Nevertheless, She Persisted

It turns out they want us silent. (We women were unsurprised).
It’s easier that way, stops them from hearing unpopular opinions
Like that we want to be paid the same for our work, for our efforts
Like that our bodies are our own and not meant for their personal use
Like we are humans, not dolls or toys or objects, not campaign tools,
Or statistics to prove a supposed gender inclusivity, or brainless things,
Or sex machines, or the thousand other things they want us to be.
Vagina, we discovered, is a dirty word, even when discussing medicine.

At every turn, they shush us, diminish our voices, teach us to be passive,
Wielding a patronizing tone as a way to convince us we are wrong
When we try to speak about our own bodies, our own stories, our own lives.
Maybe if they interrupt enough, we’ll finally learn to not start talking at all
Maybe if they mock our pitch, our inflection, our words, we’ll shut up
Maybe if they put enough of their words into mouths that look like ours,
On the screen, in our books, we’ll learn to parrot back what they want to hear.
And God forbid we should reclaim the words used to put us in our place,
To decide that bitch is now a badge of honor, nasty our favorite adjective.

To their shock (and our secret pleasure) it is not so easy to muzzle us.
What they forgot is that we are not the first who would not be quiet.
They cursed Cassandra with disbelief and still she proclaimed the truth,
They burned Joan at the stake and still she spoke on her smoky pyre,
They cut off Lavinia’s tongue and hands and she learned to write in the sand
With just a stick and her stumps – do you not think we will do the same?
You sew our mouths shut with string and we will scream through closed lips
You burn our books and we will brand the words on our bleeding skin.
Do you not understand that we are done being silent, static bodies?
We would rather be the thing that you fear most.  We would rather be loud,
Be messy, be imperfect, be real, be absolutely anything but speechless.

Silence Ain’t Actually a Virtue

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to realize how very lucky I’ve been in regards to family. My mother, for instance, is a loud, brash woman who I grew up calling bossy, and now would be labeled as having leadership skills. There was never a point in my life where, as a woman, I was taught to be silent, to only speak if spoken to. In fact, if you’d asked me not long ago if that was a thing, that women were supposed to stay quiet and not have their own opinions, I would have said no, not anymore, we lost that back in the dark ages when women were required to wear dresses and be housewives. Sadly, I’d be wrong.

For the most part, we don’t silence women explicitly these days, though that still does happen. “Shut up and let the men talk, sweetie,” is still a thing people say. But more and more frequently, women experience a more subtle silencing, not a “don’t talk” but a “no one is listening”. Women can say whatever they want; just don’t expect anyone to pay attention. This idea that women’s words aren’t important manifests itself in so many ways, most of them subtle. I was a sophomore in college, taking a public speaking class, before I ever saw a woman give a speech. My junior year of high school, I took AP Language and Rhetoric. We watched dozens of speeches by a variety of different people. Not a single one was given by a woman. At the time, I didn’t think anything of it, just as I didn’t think anything of the fact that all I was taught about the early women’s rights movement was the names of its two founders and the words Seneca Falls. I watched Hitler give part of a speech before I watched a female speaker. Because Hitler was a well-known master of rhetoric. And apparently women can’t be. Which is patently untrue. In American Rhetorics’s list of the top one hundred speeches, there are over fifteen speeches made by women. While this is not a huge number it is large enough to justify at least one of those speeches making it onto the syllabus in a rhetoric class. But we’d rather pretend these didn’t exist. Keep the women silent, remember? If we don’t listen to women’s speeches, we don’t have to listen when they tell us no, either.

And then we have mass media. Unless your name is Margaret Atwood, if you are a female author writing about women, your book will be almost automatically labeled as “chick lit”, meaning the most you can hope for is mass market appeal. Your novel, no matter how well written, is undeserving of true literary criticism, simply because it is written by a woman, about women. Women writing about women just aren’t good enough for the canon. The exceptions to this rule consist of the aforementioned Margaret Atwood, Jane Austen, and The Awakening by Kate Chopin, which ends in the main character’s suicide. Women’s voices, it turns out, don’t really matter except as a trite distraction.

And when you decide enough is enough, when you, as a woman, refuse to be silenced and start challenging the patriarchal view, when you get loud enough that you can’t be ignored anymore, well that’s when the real fun comes in. “Keep your opinions to yourself”. “What do you know, you’re just a woman.” Or, my favorite, the dreaded mansplain, because obviously you’re wrong and if a man just explains to you exactly why in a condescending way, you’ll change your mind. And if none of that works, if you refuse to shut up and get back to your place, that’s when the threats start. If you’re sharing your opinions on the internet, that equals anonymous rape and death threats. If you’re in the workplace, it’s less noticeable, just veiled suggestions to be “less aggressive” or, in cruder terms “less of a bitch” or else. Or else you won’t get promoted. Or else you’ll lose your job.

