Author: Clare L. Martin

Clare is a poet, editor and teaching artist living in Louisiana. Her debut collection of poems, "Eating the Heart First" is available from Press 53. Also available from Barnes & Noble and Amazon. FMI: www.press53.com

You Will Take a Strange Journey

Wordlab Funny Business

 

So we had a couple of options for our second exercise with Wendy. She gave us the choice to write a fictional biography of ourselves or to write a piece with the narrator as a fortune teller and begin with the sentence: “You will take a strange journey.” I chose the latter, and after the heavy “Ode to a Child Soldier” I/we needed some levity.

szo0256

You will take a strange journey.  Be sure to polish your toenails, but both of your big toes must be a different color from the rest.

Someone will offer you a LARGE SUM OF MONEY.  DO NOT ACCEPT IT!! It is tainted with rancid processed meats that were left in a car for seven days in a Louisiana summer and sprung a leak onto all the hundred dollar bills.

Your journey will require spelunking into an active volcano. I see good things coming from this. You will meet your soul mate down there.

I see a green veil around you and normally I would advise you to practice tantric masturbation but your veil has polka dots, so please, I IMPLORE YOU to do it more and go ahead and finish.  You are way too bottled up.

So we are almost done and I have to tell you that the price I quoted you has gone up since you have been here. It will be $1000 cash-only, paid upon receipt of service, or you won’t be going anywhere, buddy.

 

©2014 CLM

 

Ode to a Child Soldier

Ode to a Child Soldier

 

This child should eat
something more than water
and bone and be clothed
in something other than desolation.
This child should be sung to and sing;
be mourned and praised. He should
know that pulse within himself
when freed makes a sound
we call laughter. He should know it well.

O, my well-armed child
with pockets full of bullets,
run if you can. Bury the gun
in your hand deep and in secret,
even from yourself.

Victim, slave, innocent,
your one life
has been eviscerated
with the purpose
to kill.

I give you this, my hope,
that there are people
who want to dance with you.
There are people, who, in their beds
wonder if you are shod, if you know
your parentage and bless
you in holy, hypnogogic prayer.

 

 

This was written by me today in a session of Acadiana Wordlab led by poet Wendy Taylor Carlisle which had part of its focus on the Ode as a “song of praise.”

©2014 CLM

“Off Qi”

220px-Ki-hanja

 

Off Qi

 

  • I drop a pen on the floor twice within 30 seconds
  • I knock over an open bottle of mouthwash into the cat litter box
  • A drip of coffee like a gentle stroke from a thin sable brush on a white ceramic cup triggers anxiety, but I am wearing white!
  • I fail repeatedly at untying constrictive knots in relationships, but (stubbornly, foolishly, lovingly) keep my hands and heart open
  • Kneeling before false gods, even though I have bad knees.
  • The swerve in my step bumps me into strangers. I can’t walk in a straight line.
  • A pin-mark of black on my finger from a match with an irregularly bulbous sulfur tip; hot candle wax on that finger: the too-brief sting …
  • Emails in languages I cannot understand, but feel must be important because I understand the cognate for “poetry” in them
  • Guilt, guilt, and more guilt.
  • Getting “The Finger” in the parking lot of the fried chicken place
  • The stupidest lyrics of pop songs are sublimated messages to me
  • Roiling, radioactive waters in the kitchen: Dishzilla!

 

 

(According to Wikipedia, in traditional Chinese culture, qi (also chi or ch’i) is an active principle forming part of any living thing. Qi is frequently translated as “natural energy”, “life force”, or “energy flow”. Qi is the central underlying principle in traditional Chinese medicine and martial arts. The literal translation of “qi” is “breath”, “air”, or “gas.”  Mindful-dish-washing might improve my qi).

Blog Tour: Process Talk

 

 

 

What are you working on?

I am working on a second manuscript of poetry with hopes for a second book. When Eating the Heart First (Press 53, 2012) was done and out in the world, I was consumed with promotion of it and became less structured/focused in my writing time. Happily though, Acadiana Wordlab had just formed that same month and regular attendance counted for me getting writing done.  The weekly sessions got me refocused and recharged. I am indebted to Jonathan Penton (Google him) for his vision and work that made this great community/activity thrive. I am the coordinator now, as Jonathan has moved onto other projects. My involvment gives me great pleasure. I give and receive. I am amazed by the wonderful writers who are growing in the Acadiana community and around our state. I have many new poems that have come out of the AW drafting sessions that will hopefully make it into the manuscript.

