Category Archives: Poetry

Regrets

One benefit to aging is that I used to not believe in regrets, but now I do. Wise, I am not sure, but having regrets shows compassion I believe. I am big on compassion. Or I like to think I am. I am still learning.

My regrets are strange. They’re not huge, but petty little things. They creep up in my mind often and I wonder, should I call so and so? Should I dredge this up from the past? Would they even remember? What if they retroactively hate me once I remind them?

I feel like I can out my regrets on both my hands (probably not) let’s see:

-My exboyfriend in college was a sous chef at a Japanese restaurant. A girlfriend and I went to eat at his place. He’d come up with a fancy special—soft shell crab, whole, with some sort of sophisticated sauce and garnish. We both took a couple bites but couldn’t eat it. It was too strange/out-of-ordinary to my 22-year old taste buds. I would finish that crab now. I would eat every last bite. I still remember the look on his face when they cleared the uneaten delicacy from our table. I should have known better. Cooking was his everything.

-Also in college, a boy I worked with always wore a baseball cap. Always. What’s your hair like under that baseball cap?, I asked him in a teasing manner one day. He took off his baseball cap to reveal a prematurely bald and shining head. I wanted to crawl under the table and stay there.

-Leaving that workplace to move to Oregon, I decided to distinguish every person I had worked with in some special way. I worked there for four years, so my coworkers had become dear to me. I wrote out a goodbye note to post on the walk-in cooler. I wrote things like, “To Lexi: who always wore a smile.” The place was owned by two brothers. My first inclination was “To Pete: the cool one” and “To Brent: the cute one.” Instead, to keep it professional (or so I thought) I wrote, “To Pete: the cool one” and “To Brent: the hardass.” Pretty sure “cute” is better than “jerk”—and in my defense, “cute” was more true-to-my-feeling.

-I’ve used writing as a tool basically my entire life to handle unpleasant circumstances, deal with grief, etc. I’ve had my blog for about 11 years and throughout that time I’ve posted things that I would basically have written in a diary. (In my defense, that’s kind of what a blog is.) I have also taken those blog posts and put them on my social media. Sometimes, being that I write about my life, those things have been blasted out to an audience larger than I would like. Basically I write about my mom and my dad and then they see it. For better or for worse. What I regret is that not only are they witnessing my feelings about their shortcomings, but everyone else is too. At times this has felt good but most of the time this feels really bad. As an antidote I try to write things that are true, compassionate, and, whenever possible, self-deprecating.

-I regret any form of gossip or negative talk (I identify this as putting others down to lift up myself). Gossip and negative talk about others is easy to identify because you instinctively know when you’ve crossed the line. In your head you think “so and so wouldn’t appreciate this” but you keep talking—past the line. You might even lower your voice as if they were in the other room.

-I regret many incidences that involve past substance abuse. I will leave it at that. I will save the rest for another story but mainly the repercussions have included the deterioration my mind, body and spirit. And often times embarrassment.

-In the 5th grade an older cousin told me I needed to find someone to pick on. That way the other kids wouldn’t beat up on me seeing that I was so tough. So I chose this kid who walked home the same route as me. He was chubby and had curly hair and wore Wranglers and no one talked to him and he didn’t deserve it. Many years later, he contacted me on Myspace. Do you remember chasing me home all the time? He asked me. I can only hope my apology was sincere.

-I regret not buying an olive green pant suit I saw at St. Vinneys about two and a half years ago. It was one of those kind that were supposed to look wrinkled so it didn’t matter if it actually got wrinkled. It was my color and it was perfect. I almost flipped a U-ey but I didn’t. It was the pantsuit that got away.

-I regret leaving a good career job for an okay man and moving to another part of the state. That remains one of my biggest lessons.

-I regret snapping at my fiances grandmother when I was hangry in Hawaii. I’d knocked over the car seat and she’d said Good thing the baby wasn’t in it! ‘I wouldn’t have knocked her over if she were in it!’ I’d snapped back.

-I regret telling my dad his cooking sucked when I was a teenager. I regret calling him a dork and many other cruel things I did at that time. You’re mean to your dad, my best friends told me. I was mad at the world and took it out on him. I regret that.

-I regret that a woman I know sent me a poem recently and I haven’t read it. She wanted feedback but I haven’t got the time. I hope she understands what it is really like for a woman with a newborn. Time keeps on slippin slippin slippin. I can’t do all the things. I can’t even look at my own poem and I am sorry.

-I regret not going to see my good friend Connie more. She was a customer of mine when I worked for the post office. She is a lovely person, a wise old soul, and she cares for me deeply. I know because she sends me kind emails regularly. I regret that, because of our coupled anxiety, I believe, we rarely see each other in person. She will die someday. So will I. And I will regret it.

