All posts by Robin Byrd

the Price of Settling…

by Robin Byrd

There is a cost for everything – the biggest question is how much do you want to pay?

Lately, I have been researching a lot of things that seem random and disconnected – history, geography, post-traumatic stress, women’s issues, world class lies, isolation, and COVID. As a writer, mining for story is a regular event.  The problem, this time, is the mass intake of information and not knowing what it will be used for.  With all this extra knowledge, I feel like I should map directions to a new project.  I am just not sure what that project needs to be.  There is usually an arrow that lights up “go this way” but this time there is no arrow just continuous downloading of information. 

Questions, I am asking myself:

If you find out something was a lie, how do you handle the material that you wrote based on that lie?  Is it now considered a fictional account? 

Do you settle for what you now know to be false and leave it as is or do you correct it? 

What will it cost you to leave it?  Sleepless nights, self-esteem, integrity, or simply a ripple in time…

What is the price of settling, if you do nothing and just move forward?

What is the cost if you go back with what you know now and rewrite?  Rewrite.   That’s a word that triggers anxiety, it’s like losing your whole identity.  Paradigm shifts are hard especially when they are tied to your life and your work.

The act of writing can be an act of purging… I just want to always write my truth even when it changes, even when the bread crumbs that have just now become visible lead me to a place I had no idea existed.

I guess the price of settling to me is worth revisiting… it’s more about getting a sure footing in order to move forward and less about what it costs to get that sure footing…

The Search for Water…

THE LONG HOT SUMMER

At rise, inside a 1960s apartment building.  Hundred-degree days, a waning water supply and the dire need to stay in a creative space, the protagonist gathers the almost empty bottles; she pours them into one bottle, scavenges for more in bags around her home.  She can make it to the day before payday if she rations herself…  Inside an old purse she finds a five-dollar bill stuck between two receipts.  PROTAGONIST breaks out in a victory dance, slow and off beat, dehydration is cruel.

PROTAGONIST (singing)

HOT DAMN, WATER, WATER

WHAT? WHAT? WATER, WATER

                           (pause)

——–

I could have never imagined that the world would start to have hints of the BIRD BOX or the BOOK OF ELI real time and that in the midst of “working from home,” the competing stress factor would be water or the lack thereof.  So yes, I danced around a bit then promptly left for the store to restock.

The dehydration lasted a few days longer than expected, symbolically tied to the minimal writing I have been doing.  My whole self has been crying out for community…  I took a webinar on grief through Hedgebrook just for that reason.  The Webinar, “The Sixth Stage: Possibilities for Awe and Wonderment When Writing Grief” with Idrissa Simmonds-Nastili, and its ‘holding space’ was a profoundly refreshing experience.  Hedgebrook offers a lot of webinars that can be a source of gathering during this time.  This was my first one which I took on grief because I seem to be living there as of late.  Grief encompasses real estate like a swarm of bees heading home to the honeycomb looking for the sweet refuge of its cavernous walls.  Hovering over loss like a tornado, it’s the bitch that won’t go away easily, not without a fight, not without drawing the last bit of blood.  With the death of one of my cousins and one of my dear friends, my body which has been keeping score has begun to scream, “do over, do over.”  There’s no such pleasure…

What’s left is what’s left. Or, is there a way to change something – some part – of this madness?

Maybe the do over is in the expelling of the stinger and the adding of salve and alcohol.  It does help when you write about it.  Even when there’s so much of it that it can fill two lifetimes, writing moves it on it way.

I am missing the pieces of me frozen in the walls, my fingers and toes have started tingling, waking up, moving, they don’t know there’s no such thing as do over’s.  Maybe I won’t tell them, maybe I’ll just wait and see if this leads to deep welled water… deeper than this grief. Maybe it’s flowing upward from underground just waiting for me to believe so it can burst forth…

There is a wonderful article “Letter from Oakland: Black Motherhood in Sleepless Times by Idrissa Simmonds-Nastili on the Literary Hub site at https://lithub.com/letter-from-oakland-black-motherhood-in-sleepless-times/

An elephant’s ass….

by Robin Byrd

the elephant – and his fat ass – is sitting on my arm, squashing my chest

his feet protruding through the walls

destructive

and he smells

like centuries of hippopotamus-shit caked in his skin

imagine elephant ass/hippopotamus shit

from where I’m lying, I can only see thick gray folds of wrinkly, wrinkly skin with gobs of hippo-shit smeared across the folds

crumbling off that ass onto me

damn elephant

get off me!

