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.

 

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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, they formed the IRA.

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.”

Putas with Big Dreams

Tsluto the girl who once told me
“things would work better for you if you weren’t such a flirt, you’re giving people the wrong idea,” looking up from your PBR in a living room not your own
With concern in your eyes, ready and willing to offer your unsolicited advice
That I should be careful who I share my grin with,
My smiles are not contraband, they don’t mark me as some kind of criminal, dealing in sexual fantasy.
In fact, my smiles are no commodity at all.
They aren’t given, they are spontaneously inspired, by a boy in the corner to our left who looks like he’d rather be reading, by the barista who hands me my chai. by all the small extraordinary moments that make up a day
 They break out across my face, even in the darkest night, because I am,
because I always have been, deeply thrilled to be alive.
But I guess the joy spilling from my lips like juice from a ripe round summer peach
Makes you worried they’ll think I’m the wrong kind of girl, with legs that don’t cross and smudged eyeliner, A girl with a deep belly laugh.
Slippery as moonlight on the ocean, those girls.
And slippery is dangerous, you think
My mom was always trying to clean me up as a kid,
Always had spills on my clothes and dirt under my fingernails. I loved mess.
Hair like a rat’s nest, and beneath it
A buzzing beehive brain, asking question after question after question.
And you know what I think?
I think the girls who play in the mud and used big words like me, girls who collect rocks and run with their brothers, girls who scream and sob out loud—once they have tits and hair in between their legs,  once they start to bleed red womanhood every month—I think those turn into the girls you call the wrong kind. Putas with big dreams.
And you, with your well-meaning advice that I shouldn’t emulate those girls, that I shouldn’t talk to boys about politics or feminism or travel because somebody might think I was playing too fast and loose with my words,
I think you might be afraid of me.
And I’m sorry, because I wished I lived in a world where two girls at a college house party didn’t have to be afraid of each other.
Girl on girl hate is ugly as fuck and Patriarchy with a Capital P is sitting heavy on my shoulders.
So I’m not mad at you,
More the world we both live in.
 nonetheless, respectfully, with a big smile a heart wide open, with a wink and a bat of the eyelashes,
Fuck you. ​

Lessons I Learned from My Dog

 

Yesterday was IMG_2698our beautiful, dignified old pup’s last day on earth. A few hours before she passed, we lay together in the sunshine, awash in blue sky. Her warm body against mine, I began to think about all she had taught me. Old dogs are wise, and Jules was no exception. She understood the world in a clearer and more distilled way than the rest of us, and I appreciated that about her.  I decided to write down a list of what I learned from Julesy in her fifteen years of life, as a way of marking the memories we shared.

  • Defend those you love

Jules in her early years scared off dozens of mailmen with her bark. If another dog snarled at us on our walk, Jules would snarl back louder. She wouldn’t bite, but she did know the value of letting her teeth show once in a while. I never felt unsafe home alone, even late at night, because I knew Jules wouldn’t let anyone in that she didn’t approve of. While at times her strong protective instinct gave us pause, I think ultimately it was one of the things I loved most about her.

  • But don’t be afraid to let your guard down.

Julesy loved more than anything else to have her stomach rubbed. So once she was sure new visitors were safe and approved, she rolled over and waited. It endeared her to all of our friends, who laughed at her silly smile and white tummy.  Julesy was a people dog, and even just simply patting her head made her tail thump vigorously and loudly.  In this, she and I are the same. Following her example, I offer my heart freely to those around me, and though I don’t often get tummy rubs out of the deal, I do have a lot of love in my life.

  • Spend as much time as possible outside

Jules loved to hike well into her old age, and even when hills and long trails were too much for her, she still delighted in fresh air and sunshine.  She was mopey if she was inside too long, a trait we share. As 2016 approaches, I have decided that one of my New Year’s resolutions is to spend even more of my life in open spaces, thinking always of my beloved dog.

  • Enjoy your food

This one is self-explanatory. Jules never had a meal she didn’t relish, and I think that’s admirable.

  • Take breaks.

Jules in her later years spent a fair amount of time dozing, something I am jealous of as a busy college student. But while I may not be able to spend half my day asleep on a soft bed, I can take time for myself to rest and recharge. I think we often forget how important that is, and I know Jules would want me to kick up my heels in her name.

  • Most importantly, enjoy every moment with the people you care about.

Jules didn’t like being alone very much. She wanted to be in the middle of the action, where there were people laughing and talking and maybe even a little steak dropped her way. She had a habit of laying across the entryway to our kitchen. People tripped over her, but they also usually stopped to say hello. And that was our girl’s favorite thing, to share a moment with people she had given her heart and soul to. Jules spent every day in the company of people she saw as her pack, and that, ultimately, is the best thing she ever taught me. I spend my time with people who love me, and I love them back. That’s what makes my days full of belly laughs and long conversations. It’s what makes me smile as I fall asleep and what makes me willing to get out of bed in the morning.

I already miss my sweet dog deeply, and I am heartbroken that I will no longer see her rush the door when I come home from college. Julesy was a remarkable creature, and there is always a raw emptiness when those creatures pass on. But she won’t be forgotten. Today and every day, I am going to try to live my life a bit more like my dog.