Gravity

Young girl filled with big dreams it’s fine to carry on, all grown even when you cannot do it alone.
There will be others just like you who’ve survived the awkward teenager years, pimples, bruises and broken hearts.
They’ll care enough to remind you how perfectly precious you are.
It’s okay to fall or fuck up; when you’re doing your best.
Life will get harder than you can manage, but none of us carries the burden or heavy lifting alone.
I’ll be right here to remind you to soar.
I’ll be your gravity when you’re down in the dumps, spiraling out of your comfort zone.
Silly girl, your dreams will become quieter with age but never less full.
All the colors are yours to suit your mood.
I love you colorblind, and the blackest of Neptune’s blues.
You are prettier than the atmosphere three billion light years forgotten from here.
I will whisper in your ear when you’re fast asleep to always, always care.
To emote, to feel, to share.
To gift away love.
I hope you always, always care more.
Never, ever less.
No matter the cost.
Or the climate.
There are no grand secrets to surviving tragedy; it’s okay to experience pain and fear.
I will be here to keep your feet planted and your arms outstretched towards the stars, while tears cascade down your cheeks.
There will be many joyful, magic moments to sustain you.
I promise.
Living is pretty even when it hurts.
You are loved because of your flaws; more than rainbows, puppies, unicorns and silly human things.
I am gravity and I am here to help you stay grounded to the earth.
You are the cosmic miracle of constellations and suns and moons colliding and exploding in the stratosphere.
You are the happy accidental human, dying since way before birth.

Beautiful You

There is a lack of elegance, sexiness and mystery missing in photographs of women today, especially celebrities and the overexposed, blasé way they brand themselves and how they are portrayed through the lens.
Social media and fashion have made women seem like untouchable objects, loud, fake and even desperate at times.
The “look at me” culture screaming for more and more attention.
I have always had a more hate than love relationship with modeling and fame.
Yes, I realize that sounds trite.
I was a model, white and privileged.
But I was a young, impressionable girl, who today is a woman with decades away from the spotlight by choice and a fresh perspective.
I wonder when future generations look back at images of women will they be curious, or exhausted by the sheer volume?
I can only appreciate now the mystique of a three am shoot in Milan,
a lost era and the simple gesture of adjusting a dress, caught and frozen in time by the keen eye of a sharp photographer.
Women are magical creatures, real and raw and the most beautiful when unaware of themselves.
They do not need a movement to define their power; they have been beautiful, raw, strong, passionate warriors for centuries and centuries birthing ideals, children, and nurturing souls.
Less is more, so do not ever undervalue or compare yourself to someone else’s million followers.
Find your own unique way, and remember true beauty is forever more.

All I Ever Wanted

All I ever wanted was for you to be happy.
Without the clothes, the bling, the boys, all the heavy stuff.
To be deliriously happy without watching the tick-tock of the clock, afraid that your time for bliss had past.
It has not.
You deserve to feel joy, wonder, love and laughter until your heart beat’s quiet.
All I ever wanted was to see you smile wide and large, for you to feel the beats of your most favorite, carefree, wild and meaningful dance songs.
All I ever wanted was to make you a joyful and triumphant playlist to drown out the bullshit, the chatter and the background noise.
All I ever wanted was for you to forget about the world and her woes for a minute, and dance around in your big girl briefs out of the shadows and away from the dark.
Alone, and A-ok on your own, little darlin.’
Happiness is allowed and encouraged, it’s alright to wear your pain on the inside out, like an armor of loud love.
The gospel choir sings and claps jubilee come Sunday afternoon.
You can’t help yourself, you join in, a little lighter than yesterday.
There’s collective faith vibrating in the room.
You and you and you and me, right here and now, feeling free and a hint of happy, touching your fingers while tapping your toes.
Don’t ever let go of the soundtrack of a kind life that fills your heart and replenishes the soul.

