One Times Four – excerpt from GEORGIA PINE

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The Cove, there was no other place Georgia wanted to be. She loved summers at the beach with her pops. Georgia pulled the rocker close to her grandfather’s, almost touching. She needed to be near, reassured by the sounds of his breathing. Side by side, gliding back and forth. She had nowhere to go, nowhere she’d rather be. Mostly, she rocked while he nodded off. He was her most favorite person. She refused a life without him. Georgia knew what was coming. Maxine wasn’t the only one with a gift, she didn’t brag. Her grandmother was a fading memory, but Georgia could still recall the tight squeeze of her hand. How overtired giggly they got when she tucked her in. Harry whispered secrets in her ear.

“Don’t let anyone make fun of you carrot top, freckle face, how you are. Someday, they will see how dazzling and pretty you are. Stand your ground, find something to believe in and go for it. Don’t look back. Don’t apologize. Be nicer to your mother, she was a free spirit once. She plain forgot. Make her laugh when she gets too serious. Protect and cherish your sisters, they’re what you got. At some point, you will be disappointed by them, even hate one or all. They might despise you, too. It won’t matter, your sisters will pick your side every time. I promise, that’s what families do. Your family, our family is bound by deep love and tradition. We are not quitters; we are backwards optimists. Takes a little longer, we get there on our time. I love that shared trait. We believe in our truths, once we’ve ripped them apart and examined the guts with a loupe. I’m dying baby, I won’t spare you, hide the truth. You won’t have to wonder where the hell I went. I adore you too much to leave you questioning my invisible parts. I love you right now, in this room, on this bed. You’re my big girl, so smart. I will miss bedtime tuck-ins, our secrets. Don’t tell your mama, she won’t understand. You have your grandfather’s eyes, and my cautious curiosity. Close your tired eyes, tomorrow we’ll go to the beach. Hug your grandfather when he gets sad. He’ll need you Georgia Pine, when I go.

Georgia looks at Harry through the puzzled eyes of an eight year old. Hush don’t be afraid, life is about coming and going.”

excerpt from the book GEORGIA PINE

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GEORGIA PINE, the sequel to THE VAST LANDSCAPE

Pruning Mad

I thought the words and thoughts escaped me, but the mind is perpetual movement and the physical change of space a welcome opportunity. Granted it’s a backwards return to an old familiar. A place filled with deep sorrow, craziness and rerun memories. It’s a half empty house that holds a far away happy and lost together times and sparse family. I’ll take it. It suits me better than isolation and the sad exhausted faces in the big city.

We are a people in search of a nation. We lost our tribe, our values, and our rhythm. I don’t want to be reminded of the labels stamped on our backs. I don’t care about the tube and the lies, the affairs and the misguided wannabe celebrity. I want authentic personality. I want Chagall and his torture and color and art. I want to be moved and inspired by individuality. Call me crazy. He makes me to want to walk away from the glamourous life. I am convinced I will not find my way out of the dark if I am not prepared to live for a time in the empty. I’ll squirm and slither, giving in to a forgotten town where nothing happens. It’s a stand still place where nature is your best bet for entertainment.

I say bring it on motherfuckers. Throw me more shit to swallow, give me the pills, I’ll take the drugs, hand me the rage and I’ll run with it. I’ll make a goddamn mish mashed masterpiece. I will not hurl things, I will shout through my fingers. This place, this twirling planet is unfit. Burn it, drown us, and wipe it out. Eradicate the greed, me included, the ego-driven and self-obsessed. Forgo the fast and over processed. It’s a bullshit new millennium.

I am going simple until something shifts.

I bury my distaste in the physical task of cutting back the hedges. Every whack of the saw loosens my muscles and frees my thinking. I trim the grass until the sordid is no longer. I work determined and with purpose, like my ancestors.

I want to dirty my knees and bury the hatchet. I will plant flowers and feel the dead working beside me. Today I will shed no tears, I will not cry out in despair. I will grit my teeth. I will find projects that need doing and complete them. I will listen to the wind and wait. I will thank the sun that I’m still here. There must be a bigger reason.

