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.

Seeing Red

When activism is no longer a fad, fashion statement or whim that’s when I’ll say cautiously optimistic we’re winning. I love the conversation that is happening around the globe, at the forefront thanks to some fierce, brave Hollywood power women speaking out and banding together, Oprah, women in entertainment, and a few good men but we must be careful not to lose momentum, or become complacent. Bullies, poverty, LGTBQ rights, injustice, inequality, racism, sexual harassment, basic human needs, inhumanity and social imbalances are the all too prevalent reality. Perhaps the next big, fancy award show or event, or any social platform where women have to stand up we should all wear red. Even in auditoriums and schools across the nation.

“Red, is the color of blood and fire, associated with meanings of love, joy, strength, leadership, courage, vigor, willpower, vibrance, radiance, and determination.”

When our young girls no longer feel the need to cower, hide their bodies under layers of bulky protection but feel empowered enough to express themselves and not overexposed, or embarrassed we’ll be winning. To stand up for our sisters and brothers that is beautiful truth, and activism in the making. Be bold enough to stand up, be brave enough even when it hurts, and be kind enough to stick up for the less fortunate. Let’s face it Hollywood is setting the stage, but we the ‘common, everyday people’ need to be the A-listers. Because our freedom, our little girl’s and boy’s innocence and equality has absolutely nothing to do with fame, and everything to do with harsh REALity. We too are the dreamers, the born activists of a lifetime who stand for harmony, safety, peace, equality and positive change. 

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.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Petals of Passion

I had the craziest dream.
Sweet Gardenia blossoms grew immense enveloping firestorms and chaos, masquerading all traces of ash and burn.
The intoxicating scent of sweet perfume permeated the clean air, creating nursery rows of safety bubble greenhouses.
A young girl’s innocence remained pure and virtuous.
Flowering freedom rained dewdrops of kindness.
There were no guns, no mass graves, no starvation, no rape, no death.
No dead children.
No hate. No hate. No hate.
White rapids filled the streams replenishing and purifying waters.
Dirty DNA was washed clean.
Gardenia, Fig and Jasmine were the new currency whilst greed, power and ugliness got strangled, suffocating.
In the dream state, time was no longer a linear concept, and bountiful floral gardens grew happy.
Everyone had their own space to paint rainbows, waterspouts, and imaginary firestorms.
Humanity bore green buds of fragrant possibility where wishes and dreams flourished, fruit bearing trees.
Gentle desires on the wind of a someday, some glorious day, and a somewhere different.
Sweeter than here.
Where Gardenia, Fig and Jasmine blossoms grow through the cracks blanketing away all fear.
I had the craziest dream, and wrote it on the petals adorned in her hair.
Whispering wishes of a new pathway to love.
Floating away, and landing in a stranger’s thoughtful ear.

Pure Heart

Sometimes I think I should just quit. The world is too ugly, too sad, too dangerous. You know like most creatives, empaths, humans we question ourselves, we overthink incessantly, coming up with a gazillion reasons why. Why not stop. And, why not? You know what, fuck it. I’m not finished, your story is not finished. Our story. We’re in this chaos of crazy together. Stuck together. What is this one life, without art and emotion? What good are words or photographs or movies if not to fill our broken hearts and empty spaces?

To replenish our souls.

What matters in these troubled times is that you look up and out and around and make something beautiful. Spill your guts, break your heart and then dig a little deeper. Jump into love. Inside the blues, inside the scary, safe nurturing walls of love, you find truth. It ain’t always pretty, but it’s always relatable. We are all wonderfully broken pieces, with smashed hearts and hopes. Humans can be so ugly, and there is so much hate going around. Pick up a pen or a paintbrush, a guitar, some headphones. Whatever makes you feel better. Whatever moves you and please don’t give up on the rest of us. There is good, and then there is good enough. You are good and I am good. Don’t wipe your tears or fears, let the floodgates pour. Humanity is dying, but broken crayons still color. God, I love that line. I love New York. She was the first city to open my eyes to so much imagination, vibration and color. Pure, uninhibited blissful art and joy. To the evil, hate filled human that tried to break her spirit, you won’t. You cannot. She survived 9/11, and will survive you. My heart is broken for the victims, their families and friends. My heart knows New Yorkers will rise, and come together in a tidal wave of good. Come together, and be better than this. New Yorkers are reinforced steel with liquid golden hearts and the frontline dreamers, artists, and inventors. 

If I Could

I cannot walk through the grief for you. I would if I could.
I cannot cry the tears that pour like a fountain. I would if I could.
I cannot understand the pain, the weight, the fear and the messy emotions that consume your broken heart.
Grief is yours, and only yours.
The love never dies, no one can take that from you.
Loss.
I would carry that burden,
I would if I could.
All that is beautiful in you, all the shared memories can never be erased.
They are sacred. They are theirs and yours, one intimate legacy.
And no one, not even life’s ugly tragic circumstance can steal them away.
Now, what would they tell me to do, to help mend your broken heart?
I would do anything, so I sit silent and wait with you for easier days.
When somehow, someday far and away from today you realize you are stronger than the pain, and the tears.                                                                                       You are tough, just like them.
Not today, no no no. And not tomorrow. Not even next year.
So, we wait in sorrow and silence for the seasons to bear the heavy load.
Time becomes the sweet and sad reminder of how very much you were loved.
The physical longing mysteriously grows lighter.
I cannot walk through the darkness and your grief.                                                                 I would if I could.
The one thing I can do is be an ear, on solid ground, sitting silent with you.

Awake

Please do not underestimate the fragile girl who has been broken. The grown woman inside has climbed the barbed wire, jagged and cut, bleeding deeply shrugging off the scars. She is woke and not immune to the swirling, selfish world around her. Simply living the beautiful and worst kind of misery humanity throws at her. The best soft shoe tap she can muster. The soul dances firelight loud and quiet, solemn and ernest, near and afar.

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

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

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