Running on Soul

I paid the man and he took my money without blinking an eye…and now I’m down all that stuff and can’t make it out to pay the rent.

He stole from me my means to an end…I have no way out…no way to keep things close…to allow things to happen…no way to keep it goin strong.

When I replay over and over that moment…over in my head…I get so mad I wanna hurt some one…wanna hurt myself…you know what I mean?

Do you see what I’m telling you?

This ain’t no Ken and Barbie shit this is real…real life poverty knocking me out of the game…and I’m running…running on soul and the ice…is its real thin…like it don’t matter anymore if I’m dead or alive.

You get what I’m telling you?

Little Fe(a)t

Across the road, in a small gathering place, elementary children sat, in woods conjuring, fantastic worlds, beyond knowing.

While sitting on logs, heroes pretended, with protecting swords, saving the weak.

One morning, a kindergarten girl, stole in the gathering place, imagining pretended fire, occupied logs, in a summit of conversations.

Realizing her solitude, imagining hands reached, the sky dissolving in-between treetops: a confluence of man and nature.

A broken thought interrupted: Why is it so hard to tell the truth?

Trees answered, understanding, beyond a single moment, representing all moments, as witnesses of harm: nothingness is easier.

Senseless harms, let houses burn, skies smoking war, or oceans disintegrate.

The winds howl, shook branches, pointing to bystanders, with closed eyes, shielding fear, then, returning to circles, around fires, killing all things, outside the circle.

In the clearing across the road, in the small gathering place, children sit in woods, conjuring fantastic worlds beyond knowing.

Sitting on logs around a pretended fire, planning futures, pretend swords, protect damsels in distress: heroes saving the dangered weak.

Monologue of a Medal

It’s an honor to be pinned here.

Salutes make my gold bar shine. Don’t ya think?

It’s bittersweet though. . . this moment.

Do you like my ribbon?

It has a story in it. . . a bittersweet chronicle of a person’s moment in time where instincts to cherish a life was more important to self-interest.

The place I rest is with the living but most instances. . . means people have died.

Can you see my colors clearly? Their symbolism?

Red for valor – I know it usually means blood, but I hate it when people say that red is a violent symbol – blood’s a natural element – part of the human condition. . . for me it represents beauty in the powerful and courageous actions of the person who wears my ribbon.

When people get all up into it’s political meaning, they steal its true value?

My white’s faith and purity. . . always a favorite. . . but really, I at moments question whether anything can really be that pure.

I suppose giving a life for a life is that pure love.

The ultimate selflessness.

But then people take the blue and use that as a means to debunk my value. . . caused controversy. . .using it as some political end to defend a political view.

Blue lives…black lives…yellow lives representing lived lives. . . yes. . . things endured. . . but all that steels my ribbon’s reminder of the courage and valor that made my medal represent a saved life.

My cross, held by these ribbons represent that act of protecting against the enemy of the state.

Protecting against those in our community that live to hate and hate to love all equal.

Resting on this chest of bravery and determination is my greatest honor because this person protects us from those hateful actors.

I represent what’s best in a person because this man or woman without thought took action. . . a selfless headstrong action into danger.

It saddens me when people throw us away. . . or stomp on us as if trying to blot out the actions of madmen.

Saving a life in wartime is not a symbol of hate.

My ribbon is not political.

It represents sacrifice…honoring a moment of selflessness.

A son…lost…a daughter…lost…the defense of a greater good.

There is value in it.

Substance

The juice sinks into me like a warm sunrise,

While the luxury of self-indulgent paths imagines it as love.

I begged to graduate;

coercing the puncture of my curiosity.

Drinking the elixir of blood and guts,

grit and fear moved in slow motion veins.

I lived in a paper castle,

to avoid the somebody that always dies.

Never thinking that someone could be me.

No one hears the river as it thins out.

Touch. Stand. Strike.

Force only when a moment opens itself.

Yet impulses that cannot control, coerce me to my knees.

I fall. Crawl. To some safe space.

There are no closets.

There are no safe spaces.

Firm feet ready for the battering ram.

The lie I tell limits my capacity of

Certainty or certitude in defense

Of the slap across my face.

Jurors are convinced, and

In declaration, Robes speak.

“Look toward the sky.

Answers are there

In the ether of nothingness.”

Their call, capturing my breadth, deflects the

Principals behind authority standing to convict,

While unseen public opinions highlight how godless I am.

Innocence steps to the pursuit of guilty

ignorance, jack hammering a deep sleep.

My love struggles to be conjured my rage.

Challenges

A ONE MINUTE PLAY

A: Put down that rock.

B: Racist glass needs to be broken.

A: Why a rock?

B: Cause it’s hard and it hurts.

A: What if it hits the wrong person?

B: I won’t miss.

A: Broken glass only cuts more feet.

