Did You Get Enough to Eat?

I slide my finger between bone and gristle. Moving it back and forth until I catch a thick piece of white meat and pull it from its hiding place. It shreds as I remove it, one part willing, one part fighting to get away. 

She’s happy, my daughter. Sitting strapped into the straight jacket that is her high chair, her feet kicking endlessly. Thwack, thwack, thwack, until I’m afraid there will be a bruise on the back of her heels. Happy pain. Joyous pain? 

I barely get enough meat on my own plate but I’m transferring, bit by bit, until she has a small white mound on her green plastic tray. Slivers of chicken, slivers of fat, slivers of nail grit that she laps up like a puppy, sucking on her finger tips and looking at me with those big brown eyes. 

I repeat the process with the rice, white but tinted yellow from the melted bliss of sugar and butter. Two large heaps, she likes rice. She pounds on it with her tiny fingers, smushing it down until it’s no longer plump and round. Flat little wafers, scattered.

Sometimes she throws it, white tufts raining down onto the stain streaked carpet that used to be cream-colored, long before she was alive.

I used to get angry. Stop that, stop that right now. We don’t throw rice. We eat rice. It reminds me of all those boisterous kids back when I worked at Pei Wei. How they would file into the booths and grind rice and Pad Thai into the cushions with grubby hands sticky from soy sauce.

Her daddy still does. Get angry, I mean. Stop giving her rice, she’s just going to throw it. But we shouldn’t shy away from things we love just because they are difficult.

Next is broccoli. Tiny little trees, I tell her. Meant to make you strong. Bow your head and thank them. Thank you for your nourishment, I say. Because I’m no longer religious, but gratitude is needed, required, in my house. Sometimes I’ll catch her whispering to her food, and I wonder.

Green is everywhere. On the tray, on her hands, captured on the ends of her curls because she’s piled broccoli leaves onto the crown of her head. I think, wow, she’s beautiful. I also think she’s going to hate me when I wash that out later. 

My own tray is only sparsely so, green having diminished with every transfer. Just enough bought to feed the three of us, just enough bought to balance the budget. It fluctuates, both. Going from here to there. I tell myself that I’m creating a better foodship. That I’m happiest when my stomach isn’t stuffed so full I can barely breathe. When that ache in my chest is gone. When I’m not sitting in front of the toilet, or on the toilet, praying for death. 

She crushes a broccoli head into a mound of previously smashed rice. It blends, whacked once, twice, three times between fingers modeled after her daddy’s hands. I meet her eyes and there it is. That look. That big, brown-eyed look of joy.

I know where she got it from. This…excitability. This innate pleasure for odd things. That toothy grin broken up by a cheek full of chowed meat. Me. I’m that way. Despite the ache in the joint of my thumb, still trying to wiggle loose the last bits of chicken meat. Still trying to feed my daughter all of me. 

I grin back, how can I not? When she’s giving me black girl joy. I raise my hand, the last shred of white at the tips of my fingers, dripping juice down onto her tray, wetting the dried rice. Her mouth is full but in she shoves it, finding space for chicken, and love, and determination, and growth, and gratitude. 

The Importance of Journaling: Caterpillar. Cocoon. Butterfly.

The Importance of Journaling: Caterpillar. Cocoon. Butterfly.

I want to matter. 

While trying to discover your future career, most people will give the same advice. They say ‘find out what you’re good at’ and ‘discover the reason why you want to do _x_ and see how you can do that.’

Upon years of reflection and many nights of self-exploration, I know that the reason I want to do most of my dreams is that I simply want to matter. To myself. To others. To the world. To the universe. 

I want to have an impact and truly mean something to others. My entire life I’ve been told that it was just ‘so hard to love’ and made to feel like I am a burden. No one ever told me just how much these things become internalized over the years. How you start to treat yourself as such. How you begin to apologize to others for simple things because you’re afraid they will leave or dislike you because you are in the way or ‘too much to handle’. 

As I get older, I am working on unlearning these things. 

I recognize them and then I throw them away. Into the trash they go, with the rest of the pointless negative opinions people force on me. I am not a burden. I matter. I am a beautiful soul. I am honest and caring and can be really sweet. I stand up for others and I don’t let people/coworkers/fellow students/family members put others down. I am indecisive because I have issues with perfectionism that’s also combined with imposter syndrome (gosh, how I hate this term). I’m strong and I’ve endured a lot but I am no longer a victim to the pain and fear of my past. 

That being said, I still want to matter. I want to give others things that I haven’t had. Freedom to be themselves. Creativity nurtured. Soul healed. 

How in the hell do I do this? 

I will become a professor. That’s the first part. Teaching creative writing and creative nonfiction to writers. I also want to publish. Creative nonfiction via essays and memoirs. Fiction in several genres: romance, speculative fiction, and literary fiction. I feel like my literary voice needs to be heard, and not just because EVERY SINGLE PERSON tells you this when you say you want to be a writer. 

Outside of that, I also want to teach foster kids and angel moms and dads (parents who have experienced pregnancy loss and infant loss) like me how to use writing as a coping mechanism. I want to foster emotional intelligence and introspection. I kept journals my entire life, and still have most of them (and plan to use them for a future nonfiction project), but I did it in hopes that my descendants would want to read them. 

Quite arrogant for a young kid, huh?

If someone had told me that all those journals could’ve helped me through the really rough times, I would’ve jumped on it. Instead, I just used them to chronicle the worst and best happenings in my life. In my journals, I wrote about the abuse, the fear, the anger, the frustration, the excitement, the happiness, the overwhelming need to end my life, and the weight ‘being a burden’ had on me.

