Interdependence Day, by Jennifer Angelina Petro

Interdependence Day

By

Jennifer Angelina Petro

 

vigil photo 1

 

I love this country.  I really do.  I will never forget, however, that it was, and is, being born from violence—genocide, slavery, and corruption.  It was also born from a deep thirst of religious freedom and the ideal where anyone could come to live out their lives the way they chose.

Yes, we have a terrorist imbecile in the white house.  Yes, it has a barbaric administration.  We also have you.  We also have many who will resist and fight, and care—maybe not in the ways you think they should, but they are do, and in their own ways are living out their lives the way they choose—a life of generosity, compassion, kindness, love, and humor.

And yes, there are those who have no choice in how they live—those who have no independence.  There are the oppressed, the marginalized, the hated, feared, the hungry, the homeless, the people without healthcare, or enough money to live on no matter how many hours they work at a minimum wage job.  And of course, this must change.  The dangers of capitalism, the patriarchy, white supremacy, the attacks on the environment, racism—these all must change and be dismantled.  And it is hard.  Most days it seems impossible.  I truly believe we can do it though.  I truly believe we can, and are, rising up as never before.  The powers of good are getting stronger every day, and you and I are a part of that energy.

Yes, this country is deeply flawed, and we can look around and see those flaws, and rightly so, everywhere we look. And we should.  We need to be awake to what we can do to help make positive, lasting changes in our country.  We need to bear witness to each other’s pain.  We need to listen to each other’s stories of sorrow and victory.

Yes, there are people living kind, compassionate, good lives—I  daresay the vast majority in this country are trying to do so.  They love their kids.  They do good in their communities.  They offer you a hand when you’re down.  They do amazingly inventive, hilarious, useful things.  They do their best to live in such a way as to promote basic, human decency.

Yes, this country is a mess.  It is also a tapestry of wonder and of good people creating peace and a safe place for all.  There are many people who do not let hate live in their homes.

And no, I am not going to say we are the greatest country in the world.  There is no greatest country.  There is only a world of souls woven together by threads of hope in the face of great, unholy darkness.

I am a trans woman….I have tasted oppression and marginalization.  I have received death threats, and been the target of hate.  I fear going out of my apartment every day.  And yet I go.  I go with the faith that the good people will always outnumber the ignorant, misguided, brainwashed, hateful, hurtful people.  And it has never failed to be so in my experience.  For every act of hatred aimed at me, there have been a hundred acts of kindness aimed at me also.  The vast majority of my days I go out into the world, and while afraid, realize I am OK.

And no, I am not free.  I am not truly independent.  I am held back by my gender, by my mental illness, by my not being able to pass.  I also can share many gifts and strengths by being trans.  My mental illness may prevent me somedays from getting out of bed, but it also helps me see the world in magical ways, and it heightens my desire to be more and more compassionate to myself and others.

Yes, I am free to fight, and I do.  I am an activist by my very existence.  I am free to let you help me, and I do, and you do.  I am free to help you. I am free to troll the world with beauty, courage, compassion, and humor.  I am free to be me even as, in the same moment, I am not.

Today, I am going to change the name of this day to Interdependence Day.  We all need each other.  We all need one another.  And if today the best you can do is post a meme about justice, then you have helped the world.  Today I might need to be carried.  Today I might be able to carry.  We are all inextricably connected.  We even share the same air as trump.

I believe in us.  I believe in you.

I believe in our capacity to help one another, to see the good, to assume the good in one another.  I believe in our desire for justice, equality, and the genuine acceptance of one another.  I believe in our power to fight, to speak out however loudly or softly we can. I believe in the good people doing acts of kindness every day. I believe in love.  I believe in the collective power of our vision and that it will one day prevail.  It is already spreading.  A fire is burning in our hearts.  A light is shining from our eyes.  We can rise up, lifting one another, and learn how to help change the things that so desperately need changing.

I am going to celebrate Interdependence Day by bringing a meal to a family in need.  I am not bragging, but if I was, who fucking cares?  Announce your goodness for all to see.

Happy Interdependence Day.

I love you all.  Thank you for all you have done, and will do to help me survive the illnesses I carry.  I would not be here today were in not for good people like you.

