Tuesday, May 23, 2017

some reflections on polyamory, two years in

I've been poly from birth but have only been living that way for about two years now. Which makes me a total noob, for sure, but I am a quick study and dove deep from the get go. Here's what I've learned so far. The hard way.  [Fyi, here's my only other substantial blog about poly from earlier on in my process.]

I mostly present the following as advice, but remember to read with the proverbial grain of salt. I have no illusions I'm some poly guru. Quite the opposite!  In fact, much of what's here is cast in the light of what I've utterly, ridiculously, disastrously messed up, so that you maybe don't have to.  Really, this post is aimed at the poly-curious or new-to-poly, but it's also an unapologetic confessional-as-cautionary tale from my messy, majorly amygdala-hijacked coming-out period.

To jump down to any certain topic, use these links:
Resource recommendations
Do a self-check: what are your motivations?
New relationship energy (NRE)
Basics of communication and structure
Potential benefits (including "compersion")
"Coming out" period often messy
A poly faux pas-"unicorn hunting"
Jealousy and time management
Rules, guidelines, agreements
Bottom line

ON THE LITERATURE AVAILABLE

There are lots of blogs, but the More Than Two one is a great first stop in the blogosphere.  I wish I had time to listen to podcasts, because I hear there are some great ones.  [If you comment with your own favorite links, I'll add them!]  Here's More Than Two's listing of resources, including other blogs and podcasts.  

The best book is 8 Things I Wish I'd Known About Polyamory Before I Tried It and Frakked It Up. It's short and has a straight-shooting tone. The other books (I've read them all) are also good, but this one has the most bang for your buck. I recommend reading it with any existing partners and discussing it before you start to transition from monogamy, if that's your situation. Though there were other factors at play, if my anchor partner and I had done more prep work before I met and fell in love with my (now ex) bf, he might not be my ex. (Heavy-hearted sigh.)  [For an explanation of one of those other factors, click here: More Than Two explains the "game changer."]  

A couple more resources I'd like to highlight:
  • Here is the blog done by the author of that book I love so much, Cunning Minx: Polyamory Weekly.
  • Since I'm also wired toward BDSM/kink, I thought I should read up on how kink partners with poly, and the potential pitfalls. You can read about that, too, in Power Circuits: Polyamory in a Power Dynamic.  [Yet another thing that factored into my break up with the bf... we had no idea--ok, I'll just own my own emotions, I had no idea--how to mesh poly and openness with having my most Precious Pet in the history of Pet-kind on the proverbial and the literal leash.  He did much better with letting me run free, bless his generous heart.]

All these resources will help you get introspective.  You'll begin to ask yourself some questions.  Maybe some of them will be: What am I in this for?  Is it my core identity (as I know it is in my case)?  Is it a fun or temporary experiment?  Ego validation?  Or expression of personal philosophy (non-commodified relationships, freedom as an orientation, etc.)?  

In my case, I was using my first poly relationship to run away from my domestic life and all the negative ideas I've absorbed about what it means to be a wife and a mother.  In a totally unacknowledged fashion!  It wasn't the primary driver of my love for my bf, by any means, but it created an enormous stress on my existing relationship, to say the least, and made me feel constantly torn between my husband and my bf.  To the point of anxiety attacks and some self-harming, eventually.  The husband had no feeling of security I wasn't just trading him in, and the bf was constantly made to feel he didn't belong.  If that's not a recipe for disaster, I don't know what is.

To be fair to me and my ex, that relationship was also a catalyst for both of us to lean into more full self-acceptance and self-expression.  I do not regret it, and I no longer apologize to anyone, including and especially myself, for going all in with him, even and especially given the "eggs-and-balls-to-the-wall" approach we took.

The advice here? Make sure you are at home in yourself and in existing relationships, lest ye be tempted to become more of a serial monogamist (trading one person in for another) versus truly polyamorous.

Disclaimer: Were you fully prepared and at peace with every aspect of your life and yourself when you undertook the numerous monogamous relationships you've likely had?  I doubt it.  I know I wasn't.  Did you have to learn by doing and make mistakes with those?  Yeah, you did. Check yourself, Temet Nosce and all that, but be gentle on yourself if and when things still go somehow awry.

After the breakup of my triad relationship last August, I spent most of the winter in a personal hell the likes of which I hope I never go through again.  BUT... I was finally forced into deeper mindfulness measures (meditation being one) and had to learn how to better control my tendency toward outbursts when I feel threatened or insecure.  [In case you like poetry, here are a couple poems about my grief/healing process.] 

In other words, you may need to wreck yo'self as well as check yourself.  I hope you strike the right balance to survive with your peace and relationships intact!

