Posts tagged ‘lisa st john’

November 9, 2017

Immeasurable Heaven

by lisa st john

Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion 
And the act…                 
  –T.S.Eliot’s The Hollow Men” 

 

 

As I sit at the Detroit airport picking past the pretzels in my bar mix (say honest to god pretzels don’t taste the same as tree bark) I wonder about the in between.

The crumbs of the salty nacho bagel chips have to affect the smooth, oriental rice crackers. They are in there together, right?

Together and in between.

If I got nothing else out of the Women’s Convention it was this: we are all in this together, and to win we must work together and for each other. I don’t have what it takes to run for a local political office, but I DO have a hand on my sister’s back who does have the courage to run.

It’s changing. American society really is changing this time. Five years ago a female student argued with me about women being minorities. “Not anymore they’re not,” she decreed. I asked her to come back to me when she finished medical school to tell me I was wrong and that she was treated equally alongside her male peers. She hasn’t come back. I hoped she would be right. Not yet.

Between the conception
And the creation 
Between the emotion
And the response…

But standing next to my daughter-in-law in a hall with 3,000 other women who are working to change the status quo has given me real hope. We (I am 52 years old. Boomer? Gen X?) didn’t raise our daughters OR OUR SONS to be anything other than equal. Men are a huge part of this movement, and we need to make that a big part of the discussion.

Rose McGowan’s speech gave me goose bumps. But is was when Rev. Mark Thompson (the only male speaker) said, about sexual assault, “This didn’t start in Hollywood…it began when they first stepped off the boat here…continued throughout slavery…the white man turned on his own women…the true history of sexual assault is a straight line…” I realized that this isn’t just another movement. This is real. 

We aren’t rookies either. Look at how long it took to get marriage equality. We have been working on many levels for many causes, but it’s time to focus on women again.

Senator Nina Turner reminded us, “We have been here before.”

Side note: if you haven’t seen the documentary about the history of the Women’s Movement, SHE’S BEAUTIFUL WHEN SHE’S ANGRY, please watch it.

I cannot imagine my friends’ daughters letting someone tell them, “No. You can’t. You’re a girl.” They are the strongest generation because the daughters and granddaughters of the 1970’s are raising them.

“There is no Trump white house big or bad enough to stop women who are determined to shake this world.” (Sen. Turner) Pre and post Trump? Pre and post the social revolutions of the 70s and 80s?

Republicans versus Democrats? “Dr. Bernice King gave a speech earlier this year to the DNC. She said that, today, people are not looking for people just based on whether they’re Democrat or Republican — they’re looking for people who will stand up for humanity” (Nina Turner). Are there natural dichotomies? Or is everything in a state of in between?

Laniakea: immeasurable heaven. It’s where we live, in a supercluster of galaxies.
It’s in between

gorgeous galactic collisions. Tom Chi explains, in his awesome TED Talk “Everything is Connected” says that, “Every one of our heartbeats is connected” through iron. Fe. He explains it much better than I could. 

We are in between and we are together. “Every breath contributes to countless lives after you…Each one of these things that we put out into the world through the creative process … allow us to expand the Palate of Being for all of society after us” (Chi). We have to continue to fight for equal rights (that sounds so redundant and obvious when I type it out). My point is, we CAN make this happen. We CAN smile when our grandchildren ask us what is was like before the Equal Rights Amendment passed.
So we are in between right now. And in immeasurable heaven. And we are all connected.

Between the desire
And the spasm 
Between the potency
And the existence
Between the essence
And the descent…
falls the shadow. 
What falls next is up to us.

 

December 10, 2016

More links than content, but isn’t everything connected?

by lisa st john

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Some things happened recently that made me remember that not everything is okay. Not everyone is okay. And I am not even talking about the elections. I teach English Language Arts in high school. But really, I teach kids. I try and teach kids how to be good adults. I do not always succeed. And that knowledge hurts, because I forget sometimes. We all have choices.

But I have noticed over the years that physical pain can take me away like fucking Calgon. So thanks, Doc, for the cortisone shot in my thumb that brought me to tears. Yes, there is crap and Trump and Orwellian cabinet positions but there is also Art.

I can go an hour south and see Modigliani at the Met or Clyfford Still at MoMA. I can re-read American Gods (again) and visit Roland in his Dark Tower quest again and again.

Until they close the museums.

Until they burn the books.

orwellian

I can go hear live music like the amazing Joanna Teters and Amanda Palmer. I can go to poetry readings and workshops like Word Café, and I can even occasionally get published (thank you Chronogram).

 

Until they close the theaters and the clubs.

