Friday, February 10, 2017

Mother Earth

Underwater, consuming all my kind
Destined for alterations
And my mind ain't aligned for her daughter
I know I'm mother earth, I see the weather


Jillian Banks's new album, "The Altar," is amazing; Aaaaa, it kills me, she is so talented and beautiful, and then she speaks so clearly to what I feel so often on top of that.  

Her talent isn't only appreciated by me, I know, but because this is my blog and I'm totally self-centered, I'll talk about me... and Banks.  I connect to her lyrics and sentiments. It is alarming and alluring, when I hear her music, and I feel like she is crawling through my mind, and then pouring out all its contents in a liquid, beautiful voice.  Yes, she has a melancholy tone in many songs, but through even those lyrics, I think she is truthful and hopeful and gives a voice to some emotions, and experiences, and struggles it's difficult for many people to know what to do with, or how to handle.  I mean I certainly can't sing.  I can't compose music.
I do write.  

Honestly, I'm definitely not writing very well.  I give my computer screen the most scathing looks when I go back and view writing I posted hastily, not revising or editing it first. 
😠 "Are you kidding?  What is that freaking sentence?  That's not even a sentence."  

I'm a alone a lot, so I talk to myself.    

So I'm not gonna cover up the freckles on my faces
I covered all the bases

Follow me to my bed
'Cause every time you fall, I'll be holdin' your head up
And when will you get tired of feeling bad?
And every time you fall, follow me

Follow me to my bed
'Cause every time you fall, I'll be holdin' your head up
And when will you get tired of feeling bad?
And every time you fall, follow me


I know I'm repetitive in my writing, too.  It's pretty clear that I find music to be healing, or at least one way I distract my brain or disappear into another world when I feel "bad."  (It should be badly, right? I'll have to take English as a Second Language Grammar classes before I teach again... If I do.  No, no, of course I was quoting the song.  I'm just messing with you.  My grammar is impeccable when I'm not being lazy).  

I discovered Banks through a Victoria's Secret TV ad, but Tori Amos truly carried me through the most difficult times in my life.  I am listening to her now.  Spark.  Sam used to mess with me, singing the first line of the song over and over again.  He doesn't listen to her music, really.  Like, never.  So that does seem like a funny kind of way to open a song.  Of course, I wrote a story that began with the sentence, "I dreamed I had sex with Jesus...", which I had to read to  large intellectual audience, after being deemed the top fiction writer at UVM in 2000.  It certainly wasn't a contest I entered.  All advanced fiction writing classes voted on their favorite pieces written by classmates, not knowing why we were making decisions or distinctions in any way.  Later the department professors got together and chose amongst the lot of them.  The piece that was voted as the top piece by me, was actually one I knew I couldn't read aloud.  I thanked the students in the class for holding my writing in such high esteem, particularly when most of them were all graduating with Liberal Arts/English Majors, and I was not.  I am sure my cheeks flushed, and I teared up, and I know I thanked them for thinking I was worthy of such an elite honor... 

But, before I could say anything else, my professor, Philip Baruth (A wonderful teacher.  A wonderful man), said, "Joanna, a moment," and directed me into the hallway.  It was an evening class.  2 or 2 1/2 hours long, once a week.  The hallways were just lit fluorescently, and it seemed like a more vulnerable time to be... anywhere, I guess... night...  
 I started to cry and said, "I'm sorry.  I just can't read that story aloud.  I can't...  I..."

He said, "I understand.  I know.
I'm sure I mumbled something about it being kind of based on truth, and I didn't think I could read it, really.  "I knew that.  I needed you to know, before you said anything to the class about not wanting to read, that you actually placed first and second with your stories." He said. "Your other short story, "20%" was voted as the second place by your classmates, and was chosen as first place by the faculty."  I felt so scared and powerful at the same time, but I knew which one he meant.  Oh goodness..  I had to read about having sex with Jesus in front of an audience.  Rape or sex with Jesus?  Rape or sex with Jesus?  Gosh.  I was honored but the other story talked about blow jobs too.  My God.  I mean.  My Jesus.  Holy Jesus.  I should not be blasphemous.  I never say those things out loud.  Shit.  Okay.  I remember agreeing to read the blow job story.  I'll just call it that.  I was the Top Fiction Writer and I was going to stand at a podium in a very formal setting...  Jesus.  I was exposing the frailty and strength of Femininity in that story.  It wasn't about a victim.  

