Dream Poem

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Six O’clock

The clock of the sky is set at six.
Horses stream across indigo bridges.
We join them then leap from gray
thunderhead to cypress branch.
Drop into sugarcane fields.
Our bare feet dig into rows of good mud:
dark, love-made mother mud.
The mind releases her last veil.
We devour these rivulets of sweet burning.
And dream more dreams than our stomachs can hold.
Chins drip with ripe night fruit. Our fingers slosh
through uncoiled narratives that haunt like histories.
Cries of babies; the blood-flow (so often dank).
Wet hair, white slips, sweat from the dance—
We draw ash over our heads as blessing.
Grant us mercy, god of destruction.
All we are and ever will be is want.

 

 

 

©2016 Clare L. Martin

Cracked

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Yesterday, I cracked.

A litany of horrors flooded out of me; some real, some hyperreal imaginings. I wailed to walls while lying in the cold, lavender water of the bathtub. I cried out to God to please, please allow me to ‘go away.’ I saw no resolution to my circumstances. I saw no pathway out of pain. It took all of my strength to suck up my tears when my family returned to the house, take prescribed pills and put myself to bed. I calmed a bit after a brief rest, muffling my cries in the pillow, and later rose to eat dinner with my family. I settled again to listen to ambient music, which puts me into a deeper level of being, even if I was still ragged. I fell asleep around midnight.

This morning, I knew I my psyche had been wrecked and I backed out of a commitment I had been looking forward to with a friend. I accompanied my husband as he went to a parts store to pick up a part to repair a lawnmower. We stopped on the way home to buy groceries. I rooted myself in these mundane tasks. When we returned home, I had a cup of coffee; my first of the day.

I feel stronger knowing that I have the luxurious blessing of having a supportive husband who is stable enough to stand strong when I cannot and who has enough experience with my mental health issues that he can objectively observe my symptoms and report them to my doctor or guide me in my self-care. Even if I cannot verbalize to him exactly what is going on in my mind, he cares enough to be a first-responder in my mental health care. Thank God.

I am resilient. I am not in need of a medication change. I do need to keep firm the boundaries I have set for myself and continually evaluate how and when I need to set new ones. This is life-saving. I know I can live peacefully and well within healthy relationships with healthy boundaries, and that the flow of giving and receiving will continue. I am clawing my way out of despair by acting slowly this day, seeking balance in my perspective, and writing this out.

What I must watch in myself is my nature to give. My heart ever desires to give, give, give as it beats, beats, beats. God knows this. It is how I was made. It is what makes me so vulnerable. Even now, I could begin weeping again, wringing my heart because I want to pour myself out. I want to give my all— But, I can’t. I cannot because even then, the nothing that I would be would still beat, still breathe. And what then?

And what then?

Poem after Angel Bath series by Dennis Paul Williams

Angel Bath

after a mixed media art piece in the Angel Bath series by Dennis Paul Williams

 

The fetal heart stops
in a globe of light
bones work
their way through flesh
flesh-in-water
her cheek depressed
a doctor’s thumbprint
bruises aorta
gray washes into amber
soft, blooded veins—
her mother bears
the crown of thorns.

Desiccation we know
is truth
because the artist
layers each dream
upon the other
the artist dreams
these dreams for us
to show us
what happens
when waters rise
when rains fall.

When mothers suffer
up to their necks
reach for the ceiling
pray for lightning bolt holes
through the roof: a delivery
of a different kind
the ever-ghost children
quickly go to ground—

Beloved, loved,
still-hearted and all.

 

©2016 Clare L. Martin

Waterline

Early in their married life, my grandparents and their young family lost everything in a flood in the country outside of Youngsville. My mother told me the story many times of how my Uncle Ray had been raising rabbits and he placed them caged, high on an armoire inside the house to save them when they evacuated to the area here which was where my great grandparents lived. When my grandfather went back to the property to check on it, he tied a rope to his waist and tied the other end of the rope to a bridge rail so that if he drowned, they would be able to find his body. The rabbits had drowned. That was how high the water was. I wrote a play about it titled “Waterline” after Katrina, for Acting Up (in Acadiana), and it was performed in Lafayette, New Orleans, and New York City as part of a larger work, called “Sustained Winds.”  Here I post the play in its entirety. The character of Toby was changed to a female character played by Kara St. Clair. Bambi DeVille Engeran played the Grandmother. I believe the name of the young character was changed to Leslie. This was what was in my old file.

