Take Off Your Shoes

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We met, blind-folded
by sun-glaze, on a ball
field in Columbus, Ohio.

You, too short-sighted to
see I was willing to go
barefoot in a crowded
stadium, drink beer while
squatting on a crumpled box,
for you.

I was too carefree to notice
you searched endlessly for
shoes, up and down, back
and forth, aisles in a swaying
sea of Clippers fans, for my
naked heart.

I panicked when my shoe broke.
Our first date. Your slender
fingers reaching inside my
lustful mind. Proving
I was a tough girl for all
your butch friends, and you,
I tossed the pair of sandals
into the closest trash bin,
looked over at your wide-eyed
shock, and smiled my best
I don’t give a damn
smile. All I need is you.

Put me on your back again.
Carry me to the car with that
same youthful, gluttonous
grin. Tell me I am beautiful,
again and again. Take me
back to the ball field. Baby,
take off your shoes.

N and A

Andrea Collins, “Tough Girl”

Dear Springfield, Ohio

10403043_10205562856805533_8138399291743376429_nI remember when hearty crimson and yellow colors, and those brilliant sharp orange hews, fell meekly into your deep valley. I felt secure, folded between the plump foothills of Appalachia, the wholesome Great Miami River, and glossy eyes of does dipping into the backdrop of corn fields and an azure sky. I hid inside the filaments of your Kelly green grass, rolled on your soft hills, took my time peeling the casings from walnuts, as I laid underneath the canopy of pine trees and birch leaves. Sometimes, I felt light, airy, as if in flight on the wings of your sparrows, clasped in the beaks of your mourning doves, but sometimes I felt suffocated by your smallness and the authority of your churches, stationed prominently in each part of town. I no longer live among you, not since 2010, after my civil ceremony with my now wife. It’s easier on my conscience to remember your topography rather than your religious values holding, in my view, significant dominion over civil rights mentalities. 

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Year 2015 at a Glance

Cave, Cavern, Nature, Geology, Stone

If the New Year were a rabbit hole
I’d blow it up. No need to chase anything
special, no fantasies to consider differently
than this and all years before. I’d hold back,

turn to faces of Miley Cyrus and Mila Kunis,
Yahoo articles about baby bumps and twerking
rumps, videos capturing clueless passersby on

their way to vote for politicians they will never
meet, a military forgotten, colliding groans and jerking
grunts of women marching, hauling their kids and empty
bags painted in American flags, empty stomachs
and hollow chests, each one, veterans, mommies,

white shirts and star spangled ties, skinny tongues
and swollen breasts splashed across glossy news
prints mimicking human flesh. No need to consider

a year that does not promise human interests, a state
that appeals and suppresses equality of gay marriage.
They have never met me, and the chances of my right
to name myself on the certificate of a baby my wife

will soon bear are more likely given to Miley and Mila,
proud to be naked and full of human life, and legislators waving
olive colored cotton notes in linen scripture overlay.

No. I am part of the hungry, my hope long
abandoned, my service to the USA can be counted in dollars and cents,
like veteran homeless, starving women and patriotic newborns
drifting through glass doorways into welfare waiting rooms
where they’ll put their mind on better things:

Beyonce and Jay Z, Kimye and plump baby North
spending holidays in Italy with politicians they call friends.

Andrea Collins, “Tough Girl”

Speak My Name

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A worm piercing through wet earth crawls toward the shadow of a no name dog chained to a tree, pawing at the silence of worm holes.

The sparrow is the only one who knows, leaps to the sound of a distant horn honking, circles, hovers over a farmer dressed for Sunday mass. She steals hay, swoops down to clasp her beak on the slow, wriggling creature. Baby birds chirp tight tones, restless in their nest.

The sparrow knows how to make the best of worm holes.

The worm hole vacant, the dog’s ear close, listening for echoes down through layers of well-traveled places he never goes. He paws at holes.

No name is used to hearing what he cannot see, always imagining what the sparrow is free to be. He stares at a stone at the center of night, the same moon, every night, and the sparrow sleeping.

He hears the sound of pigs squealing, baseball bats thumping on bare backs as they run from the slaughter room floor. They huff air like milk, as if silence will nourish them, like the worm in a baby bird’s mouth. They look for a worm hole, too. A well-traveled tunnel to places they will never know, imagine it will take them to the sound of their babies burrowing beside them, pawing at holes.

