A Second Eulogy for my Father, Happy Birthday Dad

October 29, 2019By Focal NomadBLOG, Posts

As usual, my father did it again. Today I had been debating whether to go to an EFT Tapping workshop (“Tapping into Financial Flow”), a Halloween party at Cloak & Dagger (this goth-like members-only dance club I am apart of), or just stay home and try to catch up on some coursework. My impulse had been to go to this party, even though I knew I was way behind in my coursework. …this will make more sense in a bit.

I’ve been feeling very emotional lately, which in my book is a good thing, at least right now. Ever since my father’s death, I’ve been having a difficult time letting my emotions out; yet for the past week the tears have been coming. Maybe it was that I finally started to get some closure on a recent heartache I had, maybe it’s that my apartment is back together and I’m feeling the physical space to be safe enough to cry, or maybe, it’s my father speaking to me again.

Last night, I did a New Moon in Scorpio ritual, and to prepare for that ritual I did a guided meditation where I imagined an angel cutting the chords to all of my attachments that no longer served me. Sitting right behind this angel, I saw my father. Last winter we had had a fight where he told me “you’ve gotta stop doing that video stuff!” It was the first time in my life I ever felt my father not supporting my passions, and the first time I ever felt like he was scared for my future and didn’t understand what I was doing. Yet for the past week I’ve been highly motivated to apply for all media-oriented jobs. As archangel Michael severed the chords of the negative attachments to unhealthy attractions, friendships, behaviors and habits, I saw my father smiling at me. He then said to me “I was wrong. I’m so grateful I get to watch you do this. I’m so happy that I’m not in charge of your fate.” My dad had always talked about how he talked to my grandmother after she was gone, and I felt like I was starting to understand now what that was. The tears started pouring out. It was the first time I had felt this connected to my dad since Burning Man.

Me filming “The Family Tree” documentary; the film about my father’s pursuit of his dream.

I had to numb myself to my grief in order to get through everything that went along with the funeral: creating and executing (and fixing) the tech of the slideshow, learning and singing Danny Boy, writing and reading my eulogy, and mostly, talking to roughly 150 people during calling hours (not to mention the 24/7 influx of neighbors and family friends coming in and out of the house), most of whom were strangers to me; but all who had emotions and memories about losing my father. As someone who is highly sensitive, this was a lot to take. I was not only having to grapple with my own grief, but was feeling everyone else’s grief around me, pretty much non-stop. It was either stay open, and not be able to perform my duties as a daughter for the funeral, or close up, and hold it all in so I could do what I needed to do, until it felt safe enough to let it all out.

Me practicing “Danny Boy,” which I sang at my father’s funeral.

It was for these reasons, that I chose to read the eulogy that I had read, which is in the previous post. What most people don’t know, is that one was actually the second version I wrote, and that this first version felt much more personal to me. When I got to the church on the day of my dad’s funeral, I was still undecided on which to read, and even undecided after it took me an hour to fix the screens showing the slideshow. After another hour of calling hours, I retreated to the pastor’s office, to get his opinion. He said, “Now, they’re both very good; but I would ask yourself, with the first one, with everything going on, do you want to show this much of yourself?” I had realized that the answer was no. This funeral wasn’t about me, it was about my father’s community and everyone else who shared a part of his life, and it was my job as his daughter to help facilitate an experience where we could all share memories together. I knew that this first eulogy would be for the blog. And so, here it is:

A headshot I took of my father last January, for his LinkedIn profile, because he never wanted to stop working.

“Hi everyone. As many of you know I’m Amanda, Terry’s daughter. Or as he might have called me, “Cakes,” or “his favorite youngest daughter.” While I have been living in California for most of the last decade, I did take three years to come home to shoot a documentary about my father and his pursuit of his dream of having a barn and Christmas tree farm. So I wasn’t just his daughter, I was also his film’s director. What no one will tell you when filming a documentary about your dad is how close it will bring you two as you start to see the version of your father that is the man inside his own story, and not just in relation to who he is as the man who raised you to become a strong, independent woman .

A photo of my dad talking about the changes he’s made to the woods, which first inspired “The Family Tree” documentary.

