Can You See Me?

Dear Constance…I don’t know if I have told you…I am in a spoken word group in our city that consists of some of the nicest and most accepting people I have ever been privileged to be around.  I went there, the first time, as myself.  They have known me always as myself, and consequently are a haven and refuge for me when things get rough…not to mention their stellar poetry which feeds my soul.

Anyway, last meet-up, I made food for a lil 4th of July celebration, all based on Red, White, and Blue colors…things like strawberries, blueberries, marinated mozzarella cheese, and sliders with lil flag toothpicks stuck into them.

My baby and I worked 2 days on this!  So by the time the event rolled around, I was walking on airs, as cooking fills me with just joy and happiness.  I love to take ingredients, and put them together, and then live their change into a yummy dish…I love to create in the kitchen, try new things…I love to have family and close friends over and place before them my labors of love and wriggle with delight at the way that they take such pleasure.

Imagine that…a transgirl taking pleasure in the transition of elements!  Giggles…

Anyway, I was dressed very nicely, my hair was just right, I had new earrings and was feeling so congruent and whole and in focus.

I got up to read…and looked out at the group, munching contentedly on the food I had prepared (we had prepared, as my darling had been a huge help together with me)…and I felt so ME, so THERE!

I burst out, before I even knew what I was saying, “Can you see me???”  They have seen me since April, and I have seen changes, and I wondered who they saw…or what they saw…I asked some other things that I don’t remember right now, but it just popped out of me, like a check in with some “family”, how am I doing?

Right?

Well, as I was leaving, one guy who is super nice and writes very well, hollered out “Hey Charissa…I see you!

Awww…how nice, I thought…he wants to bless and encourage me.  I felt good about his kindness.

Well, last night the poem below hit my inbox…and I am sharing it here…whattya think, Constance…

does he see me???  (Hint…I cried for nearly an hour after I read it!)

 

July Fifth

Can you see me as I stand before you,
in all my beauty in all my array
or are you mistaking outsides for insides
the form for the function.
Can you see the true beat of my heart
the color of my stone
the color I am meant to be
not the one I am expected to be
by family or by society.

Looks can be so deceiving
when we all wear masks.

My mask is slipping
elastic worn out from too much use
from stretching itself for others.
Do you see it falling
revealing the heart dream desires
long suppressed
as I find myself
no longer in the corner where I was painted
but in the center of my universe.

Determinate

Do you see me now.
The sum of all the parts
Past, present and yes even the future.
That unknown space we all grow into
as we drift through time.

Can you hear me now,
when I whisper in your ear the secrets of a life
hidden so well it was more than forty years
before the key was found,
The secrets of the child full of wonder
before the layers of expectation began to form
like a hard crust around the soul
protecting it just as those layers also imprisoned it.

Can you touch me,
reach out in acceptance and love.
Even if you do not understand.
Even if you can not understand.
Allow me the dignity of choice.
Cradle me in your embrace
Keep me safe while I break free
While I am reborn

I stand before you naked.

Do you see me?

(by Vargus Pike)Processed with VSCOcam with lv01 preset

 

A note to my Dear Friend Heather

Constance:  I have written before about Heather Manning, my friend and counselor.  See my poem Heather, and Her Door, Her Red Door. Well, I just wrote her a loooong newsy email and decided to post parts of it here to give you a flavor of how cool a counselor she is.  I esteem her so highly, and wish the world was such that you could all meet her.  Trust me…you would be blest beyond belief!
Love, Charissa
arastradero-3
Hi Heather,

Hope all is well, and your health and strength is doing good.  I would be happy to pray any specific way should you desire that.  I don’t know how much my prayers get answered?  But I am pretty good at BUGGING Lady Grace all the time, pestering her and pestering her…”Guess what Mama??  I went here, and I did that, and Heather said this and Oh could you please bless Heather and give her strength and heal her and make her laff lots, and oh by the way whatchya doing?  can I do it too…Huh? huh?  Pleasepleaseplease OH A SQUIRREL!!!!”

giggle…I think that is how my prayer life sounds to them!!

I have taken to calling Lady Grace Mama…it just feels soo right, and it feels like She likes it.

So check out the post I wrote while reposting another person’s article on parenting a transgender child.  I thought of you as I wrote it, and the intentionality you bring to the table is awesome

https://charissagrace.wordpress.com/2014/05/02/its-a-baby-red-typewriter-bless-this-parent/

Heather, one of the most salient conversations I ever had was with Father, after my son  made some really poor choices and hurt many people including himself very badly (not physically).  I felt like a failure, of course!  If I had only done this, if I had only done that, if only…etc.