They chew each other’s flesh, like fresh tomatoes, out of boredom, frustration, for the sensation of being alive while locked inside gestation crates until pushed down a compactor shoot. Their screams echo off no name’s stone, night after night. He chews his toes. He watches. He listens.

He wonders what the sparrow knows. Always, he paws holes.

No name dog chews until morning light, when the farmer’s son sprays water into his rusty pail. The boy glances at the gnawed knob of the dog’s foot, beats him with a hammer for all the dog doesn’t know, can’t see, isn’t free to be.

He wipes his bloody hands on his pant leg, turns away from the panic.

In the silence of no name dog’s screaming, the sparrow focuses on the worm hole, waits for the beating to end, leaps down before the vultures descend, or the wolves begin chewing on his bones.

The dog licks his wounds. He concentrates on breath, slow and funneled through the silence that he knows. He paws at holes.

A cow bellows. Her baby, still slick in afterbirth, strangled by a lasso, desperately seeking her mother, who is chained to the back of a bulldozer, dragged over the soil of worm holes.

No name dog watches through his swollen eye, red on the white of a lamb in the field. Her baby nestled close by, painted in splashes of her mother’s red. The baby, breathless, screams from the inside, watches her mother’s skin ripping while still alive. The boy’s shadow plumbs holes.

A goat screams from the bottom of an abandoned well. No name dog hears. The sparrow knows.

He was raking worm holes.

The sparrow swoops down to inspect, clutches a worm in her claw, returns to the nest against the wave in the wind the gunshot made.

The boy returns with gasoline and a cigarette. Rubbing his right ear in fresh earth of worm holes, no name dog in flames, his swollen eye sees the sparrow whistling lamentably an animal farm incantation:

May your ash swiftly settle in the voice of burn.
Be certain. Tall. Rise up in flame.
I am the least of all, but you were still less,
no name at all.

Clear to him, no name in flames, what the sparrow is free to see and be.

He stands on his three legs and his missing paw.

The ghosts of the animal farm swell up through worm holes, disembodied voices chanting:

I live in the strained strands of your ocular muscle.

See me.

I live in the creamy cerumen of your ear canal.

Hear me.

I live in the pores of your nostril.

Smell me.

I am more than a bloody stain.

Touch me.

I live in the fragile film of your oral mucosa.

Speak my name.

 

Andrea Collins, “Tough Girl”

Where I Am From: A Tough Girl Memoir (Part 2)

I don’t remember a time when I felt free to be who I really am. Does anyone? I was three years old, fearless and egoless, when I realized that my mother didn’t love me. I must have known before then. I must have had some idea that I was on my own.

I remember being caught in the act of defiance around that age. The scene, captured in a photograph, shows me smiling with one hand on my doll carriage, the other behind my back, as if bracing myself for the terror I surely faced. (Snap!) My brother’s chubby body plopped inside my doll carriage. (Snap!) My mother lifted my pink nightgown, slapping me on the bare ass with her palm. (Snap!) I flinched when my mother took that picture because I shuddered every time she walked inside the house, and because I had been warned never to put my baby brother inside my doll carriage again. But I wanted to take care of him, love him like I knew he needed.

I wanted to push him away, somewhere away from my mother’s punitive palm and the riveting screams, swelling and bursting, like fiery lava spewing from a volcano, clutching my heart until I was thirteen and learned how to move through the panic, embrace my secret Tough Girl persona conceived from the coalescence of fear and sheer tenacity, instinctual behavior provoked by the realization that I was on my own, had always been on my own, would always be the only one looking out for me.

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Where I Am From: A Tough Girl Memoir (Part 1)

 

There was a time when           the earth opened wide

asked the sun

“How do you want to burn,

bright one?”

Like a furious yearn

from the inside.

 

My life story is as ordinary as any. I am from creative thought. I was born there, like everyone else, and I continue to create and experience versions of the same poetic love and fear that conceived of me, that conceived of you. I fully embrace the concept that we are all one; each of us are brilliant lights who separate from the whole in order to create experiences, which demonstrate who we are and who we are not. I believe that we are always in the process of creating, cultivating situations and stories, knowing both exquisite triumph and extraordinary defeat, exploring different versions of ourselves toward discovery of our highest, most natural forms. I trust Neale Donald Walsch’s stellar statement within his book, Conversations with God: An Uncommon Dialogue: “the deepest secret is that life is not a process of discovery, but a process of creation” (Walsch, 20).

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