the e-dict

…from the imagination of Erika Randall Beahm

no great heights

From where I sit, with my French lace curtains placed just right, I can see only tree tops and sky. I see the corner of my deck and can imagine it a balcony that a moon would like to visit, a suitor, wild-eyed and wanton, come only for me. Since I cannot write truth these days, I will write fiction. I am happy. I am whole.

I can also write the story of what isn’t happening–he isn’t asleep in the bed in the other room, dreaming of me as I did him this morning. No, he has erased me from his day to day and his through the night. (it’s better this way, he tells himself) Under the white-powdered smears you can see the alabaster bones of our story: table 21, garden shovel, son– but the rest, ghosts. ghosts and lies.

This is not the story of the boy in the garden,  some other love god pouring sonnets into his head. The boy has gone mute and the clouds have rolled in and masked the moon. The wise sage with the words moved to Panama and now writes his poems on cocktail napkins, tucks them under sweaty glasses of rum that only the drunkest notice,  immediately to forget.

This is not the story of the play I rehearse daily that has no room for me, a few bows and curtsies, but no real flesh and bone. I am not Roxanne, Cyrano neither. I am perhaps one of the drunken poets, feasting on baked lyres and lies. Yes, Fraudulent Poet #2, that sounds about right. There are no small parts, only parts that make you feel smaller.

This is the part that makes me feel smaller: that I was not worth it for him to try. That I was too selfish to see that he was trying as much as he possibly could. That I would put up with so little for so long. That it was me under the balcony–holding up the moon. That it was me, hiding in the dark, filling myself up with perfumed words and sending them back to myself–liar, lyre, liar. There was no moon. There wasn’t even a balcony, just a fire escape that I mistook for a balcony and that wasn’t love, it was smoke–smoke coming from an actual fire burning inside the house, and still, there I stood, not escaping, there I stood, waiting for the words to arrive that would save me, when in fact I was moments away from being burned alive.

There’s a huge difference between a balcony and a fire escape.

 

 

“I may climb perhaps to no great heights, but I will climb alone.”

-cyrano

 

 

 

 

 

ingredients

I do not want the things that make a good poem

a dead mother

a dead bird

a dead son

this one word, divorce, has enough death in it

(enough guilt  enough failure enough blame)

to contrive at least one hundred mediocre sonnets of despair

 

I do not want better, more fetid ingredients

words that smell of over-ripe lilac

or fish guts

or loneliness

 

Better poems wait for darker days

and the need to survive them

 

Today

this loss is enough to make a few words

appear and rearrange themselves

into the memory of your mouth

or the shape of a peach

half-eaten

left in the sun to rot

 

Today

I feel lucky

that all I have to grieve

is a peach

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dream from my higher power, letter from my 84-year old self

Dear Erika,

I hate that you are still having challenges with your physical form. I’m a little over it at this point, frankly, you with two working knees and only the beginnings of spider veins, but I get it, it’s been a hard year with lots of change and you (and others) were starting to get a little attached to your two-hard-boiled-eggs-a-day-desperately-seeking-soothing-body. And for the 100th time, NO, gummi bears are not food. Not even the green ones.

But last night, after watching Cyrano (in French) with your boy and not drinking a drop, last night, you went to bed clear-headed and asked at the altar of sleep for a tiny morsel of peace. Last night you pleaded with your dreams for some support around the challenges you still face with accepting your body and its tidal shifts. And damn, did they deliver.  This morning, when you dreamed  of  God changing shape rapidly and asked, “Why don’t you fix your form? And why don’t you choose a woman or a man?” And God said, “If I chose a woman or a man, you wouldn’t believe me. And, anyway, it’s just a hard candy shell,” you knew it was exactly the medicine you needed.

Your mind jolted you awake, making sure wouldn’t forget it–as if you would forget a conversation with God?!?!?!? You have still never forgotten this dream–even though you can’t fully describe it. I know, you never said you “talked to God,” but you did  get deep in dialogue with the source of you that is linked to the god in all things and the message was loud and clear. crystal. It’s just a hard candy shell. Our bodies, even this tired old bag of flesh and bones you’re wearing now, is just that–a hard candy shell, a container for the go(o)d stuff. There’s nothing new in this revelation except that you ASKED for it. Which means maybe you are ready. And your dreams trusted you with a fairly epic representation of this example–a huge kick in that not-yet-sagging ass of yours, hoping you would finally see and remember that your gifts on this earth work through your body but come from your heartmindsoul. You may choose wine for the bottle but it’s the wine you get drunk on, not the glass.

