let us soften

September 22, 2016 § 1 Comment

Fear, anger and uncertainty are escalating, and lately, I find myself caught between extremes of being scared shitless, profoundly sad, and trying to hold onto enough courage to stay present, listen, and take action.

But this I am certain of:

Abusers and misogynists and bigots count on our silence. They count on our fear. In our silence and fear lies their opening for greater intimidation and exploitation.

PLEASE do not allow yourself to be silenced. We have struggled to claim our voices and no one has the right to shame us for having found them. In telling our stories and claiming our voices we’ve had an epic impact in claiming equal rights and will continue to do so until equality holds all our names. Please let us not become divided against ourselves and retaliate with assumptions, combative words and aggressive actions. Please let us go out of our way to help each other and convince each other we are resilient and extraordinary. Please let us stay the course, however uncertain, and raise each other up with gentleness, sensitivity, and love.

PLEASE let us soften, and trust our fundamental goodness.

 

 

 

 

 

alchemy

August 17, 2016 § 1 Comment

                                                    pen on journal

 

Sometimes when I write, form insists itself upon content

with such confidence and grace,

I can’t help but feel I’m part of a sacred thing.

 

Mouse Trip

July 25, 2016 § 7 Comments

                                                                   mouse

 

Years ago, I wrote out a list of my strengths with the misguided notion that if I reviewed the list often enough, I could actually rewire my genetic tendency toward perpetual self-doubt.

One Saturday, a week after my fiftieth birthday, I’d felt imperfect as hell and pulled out the list. I’d had a hard week. Among other things, I’d forgotten my address while filling out an AARP form—it was as if touching the form itself, had flipped off my hippocampus and I was now forever chained to the sinking ship of memory loss.

I stared at my list of strengths and felt anxiety rather than comfort. The problem was not that I knew these words were actually reframed flaws—pigheadedness disguised as confidence, indecisiveness spun into flexibility. The problem was that most of my strengths required my mind, and I knew where that was headed.

Mid-way down the list I noticed the word compassionate. Aha! There we go! A trait that evolves from the heart—an organ I was still feeling pretty good about. Empowered, I strategically moved “compassionate” to the top of my list, and committed myself to deepening its development.

My shit shield now sturdy enough to re-enter the world, I headed out to the farmer’s market to feel the love. The sun beamed enthusiastically, so I cranked down the roof of my VW bug and cranked up Marley’s, Love Is My Religion.

I’d driven maybe a ½ mile down the road, when out of the slits in my car hood, a small rodent emerged. We made eye contact. He stood stock-still for only a second before leaping onto my side of the windshield. He stared straight at me. I could see the tiny pink suction cups between his sharp little nails and then—scritchscratchscritch, he began to climb up the windshield, his quivering nose in the air.

I knew what he wanted.

He wanted to bite me with his pointy little teeth, his secret rabies injectors. He didn’t seem the type who cared a bit if he caused an accident, maybe even a death. His predicament was making him irrational and I could see it on his face.

“Holy shit!” I yelled as he climbed higher and higher up the window. I couldn’t bring the car top up because I had to be stopped to do that, and I couldn’t stop because there was a ditch to my right and a line of cars behind me. And then, I had a brilliant idea—the windshield wipers! I flipped them on– but what does the little vermin do? He grabs on with one hand, ok claw, but god those claws look like the kind of tiny horror story fingers you’d see in a Stephen King movie.

So there he was flying back and forth, back and forth, across the windshield like a trapeze artist receiving a good day’s pay and fulfilling a life’s dream. I switched the wipers to hyper-fast mode. He accepted the challenge and grabbed on with both claws, his legs and tail flailing out behind him, and his face stretched out tight as a Kardashian’s.

“Alright you little Willard wannabe,” I shouted while trying to stay in my lane and wondering if this was how I was going to die—fighting off a mouse in my car. Time to get serious. I pressed the window washer button. Through a soapy blur I saw the flying fugitive release the wipers and land back on the windshield directly facing me, blinking the water out of his eyes in such a sorrowful way that I turned off the washer, wipers and Bob Marley. Clearly, love was not my religion.

I watched as the mouse, a glaring metaphor for my absolute lack of compassion, slipped backwards on his hairless tummy, his drenched body sliding down the hood, neck and arms stretched out wide as he tried to hang onuntil finally, he disappeared over the edge.

I arrived at the market and sat in my car. Guilt and doubt taking their rightful places. What kind of monster had I become? I used to be the one in the room who would catch a wayward fly in a tupperware rather than smash it with a swatter, who would fling the winged creature out the window calling, “fly little fly, fly!”