I have a working title for the manuscript: Broken Jesus.  That title comes from a line in my poem, “Convergence,” which appeared in Louisiana Literature, but the image itself comes from a black and white photograph of a broken marble statue of Jesus on the cross at an abandoned church. Ralph J Schexnaydre, Jr. took that photo back in the 1980s.  The image appeared on the cover of the first literary magazine in which my work was published, my university’s journal, The Southwestern Review.

I still have that journal issue (it came out in 1989, 25 years ago) but sadly Ralph doesn’t have the image anymore. I would have asked him to allow me to use it. I do have in my house a crucifix that was my grandmother’s and grandfather’s that is broken. A limb is missing from Jesus, and perhaps I can have someone photograph it for me down the road as the manuscript shapes up.

How does your work differ from others in its genre?

The work I am drawn to, the poetry that enlivens me is work that is finely crafted, visceral, meaningful, daring, brave, honest, sharp, and lyrical and I hope that my work is these things. I want to be a dauntless writer. I want to be writing new always: pushing myself, going deeper, going harder and reaching more deeply into you, the reader. I don’t know how else to answer this question because if I am not gripped by a poet’s language, attention to craft, willingness to rend hearts and punch guts, with an almost nameless kind of love for you at the same time, I usually put the book down.

Why do you write what you do?

I write to move other human beings with my words.

How does your writing process work?

I used to be strictly tied to typing rather than writing in longhand but since I have been a devotee of Acadiana Wordlab’s mostly pen-to-paper process, I am more attuned to my hands, albeit in a different way than typing letter by letter. This is something new and fun for me, to write out drafts in notebooks. It’s something I had truly not practiced except for note-taking since getting a typewriter, then a word processor, then a computer. The words are moving from my brain to my hands but my hands know more than my mouth does.

In my at-home practice, I usually start with a free-write. I don’t wait for inspiration but because I am a constant reader, I am inspired daily.  Also, those ephemeral voices (that may become lines of poetry) are a grace to which I am sharply attuned.  (It can cause problems to live so far up into your head but I manage to be grounded). A word or phrase may come to me while eating buttered grits or taking a bath, and I get up, write it down, and follow where it leads. I have rushed out of the bath naked (they’ve all seen me naked around here) and gotten on the computer to get words down.  My short term memory is weakening I think.  I also might need to get my bathrobe out of the closet.

Sometimes if I am driving and a line comes, I will pull over and voice-record it on my phone.   But the question of writing process beyond the mechanics of actually writing is that I firmly hold that I cannot call myself a writer if I am not writing. I don’t feel I deserve that name if I am not doing it in some way, and I count many ways: letter-writing, journaling, creative writing, and emails—they qualify too, if they are creatively inspired.

For many years my only writing was letter writing and it was necessary for me to have that one person as an audience.  The three friends I wrote to on a regular basis are now deceased but really I owe them deep thanks for enjoying my letters and writing back. Those correspondences saved me and my writing career, whatever that is or will be, because it kept me writing. Those friends kept me writing and encouraged my writing when my days were black pages.

 

 

*Thank you to Margaret Gibson Simon for tagging me in this fun and challenging effort to enlighten others about our ways and whys of writing. She can be read at Reflections on the Teche

 

I am tagging:

Mashael (I am air)

Helen Losse

Mona AlvaradoFrazier

Participate if you like and link back here!  I will link to you, if you are inclined to play along.

Be well, friends.

Clare

New Poem/Prayer

Prayer

 

The figs are not yet ripe but I will leave them
for the blackbirds,
cacophonous angels of soot—

Wind forces its mouth
on mine and I cannot
breathe for a moment.

Thank you for this
breath and the next.

You call me to water; water
burgeoning in bodies.

Holy, holy
How new can I be?

The fullness
of my anger would fit
in a tarnished thimble, and this is a grace.

But my skin will never
forget the sin it committed.

Your mystery traces
intricacies in disquiet.
Your dawn raises
me from the dead.

I have swallowed stillness
to quiet all turmoil.

I pray,
unravel me,
to a single thread.

 

©2014 CLM

Path

Path

 

I used to say emphatically  that “I am on a path and I do not allow much to divert me from it,” but the diversions can be good if we circle back to ourselves.

I am on a path inward through the new meditation habit I am developing. Aligned with this path is the writing path: the path that I turn to, turn inwardly toward my deepest self, to process what is in my head and to create. This divine alignment has brought me to more deeply investigate and connect to something unknowable. I have turned my heart away from my own supposed desires, and toward the Divine Whatever which is in all things.