I wrote about the boy from my high school that forced me to jerk him off or he would leave me on the side of the highway with no way home. I wrote about that time I finally fought my brother back and it felt like I regained my power. I wrote about the racism I endured at the hands of Midwestern white folk. I wrote about the adoptive sister that sexually molested me and the pain I felt after an object was left inside my vagina. I also wrote about my desire to go away, go far far away, and never return to the home that held so much pain for me. I wrote about the boy who was murdered that told me he loved me, and kissed my forehead, and made me feel innocent. I wrote about the only thing I ever cared about: Books. 

The journaling and writing didn’t end there. I continued it as I got older. When I left for college, I wrote about how my roommate was a slut (her words, not mine) and how she moved out of my room and told everyone lies about me. I wrote about how one of the boys in our friend group tried to rape me, holding me down in my dorm room and grinding his hips into mine while I was frozen from shock. 

I wrote about how my mother said “you don’t have to be a part of this family if you don’t want to,” when I didn’t call every day, unknowing that my life was falling apart but her zealotry didn’t allow me to break my silence to her. I wrote about withdrawing from classes – because I’ve known since I was 7 that my adoptive parents “aren’t paying for college, so you better figure something out”. I wrote about how I slept in my studio while studying architecture, knowing I really wanted to be a writer. I wrote about how, when they told me I had to pay two thousand dollars before I could enroll in classes again, I cried for a week and then shrugged; I said I can’t afford that and no one cares about me enough to help me. 

I wrote about the army guy I dated, and the one I dated after him who really took my heart. I wrote about how he was married and she was a cheater and so he returned the favor. I wrote about how he told me he loved me and I wanted a baby, anything to keep him with me and he said yes and we tried (but it wouldn’t be until 10 years later that I discover my body is not a friend to pregnancy). I wrote about that day of the threesome when his new thing yelled at him because he seemed to know my body “a little too well”. I wrote about the time after that, learning to be single and not minding the loneliness. I wrote about the guy I knew from high school I almost drunkenly sexed before I shoved him off and kicked him out because…ew. 

There was a break, after that time, where I didn’t write at all. Not fiction. Not journaling. Not even nonfiction. I wrote nothing. Nada. Zilch. For years. 

I had moved away from my hometown, and that’s when the real healing through journaling was introduced. 

I wrote about rooming with my ex, meeting my guy (being stalked by that same ex because I met my guy), cutting to regain control, and my first pregnancy loss. Then my second loss, and almost dying in childbirth, and then my third pregnancy loss. I wrote about my fourth pregnancy, being on bed rest, and almost losing future baby Naomi to an incompetent cervix. I wrote about my mother’s neglect, my father’s disappearance, my friends slowly fading into the background.

Now, I write about how sometimes I felt like a complete shit of a girlfriend because all I know is trauma and pain and fear and scars, and how other times I feel like an amazing woman because out of that, all I know is rejuvenation, resurrection, healing, light, and hope. I feel here but not here, and I write about the journey to not only discover me but the future me. 

That’s what I want to help others do.

Regurgitate fear and anger onto the page, breathe in healing and strength. Write out their poison until the cancer is gone and the pessimism and the frustration and the voice-that’s-unheard is heard. I want to show people there is a way to release your demons without losing your self or sense of self. And how if you did, would that really be a bad thing? Phoenix rising from the ashes and all of that. 

Caterpillar. Cacoon. Butterfly.

Anyway, so that’s why I write. That’s why I share my story of loss with others. That’s why I make journals and notebooks. That’s why I want to teach. That’s why I want to help others heal.

I just want to matter. 

Thank you,
Jade

The Contradictions of a First Time Mom.

Heya,



I don’t want to spank my daughter. I don’t want to yell at her or scream at her or make her afraid of me. I don’t want to get frustrated or angry or overwhelmed. I want to be an alien. Somehow removed and somehow present. I want to pull her into my arms and say “I know you’re angry that mommy won’t let you climb in the chair and fall and break your neck but it’s all going to be okay.”

I want to temper my gasket when it’s about to blow and scream beneath my breath to let out steam. I want to be gentle and firm and soft and unmoving. I want to be caring and unbothered by tears. I want to stop her in her tracks with the raising of an eyebrow and the listener of giggles with selective hearing. 

I want to tell her about things like racism and homophobia and inclusion and exclusion and something surrounding personal boundaries. I want to protect her from everything that might hurt her feelings or bruise her ego or make her afraid to walk out the door. I want to show her what it means to be a woman but also how to stop gender roles in their tracks. 

I want her to use my strength as a guide but also learn how to lean on others in her time of need. I want her to be mindful and honest and emotionally intelligent but distant enough to protect her heart. I want her to believe in god but not the god or a god just god in general. Someone who will love her when she’s afraid that she’s unloved. 

I want to teach her about art and literature and culture and music. I want to show her how to follow the rules but also how to break them by not using commas. I want to introduce her to the joy of reading but also let her choose her own passion. I want her to go to college but only if she wants to. I want her to be an artist or a musician or an accountant or a writer (please let her be a writer) or an architect or travel agent.

I want her to be happy. And sad and afraid and excited and passionate and angered by society but also redeemed by it too. I want her to be whoever she wants to be but I’ve gotta do my part. So first of all I need to become the best mother I can be.

The Fear of Success

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Heya,

Alongside my fear of failure sits my fear of success. It’s just as crippling. The intense and overwhelming thought of “what if I do it? Like, what if I DO it? What then? Can I live up to the pressure to be great?” Part of it comes from my previous lack of confidence. 

