A Poet’s Personal Journey

Smiling, yellow sun on light blue background.

“Untitled”– graphic art by Estela.

J was a graduate student when I met her. We were in the same poetry writing class in the mid-80’s. I was an undergrad. (I was in my mid 30’s, divorced, with three children, two teens and a pre-teen.) She is a year older than I am. We were born in the same month, she on the first, I on the last day. (Perhaps that is symbolic only to me.) I just found out that her fourth book of poetry was released last April. I went to the book store to see if they had it. They didn’t; the guy ordered it for me. I’m looking forward to reading her new poems. (It’s on Amazon, but I wanted to support a local independent book shop.) I have her other three books. I’ve read them multiple times.

I also just learned that last year J was named Poet Laureate at the university where she teaches. She writes the most beautiful poetry of anyone I have ever met. Ever. She’s incredibly articulate (her undergraduate degree was in linguistics), very bright, very knowledgeable.

The last time I saw J was in 1990. I was living in Berkeley. I was a grad student attending a state university (that I hated, but it was convenient for me), while she was a post-grad in New Mexico. We went to a book convention in San Francisco. She was going to be on a panel talking about being a lesbian poet and a woman of color. (Her mother was American Indian, though her father was English.) At that time, she gave me a copy of her first book of poems. Actually, she had given me copies of some of those poems when we initially met. I still have them. It was great to see her publish her first book. I hoped one day I would too.

A year after I last saw J, I was having a nervous breakdown.  I was perimenopausal, but I didn’t know it yet. The symptoms had actually begun before my final semester as an undergrad. My doctor said I was too young (41) to be menopausal, when I asked her if that could be the issue. (The lab work showed no markers.) She was wrong. A few months after that doctor visit, I heard the term “perimenopause” on radio news. It had just been coined. Researchers had determined there is a stage women go through before actual menopause. Then they described symptoms I had. Unfortunately, I had quit my part-time job, because of how I felt, and no longer had health insurance. I couldn’t go back to see my doctor. I assumed I’d find work teaching when I got my master’s. Until then, I’d ride it out on my school loans. (It didn’t work out that way.)

Nothing was going right. I wrote a pitiful letter to J’s girlfriend. I’d met her soon after meeting J. She was divorced, with one child. We had lived in the same family student housing, but she’d been a grad student like J. She was (is) a sweet, gentle soul. She wrote back, and sent her (their) phone number. I called, blubbering, like a crazy bitch going over the edge. Which I was. J’s girlfriend was sweet and patient. J was less patient, really, but she suggested I move out there, go to New Mexico. I wanted to. Very much. But I still had one of my three children living with me. My daughter was putting herself through college and working part-time. I couldn’t leave my children, they needed to leave me. That’s how I felt about it. I couldn’t go.

That was the last time I talked with J. I felt my life and myself falling apart. I couldn’t think or concentrate. It was like being caught in the eye of a storm. I just had to hang on until it was over. I didn’t know it would take over a decade. It wreaked havoc with my life. (I didn’t write a thesis; I had to take clerical jobs; but that’s another story.) When it was over, I had to get up, dust myself off, and pick up from there.

The poetry reading and open mic last week (which I attend every month) depressed me a little. Once in a blue moon, there’s a good writer who reads. Occasionally, a writer is amusing. But it’s predominantly mediocrity, and even some downright crap. Some creative writing teachers/professors think the glut of MFA programs has created a glut of mediocrity in (creative) writing. (I hesitate to use the word “literature.”) I don’t disagree with that. Still, I wouldn’t mind having one. It’s still a master’s.

Though I do get positive feedback, I’ve grown increasingly dissatisfied with open mic. If it’s depressing me, it’s time for a change. I’ll probably attend next month, since there are people I like who attend. But I don’t want to open mic anymore.  I’ll have to see what’s next.

I remember telling J, “I wish I wrote like you.”

“I wish I wrote like you,” she said. This surprised me.

“You do?” I said.

“Yes. I wish I wrote like this,” she said, sweeping her hand down the page of my poem. I didn’t even feel I knew yet how to write. It was practice, getting the hang of it. Today I feel I know what I’m doing. It’s up to others if they like it or not. I do wonder what J would think. I don’t know if I’ll ever see her again. She went her way, and I went mine. From her poems, I gather she and her girlfriend got married. I think that’s lovely. Especially, since I remember J saying to me, “I’m not lucky in love.”

