Good Stock

I left home for NYC at eighteen with neon bracelets, combat boots, Madonna CDs, and a duffle bag filled with brass balls and big dreams. I’m not sure where I got the courage, maybe it was more stubbornness when my mother said, “if you don’t go you’ll regret it and end up working at Walmart.” There’s nothing wrong with that, except I was born with a restless soul, wind in my ears and gypsy feet. What I didn’t know, which she’d tell me many, many decades later, was that she was heartbroken and cried for three days. I could never do that. I could never be that selfless. I could never be her, I could never be you. A mother. I thank God everyday I never had a daughter or son who was beloved and adored; who I’d teach strength, honor, respect and responsibility by osmosis.

I often wonder how many dreams and compromises she made so that I could be independent and free, to follow my dreams, to royally fuckup and yes, to come crawling home when broken. Some days I don’t recognize her in me at all. We are so wildly different, and not really that different at all. Her mind is sharp yet the body fails her, and that is the most agonizing fate and miserable thing. We’re all dying a slow death, with tiny victories lived in between the inhale and exhale. Every milestone I called her, every dream fulfilled I wanted to tell her, and every moment I am her daughter, I thank God my hands and heart are free from the daunting and thankless job of being a good mom from excellent stock. Helicopter moms are forever hovering, trying to anticipate looming disaster, sighing with relief when there are no messes to clean up, when the skies clear and the sun shines down. To all mothers, I celebrate and applaud you.

Please remember your daughters and sons’ fuckups are not yours to carry, they are solely their very own. I’m so glad I did not have the awesomeness of birthing a life, the burden, the tears or the privilege to carry a child. I fear I would have been buried alive by the weight of a mother’s love. I’m lucky to be on the receiving end, this I know.

On Bended Knee

You don’t have to like my politics, my opinions, or me
Even my race, gender, social status, mental health
That’s fine by me
All I ask is that if my views on the world, my liberal, “everyone should be treated equal” views
Leave your stomach sour, pause before you judge me
My artistic ideals might be so very different from yours
Could you try to stay open minded, not bitter or jaded?
And I will too
Once we’ve crossed the blame and shame line into the great divide
It is happening to us all
Because one man is leading
With hate, pride, and posturing
That’s where I draw the line
And take a knee
In prayer,not any specific religion or another
But a general protection bubble of light
For me, and for you
For all the bad sour experiences you endured that were uglyor skewed
How was your childhood?
I’m truly curious
I hope pieces were magical, and joy visited you
Was it privileged, sheltered, did you even have a roof?
Did you know love intimately, really feel it in your bones
Did your mother tell you it was okay to be different?
Actually, a mind of your own and kind heart was desired
Did you have freethinking, strong willed, compassionate mothers and fathers who loved and adored you?
Who taught you the awesome responsibility of respect?
Or did they try to shove their redneck, one-sided backstoryon you?
Did they give you ample space to grow?
Were they present and kind?
Were you the outcast, bullied, gay, straight, black, purplefaced fat child
Hate is not our natural state, although it is the easiest enemy to fall back on
Guilty, I’ve done it
Hate takes so much work and energy
Hate is learned
Just let it go
So on bended knee
I ask you please
To understand
I am no different than you
I bleed too
Call me crazy, and they have
Many times
I don’t care most days
Because I have a voice and strong heart with the best intentions
Put down your pride and smile at a stranger
Someone perhaps who has opposing views
Respect them and make up your own mind
Free will, baby
Conversation
Take a knee because you believe deeply in others right to express virtue and value
And the power of unity
Even when you’re different from me
I may not agree with your views
Whatever your politics
Freedom means
Standing up for your beliefs
And that, is all you come and leave with
Using your voice takes courage, resolve and moxy
You were born to be kings and queens
Not slaves to hate
That makes all the difference