On triads: I'm mostly linking this one for myself, in case I am ever brave enough to try my favorite relationship structure again: from Sex Geek, "Tips and Tricks for Triads."  

NEW RELATIONSHIP ENERGY (NRE)
NRE (New Relationship Energy) is potentially addictive [check this great article on that from Aphrodite's Web] and can convince you an existing relationship isn't worth your time anymore, when really, you're just bailing for something easier.  Nothing stays easy forever.  Are you poly and capable of loving more than one person with loyalty and real commitment, or are you just... looking for something "better" and refusing to do the work to make your current life satisfying?  

Another couple of links on NRE: 
I will allow myself a self-indulgent moment concerning NRE, but I'll force myself to keep it brief: Take the warnings about NRE seriously, people.  Have a plan in place for the tsunami if it strikes.  The NRE I had with my bf was... well, in the entirety of my low-impulse-controlled, uninhibited, NRE-junkie life, I'd never felt its like.      


You can't possibly talk too much with yourself and/or any current partners about how you might like to structure things. I say "might" because things may have to shift as you get experience and learn better what works for you and what doesn't, over time. There is absolutely no way to know ahead of time, and no one ever structures things "perfectly" to start. [Think of your early experiences with monogamy in your pre-teens/teen years! Trial and error and lots of angst!]

You will learn over time how much energy you have to put toward/want to put toward this or that relationship; whether you like having only one primary partner and want to keep the rest of your connections "casual"; or, if you're like me, if you'd like 2 to 3 "anchor" partners and some casual fun with others with or without those anchor partners. The only way to learn this is through experience, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't read, read, read and talk, talk, talk, too. Are you a relationship anarchist? Or do you want a strong primary partnership model? Somewhere in between, like me? And whatever the answer, WHY? Delve into your reasons. Talk to your partner, your friends, and to yourself in a journal!

Warning: Choose your audience carefully!  If your friends and family are anti-poly, they may only shame you or make you spend all your time defining and defending your situation.

To help you get started, here's a great explanation of the difference between hierarchical poly, non-hierarchical poly, and relationship anarchy.

POTENTIAL BENEFITS, including the infamous "compersion"
The literature will lead you through many talking points, but one might be, as mentioned previously: What are your goals in living this way, what do you see as the potential benefits? For me, because it's my identity, it's not a choice to live this way or not, but still, I can define my goals for/consider the benefits of my poly life. Just as monogomists can struggle with maintaining their version of loyalty and default to non-consensual non-monogamy, poly folk can become tempted to "shut things down" and go mono during high-processing periods.  It helps to have the benefits in mind when times get tough. For me, poly has had these benefits thus far: 
  • Living this way un-cages my libido, thereby making me more of an artist.  Check this short article on Sex and Creativity: Are They Connected?  Whether or not you agree with that piece's central point, we do know the libido affects self-expression and vice versa. 
  • I'm not "on the make" as much as I used to be when I was monogamous, ironically. Now that I'm "allowed" to pursue my urges, they're not as compulsive. 
  • Compersion, which means taking pleasure in a loved one's pleasure that's derived from another source (outside you).  Check this Huff Post blog: "A Polyamorous Principle That Can Strengthen Any Relationship." On a related note, it has improved my sex life with my anchor partner.  Here's what Polyamory Diaries blogger has to say on that: "How Polyamory Is Improving My Sex Life." I would add that if you almost never feel compersion, and if you've been living poly for a while, you might want to question whether you are actually poly and/or whether you feel secure in your relationship(s), and if not, why not?

It's a cliche that you shouldn't date someone new to poly for a good reason. The "coming out" phase is messy even with the most emotionally balanced people, especially if we're talking about a couple transitioning to poly. To be honest, the success rate there isn't very high, but it seems :crosses fingers: my husband and I have pulled it off.  My bf and I mostly functioned like we were in a monogamous relationship, mourning not being able to get on the "relationship escalator" and becoming almost merged.  As noted, we didn't survive the transition.

[Gratuitous digression: As a bonus for you, here's the playlist I made for those times I want to clutch his ratty hoodie to my chest while collapsed in a pity party puddle in the corner of my room.  It's now stiff with months of tears and snot.  Sexy!]

Even though the cliche exists for a reason, we all have to be new to it sometime, as none of us were born into it the way we're conditioned into monogamy. So go easy on others and yourself during that phase.  Here's a pretty good, brief Reddit on the topic.

As with any art or creative endeavor or DIY experience, expect some mess, some learning by doing, some hurt feelings and "waste" of resources and time while you figure it out. Just as with monogamy, your first few partners in this structure may not work out. [Are you still with your middle-school sweetheart? Didn't think so.]

