Fall Wonderings

Photo Credit: Shoutout to Alex Motoc

Fourteen years ago today, I gave birth to a perfect and beautiful son, David Carl.

My third son.

My heart’s desire.

When a child is born still, our state writes no birth certificate and signs no death certificate.

It is as if the child never existed.

But no worries.

The hospital gave me a stuffed bear to carry home.

As if the gaping emptiness of my heart could be so easily filled.

You can read the whole story here.

Fall

It happened again.
October.

I hate October—
acrid leaves,
dying,
death.

My chest hurts
from breathing.

I try to forget.

But the accuracy
and tenacity
of the body
to remember
what the mind
wishes to forget
holds on.

I kept looking
at the clock,
wondering when
it would end.

I remembered
watching the clock
as my body strained
wondering when
it would end—

knowing how it would end.
Wishing it would just end.
Trying to remember,
hoping to forget.

But that’s not how it works;
I had to learn how to work
the angles of grief.

Every October
I fall into myself
like cliff diving
without water,

and I measure my worth
in treasures of memory.

—cjpjordan

Wonder

I wonder if he would have eyes the color of the sea.

I wonder if he would devour books instead of read them.

I wonder if he would prefer running outdoors or playing legos indoors.

I wonder if he would like mushrooms and tomatoes and mashed potatoes.

I wonder if he would be a music lover and a story teller.

I wonder if Evan would be different with a sibling close in age.

I wonder....everything.

All I will ever do is wonder.

I never saw the color of his eyes or read him books or cooked him a meal or sang him to sleep or heard his voice.

Even so, David lives.

He lives in my memory as an unfulfilled dream--
a set of wonderings--
until I see him again one day.

He lives in my heart
as the eternal hope
of my Eternal Hope.

—cjpjordan

Post Purity Culture

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Photo edited by Mariah Wilson; photo courtesy of Charles Deluvio/Unsplash

When I was growing up in the fundamentalist evangelical church, I was taught that I was too loud, too bossy, too brass and too crass. I was chubby and wore half sizes in children’s sizes which was the plus size version for kids. My best friend was skinny, flat chested, and sporty. I was chubby, developed breasts early, and quite clumsy.

I wasn’t allowed to date until I was 16 and then only Christian boys because the Bible said it was a sun to be “unequally yoked”. I couldn’t see PG rated movies, use playing cards, listen to rock music, or use “crass language” including “substitute” words like gosh, darn, golly, shoot, poop, or (Heavens to Betsy!) crap.

But it was the messages I heard about sex and my body that have been the toughest to overcome. Sex outside of marriage wasn’t even an option. Should I do such a thing, I would be forever ruined, someone else’s trash.

The list of rules for girls was quite long:

- Bodies should be covered up, even when swimming.

- Nakedness was something to cause shame.

- Virginity is what gave women value; it’s was her gift to her future husband.

- Sex is shameful, don’t do it… unless you’re married.

- Once married, women won’t want sex as often as men, but never refuse your husband.

- Always keep yourself looking good for your man.

- Put something pretty on just before your husband comes home.

- Women should submit to the authority of men for their own protection.

- Only men have strong sex drives.

- If women have sex before marriage they are damaged goods and no one will want them—they are like a crumpled rose.

Deconstruction is a process that I am still experiencing. It’s amazing how quickly the teaching and indoctrination of my youth comes back to bite my enlightened feminist modern soul. I find it difficult to separate the good from the bad of my upbringing. But I am determined to continue this work.

Purity Culture

Men are visual
Or so I’ve been told
So many times
It is woven into
my DNA.

Be careful
Watch what you wear;
Watch how you walk
don’t be forward or loud
or brassy.

No one likes
A brassy woman
Women are responsible
For the lusting found
In the hearts of men.

I tell myself
I have grown out
I have moved on
From such foolish
Patriarchal nonsense.

I tell myself
I have deconstructed
Whatever that means
I have separated
The truth from the lies.

Until something happens
And all of it comes
Rushing back—
Guilt, Anger,
And Burning Shame.

At the end
Of deconstruction
There remains a giant
Pile of rubble, one
Mess of mortified me.

But I own
Every last piece
Of senseless shame
Every tiny bit
Of damning guilt

I own my story
I own my future
I alone own
The power
to rebuild my life.

