prayer

Mrs. Parker

An Essay About Being and Becoming a Poetess

Late last night I finished work on another collection of poems, “Thelxiepeia.” This group of poems started out with a different title. When I began editing I knew that many of the poems would not make the final cut. They seemed parts of two books jammed together in a way that didn’t fit and so I opted for a cohesive finished selection and a new title. Thelxiepeia, in Greek mythology, is one of the Sirens, creatures whose seductive songs and music lured sailors to crash their ships. Sirens were often represented as being part woman and part bird. How I happened upon this story of Thelxiepeia was that I was watching an old movie called “Xanadu”, in which a muse, Kira, whose real name is Terpsichore, the muse of the dance, emerges from a mural, and falls in love with a mortal. There are fantastic musical numbers, Olivia Newton-John, Gene Kelly, Michael Beck, with music by Cliff Richard, The Tubes, and ELO. I’ve mentioned this movie before as it has most everything in it that an adolescent girl in 1981, one seeking some escape from excruciating pain, could require of a movie. I still think it’s a beautiful film, though from a completely different point of view this many years gone now. In watching it again I thought to look up the names of the Nine Muses of Olympus, one of whom is portrayed, though it isn’t a speaking part, by Sandahl Bergman, who is better known for her roles in “Conan the Barbarian”, “All That Jazz”, and “Red Sonja.” This led to looking up the names of the Sirens, and the writing of the poem, “Thelxiepeia.” Thematically overall, the collection has to do with the subject of muses and myths, with the stories we tell ourselves so that we can find a way to tell our stories, and those things that help us along the way in that.

xanadu-mural-muses

The Muses, “Xanadu”, 1980

 

In writing these poems, in watching “Xanadu” whenever it was, these poems were written several years ago, and remembering again that time of my life, I understood again how it is that I became a poetess, a writer, and how much of that, for me, relates to, or has or is entrenched in, films and music in someway. In 1981 I turned thirteen years old. Over the course of exactly one months time, I went from being a normal, healthy kid, to being emaciated and barely able to get out of bed. Five foot eight, at that time, my weight dropped to ninety-six pounds at one point. I couldn’t go to school, couldn’t eat, couldn’t sleep, couldn’t not sleep, and after months of weeks of grueling visits to doctors, specialists, hospitals, they couldn’t find anything specifically wrong with me that they could diagnose as anything other than Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis, since re-diagnosed as an adult as Still’s Disease, which is similar to Lupus. That’s back story, it took a year to recover enough, to be well enough again, to really return to school. Point being that I really couldn’t do much of anything other than watch television during most of that time. I didn’t have the ability to concentrate or focus enough to read books during that time as I was in too much pain, though I’d been an avid reader up to then. Being as I couldn’t really do much of anything else during that time other than watch television, many of the usual restrictions on what I was allowed to watch, were lifted. Nineteen-eighty and eighty-one weren’t bad years for film, though my viewing was limited to whatever cable movie channel it was that we had or whatever was making its “Network Television Premier” and that was usually about a year behind whatever was in the theaters. I’ve spoken before about watching the film “Altered States” and feeling a strange understanding of the transformation of the main character while wondering why in the world anyone would willing put themselves through what he does. ( It’s like “Jaws” in that you find yourself just wanting him to get out of the water.) Along those lines I also watched the other werewolf movies of the day, “An American Werewolf in London” and “Wolfen” and the like. The feeling that I had sometimes was very much that I didn’t want to be that, and that I was nonetheless turning into some inexplicable creature and the world was turning into a strange place that didn’t understand me, anymore than I could understand it.

Most of the time, I couldn’t hold a pen or a pencil, couldn’t do schoolwork, wore Ace bandages and wrist braces and homemade splints. I was in so much pain so constantly, the world slips away when it’s like that, for anyone experiencing anything like that I would guess. The way that everyone else keeps time is meaningless and useless and of no importance. On the better days, I’d wish I was at school, I’d think about all I was missing out on, dances, friends, boyfriends, classes I liked. I couldn’t ride my bicycle or play sports anymore and I’d always been the kid that was outside from sunup until dark, though really it was beyond wallowing. Whatever the future was going to hold for me was forever changed. My mother said, “You know, you could still write. You could try writing poems again.” I’d written poems in grade school, and for school, though I hadn’t considered “writer” or “poetess” as a job option outside of possibly being a journalist, a newswoman. And I thought, “I can’t even hold a pencil.” But she got a couple of small notebooks for me and I remember writing what I still consider to be my first serious poem, titled simply, “Alone”, while I was sitting in bed watching the film, “Private Benjamin.” That movie is a comedy, containing one of my all time favorite movie line exchanges.