A POLY FAUX PAS

It's a faux pas to hunt for a unicorn. Lots of couples transitioning try to start by doing it this way. It's not a very attractive practice because it assumes a third party is just going to fit into some space you already carved out for them. How can a relationship/love develop organically if the parameters for engagement are already set? Some folks who are only looking for hot/momentary kink/casual may want to be a unicorn. When I'm in a casual-only state of mind, either out of self-protection or maybe a time/resource paucity, it's something I've often wanted to be and have enjoyed being.  My anchor and I had our own "gateway unicorn" into the poly life!  The point is, it's best not to assume and to approach someone as one individual to another. Be prepared to be judged by more experienced poly folks if you're in a couple and are notoriously always unicorn hunting.  Here's an article from the Relationship Anarchy blog, "The Tropes and Troubles with Unicorn Hunting."  Also, check this advice from one unicorn to another.

JEALOUSY & TIME MANAGEMENT

Jealousy is always the biggest issue we poly folk are asked to address, "What about jealousy?  How do you handle that?"  [The second-most common question is, "how do you have the energy/time?"] The quick answer to the jealousy question is: jealousy can be downgraded to the same status as any other emotion, like finding your partner left dishes in the sink. It's always about the underlying cause.  [On that note, here's an article about how "mental load" can be distributed unequally in partnerships.  Off-topic, but it does explain what's often under the outrage over dishes left in the sink, haha!]

Of course, some situations and some people trigger more jealousy than others. What's important is to examine the reasons for that and to be prepared for the fact that there will be unpredictable differences across different relationships. I wanted to keep my ex bf in a cage in my basement, but I experience almost no jealousy of my anchor partner/husband. I felt insecure in one bond and secure in the other. [Ok, to be fair to me and my bf, that was also just part of the way our kinks aligned.]

Get at the root of your responses and work there, instead of trying to just squelch the symptoms.  Here's a great Bustle article with short interviews concerning jealousy.  This one is my favorite source so far, though, because it discusses jealousy as a social, not an individual, phenomenon: "Jealous of What? Solving Polyamory's Jealousy Problem." 

The quick answer to the energy/time question is get a Google shared calendar with any anchor partner(s). And talk about how much energy and time you'd like to spend on yourself and with each of your partners.  Try to discuss this in terms of the ideal, generally, as enforcing a rigid calendar is sometimes a negative trigger.

RULES/GUIDELINES/PROTECTIVE MEASURES

Finally, my most important advice: FORGET lots of restrictive rules meant to protect any existing relationships!!!

Guidelines like these are probably ok (just some examples from my own relationship, in which case, we live together with two children; you get to decide your own structure):
  • Let's not make love with others while the other one is in the house; caveat: unless there's no other good place for the date to take place.  If so, let's disclose to partners when our other partner might be around so they aren't surprised and possibly made to feel uncomfortable. On that same note, if one of us says we'll be out overnight, don't come home early and unexpectedly unless it's an emergency!
  • Let's communicate if we'll be out overnight at least X hours/days in advance, so the other person can make plans, too. Sometimes the best jealousy management is distraction and immersion in one's own interests/hobbies/other lovers.  
  • Let's be sure to get at least X nights together a week and with our family.
  • Let's be sure to talk once a month or once a week to see how things are going and if we need to revise some of the way we're structuring/doing things.
Here are some agreements that are not ok with me, and many of the books/blogs you'll read by experienced poly folk also criticize them:
  • Veto power: If you can't have a reasonable conversation with your partner about their potential partner and have them really hear your concerns if you have them, you have way bigger problems to solve in your relationship. Yanking their chain with a veto is NOT the way to solve that!  Just recently, someone who I find to be completely unhinged emotionally (always making assumptions and making others completely responsible for her emotions) expressed interest in my husband.  He and I entertained the notion, until she had several more episodes during the consideration period.  I expressed serious concern and my partner agreed.  If he hadn't, I wouldn't have tried to control him with a veto.  I have immense trust in him to make decisions that prioritize his family and I would have accepted his decision.
  • Hardline rules that put you "in bed" with others while you're not really in bed with them, like "You can't mark my partner" or "You can't do X, Y, or Z sex act because we haven't done that yet."
NOTE: Please trust me on that second one, especially. I lost the only woman I've been lucky enough to love who you know, actually loved me back because of the incredibly stupid rules I and my ex bf set up to "protect" me from my jealousy when we were all dating each other. They were hurtful to her, and eventually made her lose her respect and her love for me.  I'll never fully forgive myself for this, and I'll never not miss that incredible woman's presence in my life.  Turns out, they weren't keeping all of the agreements we set anyway.  Does that bother me?  Yes, of course.  Agreements are important to most poly relationships.  But are some of them so restrictive and insulting that they're basically begging to be broken?  Yes.  Consider whether you actually "need" any certain agreement or whether it would be better to just learn to handle your insecurities from the get go.