-I regret that, since my daughter was born, I am doing just an OK job at everything. Work, writing and cooking. Especially cooking. That is especially just OK. I regret that being ‘just a mom’ doesn’t seem satisfactory enough for all of society. I regret that I couldn’t be just a mom if I tried. Toys, I find, actually bore me. I regret that Autumn doesn’t want to just sit in the corner and read like I do.

-I regret throwing a golf ball through an old man’s front window in high school. Even if he was stalking my grandmother, and sending inappropriate things to our home, the shock of that golf ball and the cascading of the glass panels must have scared him something fierce. I didn’t actually expect it to connect. And until now, I never told anyone.

 

70 and Sunny

You’ll never be alone in your mind again. I forget who said that about becoming a mother. It wasn’t me, but I totally get it.

It is the afternoon at our home in Walton. We drove to town this morning–Autumn and I–for a work function during which, when it became my turn to talk, someone gracefully had to take the baby. They bounced her around the office while I gave my piece.

Afterward, I was scheduled to meet with my boss but my five month old wouldn’t have a minute more of it. We got back on the road, a forty five minute drive home. Autumn fell asleep immediately and I pulled into a Dutch Bros for an iced coffee that I consumed in a matter of mere minutes. $3.50 plus a tip down-the-hatch. I hadn’t had time for my morning coffee in our rush to get out the door. Absent of my ritual, a pounding headache loomed.

On the drive, I listened to NPR’s coverage of the climate crisis. I took a slidelong glance at my plastic Dutch Bros cup and straw. I could tell you I usually order hot coffee, which at least comes in a paper cup. I could tell you that yesterday I’d dutifully carried my reusable blue coffee mug from REI, but it wouldn’t soften the blow. I literally drove past droves of teenagers skipping class to raise awareness of the climate crisis, protesting outside the City Courthouse. I honked, in a pathetic attempt to join them. I honked four friendly honks and waved. But I was, clearly, part of the problem. I may have reused my coffee mug yesterday, but today was a brand new day.

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Back at home it was 70 and sunny. Autumn had not roused from her nap, so I opened the door of the minivan I swore I’d never own and paced around our property racking my  brain for what I should do with my newfound freedom. At least once, I checked on her to make sure she was breathing (it’s a mom thing). It’d been an unusually long nap. I checked the mail. Refilled my coffee. Eyed the mint and the other outside herbs. I wondered if, possibly, there were time to write a story.

Timidly, not sure to get my hopes up, I shook a large, fuzzy blanket out on the back pasture, under the trees. Autumn, still in the van with the door open, sleeping, was within eye and ear shot. It was the first warm day of Spring. I remembered how her father and I met on the first warm day of Spring several years ago. We’d walked his dog, Honey, who has since passed. She’d died in my arms, actually.

I grabbed a large yellow notepad I use for reporting in our small town. I grabbed my iced coffee and a pen. I grabbed a large mason jar of water and a pillow for when Autumn woke and needed to nurse. Writing is hard with a newborn because you can only get down so many words so ideally those words would be good.

I can do hard things but not easily, I wrote. A sort of mantra lately. I wasn’t sure if it was holding me back or what.

I kicked my Chacos into the grass.

70 and sunny. Never alone in my mind again, I wrote.

I managed to fill a couple of pages with words under the shade of a Rhododendron bush, in the shadow of our hollow. I wrote some short little clip of my life at this time. Of our life. A regular work day. Then back to the hollow. I didn’t find the time to remove the cheesy brand placement that never should’ve been there. The Dutch Bros. The REI. The Chacos.

I didn’t find the time to say I’m more of a Hillbilly Brews, St. Vincent De Paul, Birkenstock-type of gal.

But maybe I’ve changed.

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Autumn wakes and cries. Selfishly, I dart my eyes toward the van but keep on writing. I’ve just gotten to the part about the protesters skipping school. I don’t know what I’m trying to say but I think I’m capturing some glimpse of time. Another Spring. Another season. Another mom scrambling to keep her brain together while teenagers point to the real, true issues in the world like the climate crisis. The admiration I have for them. The shock of not standing there with them. The vows I make to reduce, recycle and reuse. How, in reality, I put Autumn in disposable diapers at night because they hold like a gallon of pee and don’t wake her.

When Autumn does wake, I will lay by her side in the sun on our fuzzy blanket and feed her for up to thirty minutes. Hogs do not mind this, humans sometimes do. I am required to do this five to six times per day. A wise aunt recently told me, “Remember, our children do not ask to come into this world.”

