Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Exercise your form

So, Lovella and I made an agreement while we met up in this beautiful and ugly place we both came from. We agrees to keep working to be here for each other and for all of you and to help this community grow. From now on if we can keep our heads above water and if you all can help us feel like it's worth it we will post exercises every Wednesday. Lovella is posting creative exercises and I am posting different forms. Use the form for the exercises, or do the exercises any way you want, or say whatever you want practicing the form. Whatever you want just make the time, take the time and write. This community is important and we need to care for it and for ourselves. Here's an simple form for starters and remember you always have freedom to color outside the lines:

Cinquain: 5 line poetry
Syllabic verse form. Gradually increasing number of syllables in each line until the last line, which returns to two syllables
Line 1: 2 syllables, one word giving the title
Line 2: 4 syllables, two words that describe the title
Line 3: 6 syllables, three words that express action
Line 4: 8 syllables, four words that express feeling
Line 5: 2 syllables, one word that gives the title a different name

queazy, stinging
question, wonder, worry
feeling failure creeping closer

fear and loathing

We all live with fear, some more than others, and some times and places more than others. I recently went home to Michigan where I'm from, and where I left. One of the many reasons I don't live there is because the old man that abused me when I was young lives there. I haven't seen him since I moved to Philly, over six years ago. This is what I wrote on the airplane the day that I left town. After you read it, write about something (or someone) that you fear. I think that this honesty about our fears makes them easier to bear, at least then, we're not also hiding. Much Love.

The day I arrived to Cadillac, I got a scare that stuck with me, slithering under my skin till I left town. I was at Meijer with my brother, we had just gotten in the door and for a second, it looked like he saw someone he recognized. But he did not say anything or walk over to anyone, we kept moving. The Meijer in Cadillac is like many small town stores and if you go there, there's no question that you'll see someone you know, if not a few people. The question lingers...who will it be? Oftentimes the conundrum is whether or not you stop and talk, and for how long. Or, do you avoid them altogether?

When I thought my brother saw someone and went the other way, my skin turned to sand and I was filled with fear, anger and grief. It occurred to me that it could happen. That it was possible that I would see him. I might run into the disaster that shattered me. He could be standing in that store and I would have to look at him.

What would I do?

Thank the goddesses he was not there, or at least that I did not see him. But now I'm wondering how I've gotten by these past few years not running into him and it makes me scared about going back. I'm taking a risk every time I go home, every time I go to the store, every time I walk down the street. And I'm also standing up for my life. I am determined to make the choices I want and to spend time with the rest of my family. He will not take any more from me than he already has. I will continue to battle my fears and face them with courage and strength.


Thursday, September 16, 2010

What are your comfort items???

When living such an up and down and all over the place life due to the effects of Iraq, one must find comfort items that help them get through the rough patches, or even just every day comforts to continue your healing process.

My comfort items are first and foremost: a comfortable environment. Without this, it's hard for me to function. I also look for comfort in coffee and the sweet lovins from all my pooches. A hair cut can be comforting, counseling is comforting, and reading is when I'm at my calmest. I love to read, then get inspired to write as well. The love and support of my family and friends is definitely comforting for myself. And sometimes, good ol fashioned outreach to other members can make me feel awesome!!! It's nice to know I have a second family in a sense, to help me and for us to be there for each other just the same. Thank you Lovella for creating safe spaces for us and allowing us to just get some things off our chest when a comforting workshop rolls around.

For this weeks writing prompt, we would like to know what comforts you????

Monday, September 13, 2010

America: You Gotta Have Our Back

Reposted from The Huffington Post:

As veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, we have watched with increasing alarm the rise of anti-Islamic rhetoric within the U.S. We've seen attacks on Muslim citizens, intolerance toward religious expression, and even threats of book burning. All this goes against the values we risked our lives to protect.
Story continues below

We have served beside Muslim soldiers, Marines, sailors, and airmen, as well Muslim translators, who risked their own lives and the lives of their families to help us. For the servicemembers currently deployed, the success of their mission and the safety of their lives depends on a basic respect for, and interaction with, Islamic culture.

Those who would vilify and target Muslims on grounds of their religious belief not only show a deep disrespect for American values, but put American lives at risk. It's easy to burn a Koran when you won't feel the heat.

We speak as infantrymen, truck drivers, medics, artillerymen, supply sergeants, and civil and public affairs officers, professions whose success depends on good relations with a deeply religious Muslim population. That population sees the American flag we wear on our uniform and judges us, not only by our actions but on the values our citizens uphold. We must be able to point back home to the values we represent. Chief among those values is our courage as a nation to peacefully and openly engage with differences of culture and religion.

What is a squad leader in Kandahar supposed to say to an Afghan woman who asks him why we want to burn her holy book?

When citizens here participate in hateful rhetoric and intolerance toward Muslims, it leaves soldiers over there exposed.

America, you gotta have our back.

