Louisiana Aesthetic (Reggie Michael Rodrigue) has kindly published a poem I wrote after the Acadiana Wordlab session he led. Thank you, Reggie for your magnanimous words.

louisianaesthetic

LUBA ZYGAREWICZ Petrified Time 12 Years of My Life Folded and Neatly Stacked

LUBA ZYGAREWICZ, “Petrified Time: 12 Years of My Life, Folded and Neatly Stacked,” sculpture/stacked dryer lint, tags and rope

Last month I hosted a meeting of the Acadiana Wordlab thanks to the graciousness of the lab’s founder Jonathan Penton who also publishes the literary journal “Unlikely Stories.” During the lab, I exposed the attendants to a wide variety of my favorite contemporary works by artists from Louisiana and discussed the merits and relevance of them and their works.

It was great pleasure, and I personally got a lot out of the lab due to the quality and variety of ekphrastic responses I received from the attendants. If you’re wondering what an ekphrastic response is, you’re not alone. I had no idea what one was until I hosted the lab.  Once I found out what one is, I felt a little stupid. It’s what I do here all the time –…

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Summer Day, 1984

fishframe

I am pregnant; fifteen years old. I am fishing with my father. The bayou is a darkened mirror. Father stands in the slow-dancing boat and draws back effortlessly to cast the line. Water silvers; streams like snakes. There are snakes, too, black ones that appear plastic and fluid: shadows of water.  There is a faint stream of motor oil—a finger-trace in the water which rings a floating Budweiser can. Cattle egrets in breeding plumage float above the bank. Father pulls in a sun perch. Its iridescent tail fans the light. We cast again, again in silence.

After my son was born my daddy told me he made a wish for me as he rolled his wrist to reach the spot where the mysteries of fish exist:

To not regret, to hold to the promises I make.

Wings

Image

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.

VOICES IN WINTER—A BEAUTIFUL NIGHT

MATT

Matthew Hardin Hofferek reading at the Voices Seasonal Reading Series, Feb. 16th, 2013

[Photo courtesy of Tracy Board]

So many people have done extraordinary things for me all of my life that the only way I could ever pay them back is by giving back to others, in ways within my power and ability. It is my joyful duty. That is why we started the Voices Seasonal Reading Series.

The first ever featured writer for Voices was Patrice Melnick, a dynamic, loving and gifted woman who shares her many talents with the communities within Acadiana and beyond.  As a personal friend and colleague she has taught me well how to grow joy within myself and share it with others. She has taught me to be brave in so many ways.

Patrice was my inspiration for planning the first Voices in Winter event at Carpe Diem Gelato – Espresso Bar in Lafayette, LA at the beginning of 2012. It was a great success and we have had six very successful events since. We are already booked through 2013 and I am putting out feelers for 2014.

I met Matthew Hofferek at a Starbucks drive through window. His personable manner, humor and keen wit engaged me and we hit it off immediately. On our second meeting at the drive through, he told me he was a writer. I was so happy he was upfront about it.  I said I was too, and we exchanged information. When he shared a few short stories that he had written, I was immediately struck by the power of his voice, his unflinching honesty and the gracefulness of his language. We have become great friends, lifetime friends, I hope, with all my heart.

I offered to him to read at Voices and he did so last night. It was his first reading and he was nervous. My friend Jonathan and I took him to Pamplona and we each had a good, strong drink of our choosing and toasted THE WORD. By happenstance, we met two other writers who are moonlighting as bartenders. It was great synchronicity, a force that flowed through the entire evening.

Joining Matthew at the Voices in Winter event was internationally-acclaimed poet and collage artist, Camille Martin. We were very lucky and honored to have Camille read for the series and she was enlightening, brilliant and moved the audience with her stunning work. Camille is from Lafayette and has lived in Louisiana for many years but finds her home in Toronto now. She was in town visiting family. We were lucky to be found by her and hope for deepening connections with her in the future.

