Tag Archive: Survival

Day Twenty

No prompt today, not even an envelope.

The envelope

Amid the snoring of the dogs
And the chirping of the birds
Because of the envelope in her hands
She hears nothing but cotton
Reaching into her throat
Absorbing everything fluid
Stopping even time
Addressed in neat printed letters
Sealed and stamped
A simple thing, an envelope
And she tries to remember to breathe
But can’t remember how
The envelope controls her lungs
And the sunshine through the windows
That lands on the snoring dogs
Who have no idea at all
That everything has stopped

~ 2014

Day Fifteen




Kindling Day

Today I don’t want prompts or pokes
I want to pound my fists against ignorance instead
Scratching at its face with broken nails
Until something real awakens underneath

Today I don’t feel like rhyming in schemes
I just want to yell into the blowing storm
I am not afraid of you!
And watch it roil and roll away defeated

Today I’m fierce and strong
Burning savage with vitality
My blood boiling and cells melding
Bracing for whatever’s coming next

Today I can speak my mind and tell my truth
And know in my gut I have nothing to prove
To the liars who want to crush me
Into less than dirt

Today I can let the sorrow flow
Waterfall-washing over me
Standing naked, face and arms outstretched
And let it scrub me clean and new

Today I can face the raging dragons
And laugh in their solemn faces
Until they get the joke
Delighting in their fire and forked tongues

Today I’m pushing forward
Over rocks, out of holes, through the nettles and the vines
Scrambling with everything I have
To find the place that’s calling me so loudly home

~ Liesl Dineen 2014


8359806When I wrote in my last blog post about where I was from, I didn’t expect to learn so much myself. The truth is, after writing down just those little snippets of my life, I began processing so many things at once. I think I’ll be at that for a while to come.

My poems started reflecting things, the cat that died, surviving disasters, stuff like that… My dreams started getting even more trippy than usual. I mean, the cast of characters spans 40 years of life, and stuff just gets weirder every night. I dream often of houses, filled with crazy nooks and hidden spots, and Escherian stairwells. The houses are all different, but all complicated and full of secrets. Almost every room in these houses contains something or someone that I have business with in some way. There’s ex-boyfriends and a few that got away, old friends, family, and lots and lots of children and babies, some mine, some not mine, all needing help, care, love, shelter, mothers.

And so I see how my life’s path bleeds into everything. Like how seeing a mother and young daughter at a store picking out fabric for bedroom curtains together takes me to those places and times when I was that mother, and my daughter and I spent time enjoying one another, shopping and looking at interesting things, sharing laughs. And I probably watch the two a little too closely, and a little too sadly, but I almost always look away before they notice. And while the wind blows through the hole in my heart, I try to relax and pretend it’s just a cool breeze. And I change the subject in my head before it can whisper my daughter’s name too loudly.

On the street I see people walking, favoring one side of their body, and I remember waiting for my smile to grow less crooked every day after the stroke. I try not to stare –  not only because it’s rude, but because they will assume I’m just staring at the asymmetry, and they won’t know that what I’m feeling is connection. They won’t know that I notice a little crooked in my smile every day still, and a little extra weakness on my left side that I’m working on at the gym three days a week. They won’t know that my throat is a little paralyzed on the left too, and that I have to watch how I swallow. They will think that I think they’re a freak show, and they won’t know that really I feel just the same inside.

At the store I see a mother struggle with a child most people think is “too old’ to have that kind of tantrum. I see the stares of the people around her, and the way others walk as fast as they can past something they don’t want to see. I want to yell on her behalf, you don’t know what it’s like, you don’t have a clue! I want to tell her that I do, I do know what it’s like, and I will never forget all the stores I had to leave, cart full of groceries or clothes, holding tight to a flailing child I could barely carry anymore. I want to tell her that she’s not alone, that I know she’s doing everything she can. I want to tell her it will get better. But of course, I can’t even begin to know that for her.

And so I go on through these pieces of life, every day moments, one after another, and I’m beginning to see where I fit, and where the moments fit, and I know that my past is a bunch of signposts that I followed and that I’m still following signposts. And I know that next year if I’m lucky there will be new things to notice and remember, and so on. And so forth.