I’m not going to say that I’ve cured my insecurities – because they are definitely still there – but I am starting to see the roots of my issues and can address them. After manifesting emotional intelligence and a deeper connection to who I am, I’ve been seeing all the bad habits, all the internalized shame, all the fear that’s been holding me back. 

“Can I get an example? Because this all feels vague,” you might say. 

Alright, I have been struggling to lose weight ever since I had my baby girl. In the beginning, I was very adamant about taking care of my infant, my mental health, and focusing on school. I made sure that the pressure of “snapping back” (when women immediately lose the preggo weight after giving birth – ex. Having a flat tummy the next day) wasn’t something I was focusing on. It was amazing. 

I embraced my body, even though it let me down with each of my pregnancies and losses before Naomi, and referred to my stretch marks as “Baby Ink”. I enjoyed the swell and drop of my breasts and the changes my body went through. It meant that I was finally a mom with a healthy baby. It meant that I was getting my dream. 

Then January 2020, I finally felt comfortable and ready to lose weight. I got my gym membership back, I restarted my yoga practice, and I ate proper portions. I was getting it. Then Covid 19 hit. It set me back emotionally and physically. I was scared for my family, scared for my new baby, and stuck in another state. I had no money, no safety net, and no place to workout. I gained 11lbs due to stress and comfort eating. I could barely read – and I’m usually an avid reader. 

This year so much has happened but I’m ready to restart. It feels like this is my 2020 do-over but it’s much harder than I thought. My old fears have come back up. I know I can do this. I know I can lose the weight: be healthier, be stronger, and more. But I’m also afraid that I’ll try my hardest and that nothing will work. That I’ll start running again and my body will let me down. That no matter how much weight I lose I still won’t be beautiful. This isn’t a “down on myself” type of thought. I believe that I’m pretty, but the fear is of change. 

I expect a drastic change when I drastically change my habits and if it doesn’t work out, where will I go from there? Was it all a waste? Am I really a failure or have I just peaked? And on. It’s the fear of succeeding and not knowing what that feels like that holds me back.

This is the type of negative self-talk I’ve discovered is a daily occurrence for me. I want to change it. Mantras and positive thoughts and yoga sessions to center myself. Running to get in shape and in tune with my body. Changing my style to feel more adult and be more professional, especially because I’m going to graduate school in the fall. Minimizing my belongings so that I can prepare for our move to a new city. Being healthier so that I am a happier mom, student, partner, and business owner. 

I know I can do it all but that fear of success, that rivals the fear of failure, is always there in the back of my mind. 

To circumvent that, I’ve been watching tons of Youtube videos, looking at transformations on TikTok and Instagram, and reading books for mindset. Not to compare myself to others. Well, not exactly. But to show myself what could be possible. To see transformations and know that I’m not the only one in my predicament. That I’m not alone – which is a big deal for me.  

I plan to get up in the mornings to run, which is already hard for me because I’m a night owl. However, the odd thing is that every time I’ve gone running or walking early (in the last 2-3 weeks), I’ve felt happier all day. More productive. More energized. More motivated to get other things done. This is just one of the changes I’ve wanted to make but it’s the biggest one in regards to my weight loss. 

It’s one of my most drastic changes to kill that fear of success. I can do this and I will. 

Watch me.

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Good Readdance,

Jade

The Importance of Feeling Heard

I learned something about myself last night. 

Standing on our upstairs porch, listening to my guy brainstorm about what he would do with $1 million, watching the stars twinkle in the sky. I learned that I still have a lot of growing to do. I felt attacked, pushed aside, and hurt as he talked about things that didn’t include me. Things I also thought would be fun to do. Of course, I had forgotten that the “I want to start a scholarship for writers” and “I want to travel to Barcelona, and Greece, and find out my African ancestry and go wherever that is” from my turn hadn’t included him.

Do I call myself a hypocrite? Do I mention double standards? Do I call it pure selfishness or self-centeredness? 

When I was a kid, my adoptive mom said I was selfish. It never made sense to me because I loved giving others presents, I loved helping people with their problems, and I loved taking care of people. There are many “I”s in that sentence. As a foster kid, I spent a hefty amount of my childhood feeling unheard, unwanted, and unloved. It tore me to pieces, made me feel empty and lonely. I see how those feelings translate into my adulthood. And I don’t like it. 

With all my healing and meditation and introspection, I can’t seem to shake the worst of my childhood ghosts. 

Ask anyone. I talk a lot. I talk over people. I interrupt and interject and sometimes I’m not listening to hear. I’m listening to say my piece. I know why. I know it’s because I felt like no one ever listened to me as a kid. My words were stunted and they felt empty. As an adult, I constantly fall to my default response – input my thoughts as quickly as possible, before everyone is no longer listening. 

The importance of feeling heard as a child translates to listening skills as an adult, I’m sure of it.

Honestly, I think I’ve been blind and it hurts my heart. I hurt my heart. I didn’t notice how bad it was until Covid 19 forced me to take online courses for the Fall 2020 semester. My internet wasn’t the strongest, and this meant I couldn’t speak up during class – or in break-out-groups. I was told to give my input in the chatbox. Participation points. However, this often meant that I was the only person typing in the box and I felt no one was reading it anyway. I felt useless, unproductive, and passed over. 

And oh lord, the anxiety. 

