Naked Guise: Poetry Undefined

We need to talk.

I don’t think this is working. It’s, I just, the timing is bad. We’re both in different places…

But I swear, it’s not you, it’s me.

Okay, I, for one, don’t need to hear that conversation again…ever.

So instead of torturing you with a dramatic exit (when you know I’m just going to come back when I start to miss you), let’s try this.

This isn’t goodbye. We’re just going on a little excursion, an adventure of sorts…and you know how I love an adventure.

It’s not as mysterious as it seems (probably less so for you, than me). And, they say there might be magic to find, summoned by a girl...hiding behind a naked guise.

If you need time to think about it, I understand. But when you’re ready, I’ll be waiting here, where Poetry’s Undefined.

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Have to say, this is really f*cking good. (Published in Voyage Denver Magazine)

I think we have a tendency to blame the demise of our society on social media. I get it, the constant stream of everyone’s “all things good” can make us feel like we’re failing miserably at the whole life thing.

But, there are some legitimate positives- getting to see snippets of our friends and families all over the world, for example. It can also be a gateway to connect with people and opportunities we wouldn’t otherwise have access to, ones that can change our lives for the better.

Here is one such connection:

Voyage Denver Magazine is featuring a series, The Trailblazers: Rewriting the Narrative, “…to highlight and celebrate female role models, encourage more equal and just representation in the media, and help foster a more tight-knit community locally helping women find mentors, business partners, friends and more.”

Long/short, they saw this photo I posted on Instagram and wanted to share it on their site.  They followed up with an invitation to do an interview for the series.

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Photo by Jenna Sparks

My first reaction: Ummm, are you sure about that? But I knew the focus was on empowering women, and god knows, I have a substantial amount of knowledge on what NOT to do. And, I have acquired a fair amount of insight along the way.

So even if just one woman is inspired to rise up and “…take the world by the lapels,” (to quote Maya, the ultimate role model) then I did what I set out to do.

So thank you, Voyage Denver, for inviting me to share my hard-earned lessons-learned.

And I have to say,  I read it and thought, damn girl, that’s really fucking good. ;o)

http://voyagedenver.com/interview/life-work-brooke-breazeale/

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Point, Aim & Shoot (but choose your weapon wisely)

I decided it was finally time to break through the cobwebs of “A Gypsy’s Tale” to make sure you’re still out there and to assure you I’m alive and well. And I am, which is what I planned on writing about (a welcomed change for all of us, I’m sure)

But then this bullshit happened, and I’m pissed off. And acknowledging it seemed a bit more important than telling you where I am on the spectrum of well-being.

I’ve been checked out of politics and what’s happening in the world for quite a spell, for survival purposes, really. But this isn’t the time to check out…because too many innocent people are not surviving.

We have to fight back, all of us, but not with weapons that kill. We have to disempower the perpetrators with weapons that disarm- ALL of the perpetrators: those who supply, those who demand, and those who kill.

My weapon of choice?

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Quote by Nikita Hill

I pose this question with acute trepidation: What will it take? What will be the tipping point to make “our leaders” take immediate, severe action to stop this?

In 2017, we experienced a record number of gun-related death, in 2018, another record high. As of today, there have been 251 mass shootings in 2019 alone.

We are on day 216. (Do the math)

*Released by CBC quoting non-profit Gun Violence Archive, which tracks every mass shooting in the country.

More than 90 gun violence incidents have occurred this year in our schools, and 3,200 youth and teens killed or injured by a gun.

Yes, these statistics vary in accordance with what is being measured, i.e. some do or don’t tease out exact numbers of suicides vs. homicides vs mass shootings.

But that’s not the point.

The point is, our country is plagued with gun violence, and innocent people are being persecuted and murdered…and it’s horrifying.

Equally as horrifying is the fact that “we” are the perpetrators. Our nation has proudly demonstrated that we value “the right to bear arms” over the inalienable human right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

“Nazi ideology can be defined in four parts: expansion, racial purity, power, and militarism.”  (Nazism: Definition, Facts & Ideology)

Be clear, I’m not taking the stance that all guns should be banned or that everyone who owns one has malintent. My weapon is pointed at the lack of gun regulation and assinine justification for selling automatic weapons in our country.