I carried on for a bit, until Father gently began to remind me of free will, of the awesome liberty and sober responsibility of being a choosing-being…and then He said this:  If anyone were to judge the quality of a parent solely on whether the child made mistakes and bad choices, then I am literally the most heinous, worst parent in the entire universe, from the very start!  After all, everyone of my born children save one have not only made mistakes and poor choices, but also rebelled against Me!  Broke relationship with Me!”

That is when I saw that far from being sources of torment and lament, mistakes can be and usually are the seedbeds of fresh revelation and growth, if you have people of grace in your life to love you thru and accept YOU regardless of the mistakes!  In holding you accountable for a mistake, there is also a deep form of acceptance…but that is a far cry from blaming and shaming.

I recall how my son was able to experience in deep deep ways the Love of God from a brand new place and in a new essential way:  His Mercy, His Compassion, Her Grace, Her Comfort, Her Presence, His Deliverance from his awful sadness over what he had done.  I remember how we spent the entire spring and summer that year, meeting in my office 3 times a week, for 2 hours, just talking and studying the Bible together (which is an awesome distraction, btw…put the book in their hands, have them read a few Proverbs out-loud, and ask what that means to them, and before you know it VOILA!!  They are talking of what they need to, and usually saying out-loud the solutions and encouragements they need).

He told me recently that during that time was one of the most incredible experiences of his life, because he actually thought I would disown him!  And when instead I burst into tears with him, and took him on my lap and rocked him and held him and just cried with him, spent literally the next 32 hours straight with him, he knew that it was him that was loved, and not what he did or did not do.  And then he gave me the greatest compliment I have ever received:  He told me that I showed him the Father.

That simple.  He said “Dad, you showed me the Father”.  (I think I was channeling LG, but hey, don’t turn down a compliment!! giggles)  We studied the awesome book of Colossians, and unpacked the literally revolutionary words of Colossians 1:19-22.  When this is parsed in the Greek it reveals such a love and literal freedom that it amazes.)

I wonder a lot these days, if I had known the things I know now about myself, how it would have been different…or if I had known gender issues better how it would have radicalized my teachings regarding parenting skills.

……………………..i have no idea why i went off on that!!!  LOLOLOL!………………………………………

So what I wanted to write to you about was the poetry reading last night!! It was amazing!!!!  There were 25 people there, and I heard that it was the largest group ever for them!

SO check it out:  I wrote a spoken word bebop poem (sorta) that was called Poet Stew.  This poem was a recounting of the meeting 2 weeks ago…how I felt coming in, what happened as people read, and the yummy vibe that ended up happening as this funky amalgamation of people and poems and ideas and weird funky glory.  I riffed on the old tale of Stone Soup, about the guy who convinced a bunch of selfish neighbors to create a soup together, but in my poem’s case, I referred to each one reading as giving an ingredient for our Poet Stew we were making.  It was super fun to write, and seemed to be well received.

But the amazing thing was that I decided to make this vegetarian butternut squash-black bean-chipotle chile!  OMG it is sooo yummy and so easy to make too.  It is not strict vegan because I often use a teaspoon of lobster stock in it.  But I take all fresh ingredients, say the magic songs and prayers and dance the magic sissa dance and shake my bootie and presto!  Instant tastebud bomb!

So I brought up a whole crock pot full, with the lil crostinis like I brought you.  Cilantro and scallion and avocado and cheese were the garnishes.  They scarfed on it!!!! LOLOLOLOL!!!!!!

They meet at 7 PM, and usually just bring snacks and drinks, but they just gobbled it down to NOTHING!  Of course I was delighted.

I think it is literally my favorite thing in the entire world to make amazing food and have a ton of people and give them the food (but laced in the food is magic joy bubbles)…give them wine just right, with no drunkenness…and then hear the sound…the hubbub of many voices laughing, loose, free, and making their own beings as a toast to God whether they know it or not.

TO create a ship and take that journey…omg I wish I could just do that constantly.  I don’t think it is the food so much, though I love to take textures, and types of food, and spices and techniques and add them together just so (and in the proper order)…but I think it is more the actual voyage itself…that wonder-transporting of souls in the presence of food and wine and joy.