The repetition and tradition quiets the squalls and rough seas rolling around in my head. What is my purpose? Will I lead a life with meaning? Why doesn’t God hear me? Where are the motherfucking signs? What am I supposed to do? Will I survive these worst of times? Do I even want to?

I sit outside on this unusually balmy November afternoon shrugging my shoulders. I wonder if anyone out there feels this pain and doubt with me? I worry where have my dead gone and question why can’t I go to with them? Was there ever a point to the borrowed minutes and sweet nothings?

Turning the corner is a matter of opinion. I never made that choice. Everyone leave me the fuck alone please until I find what’s waiting. I want no part of this fast paced, over stimulating, hole- hollow, simply filling the borrowed time mad existence.

excerpt from THE RED BENCH

Spin Cycle

 

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I am forced to sit in the unpleasant, unfamiliar silence and hear myself calling. “Lady, so pleased to meet you. Take a load off. You’ve been running so long. Have the patience and fortitude to be still and walk away from an outdated life. Have the courage to know better. It has been such a long while since you’ve been home.

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.

Fashion is Fickle

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FASHION IS FICKLE

When did we become a society of images scrolling past on someone’s smartphone? It’s nonsensical, comical and yet. Modeling was my life for two decades. I never felt entitled, prettier, skinnier or better than the next girl. In fact, I always felt a little less than. Maybe if I was thinner, smarter, or a skilled marketer I’d be a smarter brand, book better caliber jobs even though at the height of my career I was working for Vogue. I never let myself enjoy modeling. I took the lifestyles of the rich and famous for granted. Wait, before you crucify or criticize me. I understood the privileges, perks, and dollars being thrown my way. I understand how truly lucky I was.

I come from everyday middle class parents, nothing more than average but oh so much more beautiful than any pretty face I’ve known. Love, honor and respect mean more than some fucking photograph that would eventually crinkle and fade. My BFF who was a model too, said to me the other day, “I wish we had made more money.” Yeah, me too sometimes. Although money won’t solve any of my problems today. It’s all such a cliché. Small town girl leaves for the big city and makes it big. Well, you tell me what the fuck is big? How about doing something that requires brains, or better yet compassion? You’re not supposed to regret the past, or even look back, but I have a trunk full of old images staring back at me. I was a child who had no idea how lucky she was, traveling the globe, working one day a week making the same money it took others months and months to earn. A young girl who got caught up in the fickle that is fashion. It’s funny, I never thought it would end, and like most things that end abruptly and ruthlessly, I would find myself job-less and less, going through my savings in lightning speed. When you live in New York, and have to pay hefty rent money goes fast and furious. I always find it sad and a bit curious, when I post a modeling picture from a hundred years ago and they get way more likes than my serious writing pieces.

Maybe the world wants and needs to be entertained by unavoidable celebrities and Reality TV, to see pretty things because it is in fact, so brutally unfair and fucked up. Maybe. I loved modeling for a couple reasons, despite the plastic ones. My BFFs are the same beautiful women and ex-models I met when I was 19. They are, like me, normal and no longer immersed in the world of fashion. I got to visit, and actually live in cities I only dreamed of seeing, or watched on The Travel Channel. That was cool; to immerse yourself in a culture that was completely different than anything you’d ever known or called home. To eat cuisines you could barely pronounce. To try and decipher languages that sounded like gobbly gook. I discovered something along the way; people are pretty much the same. There are cool cats, interesting characters and funny humans across the globe. There are also beautiful assholes all over the world. Maybe I was an asshole sometimes too, entitled for sure. Not these days, no not anymore. I sort of cringe when I post an old picture from my modeling years, and then watch in wonder as the likes come flooding in. Not exactly flooding, more like a slow dribble. Fashion is fleeting, one must adapt to the superficial world we live in and move on. It’s high tide time to embrace the past, and hope the insides match the perceived beauty on the outside.

