PAPER IDENTITY

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A sterile gloved hand

Reaches in, to measure the readiness of

An expectant womb, ripe with life.

Sterile covered mouths

Shouting hurried commands above

A woman’s cries.

Tearful eyes, filled with strife.

Flesh and blood

Pulsing, moving, tension growing; suddenly . . .

A bloody showing.

The infant’s birth is imminent.

Now awaiting competent sterile hands to receive

A living, breathing tiny person

Into a sterile world that only worsens,

As evidenced by initial screams.

And the woman’s body,

Now wracked with pain, weakens.

‘Oh, sweet bliss of father’s kiss upon mother’s

Stretched-out skin, when baby safely slept within.’

Mother knew . . .

Who within her body grew.

The infant knew his mother’s voice,

Her moods, her touch . . . and she knew his.

No denial here existed.

No identity here was twisted.

Born this day a living person,

Whom society must now manipulate

With the many self-serving problems it creates.

Paperwork, medical and legal records;

The only ‘valid’ proof of nature’s efforts?

Proof of insurance gives clerks assurance

This identity is real,

Not one he did ‘steal.’

Imagine! Just imagine . . .

If all those documents disintegrated . . .

Would we all be ‘invalidated?’

Are we . . .

Nothing more than . . .

A ‘Paper Identity?”

©  Kat Ryan 1991

Here is the story behind Paper Identity

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FAREWELL TO MAHLON KLINE

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I saw you slip away,

To face another day,

In a place, I may not yet know.

It was so strange to watch you go.

I sensed no fear, just sadness,

But, I too felt hope and gladness.

I watched your loved ones gather near

To bid farewell with whispers in your ear.

Although you could not speak, I knew that you could hear.

I saw words of love to your eyes bring tears.

We held your hand and stroked your brow.

We knew not just when, but we did know how,

You’d find your way across the gap

Where at last you could rest in the Saviour’s lap.

Christ’s nail pierced hands released death’s trap.

Those last brief moments, it seemed, you spent

Were filled with peace before you went.

In amazement, I beheld your face,

Suddenly softened by His grace.  As you drew your last breath and left this place,

I could almost hear the Master say . . .

‘Come home my child, you’ve run the race.’

© Pen name – KatRyan  July 1991

IF WE HEAR NO DISCORD

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Time and space, not intergalactic or outer space

But rather  – Inner Space.

Elements of life, crucial, critical, changeable.

Time passes, space changes, as souls and minds

Move in and around our lives.

If we are to grow, we need to be alert and

Conscious of these changes.

And much like the ‘Serenity Prayer’, we need

The gift of acceptance without the poison of apathy.

Acceptance enriches inner space.

Apathy deadens inner space.

Wisdom broadens acceptance with love, and destiny with

The reality of free will.

Man ought be grateful for the changes time and space bring.

. . . For the opportunities to explore the many reasons

we make the changes we do . . .

. . . For the right and the opportunity to re-evaluate those choices.

Those of us who dare to exercise free will,

And flirt with destiny need more than any to accept

The responsibility of the reality of our choices.

Therefore, may we also have the courage to listen to

The voice of our conscience as bravely as we listen to

The voice of our desire.

If in listening to both, we hear no discord,

Perhaps, we have indeed made the right choices.

If not – may we have the courage to make them – at last.

Copyright April ’83  – Kat

RED VELVET BLUES

Red velvet bows

Ribbons of pearls in neat draping rows

Ivory Angel atop boughs of deep green

Sprigs of Mistletoe tucked in between

Bright papered packages nestled below

Tiny white lights that twinkle like snow

Silver and red ornaments hung

Next to sugar canes meant for the young

A beautiful, heartwarming sight

To watch . . . as my tears fall all through the night

Those boxes are empty, the candy canes are not real

Everything’s plastic, even the way that I feel

Behind all the smiling, beneath the sweet trap

Lies a river of pain that runs deep and black

Glittery music and great smells fill the air

Only to hide past years of despair

Years filled with secrets and memories to keep

Far from the little ones we read to sleep

The vows that were spoken

Then so easily broken

“Trust”, “Honor”, Commitment to try”

Words with no meaning . . . believing the lie

Year after year

Tear after tear

“Just a little while longer,

Our love will grow stronger”

It was a beautiful thought to hold through the night

It was beautiful . . . It’s now clear out of sight

Alone on this river, both deep and black

Waiting for little ones, grown now, to come back

Looking for someone standing on shore

To hold out a lantern of caring once more

Maybe next year the boxes I’ll fill

Maybe next year the candy canes will be real

Maybe next year . . .The sunshine will rain

On that dark river, so brightly . . . I’ll not feel the pain

. . .  Maybe next year.

Copyrighted 1991 by me under a pen name

The story behind Red Velvet Blues is here.

Don’t Let The Ship Go Down

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Harbor or no harbor, the safety of a ship

Depends much on the mutual attention of its captain

And its crew to necessary details and tender loving care.

Cracks and leaks in the hull need

Patching . . . just as broken hearts do.

Ripped sails and rigging need

Mending . . . just a torn egos do.