“Aunt Kissy: I hope my coat’s gonna be good enough. I had no idea it was gonna be so chilly.

Harriet Benjamin: It’s November here, Kissy.

Teddy Benjamin: It’s November everywhere, genius.”

But the film is ultimately about Judy Benjamin finding her sense of self, and the strength to be her own person, there was something in that that spoke to me beyond the ribald, raunchy, comedy, because in that place, the funniest thing in the world, isn’t quite so funny. In that place of so much pain, the funniest thing in the world seems illogical, senseless, and idiotic, I guess one way to put it would be like how the food fight in the film “Animal House” (1978), might not make you laugh if you’re not from a first world country where even waste is taken for granted, and what I was looking for were things that were hopeful in some way, or strong, resilient. It also may be that it was during that time that any remaining sense of humor I had, took a sardonic, somewhat self-deprecating, turn. I looked at the poem that I’d scribbled in the little notebook and that was the beginning, and I hope I never forget that moment. Additionally, it’s become evident to me that my brain might be hardwired for rhyme to some degree, and some of that comes from listening to music and song lyrics all my life. ( My father was a musician, both my parents could sing, there was live music in the house for much of my youth.) Eventually I was allowed to use my mother’s electric typewriter sometimes, when my hands were very swollen, as I could often still move my fingers on the keys for a while even if I couldn’t move my wrists or my hands, however much it hurt. I was a writer before that, but after that, I knew that I was, whether I’d claimed it or it had claimed me, and that was that. I’ve since tried not to be a writer a couple of times and that doesn’t ever work out. I used to say that my writing was my “human’s compensation,” like … yeah there’s all of whatever else there is, but then there’s my writing. God willing I’ll be able to keep writing and writing and writing. Human beings are resilient, and strong, courageous.

Finishing this collection of poems, and it isn’t quite as long as some of the others at only fifty-four pages, I could go right into editing another collection of poems but I found that I didn’t want to, I found myself wanting to work on some kind of story again, some fiction. Though really I am taking some time to organize and edit and clear the decks for the end of the year, hopefully do some fun things, spend some time with family. 2017 has gone quickly, hasn’t it? The last several years for me, I’ve realized, have been about finding myself as a writer again, finding my groove with it all, finding balance and self acceptance, allowing myself to be this and to honor it and the gift of it, to appreciate, and accept, and let be, my own muses. “Thelxiepeia”, I think, speaks very much to all of that. I hope to release it sometime next year, in early spring. I’m so grateful for this gift of being able to write, and I do consider it to be a gift. We all find inspiration or ideas in a lot of different things, people, places, it’s important to honor your muse(s), one of mine led me to Thelxiepeia. I’m uncertain in this moment if these poems were a farewell to the girl that I was or an homage, I feel like I can write about her, but I can’t ever again be her. I’m not sad about that, only grateful for having had the chance to be that girl, and to be looking now to the future as this woman. Becoming is ever ongoing.

 

Teri

 

Thelxiepeia

 

great song from the film “Xanadu.”

In The Lingering of November

Almost December,
I wonder what it will bring with it,
however much I try not to.
I think about the things we think
we always wanted,
the ones we got,
and the ones that got away,
in the middle of the day,
in the glaring light of dawn,
in the fading twilight,
in the moonlight
in the dark night,
I wish I may, I wish I might,
starlight, star bright, oh…
it’s alright, alright.
I think about the graceless wandering
of insomnia that sticks,
that catches,
that tugs at the mind or the soul or the heart,
to walk it around turning on lights,
drinking water, making chamomile tea,
looking for something on tv, trying to read,
seeking comfort when the quiet is too loud,
wound up like a knot that no one can undo, only me,
only you, only time will release it, only letting go,
until the first yawn,
until the tension is gone,
for a moment long enough for sleep to slip
back in,
that we might dream again,
and find therein
whatever longing has eluded our waking,
in the lingering
of November.

