i do by Andrea Gibson

I do written and performed by Andrea Gibson

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Getting Older by Sarah Kay

Whenever I hurt myself

My mother says it is the universe’s way of telling me to slow down.

She also tells me to put some coconut oil on it.

It doesn’t matter what ‘it’ is.

She often hides stones underneath my pillow when I come home for the weekend.

The stones are a formula for sweet dreams and clarity.

I dig them out from the sheets, 

She tells me what each one is for.

My throat hurts.

So she grinds black pepper into a spoonful of honey, makes me eat the entire thing.

My mother knows how to tie knots like a ship captain

But doesn’t know how I got that sailors mouth.

She falls asleep in front of the TV

Only until I turn it off.

Shouts, “I was watching that!”

The sourdough she bakes on Friday’s is older than I am.

She sneaks it back and forth across the country when she flies

By putting the starter in small containers next to a bag of carrots.

“They think it’s ranch dressing.” she giggles.

She makes tea by hand.

Nettles, slippery elm, tumeric, cinnamon.

My mother is a recipe for warm throats and belly laughs.

Once she fell off of a ladder when I was three.

She says all she worried about was my face as I watched her fall.

Listen to Sarah Kay’s poem “Getting Older” and a conversation about craft with Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz as featured on the podcast “Live from the Amy Clampitt House” for the Indiefeed Poetry Podcast here.

Mother by Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz

When I told my mother

I wanted to be a veterinarian

when I grew up, she told me

that vets kill puppies and kittens

and stick needles into horses

and bunnies with cancer.

When I told my mother

I wanted to be a zoo-keeper

when I grew up, she told me

that animals in captivity

are still wild animals, and hence

could attack even the friendliest

of caretakers, usually tearing them

to shreds and eating their remains.

You see, my mum and I

had a lot of time to talk

about these things: I was the last

of the Aptowicz brood.

Always too young and too small

to go on the backpacking trips

and nature hikes that formed

my brother and sister: the scientists.

Mum never liked my career choices much,

but I knew I was on the right track

when one day, over a bowl of alphabet soup,

I asked her:

Hey Mum,

how come there are such things 

as bad words?

And she said:

Honey,

there is no such things

as a “bad word.”

Only words that aren’t 

appropriate for all situations.

For instance,

you should never say

the word “shit”

in front of a nun.

You see, she gave me that:

she gave me the gift of words;

she gave me the power of words,

and I never considered it a privilege.

But my mum grew up in a time

when words were being redefined,

words like gender, power, class,

and revolution.

So though she was top of her class,

editor of the school literary magazine,

editor of the school newspaper,

the National Merit Scholar with

the three-newspaper-a-day habit,

she still had to hear them tell her:

The scholarship

is not going to be for English

If you want to go to college at all,

it’s going to have to be for science.

So my mother, the biologist,

met my father, the chemical engineer,

and together they produced three beautiful kids,

one of which my mum would make sure

wouldn’t feel the burn she was forced to feel.

People always ask me

why I make such a big deal

correcting them, saying:

No, it’s not

Cristin Aptowicz.

It’s Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz.

It’s just one word, they say,

it shouldn’t make that much difference.

But I know the differences words make.

It is a gift my mother gave me.

And I honour her

every time I put pen to paper,

every time I put word to lip,

and every time I sign my name,

My mother says she’d never trade

any of us kids in for a novel, or

a job at the New York Times,

though the way we behave sometimes,

she says she’d consider it.

But I know she’s only joking,

because I have never seen her

look so proud, or smile so bright,

as when I finally told her

what I wanted to do,

and she said:

You know what, honey?

I think

Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz

is the perfect name

for a writer.

Phenomenal Woman by Maya Angelou

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
I say,
It’s in the reach of my arms,
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.   

I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
I say,
It’s the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.   

I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can’t touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them,
They say they still can’t see.
I say,
It’s in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.

