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

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.

Sacred Tears

So many struggles in recent months that I will not reiterate here, but the resulting choice made at my wit’s end was to go on a retreat at Casita Azul, in Grand Coteau a couple of Saturdays ago. My greatest need was silence and a soft place to hold me as I was worn out from deep, constant grief.

When I go to the Casita, which has been a place of refuge for many years now, I usually don’t set rules for myself, except that I will do as I please and only as I please. Of course my pleasure is in the self-nurture and sacred alone time and not to trash the place! This time I did set one rule for myself: No music with lyrics. I wanted all the words in my head to be my own. I only listened to ambient music or instrumental music. I wanted the intangible things in my head and heart to un-spool against lovely, liquid music.

The ten year anniversary of Adam’s death brought out anticipated grief but the intensity was unexpected. Much of my creative work has been an exploration of grief. The whole of Eating the Heart First is saturated with it. But something I learned in the past couple of weeks is that there is no bottom of grief, you can go to extreme depths and keep going.

At the Casita, I realized that no one, no other human, could go to those depths with me. What was revealed to me was that while surrender to my emotions was necessary, and the tears, too, were necessary,  the only way to arise, awaken and literally stay alive was to ask the “Divine Whoever” for healing.

I have cried more in the past year than any year of my adult life. It is a good thing and I attribute it to many incredible positive things that have been happening in my life. I am more fully aware of my feelings and I honor them by not suppressing them.  I had become so hard, and that is not who I want to be. The tears are sacred and I am grateful for them.  I am glad to have broken open. I am opening to allow something great and divine to enter.

Since I have returned home after that short but important stay, I have begun a twice a day meditation practice. I still go to my Bathtub Refuge to thinkcrypraymeditate, but the practice I am doing as a new habit is part of a series of guided meditations that I discovered on this website. There are probably many other sites that offer good ones, but this is where I am for the moment.

I am a private person, believe it or not, but I like to share intimate moments of my own journey as inspiration. We are here to lift, love, and support each other, are we not?
Peace.

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.

Breathe

She pours the lavender bath salts into the tub under hot running water, lights one dark candle and steps out of her dress and panties. The tea is hot but not too hot: cinnamon spice, fragrant orange. The bathwater is piping hot; she steps in with both feet but then does a little dance, one foot up and one foot down. She lowers herself into the bath. Her thighs redden. A joint would be great right now but it has been years since she smoked pot, let alone had any in her possession. Maybe legal pot will come here. She has a medical necessity. Ah, yes. Perfect. The hot water, the tea, the soothing scents, the candlelight—she turns down the volume of her thoughts and arouses a new mind.

©2014 CLM

This piece was generated at the February 8th, 2014 Acadiana Wordlab led by George Marks. More info on Acadiana Wordlab can be found here: www.acadianawordlab.org 

Tommy

This is what people who love each other do.  When you have a husband, he will want to do this to you. Tommy unbuttoned my pants and slid his hand down. We were in my room and he had put a chair up against the door and was sitting in it. I told Tommy no and he pulled a beautiful watch out of thin air. I bought this for you. The watch was gold-faced and had a thick, opaque-plastic white bracelet band. I adored it. You can keep it as long as you don’t tell anyone. I wanted that watch.  It was fashionable and meant for a stylish lady. Tommy kissed me.  He slipped his tongue between my lips. I felt awful and said no. You will like it. I said no. Tommy stood up and moved the chair. Okay. I will come over another time. You keep the watch.  Next time I will bring something else for you. Something you will love. I was confused and worried but excited too. What would he bring me? Tommy left. I showed my mother, who had been visiting a neighbor, the watch. It looked classy on my wrist. I felt important and glamorous. I don’t think I told her any of the details of what Tommy did to me. I was supposed to not tell. But my mother panicked and called Tommy’s mother. She did some detective work and found out that Tommy had stolen the watch from the mother of one of his friends. My mother took away the watch. I was very upset. It was mine. I cried for days because of how the loss of that watch made me, a first grader, feel.  I was angry with my mother for taking away the watch for a long, long time.

©2014 CLM

Ten Years

Adam 2002

March 15th, 2004 will mark ten years since my son Adam’s death.

As I compose this blog post so many thoughts are in my head. His conception, my struggle with motherhood at 15 years old, learning that he was disabled, coming to a place of acceptance of that fact and becoming the mother he needed and that I needed to be to him up to the time of his death.

I am thinking about my mother and I going to Wal-Mart to pick out his burial clothes.  Towards the end of his life, maybe the last two years, he only wore hospital gowns. We had to guess at his size when picking the blue dress shirt and slacks. The clothes were too large and the mortuary staff pinned the clothes to fit his frail and unusually small body.