B: Gotta break it to fix it.

A: Just gonna make them madder.

B: Whose side you on?

A: Just seems rage equals murder around here.

B: My rocks are my right.

A: Voting’s your right too. Did you VOTE?

B: My vote doesn’t count.

A: All votes count.

B: Corruption took my vote.

A: Is throwing rocks gonna change that?

B: No. But it feels good.

A: An eye for an eye. What comes around goes around /

B: And around and around and around. All I want is to get off and get justice.

A: Me too. But what if someone throws a rock at your house?

B: Well. Shit. I guess they have a right.

A: Yeah. I guess they do.

Sheltered In

Couple watching TV.

NARRATOR: Democrats makes a big deal…

WOMAN: Change the channel.

NARRATOR: With limited testing…

WOMAN: No. (Gesturing) Please.

MAN: What’s wrong?

WOMAN: Give me. Please.

Woman snatches remote.

MAN: Mean.

WOMAN: You are?

MAN: You need / to be…

WOMAN: Enough.

MAN: Where’s your?

Woman changes the channel.

NARRATOR: The President said a cure is imminent.

MAN: Leave it.

Woman changes the channel again.

MAN: Stop controlling everything. You’re not / the only…

WOMAN: Don’t.

MAN: Selfish

WOMAN: Argh.

Woman exits.

MAN: Yes.

He channel surfs.

NARRATOR: With hundreds — deaths reaching the 1000s – spread soars — delayed responses — President’s Administration blames Fake News.

Woman enters.

NARRATOR: New York had its worst day. The testing capability continues to lag disastrously behind other nations. As the most developed country in the world, the United States will probably be hit in unmeasurable capacity because politicians denied the seriousness of the virus for so long. Sheltering is the only way to stop the spread. Many cry for Martial Law to force citizens to stay home. Stay strong. Find faith where we can get it.

Couple embracing.

Fin.

Artist – As Mother – As Artist

MOTHER/ARTIST DICHOTOMY: Are we first artists, or a woman destined to be become a mother by the biological yearning of one’s organic DNA? Growing up, I was told that a woman could not be both.

I was ARTIST FIRST.

I found my craft in suburban New Jersey in the 60’s and 70s. My mother mothered the cocktail party approach: children as show pieces for their guests — to be seen but not heard.

Women in their cocktail dresses, high heels and bouffant hair, and men in their suburban bread winner wear, professed about their wealth and stature, while the children looked on.

Mom’s purpose to marry off her four daughters (which she had in five years) set her on a course to make sure each little girl had the right skills for the corporate husband: right dress, right speech, right traditions and right sexuality. Wearing my first black dress at 12 began the process of rejecting all of that. I professed to never be like my mother. I proclaimed myself as an artist – not corporate.

As a result, I became the black sheep – literally – black dress, black eye make-up, and a lioness mane of black curls, stark against my three sister’s coiffed corporate republican mod daywear.

By the time I got to high school, I was an official outcast. My people and me cut school to listen to Parker, Mingus, Miles, or banged Thelonious percussions, spending days rambling in Beat-speak, or sneaking out for Zappa’s midnight show in the pits of Passaic N.J. — all of it — challenging my corporate mother’s mothering, who eventually declared I was unfit to show her friends.

Said my first fuck you in those years → a go-to phrase ever since.

Thinking my life in crisis, Moms sent me to “finishing” school. The John Robert Powers School of Modeling attracted rich kids who dreamed to walk the runways, or desperate mothers to give their ‘challenging’ daughters a leg up in corporate lifestyle. A 1950’s approach, instructors taught how to walk across a room with grace (yes, in a straight line, one leg over and in front of the other with a book on your head). They instructed how to apply make-up for different soirées, and most importantly, how to be interesting at a cocktail party with limited knowledge of current events.

Music became the portal out of that reality – the first craft.

My straitjacket upbringing gave way to non-stop improvisations, endlessly playing the piano, with the occasional respite reciting lines from Ovid’s Metamorphosis to whoever would listen.

By the end of my high school daze, I intuitively understood the following:

“Artists must learn a tradition to challenge it. [They] are products of their times and context. Like natural talent, the vision is innate. Yet the way that vision comes to fruition depends upon the artist’s time and place, the surrounding artistic tradition, training and life experience.”

After my junior year, I talked my way into a New York City College, and moved to 58th and 6th Avenue. Desperately, I sought my people on the bankrupt streets of 1976.

Although just 17, Mom agreed to pay the bill because it was college.

NY’s Gritty streets of ‘76, had rats, piss, more poor than rich, and opportunity shadowed by crime around each corner. I searched for collaborators at Max’s Kansas City, at the Circle Theater of Greenwich Village, in Harlem doing performance art, or at school creating dances for actors and then a chorus bit in Lysistrata.

I lasted about 6 months, and then transferred to Bennington College.