At the end of the day, life is a narrative already written. It goes the way it was always going to.

Posted in Art, Autobiographical, Poetry, Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Summer of Love 2017

Digital drawing titled "Self Portrait."

“Self Portrait”
Digital art by Estela.

It’s the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love 1967.

Maybe I’ll get around to doing a Haight-Ashbury Tour before the summer’s out. Or get out there and take some pics. If I can get passed my agoraphobic panic. I want to do something in celebration of this SOL 50th anniversary. Mainly, to celebrate my life.

I was 17 in 1967, the historic year of the Summer of Love. All the hippie dippie stuff was going on here in San Francisco. (I lived in a small, innocuous town near Sacramento.) I heard about it through media–radio, tv, newspaper, magazines. But I didn’t pay much attention to it. I was in my sad, limited, world. Full of family drama, as dysfunctional families are. For me, 1967 was my Summer of Despair.

I got married in March. I turned 17 in April. My son was born in October. I didn’t officially drop out of high school, I just didn’t bother to go back for my senior year (1967-68). I didn’t want to be in this marriage. But I didn’t want to be back home in that mad house full of drama either. So, I stoically settled into my forever life (I assumed) as a housewife and mother. My son was an adorable little thing. I read Parent’s Magazine and Dr. Spock. I wanted to be a good mother.

Long story short, I couldn’t create an idyllic life. And things only got worse as the years went by. By the time I got divorced, thirteen years later, I was a psychological mess. But I got myself into college and into therapy.

Life is what it is, you are who you are. All you can do is your best. The beat goes on.

Lately, I’m focusing on my agoraphobia. I don’t know if it’s clinically agoraphobia, but I am labeling it that. I’ve never addressed it in therapy. There was too much else to deal with. But I have the space now to look at this, research, and if I have to, I’ll look for a therapist. It’s anxiety for sure, but I don’t know if it’s agoraphobia, because I’ve read that agoraphobics avoid crowds. When I have to catch a bus, or walk somewhere, I feel safer where there are more people around, not less. It’s the isolated places that scare me. In a crowded space, if I were attacked, there would at least be witnesses, if not someone to help. That’s my reasoning.

But I do have this fear of going out the door. I’ve had this “forever.” I don’t want to go out there.

The last few years, I smudge first, and I carry or wear a fetish. It doesn’t get me out the door, but it helps me feel better (stronger, more courageous) once I get out there.

The monthly poetry reading I attend is just a few blocks away, a few minutes’ walk. I am conscious of the fact that it’s an important part of my life, of who and what I am. And I really want to share my work. If I don’t do this, I cheat myself. I’ve actually been pretty good at cheating myself, a good part of my life. I’ve woken to this realization. I try to be mindful of it. It helps me get out the door.

I like this particular poetry reading. It’s been going on for 4 years, at a book store. I’ve attended for 3. (I’ve missed a few, unable to get out the door). Recently, this guy who works at the book store said he thinks this poetry reading and open mic is “the CBGB’s of poetry readings” here in San Francisco. Yeah. Sure. Cool. I’d like to think so.

Pin with peace sign and the words, "San Francisco Focus" and Summer of Love 1967-1987."

Button commemorating “Summer of Love” 20th anniversary.

At the reading, a couple weeks ago, there was a young woman who sat in front of me. We talked during the break, and she said she was visiting from Brooklyn. She said she had learned that day about the poetry reading, so she dropped in to check it out. At the open mic, I read a poem called Nemesis. When I returned to my seat, the young, Brooklyn chick (looked fresh out of college, 20-something) turned around, all excited, amazed, really, I mean, really, amazement was on her face, her brow way up, her eyes open wide, and she says, “I really liked your poem!” I said, “Thank you. That means a lot to me.” And she repeated, “I really liked it!” That was a shot in the arm.

In 1967, I had no idea that twenty years later I would be a student at UC Berkeley, studying literature and taking creative writing courses. 1987 was the year Freddie Freeloader was in my life. He gave me a button he bought from a Telegraph Ave street vendor (in Berkeley). “Summer of Love 1967-1987.” I still have it. That’s actually when the Summer of Love entered my consciousness. I said, “Oh, that was in 1967!?” It was a significant year for me, but it had nothing to do with historical times. Heart shaped peace sign, outlined in green, spaces colored white, yellow, red, black on light blue background.

