Embryonic Self

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“Embryonic Self*,” mixed media, by Clare L. Martin

 

 

A tree held in its branches
a womb that carried me.
My strong heart
beat brilliant red
through fluid translucence.
A thick cord
connected me to roots
of the tree
into the blood
of the earth.

Who knew I would experience
such sorrow, such joy
once born into the world?

 

 

 

*Dedicated to Bessie Senette.

Clare L. Martin ©2016

 

 

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Manifesto of the Beloved Self

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I free myself from the religiosity that ruled my psyche during my upbringing and policed my adulthood. I free myself from the repression of my sexuality which has harmed my ability to be intimate with the humans I choose to have relationships with, sexually or not. I free myself from self-denial of my beauty and worth inside and out. I free myself from my lingering judgments of other’s choices about their own identities and bodies. I free myself from lies I told to myself about my own identity and body.

I choose to spiritually and intellectually evolve on a daily basis. I choose to learn something new every day. I choose to give more than I receive. I choose to listen more than I talk. I choose to value silence. I choose to honor the energies within and without me that serve as guides for healthy spirituality. I choose to love my neighbor as myself. I choose to love the broken beloveds. I choose to walk the healing path. I choose to seek clarity. I choose to be a visionary. I choose to not fear death, but not run to it. I choose to believe in God.

I will live a radical life. Where there is hatred, I will sow love. I will never believe all is lost. If it is necessary to part from another human I will try my best to do so in peace. I will do so privately and without spreading negativity through other people. I will think before I speak. I will not allow other people’s anger to become absorbed into my body or psyche. I will form healthy boundaries in all relationships for the protection of all. I will respect the space and time of others. My radical agenda will be formed in spirit and acted out in flesh, spirit, and soul.

I will pray continually in all acts, in each breath. I believe a prayer is as much an act of the body as it is of the mind and heart. I will pray with my body through physical activities that nurture and heal me. I will eat nutritional foods and eat mindfully. I will drink purified water. I will share food with loved ones and when my resources allow I will feed those less fortunate than myself.

I will open my mind to new definitions of love. I will not close the door to love in any form. I will enrich my relationships by giving trust more easily. I will share ideas more freely. I will give support readily. I will also take care of myself and not undervalue my work. I will not waste time.

 

This is the manifesto of the beloved self.

Obsessed with memories…

descent

 

autumn afternoon
glass room led
zeppelin that room
led zeppelin his kiss
love making my jeans
no braces hazel eyes
so many years
youth love years
melting away sunlight
glass love music
guitars love glass
kisses love glass
melting years love
melting music melting
glass sun glass
sex melting music
sun melting glass
sex music sex
glass never ending
love my lust
never died
my breath still
gasping now
coming now
coming
that memory

now

passion
my love
lust
my sacred body
woman
body
hot tears
my love-lust
my heart

ache
bondage
my eternal bondage
promises
etched in dust
a vow, a lock
rusted chains
grit, cut flesh
gritty metal
shards of my lust

his touch erased me
god help me
his touch erased me
his touch erased me

I was never protected
I was never stood up for
god help me

what is left to cherish?

his touch erased me
I was never protected
I was never stood up for

god help me

 

©2016 Clare L. Martin

 

Poem after Angel Bath series by Dennis Paul Williams

Angel Bath

after a mixed media art piece in the Angel Bath series by Dennis Paul Williams

 

The fetal heart stops
in a globe of light
bones work
their way through flesh
flesh-in-water
her cheek depressed
a doctor’s thumbprint
bruises aorta
gray washes into amber
soft, blooded veins—
her mother bears
the crown of thorns.

Desiccation we know
is truth
because the artist
layers each dream
upon the other
the artist dreams
these dreams for us
to show us
what happens
when waters rise
when rains fall.

When mothers suffer
up to their necks
reach for the ceiling
pray for lightning bolt holes
through the roof: a delivery
of a different kind
the ever-ghost children
quickly go to ground—

Beloved, loved,
still-hearted and all.

