Poems: Push Back, Speak Up (Warnings)

PWyCEJ1yRHysEAaF61coNQ

Silence is not an option. It’s not golden. Find your voice before it’s lost.

Once again, I take my inspiration from a strong woman. Nancy Pelosi may not be the first person you’d think would inspire poetry, but that picture of her pointing a stern finger at a spoiled man while he recoils in stunned anger should inspire every woman who’s ever felt smothered by men.

I know how that happens. Every woman knows. We’re conditioned to get married and have children and if we don’t then there’s something wrong with us. I got married and had children. For a time I did lose my voice, but then I found it again in my writing. I’m fortunate to be married to a man who is confident enough in his own skin to allow me to speak out from mine.

Me too, nasty women, hear me roar, fight like a girl, my body my choice, the future is female, and my personal favorite: silence is not an option. These are just a few of the things women have found the voice to say. But what they all add up to is this: Every. Single. Woman. Has. A. Voice. And that voice is not meant to echo, it’s not meant to be bitten back or smothered behind a man’s hand. Speaking up doesn’t make you less of a woman. It makes you more of a human.

Speaker Pelosi is speaking up in that picture, and that’s why Donald Trump thinks it depicts her as having a “meltdown”. That’s why some men will agree with him. And that’s why we owe it to all women everywhere to speak up. We have voices. Let’s use them.

Silence is not an option. At least, it’s not a good one.

 

Push Back (A Warning)

By Michelle Garren Flye

 

He wraps you up.

Warmth envelops you.

It’s nice, safe, there in him.

You might never want to leave.

 

He wraps you in.

Safety can suffocate.

You choke, feel lost and alone.

You can’t be free now, can’t speak out.

 

He wraps you down.

And now you push back.

Will he give way, let you breathe?

Can you tell him how you feel at last?

 

He wraps you tight.

Push harder! Don’t give up!

It’s your life to live, your love to give.

And you were given a voice to tell your story.

 

He sets you free…

You can breathe again.

You can speak and believe.

He stands beside you, what will you do?

 

You take his hand.

You’re in this together.

Side-by-side, he can’t forget you’re there.

The ties that bind don’t have to be painful.

 

 

 

 

Speak Out (A Warning)

By Michelle Garren Flye

Lips tremble, form words without sound.

A whisper pushes past, but no one hears.

How can you expect to use what was never found

After days upon days upon years and years?

What is a mouth made for if not to speak?

What good is a tongue if behind it there’s no voice?

You try to push it out, but the words barely squeak.

It’s what happens in the end if you make that choice.

Don’t echo, don’t fib, don’t quiet what will never die.

Your spirit withers within a body of silent tears.

You wish you could scream, but you can only cry.

Oceans of silent waves push back on your cares.

Voices can be lost without thought and exercise.

Form a word of your own now and then—or lose hope.

If you bury yourself in a man’s beliefs, you’ll just tell lies.

Speak up, speak out, and if he objects, just let him cope.

Poem: On the Screen

What’s happening right now breaks my heart because it was preventable. In fact, it was being prevented. Our Kurdish allies are fighting and dying. Mothers are losing their children. Tiny babies lie in pools of blood, covered in dust. And it’s all because a few men made decisions that meant their lives meant nothing. Life is meant for more. Be outraged. Be angry. Be sad or regretful or depressed. Be anything but accepting of this tragedy. Life is meant for more than ending on our television screens.

On the Screen

By Michelle Garren Flye

 

From across the world we watch as death rains down.

How can we know what to feel?

Safe in our kitchens, our warm homes, our towns—

Not part of the pack anymore.

 

Broken bodies litter the earth but it’s so very far away.

You run, and we don’t miss a meal.

Dust and rubble clear, but your sorrow never may.

Meanwhile we watch the news at four.

 

We shake our heads: Nothing I can do, nothing to be done.

Our hearts go out to your appeal—

But tomorrow’s just a day for us—another day in the sun.

And we’ll check the headlines of course.

