Origins

Gather round children and I’ll tell you a story
Not of damsels nor dragons, goodness me!
I’ll tell you the tale of how I came to be
Did I come from a star? No..well, perhaps long ago
But once upon a time my name was — Ha! You’ll never know!
What I can share are the turns of my journey
So, sit down, listen and you will see:

I wasn’t always a Phoenix, soaring high
I fought my way here by choosing to die

Born on a Monday, under the full moon
Well, no, actually, it was mid afternoon
My mother graced me with a special gift
She called me Crowned and they recorded it
Had the doc looked at me and made a different call
I might not be here talking to y’all at all

But so it was and so I am— c’est la vie!
Pretty sure it makes for a better story
Grew up playing princess and searching for Charming
My first love was a girl (BET YOU DIDN’T SEE THAT ONE COMING!)
Fought off some dragons (guess there were some of those)
Who were determined to conquer even after I said ‘No’
Battered and broken I turned to self harm
To escape the treacherous path I was on
Then, like an angel descending from on high,
My queen arrived! (Really reaching with this rhyming, guys)

That isn’t the end, y’all, this ain’t no fairy story
We loved each other, sure, but there’s more! Don’t worry!

Like Jeanne d’Arc, I girded myself against the world
Cut my hair, changed my clothes and became a riot grrrrl
Raised fist and cargo pants, I forsook all men
Strutted down the urban streets proclaiming ‘NEVER AGAIN!’
Anger colored my world more than a year and some days
Meanwhile, my queen and I had to part ways

She went to college and I went to work
Where I befriended a guy who wasn’t a jerk (#cheapshot #notallmen #lulz)
We got quite close and I thought he was gay
Turns out he was just European (fast forward into the future…he was actually gay)
And for my next birthday he offered a kiss
That sent me reeling into an identity crisis

Traded my queen for a brand new lover
Though I secretly wondered why he would bother
My masculine presentation was too much for most men
And I still wasn’t sure if I could “go there” again
But he wasn’t ashamed to walk with me hand in hand
Here’s the lesson I learned from my dearest friend:

Don’t put yourself in a box or you’re bound to get stuck
Don’t leave it to others to define your social construct

I tore off my old labels and set them alight
And decided that ‘queer’ was a word that felt right
Met some new lovers and made some new friends
Wait, hold on, y’all, that’s not how this ends!

I went off to college to learn theory and things
And it didn’t take long for me to start questioning…
Who am I really? Am I playing a role?
Why do I still feel so damaged in my soul?
I feel shackled to something I don’t want to be
What will it take for me to get free?

In order to discover what this unrest was about
I fled the country to try to figure shit out

Lost and alone in a foreign land
I asked myself why I cringed at the label “woman”
When I look in the mirror, what do I see?
Is it my clothes or my insides that define me?
It was the same old song with a different melody
I still hadn’t learned that only I could define me
Trying desperately to hear my heart crying from deep within
All I heard was Death whispering in the wind
And an all too familiar feeling growing inside
I had to make a choice and I chose to die

I surrendered to the flames that licked my skin
Destroyed all that I was so I could begin again
My crown fell from my head when I sprouted wings
Finally, I heard my inner voice calling ‘Fénix’
And I recalled the image of the Chinese fènghuáng—
Both masculine and feminine joined as one—
And suddenly I felt the pounding ease in my chest
The tension subsided and I knew I could rest

Since then I’ve had a crap load of therapy
And I’m pretty secure in my various identities
I know who I am and what I want to be
And my friends continue to affirm and ground me
I’m not defined by who I’m with or what others see
No more boxes or shackles because now I am free

And now an apology to those who might take offence
Sometimes a little fancy helps create some distance
There were some things I needed to get off my chest
With my overly simplistic tale of rhyme and jest
This is one tale that I’ve never told
So please forgive me if I’m bold
I pray you do not misunderstand my words
And read into it something quite absurd
This is not a story uplifting cis-heteronormativity
But rather an ode to asserting one’s own identity

This is the story of how I came to be
But the best has yet to be written, you see

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Re-membrance of Self

Light returns
I raise my arms to greet Him
Dancing sun-wise
Singing soul songs

Darkness tried to swallow me
Despair pulled at my heart
Death called out from the stormy seas
How was I not dashed upon the rocks?

