Silverfish, By Jennifer Angelina Petro

Silverfish

By

Jennifer Angelina Petro

 

 

I went downstairs to do laundry.

A silverfish loosened from the shadows,

Crawling along the edges of the floor,

It’s long feelers sweeping the area in front and to the side,

Sensitive to any pivot of the foot.

 

Putting down the basket, I found myself

On hands and knees following it

Behind the dampened fingers of the water pipes

And musty boxes of teaching supplies,

To where it somehow disappeared under the wall.

 

Over the years silverfish have appeared in my life—

Sometimes dropping, like tears,

From the bindings of books,

Sometimes shimmering from out of nowhere

Outside my door.

 

Whenever I see them I remember:

I survived years without being seen,

Only to reappear in the pages of my life

Having lived off the glue that holds me together,

Defying the walls built around my rightful home,

And I thank them, smiling at their ability to flash

In and out of sight whenever they choose.

 

 

 


 




Gnosis, 12 AM, by Jennifer Angelina Petro

Gnosis, 12 AM

By

Jennifer Angelina Petro

 

 

A deer stepped from the side of the house

As I sat in my car talking to a friend on the phone.

 

It stopped, trying to place my voice in the darkness.

 

I told my friend what was happening

And ended the call.

 

I met its eyes, the moon leaned in.

 

After a moment, the deer stomped one front hoof

On the stone walkway, much like a horse would do,

And disappeared into the night.

 

It occurred to me as I sat looking at its after image:

I too move in and out of the shadows,

I too pause to observe that which I don’t understand,

I too attempt to place my voice in the darkness,

I too have ways of telling the world—I might be quiet

And some might say, timid—but I too can stomp my foot

And disappear never to be seen again.

 

 

 


 




To Be Who You Are, By Jennifer Angelina Petro

To Be Who You Are

By

Jennifer Angelina Petro

 

 

There are days
When the soul
Doesn’t know
It has a body,
And nights
When the body
Doesn’t know
It has a soul.
Just try
To keep breathing–
Soul in, soul out,
Body open, body safe.
The moments
Of not knowing
Will pass,
And the holy weaving
Will root you in the soil
Of possibility.
No matter what happens
You are creating space
To be who you are,
Body as soul,
Soul as body–
One magnificent blossoming
Of light.

 

 

 


 

 




Moment, by Jennifer Angelina Petro

Moment

by

Jennifer Angelina Petro

 

 

 

Some nights, loneliness says:

“Everything fades.

Flowers. Fireflies. Pain.

Thing is to go out in as exquisite symmetry as you can—

Laughter on the one hand, tears on the other, and then—

Let all of your beautiful failures become the wind.”

 

 

 


 

 



Boobs, By Jennifer Angelina Petro

Boobs

By

Jennifer Angelina Petro

 

Let’s talk about boobs–particularly my boobs. If you’re already thinking: “This is TMI”, then you might want to stop reading now. Anywho….

So, I’m growing boobs, and I like my boobs. I got a head start when I thought I was a “guy,” and had, “man-boobs.” Now I have a fun pair of boobs that I admire very much.

Up until this week I have worn a bra everywhere I go–and I loved it. I mean, I loved coming home and taking it off (especially doing the take-it-off-while-keeping-your-shirt-on-trick), but, in general, I liked bras. Mostly because they gave my boobs a nudge upwards. As much as I like my boobs I am not thrilled that I’m 50 and my boobs are forming an increasingly intimate relationship with gravity.

Yesterday I did something that I am very proud of. Doing it today too. This may not sound like a big deal to you, but for me, it is a big step in body-positivity and self-acceptance:

I chose to not wear a bra, and I went outside, shopping, etc. I just had a Pride t-shirt on and some capris……It felt SO liberating! I loved it. As I walked there was a little sensation of jiggling, and that made me feel giddy. At one point I walked by a store window and saw clearly that my nipples were proudly protruding from under my shirt. Even my bumply areolas were somewhat visible. I smiled.  I liked it.