It forced me to think about my input. Is what I’m saying important? Do my thoughts benefit anyone or am I just speaking to feel included? There’s an intense desire to be accepted by others. Feeling heard plays into this because you want others to know who you are. Know you’re ‘down’. Despite knowing that those I strive to be accepted by might not be healthy for me. “Alone, Not Lonely” is the anthem for my particular kind of introversion. However, my periods of introspection never ask if I’m a delight to be around or if I’m the reason others might feel uncomfortable. 

I live by the philosophy that we are all the center of our OWN universe. 

And it’s true. But there doesn’t have to be two extremes: “self-care is selfish” or “I put everyone before myself”. There can be a commonplace and this is where I find myself, in practice. But I don’t appear this way. I’m not sure if others see the person who is thoughtful and kind. They only see what I show them. And I think it might be a perception of self-centeredness. But am I what I show others? Do I become the mask that I wear?

I’ve noticed my tendencies toward self-centeredness in some of my writing groups. 

After we met up, I would talk. And talk. And talk. And sometimes I would say, “wow. Can you please tell me to shut up when I talk too much?” I guess the good thing is that I meant the words genuinely. I’ve always said, “I want to be where I’m wanted”. But am I wanted nowhere because I’m a social pariah that pushes others away because I can’t stop talking about MYself or MY projects or MY issues? My adoptive mom always said I needed to get my nose out of books because I didn’t have any social skills. She said that isolation coupled with deep introversion would set me back.

And I fall back into this often.

I don’t have all the answers. If I did, I’d probably be a better person. I’d probably talk less about myself. Which – as you know, if you know me – means I’d be a quieter person. I want to be a better listener and a better friend. I want to truly hear what others are saying. People always feel comfortable enough to tell me their secrets, their problems, and I help them see things in a different light. So, I know that I have it in me. Those brief moments of lucidity when I can untangle my tongue and absorb the world around me.

I just have to try.

CNF: These Little Moments

Naomi won’t remember these late nights. Her crying. Me holding her close. Us intertwined in an exchange of energy. Her face resting on my chest, breathing in my exhales. 

She won’t remember the times I’ve cried, wondering if I am a good mother. Asking myself if I’ve made a mistake. If maybe it was selfish of me to bring her here. After so many tries. If I did this because I wanted to be a mom so bad I didn’t stop to think about how my past might seep through my pores and taint the light of her beautiful soul.

Naomi won’t remember the dance parties in the middle of the living room. Dad and I wiggling around like boneless chickens. Her doing that weird hua-hua-hua noise, bouncing up and down in a deep squat that will one day give her power quads. The music blaring from speakers she stares at with wonder and admiration. 

He and I talk about this on occasion. How these beautiful moments will one day fade into the back of our memory boxes, only thought of as “Do you remember that one time when…wait, how did it go?”

The way her small feet patter across the floor when she’s chasing after you. Trying to move faster than you so you don’t leave her behind. Two fingers stuck in her mouth, grinding on flesh and bone and creating calluses. 

She’ll never remember the days when I’m staying up late studying or sitting at my desk, as I am now, writing at 3:30 am. The partition I created from an old fashion board blocking her from the light from my computer, and the overhead bulbs. Noise-canceling headphones on my head, one pushed off an ear just in case she cries. My phone across the room playing Nature Sounds for Meditation and Sleeping. Artificial Rain. Soothing thunder. The knocking of Native American drums. 

Sometimes I wonder if it matters. If any of this matters. I wonder if in 5 years, 10 years, more years, I’ll care whether she remembers this time. Or if I want to pick and choose what she remembers.

Is it the best memories I want her to have? A mix of the best and the worst? Only the ones in which I’ve sacrificed? Those times when my guy gets home from working a double – exhausted – because he’s supporting his woman’s dreams while taking care of his family?

I also wonder if maybe it happens this way because these years are not about her remembering. These years are for us. My guy and I cuddling in bed, giggling, our knees touching, hands tickling. Whispering loudly, hoping to steal a few moments before the baby wakes up or goes to sleep or finishes her bottle. 

It would be interesting to find these moments are less about Naomi – seeing her parents as they were before they became the people who “always tell her what to do” – and more about me discovering the strength to stay up late to write my books, or study, or take exams because I want my days to be filled with baby giggles and walks. Or daddy, working doubles and coming home to hold her in his arms. Her dropping everything she’s doing to sprint across the room and throw something at him. This is her ‘hi, I’m so excited to see you, daddy. Here’s my favorite toy of the day’. 

I wonder if these small moments that remind us to hold on through the money troubles, or stay strong through a pandemic, or unite ahead frustrations are just for us. 

Now that this realization unfolds as I write this I feel a cathartic release. That I shouldn’t be so afraid or worried about what she’ll remember. That I’ll enjoy this just for us. And what will come; may. 

CNF: I Miss My Mommy

I have struggled this year and I feel the only way to get this out of me is to….get the words out. This piece has eaten away at me and the only way to make it stop was to write it. So here it is.

I miss my mother. 

The way she wrapped her arms around me and her plush body covered mine, suffocating me. But it was all okay because there was warmth there, in the folds of older black woman body. The way I would cry and she would say, “Come here, tell me what’s wrong?” even though she knows what’s wrong because she already told me that boy wasn’t right or that girl wasn’t my friend or that jesus loves me even though I’m selfish and stubborn and angry and mean and I don’t like to listen.

I miss my mom.

The way she would stretch out on the couch, with socked feet tucked into the crack between the cushions. Her knees stacked, legs innocently and sanctimoniously closed. A small table before her dangerously balancing laptop, coffee mug, keys, lipstick, the black stick that looks like lipstick but it really covers grey hairs, rattail comb for scratching beneath wigs (or hairpieces?), piles of junk mail never thrown out, a few dollars to give temptation to wandering foster hands, and the computer mouse.

