Highfalutin Sequins & Glitter

I must get moving I suppose haunted by a past and future, overly cautious and wickedly sentimental. I must walk in the present decked out in sequins and glitter in honor of the brazen one. There is magic brewing in these parts and honest living in the routine. Small town life is fine, filtering the air with H2O, and hyperbaric clean, 100% pure, brain oxygen.

Just when I think I am no more. I’m proven wrong. Just when I think I have absolutely nothing, to give, to fight, and to live. Not one piece worth living. Just when there is not one breath inside and my veins have dried up and turned purple. Just when there is nothing except black hole, bottomless tar pits and green-eyed pond scum monsters, my dreams shake me from a trance. My spirit guides dust me with just the right amount of determination while I sleep. I awake shaken, yet refreshed from the pretty rainbow, mirror ball glow of sequins dancing across my ceiling. Pinching myself, the night fairies are the miracle enough to keep on living. I get on with the daunting task of getting up, out of bed, dressed, and greeting the new day.

Is it all a dream? Did I imagine this? Which piece is the reality to hold onto? Was I ever really here? Am I living? Who can say?

My dead don’t speak to me now, so I can’t be sure of anything. The where I came from or the direction I am heading. I can only sprinkle the earth with kindness, fondness, and graceful living, learned over time and with age. The talking parrots fly above me now in bouts of beautiful memory and happy colors, the life reminders that unexplained, mystical beauty remains.

Maybe, some God gave me this curse on my head so that I would be forced to stop, slow down and listen, taking in all the enchantment around me. I would not be this kind, sensitive, flawed, gorgeously imperfect or caring without the slight touch of insanity. I would have stayed the small-minded selfish, ignorant young girl never bothering to look up to take in her surroundings. That is the only way I can justify the horrific pain and suffering running through this broken brain and body.

And the joy in knowing, that one day I will no longer be bound by the minutes, the blue planet a faded memory. I will no longer be labeled the lunatic or crazy, but will be ananta happy, safe and sound.

I won’t have to fight the spinning, dizzying head, the out of nowhere panic attacks leaving me doped up exhausted, or the unbearable despair pulsating my blood and my veins. I will no longer silently scream inside from pain and anxiety, the spinner top raring to explode.

I will be free to roam unencumbered by the weight of time and space. 

I thought if I went way back in time to the glimpse of a young, healthy, happy, carefree young woman floating effortlessly on the waters, you might take pity on me. One never knows which murky waters they will find themselves thrashing about, life spares no one the suffering. The ripples shift and shape as they see fit, taking us all on our own personal journey of hardship, joy and grace. My struggles came a bit sooner than anticipated, leaving me grappling with a sickness I was ill prepared for.

Still I swim float and sink, always fighting my way back to the surface for breath and a bit of fresh air.

Clearing the cobwebs out of the way, I brace myself for the walk. I make room for smooth take off and safe landing.

 

excerpt from THE RED BENCH

Dancing Jazzy Blue

I look back on the road with no regret, humbled and in awe of where I have been, and the horrible days lived. I look cautiously towards the future, with trepidation, anticipation and hope. I would want no other me, no other life. I walk the path alone, without the ghosts and fantasy.

Just a girl, a simpleton, beat up and worn down by a mind she can’t control, dancing jazzy blue.

I do not care about the minor details; I’m counting on the bigger picture. I’m counting on God, faith and the blue people to see me through. My puppy and I wander aimless and free, the future mapped out by the gravel laid down before us. I bask in the simple. A drop of golden, yellow sun warms my pant leg as I sit on the bench, thinking about nothing. Nothing at all, except how good the heat feels.

The gap poetic, the blissful quiet that I have worked hard to find. I am present. I am here; here I am right now. The red bench and I molded into liquid steel, solidly put back together.

Tomorrow will come, or it won’t. I needn’t remind myself of that. I mustn’t worry over the minutiae.

THE RED BENCH

Off The Cuff

Off The Cuff – Jacqueline Cioffa

That’s pain.

That’s JOY.

That’s courage, baby

That’s the high cost and the low maintenance

And this is my honest-to-God get out of my face, in your face, brace yourself best shot

Potluck

Be brave, be bold, be loud

Make some quiet noise

Maybe tomorrow I’ll post some cheery, colorful, feel good quote

Perhaps, maybe not

One never knows how hot she blows

How high the highs and low the lows

These unfashionable, sufferable modern ties burn crimson

Disconnected, traveler

Still, it’s nice to see pretty colors and happy faces sometimes

Smile at a stranger, turn up the tunes and dance man

Travelin’ down the good red road

In Her Dreams

Snow falls on the grass on this almost March day, trees already in prepubescent bloom.

