Image Credit: Sue Clark
“Whitney’s become a fighter.”
I overheard my mother loud whisper this to my sister as I faced-down a nurse demanding my mother’s discharge papers. I felt a bit like Shirley MacLaine’s character, Aurora Greenway, in the film Terms of Endearment, as she screams for a painkiller for her dying daughter. I turned and glanced over my shoulder:
Mom, haggard by heart disease and kidney failure, shriveled through bitter disappointment, shrunk from the giantess of my childhood, to this poor ghost with blazing eyes. She leaned into my sister, Susan, looking proud. Pride deposited itself through my spine, I stood a little taller. “Don’t slump” was an oft spoken phrase growing up.
She died a few days later. The strongest presence of my life, the strongest voice in my head. An often overwhelming voice in my head stifling my own. “Whitney’s become a fighter”, that phrase, one of her last specifically about me, drops in on occasion when I feel completely inadequate, when I feel that whatever voice I have is muted.
I have become a fighter. And my Mom’s vowels and consonants, her Dinah Washington songs that she hummed in the kitchen, her rages and her generosities, are tucked into the pockets of her old khaki windbreaker that I inherited and wear like a frayed hug.
“Stay still. Don’t move.”
I feel a little sick, I feel I may faint, I can feel myself begin my float into numbness.
The silver-haired man repeats in an uninflected voice: “Stay still. Don’t move.”
Or was it, don’t you move? I am split and fractured in time. I struggle to stay present. This man has a blank face. There are tears in his eyes.
I have been in ER’s a couple of times, vertigo. The admitting nurses gasped a little at my, “no, no fractures, no surgeries, no medications.” They couldn’t believe it, no broken arms, no traumatic births, no lowering of cholesterol tablets…no anti-depressants.
It isn’t quite true; I have often felt internally fractured.
Medical News Times Today defines the word fracture as “the continuity of a bone is broken.” That is pure poetry.
The continuity of a bone
The calcium line of a body
The resolve of a femur
The song of a tibia
206 bones in my woman body
206 variations of a story
The oldest known musical instrument is a bone flute, a vulture bone, naturally hollow. It dates to 40, 000 years ago.
Continuity. The continuity of what once was whole has fractured. What I mean by fracture is to break space open, to volcano a conversation with little to no warning. To fracture plates. To fracture stability with countless cross-country moves. To fracture friendships by these moves. To fracture resolve and songs. To fracture a marriage. To cause tiny fissures in the continuity of a bone: Back bone connected to the shoulder bone shoulder bone connected to the neck bone neck bone connected to the head bone now hear the word of the Lord, dem bones dem bones gonna walk around.
Dem Bones, a spiritual, is based on the Old Testament’s prophet Ezekiel visiting the Valley of Dry Bones. A barren place, no life, no hope.
First daughter, third child, always known as sweet and even-tempered. I may have been six or seven when Dad, laughing said,“Butter wouldn’t melt in your mouth.” The context is lost, but maybe this is where I began hiding my feelings behind a smile.
“Butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth,” can now mean sweet and innocent, prim and proper or it can slide into pretense. Acting. A cover-up, fronting a lie to cover up true feelings. At its core, the phrase is about disengagement with feelings, detachment.
Slip down into my thirteen year old girl self. As if I melted, as if I were butter. I wear a two piece summer ensemble. White cotton sprinkled with tiny yellow flowers and sprigs of green leaves. Mom bought it for me at Bacon’s. I love this outfit, tunic and shorts. Bright, fresh, sweet. Perfect for the humid Kentucky summer. My mind begins to fracture. Words fall down. Words won’t stand up. Words won’t cohere into a sentence. There is no continuity. I am mute.
“Don’t move.” His mouth is on mine. I feel hard teeth against my teeth. Will my teeth break? Will my teeth fall out?
I physically resemble my father, when I would have preferred to resemble my mother. Dad, Samuel, with a strong jaw and prominent nose, deep set eyes and a wide mouth with thin lips, was raised on a tobacco farm. Generations of farmers resided in the cellular structure of his bones. But a sea breeze caught at his imagination and he joined the Navy. His middle name was Vergil. Not like the poet, but he travelled, and he loved stories of Greek heroes.
Mom had aspirations that didn’t include a country boy, and then she attended a USO dance and met Dad. I never knew her dreams. That breaks my heart. Mom, willful, dark and fierce with large brown eyes that rolled with humor or blazed with rage came from a fractured family when divorce was unheard of in a small town. Her father, with the musical name, Carroll, was a pedophile and photographer.