Roy Scranton, US Army Artillery, Iraq
Philip Klay, USMC Public Affairs Officer, Iraq
Perry O'Brien, US Army Medic (Airborne), Afghanistan
James Redden Jr., USAR Journalist, Iraq
Joshua Casteel, US Army Linguist, Iraq
Logan Mehl-Laituri, US Army Forward Observer, Iraq
Hart Viges, Army, Infantry (Airborne), Iraq
Jason M Wallace, US Air Force Maintenance, Kuwait
Chantelle Bateman, USMC Supply, Iraq
Geoffrey Millard, US Army Infantry, Iraq
Nicholas Przybyla, US Navy Cameraman, Pakistan Coast
John McClelland, US Army Medic (Ranger), Afghanistan and Iraq
Andrew Johnson, US Army Radar Technician, Iraq
Daniel Paulsen, US Army Medic (Airborne), Afghanistan
Fernando Braga, US Army Supply, Iraq
Maggie Martin, US Army Signal, Iraq
Adam Kokesh, USMC Civil Affairs, Iraq
Lisa Zepeda, US Army Lab Technician, Iraq
Brian Turner, US Army Infantry, Iraq
Matt Gallagher, US Army Cavalry Officer, Iraq
Michael Anthony Ruehrwein, US Army OR Tech, Iraq
Erika Sjolander, US Army Supply, Iraq
Bryan Reinholdt, US Army Apache Maintenance, Iraq
Jason Chambers, US Air Force Air Freight Specialist, Iraq
Joe Wheeler, US Army Surgical Assistant, Iraq
Ash Woolson, US Army Combat Engineer, Iraq
Chris Hellie, US Army Cavalry Officer, Iraq
Sara Beining, US Army Intelligence Analyst, Iraq
Helen Gerhardt, US Army Transport, Iraq
Garett Reppenhagen, US Army Cavalry Scout, Iraq

Thursday, September 9, 2010

this is the sound of a dropping bomb

Sometimes the world resonates in my ears and I get tired and I get headaches. I get incredibly depressed for brief periods of time, usually less than a day, and my head pounds, and I really just can't move. I'm glad my daughter is two and not an infant anymore, honestly. I don't know what comes over me, and today my explanation is that I'm newly divorced (finally) and totally crushed and pissed off. Just, devestated at the betrayal in my marriage. Then, I'm also in a relationship right now with a really wonderful guy, and I sometimes wonder if i'm just treading water until it all blows to shit. So,
today I'm cynical. Here we go.

love is a something darkly khaki

this sounds like the tv on in the background

love smells like leftover pizza and dish soap

this tastes like kamikazes and pbr coming up my throat

looking like smeared make up the morning after i can't remember

feeling like shit

on the other hand

love can be purple

an indie band

a baby fresh from the bath

fruit smoothies

and mountain-scapes in the distance

feeling like its worth it

More War and the City

Here are parts two and three of my essay, "War and the City," currently running in the NY Times.

Also, though I've been blissfully ignorant of the news the last two weeks, thanks to being off the grid, I couldn't miss "US soldiers 'killed Afghan civilians for sport and collected fingers as trophies'" and "Obama Declares an End to Combat Mission in Iraq."

Time to celebrate, I guess.

(x-posted to caribou)

Meditation and War and the City

I returned Sunday to Brooklyn from a 10-day Vipassana meditation course in Massachusetts. I wanted to take the course because it had been spoken highly of by friends, and also because I felt the need to set aside some time to think through and process the changes and chaos of the last four years since getting out of the Army. It's difficult to know what to say about the course except that it was a lot more work than I expected, and also much more intense and amazing than I could have ever imagined. I'm glad I did it, and I'm going to do it again--even though it's a Buddhist practice and there's a lot about Buddhism that I find troublesome or disagreeable (its essential nihilism, the idea of dissolving the self, the moral hair-splitting that accepts eating plants and animal products but not animals themselves, and the metaphysics of kalapas, reincarnation, and karma, for example), the practice is good and has given me a powerful tool to live better, acheive my goals, and stop being so fucking crazy. Recommended.

Also, when I came back to the city, I found that the first part of my piece "War and the City" had been published in the New York Times vets blog. Very exciting. Check it out.

(x-posted at caribou)

Wednesday, September 8, 2010


Guilt, like slate
mumbling and gurgling between a clash of blue and grey
carrying with it the stench of dead fish
in a wave of salty sea water
that is as transparent as it is deep.
Guilt, like the weight of a thousand oceans.

This emotion/sensory poem is in response to the following exercise:
1st line: Name a feeling/emotion, finish the line with a color word
2nd: Tell what it sounds like
3rd: Tell what it smells like
4th: Tell what it tastes like
5th: Tell what it looks like
6th: Tell what it feels like

Writing Exercise: emotions/sensory poem

We did this at the women's retreat...

1st line: Name a feeling/emotion, finish the line with a color word
2nd: Tell what it sounds like
3rd: Tell what it smells like
4th: Tell what it tastes like
5th: Tell what it looks like
6th: Tell what it feels like

Here is the one I wrote as an example
grief is black
it sounds like tears, hysteria
smells like hospitals
it tastes like the stinging blood on a bitten tongue
it looks like a room full of caskets
and it feels, like suffocation

Much Love,

P.S. I didn't make this one up, and I don't know who did.

Something new I'm toying with

I carried it,
it carried 30 pounds.

It was a keeper of lifesaving tools.

Gauze, tape, sodium chloride
and tubing for the infusion of such.

Needles and band-aids,
even some tabs.

You know--
the ibuprofen type.
The Army considers it a cure-all.

Hand it out like candy.
Every day is like Halloween!
Don't worry about a thing, especially not your liver
being worth a damn by the time you're forty.

Tons of gloves,
my one pet peeve.
I would go without on certain scenes,

but that's just me...

I always wanted to be
a helper of those,
too scared to be free.