I have spent the last several years transcribing notes from napkins, old journals, running text messages to my self, and sporadically placed post-its. Cataloging the chaos that has become a dysfunctional system for me in my 30's has been an ongoing effort. I've stressed over how to categorize, unify, and present hundreds of poems, prose, and partially thought out ideas. After some lighthearted counsel with one of my absolute oldest friends, I decided how I wanted them organized but still struggled with revisions and dividing them from the chronological order in which they were written, as I can be a little compulsive. I'm sure those who know me well are riddled with surprise. The one thing I've been absolutely sure of, is that each book will be titled after a goddess, encompassing their attributes, symbolism, and stories of which I connect with. As I was preparing to enter a chapbook contest, I found myself weighed down by the pressure of writing a title poem for book one (of five), Athena.
As it turned out, Athena was the poem I didn’t know I needed. The poem that absolutely had to be written in order for me to understand who I am now and for me to be comfortable publicly laying claim to my existence as a writer. Completing Athena redefined what I wanted for my book and for who I want to be as a published writer. This has led to hours of extended research and rewrites well spent. That said, I never made the contest deadline, and much of what I started with (a modest 30 page chapbook) has been heavily reworked and is transforming into the full length manuscript I've conjured in dreams and planned on vision boards over the years. My memories and experience delivered in poetry. Delivered as myth, magic, fairytale, fiction, history, and culture, yet still - as nothing but my reality and it's many transformations and stages of life.
The women in my family are born with equal parts tenacity and tenderness, may their eternal love continue to guide, forge, and comfort me. Without further ado, for the women that made me and the woman they've made me into, I present, Athena.
I come from a line of women rooted in legends of myth.
I stand here a mosaic of symbolism and virtue.
A biological structure composed of lure.
Crafted with the threads of goddesses and mothers
from places I’ve never seen outside of my fantasies.
I kneel to be crowned in a halo of orange blossoms
and braided wheat. She said,
just for me, her Tiger Lily.
Destined to be sweet and victorious.
And I imagined myself
riding through Mount Olympus in a chariot
with her ghost by my side.
I, a ready warrior for battles I didn’t see coming.
My mother, her name was Maritza.
And though its bounty was worth its weight
in the iron of my spear,
she never understood what I loved about it.
In German, her name means of the sea.
You see? I am the daughter of Metis.
Born to bare the thunder of Zeus.
Despite her absence now,
she is the wisdom he and I carry.
Our most trusted counsel.
Since the day I sprouted,
armored and full of fight,
when I see the ocean,
I take a moment to be still.
Waves and ripples coming towards me.
A fluid field of turquoise shades of blues and greens.
And I feel her abundant love.
I stand here before you,
because I read Metis my ramblings as a child,
and she called it art.
In Spanish and in life,
she and her name were an alteration of her maker, Maria.
Every cell hand stitched with her mother’s modesty,
patience, and attention.
Leaving me the proud grand-daughter
of the Titan Tethys.
Reigning star dust,
I am the great-grand daughter of Gaia, herself.
A perfect host goddess for our very own Flora.
And from her gifts and provisions,
we all received the cinnamon of our skin. And the grit
to nurture those, we love
through the pains of mortal life.
I have spent most of my life
drawn to the desert
with no real reason why. Perhaps,
it was the rumors
that I am really the daughter of Poseidon and Tritonis.
Perhaps I was in search of Libya
when I found refuge in the sands
who hold up mountains in the name and mercy of Atlas.
Perhaps I just longed for my forefathers of war
whose blood still lives in the sands of Tripoli.
Or maybe the salts of Lake Tritonis is a route
for my travel between worlds.
This river of the Triple Queens.
I am maiden to the serpent.
Risen from mother’s waters.
Medusa as my crone.
No matter the version you chose,
or I tell.
The women before me were mighty.
Together we are a tapestry
still being dovetail woven over time.
But my era is just beginning.
All of this? This is just a fragment
of the mosaic of me.
Of the earth, the nymph, and the warrior in me.
Of the goddess in me.
(Athena: Title poem for my debut book coming soon!)
The one thing I (or anyone who knows me) could have guaranteed you before last April, was that I would never be caught dead skiing. And then, because there is always an ‘and then,’ in the fall of 2017, I received an email from the Veterans Affairs (VA) regarding an adaptive sporting event, the National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic (WSC). The WSC is an annual week-long event in Snowmass Village, Co held by the VA and Disabled American Veterans (DAV) which is supported by dozens of incredible volunteers and sponsors.