Then, on the ground in front of me, I saw the mouse standing on his hind legs with his back toward me. He cocked his soggy head side to side and ran straight for the cheese booth.

That’s when it hit me. This wasn’t about me. It was about the mouse. He probably had persistence at the top of his list.

This Is Who We Are

June 13, 2016 § 8 Comments

who we are

(in response to the mass shooting in Orlando, Sunday morning, June 12th, 2016)

This is who we are:

WE are thousands lined up to give our blood to the wounded.

WE are first responders, grief counselors, doctors, nurses and friends who carried dying friends and lovers out of a bloody nightclub.

WE are millions of human beings who cried and screamed and raged and hugged and spoke up yesterday as if we’d lost our own children, friends and lovers.

We are millions who love our LGBTQ sons and daughters and friends and lovers fiercely and don’t you dare hurt them again.

WE are the president who declares WE WILL STAND TOGETHER IN SOLIDARITY, NO MATTER RACE, GENDER, RELIGION OR SEXUAL ORIENTATION.

WE are millions who are profoundly sorry we didn’t’ wake up sooner, who are only now recognizing the sleep in our privilege, the blood on our own hands.

We are millions signing petitions, calling legislators, voting, protesting, writing, painting, filming, creating, and speaking up to stop the bleeding.

WE are millions who won’t stop loving each other hard, until everyone is safe and sound.

We are survivors desperately trying to find a language that might somehow bring us all a little closer together.

THIS IS WHO WE ARE.     -anna

american dream

June 11, 2016 § Leave a comment

torn flag

 

nobody can hear anybody anymore

everybody blade sharpening

 

and i am running to saltwater

bleeding point of origin

receptacle of memory

ears lips heart hands arms legs

woman wide open

 

and the cutting edge goes hush-hush

 

waves

 

 

 

 

 

poetry workshop

April 25, 2016 § 11 Comments

                                   

poetry sign

 

 

 

 

 

note the syntax and nuance

the shady overtones

threatening to expose

your hiding places

 

take away anything that doesn’t bear critical weight.

 

strike the palms together and feel the beat

of letters shaping words, shaping musical notes

it’s not only what a word means

but what does it sound like?

 

consider this hyphen-

this em dash—

this comma,

the way                       white                          space

 

controls

 

time

and generates moments of                                      suspension

 

sometimes, images talked to death

the beady eye of a whale

the wheels of an old Chevy

water split open

 

wind your way,

toward a unified purpose

drift into a riff

but when a poem goes off tangent                                     so goes emotion

 

Ezra Pound said to go in fear of abstractions.

 

you can’t touch freedom

but you can touch a ripped American flag

and smell its bloody stripes

and hear a soldier weeping for his mother

 

“At the touch of a lover, everyone becomes a poet,” said Neruda.

 

there is strength in not knowing

what the poem means

not pretending you understand

its source, its heat, its inherited tongue

 


 

trust your writing

March 30, 2016 § 2 Comments

girl writing

 

trust your writing.

 

even if you don’t want to go there

even if you don’t know where the beginning is

or the middle or the end

 

even if it’s hard

because there will be days

when it’s fucking hard

 

that thing you want to censor?

don’t

 

that’s where your art lives

 

writing is a a powerful thing

allow it to take you somewhere

allow it to care for you

 

trust your writing.

 

As If

February 2, 2016 § 9 Comments

neurons

 

Recently, someone asked me why I read fiction.

The way he asked it.

As if reading fiction was a frivolous thing, even puerile.

As if fiction didn’t corroborate, vindicate, heal, illuminate, question, relieve, clarify, shift and rip apart.

As if fiction didn’t insist we climb into the membrane of another and examine thoughts, feelings, choices, and truths not our own.

As if fiction didn’t shape our becoming.

As if fiction wasn’t dangerous and therefore capable of waking us the hell up.

As if inhabiting another mind isn’t worth the ride.

As if fiction can’t level and reconstruct humanity.

 

As if we’re not all just making it up as we go anyway.