2017 is my Summer of Love. Sure as hell, got nothing to do with historical times. Seem to be the best of times and worst of times. The times are not tidy. Freedom is pretty much down the toilet. Paranoia abounds. But, as Blake wrote, “The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, and hell of heaven.” Or as (the late) Bill Cunningham said, “He who seeks beauty, will find it.”  ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Posted in Art, Autobiographical, Poetry, Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Death and Time

Graphic drawing of white cross, with red roses strewn, and yellow stars above on black background.

“R.I.P.” Graphic by Estela.

© 2017

Death and Time

Death loves us.
She is there.
Always.
In the shadows.  Waiting.

In our most
vulnerable moment,
she scoops us up
and carts us home,
to that place
of mystery.

She is mother.
She sets us free
for a temporary
earth walk.

We are spirits.
Our body is a vessel.

Our purpose
is to touch other spirits.
To learn and teach,
seek love, joy, satisfaction.

Life is pain, struggle, challenge.

Love and joy is our relief.
Hope, our opiate.

Time is god.
He holds all,
everyone,
everything,
in life,

all knowledge,
purpose,
power,
and fate.

I wrote these words inspired by this graphic I made. The graphic was inspired by my friend’s grief over losing her mother, and the news about Chris Cornell, lead singer of Soundgarden. (Story is he committed suicide.) Man, that made me sad.

I didn’t know what I was writing. I felt my way through it. I guess it’s a poem. So, I titled it, Death and Time.

I had not wanted to post poems anymore. Magazines won’t take previously published work, and posting is publishing. But, what the hell. This one won’t go on the “submit” list.

These days I open mic only once a month, and I haven’t been asked to feature in a year.

To be “legit,” I guess, requires an MFA, MA, teaching, and/or sufficient publication. Or, maybe, a whole lot of ego to promote and sell yourself. (Like Tao Lin. I’m still not sure what to think of his work. Tai Pei felt soulless, and EEE, EEE, EEE felt childish. Yet, I still plan to read more of his work. Because he’s so popular, and I’m trying to figure out what the hell it is about him.)

I only have a BA. I’m super shy. Super insecure. But also have this self-assurance about my work. I got started “late.” (Working toward this goal.) So, here I am at this age, still trying to get there. I’m a turtle, as I’ve said before. I’m a turtle crawling through this life journey, like dump-ti-dump, Image of small turtle.dump-ti-dump. “Dai, is this the right way? Oops, wrong way. Lem’me go this way.” Dump-ti-dump, dump-ti-dump…

I attended a book release on Saturday. Someone I met years ago got a book of short stories published. He’s a beautiful writer. Teaches grade school, little kids. He’s an excellent teacher, too. A beautiful role model. I first read my poetry in public at a poetry reading series he hosted when he was a grad student. (Over 20 years ago!) He finally found a publisher. He used to get depressed about not being published. (If you care who your publisher is, it’s harder to find the right match.) He was so happy at his book release. I’m happy for him. All his friends and family are happy for him. His book release was a joyous time.

Awe, man, I’d like that too. To feel that joy. Go, Turtle, go.

♠        ♠        ♠        ♠

Posted in Art, Autobiographical, Poetry, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Walking Shadow

Quote from Macbeth.

Image by Estela. My most favorite Shakespeare quote.

I read that in 1979 there were 79 MFA programs across the country. In 2014, (Flavorwire: “27 Writers on Whether or Not to Get Your MFA”) there were 854.

I took my first creative writing class at a community college in 1980. There weren’t that many in the class. A dozen? More or less. Everyone else on campus, pretty much–students,  faculty, staff–thought us impractical, quixotic losers. I’m sure especially me. Given I was in my early 30’s, divorced, with three children, and needed to think about career and living independently. Everyone (including family) thought I should have a more realistic goal than a desire to be a poet. And they were probably right. But I couldn’t do it, cuz I’m a fucking dreamer.