—cjpjordan

Tanaga for June 2021

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Two Tanaga for June 2021

1.
June left me feeling beige-dead
One raining gloomy-bleak thread
Mud with ankle deep tire tread
Give me lucent day instead

2.
Anthracite grey wild-storming
Humid sauna air warming
Buzzing mosquitos swarming
Climate change life transforming

-draft by Carla Jeanne Picklo Jordan

The Tanaga is a type of Filipino poem consisting of four lines with seven syllables in each line. Traditionally, each line ends with the same rhyme; however, sometimes this will be varied.

A Tanaga looks like this:

7-7-7-7 Syllabic verse with an AAAA (traditional), AABB, ABAB, or AAAB (modern) rhyme scheme.

Letting Go

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Photo Credit: Thanks 🙌 and shoutout to Максим Степаненко.

I took an old prompt and did some stream of consciousness writing. Interesting the things that hide out in our sub-conscious.

I started with a list of eight words and a task. Being a (sometimes over) achiever, I relish the accomplishments of tasks. So I set about this challenge with gusto.

As I have often said, poetry is one of the more uncontrolled writing options. Deep inside of each one of us, there are feelings and thoughts that we seldom give voice. Too often we bury how we really feel in exchange for what is expected of us to feel, or we respond how we are expected to respond by our circle of family and friends.

These words, and perhaps the book attached to the words, brought out some feelings buried just beneath the surface. I have spoken and written before about my complete disgust with platitudes. Too much of my childhood was spent listening to them in sermons or from well meaning members of that religious community. This poem reflects those feelings.

You can try this kind of stream of consciousness writing, too. I highly recommend everyone journal in some way. For me, it can be as cathartic as a good therapy session. (Sorry Kelly.)

Here is what you can do:

Grab the closest book.
Go to page 29.
Write down 10 words that catch your eye.
Use 7 or 8 of those words in a poem.
For extra credit, have 4 of them appear at the end of a line.

My word list included these gems:

Supersaturated
Concede
Let go
Strong shouldered
Wayward
Empty
Need
Achieve

Once you have gathered your list of words, see what they say to you and put your pen or pencil to the paper or your fingers to the keyboard and start writing! I hope you enjoy the process as much as I did.

Let It Go

Suck up the sorrow like a sweet
slurpy through a straw, head resting
in hands as if to catch the pain.
Let go. Empty yourself of need.

Go on, give in, concede body
mind and spirit to the Spirit—
It is the Lord’s will after all.
He is Sovereign over our pain;

we are supersaturated
in the spirit and strong-shouldered;
we are weak-kneed, walking wayward.
We are walking in the true light;

Let go. Empty yourself of need
go on, give in—concede body
mind and spirit to the Spirit.
It is the Lord’s will after all,

for God is in control, sister;
and he will never give you more
than you can bear. You can trust him
with all your heartbroken pieces.

You need to trust in letting go
and letting God. No one else but God.
But you see, I stand here alone,
in pain, and straining to maintain

any remnant of dignity. How?
Tell me, how did we believe
all of the crazy platitudes
undermining good common sense?

How is grief less of a burden
thinking that it is for our best,
believing that God allowed this
pain for our growth and his pleasure?

I let go of sorrow, let go
of dignity in heaving sobs
with incoherent words that say
just how much I don’t understand.

I stand up, cry out, stamp my feet
shout out loud how ruthless and cruel
life can be. I don’t shout at God;
I acknowledge the suffering

and let it go. I breathe out and
release the pain; but when I can’t,
I concede. There isn’t always
a reason—don’t suck in, let go.

—a draft by Carla Jeanne Picklo Jordan

Magic In The Ordinary

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Photo Credit: Thanks 🙌 and shoutout to ShengGeng Lin.

Ok so… my dearest Tracy Jo told me that my writing has been rather dark lately. It’s entirely possible. I write to lay the darkness down in the light, and once the light hits it, it’s no longer darkness.

I dunno, though.

Maybe she’s right about too much, even if I do consider it a good thing.

Maybe I just need some magic in my ordinary days. A little “boost” in the form of a beverage. A little boost in the form of being with friends and family. Don’t we all need that kind of boosting after the crazy year we’ve had?