And yes, I felt weird when people went by–several men and women looked at my chest as I walked around…and there were moments I felt really ashamed in general and felt compelled to cross my arms.

That said, as I mentioned, it was a freeing experience in body acceptance and, I daresay, a celebration. I’m very pleased with myself.

Yay, boobs! Free the boobs! Free the nipples! <3

 

 

 

 


 





By That I Mean, Praise, By Jennifer Angelina Petro

By That I Mean, Praise

By

Jennifer Angelina Petro

 

 

Take the time to look,

With all reverence and wonder,

At the elegant curling folds of the purple iris,

Or its perfectly formed concave inner trinity,

Or at the yellow daffodils

Declaring spring from their ruffled trumpets,

Or at the cherry blossom petals

Snowing into the wind—

 

Every curl, every trumpet, every petal

Is different from all the rest.

 

Exalt the vastness of variety.

Why limit the god of possibilities?

What exactly are you afraid of?

 

At least try to study—and by that, I mean

Praise—

How each and every buttercup

Holds a different piece of the sun,

How each and every helicopter seed

Whirling from the maple tree

Has its own fingerprint,

How each and every pink dogwood blossom

Looks like a different pink nun lying on her back

Singing to the blue mantle of the sky.

 

If you won’t invest the time, then do not

Try and take away the dignity of differences

And sweep them under the rug of easy things to say.

 

Nearly all the violence in the world

Stems from the delusion that sameness

Is the goal, that sameness is somehow

Ordained by the almighty, that somehow,

Sameness means complete security,

That somehow sameness brings calm.

 

Yes, if we cut each other on the hand

We both bleed red.  Look into my eyes

Before you draw the blade across my skin.

If you truly saw yourself then you would put the blade away.

 

These bodies, these genders, these multiplicities

Of singing voices, are not a threat

To your whiteness or religion—

They are revelations of a power so great,

So vast, that it gave birth even to you.

Stand firmly in your faith–trust the providence of your god,

For we are here—this endless field of wild flowers—

Swaying in the sun, we are here announcing

The god beyond the books, we are here

Proclaiming the glory of medley, we are here

To enunciate the one root holding us all together—

The one root of the right, and the majesty

To exist in this boundless, unending hymn of praise.

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


I Don’t Know How I Know This, By Jennifer Angelina Petro

I Don’t Know How I Know This

By

Jennifer Angelina Petro

 

 

Inside the uplift of death—that moment–

When the white doors open

You will fly out of yourself long enough

To fly back into yourself in one terrible

And freeing inhaling exhale.

Daffodils lose their vibrant trumpets

To the sunlight, irises curl in on themselves

And alliums drop their radiating, purple petals to the ground.

Cherry blossoms scatter their thousand, million pink pieces

Of exquisite beauty into a spring wind that rouses

The mind to start moving on those plans laid out in winter,

And you cannot help but stare, and weep with such joy the moment

Uplifts and white doors open, and you fly into yourself

Long enough to fly back out yourself in one orgasmic,

Eternal—breath-catching inhaling exhale.

And when the sidewalks become dusted

In deep pink—so much so you cannot see the gray ground—

White doors open and you fly out of yourself long enough

To never return to the state of unnoticing.

Every moment we build up and break down,

We dissolve, we sag closer to the earth,

Our muscles loosen, our jaws slacken,

And we become like fragile, spring birds long enough

To breathe into ourselves, long enough

To exhale one last time into the air—

Just strong enough to blow open the white doors

And get swept up into the uplift where all the trumpeting

Daffodils wait, where all the irises unfurl

Their sex to the sky, where all the alliums burst

Purple bulbs from their tall, slender stalks, like

Slow motion fireworks—

There you will stay long enough

To bloom the fragrance

Of a life well lived into the ever spring

Of God.

 

 

 


 



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.