Wearing Red

 

I am wearing red tomorrow for the sluts, the troublemakers, the loudmouths, the shit stirrers.

I love them.

I am wearing red tomorrow for the women whose lives femicide took away.

I grieve for them.

I am wearing red tomorrow for the women like my great grandmother, who raise their children alone, who work hard and are never thanked.

I am amazed by them.

I am wearing red tomorrow for women who weren’t believed, women who were ignored or pushed aside or told they weren’t enough.

I am wearing red tomorrow for women who have to apologize just for speaking their minds.

I am wearing red tomorrow for women who don’t apologize, and are punished for it.

I am wearing red for mothers who are told feeding their children is obscene.

I am wearing red for women who died without access to safe abortions.

For the women who are interrupted by men who think they know better.

For all the women who have ever had to  listen to someone say , “real women….”  as if there are fake ones.

For women who are told they wear too much makeup or not enough, who are told they are too fat or too skinny, too prudish or showing too much skin  or too masculine or too feminine.

For the women who are told they don’t deserve the space they take up.

For women who are different than me, whose hardships are different than mine.

I am wearing red for all women who are suffering, whether their suffering is the same as mine or not.
For the women who are striking and the ones who cannot.
I am wearing red because it is a color that won’t be forgotten,

the same color as all the blood shed in this struggle.

I am wearing red because people think red is dangerous, and I want them to know that taking our rights away is dangerous too.

I am wearing red for my mother, my cousins, my friends, my professors, my coworkers, my classmates.

I am wearing red for myself.

You should too.Red

 

Enough

For 21 years I have been looking at the ocean and so far it has not disappointed me.

On the last day of 2016, I am trying to remember its lessons

That nothing is permanent, and heartbreak washes away just like the tides

That there is strength in wildness.

This year like every year was strange and different and lovely and terribly, terribly sad.

This year I lost hope, got my heart broken, forgot how lucky  I am.

This year I found new horizons, rebuilt, remembered what a privilege it is to be alive.

This year I ate tapas in the Mediterannean sunset, drank Cuban espresso and sweet California wine.

This year I ate mac and cheese late at night and cookies straight from the box and just a banana for breakfast.

I learned hard lessons and easy ones,

sobbed until I felt like I had cracked open and sorrow was oozing straight from my chest.

And of course I lived.

I loved.

I was loved.

I discovered more about the world and more importantly,

more about my world,

the vast universe encased in a body.

And just like the ocean, I tossed, turned, traveled.

Sometimes, maybe even often, I felt lost.

But over and over again, I came back to shore.

This wasn’t the best year of my life,

Or the worst.

Really, is there such a thing as a bad year?

365 bad days?

No.

365 days with sweetness and bitterness in equal measure, like dark chocolate.

365 days of forgotten keys, spilled tea, missed phone calls, great movies, long walks,  dances under the moonlight, nestled bodies, dashed hopes, day dreams.

365 days of small miracles and small tragedies.

That is enough.

Rising Tide

“Whiny liberal elitists who want participation trophies,”

It wasn’t like this in your day, was it?

When my “PC culture” didn’t exist.

I wouldn’t know. I wasn’t there.

But my world I do understand.

Here is what I know of my generation in America, the  “whiners”.

We remember September 11 as the first time all the grownups cried.  It was not the last.

We remember  our first black president’s inauguration speech.

I watched it in the school gym. I knew change was coming.

We know Black Lives Matter. We want you to too.

We march to #TakeBacktheNight because many of us are survivors, and we know it had nothing to do with what we were wearing.

We ask you to hear our stories. You ask for evidence.

We wait for the day we will run the courts ourselves.

Grabbing things that don’t belong to us isn’t how we do things,  pussies or otherwise.

We’ll all register as Muslims if that’s what it takes,

and yes, we’ll spread the word on Twitter.

You are #Notourpresident

And long after you are a footnote on history we will be here ,transforming the  world.

Your followers laugh at the words “safe space” because they think we are weak.

We prefer to call them brave spaces, actually.

Because we are courageous, and we know vulnerability is beautiful and difficult.

We celebrate the difficulty. You dismiss it.

Here is what I know of my generation in America, the so-called whiners:

we will not back down.

We will love radically and completely and we will rush through your damn wall like a flood.

 

Translating Home in Valencia, Spain

We stumble out of the café into a Spanish night which catches us like an embrace. I am wearing a thin linen shirt, but I am not cold. I have forgotten what cold feels like.

“Did you like the show?” asks my friend Marie at my shoulder.

I start for a moment, and realize that I have been thinking in Spanish. I almost let, “Si, muchisimo” tumble from my lips and catch myself — Marie doesn’t speak Spanish. I force my mind to switch back to my native tongue, but my reply of “Yes, of course” feels strange against my teeth.

