You showed up in my dreams last night-

chewin’ on a cigar, shaking your head in a bemused manner.

My child gown, but still 11, was trying to make change using a “Trump Dollar” that she’d “earned” by collecting cereal box tops years before.

She said, “C’mon. It should have some collector value at least. I mean it WAS entertainment.”

walking through a bookstore in new york city-
it becomes

a little apartment- most of a room in new york city
walking through a bookstore-
— I just need to be there
she’ll come when she wants to —

i sleep in a big chair- surrounded by books and travel knickknacks and the window opens to the brooklyn bridge if you stand on tiptoe and crane just so to the right.

i am on a desert that becomes a pier. it’s the middle-east … so many people and children trading what seems to be sand blocks for wares. one boy only accepts food for his wares.
“You are smart,” I say and he smiles.

i walk on the pier that had been the desert.

i see a girl that looks like my daughter- she wears a dress with cherries and walks with wolves. she is younger than today, we lock eyes and I wonder how she’s changed.

tarpon jump in slow motion over the head of a man that stands at the end of the pier. he hooks the tail of the tarpon and they both go into the water- I hope the tarpon pulls free and the man drowns.

an old lady holds an orange house cat. it has had surgery and wears a monocle to protect its healing eye. you can see its brain and the universe through the lens.

the school receptionist, her neck deeply tan and wrinkled, sits on a bench on the pier holding a baby.
— I couldn’t believe it happened, so I’m starting again —

young adults

Untangling from the person whose body created you-
the person who projects
how they could’ve done better-
how they wanted to be treated-
onto you.
Telling them, that’s not what I am thinking / feeling / doing.

Even when working to see your child-
stepping back to hear them and give them space-
even when fully accepting them-
still you see how you would’ve or could’ve done differently.

stepping back is so very difficult.
stumbling, apologizing and learning to keep your damn mouth
shut.

learning to let them be them.
watch them become bigger.

generations at war

In high school, to protest the first Gulf War, I sat vigil on a median while it snowed. In civilian clothes, for fear of retribution, soldiers from Ft. Carson joined our silent vigil. Thirty years later, American forces never truly left and oil continues to be traded for blood. Thirty years later, the guise of goodwill and nation building lifted, the profiteers and pilfering politicians have learned nothing but to send another generation into battle- saving their own children to inherit their place in political office.

America’s leaders, what is right about any of this? Being there does nothing to make us a better country.

At 19, because I protested so loudly before I could even vote, I joined the military to serve our country. From an first generation American grandfather who was dropped behind enemy lines in WW2, I believed in an America that protected the weak and welcomed the stranger. I had yet to learn the history behind the glorified ticker-tape of the victor. I joined the Navy to serve a nation based on freedoms for all. I served, to be able to always defend those who embraced our rights through protest at any cost.

I realize now, how delusional that was because the wars we fight now and forever in our history have had nothing to do with defending our rights. The wars were and are about the money and those who hold the power of industry and militarization. Even the idea that we must embrace our freedoms at any costs is ludicrous. Those freedoms- those inalienable rights- should not have to be fought for in repeated fashion. Furthermore, those inalienable rights most certainly have nothing to do with those who live on the land of the Middle East or what is under the crust of its land.

I once thought I would want my daughter to share my journey, to serve the country I believed in enough to go to battle for, but that is no longer my desire. I will never encourage my daughter to join the ranks of our military. Instead my daughter will know of my journey of protest. Though it seems a fruitless battle in opposing further invasion and murder for oil. We will join arms and let our faces be seen and voices be heard. It may be of little use, but it puts us on the right side of history.

The unfortunate continued battles for our freedoms are not won on battlefields. They are fought in the war-room living rooms of America, planned out by the most common, but bravest of citizens. Freedoms are won in our streets, at counters, in front of clinics, in schools each day. Freedoms are won by artists and writers who move people to action. Freedoms are won in jail cells and court rooms. Bullets and wars are made to create diversion and division- to sustain the status quo. Freedoms are held by the fearless. Those who hold their ground in the face of others who would rather draw blood for perceived differences and the mighty dollar than to sit and talk about our commonalities.

My daughter may go to war, but it will be for those who do not have a voice. The immigrant, the child, a woman’s reproductive rights, our environment and natural resources. Our fights are many and growing each day, but they are not in the desert lands of the Middle East. Our fights are in the streets, homes, and classrooms of America. Our fight is to recognize we are no better than the next person. Our fight is to regain the humanity that is quickly being lost.

childhood dreams

What I hate is when I am walking through a park with friends, feeling really on top of life, then I trip over a branch … And my fall is broken when I wake up and find myself trapped in my kid’s bed, arm locked under her sweaty little head and I have drooled all over her favorite stuffed bear. But now I’m awake, at 11pm. I decide to have a bath and a glass of wine.