Heartbeat Sweet

Precious heart you don’t fool me
Not everyone is good, not everyone is kind
Precious heart do not worry your sad little boombox beats
Or tragic flatlines
It’s a half hearted day like all others
For better or worse
I’m tired and my head hurts
I’m not a good person some of the time
I’m blood sour and thick
Precious heart, you’re just a pump
You feel me
The most perfect machine ever built with your valves bivalves arteries veins and groovy bloodlines
My heart is clogged by the grease and black tar pettiness of mankind
Fucking humans can be so selfish
Selfish as fuckity all fuck
Busy bees leave stingers under the skin
Drawing red welts and bumps
There was a time my precious heart beat smooth and melodic
Is there a rewind?
If and when my heart quits
Please do not revive me
No heroic measures
Let the music of my time die
Ever so smoothly and serene
Ba boom ba boom ba da boom
Ba boom ba da boom
Ba da boom and goodbye
I am not a good person but less of a swine
I’ve said it two times
I am not always kind
I can be quite selfish
Human
Ya dig it
The precious heart holds grudges
forgets and forgives
We are all just listening to the crickets waiting for the dark
And the church bells gong
Gone in an instant
No, I do want an ugly cry pomp and circumstance
Unless it’s a sexy good olé
Louisiana Bayou second line
Go fuck yourself Father Time
Hearts beat the countdown same as mine
We’re pedestrian peasants
Dressed in fine lady and gent linens
Hanes tank tops and ripped jeans
Preferably
Dirty ashes consumed with so much stuff and greasy money
Why can’t we be happy with this fifteen seconds
Moments
Beat
In sunny sequence
Drum drum drummer
I don’t know maybe I need an oil change
Unclog the lines
Oh precious heart
You don’t fool me
The soul is ethereal and the eternal optimist
Limitless in its devotion
Funny still how much it can hurt
This precious heart
Working hard pulsating overtime
Without segregating or wanting
Asking any old thing
Mankind can be be so silly, stupid, eager, greedy, hateful or adoring with their foibles and folly
And yet
The precious heart asks nothing in return
Not one single solitary demand
It just beats
It just beats
It just beats
Life until it sighs gently goodbye
And a newborn somewhere in a parallel world’s heartbeat cries joyful
As if for the very first time

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

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

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.

 

 

Passo dopo Passo

Passo dopo Passo

A photo by Andrew Branch. unsplash.com/photos/Wlm53j4te78

 

I cut the grass. Big whoop dee do. To some this might seem trivial, like why the hell is grass between her toes so important? Grass between my toes, in my teeth is of the outmost importance because it means I cared enough to push myself, and get off my ass. Out of my comfort zone. Some would say shake it off, the depression, but you can’t shake off a sadness that sits inside you making it hard to pull on your sneaks, and simply walk outdoors. To push when you mostly want to hide, tricking yourself into believing you might be getting better. And, you just might. Maybe, with the right combination of meds which is tricky business. Just maybe it’s because those blades of grass inside your sneaks, clinging to your socks and tickling your toes feels like an accomplishment. You get out of your head, and look up at the clear, baby blue powder puff sky noticing the clematis and smelling the intoxicating aroma of peonies in full bloom, planted lovingly seasons past. Someone asked if I was bed ridden? Should’ve I have been? I could have, but I didn’t. I’m moving slower than usual, writing much slower than usual, thinking at a snail slow pace. How can I be the same me but so different? No matter how bad my muscles ache or my shoulders tense, I keep moving. I’m wondering too, how much time do others spend doing things they don’t want because it hurts, is trivial, or seems menial? Like when not just your muscles ache but your skull and heartbeat hurt heavy too. Fresh cut grass smells like clean, green living, cool and inviting, not sad. No, not sad at all. I’m not sad for a beat, and that beat means mulched grass will grow back stronger, healthier with each passo dopo passo. That freshly cut grass smells just like heaven. Maybe I’m growing stronger too, standing taller and more resolute. The joyful, satisfactory memory of a job well done and sunburst yellow sunshine’s warmth, buried deep inside the muscle. I plop down grass stains and all. I lie on my back and look up at the wide-open ceiling, cracking the slightest smile. Hope lives. Hope is alive and well, grasshopper.

THE VAST LANDSCAPE by Jacqueline Cioffa

Harrison’s back with a new look, nip and tuck, and bonus chapter. She and I have returned to the Cove, where the magic begins.

The Vast Landscape by Jacqueline Cioffa has a new dreamy, beach look, cover design by Yosbe Design Studio complete with revisions, blurbs and bonus chapters.

 

 

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000037_00021]

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000037_00021]

The Vast Landscape

by Jacqueline Cioffa

Genre: Literary Fiction

Cover Design by: https://www.facebook.com/yosbedesign

 

BLURB

Bold contemporary fiction, THE VAST LANDSCAPE shares one woman’s journey filled with doubt, mistrust, fame, and self-discovery. Join Harrison on her quest to find inner peace despite the harrowing obstacles placed in her way. Will she succeed in stripping away her complex armor to unmask the flawed, beautiful, and strong iconoclast kept hidden for so long?

Honest to a fault, Jacqueline Cioffa creates a challenging love story sparkling with narrative originality.

PRAISE

“Once I freed it up to be fiction,” she said, “Harrison could go anywhere. I had a larger canvas for her to stomp on.” – Nicki Gorny, Stars Magazine / Post Standard

“I was always impressed by how courageous a writer Jacqueline is. Keep writing your fine prose.” – Mark Blickley, author of The Sacred Misfits (Red Hen Press)

“The magic of Cioffa’s debut novel shines its light on the power of the written word.” – Julie Davidow, American Contemporary Artist, co-author of Miami Contemporary Artists

*************************************************

EXCERPT

 

Helmets & Hard Hats

 

PRETTY IS PROMPT, bearing wine and a first aid kit.

