Watching the Wheels

 

I forgot who I was. I knew the age spot on my left cheek. I knew the sagging breasts and the overlapping belly. I knew my feet; my unusually small toes. I knew my eyes and what they had seen. I knew my lips, now shaded in regal purple. I knew my place in the bed next to the dog, and further away, my husband. I knew him; his wants and needs. I knew the losses: friendships, a friend forever, my father, son and now, almost seven months ago, my mother. I knew something of my values, but not as clearly: my own value. I had forgotten the tools of my fingers; except to inconsistently pleasure myself, wash my face, shave the stubble here and there, or grip a steering wheel. I knew my daughter; but already this knowing is an ocean away. I knew the reason I withdrew from an outside life that filled others more than myself. I knew the shame of saying one thing and doing another. But I had forgotten myself.

I know that in the past six months I put words on paper. I know that as soon as those words were written I forgot them. I forgot the thrill too, and felt only dislocation.  I forgot the feel of words in my mouth, as though my tongue had been numbed for surgery. I forgot the clicking taps on a keyboard except for inane mumblings; wretched gloats and ambiguous streams of babble. But back to dislocation: my writing setting has been unsettled. There are two sofas in this room. One does not belong here. Things are unplugged that should be plugged in. There are china cups wrapped in newspaper in boxes that haven’t been unpacked. One curtain hangs and another needs to be hung up. Where is my grounding? Files and files and no skeleton for them. Unopened mail. Books unread. I became dislocated in the aftermath of death. I do remember the tenderest parts of me and the kisses they received.

Before I progress, I need to familiarize myself with myself. Yesterday, I wanted to disappear. I wanted to drive on a road I’d never traveled and tell no one if I was going north, south, east or west. Instead I went to a bakery and bought my favorite dessert. My husband ate half and my daughter the other.  The yearning I have is to be left alone. JUST LEAVE ME THE FUCK ALONE.  That has been my mantra, but I do want to engage. Those closest to me understand. I have enough time. I just need awareness of the ever-presence of the opportunity of solitude and the will to delineate myself into its holy grasp.

Drained. I have been drained. Lately, I have related an adage that came to me: “If your own kitchen is on fire and your neighbor’s house is burning, put out the fire in your kitchen and then bring water to your neighbor.”  This is how I must live my life, for now, until the fire is put out, until the long task list is accomplished. I do not feel guilt for saying no. I do not feel remorse for expressing wrath when only wrath, justified, would accomplish the necessary. I had forgotten wrath. Wrath can be useful. I accept my own blamelessness.

God help those who elicit my wrath. It is life-stopping in a metaphorical way; and profoundly affecting. Good, good, good. Now you know. Now you will pay attention and show me respect. Wrath: a wolf in defense and defiance for survival. It is necessary for the continuation of my living with no ill intent at all.

I talked to a friend today. It was nice. She offered refuge and calm water. I cannot do for others outside my closest family and my core friendships. Loss. We have lost so much and I am in transition. Part of what I forgot or tried to unburden myself from was writing; what it had come to mean for me.  But what it meant, or what it was starting to represent for me was obligation and burden. Yes, there is a burden to carry as a writer and almost always I carry that with joy, but the elements of operating in a society of writers was what I felt trapped by. I came to a conclusion to only write when I feel like it and to not submit my work to journals anymore unless I am solicited to do so. It is not because I feel I have reached a level of status that it is beneath me; it’s just that I am not hungry.  I do not have the time to write, submit, write, submit, etc. I think of the John Lennon song’s “Watching the Wheels” because it expresses how I feel about my career as a writer.

What is it about writing that brings me joy? I am no longer playing the game. I am vitally more interested in growing my family, as we have lost so many of our blood and kin. If I can solidify my core family, blood or not, I will find that inner resolve to write something worthy and authentic. I will write words with blood-worth, with the meaning and impact that has always been my fiercest intention.

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I got the music in me.

