The Tattooed Man – A Poem

My words have been stifled.

Inside me,

I watch as they ride along

on a current of water

that has no beginning

and no end.

They are waiting for me

to pick them up again

and cradle them like children

before I send them

out into the world

by placing them on the page.

They stir in the water

when they realize that I am watching.

My words make ripples

that fan out along the water.

Watching them,

I feel joy in that moment,

a light that shines from within.

My words are drawn towards it

as if it is the sun.

I stand at the waters edge,

unsure and uncertain

about going into the water.

I have been keeping the words

at arms length

almost as if I am punishing them

and myself in the bargain.

My words start to sing,

the sound reverberating along the water.

It sounds like the song

that my spirit sings to me

when I am lost or unable

to find myself.

I’m tired of resisting,

of listening to the whispers

that flitter and flick through the trees.

The wind whips them up around me

and soon it is almost all I can hear,

but the song of my words is stronger.

Ignoring the whispers,

I disrobe and walk to the water.

My words cry out

in a joyous surprise

and they swim towards me

with eagerness and I realize

that joy is also within me.

I have held them from apart from me

for longer than I ever have before.

Part of me wonders

if they will forgive me

but I needn’t have worried.

They rush towards me

and soon the words are

crawling along my skin,

their ink sinking into me,

filling my veins that had been empty

but now they are full,

filled with ink and words

just waiting to be released on the page again.

I sink into the water,

the inked words like tattoos

covering my skin.

As I look down at them,

I wonder what story they will tell me.

I lay on my back in the water,

and let the ink and the words within it

fill the blank page

that is within me.

I write Because I Am

A photo from one of my very old journals.

I’ve been asked to confront what writing means to me and what it gives me several times in the past few weeks. I had a novel that was really close to my heart that was rejected. I put my soul and spirit into that book. I had someone make negative comments about my writing on the heels of that rejection and today, I found out that I was screened out of a competition for a writer and editor position that I would have loved and where my writing was found lacking.

I feel like spirit, fate, the universe, whatever you want to call it, is asking me to take a really hard look at what writing gives me. I keep going back to when I couldn’t write, when I was bed ridden and not able to type let alone sit at a computer for very long. I remember taking hours to type out a few words and then making poems, feeling a sense of immense accomplishment at being able to write, despite what the MS was doing to me.

I’ve been thinking on the times it has brought me solace when I needed an escape, when I was growing up in an abusive home or when I later found myself in an emotionally abusive marriage followed by another abusive relationship. The world I created during that time were dark, but they felt more like home than the real world did.

There have been so many times when writing has brought me incredible joy. I remember the moment I started writing Boyfriends, which later became Lust and Lemonade, after having the characters in my head for over ten years. I often recall the feeling I got when The Ghost Mirror, my first novel, was published.

I’ve always had more words than I knew what to do with. With every word I have lay down on the page, I have found a bit more of myself that I didn’t even know I was missing. I am in almost every character I’ve written, parts of my personality throughout all of them. They are as real to me as the people I know and love in the physical world.

My writing is part of me. It’s me on the page, sometimes with the guise of fiction and other times without. I’ve been trying to think of why this particular book rejection and negative comments hurt me so much. Writing for me has always been like breathing and the two of them together and now the added weight of the competition rejection almost feel like the world is telling me to be quiet, not to write, to let my words remain silent.

I can’t do that. I won’t.

Words have always been a way for me to engage with the world, to share what I’ve seen, what I dream, what I desire and what I love. They have been my constant through some horrible times in my life when I always had a journal with me. They’ve also been with me during the fabulous times in my life, like when my husband and I first got married. Words and writing have been part of my life since I was young. I thought of the very first story I can remember writing, about a myth about why the camel had his hump (spoiler alert: he lost his sweater and got cold). I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember.

I don’t know why all of this shook my foundations so much, but I think it’s because I really needed to take a deep look at why I write and why it matters so much to me. I needed to reach deep into my spirit and self, where the ink well is within me, and run my hands through its stream to feel the ink on my fingers so that I could be reminded that writing is part of my blood. I needed to reach deep down into me and pull these words out to let them out of me. They’ve been waiting within me for some time now. Thankfully, they were patient enough for me to come to them and welcome them to the page.