I’m glad I wasn’t raised to be silent, glad I was told early on that my voice matters, because it means I’m not afraid. I grew up knowing what it was like to be heard, and knowing that I deserve to be. So I’m going to go out there and speak, no matter what. Good luck shutting me up. You see, my mother never told me silence was a virtue.

These Are The Times

I sat in a bar last night, and watched as hate won.

I watched as a racist, bigoted man accused of sexual assault beat a highly qualified woman for the highest office in this country, for reasons I still don’t truly understand.

I listened as the bar got quieter, and quieter, as we realized a victory for Hilary was slipping further and further away.

I left before they called it – couldn’t stand it anymore – went home and curled up in bed with my laptop to wait for the final results.

And my dominant emotions in that moment?  Anger.  And fear.

I am angry at a country that is so terrified of electing a woman president that they’d rather elect a rapist.  And I’m scared of what that means for women, fighting to be in control of their own bodies and their own destinies.

I am angry that this man who has consistently, and with great vitriol, demeaned and made fun of minorities, is now the policy setter for the supposedly free world.  And I’m afraid of what will happen to my friends of color, my LGBTQ+ friends, anyone I know who is somehow different, or other.

I’m scared of the violence that could erupt, that has already erupted.

And I am terrified we as a people have ventured down a dangerous path, with no real escape.

I am anxious, and disheartened, and worried, and sick, for these and so many other reasons.  But I’ve also decided something.  Whatever happens, however large or small, I refuse to let fear paralyze me.  I refuse to give in to the hate.  Instead, I’m going to let it drive me to action.  My friends, and I, and others like us have fought so hard for an end to racism and misogyny.  That fight just got harder. But I’ll keep struggling.  For my sister, and my friends, and all the women who want to see a glass ceiling shatter.  For every member of a minority group at whom our new leader has spewed hate.  For everyone who put their head in their hands last night in disbelief.  For my someday children, who I want to raise in a world not like this.  No matter what, I refuse to watch the strides made in equality over the last few years slip away.

I am afraid.  But I will not let that stop me.


“These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as freedom should not be highly rated.” – Thomas Paine

This Land Like A Mirror

This past summer, I wrote a novella.  It was, nominally, about the summer I spent working at a theatre company called Unto These Hills.  Parts of it were funny, and parts of it were mundane, but the thing it ended up circling around, unsurprisingly, was the death of a friend.  This an excerpt from that novella, which I wrote as a series of vignettes.

We had become, in the moment of confirmation, when Josh pronounced the verdict in his broken voice, a sort of improbable ground zero; we knew Peyton, and we knew her friends, and we knew who needed to be told. We were one of the first branches in a horrible phone tree, tasked to spread the news that one of ours was gone. We wouldn’t let Josh make any of the calls, though he offered, gasped through his tears that he needed to call Ashley, her best friend, tell her. Chris told him no, Renee told him she’d take care of it. That was for the best. Josh was wreck, and Renee hadn’t known Peyton very well, but she was basically Ashley’s second mom, so she could hold it together enough to tell Ashley and Ashley knew her well enough that it would be comforting. There were a lot of ‘Oh God’ moments that night. ‘Oh God she’s dead’, ‘Oh God we need to tell…’, ‘Oh God why’. I said I’d call the stage managers from our department, the ones we’d both been friends with, people who needed to know, who I didn’t want hearing the news from Facebook. Someone, I’m pretty sure Renee, whose mom instincts were working hard that night, asked if I was sure I could do it, if I’d be ok. I said yeah, that I needed to do something, that I would be fine. I didn’t realize, then, how hard it would be. I called Tripp first, I’m pretty sure. Parts of that night blur together until I’m no longer sure of the timeline, but the individual moments stand out in vivid detail. Tripp was my good friend, one of our fellow stage managers, who’d worked under Peyton and grown to be her friend. We used to invite Peyton to our weekly lunch dates if we saw her in the lobby, and if she wasn’t meeting Josh, she’d join us and we’d talk and laugh and eat together. I don’t know why I chose to call him first that night, if it was even a conscious choice. Maybe because I knew him, and he knew me, and so I had a better idea what to say. Maybe because Tripp is the kind of person you can call at 3 A.M. to bail you out of jail, and he’ll come. Maybe because I just needed someone who I knew would share my grief in a similar way, and Tripp, too, is a person who fixes things. Whatever the reason, I called, he picked up, and I asked him where he was, what he was doing, just in case. I don’t remember what he told me, but he wasn’t at work, or driving, or somewhere a shock could get him hurt. So I told him, gave him what little we knew of the details. There were a lot of monosyllables and silence in that conversation, neither of us sure what to say, trying to read each other over the crackling phone. He thanked me for telling him, and we hung up. It was odd being thanked for calling about a dead friend. I breathed in deep and dialed another number.