All carvings, woodwork and identifying marks need

Polishing and buffing to make them

Shine . . . just as the facets of our personalities do.

Any ship or  . . . relationship subjected to

Neglect or simply taken for granted is doomed to

Disaster; but the beauty of hope can be

Found in the knowledge that wrecked ships can be

Salvaged and so, my friend, can relationships.

copyrighted 1982

– to read more  go the story behind “Don’t Let The Ship Go Down

The Story behind “Don’t Let The Ship Go Down!”

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Sometimes, in our efforts to just live and make sense of our life, we take for granted the people in our life who are truly friends as we desperately try to hold onto the ones we want to love us.  In that desperation we try to express what we feel without being really clear about who or what we are talking about.  Sometimes, years later, we look back to something we wrote and realize the only ones who would even care are the friends we neglected in our futile struggle to hold unrequited love.  This piece was written in the hope of salvaging a marriage that was only doomed to destruction from the moment vows were spoken.

DON’T LET THE SHIP GO DOWN!

Reflections of Self Growth

Women’s Orientation Night, January 7, 1992
Brookdale Community College

Tonight, across a room of random pain and growth and hope, I observed two women reaching for the same “Brass Ring”, from different “Carousels” as they viewed inverted images of themselves.  And, strangely enough, I saw two images of me.  I wondered if they knew that somehow they were part of my self-discovery.

Tonight, amidst a group of women looking for their undiscovered dreams, I watched two (who looked not at all like my physical likeness) as they portrayed two sides of who I think I’ve been.

The first . . . a very natural, beautiful (not in some glamorous, cover-girl way), wholesome, healthy and unpretentious woman; dressed in jeans and a neat clean sweatshirt.  Hair . . . shining, well-cut, shoulder length, not dramatically styled or permed and no apparent make-up.

The second . . . a lovely, well-groomed and sharply dressed lady with carefully styled, chin-length hair, parted and combed to one side.  Flawless make-up from foundation to perfectly separated eyelashes.  Her wardrobe well matched, color-coordinated and ‘completely professional.’

I remembered, as I watched, how I felt and wondered too if they might be feeling as I did when I played each of those roles at different times of my life.

I wondered if, as the first one observed the second, she somehow wished she had the energy and ability to put together that perfectly manicured look as seemingly effortlessly and successfully as lady number two, on a regular — if not daily — basis.

Likewise, I wondered if lady number two somehow wished, as she watched the first (so casually together), that she could be so self-confident that she’d feel safe without all the make-up, clothes and ‘professionalism.’

I wondered if each might envy the other as I have in the past (from both positions) or if somehow either of them noticed I’d grown past the need to make either statement tonight.

Insecurity and women wear many faces.

Hopefully we women, especially those of us there tonight, will wear the face of change (reflecting our growth) with grace as we reach for that “Brass Ring.”  That “Brass Ring” of knowledge, education and success at whatever level matters most to each of us.  One more ride on the “Carousel”, please.

copyright 1/7/1992

The Story Behind “Paper Identity”

Have you ever been the person waiting in a busy Department of Motor Vehicle parking lot, while your “I didn’t think it would make a difference” friend stands in line for a driver’s license praying they won’t really need her birth certificate or the paper copy of her social security card.  After all she could tell them her date of birth and her social security number.  Surely they wouldn’t think she just made it up and she did have a utility bill with her name and address on it! 

So why would I wait, why would I put up with her whining? What would make me even care whether or not she got a driver’s license?  Some said I was a sucker for punishment, others said I was a champion for the underdog.  The truth more likely (in this situation) . . .  I was tired of being her unpaid taxi, two months was enough.  Now all I could think of was getting home, grabbing my swim suit and towel and finding the nearest beach.  Early August on the Jersey Shore could be brutal, especially sitting in a hot car with no air conditioning!  Thirty minutes turned into sixty and before long, frustration and boredom (with all the red tape I knew was involved) began to make my fingers itch for pen and paper.  Happy that I always had a yellow lined pad in the car, my mind grabbed a thought and ran amuck with it; every detail flying out the tip of my pen. Hence, PAPER IDENTITY was ‘born’ in the summer of ’91.

Here is: PAPER IDENTITY

The Story behind “Red Velvet Blues”

It was so very cold that Christmas morning in 1991.  The warmth of the sun kissed my face through the dusty old window panes, even as it glistened off the icicles hanging from the eaves of the tiny red bungalow next door.  Just as I was about to breathe in the steamy aroma of my first cup of coffee and decide whether or not to dunk my toast, the phone rang.  I dreaded answering it.

You see, three days prior, my next to youngest sister had called, her voice tight and fragile, I could hear the soft sobbing between her words.  Her world had come crashing down around her, the love of her life and the father of her boys had betrayed her.  Three days before Christmas she picked up the phone only to hear her husband on the phone with another woman saying things he should only say to his wife.  The confrontation was ugly, violent even, and she blindly ran through her tears to her car and drove away not able to process what had just happened.  With no thought of what may come next, she drove for hours before stopping to assess what to do next.  It was then she became frightened and called to tell me what had happened. 