I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed.
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing,
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It’s in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need for my care.   

’Cause I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

speechless for spoken word

I have no words for this Ted Talk, other than… gratitude.

Gratitude to the very special friend who put me onto Sarah Kay by sharing her performance of ‘When Love Arrives’ with me (do yourself a favour, scroll down to the bottom to watch it). Mel and I were sharing a bottle of wine and waxing on about how and when love shows up in our lives, whether you can make a choice to fall in love or whether it is something that happens to you, against your will even. And I’m not even talking about That Big Decision to marry and commit until the death do’s etc. I suppose it’s possibly a rehearsal for what that might be – for some, at least.

We decided it was probably either or both, depending on the circumstances – and the people involved. But even now, I can’t help wondering if by making the conscious decision to love someone and enter into a relationship with them isn’t in fact the relationship safe route. And maybe it is – but is that the point? Is that when it actually works out? And isn’t that what we’re looking for? We certainly have been taught to think that we should want it. And we all know the marriage certificate alone isn’t quite enough these days. Something happens before that. There’s more to it than that.

Interestingly, I was at a Hen’s Day for another very great girlfriend of mine this weekend, and again another fabulous woman (not the bride-to-be, I should clarify!) shared her story with me about how she made the choice to fall in love with her best friend. She quite despised him up until that point (which, I know, sounds like the makings of a highly successful sitcom, right?). But it made me wonder – is this something that women do, and not just in their thirties, but by their very nature? Do we feel like we have no other choice than to make the decision for ourselves and our unknowing – but soon-to-be-willing – partner?

If so, this idea doesn’t feel very natural to me. My brain is a little unsure as to the workings of my feminine heart, particularly at the moment, but I tend to think I often don’t have a choice in matters of the heart. I also have never quite been able to shake off those relationships that ‘made sense’ or were ‘good for me’ – constantly questioning should they be reconsidered? revisited? reignited? hanging around in the back of my mind like that fucking tub of ice cream sitting in my freezer that keeps nudging at my guilt and saying, ‘I’m still here…’

But I can put those broken nerve endings back together and find that spark again, right? I can be one of those people who says:

You there, yes, you – come over here for a moment, would you? Oh god no, not you – you’re a bit pale and needy. No – YOU. Yes, thank you. Now, let me see… You look nice. You smell ok. You sound like a human being. Ah excellent, is that some lose change in your pocket? Ok, good. And how’re your privates? Everything in working order? Just in case motherhood ever starts to amuse me. Brilliant – I have decided I think I’d rather like to fall in love with you. How does ‘life’ sound? Or perhaps let’s start with 10 years and go from there, what do you say?

Yeah. I could. Couldn’t I?

I know – I’m hilarious. Of course, it’s not that simple. But perhaps some people just know what is good for them. And then they actually take action and go for it.

I hope they know how inspiring that is to watch.

Sarah’s wise words of advice…

 Step One: I can

Step Two: I will

Step Three: It’s not just the old adage of ‘write what you know’, it’s about gathering up all the experiences and knowledge that you’ve collected up to now in order to help you dive into what you don’t know.

Righto then, here goes…

Ten Things I Know To Be True

1. I just ate half a tub of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. I bought it two nights ago when I was drunk. The probability of buying ice-cream had I not drunk the three double-shot gins and half bottle of wine is significantly lower.

2. My chocolate-peanut-caramel-swirl-ice-cream chaser was a packet of fruit Mentos.

3. I felt guilty about eating both of these things about ten minutes before I even peeled myself off the couch to get them from their respective safe keeping spots. I know I can’t have these things in the house otherwise I will eat them.

4. Both times it was definitely a choice, and yet there is a small part of me that feels I was being held hostage by the processed sugar gods.