It is not easy being a mother. It is not easy being a child. But it is 70 and sunny and somehow we are perfectly undone and barreling toward some unknown, likely very disorderly reality. Not an easy pill to swallow for a perfectionist-ish like me.

The minute I pick Autumn up, her crying stops, like a faucet. I may not be everything, but I am everything to her. Like the Earth is for those teenagers. We cannot see what they see–perhaps too close to the elephant we have been our whole lives. But those kids, well I guess they see their mother barreling into space and away from them, toward her death. Resources squandered. No soft, natural place to land on.  The very real possibility of her milk drying up. They see their mother leaving, being held hostage, in great danger.

As a mother, the burdensomeness of the responsibility is only a matter of perspective. I take off my shirt. I let the sunshine warm my shoulders. I really struggle to reach down within my core and retrieve what I truly am as a woman now: a mother. Not some worker. But being a mother is harder than being a worker. Mothers don’t get breaks. I wonder how very tired the Earth must be. What relief it will be to her when she implodes. But she is probably one of those mothers who’s made for it. Not like me.

On our drive through the “country” to town, I got stopped for construction three times. It was bumper to bumper the whole way. I stared out the window at the trees, the forests, the wild. We don’t even know how to live out there anymore, I thought. At the bell of my alarm clock this morning, all I wanted to do was lie around and nurse my daughter. Instead, I slapped some powder on my face, I put on a skirt and I hustled. I ignored that animal instinct. I’ve been successfully rewired. It goes against my new role as mother. Is the Earth starting to think differently, too?

I floored it to the office, to the child neglect organization I work for. But it was worth it. Because our topics drive a good cause. The world is crumbling, but that is beside the point. For us anyway. We all have our causes, and our limits, sadly.

How many exhausted mothers, fathers and children did I pass on route to the office? How many of them would rather have been somewhere else? In their own metaphorical hollow somewhere?

How many other parents have no weekend, and work late into the night? How many other folks in the country have gotten so incredibly entwined, despite their best efforts, in the go-go-go, American daily grind? How many others actually sit in the forests that they pay to own?

70 and sunny.

Never alone in your mind again.

Here. Now. Home.

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Autumn lays in the sun with me. She nurses and when she is done she fusses not once. She taps my leg with her foot as I write. Lightly. She is mesmerized by the hum of nature (and, if I am being honest, the highway in the distance). She notices the breeze and the butterflies and the grass. Am I a bad mother because she is more familiar with the indoors than the out? Or might I be let off the hook because it is the first day that really feels like springtime in Oregon?

Autumn’s feet tapping moves to my right elbow, jarring my pen and lettering as I write. We do this for minutes, me writing, her jarring. I am obsessed but finally I get the hint. We lie on our backs, mother and daughter, on a large fuzzy blanket and stare at the towering branches of a walnut tree. There aren’t even buds yet, but behind the branches is an azure blue sky. There will be buds, I tell Autumn. There will even be leaves, you’ll see.

No title

We don’t come to the city much
it can cause me anxiety, just the cost of gas alone
tonight I find it pleasing, though—the scent of different
restaurants catching on the wind
Chinese, a steak house,
I even get a whiff of seafood
I push her stroller through the dusky mist to
the public library children’s section
where we eye the fathers of children,
innocently enough just observant and healthy like
I always was
then I take her out of her stroller and
walk the aisles, fingering the books the
staff has arranged face first,
Love You Head to Toe
The Good Egg
and
A Scarf for Keiko

A mother and daughter play on the
floor together with difficulty
“I won’t play with you if you make
up your own rules!” the mother says sternly
“It’s not fair!” the mother pouts
I wonder of my sweet Autumn
picking up on her negativity so
I turn on my heel, head the other way
I bookmark postpartum groups in my head
and vow to use them before getting to where
that mother was
I wonder what she thought motherhood would be like
I didn’t know either but…
her resentment is palpable
I say a little pray for her pink-haired daughter

I spot a children’s table with children’s chairs, crayons
and scrap paper
I grab an already colored on scrap—an orange daffodil
and with Autumn on my lap I try to scratch a poem that
my mother-in-law would approve of
I think about erasing the part about
watching fathers but I don’t
because library pencils don’t come
with erasers

Mama Bird Baby Bird

I did a double take when I heard
you were just two months old
(heard from myself no doubt)
it feels like we’ve been together
much longer

I seek your forgiveness
for the sand on my nipple
worry of your ingesting rocks
the size of glitter
on my skin

But more than that it pains me
to watch you cry so I bring you
to my breast

Mama bird
Baby bird

You’ve turned me into a fountain no doubt
“chocolate milk next time if you’re lucky” I joke
in my sugary, sing-songy voice
Papa points out that I’m using
‘too much baby voice’ but I
no longer mind what he says,
which is new, welcomed