This may or may not be the last time you need a dream like this–but it’s the first time you’ve asked for one. Keep working this magic and you just might get better and better at getting what you need.

Love you, kitten.

84-year old Erika

Mother’s Day Card to Myself

Dear Erika,

I am so proud of you for understanding that when your son said, “I don’t know why I used to hate you, but now I like you” on Mother’s Day morning, just after he so sweetly woke you up with a gift offering brought to your bedside, that it, too, was an offering.  Because you’ve known he has hated you a little, blamed you for everything, including this life you gave him that tortures him at age 6. 6 years-old and already cursing the world he was brought into and your womb that did the transport. 6 years-old and already knows nostalgia and grief, melancholy and remorse.

He is your son, after all.

So this admission was a bit of a relief. You are not crazy! He does have a coin with your face on it that says LOVE and HATE  that flips in his heart and sometimes you don’t know which side you’re going to get.

I can’t wait until you get to this shore where I sit this morning, mug in hand, looking at the water, watching your boy, now a man, who is already up and walking on the beach in his Mackinaw Island sweatshirt you two bought together on your first trip way up North. I can’t wait to until you have survived his teenage years and all that bullshit and blame (dark days, my friend but you’ll make it) and get to this place where he pours you a cup of coffee that is all the apology you will ever need.

Happy Mother’s Day, Sweet Mama.

64-year old Erika

p.s. that Valentine he made you, the one where he wrote “Isadora Duncan” under things you like, you still have and keep in a book of sacred things in your desk. Know that he sees you and the coin in his heart turns so much more often to LOVE.

junk drawer

 

Every house needs one place where anything and everything belongs

the scissors right at home next to the stamps the birthday candles and the travel corkscrew

the electrical tape the paperclips the bundle of sage

all thrown in together

in a rare and thrilling rebellion against order and hierarchy

 

I remember my Nana’s junk drawer

an improvisation of necessary things

that didn’t quite go together

nor did they go anywhere else

With a “place for everything and everything else in its place”

she still had a drawer

right there

handy

next to the sink

Packed full, you never knew quite what you would find

and after digging for a safety pin

I remember my six-year old hands smelling

of copper coins and rubber bands

flecks of cigarette tobacco under my nails

even though she’d quit smoking years before

 

this mess is what it feels like now in my chest

right here, where my heart, once, not too long ago, thanks to the gift of the label-maker your mother gave you for your birthday, was marked with your name

my love for you right next to my disappointment my grief my guilt

the time in Greece the ER the broken down car

all thrown in together

with new found things that I don’t know where to put yet

but know someday I might need

letter to myself about broken things

Dear Erika,

If the third time’s the charm, or if everything happens in threes, or if three’s really company, then I think you’re good on car accidents for the year. And yes, you feel lucky and grateful and blessed and oh, it could have been so much worse, and thank god! everyone is ok, and yes, it was the other guy’s fault, and he was driving a Saab and so now you have a good saab story…and and and…But then, because I know you, I know you start hearing Will Smith’s life coach theory about fault and responsibility and how it doesn’t matter whose fault it was, it is now your responsibility to deal with the residue. And you will, you are; you have amazing friends and family who will help get you from here to there, both literally and metaphorically. I’m not worried about that.

I’m not worried about anything really (except the polar bears), but I know you are. I wanted you to hear from me, me who survives this and many other accidents (of car, of son, of heart over the next twenty years), that I saw you shivering on the side of the road after they towed away that sweet little blue loaner Rabbit and I knew you weren’t cold, but in shock– in shock at your life and how things can feel so easily, so suddenly, towed away. And I’m here to tell you, it’s true. All of it, all of us, are part of life’s mysterious undertow. There is a strong current beneath our existence that moves in a different direction from that of the surface, and it hungers to take us out to sea.  As your first poet, Neruda, whispers,

“May whatever breaks
be reconstructed by the sea
with the long labor of its tides.”

Let go of where you think you should be heading and what car will get you there the safest, my 44-year old friend. Yes-go get your eyes checked and figure out how far things need to be now for you to really see them and how much you’ve lost up close. Go get your mammogram, your moles checked, your neck checked from this last crash, but release all your broken bits to the labor of the tides and try to trust. The car, that bracelet, the glass, your heart…

“So many useless things
which nobody broke
but which got broken anyway”

I love you, lady.

