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Hope is a Bruise

Hope is a Bruise Dasha Kelly Hamilton Paintball pellets batter shoulders and thighs at 190 miles per hour I count the purplish bruises and smile at the post vision of us toasting laughing, being vibrantly alive The woman who pierced my nose Rushed outside afterwards for a cigarette Whether my nostril or her nerves were to blame We both survived an ordeal that day I don’t think of the sweat on her lip  or the tears on my cheek when my jeweled  Black nose disrupts canonical spaces Agony delineates child bearing from child rearing Pain is the anticipated toll: the impossible stretch of skin and orifice, wrenching of organs, the pinch and nip of nursing I received no pamphlets about the pangs of panic and impotence The deep marrow rupture when their ache explodes beyond your reach A formation of police fired rubber bullets at my child 200 feet per second in defense of hatred and spiteful ignorance She raged back in protest until her throat ras
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Requiem for The Weedman

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Tiger Pause

At eleven, my daughter's fears were getting mauled by a tiger, injured a car crash and being a victim of rape. We talked a lot over the years about sex, sexuality and patriarchy, music lyrics and power, media, shame and the law, discretion, integrity and the whispered fragility of boys. At sixteen, I rocked her as she wept. Her slender shoulders were violent from crying. One of her friends had been raped. Months ago, but was only beginning to share. Months ago, when she started losing weight, stopped hanging out before pre-calc, and kept exhaustion shadowed beneath her makeup contours. We sat crouched on the stairs leading up to my room. She'd called out my name from the dark hall. Her voice, normally expectant and full, had been small and reaching. I peeled away from my husband to find her on the landing, shaking. My daughter felt helpless and hurt that her friend had gone through so much all alone. That she didn't know. Couldn't have known. That it was so unfair.


"I mean, who doesn't want their six-year-old daughter to hang out with princesses, and shit...?" A few of us nodded solemnly. Some threw up their hands, clicked their teeth in disgust. Many were quiet with sloped shoulders. Seated at long tables arranged into an open rectangle, we all pointed our bodies and attention towards him in agreement. I doubt the men would use the language "holding space for him," but that's what we did. We meet twice weekly to loosen their knots of habits, deeds, lessons and norms, particularly as partners and parents. Over the course of six months, we unpack trauma, toxic masculinity, self-actualization, expectations and accountability vs. responsibility.  They weigh the stakes of their relationships, wellness, and even their freedom. The men also have space --often, for the first time-- to admit their hurts, their misguided intentions, their inherited perspectives and debunk curious myths. This week, our check-in, a warm-up

Capital Letter Me

I've been trying on the idea of lonely for some months now. The word first tumbled from some consciousness and out of my mouth on a car ride with my friend.  “I’ve been lonely for as long as I can remember,” we were both stunned to hear me say.   We had just pulled up to her apartment when this unannounced truth slid into open air.  We’ve been friends and colleagues for more than twenty years: clocking countless hours of logistics, laughter, life and lament.  For as long as I can remember. I've never described myself as lonely, save a post-breakup season. Isolated, either. True, most of my world is solitary: sitting at a laptop, traveling to an engagement, working from my empty nest home office, even speaking in front of an audience or class. By default, I’m alone a lot, but lonely is different. Isolation is different. My language, instead, is that I’m “a high-functioning introvert,” was "an arts and crafts kid” and have always “spent a lot of time in my head.” I

Kraken the whip

It. has been. a YEAR since I've sat down to write. From this side of my pen, that is. Writing projects, yes. Scripts for one-woman shows. A children's book. A 11-minute poem that I performed with the Milwaukee Ballet.  Nothing to boo hoo about, at all.  Except these words weren't, necessarily, for me. I might have etched five poems, but I would have stirred them in a workshop I was leading or supporting. Not sure if that counts as writing for myself. When I started counting on my fingers, my eyes tracking absently across the ceiling, the math was incomprehensible. I thought of friends I'd giggled with about their comparable sex dry spells. A year, girl? A whole year, like twelve months, back to back, f'real?  My bad, y'all. In this past year, my best words were tiles for funding mosaics, grants and proposals, strategic plans, contract agreements and curricula, social media posts, text messages -sometimes a panel's worth, and eight trillion emails.

Feed Them

If we examine our opinions, we can trace the tpuzzle seams between where we've been and what we truly know. I strive to be responsible with my opinions. Feed them a balanced diet of facts, perspective, narrative and whimsy. My opinions don't aspire to be big and strong. Just healthy. They don't yearn to be popular or franchised, just authentic and, hopefully, sturdy. Even when they appear to match, opinions have unique owners. "Defending" our opinions should mean sketching their lineage: origin, influences, close relatives, familial mergers, adoptions and a nod to the season they spent "discovering themselves." Opinions offer shorthand for our emotions, experiences and unasked questions. Question your opinions. Test them in private to see if they can answer for themselves. If they're nervous or insecure. Are they loud? Lazy? Misinformed? People pleasers? How do your opinions respond to inspection or opposition? Are they holding a grudge? We