Raise Them Up

I’m done with the trolls and their hollow, spewing hateful opinions.
I am over the ambivalence.
I’m done with people who say they don’t care about politics, only the value of their stocks, guns and the art of the deal.
I’m done with friends and family who live under the crowded veil of ignorance.
I’m done with the bullies, the posturing, the greased palms, the narcissists.
We won’t recover from the great divide or reign of terror.
I’m happy I don’t have kids who’ll have to clean up the hate, greed and arrogance.
Will there still be a world with flowers in bloom and clean oceans to traverse, or will we be buried under a mushroom cloud fast forgotten?
If I could I would foster ten million lost children from the poorest, farthest, gang infested, malnourished corners of this earth.
I would shelter them all and tell them everyday how truly beautiful, strong, brave and tolerant they are.
Every single day, I would tell them over and over they were safe and loved showering them with pride filled kisses.
I would raise them up to be kind, curious, doers, artists, empaths, dancers, deciders, givers and leaders admired for their tolerance and passion.
I’m done with the assholes, “adulting.”
I’m not done with the belief that all children are born good.
I’m not done with our best and wisest hope for the future.
The kids.
I’m not done with them; I’m down with that.

Opinionated

It seems there’s a whole lot of hate, shame and blame going around along with a whole lot of judgment.

Here’s the thing, I only care about what side you’re on politically because I care deeply about all human beings. Shocker, I know. I try not to care, not to get involved, to go about my day oblivious.

I can’t help myself; I can’t avoid the man literally standing on the corner waiting at the food bank, who won’t make eye contact because he’s embarrassed. He’s embarrassed, can you imagine?

Well, I can. I am not homeless, I have a very comfortable roof over my head but I am middle class, and perhaps even what’s considered below the poverty line. Because that is my current situation and that’s all right. I have been rich, and trust me life is not much different. The only true commodity that has changed is time. I have more of it now, go figure. I have more time to think about the atrocities that are happening in the world.

Sometimes I wish I didn’t, but then perhaps I would walk right past that man completely indifferent. Can you imagine?

I wonder, would Trump see him? No, he would tell him in a tweet to ‘get a job’. I’m not worried about the red state or the blue state; I am terrified of the ugliness, immoral man and his cronies leading our country. My country, my parents’ country, and my grandparents who were indeed proud immigrant dreamers. Your country.

This is our country. The United States of America. How did we become so divided, heading backwards in time? We don’t have to look so far back when America was a proud, envied nation, Camelot. A time when we were not a global farce, an embarrassment. I can’t explain the logistics or the inner workings of politics; it’s way over my head.

But people, yeah I know people. After traveling the world immersed in other cultures, I developed impeccable bullshit instincts. I am a serious, first-rate bullshit meter reader.

And Trump is the ultimate bullshitter, con artist and grifter. He doesn’t care that women are being sexually assaulted, he doesn’t care about the dreamers, the mass shootings, he doesn’t care about the mentally ill, homeless, elderly, or that all lives really matter, black, gay, poor, female. He doesn’t care about the environment. (Global warming isn’t real, remember).

He doesn’t care, plain and simple. I call bullshit. He cares about money and power. He cares about narcissism and taking as much as he can with his opportunistic, dirty little fingers. He cares about divide and conquer. He wants to tear us apart, make us hate each other. We are so much better than hate. We are so much better than judgment, pointing fingers.

Aren’t we?

When you tell me you don’t care about politics, you’re telling me you’re indifferent, that you don’t care about everyone’s right to life. When you tell me your stocks are ‘the highest they’ve ever been,” I say how about that recent nosedive? Did you lose precious dollars?

How about pride? What about honor? Decency?

I ask myself every day, even though I can be selfish and wrapped up, did I do one good thing, something kind? Did I show respect, because that is how I was raised. Did I help others without showboating and broadcasting, puffing up my chest? I’m not famous, powerful or important. I’m just a girl, a grown up woman who’s been around the block and seen some horrible things. Some not so nice, but some positively mind blowing beautiful things too.

Trust me I have a big enough mouth, with my very own well-informed opinion.

I hope that Trump never finds himself outside a soup kitchen, head bowed in shame, penniless and broken. (Actually, I kinda do). Humility is the ultimate life-lesson, as well as sacrifice and service. I know in my heart that some good, decent human will be on the other side with a hot meal and a smile, nodding and happy to serve him.

That’s grace.

Yes, I am a feminist. Yes, I am a liberal. I have never been prouder to be a liberal who believes everyone deserves the same respect, decency and empathy. That is my God-given right, freedom and my choice.

Let’s cast politics aside.

