Dorothy Randall Gray
Your Writing Matters
"To get writing done, one must say no to things no reasonable person could ever turn down." -Michael Cunningham
Your Writing Matters is a home for the work you've created in my workshops. Invite feedback from your classmates. If your email is posted they can send their comments directly to you. Put Your Writing Matters in the Subject line and mail work to DRGheartland@aol.com. I look forward to seeing your words here.
Sharing the same sky,
Dorothy aka Notorious DRG
by Stella the Poet email@example.com
will not go unspoken
Black women unclothed, unbroken
beyond skin and bones.
Rare and raw
mirrors bathed in self-reflections
loving the uncovered
first mother by nature
she rules the throne.
Beauty in the eyes of the beholder
grace and dignity unfiltered
suckled to the altar,
breast is home.
sculpted from Creation
behold Divine Order, first woman,
humanity rest in her arms.
by Stella the Poet
Eisha Mason firstname.lastname@example.org
Highland Beach where the Black folks go.
My broken arm wrapped in a plastic bag.
Only on my father’s back, can I play in the ocean
keep the plaster cast dry.
When my father slips on the moving sand
We both go down, but I hang on tight.
Only my arm can be seen waving above water,
as my poor dad struggles to steady us both.
Can they hear me laughing from the shore?
I know I’m safe as long as he’s beneath me.
Name Given By Nature
Wanjira Gakuru Muthoni email@example.com
The name given by nature
Wanjira, meaning a child born on the way
Mother unable to reach destination
On the way the baby came
Named after my mother’s sister
Little baby born as my grandma was on the way to some place
As a youth she died as she went to pay a visit
Some villages away from home
This name that gives the child
A feeling of being always on the move
On the way to some place
Never stuck in one place
Child of the spirit of movement
Always looking forward to something
Always one with the spirit of movement
Learning was always so much fun
Name as source of love of travel
Love of adventure, love of movement
Traveling in reality and in the mind
For the love of adventure and of knowledge.
January 31, 2022.
Where The Wild Ones Meet
“Find where the wild ones meet—that timeless realm of spirit and love from which we all were born.” - Lynn Andrews
Towering giants of Sequoia National Park, have witnessed thousands of years on this planet. Ancient trees inspire awe when I think of how they measure time. Having survived wars, and droughts, fire and mankind, they grow slowly, reaching, broadening, climbing ever higher toward the heavens. They humble me with a prickly sense of my finite time in this body.
And yet, I choose to travel further north to a less peopled place, less traffic, maybe not so much comfort for those passing through, but here in Kings Canyon, I stand at the edge of wilderness. Here, a borderland where I, a member of the human species, can no longer imagine that I am in control. No, in this place of sharp edges, steep cliffs, this place of fresh, rushing water and piercing blue sky, here I am at the edge, where my skin tingles as if it is searching for the familiar human imprint, the boundaries that give that sense of control and safety. The field around this body knows this place is different.
I can smell the wildness, hear the absence, the city’s hum, the busy-ness of tourist hubs, no longer infiltrating the field around me. There is the clear chatter and song of birds, life I cannot see rustling among the thicket of trees, the beckoning of waters flowing in the distance. Here, I am no more than part of nature’s ecosystem, another animal with my particular intelligence. I am a visitor, who does not make the rules; life does not bow to my wishes. Be alert, be respectful of nature. Those who inhabit this space must honor the land, all that is so much vaster than my sense of self.
I am here with my friend who is returning home to her country. Never feeling like her right place was here. Her way of being never fully embraced, she is returning to her place of the familiar, her roots, her family, her people across the sea. This is our last time together, our time to make meaning of how we will remember our journey together, the preciousness of our sisterhood, how we will let go into the unknown that lies ahead for each of us.
It is late October, the air chilled. Most campgrounds have closed for the winter. Only one remains, scantily occupied. We set our tent by a river. I can hear the water in the dark. At night, save for the water, it is silent and the sky is filled with stars. At night, I want to bundle up in blankets and just sit in the blackness, sit and listen and watch the heavens. But this city girl is afraid of bears and they have not all retreated to hibernate. So I leave the night to them, I slip into the little cave of my tent, listen to the sounds around me. I take comfort imagining that I am less noticeable, that by closing my eyes, these scary thoughts of bears just fade away.