Upon my arrival to my study abroad program in Valencia, Spain I felt nervous switching to my second language, and my words sounded halting and abrupt, distinctly and horribly American. But as my feet slowly begin to learn this city’s slippery marbled streets my tongue starts to learn what a Valenciano sounds like, and imitation begins to sneak into my words.

I was raised on Central American Spanish, having grown up in Northern California. The people I knew who spoke Spanish to me — friends, neighbors, the babysitters who cared for us while my parents worked — all knew Central American dialects. I knew somewhere far away across the ocean that people spoke a different way, but they weren’t part of my daily life. And when I arrived here, the lilt in their c’s — the soft gracias — sounded like homesickness. I was disoriented and in fact, a little frightened. Where was the “con permiso” I was used to? Why did Spaniards say “Perdon”? Why “zumo” and not “jugo”? My ears ached with new ways of speaking, and I strained to understand a new people and culture.

But slowly, that began to change. I find myself saying “Vale” constantly, a Spanish mannerism that I now find charming. Vale means “fine” or “good” and Spaniards use it as a catchall in conversations. As I adapt myself and my tongue to Valencia , I have realized how much the Spanish lifestyle suits me — delicious tapas and sunny siestas. Spain seeping into my skin, the warmth of this country and its people thawing me from the inside out.

I feel less like an outsider here every day. When I first arrived, I felt as though there were a sign on my head which read, “American”. We believe our ancestors were Spanish who emigrated to Italy and then to the United States, but Spain always felt very different and very far away, less familiar than Italy, where I have family and memories of childhood visits. But I have realized that just as my tongue is learning new ways to bend and twist, my heart is learning a new home. I am realizing that everything seems strangely right to me here, as if I have found a piece of myself I had no idea existed, lying dormant, waiting for the waves of the Mediterranean sea to wake it up. I feel strangely and deeply connected with this place. I see myself in Spanish women’s dark hair and quick smiles. I find myself speaking less English every day, but I do not miss it — or the Spanish I grew up with. I am finding my voice in Valencia.

Stages

old hands and young hands.jpg

 

She swings her feet.

They don’t hit the floor.

He shifts in his seat.

His joints creak, and she can hear it.

His roots are gnarled and hers have not even reached down into the rich brown earth.

She has not yet found purchase.

She does not mind.

“Did you know,” he said, “”that I am 91? That’s like thirty times your age. At least.”

His smile cracks his whole face open like a nut from a shell as she looks up at him, perplexed.

Her dark hair falls over her face and he wants to reach and tuck it behind her tiny soft ears. He doesn’t.

She is two. She knows nothing and everything.

He is 91, and he knows that he will never have enough time to learn all there is to learn.

I watch them, sipping sweet chai tea.

young enough to lack wisdom and old enough to want it.

I wonder if he would share a little of his with me?

He gets up to leave, takes his newspaper and his century of experience out the door.

He winks at me as he goes, and

I wonder if he too,

Remembers being

unfinished.

 

 

Something a little different.

Hi Everyone,

I have been unable to post on Inkstained because of a busy schedule and a distracted mind and heart. But this evening, I attended a visual poetry workshop, which replenished my soul and gave me so much joy.

 

I have included the visual poetry experiment I created below.

 

The prompt was, “What is visual poetry?”

 

The collage, if you cannot read it, says “Where our eyes meet our minds and say, I have known you all my life.”   Visual poetry is the intersection between the world of image and the world of text, and it is a very fruitful place.

Enjoy, and this week, take some time for yourself.  Believe me, it is worth it.

IMG_0698

Freckled Scrappy Catholic Children: An Irish American search for Home

imageI have never been to the land my people come from.

I think I am aching for a home I have never seen.

Maybe my Irish blood has given me more than quick-blushing cheeks and pale skin

Maybe it has given me my love of the ocean,

Of green things,

Of rain.

Maybe it has given me my fighting spirit.

Because my people have been trampled upon and walked all over for so long it’s hard to remember when they weren’t.

Their language was stolen from them ,

Their land forced to fly someone else’s flag.

But they didn’t give up—

They formed a republic.

And they immigrated.

They flowed across the Atlantic like a tidal wave, Micks looking for the American dream.

My family among them.

They grew their broods of freckled scrappy Catholic children,

And they planted roots.

They spread across the vast United States until eventually, they hit the West Coast,

Until eventually,

They hit me.

A freckled scrappy Catholic girl, curly haired and opinionated, looking for home.

I want to retrace their steps, take a voyage back to where,  a long time ago, my story began.

My name is like a map, guiding me to the Emerald Isle, the apostrophe which stubbornly flummoxes baristas and computers saying quietly,

“O’Brien,

Of Brian,

Of Ireland

Go little one, go.”