Where are you now? With the audience silenced. Can you return? Can I find you? The critics miss Your beautiful voice speaking, drawing visions Of life and time, of vision and hope, a woman in yellow. Her hat as is held in place by a hand, a pin, A ribbon. Slipping on and off the bus. I miss you with the audience gone. Quiet air. Friends are far apart these days, Imaginary, real, internet friends, have life. All kept apart by electrons rotating, holding hands Turning in waltz time, 3/4 time, one, two, three Heard beyond time as planets revolve blending with each other Cosmos tracking galaxies, so the revolution Relies on you, a woman scorned, no, not you. You, a writer, spectator, talent, rider of buses But someone said, and someone did. Hurting, You left us, all alone, missing the train you Put before us to ride, taught to negotiate with our souls. I call you as your grandmother might, cheerfully Near the clothes line, over a fence, worried At tea with a friend. Where are you now? Traveling back and forth, seeing a desert, A plain, a woods. The Cat seeking your hand purrs. Comfort from warm sunny days on the porch swing. I read them over and over, your words, hoping that I'll see A sign of life, a breath, star dust, your smile. Are you coming back? Be brave. Words are only words. But they live for us, grow as infants, loved, Even when they scold, they love. Eyes smile, arms hug, Don't leave, don't run away, by bus, train.
Pace your hate, as you line up for the cause Of suppression. Homogenous populations, all the same, in tacky Red hats that Support a change to control the liberal masses And their ideology Of helpful compassion. They give to others what We don't have. Betrayed by life, we blame all of you who want to Continue Roosevelt's policy. Heard on Fox news, conflicted and wounded, Unmade in their beds. Giving a face globally of self-centered anger, A movement thought dead. Those who hate, have buried seed, seed from Eons hidden from light. Majority voters, liberal thinkers, compassionate Lovers of all, Who are these new oppressed? Your mother, father, sister, Brother, uncle, niece, aunt. All liberals want is a chance to be happy, to share, To be kind and considerate. This is a crime, signed by a swirly pen, by a old man With tangerine skin, gibbonlike,jumping up and down, Red hair dyed so that he cannot be old. A screamer, A bully wishing to be King of the swamp, the dark underbelly, anti-regulations Of protection. Our new leader, a sociopath, a leader of sociopaths, Of spies and lies. This is what the haters wanted. A chance to burn with Fire and fist. To force back into the box the godless, the "fairy", The rebel child. Force back into the box the librarian who allows that Filth on her shelf. Force back into the haze, our global responsibilities, The cost we should not Bear, and bare the back without brother, the bible Thumper in bunny clothes. Beware your hate, for you are a candle in the dark, Beware your match. Reason is a dangerous opponent on the battlefield, Where compassion Equals hope, hospitals, schools, wells, medical care, Where a bridge Is not too far, it pulls, tugs, pushes our knowledge Of others, like a kite. Beware the actor, the captain, the ship, who find Lie after lie And tattle to the world. Pace your hate, because I Will extinguish it.
I went to a conference, a winter escape into a writer’s paradise of classes, introductions, and learning to pitch a novel to agents and publishers. The Seymour Agency sponsored it, providing excellent speakers on topics of forensics, crafting a novel, fiction, nonfiction, science fiction and fantasy, romance and mystery. Tor Publishing and Sourcebook spent time working to focus writers so that their books might make that great award in the sky of publishing a novel.
Can you imagine the opportunity to take an ocean cruise, see Nassau and Cozumel, meet exotic people, and spend time working on completing a dream? That’s what this agency did for me. While I was learning the foundations of forensics through the eyes of a woman who was raised by two medical examiners and now consulted with Hollywood to make shows believable, my husband read books, sat in the sun, and took a lot of naps. I think I mentioned that he worked nights and slept days, so we are always at crossed schedules.
I met a lovely young woman named Leslie who is a professional editor. She wanted to show us exactly what a copy editor does. Presenting using an overhead projector, she could have taught any school in Virginia that one third of the Standards of Learning that includes grammar, spelling, cohesiveness, and proper word choice. I think she felt a bit strange, what with most of us being over thirty-five, sitting poised on the edge of our chairs to catch every bullet point. She’s a great example of a woman who knows her craft and loves it. She blushed and smiled at us. She reminds me of a sparrow, always busy, always working, always available to listen. I love sparrows. They are a workforce of correctness with a chirp of encouragement. (Please don’t take offense, Leslie, if you don’t like birds. I mean well.)