I have been, perhaps, delusional for some time. An example of this crazy thinking is that I would think that if I made choice A, that life would become something that I thought I desired, deserved or expected. I have no clue if such choices would produce the desired results, or would have been true in any of my life choices up to this point. In reality, we can never know if we “made the right decision” until time has passed and we see ourselves and outcomes retrospectively. Sometimes the Universe/Divine Whatever gives us a heads up and we understand that we have dodged a bullet, sometimes not.

Recently I talked with a friend about some heaviness I had been experiencing. I had a fatalistic view about my situation and was very gloomy. My friend had much more optimism than I did and he said, “There are no guarantees.”  This could be taken in the negative, but really he meant it and I took it in the positive sense that all my imaginings and some of my insights were not certain or final, and that perhaps what had been weighing on my heart would resolve in a beneficial way.  He gave me optimism and a bit of hope. Still, I dare not hope too much and pray only for peace and divine light to be cast on this perceived darkness.

I am an all-feeling human, thank goodness, and mostly make my decisions based on heart-matters rather than using my head. But I want to be a mature adult and think through things and not rush headlong into who-knows-what, even though my enthusiasm for life and following my heart has taken me to wild and wonderful places.  I think in the past year, I have learned many necessary lessons the hard way. Good lessons, and I have not backslid into unrestrained heart-following that often leaves me broken. But I do believe in trusting my own intuitive spirit in my “heart of hearts” and trusting that I am cared for by the Divine Whatever. The new adult in me  is being more cautious. She is thinking, weighing and planning. She is forgiving and asking for forgiveness. These are good and reasonable things. I am finding needed balance, but more importantly, I am turning away from anxious attempts to make things happen that I perceive as the way things must be. As my friend D. says, “It is what it is.” I am letting whatever “it” is be what it *is* and letting go of my tight grasp to control.

I am on a path. I am walking it in a forward direction. I will certainly “sight-see” along the way. I am less rigid, more accepting, more peaceful and thorough it all I am stretching my heart to more openness–even after hurt, even after disappointment in other people and myself.  Having the courage to open our hearts after hurt is perhaps one of our most vital lessons and elevates us as human beings.

I am more me, more grounded. And I love you, myself and this life very much.  Peace.

Clare

 

 

There are angels among us and some of them are human beings. I am lucky to have one as my niece.

From my niece Morgan Landry just now in reply to my plea for cheering up:

“You’re a creative genius, and in my personal opinion, the most genius of those in the arts have to pay a price. That price is awareness. You’re inclined to be hyper-aware, and when you wish you weren’t is when you are the most. Sometimes it’s bad, and all you can sense is its pain and misfortune — the world is so unfair. But other times, your psyche points towards the opposite pole of your internal spectrum. You can see so much beauty everywhere around you. You envelop yourself in the warm ancient afghan of our culture and bloodline and heritage. You feel your family’s love fill you up until you no longer know quite how to express it. You see a Monet in every leaf in a puddle on the old shitty sidewalks. And when you’re in the darkness, you just have to remember that all of these things are there still. You’ve done a stupendous job transforming your pain into a sturdy foundation for your soul and your work. You benefit from all that’s around you. Anyone who talks with you can’t help but feel happy and cared for; I can see it when I’m there. I love you forever!”

 

God bless you all and goodnight. XOXOX

Anniversary

That morning, she put on the coffee. She tied the red-checkered apron around her waist and wiped the table with a wet cloth. She slapped down the plate of boiled eggs, peeled and halved, and a handful of nuts. The eggs wobbled then became still.

“Skip the rodent food. It gives me the shits.”

Even if he didn’t know it was the day, she knew and that was just fine.

He was wearing  floppy slippers and a red robe. Nothing underneath and the robe was untied.

“Did you see that bird?”

“Where?” she said confused.

“Here,” and he pointed to his semi-erect penis. “It’s a peckerwood.”

Why did he have to make jokes like that? They weren’t funny and she really hated them. She hated just about everything but today was special and she would be patient with him.

He ate his breakfast and asked for Jello pudding.  She knew he would ask for it. She opened a prepackaged vanilla pudding cup and waved her hand over it in a sly manner.

“What you got there?”

“Your pudding, okay?”

“Give it here.” He licked the outer rim and dug a thick finger into the sloop. He used a fork to finish it.  The whole process took about 15 seconds.

Half an hour later, he convulsively vomited dark blood then stopped breathing. His corpulent body slumped into a heap on dewy grass. Good thing she had invited him to sit with her on the bench under the elm tree.  It kept the mess out of the house!

