Never Judge a Book
By Jacqueline Cioffa
Here’s the thing about writing.
When someone risks pencil to paper and is fortunate enough to convey an emotion about the unique way they view the world well that’s art, magic and creative expression.
I am not a brand.
God, I hate that word.
Although, I have been.
Modeling, acting and all the various exhausting pretend faces I’ve worn just to fit in.
I have gifted away most of my words and that is life as it should be. The day I become calculated, contrived, or worried about how many books I’ve sold, or how filthy rich I am, or if the comma is misplaced, or if you like and hate the person more than the page will be the day the words no longer belong to me.
Funny, I was a rich model once and that means very little if next to nothing today.
Except for a whole bunch of potential storytelling catalogued in the brain.
Write because you love it, you can’t breathe without it, and because the words don’t require a two-way mirror.
Only contemplation, beautiful sunshine redemption, and bounce back reflection.
Never, ever judge a book by its cover.
Crack the spine and see for yourself.
I am writing
For the love of possibility behind the broken glass.
Take a Picture, or Not
By Jacqueline Cioffa
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
“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
In His Boots
The mementos we hold on to, heirlooms we choose not to discard and throw away.
All the traditional, routine ways we try to live inside the memory of someone, some one precious, beloved. To feel them near in the physical awhile longer can seem foolish and nonsensical.
It’s ridiculous to think an oversized, outdated, uncomfortable pair of black boots with fleece lining and thick rubber soles hold any value, and yet.
I wear my father’s boots when I head out to walk the dog. It’s crazy, they’re too big and my heels slip and slide trying to find solid footing on shaky ground. It doesn’t matter. I’m not trying to be practical, or looking for some mystical answer or hidden treasure. The cold air smashes against my ankles and makes my toes curl. I don’t care; I like the deep freeze against my skin. The winter frost reminds me I am indeed breathing as snow creeps in and drips down my exposed limb. I suppose I could double up woolen socks, try to fill the void. Why would I? I tried that once, my feet felt cramped and uncomfortable screaming for some space and air.
To feel the empty, sit in the hollow spaces he once filled effortlessly makes perfect sense.
I don’t want to box up the boots, stow them in a back closet or even gift them away. I want to remove the black boots with zippers on both sides from the shelf each winter, and grin. Another season to make new memories together, him and me.
I will carefully set them aside for when the inevitable seasons change again, and wait for spring. I want something to look forward to.
His smile fades as time and distance creates a vacuum, the gaping, fuzzy recollection plays tricks on the mind.
Was it a false memory?
Did I pile into the back of his rusted, pickup truck for Blackberry ice cream on many a summer’s eve? Did we giggle and laugh until we peed our pants from the smell of horseshit? Did he lift me up on his shoulders every chance he got? Did his eyes beam each time he looked at me?
Did I hear the snores while he slept on the floor beside me when I was fevered? Did he count laps as I swam lifting my head from the water peeking to make sure he was exactly where I left him? I still do that sometimes, turn my head to the side expecting to see him instead of an empty chair. My reflexes and muscle memory are still intact.
Were there tears in his eyes the first time I left home and the last time we said goodbye? Goodbye for now, not forever.
Did he love me?
That, I don’t doubt. I don’t need a faded memory to feel his love in my bones and smiling under my skin. His grin is the brightest, fondest memory I hold. My heart and his are forever entwined.
Still, doesn’t make the missing any easier.
I wear his boots and trip sometimes.
That makes me smile, on the inside.
The Coolest Thing About Me
I have arrived at the supposed highway, halfway mark. That’s a median guess based on statistics, there are no guarantees. I have learned a few lessons along the way. I am not more of any old thing, prettier, richer, kinder, or smarter.
Sure, I was granted a great big superficial life for a brief moment filled with stuff, lots and lots of stuff. All disposable.
It sits in a closet waiting for someone fabulous I suppose, gathering dust.
I prefer to dress down these days. Forced to live a smaller, more manageable existence where vacuuming the rafters, doing the heavy lifting and hard physical work occupies the days.
Choosing life, and the 180 degree paradigm shift to survive means to move slow, forced to move painstakingly slow. Snail slower than accustomed.
I am a work in progress, and pig-headed acceptance of small town life comes with time, tables and variants.
Old friends who never cared about my moody hues whether fluorescent red, shady purple, mellow yellow or tequila blue help stay the course. Kindred spirits up for the walk.
Have I been lucky? Damn straight. Have I been unlucky? That, too.
Fate can be a greedy, sarcastic bitch.
Some would say I’ve been only unlucky. Perhaps, yes at times that’s true. Others might say I have been only thrice blessed. Guilty, I have been that ‘luck be a lady’ as well.
I have been all of it to varying latitudes, climates and temperatures.
But perhaps, just maybe, is it possible that you have been all that too?
Others cannot see or feel the colors I’ve been, the places I travel without ever leaving home, or the familiar, unfamiliar surroundings. There is nothing special or redeeming about me or you. No we’re not really that different at all. Not really.