The way she would fall asleep, mouth slightly opened. How I would whisper just loud enough to be heard but quiet enough not to waken: “Can I go to the library please?” and when the grunt sounds like yes, dart out of the house so fast with my bag for appropriate books on top – that also hides lustful romances and murderous mysteries in the bottom. The way she would come darting after me, some hours later, because I’ve forgotten myself between the pages of adventure. Her Navigator squealing around the corner and slam stopping in front of the building. Because “never ask me questions when I’m sleeping”.

How she would wait for me to exit and unlock the doors when I notice it’s her. My head falling forward, my shoulders dropping. And I push the bag down, down, down, between the seats, beneath my feet, hoping the devil’s literature won’t be found. The way she told me to open it up, and the tears filled my eyes, and I reached down into embarrassment hoping the first, second, and third book I pulled out was the innocent Christian series. There it is, with her watchful eye. One, Christy, Two, Christy, Three…Robin Jones Gunn, the tale of Christy. 

I miss my mommy. 

The way she didn’t call me after I nearly died in childbirth. How she didn’t send words of wisdom, or half-listened-to prayers, or didn’t offer to come down to be with me as I spiraled into the depression of someone going home to place they were once deliriously happy. Doors reminding you of hellos and goodbyes. Beds reminding you of the roll-up you no longer have to do because you’re belly is empty. The wine you can now drink collecting dust on counter. 

How those hours in the hospital – doctors pulling at the placenta stuck to my uterus while trying to stop the blood from gushing, gushing, gushing – nurses whispering “you’re fine, you’re fine, you’re doing amazing” while I tried to be still despite the pain – my guy’s face above me worrying – waiting on a call from my mommy. Waiting to discover how we got here.

How that one time, when the angry black lady ran the stop sign and hit me with her truck, she came to the hospital to see me. How she brought daddy and they held my hands, the only parts of me they were allowed to touch. Telling jokes despite the fact my neck hurt, and my back hurt, and my foot hurt, and my eyes hurt when opened and hurt when closed. My daddy driving me to and fro doctor’s appointments and the chiropractor to fix my back. Mommy holding my hair as I puked or wiping my drool because the Vicodin had my brains unspooling into my soup or cleaning my kitchen because I could barely walk. 

The way she said “you expect too much out of me as a mother” when I had just lost my baby. Lost my third baby. The one the doctors swore would make it – the repeating ultrasounds, the blood tests, the sweet thump thump thump of a beating heart, the tiny nose nuzzling against my womb. How maybe after the first loss no one cares anymore and you’re expected to suffer in the silence you should’ve kept in the first place. The way I asked for space, knowing I couldn’t deal with the loss of another tiny soul that was half me and the anger at my mother for listening. And after many years of her ignoring my cries for love, comfort, and a closer bond, she finally listened. Those months were lonely. Long and lonely and motherless. 

I miss my mum. 

The way she said “I knew you’d grow up to be an amazing writer” years and years and years after she told me “Writers don’t make any money, you need to do something that will get you paid”. To which I replied with an acceptance to a Master’s in Architecture program that ate my soul. That ate my time. That ate my creativity. That ate my confidence. That ate my joy.

The one that ended when that boy I swore was my friend held me down. And slapped. And kissed me. And pulled at my lip with his teeth like a lover’s kiss. And how I thought of her when I froze, there beneath his weight. His eyes on mine, clear as day. Smiling, caressing the fear in me, pulling at it until I slapped at his shoulder, and then at his back, then punched at his head. How I knew if I told her, she’d blame me. “Don’t let these boys in, you don’t want to be a slut” I knew she’d say, because jesus doesn’t love sluts. It’s only god who loves everyone. And he’s not listening.

How I walked the dorms a ghost of myself, his eyes on mine in the elevator as we rode in silence. The way he smirked at me, turning until I could see his whole face – not the one he always wore but the one he had only shown me. Classes become beds, textbooks like expensive paperweights on the window ledge, grades dropping, dipping, spiraling until the scholarships were gone and the money dried up.

How she said “If you don’t want to be a part of this family you don’t have to be” when I finally worked up the courage to call, much later. And how it still took years to tell her what happened, to which she replied “well, why did you have boys in your room?”

I miss her, my mother. 

The way I showed her my first nonfiction publication hoping she would say she was proud, although I tried not to care. When I sent the links to my blog, and the photos of my work in print, and the happy texts that really asked if she still loved me. If anyone back home still loved me. The way auto-sent generic replies stuck to my stomach in a sickening thick that had me heaving, no I’m not pregnant, just grieving.

The way I shared my emotions, in the spirit of confident adulthood, and they mattered not. How I cried and I cried, and I piled my limbs into bed tight to my chest, shoulders shaking like they do in the movies, snot clogged nostrils, my guy at feet, rubbing my back, at the loss of my mother. The way her headstone lives in Missouri, walking and talking and judging and living happily, rent free in my head. 

How I thought once I became a mother to a sweet, happy, healthily living baby, it would bring us closer. The way Naomi wraps her arms around me, asking me with those eyes – to heal. My eyes filling with tears because while I worked so hard to be a good adoptive daughter, an honest, trustworthy, dependable daughter, no one had taught me how to be a mother.

How she might call and say the things that need to be said without conditions for her love. That she’s sorry. Truly, irrevocably sorry. How she sees what I’ve grown up to be. That she would see the nurturer in me, the mistakes I seek to correct, the fear I want to quell, the fostered abandonment I hold in my heart, and know that things could be different now. But knowing she won’t.