I told them I would consider doing that occasionally, and they just freaked!  So I have a good place now to serve in that way and be blest to boot!

I read a couple other poems, and I didn’t do Spitting Bones, mainly because all of the other people’s poems were very intense…now don’t get me wrong, that doesn’t offend me or bother me…but I just write differently, I guess.  Even in bleak poems, I feel a sense of creativity and beauty and the wonder of a world oozing pain that is still so beyond incredible…and I have this inner drive to somehow chronicle that.

I want to take my highs, lows, my wonders and my crap and put it all in context of a life lived in faith and hope and love fueled by grace and kindness and compassion…so that the goods recede into the Great of the whole, and the crap is transformed by the whole and becomes highlights and star-lights.  I guess I think that it doesn’t take much to just wallow in my crap, right?  Been there, done that, and all that was different is that I had crap on my outsides as well as on my insides!  LOL

So it is with making poems…looking at things sideways, out of the corner of my heart, so I can see movements that disappear if I stare straight at them.  It isn’t a reluctance to avoid hard things or dark things, but rather it is an assertive application of a resolute determination that this is my Father’s world and it shall someday be and fill that ache and longing that inhabits us all, regardless of class, caste, or cluster.

Thus…I chose other things, and read the sister poem to Spitting Bones, called Many Paths and Peace.  This poem is about many things (which of my poems isn’t!! LOL!)  But specifically, it uses the metaphors to discuss my gender journey…where I was, where I will be, and the process itself which is the actual true destination!!  Paul says in one of his letter “Be renewed….” and it actually translates into “Be BEING renewed!!”  Thus shifting focus from some nebulous achievement, to a realization that it is the actual process of becoming AS A STATE OF BEING that is the real secret to life.

I am so struck, reading Spitting Bones and Many Paths and Peace back to back.  They are sorta the same poem!  Except one is heads, and the other is tails.

Gosh I love that poem.  And it was sooo medicinal to write!  I was wrapped up and worked up from Spitting Bones, and from reading this book called Becoming Myself: embracing God’s Dream of you…by Stasi Eldridge.  It is written to women, and has a ton of good stuff, but some stuff that I felt so cut off from and rendered powerless to access.  What with the content of Spitting Bones and that part of her book I was …uuunnnnfffhhh!  Just aching and no words…until Many Paths and Peace calmed me, refocused me and ultimately helped me transcend.

Hey:  I am trans, so that means that I can TRANSCEND the woes, I don’t have to change them or fix them.  I can’t anyway, so just  transcend, right?  Sorta a new superhero, Super-Transgender-girl!

And I also shared one more…and I freaking love this poem because it is ridden with multiplicities, and intricate weavings of levels and metaphors…and yet is completely accessible and wonderfully fierce like a good taco on its most surface and carnal level (carnal used descriptively and not as a moral evaluation).  Everyone sat spellbound as I read.  It was so cool…and actually Heather, it was like my poetry came alive when it was heard by the listeners.  They were like wind beneath the poem-kites wings and oh how it soared and tugged on the line as I read!

DAMN I LOVE THAT POEM!!!!!!!

(omg you will LOVE THIS!!!  Mama just said into my heart that when I write these sorts of poems to my lover?  At a very deep level I am writing it to myself!!!!! omfg!!!!  That means She is wanting me to love myself and receive myself as I do my baby!  And…um…hmmmm….must think!  Ditz-meter on TILT! TILT!)

But yeah, Harvest (metaphor), Vineyard (metaphor), Wine (metaphor), Crush (metaphor), Lovemaking (metaphor) and finally Communion (Ultimate  Summation Metaphor)..

There was a transgender woman there besides me…further along than me.  She was sooo nice.  She was incredibly welcoming, and I felt my spirit interact with her and that was really new for me, meeting someone else who was trans and feeling a sense of kinship and likeness.

There was a young woman there named Rose, and…

She. was. amazing.

She read a poem about gender written by someone else that tore me open, and then she read one she had written about a spirit of a young woman named Suzie who had appeared to her pleading for someone to tell her story.  Rose gave herself to that task and as she read the poem Suzie, Rose turned me inside out!  Somehow the story of that lost lonely abused soul just gripped me, and I identified with it so deeply.  I told her after that I was touched and had a fab convo.

It was a great time.