The only reason anyone “needs” an automatic weapon is to kill on a massive scale.

And who wants to kill whom on a massive scale in the United States? Ruthless, fucked up, racist TERRORISTS targeting innocent people they label as “intruders”, minorities, or fill-in-the-blank “deviants”.

So, here’s the pivotal question: why are we still selling automatic weapons and producing firearms at such an alarming rate, and to what end?

Well, we know why, don’t we? Guns mean money, and money “trumps” lives… especially with Trump at the helm.

But “to what end? This has yet to be seen, with no end in sight.

But what has become very clear is this: the founding principle of our country meant to be the essence of who we are as a nation is simply not true.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” 

   – The Unanimous Declaration of the Thirteen United States of America

And this- the denial of the inalienable rights of American and global citizens- is the very reason I’m mortified to be a citizen of the United States.

 

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Stats

“The United States has the highest gun ownership rate [in the world] with about 101 guns per hundred Americans [latest estimation rose to 120]. Serbia is ranked second in the firearms per capita with a rate of 58.21 guns per 100 people. Yemen has the third highest gun ownership rate in the world with a rate of 54.8 guns per a hundred people.  (World Atlas)

“Guns killed nearly 40,000 people in the United States last year.”

“In 2016, a study published in the American Journal of Medicine found that Americans were ten times more likely to die as a result of a firearm than residents of other high-income countries, as classified by the World Bank.”

“A 2017 survey estimated that there are three hundred and ninety-three million civilian-owned firearms in the United States, a rate of 120.5 guns for every hundred residents, twice that of the second-highest nation, Yemen.”  (The New Yorker]

“From 2009 to 2017, there were at least 173 mass shootings in the U.S.

“In at least one-third of mass shootings, the shooter was legally prohibited from possessing firearms at the time of the shooting.”

“Mass shootings that involved the use of high-capacity magazines resulted in more than twice as many fatalities and 14 times as many injuries on average compared to those that did not.”  (Everytown for Gun Safety)

Lucky #13, turtles & a timely perspective

Soooo, I’m moving again.

I can’t help but think there was a colossal mix-up during my incarnation, and I was actually supposed to be a turtle.

 

Why? Because this will be move #13 in 3 years and move #4 in the past nine months, which includes a 5-month stretch living out of a suitcase…in 3 different countries.

I fear I might have cursed myself with the whole gypsy association. If this is the case, I would like to clarify: what I meant was “a free-spirited, love to travel, always up for adventure” gypsy…not the perpetually displaced kind.

If it sounds like I’m complaining, well, I am. Because let’s be honest, moving is f*cking terrible. One of my favorite bloggers, mydangblog, summed it up perfectly:

Moving is bullsh*t. Everyone knows that. In fact, I can’t understand why people don’t just live in the same place until they die because moving is so horrible.

And just to make sure these moves were sufficiently terrible, I did most of them with virtually no help- one, on the hottest day of the year, another, in the pouring rain, and the most recent, minutes before the worst blizzard this year ensued.

One move, in particular, I believe #7, stands out as one of the more challenging. To add insult to injury (literally), I had conveniently torn a tendon in my ankle two weeks before. So, I hired Karl to help…Karl, with a “K”.

Karl was a friend of some random guy I met at a coffee shop. I was so grateful, I never asked if “said friend” was a guy or girl, which proved to be a good thing.

I’m the first one to declare that our gender is just as capable as men at performing most physically arduous tasks. But realistically, the average woman isn’t primed for hauling heavy furniture and boxes upstairs. And since women aren’t frequently recruited to help friends move, they aren’t necessarily good at it. And I’m here to tell you, there is an art to moving.

All to say, I was admittedly disappointed when *they showed up…and a bit worried. My concerns proved to be valid. In addition to having to haul the heaviest boxes myself and explain how to maneuver furniture around corners, there was an additional element that proved to complicate things further.