 

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Photo from CNN

 

Written for Sustained Winds: Before During After Now Later

 

 

Waterline (After)

By Clare L. Martin

 

3.31.06

 

 

Grandma—blind, elderly, and shut-in grandmother of Toby. She lives alone and relies on a family and neighborhood support system to live.  She is unable to evacuate and the hurricane dissolves her network of caregivers.

 

Toby—Teenage grandson unwillingly separated from his parents who were evacuated after the hurricane to unknown parts. Toby sought out his grandmother when his parents were bused out.

 

Scene— The setting is Grandma’s house.  Toby’s brushing his grandmother’s hair.

 

Grandma:  Slower.  Do it real gentle now.  Don’t hit my head when you brush me.

 

Toby: (brushing his grandmother’s long hair) Every time I hear a siren, I jump.

 

Grandma:  There’s a car coming up the driveway.

 

Toby: No there isn’t.

 

Grandma: It will.  Give it time. Since I lost my seeing, I see more clearly.

 

Toby:  Every time a car passes I think it is them—or about them.

 

Grandma:  Give it some time.

 

Toby:  I begged the soldier to put me on that bus. I lost my shoes running for them.  She was wearing red.  Dad had his Saints cap on.

 

Grandma: When your daddy was nine, your grandpa bought him four rabbits to breed.  When those floodwaters were rising, your grandpa tied a rope to his waist and the other end to the bridge over the coulee.  He tied himself like that so we’d find his body if the waters took him.

 

Toby: (stops brushing) Please don’t. Please don’t tell me that story, Grandma.

 

Grandma: The rabbits—your daddy put them in a cage on the top of the armoire, but they still drowned. That’s how high the waterline was.

 

Toby:  Maybe they’re in Texas. The soldier said the bus was going to Houston.  Dad has a friend in Houston.  I can’t remember his name.  They used to work together.  He used to live here.

 

Grandma:  Toby, do you look like your mama or your daddy? I’ve never seen you since you were a baby.

 

Toby: Mom says I look like dad and dad says I look like mom.

 

Grandma: (reaching for Toby) Let me feel you. (Grandma feels Toby’s facial features) You have your mama’s bones and your daddy’s flat nose. That’s the Guidry in you—that nose. I pray you don’t have the Guidry ears.  You could fly with those ears. Fix us something to eat, son.

 

Toby: (opens the powerless refrigerator) I—I don’t know what we have left.

 

Grandma:  What do we have left?

 

Toby: (peering into the refrigerator) I think we have to throw away the chicken. Cheese.

 

Grandma: (bolts up from her sitting position) Fool!  Are you standing with the icebox open?  You don’t stand there with the door open. You’re losing all the cold. Did you forget what was in there since the last time you looked?

 

Toby:  (closes the refrigerator door) There’s no cold left. The cheese is soft, Grandma, and the chicken stinks.

 

Grandma:  Then throw it to the cats in the street. They got two that holler all night. That mess will shut them up.

 

Toby: What can we eat?

 

Grandma: Open a can of something and bring us each a fork. We’ll take turns taking bites.

 

Toby: (opens the cabinet) A can of what?

 

Grandma:  Now, it really doesn’t matter, does it?  Open a can of food. Whatever’s in there. Don’t let the hot out of the cabinet.

 

Toby: What?

 

Grandma: That was a joke, boy.

 

Toby: Oh.

 

Grandma: (rocking herself) I miss TV.  Of course I can’t see people on it but I like the voices.  It is a good thing you made your way to my house, because I can’t stand quiet.  You’re a good boy. Did you find my medicine?

 

Toby:  (looking at bottles) Which ones do you need to take?

 

Grandma: I don’t know because I can’t see the labels.  Tilda next door reads them for me.  You can read, can’t you?  Read one and tell me what it says.

 

Toby: (looking at a bottle) Gly-bu-ride.  Take once a day in the morning.

 

Grandma:  That’s it.  That’s the one for my diabetes.  How many are left?

 

Toby: There’s ten left, Grandma.

 

Grandma:  Toby that’s ten days I’m going to feel good. I take two pills a day.  What’s the other one?

 

Toby: That bottle’s empty. Do you have another bottle in the bathroom?

 

Grandma: No—no matter.  Check the jug of ice in the freezer and see if it’s water.