Omg Heather…where have you been in my life?  I am meeting people so often everyday, and throughout my life I have this recurring  waking dream/visualizing that I have always done…if I could build a community somewhere, and choose who would live there in my tribe, who would be there?

It is not a very big list surprisingly, probably less than 30 people…but to get in it has to be one of those frissons like when I met you, like the recognizing of an ancestor, or the bond of a tribe mate.  In my visualizing of this, your house would be near ours, but on the other side of the Wise Woman’s hut (which is and alsways has been at the center of the village which is laid out circularly…no one is going to live around any corners in MY village!! LOL).  We have adjoining big gardens, and they adjoin on my left hand and thus on your right.  There are no fences or boundaries, and yet the delineation is marked and distinct in that we have complementary crops and plants…and lots of the herbs needed for healings too.

Our lil niche is for the people who are of the same bent, what with the builders and the shakers and movers in other parts of the circles,occupied with enterprise and commerce and the like, our part is engaged with inner-prize, and becoming.  The priests and teachers of the way are near, but in a different place than this place of transcendent sacredness and down to earth homeyness.

Our families are very companionable, but you and me and often my baby and other women that I have deeply admired over the decades regularly get together in the Wise Woman’s Hut…and we never know if She will be there when we meet.  She can have been away for weeks, and yet we walk in and THERE SHE IS…having somehow gotten home without our knowing.  Sometimes She shows up in the middle of things, and sometimes She is there, and summons us.

I cannot see what we do there, but whatever it is it is SUPER COOL!  giggle.

How I go on!  LOL  My wise beloved laughingly tells me that I have bff-itis!  And she regales me with tales of her girlhood of developing crushes on friends that had nothing to do with sexuality but everything to do with wanting that friend that connects in the heart.

Ordinarily I would be quite reticent to express such sentiment to “my therapist”…transference and all that rot, right?  Keep that client-therapist relationship clear and above board.  I remember all the teaching regarding how the very healing relationship can become toxic and upside down if great care is not exercised…but omg, I never saw you put on that freaking “I am the therapist doing my thing” Hat!  You Eschewed it from the start…and in that regard I think you made such a choice of wisdom.  Let me elaborate:  (whaaaa…??  ME??  ELABORATE??????)

My own sense of self was that I was mentally whole and spiritually whole, flaws, failures and blind spots not withstanding.  I didn’t feel like I was a mystery to myself so much, or even a threat to myself…but the wrenching I had undergone for years from some unknown planet exerting such gravitational force on my life orbit had suddenly begun to change, because that planet was identified!  I wanted to talk, and learn, and explore.

However, I was so desperate at last and had been humbled enough to even ask for help that I wanted to keep everything on the table, including the possibility that I was deluded and actually crazy as an outhouse rat!  So I was not going to kick if you HAD donned that hat!

But no!  You looked at me, and said HI CHARISSA!!!  With your eyes, words, not words, and smile.  It was waaay more like ok girl we gotta get you out there!  Never once the jargon, the jingle-jangle of “sessions”…but instead a dialogue resumed from whenever it last stopped and from wherever it first began.

So, I don’t think this is transference or any such sort of thing.  SO I am just gushy to ya!  Ya gonna get the ‘Rissa Rap!  lol.

Whew…I am typed out I think…for now!  LOL!

Bless you today and always.  May LG be at your side and opening the eyes of your heart to the issues and opportunities that lay resident in every single person you meet, and may your faith be strengthened that not one meeting with anyone is pure chance.

Love Always,

Your sister and grateful friend Charissa

Poet Stew

I shuffled in slow and placid…outside
and rolled in fast and fluttery…inside.
The lineup for the nightwalk included
alleged and documented
perpetrators of poetry!

They looked shifty and dangerous to my naive and tremulous eyes and
I swear they walked on water with practiced ease
that would’ve made Peter turn green!
Their banter (actually friendly and gracious), sailor talk, for readying
a ship of poems to sail on the word seas, and they relished

movement, rhythms, the beat…
…and my own nervous and stilted heart…
they knew what lay in store for me! And laughed in joy.

All sorts of sailors…wearing masks of nice humans, open, zesty, at liberty to sing…
(see, in my anxiety I knew the ruse, from times of past troubles and other places).
Oh yeah…Miss Know it all…NOT!
Strange how skert eyes & throbbing thudding heart
pastes masks where open faces shine?