My sweet sister had to get away, didn’t know where she would go, didn’t know what she would do but she couldn’t stay there and she couldn’t go back as long as he was there.  No Christmas for her boys; she had torn the tree and all it’s loveliness down with her bare hands, cursing the day she met this man.  Pain and disbelief took over her ability to reason as she told me she would be out of touch for a while, she didn’t know how she could go on.  I feared the worst for her; I lived more than three hours away and I didn’t know where to find her.  After a tearful “I love you, please take care of my boys”, I heard a click followed by a dial-tone.  My heart sank and my tears fell for hours. 

We are a big family, spread out all over this country.  I am the oldest of six, the one who left home first.  My dad and I did not have the ability to talk to one another in anything but brief short sentences ending with “I love you Dad”, immediately followed by “here’s your mother!”  Way more history and heartache there than time to tell it so you can imagine my shock to hear Dad’s voice when I answered the phone that morning.  My Christmas was looking bleak already; my kids were grown and had plans with their significant others, I had been divorced about a year and a half earlier and the Christmas I was supposed to spend with my sister and her family had just become chaos.

For the first time in my life, I heard my father say he needed me.  Mom and Dad and half my family lived on the West Coast, too far away to get there.  Dad’s words will always remain in my heart: “Kathy, I have bad news and I need you to do something for me.”  Dad had never made a personal call to me.  “Your sister has checked herself into the Psychiatric Unit, I need you to go up there and find out what happened and get her out if you can.  If she needs to be there, be there for her.  I hate to put this on you, but you are the only one who can do it.”  My family needed me, I was “the only one”, Dad trusted me with the biggest responsibility of my life. He said he was counting on me, go get your sister!

It was a lonely, fearful, and angry three-hour drive to Albany.  Anger for the betrayal I had known in my own marriage, anger at her husband for destroying a beautiful family and damaging their sons for life not to mention my sister’s life.  Fearful that I might not get there and be able to help her, at the same time there was determination and strength I had not known before.  There was a blessing to be found in this tragedy and pain. 

She was curled up like a little child, her face stained with tears, but when our eyes met there was joy, relief, and hope for both of us.  I have never been so happy to see someone I love.   Several weeks later I wrote a poem about her heartbreak, many years later I am reading it again and I realize it was my heartbreak too. 

Today we both lead happy fulfilling lives, we learned to love again and our children are (for the most part) doing well.  Perfect?  No.  Part of the master plan for our lives?  I think so.  We have a lot to be thankful for and the “gifts” we have received are “priceless”.   There’s a line in the song “Blessings” that says “what if the blessings come through raindrops, what if the blessings come through tears . . .”

. . . . There is another “story behind the story” for this one.  While stashing some clutter on Wednesday of this week I came across my ‘red book of poetry.’  I had been wanting to find a way to publish my work but trepidation and anxiety over subject matter, cost and permissions always got in the way.  Another blogger and good friend laid out the challenge, so I sat down to write the above story about 8:00 that morning.  The words and memories came quickly and easily to the page and I choked back tears as I called my sister to get her permission to tell our story.  Voicemail answered and about noontime, she returned the call, quite curious to know what I would need her permission for.   As I explained and read to her the words that so simply relayed that Christmas Day, silence deepened on her end of the phone while my voice cracked and strained to get the words out.  When I finished I could hear that familiar soft sobbing and asked if she was alright with this.  She said, “First of all, yes, if my story can help someone else, use it.”  “Now I have to tell you something”  she continued.  “This morning as I was digging into my make-up case, my fingers found the tube of lipstick you gave me that day before we left the hospital.  I have always kept it and look at it often because it reminds me of you and what you did to rescue me.  That little tube of lipstick is one of my treasured possessions.”  She then volunteered “I can’t believe it, this very morning I found that – about 4 hours ago and I thought of you and that day!”  I think we whispered, “It’s a God thing!” at exactly the same moment.

Here is the poem I wrote for my sister (and me):

RED VELVET BLUES

What in the world am I doing!

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Ok, it’s time to take the plunge and do something I’ve wanted to do for years but been too afraid to try.  There are many things that can be intimidating, but one biggie for me is letting people see some of the things I’ve written or created.  However, that’s not entirely true all of the time. It seems when I meet someone and I feel a common kindred spirit there is a need to share deeper sides of me, if I feel it will help them in their brokenness.  I have met more than a few really broken people.

A precious friend once prayed over me saying, “Dear God, please break her heart so you can make it new.”  When I asked why she would pray such a thing she replied, “If you don’t know you are broken, He can’t fix you.”  Much of what you will find here comes from my brokenness or that of someone I have known or loved.

This is all new to me so there may not be any rhyme or reason to the order of these posts; it may just be as I find courage to share my work.  My goal is not to just posterize my poetry  or stories, but to try to tell the story behind them; to tell you why or how I came to write a given work.  Hopefully you won’t be too bored and maybe you will even laugh or cry with me.

To date I have been published in an anthology called “Seasons To Come”, a compilation of winning entrants of a poetry contest produced by The National Library of Poetry.  I think I’ll save that one for a while.