The Ritual Cleansing of Steel Men

The Ritual Cleansing of Steel Men

Once a day, no more, dip the coarse grey cloth into the water,
Into the wooden bucket full of cold, rose-hipped water,
So cold the roses stay fresh, so cold the hand-bones ache,
Pull it out dripping, droplets falling across the red stone floor,
And begin the ritual cleansing of the steel men.

Wipe away gently the blood, both old and new,
Wept from wounds hidden, or spattered from the field,
Wash off the mud, caked brown, dried and flaking,
Scrub at the rust, spreading in patches across his chest
Across his arms, his hands, his feet, his legs, his face
And when he is clean, send him back out to fight again.

By this time, the water should be black and gritty,
The roses crushed and crumbled, no longer sweet,
The red floor stained darker with water and blood,
The once grey cloth a ruined rag of rust and mud,
And you, down on your knees in the dirty damp
Will pour out the bucket as the day’s ritual ends.

Do this, every day, once a day, sore with the ache of it,
Hands shaking with chill, fingernails black and torn,
Until the steel is mostly rust and it shakes at each touch,
Flaking away to make red-brown stains on the floor,
Revealing bruised and bloody flesh to your fingers,
And a man no longer trapped in anything but your arms.

A Small Collection of Poems

This in week, in honor of it being the first week I do this, I’m posting a series of poems I wrote for a creative writing class a few years ago.  The series was called Light Up the Darkness.


Saltwater Sweat

Let’s drive off the edge of the island,
Right out into the bay!
Cover my body with sunlight,
Let the salt eat my flesh all away.

I’ll let the salt eat my flesh all away
As long as you’re by my side.
Right out into the bay
Is better than being alive.

It’s better than being alive
That’s what they all say.
As long as you’re by my side
I don’t have to see a new day.

I don’t have to see a new day.
The saltwater’s calling my love!
You know what they all say
We can find a way out I’m sure.

We can find a way out for sure.
And together forever we’ll stay.
The saltwater’s calling my love.
I’ll show you a different way.

I’ll show you this different way.
Just cover my body with sunlight,
And together forever we’ll stay.
Let’s drive off the edge of the island!

We’ll let the salt eat our flesh all away.

Snow Day

The best part wasn’t
Sliding down snowbanks
Laughing as you slipped
Snowball fights that left us
Wet and shivering, cold,
So we went inside and
Curled up by the fire
Damp and shiny-eyed,
Until the white expanse
Drew us inexorably
Back into its glorious chill,
Joyous on nothing but
The heady feeling of
Being young and alive.

No, the best part wasn’t
The sandwiches we made
Or the blanket we shared
On the comfortable couch,
Or even staying in bed
That white morning,
Cozy under the covers,
Bodies entwined in
A way only our bodies
Will ever be capable of,
Gloriously content, and
Never wanting to move.

The best part was simply
The moment when you,
Trying to hide your laughter,
Gave me your hand, to
Help me up from the
Deep, snowy drift, and
Led me inside to get warm.

A Question Asked in Darkness

You asked me a question, soft-voiced.
Arms around me as we lay in bed
In that strange precious moment before dawn.

Instead of answering, I pressed closer,
Trying with actions to give you an answer
Since words too often fail or cannot be found.

Yes, my fingertips said as they traced
The length of your back, the curve of your cheek,
So I might know you even in darkness.

Yes, my eyes told you as they stared
Into the depths of your worried hazel gleam,
Noting each fleck of green as it sparked.

Yes, my legs declared as they twined
Around yours, heel brushing calf,
Trying to tangle myself with you.

Yes, my lips whispered as they brushed
Your collarbone, your jaw, and finally your mouth,
Lingering tenderly so you could taste my answer.

Yes, I love you.

Small Differences

He wants the road; I want a home
I want to stay; he wants to roam
I know I could love him; he says he loves me
Isn’t that enough for us? Asks he.

I want a husband; he wants a wife
But I want forever; and he wants tonight.

You Asked Me Why

I left – it seemed the best thing.
You didn’t need me anymore,
Despite your pleas, and besides,
I wanted to find something lost – maybe myself.

Not that it was easy, leaving.
Not when your eyes pooled and my hands shook,
Knowing they’d never hold yours again.
But it was what we both needed.