Until they round up the artists and intellectuals.

The fear of being helpless is dangerous. We are not weak. We are more connected to each other than any time in human history. When we feel powerless, we can go to real places and virtual places and listen to each other, and share silly cat videos and remember to smile and to see.

My mantra for today: Make Art. SEE. Join. Don’t give up. Don’t go back.

And we will not go back (to the kitchen or the closet or the back of the bus). Will we?

 

This is just a little list. There is SO MUCH MORE out there.

American Civil Liberties Union
LAMBDA Legal
Planned Parenthood
NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund
NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund
Human Rights Campaign
Human Rights Campaign

 

Look at the beautiful things going on in the world that we can ALL be a part of!

Crowdsourcing, Crowdfunding so, so many.

 

See you in D.C.

pussy                                      a new poem 

August 28, 2016

Nesting into Fall (or) those philosophy books I took out of the library were worth every late fee.

by lisa st john

“I believe you are your work. Don’t trade the stuff of your life, time, for nothing more than dollars. That’s a rotten bargain.” Rita Mae Brown

philosophy

 

Nesting is that weird thing that happens to some pregnant women towards the end of their nine-month ordeal, glow-time, happiest fatness, hemorrhoid awakening, pleasetakeitoutnow uhm, term. But teachers get it too, and it starts in August. Sadly, New York State doesn’t start school until after Labor Day (I’d much rather have June off than August) so I am getting the nesting urge a bit late this year.

I am cleaning and filling the hummingbird feeders, catching up on all laundry, emptying sand as best as I can from the car, looking for clothes that don’t show cleavage, stocking up on everything from cat food to toilet paper, and OH how I wish I could pee ahead of time. I’d save up, like, thirty pees just for September. Urinating any old time you have to go is a blessed luxury; it’s one of the best things about summer break. Truly.

Don’t believe me? Ask a teacher.

Rookie Teacher First Day Worries:
What if the kids don’t like me?
What if the kids won’t listen to me?
What if I am boring?
What if the principal comes in while I’m teaching?
What if a kid acts out or misbehaves?
What if I am no good at this?

Experienced Teacher First Day Worries:
I’m not here to make friends. Where’s the free coffee?
How do I listen to (and learn) the names of 50 kids named Megan and 80 named Tyler?
What if the kids are boring and won’t talk and just want to take tests and stuff?
I hope the principal comes in while I am teaching; I could use help with this year’s group.
Unless someone has a knife and tries to use it NO ONE is leaving this room.

I hope I can sprinkle some love of poetry on them while I teach them how to be good humans.

Empathy 101 anyone? That degree in Comparative Literature can sit in the back for now.

Goodbye long, slow mornings. Goodbye midnight (I’ll probably see you in a week or two while I reach for the insomnia pills). Goodbye drinks before five. Wait. Scratch that.

See ya’ Summer. Thanks for never really leaving me. I will tuck you in well. We’ll share some sweet dreams with Fall when she wakes up. Until then, I have some teenage minds to warp.

ponderingsYou can buy my chapbook, Ponderings, HERE at Finishing Line Press.

August 5, 2015

It’s Just Stuff

by lisa st john

 There will be joy…whether we want it or not.

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Cone Dog Millionaire?

Loss and grief are unforgiving teachers. Are you ready for the quiz? No? Too bad; so sad.

All we can do is decide how to react to moments. We cannot choose the moments. All we can do is be good to ourselves so that we can be good to one another.

“Aren’t you sad…devastated that he’s leaving?”
“I, uhm…want him to be happy.”
“But you’ll have to get on A PLANE to see him!”
“Yes. And that’s how I am going to spend my money.”
“But he is your only one, what about saving for your retirement… .”
“I’d like to think I raised a good adult, even though he is my ‘only one’ (!?). Now he is off being an adult. ‘I never seen a hearse with a trailer hitch.’ Do you know that song?”
What?!”

Recently, someone told me that I don’t respect money. This is true. It is just stuff. It is used to get more stuff. Or it is used to help create experience. I like to think that is what we taught our son. Experience over things, moments over regrets.

Recently, someone told me that I shouldn’t always pay for her dinner. “Do you forget,” I asked her, “that you wired me money all the time when I was pregnant and alone and couldn’t work anymore?”

“No. I guess I forgot…”
“Twenty-nine years ago I stole a bag of rice from a grocery store. I paid for the can of beans. You taught me that beans and rice make a complete protein—healthy for the baby.”
“Yea, but…”
“You taught me how to ask.”

