A Faraway Place, By Jennifer Angelina Petro

A Faraway Place

For Shannon

By

Jennifer Angelina Petro

 

 

She nods politely, smiling dutiful smiles at the nurses

As she walks outside into the yard where patients are permitted

To take in some silent sun;

 

She finds the bench she thinks is her favorite—

The one nearest the gate post; she sits, closes her eyes,

Inhales deeply until she grows still as a summer afternoon;

 

Inside she moves from garden to infinite garden, like

A hummingbird—her wings invisible in the honeysuckle atmosphere,

Her memories lifting, one by one, like so many pink petals

From the weeping cherry.

 

Where does the hummingbird go after it startles from the trumpet flower,

And vanishes, like retreating emerald lightning,

Back into the sky?

 

There are difficult questions and difficult answers, except here—

For when she lifts from her body, she will rise, dancing

In the weeping cherry petals letting go into the sun,

And one by one, her memories will return, like so many lost children,

And she will stand among them, arms open, welcoming them home.

 

 

 


 

 

Donations for this post will go to an Alzheimer’s foundation


Cycle of Gladness, By Jennifer Angelina Petro

Cycle of Gladness

By

Jennifer Angelina Petro

 

 

All winter we shine our little fires

So that the sun may rest,

And we become the light

We need for each other.

 

Come spring, she blooms—

Speaks into our mind: “Thank you.”

And moves closer, warming the world

With her dazzling smile.

 

Come summer, she watches over us

So that we may lose ourselves

In the drifting, sleepy days,

And the evenings when she drapes

The sky with all manner of mingling

Pinks and blues.

 

Come fall, she slowly turns away,

Pulling cool covers around her shoulders,

But not before leaving the trees ablaze with gold,

And not before cherishing the gratitude

Rising from our hearts.

 

 

 


 



Planting Seeds for the LGBTQIA Community and its Allies, By Jennifer Angelina Petro

Planting Seeds for the LGBTQIA Community and its Allies

By

Jennifer Angelina Petro

 

 

“What does it feel like to be transgender?” the eight-year-old asked wearing a t-shirt that read: “One of a kind.”

“THAT is a great question,” I said, “thank you for asking it.  For me, being transgender feels just normal.  It’s me.  It’s who I am. It’s awesome. When I realized who I really am it was the happiest moment of my life.  It feels wonderful, and sometimes scary, and sometimes I struggle with learning more and more about what makes me feel more comfortable being myself.”

She listened with wide-eyes…wide with wonder.

“What does it feel like to be you?” I asked, “Wonderful-one-of-a-kind-you.”

“It feels good,” she said, “People laugh at my jokes, my friends like me.  Do you want to hear a joke?”

“Lay it on me,” I said.

“What is the best time of the day for a clock?”

I was stumped.  “Tell me,” I said, “I’m stumped.”

“Six-thirty,” she laughed, “It’s hands down the best time of the day.”  And then she laughed again at her own joke.

“Grrroooooan,” I said, “I love it!”  And then, of course, I told her one of my corny jokes.

Another child, probably around the same age as our budding comedienne, asked: “Are you a boy or a girl?”

“GREAT question,” I said, “Thank you for asking it.  I am a girl.  I am a woman.  When I was born the doctors and my parents all thought I was a boy.  I looked like what they thought a boy should look like.  But then, as I got older, it just didn’t feel like I was a boy, and then, little by little, I realized I’m actually a woman.”

“But you have a deep voice,” he said.

“Yes, I do.  I also shave.  There are millions of ways to be a woman—and all of them perfectly wonderful.  Some women, like me, could easily grow a beard.  Some women HAVE a beard. Some women, like me, have deep voices.  And I’m still a woman.”

“Cool,” he said, and I gave him a rainbow flag that said: “Love is Love,” on it.

A few minutes later, I asked an adult, “Hi, are you familiar with LGBTQ things?”

They looked embarrassed and then confessed, “I don’t even know what those letters stand for.”

“Want to learn? I asked.

“Yes.”

And so, I explained what they mean, and then curtsied and said, “And I am a transgender woman.”

“Ooooooh,” she said, her voice modulating up and down as she prolonged her, “Oh.”

Throughout the evening I asked the same question to kids and adults and got a variety of answers.  Several kids knew what the letters mean, while others didn’t.  Some kids and parents said they knew lesbian people, gay people, trans people, and all of those kids and parents said it with complete every-day-ness, which, of course, it is.

One ten-year-old asked: “Is it normal to be transgender?”

After thanking him for the question I said: “Yes, it is.  It’s normal to be gay, bi, lesbian, it’s normal to question—so, yes, it’s normal.  Is it not as common to be transgender?  Yes.  But it’s normal,” and I handed him a flag.