The next morning, we hit the trail to walk amidst these tree and great boulders, enjoy the crisp air fill our lungs. To hear the birds, see flocks of them move a one body as they head south until the season change again. We settle by a stream, so clear and sparkling; listening, being, each of us reflecting in silence.
A gentle thrill washes over me as I notice an owl in the distance, perched on branches bending low over the water. To spot this captivating bird, rare to see for a city person like me, rarer still, to see one in bright daylight. And he was such an unusual color, so pale, almost white, contrasted against the blue and green surrounding him. A moment of magic, then I turn back to my sister, Michal and our conversation, knowing it is one of our last face-to-face.
Still curious though, I glance back to the branch where I’ve seen the bird, expecting that he will be gone, the spell broken. But there he is, seeming to gaze back at me. And between the owl and me time is suspended. This owl should not be here, except that he is. And I recognize that he is a messenger who has come with a message for me. In this moment, I know, I know, my mother, whose cancer has recently returned, is not going to overcome it this time.
I listen to the water and sigh. Silently, I thank this spirit bird for coming to me. What a gentle, graceful way to receive this news. I have been given time to let this life-altering information find a soft place within me, where I can safely hold it. What a perfect place to be to come to terms with what lays ahead.
I turn to my friend and smile. What a perfect place in which we find ourselves for our goodbye. I know that in spite of all our trying, our friendship will change. We will speak less often and we will have to let go. I move closer to her side.
I open up to the sky, to the land around me, and I let go of wanting things to be otherwise. I can lay fear and grief at the foot of these trees. I can touch the earth and draw strength. I am not alone. Looking out at the vista, sun high above, I am reassured—I can trust Life. I can trust the spirit within myself. Life has given me this gracious, kind gift. I can only l say “thank you.
Tides Full of Flowing Ain’t Necessarily Full of Joy
A Tide of Black Southern Folks
Gladys Brown firstname.lastname@example.org
Flowing into Baltimore.
Into our home.
Wave after wave after Wave.
Glistening sparkles of Blackness.
Flavored with extra melanin
Restless unceasing needs, even on sandy beaches of “for coloreds only”.
Wave after Wave of Black Folks being pulled “to a new home”,
with mountains of female bosoms,
with hills of neck bones and pearl rice,
with gullies of collard greens and
mesas of crackling corn bread.
Flowing without ceasing.
Slowing down for hallelujahs of “thank you Jesus”
All connecting to rivers of baptisms lit on fire from the pain of being Black and poor.
Wanjira Gakuru Muthoni email@example.com Kenya
I thirst for love, food, shelter and education
For each child in the world
That they may be covered with these
Wherever they live
That these children
God has entrusted to me
May grow to be strong and healthy
Never to lack any basic need
I thirst for their country
To have a responsible government
Not one full of greedy robbers
Depleting national coffers for their own selfish ends
That God may give us wisdom
To distinguish needs from wants
To guide them diligently
In the direction of honesty and responsibility
That one day they in turn
May care for future generations
World without end
As per the will of our ancestors gone before us.
Does Every Woman Who Writes Have a Voice?
Christine Ellis firstname.lastname@example.org
First line and words in second line from Call by Audre Lorde
Holy Ghost Woman
Hushed out of naming
Earth Sky Ocean
taken directly to Heart
Draw Dance Write Speak
“Who gave you those ideas?” someone sneers
You try to answer
There is no answer
There is vastness void voice but no words
you claim what you create as your own
knowing it's untrue
creation moved through you
from indescribable knowing
tossed aside mocked
with flames above their heads
tongues bobbing and weaving
Who Have I Forgotten?
Prompt from 1/11/22
Deborah Silverman email@example.com
I have forgotten so much about my mother, have consciously repudiated her abuse long ago, though it still lives in my bones, is imprinted on my body. When it is good that I remember I smile, surprised and wishing it away with alacrity; for it does not fit with the general narrative.
What life did she have before us? Her truth so mangled in her to be unknown by me; indigestible as a result. There is a whole realm of ancestry lost, but not gone forever, maybe, hopefully.
Maybe I didn’t ask, ask enough, listen through her self-imposed lies. She is a constant-moving target of contradictions next to me just trying to make it in a world of cruelty and privilege, knowledge and blindness to find a way to be safe. So much time wasted with everyone trying to be safe enough alone to be together.