Mom’s given name was Carolyn. My sister’s middle name is Carol. My male first cousin’s middle name is Carroll. Why carry this name forward? Why continue the pattern? Why carry the bones?
A Bill of Divorcement is a film from 1932 I first saw when I was in second grade in 1960. We were stationed at The Naval Ordinance Plant in Louisville, Kentucky. The black and white images, slightly grainy on our console television, transported me, and sent me deeper into some intuitive place. The under the bridge place.
Katherine Hepburn seemed to float in white, light streamed when she walked. Engaged to be married, she is stunned when John Barrymore, her father, turns up. He had been confined in a mental institution. I don’t remember all the details. I remember this:
Hepburn decides not to marry because she fears that mental instability runs in the family. She fractures the pattern. I knew there was something not right in my family. I decided, at seven, to never marry and to never have children.
I met my future husband in a theatre company. He stepped on my dress. We do not have children.
Mom would counter my Dad’s idiom with the metaphor, “Still waters run deep.” Words have power. Words conjure. In the beginning was the word. This one is Latin, altissima quaeque flumina: the deepest rivers flow with the least sound. It snaked through several centuries, eddying through Aesop and La Fontaine, splashed through Shakespeare and now is washed clean from some earlier sinister implications, like, a quiet person has a secret and may be dangerous.
Under the bridge, deep in my placid waters, swam an eel. I don’t remember why I did it, but in a rage, I raked my fingernails down my little sister’s back. I may have been five. I remember the red streaks, and the red streaks of shame I felt as Mom turned Susan’s back to me, so that I could see.
“Nancy, how could you do this?”
I don’t remember saying anything. Words mumbled around in my mouth. I was mute.
At this same nondescript little ranch house in Louisville, the Gardiner Lane house, my Dad, always so calm, slapped a white vinyl clothes line against Susan’s legs, an ugly red streak throbbed on her skin.
Rage snuck around our house. Or houses, Navy transfers a common bone of contention in conversations. We remember the houses by street names or geography, like the Puget Sound house, or the house on Westport Road, or the Naval Ordinance house. I sometimes remember them by the movies that opened my eyes.
It was the only time he ever struck Susan. And he struck her just once. And he caught himself, shocked by his action. Three years old. She sobbed; Mom gathered her up and rocked her. Dad stood shamefaced. Mom lit a Salem. Mom went for a drive.
I am guessing I am still seven when my second eldest brother Chris, two years my senior, couldn’t walk by me without slamming his fist against my arm, my left arm. This happened in the Bill of Divorcement house. I told Dad, and he said to ignore him. I tried that. He hit me harder. Bored, he eventually stopped. Just a year later, in the Puget Sound house, the house on top of a hill, the house with sweet blackberries and blue irises, the house where we had a cat named Bubbles, the house where I received my first Barbie doll, hard and blonde, the house where I wrote my first poem, Chris walked into my bedroom.
“When you get some, can I see your titties?” He snickered. He snickered three times and left. And I stood there with red streaks all over my body where he slapped his question against me. Speechless. And this became the house that snickered and carried a threat.
1) An 8×10 in a silver frame. A toddler with blonde curls, big grin, mouth open and laughing. A pale dress, probably pink. A fat hand waves. Her Mom calls her Nonnie.
2) A small black and white picture in an old album. The spine broken. This same girl, maybe five, darker hair, wears footed tights. Her legs are curled under her. Her chest is bare. Her long hair has been swept up in front and a black velvet ribbon ties it away from her solemn face. She stares into the distance. The only way to hold her shame is to breathe it in deep. Before he took this photograph he arranged her, he rubbed his fat hand over her bare chest. Mom, his daughter, didn’t see.
Sometimes, when we make love, I gently push my husband’s hand away from my breasts.
The silver haired man kisses me.
I have some prayer splintering through my mind, Mom, please come home, and please come home, please, home, please, Mom. I am mute. My teeth hurt. I taste cigar. It’s evening. The entry way is well lit, blinds not drawn. I can’t feel my body beyond being held tight. Wait! Headlights on the drive! Wait! The sound of tires on gravel! Headlights flash through the cut glass of the old farmhouse door.
Grandpa pushes me away. Did he say, don’t say a word?
The man in front of me, who holds me tight with my permission, the man who is nattily dressed, which is why I chose him, that and his silver hair, the man who has kissed me hard with permission, the man with tears in his eyes, turns his head slightly to hear any instructions from the psychodrama facilitator. Her words are for me:
“Stay here! Don’t go off! Stay here!”