One little boy entered the fair, holding his mother’s hand, and pulling her eagerly over to our table.  He was probably seven.  His mom told us, “He saw your table and was so happy.  He says of himself, I’m not a boy, I’m not a girl—I’m me—Benjamin.”  He proudly took a rainbow flag and explored our displays with eager eyes and a happy, validated heart.

I could go on and on with wonderful moments like these.  Being at a diversity fair at a local public school–Glenside Elementary School, in Glenside, PA., was a complete joy.  It was an honor to be asked.  Glenside is a fairly conservative town, and the diversity fair has always featured tables with different countries, religions, foods, and so on.  Never in their history have they had an LGBTQ+ table.  We were a first.  And yes, it was a nervous first.  The organizers weren’t sure how we would be received.  They figured none of the parents would be mean, but they thought it was possible some families wouldn’t take kindly that we were there.  We worried parents would shepherd their children away from our table, but it turned out to be the complete opposite.  Parents and children flocked to our table.  It didn’t hurt that we were giving away cupcakes, Skittles, stickers, rainbow flags, parent and child resources, and so on.  And they came—dozens and dozens—probably well over a hundred people—maybe closer to two hundred.  And every family that came was happy we were there.  They asked respectful questions, had supportive things to say, and took advantage of our free resources.  It couldn’t have been a bigger success.  We planted many, many seeds that night—for both allies and queer kids, who may or may not know they’re queer yet, or do know they are, but keep it a secret, to other kids who proudly know they are.  We demonstrated that queer people are people—fun, smart, generous, kind people.  We celebrated the LGBTQ+ community, and its allies.

We made many wonderful connections. We met someone who helps get homeless LGBTQ+ kids of the streets.  We met another who helps place LGBTQ+ kids in foster care and get adopted.  We met teachers and educators needing ideas and support for queer children in their classes.  Networking is so key in helping the world work together to help queer kids.

We were invited by my friend Kate, who was organizing the event.  She was inspired after she saw an episode of Liz Plank’s, Divided States of Women, which featured my church (Love in Action UCC) and myself.

Our table was stellar.  We draped it with a large rainbow flag and a large trans flag. We had several poster-board-sized displays.  One of them had queer people throughout history—past and present.  We had a display for queer sports figures.  We had a display for queer entertainers.  We had one with queer comic book heroes (that board brought a lot of kids over to our table).  We had another devoted to transgender people.  Another devoted to simply loving yourself as you are—your bodies, your talents, your genders—a total celebration of loving ourselves.  We also had a board for general Pride—with pictures of queer people of all kinds.  As mentioned, we had a bunch of picture books about LGBTQ+ people and issues.  We had a lot of parent resources for loving and accepting and parenting LGBTQ+ children.

 

 

I even brought my guitar and sang a few songs on the stage.  I introduced myself as a transgender woman and watched proudly as the children sat on the steps of the stage and watched and listened and smiled.  One little girl sat listening, smiling, and waving her “Love is Love,” rainbow flag as I sang. Parents formed a semi-circle behind them and also happily watched and listened.

And we planted many seeds.

One of my favorite parts of the night was watching my crew interact with the kids and parents.  Miles, a young transman friend came, and Anais, a young friend who doesn’t identify as either male or female came as well.  When I say, “young,” people, I mean, they were 20 and 17, and they were amazing.  I was so proud of them.  They are blazing a trail for queers and allies.  They were kind, cheerful, genuine, wise, proud, mature—they give me so much hope for the future, as did all the parents and children who visited our table.  These young people who came with me—they were, and are, amazing. They left the event feeling happy and proud of themselves and so moved and excited at the response we received.

Dear Readers, despite the current regime, the future is bright and in good hands.  Changes are happening—positive changes.  Our presence at this diversity fair even prompted the principal of the school, after informing the faculty we would be there, to introduce a new, school-wide policy: No more addressing the student body during assemblies, as “boys and girls,” no more greeting your classes with, “Good morning, boys and girls,” no more dividing groups by boy-girl.  This type of change is huge for queer kids—those in and out or questioning.  It shows one positive act for the LGBTQ+ community has far-reaching effects.

Join us.  Encourage your schools to invite the queer community to attend your diversity festivals.  Advocate for non-gendered bathrooms and non-gendered language in your schools.  Encourage teachers to learn about queer issues, talk with your children and neighbors and friends.  And if your child has a question for one of us, say, if we meet in the check-out line—let them ask.  Don’t censor them because you worry we’ll be offended.  Let them ask.  Their questions are important, our answers are important, that you support your children asking questions is important.  Plant seeds with us and watch as a garden of rainbows sprouts in the hearts and minds of people everywhere, watch as the culture continues to grow in simply seeing us as people who deserve equal rights like anyone else.  Watch as your children continue to blossom as lights in the world.

