“You need to write another damn book!”

I am thrilled to announce that Yellow Flag Press will publish Seek the Holy Dark as the 2017 selection of The Louisiana Series of Cajun and Creole Poetry. Great thanks to J. Bruce Fuller for this honor. Yellow Flag Press is a Louisiana-born publishing house that is growing its national presence. I have had a long relationship with it, and I can’t think of any other affiliation that would make me as happy.

 

A little backstory:

 

For a long period of time since my mother’s death in May of 2014, I felt aimless. I was writing, but I did not have a meaningful writing project in front of me to keep me focused on the bigger picture of my Writing Life. I had material for a new manuscript, tentatively titled “Broken Jesus,” that I began to assemble after Eating the Heart First was published. Over the course of a couple of years, I abandoned hope for it and just kept writing new.

 

Several months ago, while having coffee with The Bayou Mystic, Bessie Senette, I expressed my feelings of a lack of purpose beyond my personal responsibilities and our writing group’s objectives. She knew that I had relinquished my roles in many of the projects I had been involved with before my mother’s death. She also knew that was very hard for me, because of my giving and ambitious nature. The deep dissatisfaction I had been living with was causing depression beyond normal grief.

 

Bessie listened as I shared my feelings. After a silence, Bessie stood, pointed her finger between my eyes, and said, “You need to write another damn book!” As soon as she said it, I was taken aback. I went home with a charge of energy to do exactly what she said to do. I got to work with real determination.

 

In December 2015, in a casual conversation, I brought up the work I was doing to J. Bruce Fuller at a writing event we were attending in Arnaudville, LA. He offered to read the manuscript. When I sent it, I had a sense that if I had to face a “no” I would reluctantly consider other options. Honestly, from that moment in Arnaudville when the opportunity opened, I desired for Seek the Holy Dark to be a YFP book.  I have always had great faith in J Bruce’s integrity and the good health of his press.

 

[Surprisingly, in less than three days of receiving the publishing news, the cover art was selected and rights acquired. That is another story that involves my dear Bessie!!]

 

I am thrilled, ready, excited, and focused to bring this new work to the world. I again express thanks to J Bruce Fuller and Yellow Flag Press for this amazing opportunity.

 

And great thanks to Bessie for seeing my need and calling forth my energy to fulfill it.

 

More soon…

 

Dreams of Fire

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I dreamed last night that marauders had gone into my parents’ home (they were still alive), poured gasoline on them and set them on fire; my beloved (deceased) son, Adam, too. Then, the dream transformed and my mother and I were traveling the country in a truck, staying in filthy hotel rooms. We traveled for ten years together, living roughly and on the edge.

My mother disappeared on me and I was suddenly in the bed of an old boyfriend. I desperately wanted to make love to him, but while I was on my trek he had had children with another woman. There were children throughout the house, children of multiple nationalities. The other woman entered the room and yelled at us.

Before I left the house, my old boyfriend told me to get the mail he had been collecting for me.  There were acceptance letters from numerous publishers for the book I had been writing of the ten years on the road. This made me excited.

The dreamed turned back to the burning of my beloveds. I was completely distressed, needing to ask them questions, needing my mother’s love. I woke myself up, confused and sad that the only people who could answer my questions, who could answer my questioning heart were long gone.

See?

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I took a long nap. I dreamed I had an invisible horse. No one could see the horse, not even me. I *believed* the horse was there. I had a trailer for it and a corral. I was readying my horse to transport it home. I was in a motel parking lot with the horse and the trailer. I had a three-wheeled bicycle that I was going to use to pull the trailer. It was night and I felt very vulnerable. I had everything hooked up and the invisible horse loaded in the trailer. I couldn’t ride the bike and pull the trailer on the highway. I woke up mouthing my deceased mother’s phone number, 981-0411, over and over.

“There is enough milk in my breasts for you, my glass infant.”

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Last night’s dream was powerful and wonderful. I had a baby boy, an infant, with thick black hair. I was trying to get him to nurse for the first time, but he couldn’t latch onto my nipple. We thought we would have to get bottles and formula but my deceased mother came to me and said, “Try again.” I thought maybe I didn’t have milk in my breasts, but maybe I did. In the dream, I tried so many different positions to feed that baby. I even tried getting him to latch upside down. I woke up at that point and immediately sensed it was my creative life (the hungry infant) that I needed to feed, however possible. The dream was enlightening and not disturbing.