As another example, with me on the other side of the fence, so to speak: I had to stop seeing a woman because one of her anchor partners had the "no marking" rule. I was NOT about to be with someone and be in an animal mood and have her other partner in my head saying, "No, no hickeys!" No way. Gross. That totally disrespects my own urge to express sexually the way that I want to. [And what a humbling moment that was, realizing how I'd been making my ex gf feel with all my own rules.]

Maybe some folks who are super into a strong hierarchical/primary partnership + everything-else-casual sort of structure could deal with that, but not me. I could have negotiated about the "no marking" situation if I had been falling in love with that person, but I didn't have the bandwidth to go through it all at the time. If I had, though, it would have been up to me to be mature enough and direct enough to initiate a potentially difficult conversation with her AND her partner who had the rule.

On that note, if you end up in a situation and aren't comfy with the guidelines in place, feel empowered to negotiate and state how you really feel. And do your best to assume best intentions from all concerned parties if they need you to listen to their concerns or need for re-negotiation. You have to be extremely comfortable with direct communication. Most people really aren't, though, even if they think they are! Here's More Than Two on "Successful Secondary Relationships" (though I dislike the hierarchy implied in that term).  More Than Two, again, "Guide to Dating a Couple."  This one's my favorite source so far that tackles what you should know when you open an existing dyad to a third party: Polyamory Weekly: "From Two to Three."  It goes into great detail about all the pitfalls and gives a great list of "Don'ts."

I wish my partners had felt more empowered to challenge me directly versus break an agreement behind my back, but more than that, I wish I'd understood how to better control my outbursts and manage my own jealousy so that they would have felt safe doing so.  We can only control our own behavior, after all.  Again, I learned the hard way.  I hope everyone in your own poly networks has the maturity and courage and compassion to engage and navigate this sometimes difficult communication process. 


Do you want love/connection to bloom organically between the people involved or not? Do you think love is about freedom and self-/shared expression more than possession, or not? If you do, look less toward protective measures.  Instead, to get through the harder parts of poly, turn to therapy, mindfulness activities, and open, honest, and frequent communication.  If you decide to do therapy, try to find a poly specialist, which you can easily do in any larger urban area these days, thank goodness.  If you are in the Denver metro area, I would recommend Indigo Conger.

While mono relationships can coast along quite awhile on autopilot without lots of conscious self- and relationship work, poly relationships will fail much more quickly without them.

As a final link for you, check out this other Bustle article on what mono people can learn from poly folk.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Inside Voice: nerves about Tuesday's F-Bomb performance and two "teaser" excerpts


NERVES

I woke up in the middle of the night with two fully developed conversations in my head that apparently I'd just had with myself in my sleep:

1) Several ideas for my current writing projects, each one already classified as to which writing project it belongs with or whether it goes with a few of them.

2) Tuesday will be my first feature performance.  I woke having had a bunch of thoughts like, "Who do you think you are getting up on stage Tuesday night? You don't deserve the attention. You get enough attention. Your writing isn't that good. No one wants to hear you whine about all that stuff in your past, and all your stupid fantasies, and it's not as literary or as balanced with humor as you think. It's not sexy enough, and the sex that's there is too weird. You sound like a man hater in your current piece. It's crap. It won't mean anything to anyone." [Famous women discuss "imposter syndrome"]

Luckily, other parts of my brain had already addressed that part of me (yes, in my sleep/dream!) and said back to it: "Hey, this self-doubt thing? It doesn't suit you, sweetie. You look much better in bold, and you know it. Are you "attention seeking," or are you sharing story with an audience because you get pleasure from performing and connecting with your community around stories? And let's check your head a little about this idea that you will sound like a "man hater." Internalize misogyny much? That is a classic silencing technique. Do you hate men? No, no you don't. Did you tell a true story? Yes, yes you did. Did you enjoy the process? Oh, goddess, so so much! Well, ok, then, breathe, go back to sleep.

If you lose the audience Tuesday, they can go upstairs and blues dance, at least." [Mercury Cafe's schedule]

Dear Mom, I finally learned how to use my inside voice. I'm pretty sure she sounds like you, the you before the you I knew, the you who used to whisper sweet somethings to me as you rocked me to sleep, before my ears knew how to collect you, save you, play you back. The you that looked like the me who, just last night, watched my daughter's face go from allaloneandscared noonehearsme to mamasong, mamahand, mamaclose.