I was so proud of Matthew. My dear friend affected us, his audience, with a deeply moving story, “All Wars End Alone” that was written with great “honesty and a little invention.” This young man served our country and is home. His somber and difficult tale was so well-written, so well-crafted and affecting that it brought tears to my eyes to hear him read it, even though I had read it before last night.

Whatever burdens we carry, there are miracles that can lift them from our hearts. I was so honored to have Camille and Matthew read and both of them dedicated their readings to loved ones. The emotion was palpable and my prayer is that by sharing their words they were lifted up, as we all were.

Thank you, Matthew and Camille for trusting us.

Thank you to Carpe Diem, Silvia, Erik and their staff, and to all our guests. To Matthew and Camille, I sincerely say thank you for your bravery, dedication to your respective arts and for the honor to present you to the community of Acadiana.

Embellishments

I am cold in the cathedral. The cold reminds my bones of all the places they have been broken: the metatarsals, the clavicle and the scapulae. I sit on the worn wooden pew.  The saints glower. There is a fountain of colored light on the marble. Beneath the floor, near the gold-shimmer altar, dead bishops are buried.  A stone will keep a secret. A gray woman prays on her knees. Her head is a pendulum. She confesses daily, an hour each time, telling sins that she could not possibly commit. What was the name of the old priest who gave Last Rites? He took a pill bottle from the nightstand and slipped it with his rosary into a red felt bag.  He left embellishments of forgiveness on the thin skin of my father’s brow.  A priest has the power to forgive as God forgives, with his very own breath. The late day alights on Mary’s flesh and illuminates her blue wimple.

The day my father died, the sitter answered the phone flatly: “He’s dead.” Again, again I imagine his dissipating pulse, his cheek bluing. Here in the cathedral, I utter “father, father” without answer.

The Path to Peace

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I have come to a great point in my life and this blog post is an expression of something wonderful and empowering that has transpired in my life.

Recently I had an altercation with someone that I considered a friend for close to 15 years. I respected this person and felt they were very talented, dear, and an ally. We clashed, and the falling out escalated and spiraled down into something very ugly and we mutually decided to part ways.

In this post I aim to be honest and reflective. I have had to move away from  people, as we all have had to do at some point in our lives, because there was a critical impasse and we no longer benefited from an “in-contact” relationship. I say “in-contact” because really the relationship does not end, it continues, in some way, even as one soul moves away from another.

There is still a connection in the continuum.

Up front, I am easy-going, loving and tolerant. I am faithful and strong. I am continually seeking the Highest Good in life and I have sometimes attained it, and sometimes have not; but I reach, I strive and I leave my heart open to care always.

In my dealings with some people it has occurred to me that when I become firm, focused and forthright, to them I have seemingly become mean. I don’t play games. I don’t like them and I try my utmost to not engage in them. I try not to get into brawls. I need for my own serenity to not necessarily “keep the peace” but to maintain my own peace.

I have a friend with whom I have been friends with since Mardi Gras 1986. We have a great and blessed friendship. She is a Wise Woman, a mentor, a confidant and a chosen mother-figure in my life.  She is a remarkable human who lives with an open spirit and open heart. She has taught me much and I love her.

This past week I was so stressed. The falling out was so unpleasant and stressful. Sunday night I started experiencing terrible emotions that kept me from getting sleep. I took a hot bath at 2 am by candlelight and while soaking I thought of my D., my friend who always has such blessed wisdom for me.

I know what D. would have said to me if we talked by phone on that early morning. She would have said: LIFT THIS PERSON UP IN PRAYER. So, I did. I stared into the candle and mustered a prayer, a blessing for the person who had set themselves in opposition to me.

When I got into bed, I lay my head on my pillow and although I was still shaking, I heard a soft, still voice telling me to “REST IN LOVE, REST IN LOVE.” So, I did. I let myself fall into the invisible, loving arms of all the people who care for me and in the arms of the loving God  in which I believe. I slept and woke the next morning with a calm that was truly holy, complete and real.