Thirty years to the day. She ran her fingers through his hair and kissed his cheek. This was how she liked him best.

 

©2014 CLM

Getting Clean

 

I took an hour from my day for quiet outdoors. I gazed into the slow current of the Vermilion Bayou from the vantage point of a deck overlooking the bayou at a local park.  Thin limbs floated in line with thatch and fallen leaves. Trees, on the opposite bank, were reflected in the muddy water and swayed against watery sky.

I couldn’t help thinking of my father and cried a bit. He knew this bayou well. He had fished and boated in it when he was a boy, and as an adult, he frequently he traveled it down all the way to the Vermilion Bay to get to Cypremort Point.  We had a camp there for a time when my brother and I were small children.

My father almost drowned in the Vermilion. I wrote a poem about it, “Father Almost Drowning” that first appeared in Poets & Artists and is collected in Eating the Heart First. On my father’s casket, we displayed another poem I had written about his life. In the quiet moments of this exceptional spring afternoon, I thought of how much my father has done for me since his death.

I believe we are spirits in flesh.  My father’s spirit has gently cautioned me at various times when I was running headlong into harmful choices or getting involved in matters that were detrimental. I truly believe our dead loved ones are protectors and guides.  So, I reflected on him and his otherworldly wisdom, and gave myself over to the Divine Whatever.

I knew I was being called to water today. This morning when I was bathing, I thought of one summer weekend that we had spent at the camp at Cypremort Point. There are so many memories, but this particular memory was of a time that we went to church barefoot. It was a moment that really caused great distress for me. As I recall, our shoes were wet and muddy from play. My mother wouldn’t allow us to wear them to church. That Sunday morning, we had our baths and dressed in clean summer clothes but my mom wouldn’t let us put the dirty shoes on.

I remember looking at my bare feet as I sat in the pew feeling self-conscious and strange. I looked up insistently at my mother for some kind of calm and she whispered, “God just cares that you are clean.”  I laugh at this because clean or dirty, I believe we are cared for. It was a moment that made me actually laugh out loud this morning as I was getting clean.

And I am “getting clean” in other ways. I am de-cluttering my head, cleaning the metaphorical window that offers in/out views. Even though I always have meditative moments in my bath ritual, and have sporadically used relaxation techniques and meditation techniques for years, I had not set forth to actually practice on a daily basis. Now it is a priority for me. My new steps in “getting clean” are practicing mindfulness, setting aside two-half hours for meditation, going to church when no services are being held just to sit in silence, and joining up with a group that meets for meditation.

To quiet ourselves and find the silence within, allows for changes in perspective and deeper perceptions. In these silences, images and ideas for poetry are flooding in and I have greater access to the deeper parts of myself that lend wisdom to incorporate into creative writing. It was really cool that a few weeks ago Margaret Gibson Simon (who blogs at Reflections on the Teche) led a meditation writing workshop at Acadiana Wordlab. I always long to go deeper, and I do, obviously, when I am writing and “in the zone.”

All in all, I feel energized, new, and more deeply committed to myself, my people and the Divine Whatever. I wish you peace and wellness.

Clare

P.S. I saw the trailer for David Lynch’s documentary, “Meditation, Creativity, Peace” http://meditationcreativitypeace.com/   and I really want to see it. There is a form on the website that offers anyone to send a message if you want to coordinate a screening in your hometown. I am thinking about it!

If you would like to experience something great go to http://www.meditationoasis.com/ I have been using this particular site for about a week.

Woman in Prayer

A reflection on an experience this afternoon.
Peace.

~CLM
Woman in Prayer

I am penitent; pour myself out
onto the hard rail of the pew
somber Mary alit, red-glassed candles
no smoke, but a hint of myrrh
the cleaning woman shakes her mop
a woman comes in, blesses
herself at the font of holy water
and more women fill in like light
to pray
at the stations of the cross
they speak to me and I
decline their invitation
their prayers become
my own                the sun exhales
color,   the breath
focus
on the breath
fill the lungs feel the fullness
release let go let go
of the tension in my body,
the bones of my neck click
my hanging God the Christ
that I need to believe in
that I am begging to take
a lifetime’s desperation
to deliver me
right my path
crown of thorns
my own heart
brambles and thorns
jag the aorta
what if there were wings
the blackheart caws
I want to fly, to flee
this earth yet I cannot
so willfully I come here to pray
I come for mercysilence
and today as supplicant

These women,
in devotion, full of grace
could not possibly be
as contrite, as sinful as me.

 

© 2014 CLM