Nothing is really lost in the end.

I've titled my current piece, which is a sort of collection of lost things, Inside Voices: A Choose Your Own Adventure Erotic, Creative Flash Memoir.  Here are two teaser excerpts.  Hope to see you at the Mercury Cafe this Tuesday evening at 730! [Event link]

excerpt 1, from the Cosmo online dating profile quiz:

Evaluate Your Tinder Profile: A Cosmo Quiz


You’re swiping left and right, but your Queen still hasn’t arrived on the scene. Are you making the most of your online dating experience? Take this quiz to find out!

Which of these lines is the best to use to describe your interests?

  1. Reading in bed while drinking hot tea; writing; dancing. I’m a water girl, so anything that has to do with water: swimming, hot tubbing, taking a bath with my sweetie pie by candlelight. 
  2. You. I’m interested in you. You fascinate me. Come here, so I can get a closer look. Tell me that awesome thing your mother said to you when you told her you were gay? And what did the mean girl say that hurt your feelings back in 6th grade when you still had braces? I want to know everything about you. 
  3. I’m interested in knowing why my ex-girlfriend doesn’t talk to me anymore. Did she ever really love me?
It’s good to be honest in a dating profile. Which of these is just the right amount of honest?
  1. I’ve done a lot of work on myself in the last year. I’ve been meditating and gaining more control over my emotions, but... when the well runs this deep, sometimes it runneth over. Feel me? What I’m saying is I’m mostly not crazy most of the time. 
  2. If you are willing to be nice to me most of the time and pay me some attention on a regular basis, I’ll learn all your favorite foods and things to do, and will devote myself utterly to your continued happiness. 
  3. I will only swipe right on you if you look at least a little bit like my ex girlfriend. 
Do you have any sexual proclivities outside the norm? It’s best to disclose those tastefully. Which one of these lines does the trick?
  1. I could get into some role-playing; I did a theatre minor in college! 
  2. I will come to your house for our 2nd date, I will throw you against the back of your front door and watch your eyes widen in anticipation. Then I’ll take my panties off right out from under my skirt, making you think we’re going to skip dinner and stay in. But instead, I’ll stuff them in your mouth, ask if you like the taste of my pussy even though I know you can’t answer, and make you go out to dinner with me like that. You’ll watch me eat and drink, while you can say nothing without giving yourself away as the dirty little whore you are. At some point, I’ll say, “good girl, give them here,” and make you spit them out while our sexy waiter delivers the bill. If he notices and doesn’t flinch, we’ll take him home and he’ll service you at my command. I’ll make him do the dishes before he leaves, because we both hate doing the dishes and it’s the least he can do after I let him near you.
  3. I used to put a foxtail butt plug in my girlfriend’s ass and make her crawl around with a belt wrapped around her neck like a leash. Is it tacky if I use the same one on you, even if I cleaned it really well?

excerpt 2, from the section where we find out about the dirty little secret I should never have told Bobby Cress:

Mirror, Mirror

I made the mistake once of telling Bobby Cress that the weirdest thing I’d ever used to masturbate was a Snicker’s bar, still in the wrapper. He used to walk up to me for years after that and say, “it really satisfies” to remind me he knew my dirty little secret.

I guess I thought that chocolate seemed the best answer out of all the other weird shit I stuffed up my cunt and asshole. What else did I use? Hairbrush handle. Knife handle. Pencil. Electric toothbrush. Aunt Evelyn’s spa tub jets. My favorite: the squiggle wiggle writer. I will get my daughter a vibrator when she’s ready, a real one, but I see nothing wrong with these creative acts of insertion and insurrection. Women get pushed right out of our bodies and minds so often, no wonder we spend so much time trying to get back in.

Friday, May 12, 2017

The poem I wish I could have read as a teenage girl

My newest poem, which I'll maybe be reading as a warm-up before I read my Choose Your Own Adventure erotic flash memoir at the FBomb on Tuesday night. I hope you enjoy it, and also that I can read it to you, live, then and there. It's the poem I wish I could have read when I was a teenage girl.


An Open Letter to the Young Woman Who Hate-Watched Me Dance All Crazy Near Her and Her Boyfriend at the Show

1. Tommy, On The Bus

In 5th grade, I rode the bus.
Tommy Turley rode the bus, too.

God, but yes, his name really was Tommy Turley.

He used to pull out his pecker, as he called it,
And lay it there, on the denim bed of his
scrawny-legged lap. My mom called it
a Tallywhacker. Not Tommy’s, specifically,
as she’d never seen his, far as I knew.