My late husband used to tell the story of a college friend who didn’t have drinking money. My husband used to tell him, “If I’ve got enough for one beer, I’ve got enough for two. Let’s go.”

I like to believe that this sentiment is alive and well in the world at large and not just in my own life. Can I afford to buy a recent high school graduate a new car? No. Can I afford to give a few bucks toward her crowdsourcing effort? Hell, yeah. It’s just stuff.

“What do you mean you don’t balance your checkbook?”
“That’s what ATMs are for—checking my balance.”

My logic works kind of like this: I got a refund for a $200.00 deposit I put on a rental house for my last vacation. I forgot about putting down the deposit. So now I have a brand new (free!) $200.00 that I didn’t have before. (Well, technically I did have it but I forgot it so… .) Now I have a new $199.00 camera. For FREE! (Sort of.)

There is no amount of money that can buy anything worthwhile. There is no amount of money that will bring my husband back. I am stuck here; I am stuck here without him, and I will be damned if all he taught me about living in the moment is going to go to waste. I hope I die broke. I hope I helped make many experiences along the way.

“Does it get easier? The loss? The grieving?”
“I don’t know anything about easy. I just know about change.”

p.s. My first chapbook, Ponderings, will be out at the end of this month. I just proofed the first set of galleys from Finishing Line Press. Buy it. And if you can’t let yourself laugh at weird, stupid stuff like trumping your cat, well, then… .

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July 16, 2015

The Time for Warnings is Over

by lisa st john

“The Time for Warnings is Over”

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Watch out file cabinet. Here I come. Beware you unfiled pile of folded up receipts and reminders! I am coming for you. You push pins better get in line, and HEY! I thought I returned you Ethernet cables weeks ago. Hiding were you? Under the vocabulary lists and warranty registration cards, huh? We’ll see about that. There is a recipe for salad (yes, I need a recipe for salad) scrunched under a copy of Writers Digest and an electric bill cowering beneath a coffee-stained yellow legal pad. Enough. I can’t think with all this clutter.

And thinking really does need to commence as the summer runs (at breakneck speed) toward its apex. I have to stop thinking about doing things and start actually doing them. Easier than it sounds. I have to give myself some leeway though. I see three distinct pieces to an artist’s life. Number One is creating the art. This stage happens all over the place in any space and at any time. I love Elizabeth Gilbert’s description of a Tom Waits interview in which he describes the creative muse at work:

He just looked up at the sky, and he said, “Excuse me, can you not see that I’m driving? … “Do I look like I can write down a song right now? If you really want to exist, come back at a more opportune moment when I can take care of you. Otherwise go bother somebody else today. Go bother Leonard Cohen.”

Here we bless the beauty of technology. If I don’t have a pen or paper I usually have an iPhone that can take notes or voice memos. Super helpful. Number Two is editing and fine-tuning and making pretty. A bunch of scraps are just that—beautiful, lyrical scraps perhaps, but only scraps. Hemingway was dead on when he said that the first draft of anything is shit. Art is work. Art is not thinking about work. Number Three is getting the work out there—published, printed, talked about. Number Three is the least fun for me. Luckily, there are tools like Submittable and Writers Market. There are even markets for poetry. Who would-ah thunk it?

And so, cleaning out my writing space I came upon a pastiche I wrote sometime in the unknown past. I must remember to start putting dates on things. I almost must remember to thank Amanda Palmer for reminding me of the truth in these lyrics from Ukulele Anthem:

“Quit the bitching on your blog/and stop pretending art is hard…”

Thank you. Time to get back to work. And don’t forget to buy a copy of Ponderings from Finishing Line Press.

“The Time for Warnings is Over”

(with apologies to Jennie Joseph)

Since I am a middle-aged woman, I shall wear my Scrabble PJs,
with a comfy sweatshirt, to the car repair.
And I shall spend my paycheck on wine and overnight trips and concerts,
and say we’ve no money for cat food.
I shall lie on the couch watching Heroes when I am tired
and eat all the samples at Sam’s club on a Sunday and raise hell at work
and run my mouth at anyone who will listen
and try and forget the wildness of my youth.
I shall go out in socks and Crocs
and steal best practices from my student teachers
and practice growling.

You can wear rainbow tee-shirts and get fatter
and eat McDonalds three times a week
or only Chinese take-out
and squirrel away office supplies at home.

But now we must wear shirts without cleavage
and try to make the students do the same
and send them to the office when they are too naked.
We must talk to people and keep up with politics.
But I am beyond practicing.
So people who’ve just met me will not be traumatized
when my friends say, “She has no filter and loves Gertrude Stein.”

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