They are so beautiful – just a few minutes drive off Skyline Boulevard at Redwood Regional Park. It’s so quiet up there, and cool. I love the smells, the textures of the leaves and the redwood bark, and the shadows. Here’s one gorgeous tree that caught my eye on one of the trails. … Nature’s cathedral.
A few months ago, I drove up north for a few days and had a much needed break — part of what came out of that experience was the following insight and poem.
c) Christine Lias
Floating above a great hole
If I close my eyes I forget that the hole is there
There are moments
When I cannot breathe
It goes I do not know where
I close my eyes
I forget that the hole is there
I do not know
when the hole will go
how long I will be above the hole
if I will fall from the hole
I cannot think about falling or I will fall
This is when I feel as if I cannot breathe
My lip starts to quiver
I put my arms out on either side of my body
My arms that have been a part of me for my whole life
My arms are strength
My arms have pushed me forward
They have held me up
I have fallen before
I breathe healing air
I know that I can breathe
The oxygen floods my brain
I am drunk with oxygen
My eyelids flutter
I do not have a plan how to move forward
away from the hole
I cannot think about the hole, or I will fall
I look down at my feet, one foot, and then the other foot
My square-shaped toes that have carried me forward to this point
My toes, my strong feet
They have walked hundreds of miles, and will walk hundreds more
I look down at my body, at my breasts, my hips
I feel tired
A woman’s body used by others
Left shamelessly on the side of the road
Tossed out the window like a cigarette
Without a goodbye
Or an apology.
Because all I really wanted was an apology.
Too trusting of the word love
As it slipped from their lips, the moment her bra strap slipped off her shoulders
She mixed the two words into a cocktail — love and sex
Feeling comforted on the cold nights
It don’t matter, she kept telling herself
Those demons come back to haunt you
Running away from the past
Getting into her car and driving away
She ends up driving with herself.
This is a poem that I wrote for my poetry class at Berkeley City College, and it received good feedback in workshop. It was based on several dreams I had. “Calabash” is a gourd. I have no idea why I was dreaming of a gourd, or where I heard that word. Dreams are strange.
By Christine Lias, c) 2015
You hold me close
In the moment and
I feel your hands gripping my waist
Both tough and tender
I look down and there are flower petals on the floor
But then suddenly the floor melts into a pool of water
The flower petals become water drops
I lean down and touch the ground, now a pool of water
I dive toward the bottom of the pool
Diving fast, like a bullet, or a train
Toward the concrete bottom —
A hard, flat, rough edge at the bottom
I’m on my own in the water here
There is no one to hold me anymore
No hands gripping my waist
No one to protect me.
I protect myself now.
There is a storm drain on the street
Running toward the Bay
And there is a pool of blood
Flowing down the gutter toward
The flies are gathering on the
Blood that is headed toward the drain.
The blood is sticky in spots
Where it is not moving.
The flies are relentless.
I hear the word “Calabash”
And the word “Calabash-ish”
From someone saying the words repeatedly
I wake up in a panic and
Tip over the table by my bed.
The little drawer falls out and my heart beats fast from the sound.
I have not been able to sleep through the night
Since last year.
I wake up every night in the middle of the night
Hearing a sound from somewhere in the building and
I cannot fall asleep again until the light falls through
the flowered curtains hanging at the window.
I wrote this earlier this month. Today is the last day of August, so thought I would share. …
c. 2015, Christine Lias
The sunset lights the sky
I watch it burn
thinking of you
wondering if the colors
could be more true
the reds, the purples, the orange
melting even more toward the horizon.
An honest sunset.
An emotional sunset.
Sinking, falling, deeper
toward the unknown.
As we fall, and tumble as such.
My emotions overcome with their honesty
The honesty that comes by falling from a different place.
A place from on high.
A spiritual place.
A place without words.
c. 2015, Christine Lias
I saw her in the crowd and she looked so familiar.
From another time, another place in my life.
Her cut bangs, her cuffed jeans.
Her hair dyed punk rock pink
Wearing dark red lipstick
She scanned the room, looking for someone she knew
But saw no one.
Staying cheerful, with her phone, instead.
I knew her from someplace.
And while I sat back and listened to the music
My brain was transported back several years.
To another time, a cheerful time
A packed room, just like this
Music playing from a live band, just like this
Wine flowing freely
Laughter echoing in different pitches
Along with the music.
She was an artist at the party.
Hustling the crowd, looking for someone she knew.
A packed room
Full of possibilities
Strangers there for free booze and food.
She stood out because of her hair, cut a certain way
Cheerful to everyone, including me
Stressed, tired, looking for you.