The agency was started by Mary Sue Seymour, who died last year from cancer. My friend Andy had submitted to her last summer, and the response she gave him was clear advice, helpful tips, and a push to keep working on his book. He said she was the best refusal he ever received. She was a marathoner, a motivational powerhouse, and a believer in the power of the written world. She was also approachable. I’ve added her to the list of people that we walk for cancer to raise awareness and funding for. Before hearing about her, my list was mostly family. But she deserves to be remembered for her effort, indeed her fight, to care for others to the very end. Writers can be difficult, like herding earthworms who surface and then dive for the depths of the earth to get their quiet writing done.
I met Nicole, a senior agent, via email when I was registering. I told her I was related to Murphy, and boy has this been a year for Murphy. Since September, the family has had three totaled cars, one new baby, one thief, one hospitalization, one set of messed up paperwork, several temper tantrums, sixty hour work weeks for my husband, an angry daughter-in-law, a misplaced Christmas spirit and more. Yes, Murphy and I are more than friends, we must be related. There were bumps and bruises in my registration, and Nicole elevated me to human status and solved everything in less than five minutes. She’s one of those women who see you when you speak, listen to your meaning as well as your words, and gently pushes you in the right direction without your knowing it. On top of that, she’s a mother, wife, powerhouse of knowledge and a compassionate human being. It was my honor to meet her. Because of her, I walked away from the conference confident that I’m on the right path.
I met with Diane from Tor Books over a bottle of water in the champagne bar. I pitched my second book, the one science fiction with a naive but determined group of young women, and she gave me guidance on what genre it was, a space opera, a list of authors to read, and a good push to finish the one I’m halfway through. She was a gracious listener and I was her very last pitch. Publishers don’t usually meet with you face to face. She gave Tor books a gracious personality.
Deb from Sourcebooks, who handles a lot of romances, was hosting Stitch and Pitch sessions at odd times and scheduled times throughout the week. She sat and knitted, or unwound tangled yarn with the assistance of an extra pair of hands from one of the participants, as we learned how to talk about our novels. I don’t think she realizes that her honesty is unusual into todays age. Where things were lacking, she was quick to point them out. Her questions were pointed and she listened to the first words out of your mouth, then refocused you on what you were trying to say. You need to know your genres, your sub-genres, plot, characters and put it into one to three sentences because publishers don’t have a lot of time. Neither do agents. They can receive hundreds of manuscripts in a week and you need to catch the eye quickly. She also said to follow the directions on every agent and publisher’s submission guide. For writers, apparently we aren’t always good at communicating.
First line manuscripts were subjected to panels of participants and agents and evaluated on their originality, quality, and foreshadowing. No one is harder to please that a writer evaluating other writers. There was a panel on what happens when real life occurs and you are trying to write (I qualified for this lecture by more than a handful of life experiences getting in the way.) There was a panel about what genres are selling, one about diversity in literature, another about keywords and social media platforms, and I ran from one to the next with notes on my laptop and scribbled into a green notebook they had given all of us.
I had a good time and learned a lot of new information. It helped heal the pain of losing my mentor ten days before the trip. My husband was impressed that I had so much energy. We were both ready for my collapse when we got off the ship and started the second part of our trip. It took me four days to recover, but when I did I was still really excited. In fact, I hope they are going to sponsor a trip next February. I’m going to go again.