I welcome the day I am set free from this imperfect mind- body left with only purity and lightness of soul. And, the love.
The infinite, crystalized clear water wishing well of love abundant, shared, given freely and received gracefully. To know love intimately is to recognize and accept your whole self.
“One sees clearly only with the heart. Anything essential is invisible to the eyes.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
I am special, after all.
The halfway point overflows. The unconditional love of a four-legged blind in one eye, loyal, sweet, funny, kind, compassionate creature teaches me patience; pure, reflective, bounce back safety net self-love. Everyday, and whatever come what may season. No, no matter what came yesterday or might be on the way, no matter rich or poor, no matter the path as long as we’re traveling together.
As long as we take the walk, her and me. As long as I make the effort even when I’m unable and unwilling, that makes all the difference.
Me seen through her eyes, well that is touch the stratosphere something beautiful.
She is by far the coolest, most special thing about me.
“An animal’s eyes have the power to speak a great language.” ― Martin Buber
The Coolest Thing About Me © 2015 Jacqueline Cioffa
Looking Glass and The Windowpane
By Jacqueline Cioffa
Let’s face it; there’s no fooling. The sagging skin, the wrinkled face, the ridiculous forty something woman in short skirts and bottled-up Botox. The gravitational pull and the eventual flight back home were booked in advance. You already hold the winning ticket. I recognize the faces in the street, the fear, the familiar grimace and disgust at the sideways glance in the shop’s windowpane. I see the doubt, the two-second pause, the roll of the eyes in the rear view mirror. I’m going to rise above it, be the lady lit from within. I’m going to honor this body that works, that walks me from place to place. I’m going to love this heart that beats and eyes that see the sun and feel the heat, and arms that sway to the rhythm and ears that hear the beat. I’m going to resist the tug; I’m going to dig the features and the sum. I’m going to take the very best care. Every so often, I’m going to eat eggs with buttered toast and pancakes dripping in maple syrup. I’m going to drink beer without the guilt. I’m going to love a man head on without flipping the light. Sooner or later, I’m going to want to play the parts. I’ll be mother, daughter, sister, lover, and feminist right on time. I’ll want to write the appropriate words that answer the meaningful questions. I’ll get the joke. I’ll laugh out loud without bringing my hands up to cover my face. I am timeless, ageless and the perfect temperature. I will not grimace at the sight of a beautiful young woman. I will nod and offer her a secret, knowing smile and familiar glance. I will put away the minis, the boots, and the crazy forms of self-expression and store them deep in the back of my closet. I’ll hold onto them for a younger version of myself. I no longer have any use. I’ll walk the walk with conviction. I’ll talk the talk and hear the discussion. I will listen, with a mind that is open. I will wait ten seconds to answer. I’ll have a well-thought out appropriate response. I’ll take an interest in the world around me. I’ll be empowered, insightful, bright and impulsive in an instant. I will mellow out and leave fear, jealousy and rage behind. I’ll do all the things that a grown up does. I will act like a curvy, sophisticated, well groomed woman. I will see the face and body; I will embrace and endorse the beautiful. I will tuck away my first class ticket in the back pocket of my favorite pair of ripped, familiar blue jeans for a later date. I will remember where I put it. I’ll keep my head on straight, high upon my strong, beautiful shoulders. I will put one determined foot in front of the other. For now, I’m just going to walk. And face the window without the pain.
The Highway Halfway Mark
by Jacqueline Cioffa
I wonder, I do. I cannot help but wonder what’s down the road from the place I have ever truly called home. The wood and grass and nails and bolts, the wet familiar dew smells and giggling baby sounds.The joy and the sorrow. I can’t help but observe and wonder. The funny, peculiar, crooked way of seeing the world that is all my own. The structure has cracks, fissures and deep gaping holes, pockets that need love and attention, there is patching and mending to be done. I don’t know if I have enough glue stored in the chicken coop to hold the facade together before the walls come crumbling down. I am for better or worse, at the highway halfway mark.
I mind I do, at times. I mind a lot.
Sometimes, I don’t mind at all. I laugh and live, and get lost in the hilarious, fleeting moments. I get scared, frightened, and paralyzed too. Funny, I was never scared as a child. I was wild, fearless fierce and strong.
Maybe I greedily used up all the miles and worn down the treads on my running shoes. New Balance 574’s. There’s nowhere, no road, no mountain, no distances left, no place far and enough away to hide.
That’s okay. It’s all right. I do get tired sometimes. Mostly, I wish I could bottle up the Lupita lovely creature cuddled beside me. Her warmth and heat and breath and beating heart radiate and rejuvenate my childlike spirit. Her smile makes me weepy. I can’t. I can’t keep her here with me.
I cannot understand the death concept, wrap my head around this curious mystery called life. I try, but maybe I can’t comprehend a life without all the people and places I have cherished and loved. Close, always close by even when separated by continents and telephone lines.