In the end, I think my foundations were shaken because I valued someone else’s opinions over mine. I know that I’m a good writer and that my work has touched people’s lives. I don’t write merely because I can. I write because I have to. I had forgotten that for a moment. I’m also guilty of giving away my power to other people and getting nothing but silence in return. I don’t want to think of writing differently or changing the way I write based on other people’s views. I need to write the only way I know how.

I don’t write because I want to. I write because I am writer. Thankfully, spirit gave me the reminder that I needed.

Conversations with My Inside Voice – A Poem

“I look good today.”

*No, you don’t*

“Yes I do.”

*No, you’re fat. Why can’t you see that?”

“I’m not fat, I lost so much weight and I love myself.”

*Yeah, but I know that you should be hating yourself.*

“I don’t have to listen to you.”

*Pretty hard not to when I’m inside of you. It’s not like you can ignore me.*

“I don’t care what you say. I’m fabulous.”

*You keep telling yourself that*

“It’s true, I am.”

*Why do you call yourself fabulous all the time?*

“Because I am.”

*I think it’s because you’re trying to ignore the obvious.*

“What would that be?”

*That you’re nothing. You’re a big fat piece of nothing.*

“That’s not true. I know it’s not true.”

*The fuck you do. Everyone just lies to you and tells you what you want to hear.*

“Shut the fuck up. What do you know?”

*Um, everything? I’m you remember. I’m the shadow to your light.*

“Why do you have to talk all the time? Can’t you let me think something positive for once?”

*No, I can’t. Where would the fun be in that?*

“I’m done, I don’t want to have this conversation anymore.”

*You think we’re done? How about this one? You’re a shitty writer.*

“I am not, my words hold power.”

*No, they don’t. Everyone knows you’re a fake and they’re just humouring you*

I shake my head to clear it. “That’s not true. I know that I can’t please everyone.”

*You please no one. Oh, and your so-called art? Don’t get me started on that.*

“What about it? People love my art.”

*Again, people just tell you what you want to hear. A three year old could do better with fingerpaints.*

I start to think random thoughts to distract myself,

so that my brain is full of something else

other than the sound of the inside voice.

“I wonder if penguins have knees.”

*The fuck?*

“I also wonder if giraffes get tired of sleeping standing up all the time.”

*You know your nothing, right?*

“And maybe snakes really have a soft side to them and they’re tired of being misunderstood.”

*You’re such a sack of shit. An excuse for a human being, really.*

“Have you ever wondered if all the paths in the world lead to the same place? Like if we start one path in our neighbourhood and travel all across the world if it will lead to home again?”

*You’re a fat excuse. Nobody loves you. You’re not worthy of love.*

“I often look at clouds and think they come from people’s wishes. That’s why they always look like something else, it’s their wish taking shape.”

*You’re not even a real writer. Can you support yourself with your writing? Nope, you’re pathetic.*

This stings but I push forward.

It isn’t the first time we’ve had this conversation.

“I wonder if the stars are actually people that we’ve lost in our lives over the thousands of years that the planet has existed? I wonder if they miss the lives they used to live?”

*See, this is why people can’t stand you. You are always thinking dumb shit like this.*

“I often wonder if all the light I have put out there into the world makes it a brighter place. Like, maybe if people see it from space can actually see my light glow.”

*The fucking fuck. Are you on drugs? You know you’re nothing, right.*

“Not true.”

*Yes, it is, and you know it. Otherwise we wouldn’t be having this conversation.*

“You’re the one who started this conversation in the first place.”

*So? What does that prove?*

I think for a moment of what I want to say,

wondering how I can possibly end this.

Then I realize that only I can.

It is my shadow side after all.

“I think it proves that you’re nothing. You have no power over me.”

There is no witty retort to this,

just the absence of a presence that was there.

I imagine that I can see the smoke he left behind

coming out through my ears.

I know that he will be back

and we will have the same conversation

with the same thoughts.

“Next time, I’ll be ready.”

In the distance of my mind,

so quiet it is like an echo,

a voice rings out.

*The fuck you will.*

Phoenix Rising – The Art Gallery of Ontario

I am gobsmacked!

Earlier this week, I submitted one of my paintings to the Art Gallery of Ontario. They are running an online exhibit called Portraits of Resilience and they were seeking submissions. The theme behind the piece of artwork was that it had to represent the past year living with Covid in some way.