 

 

 

 

the upside

December 30, 2015 § 3 Comments

earth

 

i want to take a moment before it turns into next year and note all the beautiful things that happened this year, because if i don’t note the good things, i can get a little fraught and fraught sometimes makes me stuck, so hence the need to remember the good things.

here we go.

the supreme court made marriage a right for all sexual orientations under the us constitution. love wins and all we want is to be loved and so this is a big wonderful tremendous thing.

members of congress introduced a bill that would update the civil rights act of 1964 to fully protect people based on gender and sexual orientation under a new Equality Act.

we’re finally having serious/uncomfortable conversations about systemic racism and its impact globally, culturally, individually.

the number of people in the world, below the poverty line has fallen from 1.75 billion in 1999 to 836 million.

gambia, a small west african nation where 76% of the girls have undergone female genital mutilation, has banned the brutal practice.

the nobel prize went to three researchers fighting diseases of the poor.

africa went a year without any new polio cases.

women voted for the first time ever in saudi arabia.

justin trudeau appointed canada’s first cabinet to have equal numbers of men and women.

scientists discovered liquid water on mars and the presence of waterlogged molecules, called perchlorates—living organisms!

humans built and launched a space probe and flew by Pluto and beheld ice mountains as tall as the rockies! and blue skies! in my mind: mother of oceans, what else is going on up there?

there were diplomatic breakthroughs and negotiations between the united states and cuba after FIVE DECADES.

195 countries came to an agreement on climate change—remember when this seemed impossible? cooperation is happening.

a racist bully and a compassionate socialist stand at the forefront of a political campaign. i left the racist bully part in, because i think he’s here to shake us the fuck out of our lulled state.

obama has protected more land than any other u.s. president.

the world wildlife foundation announced the discovery of 211 new species in the eastern himalayas, including 133 plants, 39 invertebrates, 26 fish, 10 amphibians, one reptile, one bird, and one mammal.

scientists used gene-editing technology to modify mosquitoes and potentially eradicate malaria.

researchers in sweden developed a blood test that can detect cancer from a single drop of blood.

a team of geneticists finished building the most comprehensive map of the human epigenome and mapped more than 100 types of human cells, which will help us understand the links between DNA and diseases.

stanford university scientists discovered a method that may be able to force malicious leukemia cells to change into harmless immune cells, which could lead to transforming human cancer cells into macrophages, which can then digest and destroy cancer cells and pathogens.

scientists have developed an implantable artificial pancreas that could help patients with type 1 diabetes control their blood sugar.

over a million people, including world leaders, converged on Paris to march against extremism.

social media continues to grow, giving more people a voice who might not have had a voice before, and not only a voice, but a global voice.

i know i’ve left out thousands of things, so please add in your good things ok?

and here’s to doing the most revolutionary things of all: paying attention, speaking up, listening differently and creating things that will generate new pathways of conversation.

 

 

thank you

November 24, 2015 § 7 Comments

nancy botta picture of our shop

I’ve been a hot dog vendor, a shoe salesperson, a middle-school teacher, and a catholic school principal, but owning a bookstore has given me moments with the most eclectic tribe of humans of all.

There’s the crime scene cleaner who talked to me about the delicate line between detachment and sensitivity while I rang up her pile of fantasy books,

and the human statue who paints himself silver by day and writes poetry by night,

and the teen girl who builds wells in Uganda every summer and keeps a journal in her back pocket.

There’s the molecular gastronomist who began her career as an ice-cream tester (gah!),

the organic farmer who lives in a school bus and donates her harvest to a food kitchen,

the six-year old botany expert who arrives each month to buy the latest plant book,

and the bingo manager who fights for housing equality.

There’s the Iraq soldier without arms who still believes the world is ‘awesome’ and before he goes to college next year he wants to read one book every week,

and the father who resolved in 2015 to read to his children every night and hasn’t missed a night yet.

There’s the 14-year old playwright who had her script about a transgender teen accepted by a local theater,

and the grandfather who brings his six grandchildren into the bookstore each year and gives each one a book bag to fill with books of their choice,

and the locomotive engineer who doesn’t wear a watch.

There’s the eleven-year old who organized a youth empowerment book club,

the soil conservationist who fell in love with a snail farmer,

and a photographer who films sea creatures I’ve never heard of,

and the twenty-two year old man, who chose to communicate only through writing for 365 days and when we met, he was on day 224 and feeling like his entire mind and body had changed—in a sacred way.

There’s the child who sat by me for an entire hour and told me about the rare birds she’d seen in Puerto Rico and how someday she’ll be an ornithologist,

and the clown who struggled to be taken seriously,

and the firefighter who worked at ground-zero for three months and read Emily Dickinson every night she was there…

so many stories…

and I am beyond grateful for every single one of them, and each of you. Your words matter more than you know. Thank you from the depths of my heart for walking into our tiny bookstore and believing in books and making the world we work and play in a little less chaotic and a little more beautiful.