I miss my mother. 

But it hurts. Despite everything, I fall on this pain knowing it holds me captive. Knowing that letting go and releasing are two different things. Because I not only miss the mother she could’ve been but also, the one she was to me. 

A Brief Analysis of “Overpass” by Ada Limón

I greatly related to the poetry collection The Carrying, by Ada Limón. I understood her struggle with conceiving and reproduction, as I’ve had my own losses, and that connection with death is prevalent throughout each poem. The strongest of poems, and with many layers, is a reflection from years past.

In Limón’s “Overpass”, there’s a subtle reference to how proximity to death allows you to reevaluate your life and see how death intrudes in even the smallest moments. “I don’t think I worshipped/ him, his deadness, but I liked the evidence/ of him, how it felt like a job to daily/ take note of his shifting into the sand” shows an almost morbid fascination with how things change. An obsession with how death changes you and how you see the world. Initially, there’s an unadulterated curiosity about the world and its possessions. The search for “a bottle top, a man’s black boot, a toad” and then, without much effort on the narrator’s part, the inevitable find of death and transformation. 

This change is also alluded to in the first line when the narrator says “the road wasn’t as hazardous then”. On first pass, this line could be read as literal change, a time before new construction in the town. It could also be deeper, referencing a time when the narrator was innocent, before she experienced death and loss, and before the roads to healing and understanding (the whys of it all) were less “hazardous”. I don’t think it too far of a reach to interpret how the narrator’s “bendy girl body” was once pliable, before it failed or experienced the overhaul of adulthood and the risks of pregnancy and miscarriage. It feels that there, through language and imagery, the narrator discovers a monotonous connection with how one might “check on [him] each day” as you would a fetus, at risk of being unborn.


Usually, I am not a poetry reader, but this collection and how someone who has been through what I’ve gone through “carries grief” drew me in. I hope to share more thoughts with you as I read more of The Carrying.

Link to “Over Pass”

Link to The Carrying

Good Readdance,
Jade

P.S. I initially wrote this for a very short essay for my Hispanic Women Writers course but continued it into a blog post because I felt connected to it? I’m not sure. But I hope you follow the link and read the poem and enjoy it, and The Carrying, as much as I did. If you are interested in reading more posts like this just let me know. I never know these days!

P.S.S. As I have the book and didn’t take this from the link, here’s the citation.

Limón, Ada. “Overpass.” The Carrying, Corsair Poetry, 2018, pp 38.

I Am You and You Are We

An Ode to Baby Naomi Kai

 

 

When I touch my lips to your soft cheek I think of how I’m kissing myself.

Those cheeks are mine, girl

They puff out so big in smile or pout

and that nose

That nose is mine too, with tiny nostrils round and perfectly tucked in brown skin

and those eyes, the way they slant, they are mine too.

Although that color comes from daddy

the way it’s brighter in the sun when you turn your face up to mine.

 

When I look down at you I want to kiss those eyelids with their whisper thin skin,

how they reflect me, and tear

and light up when you see me

and that forehead, I can’t lie, It’s all daddy.

It’s wide and big and will one day be called a fivehead and yet, I kiss it too

But when I press my lips to your crown I know that hair is all mine.

The silky smooth brown, the rust red, the blonde at your temples and at the tips of your lashes 

and the blonde at the nape of your neck that’s barely there – slowly turning to night.

And your ears, your ears are mine, the way they hug against your skull to burrow closer to your thoughts.

 

When I touch my lips to your shoulder to smell your sweet breast milk scent

I think of how you’re like my elbow

So close to me and yet so far away

So vital to me, the hinge that pulls love closer, holds love tight

Because you are me, when I kiss you.

You came from me and yeah, your daddy too

And I wonder if it means he pecks against my cheek when he’s kissing you.

 

When I grab your thighs to pinch them for giggles you’re all me

They are thick like mine and taper into strong little legs that are mine too

with defined baby calves.

And those feet, I kiss your toes one at a time because each one is as adorable as the next, 

But, sweet thing, they are your daddy’s feet and I’m just so sorry.

Square and thin, with long nails that curl slightly under, and straight across from big to pinky

How’d you get those toes, girl? All daddy-like and strong.

When I push a finger into your bloated belly you giggle and slap my hands away.

Then grab to pull me closer because you aren’t sure what you want

and that’s all me too

Because of you I have a little belly, too. One daddy used to rub when you were in there

Kicking and punching and asking to come out to play.

So our bellies are the same but, curse the nurses from the day you were born, that belly button is all daddy

It looks like a button, one we shined smooth because we thought a quarter would help with the shape.

And when you walk around poking it in, sticking it out, chattering to yourself,

we laugh to think of all the coins we could’ve saved.

 

When I say ‘kisses’? You lean forward and open your mouth wide

And we dodge, side to side, hoping to not receive slobber for our time

And you catch us every moment with a swipe of the tongue.

Because you are all me and you love love

You want to get closer to me, crawl into me, get beneath my skin,

to hold your arms around my throat and lie your head on my shoulder. 

Which you have of mine too, the stocky build of my body, the lack of feminine curve,

And you press tear streaked cheeks to mine, then you smile and wipe that momma’s nose against my neck.

And I pat your booty, your poor flat booty

Girl, I’m sad to say that’s mine too.

But it’s okay because I love everything about my body.

Which means, my dear girl, that

I also love everything about you.