Inviting my younger self to dinner
-Emily Paulsen firstname.lastname@example.org
I consider timing, schedules and what to expect before inviting her for dinner. I know she rarely gets a moment to herself, let alone to spend time with someone she barely knows exists. And it’s hard to predict how her day will go, whether she’ll be able to get out the door on time, whether he’ll forget and schedule something else or have an argument at work and be in no mood to take the kids.
Maybe tea is more realistic, given the situation, two kids, one just an infant, the older one already struggling, falling behind in school-- if you can fall behind when you’re only four.
She worries so much, wants so much, loves so hard. She is worrying about, wanting, the wrong things—or, at least, in the wrong order. Sometimes she confuses love and illusion.
I wonder if she will hear what I have to say. Will it be one of those days when she’s feeling strong and capable and in control? Or will it be one of those times when she sees the truth out of the corner of her eye? Not so obvious that she can’t ignore it, but clear enough, if she just turned her head a bit. But she turns her head the other way.
At some point, she will realize, that she has turned away so many times she has ended up in a completely different place.
This is not that day.
Perhaps I can change that, perhaps I can make a difference. I’m still trying to make a difference.
So, I plan my timing, my menu carefully. I decide on tea and homemade cookies, simple, reassuring. I offer to come to her house, it’s easier on her.
She greets me with surprise but not alarm. Perhaps she’s forgotten our appointment or lost track of time. She invites me in, apologizes for the mess, tells the dogs to go lay down. She puts on the kettle, grabs a couple of mugs from the pile in the sink, says it’s good to see me.
I wonder if she’s telling the truth.
I hold the younger one while she does this. The baby squirms headfirst into my armpit, grasps at my neck and holds on. I struggle with pronouns for the infant, knowing what I know now, but she does not know. She has no clue. It will take her a while to figure it out. Even longer to accept.
This baby—climbing me like monkey bars— holds such strength, such spirit, such life, such confidence. I have longed to feel this grip again, this assurance. I don’t want to ever let go.
Meanwhile she’s chatting about the pressures of work, of balancing it all, of wanting to do her best, all while washing out the mugs and preparing the tea and setting my healthy cookies on a chipped plate that she apologizes for.
Her husband is away for the day. It’s Saturday and his clients in this rural area 3 hours from the city are eager to see his plans for their weekend houses. He’s making the rounds, and she’s got the kids. It’s perfect timing in some ways.
Take your babies and run, I want to tell her right away. But I have to work up to this. I know that she cannot hear something so far from her reality.
She wonders if I wouldn’t mind sitting on the back patio, that way the older child can play in his sandbox. I smile, remembering the spot, remembering the hours there and the view of the fruit trees, then the vegetable garden, then rows of corn beyond.
The 4-year-old wastes no time settling into the sand, running his cars on make-believe roads, filling the yogurt containers and turning them over to make hills that he crushes with his feet, feeling the grains between his toes. He squints into the sky to feel the warmth on his face.
The baby rocks in the blue car seat, the one bought new, unlike the carseat they had four years ago. Now that she has a full-time job, she feels a little freer spending money. She compared prices and reviews and picked the one that checked all the boxes and came within her budget. She takes pride in her ability to make good decisions.
She’s happy not to be at the office, to focus on just her kids and not the press release that needs to go out or the crisis of the day at the rural hospital where she works. She’s happy to pad around the old house and love on her kids, bath in their smiles, inhale their scent of warm milk and peanut butter, and concentrate on their sweet voices, their questions about rockets.
We continue chatting about this and that, about how it’s hard to manage the cloth diapers and the work schedule, about the ideas they have for the house, the garden, their lives ahead.
I’m looking for an opening in the conversation, a sign that she’s interested in hearing what I have to say. All I see is the tension that lingers in her brow and her shoulders. Signs of interest, need, but not readiness. She’s still holding herself at bay.
Take your babies and run, I think again, but I don’t say it. I know she doesn’t know where to run to, who to turn to. Her mom is hours away. Her sister is farther. Her friends are dealing with circumstances too similar or too distant. She feels alone. She feels like she doesn’t have a choice.
She is still harboring hope.