Phoenix

When my son died ten years ago, I dedicated myself to The Writing Life. When my dad died seven years ago, I began the manuscript that became Eating the Heart First. I am directed now to express music, because it has been my longest love; and one from which I was parted, on the deep level I consciously and unconsciously sought.

My path of healing in this grief journey, after my mother’s passing, is to follow the music.

My mother and father sang to my brother and me all of our lives. Singing was a happy time with us as a family. I believe I was singing before I knew words.

My mother worked for many years at Lafayette Drug Company which was also a record store. She had quite the collection. I spent all of my allowance on records. I played them constantly. I would set the phonograph to continually play one side of a record while I slept, by swinging that arm out, or would stack as many records as could be held on the turntable, depending on the stereo I had at the time. I went through quite a few.

Once, my dad found a small electric organ in the trash and brought it home. It still worked. I tried to teach myself songs from a songbook my mother had kept from her childhood. Any time I was near a piano, I asked to play it, even though I had no knowledge of it other than to strike the keys and discover a melody that was summoned from my heart into my mouth. I would la la la or make up lyrics and sing out, likely annoying everyone in the house. My nanny, our Aunt Dee Dee, gave me a harmonica one year for Christmas. She put it in a toothpaste box inside a large cardboard box. I was ecstatic when I figured out it wasn’t toothpaste! I spent many hours of my childhood here at my grandparents’ home swinging and singing my own made-up songs under the oak tree. These are some of my most cherished memories of early life.

I was given 3 guitars as presents growing up. One got broken, one I still have, and another I traded for an acoustic I still own, too. I played devotedly for about four years, from age seventeen to twenty one and then let it go—

Music is an integral part of my daily life, whether it is for enjoyment, inspiration, or if it helps to facilitate mediation and sleep. In my book of poetry, there are poems written after dreams of playing instruments (in the dreams only), and the music that was produced in those dreams was unlike anything I have ever heard. Astonishingly beautiful and complex music. The palpable longing in the poems “Her Body Desires the Instrument” and “What I Long for In Dreams,” collected in Eating the Heart First, is the ache of necessity to be able to create the music in me. I can barely do this at this point, after not playing for nearly 25 years. I have forgiven myself and let go of the guilt and heartache produced from staring at my guitars for decades, as though playing them would never be a part of my life again.

I made a choice just a month or so ago to buy a new guitar and it was one of the best decisions of my life. If I had not bought it, I would either be in a mental hospital or dead, and that is not an exaggeration. It has been a salve to my soul and I am caring for it as an extension of myself, a necessity to my living being.

I identify as a creative. No other labels will suffice. A plus of being a poet, calling myself that for ten years, is that I have an edge with lyrics and an ease of process in creating them. Now to explore the instrument of my choosing, which for now is the guitar. Who knows where it will lead, but all I care about is this healthy, healing outlet, creative satisfaction and joyful pleasure. My family seems to be enjoying it and I have their support and respect.

My own excitement is almost excruciating. I am having a blast!  When I see friends or meet new people, I ask them to give me the inside of their wrist, so I can gently rub my callused fingertips on that spot. Call me crazy, but watch out—I might be a one-hit wonder. I might get paid royalties for a song I write. I actually was in communications tonight with a person who has a connection to Nashville recording businesses. Not ready for that but everything worthy starts with a holy dream and that is how I see this new direction, this new exploration. This guitar costs me nothing but the intial price (not very much) and the time, care and attention I give to playing.  I have found that playing cycles healing energy and recycles negative energy into a positive.

Maybe I will only share my music with with my closest family and friends, but I am doing it and loving it at a time when I could have completely fallen apart.  It is also leaving a positive impression on our daughter–the lesson that you can dream and you can commit to learn something new every day of your life.

And thank God for that.

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

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

Eating the Heart First

My debut collection of poetry, Eating the Heart Firstpublished by Press 53  is available. Click on the image to purchase directly from Press 53′s web site. Available via Barnes & Noble andAmazonFor more information, or to purchase a signed copy, contact me via the email address below:

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

***

An excerpt from a review by Stacia Fleegal for Blood Lotus: A Journal of Online Literature:

“Martin is a fearless poet who opens her collection with a poem called “Naked.” She tells us she “winc[es] at self-recognition”—but wincing isn’t running, isn’t hiding from the mirror. In “I Have Learned to Hold My Tongue” a few pages later, silence isn’t forever, but “Not yet, not yet.” Words must gestate, be nourished in wombs until viable.

