Still Writing

I just got home from a poetry reading. I don’t go to as many of them as I used to, because my poems have always been so personal, and I have felt like I was oversharing and that I needed better boundaries. Usually, at this place where I go for poetry, it’s very political, about Chicano pride and Nuevo Mexico heritage. The poet laureate gives a workshop twice a month that delves into culture and ancestors. I’m often the only white person in the room, and I wonder if I have the right to speak. Part of what I wrote once to read aloud in that workshop was that my role in this situation is to listen.

I do have ancestors, though, and I do have heritage, even if I don’t exactly take pride in it. Our family has a matrilineal oral tradition, passed down from my grandmother to me, and the burden is on me to tell the story. So, I do what in the Pagan tradition they call work. I collect images of Hippolytus, Phaedra, and Theseus on Pinterest. Another Pinterest board is dedicated to The Glass Menagerie. At the community art center, I find a slide of Theseus, hero who slew the Minotaur, in the shelf dedicated to found objects. I carefully break the glass to remove the film. This is my work. It deals in a tragedy with no heroes, but no true villains either.

My grandmother’s father killed his son, her brother, who would have been my great-grandfather.  A stepmother was involved. There are slaves who don’t want to leave the plantation because they have nowhere else to go. Or so my grandmother says. In the not-so-distant past I was involved with a man 14 years my senior. 46 seemed so old at the time. I thought of him as a dirty old man who was molesting me. There was an equal age difference between me and his son. I got out before his paranoia, and my  confusion, led to a mutually destructive end. I’d found Jean Racine’s Phaedra in a literary anthology I was carrying with me during my mother’s hospice and death, which my then lover helped me get through. I thought it was synchronous.

I’ve written enough about that to fill a book. Most of it is stream-of-consciousness. I used to write eight pages a day, after someone told me that’s what Stephen King did, and I learned it’s also what you do in an MFA program. I got compared to Hunter S. Thompson, who I still haven’t read. The problem is what to do now. I feel like I’m starting from scratch each piece I write, when really, they go together, interlocking to tell a story. But who’s willing to read a 500-page Word document?

Tonight, the featured poet was selling chapbooks. When I asked him how he made them, he said he downloaded a free program. He printed the copies himself, whereas I would have to use Kinko’s. His book was only fifteen pages, because that was how much the software allowed, and I would like a longer book, but it’s a start.

Tonight helped me decide that I do want to keep going to these open mics. The featured poet wrote about mental illness and his Irish heritage. He wiped away tears as he read. I’m torn. In poetry, there is the need to delve into deep emotions, to be brutally honest, but part of what I perceive as my recovery involves creating stronger boundaries. I’ve worked on not sharing too much, like the time I told a woman I met on a depression website about my fear of the gynecologist, over lunch the first time we met face to face. I need to write a poem about overcoming that fear. And it will leave me feeling metaphorically undressed. At the workshop where I’d read aloud about having nothing to contribute and being there to listen, a woman came up to me and said that my poems about my family were important. That helped me want to continue also.



On friendship


Right now I am sitting in a coffee shop listening to a woman with a strong voice play the guitar and sing. She took a break to get some coffee just as I was getting my first cup, and at first I waited for her to finish, but then I approached to fill my mug. As she has in the past, she looked at me and said, “I know you.”

The first time she said that was after a Dar Williams concert. I was happy to see her, but we didn’t have the same level of recognition. She didn’t remember the time at a queer film festival that she comforted me when I was near tears. I’d admitted I had run out of medication, and she said that was why. She’d tried to tell me it could get better. I’d let her read a piece of my writing. The next movie was about a transman who’d cut before coming out and making the transition. Sitting next to me in the this heater, she’d reached out to touch me on the arm, and said, “Don’t do that!”

The time at the concert I was hurt that she hadn’t remembered that, as the conversation turned to music. I hadn’t specifically brought it up, because I was sensitive about it, and I’m trying to learn better boundaries now. And at one time we’d had a mutual friend. I’d had a falling out with my friend because I was once a much needier person, and full of negativity. I don’t blame her for leaving now. My friend was also at the concert, with her partner. I’d waved to her as we were entering, and she’d shouted, “hey!” but after the concert I’d been afraid to approach her. I walked away hurt, and decided it wouldn’t be a good idea to rekindle the friendship.

