ten

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Greta, Thea, Townes

Wedge pillows and balloon style gowns.

Graham, Berit, Penn

Tap water tests and no gin.

Eliot, Abbey, Holden

Ten years in we folded.

Ezra, Margot, Maeby

I think we’re ready, baby.

 

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George and the Shore

This is a tale about George and, as you may have guessed by now, a shore. George is just like you and me. He doesn’t have super powers. He cannot fly, and he doesn’t even have night vision (except of course when he uses his night vision goggles).

George lives on a shore. Do you know what a shore is? I’ll tell you what I know about a shore just to be sure.

A shore is where land stops and water begins, which makes the certainty of a shore hard to see for sure.  There’s really no clear line or path on a shore, because the water’s tide changes the shore’s perimeter every few counts of a “Mississippi”.  Do you count in Mississippi’s, too? Maybe that’s just something people down in Mississippi do.

Anyway, I guess a shoreline is a pretty simple concept, but for George there is an awful lot of trouble that comes along with living on a shore. I can’t think of all the confusing bits right now, but I can tell you the most significant trouble is George’s inability to ever be, you know, sure.

I heard George say a shore is like a fringe – loose, unformed, and always on the mend. Living on the shore means he’s mostly in flux. He gets pushed back and rebuilds, back and rebuilds, back and rebuilds. Sometimes though, really scary storms come through and erode the shore’s border so much that he has to build from scratch on a new shore a few feet back from where he began. Does that make sense to you? I’m sure.

Well, George got so scared of the shore that he moved to a place off the coast of France. It’s on the water and everything, just like Mississippi, but in France they call the shoreline a Riviera.

He says he’s happy there, but I’m pretty sure any shore — no matter what you call it — is still a shore.

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Through the Miles

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Sometimes – I think –

I’ve nearly found you

but my memory is fooled

by washed images that drew

from faces it never knew.

 

Can you tell me –

Which part of you I should search for

as the lost characteristics accrue

with ever voice I hear

that isn’t you?

 

Is it a song? A touch?

A look or a smile?

I’d like to think I’d find you –

even through the miles.

 

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On Dying in the South

I sat on a pew. The room was quiet and solemn and smelled like a box of stale potpourri. I remembered sitting there before. Not on that specific row, or even in that specific room, but I’d been there before. You were beside me, doodling crosses into grids and connecting each grid line with meticulous care to another cross on the page. At the end of a two-hour Sunday service, you’d have a whole maze of crosses connected.

Today you were front and center. You asked for no flowers, but we put them anyway. You didn’t want a fuss of speeches, but we did them anyway. You didn’t want anyone in heels or suits, but we wore them anyway. I imagine you would have liked your hair done differently, and I think you’d prefer our hearts were alert to the gospel and our eyes were open to change.

On the pew, the fears you carried about your legacy – addiction, poverty, success – all found their way into the chaos of my mind. In a second that felt like a lifetime,  I understood the language of parental love and how it often translated into criticism through my ears. I wanted to rewrite my childhood and rebuild my memories with the new understanding of love and fear you carried with you everyday. Your words would sound so differently to me now.

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Art by Pat Perry (@heypatyeah)

I didn’t want kids until that day on the pew. I imagine it sounds weird to say your death inspired life, but it did. You taught me the impact of generational growth, the honor in legacy, the love that stings and shapes change. At your service we talked about the time you worked all day logging woods for a few nickels, the day you walked into a tent revival in 1972, the summer you met Corrine in that diner in San Francisco, and even the day you beat someone up for not paying for a job well done. Isn’t it funny how a life gets remembered? I wonder what you’d like us to say in our stories about you.

I think you’d like to know you are loved, respected, and missed. And you are –

Loved, respected and missed.

 

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nine

Do you remember breaking up in

high school

college

and those 20 minutes in 2010?

Me neither.

 

Do you remember crying over

new cities

empty back accounts

and eating beans for a whole week?

Me neither.

 

Do you remember fighting about

dirty dishes

tree roaches

and those seven years of no sleep?

Me neither.

 

Do you remember

that girl?

that guy?

that time we realized there were other people in the world?

Me neither.

 

Do you remember saying, “I do”?

Me too.

 

our wedding

 

 

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daughters

Father blog

 

If I had enough memories to remember

I’d string them together with falsehoods of you.

Each moment, a thread, woven snippets of truth

with transient hems for your light to shine through.

A new image, a father, a friend.

If only by imagination –

I’d create to mend.

 

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Erased

Artwork by Jennis Li Cheng Tien

Do you believe in corporeal love?

I ask as you rhyme and feign

appreciation for those you’ve crossed

in love or pain.

 

Whether built from rebellion or rushed affection

You swear to me blindly

There’s a spark, a connection.

 

But you’ve never found your place

in the barriers, restraints

That torment and harrow

until you’re soon erased.

 

A societal spirit that falls

for false elation in a worn out play

where desire is shunted, loyalty praised.

 

What freedom to float with you

amidst that modern plain

where names are not marred

in a celestial vein.

 

Where love is captured,

breathed in and soared.

Rushed between every crevice

unleashed, enjoyed.

 

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Brim

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How does this heart bend and mould

from a confined chest

into a hand to hold.

 

Does it move by one accord

or with a riotous play that

leaves you scorned?

 

Will it travel back and stray again?

I’ve heard trough time all pain will mend.

 

But can I stop the rampant rush?

The heat, the lush, the mush and guts.

 

I pushed it back, I clinched it tight.

I begged that demon not to fight.

 

But it’s still —

hovering.

Slowing seeping into my skin

rushing out at every brim.

 

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Thirty

I spent this past year celebrating the weird process of life that gradually spins into womanhood. I don’t quite know how, but somewhere between 29 and 30 – I found out who I am and who I want to become. It was a strange feeling to recognize growth (perhaps an even stranger event to explain now), but today feels like something worth celebrating.

A few years ago, I was creating who I was from what others thought I should be. I did this unrecognizably at first: slowly piecing myself together, one criticism at a time, until I realized I was becoming a collage of other people’s standards. I hated the fear and need for approval that brewed in my mind every time I voiced my opinions out loud or even posted a photo onto social media. I was in a weird purgatory. I knew who I was in my core, but I was trapped and shunted by the expectations I allowed others to place on me.

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I went through a rebellious stage: rejecting religion, family and even, as lame as it sounds, pop music. Something in me thought if I made a 180° turn from my current state, the edgier side would somehow reveal a braver, stronger me. In my solo trip to France, I realized the recent rebellion was a different kind of fear and conformity. I was rejecting southern traits and femininity because I didn’t know how to carve my own place amongst them. Out of mere defiance (or maybe survival), I rejected the idea of becoming a mother, rejected the ideals of womanhood, and at times, I even rejected my role as a wife. I wanted so badly to be me, but I didn’t know who that was.

Today, I am thirty.

I no longer list my dreams as a question needing approval. I no longer wait for someone to select me out of a crowd and tell me it’s okay to be me. I know who I am, the good and the bad, and I celebrate the years that shaped me into this new, impenitent woman.

For me, thirty means I can be confident in my decisions, comfortable with who I am, and strong enough to live the life I want. Instead of fighting against the quirks and fears, I can embrace them. I can grow from them.

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