64-year old Erika, waving from the Schwinn blue ’65 Mustang

letter to myself

Dear Erika,

A few things to remember:

  1. You can’t be trusted to watch a show by yourself after 7pm. Especially “This is Us.” What were you thinking?
  2. There is always a friend awake somewhere in the world. Or one who will be willing to wake up.
  3. You love how confusing J’aimais and jamais are in French–one meaning “I loved” the second meaning “Never.”
  4. Don’t suffer alone without medicine. Be it laughter, poetry, or a real hug from a true friend, you are not a Christian Scientist. Take some fucking medicine.
  5. People who say they don’t like birthdays still like to be celebrated. Choose a different day.
  6. Letters to yourself do not require stamps and they arrive immediately, just at the moment you long for them.
  7. Your dreams are messages–especially the one this morning about your deaf daughter and the one from the night before about Donald McKayle. Try to remember what isn’t said.
  8. You write the story of your life–careful how you choose the ink and the font. Not to mention the words.
  9. You are a little needy.
  10. You already have everything you need.

Love always,

from the Erika who just received this letter and already feels a little better

 

fuse

With so much falling apart in this world, it is such a joy to come together.

FUSE, the dance festival for the Northwest Region ACDA, is happening in my dance backyard right now through this Tuesday night and I am so.damn.happy.

Dancing saves lives.

It has saved mine countless times.

Thank you, dancing; thank you, dancers.

Yours,

e

https://www.colorado.edu/conference/acda2018/

 

 

love letters from myself

Dear Erika,

I know that you are suffering, but let me tell you, your skin looks amazing from all that salt water. I see it tightening your pores and I want to thank you for washing yourself clean.

Love,

64 year-old Erika

word of the day: accept

Hi Friends,

I’m writing today from the back house of a mansion in Dallas, TX, which in Old East Dallas they just call a “house.” I am marveling at the places dance has taken me and feeling grateful for the humans I have met and the things I have seen and felt thanks to this sweet madness. There was never any question about what I wanted to do when I grew up–I wanted to dance. I didn’t just want to be a dancer, I wanted to dance. I have remained ever-grateful for this small distinction.  For there are so many days these days where I do not feel like a dancer…more like a typist, and a conflict control simulator, a broken metronome who just can’t stop speeding up. But then I start dancing. I start verbing not  nouning; I move into the action of the thing that has always reminded me of my most daring relationship to gravity and I know that I am awake in my life as I was meant to be this time around. It (almost) doesn’t matter anymore if anyone even sees.

There is a beautiful elegance that comes with age, an elegance that reflects one’s ability to be without approval.  To approve means to judge favorably. And even though the word “favorably” gets in before the hammer, you still have to maneuver around the judge  to get to the good stuff. My feeling doctor talks about getting rid of the judge all together, jumping the bench, a back high left karate chop to that inner voice with outer form that says “right” or “wrong,” “suitable” or “Get your suit on.”

word of the day: accept

Dictionary.com gives a lot of great words as the synonym for approve, but as I move out of the shadow of need that comes from seeking approval, I think I can baby-step-it over most easily to the synonym “accept.”

accept

verb. believe the goodness, realness of something

This definition feels a little soft (look at me judging) but I love it. And if there’s a judge present in this, she’s dressed in gold and wine colored robes, rocking a tight crop like only Pema Chodron and Annie Lennox can. Speaking of Pema, she tells a story about acceptance that brings with it all the fear and all the deliciousness of this life. She reminds us, in her calm pool, no-bullshit, generosity, that we are always between one ambush or another, one streak of tigers or their gnashing gnarling brethren.

“There is a story of a woman running away from tigers. She runs and runs and the tigers are getting closer and closer. When she comes to the edge of a cliff, she sees some vines there, so she climbs down and holds on to the vines. Looking down, she sees that there are tigers below her as well. She then notices that a mouse is gnawing away at the vine to which she is clinging. She also sees a beautiful little bunch of strawberries close to her, growing out of a clump of grass. She looks up and she looks down. She looks at the mouse. Then she just takes a strawberry, puts it in her mouth, and enjoys it thoroughly. Tigers above, tigers below. This is actually the predicament that we are always in, in terms of our birth and death. Each moment is just what it is. It might be the only moment of our life; it might be the only strawberry we’ll ever eat. We could get depressed about it, or we could finally appreciate it and delight in the preciousness of every single moment of our life.”
― Pema ChödrönThe Wisdom of No Escape: How to Love Yourself and Your World

I love the places dance has taken me–even the cliff-edges of fear, judgement, self-loathing…tigers all around. But I am especially grateful for these brief moments when I sit writing on a rainy morning, quiet, fingers just a little cold, in the back house of a mansion in Dallas, TX, in the back house of myself,  believing in my own goodness and realness, tasting strawberries.

Love to all,

not-so-silent e