My mother and I don’t see eye to eye on so many things. I talk too much, worry too much, cry too much, am crazy too much and yet she is here in her first forever home and mine folding the laundry. Her pace slow, her gait sad, her grit defeated and still she is cemented together, red brick stronger than I. She realizes her halfway mark has long expired, and that makes me hold my breath.
As if I could stop time between the inhale and exhale before the next.
As if. I’m stalling, still. Silly me, I am a grownup who’s not very grownup at all. I understand that hanging on tight to the breath is wishful thinking and I will most surely pass out. I can’t help be hopeful and delusional at times. It hurts to catch my breath.
Here, at the highway halfway mark.
Waiting on Oprah
I close my eyes and can almost see the perfect fairytale life I envisioned in my wildest dreams.
Dear Fantasy (Oprah), “I feel that I am a very fortunate person …”
I was fifteen. Fifteen, gawky, wickedly uncomfortable in my so called ‘model frame.’ Somehow fifteen was the perfect age to concoct wild fantasy adventures and the fastest way out of a stifled, small town. There was a kaleidoscope world waiting for me, exclusively.
Strangers, intoxicating places and new faces I ached to see.
I guess Oprah never received the letter or maybe it got shoved to the bottom pile. There were one billion other worthy dreamers, perhaps more worthy than me. Maybe it got filed away, who’s to say?
I barreled ahead out on my own and concocted the fantastical dream anyway.
I had my picture taken, a lot, wearing expensive, sequined designer gowns. I lived in far away lands. Swam naked in cerulean silk seas with infinite sparkling black diamond sandy beaches. I stood atop glaciers touching the clouds where the landscape was breathtaking white, and the earthly humans invisible below. It was lonely and cold, and I felt nothing but numbness. Decades and decades past, I was stuck bone cold.
I could no longer picture my paralyzed, frozen feet on solid ground. Be mindful, careful, and specific before dreaming.
I woke up. No longer a child, no longer a pretty pawn, no longer me, no longer an identity, just a jumble of misfiring neurons.
I had freedom, for a time. Airplanes, buses, pre-packed duffle bags ready, lavender mister, passport, baby pillow became the two ton heavy, overweight baggage. I could not lighten the load no matter how much stuff I discarded. The heavy barred down on my brain, burrowing deep under my skin.
Change is so excruciatingly difficult when you’re living the dream.
Oprah never told me dreams can shift, that there can be more than just the one.
Or maybe, I wasn’t listening too busy running scared. Maybe I had to live through the dream to get to the here and now. Maybe I grew up, a little. Maybe the dream plain wore out.
Shivering, dizzy from submersing my head in the clouds surrounded by foreign tongues I did not understand, the physical me grew bored and misplaced. I dined on spicy and sweet, savoring cuisines that were taste bud delicious yet soured the stomach.
I was grinding, squirming, picking, pinching awkward, drowning inside the fifteen-year-old expired notion of bliss. I think when one is asking for a dream, one must be specific.
I’m sure being kicked to the curb no longer the prettiest, youngest, skinniest ‘photo op’ of the day did nothing for my already damaged low self-esteem and defunct, busted aspirations.
My life has been filled with love. Looking back and forward, my life has been filled with love.
That must be the first thing I cling to while reminiscing. My life has been filled with heart swelling, shattering, terrifying, emotional, easy breezy, destructive, goose-bump alive love.
The heart is a muscle it cannot possibly feel yet it does. Bizarre but so blazing sun, crescent moon, silly stars, perpetual movement sea elements comforting.
I am loved; even on the days I forget how to love myself.
It has not been easy, my middle, it’s been split open, fractured; please God let me end the crucifying. That, and all that mess that is my life are for a different tale. Perhaps when we have a little more time.
I’m back home now. I’m not fifteen anymore. My dreams are simpler, quieter, not half the screaming loud as before. Home, that’s what I’d been missing all along. Not the physical dwelling perhaps, although that helps joggle the mind.
The giddy anticipation of my mother’s White Shoulder’s perfume, her lips brushing against my forehead, the charms on her bracelet jingling and dancing on her wrist. Giddy elation alive.
“Go to sleep, sweet child of mine.”
I’d pretend sleep, twisting and squirming awaiting her return. Back from a well deserved evening out way past midnight to stroke my hair in the dark. I was sugary five not smart mouth saccharine EMO fifteen, not biting sarcastic know it all twenty, not disillusioned complacent crazed thirty, not even bitter shattered fragmented forty.
I was five.
I was living the dream.
Dear Oprah, “it’s okay.”
I think I’d like to give this living thing a shot, keep the next dream nestled close.
Readily accessible in my front not back pocket.
And me, I am transitioning.
I’m not waiting on Oprah, not this time.
This dream is waiting on me.
I am no different.
I am so very different from before.
Oddities of a world, in free fall.
Every thing is change.
Gotta keep up.
So they say.
Who are they?