Moms glowed with pride her “kooky” daughter was legit. She believed saying to her friends “She’s attending Bennington College, cousin to the Seven Sister Colleges,” garnered a special type of adoration in her Woman’s Club. My acceptance gave her “pseudo” ivy league cred. She paid the bill.

In the hills of Bennington/Vermont, along the corridors of simple structures, my people gathered. We journeyed together, talking, partying, performing, partying, creating, partying, and discoursed existential philosophy with the likes of Camille Paglia, partying.

Time flew by. The feelings of a limitless invincible future opened to our practiced crafts, and we boldly created “things.” After our liquid graduation, I sobered quickly.

I was pregnant. My world as artist – and mother – collided.

To be or not to be?

I always believed artists needed solitude and suffering to create. We existed in and out of relationships, wielding weapons to shield our vulnerability at becoming responsible or failing at surviving emotions. The “Hemingway Effect,” where alcohol, and all things created like it, drove my creative process.

My practice of craft, sitting meditations, became a trance like state, often enhanced by the debauchery, yet in some moments of clarity true enlightenment. For the musician, the actor, or the visual artist, the process of constructing a “thing” rests upon losing oneself deep into that creation: an unconscious process. The artist intuitively strokes the canvas, or hits the keys, or speaks from a place deep within, bringing the story alive. The music imagined flowed out of my heart – through my veins – directly onto the keys. No deliberate thought in-between. If I cried, smiled or frowned, the sound, the words or the image in my imagination became absorbed fully in storytelling through my fingers.

Sandy Meisner referred to true talent as having a creative eye that could not be taught.  The it. “It.” The artist who has “It.” Being in the presence of “it” lifts us.

My mistaken perceptions believed, in some divine moment, I had an “it,” and Bennington’s breeding ground nurtured that “it” inside me. Graduating into Meisner’s study further intoxicated me to think something “it” lived inside and needed to come out.  How could I give all that up for a child?

I was too afraid to walk through the fire.

ARTIST AS MOTHER (REJECTED):

The aftermath of my decision to not be a mother became part of a suffering artist narrative lasting five years. My delusions believed at the expense of the child the artist would prevail.  It only led to darker places, like a needle in the haystack. Shuttering veins flatlined, but resuscitated in the end.

As I cleaned up, the unexpected happened. I became pregnant, again, but decided this time, the right time. Every person I asked — I mean everyone — said “You’re making a mistake.” Ignoring them, I became the artist as mother. I played my last gig at CBGB’s 7 months pregnant.

ARTIST AS MOTHER (Acceptance):

Poohkie was born the first day of spring with Baby Daddy right there beside me. Artists Bringing Up Baby!

The Dad, a messy artist, always worried about being kool and in the right place. The Mom, transformed by an OCD lens, cleaned and moved everything in its right place – order — all business — form and function — serious craftwork, nothing street.

I wanted my little girl to always make right decisions, and never make my mistakes. To make sure that happened, I went straight khakis, loafers, and nine to five teaching, ensuring all the resources (money) for success were in place.

Art as I knew it took a backseat — she was more important, and besides, the world didn’t want a mother artist on the road. Who would take care of baby?

Her Dad claimed I sold to the other side, and he was right. I became my Mother, classical straitjacket, while the Dad remained punk artist throughout his life.

Despite our divorce, Poohkie became the coolest cat – the girl other girls hated, but the boys loved and could trust. Never boring — always thinking in creative strokes. Life was art.

She had the eye at an early age. The “it” – the creative imagination. She is an “it” girl.

After her Dad died, so much fell apart. I had to be both business and artist for her, yet the artist was out of practice. Her graduation to adulthood left me longing for a long lost past. My life felt adrift. No longer care-taking the baby artist an obsession to create some “thing” creeped in. Turning 50 will do that.

The artist as mother as artist: my third leg.

Motherhood took me back to my mother’s mothering, and then I came all the way forward in a new way. I found empathy for my mother’s creative suffering, her mother’s stifling, and her grandmother’s stifling of her mother. My daughter does not fall far from this tree. We are linked by a creative DNA. She just happens to have double creative DNA from both parents. So here I am, returning to the stage  – different – seasoned – ready to hopefully make some kind of “it” happen by starting a company with my daughter as partner.

Yet my greatest artistic endeavor remains the parenting of my children; working toward accepting each different child as their unique self; passing on basic tools; and guiding them in finding their unique ‘creative’ voice in whatever they do. This gift steadfastly remains the most cherished.

The artist doesn’t stop with a change in how they ride – the impulse finds new activities reinforcing the intuitive – continuing its journey – forward – coming to know — the purpose is to create. Everyone does it. Some instinctual, others calculated, all in waking memory walking with a creative attitude of limitless possibilities, to live and deal with seeing our true selves.