Even my creative writing instructor didn’t think much about his students: a bunch of wannabes. But he liked me. I wrote a journal, because I didn’t have a clue about how to write a story or a poem (other than a rhyming ditty). We could write whatever we wished, including journals, and letters, if we couldn’t come up with an idea. So, I wrote a journal. He edited my entries, and commented more and more as I continued to turn in my writing project. He taught me so much. Including about life.

I didn’t get involved with him while he was my teacher. That came later. I don’t regret it, and I do. I regret I was vulnerable. Had I not been, that affair would never have occurred. It lasted a year before I finally said, “I don’t want to do this anymore.” He looked crushed, and said, not looking at me, but straight ahead, at nothing, “Yes. I knew this day would come. Of course. It has to be this way.” He was 50. Married. I was 32. I wasn’t in love with him. I liked him because he was a poet.

The aroma of fresh brewed coffee permeated his office. He used a cone to brew his cup of Peet’s. (Peet’s was then a small store on the corner of Walnut and Vine in Berkeley. It was the only place you could purchase Peet’s. It had a rather cult clientele–“Peetniks.” I still prefer Peet’s to Starbucks.) He was six foot, had a goatee, a small mustache, wore corduroy dungarees, and a blazer with patched elbows. His blond hair, in a conservative cut, but long at the crown, was parted to one side, and he constantly swept back the hair that fell over his forehead and his eyes. His blue eyes were like two small beads. He wore small, gold, round, wire rim glasses with a thick lens, and he had a bit of a schnoz. Not handsome, but he looked to me like a beatnik. He was the first college educated man I ever knew. We talked about poetry, poets, writing, writers, and artists. And life.

At a reading a few days ago, a chick I met about three years ago, who has an MFA (as most of the readers I meet at readings), and who I hadn’t seen for a while, asked me, “Are you still writing?” I said, “Of course.” She laughed a little, and said, “Good answer.” She teaches middle school, is probably in her late thirties. Never married. (My youngest child is over 40.) She seems to like my poetry, but since I don’t teach, and I don’t have an MFA, she, and others I know like her, seem to think themselves “the real writers.” I guess they think what I do is a fucking hobby. I don’t even like what most of them write. It’s all the same boring shit. It’s rare, extremely rare, I like any work I hear from anyone with an MFA. Three, maybe four, two of whom I first met twenty to thirty years ago.

It’s my fault. I haven’t pursued publishing adamantly enough. My son goes, “You don’t go to all the readings like they do.” I told him, “Going to readings doesn’t make you a writer.” Besides, I hear most of them say, “I want my voice heard, my stories heard.” That isn’t my motivation or goal. Mine is to create art. My son called me pretentious. I said, “I don’t matter. It’s the work that matters.” He goes, “Psh.” He’s published too, in small mags; he doesn’t have an MFA; he works a corp job, but he’s also a political activist and involved in the community. He’s lived here thirty years. He’s very social. I’ve only been here ten years. I’m more reclusive. I worked on a community project once, seven years ago. I had to put up with egos and condescension. But I really wanted to be part of the project, so I didn’t argue. A couple years ago, I was asked to participate in a poetry book publication, with the same community organization. I started to, but realized it was going to be the same shit as last time. I withdrew, and even told them not to publish my poems. Sure, I want to be published, but I don’t want to be hard up about it.

Anyway, what’s on my mind right now is mostly my mother, and my health. She has dementia, I have heart issues. I see a cardiologist on Friday. I’d been putting it off, cuz, well, I’m scared.

My resentment over my mother’s narcissism has been put on a shelf. I feel badly for her. My sister said my mom got up all night and insisted she wanted to see her mom and dad. She’s 93. My sister was dragging at work, losing sleep. So, she put my mom in a care facility. I hear she gets scared and kicks her feet and refuses to let the staff approach her. She keeps telling them to call my sister’s husband to come pick her up. It breaks my heart. She told my daughter, “My mom doesn’t know where I am.” I don’t want to go there, as that little crappy town is nothing but darkness for me. I told my sister I’m getting a new phone, so maybe I can see my mom via vid call. I haven’t seen her in ten years. I’m doing this for her, not for me. “I don’t know how to use it,” my sister said. I told her, “I’ve never used it either, but I can learn.” So, hopefully my sister will cooperate, and I can “visit” my mother from a safe distance.