“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
Oh, my, the face of the political machine. Grim faces, hollow eyes, lies after lie, One citizen who stands, remembers, raises a fist protesting, In a game, a silly game, where men tackle men, Where brains are shaken, battered and bruised, So that humans may be equal. Why his fist now? Why raised in protest? His brothers in arms, From the streets he escaped, are beaten, broken, With trials valid only in confusion. Murder and Murderers wear badges that shame the men and Women who give their hearts to the law. Young black women, volleyball champions, From a high school, a high school that Sent countless youth to futures lacking hope, now those That were uncertain, rise. With pride born of knowledge, These teenagers, born in the poor side of town, Bear witness to the deeds of the bully pulpit. Against Which female athletes rise for equality that Great-grandmothers and fathers raised in conflict earned. Denied for decades, for a century now. Time flies, promises fall And the hatred based on color, sexual preference, sex. Even sex still. An amendment to a constitution that Gave women the power to make decisions, to be independent, Yet we are dictated as to how our lives must center itself on trust, Color should be celebrated. Voices raised in black churches. Voices raised in protest. Signs written, petitions filed, Congressmen and women elected that see us, hear us, raise us to The seriousness of action, against inaction, refusing quiet. These must become our battle flag. A voice that steadies. So powerful that it rocks a nation of quiet shame, Of angry men and women, of injustices and just protests. We allow the beatings of First Nation peoples as their Water turns black with oil and greed. Tall and proud They stand, fearing nothing but inaction. A president Feeding on the profits he earns while his ears are closed To the Appeal for commonsense. We should be a Nation Of commonsense, looking for the future of all of us. "We the people" in earnest reformation "Of the United States of America" the beautiful, the possible. "For liberty and Justice for all" shall carry a message of the cause Justice, Of the welfare promised, of the charge that we be given "happiness." For "We the People of the United States, in Order to form A more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote The general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty To ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish This Constitution for the United States of America." This is the promise for which protests are just. This the hope of the poor, to be seen and raised. The middle class, the wealthy. How mighty the voice As it pours into the streets? A wave of determination. Protestors meet immigrants with signs. Hello! Welcome! Mighty the wave of compassion while we are poisoned By the water we buy. Action instead of promises broken. Promise that we are the real voice of our nation, The serious citizens of the United States, willing to resist Compounding moments of shame formed by greed, fear and hate. An interest rate we are unwilling to pay anymore. We are, Willing to love, include, protest for equality and against a voice that should never have emerged. The ugly voice of racism, hatred, fear and indifference. Pledging allegiance to a flag of action. Protecting The welfare of all Americans, not just the few. Brothers, Fathers, Sisters, Mothers bring your seriousness To bear on the foolishness of folly in office. We are a union of action shouting at the sound of profit Born on the backs of the common citizen who works. Serious times need serious measures they say. We rise to the Call for justice for all, just like we pledged In elementary schools, middle schools, military, congresses Where the idea of patriotism was a promise to action. Raise fists so that truth will come. We rise. We pledge.
Vanish from here, unworthy thoughts, Unburnished deeds, sad misconceptions. Vanish from here manipulative words, Harsh judges, unspoken times. Bring instead the laughter of children Raised on streets that cater to their steps, That cherish and rejoice in potential. Bring back the souls wrongfully taken, Before they were ripened by age and wisdom. Vanish from here, bitter pursing lips That refuse to speak what needs saying. Vanish here, and in your place, leave Society growing in flourishing in common cause.
While much of the world talks about gratitude, we in the U.S. find ourselves dealing with “anticipation” as the world shakes and turns around us. What’s going to happen in our future? Where will the next shoe drop? What happens if so and so does such and such? And then the political elbows appear to dog us back into our perimeters of uncertainty and our place at the bottom of the totem. Personally, I am tired of elbows being thrown to show who is the authoritarian expert on life itself and am ready to start throwing my elbows around. However that would be tiresome, and tiresome isn’t who I am.
I’d like to anticipate a broad future for us all, but I just don’t have it in me today. So I’ll simplify the anticipation of what I’m anticipating to what it means personally and shake out my brain’s rafters a bit.
We will survive to retire. We weren’t sure of this before, but as we get closer, well, the anticipation is thick with us. (Sorry Yoda.)
- Despite all of the efforts to throw issues between the two of us, my husband and I, we still stand together. I anticipate this to continue, after all, money won’t always be this tight, will it?
- Medical issues will be part of the future, but I think we can handle them. I have good doctors that are willing to work with me as my life becomes more complicated. I’m also willing, and have made arrangements, to donate my body to science so that more can be learned about MS, Type 2 Diabetes, and my other issues. I anticipate medical science will continue to improve our lives. I have to believe that the catch phrase of “there is a cure down the line” will eventually mean there is a cure down the line.
