I am in the grip of a storm. I don’t do well in a storm. I can barely breathe, barely blink. I am drowning. I have forgotten that I am supposed to keep my eye on the surface, stretch to the moon, take hold of happiness no matter how fleeting. I have lost the words, lost the feeling in my fingers and in my bones. I am a stranger. I am about to turn 50 and I am a stranger in a body I loathe and abuse. I don’t recognize the shape of my mouth or this new sadness that slashes it. I have been waiting a lifetime for it all to get easier, just a bit easier. It just gets harder, creaks, shrieks, breaks. I am not who I was supposed to be. I can’t remember where I was lost or when I gave up on being found. I try to smudge out my reflection, fracture it, run from it, pretend that I am not this frail flesh, this breaking heart, this ugliness. I try to write poems, but they are empty, made of air, burn up before they can draw breath.
It has been interesting, and a bit strange, resurrecting my older poems for the Recorded Poetry Series I started on YouTube. Although I hope I have grown as a writer and will continue to grow and evolve, the earlier poems, I think, create a foundation that I am grateful for. It can be enlightening to revisit beginnings, hold them gently and thoughtfully in your hand, rather than tear them apart.
This poem, published in the second issue of The Hungry Chimera, is called, “Paper Bag Dance”. You can read it and the entire second issue here. This is an exquisitely beautiful journal that I am proud to have been a part of.
Paper Bag Dance
City life enshrouds the girl in a paper bag.
She tucks herself in tightly
and shrinks from the onslaught of strangers
who walk briskly and have no eyes.
They rush through the grind,
living without the hesitation
that is born of curiosity.
She stumbles past shops,
staring into frosted panes and
disappears into her own reflection.
Waltzing behind the glass with a
stranger whose scent she longs to inhale,
she is liquid and light on her feet.
She reaches out to caress the strangers gown,
but her fingers press hard against
the brittle paper bag.
I am super excited! I have a WEBSITE, an actual website with pictures and everything! I feel like a real grown up writer, and the best part of it is that my husband, Joe, imagined, designed and created it. He is a genius who has made me look much more impressive than I could ever be.
Joe has made websites for writers, chefs, doctors and safety professionals. He has true range and talent. He will be officially opening his business this summer, so if you need an amazing website, or know anyone who does, he is your guy!!!!
My friend Basilike, a brilliantly unique, beautiful and evocative writer, who authors the blog Silent Hour, suggested that I record my most recent Visual Verse contribution, “Slipping Beneath Time”, as part of my recorded poetry series. I posted the recording on my YouTube page this morning. If you would like to subscribe to my page, you can do so here. If you would like to read the poem with the VV image that inspired it, you can do so here.
Slipping Beneath Time
If I slip beneath time, race back to seventeen,
will you stay with me,
spreading poppies on the wind with your laugh,
singing me awake on birthday mornings?
If I smudge out history, pluck the weeds
that death scattered between twenty and thirty,
will you save me,
pull me from the bottom of a bottle,
shatter it against the sky?
If I step into the sun, turn willingly toward fifty,
will you see me,
youth pouring over my fingertips
as the light is wiped from my eyes?
©Susan Richardson 2019
It seems that I got my Visual Verse submission in on time this month. There are some amazing contributions and I recommend you read the whole issue as it is so far, and continue with it as the month comes to a close. If you would like to read my contribution you can so so here. Ironically (or perhaps intentionally?), it is number 50…..I will be 50 in just a few weeks…..
Sarah is an extraordinary writer and an amazing woman. In writing about ballet, she shares wisdom about what it is to be alive, about life itself. I am grateful for her friendship and for the beauty she brings into the world.
Ballet studios all have mirrors to help us learn to dance. When you look in the mirror, be kind to yourself no matter what vision you see staring back at you. Even if you are a professional or you have been at this for years, or feel you should “know better” or “look better” or “be better” than you perceive yourself to be, calm those voices, turn their volume down, change the channel. Even if you are brand new, unsure, scared, still learning, or think you are too old for this, it’s going to be okay. You risked the subway, the highway, and made your way here. Trust me, if you feel called to dance, you belong.
Believe it or not, the mirror is there to help you, it is not a instrument of torture. Use the mirror to remind yourself of the choreography. Use it to watch the teacher…
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I am continuing my recorded poetry series with another poem that was originally published in Wildflower Muse. Heather put out a submission call for work related to the theme of music, and “Little House (for Kat)” was what came from the inspiration of that theme. Music has always been a big part of my life. I grew up in 2 musical households. My parents were both musicians and my brother, sister and I all inherited that love for music. Music was also a big part of the longest and closest friendship of my life. If you would like to read the published version of the poem, you can do so here. You can also subscribe to my YouTube channel, if you’d like to hear more poetry.
You were 19 and I was 20,
living in a one bedroom apartment,
learning how to be inventive with top ramen.
We drank jugs of cheap wine,
chain smoked a grown up brand of cigarettes
and watched Little House on the Prairie re-runs.
My favorite were the seasons of Mary’s blindness.
We agreed it would be better to be blind than deaf,
long before I knew I was treading on Mary’s heels.
It was impossible to imagine living without the
chaotic rhythms and lilting tones of sorrow
that shaped our friendship.
You worked long days in a record store,
brought home shopping bags filled with
bootlegs and coveted early copies of new releases.
We crept around Los Angeles in your old red car,
memorizing the lyrics to Sinead’s new songs,
thinking up cool band names and
talking about affairs with older men.
You introduced me to Concrete Blonde,
got me hooked on Mary’s Danish and
spoon fed me Thelonious Monster.
You were with me in my first mosh pit,
where I was lifted out over the crowd
and lost my china doll shoes.
After seeing bands in the back rooms of
neighborhood guitar stores,
we spent hours in all night coffee shops.
You liked your coffee sweet, mine was always black.
I wrote bad song lyrics on napkins and
you created fortresses from salt shakers and creamer packets.
We made plans for the band we’d start some day.
Our life was marked by a sound track
of frenzy and shadows, a language
that brought us together,
but the blues crept up my back and
tore me away from our bastion
of skyways and melancholy.
Almost 30 years later, the record shop is gone
and you have moved across the ocean,
but the songs that conjure up our time together
will always send me reeling back to nightclub jitters.
I feel sad. It sounds so simple, weighs so much. I have watched the world crumble so many times, watched the people I love suffer and fade. I have pretended the ground is solid, to help others feel less afraid. I hide emptiness in the pit of my throat and weave rage into the air around me. Sometimes it is easier to feel anger than to feel despair.
I have thought a lot about writing about the current shattering of things, but I can’t. It isn’t my intention to be cryptic. I am just not ready or able to write about what is going on, not with clarity anyway. It is as if my sadness has drained the ink from my pen and the energy from my fingers. I am escaping into the bottle more and more, but it is failing as an elixir. I no longer hear it’s lies. I am not depressed. This shattering isn’t about me. I am a witness and helpless. Continue reading “The Weight of it All”