I submitted one of my pieces. It’s called Phoenix Rising. When the pandemic hit last year, I felt like the world was burning itself down and I wondered how we were going to survive. However, something occurred to me. I know the Phoenix is a mythological bird that sets itself aflame, only to regrow from the ashes of its own fire.

When I painted this, I wanted to convey the fire and the light that could spread out into the world and heal it in some way.

To my surprise, my piece was accepted! You can view it along with the hundreds of other pieces (consisting of paintings, photographs and sculpture and more) here:

https://ago.ca/portraits-resilience

There will be select submissions that will be in a curated presentation on-site at the AGO. I can hope for that, but honestly, it’s an honour to have my painting posted with so many other amazing pieces, showing that even though this year has been tough, art has helped heal us and helped us to thrive.

Any kind of art will help heal us, be it painting, sculpture, photograph or the written word. It does so one word or brushstroke at a time.

Sparkle on everyone!

In Defense of Love

Here’s the thing:

I’m not surprised at what the Pope has said.

I’ve been thinking about this all day and I keep coming back to the same thing, I am not surprised at all.

I was raised to be Roman Catholic. My stepmother had me baptized when I was seven years old so that I would conform to her faith. I didn’t mind at first. The catholic church was a big part of my life when I was younger, and I even taught Sunday school. I loved it, all of those bright eyes turning towards spirituality and hope. I loved leading the children towards what I thought of as a light in my life. That light would go out very soon.

At the time, I already knew what I was. I knew that I was gay but didn’t have the voice to speak it out loud. As far as I knew, I didn’t know anyone else like me. I had an inkling that the less said the better, but it was a young kid in one of my Sunday school classes that brought things to light for me.

I was leading them through what the new testament says about love and how God is love, etc. He raised his hand and asked me what God had to say about men that loved men, as his uncle lived with a man and the kid was trying to figure out if this was a bad thing to do or not.

I had read the new testament through three time at this point (I was big into my faith remember) and told the child confidently that the new testament says nothing about men lying with men. The child went home happy but a few days later one of the priests told me that he wanted a word with me. I happily went into his office and when he closed the door, I saw how angry he was.

They had received a phone call from a child’s mother about a Sunday school class I had given, telling the child that there was nothing in the new testament about homosexuality. He looked uncomfortable. He said that just because there’s nothing really said about homosexuals in the bible doesn’t mean it’s not wrong.

I looked at him, stunned. I was being told that what I was, what I knew I was without a shadow of a doubt, was wrong. It was bad enough that I was already in the closet at the time and had a girlfriend. My family at the time was very set against homosexuality of any kind, my father in particular. I had looked at the church as a saving grace. As far as I understood it, God is love. It appeared that I was wrong.

I felt cheated somehow, as if this God was supposed to love me chose not to love me because I was gay. Over the years, I’ve come to realize that people will use any way they can to justify their own thoughts and agendas, whether it be religion, media, music or what have you. I realized that it had nothing to do with me, but everything to do with them.

As a former catholic, I can’t say that I’m surprised at what the Pope has said. In fact, I would have been shocked if it had been anything else but that. However, I want him to look on every gay union and tell me why they do not deserve a blessing from the church, should they want one. What makes the love of any GLBTQIA+ undeserving of such a blessing? What is it that makes such a union illicit and sinful? I’d really like to know. Since the new testament doesn’t say anything about homosexuality, I’d really like to understand where the hate comes from. What is it that makes my marriage to my beautiful husband sinful? What makes it illicit?

In the end, I know that this doesn’t really affect me, but it has always perplexed me. I thought God was love, not hate. I thought God was acceptance of all, not only of some. While I’m not surprised in what the Pope has said, I am disappointed.

I’ve been thinking about this all day. It took me so long to become comfortable with who I was and the gifts that I had to offer, regardless of what was considered right or what society at large thought of me. I hate that every act of love I show my husband, even something as simple as holding his hand, is seen as an act of protest. I don’t believe in hate based solely on my sexuality. I hated myself for too long because of it.

In the end what it boils down to is that God is supposed to be love and light. Well, if God can’t be love and light, I’ll just have to sparkle all the brighter.   

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