 

©2016 Clare L. Martin

Waterline

Early in their married life, my grandparents and their young family lost everything in a flood in the country outside of Youngsville. My mother told me the story many times of how my Uncle Ray had been raising rabbits and he placed them caged, high on an armoire inside the house to save them when they evacuated to the area here which was where my great grandparents lived. When my grandfather went back to the property to check on it, he tied a rope to his waist and tied the other end of the rope to a bridge rail so that if he drowned, they would be able to find his body. The rabbits had drowned. That was how high the water was. I wrote a play about it titled “Waterline” after Katrina, for Acting Up (in Acadiana), and it was performed in Lafayette, New Orleans, and New York City as part of a larger work, called “Sustained Winds.”  Here I post the play in its entirety. The character of Toby was changed to a female character played by Kara St. Clair. Bambi DeVille Engeran played the Grandmother. I believe the name of the young character was changed to Leslie. This was what was in my old file.

 

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Photo from CNN

 

Written for Sustained Winds: Before During After Now Later

 

 

Waterline (After)

By Clare L. Martin

 

3.31.06

 

 

Grandma—blind, elderly, and shut-in grandmother of Toby. She lives alone and relies on a family and neighborhood support system to live.  She is unable to evacuate and the hurricane dissolves her network of caregivers.

 

Toby—Teenage grandson unwillingly separated from his parents who were evacuated after the hurricane to unknown parts. Toby sought out his grandmother when his parents were bused out.

 

Scene— The setting is Grandma’s house.  Toby’s brushing his grandmother’s hair.

 

Grandma:  Slower.  Do it real gentle now.  Don’t hit my head when you brush me.

 

Toby: (brushing his grandmother’s long hair) Every time I hear a siren, I jump.

 

Grandma:  There’s a car coming up the driveway.

 

Toby: No there isn’t.

 

Grandma: It will.  Give it time. Since I lost my seeing, I see more clearly.

 

Toby:  Every time a car passes I think it is them—or about them.

 

Grandma:  Give it some time.

 

Toby:  I begged the soldier to put me on that bus. I lost my shoes running for them.  She was wearing red.  Dad had his Saints cap on.

 

Grandma: When your daddy was nine, your grandpa bought him four rabbits to breed.  When those floodwaters were rising, your grandpa tied a rope to his waist and the other end to the bridge over the coulee.  He tied himself like that so we’d find his body if the waters took him.

 

Toby: (stops brushing) Please don’t. Please don’t tell me that story, Grandma.

 

Grandma: The rabbits—your daddy put them in a cage on the top of the armoire, but they still drowned. That’s how high the waterline was.

 

Toby:  Maybe they’re in Texas. The soldier said the bus was going to Houston.  Dad has a friend in Houston.  I can’t remember his name.  They used to work together.  He used to live here.

 

Grandma:  Toby, do you look like your mama or your daddy? I’ve never seen you since you were a baby.

 

Toby: Mom says I look like dad and dad says I look like mom.

 

Grandma: (reaching for Toby) Let me feel you. (Grandma feels Toby’s facial features) You have your mama’s bones and your daddy’s flat nose. That’s the Guidry in you—that nose. I pray you don’t have the Guidry ears.  You could fly with those ears. Fix us something to eat, son.

 

Toby: (opens the powerless refrigerator) I—I don’t know what we have left.

 

Grandma:  What do we have left?

 

Toby: (peering into the refrigerator) I think we have to throw away the chicken. Cheese.

 

Grandma: (bolts up from her sitting position) Fool!  Are you standing with the icebox open?  You don’t stand there with the door open. You’re losing all the cold. Did you forget what was in there since the last time you looked?

 

Toby:  (closes the refrigerator door) There’s no cold left. The cheese is soft, Grandma, and the chicken stinks.

 

Grandma:  Then throw it to the cats in the street. They got two that holler all night. That mess will shut them up.

 

Toby: What can we eat?

 

Grandma: Open a can of something and bring us each a fork. We’ll take turns taking bites.

 

Toby: (opens the cabinet) A can of what?

 

Grandma:  Now, it really doesn’t matter, does it?  Open a can of food. Whatever’s in there. Don’t let the hot out of the cabinet.

 

Toby: What?

 

Grandma: That was a joke, boy.

 

Toby: Oh.

 

Grandma: (rocking herself) I miss TV.  Of course I can’t see people on it but I like the voices.  It is a good thing you made your way to my house, because I can’t stand quiet.  You’re a good boy. Did you find my medicine?

 

Toby:  (looking at bottles) Which ones do you need to take?

 

Grandma: I don’t know because I can’t see the labels.  Tilda next door reads them for me.  You can read, can’t you?  Read one and tell me what it says.