 


 

 

 


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Surfing the Spectrum

Surfing the Spectrum
By
Joseph Anthony Petro

 

 

Darkness lives as shadows
In every sun-drenched day,
Stars and eyes of animals
Betray light shining in every night–
Travel to the end of the day
And you will stumble
Into the arms of the moon,
Venture to the end of the night
And fall into the lap of the sun–
Try cleaving the back of a coin
From its front,
Know that all genitals
Begin as one–
Try finding the middle ground
Between walking and standing—
Straight and curved travel
One continuous line–
Every breath we take sustains
And destroys us—
Bathe in dark waters dappled in moonlight,
Revel in wonder of trying to experience
Getting as close to the truth as you can—
Time and space flow like rivers—
Step into the ever-expanding now–
Surf the spectrum that blooms an eternity of color,
Skate the rainbow of possibilities spilling from infinity–
Be who you long to be—
Sing as you long to sing—
Live as you long to live—
Express as you long to express—
Reveal as you long to reveal—
Sleep as you long to sleep—
Awaken as you long to awaken–
Darkness lives as shadows
In every sun-drenched day,
Stars and eyes of animals
Betray light shining in every night–
Travel to the end of the day
And you will stumble
Into the arms of the moon,
Venture to the end of the night
And fall into the lap of the sun

 

spectrum

 

 


 

 

 





Allow Me

Allow Me
By
Joseph Anthony Petro

 
At some point
Fireflies
Fade into autumn,
Their blooms
Of light
Extinguish
Into darkness;
Flowers
Drip their silken petals
One by one,
And draw
Their leaves
Inwards against
Thieving November winds;
Frogs
With their golden eyes
Vanish
From the pond’s murky edge;
Deer step through
Mist-skirted trees,
And with a flick
Of their white tails
Disappear.

 
Right now, here,
Today, your life
And mine
Are dissolving
Into light,
And at some point
We will lift
From the pages
Of our lives
And simply
Be gone—written
In the stars.

 
Thing is,
Life is long, like
A lazy, sun-drunken
Summer afternoon,
And it’s short,
Like the afore mentioned
Wink of the firefly.
Either way
You and I
Are being called

 
And we are also the ones
Doing the calling.

 
Beauty needs us,
Faith requires of us,
Love invites us
To participate
In the hum
And wonder
Of our interwoven lives;

 
And we call out—
We bring to ourselves
Open roads
And closed doors,
Everything
We want and need—
Everything
We are meant and ache
To be. And of course,

 
By the time
You read this
I might already
Be gone; I might
Be hovering
Right now
Over your shoulder
And nudging you
To smile and get out there
And amaze the world,
Amaze yourself.

 
And whether or not
I am still alive
When you read this,
You and I
Have been
Drawn together
In this moment,
At this point
In time–
And we have a job to do,
A job that isn’t
So much a job
As it is a story
That only you and I
Can tell.

 
So, here’s the thing:
I want to show the world
Who I really am.
Will you help me
Tell this part
Of the story?
And what about you?

 
What is it you
Want to do and say?
Whatever it is,
Allow me
To be with you
Either
From my place
Of light beyond light,
Or from here,
In these words–
Allow me,
At this moment in time
To be here
For you.

 

 

 


 


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That Same Wonder

That Same Wonder
By
Joseph Anthony Petro

 

blossoms

 
I am being
Step for step,
Morning by morning,
Evening by evening,
Breath for breath,
Pulse by pulse,
Desire by desire
Written, drawn,
Painted, sculpted,
Composed, arranged,
Sung, and spoken.
I am an expression
Of something, someone
So living, so vitalizing,
That it spills into my steps,
Pours from my words,
Weeps from my heart
In such a way as to both hide itself
And reveal itself at the same time.
It should come as no surprise
That wonder drips, no matter how
Sad I get, from every cell
Of my body.
I am being made, created,
Dreamed, formed
By wonder, and the same wonder
That assembles me
Dismantles me, levels me,
Emptiness me,
Adjourns and disrobes me,
That same wonder
I am being fitted for
Doctored by,
Dissolved by
Is the same wonder
That wants me,
Requests me,
Stomachs me,
Explores me,
That same wonder
That is my every breath and my last breath,
That same wonder that will lay me down
In the soft earth and raise me up
When I am ready to awaken,
That same wonder that will keep me
Dancing, learning, being born, full of grace,
Full of insight, full of cherry blossom petals
And moonlight, full of ponds
And stars—that same wonder, when I am ready
To be myself in full bloom
Will be there, here
Ready to catch me
When I fall.