“How did you know I hate flowers?” Harrison giving her schoolgirl grin. She can’t help it; he makes her giddy. Dr. Pretty makes himself at home, heads to the kitchen.

“Where do you keep the corkscrew? You look nice, Harrison.”

“Middle drawer, there are a few. Um, thanks.” Harrison blushes.

Secretly she’s glad he noticed; spent half the day at a salon. She detests primping. It’s in her contract, makeup and hair must be done in less than two hours, even that’s pure hell. She dyed her roots, waxed the bits and pieces, no landing strip. She hates the LA pre-pub look, disgusting. She’s not a 10-year-old girl for fuck’s sake; a neat triangle. Pale lavender fingers and toes; voila. The poor nail tech didn’t know what to do with her mangled foot. “Don’t worry, keep it out of the water, do the best you can, Chuney.”

Harrison had been coming to the salon for years, since she moved out West. Famous or not famous, those girls gave a great wax and mani-pedi. Rock & Republic black jeans, James Perse tee and La Perla undies. A bit of blush, mascara, gloss, she felt pretty. Sure, he had no fucking clue what she went through to get ready, with a cane no less. She didn’t give a rat’s ass.

“That’s some fancy collection of corkscrews, Miss Harrison,” handing her a glass of wine with a peck on the cheek. He smelled delicious, salt and pepper stubble tickling her cheek. Harrison raised her glass, “Borrow them anytime, on one condition. It’s Harry.”

“Harry it is. Hobble on over to the couch, I need to check your feet.”

“That’s not very appetizing; dinner should be here any minute. Jenny’s on her way with a feast.”

“Precisely. Once I smell food the good Doc. checks out. Foot up,” patting his legs.

Dr. Pretty changes the bandages, cleans the wounds, moves Harry’s feet up, down and every which way.

“No nerve damage, you got lucky, young lady. No more heroics. One week, stiches come out.” He wraps her feet in nanoseconds. Shit, that took her an hour.

“Thanks. Where is that dingbat?”

Dr. Pretty kisses her, slow, soft and wet. He holds her face in his hands, kissing her again on the forehead. “You’re awfully pale, Harrison. Harry. Cat got your tongue?”

“I could be your grandmother.”

Dr. Pretty laughs, the ice is broken.

“My grandmother’s way hotter than you. Don’t worry, we’ll take it slow. You’re the most fascinating woman I’ve ever met. Not the famous part; the girl who blushes and can’t make eye contact. I want to know her. Let’s see, I come from a semi-normal family. They didn’t beat us or chain us in the basement. We ate dinner together every night, spent holidays back East, in Maine. I was born there, left when I was ten. Pretty run of the mill stuff. I like my mom and dad. Dad’s a vet. Mom’s a retired psychologist. I have five sisters, yup, that’s right. I know a thing or two about girls. At least, I thought I did. Until you; everything flew out the window. Went to BU, got my medical degree at UCLA. You know the rest, Cedars Sinai ER, where the crazy celebrities end up.” Dr. Pretty laughs, ruffles her hair. “Fell in love with the climate, hiking, surf and a girl. Girl didn’t stick, California did. Your turn.”

Doorbell rings. Harrison is literally saved by the bell; true confessions have her head spinning. Jenny juggles three bags of food from two different restaurants, sets the bags on the kitchen counter.

“Should I grab plates? Harry?” Harrison looks at the couch, Dr. Pretty sneaks up behind giving her a hug.

“Hi, I’m Zack. We’re good.”

Fuck. ZACK? You could’ve introduced him, dumbass. Too bad you didn’t know his name. Goddamn Jenny, tight-ass 20-year-old pain in her butt. She’s efficient though, got to hand her that. Harry comes off the bitch, rude and arrogant. Gives Jenny their get lost signal.

“Thanks, used my card, right?” Jenny nods. Harrison hands Jenny a fifty, she looks puzzled. “Go on, scoot.”

“Off your feet missy, get in that chair,” Dr. Pretty points. “Don’t think for a minute you’re getting off Scott-free. I expect a bedtime story.” What? What happened to taking things slow, his words not mine. “Knock it off with the shock and awe. People do lots of things in bed, like cuddle, kiss and sleep. I told you slow and steady.”

“Where the hell did you come from besides Maine, Zack?”

There it is, Zack. Not Doc or Pretty or Dr. Pretty, just Zack. Sounds weird yet completely normal at the same time. The food tastes amazing. Zachary. Zack. He sure is Pretty. Zack rolls a summer roll, adds a mint leaf, dips in sauce and feeds it to Harry.

“Sure hope you’re not allergic to peanuts.”