 

 

Dairy Queen

Dairy Queen by Jacqueline Cioffa

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I’ve devoured endless books, “The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying,” “The Tao of Health,” “Sex & Longevity,” the Wilde’s, the Beckett’s and the Eliot’s searching. I’ve gazed at the stars to align my planets. I’ve burned white sage along the perimeters of my house to keep out the dark and unwanted. I’ve slept with amethyst under my pillow, seeking calm and center. I’ve grasped tight to pink quartz holding out for love. I’ve picked up a rune to map out my path. I’ve called on the dead to feel better in spirit. I’ve suffered the fool. I’ve been one. I’ve been all wrapped up in it, crazed, sane, rich, poor and famished in an instant.

But, I’ve never stayed the course. I’m resolute. I’m firm like desert dirt. No excuses, I want well living.

-excerpt from THE RED BENCH

Washboard Abs

                                                   Washboard Abs   Jacqueline Cioffa13697256_1766800850265997_1962974636646376700_n

I want to dance alone in the dark. I want to hear the underlying music through the deafening mundane silence that is everyday life. I want to make snow angels in a Speedo. I want to smile again without feeling forced. I am going to free myself from the limitations wrapped tightly around my neck. I’m going to discard the heavy and not give it a second thought. I’m going to dance on paper and move mountains with thoughts clear in black and white.

The limbo of my life will become a discarded thing of the past. There will be happy, chocolate chip minutes and inviting, familiar scents wafting through stale air.
It will be comfortable.

There will be easy chores, taking out the garbage, doing the jumble, raking fall from the yard.
I will bask in delight. I want to live simple. I want orange and red leaves and high school football and small town life. I want to erase the days lived in the hollow and free my mind and body from the trickery of a fast life. I am throwing out the Gucci shoes and Prada bags and the heavy burden and the in crowd.

I will wash away big city, lonely isolation and surround myself with real life. I will turn my back on the superficial and freeze all my assets. I will gladly hand over my stuff and lose pounds in an instant.

I am violently thrashing about. Gently, I am closing a door and cracking open a window. – THE RED BENCH, Jacqueline Cioffa ‪

 

Take a Picture, or Not

Take a Picture, or Not

By Jacqueline Cioffa

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This face.

This face has been scrunched and smothered by new new talc scented infant kisses

This face has been covered in mud, dirt, blood, open-wounded, stitched, patched and put back together

This face has been brave, kind and stubborn pout five-year-old defiant

This face has been bullied and attacked by mean girl high school drama and self-important syndrome

This face has been pummeled, scarred and attacked vicious

This face has been glorified, mystified, beautified, and plastered on billboards

This face has worn one million types and varying hues of chalky sultry makeup

This face has known privilege, spoiled riches and possible envy

This face has rested her cheek against a sterile cement floor curled in fetal position lying beside the hospital bed where her father has died

This face has been on the receiving line of sweet, melodic nighttime sexy soft forehead kisses from momentary star-crossed lovers fleeting and delicious

This face has felt rejuvenated immersed in sea salt and sunshine encapsulating and inviting Miami oceans in wintertime

This face has burrowed deep under a pillow dark, terrified, tears and snot escaping all orifices

This face has been bronzed and sunny

Filled with Angel kisses and brown spotted freckles

This face has been the recipient of 450 V currents sent to an exploding brain through wires attached to her scalp, voltage dialed up to maximum

This face has been overly expressive, exuberant, surprised and giggly

This face has been grey, pallid, aged and wrinkled

This face has been acid burned to obliterate Squamous cell carcinoma riddled blotches

This face.

“The camera is a save button for the mind’s eye.” — Rodger Kingston

This face is tired, exhausted, despondent, devoid of Vitamin D and defeated

This face is not the who, how, or where

This face is not the who, how, where, or when

This face is not the who, how, where, when or why parts of me

It’s cellular skin alive, hazel eyes, pointy nose, scarred forehead, potty mouth lips and cheeky cheekbones

This face cannot carry the weight of a life nor mask the beauty

It’s just a face like all others

It’s mine though, this face

Raw and unfiltered

“When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs. When images become inadequate, I shall be content with silence.” Ansel Adams

 

Take a Picture, Or Not 2015 © Jacqueline Cioffa

Originally featured on Paperbacks and Wine

 

 

These Modern Ties

These Modern Ties

By Jacqueline Cioffa

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You know what I despise sometimes?