I have said this before, that writing has saved my life. But even more so, the people in my life have saved my life. My parents did not abandon me. They supported me through my pregnancy and saw me through college. They cared for Adam when I could not and that in itself is a miraculous thing.

Adam had many caregivers from the time of his birth and the four months in Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, through the years he lived at home with us and from the special human-angels on staff at Louisiana Special Education Center in Alexandria, Louisiana. I know that each and every human that came in contact with Adam was guided by the Divine to see his special and loving nature. Adam taught us more than we could have ever taught him. His disability brought us to understanding, humility and tenderness. We are better for having known him. I am better for having been touched by his gracious life.

Ten years of dedication to the Writing Life. Ten years from March 15th, 2004, the day Adam died. My husband and I were on our way to the hospital to attend to him when I got the call from Dr. Buck that Adam’s heart gave out during a procedure to place a medi-port in him to give him antivirals that were maybe going to save his life.

But we knew he was dying. Adam suffered the last several months of his life with pneumonia and septicemia. The last time I saw him he was surrounded by ice because his fever was 108 degrees and rising. My God! How did he live for as long as he did in that horrible state?  A few days after he died, I wrote the poem “Ice to Water.”  That poem was the most difficult thing to conjure, and was written through tears, but it saved me.

My being is attuned to love. Even when I am fighting I love my way through the pain. I have had to fight all of my life for self-love, for personal justice, and for reclamation. Ten years of writing and seeking mastery of myself through the work. Ten years of working through grief, working in grief—astounding and excruciating grief. I have gone so far on the path but I am still here mourning.

I was just lying in bed talking to my husband. We were talking about his work and my work. I have made very little money in all these years, but the small amount I have made has been spent on my family. We struggle but my poetry money has made a difference when we needed a tank of gas, a pizza, or a few groceries. As I was talking, my sorrow arose and I cried. Something new is causing me grief, a new disillusionment as I continue on the path.

I have put out so much energy to write, to get published, and to grow a career in a field that does not reward in the ways we recognize as success in this world. That didn’t really bother me all along. My perspective was that this is a holy vocation and I was honoring my gifts but somewhere along the way I got conned. I began thinking of commerce and exchange—what was I getting in return? This led to a deep sadness and more tears.

In this moment, as I reflect on the passing of my son, as I write about just a few details of his incredible life, I am brought back to the reason I committed myself so deeply to this path. Honor. I wanted to honor Adam’s memory, honor my gifts, and honor the people in my life. That I was able to succeed in gaining an audience was gratifying but the whole and holy purpose was, is and always will be for me is the “creative love” in the act of writing itself. I say creative love because my creativity/love is what brought me this far and I will not lose sight of it again.

There are many projects that I bring my energy to and I will continue to do so, but if these projects become grueling or dissatisfying, I will give them up. It is not a difficult thing for me to do at all. I am not paid for any of it, except the money I might receive from selling a book here and there. I am not concerned with a “career” because what is that? I am concerned with the creative act and the product, not so much my stature anymore. I am concerned with leaving a legacy of love, and my energies will be focused from this point forward on projects and people who are aligned with this mission.

Peace.

Word by Word

I must write it all out, at any cost. Writing is thinking. It is more than living, for it is being conscious of living.  –Anne Morrow Lindberg

Writing saves my life every day. Word by word, I have clawed my way out of myriad hells. Tragedy after tragedy, writing has brought about resolution and clarity for me.  In more peaceful times writing has centered me, shaped my living, brought my self into greater focus and allowed me to express passion. I am writing it all out, at any cost. I do not believe it is sacrifice. It is necessary and vital for my survival. Without it I would become completely undone.

Writers investigate this life. We follow words wherever they lead: to the seaside houses painted blue, to the lioness teaching her cubs to hunt, to the paper cut, to the oceans of grief within us, to the dying star. The greatest gift a writer can give another human is truth. It is a mysterious thing to “get there” via language. I am not sure I can explain it. There is a path, though, and I can point you to it.

You need:

1) a comprehension of a language
2) certain instruments with which to write
3) the will to do the work
4) the curiosity to investigate what is below the surface
5) time

Believe you have something to say and go forth. Your skill will improve and you will perpetuate a habit. Your investigations will produce evidence of what I speak of, that elusive but very real thing: truth.

About process: I start with a blank page and put words on it. That is it. I don’t get bogged down. Sometimes I play creative games. Whatever works. I don’t believe in writer’s block. I don’t give it credence. Write. Do it.  Respect it and respect yourself for doing it.