CNF: 3 Diary Entries from Early COVID-19

My musings from the first three days in Louisiana: when things were shutting down in Florida due to the virus and my guy wanted us to get out of the big city and take refuge in the country. We ended up staying for 6.5 weeks.

 

 

Day One 03/22/2020

 

It’s weird being a guest in someone’s home for an undisclosed amount of time. You open your car door – every space is messily packed with canned goods and spice jars and little girl socks – and step out in unfamiliar territory. 

They ask ‘need help with anything’ as if they are true bellmen. Waiting for you to unleash your bags on them, along with a flurry of ones or fives for their good service. 

You shake your head no and shyly look away because how do you tell someone who is so graciously opening their home to you that you don’t want to stay. You don’t want to unspool your hastily packed belongings because it is the last signifier that you will not be going home – to your safe space – anytime soon. You don’t want to appear ungrateful so you ask ‘meaningful’ questions like “do you mind if I use this space” – despite it being obvious that they cleared it out just for you. 

You don’t want to appear bothersome so you stumble over phrases like “no rush” and “hey, if you don’t mind, can I…” and “I’m going to be doing __insert random activity here __” because you don’t want them to think you’re hiding in your room.

Which you are. You don’t mean to but the pungent smell of wet walls mixed with summer heat and spring rain doesn’t bode with the weed they’ve taken up in the living room. And you have the baby to think about, of course.

They did ask “hey, do you mind if we smoke in here? If the baby is in there?” they point to your jail, I mean room, and with your eyes you follow their finger to the closed door that protects your tiny human. 

You prefer they not. You hate the smell. Despite having done it yourself, you can’t imagine making it a daily, weekly, or even monthly affair if you were back home when life was normal. The smell sticks to you like glue. Permeates your dreadlocks, that are already judged for being what they are – and no matter how many detoxes, oils, or deep conditions you do you can’t get that smell out before an interview.

You say yes, they can smoke, and you move to the protection of the door just to turn the knob, reassuring yourself that it’s all going to be alright. 

Everything will be fine, as always. But everything will not be fine. Or always. 

Day Two 3/23/2020

“Be careful, it’s spicy,” she says as you spoon some veggie soup from your plate onto Baby’s tray. You tell her it’s fine but make sure to cut everything into small pieces to make sure Baby doesn’t get too much heat at once. 

You should’ve known. She’s white. She doesn’t really understand what ‘heat’ is. It’s definitely stereotypical of her but also stereotypical of you to think so. 

When you eat it you blow, there’s some steam coming from each bit of potato, bean, meat, and carrot. The soup is a rusty red and it is clean of food bits or spice or debris. This is the first indicator of the whiteness. 

Anytime you cook anything there’s going to be something to it, you think. Something that shows you’ve put your foot in it. It sounds judgy, you might apologize if you had said the words out loud. It’s not her fault, and not completely true with all white people. But there’s a tug of war going on between you and her. You don’t mean anything by it. No malice. There’s nothing behind this struggle – at least for you.

She is used to being the woman of the house. So are you. She’s used to her way of cleaning, straightening, and vacuuming. She’s surely to be offended if you do something against her ways, because when you’re the woman of the house you rule with an iron fist. And it’s not always with a spatula. But there’s two of ya’ll now. And you are just the guest. So, when you see her kitchen and the way she likes to leave it you try your damndest to keep it that way. 

After you cook your food, chicken thoroughly marinated, cut, skin cripsed, meat juicy, corn on the cob slick with butter and garlic, seasoned with salt, pepper, paprika, and rice seasoned with the same, you make sure to tell her ‘I’m going to clean this…I just wanted to let the oil cool first”. 

She smiles and says “ok” as if she had no idea why you were telling her. Basking in the pretense of innocence. But you both know had you left those dirty pots, staining the oven with their orange and black oil sports, she would’ve been angry. 

You might not have seen the consequences. Maybe she would hold that irritation, that small showing of power, close to her chest until one day she explodes with a fire so hot you’d lose your eyebrows. You don’t know because she is a stranger to you, and you to her.  

So, there it is. The power struggle that happens anytime you wake up in a home that is not yours, on a bed you didn’t buy, to the chirping sounds of nature you, and your Midwestern background, are no longer accustomed to due to your 5 year stint in florida. 

But you’ll try. Everyday. You’ll be grateful and gracious. Honest and excited. Content and overwhelmingly sensitive to the needs of others. Because that’s all you can do, to keep from crying. 

 

Day Three 03/24/2020

 

Today has been weird for you. Parts of you wanted to stomp your foot like a child and yell “you aren’t my __. I want to go home!” but you don’t. 

Another part of you wants to be grateful, is grateful, for the time away from the city. You are taking advantage of not having cell-service, the bars that only reach one dot, the smell of fresh air, neon green trees, cloudy (and matter of fact, quite gray) skies and cool nights. 

You appreciate the way Louisiana makes you feel. Big fish, little pond. You think of future days where you might have enough money to contemplate buying that little house next door – white with a coat of green vines and brown sludge. The owners have neglected it. You wouldn’t. You’d take that extra acreage and put together a beautiful herb garden, have a small pond, and windows filled with vining houseplants. And you would take in that stray you found yesterday while getting the stroller out of the car.

You had decided it was time to get out of the house and see nature up close. After packing her into her carseat, you sat the baby on the sidewalk to rest. As you struggle with the mechanics of the compact Hyundai, still packed with all that are important to you, you see a bright tuff of white and brown streak through your vision. 

You didn’t know what it was but it scared you. You sprinted around the car and reached the baby at the same time as a gaunt, swift footed Beagle. It stuck its nose into the baby’s personal space and you screamed out ‘Hey!’ with a voice so hoarse it felt like you never used your throat before. 