 

Toby: (looking at a bottle) Gly-bu-ride.  Take once a day in the morning.

 

Grandma:  That’s it.  That’s the one for my diabetes.  How many are left?

 

Toby: There’s ten left, Grandma.

 

Grandma:  Toby that’s ten days I’m going to feel good. I take two pills a day.  What’s the other one?

 

Toby: That bottle’s empty. Do you have another bottle in the bathroom?

 

Grandma: No—no matter.  Check the jug of ice in the freezer and see if it’s water.

 

Toby: (Toby hands Grandma a glass of water and then picks up the phone receiver) The phone still doesn’t work.  They should fix that first.

 

Grandma: They usually fix the first things last and the last things you need first.  But I wouldn’t be surprised if that phone rings any minute with your mama calling. Now brush my hair again, softly.  (Toby starts brushing his grandmother’s hair again)

 

Grandma:  You opened that icebox and now that chicken is stinking up the whole house.  Get rid of it, Toby. Give them nasty cats a nasty treat.

 

Toby: (returns from stepping out the back door) Those cats sure love that rotten chicken. They’re tearing it up.

 

Grandma:  Lock the door! Do it now!  There’re strange people on the streets. They’ll take the nothing we have and the nothing we don’t have.  It is a good thing I’m blind because I’d hate to see the hell that’s come.  Lock the doors. Do it quick. And talk low. Don’t light any candles tonight.  I heard them knocking when I was in my bed.  Did you hear it?

 

Toby: (hurriedly locks the door) No.  I didn’t.

 

Grandma:  If you weren’t here I’d be scared out of my wits.  I hear the streets.   Last night I smelled gas and smoke and somebody was knocking.   You didn’t hear the knocking?

 

Toby: No.  I slept hard for the first time since the hurricane. I dreamed I was in my house in my own bed and that music was on in another room. I smelled bacon and coffee. I didn’t wake up for anything, until the heat woke me.  The sun beat in on me from the window and I heard your cane on the wood floor. You were praying.

 

Grandma:  I know my house.  Every morning I walk and say a Rosary. Sometimes I walk and say two.  Depends on how my knees feel. If it’s raining I sit in my rocker and pray. My knees can’t take wet weather.  When I’m finished I kiss the head of that Mary. Tilda brought her in from my garden before the storm. She didn’t want her broke. When the winds hit, I said an hour straight of Hail Marys and I prayed to St. Joseph for my house to stand up and it did.  He was a builder.  He taught Jesus a trade.  What trade you learning?  You should know by now.  Your daddy still doesn’t know what he’s gonna be when he grows up.  He’s never grown up.  He plays at everything. (Grandma turns her face to her grandson) So you listened? Did you pray too?

 

Toby: I prayed the phone would ring this morning.  I prayed that bus would wait for me. I got in line for water and dad was holding my place in the bus line. I got hit and someone took all the bottles.  I ran but it was too late. I prayed I could get to your house without being killed or worse. I’m still praying but I don’t know the right words, I guess.

 

Grandma:  Just talk. Or don’t talk or think.  Listen. See? (Grandma brushes her own hair) Long strokes.   Fifty strokes, and then start all over again.

(Grandma and Toby bow heads and the scene ends)

 

***

Toby leaves Grandma to get help and search for food and water.  He is forced by circumstances to join a group of looters and steals a loaf of bread.  A voice calls out “Stop!” and Toby is shot.  He dies in the street.

 

 

 

Two days have passed since Toby left. Unaware that Toby is dead, Grandma waits in her home, praying the Rosary. She is waiting for Toby to return. Some services are restored.

 

Grandma: (Opens her bottle of pills, feels them with her fingers. Takes one and sips water.) Eight left.  Toby’s been gone two days. What else could he do?  What else could we do? I couldn’t do nothing for him, or myself. He’s a good boy. Toby’s a good boy.   Dear Lord, keep him safe in the streets.  I stayed up all night again to wait for him. (She gets angry) I’m talking to you, Lord! He’s my good boy!

 

(Phone rings.)

 

 

Grandma:  (excitedly speaking on the phone) Oh, Bobby, thank God! Y’all are safe?  Yes. I couldn’t reach you. He’s not here.  He was here but we needed—.  We’ve got water and phone now, no power and no food.  Y’all come soon, please. Good. Hurry. Two days he’s been gone. He’s a good boy, Bobby.  You’ve raised him right. Y’all come soon. He’s my good boy….