Within being taught that independence and strength, I was also taught authenticity, so I’m going to get a little weird on you. For most of you here today, you don’t know me, or you still think of me as the little girl who was pursuing Broadway dreams. Well hi, I’m 32 years-old, and have become a bona fide working photographer and hippie. Therefore this next bit I’m sorry but I need to talk about my recent experience of going to Burning Man, which is the reason we’re here on this date and not two weeks ago closer to when he passed.

A photo of me at Burning Man in 2016, shooting a wedding documentary.

See when my father was in hospice, I was trying to figure out whether I would be attending this massive, like 75,000 people massive, social experiment; building a temporary city in the middle of nowhere in Nevada, where I was instrumental in building what we “burners” call a theme camp. This is a group of people that put together an experience that is a gift to everyone who attends and participates in the event. Our camp was called Resolution, and our gift was to host New Years’ parties where we would help people come up with their New Year’s resolutions through counseling with helpful wheels they could spin, an open mimosa bar, a ceremonial ball drop complete with a massive mechanical ball and custom-made cups we were gifting with a decoration station. I had been planning this thing since April and was a lead of the camp and felt conflicted about leaving – but knew my father would want me to go.

At Burning Man they have a Temple where you can leave something behind in or write on its walls to memorialize a loved one. The city is as much about celebrating life as it is about understanding the impermanence of it all. The wooden man structure at the center, the Temple, and much of the art, are all burned down at the end of the week. So I took a wooden flying pig with me to be burned at the Temple in remembrance of my father. As you know my father loved flying pigs, and would keep them around the house to remind us that anything is possible, because pigs really do fly.

When I got to the Temple, I thought I would start writing this, the eulogy, what I’m reading now standing in front of you today. What I got instead while writing, was a lot of rambling, and a thought that maybe he would come back as a flying pig. I tried to talk to my dad; I tried to get some of his wisdom passing through me, but I got nothing. Just a conversation with myself – trying to understand the meaning in all of this. So instead, I felt the best way I could honor him would be to ask myself in every moment “what would my dad do?”

The wooden bench in the Temple I wrote to my father on.

Maybe it doesn’t surprise you that that resulted in a lot of champagne and whiskey, dancing, supporting someone I had feelings for, and making every moment about giving back to those around me. I found myself keeping some folks on track for our build when they just didn’t want to finish the work. I found myself saying yes to every shot of whiskey offered to me. I found myself expressing most passionately, and even telling stories spontaneously during my timeslot on the city’s center camp stage, as opposed to sticking with my plan of just reading my poetry. I found myself staying up through an event I didn’t even have a volunteer shift for, to support the person I stayed up all night dancing with. I found myself caring so much about fostering that community and giving people insight as to the life changes they could be making through my resolution counseling and tarot readings. I even found myself making a confidant, boisterous remark to someone who hurt me several years ago who didn’t recognize me at all when we ran into each other.

I was celebrating! I wasn’t sad, but I also was sad, and a bit numb. At the end of the week I went to go see my friend Daniel, who refers to himself as my “spiritual big brother.” He asked if I had any quartz on me, which I did have on a necklace. He then waved his hand and said “there, I put your father in your necklace.” I was perplexed; he saw the confused look on my face and said that my father was there with us, and had been with me all week. His wife got a shiver up her spine and said the same thing; they could feel his presence with us right as we were standing there. I told them I couldn’t feel much of anything at all. Daniel simply said, “just wait, you will.” Reflecting later that day, tossing my necklace over in my hands, I looked at my actions and my behavior within this years’ burn; and then I realized I had become my father in so many ways. Dad and his love of community, clinking glasses, making sure everyone is taken care of, and holding others to a certain level of accountability. I mean for goodness sake; I was throwing epic New Years’ parties all week just as he did every single year ever since I was a kid! How did I not see this before?

It made me realize, that we can either keep being upset at who we lost, and keep wondering why now, how did this happen, who am I without my father, husband or best friend? Or we can remember that my dad touched us all so deeply, and lived so fully, that if we allow ourselves, we can all be a little bit more like my dad, and in that way, he’s never really gone. Now, I know we’ll all miss his gregarious laughs, Santa-like twinkle in his eyes, and the way he would get super excited about his next project and just have to show it to you. We will never be able to replace him, and I sure do miss him more than I’ll ever really feel comfortable showing. But my father always said, “life is for the living” and that’s what we have to keep on doing. Thank you.”

My father at my cousin’s wedding, ever the life of the party.

Since then, my quartz necklace has gone “missing.” I put that in quotation marks because there’s a spiritual belief that crystals don’t ever get lost, they simply have given you all that you needed and find new homes to those that need them more. After the funeral, I felt the weight of that crystal lighten. It was at the NYC Burning Man Decompression, that the crystal found a new home. It was here that I was gifting tarot readings again, telling stories on stage again, and focusing deeply on my community. If what they say about crystals is true, then maybe it’s because I had come to a place where I didn’t need my father’s spirit to be with me, for me to live in celebration of him. I had grown up, and he had moved on. So with all this being said, I’ve chosen tonight to go clink some glasses in celebration of my father’s life. As much as my father loved to work, he loved most when he got to work with his friends, and celebrate with them after. In this spirit, cheers to you, dad! I miss you, and always will. Happy Birthday.

A Eulogy for my Father

October 23, 2019By Focal NomadBLOG, Posts

Hi everyone. As many of you know I’m Amanda, Terry’s daughter. Or as he might have called me, “Cakes,” or “his favorite youngest daughter.” While I have been living in California for most of the last decade, I did take three years to come home to shoot a documentary about my father and his pursuit of his dream of having a barn and Christmas tree farm. So I wasn’t just his daughter, I was also his film’s director. What no one will tell you, when filming a documentary about your dad, is how close it will bring you two as you start to see the version of your father that is the man inside his own story, and not just in relation to who he is as the man who raised you to become a strong, independent woman.

As many of you know this event was not at all expected. My father had so much more he wanted to do, and had so many gifts left to give. It doesn’t seem fair, does it? We could all be really angry right now – but I just miss him. It’s clear we all have as the house hasn’t been silent since we came home from hospice; and as much as I’ve been admittedly frustrated that you’ve all been taking my mother away from me with all that ruckus – that is the life my father created, one of friendship and community. And if I were in Los Angeles that is the kind of support I would be getting too, because I was raised to believe that family has hardly anything to do with blood. It is all of us, sitting here right now, in common ground that we all have this man that we lost, and how he’s affected our lives, and in many cases truly profound ways. 

I remember when I was probably seven or eight years old, my father had this pink neon sign in the basement that read “Passion” on it. I asked him what it had meant, and to be honest, I don’t remember much about what he said, it was more how he emoted it. I remember him waving his arms, and expressing with reverence about its meaning. Since, that word has driven me to pursue the things in my life that light me up just the way that word did for him. You saw it in everything that he did! When I was about 12 I remember a crane coming down into our backyard to move a giant boulder to build the first iteration of our pond. That first round was gorgeous, right? We were all so proud of how the water moved gracefully down that long stream. But for my dad? Nope, had to be bigger. In fact, every year, it seemed as though the pond was never big enough. And having named the rock sitting on the pond after my mother, well of course it had to be grandiose. Adding larger koi fish, putting in two water falls, and little fountains in the middle. When that was finished, he had to build a greenhouse, out of wine bottles, against the shed; for my mother of course, for her! After that? Well, we all know what came next; the barn. The barn was to service my father’s dream of having his own Christmas tree farm, yes, but it was about more than that – as everything my father did was. Nothing was ever just about the pond, or the shed, or the barn, or the farm. It was about creating an opportunity to connect over projects, to show my mother his love for her, to be outside and get your hands dirty, to stay active and to build friendships. The barn, was to foster MORE of that – and have a roof over his head while doing all those things. Why do you think he kept a fridge stocked with various kinds of beer in it anyways if it was just about the equipment?

It’s just like that saying he always tried to instill upon me: “If it is to be, it is up to me. If it is up to me, it WILL be.”

And yet, one part I can’t seem to get out of my head while filming The Family Tree, is when he’s talking about convergence, and how the barn represented convergence to him. He soon after says “I just want, at 218 days away from my 65th birthday to figure out what it all means after all these years.” Although I think that’s a pretty normal question to ask yourself, it shows us that my dad was always in pursuit of something, even if he didn’t fully understand why. It’s something I saw drive my father to grow emotionally and spiritually even long after most people settle on who they decide they are. Perhaps my fathers dissatisfaction with the current status quo is what kept that growth going. And, you know my dad wasn’t perfect. Sometimes his drive to have what he wanted manifested as stubbornness. He would get so set in his beliefs about things that there sometimes would be no convincing him otherwise – and would sometimes say he would do things just to spite people who tried to stand in his way.

He also never wanted to stop working. Growing up, on a near-daily basis, he’d walk in with blood on his hand, or leg or face… and we’d ask horrified if he was okay and he would just casually “oh this? Yeah I cut myself while working” and leave it at that. In the hospital, he would be moving his arms as if he was organizing his shelves when he was asleep, and was constantly trying to get out of bed, and sometimes he did manage to turn over just enough to have to be lifted back onto his bed. You know at first I was optimistic, I was thinking, finally! He might get comfortable with sitting down! He’ll be forced to use his right brain and he’s left-handed so you know, maybe he’ll take up creative writing! Because you know my father always had a way with writing words, and telling stories. 

Now I think he was still contemplating that “meaning of life” question following his heart surgery, as he was still making changes in his life. He had new ideas with what he wanted to do with the Christmas trees. He originally wanted to sell them to whole-salers, but after the heart surgery, he wanted to donate the trees to veterens and those who couldn’t afford to have their own. He was going to come out and see what my life is like in California, and see his granddaughter more in Sydney… Yet it seems to me that the meaning he was seeking was all around him. The meaning of life perhaps is just the word itself. To live.

Now, I know we’ll all miss his gregarious laughs, Santa-like twinkle in his eyes, and the way he would get super excited about his next project and just have to show it to you. We will never be able to replace him, and I sure do miss him more than I’ll ever really feel comfortable showing. But my father always said “life is for the living” and that’s what we have to keep on doing. I want to thank you all for coming, and just close with we can either keep being upset at who we lost, and keep wondering why now, how did this happen, who am I without my father, husband or best friend? Or we can remember that my dad touched us all so deeply, and lived so fully, that if we allow ourselves, we can all be a little bit more like my dad, and in that way, he’s never really gone. Thank you.

Sunrise Over Grassfish at Mendocino Magic

July 11, 2019By Focal NomadPOETRY, Posts, SUNRISE SERIES

Pulling my left then my right lids down.
I can’t vouch for my creativity when I can’t see the lines I’m writing between.
Feet out, lean back,
The sun will crest over eventually. Let it be your alarm clock.
Nature had a different tone. When you get the call you have to go.
From bronze to gold to bright, bright green. It’s all relative and irrelevant.
When you plan to cheat,
Take the work, less healing
When the sun is further
In the sky.

These are extreme conditions.
Big love, four nights, one tent.
Seventy-five burners. I know no
One. Social stamina muscle
Is built, voice is broken.

It feels so good to listen,
Especially since everyone
Has had a wild ride
So far.

The Art of Not Giving a Fuck employed.
Grab that tambourine, feel the beat, or miss it, pick it back up again.
The point is to have fun trying.
To show people that you’re not afraid of your ego dying. Make a big mess of yourself now. No better time to let those fucks go. No one can do you like you can – and it’s needed here and hey – it’s needed everywhere.

The more you try to fit your gifts to what you think other people want, the further away you get from doing just that.
Yourself is what’s needed.
Sing a song and trail to a tangent then click away knowing that you can take the shifts and changes within and without you and it is always going to be needed, whatever your gifts so happen to be.

The Story of my Cat Gwen

April 23, 2019By Focal NomadBLOG, Posts

When I was 20 I was entering into a major transition in my life: I was moving into my first apartment and going to be living alone. This also coincided with me deciding to go against my doctor’s orders and stop taking Zoloft. He told me that because I had recurrent depression it would come back; and I said that I knew this but I trusted in myself enough to know how to handle it. I hated how I felt bipolar if I missed one day of meds, hated the numbness I felt from it when it was “working” and hated the stigma I felt because I was on it.

Still… this was not a small deal. On top of this I was about to enter into my sophomore year of college where we would be studying Meisner. Which, for anyone who knows anything about acting training, you cannot be numb and be taking Meisner. It’s a technique that requires you to be vulnerable; where you are discovering more about yourself than you ever will in your entire life. After experiencing what it was like to live alone with depression while subletting for a summer and with Meisner about to start, I didn’t know how I was going to do it.

I then heard about the Dollar Adoption Days held by PAWS (Philadelphia Animal Welfare Society). For one dollar you could adopt a cat, have them fixed and get their shots, plus if you got one cat, you could get a second for free. I always knew I wanted two cats so they could keep each other company while I was in class. So in August of 2007 I headed to the west side of Philly to find my new cats. I wasn’t sure what I was looking for, except I knew I wanted a cat who was cuddly. When I saw Gwen it was love at first sight. Gwen immediately rubbed his nose against my fingers as they poked through the cage and rubbed his body against the door to satisfy his need for affection. Then I found a 6-month old tuxedo cat who seemed to be the yang to Gwen’s Yin as he couldn’t care less whether you pet him or not but was still very friendly. So by the end of that day and a long bus ride home with my new kitties in a crate, I had now adopted my cats for $1.

The name “Gwen” came with the cat as given to him by his previous owners. Being that he was all ready three years old I didn’t want to change it at this point and confuse him. I assumed Gwen was a girl because of the name. Six months later, I took him to the vet for a follow-up to find that she was in fact a he. After a bit of name research I found that Gwen is a somewhat common guys name in Ireland, and with my last name being McHugh, I decided to give him the very Irish middle name of Gavin – making his full name Gwen Gavin McHugh.

Over the first year of having Gwen and Midnight as my cats I witnessed America’s Funniest Home Video level events lead by these cats. Gwen was a polydactyl cat, aka, a “Hemingway” cat. This means that he had more than the normal amount of toes: six toes on each front foot and seven toes on each back foot. They believed that all cats who had this many toes were descendants of Ernest Hemingway because he had so many cats that this was a mutation as a result of inbreeding. I was delighted by this because I got really into the Les Amis de Paris and thought Hemingway was a sassy, sassy man. The toes also lead to some Gwen shenanigans.

Gwen was a fat kitty and loved to eat. So I had to keep his food away from where he could get to it. If it was on top of the cupboards he would climb up there just to knock the bag over and get to it. So I put a plastic crate over the bag, and placed this crate underneath a shelving unit. Gwen used his mighty paws to reach through a hole in the crate, poke a hole in the bag, scoop up the food, pull the food out HOLDING IT IN HIS PAW, and eat it out of his paw, like a damn human being.

He could also see dead people, I kid you not. It was no secret that the Adelphia House, which used to be the Adelphia Hotel in the 20s, was (and I’m sure still is) straight-up haunted as fuck. Strange things were constantly happening in my apartment – and Gwen’s eyes would dart to random spots on the wall, were he would stare intently; and when I took a shower, he’d stand guard outside of it, even though water wasn’t exactly his thing. Both Midnight and Gwen protected me at night. Midnight would sleep at my head, and Gwen at my feet.

My cats followed me to my next two apartments in Philadelphia for the next two years, until they couldn’t follow me anymore. I had been accepted into the National Theater Institute at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center where there was a strict no pets policy. I was grateful that my parents were able to take them in, and the plan was always to take them back when I had settled into a pet-friendly apartment again. Afterwards, I moved to a sublet while I was doing a directing internship at an experimental theater company in Philly at another sublet and couldn’t take them with me again. Soon after that I moved to NYC where I was living a month or two at a time bouncing around place-to-place.

After five months of doing this, and a year and a half away from my cats, I was moving to Los Angeles. I wanted to take my cats with me but I learned something about Gwen that made it impossible. The vet told us that Gwen gets anxiety from change, and when that would happen his intestines would flare up. Even moving the furniture around could cause this. I learned this while he was still living with me and was recommended to rub fish oil on his food for a few months to help with the swelling. As a then-strict vegan, I did this, because I loved him.

I loved him so much that when the harsh reality of how me moving across the country could potentially have adverse affects on his health, I asked my parents if they would take him and Midnight in for me permanently, since I didn’t want to separate them. Gwen had more space to wander and play and would have stability. Every time I came home to visit it was like he remembered me. He would come into my room and cuddle with me, he’d want attention while I was doing yoga, and he was just always there – and there for my parents, and for Midnight, too. He just loved everyone.

When I found out Gwen died the night I was driving back from Palm Springs, I immediately started crying. The last time I was home I realized Gwen was getting older and it was possible it could be the last time I ever saw him, and I hate that I was right. I’ve always missed out on my chance to say goodbye to the ones I’ve loved who have passed on. Gwen loved people, and I hate that he was alone when he died. I hate that I couldn’t have been there to bury him myself. Gwen was more than just a pet to me, he was a friend who loved me and comforted me and helped get me through one of the toughest transitions of my life. He helped me grow up.

Sunrise at One Love Fest

February 9, 2019By Focal NomadPOETRY, SUNRISE SERIES

Shot/Written at One Love Fest, October 2017.

I wish I was a bird
Their mating rituals are so simple
And with my love song
I’d know damn well when
He was calling on another.

Love the people in these photos
But everyone wants a perfect time
Let’s stop teaching the myth of “ready”
And instead replace it,
With the reality of choice.

My necklace that contains
Sodalite for self-love
Rose quartz for unconditional love
And amethyst for healing
Went missing last night.
But my bet is my stones’ called on another
Cause for me they’d done all they could do.

I listened to myself.
My body, my need
For boundaries.
I’m not ready for a good time.
I’m ready for a real time, or a nap
Whichever comes first.
It’s been one real of a week.
I put sparkles on my cheeks and
Cat ears on my head.
To feel like my life
Was some time else.

Either in the past where
My trust was still
As low pressure
As my playa tires
Or the future where
I love myself so
Much, that I
Listen to myself
And give me what
I need against peace.

New York Diaries: Christmas at Home

December 30, 2018By Focal NomadBLOG

Christmas Eve. This was an intense day to travel. I got stopped 4 times between checking my bag and the gate because of my hard drives and camera equipment and every time had to pack and repack to that sections’ supervisors liking.

I got to my connecting flight in Charlotte, wondering if I would see someone there. He was supposed to be on this trip with me, but things had changed since those flights were booked. Despite all logic telling me that he hadn’t shown up before, why would he suddenly show up now, I was hoping he would surprise me. I was hoping for some kind of Christmas miracle. But my expectations were accurate to be low, because I got on that plane alone.

My mother greeted me in Buffalo at the bag check with a blinking lights necklace she put around my neck, as if I was in the Hawaii of the northeast. After my bags were loaded they surprised me with a gathering at my aunts house not too far from the airport.

My cousin Rachel was there with her son whom I hadn’t met yet. She was 5 days older than me. We grew up together making sea shell pacts and chasing trains on the tracks saying we would always be connected. I remembered this as my uncle dressed as Santa came out to surprise the kids. As the only first cousin left unmarried and without kids, I asked her what it was like to be a mother, and she said sometimes it’s hard, but she couldn’t imagine him not being in her life.

Shortly after getting home to Syracuse, and after church, I got a text I wasn’t sure I would ever receive. I set it aside, and asked my father to continue our tradition of reading The Night Before Christmas. I thought about my sister and the bun in her oven, and thought about how my dad is going to make such an epic grandfather. I imagined a child resting in the nest of my knees as they listened attentively to his story-telling. I imagined that the person who was missing might think this was weird. Maybe he wouldn’t get it.

The next morning we toasted to my first Christmas at home in years. It was good to be home for the holidays. I couldn’t help but feel like something was missing. Maybe it’s because we couldn’t get Dan Duggan to play on the stereo. Maybe I just missed my sister in that moment. Maybe it was part of me. I don’t know that he was the part that was missing, but I was missing him.

My parents’ dog Dundee and my cats must have sensed this, because for most of the rest of my time in Syracuse they were snuggling me on the couch as I wrote, as I fixed my computer, as I organized my thoughts and plans; and as I cried. I was embarrassed to tell my mother as she tried to console me that I missed someone I knew I shouldn’t be missing. That I was sad over something ending I should be grateful to be free from. That against all my knowing better, my heart just couldn’t compute.

Sunrise at my Audition in the LES

October 26, 2018By Focal NomadPOETRY, SUNRISE SERIES

Written and shot on October 17th, 2017.

I didn’t get picked again.
He didn’t even touch my hair.
Doesn’t he know that it’s virgin hair??
Not picked, rejected, the idiots.
Idiots! Sounds familiar.

If he had only touched it he would have known.
I look at their choices and feel pity
for their stupidity that who they are
looking for is me. I am that girl.
I have that thick, luscious hair, with
High cheek bones, eyes that will
kill you with their stare; I am Medusa
Look at me and risk your life.
You don’t know what you want
You don’t know what you want
You don’t know what you want
Look at me: I will hold
you with my hair, I will encapsulate
Everything that thrills you and terrifies
you with one stare.

I’m every girl you ever wanted in one.
Why is it taking so long for someone
to figure this out? I can chill with you
on your couch, then fuck you in your car.
I look good on your arm and get your weird
humor. You can say weird shit like “I
want to chew up your eyeballs and spit them
out” and I will get it and love you for it.
Your desire for me scares you because it
has taken you over. You don’t know if there’s
room for anything else. You know I’m the
end. You know this is a mudslide.
You don’t want me to hold you because
you know once you succomb to me
your will is useless. It’s over. The rest
of your life is in my hands. Idiot!

I never gave myself that power only you.
You will hunt for the forbidden fruit
only to look back years from now, see that
I’ve hardly aged, I’m exceeding you in our
Careers and that I’m ridiculously happy
without you.
You will feel sorry; you will realize how stupid you
were. You were realize you were such a
goddamn idiot for not even trying,
not even touching my… hair. Not even
seeing what could be possible with this
beauty, this body, this mind, these eyes,
these arms, these hands, this heart, this smile.
Coward. Step out of your own way and stop looking.
I’m right here. Focus now, readjust that focal length.
You need a more shallow depth of field because I’m
RIGHT HERE. Stop looking. You’ve found it.
Don’t be an idiot.

Self-Destructive Heat

October 15, 2018By Focal NomadPOETRY, Posts

Bathing myself in this heat
I let the air pressure renew me
Off of Spring Street

Those ICEE’s look delicious
Been craving a frappucino
Both make me feel old and gross

I refrain from the sugar
Trying to find something sustainable
I chug water and cocao

I stare at an empty stage
My to-do list is long but all
I want to do is sit and sulk and drink

Too hot to get high, and the polarity
Might kill me. I’m so mixed up I’m
Broken. All pieces of myself scattered
Across the dead lawn of a place I once
Wrote many poems on.

I want to run away from typing
I sit with the discomfort of this heat
Hoping someone will text me back
Rescue me from having to sit with this

Tapping on dating apps, hoping to loose
Myself in another so I can offer a big
Middle finger to those who tell me I’m
Not for them. Not now, unavailable.

Perhaps they think I’ll always be around,
Waiting for that day when circumstance will
Align with desire. Life doesn’t give us perfect
Timing. All it gives us is choices and feelings
We don’t always have a say in.

If I had a say in my emotions, I would be
Robotic with steel walls as boundaries.
But I’m not, I’m as penetrable as the wind
But my gusts come with force, a fierce funnel
Of dust and my particles are fine, they get
Inside of people without them even realizing
That weeks after I’m gone they’re coughing
Me up. Choking on me, because I’m hard to
Get rid of. Pretty and powerful
Powerful wind, I’m an intense experience
That I’m always trying to transcend.

Imagine existing as the cyclone, where
Everything that you love gets blown
Away when near you. In awe of your
Force, but can’t stand strong with you
So maybe humans weren’t meant for me
Maybe humans are too weak
Maybe what I need is steel that I can’t
Damage, skin that won’t chap even on
A good day. Robots do their best to feel
But it takes a lot to get through to them
So maybe I’m what they need. Something
Strong to move them, even if it’s subtle –
Two opposing forces, not right on paper.
Two opposing forces, that need each other

Sunrise at Woodlawn Cemetery

October 9, 2018By Focal NomadBLOG, SUNRISE SERIES

Written and shot on October 12th, 2017.

I chickened out two mornings ago making the excuse about cloud coverage. I was really afraid of the legends that this place was haunted. Would my camera be blown away? Would I see a dark shadow that I could not erase from memory?

My grandmother always used to say “don’t be afraid of the dead, be afraid of the living.” So I pushed forward through the dark and deserted roads, that, I wasn’t even sure if I was supposed to be driving on. The office light was on but it was closed. I parked, and took my bridesmaid’s bouquet with me in case I stumbled upon her.

“Lucile?” I called out.

I walked up the east side, grateful that the nimbus had lifted just enough to see some orange. The wind blew me towards her; I knew I was close. My memory of what it was, was that it was flat, barren. I felt like she might like to be buried next to where the sun would rise. I thought about how maybe we were both looking at it together.

I moved on. I found Batman on top of one, “Live a little” on another: both too young to wonder whether it was worth it. I thought I heard bells ringing. I wondered who was buried that was waking from their slumber. Wind chimes. “Isn’t that a bit misleading?” I thought. I always believed that I wanted to be buried, not embalmed, with a bell – because I’m stubborn as hell and will always try to get the last word in.

The leaves lost their crunch in last nights rain. One was floating and I only assumed by an invisible web. I took in the autumn serenity as my toes began to freeze. The office would be open soon – and I could find her. Distracted in my thoughts I wandered in zigzags. With every hundred persons deceased I passed I learned something: everyone here was a hero to someone. Their tombstone gifts said it all. A firefighter, a coach, a mother, a solder. Some marked many generations after their existence. I could live with that reputation.

Two visitors, separate of each other, told me to go back to the east side because there was a whole family of foxes. I didn’t see a one. I saw some squirrels, and then I remembered that face that called me one, and that he was a fox, my fox. I then remembered my grandmother’s words again and realized I wasn’t afraid of dying. I was afraid of dying with out ever knowing true, lasting love.

Inside the office, I learned where she was buried – it was right where the wind was taking me, yet when I saw it, was completely different from last time. Bushes were planted, a mausoleum nearby, and a tall marker for her and now her husband, Edward. Once I saw her name I collapsed. “I love you.” I said. Memories of my mentor flooding through but mostly just her voice saying sweetly “Amanda, my Amanda.” I was angry with myself for not calling sooner, for not keeping up, for having the intention to organize her files as a gift to her but not having actually done so.

Six months before she passed she said she’d like me to call her anytime. She’d like to be a mentor to me. I was heartbroken then, too. “Find someone who loves you just a little more than you love him or her,” she would tell me. I have yet to find that. Lucille was my coach, she taught me how to feel fully. She made me realize how special I was when all the kids would just call me weird. I wanted for some words of wisdom to pass through the wind – in lieu of words I got heartache. Heartache at the loss, the loneliness and wishing someone could just tell me what to do.

Through the characters she helped me portray, advice, words I wrote, the bullies she helped me have compassion for, a word came to mind: resiliency. Do it. Don’t over think it. Love fully, love until your heart bursts. Follow-through. Life is too short to not try, to not feel, to not give, to not love. As I was pulling away I heard it. “I’ll always be here for you.” So maybe with that, I have found true love.

Imperfect Shapes

October 3, 2018By Focal NomadPOETRY, Posts

Don’t make decisions from your pain, love.
It may feel like you want to take the scissors
and cut up all the shapes to shreds.
It may feel like none of your circles were perfect,
like your hearts were all lopsided,
that your squares were only trapezoids
and your trapezoids were more like stars;
but don’t cut them into confetti.

The world needs the imperfect shapes that only
you can create. So take that glue stick and create
a mosaic because when you put it all together
what comes out of you will only fit together
if you cut it asymmetrical.

Confetti may be great for a party;
scattering your pain across a room in celebration
of our flaws. Flaunting our need to forget with
every blunt that we smoke and drink that we sip.
You can dance and sweat it out as much as you
feel it in the techno but the beat won’t make
your heart more even. It won’t make your
nose less deviated. It won’t take the air out
of your stomach and sharpen your hearing.

When the party ends, your need to destroy
what you are just becomes trash; moop
that gets in the way of everyone when
the high wears off. So cut it as perfectly
imperfect as you can. Your shapes can
create art that others can appreciate.

Some will approach from a distance to
understand it in totality from afar. Some
get in close to understand what materials
you used, the method upon which it was cut,
the binding material and the foundation it lays
on. Some will want to understand the whole
journey of how you created it. Some will
want to take it home. Understanding it’s worth of
having as someone’s own. Also understand that
Mosaics aren’t everyone’s thing. But just wait…

The right buyer will come along.

They will have a place for you that’s been
needing to be filled. They will be ready for
a large and heavy, colorful piece of art.
It will fit in with their colorful and large home.
They will see your art on the wall and know
that it belongs on their wall, right above the
couch, where everyone can see. Proud and happy
that they found the piece they’ve always been
looking for. Something they see everyday that
Makes them smile, that makes them think,
that challenges them on their own journey.
Someday this buyer will come, and they will
know it’s worth. They won’t hesitate, they won’t
Question the imperfect shapes. They will understand.
So don’t cut yourself into confetti. There is nothing
wrong with you.

Celebrate yourself by being yourself.