 

Toby: (Toby hands Grandma a glass of water and then picks up the phone receiver) The phone still doesn’t work.  They should fix that first.

 

Grandma: They usually fix the first things last and the last things you need first.  But I wouldn’t be surprised if that phone rings any minute with your mama calling. Now brush my hair again, softly.  (Toby starts brushing his grandmother’s hair again)

 

Grandma:  You opened that icebox and now that chicken is stinking up the whole house.  Get rid of it, Toby. Give them nasty cats a nasty treat.

 

Toby: (returns from stepping out the back door) Those cats sure love that rotten chicken. They’re tearing it up.

 

Grandma:  Lock the door! Do it now!  There’re strange people on the streets. They’ll take the nothing we have and the nothing we don’t have.  It is a good thing I’m blind because I’d hate to see the hell that’s come.  Lock the doors. Do it quick. And talk low. Don’t light any candles tonight.  I heard them knocking when I was in my bed.  Did you hear it?

 

Toby: (hurriedly locks the door) No.  I didn’t.

 

Grandma:  If you weren’t here I’d be scared out of my wits.  I hear the streets.   Last night I smelled gas and smoke and somebody was knocking.   You didn’t hear the knocking?

 

Toby: No.  I slept hard for the first time since the hurricane. I dreamed I was in my house in my own bed and that music was on in another room. I smelled bacon and coffee. I didn’t wake up for anything, until the heat woke me.  The sun beat in on me from the window and I heard your cane on the wood floor. You were praying.

 

Grandma:  I know my house.  Every morning I walk and say a Rosary. Sometimes I walk and say two.  Depends on how my knees feel. If it’s raining I sit in my rocker and pray. My knees can’t take wet weather.  When I’m finished I kiss the head of that Mary. Tilda brought her in from my garden before the storm. She didn’t want her broke. When the winds hit, I said an hour straight of Hail Marys and I prayed to St. Joseph for my house to stand up and it did.  He was a builder.  He taught Jesus a trade.  What trade you learning?  You should know by now.  Your daddy still doesn’t know what he’s gonna be when he grows up.  He’s never grown up.  He plays at everything. (Grandma turns her face to her grandson) So you listened? Did you pray too?

 

Toby: I prayed the phone would ring this morning.  I prayed that bus would wait for me. I got in line for water and dad was holding my place in the bus line. I got hit and someone took all the bottles.  I ran but it was too late. I prayed I could get to your house without being killed or worse. I’m still praying but I don’t know the right words, I guess.

 

Grandma:  Just talk. Or don’t talk or think.  Listen. See? (Grandma brushes her own hair) Long strokes.   Fifty strokes, and then start all over again.

(Grandma and Toby bow heads and the scene ends)

 

***

Toby leaves Grandma to get help and search for food and water.  He is forced by circumstances to join a group of looters and steals a loaf of bread.  A voice calls out “Stop!” and Toby is shot.  He dies in the street.

 

 

 

Two days have passed since Toby left. Unaware that Toby is dead, Grandma waits in her home, praying the Rosary. She is waiting for Toby to return. Some services are restored.

 

Grandma: (Opens her bottle of pills, feels them with her fingers. Takes one and sips water.) Eight left.  Toby’s been gone two days. What else could he do?  What else could we do? I couldn’t do nothing for him, or myself. He’s a good boy. Toby’s a good boy.   Dear Lord, keep him safe in the streets.  I stayed up all night again to wait for him. (She gets angry) I’m talking to you, Lord! He’s my good boy!

 

(Phone rings.)

 

 

Grandma:  (excitedly speaking on the phone) Oh, Bobby, thank God! Y’all are safe?  Yes. I couldn’t reach you. He’s not here.  He was here but we needed—.  We’ve got water and phone now, no power and no food.  Y’all come soon, please. Good. Hurry. Two days he’s been gone. He’s a good boy, Bobby.  You’ve raised him right. Y’all come soon. He’s my good boy….

 

Grandma hangs up the phone and clutches the Rosary to her heart.  She bows her head.  Prays tearfully. Becomes silent.

 

****

Copyright Clare L. Martin 2016

Flooding Home

Yes.

So right and beautiful.
Thank you, Bessie, for speaking for all of us.

