribed to the American Dream, in the form of a guarantee that you could retire at the age of 65 and rest assured that your fellow citizens had your back.’ Where in the 2016 pursuing of the American Dream do the ideals of that ethos hold true?Democracy -a system of government in which power is vested in the people, Rights – voting rights violations and suppression, Opportunity – “Young Americans are facing higher levels of poverty, unemployment, and student loan debt than the two generations before them, and their predicament is fueling the view that the American Dream is bankrupt, according to the authors of a new State of the Millennial Report conducted by Generation Opportunity, a conservative/libertarian advocacy group primarily funded by the billionaire Koch Brothers, Freedom Partners and TC4 Trust.” (1/16/2016, Vice News), Equality – racial, gender, sexuality, pay, etc. These are the issues that matter. Not a bloody wall, not division via fanning the flames of prejudice and hatred, not willful ignorance or the consumerism of religious faith as justification for injustice. Are we mature enough to deal with these actual, real matters? Or are we a bunch of pouting teens refusing to see the larger picture?
The great hope of the American Dream. What version of it are we in currently? Do we still have each other’s backs or has the individualistic, ‘me first’ brainwashing of the 1980s forever changed us? And whatever the version, are we still the United States of America? E Plubirus Unum – Out of many, (we are) one. When I looked at Mo, the Somalian young Lyft driver, as I opened my door to say goodbye, I could see in his eyes, the American Dream proved a false promise. I wondered then what a dream that died would look like and if I had the stomach to bear seeing it. I pray I never will.
roses gone blue
roses in water
roses set afire.
Winds of change
good, bad, everything in between
choices; what seeds will be sown
winds of change
hours staring out the window
Winds of change
a cold world
but warm spaces exist
I know. I know.
Winds of change
one to allow the flow
am I good enough
to stand rooted
yet able to sway
that wind blows
I do not yet know
it may take a fall or two
it may require a broken heart
a crushed spirit
a rattled mind
a heart darkness has known
but surely has not