 

Grandma hangs up the phone and clutches the Rosary to her heart.  She bows her head.  Prays tearfully. Becomes silent.

 

****

Copyright Clare L. Martin 2016

Happy Birthday, Bessie!

 

Clare and Bessie

 

Bessie has many friends and a great family. She has a heart big enough to tend to each of us as if we are family. She feeds us body and soul, as the grace-filled and gracious woman she is. She shows her love in numerous ways, but I can only speak of how she has shown me love on light-hearted occasions and on occasions when I was despondent and hopeless.

Bessie is lit with God-light. She is a healer-woman, a Light Worker, an Energy Worker and a Minister. She speaks of this comfortably, naturally, and not as though it is some secret esoteric knowledge that only a few possess. She knows that we as children of God are seeking our birthright of holiness and healed spirits. She is an enabler in the best sense. Her work enables us to come to ourselves and God in a more authentic way. She brings joy out of pain, by penetrating the illusions that pain constructs and the very real pains that harm us, with laser beam love. She is a surgeon of the spirit. She is highly skilled and humble. I say these things not to boost her up, but to awaken others that people like her do exist. Bessie is one of the most grounded individuals I have ever met. She is grounded in the mud of Louisiana. The best, blackest, richest mud on Earth. She is true, through and through, and today is her birthday. Hallelujah.

Bessie has a very refined palate. She was raised around excellent, fresh foods. Her father had a steakhouse. She worked in it from a young age. As a home cook, I have never known anyone who gives so much to her cooking and makes it seem so effortless. I have only had the pleasure of eating at her home a handful of times but it has always been exquisite and she never breaks a sweat unless she is beating the hell out of a bunch of celery.

Bessie knows me. She knew me well in a matter of days. That is something that doesn’t happen often. I do appear to be gregarious and transparent, but Bessie knows me on a deep level that I don’t reveal to many people. If I didn’t have this kind of friendship I would be so very poor. I would be hungry. I would be bereft.

Bessie knows how to guard her time and being, and she has taught me how to do the same. I am catching on. This makes for a happier Clare. She is right about that. God put Bessie in my life soon after my mother died when I was transitioning to being an adult orphan—both of my parents are deceased. Bessie never tried to fill my mama’s shoes. She always felt like a friend or sister to me. Her advice came to me with wisdom and authority and that sacred groundedness that struck me as TRUTH. I didn’t question it because it resonated in my soul.

Bessie saved my life. The angels that directed me to her saved me, too. I was going through a medication change and was vulnerable. I had severe pressure on me and my depression was severe–situational depression and clinical chemical depression. I won’t go into the details, but that LOVE LASER BEAM came out of her and it penetrated my deathly gloom and I saw the Truth. Even if my faith in myself was shaken to the core, I had faith in her wisdom at that point and I knew deeply that God was with me. At the time, I couldn’t see how, but an hour later a new life revealed itself to me and the pain was completely gone. Miracle after miracle.

People think a miracle is some extraordinary thing like raising the dead. Metaphorically, yes. In my belief miracles happen all the time, in moments of awakening, in deepening trust, in new friendships, in deepening love, in new births, in all of Creation. I am blessed to have a friend whose joy for life is so pleasing to behold. I am grateful for a friend who kids me about my silliness which I know perturbs her but she still pokes fun at me.  I am grateful for a woman in my life who knows how to assess a situation and handle crises and dinner parties! Bessie oozes class but she can also play in the mud. She is the best kind of friend. For her birthday, I could not think of a single thing that she could possibly need or want other than a bottle of wine, but I hope these words bring her happy tears and the warmth of my love.

I love you, Bessie.