THE BAYOU MYSTIC

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Photo by Trudy Gomez

If you pronounce chère as in chère ami like the longhaired pop singer formally married to Sonny Bono you probably don’t know much about our beloved homeland in south Louisiana we call Acadie. You have probably never stood on the bank of Lake Martin as the roseate spoonbills paint that lake in sunset colors. Nor have you ever fished for blue point crab with chicken necks on a string. Most likely, you haven’t watched a flock of great white cranes overhead in a clear blue sky surrounded by so many shades of green you no longer wonder about the vast selection of paint chips at the local hardware store. If you say crayfish instead of crawfish and pee-can instead of pa-cawn you have probably never stood in your mother’s kitchen smelling a dark roux awaiting the holy trinity of onions, celery, and bell pepper or heard…

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Divination Writings

DIVINATIONS*

 

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Temperance

The angel with two chalices draws water to water. Its wings seem bloodied. Its feet are bare, placed in water and on land. A brilliant light shines between two peaks far behind the angel. Irises bloom near the cool, clear pool. The angel has a radiance in the position of the third eye. How this card speaks to me! Temperance: I have yet to find it in my circumstances now, perhaps ever. I am always flowing up a swollen river, or down in fast currents, gasping for breath. I want to be of the nature of water. I want to flow between two chalices in an angel’s hands. I want to give refreshment and seep through mountains. I want to flow from and to a greater Source. Temperance for a sick mind means the realization of humanness, the discarding of perilous fantasies. I am not a winged being of God’s favor. But holy, all the same.

 

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Ten of Swords (Love)

My heart is big. It pumps hard. Sometimes it drains and there is no blood left. It beats like a fish-out-of-water. I get mixed up. I put trust in the man with ten swords in his back, silver coins dropping from his tongue. But I know Truth, and with It I cut through the thickest night. How does a person not be themselves? I was born this way. I was born to put everything on the table with only a pair of deuces in my hand.

       

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The Star

The Star holds two vessels.

Her companion crow, teacher, stills the picture with its black eye. The Star pours liquid essence. (I am pouring essence). The lights of heavens surround us. She returns water-to-water. She is in her purest form. An Eve, woman essential, near a body of water.

We will replenish
and be replenished.

 

 

 

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Queen of Wands

She bears a flame crown upon her head and her scepter is a bough blooming with fire flowers. A cat curls in her lap. Her feet are bare. Her feet rest upon the head of a lion. It’s hide, a carpet. It’s teeth and claws preserved and prominent. Her armies are like the lion she rules. Defenders and fierce attackers. She is at the helm. I am a helmswoman. I carry a sword. I sit on a gilded throne. You would not recognize these trappings as such but I dare you to look into my eyes and doubt my authority.

 

 

 

 

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Eight of Coins, Knight of Coins, Six of Coins, all drawn. Coins in our soup enrich nothing. Coins in our pockets carry us only as far as imagination does. We are gathering our coins, pulling them from all corners. We empty out pockets. Dig the mason jars from the garden buried beneath the sweet olive. All the coins pocketed after buying laundry detergent, cat food, toilet paper. Holy coins; tangible as bread. We hold these coins in fists to be their worth. Will they last? What do they impart to us? What transformative magic? If we had rooms full of coins, gold, silver, would we be holy? Would we ascend to Heaven? Would we walk the earth desolate and tormented too fat to fit through the eye of the needle?

 

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Two of Wands
I assess the room; eliminate three perceived threats before you enter. I know your fatal weakness before you speak. It is in your gait and your shoulders. I know this because I see the burden you carry. My exit’s plotted. Everything’s set, Two of Wands. Two times you have entered my life at critical junctures. This is the last. You tell me you have fifty thousand dollars to your name and that you are going to spend it on a sailboat. Goodbye is why we are meeting tonight. I know better than to try to change your mind.  You are going to that metaphor we will name “the Atlantic.”

 

 

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The Pope
They carry her to the inner chamber and place her high upon the bed. They tie her hair to the frame, braid by braid. Through the window, she sees the fires of the city, a full moon. She sees the stars constellate. The room is dark and scented with Frankincense. The man enters wearing a silk dressing-gown. He breathes with difficulty as he approaches her. He carries a platter of sweetmeats and a chalice of fresh wine. She begins to cry out. The man places a soft cloth in her mouth. Her eyes skitter like spiders held to a burning match.