Then I saw the woman, the one who is now singing at the coffee shop I’m in, at the grocery store. Again, I’d tried to avoid her, but we ended up on the same aisle and she said, “I feel like I know you from somewhere.” I just said, “Around,” and went on my way.

Today I am sitting facing the window, away from her performance, but I turn around and glance at her over my shoulder, and last time I turned and applauded, she caught my eye, and made the “ok” symbol with her fingers. I feel I would need to sit down with her for coffee to tell her how I know her. It’s not that I think it could be a romantic connection. She has a partner, and that’s not what I’m looking for.

It would just be nice to get this resolved, because it seems like it’s meant to, like it means I’d be able to reconcile the past. And I’d like to thank her for her support during a dark time in my life.

I will write more in my journal today about friendship, in my personal writing that I don’t have to censor for letting other people read, or worry about personal identifying information. It’s something I’ve been meaning to write about for a long time. I don’t know if my recent autism diagnosis will help me have healthier friendships, but I hope so. I am not withdrawn. I’m an extrovert, I’ve realized. I want to reach out to others, but don’t know how to do it appropriately. I have a lot of acquaintances—more than 400 friends on Facebook—but no close friends right now. Few people I can call up and ask if they want to have coffee.

I have gone to the opposite side of how I was—my boundaries are like walls now. I keep it superficial, talking mostly about art, poetry, knitting, whatever is going on with the crowd I’m in. I’m learning to let conversations flow, and subjects change naturally, no longer making it about me. I know I need to find a balance.

For now, as I write this, I wonder if the woman will approach after her set is over. Not expecting it, but not pushing the idea away either.


Pertaining to the organs,

in the body, not the immense pipe organ upstairs


of the congregation of my grandmother’s Lutheran church


but just as intense, and that instrument penetrated my body



I was taking anatomy and physiology towards a medical coding degree


and a stable day job,

describing how we copied pictures and plastic models


though not cadavers


while he had me drawing a cow skull in charcoal


to distract him from his feelings I talked about the organ systems

I was learning.

The heart, huh? he said. And the lungs


I replied quickly in one breath.

I drew him the pancreas and put it in an envelope, said


Happy birthday


And the professor brought in a real heart


ripped from a dead man’s chest


for us to examine.

Creating an Asperger’s / autism-friendly home sanctuary

I think this post will helpful in teaching myself self care. I’m very bad about housework, either because I’m in my own world, exhausted when you get home from my regularly scheduled activities that may have been overstimulating, or maybe depressed or anxious. Right now my normally spacious studio is full of boxes of my pottery, an avalanche of paper, and dishes. At this point I think I shut down and only want to nap when you get home.

When I get overwhelmed like this, it stays in this condition for weeks. I am working to figure it out. I was diagnosed as being on the spectrum a couple of weeks ago. And ADD, and both those diagnoses make sense.

I hope that I can find the way to make my own home environment more livable.

the silent wave

Asperger’s/autism is usually characterized by sensory sensitivity–that is to say that we’re more sensitive to (and thus, by necessity, more particular about) our surroundings.  It is indeed possible to not be extra-sensitive to one’s surroundings and still meet the diagnostic criteria (I’ve bolded the relevant parts for emphasis):

B – Restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, or activities, as manifested by at least two of the following, currently or by history

  1. Stereotyped or repetitive motor movements, use of objects, or speech (e.g., simple motor stereotypes, lining up toys or flipping objects, echolalia, idiosyncratic phrases).
  2. Insistence on sameness, inflexible adherence to routines, or ritualized patterns of verbal or nonverbal behavior (e.g., extreme distress at small changes, difficulties with transitions, rigid thinking patterns, greeting rituals, need to take same route or eat same food every day).
  3. Highly restricted, fixated interests that are abnormal in intensity or focus (e.g., strong attachment to or…

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I live for the 3rd

Wake up wake up. It’s the third of the month. Got my deposit last night, can pay the phone bill all right. Nobody’s gonna tell me We don’t know what to do with you. I don’t wanna hear We don’t know how to help you. I don’t know what to do but I want your ears not your mouth. I can figure my own way out. I may get a guvment q but I ain’t living with mama or workin for a defense contracta. You dig my new style? I been watchin 8 mile. Rhyming while waiting for the bus, can’t drive cuz my brain made a fuss.
My brain left my body at the least opportune times with no one manning the controls as I tried to ring up on the register put in the code to turn off the Alarm every morning.