 

 


 

 

 





How Shall I Compare Thee?

How Shall I Compare Thee?
By
Joseph Anthony Petro

 
Some compare life to the layers of an onion,
And how fitting—how easily, once cut especially,
The layers fall away, and yes, there are the tears.
There are those.

Some compare life to a rose—
Thorns, fragrant, exquisitely beautiful,
And when you struggle to find the center
It all unravels and is no longer a rose.

Some compare life to the sea—
Deep (obviously), ebbing and flowing,
Full of dark mysteries and storms,
Leviathans, and beings made of light,
Seemingly endless in its distance,
Moon kissed, full of tears, and sun-drenched
Waves of desire.

Use anything–the mirror even,
Just begin, go on, try. Try to compare life
To anything on earth or in the heavens.
This is not a challenge or a call to fail.
This is a plea to encourage you to look,
To search. Find places, beings, other people,
Feelings, images, objects that resonant
With your heart, your body, your experience
Of breath and of grief, of joy, and of divinity,
Of growing and becoming, of withering,
And blossoming.

Why? Why do this?
Isn’t it effectively separating yourself from yourself
And others? Not for me. This exercise, this discipline,
This holy, unquenchable fire
Helps me sort it all out, helps me discover myself
In the world and the world in myself, it helps me to see you
And allow myself to be seen by you, or else I am alone,
Somehow outside the circle of God, as silly
As that sounds. And of course, it’s just a suggestion,
Like everything else in life that is truly alive.

We get hints while moving towards
A fullness that culminates in a blessed emptying–
Fountain into fountain, river into sea, image
Into image, love into love.
So take the suggestion
As it is given—a passing brush stroke across the canvas
Of your life.

 

 

 


 





Dream Image I

Dream Image I
By
Joseph Anthony Petro

 

roots of trees 2
Imagining the tree will suddenly
Lift the skirt of her roots and run,
Or dance, or simply move closer
So I can rest in her branches,
Run my fingers through her leaves,
Kiss her trunk of concentric circles.
Or maybe she would run right passed me,
Headlong into the ocean, leaves scattering
In her own private autumn, and become
A ship, trailing her wake of roots
Slowly, into the waiting arms of the sun.

 

 


 

 

 

 





What To Do

What to Do
By
Joseph Anthony Petro

 

If you fumble around long enough
Words will turn up.
The trick is to keep searching.
Look under the dusty cushions
Of old ideas,
Or in the loose pockets
Of worn out prejudices,
Thumb through the flat, leather wallet
Of your past accomplishments,
Reach for the every day,
Explore the every where,
Touch the faces of revelation,
Brush open the hands of wonder.
Most of all, allow your awareness
To settle into the moment, like
A butterfly settling on a flower,
Or better yet, like a tone
Blossoming from a bell.
Your life is brimming
With meaning. This moment
Is ringing with the One
Word that holds all words,
That lifts all burdens into sunlight;
This moment, this life–look here,
Look now.

 

 

 


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You and Our and the Magical Arithmetic of Hope

You and Our
And the Magical Arithmetic
Of Hope
By
Joseph Anthony

You and Our

And the Magical Arithmetic

of Hope

 