5. I need to let go of my negative relationship with food because I’ve just wasted the first five of my ‘ten things I know to be true’ list focusing just on that. Either I’m really unintelligent with nothing in particular to say – in which case I should shut down this blog right this second – or I’m wasting my time on distractions and negative thoughts and not getting on with things. Important things. Like life. I only came to this realisation, however, after watching both the videos I have shared here.

(Right. Watch this, here I go…)

6. Music speaks to me in a way that I imagine religion speaks to its devotees. (ah, well done, that’s deep…)

7. Writing makes me feel like I am home. (Now I’m surprising even myself – that’s actually true. I should write a whole lot more than I do. Shoulda, coulda, woulda, shut it…you lost it – this just got boring…)

8. I wish I had half the courage to believe Sarah’s first step, in order to do step two, so that I can achieve step three.

9. Number 8 is actually bullshit. I’ve done it before. I could/should do it again. I am clearly choosing not to.

10. I miss love frequently…and yet perhaps I should be open to the fact that it may not be good for me. And perhaps that’s a good thing to know and take action on.

And then there’s this…

One (lyrics by U2)

The quiet beckons. It’s long, spindly finger outstretched towards us. Two warm souls sitting on a cold bench in the middle of the night. A blood moon watching over as we gaze back out at the world. Here we are one.

Is it getting better
Or do you feel the same
Will it make it easier on you now
You got someone to blame
You say…

Can you feel it?

One love
One life
When it’s one need
In the night

Sit here with me a little longer. It’s coming.

One love
We get to share it
Leaves you baby if you
Don’t care for it

There’s a rumble deep inside the earth. Deep inside my chest. The air is thick and pulsating.

Did I disappoint you
Or leave a bad taste in your mouth
You act like you never had love
And you want me to go without

The water stirs, starts to circle, to move. Something deep in my belly starts to swirl. The wind rises up, picking up a great wave of raging sea water. It hangs over us, lingering. Laughing and waiting. Rolling, tumbling in the sky all around us, threatening to crash down at any second. You take my hand. Our hearts pounding.

Well it’s…
Too late
Tonight
To drag the past out into the light
We’re one, but we’re not the same
We get to
Carry each other
Carry each other

You look at me and I can see it all in your eyes. The blood moon bathing in your light, the raging waters, a burning fire running with the wind. We are awake. We are alive. The electricity sparking. Vibrations, sensations collide.

One…

Ignition: I rocket up into the air and stop suddenly, dangling, just for a moment before crash landing on a mountain top. I pick myself up and find myself standing on the cliff edge. My feet planted on the ground but my chest pulling me over the edge. My body helplessly in love with gravity, I have no choice but to fall into you.

Have you come here for forgiveness
Have you come to raise the dead
Have you come here to play Jesus
To the lepers in your head

And I’m standing on your shore. The wave still rolling through the sky, the moon beaming down into my heart, the earth drawing me down, deeper. I can still hear it. The universe brimming with sound. It ripples all around me igniting my skin, buzzing through me and around me. It gets louder. And suddenly the wave in your eyes crashes down on me. I am drowning. I am gasping. Rolling, tumbling, tossing, turning. Lost somewhere inside you.

Did I ask too much
More than a lot
You gave me nothing
Now it’s all I got
We’re one
But we’re not the same
Well we
Hurt each other
Then we do it again
You say

But there ahead of me is a rope.

Love is a temple

I reach out and grasp on tight.

Love a higher law

As soon as I do, it splinters into a billion threads.

Love is a temple

It shoots up to the sky, down into the earth, out into every corner of your world.

Love the higher law

I stand at the centre,

You ask me to enter

the threads now locked into me,

But then you make me crawl

holding tight to every part of me.

And I can’t be holding on

The universe bristles with the hum of time standing still.

To what you got

And I can breathe again.

When all you got is hurt

One love
One blood
One life
You got to do what you should
One life
With each other
Sisters
Brothers
One life
But we’re not the same
We get to
Carry each other
Carry each other

For this moment we are one.

One…life

One