With ninja-like stealth, I extract myself from her bed and stand up, on our dog. He howls, I cuss, apologize, and shush him all at the same time. As that is happening, I trip over the towel my kid left on the floor after her bath time and stumble into the wall with a thud.

At this point, my kid throws her arm across the bed and dream-sings, “All you’ll ever be is mean,” and I wait for it. That moment where my night goes from finally able to relax to being re-trapped in the cycle of Putting The Child To Bed. But somehow she stays asleep and I send a little prayer to saint Taylor Swift, because her song has made my child’s dream world exciting enough to sleep through the chaos of my parenting and kept her away from dark dreams that are shadows of our reality.

One night, at 7 years old, she woke terrified because she had been left on the side of the highway and I had been taken by the police for speeding. This was in the weeks after Sandra Bland was arrested and soon found dead in her jail cell.

The next truly scary dream came in the midst of the ICE raids in 2017. One night, after listening to coverage on the radio and hearing me talk with friends about documenting the raids, her sobs woke me. From another room, I rushed to her and had to work to wake her from the fear.

“They were taking undocumented immigrants away and we were helping the immigrants, so we were running, too. We were all camped in the woods with the pecan trees. But they found us and people were running and there was a field, so they ran to the field and the people chasing us were spraying a smoke that if you breathed it you would die.”

I held her closer, kissed the top of her head, still damp and sweet with childhood sleep filled with lost innocence, “You are with mama. We are in our house. It’s safe baby. You can finish if there’s more. Let out your story.”

She snuffled hard, took a breath, and continued, “There was also a hole in the ground and my teacher was trying to help people, but there were chains going into the hole. If you fell into the hole, you could only get out if you climbed the chains. But you had to sign a paper with one hand to say you belonged here while you climbed out with the other hand. And there were portapotties and I hid in one. Then, you woke me up.”

Our media culture seeps into the subconscious in some mighty fierce ways. But it is a media that is covering what our world has become. My daughter is ten now and she can ask enough questions to keep her dreams safe, but the fact that she has to ask those questions breaks my heart. The fact that when she was 8 her subconscious figured out that staying in this country as an undocumented person and working to become legal was tantamount to climbing up a chain, out of a pit, with one hand with a toxic gas encroaching on you. The fact that she hears enough reports of police taking people to jail over traffic violations and innocent children being killed or abandoned that she dreamt of being left on the side of the highway. Scared and alone.

As a parent, my one job is to keep her safe and alive – that she may become a good person with a full life. I think I do a damn good job of that, but having to go up against a world full of discrimination and hate makes my job way more complicated.

I’ve had people catch their breath when they learn that she was allowed to see the making of Lord of the Rings at 6 and we started watching Gray’s Anatomy when she was 9. “That’s all so graphic, so adult. She needs to keep her innocence,” they gasped.

I don’t know where these people are getting their news, but from what I’ve experienced, NPR during the 7am drive to school is far more disturbing than make-up artists explaining how they created the Orcs or Meredith Gray laying out the trials of relationships.

wealthy

Mama, what is wealthy?
Wealthy is having shelter, said the mother with no roof

Mama, what is wealthy?
Wealthy is not being hungry at night, said the mother who gave the last piece of bread to her child.

Mama, what is wealthy?
Wealthy is hot water on a cold night, said the mother heated water on the stove.

unexplainable mysteries

Kids who are touched by unexplainable mysteries –
The ones who know of conversations they haven’t heard –
The ones who talk to the people whom their homes were built atop –
The ones who share memories with strangers in grocery stores, stories only people who have died would know.
These souls we raise, souls touched by unexplainable mysteries will baffle us with ancient wisdom. Then scream when they can’t tie their own shoes.

These children – touched by unexplainable mysteries – are a different kind of gift. Transmitters with emotional antenna who receive pictures in clear colors from another spectrum, pictures that become wavy and fuzzy, then clear again. As guides to these little transmitters, it’s our duty to be patient through the waves and recognize their pictures may one day become full color.

Some will keep the the ability to witness spectrums that are not for all of us to see. For others, skeptical doubts from naysayers, may erase their vision and they will simply have an aching feeling there is more to this world. A feeling that they should be able to get just beyond the space they occupy. Regardless of their future sight, while we are keepers of their direction, patience must prevail. Protect their spectrums and listen to their ways.

The spectrums we cannot see have lessons we should hear.
We should work not to cut off access to what we don’t understand, but to guide it, raise it, and help them learn to keep those connections alive. Our children who are touched by unexplainable mysteries should have their sights loved and honored. They should be allowed to connect to worlds to which they have privileged access. Let them be the bridges and make the connections that has been dulled within so many. For in these children there are stories and solutions that have faded from view, but continue to connect through parts of our universe we don’t all know. In these children there is a future beyond anything we might understand.