I can’t draw a straight line to save my life.

“I can’t draw a straight line to save my life.”
In my mind, this is my sister’s voice
or some woman down the street or every
woman I ever met except those
annoyingly confident girls I was too
scared to emulate.

My sister is an artist, and so am I, though
I didn’t know it for a very long time and
I immediately feel the need to justify
why I can’t draw a straight line to save my life.

The boys used to draw pictures in school.
Dustin liked to draw shoes.
He thought high tops were cool, and deer
hunting, too, but he wasn’t so good at people
till he started drawing our teacher, and soon
we weren’t allowed to draw in class anymore.
But I can’t draw a straight line to save my life.

What do you do in the middle of a piece
when you know it’s going to be a shitty first draft?
Keep writing.
But I can’t draw a straight line to save my life.

Somewhere in here is a metaphor for queerness
but also for how fucking confused I am because
this is not a phase but being bisexual is actually
confusing because everyone else thinks
they know what you are, and you can’t draw
a straight line to save your life.

And you live in a world where a third of the people
want you dead (or don’t mind if the president does)
and a third don’t care and a third are running
dangerously low on fucks to give and you’re trying
not to see enemies everywhere,
to have compassion and reason and to discern between
causes and effects, but you’re constantly bombarded with
more bad news and you can’t draw a straight line
to save your life.

So I sit with pen in hand gazing out the
window and imagine the day ahead — how
I’ll get from here to night, and I
can’t draw a straight line to save my life.

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An Ex Catholic Goes to Confession

 

This poem may still be in the midst of the editorial process. I don’t really know for sure. I like this version, and I think it’s fun to read out loud. I’ve been struggling a little bit lately because I feel that poetry is really best shared out loud more than on a page, or at least that there needs to be some greater dimension of interaction between the writer, the material, and the reader. So, I’ve been using social media such as Instagram and Snapchat to share. The trouble this time is that those platforms are designed for shorter messages than this. Hmm… always experimenting. Always learning.

In case you’d rather read the poem yourself, here’s the full text.

Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned. 
I haven't been to confession since
the fifth grade. 
I came here to confess that I have
left behind every scrap 
of faith I ever had
and I wish to account for it. 
I want you to know that I prayed to your god
and I told him what I was going to do
and he did not stop me.
I knelt twice a week at the feet of that poor man
and sculpted his ribs with my eyes
and untied in my mind
the shred of cloth at his hips. 
I had his blood on my lips
and he did not ask me to stay. 
Sweet child of a man, he rolled his eyes
to God and prayed himself away
so you could take his name in vain -- but
he did not ask me to stay. 
I want you to know that I don’t miss
the Sunday morning fashion show or your
admonitions or the hypnotic repetition
of unthinking prayers in our
monotone drone -- worker bees stoned 
on incense and wine, 
keeping an empty ritual just to fill the time
repeating the spell of our own binding
I believe I believe I believe
we loved our endless litany
of saints and sins all taken in 
the legato of suburban life. 
I want you to know that in the desert outside your home
where you said I’d be alone, I found
an ocean of love like you’ve never known
and I dove right the fuck in and it was good. 
And out here, none of us are who you said we were. 
We are so much more. 
I want you to know I’m going away, 
and I’m not coming back. 

I probably will do a bit of editing, and I’ll maybe change the first line since it doesn’t create quite the tone I want to start with. I don’t actually seek forgiveness, as the poet or as the speaker of this poem, so I find that line misleading and a little cliched. The reason I’ve kept it this way so far is that I don’t know exactly what I want to change it to and that I was trained with great emphasis as a child that all confessions were supposed to start that way. I’ll let it rest for now and see what comes up with a little time.

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Welcome to Weird-Old-Ladyhood (OR Why didn’t I quit Facebook sooner?)