A packed crowd of hustlers asking questions about her art.
They wouldn’t stop with the questions.
Now, years later, time circles back and
Allows us to see how far we’ve come.
Allows us to see how little we’ve strayed.
Putting down roots where sand blew them away
Breaking through the cement along the way
Finding who we are in the process
Wading through the muck, the debris to find clear water to navigate off shore.
Life is not a coincidence.
These meetings are not coincidences.
These actions, these people who drift in and out of our lives, like the foamy laps at the end of a wave, knocking against the shoreline.
They are not coincidences.
The natural order is interrupted by chaos and change, if even for a brief second of questioning and doubt.
Something has evolved.
The natural order of sameness cannot remain the same.
Can it ever remain the same.
This morning, I was awoken by a very sharp earthquake, a 4.0, centered in Piedmont, which is not that far from where I live in Oakland. It really scared me. My alarm clock was about to go off at 7 am – but there was this shaking – it felt like my bed was shaking from side to side, the pictures on the wall looked like they were about to fall off. I didn’t know if it was “the big one” they keep talking about is going to happen somewhere on the Hayward Fault. It lasted for at least 5 seconds, maybe 10 — and even though it was only 4.0, it seemed like it was more. My heart was racing — and I was tired on top of that, not yet awake. I tried to think very quickly, in my “big girl” Girl Scout alumni way of thinking, putting my pajama bottoms on, a hoodie on, my glasses on, and even started to think Disaster Mode — 1) Do I need to text my boss (will the cell phones work?); 2) what happens if there is a major earthquake? Should I go to work? Is that what I’m required to do? 3) Should I get the hell out of the building? Is it structurally sound and safe? 4) Should I grab my purse? My medication? Where are my shoes? What? …
Instead, I stood in the doorway of my bedroom, and gripped the wall. My eyes were wide, wide, I could feel them wide. … I felt the wall – and it was warm, it was purring, it was not still. … I did not know if there would be another one. Or what.
Then, I went into the living room, and turned on the news. My old, journalist hat from being a reporter – which I will have until I die – a thirst for the news. And, there it was, “Breaking News, Earthquake in Oakland.” 4.0.
The weather here this past weekend has been unbearably hot, stinking hot. I don’t have a fan. I used to have one, but it’s long, long gone. I don’t have air conditioning. I have been sleeping with all the windows open, no blankets. I haven’t been sleeping at all actually. For weeks. I’ve been having trouble sleeping. And my body has been hurting, it’s catching up with me. My shoulder, the right part of my back, my neck. Last night, I took a bath, and then went to sleep after. But then, something woke me up in the middle of the night – I was wide awake (again, ugh), and couldn’t go back to sleep for another hour. I stayed awake and read from one of my books, and then eventually, organically, went to sleep. …
Until, BOOM! SUDDENLY – it hit just after 6:30 a.m.. Tonight, I don’t know how I’ll sleep – the likelihood of another one – next to nil, I’m sure, but a little more likely next to nil now. So, the likelihood of me sleeping is 85-15, one can guess.
A few weeks ago, I went to the Oakland Museum on the weekend, and had a rewarding experience. They have spectacular revolving art shows, but also an extensive permanent collection of California art. I came across this photo, from the Great Depression, by photographer Dorothea Lange, the famous “White Angel Breadline” photo of a man desperate and hungry in a soup kitchen line in San Francisco, circa 1933.
I stood there and was mesmerized by the photo – the subtle, yet intense emotion of this man, turning away for a moment from the others. He looks like he’s in prayer, completely broken down, and gripping the side of the fence or whatever that piece of wood is, for support. The year, 1933, either just before or just after President Roosevelt was elected. Before all the social programs were enacted — Social Security, food stamps, minimum wage laws, government spending. … I think about what I’ve seen, what I’ve experienced. The filthy greed of the rich and the distance of those who protect the rich and the 1%. The utter depths of despair of the poor and the homeless on the streets, in San Francisco’s Tenderloin, in West Oakland, East Oakland, downtown Berkeley (where I work now). I see cops busting homeless people on the streets, just for being homeless. … And then, there are the people in between, those caught half-way between heaven and hell, working class folks who can’t seem to get ahead, and who fall further and further behind, sometimes, unfortunately, the harder they try.
I know what it’s like to be unemployed, and scared and anxious to pay rent and bills. I’ve had moments when I’ve been broke, completely broke, and been hungry and relied upon the kindness of friends, family and sometimes strangers to help. I think that’s what struck me about this photo – the expression on this man’s face was one that I myself could identify with – because I’ve been there, too — and not too long ago. For we are all a community together of support, to hold each other up, and not tear each other down.