Posted in Art, Autobiographical, Poetry, Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Broken Heart

A Christmas cactus in bloom sitting on a window sill.2017 began on a beautiful note. I saw my beloved granddaughter Jan 2, (whom I hardly ever get to see) who is happy and excited after completing her first quarter as a freshman in college. Seeing her is the greatest joy.

Our furnace broke down on Dec. 29, so we had to use a portable heater until the issue was resolved. After a few days, checking this, checking that, it was determined that it was more economical to replace the furnace than to repair it.

I live in a flat. (In San Francisco.) This is an old house (prob built around 1900, if not earlier) converted into two units. This house survived the 1906 earthquake. (Hell, I’ll bet it once had beautiful Victorian era windows, wood framed, not these modern, vinyl framed, banal things. Bet they’re from Lowe’s.) The guy who owns this house lives

Banal modern double pane window.

Our windows look like this. Banal, double-pane windows. Ugh. Bet this house built in late 19th, early 20th century once had more interesting Victorian era windows.

upstairs. A friend of my son’s, actually.  (I live downstairs with my son. He doesn’t live with me, I live with him. I wish he’d buy his unit. I’m sure his friend would be cool with that. But that’s not my call, darn it.)

It’s the coldest winter we’ve had in a few years. Naturally, the winter our furnace gives out. Our cold weather isn’t severe, like sleet, ice, or snow. But it’s brrr cold. On the third night with no furnace, I couldn’t sleep. I wore two sets of jammies, sweatpants, my warm bathrobe, a scarf, double socks, and was wrapped in a Snuggie under my blankets. (I, personally, would never buy a Snuggie. I think they’re silly. My son won it in a raffle. They are warm and soft, I must say.) Still, my nose felt like an ice cube, and I shivered. Next day, I added leggings and a thermal shirt to my night wear. That helped some. I kept the portable heater on overnight, in the room where Isabel sleeps, because I did not want her to shiver in her crate. Her little feet felt like ice cubes. Better I shiver than she, my precious little gremlin.

Chihuahua mix looking into the camera, looking a bit worried.

Isabel, aka Belly. Chihuahua mix. My precious little gremlin.

A new furnace was installed on January 3. I’m privileged to be warm and cozy and safe.

Unfortunately, last year ended on a scary note. I guess I’ve had my heart broken so often, by love, by life, and sometimes by my own self, that it’s physically damaged now. I said to my son, “Figures, I’d have a broken heart.”

I made an appointment to see my doctor a couple days before Christmas, not feeling well. She was not in (probably vacationing in the Bahamas), but I saw an NP (nurse practitioner). She had the nurse assistant do an EKG. It registered abnormal. The NP had me take a blood test. It was negative for enzymes that would’ve been very bad news. That was a relief. She ordered a stress test, which I took on Dec. 30. Bad news. My heart is misfiring. An echo shows, whatever that means. She referred me to a cardiologist. I haven’t been yet, but that’s coming up.

I’m too afraid to look this shit up on the net. I’m taking it a step at a time. I’ll let the cardiologist give me the bad news, explain what the fuck is going on. I’m terrified and sad.

At the end of November, I learned of a writing fellowship I’d love to apply for. I was going to scramble and apply right away before the Dec. 3 deadline, but I decided to wait until the following year (this year), to give myself a chance to feel prepared. I’m a bit agoraphobic, and I have a fear of finding my way to new places, whatever that phobia is called. I’d have to commute to the University, in a different city. I hardly know much of San Francisco, after living here ten years. I only go where I need to go, that’s it. I don’t explore. Too much anxiety and fear of unfamiliar territory. It’s sad, and embarrassing. People don’t understand. My children don’t understand. “Why are you afraid?” Hell, I don’t know. Cuz I’m phobic.

I have to find my way to CalTrains (which I’ve learned is virtually around the corner), and I have to figure out how it works (I’ve never used it), and I have to find the courage to board it and travel to the University. All these things are easy peasy for the average person. For me, it’s overwhelming. Once I do it, the fear will dissipate. This, I know. The first step is the hardest.

I’ve struggled my whole life with varies phobias. Some, I’ve gotten over. Like riding escalators. Was a time I couldn’t do it. I’d ask strangers if I could hold onto their arm, if I had no choice but to use one. That was so embarrassing. They were always chivalrous and kind. I was young and cute. I guess that helped. I was 37 when I finally conquered that fear. I used to be terrified of dogs. Now, I love them. Very much.