But I’d seen it plenty.
Tommy-on-the-bus would pull out his pecker
And then talk all casual-like
Like his penis was just a set piece on the stage of “school bus,”
like a bookbag or lunch box

I tried to give it meaning, his dick
I wanted it to be symbolic of something,
Even at that young of an age
The teacher of literature was emerging

Once, full-frontal frankenfurter display,
Tommy decided to give me some advice.
Now, this was a welcome change from the otherwise
Consistent and classy requests to lick my bellybutton
From the inside. “Now, really, Christy.
Y’ur not that ugly. But you should wear your hair down.
It pinches your face when you wear it up like that.”

Now this was helpful, bc now I knew
His penis was an example of his whole
Philosophy! He wanted me to let my hair down
To live the good life! The let-it-all-hang-out life!
The who-cares-who-sees-what life.

Thank you, Tommy. For your concern. And your wisdom.
It took me a long time to stop scratching my face
In the mirror. And to stop crying
Into the channels that I carved there.

2. Home, in My Body

I came a long way to get here

From the empty house of Childhood, and
The Hall of Horrors that was high school
Had sock hops, sure, but I didn’t find myself there.
I just remember hoping the cute boys would.
The small room of my Youth was stuffed with Mother’s fears
For me. And boxes of aggressively rhymed poetry
About Him. The He who would rescue the Me
Who wasn’t there.

Who was nowhere, because all I’d ever been taught was how to be absent,
From all the absentees around me, amputees of the spirit,
Filled with pills and television and regret
Ghosts in their shells looking for the thing that hadn’t happened yet
The thing that was always never coming or already gone.

I spent so much time fearing I’d never be inhabited
That I forgot to live here myself

I came a long way to get here. Into this body.
So now I walk around like I own the place
Because I do.

I am what happens
When the girl escapes
From the siege of boy soldiers
With their ammunition spit and boys will be boys
bullshit
with enough of herself intact
To realize it’s harder for them to hit you
When you’re dancing.

3. Me and You (and Him), At the Show

Trying to be cool wastes a lot of energy
That could better be spent dancing

And my style of dancing reveals that I
am only in it for me.
Which isn’t to say I dance badly...
Just maybe weirdly enthusiastically and self-assuredly
For a non-professional.

You are not in it for you. You are very much a cool girl.
Maybe 18.
You are standing there with your boyfriend.

You are both very well-groomed.
You are groomed in ways I am not aware existed even though I am looking at the results of them
All over you and your perfect face.

I see you looking for my cracks.
I see you finding the lines on my face that reassure you
I’m too old for your bf.

This always happens at the all-ages shows.

I see you watching me dance and I see you seeing your bf watching me dance
I see you turn it into too-crazy, too wild, who does she think she is that show off
She thinks she looks cool but she looks like she’s on drugs and electrocuted
You’re right! I am on drugs and electrocuted!

But you’re wrong about one thing...
I’m not too old for your boyfriend.

4. Chalk Outline, in the Mirror

But I am older than you.
I got started early, carving myself into a picture
He, whoever he was, might want to look at
The first cuttings with my own fingernails
In the same mirror mirrors on the wall that you stare into everyday
The ones that tell you there’s a fairest of all
And you ain’t it
Or that you are it
It’s all the same, sister

Oh, I’ve been there
Where my every midnight when I’m alone
is a monologue
on a stage
he isn’t looking at anyway

5. Sister to Sister, on the Balcony

You count your deficiencies like rosary beads
And pray he won’t notice them
That he will notice mine, like you do

I would not have us strung up on a line
Picked apart, weighed for our differences
Like fruit at the market in a man’s hand
Is she ripe? Too ripe to be sweet still? Is she
loose enough or just bruised?
But you make yourself an accomplice. You
hope he strolls by to tell you that you are the East
and you are the Sun,

You love it when he tells you to kill your moon sister,
who is already sick and pale with grief that thou, her maid,
art far more fair than she!

Why do you let him put you on the map like that? Like he can just
Call the cardinal directions and put you in your place?

You are not a point on his compass.
You are a rose of the winds.

I want the dawn spirit
Always rising in the east
But I also want her sister’s
Dusky reclining

Stop playing this zero-sum game
You will need your sisters after he’s gone
Burned out on broken promises
And Romeo’s wordy wooing of whoever’s
in his line of sight
in the sky tonight

He lifts himself up, climbing your hair or your trellis
If he falls, your beauty bears the brunt of it

6. Birds Fly, Over the Rainbow

Look. I know I look crazy throwing all this shine around
Setting the buzzing honey hive of my body on fire, but
I have forgotten how to be absent, how to sway quiet and unthreatening
How to recognize the beat, but not submit to it

I’ve forgotten how to watch myself from outside myself
As if through your or his or their eyes
I climbed out of the looking glass, I stepped out
From under the proscenium arch
That ain’t nothing like a rainbow
But keeps us thinking we’re somebody else’s pot of gold

Spend yourself, sweetie
Make it rain with me
Make it sweat and pulse and flood
Your body was never meant to be anyone else’s
But your own

Tell me all the times a man has pushed you
Right out of your mind or body

Tell me:
What did your Tommy-on-the-bus say or do to you?


EVENT DETAILS: https://www.facebook.com/events/1902545846685655/

Monday, April 24, 2017

Sticking the Cow: flash memoir piece read at the Poetry Rodeo/Podeo on 4/21


Sticking the Cow: An Appalachian Flash Memoir

Version 1:
The story goes: Great Grandma Holliman aimed a shotgun at the ground between her young son’s legs and took the head off a very pissed-off rattler. I hear blushing Freudian implications in my aunt’s voice as she says, “De law! What if her aim’d been off! You’d be missing a few cousins, Christy!” I see buck shot careening through generations, taking out an entire branch of my family tree.

My sharpshooting Mimaw, with the wing-delicate skin of the very old and dying, winding and unwinding her hair. If I didn’t fidget, she let me sit in her lap and brush the silver river of it. Her voice a peaceful nonsense trickle as I steered the bristles downstream. Sometimes, she’d break the stillness with a sudden angry accusation that someone was stealing her shoes.

She would count and recount them, a sort of Alzheimer’s-having, Appalachian Imelda Marcos, losing her benign calmness when she couldn’t find a mate for this slip-on or that Sunday short heel. I seemed to be beyond suspicion, but I had my sister pegged for it. My aunts whisper-called her a klep-to. I guess it could have been my creepy cousin Daryl, the one who stared at my legs in shorts, the one who left porn laying around for Grandma Blanche to find, who wore, “silly faggot, dicks are for chicks” shirts to the church hall at family gatherings.

I didn’t understand then, as someone who never lacked shoes, how important they could be. How they could colonize the failing brain as the dominant imprint of dementia.

I imagine her Annie Oakley moment happening on the same spot in the front yard where the menfolk used to bleed the animals. They’d string up a dead cow, place a bucket under its head, run a knife through its jugular furrow. I’d watch the blood drip from black raspberry bushes a few feet away. If they noticed me, they’d try to gross me out by moving its limbs around, pretending to dance with it. We call this ritual "sticking the cow.”

My mother called penises “tallywackers.” That’s a name meant to scare a girl off ‘em. I wonder if that word came to mind when she was 18, when her uncle raped her.

I don’t know where to imagine the rape. And I don’t know if my great grandmother was ever made aware that one of her sons raped my mother. The way my mother would spend the rest of her life running from her body, the way she’d call her daughters whores if she even suspected we were letting boys near us with their tallywackers.

If my hands could reach back in time, I’d grip the underside of the barrel, and I’d gun for a different snake.

Version 2 (original):
My great grandmother shot the head off an angry rattlesnake between her young son’s legs, thereby saving his life.

I hold this story of my sharpshooting Mimaw against the image of her winding and unwinding her old-lady bun, counting and recounting her shoes, convinced someone was stealing them.

I didn’t understand then, as someone who never lacked shoes, how important they could be. How they could colonize the failing brain as the dominant imprint of dementia.

I hold this story of me, still and little in her lap, brushing the silver river of her hair, against another story I know. My mother raped by her uncle. My Mimaw’s son, maybe the same son.

I didn’t understand then, as someone who had never been raped, how it can make a woman run from her body forever, force her daughters out of their bodies to protect them from snakes, too.

Version 3:
My great grandma shot the head off a rattler about to strike her young son.

Years later, when my mother was being raped by one of her uncles, I wonder was it the same one Mimaw saved with her double-barrel blast?

Where was the shotgun then?

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Good Grief: The Lately Religious and How to Be Still in the Dark [two poems]


The Lately Religious

I no longer roll my eyes at the lately religious
Who only pray when the plane shakes

The pitiful Styrofoam on the wobbly tray table wrapped around weak coffee
Is now the trembling well into which I also stare

Each night I ask my grief if it plans to turn off the fasten seatbelts sign

And I finger a chain link rosary
In remembrance of the flight we once took
When we trusted autopilot too far
And never could find a safe place to land


How To Be Still in the Dark

To teach me something about jumping
Gravity got together with the ground
Did I really expect to fly
and not fracture?

Birdsong and wind: the higher you are
The more you hear on the way down
You will be borne from below
Or not at all

Soil knows something you don't:
How to be still in the dark
Worm knows something, too:
How to move through it.

Talk to the kingfisher
About how to dive and survive
Watch the hawk watching
Broken feet beneath breathless you.

You will mind this now:

It is the crawling time
And also the caving
It is the hour of burial
and of mending.

I will drink my failure like Shiva
My elixir, soup from these broken bones.
Heaven and Earth, watch out for me.
I am arriving, I am coming home.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Crayon of Other Soar: Trump, Shades of Grey, and The Loving Dominant


On the heels of the absolutely absurd connection being made between Trump's "pussy grabbing" remarks and the book, Shades of Grey [links here and here], and after hearing about some anti-bdsm comments made by Audre Lorde in which she claims that bdsm establishes dominance as inevitable [links here and here], I feel called to talk about my pro-bdsm stance.

Domination is not inevitable, but power plays are, even if we're just talking about inside ourselves. My reason & intuition sometimes war, my emotional self and my rational self. I can find balance between them in a dialectic I've recently heard referred to as wise mind.

My experiences both subbing and topping have built my ability to be mindful generally. A skilled top needs to be very aware of the bottom's reactions, the surrounding environment, to hold space for the surrender. Bdsm play continues to teach me to be mindful of how these forces play out within me. They've helped me put them to work together, in concert. Especially my experiences topping both men and women have encouraged the development of my wise mind that can navigate the opposing forces within me. Both positions--bottom, top--can help with impulse control issues.

None of this amazing personal evolution I've experienced with bdsm has fuck all to do with being controlled by the patriarchy, unless it's to make me conscious of and give me the joystick to the mechanisms of control that have run rough shod over me from all the state apparatus of control-the Church, the School, the State. I might be the Priest, the Principal, the President in my scene.

This practice is not for nothing. It is not just aping male control. It's practicing and playing with power and responsible control over the self and others.

Choice in consumer society is an illusion. You can buy the red one or the blue one, but you'll buy one of them. In my life, bdsm is a counterpoint to lack of choice and to the way that feeds into a hegemonic lack of self expression and diversity.

It is most supremely a theatrical act, relating to the true roots of drama in the ritual sacrifice of the year king and queen. It is a sacrifice of the expected, a crayon of Other soar.

Ok, that was supposed to say a creation of Other space, but it actually makes more sense to say the crayon soars. I see a kinky Harold, all grown up, having discarded his purple crayon for a purple flogger, making my back his canvas, writing a world onto me at my request.

It's an invitation to get creative or get gone, to drive or hand over the keys. The car keys, the musical notes, the typewriter ones. It's Authorship, a collaborative drama.

Anything that brings me pleasure on my own terms empowers me. Any way I provide release and loss of monkey mind thoughts to my pets empowers them first of all but also me because I got to be the thing that was needed. Doesn't everyone long to be the thing that is needed sometimes?

I am reading a wonderful book called The Loving Dominant, and the point the author makes, rightly, is that the submissive really controls the whole game in consensual play. Dominants need to be aware of their sub's desires, and work creatively and compassionately to meet them, or the dom/me won't have that sub for long. "In a consensual relationship, control applied purely to self gratification is a self-limiting proposition. Submissives who do not get what they are looking for are unlikely to remain in a relationship for very long" (6).

Ethical tops look, and they look deeply, for whether the control they've been given was given freely and for healthy reasons.

If only all people in power took such a close look at the power they've been given, and whether and how and when they should use it.

Like I don't know, maybe a presidential candidate?

Monday, October 24, 2016

Our Bodies, Our Selves: For the Daughters of Eve [a poem]


Our Bodies, Our Selves: For the Daughters of Eve

This one’s bowels scream, “Stop telling me I’m broken!”
While another’s heart says, “I do not feel safe here inside this hummingbird chest.”

This one’s got her fist in her throat
Where his was
Coming up and out with the windpipe
Playing that slender flute for the first time in a long time

She’s pulled the voicebox, too
Her sister opens it, turns the tiny rusted crank
We hear the pink ballerina of her tongue dancing free

Listening to this, to the wail song, to the conjugated sob
We un-lay bricks from another one’s shoulders
And watch as her wing spread spans so many stories

This one doesn’t tolerate stitches, so, fingers woven
We suture her incision with the needle of not-knowing and
String made from our own guts

This one lays her hands where that one’s son once nested
Before he swept out and into a current he couldn’t control
She pulls the red thread that says
“Don’t hold it in, or it will break you.”

Alice really went through it, didn’t she?
The glass, I mean.
But she gave us the shards and the splinters for
diamond rings, sweet tokens.

Such shiny things. We are not broken.