I know she remembers that night when her husband first pushed her. She was standing near the coal stove in winter, bouncing her first baby, trying to soothe him, stop his fussing. She doesn’t remember why he pushed her, what touched off his anger this time. She remembers that she caught herself before she hit the stove. The same stove where the cast iron pot of water had recently overboiled, sending a sizzling cascade that evaporated into the parched air of the old farmhouse. She held tight to the baby. No one got hurt. But she got scared. She almost got in the car and left right then. She should have. But she was tired and had no place to go.
That was three years ago.
She remembers, but she tries not to think about it.
I need her to think about it, to talk about it, to fit the pieces together and see the picture hidden there, to realize that the picture in the pieces and the picture in her mind are not the same. They will never be the same.
Even though I know better, I don’t say it. She has time, I want to think.
But then I remember I came here for a reason, and the sweet taste of tea and cookies in the midafternoon is just part of that. I take in the view of the dark purple hollyhocks and deep blue lupine and rich red primroses and the beauty of this garden. I feel the warm breeze on my shoulders, and I remember, I remember the lure of this place. I can see the plans she has, the ideas for improvement, the way it will be. The two kids growing up playing in the woods, eating vegetables from the garden they plant together. Fresh air. Freedom. Leaning into her husband’s chest to take in the beauty of their lives.
I see the plans and I know they will not come to be. I know that the push by the stove is just the beginning, just one of thousands of common abuses that she will endure and ignore until she can do it no longer. I want to tell her, to pull her aside and assure her, that she can leave, and it will be okay. I will stand by her, and I am stronger than she realizes.
She is not yet ready to hear me.
--Emily Paulsen, email@example.com
Eisha Mason firstname.lastname@example.org
"I have not forgotten your worship." – Audre Lorde
I have been yours since I was a child, standing in my granny’s tiny ‘backyard” a cracked cement space connecting two 19th century row houses in Baltimore. Six foot high cinder block walls crowned with jagged pieces of broken glass keep out the critters and other unwanted guests.
In the center, a little garden of rose bushes, thorns and the soft blush of pinks and cream. And me, standing before the Blessed Mother, in her robe made of the sky, her crown formed of stars, standing upon the Earth. An icon nestled in the alcove of the cinder block, her statue draped by ivy framing her on both sides. In the afternoons, when we engaged in deep conversation, what questions did I pose? What secrets did she tell? Did we speak aloud at all? I do not remember the substance our exchanges, only her open arms, her gentle countenance, the peace that covered her and me.
Mother, I have always been yours. Though I have wandered about in the world, always I have returned to you. Even as I casually gathered images and framed them, placed them on walls and adorned the altars about my home, even as I was irresistibly drawn to an image, a statue, a gift received—only much later did I awaken to discover you are everywhere in my home.
Blessed Mother, Kwan Yin, Ama, the hugging saint, Maat (Kemetic goddess), Yemaya, goddess of the sea, Black Madonna, Earth Mother, Harriet Tubman, —with your many names and many faces, you have blanketed me in a cocoon of love. In the gossamer net of your special grace, I am safe, at ease in the field of your presence. You hold every human being, every creature, every flower, in the grace of your blessed love.
Mother, sometimes my vision is clouded. When I cannot see the way, I turn toward You. Help me see through your eyes, that everyone is seeking to be loved, however imperfect or misguided their efforts may be. Help me to see that as your children, they are all worthy no matter what they have done or failed to do. Help me to remember I am worthy too,
I turn to You, to love, when my loving is not enough. When I feel I cannot bridge the chasm between love and despair, when I feel overwhelmed by the forces of evil, when I cannot understand human ignorance and cruelty, let your Love overtake me with understanding and compassion. Let Love that is greater than I can comprehend, flow over me and through me as your healing balm. Help me to love, protect the children, the people, the earth. Let your power flow through me.
When my words falter, I am at a loss, let Your words rise gracefully from my heart. Better, that I find no need for words. Your touch, a smile, total presence, pure tears will transmit what words cannot. Spontaneous healing, freedom, joy arising from pure being.
With each passing year, I listen more faithfully for Your guidance. I yield more gracefully to the Law of Love. I am still that girl in my Granny’s backyard, longing to know you. Mother, I still belong to you.