Gloria keeps saying that over and over and I feel like I am melting and the only reason I have not fallen is because this stand-in for my Grandpa is holding me so tight and really, I want him to stop it, to get off me, to get off me, to let me go, let me go, I can taste the stale cigar on this non-smoker’s breath, I can feel his fat hand inch toward my breasts, I can feel my hips being brought tight against his pelvis, his crotch. I can sense his arrangement of my adolescence against his aging body. The eel girl swims up from the depths beneath the bridge, sludge beneath her nails, demon slayer, she pushes back hard on the man who acted her grandfather’s role.
“LEAVE ME ALONE!” I sob. I wonder why my chest hasn’t cracked. Leave me alone. The one sentence I could never speak. It set something free inside. I found my voice, a new frame, a new foundation. A resurrection. I no longer live in the valley of dry bones.
I flounder. A flounder is both a noun and a verb. We caught a flounder off the pier on Puget Sound. It thrashed and struggled. I flounder with the word, voice. I struggle with passive sentence construction:
She was held down on the floor by the stranger.
Or: She was raped by her date.
Or: She was fondled by the old man repeatedly.
Or: She was seduced by her acting teacher.
Or: She was seduced by her acting teacher but she was a willing participant because it was a trade-off she wanted.
Write what you know, they say.
Acting is so strange because you are creating reality around and through a fiction.
Mark, about fifteen years my senior and a professional actor in Washington D.C., also taught in the MFA acting program I attended. About twenty students comprised the first year, all on probation. Half the incoming students would be cut. I worked so hard that first semester, learning monologues, going to speech therapy, taking gymnastics, having no interest in anything but my art. My southern ‘r’ and sloppy ‘s’ warranted a required weekly appointment. I read the dictionary out loud, all words beginning with the letter ‘r’, and then shifted into words with ‘r’ as a second letter: prince, broken, striate. At first, the words sounded like this: pwince, bwoken, stwiate, a childish voice.
Twenty, attractive in an Anna Magnani way, black brows, long dark brown hair, slender due to successful under eating, big smile, dimples; a few guys showed interest, nothing that would interfere with my work.
At a party toward the end of the probationary year, Mark slid next to me as I sat in front of a coffee table laden with beer and pizza. I had heard the rumors. He chose a girl to be his special student in the upcoming semester. His chubby hand slid over mine. I let it stay.
Mom had strong views on etiquette. Please and thank you required, don’t speak back to your parents. Don’t lie. Don’t steal. Don’t shave your legs. Don’t talk about sex. I thought your cousin would tell you about your period. “Am I dying?”
Mom once walked out on a date because he kept stirring his coffee with a spoon. Continuously stirred his coffee with a spoon.
Don’t discuss money or politics or religion. Don’t talk about your family. Don’t run in the house. Don’t yell.
Respect your elders.
This is an outside scene. This is a Kentucky scene, a summer scene because I wear shorts. This is maybe my Dad’s father’s farm. The other Grandpa, the one who called me “Monkey”, or “Ugly.” We are sitting outside; I’ll add late afternoon, humidity, and the first hint of fireflies.
I’m probably reading, a way to be there without being there. I feel Mom staring at me. She gets up from the plastic woven lawn chair and walks to where I am sitting and looks at my bare legs. I feel a little cold in my bones.
“Nancy, did you shave your legs?”
(My insides scramble a little; I had not exactly shaved them. I had taken Dad’s razor and thinned the black hairs out a little. Bald patches on my calves, a knick over my knees).
“Not really. Just a little. You don’t know what it’s like. All the other girls shave their legs. Everyone makes fun of me. My hair is black.”
“How dare you deliberately disobey me!”
Dad stares down at his hands. He looks up.
“Carolyn, it isn’t such a big deal.”
“She went behind my back!”
I am sure they have a private conversation about this later. In a few months Mom hands me a razor and says, you may shave your legs now. I run to the bathroom and immediately cut myself, red streaks running down my legs into the bath.
I auditioned for school choir in an elementary school. I failed to be accepted. Voice not strong enough. We moved anyway, but my disappointment could be felt all through my bones, like a shiver in my knees when I walked. Mom got me voice lessons with an old lady whose house, filled with cats, stank. I sat next to the teacher and tried to fit on the bench. I pulled my body in tight and pushed my voice out big. I stayed for months and sang sad love songs.