This wasn’t just an average event for me, it would change the way I saw myself. It would expand the perimeter of limitations which had previously been set by my body and mind. I qualified for this event because of a traumatic brain injury (TBI) from some time ago, but it’s not the only disability of mine that felt liberated by my experience in Snowmass. Chronic pain and migraines, nerve pain, PTSD, depression, and more, all of the issues that often consumed
me, they felt like typical everyday obstacles that week instead of feeling like torment cementing me to stillness. Brief backstory: When I attended this event, I had been back on my feet part time for little over a year after having been nearly house bound from the severity of my pain and accompanying troubles for two and half years.
With the guidance of my fellow veterans, some amazing volunteers, and cargo pockets full of faith and a little bit of, “screw it, how much worse can I get,” I geared up and hit the snow with my instructor, Betsey. She was patient and encouraging, full of spirit and guidance. All of the things I hadn’t been with myself in far too long. From the moment we hit the mountain it was magic. My boots and skis practically carried me and for the first time in over 10 years I felt weightless. My body wasn’t riddled with stress and pain. The never-ending tree lines seemed to oxygenate my worries right out of my very being. It wasn’t just therapy for my physical pain but my mental anguish as well. I shared that to share this…
I realized the importance of what I had gained. Learning to ski with the WSC successfully and positively altered how I view my mental health, my physical abilities, and myself. While the WSC is designed for veterans with designated disabilities, this same camaraderie is seen throughout other programs and sub-communities all over the world. Regardless of who your tribe is or the cultures you identify with, support and kinship are out there. It was an experimental process that led me towards accepting and embracing the things I am still capable of. Putting in the work and taking risks, lead me to the realization that adaptive sports just so happens to be one of my tribes. Learning this has been an invaluable asset to my self-care and the future I am building.
Resources for those in need:
When I was about 7 or 8 years old, I read Stone Fox and Tigers Eye cover to cover a hundred times easy. Lying on my bedroom floor, in the backseat of the car, in the booths of restaurants, in waiting rooms, in the dugout at softball practice. The way those stories made me feel forever changed the way I saw the magic of words and they morphed my innocent little-girl dreams into vivid action-packed movies with daring characters who were never afraid to feel the full range of emotions that whirl winded within them.
Perhaps my story with words goes back further than that. I'm sure it was equally fostered by the hours spent in my mother's lap watching while she read Stephen King, John Grisham, and other novelists. Studying her face as it reacted to the gore, mystery, and suspense she indulged in. I remember wondering what could be written on those pages that kept her so focused and ready to pick up another book as soon as the last chapter ended. It was also my first lesson in learned behavior: I was her little monkey and I was determined to one day know what all of the fuss was about. And indeed, I did. So much so that reading was no longer enough for me.
I wrote my first book in 2nd grade, another in 3rd, and before I knew it a new love was born. I wasn't just passionate about reading, but also about writing. Maybe even more so. I couldn't quite tell. While my grade school era stories weren't very intricate or impressive, I saw myself in them and I still do. I also saw my favorite parts of the people I love tucked away in the bodies of my characters. I had unintentionally tied my two worlds together without realizing it. It dawned on me that I could use my experiences, environment, and perspective to create a whole new world filled with whatever I desired. Whatever I needed to release at the time. And It was all made possible with the simple beauty that is words.
I suppose that my verbal genius is buried somewhere with any potential for musical talent. And while they are both something I wish I possessed, I am at ease with the fact that written word has always saved me. Saved me from my own thoughts, allowed me to creatively express myself, given me a professional edge through the years, motivated me to embrace higher education, hell, even my love of lyrics, poetry, screenwriting, and research. It all comes from my fascination with the endless ways we can manipulate words.
We all share the same words and are only separated by the diversity of intent and inflection by way of region and culture. We have the option to be nomadic with words through language, film, and music. But what helps separate us, our intent, our sentiments, the roots of our expression…is how we each manipulate words to identify what we mean, want, and think. I have spent a lot of time harboring my thoughts and the piles of pages I have written like I have everything to lose by sharing them. Now, I am on the dawn of change. Ready to turn my next page.
So, while I'll likely never pick up a guitar and fulfill my dream of turning my poetry into songs that fill my soul with sound and express the deepest caverns that hollow through me, I will continue to admire the work of so many others and humbly put my own artistic contributions out into the universe. Being thankful for what I do have, my own passionate and thoughtful relationship with words. What I have come to realize is that I have been repeatedly healed and understood by the words of others that I come across and I am only limiting myself and feeding my fear by not releasing my own out into the world. So whether they are received lovingly or with discontent, I am done hiding them in the shadows of my desk and filing cabinet. Like inevitable storms after the calm, they are coming.
A blog dedicated to the evolution of my 1st full length poetry manuscript, Athena. Athena is book one in a five book series. This series is set to be the pilot phase for Unfeathered Ink Publishing.