What the fuck is happening? Global warming has her own plans, shaking things up on this insignificant, tiniest piece of the puzzle, planet earth. She is happy for the ugly, backward mess.

She won’t walk today, but will curl up in silence and self-protection closing her eyes instead; drifting off and dreaming about the walkabout will suffice.

In her dreams she sees an altogether different version of herself; a younger, happier, slender, soft edged person with a more vibrant future mapped out. She still dreams in Kodachrome where puppies, beach homes and neat, parasol living abounds. Where dazzling, white bright stars full of possibility coat the yellow sunbeams from her eyes. She has yet to be poisoned, injected and force-fed the grays and ugly realities.

This girl has a shot. A real, do-over shot at happy. As long as the imagination has not been stolen, she has the dream to endure.

She’s survived the brutal, harsh days when something bigger than fear, self-loathing and death took hold. She lived the limitations with a certain air of grace, donning the best, quiet mask she could. As long as there is hope, that God will not abandon her in these worst times she continues, liquid solid. She takes the uneven, shallow breath, however difficult embracing the day to get it right, finding an air that is easier and smoothed out.

The birds forgive her simple, humane existence. They know she is following the orders of the house, a guest in their home. This four and a half billion year old earth which carries her shaded past and unique, ghost filled history.

She is simply at the mercy of time, enduring with whatever shred of dignity she can muster.

To never forget the page. The page carries her when she cannot stand, crouched in fetal position on the bathroom floor. The page dreams the big dreams when she sees nothing through misty eyes. The page promises hope when she has exhausted all roads, and left dreaming behind. The page holds her hand guiding her gently towards the light, where the words are the wee bit brighter. Dripping icicles, the snow has lost interest in this corner of the land and gone off to find glaciers and ice hills, more appropriate temperatures to visit.

She wraps the afghan throw tight around her shoulders, rocking back and forth while humming her favorite tune hopeful to revisit the dawn of a new tomorrow.

-excerpt from The Red Bench

Sunflowers and Sticky Tape (some years ago)

We built a house out of a dream

10 minutes turned into a life of sunflowers

and wooden porches

and Etta James

and Ella Fitzgerald

and thrift stores with old record players

and bread makers

and a light bulb on a string over the kitchen sink

and a couple in Sante Fe

and their gallery

and an old book of pictures of Texas from 1961 or was it 1959?

and a white Cadillac convertible with burgundy leather interior torn from age

and a steering wheel with sticky tape

and a motel with purple lights

and cactus in the desert

and a white bathing suit

and a black and white TV

and the same movie playing over and over

and Tequila with a worm

and the sunrise on the dunes in the desert

and the dark and the yellow line in the road

and the fork up ahead

and it’s all in my mind

and my heart

and I did care

It was a lovely dream

I saw you today and paused short of breath

We had drifted away and apart

I wish you all your dreams of wooden houses

and dunes

and beaches

and bandanas

and cutoffs

and Hanes v neck t-shirts

and flip flops

and all

Take care and I do care

It was real for me

For a moment

and it was so nice to dream

 

– Jacqueline Cioffa

 

On my column, “Bleeding Ink,” Courtesy of Feminine Collective

Caught in the Crossfire

caught-crossfire

I am told the brain feels no pain, no pressure. That is only half-truth. I have experienced a different reality; never exposed to screaming silence quite like this. I’m scared out of my mind imploding from the inside.

I make ballsy, hasty decisions to beat down the bullshit, chemical imbalance. Humiliated, I lie alone on a gurney, port in my arm, the tacky acrid green plastic band too tight around my forehead. I wait for the inevitable, the blackout cruises my veins, leaving me in the dark and the thirty-second aftershock. I am in a room filled with know-it-all professionals scurrying to and fro; as if this was the simplest routine, like the morning dump after a cup of coffee.

A dude in white and a turban scolds the nurse crudely, “hurry up, he’s late and has to be somewhere,” the words so cold and nonchalant as if administering a simple shot.

How can that be?
When this was the singular, most critical, crucial brain saving moment for me?

It took years of back and forth indecision, yes, no, to and fro…

A barrage of loud, invasive machines and needle preparation, a whole lot of courage, desperation and moxy to get here. On some cold, anonymous, colorless, could be anywhere hospital floor, waiting for the ‘pros’ to press reset, a fresh start, brain back to zero.

The mood swings forever too high, and hauntingly low.