Harrison swats him on the bicep, spitting the summer roll on her plate, grabbing her neck. “Hope there’s an Epi-pen in your bag of tricks.” Laughing uncontrollably, tears stream down her face.

Zack runs to his backpack, rummaging frantically. He heads to the couch and Harry is casually eating the summer roll, roaring.

“I am an actor, ya’ know.”

Dr. Pretty takes her plate, sets it on the table. He bends down picks her up effortlessly, heads towards the bathroom depositing her on a cushy, red velvet bench.

“Wash your face, brush your teeth. PJs and bed for you, missy. Knock when you’re done, no pressure on those feet. I’ll come to collect you.”

Harrison’s nerves are shot, her tummy’s in knots, she does what she’s told. She’s had sex before, millions of times. This feels different, terrifying, exciting, new. She cares, the stakes set high. Teeth brushed, face washed, sexy undies and t-shirt, Harrison sits on the toilet to pee. Great, this could take hours, when all of a sudden a steady stream of yellow flows. Goddamn it. What kind of spell has he cast?

Dr. Pretty grabs the bottle of wine, glasses, matches, and lights some candles in Harrison’s bedroom. Knock. He playfully pretends not to hear. Knock. Knock. He opens the door and grins, leans in to kiss Harrison.

“Aren’t you on-call?”

Pretty shakes his head. “Traded for 3 all-nighters.”

“Should I be flattered, or insulted? Bit presumptuous?”

“Both, I’d say,” taking his shirt off. Jesus H. Christ. He looks just like Jesus H. Christ, twelve-pack, biceps and that face. The stubble, tousled brown hair, the piercing hazel eyes. Harrison is in big trouble. Dirty, scruffy brown boys are her favorite kind of trouble. He places her gently on the bed, tight arms hovering inches above. Pretty lies next to her, scooping her up, unexpectedly kissing her neck. They make out like teen-agers. Harrison usually skips this part, gets down to business. With him she doesn’t mind, he’s so comfortable with himself he puts her at ease.

Dr. Pretty gets up, blows out the candles, removes his boxers and hops into bed. “I sleep commando, babe, you good with that? Wow, blushing again? Remind me to get naked more often. Sweet dreams. Wake me if you need to pee. No hobbling in the dark on my watch.”

Zack wraps his arms around Harrison careful not to touch her foot, caressing her head. She wants to ask why, why her? The killjoy, ever-suspicious voice in her head will not win. Harry closes her eyes, blocking out the noise and drifts.

When she wakes, there’s a wild flower from her garden on his pillow and a sticky note with a heart. She checks her phone. 10:00 a.m. Holy hell? Twelve voice mails, what the crap? It’s him, Dr. Pretty. #1 I had… #2 an amazing… #3 night. #4 You are lovely… #5 when you sleep. #6 Your… #7 guard comes down… #8 thank you…#9 well, you know, off to work… #10 3-day, 24-Hour ER rotation… #11 Better miss me… #12 Stay off that foot. I’ll know.

The ‘Call K’ reminder, the forgotten days-old promise now a black smear illegible on her wrist. Harrison’s stupid, high school grin returns, permanently glued to her face.

 

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AUTHOR BIO

Jacqueline Cioffa was an international model for 17 years and celebrity makeup artist. She is a dog lover, crystal collector and Stone Crab enthusiast. Her work has been featured in the anthology, Brainstorms, and numerous literary magazines. Living with manic depression, Jacqueline is an advocate for mental health awareness. She’s a storyteller, observer, essayist, potty mouth and film lover who’s traveled the world. Her work has been featured in the anthologies Brainstorms, Feminine Collective’s Raw and Unfiltered Vol. 1, and numerous literary magazines.

Jacqueline pens the column, “Bleeding Ink” column with Feminine Collective.

Her poignant, literary fiction debut, The Vast Landscape, gives new meaning to intense, raw and heartfelt.

Fans of the emotional, soul stirring first novel will not be able to put the exciting sequel, Georgia Pine, down.

The essence continues because you do. Harrison leaves the door open a crack. I seize the opportunity to revisit my whole, healthy self a bit longer, live in the mystic beach home I adore, dream eyes open. Hope is our greatest asset. To choose hope against the worst possible odds is the true measure of life.
~ Georgia Pine, by Jacqueline Cioffa

Please find links to the revised edition of The Vast Landscape on Amazon and all of your favorite booksellers soon.

A heartfelt thanks to Rachel Thompson from Bad Redhead Media and Kate O’Connell from BookTour.Tips for their marketing expertise and advice.

Editor: Justin Bogdanovitch

Proofreader / Formatter: Wendy C. Garfinkle

YOSBE DESIGN STUDIO: http://www.yosbedesign.com

YOSBE DESIGN Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/yosbedesign

 


AROUND THE WEB

Jackie Cioffa bio

AUTHOR SITE: http://jacquelinecioffa.com

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