This morning, I deactivated my Facebook account. I’m still on social media elsewhere, but Facebook in particular really feeds my anxiety and negative feelings, so it had to go. I’m in the process of learning to do what I want and not just what will get me the most approval from people on the internet. It’s not that I don’t care what my friends and family think or that I don’t want to share my life with them, but I think the sharing I’ve been doing via Facebook has been tainted with approval-seeking and conflict-avoiding, and as a result, it’s been less than genuine. I’ve been writing more lately but keeping most of it close, and I’m starting to feel ready to share in a more real and honest way.

If you wanna see what I’ve been working on, I’m hoping to get braver about sharing things here, whether completed works or short snippets of ideas. When I have a poem or a couple lines that I like, I’ve been posting it on Instagram. Sometimes I post clips of songs I’m learning on the ukulele. I’m not a rock star or anything. I’m barely even a poet. (I mean, I am a poet in that cursed way that people with depression and an affinity for grammar tend to be.) But that’s ok. Right now, I am pretty much content with surviving.

Part of what’s going on here is that I’ve been rather deeply depressed this winter, and the past couple years have gotten harder, but this year has been the worst. I am sure the political climate has a lot to do with it, plus the seemingly constant stream of violence and conflict in every other public arena. I was staying on Facebook because it was supposed to help me stay connected with my friends and family, but it was also serving as a surrogate news source, especially when I was “too busy” to seek other sources. But instead of being a good way to keep abreast of the issues that my community finds important, Facebook provides me a firehose of bad news supplemented with the reactions of all my acquaintances. As I read my timeline (not just daily, but compulsively throughout the day, even when I really don’t feel like it) I feel the same heartbreak and rage over and over again, then temporarily soothe it with cute cat videos or tear-jerking videos of the good side of humanity. I’ve been emotionally overdosing, using news and memes alternately the way people mixed uppers and downers in the 80s. This is not mentally or emotionally sustainable. If you’ve ever bleached and dyed your hair till it felt like Easter basket straw, I’d say that’s my approximate emotional condition at this time, and Facebook is a direct contributor to that.

With all that said, I’m gonna wrap this shit up by resigning myself to being that weird old lady with the blog no one reads because why the hell not? Better to be that than the sad, semi-suicidal old lady pretending everything’s ok to get more likes on Facebook.

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Introductory Metaphor

A post shared by Mary Hendrie (@msdirt) on

The Living Room

a pair of hand made socks
knit with cheap, colorful yarn
the mittens not quite the same size
a vase about to topple on my table
as the cats race-chase through the house
chirping and trilling at each other
their joy for grey days and wet food.
a couch full of hangars and clothes I need to put away
lit dramatically by the window
pillows that have been laid upon so lovingly they're flat.
a painting by my sister
and At-at in a hat with Mickey Mouse ears
and a skull whose brain has been replaced
with a number of dice.

Carrie is taking a creative writing class in school this semester, and I’m blatantly stealing her assignment prompts for my own use. In this case, the assignment was to write a poem introducing oneself to the class via a metaphor. I am a mess. A total disaster area of love and happiness, but a mess nonetheless. I particularly relate to the ceramic skull in which we keep our gaming dice.

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A poetry assignment and some other stuff

It has rained all night.
 It always rains all night
 Here is a place where night means rain
 Where darkness is always accompanied
 By the clatter of raindrops and wondering
 When it will all wash away.

It always rains at night, and I
 lie in bed and feel 
 the ground shift
 the house lift
 the river form beneath me.

The rain forms a river that
 rushes down the sidewalk and
 sweeps us through the trees
 and carries us to the sea.

Every night I find myself in a new ocean.

Every day, I awaken in a foreign land.

Carrie and I have been writing morning poems together some days lately. It’s nice. I forgot what it’s like to sit down with intention and write a poem.

I’ve been busy lately, but a good kind of busy. I don’t have very much time for being stressed out. I try to stay calm from one moment to the next and manage my life in some kind of reasonable way. Did I tell you I got to be part of an art show? Here are some pictures of my poems on display at an art thing:

A post shared by Mary Hendrie (@msdirt) on

Oh, and also, I turned 35. Then I got hit on by this guy who wanted to know how old I was, so I said 87. They never believe me.

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