Every day, I see how I fit into the world a little bit more. Every day I notice this change, because I was never someone who fit in. I know I’ll never be that stylish, snazzy looking woman with her head held at that perfect angle, hair flowing behind her as she walks gracefully in 3 inch heels. But there’s a place for me. I make it myself, more and more each day, and it’s mine, and I belong.


Day Thirteen


9672720This one isn’t comfort food or comfortable, read with care. No prompt.

There are certain words that should keep their meanings, certain meanings that are sacred just because.



Rape, he says
Meaning governmental taxes
Politicians grinding axes
Meaning exploitation and disruption
Politically supplied corruption
No, I say, that isn’t rape

Rape, I say
Meaning held or drugged, by force exposed
Inexplicably decomposed
Meaning violation, desecration
Left naked, crying and forsaken
No, I say, because we said no

Rape, they say
Meaning they won the high school game
Glorying in their basketball fame
Meaning success with their finesse
Triumph bordering on excess
No, I say, that isn’t rape

Rape, I say
Meaning forever changed, defamed
Secretly, privately ashamed
Meaning what if you hadn’t gone through that door
Meaning shut up you whining whore
No, I say, it’s time we talked

~ Liesl Dineen 2014

Day Ten


9050352I went out of the prompt world again today and in my own direction. This poster was my starting point.

Anyone can slay a dragon, she told me,
but try waking up every morning and loving the world all over again. That’s what takes a real hero.

Many of us are rebuilding after life’s disasters, working on being those real heroes – I’d argue that’s heroic, too, the trying. The trying is what makes us all so damn amazing. It’s not just humans, either… It’s, well, LIFE!



We make plans

We make plans
Then dragons come
Swift, sudden, savage
Broiling, bubbling, boiling
Burn bust rip tear decimate
Swallow scorch conflagrate
Then fly soar evaporate
Abandoning their spree

And we, debris
On scorch-skinned knees
Obscured by ashes bones and trees
Survey damage count the living
Gather pray display thanksgiving
Grace praise holding hands
A new beginning
We make plans

~ Liesl Dineen 2014

Day Five

This one is tricky.

From NaPWriMo.net:

Today I challenge you to write a “golden shovel.” This form was invented by Terrance Hayes in his poem, The Golden Shovel. The last word of each line of Hayes’ poem is a word from Gwendolyn Brooks’ poem We Real Cool. You can read Brooks’ poem by reading the last word of each line of Hayes’ poem!
Now, the golden shovel is a tricky form, but you can help keep it manageable by picking a short poem to shovel-ize. 

Tricky indeed! I spent a lot of time reading some amazing poems today, so that was a great bonus. I chose You fit into me by Margaret Atwood. It reminded me of someone from my past, and I kept with that theme in my golden shovel too. Read the last word in each line to discover Atwood’s poem.

When I think of you

And when I think of you
I think of our poor fit
The two we cut into
And the loss of only me.
I can linger if you like
In some kind of a
Stunned right hook.
I can stay staring deep into
The abyss of us, traveling an
Ocean, looking for my lost eye.

Lost I. Please give me a
Moment, for I’m more than a fish
Caught on your rusty hook.
I’m more than an
Ocean, and far more open
And I think I’ve found my eye.

~ Liesl Dineen, 2014

Day One

Prompt from NaPoWriMo.net:
Our prompts are, as always, optional. …
Today, I’d like you to go to Reb Livingston’s Bibliomancy Oracle. Clear your mind, push the button, and then write a poem based on the quotation that the oracle provides. 