In an attempt to make the task at hand more bearable and boost morale, I tried to lighten things up a bit- crack a joke here and there, throw out the occasional affirmation, for example, “We’ve got this, girl.”

But I was getting the vibe that my cheerleading wasn’t working. This was confirmed about 30 minutes in when they turned around, mildly annoyed, and said something to the effect of…

Helper: Could you please stop calling me that?

Me: Wait, what? Oh god, what did I say?

Helper: I’m actually transitioning and no longer identify as a girl, so if you wouldn’t mind…”

Me: Oh my gosh, I’m so sorry, I didn’t…I mean, I couldn’t…I was just…

Awkward pause.

“Right, got it.”

I darted downstairs and slid into the bathroom. Seriously Brooke, could you have made that any more awkward? Just call her by her name…or do I say his name? Oh shit, I forgot what her name is. I mean his! Oh my god, I seriously can’t…

Within an hour, they announced they needed to go. I panicked. We had barely made a dent, and my ankle was twice its normal size at that point. I caved and called “E”.

Me: Um, so I hate to ask you to do this, but I’m kinda desperate. This girl, I mean, this friend of an acquaintance, was helping me, but she, shit, I mean, this person has an appointment that she. Oh my god, I seriously can’t…

E: (Laughing) Uh, you okay?

Me: Tears.

E. Oh, alright. I’ll be over in a bit.

I grabbed my checkbook.

Me: So what is your name again? I mean, I know what your name is, but how do you spell it, exactly?

Helper: Karl Adams, Karl with a K. But for now, just make it out to Carly Adams, Carly, with a C.

Me: Right, got it.

* This is not intended to disrespect anyone in transition AT ALL. After the fact, I did some research and the consensus seems to be that “they” is best when you are writing if you aren’t sure. In retrospect, I should have just asked, which upon further inquiry, seems to be what most everyone prefers. All to say, I’m so very sorry, Karl, wherever you are!

In contrast, my next move, or maybe it was the move after, had serious potential for a better outcome. I happened to meet a kind, extremely fit, very attractive Australian who offered to help- a seemingly fortuitous encounter that turned into a love story of sorts, just minus the happy ending.

So I opted to go solo my last move. A sore back and a few bruises seemed better than offending the shit out of someone or a broken heart.

I made it a little easier on myself this time, leaving all things too cumbersome in the ally for some stable homeowner or renter to enjoy. I have replaced them with versions I can manage by myself if necessary. And yes, this includes a desk and a dresser. (You can’t even wrap your head around what I’ve managed to haul up and down three flights of stairs.)

Moving usually makes the list as one of life’s most stressful events. Divorce is usually high up there too (check), death of a loved one (partial check, with a terrible twist), financial upheaval (check). Imprisonment is high on the list too, but to date, I have managed to avoid any run-ins with the law, for the most part, anyway.

But, I shall refrain from complaining further. I do still have my limbs, after all, and a roof over my head…most of the time. I mean “I have a roof over my head most of the time.” My limbs are hopefully here for the long haul…because I kinda need them to haul shit around, it seems.

be thankful.paradise

I try to keep reminding myself of this because I know it to be true; I’ve been on both sides.

When I was packing for the Congo, one of the essentials I was told to bring was a watch. Electricity was going to be a luxury, so if I couldn’t charge my phone, I wouldn’t know what time it was.

Why would one need to know what time it is in a remote village in the Congo? Well, there were chimps to be fed and an imposed curfew we were supposed to abide by for safety purposes. I admittedly regularly missed the latter, but I truly didn’t know what time it was…because I had misplaced my watch the first week I was there.

I wasn’t too upset about it. I’d only ever used it to time my track workouts, and I had my travel alarm, so the chimps wouldn’t go hungry.

So a month or so later, I was running with Rafael, one of the staff I had become friends with, and I noticed he was wearing my watch. I don’t think for a second that he stole it. I think I took it off when I was washing the chimps’ veggies and left it on the counter. That meant it was up for grabs, plain and simple.