I am honoring my creative self by re-ordering, re-positioning myself to feed the hungry Writing Life that has been nearly starved over the past year and a half of mourning and Limbo.  My determination to nurture new creation is palpable. I may be too old for a baby but I will birth a second book.

The title of this post, “There is enough milk in my breasts for you, my glass infant,” is a line from a poem I am working on. Thank you for reading.

Clare

Dream of the White Horse

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Dream of the White Horse

Sometimes
I dream I am night-blind
Sometimes,
I am astride

a vivid white horse,
but only when planets
position to my favor.

Oh, to dream
of The White Horse
is salvation; a blessing
ineffable and sublime.

Once, I dreamed the car
I was driving
went over a bridge,
and I woke
completely afraid—

How do dreams linger
to create a haze out
of our entirety of days?

Peculiar and forceful,
sometimes made of metal,
my enemies arise
in dream-light;
in queer movies,
in falsities.

I have got to get my shit together,
this dream says;
or portrays me
as The Rider: legs
tight against hide.

The White Horse and I
share instinct and will.
The sense of this beast
encompasses all
that is ethereal, and yet
she is tremendously strong.

Oh, spirit, gift of perception,
visit me tonight.

 

©2014 Clare L. Martin

River Dream

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I slip from the edge of a muddy cane field into the Mississippi River with a baby in my arms.  It is my daughter and she is one or two years old. We glide over the water, my bare feet causing small wakes. Sometimes we move by vaulting with a large limb of a tree that carries us farther and faster than our own energies.  We are like wind over the water. We move far and fast; away, away but always the river hungers.

My little girl keeps falling asleep; limps out of my grip into treacheries of the river. She sinks quickly, or sometimes floats just at the surface. I pull her out by her hair. In one part of the dream, we fly through a deep-green stand of trees along the riverbank. The leaves and branches do not ribbon our skin, but I fear flying into their hardwood bodies. I tighten my grip on my girl. Sometimes she laughs, enjoying herself on this great adventure. I don’t know why we don’t smack right into a trunk. Why don’t the trees kill us?

In open air, we meet a woman who can also fly and knows the river. She promises us safety.  She flies with a baby in a carriage chained to her backside. At one point she slips the baby, much younger, much smaller than my own, into a pocket, and unhooks the chain, dropping the carriage into the mud. We fly great distances. The river grows angrier that it cannot have us. We glide close to the bank, sometimes we change course.  In the very middle of the river, the deepest part, I see a half-sunken iron statue of Evangeline; her rusted breasts emerge from water. The flying woman solemnly, weeping, gives us up. She flies to a silent grove to breastfeed her infant.

A man with a boat that is shaped like a deep gumbo bowl with an outboard motor finds us, or rather we find him via a hand-painted wooden sign offering boat tours.  I ask him where we are, tell him I want to go to Youngsville, and that there is a new sports complex with tall, bright lights that might serve as a landmark. He says we are only three miles away. This gives me hope.

Once we are isolated on the water, with no one watching, wind forces its tongue down my throat. Thrice, my only child falls in, and I have to go deeper each time to get her and bring her back to life. She is exhausted, sick from coughing the Mississippi. I keep telling her to hold me tightly, but she doesn’t comprehend enough language, so I grip her with the one goddamn-willing muscle I have left.

The man with the boat starts to ask questions, says he doesn’t have a woman and I seem to be a good one.  From the belly of the boat where I am seated, I see the longed-for lights of the sports complex, not too far away. The man operating the boat continues on the river swiftly, jamming his wrist with a hard twist to increase the motor’s speed. At some point he abandons us wordlessly, waist-deep in a forgettable tributary.

I wake up wanting home, being home and grab a notebook. Write down the bones.

 

4.21.14

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Wonderful news!

I am exhilarated this morning by the wonderful news of this review written by Blood Lotus: An Online Literary Journal editor, Stacia Fleegal, of my debut poetry collection, Eating the Heart First.  I am so grateful for these words. I read the review over the phone to my mother and she just said, “Wow. That is mind-blowing.”

