My Mother Raised a Fool

Geezus, it’s June already. Half the year gone. It’s been months since I posted. Some people post daily. But that ain’t me, babe. That ain’t me. I wish it were. I mean, I wish I felt that free, that light, that easy. That simple. Well, maybe not. I’m ok being me. I’m ok.

Time is running past me. Age slapping another

Painting of old woman in black and white.

Visionary Woman,
Acrylic painting, by Estela

fucking wrinkle on my face, sucking up more moisture from my body, leaving my skin a little more limp, less taut, by the fucking minute. Fuck!

And I’m all, “Getting older is a gift, because not everyone makes it to old age.” I have to remind myself of this shit, this claim I make, all fucking self-righteously, as if I were some woman of fucking great wisdom.

I wish I were 30 again, so I could have a fucking do-over. But, of course, I’d have to know what I know now, otherwise, I’d be the same goddamn fool. Geezus, I would not want to live through that again.

In the last week of May, I did a poetry reading in Oakland. There were three of us featured readers. I love the other two readers, and was happy I read with them. I received $20 for reading. I didn’t know I was going to get paid. It was only 20 ducats, but I liked getting paid, being compensated, for my work, my real work, what too many people in my life once treated as a triviality, a “hobby,” a useless endeavor and interest of mine. All right. It was just a 20 dollar bill. And these people, who are no longer in my life, would scoff at that. It meant a lot to me. Poetry means everything to me. ‘Cause I’m a fool poet. I sold a few chapbooks too. That made me a happy fool. 🙂

Sometimes I hear people say, “My mother didn’t raise no fool.” Wish I could say that. Shit, my mother did raise a fool.

But I’ve wised up. Some.

So, I also I did a reading on Saturday, the 4th of June. Here in San Francisco. A woman I met at Cal, published her first book. At her reading, she invited writers to read, people she had met in the course of her writing journey, people whose writing she knew and admired. She talked about the circumstances under which she had met each of us. I thought it was a beautiful celebration for her first book release. When she signed my copy of her book, I told her, “Your next book should be easier for you, now that you’ve broken the ice. You’re a beautiful writer.” She was sitting down. She looks up at me and smiles. Then she stood up and hugged me. It took her thirty years to get past her inhibitions, insecurities, and writing blocks. She’s a beautiful writer. She teaches at a city college in northern Calif.

I was in my late 30’s when I met her. She (I’ll call her Emma) was in her mid 20’s. We met in the last creative writing class I ever took. I chose not to file a formal complaint against that instructor. I knew (by instinct, I guess), or suspected, it would be I who would look bad, I who would pay, not she. I would mar my reputation more than I would affect hers.

Anyway, I didn’t file a formal complaint. I had shared the issue with a professor. She told me I could file a complaint, but that I should wait until the semester was over. When the semester was over, I just wanted to move on, forget about it, leave it behind me. But I guess I haven’t really left it behind me. It’s a shadow that follows me around.

Emma did not have the same experience as I. She feels proud of having taken a class with this writer, who has some lit fame. I almost told Emma about my experience, but I chose to keep it to myself. In introducing me at the reading, she said she met me at the university, in X’s class. “Yeah, I took a class with X,” she said proudly. I have never told anyone that I took a class with X. I mention other big names, but never, ever her. I felt “outed.” But I didn’t say anything. I didn’t touch it. I just let it be.

Because of  X, well, not to blame her, I blame myself, but she is the reason I decided to leave creative writing, instead of majoring in it. That was a fool move on my part. It impacted the course of my life. Not in a good way. But, anyway, it was just meant to be. Everything is.

“It went the way it had to, the way it was always going to.”

As I look back, I see how I gave some people more credit than they deserved. I raised them too high in my estimation. But that was because I was at the curb of self-esteem. From there, everything, everyone, looked higher up.

I saw a writer I admired back then being interviewed on T.V. recently. There was a time, he could do no wrong. This time, seeing him, hearing him, I thought he seemed like an old fool. I sensed a desperation in him. He’s lost his edge.

A few months ago, I came across a video in which my first women studies instructor was speaking about where women stand today, how the role of women has changed in our society. She told the same story she told us students, about how she got her job. It’s a good feminist story, I’ll give her that. Her goal was to have a career. She says, proudly, “I had that job for 40 years.” She got a huge applause from the audience, which I’m presuming were women. It dawned on me that what she wanted out of life is not something I wanted. Yes, I wanted to work, because I had to support myself (and three children, until they were grown) since I got divorced, and I certainly had no family fortune to fall back on. But poetry, writing, art, “living,” and freedom were more important. What I wanted is not something that meant anything to her. I remember she didn’t think much of Emily Dickinson. “Humph, what did she do? Locked herself in her room and wrote poetry.” I didn’t say anything. Dickinson was (and is) my hero. Bukowski is my hero. Plath. Shelley. Rimbaud. Kerouac. Because I’m a fool dreamer.

I took the road less taken. The hard road. The mad road. To me, the more interesting road. I’ve paid for it. I even at times have fool regret. But I really couldn’t live any other way. Every job I ever had made me feel miserable and suicidal. I bought myself a house once. But it didn’t make up for having to work with petty bitches and idiot supervisors, and no one gave a shit about poetry. And at the time I was going through menopause, which kicked my ass. I was an emotional wreck. I about lost my fucking fool mind.

I don’t know what it would have been like if I had gotten a master’s in creative writing. We always imagine that “if only…” would’ve made everything all better. But a fool never really knows what would have been. We can only imagine.

Going to a reading tonight. Gonna open mic this new poem. It’s called Nemesis. It starts out:” You remind me/of my mother.” I wrote it a year ago, but I kept editing it. At times I thought it wasn’t going get to a final form. I like it, but I’m nervous to read it. I’m sure of myself, and unsure at the same time. I’m a scared fool all the time.
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About Poet Dressed In Black

Poet. Artist. Grammy of one, a granddaughter. Mom of three, son and two daughters, all grown. Individualist. Care-taker of Isabel, an agoraphobic, fear-aggressive, very nervous, delicate flower, Chihuahua mix.
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