He's so hollow
My baby mated blind until he wasted fate
So I'm left behind until he curse my sorrow
But I know I'm mother earth, I see the weather


I don't know how I ended up writing about all that, when I meant to write about Banks, other than my sister bringing me a folder of my college writing she had found in our house to me a few days ago.  I re-read the rough draft of the story I ended up reciting--performing--for the gathering, and I started laughing, but also understood how complex and sad the story was.  It wasn't profane or blasphemous.  It was really sad, actually.  But it was also really funny. 

 I remember hearing very flowery examples of various forms of fiction styles, and then someone read a poem right before it was my turn, and it had something to do with oatmeal. I looked at Professor Baruth in horror, and whispered, "I can't read my story after this."  An empty plea, it was.  He said, "You can, and you will."  I did walk up to the podium and looked out at the ridiculously serious, formal, and in the case in some of the college students in attendance, bored audience, "My story has nothing to do with oatmeal, but here it goes..."  And I read, and I looked up at the audience at points, pausing, my head held high, and I knew I deserved to be called the best. I didn't need anyone to hold my head up, once I started reading, because I became the voice of the story, and it was brilliant and beautiful. I read it like I hadn't even written it myself.  I read, and part of the story was so deeply imbedded in me, I could say the sentences, while looking directly at the people who were sitting in the fancy, upholstered rows of chairs in the carpeted reception room, and see their faces.  I wasn't scared to see their faces.  I needed to see their faces.  I needed to see.

Yes, the audience laughed at the funny parts, and no one looked bored, and I actually did sing Loretta Lynn lyrics at one point; I could barely leave the reception room once it was over.  I had a special seat in the front of the room and as a few other readers went up the podium after me, I knew they were looking at me, and I felt proud, but also ashamed.  I looked down at my bare legs, and Mary Jane high heels.  I was behind the podium, as one of the presenters.  My professor was there, next to me.  I'm glad he was because I kept looked at him with an expression that I am sure expressed mortification and doubt, up until I read, and when I walked back to my seat, he hugged me, and I was suddenly terrified again.  I just did that thing?  That was me?

I tried to focus on the people reading their own stories, or expository writing.  I mean, the third place reader, was able to present, since I had chosen not to read one of my stories.  I chose hers as first place, actually, and I thought she deserved to have her story heard.  I watched each person at the podium intently, knowing people were looking at me.  I felt it.  I knew it.  If I let my eyes wander to the crowd, I would make eye contact with people who didn't know me, and I didn't know, yet I had exposed myself to them, and they thought they did... know me...  

People stopped me over and over to tell me how much they enjoyed my story, and how talented I was. Huh?  My "performance" was quite a departure from any other that day.  I knew that.  I just wanted to run home... Well, walk, since I was wearing fancy shoes.  But I just wanted to breathe.  And drink.  God, I wanted to drink.  My roommate and best friends went out that night and a guy actually came up to me at a bar and said, "Whoa, you're that girl!  You read the story about blowjobs.  Oh, wow.  
"Yup, that was me."
"I didn't mean that to sound... I mean, it was really good, like you are a great writer, I just have to say that most guys want girls to swallow."  

Anyway, reading the story just a few days ago, I understand now how talented I once was.  It was really well written.  It was perfectly written.  It was sad and funny, and didn't allow a reader to sink into one emotion before being jolted into another.  I still can't believe I read it aloud, though.  I was brave once.  I was brave.

So I won't let you pull up in all of my safest places
I, I covered all the bases
Follow me to my bed
Follow me to my bed


'Cause every time you fall, I'll be holdin' your head up
And when will you get tired of feeling bad?
And every time you fall, follow me

'Cause every time you fall, I'll be holdin' your head up
And when will you get tired of feeling bad?
And every time you fall, follow me




Am I sad too often?  Have I fallen?  I often feel like I fell a long time ago.  I don't know if anyone can hold my head up, anymore, honestly.  No one has asked me to follow.