They don’t say
‘Mama knows best’
for nothin’

This morning you
were content nursing
for over one hour

because of the holiday
I had the luxury of shutting the door
on the dishes, the chores and
the unmopped floor and
as you suckled I marveled

Also I read
Sun Magazine
Issue 517
I read
“We Need to Talk”
I read
“What to Look for in a Horse”
I read
“The Only One She Told”
which made me feel
swooney and romantic
and inspired to write

and when I broke your half-hearted suckle
you endearingly suckled on my elbow
as I gently stroked this poem

You have changed me,
Baby Bird,
only time will
reveal the many ways

I pray for the wisdom to shape
that change in ways that will
benefit us both

you, a budding baby, a honey comb,
to which all things stick

me, not just resigned to motherhood
but still blossoming with potential myself
the burning desire for more more more
knowledge
never intended for the likes of me
knowledge
almost withheld from me
(but that’s a story for another time)

I pray for the wisdom to shape
this change in ways that will
benefit us both
We will learn together
We will thrive together
We will not merely survive together
Not you and I Baby Bird,
no

Mama Bird
Baby Bird

I bring you to my chest again
You seem to need me more today
I accept that
I resign the afternoon to you,
the Sun Magazine,
and a single
drop of water
in my mug

A glistening symbol
as if to say:
there’s something here
it isn’t much
but it is something
a single drop
of the truth
is all that is
needed

Mama Bird
Baby Bird

Fly

Steps to Reclaiming Your Dream

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@terahvandusen on Instagram:)

Steps to Reclaiming Your Dream

While being realistic,
hold your dream up to the light
take a few moments to inspect the thing, its foundation
see what you have built and
where you’ll need to go yet
identify the soft spots
the weak spots
an’ fix em
grab your pen and paper
and fill-in-the-blanks
take measurements,
plan the steps you’ll need to take
examine your toolbox, keep it handy,
keep it close
don’t be open, but be rigid
for some it is the opposite—
for you it is not.
a natural born rebel,
reign yourself in
befriend routine
come to like it
come to love it
come to need it
you are a parent now
it is different, but better
be rigid in your intentions
this is how you will accomplish them
do not let others distract you
even those you lie next to
they have their path and you have yours
respect your differences
honor your path
sparkle, shine
be a woman just because it’s fun
remember what you care about
like your new child,
grow with everyday
grow taller
grow better posture
experiment with clothing and hairstyles again
do you and don’t let anyone
take it from you
no boss
no man
no body
with their grave,
adult expectations
again, be a woman
just because it’s fun
remember what you care about
make a mantra if you must
you is smart
you is kind
you is important

if applicable,
take the quotes on your
Yogi tea bag to heart
like todays:
walk beautifully,
talk beautifully,
live beautifully
Make art
you always did
you always have
why stop now?
make art of work
make art of love
make art of parenting
do not forget the lessons of your ancestors
which were: be bold, be bizarre, and begin again
begin anew everyday if you must
but begin
begin again
queen of the comeback, kid
hold your dream up to the light
that longtime dream:
I want to be a writer when I grow up
or a dancer
hold space for that little dreamer
notice the steps she took to get here
notice how culture has made room for
man’s accomplishments and goals,
less for woman’s
notice when space is not made for your
dreams, but don’t waste time complaining
just declutter
simplify
clear the space yourself,
unapologetically say
“this is my space”
say “these are my dreams, mother, wife or not”
say “yes, my dreams. They take up space and they take up time. Yes.”
say “now or never. Here to stay or gone forever.”
hold your dream up to the light
see how it radiates and shines

My Guest Interview with Madness Muse Press

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Madness Muse Press is all about “Enacting Social Change Through the Power of Writing.” The founder, Adam Levon Brown, is a poet here in Eugene, Oregon. He features writers both near and far in his “Your Voice” campaign centered around social justice, activism and discussion. In short, he’s right up my alley. Adam is a soft soul with a penchant for social activism via creative expression. I was honored to be a part of his Interview Series over at http://www.madnessmusepress.com.

Check out our interview here! (Excerpt below.)

Q: What time of day do you do most of your writing?

A: People are going to hate this but, whenever it strikes me. Yeah, I mean, I’m not a 9-5 writer. I find the best time to write actually, if you can manage, is right after a life-altering (large or small) event happens. Almost in-the-moment. After a fight. After a job interview. After a psychic reading. When you’re really feeling something. Also, if it works out, writing in the middle of the night is fantastic. So quiet. So people-less.