The Beagle, Doggy as you will call him, slinks away possibly afraid of you and what you might do to him. You don’t lash out, he seems nice, but you stand like a sentry in front of the tiny human tucked into her carseat. 

Two, three, four times he tries to nose in to see the tiny human. She giggles at his attempts and you can’t help but stare down at her with love in your eyes (because while the world is ending it feels great to see she is none the wiser and happy). Then, when he realizes it’s a pipe dream, he slinks away to the back of the car. You follow him and grab this and that before returning to unleash the stroller from the front seat. 

Doggy follows you on your walk. It’s trying, yelling at him to keep out of the road, but you love it. You love every bend in the road, the smell of air unpolluted, the chirp of birds, the loud barks quickly followed by the cackling irritation of chickens. You love the tiny yellow flowers, growing along the road, that you zoom into with your camera and shoot at different exposures to get the color quite right. 

So you’ll take in that dog for the time you’re stuck in Louisiana, due to the virus. And you’ll let him roam with the freedom he always has, but he’ll stick close. Chomping your scraps thrown out the back door, and barking at intruders, or birds, or squirrels, or anything really.

But you don’t mind. You love this space outside the city. It’s only taken a few days to change your mind about this place. You still don’t want to be here but you aren’t afraid to be here. And you wonder about the significance of this. 

That’s what you think when pondering the house next door to your temporary stay. How you want to go home but one day, you’d think you’d actually want to stay. 

 

***

When your guy arrives on that third day -shortly after you because he had been stubborn and stayed in the city despite the frantic shopping and the terrified winding lines of traffic – you read him the entries from Day One and Day Two. He doesn’t get it. 

He brought you out here, knowing you didn’t want to come – despite the dangers of a city during an outbreak. He made you drive 20+ hours across three states, after having only 2 hours of sleep the night before. Struggling to drive and keep an eye on the sleeping baby, and you’re crying on the floor of Walmart because everything is closed and you can’t find any place to pump breastmilk and dammit, your breasts hurt and there’s no relief and you’re the only one on the road, and you don’t want to be driving here anyway.

He told you – after your hosts were nowhere to be found – to just find any place to sleep. With the baby. He said “I’m sorry baby, I feel so bad,” so many times you wanted to wring his neck. He also told you to go into the major city, when all other places were closed down. The place is so empty it feels like an intrusion just to drive on the streets. It’s sickening, you feel, to see a place so normally filled with verve and pulse to be so still. 

Dead.

That’s what it feels like. Like that scene in the movies and shows when everyone has either been killed by Zombies or forced out into the country. That moment when the hero, or anti-hero, wakes up from his coma, or breaks out of jail cell, or finds a way out of the pine box and stumbles onto a desolate place. He looks in all the corners for answers. Searching for friends, family, and hell, even food. He jumps at a sound, or two, from a nearby alley and discovers it’s just his shadow moving, fighting, pulling him back, silently screaming “get out of here” or “danger ahead”. 

Then the Zombies unleash. And he’s running. Sprinting. His legs moving faster and pushing harder and covering more ground than ever before. 

And then there is no ground. And he’s jumping, climbing, clamoring really. Praying anyone will save him or fight for him or offer their services in exchange for a boon, predetermined or foreshadowed by someone else earlier in the show or movie.

And then he’s free, but not free. He’s out of danger but now there’s another danger. And this isn’t from the Zombies or other mutated beings. This is from those that look like him. Those who would kill you over toilet paper in the grocery store. He must be strong and alert and sharp at every turn. Lest he die. 

You think of all this while getting the baby out of the car at an overpriced hotel and creeping to the door. Watching every shadow as you move. You think ‘I’m alert. I’m awake’ even though it’s been days since you’ve seen a full night’s sleep. You look left and right, although you can clearly see there are no Zombies in suits, holding briefcases here. 

But you do wonder ‘where the hell is my hatchet?” because you’re you and of course you bought one to bring to this place you’ve never been before. 

*** 

Anyway, so you read these entries to him, from the previous two days, and all he – who made you feel all that – can only say in response “I don’t get it. Why is it in 2nd person? It really just sounds like you’re complaining about not wanting to be here” – quoted directly from his perfectly pouting mouth that you sometimes want to slap him in. Because of times like this.

You feel upset, on the cusp of anger, because he knows you don’t want to be here. Why is that a surprise? No offense to your hosts – they are actually very nice. He also knew that you actually meant ‘what did you think’ in a literary sense. Does it flow? Am I crazy? Are my thoughts cohesive? Am I a good writer? Can you tell me something that is real? Are we going to be okay? Will the baby have a future? Will I get to publish anything or will I die before I get the chance? What do you really think? What do you honestly think?

As a writer, there are so many layers to ‘what did you think’ and these layers go even deeper depending on the tone and cadence of the voice when asking. So, you are upset. You try to explain in a deep monotone voice. You tell him what it ‘means’ even though you didn’t want to have to explain. You just wanted him to get it. Fucking get it. 

So, then you wonder if there are only two possibilities. Either: “I am a shitty writer” or “he’s just not my audience”. Which is it? Which one is it? 

Although in this place, stuck in a world that is not ours, during an unexpected time, fearing for our lives and that of our daughter, wondering if this will be The Stand or Pandemic or Station Eleven or The Strain and unsure if we’ll ever be able to go home, I know one thing. Those are not the questions I really want to ask. There’s only one. I really want to know if, in the midst of all this, we will survive.