Knowing when to let words out becomes knowing how hard to love, and the knowledge, anthropologists might conclude, comes from women. Perhaps it’s one woman who is many women: “The woman naked before the mirror,” “the woman you married,” “Bone Woman,” “Girl Running with Horses,” “Garbage Woman,” “wood-boned mother,” “the earth, your other mother”…there are more. Martin tells us what women know, and looks to women in dreams, in art, and in memory for answers. Many of her poems even read like spells—the knowledge is “conjured,” “illuminates” and “enlightens.” Love letters are burned and smoke is “sacrificial.” Ashes are offered “to the thunder and wind.” Ceremoniously, Martin honors lives—her father’s, her infant son’s—she couldn’t herself sustain anywhere else but in the altar-tombs of her poems.

“What are these words / but weapons of grief?” she asks rhetorically in “Abandoned.”

And such weapons as we find in her book are exquisitely rendered.

***

“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

***

“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

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

4/25/13 “Eating the Heart First Day” on Amazon!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThursday, April 25th, we celebrate “Eating the Heart First Day” on Amazon! Go to Amazon.com, and put “Eating the Heart First” in the search bar or click here.  Buy a copy for yourself or a friend, or two for both of you. We want to make a great showing; but more importantly, we want to share this book that we sincerely believe in. Thank you!!

These keen, visceral and haunting poems were written for human beings. Their creator, Clare L. Martin, has expressed deeply-felt and deeply-known human experiences through them. We want you to read Eating the Heart First because it was written for you. The sample poem, “Naked,” at the bottom of this post is the opening poem of the collection.

Just the title of this collection, Eating the Heart First, gives the reader a hint of what can be found within its pages: darkly powerful poems about love, dreams, and the swamps of Martin’s native Louisiana. These poems will undoubtedly leave a lasting mark on the reader.

Eating the Heart First was published October 2012 by Press 53. Poems from this collection have appeared in Avatar Review, Blue Fifth Review, Literary Mama, Louisiana Literature, and more. Martin’s work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, Dzanc Books’ Best of the Web, Best New Poets, and Sundress Publication’s Best of the Net.

“Clare L. Martin is a fine young poet whose work is dark and lovely and full of a deep organic pulse,” says Luis Alberto Urrea, author of Queen of America. “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.”

More praise comes from Darrell Bourque, former Poet Laureate of Louisiana and author of In Ordinary Light, New and Selected Poems and Megan’s Guitar And Other Poems from Acadie, who says, “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.”

Clare is a lifelong resident of Louisiana, a graduate of University of Louisiana at Lafayette, a member of the Festival of Words Cultural Arts Collective and a Teaching Artist through the Acadiana Center for the Arts. Martin founded and directs the Voices Seasonal Reading Series in Lafayette, LA, which features new and established Louisiana and regional writers.

Eating the Heart First
Poetry by Clare L. Martin
Publication date: October 1, 2012
ISBN: 978-1-935708-66-7
Size: 8.5 x 5.5 inches, 90 pages
Price: US $12.95

NAKED

I am the woman
naked before the mirror.
I am the haunted woman
wincing at self-recognition.

I know this muscle that beats
hard in my chest
is calloused,
and grows stranger
as I know it.

I slave in the garden,
lopping mad roses,
shredding their iron tongues—
At midnight I soak
my bridal veil with gasoline
and set it afire. I dance around,
around and curse you ceremoniously.

I do not reach for you in sleep.
I keep my dream secret.
What remains is sexless, loveless.
I cannot give you what I do not have.

In a morning tryst,
my lover tells me fables of skin
and I crave you—

Clare L. Martin, Eating the Heart First (Press 53, 2012)

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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