My quote from the oracle:

      I pledge allegiance
             to Candor to Sincerity to Laughter and to Irony
      I pledge allegiance to Passion to Compassion
             to Empathy and to helping those in need
      I pledge allegiance to Resurrection of the Heart
from “I Will Not Bow Down” by Ron Whitehead

When you wake up

When you wake up
And shut your ears to the demands
And shut your eyes to the television
And open your mouth to your own song

When you wake up
And climb out of the dark
And you know where you need to go
And that it doesn’t matter if you’re alone or not

When you wake up
Knowing that doing the right thing
Is the only thing
And you begin to tell your story bloody and true

Don’t forget to laugh
So loudly the windows rattle
And the dogs howl
And the neighbors wonder what they are missing

Don’t forget to love
So hard you’re left breathless
And liquid on the ground
Leaving your crumbled walls to powder your feet

~ Liesl Dineen, 2014

What is lost


9243873I’ve tried to avoid the subject of loss so much this last year, and yet it’s everywhere. I’ve tackled depression with flair and experience, of course, but loss, it’s just been lurking around the edges, waiting for me to look it in the eye. The last few weeks have been so very hard on many people I love.

All too recently, some dear friends lost a child in a terrible accident. There are no words. Others lost a father and husband to cancer. A pet, still a baby and very loved, died from a birth defect. A marriage ended. A medical emergency almost cost a vibrant life.

And now the normal we all knew will never be normal again, and we have to learn to adjust to the changes, or at least hang on through the storm the best we can.

It’s in times of great loss that we’re forced to realize how helpless we are sometimes. It’s obvious in trying to comfort a friend when you want to make it all better, but all you can do is be there while the wind blows their world apart. But being there is so important. Showing up takes courage. Crying beside someone is its own gift, and better than some words of “wisdom” that just sound stupid because everyone knows there’s nothing really right to say.

Many others are suffering losses we don’t often speak about. We’re blaming ourselves, or feeling blamed, shamed, helpless. I’m dealing, every day, with the loss of my child, who is alive, but alienated from me and my family. And the rewriting of histories once shared and now misunderstood on all sides (including mine of course). And I’m worrying over things I can’t do anything about. I was warned a couple years ago that this would happen, and would get worse before it gets better, that my fears around what was happening were true. I was told that this would not be fixable in weeks or months, but in years. I didn’t believe that for a long time.

Now, though, now I haven’t seen my own child in over a year. Now I believe. And I grieve, and I cry, and I rage, and I laugh it off for awhile, and I pretend that everything is okay, and I cycle through the stages over and over again until I’m worn out and realize I have to take care of myself, keep going, keep getting stronger, better, more… well, me. And I have to always keep the door open, my heart open, and above all let go of the anger and the grudges. There’s been enough of that already. What matters is that I will be here as long as I’m alive, and I will welcome my amazing gift of a child with open arms, when that time comes. I’m not giving up.

And in the new normal I’m growing too. All those trite words about having to suffer to grow and so on that you see on Facebook,  I used to see them all blah blah blah, and say “what crap!” And now I’m seeing that this indeed is all part of a journey, and I’m lucky to be on it, and I’m getting braver, and kinder – to myself and others. I’m learning to lean on friends sometimes, and be there when they lean back. And I believe in my own goodness and worthiness. At least most of the time. It’s progress. And it takes practice. It is my life’s work.

What is lost won’t return in the same form. But we do carry those we’ve lost in our hearts. And my heart is full of love for my children, always and forever. For now that’s enough.


Hugs from the future


teen me

A few times now, I’ve been instructed to think about what this me, old me, would say to young me, teen me, to encourage or show love, acknowledgement, etc. Picture it, they say. What would you say?

It’s a hard thing to do on two levels. For one thing, I mean, it’s just weird, and you get all self-conscious just thinking about you meeting you, and all the while you’re thinking about it, you know that someone else is watching while you try to process this, and you picture your high school photos and try to see what you might have looked like because you really can’t remember clearly, and well, it is weird, right?

But that’s the cop-out reason. The real thing is, it’s hard because I can’t just fix things with one hug, or a few well-placed words, and I can’t warn her (me – see, weird) about the horrible things coming, and I can’t change anything for her (me) and I can’t even pretend that the gap between who I was then and who I am now is traversable. The real thing is, it hurts too much. I was a girl who had no idea how smart I was, how capable, how pretty, how worthwhile in any way. I was outgoing, sure, and I had friends. I loved life, really, in some ways. I was capable of giving great support, but not very capable of receiving it. I didn’t get practice growing up. I don’t even really know what it looks like. I tried to do it better with my kids and even myself, but I guess some things will take generations to fix.