TS   11/29/17

One November, I Published Two Books

I’ve worked hard the last couple of years to get some books published, I’m thinking of them as there were “the first five,” and now there is “the magnificent seven.” I also have stories in three print anthologies, and I’m going to get those linked up with cover pictures, as well as having been published thirteen times various places online during the last six years. In the spring of 2018, I hope to release another collection of poetry, tentatively titled “Thelxiepeia”. After that, well I wouldn’t say what was next even if I had figured that out. I am a prolific writer, and that has always been the case.  Even when I think I’m not really writing much, I’m always really writing something. I had a tremendous back catalogue of manuscripts, books, to publish. “Thelxiepeia” is work that was composed from 2011 to 2012 or thereabouts, so I’m getting closer to being caught up.

The books I’ve released in the last week, “Gold Mine” and “Maybelline Raven and The Wolf”, both came out of a nervous breakdown that began in 2008.  Fact is, I’ve gotten a lot of writing, stories, out of that breakdown though I’d just as soon not got through anything like that again.  “Gold Mine” is really, I think, something that was written, compiled, jammed together, like a panic attack during a panic attack in 2009. That book was very much the moment at the beginning of an avalanche. The title “Gold Mine” came out of some remembered fragment that life experiences are a writer’s gold mine, to which I thought “go mine your own business,” and then thinking that I might have thrown a gold mine worth of writing into a fire. “Maybelline Raven and The Wolf” was written during the first months of 2014, when I was recovering from the worst of it all and really at the beginning of sorting things out. Most people cannot put their house back in order in the middle of the storm. I’ve said before that much of my work is catharsis in that it is something of a coping mechanism, as much as it is a way to dream, it is also a way to understand things, to reason things out in some way, and sometimes, it’s very much a way to get rid of the poison. I’ve written some horror stories that aren’t anything I want to read, writing horror was way outside of my comfort zone as a writer, so if someone tells me they don’t like horror, I can respond honestly that I understand that completely. I’ve also used the “input/output” analogy on that one, the world isn’t always a nice place, all my experiences in this life haven’t been good, sometimes the writing is way to git rid of bad emotions or baggage, we’ve all got stuff. I’ve written some super hopeful, sappy, in love and in love with life stuff too. We learn to appreciate the balance between the “good” and the “bad,” to understand that sometimes those things change, and to sift the wheat from the chaff.

“Maybelline Raven and The Wolf” began as I started to sort out my own ancestry, to research my own family tree. One of the biggest lessons to come out of that has been not to jump the gun. I started out with family stories, finally got to the 100% bottom of some things, researched the actual genealogy and family tree, did a DNA test only to then further read that such a test might not tell you what you want to know or even reveal the truth of your lineage because with each generation the bloodline thins, so to speak, and people migrated and mixed and so on. I learned that the descendants a person can verify and trace are generally the best indicator. I am of English, Irish, and Cherokee descent. It was ultimately easier for me than some as my parents are no mystery to me and I did grow up with a grandparents who were interested in the family history though there were discrepancies and oddities to be sorted out. For example, I grew up with a story that we were related to George Washington, as well as to an “Indian Princess,” to which my grandfather would say, “She wasn’t a princess. That wasn’t her real name.” When you hear stories like that as a kid, it’s ridiculous. Yeah right, sure. In researching the family tree, I found a George Washington, not thee George Washington, but a George Washington. From there I thought, “Okay, what other of these stories are true, and what have I had wrong?”

On my mother’s side of the family, I am able to trace back to the 1500’s in England, to Scotland and to 1800’s Ireland and a young man named Joseph Creighton, aged thirteen years, traveling alone, who arrived in New Orleans in 1847 aboard The Berlin, to Reverend David Caldwell and the Revolutionary War, and to Civil War soldiers who fought on both sides of the conflict. On my father’s side of the family, I am able to trace my ancestry to 1500’s England to Sir Robert Bell, Speaker of the House of Commons, to 1600’s Colonial England to Thomas Burgess whose affair with Lydia Gaunt led to the first ever divorce in Plymouth and to Cherokee Chief Doublehead ( a sixth great-grand-father), whose daughter, Cornblossum (Princess) Doublehead married Big Jake  Troxell and  their  daughter, Margaret Troxell married James Bell in 1809, whose great-grandson, William, a great-grandfather, who married Lena Burgess, one of my great-grandmothers, and the sixth great-grandaughter of Thomas Burgess and Lydia Gaunt. There were also family stories of a relation to The Younger Brothers, of the James- Younger Gang by the marriage of a cousin, connected through the Carson family, though I was unable to verify those stories.