Or at least, I thought it was.
And so, I left, packed my things and drove,
Hands clenched hard on the wheel,
Miles of blacktop beneath my tires.

I was searching for something.
Or maybe I was just running from you.
You see, I’d forgotten the way the stars
Light up the darkness every night.


A New Direction

So, as you’ve probably noticed, this blog has pretty much fallen by the wayside.  Life happened, per usual, and since I’ve last posted, I’ve come back from England, gone to South Africa, graduated undergrad, and started my first year as a Stage Management MFA at the Yale School of Drama.  The last event is the most pertinent to this post.  Unsurprisingly, attending YSD means I am very, very busy.  But, in one of my classes, we discussed the importance of hobbies, and making art even if that type of art isn’t part of your particular discipline.  This idea, combined with a desire to keep honing my creative writing skills, has led to my decision to take this blog in a new direction.  Starting today, I’ll post a poem or other short piece of creative writing on this blog once a week.  (At least, that’s the goal.)  Sometimes, I may include a bit of explanation along with the work.  Others, I won’t.  Hope you enjoy!

Theatre Once Again Took Over My Life And It’s Great

We’ve officially hit Week 3 of classes, and I’ve (finally) started to figure out my schedule.  I’ve discovered during this Great England Adventure that I do so much better with a consistent schedule, even if it’s a self-imposed one.  Otherwise, I’ll spend my time procrastinating.  This past weekend we closed the first of the three shows I’m participating in this semester, The Wonderful World of Dissocia.  I was ASMing, and had so much fun.  The show itself is sort of a twisted, dark Alice in Wonderland, (at least in Act 1), so the set and props were wild.  Every day during intermission we has to clean up confetti, silly string, and hot dogs, if that tells you anything.  I also ended up onstage opening umbrellas full of talcum powder to symbolize bombs.  Which leads to one of my major difficulties during this show – remembering how to pronounce balaclava (what I would call a ski mask.  This also led to a discussion about the differences in American and British accents, where I learned the horrible fact that the British pronounce the letter ‘z’ as zed.  Why?!!)  It was a great show, and I got to work with a bunch of really nice, really talented people. (Which is all you really want in the end.)  I’ll miss getting to work on the show, but I’m not going to miss the smell of stale mustard.

However, it’s not like I’m suddenly without theatre in my life.  The day after Dissocia closed, I threw myself immediately into rehearsal for A Midsummer’s Night Dream.  It’s been close to four years since I’ve acted in a show and I forgot how fun it can be.  Especially when you’re doing a comedy.  We’ll be putting the show on the last week of term and I’m already excited about getting to show it to people.  I’m actually getting to do Shakespeare!  And with (once again) wonderful, talented people!  Eeek!

And if that isn’t enough, this week I cast my show Hello, Stranger, the original piece I’ve both written and am directing.  I’m so excited to direct again and about the fact that I get to see my writing brought to life. (Also nervous.)  Really, I’m just generally excited about theatre right now, which is nice.  I feel much more involved this semester than I was last semester.  I’ll be busy, but I like busy.  As we earlier established, I do better with some kind of schedule.  I’ve already started obsessively updating and organizing my calendar.  This semester’s off to a great start.

A Roman Holiday

I’m back in the U.K. now after nearly four weeks away.  Christmas break was wonderful.  I got to see my family, catch up with a few friends (once at 10 P.M. at the local Waffle House, since that was the only time our schedules overlapped.  It was worth it.) and sleep in my own bed.  Also, there was a fluffy dog to snuggle.  But the most exciting part of the break was the trip my family and I took to Italy.  It was amazing.  I drank copious amounts of wine and ate far too much pasta, as well as exploring the history and culture of several different Italian cities.  Plus, the whole time was spent laughing and hanging out with my family.

The trip started off with a bang, when my sister found out that our flight from Huntsville to Atlanta had been delayed.  We quickly threw everything in the car and sped to Atlanta.  My mom kept trying to take a family car selfie.  The bright side of this sudden change in plans was that we were transferred onto a direct flight to Rome, rather than having to change planes.   We spent Christmas day in Rome, fighting jet lag and seeing the sights. At one point I took a wrong turn and got us lost, leading to my map privileges being revoked for the rest of the trip.  Rome is a fascinating city.  It’s very old, and built on itself.  Modern buildings are built on older buildings which were often themselves built on even older foundations.  Next to the sidewalk there may be a walled off archeological dig.  Almost any building you see has the possibility of being several hundred years old, if not older. The city itself is steeped in its own history, shops and busy roadways surrounding the preserved ruins of the place where Caesar was killed (which now also serves as a feral cat sanctuary), pieces of old columns left where they fell long ago, and significant historical locations hiding around every corner.  I found it oddly beautiful.  We spent several days there, visiting the Coliseum, the Roman Forum, the Vatican, all the usual sights.  We even took a day trip to Pompeii.  I thought Pompeii was creepy.  My family made fun of me.  I also dragged my mother to the Musei Capitolini to stare at Greek and Roman statues for several hours.  She was kind and obliged me as a oohed and aahed over the craftsmanship.  (I love really old statuary.  Most other people are not quite as enthused.)