My speaking voice, even and modulated, careful. And prior to speech therapy, the occasional w/r substitutions slipped in, I might say pway, instead of pray. For the first twenty years of my life, I rarely raised my voice, unless in a theatre role. I began acting in high school. Where was I going to put my emotions safely, except on stage?
Mark, while coaching me through a classical monologue— what was it, Phaedre maybe, an inappropriate lust for her stepson—, became frustrated when I could not raise my voice as loud as he thought it should go.
“You know, you don’t make a lot of noise during sex.”
“Don’t be sorry. I am just saying you are pretty quiet when we have sex.”
He adjusts his threadbare sweater, buttoning it over his paunch. I had no idea how to respond to that. I could tell him I hate sex. But I hadn’t the nerve.
I could tell him his fingernails never look clean, but I hadn’t the nerve.
“I’ll try to make more sounds.”
I always wanted to please people. I smiled at him. And we started from the top. Again we reach a point where he says I am not getting it. Some little rebel eel starts to stir, and I say
“Well, you know Mark, uh, mmm, I am not so sure that is the right take on this scene.”
He actually stood up and started to leave. He took his glasses off. He put his glasses back on.
“If you don’t want my help, I can go right now.”
I slapped that eel right down.
“Of course I want your help. Please stay. Please help me.”
The first time I heard the expression, “good bones,” Grandpa, the pedophile, was remarking on the Gabor sisters. He looked at me, and took my chin in his hand.
“She has good bones.”
This happened in the kitchen of the Westport Road house. Did I imagine a wary look in Mom’s eyes as he tilted my head up, the better to look at me, my dear? Perhaps I have placed it there now. This house where I clung to “pwayer”, and light shone through a cut glass transom door.
I have degenerative discs in my neck (Neck bone connected to the head bone). I have arthritis in my thoracic spine (Hip bone connected to the back bone). And my lumbar spine hears the word of the Lord.
Good bones means a derelict home or building, maybe even an idea, which can be fixed up, its essential structure is sound.
My essential structure is sound. I continue.
After I received my MFA, Dad and Mom decided I needed to be in Los Angeles if I wanted to be an actor. I just wrote that sentence and admitted that my parents acted for me, chose for me.
My birth name is Nancy. My middle name is Celeste, like my Mom’s. My last name is Bell. I changed it. All of it. It’s a pretty name, and for me, it just always felt full of shadow. Being transferred so many times, attending so many schools, always being the new girl, the first introductions fraught, I remember “Nancy” getting stuck in my throat. I had a little hesitation before pushing it out.
I stayed Nancy until 1981 when I met Kevin, a numerologist, on the Wilshire Avenue bus. Spontaneous combustion of chemistry, our bones fit well together. He loaned me a blue book filled with letters and numbers, the skeletal foundation of changing one’s life through changing one’s name. I knew I wanted something strong. Kevin had changed his name multiple times. This time he wanted a name that rhymed with Heaven. He suggested I choose a name with a “w” or a “v”. One weekend I called myself Worth. For a day I declared myself Victoria. I needed to come up with a name that matched numerically my soul number to have a double whammy in the world. And on an all night journey into name culling and math, I hit upon, Whitney Vale.
I began to live up to my name. “Whitney” reminded me of Mt. Whitney, rooted earthy and with an elevation that reached through the sky. Earth bone. “Vale” felt like the green valley that encircled the mountain.
Strong, confident, 28, a little bitchy. I smoked cigarettes. I flirted with guys and walked away. I lowered the pitch of my voice. I pulled my scapulas in—don’t they look like wings?
I called my parents with the news.
“Hey, Mom. Put Dad on the other line, I’ve something to say.”
“Everything OK, sweetheart?”
“Yes, Dad. It’s just, look, I don’t want to hurt your feelings or anything, but, I’ve changed my name.”
“You mean you have a stage name? Lots of actors have stage names.”
“That’s right, Mom. The only difference is, is I have decided to be Whitney Vale all through my life.”
“I don’t see why it is necessary at all.”
“There is already a person with my natal name in the union, and first come first serve.”
“Look Dad, it doesn’t mean I don’t love you. It doesn’t mean I have given up my identity in the family.”
“Your mother and I will have to talk this over, Nancy.”
“Feel free to talk with each other all you want. I am Whitney now. And that means when we speak to each other I am Whitney.”
They must have felt I killed their daughter. And yet, I felt like my life depended on my changing my name. Down to my marrow in my bones.
I have been Whitney for decades. I did not take my husband’s last name or have any desire to hyphenate my identity. And he didn’t ask it of me.