I went on my first cross-country trip to Mississippi and Louisiana before I was quite two years old, and I remember the highlights, including getting bit by a dog. These stories were swimming around in my head as I wrote the story of Maybelline. Maybelline Raven is a woman who has witnessed and experienced something horrific. As a result, her mind has found a way to compartmentalize and deal with the trauma as she remains terrified and trying to protect her children. Set in 1762 in a fictional village along the banks of the Mississippi River, this story was an important turning point for me, it is a story about courage, about strength, about the incredible power of the mind and the heart to heal, it is a story about resilience, survival, and love. Maybelline Raven is also a story that I believed in so much that I was will to roll the dice on publishing my own books, though it wasn’t the first book that I published. Creating “Maybelline” helped me understand my own processes of coping and healing.

I’m going to be taking a bit of a rest ( I already am, caught a bug, needed to sleep, etc.) and hopefully enjoying the holidays, sober,while trying to avoid eating too many delicious baked goods. I’ll probably be working on something. I’ll probably post again before the year is out, or not. Until then, “Gold Mine” and “Maybelline Raven and The Wolf”are  available on Amazon. The paperback of Maybelline should be available any day now.

Enjoy!

Happy Holidays!

Teri

Gold Mine, These Are the Words I Managed to Save

During the fall months of 2008 and on into 2009, and on for a while, reality slipped away from me. Amid the avalanche of dissipating solidity descending into complete confusion and chaos of thought, I threw more than twenty years of writing, of work, into a cauldron of flames. Two file boxes of poems, stories, notes, one completed novel, and two poetry manuscripts, went into the fire. One of those manuscripts was for a book of poems titled “Winsome Vein”, that I thought was darker than anything I’d ever written, so much so that I was afraid of the direction my writing seemed to be taking. The truth is that I’ve always written darker words, as much as I’ve written hopeful ones. However, having filed that copyright on “Winsome Vein”, saved that work as I had set fire to all other copies. ( Some might say that was the right thing to do.)

Within days of having burned so much of my work, I experienced a moment of clarity, and panic. I became terrified that I might destroy more of my own work. I gathered the bits and pieces of what remained, jamming them together one after another in whatever way they seemed to make sense to me, along with other fragments that my mind had latched onto in the unraveling. Those salvaged bits became this book, “Gold Mine”. I filed my copyright on it as soon as it was finished, thinking that I was filing a copyright on a pile of scraps, of bits and pieces of salvage. I was trying to protect my work from my own want to destroy it. I later found an old notebook with many pages missing that I remembered rifling through one night in a fit of what I was thinking of as “editing”, as though all sentimentality and heart had taken leave of me along with my senses. The poems still intact in that notebook remain something of a godsend to me. I destroyed twenty years of work, of scraps, of notes, of stories, early rejection letters received when I was in my teens and twenties, journals, it all went, as I tried to deny myself, to say, “I am not this.” I looked at what remained and thought, These are the words I managed to save.

Coming out of that time I didn’t know if I would ever write anything again. For nearly two years, I didn’t. It is the only time in the last thirty-three years that I’ve ever ceased writing.

All my words are not always the best words, they are, however, the encapsulation of the moment in which they were written. The merit of a thing is sometimes the moment. I’ve learned as much from the bad poems and stories that I’ve written as I have from the good ones. Whether they are all worth publishing isn’t the point, they are all worth keeping and learning from.

I hadn’t looked at, read, much of this work since that time. In writing and editing this now, I’ve realized that I was leaving a message for myself for the future, for whenever I would get back to this. A message to not give up, not to quit. I found my guts again with this book.

I am a writer. ~  Teri Skultety, September 12, 2017, from “Gold Mine”.

Available on Amazon Kindle!

Paperback coming soon!

A Sampling from the seventy-eight pieces of poetry and prose that make-up, “Gold Mine”, now available on Amazon.