 

Across the world, an ocean away, with only the media to guide.

As your hearts’ blood spills

On pavement stones and runs down the mountainside—

Life is meant for more.

 

Poem: (In Remembrance) Cast Out

(In Remembrance): Cast Out

By Michelle Garren Flye

 

It’s all over but the crying now.

We never knew that would happen. We didn’t see the loss of hope, the loss of growth, the loss of who we are. How could we?

Even as we witnessed its birth.

We clustered around televisions and fell to our knees and cried and prayed and cursed. We angrily threw a flag over the destruction.

We swore we’d make them pay.

Blinded by rage, we fight a war no one can win. We send our soldiers to deserts of ash and blood. We lose what’s left of freedom in revenge.

And what of those born after?

Born into a world of anger and suspicion, how can our children ever be innocent? We guard and shield, but they know and despair.

Do you remember what it was like—before?

Before the hate, the fear, the constant defending against evil. Doesn’t it look like a golden age now? Doesn’t it look like a garden?

It’s all over but the crying now.

Cast out, left to drown in hot tears like jet fuel streaming from the eyes of a nation. Did it melt our core? Do we only wait to fall?

Regret tastes like ash, blood, desert sand. And tears.

qDvCpuXdS72ABWqRrFiHdQ

Poem(?): Dos Mundos…Two Worlds

IMG_0253

 

Dos Mundos…Two Worlds

By Michelle Garren Flye

 

Mama ties back my hair.

Tu eres muy linda, Mija, she says.

You are very pretty, my daughter.

I hear it both ways, bilingual.

Best of both worlds, Abuela might say.

But we left Abuela in Mexico long ago.

 

Mama leaves me at the school gate.

She tugs my ponytail, smiling.

No tengas miedo, she says.

Do not be afraid…and I will try.

My mother speaks three languages.

Love is a language, too.

 

How do you say school in Spanish?

The girl asks me with a friendly smile.

Escuela, I tell the girl, not afraid.

Cool, she says. Want to play?

We play tag and I am happy.

Mama was right—there is nothing to fear.

 

I am brave all day. I am not afraid

I win the spelling bee, all in English.

My teachers are all American.

I can speak to them and I’m not afraid.

I want to tell Mama about my day.

I wait after school, but she doesn’t come.

 

My neighbor comes and kneels beside me.

She’s American, she has two teenage sons.

She doesn’t speak Spanish, but she speaks love.

Her voice breaks when she tells me they took Mama.

I know what she’s saying, even when I stop hearing.

I’m not me anymore. They took me, too.

 

She makes space for me in her home.

They are kind, but I know I have no place.

I used to have two worlds, now I have none.

No country, no place for me, no mama.

One of the lost generation without a home.

Y ahora, tengo miedo. And now I am afraid.

Poem: Shards of Lost Justice

united states of america flag

Photo by Gerritt Tisdale on Pexels.com

Shards of Lost Justice

By Michelle Garren Flye

 

She trembles before the white man, a tiny dark hand clutched in hers.

“This is my child,” she says, defiant before him. “I’m keeping her.”

But the white man tears the child away and glares at the black woman.

“Send her back,” he says, and white hands pull mother away from child.

 

The brown woman struggles in the clutch of the ICE men.

Her daughter weeps as she watches them take her away.

“Let her stay,” pleads her husband. “It was only a traffic ticket.”

But the man with the badge shakes his head. “Send her back,” he says.

 

The little girl stands alone before the judge, no idea where her parents are.

“They brought me here,” she whispers. “I don’t know where my home is.”

“She was separated from her parents,” her lawyer says. “This is not the American way.”

The judge shakes his head. “The law is clear. Send her back.”

 

The brown woman is different. She is slight but strong, not easily vanquished.

An American citizen, a Congresswoman, a representative, she speaks out.

He doesn’t like what she says, her differences frighten him, so he bullies and brags.

“She doesn’t love America like me,” he tells the mob. “Send her back,” they chant.

Poem: What Good is a Girl?

