Category Archives: poetry

Done

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I’m tired of being tolerant

I’ve been a good little liberal Democrat.

When they go low, I go high.

 

I’m tired of tolerating

Racism, sexism, and bigotry

From the world

My friends…my family

They keep going lower, and lower, and I remain high

 

I’m tired of seeing some

Shocking, offensive meme

From someone I’ve known forever

And letting it go—

Not replying

Because

When they go low, we go high.

 

I’m tired of so many  lies

Being passed as truth.

Even though debunking is easy,

Lies that fit agendas are preferred.

Of course, when they go low, I go high.

 

I hate the direction things are going.

I hate it to my core.

Except for “me too” and times up,”

We are sliding backwards

Down a very slippery slope

And I don’t imagine us rising to our peak again.

When they bring us so low, it’s hard to go high

 

I’m beginning to feel that tolerance

is complicity.

Racists misogynists, and bigots

Are not tolerant of me or my daughters

I can no longer be tolerant.

I will no longer be complicit.

I can no longer tolerate their low.

 

I am a card-carrying, Obama-voting, democrat,

RPCV, Americorps alum, feminist, human rights

activist, well-educated, single-mother

of two beautiful, young women of color.

If you didn’t know that,

You know that now.

I will try to keep going high,

But I will no longer be tolerant.

 

 

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dreamer

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I am an illiterate foreigner.

I come from a country where,

Even though I am degreed and skilled,

I can’t make enough to feed my two children

And keep a roof over our head.

 

I am a teacher.

In many cultures, that is a noble profession.

Treated even higher than

Doctors, lawyers along with CEOs

Since teachers had to teach them.

 

In my native country

Teachers and education

Are no longer respected.

Intelligence and knowledge

Are shunned as “elitism.”

 

So I moved to another country

To take care of my family.

I don’t speak the language.

I can’t read signs or labels.

But I can provide a house and food.

 

But here, no one ever says,

“Go back to your country!”

“Speak our language!”

“Worship only our way!”

“Stop taking our jobs!”

 

Here in China, I am free.

I am living the American Dream.

The same dream being ripped away

From Dreamers and Americans alike.


Free Dumb Reigns

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I have never been afraid to fly

At nine, I flew in a

150 year-old stunt biplane

Open cockpit,

Leather helmet

Flowing white silk scarf

 

My second flight ever

Was at age 17

In the pilot seat

Of a Cessna 172

My dad was the co-pilot.

I flew …

before I could drive.

 

As I got older

I started collecting stamps

On my passports,

And riding elephants

Through ancient cities

and up Asian mountains

People share pictures of their

Grandchildren at birthday parties

And their pets sleeping

I have pictures of my preschoolers

Eating meat on a stick

And giving Santa directions

To our new flat in Shanghai.

 

So when you tell me

I don’t fit your definition of what

a divorced, middle-aged, American,

cancer survivor, teacher,

single mother of two

(Insert label here)

You are right.

And I’m ok with that.

PTSD

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When a soldier comes back from battle

With no legs

His friends don’t say, “Oh man!

How do you do it?

Go everyday without walking.

I could NEVER do that!”

 

I can’t eat chocolate.

“OH MY GOD!”  I hear.

“I would DIIIIEEE!

I need my daily blah, blah blah…”

As if the word “can’t” didn’t register.

“Can’t” is not a choice.

If it makes you sick,

If it feels like poison,

You don’t miss it.

 

Then there’s,

“Why did you wait so long to have children?”

“It’s so selfish.”

–Yeah, I’ve actually heard that.

Well you see…

Truth is

I had sex everyday

Sometimes more than once

for twenty years

then BOOM!

Jackpot!

That’s the truth,

–but it’s not what people think.

They think I chose

To have my first child at 38.

Because our life is our free will, right?

Our choice.

I love being a mother at my age.

I’m so happy it happened that way,

But I didn’t plan it.

 

TMI: I haven’t had sex

since the first bomb hit.

I was hit with 3.

That will probably keep me out of the game.

No one asks the soldier about sex.

It’s understood.

No one even mentions it to him.

This seems to be a problem and issue for others.

I’m told, “Can’t you find someone?”

I suppose I could…

If I wanted to…

But why?

It’s so trivial

When you don’t have legs,

You figure things out

And move on.

 

How does pretending to do something

Or need something

Or want something

Make me feel better?

I’m not the one in denial.

 

I live without a car.

No one questions it.

I can’t eat turkey.

No one mentions it.

I can’t drink alcohol.

No big change.

 

Why would I mourn

some little piece of chocolate

Or random night?

 

Dead Beat

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You should have been born a man

–No disrespect to men, or anything

–But one of those stereo-typical,

Narcissistic, paranoid, irresponsible,

Statistic, inconsiderate,

Lacking of commitment or

Understanding of anything outside yourself

Prepubescent with no aspirations

To do anything

Other than say…

lay around

Until years pass

Over-night

And you’re almost 50

Out of shape

Constantly complaining about some ache or pain

Or crazy neighbor

Like a crotchety old man

30 years past his prime

“Those kids were talking behind my back.”

