on your 11th birthday

 
© jennifer summer | 2015

© jennifer summer | 2015

There have been times in my life that I’ve been so low I could taste the ground.  My mouth was filled with the dirt of devastation, the mire of not good enough, the bitter dew of loneliness. I was never sure I could stand up long enough, and strong enough, to be someone’s parent.  However, I come from a rich ancestry of warrior women; both grandmothers, aunts, and cousins, and through their example of perseverance, I have found my center, my holy, over and over again.

Each time when I thought I couldn’t again raise my head from rock bottom, one of them would be there.  They show up, time after time, never tired, never angry.  The village of their love and support untangles me from the strangling weariness and sets me straight.  Without them, I would lack the courage to not only love myself, but to pass on this all-encompassing love that I have for my son.  

And, at the end of time, this is all that will matter.  The sum total of our days will be measured by the love that has picked up our tired frames in its arms and carried us when we couldn’t do it ourselves.

Life is about being able to look upward from our lowest point and see an outstretched hand.

Happy 11th birthday, baby bear.

 

gardening

 

And then she can breathe again, the fresh air of him plumping out her lungs, pillowing into her chest.  This is the only place where letting go is permissible to her, where she crashes into full surrender.  He pours his pulse down her throat; his tongue carves a tome between her thighs, and it’s the story of how this coming together is an orchid, blooming in aching night, forever free from daylight’s scrutiny.

 

52 weeks words + images | week seventeen

 

earth day

Nana used to say that she believed trees were people reincarnated, and you could tell what kind of person they had been by what kind of tree they were now.  The full, deeply green trees were mothers, their lush leaf curtains providing just the right amount of protection from a scorching sun.  Under these trees you could find respite, a mother’s cool hand against her child’s flushed forehead.

The ugly trees had been bad people.  Trees with branches that appear decayed, that have no hope of ever being kissed by spring; dry bark that peels and flakes.  These trees had not loved hard enough, given enough, and now they were damned to look on the outside the way they had looked on the inside.  

Every tree I see is a potential glimpse at my future.  My heart thumps down in these roots.

© Jennifer Summer | 2015

© Jennifer Summer | 2015

 

full body memory

 

This is a piece I wrote a year ago, but I have re-worked it here.

--

The body remembers.
 

It remembers every time Nana tucked a lock of hair behind my child ear; the prism of shattered glass that lodged itself in my temple, another car's reckless impact slamming my face into the steering wheel; the deeply fragrant coconut suntan lotion I'd slather across my limbs at the first suggestion of summer, days when you could almost taste the wildness of possibility on your lips; the beautiful poet's grip on my hips, moans swirling through thick air, offering my eyes his moonstone smile, nose crinkle-cut with laughter; Max's heavy forest of a paw reaching out to plant itself in my own palm.

It remembers the singular drag of a razor across my forearm, petrified that I was no one's daughter; the hours spent on the tips of my toes, happily trading pain for bliss; the meals skipped and the hollow cavern created inside; the tiny spirit I wasn't ready to love flowing out as an unrepentant river down my thighs; the too many uninvited hands.

A body strains under the weight of collected memory.  But it also forgives, perseveres and sustains.  I thank it by treating it gently, feeding it with life and motion. We're in this together.  We remember for each other.

image & text © Jennifer Summer | 2015

image & text © Jennifer Summer | 2015

 

52 weeks words + images | week sixteen

 

37

--

Thirty-seven and here's what I've learned:

Always say yes to dessert.
Enormous hills are meant to be rolled down.
Only do the drugs that grow naturally from the earth.
Kiss a lot of dogs. All the dogs.
You don't need to brush your hair every day or tuck in your shirt. It's okay to be a little wild.
When your child runs toward you with his arms outstretched your heart will feel like it's too big to stay inside your chest. It will.
You can find God when you stop looking.
Beauty will come to you. Just be still.