Map Maker

Night

Indian Summer

Let Them Eat Cake

Wolf

Beauty

Thrift

Fairy Wails

Longing for Autumn

Let It Ride

Dream Girl

This True Heart

Psalm

Unlimited

Time Machine

The Harvest

 

 

I hope you buy this collection of my salvaged scribbles, I hope you read it and enjoy it. I hope it rocks your socks.  Thank you so much for stopping by. Sincerely, Teri Skultety

Too, as in, Also…

from  ‘Gold Mine’

_____this true heart______________

I will write your name on every breath from now until forever, forget you never, know that I have not let go of this true heart. Forgiving you and him and them and everyone, everything, sing ever louder, stronger, taking claim of every wind and every rain, rising up out of every flame until my name escapes your lips in your sleep. And you know that I loved you and I loved him and them and everyone I could and everyone who would take it from me and I have no regrets about that. I have no shame. I am seeds in clouds and dreams about to be born again and I am wishes in the fountain and I am the highest mountain and I am Winter sleeping, teardrops weeping for every soul who never knows what I am talking about. Saints and Sinners, fabulous beginners, I am the echoed call to everyone who has ever fallen, praying, saying, in the deepest dark, get up, get up, get up.

Love is not a withered vine, love is not petals fallen, and longing unfulfilled, and love is not what men have willed, love is everlasting understanding divine and mine, oh mine, love is mine, to keep. Rainbows, unicorns, candy cane and fairy tales, artifice too soon to fail. They tell you that you have to sacrifice all to scale the castle wall and I say to you that all you have to do is be true, be true. Let go of all the hatred in your heart, let go of all ill wishes, let go of vengeance, you cannot kill Angels with it. Gossamer is fireproof and Angels own the ceiling that is the sky and everything beyond the dawn and everything you wonder on and everything you think is gone they carry with them in the folds of feathers blue and they do remember you, they do.

I will write your name on every page and wash away your hurt and rage and wash away your ache and heal the scars on your heart you thought were permanent and the ones even you had forgotten in the burden of flesh, until you believe again, in everything you let go of to leave me.

You think you want to hear my battle cry, that it will crack the Heavens, flash like lightning, pound like thunder, but I tell you that my battle cry sounds like children laughing and wedding vows, those kept, and those broken, and waterfalls, and crowds cheering at a home run, my battle cry is every Spring, every green thing that makes it through the snow, my battle cry is the song that makes you sing even though you don’t want to and the Hallmark commercial that makes you call your mother, my battle cry is the smell of roses on the breeze and fireflies in the night, racing to the stars, my battle cry is everything we are and trade for things that do not matter. My battle cry is restoration, resurrection and everlasting, surging out into the farthest reaches of the Universe, there is life here.

I will write your name on every breath from now until forever, because if all of this suffering was somehow right, to anyone, then there can be no end to the love that is needed to heal and it will start with me. And someday, maybe, we can talk about bravery and change and freedom. Freedom, that I’ve paid for in some way every time I’ve exercised it. I will love you in every word, every ache, in every break, in every breath and everything that I can, and hope and pray someday, you understand me, and you.

(Written 2009)

 

Psalm

Lead us into hands

That will care for us and keep us safe

Onto paths that know the way,

When we are lost and cannot find it on our own,

Keep us in the light,

Or light the dark we wander in

Enough to see,

Save our souls from lingering

Too long in places where we shouldn’t be,

If it were possible to be such places,

bring us back

From edges we’ve been lured to

From lies we hoped too long were true,

Open up our eyes that we might see the beauty

Of the heart

Broken down the middle clean

Stripped of artifice, laid bare and lean,

Exposed in sentience for a world to better know

The soul that dwells within

Lend us the courage to grasp

Whatever threads are left to us,

Of gossamer, of silver fine, quick spun,

A life of shadow finally in the sun,

Each of us a part of One,

Returning to the source,

Let us hope and hope to find,

The bitter root can still be sweet,

In memories of better dreams to keep.

 

Teri Skultety

My Roots.

My roots were deeper than the roots of any other tree
My roots were deeper than the roots that anyone could see
My roots were deeper than the roots and I waited patiently
For him to come and sit with me
If only for a spell
To bring me stories from the world
And secrets not to tell
Of beauty held and love sustained
And roots released from the pain
Of all the dreams I sought to gain
That never were and never came
But made forgiven, rendered meaningless
In his presence, at his kiss,
My roots were deeper than the roots, of any other branch or twig,
My roots were deeper than the roots, and he began to dig.