I’m hoping to have a summer filled with little boosts from family and friends. Maybe I’ll even follow some of the recipes in this poem to boost the magic the extra mile.


Magic in the Ordinary

Two ripe strawberries on the vine
bubbling champagne
one sugar cube
Santé!

Three frothy fronds of dill
one fresh cucumber
a splash of gin
Skål!

One yellow pineapple
amber rum
a squeeze of orange
Salud!

Red bell peppers
a handful of cilantro
Don Julio Blanco Tequila
¡Al centro!

Valentine vodka
a bit of ginger beer
one squeeze of lime
Prost!

A few drops of Angostura bitters
rich ruby port
a dash of orange curaçao
Saluti!

A wee bit of superfine sugar
two ounces of cachaca
freshly squeezed lime juice
Saúde!

Dark black coffee
a tip of Teeling Whiskey
fresh whipping cream
Sláinte!

—Carla Picklo Jordan

Gone Girl

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Photo Credit: https://unsplash.com/photos/ka8s6fgtXwc/

I’m not sure how to preface this poem. It’s funny how writing “overtakes” me, and some things just write themselves.

In saying that, I don’t mean to oversimplify the process—as though the writer is some kind of medium just repeating what the “writer spirit” says. This poem took me the better part of a full day, and I rewrote it completely three times—crossing out words, changing rhyme scenes, rearranging the form. It was a poem birthed in struggle.

And yet, the poem chose to be born from my pen. It wasn’t a topic or prompt or something that I was told to write about.

This process of writing everyday has been cathartic for me. Since I borderline on OCD whenever I commit to doing something, there is a certain compulsion now to write everyday.

Quite frankly, I’m loving this compulsion. It feels freeing even as it commits me to a task. Crazy, huh?

With all that said, this poem is dedicated to a long time family friend who lost a daughter eight years ago this week. The heartbreak never ends.

In her own words, “No matter how many years go by, our arms never forget the babies we are no longer able to hold.”

Gone Girl

I laid my weary bones in the spot
where your heart beat for the last time;
I wondered at the peaceful sky—
how life has been such a hard, hard climb.

Life works out that way at last—
the present lives in tandem with the past.

My eyes cried tears dried up by grief
as I danced to the tune of woe
like a puppet poised on a string
moving in ways I didn’t know.

Life works out that way at last—
the present lives in tandem with the past.

The past isn’t past until we say,
but I don’t know what you need now.
You exist in all who loved you—
I feel the soul lingers on somehow.

Life works out that way at last—
the present lives in tandem with the past.

Yes you are with me though you’re gone—
in everything, it’s you I see.
I feel your presence in my life song,
casting a sweet spell over me.

Life works out that way at last—
the present lives in tandem with the past.

—Carla Jeanne Picklo Jordan

Is It Really Ok To Not Be Ok?

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Thanks to Stefano Pollio @stefanopollio for making this photo available freely on Unsplash 🎁 https://unsplash.com/photos/ZC0EbdLC8G0

I’m not ok.

And I’m repeating the mantra “it’s ok to not be ok”, and all the while I’m still asking myself: But is it?

So much has happened. 

Is happening.

Still needs to happen.

Sometimes I wonder if curses are real. 

Or if the stories in the Bible are actually true. Perhaps like Jonah, I should jump out of the boat to save everyone else inside. 

At best, I’d like to find a wee corner and wait out the apocalypse.

Quiet

I’m not sure what is wrong with me
but something clearly is;
through skin so thin I see the wind
bubbling up like gin fizz.

I’m not sure what’s wrong or what’s right
and no feelings surprise;
I feel like I’m dead and hollow--
my body a disguise.

I suppose I know this is real
by my response to life—
“deadpan” gets a brand new meaning
when I am keeping strife

with everyone and anyone
who thinks to come my way;
angry-tongued I slash at those dear
until I’m wished away.

So here in the quiet I sit
with silence as my guide
while people still call out my name—
if only I could hide.

--Carla Jeanne Picklo Jordan

Grief Never Dies

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Thanks to Elizabeth Kay @elizabeth_kay for making this photo available freely on Unsplash 🎁 https://unsplash.com/photos/mAl4MikDENMq

A Saturday offering—a bit of a reflective piece.