As we were running, I realized the watch no longer worked. It was just a dirty, pastel green band with a blank screen. But Rafael was now one of the only people in the village who had a watch. It didn’t matter if it worked or not; he had a watch.

He did not, however, have running water or electricity in his home. And his home was what most would consider a shack, probably just one open room with dirt floors and a tin roof.

My point is, for most of us in the developed world, Rafael’s life seems tragic. But he was always smiling with a kind disposition and fun sense of humor. He had a job, which was extremely rare in the village. He had food to eat, albeit mostly beans and cassava. He had friends and a healthy family, all of his limbs, and a roof over his head. Most of these were a luxury there.

I know, a seemingly random tangent, but I think of these things when shit seems like it can’t get any worse. A) I make it a point to never say that because I’ve learned it definitely can, and B) I can focus on the shit that’s wrong or the shit that’s not. Unfortunately, the prior wins out more than I’d like.

So, here’s to lucky number #13 and the hope that a kind soul will swoop in and help a girl out. I promise I will commit your name to memory and keep the cheerleading to a minimum.

And if you are in fact, a kind, fit, attractive male, that’s great. Just no broken hearts, please. Cause, although I can’t give you the exact length of time (I misplaced my watch, you see), I know a good chunk of it has been wasted trying to move on…which I think we’ve established, I’d rather stop doing.

Besides, I’m simply not wired to be a turtle. I’m too impatient and tend to operate in 5th gear most of the time. And even if this is someone else’s paradise, it’s not mine, so I’d like to get things moving (or even just help moving), and time is of the essence.

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This time it was the apple, but I’ll keep trying.

I received a request for something a bit more substantial than “just a quote,” and another for something more, “I don’t know, about butterflies or what you did in Australia. Something happy.”

Right, okay. Butterflies. Happy…

So I sat down, opened up a new document, and took a bite of my apple…

Mushy apples, wet peanut butter, cigarette smoke.
Caged animals, plastic straws, tree stumps.
Distended bellies, oppressed souls, false hope.

Hiccups, parking tickets, splintered wood.
Sirens, screeching brakes, raised fists.
Apathy, the sound of pain, someday I should…

You deserve the best, cold feet, flights home.
Broken promises, resignation, empty words.
Rainy days, sleeping alone…waking up alone.

Starting over one more time, one more time.

I’ll try again next week…or maybe the next.

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Okay, here is my offering to make up for the absence of butterflies. The thing that always feeds my soul, even after the mushiest of apples.

One stop at a time.

So, here I am, back in Denver, one of the last places I thought I’d end up. But I honestly didn’t know where else to go.

It’s not a bad place to be, Denver. I just never felt like it fit me. But nowhere seems to fit. Paris maybe, but that’s not really an option right now.

A dear friend offered me a room in a condo she rents out until I get my feet under me. It’s cozy and I have a warm bed to sleep in, so it’s a start.

But it is a bit further removed than I’d anticipated, which wouldn’t be an issue if I had a car. Let’s just say Denver isn’t famous for its public transportation.

I actually don’t know anyone who has taken the bus by choice…and now I know why. I avoided it as long as I could, but my neighborhood has little to offer – one coffee shop a mile away in one direction and a handful of bars and stores a mile in the opposite direction. I don’t mind the walk so much, but the destinations don’t feel worth the schlep, especially when it’s freezing outside.

The bus I have to take is ‘the 0’. Fitting, since that’s pretty much where I’m starting from. I’ve tried to put a more positive spin on it, but all I came up with is it will be a hard one to forget. (Or an easy zero to remember for that ‘positive spin’).

My first experience was…interesting. A trip that used to take me 15 minutes to drive took over an hour. But it wasn’t terrible.

The way back, however, was a bit of an adventure.

The 0 was delayed by half an hour, so I hopped on the first bus headed south. This seemed like a logical choice until I realized the route ended way before my stop, which meant a transfer at “the station.”

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We pulled off the main road to what was basically a huge, empty lot. It was darker than it should have been, which made it feel like we were in the middle of nowhere.

