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Friday, July 13, 2012

The Beauty of Women

Dedicated to my girlfriends.

Beauty and Advertising

The expectations we hold about how women should look and how much time, energy, and money it takes to get there are utterly ridiculous. This was true in our society prior to the practice of photoshopping models. Hell, make-up is very similar to Photoshop! Corsets and spanks perform the same function. Please, don't get me wrong, I support a woman's right to pluck, stuff and paint anything that she wants, but advertising is pervasive and insidious. Hats off to the Julia Bluhm for trying to get the editors of Seventeen to stop altering young women's bodies on their pages.

Article about Julia Bluhm

The following is a poem that I wrote that is in response to some of the craziness I see in the young women I know and what I remember from my own adolescence. I am afraid we are letting people who want us to buy things tell us what sexy is, and if you add to that the very human desire for love and attention it can be a toxic mix.

Rebellion is one way to fight society's expectations

It Needs a Fucking...

Feeling a little bit
little girl lost. I want
to be dream girl princess be-
love-ed. Take me under your wing and tell
me everything is going
to be ok – like ice cubes
plucked from a stainless
steel bucket clinking – chinking
their virgin squares-  into tumblers ready
to accept booze – long legs
up the side
of the glass.

Hoping the tiara will fit

a girl today
kissed on the side of her head in the
hall way.
Photo by Tom Van de Ven
-by a boy who she said
maybe, you know…

tell her, she could get in trouble. Plucked
pubic hairs – conversely get rid
of that plucked chicken look. What describes
when something is
the opposite of what
it should be? For most women

natural beauty is anything but. Hours

spent with glistening images, and the
sign on the door says Don’t clean
the stainless mirrors in the men’s
or women’s restroom. Steam expands
to fill available space.

Getting Older

I have always celebrated milestone birthdays with a flourish; taken pride in being a woman who welcomes age and wisdom. Forty was difficult though. Somehow, overnight, the quality of my skin changed, my hair thinned and I realized that no matter how much I denied my societies expectations of female beauty they were all within me - time bombs waiting to be set off by the big 4-0. Trite but true. How do you hold on to feeling lovely from the inside out in a world that tells you that all that matters is your outside?

Like Those Women

The wind is warm                                                                                          
here, but even on lake-days
where I am from
you shiver inside your towel, the snakes
soft and green, surprising your bare
toes in the grass.

Women here go for long walks in the hot
air, growing brown and lean. Where I am
from the women are plump and pink
spending days cozy with books. Snakes here
are sandy brown and rattle
like seed pods. I am easier alone here.

The summer the rains flash
suddenly, drenching one hill
and leaving another chalky with dust. Where           
I am from it mists on firs and stony
beaches and swamps for ten months.
the days are short

the sun never shows. Here
there are days the sun never leaves completely,
long hot nights I wear cut-offs
and tank tops watch the lightning
flash on dark hills. Bare my feet on warm rocks in the dark to feel the sun.
Desert Sunset 

Here the plants flower
when they can, leaf when possible. In a dry year
the ocotillo flower early - then wait
months – for the rain
to leaf, verdant
alien pipe-cleaners arc from the ground.

Where I am from green
round the edge of every square of pavement
slinks from dank basements –
junk cars in fields.

I walk dry hills and like those women
I am growing lean and brown

Friday, July 6, 2012

Love and Choice

I met my husband, Joe, years before we started dating; we ran in the same circles. I remember the exact moment when I started falling for him. I worked at The Country Aire, a natural grocery in Port Angeles, Washington. Joe had just returned from a trip to Thailand and at one glance I could see and feel the electricity he brought back with him from that trip. My feelings for him were further confirmed by the twinge I got when a mutual friend talked of setting him up with someone else. The poem below is our wedding poem and tells the story of that 'first meeting'. Perhaps more importantly it tells the story of us choosing one another.

Joseph Elvis Vastano of the Intrepid Heart

When you leaned in
toward me, across the counter
and told me
you were glad
to see
me and I knew
as you walked away, the tips of your curls red-sunshine-gold
that you were.

That we keep choosing
to face one another’s walls-
instead of walking out
onto the open plains of life lived alone.

When I turn around and you are still there, and again, and again- still there.

It is not easy,
it is not clean,
it is gloriously messy.
Like Saguaro. Like rocks on the hillside. Like flood waters in the desert

I imagine
adventures before us- sorrows and joy.
Trips across continents and waters. Worlds from
the inside-out.
Really though- it is all imagined.

We cannot know what faces us.

As I face the unknown it is you I want at my side, Joseph
of the Intrepid Heart.


Of all of the things I think I know about marriage, it is choice that impresses me the most. While we don't choose to fall in love, or when and certainly not with whom - we do choose to keep love, to do the things that sustain it, and we keep expecting to fall into love yet again.

Many of my favorite couples (you know who you are!) are people you wouldn't think would work well together. It is my guess that from the outside Joe and I were an odd match.  This man I keep choosing to spend my life with is as willful as I am. The poem that follows is a rant, a declaration. We choose to use our powers for good.

We will not be torn apart by Wrath or Zest or Zeal.


We will not be torn apart
by passion, rather we will be joined
by it. Your water to my fire
we make steam – and power the gears
and pistons of our own valiant
new world. Our machines will fly
like eagles no matter how improbable
they seem. Your fish and my lion
will splash in the sunlight. We will accelerate
into hairpin turns. Your stories will dance the tarantella
around my poems then lean in close
for whispered truths.

We will not be torn apart by resentments,
rather we will hike up our trousers and wade
in and part the waters of them. In their wake
we will discover sand dollars, snail
houses and moon stones. We may not hike
to the top of the ridge hand in hand, but surely
we will stand there together. Look out at high-
country lakes, the ocotillo, the golden eagle hefting
from the boulder, the tiny glittering cities.

We will not be torn apart by passions, rather
we will uncover them. You bring the dynamite
and the blasting caps. I will bring the earplugs
and a nice picnic lunch. After the sediment
settles we’ll eat bread and cheese and sort
our treasure.
Joe in the tent by a lake in Arizona, with our trusty steed standing by.

Our Future

While we cannot know our futures -to paraphrase a poet I know- but it is fun to hatch schemes. In an earlier post I talked about my sadness that our son is growing up and moving on. That sadness is truly counter-balanced by the places Joe and I will go and the treasures we will sort.