 

 


 





This Voyaging, By Jennifer Angelina Petro

This Voyaging

By

Jennifer Angelina Petro

 

 

Try as you might you never see your back

Without the aid of a mirror.  We go about

Our days not even thinking of our backs

Unless they hurt.  Outside of that,

We move forward, slowly,

Quickly, mediumly, always propelled

Ahead by some unseen wind, or force,

Or energy, or, for some, by destiny—but

For those it’s more of a pulling

Than a pushing.  At times when we notice

The wind at our backs, we feel the slight

Sensation that if we leaned forwards

Just a little we might be lifted

Through the sky, like a piece of silk,

Only to descend at night on the branch of a tree, like

A sleepy shawl.  Go through your day today, sensing

Your back space, give it your attention

As you drift or storm onwards.  Know this:

What your back looks like doesn’t matter.

That it’s there, absorbing the current, like

A sail, is what matters.  There is no use

For trying to look back at your back—

Knowing it’s there is enough,

Knowing it sweeps you forward is enough,

Knowing it steers you in mysterious ways is enough,

Knowing you have the ability to change course is enough,

Knowing the way opens, like the sea,

And sallies you forth through your life

To where a harbor waits, beckoning you

To come ashore, roam the village bizarre,

Lodge in a tavern’s upper room, gather

Provisions, and then rise, setting sail yet again

Knowing, this journey, this voyaging,

This being guided home is enough.

 

 


 



Landing, By Jennifer Angelina Petro

Landing

By

Jennifer Angelina Petro

 

 

Landing in meditation

I found myself

With you.  Of course,

I knew you would be

Waiting, open for me

To read, and you waiting,

To offer ideas and suggestions

For revisions of my story,

And yes, I know the last sentence

As everyone does, and when

It comes, and the journal is full,

Another will be ready-made with sewn binding

And paper made of linen

Watermarked with your kiss,

And you will lift me

From the pages

Of the full one—complete

With your lavish touches

And crammed with my ridiculous adventures,

And you will say, with all the pride

Of a parent laying a newborn

Into a bassinet—

Live.

 

 

 


 




I Wake Up Thirsty, By Jennifer Angelina Petro

I Wake Up Thirsty

By

Jennifer Angelina Petro

 

 

Every night, I wake up thirsty.

The only thing to do

Is lie back in the dark water,

Letting the dried, inner chambers

Soak through and through,

And then dream–

Dream I am a waterwheel,

And you—a silent river flowing through me.

 

 

 


 


 


The Gardener Tends the Sleeping Flowers, By Jennifer Angelina Petro

The Gardener Tends the Sleeping Flowers

By

Jennifer Angelina Petro

 

 

The gardener moves in the darkness among the flowers

And bushes in the cemetery of caves and stones–

Who does that?  Who gardens by the light of the moon?

Who touches the closed faces and hands

And whispers blessings upon them?

Who prunes unnecessary branches as if baptizing a child?

Who bends down, robe of golden threads mixing with the earth,

And pulls weeds from around the herbs and succulents?

Who sculpts the soil of the roses?

Who tends the nests of sparrows while at the same time

Looks for you?

 

The one who walks among the graves.

The one who sees your beauty in the shadows.

The one who turns towards you

Even when you do not recognize him.

The one who removes the hood of his cloak,

And calls you by name.

 

 

 

 


 




Buttercup Road, by Jennifer Angelina Petro

Buttercup Road

By

Jennifer Angelina Petro

 

 

When you go out you see.

The world opens a little more

With every turn of your gaze.

 

Yesterday, I walked the stretch of sidewalk

I call, Buttercup Road.  It’s lined with buttercups on both sides,

And if that doesn’t sting you with joy

Check your pulse.

 

I bent down to look more

Closely, each and every buttercup

Trembled with glee at the release of being seen—

Of little, old me witnessing their golden,

Shiny faces; of me getting close enough

I could have kissed them, petal by petal—I could have—

But didn’t.  I kissed them instead with praise and adoration,

And their hands opened wider for more.

 

That evening, I went back to visit them.

The sun was setting, the sky a splendid swirl

Of the transgender flag, and there they were—

Their faces cloaked in prayer, their hands cupping

The sun inside, their lips parted, touched

With moonlight all night long, I said to them:

“You dear, little lockets of honey, you holy, little chalices of sweetness,

I realize you are not here for me, you are here, like me,

For the sun; thank you for drawing my footsteps

Closer to the light.”