In the deepest cold
Daffodils break through the frozen earth
Life persists in the face of death
Skies clear as a new day breaks

We were not fashioned to dwell in caves
Our spirits reach for the Light
As sunflowers turn towards the sun
We revel in His presence and His promise

Running we stumble
Hands reach out to catch our fall
The struggle of faith is trusting
That we never walk alone

Light returns
Bathing me in His Love
Fear casts no shadow
Over those who remember to Whom they belong
Child of Light, REMEMBER, you are strong!

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PTSD

“I am Phoenix, child of Light.”

That’s what I used to repeat over and over to myself when I was young and suicidal. I said it when I needed, desperately, to remember that I was stronger than my circumstances.

Tonight, those words came to my mind as I was trying to process what was going on with me. Tonight, I was triggered by the unwanted touch of another. Someone tried to hug me and then put their hands on my shoulders, from behind, and squeezed gently. I spoke to this person a bit later. They apologized and said they would try to remember that not everyone likes to be touched. We parted amicably and then I headed off to the Chicago Mayoral Forum, to get my civic engagement on.

But I was unsettled. I could still feel this person’s hands on me. I felt gross and unclean. I kept telling myself that it was fine. A misunderstanding. It won’t happen again. Why couldn’t I shake this unsettled feeling?

I made my way to the auditorium, but I felt very on edge. I thought it was because I unsure of my directions. I was in an unfamiliar place, I didn’t know where I was going. I was also cutting it close. When I arrived at the space, I saw all the people and I became more unsettled. During the event, I was mostly okay as I focused on what the candidates were saying. When it ended, I had only one thought: escape.

I bolted. Some people I knew were in the audience. I couldn’t stop. I didn’t look around. I couldn’t breathe. Once out of the auditorium, I got turned around in the labyrinthian hallways. I felt so vulnerable and upset.

When I made it outside, I didn’t feel too much better. As I sped-walked to the bus stop, I tried to make sense of what I was feeling. I felt guilty, ashamed and my mind my reeling. It took me a while, but I realized that I was having an anxiety-induced panic attack.

I tried to convince myself it was just because of the huge crowd. I hate crowds. I get claustrophobic. It was hot. I felt sick. I hadn’t eaten much today. I was dehydrated. I tried to remember the last time I had a panic attack. I couldn’t remember, but I knew it was before I stopped seeing my therapist a few years ago. Then I went down a different spiral.

Ever since I exited therapy, I had been doing so well. Once upon a time, the mere thought of going to a big event like the mayoral forum, would have made me sick. I spent years hiding from the world. I had to force myself to be social even with close friends. Going out drained me and triggered my anxiety. However, in the last year, I found myself feeling stronger, braver, excited about the prospect of going out and disappointed when plans were canceled.

But tonight I wanted to hide. I panicked. I felt weak and scared. I felt all my progress slipping away. I didn’t feel like myself. I was anxious all the way home and didn’t feel any more relaxed even within the safety of my four walls.

I keep thinking about why this happened. I don’t want this. This isn’t me anymore. I’m strong. I’m brave. I’m full of joy. I’m happy.

And that horrible, insecure little voice telling me that it’s all a lie. That I’m still broken. I’m not okay. How will I find love if I can’t be touched?!

I don’t want to hide myself away anymore. I love the joyful, open, loving me. I love going out with my friends and being nourished by their presence. I don’t want to go backwards. And I’m not sure how.

I sit here, drinking wine, blogging, trying to process and I have no answers. All I know is that I can’t go back. I won’t. I had a huge reality check tonight. That even when things are going well, I can’t escape my past. Even when I’m feeling good, my demons are lurking right beneath the surface. And the knowledge that I may never be fully healed.

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Sometimes I really miss my mom

I wish I had my mother’s faith
That never seemed to waiver
All the obstacles she had to face
She thanked God for each new day
And when her health failed and she lay dying
She asked Her Father to bring her Home

When I was small, I remember waking up in the middle of the night. I had the chills and couldn’t stop shaking. I woke my mom up, she took my temperature and put me in an ice bath to bring my fever down. When she took me out, she wrapped me in a towel and held me. She rocked me and rubbed my arms. I stopped shaking and I told her that her love made me well.

Blasphemous though it may be, I believe my first “god” was my mother. Before the anger, distrust, the teenage rebellion and angst, I loved my mother above all else. Though she taught me to pray and sang to me of Jesus’s love, none of it seemed real compared to the very tangible affection my mother gave me. When she rocked me and sang “Jesus loves me”, I cried. Every time. Every time she reached the part that says “they are weak, but He is strong”, I lost it. I had no sense of God or the Gods. I had no understanding. But I knew my mother loved me and she made me feel strong and safe and less scared.