  • We don’t know what to do withi you is what my cousin’s sister in law said her brother, married to my cousin, said to her when she was staying with them. No job, no marriage, no family of her own. I felt angry and hurt but also helpless because there was nothing I could do.

I’d rather be homeless than work for your insults.


I woke up slowly
Late morning sun seeping in
Through the curtains
In an antipsychotic haze.
There was no time to work on my creativity
I thought, peering out
At the cold light.

Outside the parking lot was a sea of crumbled glass
Blue green and gray,
My window gone
Just a few small pieces remained
And a rectangular empty space
From which music once played.
On the passenger seat rested a screwdriver
The only evidence.

No time to call the cops.
I was running late.
This was already the third home
They’d sent me to
After the guy who ran away
Who scratched me with his fingernails
When I tried to get him to come back home
After the one who threw a glass at me
The one who thought I was a new client.

These guys I was going to see now
Couldn’t talk
And I worried I might be molesting them
As I changed their diapers.
I was still in my overmedicated state
As I reached the street
Still in shock from the morning’s crime.
In my haste to leave
I’d forgotten the scrap of paper
With the address.
4219 I repeated to myself. That’s it
As I passed 4215, 4217, and then
I’m not sure how this happened
Because houses on a street don’t skip numbers
Do they?

I saw 4300 next
Turned around.
In my head the psych resident said
That word
A life sentence to homes similar in a way
To where I worked.
Young people my age started to get it
In their twenties
A progressive disease.
We’re waiting to see if you get worse
She denied saying.

I went back up and down the block
Several more times counting house numbers
Not seeing the one I needed.
I became convinced
That I was in the midst of psychosis
That the house was really there
But I was having a delusion that wouldn’t let me
See it.
I got more and more afraid
Each time I turned around.
Finally I saw no choice but to give up
Go back to the office and tell them.
They’d have to understand.
If I was schizophrenic it wasn’t my fault
After all.

C. Arlaina Ash 2016

My Father Finds His Birth Family

My dad is finally learning about his birth family. My stepmother wrote this piece and it includes some details I hadn’t known, such as the town his birth parents came from. We still don’t know why the adoption was kept secret. Before this new knowledge, I used to say my dad was born in Roswell and didn’t know who his parents were. Followed by a meaningful pause…

Edit: The original post appears to have been deleted.

Prince and the Sparkle Brains (cw: disability, ableism, sexual abuse)

I am fortunate to be receiving a consultation from this writer on a 20 page manuscript.

Karrie higgins

The day Prince died, I was walking to the audiologist office to pick out hearing aids, Purple Rain playing on my purple iPod, my lipstick-red walking cane tapping its drumbeat on the sidewalk, vibrating through my wrist bones to my elbow bones to my shoulders to my clavicles to my brain, telling me: I am whole. Without my cane, without that drumbeat, my brain gets confused: Where is my musical limb?

The cane makes music just for me. When I walk to the beat, I drum to the beat. Doesn’t matter about my hearing anymore. I am a walking musical instrument.

Except it does matter, because certain music saved my life. Certain music still saves my life.

Maybe I can hear Prince like I did when I was a kid, I thought. How much of his music am I missing? What frequency is his voice?

I wanted a purple hearing aid to match my pastel…

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Dreams of dragons


In dreams dragons drag ennui

to the bottom of the sea

quenching the scars of steaming breath

motivated by a necessary swim back to solid earth

quaking with knowledge and visions to put on canvas

the symbiosis of fire and water

scales glitter green with terrible beauty

dripping with long strands of seaweed

two hours and excess acrylic created this .