The bus drove off, leaving me with three other men, each sitting on a separate bench.

I’m not the paranoid type, probably to a fault. And yes, I have put myself in some questionable situations. But I’m not reckless either, and I know when I need to stay vigilant. I didn’t feel like this was one of those situations. However, my phone had conveniently stopped working, and I had no idea when the next bus was coming. So, not exactly ideal.

I paced back and forth, trying to stay warm. I caught the three men looking my way a few times, but they seemed harmless. And I’m sure they were curious why I was there. I don’t think I qualified as a typical passenger on this particular route.

The youngest of the three finally approached me. He wasn’t threatening at all,  more concerned. He asked if I knew which bus to catch. I assured him I did.

I had no idea.

After what felt like hours, a bus finally pulled up. I didn’t care which direction it was going, as long as it was going.

My next trip after hours proved to be…I guess “animated” would be the best word to describe it.

It wasn’t that late, but the bus was almost empty. Two younger girls sat huddled in the seats lining the wall, facing toward the aisle. A very talkative, somewhat obnoxious man sat across from them. He was trying to interact with them, but they kept their heads down, doing their best to ignore him. I couldn’t help but feel protective, so I casually moved over to the seat closest to them.

We came to a stop. The driver got up to lower the ramp for a man in a wheelchair. The obnoxious man hopped up and lifted the bench to make room for him, which made me feel bad for thinking he was obnoxious. We started to pull away, then jerked to a halt when a woman began slamming her fists on the door.

The driver knew her and they began chatting as the woman made her way down the aisle. She sat in the seat directly behind me and continued to yell up to the driver. “So, did you hear that so-and-so from the center just got thrown in jail for murdering his wife?”

This abruptly transitioned into her announcing to everyone, “You know what happened to me last night? Four policemen jumped me and tried to take me to jail.” She rolled up her sleeves and came over to show me her hands. “See the marks from the handcuffs?”

The man in the wheelchair and the ‘not as obnoxious’ guy teamed up, laughing at her, saying she was crazy.

She jumped to her feet and screamed. “I am not crazy! They ran all their god damned tests on me that proved it. I am not fucking crazy!”

I pulled the cord, exhaling when I heard the words, “stop requested.” Cold and dark for a couple of miles seemed preferable to murder and abuse.

I decided to sync up my bus outings with the light of day for a spell…and never leave home without my headphones.

The next morning’s ride was a short one, no more than 15 minutes. Odds were good I could make it to my destination without incident.

I was just a few blocks away from the coffee shop when the man next to me requested a stop. He started making his way to the door but stumbled backward when the driver hit the brakes. Something fell out of his bag and I instinctively reached down to pick it up.

I did my best not to react as I handed him back his knife.

It wasn’t a menacing knife, necessarily, but it wasn’t a pocket knife either. I don’t believe this man had the slightest intention of using it on anyone. And given the direction he was coming from, I get why he had it…just in case.

I’ve never really felt like my life was in danger. Everyone, for the most part, is harmless. But I have realized I don’t exactly blend in, as I seem to be the one “the man who had a few too many” gravitates toward.

I also see the curious side glances when I sit down or the blatant scans from head to toe. Maybe I’m just paranoid, not because I think their looks are threats or advances. They feel more like judgments, as if to say, “who the hell are you?”

I usually ignore it, but sometimes I just want to look them in the eye and assure them…

I have no fucking idea. I lost her quite a ways back, and I can’t seem to find her.

That’s what I want to say. I want them to know that I don’t think for a second I am better than anyone else who takes a seat on Bus 0. We are all doing our best to navigate our circumstances.

But no, I don’t want to be here. I actually couldn’t be further away from where I want to be.

Yesterday, I missed my stop. But instead of getting off and working my way back, I just sat there, staring out the window. We headed downtown, making our way closer to where I used to live. We passed the place I used to take Biscuit to get his bath, then the place ‘E’ and I went the year I decided to like football, then the gym I used to drag him to, the place I took dance lessons, the coffee shop where I used to study during grad school…

This was my world, where I no longer belong. What used to be home, now feels like a warped cassette tape. The same song is playing, but it doesn’t make sense anymore-the words are garbled, the melody distorted. And there is no way to fix it.

I feel like I’ve been exiled, still able to roam freely, but imprisoned by boundaries I can no longer cross and memories that have been hallowed out by regret.

The bus stopped and everyone got off. It was the end of the line.

I was mad at myself for wasting the morning searching for a place I wasn’t going to find and ending up nowhere close to where I needed to be.

I finally found the bus I needed to get back and waited impatiently as everyone boarded. The driver closed the doors and headed out, then stopped abruptly to let someone else on.

I was annoyed, tired of waiting, of feeling isolated and lost in a place I used to call home.

I knew I was spiraling, so I forced myself to revisit my ‘gratitude list’.

I’m grateful for my friends, for my warm bed…that I have all of my limbs. 

But it wasn’t working. I wasn’t grateful. I was angry.

The woman slowly made her way up the stairs and stopped to greet the driver who seemed genuinely happy to see her.

He smiled, “How was your day?”

Without hesitating, she responded, “Well, no one I love died today, so I’d say, all and all, it was a good day.”

That sounded much better than “I have all my limbs”, so I added it to my list.

I’m grateful that no one I love died today.

The woman sat in the seat across from me. Her face was hard and soft at the same time, her demeanor firm but gentle. She seemed familiar. Did I know her?

She caught me staring at her and I tried to smile. She nodded her head slightly and made her way to the exit, disappearing into the crowd of people waiting to get on.

She had only said a few words, but her voice lingered, filling in the words taking shape in my head.

Hold on, love. You’ll get to where you want to go. But you won’t find it back there. You’ll have to take a different route. You’re headed in the right direction, though. Just keep moving forward…one stop at a time.

 

Maybe if I’d just…you’d still be alive.

WARNING: Some of the content below is graphic…and very sad. 

I thought it would be a memory by now, a horrific, tragic memory that happened two years ago…two years ago tonight at exactly 7:33 pm.

The accident, when my car collided into theirs…and they all died.

Most days it is a memory. Until I hear a loud crash and my body convulses, or an ambulance goes by and I can’t catch my breath, or at night, when I can’t sleep- trying to piece together how the hell I let everything get this bad- I see their contorted bodies, I see the blood…all of it, every detail.

Those days, it isn’t just a memory. It is what gutted me to the core. It’s what I fear made something snap, something I cannot fix.

I know I should be grateful. I lived. And I am. Of course, I am.

But then this day approaches, and I can’t help going back there, sitting on my knees,

…watching, pulling cold, wet blades of grass out of the ground. I watched the policeman approach the car to access the damage. I watched the fire department arrive and begin to cut them out of the car. I watched them put the boys on the stretchers and push them into the ambulance. I watched the ambulance drive away.

And there I am, here I am, trying to imagine what I could have done to prevent it. And I go there, the place I know I shouldn’t go.

Maybe if I’d just…

Run a little slower, showered a little longer, left the coffee shop a little earlier…faced going home to my empty apartment.

Maybe if I’d never moved to that wretched city, to be with him, someone I loved who did everything he could to destroy me.

Or maybe if I would have had enough strength to leave him the first time he left me, or the second or third…

Maybe if I’d stayed married to my sweet husband in our beautiful house with our precious puppy.

Or I’d stayed in Paris, never gotten married, never hurt my sweet husband or moved to that wretched city…

Where I ran too fast, showered too quickly, left later than I should have…to go back to an empty apartment where I knew he wouldn’t be, the one who almost destroyed me. 

Maybe if I’d just…

You would all still be alive.

I know this does no good. I know it wasn’t my fault. They were reckless. They put so many lives at risk. And I know if it wasn’t me, it would have been someone else who might not have walked away. And I know this night won’t always haunt me, just like he can no longer hurt me.

And I know that, maybe, next year will be different, happier, and I’ll have finally put this all behind me.