Prompts for Poets and Writers

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Here is the workshop outline I offered yesterday to our local group of Renegade Writers. We meet every other Saturday to write new. We share the responsibility of leading the workshops on a voluntary basis. There is no requirement of attendance. We have an online presence on Facebook where we share ideas germane to writing and creative thought.  Renegade Writers

RENEGADE WRITERS
July 23, 2016
Workshop Presenter
Clare L. Martin

Music/Language


Listen to Ambient music (try Pandora’s Ambient station) without words. Let your eye zigzag around these words or your own wordlist of random words. Write down the words that resonate with you.

sin receive fabric cold heavy slice tender banal gift span taint dismal fountain bashful blend breath blue groan six fever bloom panic hallow veil frost become trill boast float grease tin capsule din air host seek whisper cannon lyrical walls toll patient aid oil hold pallor desperate temperament fecund virtual tantalize crease grind aspirate glean diamond dissonance heavens wicked stars oceans gallop crust obsidian curve rock mist colored tall river hope wood animal bell hunted believe final aspire delicious scare canopy  stairs burst kind liar shunt plastic cantor carrion shine ghost saint skin terrible flash grave fire rust fear rose brunt dire burden gloss perpetrate scandal viscerate denial vibe eat ball

Framework– Here are suggested prompts for you to get your writing started. You can go in your own direction, of course. 
Write the spell to undo a curse.

Write words of forgiveness to a person who wronged you.

Write the earliest memory of a childhood fear.

Write a dreamed nightmare.

Write details of a normal morning or evening, only imagined as extraordinary and not dull in any way.


MORE PROMPTS

Think of a gift you’ve received—It could be intangible; a propensity toward something, a talent, a sensibility. Would you give it away? Why or why not?

Choose an animal. Think of its form, its musculature, its skeleton, its hide, its eyes. Think of its habitat and its habits. Think of its place in mythology and literature. How can you incorporate this animal into a working piece of prose or poetry so that it becomes a metaphor?

Music and language are so intertwined. When we listened to music, did you have images in your mind? Visual images that popped in the visionary sight of your mind? Did you write them down? Try to remember things that you might have missed writing down. List them or check your notes and keep writing.

Discussion

What are your writing habits? How can you improve them by adapting others’ ideas as your own?    

Snake

Chinese snake painting

SNAKE

I am the world’s living river. See my tongue? Flat earth. Skin salt-smooth. Rubberized. I gleam at night. Moon ripples on water. I skim dirt. I skim ankles. Wrap cypress trees, marsh grass. Swallow the fledgling fallen from the nest. Rot, core, bone, spike, venom, blood. –My curse –My body-whip –My bone-coil. Reverberate vertebrae. Flooded, flooding. Scar tissue of man. Scarred eye. Slither, yes. Poison his firstborn. Poison his brood. Turn the earth against him until he is dead in the depths of it all.

©2016 Clare L. Martin

The prompt:

Choose an animal. Think of its form, its musculature, its skeleton, its hide, its eyes. Think of its habitat and its habits. Think of its place in mythology and literature. How can you incorporate this animal into a working piece of prose or poetry so that it becomes a metaphor?

Writing At Rêve Coffee Roasters

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Henri Matisse (1869-1954) Nu au bord de la mer (1909)

 

 

 

 “The unpainted world accepts the shore”

a line from Wallace Stevens’ “So-And-So Reclining on Her Couch” (1947)

 

She pulls the string from her neck. The bodice falls to her waist. Her breast: pink, white lines. Brown shine on her shoulders. The man casts a large net baited with sliced fish to catch more fish. The salt air on her tongue. The crisp mineral water. Chilled lime. Cold pulp on her tongue. She closes her eyes and sucks the fruit. She lies on the black pebbles. There are naked children playing in the surf, singing in French. She half-understands them, but not for a lack of knowledge of their language. Waves carry lilting words to islands she imagines across the Mediterranean. Her hands are warm. Her belly is warm. She rises to the water and delights in shivers.

©2016 Clare L. Martin

 

 

Yesterday, I met with my friend Sandy for a writing date at Rêve Coffee Roasters. We prompted each other and wrote in short bursts. It was a lovely time. This is a piece that came from that writing session. I hope to gather more frequently with Sandy and others for informal writing dates. It’s fun to write with friends!

Clare

The Mystic Spoke of Water

And I dream this night of rivers. Deep, mud-flooded rivers, carrying me on my satin bed. Rivers separate me from the land to flow through the center of it all. This river is dark. Fast currents. I cannot navigate nightfall. I cannot fight the river’s will. The river in me flows with the river without me.  Water calls to water. We meet our own element. Somewhere it will drain and I will be left dry, soft-boned, with salt-cracked organs. I am a pillar of salt, only and barely spittle. My progeny, my land, my history: gone We tongue the mud from the riverbed. Make new.