“Are we going to an operating room?” I ask the nurse, trembling one tear. I let only one fall down my cheek, white knuckling it. My aged, wrinkled and broken-hearted mother waits somewhere out there on the other side of the wall.

”No, we just pull the curtain,” she responds curtly to my embarrassment and dismay.

I know my mother; my resolve and courage are waiting. Anxiously waiting, somewhere out there, and away from this bone chilling gurney.

Thank God, I have not forgotten this vital piece of information. My elderly, fragile, disillusioned mother has lived this hell before. My father endured electric shock a long, long, bad dream, time ago.

Yeah, but that was twenty years past. They have come so far. They have come so far. They have come not so very far at all, motherfuckers.

“You won’t feel a thing, it’s a breeze.” Liars and thieves they are.

Crying, confused, mind-raped, beat down, my fucking skull bursting as if bashed against a wall. I can’t speak. I cannot escape the excruciating pain, pulsating through my jaw, my throat, neck, over, under and all through my head. No, this cannot be anything. This is something unlike I’ve ever felt before. My fucking head is imploding, unrelenting, unforgiving suffering and it’s day six after shock.

I’m in shock. Violated, dehumanized, traumatized and violated some more. Confused, betrayed and abandoned.

Countless pomp and circumstance, arrogant specialists have said this is the norm the first time round.

I resist, fuck you, fuck you one and all.

Give me back the manic depression. At lease I can handle the accommodations down there, deep inside the black hole vortex. I’m not sure what to do with dazed, hazed and nightmare uncertainty. Quick somebody hand me a pad and pencil, to dabble and scribble notes, the jumbled thinking. Buzz, the incessant ringing. No, I do not want to kill myself; I’d gauge your beady eyes first with the led pointed weapon and my fury on the page. 

The fuzzy, dream haze state where everything certain, even the tallest Evergreen sways to and fro in a strong, gust of wind. I am shaken to the core, awake less me. Less the intricate, puzzle pieces of my person. I cry real big salty tears for my mother, her bruised, defeated heart. Her exhaustion and reassuring ways rock and lullaby my bleeding ink broken heart.

She loves me time and again, and helps put back the broken parts.

Hers, and only her love anchors her daughter’s gypsy Mustang, wild free spirit.

I am told it went well. Oh, so very well. I am an excellent candidate. I must not rule it out, stay open-minded. Fucking douchebag oxymoronic, my mind is wide-open mood swings.

Me?

I just want to hang in the dark and quiet awhile ’til the pain subsides, and I regain a small piece of my pride.

If I had cancer would you still look at me with your pity? Don’t. I don’t want it. I need your strength and resolve. Keep your pious pity for yourself; it won’t serve me at all.

Would we stay friends or would you write me off the embarrassment, the nuisance, too busy with your own chaotic life to bother with the nutter?

I am strong; I am a goddamn warrior child of God. I have endured all the various shit storms thrown at me. I have let them do inhumane, controversial things all in the name of insanity. I have the will, fortitude, and the want to beat this. But, try as I may, the various tricks and treats, I can’t quite find the right medical potion.

I am lucky, I believe in the shamans and Angel spirits who whisper my name on the wind.

Child, walk barefoot on the earth, dig up the dirt, let your fingers feel the grooves in the heavy rocks, and crystal healing trinkets you carry deep in your pocket. The spirit is sound, and safe. They cannot rape your soul, sweet girl. Remember, they cannot mind fuck your brain. Only God and the stars that came before you are real. The invisible illness is an exotic blessing, and proper curse.

Fuck the professionals, I live on the land of Indian nations where shaman healers left buried treasures, right beneath the surface.

I am eggshells’ uncertain in autumn, but the smell of promise and spring will be here. 

It is my favorite season, an exceptionally warm and beautiful time.

Did I get me right, or did they do me all wrong?

Me, I’m alive and whole. I’m going to buy a badass, trucker treasure hat, some timberlands with steel toes, and go deep into the woods, where my Onondaga Indian Nation ancestors, healers and women left treasures, spirit gifts, trinkets, wisdom, artifacts, and pieces of their spirit guide souls.

I am nothing if not my word and the stories are my powers of observation.

Fuck off, quacks. I’m traveling down the “Good Red Road.”