©  Jennifer Summer | 2015

© Jennifer Summer | 2015

 

52 weeks words + images | week fifteen

 

gardening

Life tells us to bloom where we are planted; essentially, to accept our fate and make the best of it, but the roots that we have are not like those that tether trees to soil.  Ours snake around the heart-line that we carry inside, intersecting with each curving memory, a bulky and tattered piece of luggage that we never put down.  This leaves our body free to roam.  If the sun stops shining its nutrients onto wherever we’ve pinned as home, we are able to move to the patch that is drenched in light.  The choice is always ours.  You are as fluid as the next whim after which you give chase.

 

© Jennifer Summer | 2015

© Jennifer Summer | 2015

 

52 weeks words + images | week fourteen

 

under seas

--

When I was a child, escape was crucial to survival. I would close the door to my bedroom and watch my entire reality fall away, the new one existing solely inside those four walls.  I took the stage, flexed up onto my toes, danced someone else’s life.  In hot Midwest summers I sank to the bottom of every pool, lungs full and taut, body curled in on itself, carving out a safe womb.  

Nana would dress me for these journeys; flaring skirts, sheer scarves to tie up my hair, long wisps of gauzy fabric that would flow behind me.  The carpet in my bedroom was a deep, turquoise blue and I imagined it was the ocean, my ocean.  I asked Nana for a mermaid tail and her skilled fingers delivered a dark orange one with a zipper up the side.  I layered her costume jewelry necklaces over my bare chest, leaned back on both arms, shook out my hair and whipped my tail.  The crash of my imaginary waves would drown the anger on the other side of the door, and I would let the tide pull me away to absolutely anywhere.

© Jennifer Summer | 2015

© Jennifer Summer | 2015

 

52 weeks words + images | week six

 

milk

--

And we were the girls who were told we’d be ‘spoiled’ if we let anything inside us before marriage; a tampon, a penis, a finger.  Like a forgotten carton of milk left to curdle on a kitchen counter, light-swept with the day’s dying sun, our future righteous husbands could smell it a mile away.  Our sin, our trespass.  Our ache.

But what they didn’t count on was us finding something delicious in the damage.  We weren’t giving away our virginity, we were taking our pleasure.  And if it meant we were unclean, we learned to love that, too. Our lovers were leavers of bruises, blueberry-stains on our thighs and arms, they were the ladder of bites up a spine.  It was better than anything else God had yet to offer. 

We sat with our legs slightly open, we ate with our fingers.  We tipped our faces toward the sun.  We were the girls who would scream into the wind, who would kiss our sisters hard on the lips and spill ancient words into their mouths: Part the clouds, find your moon.  Howl.

 

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52 weeks words + images | week five

immortal spirit

The 1937 edition of Webster’s Universal Unabridged Dictionary defines ‘soul’ as: a word common to the Teutonic languages; Grimm derives saivala from saivs, the sea, the soul being regarded as the moving billowy element of man.  The spiritual, rational, and immortal part in man which distinguishes him from brutes; the immortal spirit which inhabits the body.

I often write in the sloppiest order.  A word will prance across my brain while I drive, a sentence will spark while I’m in the midst of washing my hair.  If I’m lucky, they will all have a common theme, some message or personal truth that has been in slumber and is now waking up slowly, not all at once.

I write by digging down as deeply as I can, opening my hands wide and grabbing onto what I find.  There is a lot of sifting, and there is a lot of tossing back, and then there is the process of trying to piece it all together.  Sometimes I think there isn’t a single word left to be found, but the reality is that I just have to stalk them more precisely.  I have to be hungry enough.

Like there is no end to our soul, there will never be a shortage of ways to express what that soul feels.  Words, then, are the essence of the moving, billowy element of man; an invisible God, eagerly turning a page.

 

image & text © Jennifer Summer | 2015

image & text © Jennifer Summer | 2015

skipping beats

 

skipping beats

--

This is a divine darkness that they pulse back and forth between them. The goosebumps that run a circle around her nipple when she imagines her name in his mouth. The open window of his voice that she wants to crawl inside when seeking shelter. The slick fingers that make their insistent way inside her. All these shared whispers that swirl like hurricanes; she longs to cram them into a glass bottle, later smashing it to smithereens when it's time to break this silence. 

He lives on the ocean floor. She braids cinder blocks into her hair. 

 

image.jpg

image & text © Jennifer Summer 2015