In the shared space pain takes up,
Camaraderie prevails.
And it isn’t so much
That the pain doesn’t matter,
Those partaking of this bitter bread
Give thanks for the nourishment it brings.
And even as they accept me
Into this holy fraternity,
This circle of understanding,
This affiliation of grace,
I stand myself apart and say: Your
Rooms, your fellowship,
My pain, your pain.
One of them brought this
To my attention and I am grateful.
So much depends upon unity,
Upon the shared understanding
That weaves through and through
Each agent of mercy, each emissary that carries
The gifts of sadness and transcendence.
And so I stand and take fledging steps
To the edge and then into
The Community of Our:
Our pain. Our rooms. Our healing.
And as I take my place amidst and among,
I sit neither below nor above,
I am simply one of the many,
One of a band that grows, like
Ripples in a pond,
Like the fragrance of honeysuckle in spring,
Like the good thoughts of forgiveness
And humility, like a song sung by the One
Who is the Ultimate Our and You and I
And We and Every Living Thing,
And on we go,
One tapestry of hope,
One table of plenty shared,
One perpetual thanksgiving
Of you becoming our
And our becoming more
Than the sum of its parts,
And the sum of its parts
Becoming the magical arithmetic
Of hope: things subtracted
Become the variables that give way
To the addition of constants
Like love, understanding, acceptance, humor,
And miracles, yes, miracles
Are a constant,
That when combined
Multiply a thousand fold, pressed down, shaken together,
And running over into a joy that equals
The priceless gift
Of serenity.


 


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It All Started With a Box of Darkness

It All Started With a Box of Darkness

by

Joseph Anthony

Last night my dear friend Mindy sent me a quote by Mary Oliver (the best poet in America of the last 100 years, maybe even ever):

 

“Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift.”

 

I read that and as so often happens, words and images started flowing. Sometimes they come like a flood, right away, rushing and gushing–exploding all over the page; other times it’s a more gradual build, images and words finding their way into me slowly, like the dawn. Last night it was the former. It all came out in one brief, satisfying, healing torrent of images, words, and insights.

 
I went with the current on Twitter. Sometimes the constraints of the 140 spaces is a perfect discipline to channel the flow. Other times it’s silly to even try. Last night, the Twitter format worked fine.

 
So thank you Mindy for the initial share; thank you Mary Oliver for writing your wildly luminous poetry; thank you Muse for coming to me in the form of Mindy and Mary; and thank you also, Dear Darkness, of whom I am learning so much from, thank you for being full of light. So many times the depression feels only like utter and complete blackness. I am learning, little by little, the more I simply keep walking, that as soon as the darkness begins to feel overwhelmingly isolative (isolate=from the Latin: to become an island), that exact moment—if I tell someone, find a way to share the hidden pain, the secret suffering, then the darkness blooms into light, into lessons, into invaluable help for myself and others, and I can breathe again. For deep depression is nothing more than the suffocation of the soul.

 
Last night, I didn’t drown in the darkness. I was able to swim. Thank you everyone who helps me to do this. The trinity of diseases: addiction, depression, and isolation, often go hand in hand and can lead to the final darkness. I needn’t go through anything alone again, ever. You don’t either. May my journey through the heart of darkness bear witness to this truth: bring others with you—not dragging them into the chaos, no, bring them with you into your heart, invite them—the safe ones into where the secret hurts live, and the burdens, whatever they are, will become light, the yoke becomes easy (easier). For wherever two or more are gathered–there, in the midst of them, is salvation from the fears of being vulnerable, of showing one’s weaknesses, of being so-called-perfect. There, in this place, this holy space of breath and of embracing–the common experiences, the threads of compassion, identification, love, and eventually ultimately wonder, creativity, and dancing, weave us together into the shared fabric of humanity.

 
Thank you all.

 
The Poems in order of their appearance:

 
Wherever I go, I carry a box of darkness handed down by generations. Inside are echoes of sorrows; and light, beautiful, hidden light.

 
***

 
I speak, the box of darkness closes; I am silent, the box opens. I weep, the box closes, I sleep, the box opens; I sing the box disappears.

 
***

 
I reach inside the box of darkness and find a key. A door appears. I stand, set the box down, and go, go to fall into the shimmering light.

 
***

 
Three words: “Box of darkness,” open secret passageways to the soul. I’m going, take my hand, let’s go find the way back to now.

 
***

 
Where are you? I cry. Here, says the Beloved. Where? I demand. Here, says the Beloved, Where you left me, inside this box of darkness.

 
***

 
One day, I slipped the box of darkness under my bed, not wanting to see it again. When I got home that night, my room had become the box.

 
***

 
I never know when it’s going to come, this rush of images. I only know to slip into it and allow it to river through me to wherever it goes.

 
***

 
Goodnight. I open the box of darkness, slip inside with a blanket. I close the lid. And when I open my eyes to the darkness, I see light.