I hope this heart problem doesn’t prevent me from applying for the fellowship. I’m so scared. I want to live many more years. There’s still much more I want to do: be published, conquer more phobias, and I’d love to teach creative writing. If I got this fellowship, it would do so much for me. I’d achieve dreams deferred.

My life’s been a rough ride. I’m still thankful, though. I learn, I grow. I think I romanticized the suffering, starving artist. Surely, that impacted my life too. I’ve had enough of that. I hold on to hope. I’m praying. I do know, what is meant to be, will be; que será, será.

Posted in Autobiographical, Poetry, Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

No More Drama

Acrylic painting of black cat on top of a shower door.

Painting of my cat Rude-E (RIP) on the shower door. Acrylic by Estela.

Every time I hear Mary J. Blige sing “No More Drama,” I cry.

Broken heart again.
Another lesson learned.
Better know your friends,
or else you will get burned.
Gotta count on me,
cause I can guarantee
that I’ll be fine.

You ever hear about “crabs in a bucket?” If you put crabs in a bucket, I’ve been told, and one of them tries to climb out, the others will pull it back down. When people are miserable and/or dysfunctional, they do not want you to succeed or be happy. Crawl out that bucket, and don’t look back. Kiss the drama good-bye.

This morning I woke up to the news that Trump beat Clinton. Some people worked so hard trying to get Bernie Sanders elected to run, but Clinton supporters won the battle. Now, look. For the first time in my life I am shocked at election results. I’ve been disappointed before, to be sure, but NEVER shocked. Ever. After the shock wore off, I realized that it DID cross my mind that Trump might win. I just refused to believe it. I’m like, “Naw, surely…” Good thing I don’t care anymore. No more drama for me. Whatev’s.

Some people wept last night to hear the news. Some people feel afraid. Some people are angry. Me, I’m amused. I no longer buy the rhetoric or the platitudes. I lived through Reagan, two Bushes, Clinton, and Obama. I’m not afraid, and at the same time can’t be more afraid than I already have been for a long time. To stop being afraid, is to let go of the drama. I don’t want to be afraid.

It isn’t what Trump says that matters, anyway. It’s what he will do. We don’t know what that will be. Let’s see if he will “make America great again.” (That presupposes that America isn’t great right now.) Does it mean he’s going to bring back manufacturing to this country? Because that is what made everything peachy. I really doubt that is going to happen. I have no idea what his plans are. If he has any.

All I know is that life goes on, and change happens. Like when the Pinta, Niña, and Santa Maria crossed the Atlantic. Change is the only constant.

I think it’s hilarious that Donald Trump won. Donald Trump is the next President of the United States of America. Wow. Anything is possible in this world. Anything. That’s exciting and also frightening. But I don’t want to be afraid. I prefer to be amazed and amused. Fate called it. History now has it. I accept that.

Posted in Autobiographical, Philosophical, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Weeping Woman

Surreal image of a black ghost woman flying about in the night on a full moon.

(The Weeping Woman passing by.) La Llorona is a Mexican mythological figure similar to Medea, a woman who murders her children. Her ghost roams around, grieving. Image by Estela.

I “live” on the internet, pretty much. Not exactly on social media, like so many. That includes my children, always on Facebook. I suppose most people “live” online these days, “socializing,” or working. Without a computer, I’d have no life at all.

I read lit sights. Electric Literaure, for instance. That’s a pretty cool one. I think that’s where I learned about this book. Or maybe it was some other site, I don’t remember. Anyway, I’m reading The Minotaur Takes a Cigarette Break. I just started it, and I’m loving it. Geezus, just the title. The writer’s name is Steven Sherrill. Awe, man, I feel a self-pitying jealousy. I love this guy’s bio. He dropped out of high school in 10th grade. Later got a Welding Diploma at a community college. Then somehow ended up with an MFA in poetry from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Now he’s an Associate Professor of English and Integrative Arts. Super, super, super cool. (This past summer, I wrote a poem where I referenced the Minotaur. It’s a poem called, “The Spell of Love.” Not that it means anything. Just interesting to me that suddenly the Minotaur has shown up twice recently.)

