Empty Shells

If you are desensitized over mass shootings and more preoccupied with Award Season and Entertainment News, you are not listening at all.
I’m begging you not to turn away from a corrupt government, greed, and the narcissistic, evil billion dollar machine that is the NRA .
Violent acts happen every day.
I do not want or need a gun in my home, schools, concert halls, or vacation suites.
They won’t protect me, they won’t protect you.
They’ll leave you riddled with bullet holes, tears and blood spilt on your shoes.
To the motherless child who grieves the loss of her child by the barrel of a loaded gun, I’m sorry.
My prayers mean a goddamn, fucked up nothing.
I promise you are not a fifty second afterthought blip on the tube.
Or some shallow, vapid, ridiculous Trump tweet.
You are pain.
You are love and loss.
You are heaving sobs on Sunday afternoon, and hollow grave visits.
You are lies and propaganda, buried six feet deep.
You are humanity gone haywire, and modern time’s biggest failure.
Borrow my voice, my disgust and shame too, so that we might stand strong, peacefully united and stop ripping each other apart.
Future generations will breed empathy, novelty and grow flower gardens from empty shells strong. 

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. 

Enough

Believe that you are better than
Money
Power
Greed
Hate
Terrorists
Trump
NRA
Bullies
Shady Politicians
Believe that if you haven’t lost someone you love
To Mass Shootings
You are blessed, the lucky one
Pretend it won’t ever happen
Pretend it’s impossible
Pretend doesn’t work much these days
It can’t happen?
Not today, not in your town, not in your house
The one safe space 
And then indulge me
Close your eyes
Feel for a baby’s hand
A small child, maybe your child 
So innocent and pure
The hand feels wet and cold and you cannot stop the chaos
The screams are all around you
You hear them as if locked in
Stuck in a nightmare
You cannot wipe the blood from your hands soiling your jeans
Pretend is only one day away
Reality states there’s a dark tomorrow
Believe you care enough to make a difference
Believe you can make a difference
Citizens of this great nation
Believe you have the right to say
NO MORE VIOLENCE
NO MORE VIOLENCE
NO MORE GREED TURNING A BLIND EYE
I pray, I do but my prayers seem futile and nobody hears them
Until I remember
To be beholden
To believe in the toil and dreams fulfilled by our forefathers
Believe in your legacy
The past is our great teacher
And the present needs a new healer
Believe in the peaceful resisters who are protesting the ugly regime
The reign of terror
Believe in your gut
Believe in your voice
Believe in your heart
And stand up
Do the right thing
Let your conscience be clean when you lay your head down
at night

Believe your life matters more than an AK-47, hatred, or idiotic, ignorant opinions
How you live is up to you
How you die well that is the disturbing, frightening question of the times
Believe that humans are inherently good
Be a good human
And stand together for everyone’s right to an honest, purposeful life

On Bended Knee

You don’t have to like my politics or my opinions
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’s too late
Because one cruel 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 ugly or 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 have a mind of your own and kind heart
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 backstory on you?
Did they give you ample space to grow?
Were they present and kind?
Were you the outcast, bullied, gay, straight, black, pimply faced fat kid?
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 human rights 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

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

Frostbite Nation

Frostbite Nation by Jacqueline Cioffa

There are few things I know. I have never seen or imagined some better, happier version of me from the future.

No matter how hard I squeeze my eyes tight, I’m blindsided. I can’t map it out.

I visualize serenity, the modern beach home, transparent, quiet and clean. Made of clear glass to see the silly sun rise in the mornings, and mourning moon smiling back at me.

Perched high on a bluff, roiling waves crash below in a somber rich rhythm that soothes the wild child’s soul. The sun’s restorative warmth cuts right through the glass hitting my cheek just so, the wide open invitation to rest tired weary bones, and rejuvenate the mind freeze.

A four pegged, barebones desk and an antiqued typewriter sit off in a corner facing the north star, clean, clutter-free and cozy. White, oversized sofas are inviting and available for lounging. Lazy day Sundays are not the pre-requisite or prescheduled, they are the norm and everyday order routine.

The expansive ocean is warm and inviting, and the sea breeze feels like home. Almost, exactly like being at home safe inside the bubble of four walls and imagination. The skin feels wet from the ever present rising mist, dewy and reminiscent of salt.

Vegetables in varying colors and shapes decorate a wooden bowl. Plentiful, there is no hunger in my home.

The night sky is almost black not quite a midnight blue. Silver stars and a happy harvest moon fill me with, hope.

Dare I say. Hope. How dare I?

SplitShire-6661

I see things differently eyes closed than how they appear. How can the world look so ugly, be so bloodied, hateful and cruel. Have we not learned anything after all these one trillion years?

How not to treat others kindly, how not to forget words like hate, greed, murder and rape.

Have we not raped each other’s souls?

Where do we go from hate to hate to hate?

It’s an evolutionary unevolved spin cycle, I suppose.

Take the word human, humane out of the equation. Throw it out to sea, it returns with with the tide pools, washes back to shore. Little itty bitty children play by the rocks, build sand castle dreams right there on the shores of our beaches and homes. Our children play on the same soil, the same good earth we call home.

Where are the pretty words like want, kindness, serenity, empathy, beauty and a sense of purpose.
     

Where did the plain, flowery words go?

Did they get lost inside the coarse sand granules, kicked aside, buried so deep under the Marianas Trench we can no longer reach them with small fingers and outstretched hands? They slip and slide out of reach, and our grasp gets harder to hold on to.

To hope.
Follow the rules they say.
Rules learned as children, yet cruel fate intervenes.
Are we meant to be only unhappy, bound and determined to be defiant?

Life is beginning and end.

End of what? Massacres, more blood, sweat and tears?

End of what? Massacres, more blood, sweat and tears? No, No, No.

End of what? Massacres, more blood, sweat and tears? No, No, No. Say it isn’t so.

There is too much pain, too much suffering in this place, too much hate.
The karmic scales are way off kilter.

Are dreams so far and away from reality I shutter to think, my fingers and toes numb from lack of heat.

As I sit in my newly warmed comfortable dream home, I cannot help but worry.

About the less fortunate, left out in the cold.

What future might they possibly see?

Do not send me some fucking quote, “how happy, enlightened you’ll be if only you practice A, B and C, when we’re already way past Z.’’

The future doesn’t exist, plain and simple. This second is it. This one tangible second and then poof its annihalated.

So I dream of nothing, and everything. A new world order where bloodshed is not on the menu.

Come what may, I will be gone before May.

The future and past moments already given away freely and without want. I expect less than nothing but hope to see flora bloom wondrous in late May.

I can’t help but wonder if fate has a different future in mind.