So, that is what I want to put “out there” in the Universe. I want to put out LOVE and the gift of forgiveness for anyone who has set themselves in opposition to me. I want to embrace them and give them a gift of relinquishment and peace, even if we are not “in-contact.” We have a choice to forgive and let go, and I choose to do that.

A Circle Completes

In early December of 2000, Miriam died unexpectedly and tragically. Miriam had epilepsy and asphyxiated in her sleep due to a seizure. Miriam’s death affected me greatly, but more importantly, her life affected me greatly. She was a true love, a great and magnanimous friend, and a light in the life of everyone who knew her. I am very grateful for all of the lessons she taught me—the most important was: “To have a friend you must be a friend.”

Rest in peace, my dearest.

Saturday night at the Midwinter Poetry Night event in New Iberia, Mrs. Gara, Miriam’s mother, gave me a copy of the Spring 1989 issue of The Southwestern Review, which is the literary journal of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, the university from which I received my B.A in English. This issue contains the very first poems of mine that were ever published, “The Nightmare” and “Raven.” Mrs. Gara also gave me a framed poem of her own making which was written after we shared a conversation about poetry. Mrs. Gara felt compelled and inspired to read her own poem at the Open Mic at the event. She was received enthusiastically and it made me very happy.

A circle completes.

For many years, the yearning was there for me to write but I was not disciplined or attuned to the voice as deeply as I am now. There is a story there. There is a story there. Much of my creative writing was in the form of letters that I would send to friends. Miriam was the person I wrote to most frequently. I do not have these letters. I wish I did. Miriam teased me that she had filed these letters away and would bring them out to blackmail me or show my children. It was a joke, really, but knowing Miriam she would have done so for a laugh. Miriam always pushed me to write creatively and to develop as a writer. She was a beacon for me in life, and continues to light my path since her passing.

Miriam was a bridesmaid at my wedding in 1989. The next day she moved to New Orleans. She loved the city. She lived there until her death. Miriam was a friend who knew my husband and me very well. She knew my husband before I did and they carried on like great friends throughout our time together. Dean and I spent so many wonderful weekends at her apartment in the French Quarter. She made the city her own and loved to welcome friends to her apartment so that they could enjoy the city as well.

Good times. Good times.

I am very grateful that Miriam got to know my daughter. Miriam loved children but didn’t want her own. She loved her nieces and nephews and her friends’ children. She treated my girl like a niece and friend of her own. My girl loved her, although she does not have very many memories now, because she was so young when Miriam died.

Miriam loved the arts and had a Master’s Degree in Arts Administration. At the time of her death, she was working for the New Orleans Arts Council and living as she dreamed. She was one of the most caring, open, determined, self-reliant, fun and funny friends I ever had. She always encouraged my writing and I am indebted to her for believing in me and my talent. I know she is with me. I know she is with me. Thank you, Miriam, for everything.

The Nightmare

Sun burns
its last crimson
flash, over broken
angles of this room.
Spits patterns
through wounded curtains,
spells my name
in a language
I cannot speak.

How can I push back
this rush of dream,
growing like grasses
under water?
Or let linger
the moving shadow
of rib-bone
and brown skull
that fills this
hollow space?

Raven

A cry crackles
from the raven’s
hook of mouth.
Its raspy babble falls
from hollow boughs
dry as forgotten bone.

Hooked nail, feather and flesh.

Ravens pose
in rusty leaves, crisp
strips of buckling leather,
and thicken the sky
with black, blue rhythms
of glossed wing.

First published in The Southwestern Review, Spring 1989

A lovely gift to give yourself and those you love…

My debut collection of poetry, Eating the Heart First, published by Press 53 as a Tom Lombardo selection, is now available.

Click on the image to purchase directly from Press 53′s web site.

Also available on Amazon (may not arrive before Christmas)

For more information, or to purchase a signed copy, contact me via the email address below:

Clare L. Martin: martin.clarel@gmail.com

THANK YOU

Praise for Eating the Heart First

“Clare L. Martin is a fine young poet whose work is dark and lovely and full of a deep organic pulse. Like the landscape of her beloved Louisiana, her work is alive with mystery. You could swim in this hot water, but there are things down inside its darkness that might pull you away forever. It is an exquisite drowning.”