I dropped out of high school too. Got married in 11th grade, and didn’t return for my senior year. Divorced at 30. Raising three kids, got my BA in English at 38. But that is where my accomplishments end. The rest is simply survival. Office jobs I hated, and quit. I didn’t mind the work, I minded the people I worked with and for. I did a little bit of substitute teaching, which took so much out of me, but I have fond memories of difficult students I won over. The “real” teachers were shittier to deal with. And in some schools, administration was shitty. But I’ve reached “retirement” age, so… I write and work on creative projects. Which to me is my real work. But I gotta get published, legitimize my writing, and myself as writer.

I told this Poet (that is capital “P”) here in The City, “I don’t even know if I really am a poet.” He says, “Don’t worry about a label. If writing makes you happy, then just write and don’t worry about the rest.” But writing doesn’t make me happy. It scares the shit out of me. What makes me happy is when I write a poem, or anything else, that I like. That is the  shot in the arm. Or when I hear cheers when I go up to the mic. Or when someone tells me they like my poetry. Recently, a woman, who is a science professor, and also writes novels, who bought my little DIY chapbook, sent me an email

Chapbook of poetry titled "For the Hell of it".

My little DIY chapbook.

and told me she read my poems and was in awe. Wow, that was a great compliment. She said she was having company over for dinner that night and planned to read some of my poems to them. I never asked her if she actually did. Nor, will I. I wonder if she read “What it’s Like.” It starts out, “I know what it’s like/to get drunk/and fall on my face./It isn’t pretty./”

I need to feel compelled to write. You know, inspired. One of my long-time fave country singers thinks that anyone who claims they have to wait for inspiration isn’t a real artist. That it takes work, that’s all. (She didn’t say it, someone else did. She simply agreed.) Well, yeah, it takes work. But I need inspiration to get started. I need to feel something deep inside me that I dig for, grab, wrestle with, and then release. It’s a lot like giving birth. It’s painful and also joyous. But the pain is emotional, psychological, not physical. Well, actually, I do feel something physical. It’s heavy and I feel its weight. Anyway, I was disappointed that this country singer I love agreed with that statement. It hurt my feelings. I certainly don’t know her personally. I’m just a fan. I was following her on Twitter, and she responded to someone who said it, someone she knows. (I’m not on Twitter anymore.) It pushed the buttons of my insecurity. That low self-esteem I’ve been trying to kick. It fucking sneaks up on me.

Maybe I’m not what I think I am. Maybe I’m just a wannabe, a pathetic fool. Is my verse alive? Does it breathe?

I wrote a short story called “La Llorona (The Weeping Woman)” a couple weeks ago. I’m polishing it now. I cut out a chunk and am going to make that a separate story. I’m hoping this project turns into a number of stories, or a novella. I’ll have to see what it wants to be. I don’t control my writing, as much as it controls me. It wants to be born. My part is to help it come to life.

I drag my feet on submitting. I submitted last year to this particular mag, and they never responded. Didn’t even bother send me a rejection. Not by mail, not by email. Didn’t even return my poems that I sent with an SASE. All I got was crickets. Chirp, chirp, chirp. I had told someone, “If they reject me, fuck ’em.” We both laughed. I meant what I said. Fuck ’em. Yet, truth is, I was injured and I bled a little. Maybe I did something wrong. I don’t know. I actually do believe in my writing. It’s in myself that I lack confidence. I told this science professor/novelist,”I’m super shy, but my poetry isn’t shy.” Goddamnit, I’m such a weenie.

I had a recurring dream last week. Been having it for at least 25 years. I dream I’m late, and miss a deadline, or a date. The dream itself changes, but it’s the same theme of running late, being caught unprepared, and missing out. It’s a dream of losing, actually, of being a fuck-up. In this one, I had a school assignment due, a poetry reading to give in front of the class. But I ran late, and then couldn’t find all my poems, wasn’t ready, and I got there an hour late with a couple poems in my hand, hoping I could pull it off anyway. The teacher (not a professor I ever had in real life) frowned and told me, “You’re too late.”

Graphic of happy skull with "Happy Halloween" in black with orange background. .

Happy Halloween card, by Estela.

BTW, Happy Halloween.

Posted in Art, Autobiographical, Poetry, Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment