For the Women

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FOR THE WOMEN
 
Looking up, I see a canopy
of tropical trees, merged seamlessly
under a lazy late afternoon sun,
swaying loosely in the breeze
or hushed to a still silence,
being all of what they are.
I also see a quilt, woven tenderly
by hundreds of hard-working hands
over maybe thousands of years.
I see women in sweaty backrooms
or on rickety bamboo porches
under a relentless midday sun,
creating colour, texture and pattern
one infinitesimal layer at a time,
building inconceivable beauty
out of madness spun by oppression,
and it is beauty on the smallest scale,
but of the grandest design.
These towering achievements
will never scrape the sky,
but they will transport you
through all the skies and worlds.
I see the art slavery can create,
and wonder what would happen
under the conditions of freedom.
I see the future I hope for,
and the women are emancipated,
and the power is tremendous,
and the earth trembles again
in the most delicious anticipation,
and we rule without ruling,
in the space where sun and moon meet.
And the rich tapestries are portals
taking us back to the ancient source
so that we may thrive forward.
And we all become weavers of the free,
and we all the layers of the magisterial tree.
 
– Tammy Takahashi
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For the Women

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There is not one of us

Who does not need the rest,

Who can stand apart

And carry the world

In this way, on her own.

She knows this.

It is the divine feminine

In her speaking,

Knowing she is not

Ever speaking alone.

She has worked hard,

She has made it

To the mountaintop,

She sits, not weary, but ignited,

Each strand of hair

Spilling down to the oceans

Ready to fly where

She is needed,

So that she can wrap

All the suffering beings

Into her embrace,

And soothe, and protect,

And nurture, and love.

And love them.

As she herself, loves,

Is loved in return.

The time has come;

This is the age of Woman,

Which is the age

Of us all, finally,

The age of stopping

To see out of our lonely

Pockets of isolation,

To come together,

Sisters and brothers,

To see the world softly,

To breathe the world deeply,

To love, to love, to love.

Me Too

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I, too,
feel sad and confused,
I, too, dive into the sea of hurt
that weaves through
our collective past,
as the trajectories come to this,
a great unearthing,
a volcanic hurtling of
old stories churning
around and around,
maybe with nowhere
they can yet go
to be free.
I, too, do not want
to succumb to a
place without hope,
I do not want make the dance
that asks to be danced,
with powerlessness.
I, too, though, am here.
And what I would like to do
is bear witness,
to every one of you,
whose stories have mingles
over time
with my own,
and not just to the stories
that are clawing for visibility,
but to the glory of you,
who are more than your stories,
not less than … never that.
You whose pathways have helped
carve every beautiful line,
curve, and contour of you,
have given your eyes
their stunning inflection,
your heart,
its majestic endurance.
I am here, and I say,
Me too.
Me too.

– TT

To My Sisters (After the March)

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To my sisters

who took the world

Into the palm of their hearts

 

Who took to

The streets with their

Wild and pure determination

 

Who never stopped

Listening to the moon’s cycles

As they birthed their own revolution

 

(and it is only just beginning)

 

Who march forward

With a solidarity that is

Bringing us into the future

 

Of equity and equality

For our sisters, mothers and daughters,

For our brothers, fathers and sons

 

Who will not be silenced.

Who will not be silenced.

Who will never be silenced. – TS

My Pain is Not a Garden

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My new poem, My Pain is Not a Garden, was just published in “A River of Milk”, Issue 1: Sylvia. My work featured along Sylvia Plath’s – a deep honour!


My Pain is Not a Garden

 

I live, I do not yet live

planets write our demise

as the soft spring buds grow

but my pain is not a garden

and how fast it turns

 

And if I was supported the way

ancient earth holds its flowers

or clouds cling to the mountain

because her mammoth secrets

need protection, the raging

clash of parts inside

me waiting for the answer

might need it no more

 

I hear a child shriek and

ghosts fill the world,

an old forgotten schoolyard at dawn,

the sounds of becoming, mothers and

children, half-eaten sandwiches and mayo

dripping on linoleum floors in procession

to war-green garbage cans, cookies

and milk, stories and hugs

under the covers just past bedtime

 

I thought I would be living this twice.

 I thought I would be living this twice.

 

Every time an ambulance wails outside

I wonder who is leaving and who will

take their place, and how they

will get here and for whom

I wonder if my belly knows

more than I do or if waiting is           

over

 

I saved up

learning like crinkled unused coupons hopefully stacked,

unbelieving of skin in my skin,

bone in my bones.

 

I can feel her anyway, growing

inside me, a tiny-breasted elfling

with my eyes and tufts of hair

asking me to hold her in her finite

solitude

 

I’m Mother Mountain and she’s not a secret

any more than the buds

will stop coming in spring.

A Year of Writing – and Publishing!

Hello Everyone!

As dawn crept in on my 40th year, I shivered with excitement – and trepidation, and oddly, a feeling of peace.

I’d already created a card from a photo of mine, so I could send my sincerest gratitude to so many people I love and hold dear. In this age of Internet, living as far away as Japan still feels, well … far, but I’m also able to stay connected in so many ways that fill my heart.

Less than two months after my birthday, I heard from Prolific Press that they were interested in publishing my travel-based poems that became my very first published collection, “Formation: Along the Ganges and Back Again.” I was flummoxed, elated, terrified, bedazzled, and mostly, filled with wonder.

Over the coming months, as I hunkered down daily to work on a new novel I’d started, Prolific Press and I selected, revised, formatted, compiled some more, and eventually, came up with the title and beautiful cover image for the book!

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As this was going on, the words and the poems continued to flow, and by the happiest of serendipitous encounters, I discovered Women’s Spiritual Poetry, a beautiful blog and project that serves as a platform for women’s poetry from all over the world. I submitted my first poem there, and had such a warm, lovely experience that I haven’t looked back! Catherine Ghosh, WSP’s courageous, generous, brilliant and gifted leader, provides such a warm and protective space for her writers, that becoming part of this community has been a truly remarkable gift – yet another in my 40th year!

They say 40 is magical, powerful, special, and I believe this to be true.

A few months ago, Catherine invited us women to become part of a collaborative effort: her second anthology of poetry consisting if poems coming from the blog. I leaped at the chance! I ended up getting involved in the selection process, have five poems included in the book, and I also did a little bit of proofreading, and wrote an introduction for one of the chapters: Voicing Soul Secrets.

There was actually another little serendipity involved here. I live in Japan, as you know, so much of the work that goes on in my co-writers/poets’ lives happens while I’m in the throes of dreamland. I’d noticed late at night (for me), before going to bed, that 13 writers would be needed for chapter introductions. My eye fell immediately to Soul Secrets, but I didn’t want to be pushy – I was fairly new to the group, and didn’t want to overstep, and I for sure didn’t want to take some work that another poetess was dreaming of doing! I told myself that if it was still available in the morning, I’d offer to write it.

When I woke up … it was the only one left!

Being intimately involved in the production process of this book was a privilege and a huge learning experience. I got to watch as one of our poetesses, Shailie Dubois, offered a painting she’d done that was so stunning it ended up on the cover of the book – she also did another for the back cover, and did one of the book’s two trailers (Catherine, a masterful video creator), did the other).

And now, just after my 41st birthday, I am gifted again … with the release of the book! On the day of its release, our new poetry book “Where Journeys Meet: The Voice of Women’s Poetry” made it to the #1 spot on Amazon’s Bestselling New Releases in Poetry by Women *and* to the #2 spot in Bestselling Poetry by Women (in general) right next to MARY OLIVER, one of my heroines!

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What a year, and bookended (!), no less, by two books. For a human like me, who has been dreaming and breathing words her whole life, this is a moment I want to fully dive into with my full appreciation and gratitude.

The work never stops, the words continue to flow, emotions run in every which way … but for now, we are here, and there is a lot of celebrating to do.

Thank YOU for being here to celebrate with me. May we share words and hearts for a long time to come!

Tammy xo

Happy International Women’s Day! Short Story Published.

I’m honoured to have been included in tribute to women all over, as part of The Camel Saloon’s special edition literary compendium for International Women’s Day – many great words here to peruse!

 

Tammy T. Stone

Tammy T. Stone

The Wait

by Tammy T. Stone

Ara wakes up and searches for her dream. She can’t catch it, but a thought lingers.

“Since I’m not going to have children, I need to make a commitment to the life I’m living now.”

Until today, Ara’s been having the same dream every night since Ken died. She would wake up every time enveloped in a vibrant blue colour as real to Ara as the painting of the Mediterranean Sea on the wall above the dresser. They were planning a trip to Europe for their first wedding anniversary.

This morning, the large space of blue around her is gone. She can’t roll over and swim in his essence. There are just the sheets, and her rumpled side of the bed.

For the second time in a year, the hard lump that’s come to live in her diaphragm gurgles alive, swelling until she can hardly breathe, and she has no choice but to carry it around with her everywhere she goes. She wonders again how something that is so empty can have this kind of weight.

By 6:00, the sun has streaked the sky and the day fades into a dull blue-grey. Ara sets the dimmer on low and wipes the kitchen counter before placing a cutting board next to the sink. She finely chops fresh shallots, and has just enough ginger to shred for tonight’s meal for two. The congee’s gurgling on the stove, seething and oozing thick white bubbles. Steam curls up and rests on the window above the sink. Ara opens it halfway and looks across the narrow road to where a man sits on a bench, his back to her, facing a park shrouded in darkness.

Ara wipes her hands on the towel under the sink, runs her hands through her hair and leaves the house through the side door. She’s at the park in under twenty seconds and hesitates before taking a seat at the bench. She’s never seen the man’s face before. They both look ahead.

“I get this feeling” he says, “that if we both look at that tree together for long enough, I’ll disappear.”

“Why?”

“Well, it’s not going to be the tree; it’s here for the long haul. And I suspect you’re not going anywhere. So that leaves me.”

“But why does something have to disappear?” Ara asks, the lack of blue thrashing around her ribcage.

“Before you started watching me,” the man says, “I used to watch someone too. A man, middle-aged, with a full head of hair a bit rough-hewn for a businessman, though you could tell he tried to keep it neat and professional. He came here every day at exactly the same time. 12:30. He wore a dark suit with a white shirt. He’d sit down on that bench by the water fountain, and put his briefcase on the ground. The first time I saw him, I was sure he’d grab a sandwich from his bag, but actually, I never saw him eat. I always wondered when he got a meal in. But no, he’d ever so gently retrieve, of all things, a flute, followed by some sheet music, which he placed on the edge of the water fountain. Sometimes, if it was windy, he’d hold it down with a rock he found nearby. And he’d play. For forty-five minutes. To be honest, I could never tell if he was playing one long piece or several shorter ones, but the sound was sweet and haunting. The flute really has a way of drawing out the essential sadnesses of life, don’t you think? I never realized that until I started listening to him. I don’t have much patience for art. But there was something about the way this salaried employee, who I’m guessing has never been outside the country, would spend his lunch hour creating the most melancholic sounds. It really made me wonder about him.”

“I don’t know,” Ara says. “Maybe he has travelled. Maybe he’s been to Greece, even. Flute playing goes back a long way there. I was recently reading up on that.”

“Of course it’s possible,” the man says. “He seems sophisticated, anyway.”

“What happened to him?” Ara asks.

“I’m not sure. I stopped coming here at lunch time. You’ve never heard him?”

Ara squeezes her eyes to block the image of untouched tea, and loud power ballads she’d play for hours at a time to block the sounds of her grief.

“The fountain has an amber colour around it,” Ara says. “You know, sometimes I take water from there to use in my cooking. I have no reason to, but I’ve always been drawn to it. I never realized I was infusing so much sadness into my food.”

“I’m not so sensitive,” the man says. “I don’t think I could detect emotions in my food. You say you can see colours around things? Like auras?”

“Yes. Since I was little.”

In Ara’s recurring dream, Ken’s wearing his favourite top, the blue polo shirt he was wearing the day he died. Ara used to tease him about blue being so conservative, but Ken insisted it depended on the shade. How can you compare Mediterranean blue to the blue of a Nerf ball? In the dream, the shirt is shimmering, more like the midmorning sea than product packaging. It looks like you can see right through it, and Ara looks for any hint of Ken’s internal organs – his heart, his intestines, those parts of him she possessed without ever seeing them. She never finds anything. Ara searches frantically for any marks of her love, their history on his body. Ken catches her desperation and says, You know that’s not where you can find the story of us. “But you’re disappearing!” Ara screams. Right before me! Ken’s standing on the other side of a hole that spews a ferocious red every time she approaches, keeping her away from Ken. Watch me, Ken says, and before her eyes, a transformation begins. First, he’s Ken in the blue shirt, with the scar on his left arm from surgery he had on their honeymoon after he got too zealous with a coconut tree. The next moment, he’s on the shore of the Mediterranean, wearing a white loincloth. He’s Ken and not Ken, swollen in the belly, and she knows he’s with their child. She cries and touches her own flat belly. Then, this new Ken extends his hand out to her, as if to say, we’re ready to start over, your patience has led you to this, but just as she’s about to take her first step, he becomes transparent and disappears, until all she can see is the effervescent blue of the water behind him. That’s when she wakes up, every time, with the distinct feeling that all she has to do is wait.

“You okay?” the man asks.

“Oh. Yes,” Ara answers.

“What’s it like?” the man says. “To see auras?”

“I guess we take things like that for granted when they come naturally to us,” she says, remembering how it took a few moments, as she bathed in Ken’s blue light, before time would creep back in. With time comes all the days and years that waiting actually stands for. This morning, without Ken’s light to keep her company in bed, she’s been forced to learn something new about time.

“Would you like to eat dinner with me?” Ara asks. “I made enough. I thought we can eat out here.”

“Sure,” he says. She excuses herself and comes back a couple of minutes later. The tray is filled with two bowls of congee, a small dish of grated ginger and thinly sliced shallots, and two cups of barley tea.

Ara still hasn’t gotten a good look at him. She places the tray between them.

“Is there water from the fountain in this food?” the man asks.

“No, not tonight.”

“That’s too bad,” he says as he digs in. “I was going to try and taste the flute music. Mm, it’s delicious.”

“Thank you. I’ve been waiting for a long time,” Ara says.

“For what?”

“I thought I knew, but now I’m not so sure.”

“Yes,” the man says. “That’s why you and the tree over there aren’t going to disappear.”

“Waiting doesn’t feel safe. It feels like floating. I need to fill my body with grounding food, so I’ve been trying food like this. And with you fearing your own disappearance, maybe you need it to.”

“I wouldn’t say I’m afraid of it. Disappearing. It’s what things do.”

Ara shivers.

“At some point,” the man continues, “I guess we have to become aware of the point where waiting and living intersect.”

“You mean, something along the lines of stop waiting and live life to the fullest?”

“Sounds clichéd, I know.” he answers, “Waiting is like looking for a needle in a haystack, to give you another cliché. But everybody knows there’s no fun in that. Now that I think about it, I’ve always felt a bit like that needle.”

“I couldn’t pinpoint your aura from my kitchen. It wasn’t really a specific colour. But now it makes sense. It was exactly what you just mentioned, that something between living and waiting. You don’t have the things I normally see, no craving, fallen hopes, expectations, desire even. You’re really not afraid of disappearing.”

They sip tea in the dim light of a new moon. The man puts his hand on the bench between them, palm open. Ara takes it in her own.

“I wonder if the flute player still comes by,” Ara says.

“If you find him, maybe you can let me know what music he’s playing. Maybe knowing that will change everything.”

Ara smiles and swings her feet lightly over the sand, and then takes the tray inside. As she washes the plates, she can hear, beyond the man on the bench and through the fading sound of crickets, the Mediterranean flowing into its long, dark sleep.