 

 

 


 



Every Day Life After the Attack, By Jennifer Angelina Petro

Every Day Life

After the Attack

By

Jennifer Angelina Petro

 

 

The day after.

The slipping back

Into your body.

The stepping back

Into your life.

The sitting down

With your perpetrators

At the breakfast table,

In church, at Thanksgiving dinner,

The friends coming over

To play in a house

Where you were pinned down,

The getting up the next morning,

The shutting down

Of what happened,

The pushing it away,

The surviving by vanishing

In plain sight,

The slow forgetting

So that life can go on

Even though the innocence

Of running outside on a long, drifting

Summer’s evening, disappears

Like a firefly in the trees.

The terror burrowing

Into your body, into your spirit,

Into the fabric of your mind,

To be carried with you

The rest of your life, like

A railroad spike in your guts,

That stabs you again and again

When you least expect it—

When a smell, the sound

Of cicadas, the flashback,

The Thanksgiving dinner,

The priest holding up

The Eucharist, triggers it all again—

And you feel like

You’re going to vomit the horrible truth,

And you freeze as you’re walking

To the store, and you shimmer

Out of your body again,

And don’t come back

For hours, and yet, you go about

Your day, a living mist, a disappearing

Person made of sand,

And somehow you manage

To return to your life—

The stain on your soul

Visible in your eyes,

And yet, you move on, you make it,

You survive another wave,

You emerge from the dark waters,

And you stride towards the healing

Into freedom, into the reclaiming

Of your life—the fucking forgiveness

And twisted loyalties, the fucking

It’s a gift, the fucking it was meant

To be, the fucking you somehow

Made it happen or deserved it,

The fucking you will let it

Hold your life hostage anymore,

The wonder of who you are—

A warrior battling every moment

To live, to recover your innocence

From pain’s tangled trees,

Where fireflies still blink, like

Beacons in the night,

Reminding you that you still

Shine.

 

Me, 5th grade, dressed up for a class play.

 

 


 




Wheels Within Wheels, A Prose Poem, By Jennifer Angelina Petro

Wheels Within Wheels

A Prose Poem

By

Jennifer Angelina Petro

 

 

The wheel of death turns, crushing everything eventually in its iron teeth.  The inevitable Good-bye waits just behind everyone you love.  Death and taxes are the only certainty, they say, in an ever-changing world.  Every breath breaks us down, little by little, like a walking hour glass.  All things end in suffering, they also say, from their cushion on the floor, where they carefully fold their legs, like a smug giraffe. As the grinding wheels turn and the paint peels invisibly at first, from the walls of your security, I am here to mention, in passing, there are other wheels turning their great, unceasing mechanisms.

The wheel of life turns, powered by the water of baby’s laughter and morning bird-song. The inevitable Hello waits just behind every stranger, flower, tree, and prayer.  Birth and bliss are among the many certainties in the arms of the Beloved.  Every breath builds us, like a walking tree absorbing light.  All things, so few say, splashing and stomping in puddles of rain, end in halcyon days of being held and nursed by eternal love.  As the wheel of life turns, and barns are raised, and fledglings fly, I am here to mention, in passing: joy is a certainty too.

The wheel of wonder turns, powered by waters of innocence we all carry whether we sense them or not.  It’s there carrying the inevitable inhalation of awe just behind every sunset and moment of revelation thrumming in your body.  Every time the hawk glides by, every time spring raises its enchanting exhale, every time the Beloved meets you as you move to help another—the wheel of wonder turns the imagination to create new pathways for the innocence to appear and move closer—like the heron, like the deer, like the compassion with which you bestow upon yourself and the soul of the world.

I am here to mention, in passing, there are many wheels turning in our hearts.  Witness each moment awake–for what it is—an ending, a beginning—the pause in a kiss, the hearts-touching-embrace and the stepping back.  If you become afraid of the cycle, move inwardly toward yourself to treat yourself with all the patience you would give to a friend.  The wheels will always turn.  And there is nothing to the idea of being caught up in them—caught up in the wheels of birth and death.  We can no more get stuck in those wheels as we can in a dream.  We are here—this moment.  Be attached.  Be ready to loosen into the sky, like a ribbon of laughter.  Yes, the road changes, while at the same time, the destination stays the same—the certainty of all certainties is there–the Beloved—waiting, holding the baskets of the bread of kindness you made all those years.  What matters now is which wheels do you see in your eyes when you look in the mirror? Which wheels do you see in the eyes of another?  One wheel mauls us into dust; one unfolds us, like morning; one lifts us, like a ferris wheel where we can pause to brush the stars with our fingers, and to kiss.

I will not say: Enjoy the ride.  Instead, I will say, in passing, be soil and let the water nourish you, and so too, be water and nourish the world.