So how can I look across the void at that girl who just wants to be accepted and acknowledged and give her that? How can I give her the hug she needs? How can I warn her that her neediness is a weakness, how she will be used and hurt and lost? How can I tell her not to walk into that house, into those relationships, into so many goddamned spider webs spun by people just looking for targets like her? And how can I tell her to keep singing, because she has a gift and a joy that she will too easily let die, a gift that will tarnish and never shine the same way again? How can I tell her she is enough, more than enough, just the way she is? I mean, I can see it now about her (me?) but I can’t see it or even say it to myself here, today.

Self-worth isn’t easy for so many of us. Where we should see beauty and grace, we see nothing at all, or worse. It’s easy to blame our parents, and yes, they played a part. I’m a parent now, and I take this blame too. Sometimes doing the best you can isn’t really good enough. So while I want to tell teen me she’s amazing, and she really is, I also want her to tell me it’s okay that I’ve made mistakes, because I’ve never stopped trying, and I never meant harm. I guess in order for her to forgive me, I have to learn to forgive my own parents. They did better than theirs did, I know that’s true. It all just keeps coming down the line. And I guess I need to learn to forgive myself, which I’ve worked on but never really mastered.

But I do think teen me would forgive this me, and I think she’d do better with the whole weird thing too. She was pretty open-minded. I think she’d tell me that kindness is worth some pain (she was naive about how much though). I think she’d tell me it’s not too late to start singing again. And I think she’d give me that hug right back.

Learning to carry the past


894036Sometimes I look up writing contests, thinking about entering something just to try it. And while reading the descriptions, I wonder, does it have to be something new? Because the feelings they’re after were a few years back, and I don’t know if I can capture all the anger anymore. I hear that’s what it’s like to be an actor, too. You have to rely on feelings you felt once upon a time, or feelings as you imagine them to be.

Writing without feelings is just a dictionary trying to tell a story. And I know that attempting to find inner peace is risking that the feelings will turn their backs on me, that I’ll only remember parts of the dream. Happiness is boring I hear. Conflict drives us, from the squirrel annoying the once-sleeping dogs to the back-stabbing friend who used you to get ahead in life.

There’s plenty of conflict in this life I live, plenty of things I could, even should, stand up and shout about. So now there’s a new struggle, a conflict if you will, between trying to stay calm and let the bad things flow through me away out into the earth, and raising my voice and arms in protest and screaming into the world. I’m trying to let things go, for my health. But in letting things go, will I run out of words? Is this struggle the reason so many writers die young and drunk?

Excuse me, soul, I see you sitting there, trying to heal, and you’re doing very well by the way. But see, I need to have something to say, because it’s who I have to be, so I’m going to have to just poke you a little, maybe just a little scratch.

The truth is my soul is only beginning to heal, and the scabs are delicate. I don’t want to disturb them. I want peace with the past, and I want to always look forward, to move forward into life. I want to let the insanity roll off my back. Someday even, I want to pretend I didn’t even notice it in the first place. But timey-wimey things are tricky, and the past isn’t just a place you visit sometimes. It’s something you carry around as part of your own personal turtle shell. It’s part of your home, present and future. It’s your foundation and your obstacle, and you can’t really pretend you don’t notice, because it creates you. You carry it, and you get used to the burden, and your muscles shape themselves around it.

Making peace with the past means making peace with yourself, your mistakes and triumphs. It means letting the pain back in because you want to remember the joy. It also means not allowing yourself to drown in memories, because you need to breathe. I’m learning to take the past in small sips. The best cocktails blend bitter and sweet, because too much of either offends the tongue. I tell myself the old stories in third person, and I try to forgive myself, even though I know the mistakes by heart and want to shout NO, not that! But in the end, I think the story comes out okay. In the end, I am forgivable, and I deserve fresh air and sunshine and love.

I think the contests will have to wait for another day.

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