Then we left for Florence.  Florence is a beautiful city, its history dating back more to the medieval period than the time of the Roman Empire.  Here we saw more art, mostly medieval church art (which we discovered none of us particularly enjoyed.  My brother refused to go to the art museum at all, which was smart of him.  He would have hated every minute of it.)  We also went to see Michelangelo’s David (my dad’s request).  It’s indescribable, the level of detail and life in a marble statue made before even the invention of sandpaper.  In the same exhibit were several of Michelangelo’s unfinished works, which I loved, maybe even more than the finished statue.  It looked like these half-finished men and women were crawling out of the marble, trying to burst free.  Our best day in Florence, however, was the day we spent touring Tuscany, visiting old wineries and medieval towns.

After Florence, the family split up.  My brother and dad headed back home (my brother had to start school).  My sister, my mother and I went to Padua, which was nice, but probably my least favorite city.  However, our next stop was Venice, which was fantastic.  I’ve wanted to visit Venice since childhood, when I read a book set in Venice called The Thief Lord (it’s worth looking up if you’ve never heard of it, and reads just as well from an adult perspective as it does from a child’s).  I was half-anticipating disappointment.  Venice had always seemed to me to be a semi-magical place, and the reality would almost definitely not live up to my expectations.  Thankfully, I was wrong.  Venice is the coolest city I have ever visited. There are no cars (not even any bikes), and the narrow cobbled streets twist and turn, revealing hidden doorways to alleys and views of the canals.  Everywhere there are bridges, arching over streams of water, connecting pieces of this confusing, wonderful city.  And the buildings, old and sometimes a little dilapidated, are just beautiful.  Plus, there’s St. Mark’s Square.  We saw a lot of churches on our vacation and St. Mark’s is by far the most magnificent, both exterior and interior.  Also in St. Mark’s Square was a museum that contained two (two!!) old libraries with floor-to ceiling bookshelves filled with old books, as well as displays of illuminated manuscripts.  My mom and sister laughed a bit at how much I drooled over the illustrated manuscripts, (and the libraries. ONE OF THEM HAD A BALCONY.) and I’ve decided if I’m ever filthy rich, I’m building myself a library and buying an illustrated manuscript that I can display in a glass case.  Obviously, I enjoyed myself immensely.  In fact, the whole trip was just fantastic.

And now, some photos.

There and Back Again

I’m currently sitting in the Newark airport, once again on U.S. soil.  While I’ve been abroad for a few months, it doesn’t feel that long.  A lot has happened; most days are mundane.  I went to Stratford again, this time with my friend Kinshuk (and she took pictures for me.  I’ll post them at the end.)  I went to an Imagine Dragons Concert.  It was amazing.  I got the chance to work with a fantastic group of people to put on a play called No Such Cold Thing, which was an experience and a play I enjoyed immensely.  The space may have been cold, and the first night may have been a little crazy, but what was created was something truly lovely.  Now, I’m helping ASM a show called Dissocia.  I got an original poem published in the WritersBloc journal (here’s the link if you want to read it), and took a chance and proposed an original play for performance, which got accepted. So come spring I’ll be directing my short play Hello Stranger. I also just got cast as Quince in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  I may be a bit busy next term.

But that’s just the highlight reel.  It doesn’t tell you about all the mornings I grumbled about getting up early to catch the bus (aka, every Wednesday), or the all the random conversations (what is the difference between an interstate and a highway?), or the time spent preparing for two different group presentations (and how relieved I was when they were over), or even the time I got covered in glitter (it was for Dissocia‘s photoshoot.  I also had confetti in my hair).  One of the hardest things to explain about my experience studying abroad is the fact that it’s just life, in all its fantastical ordinariness.  There are good days and bad days and amazing days and days when all it does is rain.  Sometimes the most mundane days are the ones you remember most fondly, for no particular reason.  Sometimes they just slip by unremarked.  People love to ask me if I’m enjoying Birmingham.  The answer is yes.  And while it is so very wonderful to be heading home, I’ll also be glad to go back, and spend some more time just living.

And now, some pictures. (Which is what you all want anyway.)