NOW!

he slowly raises that ass up off me

the pressure lingering

the tightness

got me searching for aspirin, tylenol, something

found two pills in what looked like a 2006 package

gonna have to take a chance

if I can just burp

the bubble is lodged dead center of my clavicle

feels like that ass never left my chest

In the morning I burped

It came rolling out like a

Sheila E riff

pure glory!

Dig…

by Robin Byrd

Dig through the wall in their sight, and carry your belongings out through it.”  Ezekiel 12:5

this

is the unearthing unburying re-birthing of the offspring of praise

emerging from the fields covered in a red clay-like bag of waters

clenching smooth milk and honey stones – one in each hand

this

is the promise

sustenance

renewal

Life

clothed like john the baptist in knee-length hair

honed toward home, they go

from the dust

rising in strength, dry bones and all

seeking balm for hands raw from digging

unearthing

unburying

re-birthing

rank from the shifting of dung rocks out of the way

while the earth is shaking around them, its heavens opening to the hope of rain

look up,

the clouds are aching to let loose of water to wash away this dust of ages

mountains are quaking to the shifting ground,

needing more than salve, needing gilead’s balm

THERE IS A BALM IN GILEAD TO MAKE THE WOUNDED WHOLE

God speed to the offspring of praise, these children of promise, as it were,

may praise meet gilead in the valley of baca and make it a well

give Hebron, give grace and mercy, give renewal and sustenance and life

Oh, let praise inherit life…

the speed of sound…

by Robin Byrd

the dead are speaking

literally…

I ran into my mother’s voice; it came out of nowhere – attached to a file on my computer

hit me like a bolt of lightning

I gasped, I cried out, “Mommy!”

I was a ball of emotions

I played it over and over again, oh, how I’ve missed the sound of her voice

She’s been in my dreams for the last month

“what is he reading?” she asks, upset that death forbids her tend to it

the collage of her is everywhere

even my breasts are mommy’s breasts now, courting gravity like a first kiss, surprised yet not so impressed

my hands are starting to cook like hers, I bought a new pot so I can make her stew

been craving it for years, I am my mother’s daughter, her face is in my face

and I think she’s ready to tell her story

She’s coming to me like my characters do but she’s more forceful – like coming back to the middle of a semi-heated conversation we were just having to say one more thing

so familiar

“WHAT A FRIEND WE HAVE IN JESUS, ALL OUR SINS AND GRIEF TO BEAR, WHAT A PRIVILEGE TO CARRY, EVERYTHING TO GOD IN PRAYER…”

Her favorite song rises out of the silence in my head

yeah, she’s ready…

and then, last night, I was reading old blogs of mine because I couldn’t sleep nor could I remember me before–

and there, in the comments was Erica (Bennett) telling me she hopes I feel better – the words were audible, clear

“Erica?”

“I hope you feel better…”

“I miss you, Erica…”

and in the background, I could hear another friend saying, ”God loves me.”

He was walking briskly towards me so full of joy…

the dead are speaking…

it’s making me shake myself like Samson and get to swinging

’cause I got things to do…

They are reminding me to redeem the time because the space between now and eternity is as far away and as close as the speed of sound…

Riding the Air…

by Robin Byrd

Is it like riding the air?   movement…   

I seem to have forgotten – stuck here like I am in the hardly bearable heat of these walls and the “go nowhere” doors from sun up to moon down.  I tell myself that I am not going to faint or lose heart, that I am going to subdue this beast one hour at a time, one day at a time, by the Grace of God…

but I really want flight, I yearn for air… I want wings and I want wind to ride. I been looking for signs of movement, looking for a great big wind to come skip-to-my-lou all through this mess, dislodge some rivers for baptisms, root up healing herbs and toss some around for everybody to have.