— Luis Alberto Urrea, author of Queen of America
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“In her first collection, Martin deals with many common themes – motherhood, death, nature – but does so with an unsettling grace. There is an honesty and an understated tone that give each piece the right mix of tension and release. Many of the poems are exceptionally well wrought, describing loss and hope, anger and want. The most powerful piece in the collection has to be “Bread Making.” The seething anger, mixed with a dash of christian mythos, combined with flour, and sweat, all bake together into the perfect loaf.

Although described as a Louisiana poet, Martin will appeal to readers way beyond the dankness of the bayou.”

R L Raymond  rlraymond.blogspot.com
Blog about the writing and poetry of R L Raymond
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“Clare L. Martin pulls off an impressive balancing act in her debut book of poems Eating the Heart First. In this collection, divided into three sections, she manages trust of her intuitive powers while she tats her findings onto poems built with technical expertise. She is a believer of dreams, and the whole of the work can be read as an oneiric treatise guided by the powers she believes in: the power of memory, the power of water, the power of moons, the powers of longing, and the power of love. In one of the late poems a crow in a dream asks, ‘Let me be a whorl of darkness— / Let me be a fist in the sun.’ All of the poems in this collection have the impact of that crow’s call and of the trope it creates. Gradually the poems reveal richly textured revelations of a heart tied to human experience in that ‘dream we cannot know completely.’ And, while we may not ever know the dream completely, Ms. Martin hands us a guidebook to dreams and to the art that uses dream and dreaming as the scaffolding from which to make something beautiful, and useful, and mysterious all at the same time.”

— Darrell Bourque, former Poet Laureate of Louisiana and author of In Ordinary Light, New and Selected Poems

What Would Jesus Do?

How can anyone claim to be a Christian and still hold racist, homophobic, sexist or otherwise discriminatory beliefs?

I am a deeply spiritual woman who does not follow any organized religion but I was raised Catholic and have come and gone into their churches since birth. The God I pray to is a loving God. The God I pray to in my actions and words is the source of life, the force of good in the entire universe. I think of God as the creator and the source of all things in the continuance of life in this world and beyond.

A dear, wise friend tells me that there is a blessing in everything. Even the things that we think are holding us back, or even harming us in some way—there is a blessing, a lesson, a trial that will purify us and lead us to deeper understanding.

It is a sad state of affairs that many people who claim to be religious hold racist, homophobic, sexist and otherwise derogatory views and beliefs in the name of God—no matter what religion they subscribe to. I know the various texts may hold some language that supports these beliefs but there is also language that supports slavery, punishment by death, etc. Ideas have been hijacked to serve an agenda, a one-sided view used to control and to dominate others.

There is a pick-and-choose going on with quotes from the bible. I will not delve into the specific texts that are quoted in defense of anti-homosexual attitudes or racist and sexist ones but they are there. I don’t believe they are in the words of Jesus. When asked what the most important lesson was that Jesus would impart to his followers, he said: “Love thy neighbor as thy self.”  That should end the discrimination.

I live in the Deep South. I am surrounded by people who do not believe as I do that two people who love each other are endowed with the right to marry each other. I am surrounded by people who are not afraid to voice their beliefs that a black man should not be president, and who express their utter hatred for our current president veiled in political shim-sham language, and sometimes not.

I am confident enough in myself and in the correctness of my beliefs that I do not tolerate hate. I am fervent enough in my belief in an all-loving, good God that I do not and will not allow this hate and prejudice to stand in my personal relationships and my public persona’s expressions and attitudes.

So, think for a moment, of the truths in your own beliefs. What will survive and what will wither away? Were you instilled with a prejudice against others different from you in your upbringing? Has there been a discovery of real, living truths that have challenged your prejudices? Are you a lazy human, living in cruise-control and not accepting the challenge by our society to accept diversity and acknowledge the human rights we are endowed with by a loving and all-encompassing God?