In my late twenties I gave birth to a new me on the bones of the old me. Sometimes it felt rickety, like learning to walk again.
I grind my teeth. I clench my jaw. Four crowns cover cracked teeth. Nerve pain from TMJ. I wear a mouth guard to prevent any further damage. In my sleep old memories hit against my teeth. I dated a guy and when I felt his teeth push against mine when we kissed, I stopped seeing him.
Sitting with paragraphs, cut from the drafts of this essay, I realized I had a word skeleton. I taped together different sections, wondering if this paragraph flowed well, or was it disjointed? Mom bone, Dad bone…is it a family tree, or a family body?
Butterfly shape, calcium girdle
Hip bones connected to the pubic bone
Word bone connected to the Venus mound
Venus cum hear the word of the lord
“Don’t fall!”, my mother often called after me as I left for school, or as I left a house to play outside.
It does not surprise me that I have bouts of vertigo now. Imprinted with the fear I may fall, I have fallen. I have fainted from high altitudes in Colorado. I have almost been knocked unconscious after slipping and hitting my head.”Come back! Come back!” I heard as if from deep inside a tunnel. Sometimes my memory feels like that tunnel. Deep and under a great distance from me, the same images swim up and float, but I have large gaps.
Nineteen and in love I showed up at Luc’s small apartment with a bottle of vodka and a will to be deflowered. A perfect autumn day in Kentucky. I trudged through piles of red maple leaves to his apartment. I didn’t have a key, so I climbed in through his window. I hoisted my starved body up and over into his barebones kitchen. Butterflies played inside my gut. Luc, a theatre technician, or techie, hadn’t arrived yet, so I went into the bedroom, bones rattling under my taut skin, and took off all my clothes. I got into the bed and pulled the covers over me and waited. I counted heartbeats.
When I heard the key turn, I turned onto my side and pulled myself in trying to disappear into a fold of blanket.
He had seen the familiar denim overalls and thermal shirt at the floor. The bed creaked with the lowering of his tall body. I felt the weight of one hand on my shoulder as he tenderly pulled the bedclothes away. I turned on my back, my long hair streaming, I beamed up at his beloved face. He grinned, his moustaches needed a trim. His hair, light brown, a little straggly, curled around the collar of his blue work shirt Glasses couldn’t hide the twinkle in his grey eyes.
“Are you sure?”
“Yes. And scared. S’why the vodka!”
Luc was gentle and kind. I loved his holding me. I didn’t feel much else.
“Darling. This didn’t hurt?”
“Nancy. He sighs. There is a pause. “I didn’t feel any, you know, resistance inside you.”
He lifts away from me. He shows me his softening cock. He rolls me gently from my position on the bed.
“Sweetheart, there is no blood. There is no blood on my cock, there is no blood on the sheets. Have you done this before?”
That scramble of words begins to happen inside, and they twist in my mouth as I look at the white sheets where a red streak should be. I look shyly at his cock so recently exploring under the bridge.
“No, I’ve never done it. You’re my first”
“Honey, were you raped?”
“No! I don’t remember! No! I don’t believe it.”
I told him about my grandfather and how he had molested me and he nodded and held me. I didn’t tell him about the Westport Road house. Forty years ago hymens were still an obsession, popping cherries was a thing. This little membrane could have been stretched through masturbation, some women don’t have them, my Mom did not allow tampons (of course not), riding my bike could have dislodged it. But.
What I remember of what I don’t remember:
In first grade, I lived in the Poplar Level Road house in Norfolk, Virginia. I liked school, I read early and well. On this day, the school hallway feels like a tunnel. I can’t see much. I had visited the office to talk with a counselor about skipping a grade. I walk back to class. The janitor’s office is open. We said janitor then. John sees me and smiles. I like John. Young, funny, sang little songs. This is not an accusation. It’s a small bone in my memory that I continue to gnaw at. He smiles at me, says come in. I do. The door closes. He picks me up and sets me down on a table, my bare legs dangling over the edge. Girls wear dresses. We can see each other eye to eye. I smile at him.
Next thing, I walk down the corridor and it is grey and fuzzy and I walk into my classroom. All the kids look like they have clouds over their heads. I look down at my composition book. For a month I dream about penises.
Latin: articulus small connecting part
Latin: articulare divide into joints, utter distinctly
Our lips and teeth and tongue are articulators, I learn in speech therapy. If only I could articulate what I feel, I am full of unruly emotions.
Does Grandpa French kiss you?”
“Yes! You, too?”