Visualize your best life,’ social media posts. If only you meditated longer, dreamt bigger, brighter and better… a gulf stream, rolls royce and diamond solitaire would magically appear via Amazon. All your grandiose desires, jubilee shrieks and pixie dust sparkle whims before you and not behind. If I were a blonde, bombshell genie in a magic bottle… I’d obliterate global warming, nukes, little girls with shredded self- esteem, cancer, homelessness, poverty. Name it. Go ahead…make your wish. I’d stomp out every single injustice; I’d balance the scales.

Christ I hate when someone writes, living their best life.’

It’s preposterous, deluded, and downright denial.

At times.

We are granted breadcrumbs of serenity; uncatchable, unmatchable, untouchable moments when life feels happy and snug. Calm and wonder overflow, and JOY is easily accessible. Perhaps. Yes, a few lucky upturned frowns sounds about right.  

Time is spent de-cluterizing, looking back and leaping ahead. Humans are predictable. They prefer to skip past the hard questions. Me? I can’t seem to stop the verbal diarrhea, pondering, squirming and searching. Why don’t the scales even out? Why does the too young, too beautiful, sticky sweet new mother die? Her babes left to fend for themselves. Why do gray cover clouds mask the sun? Why is it mother knows best not to ask unanswerable, stupid, preposterous philosophical questions?

It’ll make you go bonkers, Crackle Barrel, cuckoo clock nuts.

I bet she that mom visualized her perfect baby bump life in pastel hues, fluffy white lambs and nursery rhymes. Dead dreams don’t exist, silly me.

Why? I sure as hell don’t know, but I’d like to. There are no answers when newborns know their mothers in passing, through birth canals, photographs and hand me downs. Someone’s misplaced, jumbled, embellished memories reminisced in haste.

Do not post some inspirational, bullshit quote without asking first.

Am I aware of the planetary spins, people hovering and circling around me? Did I attempt one kind thing today; did I go out of my way for a stranger? Did I do something good, something considerate without telling a soul? Did I do something for the JOY or the pain without running to boast on Facebook, Instagram, and the Twitter? Did I live behind a screen, inside the screen, was I that blind? Did I venture out to inhale the oxygen, to forget what felt safe and comfortable? Did I take risks beyond the pre-determined edges, color outside the lines, feel the rain and the sun on the inside? Well, did I? 

Well, have you?

Have I been lucky? Damn straight. Have I been unlucky? That too. Do not say think positive; I might punch you. I fight to breath, to stay, to be alive. It’s hysterical; a dramedy. This life is not about me, and yet I take it personal. I’m a blip, a speck obliterated before the wind blows. I’m not complaining, but wait…  hell yes I am. I not a Debbie Downer most of the time or even full fledged pessimist. I’m a realist, I’d surmise.

Close your eyes and listen if you’d really like to know about me.

To understand how excruciating and uncomfortable it feels to bleed under the skin. To smile through tears and forget the bad times…To declutter, debunk, and destroy the pain that comes from a chaotic, misfiring, and free-floating mind. 

Do not suggest I try harder, or swallow my pride. Hey you, over there…look at the sunny side. What the fuck do you know? Tiny moments of happy are best lived inside the heart and eyes open wide.

The scales?

I’m tossing them out the attic window. Since the beginning of time until tomorrow they’ll be teetering, tottering, balancing and unbalancing. 

That’s life.

That’s pain. That’s JOY. That’s the high cost and the low maintenance.

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

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

Perhaps, maybe not. 

One never knows. 

How high the highs and low the lows.

These unfashionable, sufferable modern ties.

Disconnected

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