I want to relax, I want to float like a leaf and land picturesquely on the grass showing off the beautiful colors of my whole self.  I don’t want to apologize for nothing not for floating, landing or seeking air.  If I push myself, I bet I can land far enough away from here so I can breathe new/fresh pockets of wind…bet I can land somewhere east of here, near appalachia, up where lavender lilies bloom, where rose of sharon sings… 

I can’t breathe here no more in this heavy porous atmosphere, it’s dropped down way too low, to the little grassy piece of earth I live on and I just can’t breathe.  I thought I was imagining it but it’s real – the air is thick; thick and sticky like a glob of peanut butter caught in the throat daring you to drink water, threatening to thicken regardless…

I need air and space and

God cracking the skies…

Oh, God, blow on us, shower us with rain and the latter rain, deliver us, heal this land…

Heal the land, Father… we humble ourselves and pray

we pray

we Pray

we PRAY

We dream of riding the night winds again, of sleeping well and waking rested

send Your wind, help us fly

lift us up high enough to catch hold

let us mount up with wings as eagles — send the wind, Lord, send the Wind…

But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.

Isaiah 40:31 King James Version (KJV)

Oddities of Writing…

by Robin Byrd

The hardest thing about writing is that you must write to get better at it. One must invest time. There is no substitution for doing the work. One must actively make time to write. One must put words down on the page.


Although…


Spoken Word drills are great for getting the blood flowing, bring a tape recorder into the mix and all the brilliant impromptu lines are not lost. I have been running drills all week. I just haven’t worked out the conscious effort to record myself yet.


Verbal writing is a real thing… I use it mostly when writing poems but sometimes it just happens when I am writing other things. The more stuff going on in my world, the more I tend to blurt out snippets and tidbits.

The odd thing about that is my whole being seems to be calling me to steal away to do the work. Steal away to write…steal away, the words are calling…

peace is calling

and that is the oddest thing about writing, it brings me peace in the midst of my storms…

LAFPI Congratulates Madhuri Shekar, Recipient of the 2020 Lanford Wilson Award!

Madhuri Shekar is the 2020 recipient of the Lanford Wilson Award. She is a former blogger for LAFPI. We celebrate her! Congratulations, Madhuri! May you continue to soar…

LAFPI

You can read the February 28, 2020 Press Room announcement on the Dramatists Guild website at www.dramatistsguild.com.

Madhuri Shekar

The Unpredictability of Story…

by Robin Byrd

This week, I was experimenting with imagery and symbols to find character and story. I approached it like a dump cake or stew, tossing the random images into the pot and stirring. I did not expect the story that unfolded. I did not expect it to come out in poetry nor did I expect the poems to connect over the days. I simply wrote the images I heard or saw. I did not tame the words or dispel the ghosts.

On my journey to write fiercely, I hope I am making progress. This was an interesting week in writing for me.

Thoughts?

By Sunset…

by Robin Byrd

Home


Getting out of these bloody clothes speckled with foliage
Hair’s trying to dread
Can’t stay here either
Got to keep moving
Space too closed in – in this place of whispering walls
Damned if the shower ain’t broke again
Jug filling time if I want to rinse ‘cause what I don’t want to sit in this mess
Looking up at mildew growing across the ceiling
and upper part of the walls
Or down at the filth in the water
I’d have to drain and refill too many times
I want it to come off and stay off and not soak into me
Caking conditioner in my hair, it’ll loosen this shit up, make it easier to wash out

Free but still peeling off the residue of the past

  Wash me Lord, restore me, give me 
  peace and strength to finish the 
  course 

It’s coming off good
Gonna use my new towels then I will break bread to commemorate this day
I have killed goliath and his brothers
I have won the battle and the war

Starving, funny how hungry you get after battles

Frig is broke got to thaw to eat, thank God the stove works


Packing at first light, out of by sunset…