One child in a grave and one in my arms.

Yesterday I visited Adam’s grave. I parked my car, turned the engine off, and spotted the white angel that serves as his marker. When he was buried, I remember how concerned my mother was about the upkeep of the grave. I told her it didn’t matter to me; that who Adam was as a human being was not in that grave.  At the time, I did not even think I would visit his grave, but would honor his memory in my heart. But, over the past ten years I have returned many times, parked my car and trained my eye on that white angel.

I knew my mother had acquired that angel on her own, that it wasn’t part of the pre-need package deal that we set up with the funereal home years before his death. After I left the graveyard, I called my mother and asked her where she got the angel. She thought for a few minutes and told me that she had gone to Chastant Brother’s Feed Store off of Pinhook Road in Lafayette and purchased it. It is a concrete statue, small, of a cherub. My mother told me that she bought white enamel paint and painted it herself on the back patio of her house. I told her thank you for doing that because it serves a great purpose. My eyes are drawn directly to it and it is a simple yet beautiful reminder of Adam’s innocence.

Later in the day, I was reading in my bedroom.  My daughter came in and asked me for a backrub. She is eighteen and has her first job. She has been working very hard and she really feels it in her back. I gave her a backrub and we shared a sweet moment together. She thanked me and hugged me for a long time. I rested my hand on her head, kissed her and told her how incredible she is. The thought came to me that I had one child in a grave and one in my arms. This thought caused a mixture of deep gratitude and sadness and resonant longing that permeated the rest of my day.  But today, I am soaring. I have an angel in the afterlife and an angel here on Earth.

Peace.

Out of sorrow beautiful things may come.

In June, I will lead a poetry project through the Recovery Academy* with women clients of Acadiana Outreach. What I hope to achieve in the nine sessions is to give participants, through  structured, weekly creative writing workshops, tools to strengthen their ability to name thoughts and emotions and convey them artistically, and poem-making skills which may lead to positive breakthroughs and life-happenings by tapping into the resilience of the creative mind.

By offering skill-building creative writing exercises and prompts, sharing empowering literary works, and allowing for free-writing time, I hope to inspire participants to be able to create something beautiful, honest and uniquely their own through the craft of poetry. By creating a safe and nurturing atmosphere in our group sessions, I hope the participants will have the assurance to reach into their creative minds to find deeper self-awareness, keys to success, and possibly true healing.

In my own personal experience, creative writing has led me out of despair, allowed me to express joy and love in sensory, beautiful language, and come to a place where I feel honored to be me. It is my hope that participants will find their “true voices” via new creative skills that may give rise to creative problem-solving in circumstances they face in their everyday lives.

Art is vital and necessary, and creative acts are transformative. We can transform. We can rise above and live in hope. The positive effects of writing our very lives can lead one out of places of darkness. I believe that through creative writing, through the process of discovery and poetic documentation, we can find our way, recover and thrive.

“If you do not breathe through writing, if you do not cry out in writing, or sing in writing, then don’t write, because our culture has no use for it.” —Anais Nin

I am committing to this project enthusiastically to be able to interact with these women, lead them to new awareness and appreciation for poetry as a vital tool of self-expression. I am committed to the work, and have great hope for this project.

*Recovery Academy 2014 will present local poet Clare L. Martin in a series of workshops focusing on poetry as a transformative process culminating in a reading at Theatre 810, the site of “Off the Streets.” The workshops will be from 7 to 9 pm, at the Outreach facility June 2; June 9; June 16; June 23; June 30 and July 7; July 14; and July 21, all in 2014. The project will conclude with a public reading by the client-poets at Theatre 810 on July 28, 2014 hosted by Clare herself at 7 pm concluding at 9 pm.

Love poem.

THE EMBALMER’S WIFE

You’ve never revealed
your dreams but I guess

the dreamscape:
faces like cold candles,

water-stone eyes,
sewn mouths—viscera.

She was a weaver who imparted
wisdom to her daughters.

She was devout.

Cherish my breast
and the music

of our breathing.
Heartbeat-cadences lilt

in the hours we share.
I cling to you gratefully.

How you touch me with need,
surrendering to life.

First appeared in  Melusine, Spring/Summer  2012

A&E LOVE Poetry Night 
Friday, February 14th, 2014
6 pm – til
Featuring:
Bonny McDonald and Clare L. Martin
hosted by Margaret Gibson Simon
A&E Gallery
335 W St Peter St, New Iberia, LA 70560

Skipping Stones

Lake Stones

I have seen a stone, a flat and colorful lake pebble, skipped seven times on the surface of a body of water. That is the measure of how well we skip stones, by how many skips you can get.  A man leaned in, his body angled to the lake, and with a quick and sharp swing and flick he let loose the stone. His arm followed through to the sky and I fell in love with him then, for his skill and patience. For his determination to make that smooth rock glide, touch and rise, glide, touch and rise upon the water.

He is good enough now, but once I saw him throw the cat across the room because it scratched him. (I cannot be pressed to testify but I needed to tell someone).  If he could have earned a living from skipping stones maybe he would be happy. If he had a loving father who had skipped stones with him, well maybe then, too, he would be happy. I cannot say what I feel for him: partly because I do not know and partly because I will not tell.

This blue pebble from Lake MacDonald in Glacier National Park, MT has kept me well and I have kept it well for a dozen years. I press it hard between my forefinger and thumb and it holds back the tears. But sometimes when I hold it, the tears come forcefully and I can only grip the pebble hard. My fingernails cut through the flesh of my palm.

Acadiana Wordlab product 2-1-14
© 2014 CLM

Need

I saw a photo. A man casually reclined at the prow of a small sailboat in a harbor on the Nile. The man’s easy-way was obvious. His contentment was too. His sins were not apparent. He looked uneven, as though one leg was longer than the other or that a shoulder was dislocated. But it was the slanting light of Egypt and he was in white; his shape almost blinding, like an apparition shimmering against the thin blue paint of the boat.

I saw in this photo the seventeen year old boy who took it all away from me.

After we smoked the joint, he begged to put it in. Just let me feel the softness, the wetness…
I pretended I was in another room, a room with no mirror to realize I was merely the highway he traveled. The half-forced insertion, the bit of blood—what was the spell he cast? It caused me to melt into him like softened wax.

I saw another photo. The man was with a woman. She was beautiful and the sunlight made her more so. They were at Stonehenge. The woman and the man wore colorful sweaters that seemed well-made and warm. They smiled brightly. I could only think: How thick are his memories and do they penetrate bone?

There was another photo from Istanbul, but I do not want to remember it.

I bore the death of a child. I bore the death of a child. How many years of have I lived in hope for the one day to execute my hate? But all the fires I set are doused and forgotten. My hate has worn to a pebble; I have thumbed it so much.

The light in this room is like tea or rust. The scent of patchouli and orange cloys. The man in the colorful sweater, smiling with all the energy of a sun, persists even with my eyes closed.

I step into the bath. Hot water reddens my skin. I mouth the word ‘release’ and cry without sound. I swallow the moon so it will never rise again.

CLM
1/23/14

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

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.

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.