The scattered yeses on white space, a bone game. Flash out your hand, pick one up, and tell your fortune. A continuity of shame. Grandpa kissed the girls and made them cry. At the least. And the kisses and fondling bruised to the bone. My cousins and my sister made an agreement to never tell. We didn’t think we would be believed. And my sister and I believed our Mom adored her father. That is the continuity of lies. That is the conspiracy of silence.
I lived in Los Angeles for over seventeen years, in eight different locations. I lived most of those as Whitney. I explored The Bodhi Tree, a New Age bookstore. A restored cottage in West Hollywood, it had rooms of books devoted to Eastern religions, parapsychology, yoga, tarot, astrology. I became convinced that trauma nestles in the cells of the body, tugged at the tendons of bones. I did different kinds of body therapy to complement talk therapies; I felt in my bones my essential goodness.
On a surprise visit home, to the Lynnbrook Road house, I may have been thirty-five; Mom asked me if her father had ever touched me. I said, yes, he did. She wept. He had abused her too. We sat in the stifling living room, the heavy drapes pulled. Piano against a wall, family portraits Grandpa had taken and then hand–tinted hung above it. She lit a Salem. The diabetes that eventually ravaged her body had not yet blunted her anger. Smoke circled her hands and head as she inhaled deeply and exhaled. She gave me no details, other than she hated him. One more internal rug pulled out—our long kept secret to protect her all for naught. An internal tension melted away.
That early evening in the Westport Road house, when I thought my bones would fracture under the weight of my fear, it was only my mother’s return that prevented anything worse from happening. The strength of his arms bound me, and as he kissed me, one hand reached up and pressed my breast. I felt his cock through his trousers. I thought I would lose my mind. Mom must have recognized his car in the drive. As the door was being unlocked, Grandpa pushed me away. Mom hurried in seeing her father first.
He says, “Just got here myself, Carolyn.”
I walk out of the room with a, “Hey, Mom, what’s for supper? See ya Grandpa.”
Shortly after I relived my experience of that night I had a dream about Grandpa. Under a bright sunny sky he is walking down a street dressed all in white. White linen suit, white shirt, white shoes, and a white Panama hat perched at a jaunty angle on his head. I am across the street watching. He turns and sees me. He crosses the street. Standing in front of me, he doffs his hat and bows. He does not speak. But his eyes are filled with light. I am filled with light.
“I forgive you, Grandpa.”
He turns and crosses the street and walks on. I wake up.
Forty years on, I started singing lessons again. I have a three octave range. So do my orgasms.
Mom tried to keep us safe. What girl is safe?
I knew years of passivity, where the action happened to me.
I understand little beyond noun and verb; I like to keep it simple. I usually write poetry instead of prose, because it contains fewer words, and fewer opportunities to make passive assertions.
I struggle even now to explain how I could have been so asleep in my own narrative. But I know there is power in the telling. I look at the words on the page that Ichose, and I feel in charge. I feel the authority of my voice.
Scrimshaw a noun and a verb
my bones are etched
grief tools and engraves
beauty too engraves itself
on these bones these bones walking around
Bred in the bone. Another idiom. It means deeply rooted, committed and unwavering.
I internalized my Mom’s anger and it slips out sometimes as sarcasm, or a too pointed critique in a writing workshop. I can be dryly ironical. My bone hard tongue can be sharp, just in little bickering asides with my brilliant husband. We both like to have the last word.
We live in Tucson surrounded by five mountain ranges. We live in the Essel house.
Mid-forties, I stood at a nurse’s station in an ER demanding my mother be allowed to go home, my voice loud and clear. Her tenacity rooted in me, deep in my bones.My infant bones connected to my girl bones, my girl bones connected to my woman bones; let’s hear the words of the free.
My word bones connected to my heart bone.
Whitney Vale is a docent at the the UA Poetry Center in Tucson, AZ. Her first chapbook, Journey With The Ferryman, (Finishing Line Press) was published in 2016. She was a finalist for the 2014 Joy Harjo Memorial Prize. She has been published in Autumn Sky Daily, Zocalo, Essay Daily and in the out of print anthology, Inside: Out, A Gathering of Poets. Whitney holds a MFA in Acting from Catholic University, Washington D.C. She has acted in regional theatres on both coasts. In a varied work career, Whitney has sold candy (and eaten a fair amount), sofas and vitamins. She performed stand-up and caught a few laughs. She has been a waitress and a short order cook—for a short amount of time. Her life is illuminated by the presence of her husband, William McCoy.