Wake Me, I’m Dead Dreaming

Wake Me, I’m Dead Dreaming By Jacqueline Cioffa

I rip you to shreds with my bleeding ink spot leaking heart pride

I hate you, I despise you with the bitter guts and boiling blood that festers inside

It’s all a waking dream and I’m suffocating

Where, so where do I place the fear I carry so heavy too heavy to mind

I’m quite sure my heart will give out long before the scattered, tattered jumble paper mess memories dry brittle

I scribble fast the fury not to forget

The memories are disappearing fading fast wadded paper cedar trees, football field lengths between me and me

 

I’ve forgotten how it feels to hold you in high esteem and tempting melted milk chocolate covered tongues

 

Once upon a time I cried, screamed, howled

 

 

Joy

 

I believed wholly and eyes closed, the whipping wind white puffy fluffy sky free ride

Liars and petty thieves, humans

The sun doesn’t shine bright on my sullen skin anymore and I’m knee deep in muddled pride

I loved you once I surmise

 

I believed the silly unicorn light up the night notions

 

Feeding frenzied Coyotes circle dense fog forest grey days

Threaten tempting black empty nothing bliss

 

Ripping tearing shredding gutting smiling puppy dog faces

The lines blur

Are you awake, dead dreaming

Misconstrued misaligned misperception hazed out of focus

Are you real or are you dead

 

Well for fuck’s sake, what are you really?

 

Tell me, I’m screaming inside with knee jerk clenched fist death wish jumping jack out of my skin beanstalk

 

Shh, I can’t hear my own running in circle cries

 

Quiet now, hush now pretty pretty pretty

Three times not twice rules are made to be shattered glass smashed

So what am I

Tell me now before I sink deep and deeper

Losing quietly ever so gently lovingly my beautiful chaotic mind

Write it all down love, quickly and with a certain kind of steadfastness

Star stuff flurries go poof and disappear before your eyes

Questioning the knighted crown jeweled worthy existence

I’m not ready, fading, falling

Shh, darling

It’s all a waking, mystical magical nightmare

Dreaming awake, I scream silent

 I love you, I hate you

I hate you, I love you

I love to hate you, I hate to love you

Makes no difference under the veil

When buried behind a double blurred vision am eye

Sideways Dreams

Sideways Dreams

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I love it when the clouds swirl and swish about in different directions, knocking angrily against each other in the sky. The clean open sky that I can now lay on the ground and watch free and clear, no city buildings in sight.

I have no clue what tomorrow will bring. I am paralyzed and in awe, the possibilities endless. There are few things I know, and few I’ve taken for granted. I don’t need the stuff. The excess baggage weighs me down. In the woods, I’m free from fancy dressing. I am light years away, a carefree traveler. I don’t miss the fashion, the superficial, the high heels and the in crowd. The oxygen and the trees leave me be, to think and to grow.

The Unwilling Participant

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The Unwilling Participant

Some idiot had the bright idea to hang a birdcage outside a locked window on a mental ward. It hung from metal steps dangling like a goddamn Snickers bar, only filled with birdseed and shit. The rustic, red paint had chipped away seasons past. Maybe it was part of an arts and crafts afternoon, who the hell knows? I used to stare at it for hours, tapping the glass waiting on the birds that didn’t come. Perhaps they thought if they came too close, it could be dangerous. They would get caught somehow inside the cage, the unwilling participant with no way out. I hated that fucking birdcage, how it swung freely on the wire taunting without a care.

         How inviting the pretty blue sky looked with fluffy, white clouds through the dirty, rain stained windowpane. I detested the stairs that climbed towards the celeste sky and the ginormous silver contraption at the highest point on the roof. It was probably a ventilation system that circulated stale air back inside the ward. If I could just find a tiny crack in the glass, maybe the crazy inside the halls wouldn’t stink. Maybe I don’t know what the fuck I’m talking about. I’m not on the outside swinging in the breeze, the wind giving me goose bumps, the sun bathing and warming my chilled bones with Vitamin D. It’s amazing how time halts while you’re pacing up and down the halls arms flailing, flying and flapping your wings.

         Time keeps you stuck, staring at an old, ugly birdcage for hours wasting away the minutes. At home, I curse the birds; they shat all over the walkway leaving violet trails of mess. I’d clean it the best I could with water and a broom even though the vile crap made me wanna hurl. There must have been 50 trails of eggplant muck on the ground. From my unfortunate vantage point it was impossible to reach through the locked window. The lonesome and sad, all but forgotten cage. I’d probably wind up getting sucked into the silver vent and spit out if I managed an escape route, road kill splattered onto the sidewalk.

         You won’t see a birdcage hanging at my house, ever. No, no thank you. No siree. I’ll leave the sad decor to the professionals. Funny, I wonder who had the thoughtfulness and good intention to hang it. Funny is an odd choice of a word, because the scene was not very funny at all.