I went back to bed in the late afternoon and slept briefly, woke disrupted and burdened by what I thought were voices in the living room, rising into the recollection of alone.
I stood in the cool shower stream until the smell of my own skin left me and then drove this blasted landscape of brutal beauty and vastness for close to two hours, arriving at dusk to all four of them at the head of the driveway with upraised wine glasses in the face of my arrival.
My eyes looked like glass shards in the sun yesterday, brief moments of catching their colors in the rear view and being startled by the gleam and dark green refracted.
I kept hearing the word ‘unknown’ repeat itself in my skull like a mantra or a mala bead count, thinking I’d better take cake that the lament repeated did not become the prayer itself, replace unknown with unbound and pray instead for freedom and grace, as the blood beats on in its refusal to relent.
The sky was vast, blue beyond all description, traversing ley lines, wondering at what might have been in attendance, what may have noted my passing through in the late last arc of the early summer sun, one woman alone, moving fast, singing.
©2016 Dora E. McQuaid
I’m honored to be the featured profile today on the amazing website, Me&EVE, an ongoing project created by my warrior-friend, Dorie Hagler, an internationally known photographer and photojournalist. Me&EVE offers “A place for women to be seen, heard and respected. One woman at a time we are changing the world for the better.”
“There I was, a 30 year old woman, a college faculty member and owner of a sexual harassment management firm that trains government agencies, sitting on the floor in my home being beaten and held hostage at gunpoint by my former boyfriend. My Master’s thesis was on Title 7 about awareness, perception and attitudes about sexual harassment and here I was with a shotgun to my sternum, praying to stay alive. I spent my whole life telling myself I was not going to be THIS woman. But I grew up knowing domestic and sexual violence, and girls who experience domestic or sexual violence are 7 times more likely to experience it again as an adult. At one point while being held hostage, I got up and went to the sink to run cold water over my wrists because his fingernails had dug into my arms so deeply that I was bleeding. While the cold water ran over my wrists, he said, “What the fuck is wrong with you?” And I said, “You hurt me. I’m bleeding.” To which he replied, “Yeah? Well, go write a fucking poem about it.” So I did. I wrote a book of poems so that I could write it all down and then close the book on it. Then open a new book and start again. I never meant to publish it, but colleagues encouraged me to publish the book and to educate people about the pandemic of violence against women. The only way we are going to change violence against women is by addressing it again and again. So I published my poems as, the scorched earth, using my personal story and my voice in the public realm as one story of hope, empowerment and change.”
– Dora McQuaid is an award winning poet, activist and speaker. In 2012, McQuaid’s image replaced that of former Penn State coach and convicted pedophile, Jerry Sandusky, in the Inspirations Mural near Penn State, to honor her activism and her being a Penn State University alumna and former faculty member.
To learn more about Me&EVE and to view profiles of other women changing the world, please visit Me&EVE.
To learn more about Dorie Hagler and to view her photographs and projects, please visit Dorie Hagler Photography.
First thought: Today the daylong is two minutes and three seconds longer than yesterday.
Second thought: I was born in lightning. It has haunted me ever since.
Third thought: The first of the lilacs are announcing. My mother’s spirit is among them, looking skyward.
Fourth thought: When I woke and said aloud: I made it, another year to the mala strand, I heard my father laughing as he replied: Well. Will wonders never cease.
Fifth thought: The circling ravens, the paired turtledoves and the long shadows stretching, made by light that pierces.
Sixth thought: So much has fallen away. Some of it grieves me, even in the understanding that all that has fallen from me is designed to free me.
Seventh thought: When I come to you, I will have questions, after I thank you for the mystery of grace and for this living and for my wild, unknowable heart that strives to rise again and again in answer to your calling.
© 2017 Dora E. McQuaid
When I was a little girl, my name for The Apostles was “The Apossibles”. I misunderstood the pronunciation in church and so I called them by the wrong name for years. My dad loved this, never once corrected me, telling me when I finally figured out my error that maybe I hadn’t been mistaken, that love makes everything possible in the end. I hope your weekend finds you surrounded by people whose love makes everything possible.
All peace to each one of you in this season of renewal, of possibility and hope, of love embodied.
What is NaPoWriMo, you ask?
Well, it’s the National Poetry Writing Month, in which participants challenge themselves and each other to write one poem a day each day of April, so 30 new poems in 30 days!
I love this challenge, and have gotten some very unexpected poems from it, as the daily prompts and my commitment to exploring what exists inside of me based on those prompts often unleashes my voice in ways I had no idea it was attempting to announce itself. People who know me, know that I have maintained a commitment to writing EVERY SINGLE DAY for over twenty-three YEARS and even though that practice of landing on the page every day has honed my ability to listen to that creative voice inside of me, I still find myself surprised by at least once a week during this challenge. The poem in the photo below is an excerpt from a poem I wrote during last year’s NaPoWriMo challenge. I have no idea where it cam from, but a year later and I’m still pleased with it.
I hope you’ll consider joining us this year so that you can steep yourself in your own voice rising and in poems by others along for the challenge via the NaPoWriMo website.
And, as April is National Poetry Month, there are a lot of ways to celebrate poetry available. The Academy of American Poets will email you a Poem A Day or you can participate in their Poem in Your Pocket Day event on April 27th. There are also poetry readings and festivals happening all over the United States, so check out your local options and attend a reading in your area. Wait…you say there are NO poetry readings in your town? Perhaps you might consider organizing and hosting one. Most local coffee shops, independent bookstores, libraries and bars are usually open to offering their space for poetry events, so explore the options and bring people together to share their poems in public.
There are so many options, and only 30 days. However you join us, I hope you enjoy this month and all of the poems that speak to a voice inside of your heart.
All peace to each one of you.
Dora E. McQuaid
Photo by Kathryn Scott Osler/The Denver Post