 

 

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Four of Swords
I’d like to think your seclusion is temporary. Our time here is temporary. You told me you are going to sail to Istanbul.  I will never know if you made it to Turkey. There is dire political unrest there now. I don’t know if you were aware. Too much grief in your heart to read the news? It wasn’t hard to put the pieces together: You probably would leave your ID behind. No way to track your purchases before you leave to indicate what you are planning to do. You said you only told me. Why did you burden me? Of all people. Maybe this was a blessing? I’m trying to figure it out.

I pulled the Four of Swords.
Respite. Rest. Repose. Replenishment. Solitude. Exile. Retreat. Abandonment.
These divinations are mine this time.

 

©2016 Clare L. Martin

 

*These writings originated from J.K. McDowell’s WRITING PROMPT: Texas Hold’em Tarot Divination Writing Prompt using The Medieval Scapini Tarot by Luigi Scapini dealt to group in a Texas Hold’em pattern and “played” as a writing game. As I am devling further I am adding pieces to the series.

Happy Birthday, Bessie!

 

Clare and Bessie

 

Bessie has many friends and a great family. She has a heart big enough to tend to each of us as if we are family. She feeds us body and soul, as the grace-filled and gracious woman she is. She shows her love in numerous ways, but I can only speak of how she has shown me love on light-hearted occasions and on occasions when I was despondent and hopeless.

Bessie is lit with God-light. She is a healer-woman, a Light Worker, an Energy Worker and a Minister. She speaks of this comfortably, naturally, and not as though it is some secret esoteric knowledge that only a few possess. She knows that we as children of God are seeking our birthright of holiness and healed spirits. She is an enabler in the best sense. Her work enables us to come to ourselves and God in a more authentic way. She brings joy out of pain, by penetrating the illusions that pain constructs and the very real pains that harm us, with laser beam love. She is a surgeon of the spirit. She is highly skilled and humble. I say these things not to boost her up, but to awaken others that people like her do exist. Bessie is one of the most grounded individuals I have ever met. She is grounded in the mud of Louisiana. The best, blackest, richest mud on Earth. She is true, through and through, and today is her birthday. Hallelujah.

Bessie has a very refined palate. She was raised around excellent, fresh foods. Her father had a steakhouse. She worked in it from a young age. As a home cook, I have never known anyone who gives so much to her cooking and makes it seem so effortless. I have only had the pleasure of eating at her home a handful of times but it has always been exquisite and she never breaks a sweat unless she is beating the hell out of a bunch of celery.

Bessie knows me. She knew me well in a matter of days. That is something that doesn’t happen often. I do appear to be gregarious and transparent, but Bessie knows me on a deep level that I don’t reveal to many people. If I didn’t have this kind of friendship I would be so very poor. I would be hungry. I would be bereft.

Bessie knows how to guard her time and being, and she has taught me how to do the same. I am catching on. This makes for a happier Clare. She is right about that. God put Bessie in my life soon after my mother died when I was transitioning to being an adult orphan—both of my parents are deceased. Bessie never tried to fill my mama’s shoes. She always felt like a friend or sister to me. Her advice came to me with wisdom and authority and that sacred groundedness that struck me as TRUTH. I didn’t question it because it resonated in my soul.

Bessie saved my life. The angels that directed me to her saved me, too. I was going through a medication change and was vulnerable. I had severe pressure on me and my depression was severe–situational depression and clinical chemical depression. I won’t go into the details, but that LOVE LASER BEAM came out of her and it penetrated my deathly gloom and I saw the Truth. Even if my faith in myself was shaken to the core, I had faith in her wisdom at that point and I knew deeply that God was with me. At the time, I couldn’t see how, but an hour later a new life revealed itself to me and the pain was completely gone. Miracle after miracle.

People think a miracle is some extraordinary thing like raising the dead. Metaphorically, yes. In my belief miracles happen all the time, in moments of awakening, in deepening trust, in new friendships, in deepening love, in new births, in all of Creation. I am blessed to have a friend whose joy for life is so pleasing to behold. I am grateful for a friend who kids me about my silliness which I know perturbs her but she still pokes fun at me.  I am grateful for a woman in my life who knows how to assess a situation and handle crises and dinner parties! Bessie oozes class but she can also play in the mud. She is the best kind of friend. For her birthday, I could not think of a single thing that she could possibly need or want other than a bottle of wine, but I hope these words bring her happy tears and the warmth of my love.

I love you, Bessie.