Even if I don’t sell a million copies, I have experienced, and continue to experience, great joy and pleasure from the response of so many readers. Stacia takes great care in her reading and her words are considered, inspired, and gracious.

Please read her review, and if you are so moved, buy a copy of the book, available from Press 53 for your summer reading.

Thank you!   

~Clare

Friendship

I was waiting for a friend in a sweet café.  I fidgeted with my phone, fluffed my hair and closed my eyes to the sun that flitted in mirrored windows of passing cars. Then she arrived and we ordered tea. We talked for an hour before what was on my heart arose. We sat with a white rose between us and I cried. I cried for the first time in years. My heart was so obvious and tender. My heart was spilling out of me. This sounds cliché but it is true. My old woman heart, bare and tender flourished in the café, undone by sunlight, compassionate friendship and a lovely tea.

The monsters of a thousand years tried to demolish me. I was left in want. I was desolate and afraid. A wonder of friendship came into my life, and I have relinquished myself to it.

I will never let love go, even if I am discarded. I will keep holding fast. I will keep seeking the beautiful and exquisite selves of caring humans. There is nothing that would turn me away.

Only love banishes fear; the fears this precious life has summoned.

Wings

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I want my ashes spread at Cypremort Point, Louisiana. To me it is a place that I have loved visiting all of my life. I continue to make memories there with my family.

As a child, my imagination was continually sparked by my mother’s nature-games, spotting hawks, Kingfishers, cranes, and other birds who inhabit the area and also her fun stories about Bear Country, a sloping area near the Weeks Island turnoff.  When we drove through Bear Country to get to the point, my mother’s voice would always drop a bit in tone and volume and she would tell us to be on the lookout for bears. As an adult, I finally saw a Louisiana Black Bear there and my mother’s evocative tales all became so wonderfully real again.

We had the use of a camp on the point for many years when I was very little until I was maybe ten years old. We would stay weekends out there with family. We would fish, crab, play in the water at the beach and then pack up at the end of that seemingly endless time and go home. I always liked Cypremort Point better than home. I do not remember much of the home on Sixth Street I began life in, but I vividly remember Cypremort Point.

Once I was allowed to steer the boat out in Vermilion Bay. I turned the wheel hard left and we circled dangerously. Once my father “caught” an alligator on his fishing line at Marsh Island and I shrieked in fear that the alligator was going to “get me” as he reeled it closer to the boat. There was an illusive, enormous sheep’s head fish that all of us tried to catch. It lurked under the wharf and we would see it swim slowly in and out of sunlight. There was a day when the sun was full and high that I saw a thunderous strongman lift a sea turtle over his head on a shrimp boat. I was stunned by the exotic creature and the strange man who seemed to appear from a Sinbad the Sailor movie.

This brings to mind the dead winged monkey that I saw in a pile of shucked crab shells.  It was stinking and scary. I saw the wings. My brother didn’t. Its dank and wet hide was encircled by flies.  I looked closely for evidence of breath but there was none. It was my first up close experience with death.

I held onto that memory for years, the wonder of it and the improbability. I protected my illusions. I saw a winged monkey like in the Sinbad movies, like in The Wizard of Oz. These creatures were real even though the one I saw was dead, rotting, and half-buried under red-boiled blue point crab shells.

It was more real than anything.

I have told this story to only the closest of friends, or after a long drunk.  It didn’t do much to jeopardize my reputation because my reputation has always been at risk. Saturday at Acadiana Wordlab, I wrote about the dead winged monkey and we all laughed. The truth perhaps spilled out that I had imagined it, that likely the monkey was a pet on a shrimp boat, not Sinbad’s ship, and the pet monkey had died and was discarded.

But I really want to believe, to hold fast to the magic of its existence; the idea that we do not know all that we think we do. I want to believe in the strange and unfamiliar, the existence of secret things of this world. How would you know that this creature does not exist? Our knowledge is fallible, limited. You may say I am a silly woman, and I am. I am in my heart still that silly, shocked and awed girl; a child of wonder. And I reside in that one, and perhaps many other, glorious illusions.