The ship launched with little fanfare, little ceremony and no pomp.
I was swallowing that lump in my throat as the dock grew small and distant,
and I was clawing at the air with my nostrils sharp, distended and desperate,
spooked land-legged horse tharn with own horsey-headed fears & spectral song.
The shanties, chanties, the riffs and skiffs, slings and throws and practiced ease
played around me, soundtrack to my panic and funhouse mirror fears.
It swelled and then…there!  Those tight bands around
my scudding heart were loose…looser…gone!

Deck duties adjourned and Athena gave her summons to the kitchen
(at least that was what I was told by the big kids! They seemed to hear and see
and know and talk while I wasn’t looking, no matter how hard I stared!)

Then Ben brought out a big hunk
of pungent garlic laced sausage and plopped it down.
And Cassie brought out (ummmm!!! CASSIE!!!)
basil & oregano pinched rosemary’s butt till it’s fragrant self wafted our noses silly!
Threw in a bit of whimsey cheese for balance too!
(I thought it was chedder, but she said
the way of whimsy whey was far deeper and most effective
when hidden neath seemingly silly hats and jackets).
Eileen stepped on gusto’s back with sure foot and glinty eyes
and threw down the veg!
Shorn fresh in the last years were her greens, her tomatoes, her root veg and just

that

touch of hot pepper.

(and she added wine too…
1st/last/communion cup full and sloshy red)

Before I knew it I was forgetting masks
(which weren’t there except behind my own eyes),
I was smelling herbs and drawing comfort from bishy-basil breath of fresh promises,
dancing with rosemary…
like baby’s breath, if the baby were the god-child of dawn and dusk

…and then, there I was…

laying something down on that board of plenty for the pot (and poet-mariners)!
I still don’t know what I gave! Was it bread? butter? tofu? Onion/garlic/leek?
Or saffron, odd and small in gatheration and grip, to
send a strange and exotic note into this amalgamation of feastly elements
and everlasting never ending communion of low saints?
Whatever…I threw it down, and Holly gathered it in along with
the other things which glistened and pulsed
and muscled their tawny-throated songs
into ears itchy for relief and tickle.

Then came hunks!  Josh flung ripped hunks of meat,
some beefy-lamby pungent flesh…
or was it a fowl and frosted with salty brine fine turkey…
no…chicken…no PHEASANT!
Or was it that Ox of legend and lore Babe the Blue…yes, that must have been it!
Anyway Josh had this…this…STUFF! And it wanted to look bloody but
it really looked blue and ready and running to gather
all the wonder forgotten by the earth as she gave up her big-bounteous -booty
to our eager and fevered hands, plucking and picking and pruning and petting
and … and… yeah, that’s it! PRAISING…
of juicy and dripping wine from the Press of Creation’s well.

Christine put in this bitty of balsamic vinegar…rich and variegated
mystery hiding behind simple brown.  Francis brought cilantro-garnishes,
for his was finding itself floating onto everything that was tossed
on the work table and gathered lickity split into the pot.
Holly put in her bouquet garni, to steep…
her hand stirred, mingled, her bundle of balance
gathered in all the parts and parcels and people into savory and diverse union…
Rochelle brought slow sweet sugar root, brown and molassesy and
lent a stable homing in reminder that in all things sour,
there is still sweet…a princess disguised as a scullery maid
sashayed up with a savory broth and mushrooms.
She said it wasn’t hers, but we tasted the longing and knew her
as a master chef to be…

…and Nancy Awwwwwwwd YEEE_YAH!
SALT BAYBEE!! With some habanero scotchy elixer…
(from a secret vial and of her own design, she told us conspiratorially!
I took her serious until she winked at me and helped one of my legs get longer)…

…and the spell of years and fears and tears and jeers finally broke,
and the scales flew off my scared and lonely heart,
and I saw the players in this kitchen sailing on savory seas of festive inner oceans
and rising on waves of

peppery piquant POETRY! poetry, dammit!

Those cats, those bouncy and ancient royal jesters
masquerading as sailors and putting
Julia Child to the boards of effort…
those sleek and graceful ocelots, those
madcap merry-andrews were damn poets!
And I was home and breathing!!

Wine was poured, and heat applied as Josh riffed and moaned his jazzytry and
Francis decanted peace and still harmony in his high and lonesome homey song and
Nancy poured oceans of ecstatic delight
from eyes that didn’t even PRETEND to not leak!

I left, half drunk half sober,
though I could not have said which was what…
and full of Poet Stew.

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