Today my heart aches for children, but especially girls. Girls whose childhood is stripped away too early. I remember when men started taking notice of me. When I wore shorts on a summer day and walked down the street in my hometown and a man wolf-whistled at me.

I was thirteen. I had no idea what the thoughts of those men were when they ogled me. If I’d known, I probably would never have left the house again. As it was, I blushed and felt like I’d done something wrong.

That was my first introduction to what some men think girls are good for. Today, in a courtroom, a powerful man is calling 14-year-olds “underaged women”. Which indicates that once a female begins menstruating, she’s only good for one thing. I mean, hey, what else are girls good for?

Well, I wrote this for the mothers of “underage women” and for the “underage women” themselves. We are good for so much more.

 

What Good is a Girl?

By Michelle Garren Flye

 

She can sing like a lark and make you feel like you’re flying.

She can paint pictures with words that leave you sighing.

She can build the best sand castles, run fleetly to the sea—

And leave you wondering, what else can she be?

 

She can spend hours in a tree just reading a book.

She might even share if  you climb up to take a look.

She can tell jokes that make you belly laugh out loud—

Or lay back on the grass and point out a castle in a cloud.

 

She’ll defend you against enemies, always come to your aid.

She’ll build the best science project, make the best grade.

She can net the winning basket or hit the last goal—

One thing is sure, life with her never gets old.

 

What good is a girl? you dare to ask.

Better than you deserve, you stupid ass.

IMG_8714

Mo Willems might be my hero.

38B7A857-CCC8-4372-A538-2543DC064778

A children’s book can give you a glimpse into your deepest soul. Photo by Michelle Garren Flye.

I remember the first time my son brought home Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus by Mo Willems from the school library. I loved reading to my kids, but I really never connected with Pigeon. Why he was so popular with my kids, I never really knew. I loved the Frances books, anything by Rosemary Wells, and when they started bringing home little beginning readers like Henry and Mudge, I was in seventh heaven!

But the Pigeon? Every time one of my kids brought one of those home, I just rolled my eyes.

Turns out I missed the point. Pigeon is much deeper and much more shallow at the same time. He’s a philosopher and a spoiled child wrapped into one, which is kind of how I see myself. Maybe I just didn’t like seeing myself on the pages of a children’s book?

How do I know all this about Pigeon? I read an interview with his creator. Check it out here: Mo Willems Interview. (My thanks to my friend Liz for referring me to this article!)

Mo Willems’s admittedly incredible ability to look into my soul and pull a pigeon out of it notwithstanding, he says some very insightful things about the nature of art and creativity and writing. “Books are sculptures” is indeed one of them. What took me most by surprise, though, was the revelation that he’s not just writing to inspire kids. He’s writing to inspire the parents to do and say and live the way they want their kids to do and say and live.

Consider this: “[W}e constantly hear, ‘Our children are the future,’ but we seldom say, ‘Hey we’re the present and it’s incumbent on us to be present.’ So there’s this silliness, but there’s also a, ‘You can do it, too.'”

Thank you, Mo Willems!

I’m 49 years old. I’ve just published my first children’s book (Jessica Entirely by Shelley Gee). I also privately published my first collection of poetry Times and Ties. I’m taking singing lessons and auditioning for plays. I’m inspired by my kids, and my only regret right now is that I’ve never done any of these things before. I didn’t model my life by living my dreams. If anything, they’ve modeled for me by bringing home books for me to read that I wouldn’t normally have read, and introducing me to movies and television and a slew of pets I never would have chosen to bring into my life.

So I’ll presume to add a little to Mr. Willems’s statements. Be inspiring to your children, but don’t be afraid to be inspired by them, too. A family circle is beneficial to all.

Something I wrote:

Jessica smiled in spite of her worries about her friends. They all had friends in town and friends who evacuated and friends who might have lost their homes in the storm. But she had her family right there with her and the idea of helping made her feel much better about things in general. She took a deep breath and followed her family to the kitchen, happier than she ever had been at the prospect of spending an hour or two with them at the table.