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.
August 17, 2016 § 1 Comment
July 25, 2016 § 7 Comments
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 on—until 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.
June 13, 2016 § 8 Comments
(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
June 11, 2016 § Leave a comment
April 25, 2016 § 11 Comments
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—
the way white space
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
March 30, 2016 § 2 Comments
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?
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.
February 2, 2016 § 9 Comments
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.
November 24, 2015 § 7 Comments
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.