You grouse.

Because, you know,

That’s what preschoolers do.

But here you are

In the middle of life

With an expensive education and no experience

Or common sense to back up

Any flippant remark like

“The dinner your nanny made was so good,

I didn’t save you any.”

“It’s not about you,”  and

“You know, you should get more “me” time.”

These things spout from your mouth

With no reference to open eyes,

Useful hands or a brain that processes

Outside information in any more

Complex way then a two-step process

That can’t possibly result in a conclusion other than,

“What about me?” in a whiny voice.

And the no-guilt sense of entitlement,

As if all the water you drink,

The food you eat,

the A/C you keep on 24/7

Should be a right and free

So you can spend 3 times more for a gourmet meal

To be delivered

than a family spends cooking fresh from the market.

Every lunch bought,

Every Starbucks coffee,

Every taxi ride to work

Was taken out of the pocket of

the single mother

you stole thousands from

Who walks to work with a thermos of coffee

and left-overs in her backpack.

And you and I know

deep down,

that missed opportunities and advantages

have nothing to do with

skin color, gender, or age,

Some people are well-trained

to catch the red flags I missed.

Because once the money ran out,

So did you.

Poor little victim of circumstances

Your karma created.

Misery repels company.

 

 

 

Walk a mile…

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She said, “Girl,

you need to break out of your comfort zone.”

I was confused.

Comfort zone?
I have NO comfort zone.

She was saying this
in response to my

previous confused look
as she rattled off directions,

in Chinese, of the good store
to buy clothes for my daughter

who is suddenly growing like a weed.

I had only been living in Shanghai a couple of months.

And then I started thinking…

About the first time I went camping around

the state of Arizona,

and then backpacking alone
in Alaska
without a plan,

going to an ashram in the Adirondack Mountains

without a penny in my pocket,

my two years in Peace Corps

sleeping on the floor
in a house I shared

with a 7-foot snake and 2 tarantulas

that didn’t pay rent.

Living with an abusive husband,
and going through chemo, radiation,

no voice, feeding tube,
and not even able to drink a drop of water;

I am a single mother, living in Shanghai

with my two preschool daughters

and this might be the most comfortable time of our lives,

But I wondered how a person’s perception could be so skewed.

And then I thought about Charlie

this guy I met in the ice cream aisle of the store.

We were both buying vanilla ice cream

because we both were recovering from throat cancer

and that was exactly ALL that we had in common.

He said, “I am really good judge of character,”

and then proceeded to tell me how he completely understood

“how I am building walls,”

“How I am cutting myself off from people.”
and “How I am turning away my friends.”

He got the same confused look.

–from me.

I had never been so surrounded by friends.

I had friends paying my insurance bills,

paying my rent,

taking care of my girls,

bringing food and money,

cleaning my house,

and checking up on me

all day, everyday.

George Bailey had nothing on me.

But this man Charlie,
had told the same bad joke 3 times
to 3 different people

and was so negative and off-putting

that I just didn’t want to talk to HIM.

I understand projection.

I understand perspective.

My Mohican friend, Mike, gave me

my third-stage Native name

of “Standing Wave.”

He said it’s that place in the river

where it looks calm as glass on the surface

but below there’s a rapid undertow.  

He always saw me so clearly.

Aside

Random

When my doctor told me I had cancer,

He cried.

He had to have said this lots of times.

Why did he cry?

He knew I was a vegetarian for 18 years.

He knew I was a vegan, for most of that.

He knew I was a yoga/qi gong instructor.

He knew I had two toddlers at home.

He knew I was a teacher.

He knew I never smoked,

didn’t drink,

Never even like to take a Tylenol.

“I don’t know why this happens

To people like you.” He said.

“It’s so random.”

I just remember feeling hot and blurry

Peeling off my jacket, my sweatshirt, my socks…

Just a thin t-shirt and jeans,

And I wondered

why did I try so hard

To be healthy.

It didn’t matter.

I could have eaten processed food:

Campbell’s soup and Kool-Aid–

Just like everyone else.

It didn’t matter.

But I didn’t blame God

Like everyone said I would.

I thanked him.

I thanked him that it was me

Because I could have NEVER

Survived watching one of my little girls

go through what I did.

I knew I could handle it.

I could handle anything

Except

Seeing my little girls go through

the torture

the retching pain

the sickness

their curls falling out…

The only “why?” I asked was

Why did he want me silent?

Barely able to bang on walls

For attention.

Why my throat?

I never liked my breasts.

Cut ‘em off!

My ovaries are no longer useful.

Take ‘em.

But my tonsils?

My voice?

Interesting choice.

But thank God it was me.

Random