- I anticipate that my husband and my parents will remain independent. Alzheimers disease rates are down. Mom and Dad-in-law are both competent at age 81, and have significantly more energy than I do. They’ll both rock into the 90s knowing that they are well loved. We also have assigned rooms in their names if they ever do need to reside with us. Family will remain an important factor of our lives.
- Our pension is with a union which we predict will float through the changing times. Someday people will understand that those of us at the bottom and the middle are human too. We don’t expect it to happen in our lifetime, but hopefully for our children and our grand nephews and nieces. I anticipate that the union will stay in business.
- Our children are grown, and although there is still one at home, he’s a kind hearted young man. He knows that his situation is putting stress on us, but tries to mitigate it. He’s one hell of a salesman. He also has empathy for those who haven’t had his advantages and has learned how to positively effect those around him with small kindnesses. The other is a competent and surly, beautiful, young woman who can rise to battle as I was once able to. She’s smart, caring, kind hearted and one who will always fight for the underdog. It’s a nice thing to know that what we anticipated our children turning out like has come true. I anticipate that they will continue to amaze me. I anticipate that they will advocate for us when we need it. It feels good to know that they are keeping a close eye on me.
- I anticipate that I will become published one day. It has taken a lot of work, and I foresee more in the future, but I think that my dream will come true. What did Jefferson say? “The harder I work, the luckier I become.” Well, that is a truth that is hard to argue. Finishing the first book was a process of growing into wordier shoes.
- I anticipate, hope, dream, and lust after winning the Emily Dickinson Poetry Contest. It runs out of Chicago and hasn’t been offered for a while. This coming January it is back and will be accepting 46-80 page submissions of poetry by people over 40 years of age who haven’t had a poetry book published. (That would be me.) I’ve started the process of going over all of the work I’ve ever done and honing it down, categorizing it, slimming it, potty training it and all of the other things one must do to succeed where one has never even had a dream of success before. It’s an anticipation to fill all of those hours when I’m alone over December and January.
- I anticipate that I will start to make friends again. I’ve become rather reclusive. The first step to meeting people is getting out of the house, and to that end, I bought a car for me. It’s a vibrant blue 2017 Sonic. Why did I chose that one? I like the way Chevies crash. Two of the people I love have crashed tested their cars in the past 5 weeks and both owners of the Chevies got out of their cars and walked away from what could have been fatal accidents. It wasn’t what I intended to buy, but when I was out looking, I had my son looking out for me. The car had been in the dealership less than 10 hours, hadn’t been processed yet, had two miles on the odometer, and had never been test driven. In a lot of primarily silver, white and black cars, it called to me from around the corner and behind the service bays.
- I anticipate going to spring ball games for our minor league team, the Potomac Nationals. I anticipate going to a bookstore for events like poetry readings, sales, and browsing.
- I anticipate more people standing up for what is right, honest, fair and pushing back against hatred, bigotry, racism, poverty, and ignorance.
I think that I will develop a broader anticipation of what is coming in the immediate future if I am patient and stick to my value system. Kids always amaze me and give me hope. As I watch this next generation grow, I’ll learn which direction we’re headed in and then can focus my anticipation list better. I’d certainly like to become hopeful on a global scale. I’d better go back and look that that gratitude thing, too. Maybe it will allow me to anticipate some really good things in a new light.
Why not feel good?
Good is full of opportunities
Aches and pains can’t hold
In the face of something to do
Something to think about
Something to lose yourself in
Something to meditate with,
No, feeling good is a state of mind
Over grumpy old men and women
Just a foot into the cheerful
Just an inch into the hope
Just a meter into a nap
With warm toast and a drink
A show to laugh at
A game to win.
My son gave me a Harper’s hero cap.
A donation to children
Who don’t get to play
Who have blinders on their futures.
He hopes to change that
To give them a place to be happy kids.
He knows he’s blessed
With so much energy and life.
My son said if Harper met
Me, he would be inspired
That I haven’t quit,
That my tears are reserved
For other times and other ways.
He thinks I am a hero,
But I am not.
I’m a woman who knows
That nothing is over
Until we take that last breath
And I won’t take that last breath
Until I have finished my book,
My Century of life lived well.