Words

Words

I couldn’t imagine a life without words to give us meaning, purpose and stability on a planet that is four billion years old. Words tell us that earth is the only planet whose English name derives from Old English and Germanic. Words. Use your words, use your voice, and write it down. Write out most intimate dreams, hopes, and desires. We are merely spectators allowed the shortest visit, to marvel in scale on foot, or in the imagination of childlike wonder. Words to describe discovering grainy salt, grass, cement walking barefoot and alive. Words help shape us, make us civilized. Words make mothers weep and poetry lovers swoon. Do not take away my words, bullies of the 21st Century. I am civilized, and educated. I am a solemn observer of atrocity, hatred, abuse of power and ignorance. I am a profound lover of words, their safe keeper; shape shifter, and documenter of these modern times. I am here for the briefest visit; the observer.

I understand I cannot stay. Let me type fast all the beauty and magic I’ve seen and felt on my skin, and type slow my tears with intent the unfairness I’ve witnessed.

I met a mesmerizing “transgender,” with Rapunzel spun golden hair and sequins of kindness spoken softly from her lips. She was a goddess of feminity dressed in fine linens and a moral compass. I discovered she, he, they were different than me and yet so much better. She wore no sense of “entitlement,” only flecks of humanity. I remember floating in my mother’s womb, the concept “fetus” before time was linear or had a name picked out. I was free, embryonic fluids dancing and lulling me like the salt water I adore. I was “science-based,” a human without form, without ego, without judgment, without all the messy noise that comes with living. I was pure love, alive and in waiting. I was nearly human without the hate and the truest, purest form of freedom and “diversity.” Nothing is guaranteed, not even tomorrow, nothing is predetermined, or “evidence- based.” Not one word is yours to take away, not one thought, not one vision shall be banned. I exist now until stardust reclaims my bones therefore I will use my words with honor and integrity. We are nothing without the words, their stability and dignity carries us home.

 

The banned words include “vulnerable,” “entitlement,” “diversity,” “transgender,” “fetus,” “evidence-based” and “science-based.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SURVIVOR

When life throws shit at you, and most assuredly it will, remember this. I see you. You are stronger than you think. You are kinder, graceful, brighter, smarter, funnier, richer (and not monetarily), and unique. On the days I forget, and think manic depression will most definitely kill me, I dig deep. Who the hell knows where or when life’s reservoirs will dry up. I don’t, neither do you. Then, I remember. I am a goddamn, strong ass warrior and there are people who need, support and love me, same as you. It’s okay to feel down, overwhelmed, anxiety ridden. We all do, even the ‘normal ones.’ It’s okay to feel all the feels, cry, scream and curse. I understand it is a hell of a lot harder living with a mental illness. I was normal once, too. You know what? I’m no different than you. You have your own set of problems and heartache, so remember – I got you. I see you, I feel you and I’m rooting for you. In this shiteous, chaotic, beautiful place that is the world right now find a little piece of joy in your heart, take care of it and watch it explode. There is beauty in pain, and healing in holding on. Surviving, thriving, living. That’s life, that’s me, and that’s you. You are the miracle. Rinse, and repeat. Hate, resentment and anger have left the room, SURVIVOR. – Jacqueline Cioffa

 

Indian Red

Hate has no place in the home, on the mean streets, or the man-made war zones.
Of this ugly 21st century that is so unkind.
United as one, we are not.
We are not even close in these chaotic, heartbreaking times of epic, earth shattering cosmic shifts and distorted evil proportions.
Terrorists, murderers and violent, you are most assuredly unwelcome.
The time has come to become one voice united against all that has come undone.
You are your mothers and mothers and fathers and fathers only daughters and sons.
There is no do over.
Become something better, something way better than this bloodshed battle red.
Strong, confident, educated, kind and able.
Human.
Unclench those fists and do the work.
Peacekeepers with Statue of Liberty steel spines.
Gatekeepers of a new and improved united nation.
Dump the bad man and his arrogant posse of abhorrent greedy bastards
Stirring violence and divide.
Funny how fast we forget
Green is flimsy paper and cannot till the seedlings of a good, honest life.
One voice united will not be silenced or denied.
Lead with purpose, with love, with brothers and sisters on your mind.
Hearts wide open like our ancestors.
Indian red, backbone straight, oh so pretty, honorable and dignified. 

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.”

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