Grief Never Dies

I grieved the litter of kittens
who died beneath the mud floor
of the old red barn—

birthed in trying circumstances
with sunday school refrains
playing on the radio,

buried in the garden—
discordant mews silenced
by a rousing gospel chorus;

now the kitties are settled
into the terra firma—
and I am older and wiser—

and still grieving.

—Carla Jeanne Picklo Jordan

May the winds of grief move you forward.

Listen to Your Life

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Photo Credit by Fallen Designs Studio; Model: Remi the Lovable Lab

Frederick Buechner was the first one who ever encouraged me to listen to my life and embrace all of — the good and the bad — with open arms. He writes to “touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart” of your life.

So I am embracing all the stories of my life—the painful, the pleasant, and the phenomenal.

Because after all, each moment is vital to my story and “life itself is grace”.

Secrets

Sssh.
Hush hush.
Don’t say that.
It’s taboo.

Hush hush.
only the perfect blush
of color in our flawless
family tree. No embolus

of evil, no skeletons here
No binges of beer
Or illegitimate broods
No family feuds

Sssh.
Hush hush.
Don’t say that.
It’s taboo.

So my story begins:
I'm not allowed
to show disappointment
or speak pain into the air.

Surely
it wasn’t quite that way.
Anyway
it all happened yesterday.

Move on.
Get over it.
Suck it in.
Suck it up.

But
Don’t
You
Dare
Spit it out.

So I shut my mouth—
I suck it up
like a Hoover vacuum,
like the vortex of a tornado,
like a slurpee through a straw,

and all I'm left with is
one
colossal
brain-freeze.

-A draft by Carla Jeanne Picklo Jordan

What stories shape your life? Let me know in the comments below.

Listening to Your Life

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Thanks to Ravi Roshan @ravi_roshan_inc for making this photo available freely on Unsplash https://unsplash.com/photos/_AdUs32i0jc

When I think of all the times I let the responses of others to my story guide the way I lived inside my story, I feel a kind of melancholy for the girl that lived within this kind of pressure box. Trust me when I say that I hold no one but me accountable for my response. However, I live now very mindful of how my own responses to the stories of others might affect them.

I have a colleague friend who has been such a great example to me of what this looks like in real time. Whenever someone shares something that has been difficult or a problem, his first response is one of empathy. Solutions are given only upon request, and I have never once felt judged by him even when I know he would have done things differently himself.

Letting go of what others think and embracing how I feel is important for my personal well being, but it also serves as a keen reminder to me of the needs of others around me. Most of us just would like to be heard—most of us just want a listening ear.

And listening is an art form.

I suppose it goes hand in hand with being present and mindful. Sitting with someone in their story is very different from hearing someone’s story. To me, listening and sitting are partners in the work of living mindfully in the present.

Listening is paying attention.

So today I choose to pay attention. To notice those around me carrying sadness, or sitting in grief, or rejoicing in personal victory. “Rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep” is the exact definition of listening with your life. Jealously and envy dissipate when we truly rejoice with those who are rejoicing. Likewise, haughtiness and superiority go out the window when we sit in grief with those who are weeping.

Listening is being grateful in the moment.

When I am grateful for each moment in my own story, whether good or bad, I learn to sit with others in a kind of peaceful contentment that neither judges nor offers solutions. This is the very hardest for me. I always want to help and offer solutions, but most often less is more. Breathing in the positive of each moment isn’t just a simple-minded solution. It’s an internal game changer. Our whole outlook changes when breathe in the positive and breathe out the negative.

Listening to ourselves and others brings contentment.

The more we learn to listen, the more we encourage others to walk inside their own stories, the more content we will be inside our own. Listening to others encourages them to look the world in the eye and know that they are worthy, they are enough, and they are loved.

Are you listening?

You are worthy.

You are enough.

You are loved.

LifeSong

Lilting, her voice sang across the meadow:
breezing by, the butterflies danced to the tune;
grazing, the cows stopped chewing to listen;
buzzing, bees set about their pollen work;
resting, she settled into the tall grass
breathing out, she exhaled all of her worries.
sighing, she prayed another day to sing.

—Carla Jeanne Picklo Jordan

How are you doing today? I’d love to hear your story.