Sometimes it’s not enough to know she still loves me in death. Sometimes I just wish she was here to hold me and rock me and tell me everything will be all right. Even if it is a lie.

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Shattered In My Soul

It’s that deep deep sorrow
And you can’t even lift your eyes
Every moment feels like you’re moving through water
And it’s hard to breathe
Struggling to take in air but you’re only taking on more water
You’re drowning
And no one can hear you scream

Piles of trash and tissues build up around you
Pull the blanket further over your head so you don’t have to see
Turn on the tv so you don’t have to face reality
Where have all your loved ones gone?
Text LOL so they won’t know
That you’re dying slowly in your soul
So far gone the tears won’t come
Cause you’re so used to stuffing it down
Keep stuffing it down
Hoping the bin doesn’t over flow

Say everyone’s got problems
Mine are so small
Don’t want to waste other’s time
When folks are dying in the streets
At least I’m alive
I act like I’m alive
Take a shower put on clean clothes
Paste on a smile so it won’t show
Keep it together in public
Hold it all in till I cross my threshold

The pants come off
So does the smile
Crawl into bed and cry for a while
Maybe I’ll eat
Maybe I won’t
Think I’ll just go to sleep
Can’t buy what I’m really hungry for
Open my eyes
Curse the dawn
Hair of the dog
Shit all my cigarettes are gone
Sit on the edge of the bed and spend thirty minutes trying to find the strength to put my socks on

How can I face the world?
I don’t want to face the world
So I lay back down
Pull the covers over my head
Sleep a few more hours
Do you know what it’s like to be the living dead?
Well, now you know
But you’ll never really know
Pray you won’t ever know
How it feels to be shattered in your soul

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After the Grand Jury

What if I premptively cut out my womb
wrapped it in a blanket and left it at the nearest precinct
In a little wicker basket with a letter written in my own blood
What if you had one less black child to kill
Would you spare the rest
Would you let us live

What if I cut out my heart
laid it on the altar surrounded by sacred flame
And prayed the rosary every day for the rest of my life
Jesus, would you still love me
Would you accept my sacrifice
Would you save us from the fire

What if I cut down our killers
drew out their insides for all to see
What if my kin weren’t the only ones hanging from the poplar trees
What was it we all were waiting for
Not justice not peace
Not when they cut us off from the knees

Rise Up
Set It Off
Rage More
Watch It Burn

Maybe then they will learn
Maybe then they will see
Our blood is just as red as theirs
And our tears just as salty

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Song of the Wandering Phoenix

“I went out to the hazel wood, because a fire was in my head…”-The Song of the Wandering Aengus by William Butler Yeats

When I wrote “Forever Always Until” it came to me as a song. I had just come from a spiritual consultation. She asked me if I had ever heard music in my head that I had never heard before. I said I had. She suggested that I write songs. I told her I didn’t know how. She suggested that I learn.

After I left, I heard a song in my head. A song I had never heard before. I was in the cab and I opened the Notes app on my phone and started writing the words and singing them in my head. By the time I got home, I had written the first stanza. I had to get ready for work, but made time the next day to finish the poem. As I wrote, I sang in my head. This wasn’t one of my usual free verse poems. I needed the rhythm to be right and it had to match the melody.

When I first shared it on my blog, I shared it as a poem. But since I wrote it, the song kept coming back into my head. I sing it often in the quiet of my home, but it’s not enough. The song keeps coming back and my head won’t stay quiet. I feel compelled to share the song with the world in the same way I felt compelled to write it. It’s mine and it’s not mine. The song came to me, but with the creative fervor that can only come straight from the Gods. The “fire in the head”.

Yes, it’s a love poem, but it’s more than that. It’s a love poem that, to me, reads like a prayer. It’s about faith and submission to a Will greater than my own. It’s about trusting that even in the darkest times “everything will turn out right”. Nothing really unique or special about it, but I love it just the same.

I don’t know if I’ll write any more song-poems. It could have been a fluke and there’s still the small matter that, while I can read and (sort of) play music, I don’t know how to write it. We’ll see what the future holds.

For now, my head is (finally) quiet and I can rest. Below you’ll find my recording of “Forever Always Until”. I hope that it speaks to you, dear reader, as it speaks to me.

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